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KaseyG (Toronto, ON)
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Guitars and Microphones
Guitars and Microphones
Price: CDN$ 22.79
30 used & new from CDN$ 7.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Solo Kate As Good as a New B-52s Album, March 19 2016
Ce commentaire est de: Guitars and Microphones (Audio CD)
In the absence of a new B-52s album since 2008, Kate Pierson's solo debut is the next best thing as it still has enough of the trademark B's quirkiness to satisfy longtime fans. Kate's distinct vocals are front and center on every track and in no way are overshadowed by the modern production, which while quite layered, never comes across as too busy or overproduced, a rarity these days. The arrangements are unusual but catchy as hell and the lyrics are original and clever, which means you'll never hear any of these on the radio, ha-ha. Full lyrics are included in the liner notes too, which is much appreciated.

My favorites include the dynamic opening ode to self-empowerment THROWING DOWN THE ROSES, the irresistible stomper MISTER SISTER that captures the pain of struggle of the transgender experience in only two verses and earworm chorus and BOTTOMS UP, which is the perfect song for cruising with the top down on a weekend afternoon, but each song here has its' own unique charms (although I am not that crazy about the final depressing number PULLS YOU UNDER which prevents me from rating this 5 Stars).


Someplace Else Now
Someplace Else Now
Price: CDN$ 21.01
27 used & new from CDN$ 16.50

4.0 out of 5 stars SOMEPLACE ELSE INDEED..., March 19 2016
Ce commentaire est de: Someplace Else Now (Audio CD)
In 1972, Lesley Gore attempted to break new ground in the field of Mellow Rock, then extremely popular thanks to artists such as Bread, The Carpenters, Carole King and James Taylor, etc. But the public's collective memory of Lesley as Queen of the Teen Weepers would not allow them to embrace any new image of her no matter how good the material.

Gore still wails about love and life gone wrong, but instead of birthday parties and teenage Jezebels, here her huskier vocals and more mature lyrics about self-discovery and the female experience give the material more depth in what was then the age of Women's Lib. The arrangements are pure early '70s and range from Bacharach-esque ('Don't Wanna Be One', 'No Sad Songs') to pure Helen Reddy-style ('The Road I Walk', 'Be My Life', 'Where Do You Go') with gospel-ish backup, tambourines and big, brassy choruses. The best moment comes in the simple but moving 'What Did I Do Wrong' in which Lesley gives what is probably the most stirring performance on the album.

I prefer Lesley's signature one-woman-Girl-Group sound over this mellow material, but SOMEPLACE ELSE NOW is still a solid album and shows off her underrated skills as both vocalist and songwriter. This long-overdue 2015 CD release comes with informative and interesting liner notes.

FOUR STARS.


Always Heavenly: Paris Sisters Anthology
Always Heavenly: Paris Sisters Anthology
Price: CDN$ 27.84
26 used & new from CDN$ 15.90

4.0 out of 5 stars One-Hit Wonder Status Undeserved, March 6 2016
If you aren't a big fan of the Paris Sisters, you will be after hearing this 24-track CD (with a bonus Diet Rite radio spot) by Ace Records that offers many of these tracks on disc for the first time.

Accompanied by a 24-page glossy photo-filled booklet, the CD proves that even the best recordings can get lost in the shuffle in the hands of clueless record execs and promo people. While I won't say every track here is a winner, at least half of these could have and should have been hit singles back in the Swingin' 60s. The non-chronological sequencing also works in its' favor since the listener can really hear the growth and variety in the Paris Sisters' style throughout the decade, from the corny 1950s Maguire Sisters vocal style beginnings to Phil Spector's famous 'Wall of Sound' to Folk-lite to sunny Bubblegum to Streisand-esque showstoppers.

Most Oldies fans are familiar with the Top-Five 1961 smash and signature tune I LOVE HOW YOU LOVE ME, which was the first girl-group hit for producer Phil Spector before he struck gold with the Crystals and the Ronettes. It kicks off this CD and a line from the song is used as the title of this collection: ALWAYS HEAVENLY. Let me get this out of the way now: the breathy vocals and dirge-like qualities of this and its syrupy copycat waltz BE MY BOY are my least favorites here. It was a real revelation to hear that the Paris Sisters quickly shed that mold to explore more interesting and ear-pleasing territory.

