2013 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE, PART ONE
Blog, Reviews, Movies, TV, People, Music, Downloads, Records, Books
Posted on Dec 02 2013 by Greg
THE LITTLE MERMAID II: RETURN TO THE SEA / THE LITTLE MERMAID: ARIEL’S BEGINNING
Both sequels are on Blu-ray for the first time, along with two DVDs with each film. The first sequel, Return to the Sea, boasts many of the same cast members as the original film including Disney Legend Jodi Benson, but the nice songs by Patti and Michael Silversher are too few and the plot is a retread of the first story. This time we get a skinny version of Ursula and Disney’s version of Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumley. Plus, Ariel and Eric are put in a situation very frustrating to the viewers as well as their daughter, Melody, but being brick walls about everything to do with Ariel’s magical past. Plus, in limited animation, Eric looks even more like the David Seville of the ‘80s.
The third Little Mermaid film (second on this set), Ariel’s Beginning, is a far superior film with a more solid storyline without delving into set pieces to extend the film length. We also get to know Ariel’s sisters better and meet a more original villain, amusingly named Marina Del Ray and superbly voiced by Sally Field, singing for the first time since The Flying Nun. Even the extras are better on this film. The animation is startlingly fluid for a direct to video production. Make the whole package worth it.
Disney has taken a few jabs for putting what was originally planned as a direct to video feature and releasing to theaters, but Walt Disney did just that with Johnny Tremain and several other of his live-action features which either turned out better than expected or ran over budget.
In the case of Planes, the budget was upped and though the film seems to dreamily ramble a bit, it was clearly an attempt to attract more of the male sector of the audience and it succeeded tremendously. I’m not a big Dane Cook fan, but he does a creditable job as Dusty, a crop duster with a fear of heights, a character much more likable than Lightning McQueen in Cars. John Cleese turns in his usual scene stealing best as a jolly old British plane. Looks wonderful in HD on a big screen.
THE FLINTSTONES CHRISTMAS COLLECTION
It's nice to have these shows on DVD after wearing out my VHS tapes, which sometimes were recorded at EP and looked ecch. The 1977 A Flintstone Christmas special is of particular interest, coming at a time with The Flintstones and Hanna-Barbera were enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
It's also a musical special with songs that also popped up in other H-B Christmas specials. "Hope," sung by Wilma in this instance, is a cousin to "When You Wish Upon a Star" and was sung by Boo-Boo in Yogi's First Christmas. "Brand New Kind of Christmas Song" did originate in this special. Both this song and Boo-Boo's "Hope" can be heard on the Hanna-Barbera Christmas Sing Along sound track album.
The second special on this collection, A Flintstone Family Christmas, came after Turner acquired Hanna-Barbera and there was another resurgence with new merchandise and some really fine books, including a hardcover based on this special, which was nominated for an Emmy, a first for The Flintstones.
MARINE BOY – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Depending on where you lived, this dubbed Japanese cartoon series ran in syndication between 1967 and 1969. What’s interesting about it is that members of the Speed Racer cast does the dubbing, including Speed himself, Peter Fernandez. The music sounds to me to be composed by Billy Mure, who scored many MGM children’s records with Fernandez and the same cast.
“Marine Boy” is sort like “Jonny Quest” underwater. For some reason, even his dad calls him “Marine Boy.” But then, did Speed's parents give him that name at birth? Guess both were endearing nicknames.
The stories in Marine Boy are not as complex as some Japanese TV cartoon imports of the era, so younger kids will likely follow along nicely. The animation looks to me to be that Korean traced stuff that Warner/Seven Arts did with Porky Pig cartoons, though a little neater. I can’t confirm that as a fact, though. It’s just that the draftsmanship is not what I’ve seen in similar cartoons. But what a groovy theme song! There are actually two of them, and I like the one with the “oooooo’s.”
CDS AND DOWNLOADS
WALT DISNEY’S BABES IN TOYLAND – Original Cast Album
This is from the 1961 live action fantasy starring Annette, Ray Bolger, Tommy Sands, Ed Wynn and a very young Ann Jillian. It’s not the sound track but a “re-creation” with slightly different orchestrations, produced at Tutti Camarata’s Sunset Sound Studios.
It is not available on CD (though the Disney Parks did offer CD-R’s for a short time years ago). You can download it—with a pristine restoration by Walt Disney Records’ master producer, Randy Thorton—on iTunes.
SANTA CLAUS-THE MOVIE Original Sound Track Album
Though I love the movie and enjoyed it when it was released, not everyone does. Regardless, the magnificent score by Henry Mancini is one of the best “traditional” music and song scores of the ‘80s, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and a pop solo by Sheena Easton (“It’s Christmas All Over the World”) that should get more airplay.
