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Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers
Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers
by Grant Naylor
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
32 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a TV tie-in, March 24 2004
With many TV series, novelizations are basically TV Tie-ins, which make the assumption that the reader has already seen the show, knows the characters and situations involved, which doesn't necessitate any background information or character development. The tie-in doesn't qualify as quality fiction in any sense.
Not so with Red Dwarf. For the first novel, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, RD creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor took certain ideas from the series are either expanded (the best things in this novel), altered (also great), or dropped altogether from stories of the first two seasons and strung them together in a continuous story. In places, dialogue is replicated, but in other places, it's done in the narration of the text.
Naturally, the first episode worked in is the debut The End, but before that, we learn how Dave Lister signed on aboard the Jupiter Mining Corporation vessel Red Dwarf, how and where he first met Arnold Rimmer, the man synonymous with the name Smeghead, and the events that led to Lister being the surviving human being. Some aspects of the story are changed, such as the captain of RD being a woman, but the most interesting thing that's given more of a background story is how and why George McIntyre, seen as a hologram in the TV series, died, and there's a dark aspect in that. Another shows why Rimmer flunks his astronavigation exams, and that's his spending more time making making revision timetables instead of actually studying. The Cat, a humanoid evolved from the ordinary housecat, and Kryten the mechanoid also feature in the story.
Holly's computer senility is detailed after spending 3 million years alone. For example, he knows that Isaac Newton's a famous physicist, but he can't remember why. But the more human parts of the characters are covered, such as Dave initial coping with his sole existence aboard, or George Saunders's agonized coping with the fact that he's a hologram in the first chapter.
Speaking of holograms, there's an interesting discussion between a hologram and a psychologist. On Red Dwarf, the most recently deceased crewmember is kept on as a hologram, consisting of a light bee transmitting 3D projection of the crewmember, duplicating that person's personality. The hologram is a simulation of a possible or probable person who died, and adding Descartes' cogito ergo sum to the equation, only that principle is altered because "it's the computer making you think you're thinking, therefore, you possible are." I think I'm thinking, therefore, I possibly am... Hmmm...
The description of Dave's girlfriend for five weeks, Kristine Kochanski, and the ideal love of his life, is as follows: "It wasn't a beautiful face. But it was a nice face. It wasn't a face that could launch a thousand ships. Maybe two ships and a small yacht. That was, until she smiled. When she smiled, her eyes lit up like a pinball machine when you win a bonus game. And she smiled a lot." I could go for a girl like that.
One part of Chapter 6 is a great written montage, intercut between Holly the computer's activities following the radiation leak, and the gradual evolution of the Cat Race, something not given too much detail to in the TV series.
Five of twelve stories from the first two seasons were worked into this novel:
The End, Season 1, Episode 1
Future Echoes, Season 1, Episode 2
Me Squared, Season 1, Episode 6
Kryten, Season 2, Episode 1
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, Season X, Episode X
The reason for the X's is that aspects of this episode make room for a sequel novel, which there is, and I don't want to give things away. Besides, this is my favourite part of the book, as it's something I'd definitely want to do. Anyone originally not familiar with Red Dwarf would like it, as it's a quick read, and with the storyline and concepts of the novel outweighing the humour. Fans though will definitely enjoy it as I did.

American Fool
American Fool
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cougar with a sound that hurts so good, March 23 2004
This review is from: American Fool (Audio CD)
With American Fool, John Cougar, attained status on the American music scene that would reach its peak during the Scarecrow and Lonesome Jubilee albums, but that was three and five years away, respectively. For now, let's concentrate on 1982 and the singles that shot up the charts, including the #1 single "Jack & Diane."
The sounds here are more raw and rock than the more refined material of the mid- to late 80's, some songs encompassing a combination drums and guitar that neared the crunch of AC-DC, such as one of his signature tunes, "Hurt So Good." Most of the songs have pounding pneumatic drums and power guitar chord stomp, and what I'm noticing here is that many other songs could've become singles because of it. In other words, Cougar's moment could've been bigger had this album been given a few more singles. Much like the lines in "Hurt So Good," "sink your teeth right into my bones" and "c'mon baby make it hurt so good," there's a new sort of confidence in the sound and in Cougar himself.