Here are my picks for the Top Ten reasons to get this CD:

10. I CAME A LONG WAY TO NOWHERE ' An introspective, wistful number that benefits from unique harmonica and sitar backup

9. STAND NAKED CLOWN - Priscilla really shows off her range on this Broadway-style showstopper

8. THEN CAME LOVE ' Simple but incredibly catchy slice of galloping '60s bubblegum with Tommy James-style percussion and bass and divine harmonies

7. LONELY GIRL ' Appropriately numb and haunting vocal over reverb guitar, melancholy strings and punchy drums

6. ALWAYS WAITIN' ' It's surprising I like this as much as I do since it's a blatant rip-off of 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling' from the cold opening, Wall of Sound production right down to the final 1-2-3-4-5 drumbeat before the fadeout and a shameless lyrical wink to the Righteous Brothers.

5. WON'T YOU HELP ME ' A gloomy and desperate plea over a lively British backbeat

4. GREENER DAYS ' A sophisticated number with restrained production, poetic lyrics and whispery vocals that is reminiscent of Petula Clark's style from the late '60s

3. SEE THAT BOY ' The CD's showstopper where Priscilla belts out lines like 'It just tears the heart out of me' with fevered passion matching Streisand

2. LONG AFTER TONIGHT IS ALL OVER ' Gorgeous and grandiose string-laden declaration of love full of drama and passionate vocals that bests the Dusty Springfield version

1. PLAY IT ONE MORE TIME ' Big, brassy, bouncy and irresistible and in the same vein as Lesley Gore's 'It's My Party' that has Priscilla pleading for someone to obey the title's command before romantic disaster ensues.

Other highlights that didn't make my Top Ten include WHAT AM I TO DO, a 1962 offering that transcends it's cliché lost-love lyrics; TOGETHER is simple but toe-tappingly infectious; WHEN I'M ALONE WITH YOU has great lyrics and melody, traces of folk-rock, and sounds like a female version of an early Turtles song; MY GOOD FRIEND boasts upbeat and cheery production despite the hopelessness of the lyrics about unrequited love. The production is awash with bells and chimes and Priscilla sings in a lower register and it sounds like the Sonny & Cher hits of 1965. WHY DO I TAKE IT FROM YOU is another Righteous Brothers flavored offering but unfortunately it sounds like it was transferred from vinyl here as I detected the sound of needle burn.

I can't rate this Five Stars because IMO there are some weak moments. The syrupy waltz BE MY BOY is a dirge-like copycat of I LOVE HOW YOU LOVE ME; also sugary with an over-the-top girlish vocal is the grating HE KNOWS I LOVE HIM TOO MUCH while YOU is simply trite. ONCE UPON A WHILE AGO has the 1950s Maguire Sisters sound of which I am not too fond.

FOUR STARS and a worthwhile purchase for fans of '60s female vocalists such as Petula Clark or Nancy Sinatra or those seeking some 'new' great Oldies that radio has never played.


Circle of Love: Special 40th Anniversary Edition
Circle of Love: Special 40th Anniversary Edition
Price: CDN$ 30.90
25 used & new from CDN$ 13.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Deluxe Release of Underrated Sledge Album, Feb. 23 2016
Big Break Records have done it again with this 40th Anniversary edition of the debut album from Philly natives and Nile Rogers protégés SISTER SLEDGE. 'Circle of Love' originally contained nine songs and was an excellent debut for the girls but BBR gives us a whopping TEN bonus tracks here, including their first single 'Mama Never Told Me' which was a hit in the UK and has a latter-day Supremes vibe to it.

Some have criticized this album as sounding too teen-oriented, but that assessment couldn't be farther from the truth. This is material that would not be out of place on a Three Degrees or post-Diana Supremes album and this album more than any other proves just what a versatile singer is Kathy Sledge. Her performance on the infectious and upbeat opening title track is spot-on, conveying the thrill and excitement a young woman feels when she's got the undivided attentions of multiple suitors. 'I'm having so much fun' Kathy squeals amid a whimsical string section before admitting 'I've got to get my feet on the ground' over the no-nonsense fuzz guitar before deciding to just give in and enjoy the ride as the song picks up again and fades out. On the slow jam 'Cross My Heart' which rivals any of the romantic Stylistics hits of the '70s, Kathy wrings out every drop of emotion as she pledges her undying love to her man.

The absolutely gorgeous 'Give In To Love' showcases a great lead vocal from Joni that has the crystal-clear clarity of Marilyn McCoo and is accented with these wonderful majestic horn blasts. It may be the greatest slow number in the entire Sledge catalog and Joni's best-ever performance (see also Bonus Track 'Weatherman').

