Monday, October 25, 2010

Nowhere Boy review

 - Nowhere Boy
Nowhere Boy
Rating: *** 1/2

The Beatles have been the subject for many motion pictures over the years. Aside from the five movies the band made themselves (A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine, and Let It Be), there are some that are pretty good and there are others that are just flat out terrible. Nowhere Boy, a new biopic on the early life of John Lennon, can be considered one of the best Beatle-related movies made. Although it was released a year ago in the UK, this is the first time American audiences get to see when it was released on October 8 (one day before Lennon’s 70th birthday). While the topic of the Beatles’ rise to fame is a bit overused, Nowhere Boy does a good job.

The movie tells the story of John Lennon from the time he gets his first harmonica to when the Beatles go to Hamburg. Aaron Johnson is the actor who portrays Lennon in the movie. Audiences may remember Johnson as the lead role in the superhero-comedy movie Kick Ass earlier this year. Initially, Johnson doesn’t look like Lennon nor does he sound like him. After watching this movie, I can safely say that Johnson did a really good job. He does look like a young John in the movie and has a decent Lennon accent down. The only thing working against him is his blue eyes, when Lennon’s eyes were brown. A fun fact: Johnson and the director of the movie, Sam Taylor-Wood, are engaged (despite the 23 year difference). Everyone else in the movie does a good job. Anne-Marie Duff does a great job with her role of Julia Lennon, John’s ever-loving mother (who Lennon adored and would write songs such as “Julia” and “Mother” for her). Kristin Scott Thomas plays Mimi Smith, John’s strict but loving maternal aunt. Thomas pretty much nailed the role: Aunt Mimi was strict on Lennon during his teenage years but wanted the best for him. Thomas Brodie Sangster plays Paul McCartney. Although he’s a bit too short, he does a good job as well. Everyone in this movie did great, aside from a few negatives.

While Nowhere Boy is a strong movie, there are a few things that don’t seem right. For starters, the movie’s screenplay is based off of an autobiography written by John’s half sister, Julia Baird. What puzzles me is that Baird was just a child when all the events in the movie happened. How does she know that all this happened for sure? I’m sure her book was faithful enough to make into a movie. However, there are a few things the movie may’ve gotten historically wrong. In the beginning of the movie, John’s Uncle George gives him his first harmonica. I thought I heard that John got his first harmonica when he was ten. Also, there’s an error in the scene where Paul sees John perform at that festival. According to the movie, John and his band played “Maggie Mae” (no relation to the Rod Stewart hit at all. It’s a traditional song that the Beatles later covered on the Let It Be album. As seen in the movie, John’s mother teaches her son the song). In John’s last interview ever (hours before he was murdered), John says that he and his band were playing “Be-Bop-A-Lula” at that festival. In the scene where John’s mother killed after being hit by car, it’s in broad daylight. I always thought that it was at night, since that makes more sense. Still aside from these few possible errors, the movie is still great.

If you like the Beatles and/or John Lennon, you should check out Nowhere Boy. I personally think it’s a really good movie, aside from a few historical errors. To be honest, I don’t think there’s really anyone who can remember what happened back then or how it was supposed to be. Many books have been written on John Lennon. How do we know what exactly happened? In some way, Nowhere Boy is one of those “what may have happened” sort of movies and it’s a very good one (trust me. I’ve seen movies like that and most of them are not good). If you rather see something that’s more factual, I highly recommend you see the amazing 1995 mini-series The Beatles Anthology. It’s in eight parts so the DVD is pricey. You could find that on YouTube for sure, along with the five movies the Beatles made which include A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine, and Let It Be. Of those, A Hard Day’s Night is my favorite. For now, try and see the movie. It has a limited release and I’m sure if you do miss it, it’ll be on DVD very shortly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason is open to a reunion