"A little ditty about Jack and Diane/two American kids doing the best they can" Well that little ditty went to #1 sure enough, divided into the quiet acoustic verses about the couple, with the transitional refrain of "life goes on/long after the thrill of living is gone" on the inevitable parade of life, leading into that ringing power riff. The thing seems to be that any young couple had better enjoy it, because "change will come around real soon and make us women and men." And break out the vomit bags, for the recognizable power riff and two notes plucked was sampled by Jessica Simpson in "I Think I Love You."
Needing that moral backup and set to a style that would come to its fruition in Scarecrow is what "Hand To Hold On To" is about. The hand need not be strong or rich, and there's the need to have some dreams or thrills to live for.
There's a bit of self-assured wild loner in the mid-paced "Danger List"; in one moment, he says "I ain't looking for affection" but that next turns to, "give me someone I can look up to/show me someone I can love." The songs ends with the usual crunch chords prevalent in this album.
Another could-be single is "Can You Take It" with its opening storm of guitars and a catchy chorus, as is "Thundering Hearts" with its AC-DC crunch. One of the better and more powerful songs here.
No, this isn't the Iggy Pop version of "China Girl," as the Coug wrote all his own songs here, and he sings admiringly of a Chinese girl. Had he released this as a single, this might've beaten David Bowie to the punch and people might associate the title of the song to Cougar.
A bit of truth there in "I'm close enough for rock and roll," as Cougar proclaims in Close Enough, another song that could've made it as a single, given the same sound defining "Hurt So Good." The album ends with the soft acoustic "Weakest Moments."
American Fool further opened the crack in the door that was "I Need A Lover" two albums back, but given the material here, that crack could've been wider. And did that crack turn into a wider peek into the mainstream? Uh-Huh.

Solitude-Solitaire
Solitude-Solitaire
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cetera leaves Chicago with a worthy solo debut, March 23 2004
This review is from: Solitude-Solitaire (Audio CD)
With his departure from Chicago following 17, bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera was quick to go on the solo wagon, as his debut, Solitude/Solitaire came out, ironically at the same time his former band emerged with 18 with a new lead singer. Cetera seems to have left much of the band's sound behind, embracing a fresher but more conventional and inoffensive pop approach, filled with synths and horns, hardly surprising given that the producer was Michael Omartian.
"Big Mistake" is light Duran Duran-type pop about women being the victim of a smooth-talking love and leave type, and says that women don't make that big mistake only once. The song ends with a brief flurry of synth and horns.
The frantic and bouncy "They Don't Make'Em Like They Used To" is an example of Sheena Easton style New Wave. And despite what the title leads one to think, the next line puts down that assumption with "I think they're better than before." The they in the title is about women, which won't go well given the analogy of women being manufactured products.
The next song may smack of 80's Chicago, but given that David Foster's one of the co-writers, hardly surprising. The synth pop ballad "The Glory Of Love," from Karate Kid Part II resurrects old-fashioned chivalry with lines such as "a man who will fight for your honour/I'll be the hero you're thinking of," and "knight in shining armour." I remembered liking this song a lot, but with the element of females having their honour fought for and rescued, I imagine feminists will be seething in rage at this song.
However, it's the next ballad single from the album, "The Next Time I Fall," with languid dreamy keyboard work matching more his duetting partner Amy Grant's softer voice. One of my favourite ballads from the decade.
Place "Queen Of The Masquerade Ball" about a self-assured professional woman in the Flock of Seagulls/Duran Duran New Wave category with a smart pop sound Sheena Easton'd be proud of. Ditto for the title track, where in a twist, the main character thinks at times he's better off by himself, even willing to be a prisoner of it by asking for the prisoner's food of bread and water. This New Wave-style is reflected in songs co-written by producer Omartian.
His ballads are something else. The love-separation song "Only Love Knows Why" could've been another single, and maybe a candidate on an 80's Chicago album with more production a la "Hard Habit To Break."