Be careful when ordering this album on CD, as you’ll want the expanded edition, not the single album on CD. The expanded edition has everything the original EMI LP had plus many more pieces of music that couldn’t fit on the vinyl disc as well as alternates and deleted selections and an interesting booklet.
MARY POPPINS Special Edition Original Sound Track Album
You know that tape recorder you see taking in what happened during those meetings with the persnickety Ms. Travers and the supercalifragilistic Shermans? You can hear many of the REAL ones on disc two of this glorious sound track album.
The aforementioned Randy Thornton pretty much put the entire musical score on this album for the first time and it should be in every home.
THE SHERMAN BROTHERS SONGBOOK
Speaking of the Shermans, the landmark songs from their history making career are contained on two discs here. There's even a non-Disney film represented in this collection, with the Oscar-nominated theme from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was tthe brothers’ first outside film, done with the approval of Disney. On this collection, the great Mike Sammes Singers perform the song. Every home should have this, too.
JIM HENSON – THE BIOGRAPHY
A meticulously detailed portrait of the man behind the Muppets, unlike anything published before. Lengthy yet a brisk read, the book covers the length and breadth of Henson’s life and career in a matter-of-fact, clear headed way, without the armchair speculative psychology of other bios of others (you know which ones).
Few will read this and say, “I already knew ALL of that” or they’d be fibbing.
INSIDE THE WHIMSY-WORKS: My Life with Walt Disney Productions
Disney Legend Jimmy Johnson rose from the mailroom to merchandise and from publishing to launching what is now Walt Disney Records. He wrote this memoir in 1975 but it was never published until now.
This is one of the very first insider looks at what is was like working for Disney from the Snow White days to the opening of Walt Disney World. I know this is a blatant plug and you have to pre-order the book because it won’t be sent out until February 2014, but please consider getting a copy and wrapping up the amazon description as a lovely thing to place under the tree.
Steve Martin and Gilda Radner - Dancing in the Dark
Blog, TV, Music, Records
Posted on Oct 26 2013 by Greg
One of TV's great moments was "Dancing in the Dark" with Steve Martin and Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live.
One of the things that made it stand out was that the setting was a typical disco club of the day, and when Steve Martin and Gilda Radner spotted each other, the trendiness of the era vanished for them and it all became about real stylishness, real music and true artistry (even though they clowned around a little, which was also fun). When they finished dancing, the disco music came back up, and there we all were, trapped in what is accepted as the style of the day, whether we all like it or not.
After Gilda Radner's passing, Steve Martin presented this clip again and become as emotional as viewers had ever seen him, before or since. When TV news shows reported the loss of Gilda Radner, they also used "Dancing in the Dark".
This particular version of "Dancing in the Dark" is from the soundtrack of the MGM classic, The Band Wagon.
The legendary Uan Rasey actually hits a flawed note at one point, but the overall performance and impact of the whole is so great that it was left the way it is.
It's a masterwork of musician and composer, and yet it is not perfect. In this era of over-editing, over-shooting and CG to cover flaws, it's important to remember that you sometimes have to look at the work as a whole, otherwise the unchecked pursuit for perfection becomes like sawing legs off a coffee table to keep it from wobbling.
"Mad Men" scores with its scores
Posted on Aug 27 2013 by Greg
"Carbonara" is much more than a delicious pasta recipe. It’s a fine composer who contributes an enormous amount of atmosphere, dramatic impact and even ironic humor to one of the greatest series in TV history.
Creating a score for a series that captures the eclectic styles of the ‘60s and how they changed over the decade, has to have its challenges. What I like about David Carbonara’s music is that, like the sets, props and costumes on Mad Men, it’s authentic. There’s no nod to contemporizing it to make it more marketable to “today’s tastes.” What results is music that stands on its own, written and played by its own rules.
The latest album of Mad Men soundtrack scores is called Mad Men: On the Rocks. It’s a blend of new selections with some previously released tracks.
There are quite a few Mad Men albums out there, so I tried to sort them out. Basically they fall into two categories. The score albums contained instrumental background music primarily composed by Carbonara, but also a few selections by other composers that have been performed for the series soundtrack by Carbonara and the studio orchestra.
The compilations, which are not necessarily “official” Mad Men albums, are collections of hit songs and obscure gems, many sung by the original artists, from the ‘60s, which were either featured on the show or might have been.
Music Score Collections:
• Mad Men: Original Score, Vol. 1 (2009)
• Mad Men: After Hours (2010)
• Mad Men: Night Cap (2013)
• Mad Men: On the Rocks (2013)
Compilations of Classic Songs Played on the Show:
• Mad Men: Music from the Series, Vol. 1 (2008)
• Mad Men: Music from the Series, Vol. 2 (2009)
• Mad Men: A Musical Companion (2 Discs) (2011)
• The Many Moods of Mad Men: A Musical Companion (2 Discs) (2013)
The very first album, “Mad Men: Original Score, Volume 1,” is available for download but is hard to find in CD form, at least for a reasonable price, plus you can also find some of the selections from that 2009 album on “Mad Men: After Hours.” I have not yet been able to determine if there was ever a Volume 2 of “Mad Men: Original Score.”