Some songs sound derivative to the seasoned R&B music lover but are still original and well-executed enough to stand on their own. 'Protect Our Love' has a catchy guitar lick and mid-'60s Motown vibe; the simple but irresistible 'Pain Reliever' sounds like a female Barry White single; 'You're Much Better Off Loving Me' borrows a little from the Five Stairsteps 'Ooh-ooh Child' and 'Fireman' has a hypnotic bassline like the Supremes' 'Automatically Sunshine'.

The high point comes in the sizzling 'Love Don't Go Through No Changes on Me' that has perhaps the best arrangement of any song here. Its tempo and structure are similar to 'Circle of Love' except both the melody and Kathy's vocal is more foreboding which gives this one the edge in intensity. The drums really drive this infectious track with gorgeous, swirling strings and stinging fuzz guitar. This one probably has the best production on the album and is easily my favorite.

Some of the Bonus Tracks are as good as or better than material on the original album. 'Weatherman' is a breathtakingly gorgeous number that features another heavenly lead vocal from Joni not to mention beautiful harmonies from Kathy, Debbie and Kim. The harmonies also soar on 'Have You Met My Friend'. We get two versions of the girls' first single that hit big in the UK'a catchy Motown throwback called 'Mama Never Told Me'. 'Love Has Found Me' chugs along like the Supremes' sax-driven 'My World Is Empty Without You'. 'Love Ain't Easy' with its' sexy panting, breathy vocals and dirty guitar licks predate what Klymaxx would be doing ten years later. 'Have Love Will Travel' is a preview of the slick disco the girls would conquer three years later with their collaboration with the CHIC people. Kathy displays a soulful maturity beyond her years on the Bonus cover of the Gladys Knight classic 'Neither One of Us'.

Any fan of R&B greats such as the Three Degrees, Stylistics or '70s-era Supremes will love this release as it's one of Sister Sledge's best albums next to their blockbuster WE ARE FAMILY LP. The remastering has really brought out the strings, horns and percussion and makes obvious the excellent musicianship employed on this album.

FIVE STARS and a Must-Have for Sledge fans.


I Am Thor [Import]
I Am Thor [Import]
Price: CDN$ 32.25
12 used & new from CDN$ 23.84

4.0 out of 5 stars The THOR Reality Show, Feb. 21 2016
Ce commentaire est de: I Am Thor [Import] (DVD)
Ten years after fans got the Thor: An-Thor-Logy - 1976-1985, a Blu-Ray release of I AM THOR debuts and picks up where the story left off in the life of Muscle Rock pioneer Jon Mikl Thor, who parlayed his childhood love of comic books, superheroes and muscle mags into a career that has spanned over four decades.

The first third is basically a condensed version of Thor's early years as bodybuilder, nude waiter, Vegas performer and metal Rock God. Here we get many of the same clips as found on Thor: An-Thor-Logy - 1976-1985 except this time the story is told from the perspective of former club promoters, girlfriend and various band members, and most importantly, THOR himself. There is an underlying sense of disappointment and even pity here as we learn why THOR never had the career he should have, never reaching the heights of Alice Cooper or Kiss. He never had that one elusive hit that would have ingrained him into public consciousness. Instead he was sort of on the fringe, a cult figure who would never really become a household name.

The remainder of the film plays more liked THOR: THE REALITY SHOW as we follow his comeback in the late 1990s and 2000s as he travels across Canada and the US looking considerably bloated from ailments both mental and physical, meds and stress and he singlehandedly tries to manage his own career (including creating an alter-ego to act as his fictional manager'the non-existent 'Steve Scott'). It is almost too much to bear, seeing the exhausted rocker struggling to squeeze into his costumes, navigating airports while steering teetering piles of suitcases and trying to remain calm while enduring one setback after another on his tour. Yet THOR perseveres and the final act has him and his band enjoying an almost ridiculously huge outpouring of adoration from fans in Sweden and Finland which in the final moments, has him second-guess his own decision to retire, and makes the wearying journey totally worth it for both THOR himself, and us the viewer.

I AM THOR paints a portrait of a guy who's never willing to give up on a dream, no matter how much the odds are stacked against him and because we see it happening for real on-screen, it resonates all the more.


The Brady Kids: The Complete Animated Series
The Brady Kids: The Complete Animated Series
DVD ~ Christopher Knight
Price: CDN$ 25.97

4.0 out of 5 stars The Musical Numbers Are Intact, Feb. 18 2016
I was only 4-6 years old when THE BRADY KIDS originally aired on ABC Saturday Mornings, but the fact it was based on one of the earliest Prime Time memories and was from the same animation studio that brought us The Archies, Sabrina and Fat Albert made it an early favorite. When the two CBS affiliates in my area reran these shows in 1981-82 opposite reruns of Josie and the Pussycats, I had trouble deciding and would flip back and forth between channels.