With a sound consisting of either New Wave synth-pop or Chicago-type ballads, Cetera makes a good start in solo stardom, and fortunately, songs like "One Good Woman" and "After All" would give him more staying power. Solitude/Solitaire is a good first step with some filler and border filler, redeemed by the singles and "Only Love Knows Why."

Doctor Who: Battlefield
Doctor Who: Battlefield
VHS

4.0 out of 5 stars Metaphoric Dr. Who (or is that Merlin?) against nuclear war, March 23 2004
This review is from: Doctor Who: Battlefield (VHS Tape)
The Doctor as Merlin? Well, that's what he's called by Ancelyn ap Gwalchmai, Knight General of the Britons from an Earth where magic is more prevalent over technology. If the Doctor doesn't do something, the "Earth could be in the center of a war that doesn't belong in this dimension." That is a war fought between forces loyal to Arthur and those loyal to Morgaine of the Fay, Battle Queen of the S'Rax and her son Mordred.
Nearby, are two other parties who become involved in this war. The first is Peter Warmsley and Shou Yuing, archaeologists working on a dig sponsored by the Carbury Trust. Warmsley's a dedicated archaeologist, believing that "history has to be eased out of the Earth one painstaking layer at a time." After ten years, he has unearthed the scabbard belonging to Excalibur, but where is the sword?
The other party is UNIT, led by Brigadier Winifred Bambera, who is supervising a convoy carrying a nuclear missile. For the first time, we see UNIT for what it's supposed to be, as soldiers from Russia, Czech Republic, and France are seen. However, as the Russian Zbrigniev tells Bambera, "whenever this Doctor shows up, all hell breaks loose." And when the Doctor shows up at this time, Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart has to redon the uniform, take the baton and service issue revolver, and become reunited with his friend and former scientific advisor. Nicholas Courtney's (Lethbridge-Stewart) a familiar and welcome presence in Who, and this show succeeds mostly due to him.
As UNIT shows up, this does reinforce series continuity, as past monsters are mentioned, and a certain yellow Roadster makes a welcome final appearance, though Ace and Shou Yuing's mockery of it--"zero to sixty in twenty minutes" is short-lived.
There are few moments in Who that are embarrassingly cringing, and unfortunately, this story suffers from it in Episode 2, when Mordred, in summoning his mother, goes over the top with some demonic laughter. Whenever I see this segment, I look for something soft to throw at the TV screen. And the concept of the more magical Earth isn't surprising, as the Doctor says the reverse of Arthur C. Clarke's law, "Any advanced from of technology is indistinguishable from magic" is applicable.
Jean Marsh's portrayal of Morgaine makes her a complex villain. Resplendent in battle armour and crown, she clearly believes in an honourable war--"what is victory without honour?"--at one point scolding her son for fighting on Earth without first paying their respects to Earth's fallen soldiers. Her conversation with the Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is one of fellow foes showing mutual respect. She tells him calmly that she bears him no malice, but at their next meeting, she will kill him.
The Destroyer, which apart from its bluish skin, is a dead ringer for the Devil in the Tom Cruise movie Legend, is an example of animatronics operating the jaws and saliva dripping from its mouth. And its description by Morgaine, "Lord of Darkness, Eater of Worlds," is a reference to Robert Oppenheimer quoting from the Bhagavad-Gita: "I am become death, the shatterer of worlds; waiting that hour that ripens to their doom." And guess when Oppenheimer quoted that?
Which leads to the metaphor of the Destroyer and nuclear war. The Doctor's horrific description: "All over the worlds, fools are poised, ready to let death fly machines of death...of light brighter than the sun. Not a war between armies, nor a war between nations, but death, death gone mad. A child looks up in the sky, his eyes turn to cinders, no not tears, only ashes. Is this honour? Is this war?"
Part Arthurian legend, UNIT action story, Battlefield does waver a bit unevenly into comedic moments when such moments aren't called for, but prevails with a strong story, characters, and a never to be forgotten theme.