Recently, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason was interviewed. He said in the interview that he'd be open to reuniting with former bandmate guitarist David Gilmour and bassist Roger Waters. Mason has stated that he likes the idea of "repeating the Live 8 concept", which means Mason is wanting to do a performance for charity. Live 8 was back in the summer of 2005, in which the classic line-up of Pink Floyd reunited for the first time on stage in over 20 years. The band also reunited in 2007 for a tribute show to Syd Barrett but the line up for that was Gilmour, Mason, and keyboardist Rick Wright. Waters was at that show but didn't join his former bandmates on stage that night. There are other signs that show a reunion could just work. Earlier this year, fans were surprised to see when Waters and Gilmour performed four songs together at a benefit concert in England. As a result, Gilmour has promised to make a surprise appearance during one of Waters' tour dates for his 2010 tour for The Wall to perform "Comfortably Numb". Waters himself has also been open to a reunion saying he would do a one-off gig, according to an interview with Rolling Stone about a month ago. Waters has said there is no way they'll do a tour but he likes the idea of doing something like Live 8 again. However, Waters remarked it is a shame that the band didn't get together again before Rick Wright passed away back in September 2008.
When I first saw the title for this article on Rolling Stone's website, I was actually hoping to hear about some kind of tour. Why the hell did I fall for that? Jeez. Still, I'm pretty surprised that the guys are open to reuniting despite the fact that Rick has been dead for two years (also, Syd has been dead for four year but wasn't he metaphorically dead already?). The way I see it, Live 8 did a lot for the band. I think it put everyone on good terms, especially David and Roger. After reading the fantastic book called Comfortably Numb, I learned many new things about the band. One of the them being that Roger was a bit of a bully, especially around Rick. What I got from that book is that Roger and Rick didn't get along too well and thought that there could be a small chance of a reunion of some sorts. If there is a one-off gig, I'm pretty sure this might be the last time Pink Floyd get together since Roger has ruled out recording any new material and Nick has said that a one-off gig could be a nice way to retirement.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Michael Jackson- New products revealed

It was reported months ago that the estate of singer Michael Jackson made a deal with Sony Records to start releasing a line of posthumous products of the late King of Pop. There are three new products coming towards the end of the year, one of which hasn't had any information released yet.
The first release will be a DVD set called Michael Jackson's Vision. The new DVD set will contain three discs, featuring all of the singer's iconic music videos including "Thriller", "Billie Jean", and "Bad" just to name a few of the 40 some videos. This is the first time that all of Jackson's videos are released together. The DVD set will feature at least ten videos that have never been released on DVD before. One of them, "One More Chance", has never been seen before. The song was released on the 2003 compilation Number Ones as a new studio track. Jackson meant to release the video but with the child molestation charges coming back, the video was never released as a result. The set will also include some collaborations Jackson participated in. Examples include his hit with Paul McCartney "Say Say Say" as well as the promo videos he made with his brothers in the Jacksons. Jackson's videos have indeed been released on DVD on the HIStory DVDs, which there are two volumes of. Visions will most likely replace those DVDs with this, as this set is clearly superior to the older DVDs. A limited edition of the set will include a 60-page book. Michael Jackson's Visions will be release on November 22.
Following the release of the DVD set, a new video game will be released. The game, Michael Jackson: The Experience, will test both fans and gamers if they can dance like the King of Pop. The game will mainly focus on dancing as opposed to the singing (in other words: this is more DDR than Rock Band or SingStar). There will, however, be a karaoke option for some versions of the game. Only a few song titles have been announced: "Bad", "Beat It", "Billie Jean", and "Smooth Criminal". The game could possibly be a party favorite as the game does allow more than one player. The game will be released on November 23 on Wii, PSP, and Nintendo DS. The game will also be released on PS3 and XBOX 360 but according to Amazon, the XBOX game won't be released until March 1, 2011.
Finally, Jackson's first posthumous album will be released at some point before the year ends. No release date has been announce nor has a tracking list or details. Still, the album will included ten never before released songs.
This is really cool news. I'll think about getting the DVD set and would love to hear more information on the album. As for the game, I'd like to see a sample of it. Still, this should be very interesting.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Lennon reissue reviews- Walls And Bridges & Double Fantasy

John Lennon - Walls and Bridges
John Lennon
Walls and Bridges
Rating: ****

John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Double Fantasy Stripped Down
John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Double Fantasy
Rating (Original 1980): ****
Rating ("Stripped Down" 2010): ****

Today would've been John Lennon's 70th birthday. On Tuesday, eight albums were reissued from Capitol Records in celebration of this milestone. The albums were remastered and remixed by Yoko Ono and the same team of people who worked on the Beatles remasters last year. Honestly, I don't think the albums needed to be remastered. They had already been remastered and reissued from 2000 to 2005. I doubt these new remasters would sound any different from those. Therefore, I'm only getting what I don't have. For my first purchase, I got Walls and Bridges and Double Fantasy. I do already own Double Fantasy but my version is so old. Plus, the new Double Fantasy has a remixed version of the album.

Walls and Bridges is a really good album. I really think it's overlooked and underrated. The album's big highlight might be John's duet with Elton John, "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night". There are so many other great songs on here. "Going Down on Love" and "What You Got" are both funky and catchy. "#9 Dream" is also pretty neat. It almost sounds spacey and reminds you of George Harrison, in some way. "Steel and Glass" is another great cut. The song is supposedly about the Beatles' last manager, the infamous Allen Klein. Klein had put the Beatles in a financial crisis and was also known to have stolen money from his acts (such as The Rolling Stones. According to sources, Klein had Mick Jagger running through a hotel lobby yelling at Klein "Where's my f**king money?!"). Much like Lennon's mean attack at Paul on "How Do You Sleep?", "Steel and Glass" attacks Klein (and for the record, the bastard died in the summer 0f 2009). All the songs off this album are great. The only weak spot is the last song "Ya Ya", which features an 11 year old Julian Lennon on drums. Julian doesn't make the song bad at all, it's just that the song is annoying.