The best thing about this release is that, amazingly, CBS was able to clear all the songs used in the musical interludes (including the Lobo smash 'Me and You and a Dog Named Boo'). Even mega-hit shows like Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley had some of their music cut on the DVD releases put out by CBS. The only bad thing is the cheesy magic-marker cover-art. Why did they not just use one of the Filmation cels and present the animated kids as we all remember them?

Now being middle-aged, these vintage '70s cartoons have lost some of their appeal for me, but viewing an episode or two here and there makes for mildly amusing nostalgia.


Growing Pains: The Complete Seventh Season [Region 1]
Growing Pains: The Complete Seventh Season [Region 1]
DVD ~ GROWING PAINS: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON
Offered by BroadPeak Inc.
Price: CDN$ 25.19
17 used & new from CDN$ 25.12

3.0 out of 5 stars FYI: Music Replacement/NO Rythm Syndicate (sic), Feb. 4 2016
Just a heads-up for those who are interested: the episode 'There Must Be a Pony' in which Chrissy refuses to go to bed because she thinks she's missing all the fun does NOT include the song 'Hey Donna' by Rythm (sic) Syndicate which appeared in the original broadcast version back in 1991. Instead, WA has replaced it with some weird percolating keyboard music that plays underneath the dream sequence.

Aside from that omission, it's great that the show is finally complete on DVD, though this is probably one of the weakest seasons. Young Leo DiCaprio doesn't really invigorate the aging show, Tracey Gold's anorexia becomes painfully obvious on-camera, and the kids are all aging out of their roles. This is still an okay watch for fans, but GROWING PAINS was at its' best during Seasons 2-5.


227 : Season 1
227 : Season 1
DVD ~ Marla Gibbs
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 193.37
9 used & new from CDN$ 35.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A Joy to Revisit, Feb. 2 2016
Ce commentaire est de: 227 : Season 1 (DVD)
In the pantheon of black sitcoms, 227 wasn't as upscale as THE JEFFERSONS nor as bleak as GOOD TIMES, and while it never attained the blockbuster ratings of THE COSBY SHOW, when paired with fellow upstart THE GOLDEN GIRLS on NBC Saturdays in 1985, it helped the network score Neilsen gold for the evening and has gone on to a moderately successful syndication run appearing on a half-dozen national cable outlets off and on for the past quarter-century. Most sitcoms take a season or two to work out the kinks, but 227 seems to running on all cylinders from the get-go.

Having just revisited the first'and sadly only available--season on DVD I have to say this show holds up better than I remember it (which is a rarity all too often) with solid and funny scripts, broad but consistent characterization and a talented, underrated cast that keeps one coming back for more.

Fresh off an 11-year stint as maid Florence on THE JEFFERSONS, Marla Gibbs basically sidesteps here into her own show in the 'Louise' role as housewife/mother Mary Jenkins, raising her teenage daughter Brenda (Regina King) in their middle-class Washington D.C. apartment building with construction worker husband Lester (the dependable Hal Williams). While the couple frequently chide each other, there is obvious love and respect between the two and thankfully none of the acidic barbs or lewd banter that couples on modern sitcoms engage in.

Mary saves those barbs for the building hussy Sondra Clark ('She makes me sick!') played by the inimitable Jackee Harry who deservedly won an Emmy for her role here and steals every scene she's in. With her sexy wiggle, pouty expressions and girlish squeals, Sondra is easily one of TV's all-time best divas, alongside Suzanne Sugarbaker, Blanche Devereaux and Karen Walker.

Keeping peace between these two is landlady and Mary''s best friend Rose Holloway (Alaina Reed Hall) whose role isn't as flashy as Jackee's or sarcastic as Marla's but she does a fine job.

Another source of big laughs comes from outspoken senior citizen Pearl Shay (Helen Martin) who sits in her window, taking in all the sights and sounds of 227 and as a result is the go-to woman for all of the building's gossip. Pearl's tongue is sharp as a razor and she's not one to hold back (she's like the black version of Sophia Petrillo, but funnier IMO).

Though it aired during the apex of the pastels-and-hair-gel era, this first season of 227 surprisingly doesn't scream mid-80s aside from Brenda's occasional references to musical acts such as Prince, Sheila E. or Michael Jackson, DYNASTY, or the Madonna-like makeover she gets from Sondra when trying to change her image.