Volume 2 of “Mad Men: Music from the Series” is also hard to find but is not available for download.
Mad Men: On the Rocks is pure, magnificent soundtrack score music. Here is the track list with comments:
1. Pacific Coast Highway*
Not to be confused with the 1969 Burt Bacharach instrumental, but an equally fine bossa nova that is a great way to open the album
2. The Man With The Miniature Orchestra
Pensive piece suggesting “Moonlight Sonata”
3. Beautiful Girls
Iconic Mad Men piece that reminds me of the theme from The Artist
4. Betty Home and Sally’s Story
Tense, tightly wound, much like Betty and Sally
5. Bunny’s Bop
Energetic jazz number, reminiscent of the Mannix theme
6. Hurry Into The Far Away Places
Haunting and dark
7. Drapers Ruse
Another iconic theme, with vibes and flutes
8. Summer Man
Soul searching; sounds like a trek through a hot, barren wasteland
9. The Arrival
Calm, cool, Route 66-style
10. Hotel Bossa
What the the “smart set” hears when they stay in classy digs
11. Lights Out
12. For Number Four and Anna
Don is lost and alone
13. At The Codfish Ball
Odd, disturbing waltz as if heard through a looking glass
14. Don And Betty In Rome
Even tempered with a tense undertone
15. Like A Good Girlfriend*
Bouncy and “Peanuts”-like
16. First Kiss
17. A Little Kiss
Light bossa beat, very bachelor pad
18. The New York Times
Impending trouble ahead
Don’s award winning TV commercial
20. Christmas Conga*
Merry music masks the forced fun
21. Pete’s Not Talking
Music for the petulance of Mr. Campbell
22. Betty’s Call
It’s not good news or is it someone selling aluminum siding
23. A Beautiful Mine (Performed by RJD2)*
Extended version of the Mad Men theme
*Previously released on Mad Men: Night Cap
How to keep the Fourth going on in Golden style
Blog, Music, Records
Posted on Jul 05 2013 by Greg
Once again, Verse Music has released a pristine reissue of classic Golden Records, this time themed to patriotism.
Those familiar with Golden Records will recognize the boisterous, robust sound of these selections, almost all produced under the direction of Mitch Miller. You’ll also find two songs by “Miss America” TV pageant, parade and game show icon Bert Parks.
If you have never heard these songs before, they were done in the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s so they have that “live TV” sound. And they should, since the Sandpiper singing quartet was also the group who donned Texaco uniforms and presented Milton Berle each week on his legendary variety show.
Here is the track list with the artists:
1. You're A Grand Old Flag / Bert Parks & The Mitch Miller Orchestra
2. Yankee Doodle / Golden Orchestra & Chorus
3. The Caissons Go Rolling Along / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
4. America The Beautiful / Golden Orchestra & Chorus
5. Stars And Stripes Forever / Golden Orchestra & Chorus
6. Mighty Navy Wings / The Naval Cadet Choir
7. My Country, 'Tis Of Thee / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
8. The Army Air Corps / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
9. The Flag's Flying High / The Naval Cadet Choir
10. God Bless America / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
11. Battle Hymn Of The Republic / Golden Orchestra & Chorus
12. When Johnny Comes Marching Home / Win Stracke
13. Semper Fidelis (Make Way For The Fife & Drum Corps) / The Naval Cadet Choir
14. Halls Of Montezuma / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
15. I'm A Yankee Doodle Dandy / Bert Parks & The Mitch Miller Orchestra
16. Washington Post March / Golden Orchestra
17. 101st Cavalry Gallop / The Naval Cadet Choir
18. Anchors Aweigh / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
19. I'm Proud Of My Land / The Naval Cadet Choir
20. The Star Spangled Banner / The Sandpipers, Mitch Miller & Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
Anyone notice what music opened the Oscars?
Posted on Feb 25 2013 by Greg
The very first notes of the Oscar opening, as Seth McFarlane
walked on stage, was an exact orchestration of the overture to Walt Disney's The Happiest Millionaire
! The melody was "What's Wrong with That?" originally sung by Fred MacMurray.
Did McFarlane choose the music (maybe a childhood favorite?) Or was it a tribute to Robert B. Sherman
, who appeared in the "farewell" montage? Most likely, it had to do with the producers of the telecast, who had done several Disney projects and perhaps did it as a wry comment on McFarlane, a millionaire whose business is comedy. Whatever the reason, it was a nice touch for those of us who appreciated it.
So when is "The Seth McFarlane Show" going to be the first big network variety show since Carol Burnett?
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