Lastly, there's Double Fantasy. The original album is great. Some of John's best songs are on here and Yoko's songs are good as well. If you're a fan of the original album, you'll love the new "Stripped Down" version that comes with it. Yoko and the album's original producer Jack Douglas remixed the album. For Beatlemaniacs like me, you may remember 2003's Let It Be...Naked, which is a stripped down version of the Let It Be album. This stripped down version of Double Fantasy is amazing. There's much more focus on John's vocals and they sound so rich and raw. Yoko's songs are about the same but like John's, her vocals are more up front. You'll even get to hear the dialog before and after the songs too, which can be amusing sometimes. For example, John says some silly things at the end of "Cleanup Time" and "Dear Yoko" that weren't heard on the original.

If you don't own any of John's solo material, get it now! I highly recommend the Plastic Ono Band album. Personally, it's my favorite Beatles solo album. Imagine is great as well. John's 70th birthday will be followed on December 8 this year with the 30th anniversary of his tragic murder. I'll have something on that. If I get the other two reissues I need (which, at that point, I'll have all of John's solo material), I may review them as well.

Happy birthday, John!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ron Wood's "I Feel Like Playing" Review

Ron Wood - I Feel Like Playing
Ron Wood
I Feel Like Playing
Rating: ****

The past few years have been hard on Ronnie Wood. In 2008, he and his wife of many years Jo Karslake divorced. He left her for a teenage Russian model but that was finished after Wood was arrested over assault. Also, Wood has been in and out of rehab constantly trying to kick his drinking and drug taking habits. After all this madness, Woody makes his first studio album in nine years. The album, I Feel Like Playing, lives up to its title: Wood is playing his guitar and rocking. The Rolling Stones guitarist of 35 years has made a really good album that has the feel of an old Stones record. Wood didn't do the album alone. Guesting on the album are his friends Slash, Flea, Jim Keltner, Ian McLagan, Daryl Jones, Bernard Fowler, and many others. I Feel Like Playing has twelve track, plus two bonus tracks. Personally, I like "Sweetness My Weakness" which is a reggae-tinged track that brings back memories of the Stones' "Hey Negrita". "Lucky Man" is quite catchy while "Thing About You" is a nice grooving rocker. "Spoonfull" is cool and "Well I Don't Know" has Wood shinning at guitar. Wood's vocals are fair for the entire album, especially the album's closer "Forever". Overall, Ronnie Wood's I Feel Like Playing is good album. If you're a Stones fan, you should have this for sure.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Janis Joplin (1943-1970)- 40 years later

Janis Joplin
January 19, 1943- October 4, 197o

Today marks 40 years since singer Janis Joplin passed away. Born in Texas, Joplin grew up listening to music. A friend of hers had lent her records by Leadbelly and Bessie Smith, the latter influencing her to start singing. Despite being bullied in high school and college, Joplin pursed her dream to become a singer. She sang for a local band, which got her name around to California. A band called Big Brother and the Holding Company liked her and asked her to join the band as their lead singer. In 1966, the band were signed to an independent label called Mainstream Records and released their debut album the following year. Joplin made her breakthrough performance at the Monterey Pop Festival when she sang an amazing rendition of Big Mama Thorton's "Ball and Chain". Clive Davis signed the band to Columbia Records as a result. The band's second album, Cheap Thrill, is praised as one of the best albums of the late 1960's and also contained two of Joplin's best known songs: "Summertime" and "Piece of My Heart". Joplin left Big Brother in 1968 and formed her own backing band, Kozmic Blues Band. The resulting album, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again, Mama! wasn't well received. Still, Joplin and the band performed at Woodstock before breaking up at the end of the year.

In 1970, Joplin had formed a new band called Full Tilt Boogie. She really liked the guys in the band and together, the band performed well received shows. The band were also working on Joplin's next album. On October 4, Joplin was supposed to record the vocals to a song called "Buried Alive In the Blues". Her band had recorded the music and needed her vocals. When Joplin was late, her road manager rushed to LA to the hotel she was staying in. He went there only to see that Joplin was dead at the age of 27. Joplin died from a heroin overdose, according to the autopsy. Joplin was cremated and weeks later, a private funeral was held. Joplin's ashes were scattered in the ocean. Despite her death, the Full Tilt Boogie Band were able to record the music to Joplin's pre-recorded vocals. In 1971, Pearl was released and became her biggest album yet. She even had a #1 with "Me and Bobby McGee".

Rest in peace, Janis.