One of the bonuses of viewing these old shows is seeing which guest stars will turn up, and here we get a brief glimpse of a young Fran Drescher as Sondra's boss as well as an all-too-short turn from Lawanda Page in the lottery episode.

Well worth revisiting, the only complaint I have about 227: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is that it leaves you wanting more, and sadly, thanks to Sony's abandonment of the show, there is no more to be had. On a closing note, if there was an award for best TV theme song sung by its' leading lady, Marla Gibbs would take best honors for 227's catchy tune. FIVE STARS.


Maude: Season 4
Maude: Season 4
DVD ~ Bea Arthur
Price: CDN$ 26.98
19 used & new from CDN$ 24.97

4.0 out of 5 stars One of Maude's Weaker Seasons, Dec 27 2015
Ce commentaire est de: Maude: Season 4 (DVD)
For those who didn't spring for the Complete Series set released last winter, here is the fourth season of MAUDE that consists of the twenty-four episodes that originally aired on CBS during the 1975-76 TV Season on Monday nights at 9:30 following the still-number-one-show on television and MAUDE's parent program ALL IN THE FAMILY. The ratings for this season were the highest the series ever had with a 25 share and ranking #4 among all programs on the air (Season One also ranked #4 for the 1972-73 Season but with a share of 24.7) which is ironic because many fans, myself included, consider this one a come-down from the three seasons it follows.

The scripts this season aren't as intelligent or sharp as the ones written thus far with many mediocre offerings such as 'Maude's Nephew', 'Arthur Gets a Partner' or 'Carol's Promotion'. It's still MAUDE and the performances are still top-notch but if you're looking for any series classics in this bunch, there's maybe two or three at best. Another problem is the overabundance of multi-part episodes this year with a sprawling five-part arc dealing with Maude's decision to make a career of politics and the subsequent toll on her marriage to Walter and a ridiculous two-parter about Maude's bi-polar disorder and obsession with getting Henry Fonda to run for president.

The best shows this season as the ones that keep it simple: 'Viv's Dog' and 'Poor Albert' each hilariously deal with the death of either a beloved pet or a former spouse. MAUDE does Rashomon in the fan-favorite 'Case of the Broken Punch Bowl'. Frequent guest star Robert Mandan appears in 'Walter's Ethics' which allows Adrienne Barbeau to shine and 'Maude's Rejection' is an episode that will likely please anyone who found the Maude character too loud and overbearing.

The video quality is better than I've seen it in TV reruns (the screen caps I posted don't do it justice) and the cover art is a rare promo shot, although it's from Season One not Season Four, but I'd buy this is in a plain brown wrapper if I had to because the shows are what matter most.

Shout Factory should be commended if for nothing else than the fact they were able to secure all the original music that was used in these episodes, from 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon' to 'I Am Woman' and all the songs used in the Bicentennial episode.

I have to take away one star since this collection of episodes is substandard for MAUDE compared to the rest of the series, save for perhaps the final season so Season 4 gets Four Stars but is still a fun ride.
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Grey Gardens (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Grey Gardens (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Edith "Big Edie" Bouvier Beale
Price: CDN$ 38.57
15 used & new from CDN$ 35.07

4.0 out of 5 stars The Original Reality TV, Dec 6 2015
Decades before HOARDERS and the Kardashians and the cesspool of Reality TV, GREY GARDENS took an intimate look at the daily lives of two fallen women of former aristocracy: Big Edie and Little Edie Beale in this trainwreck of a documentary that shows their hilarious yet tragic co-dependency among filthy living conditions in a dilapidated mansion.

I can't say this warrants repeat viewings but once it's on you cannot stop watching. The funniest bits are the small trivial moments that demonstrate the ladies' bizarre attitudes toward everyday life like when guests arrive for a birthday party and Big Edie remarks that the dining room chairs are dirty, Little Edie simply lines them all with newspapers! Later she is seen ripping open bags of Wonder Bread to scatter in the attic for the hungry raccoons. And when a black cat is seen defecating behind a vintage oil painting of Mama Beale, she just shrugs it off and says she feels honored! Little Edie's presumable hair loss is covered by her resourceful use of various scarves, towels, sweaters and flags as fashionable headwear and her favorite outfit of choice seems to be a 1940s styled leopard print bathing suit paired with well-worn white dancing heels. Mama also favors strapless swimwear but hers succumbs to gravity at the most inopportune moments.

Both of these women are clearly off their rockers yet the picture doesn't really seem as exploitive as it could have been. Still, worth a look for fans of offbeat cinema.


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