Up Your Alley
Up Your Alley
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 33.97
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4.0 out of 5 stars Music right up my alley, March 23 2004
This review is from: Up Your Alley (Audio CD)
By 1988, I'd only heard "I Love Rock And Roll" and "Good Music," the latter on MTV. Fortunately, I didn't have to wait long with Up Your Alley and it's opening single, "I Hate Myself For Loving You." Having felt I missed out on her when she first came out, this song with opening anthemic drums, power guitars, and chorus. Desmond Child's songwriting can be felt here. In some ways, I'm reminded of a slowed down "Heaven's On Fire," a song he did for KISS. That song and "Ridin' With James Dean" shows Joan's shift to arena rock, with crashing guitar theatrics and riffs. "Back It Up" even has shades of Def Leppard. Given that Hysteria was released the previous year, it's hardly surprising that incorporating that sort of sound was seen as a boon.
The other single from here shows how Joan can exhibit the vulnerable and hurt apart from the anger from being lied to. "Little Liar" exudes all three in this rock ballad, with a choral backing and rhythm guitar that makes this more an 80's Heart song. Like the other single, this highlights Desmond Child's co-writing talents. But it also makes me ask, "Joan, do you any NICE guys instead of ones who treat you like cr-p?"
Joan does two cover songs back-to-back. The first is Chuck Berry's rollicking "Tulane." See, that's the thing about a Jett album. It's anticipating what she'll cover in a sea of original numbers that makes it fun. The other is a moody, paced, chugging rendition of Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog," with enough power guitar to make it worthwhile.
The mid-paced rocker "You Want In, I Want Out," also co-written with Desmond Child, has a sound that mirrors KISS, Crazy Nights era, minus the Ron Nevison wall of synth, but with the arena rock backing vocals of Heart.
"Just Like In The Movies" has that classic Jett bite, sporting an electric bluesy guitar that belongs on the first album. And ace songwriter Diane Warren helps Joan and producer Kenny Laguna on the 60's-pop inspired "Desire," which sounds quite nice with the usual guitars and backing vocals, also 60's-inspired, a sound also found in the more tempered but listenable "Play that Song Again."
This is the first album since drummer Lee Crystal and bassist Gary Ryan's departure following Good Music, replaced here by Thommy Price and Kasim Sulton respectively. Ricky Byrd's still here, thank goodness. Up Your Alley shows Joan as strong as ever, with inroads towards KISS/Def Leppard-style arena rock.

How to Read a Film: The World of Movies, Media, Multimedia:Language, History, Theory
How to Read a Film: The World of Movies, Media, Multimedia:Language, History, Theory
by James Monaco
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Or, how to ethically use a film in this Information Age, March 22 2004
James Monaco states early on if that poetry is something one can't translate, and if art is something one can't define, then film is something that can't be explained. He tries to in this book. Film is shaped by politics, philosophy, economics and the technology of a society, with that last being more a key factor with the digital revolution. How To Read A Film-Movies, Media, Multimedia is more than just a book on film technique, history, and theory. It's that last word in the title that is given emphasis on in the last section, including the emphasis that the book is also about How To USE a Film.
Techniques are covered include lighting, aspect ratio, tracks, film grade, and codes. And yes, there is the requisite film history, which is heavily condensed and goes through individual directors, countries, and certain genres in film. As only one chapter's devoted to it, but it's a quick cram-course in who's who, who-directed-what?, who-starred-in-what?, and what was going on in such-and-such a country.
Another interesting concept is the terms film, cinema, and movies. The terms are defined in the way we look at the medium. Film is what it's called in relationship to the world, i.e. politics. Cinema refers to a more aesthetic and intellectual stance. And movie is a named when defined as a consumer-oriented, economic commodity. The terminology is interesting when one defines a performance as the sum of the actor's persona in conflict with the role he plays.
Monaco then spends some time discussing the two schools, expressionism/formalism versus neorealism/functionalism. Expressionism, derived in Germany from such masters as Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau, focuses on the inner aspect of humanity, using symbols, stereotypes, stylization, which eventually influenced directors such as Hitchcock and Welles. Formalism, more from the Soviet masters like Sergei Eisenstein, is more analytic and scientific, concerned with technique. There are discussions of montage (series of shots that advance the action) vs. mis-en-scene (deep focus photography that allows more audience participation in the film experience) and the schools of thought that argued in favour of one over the other. There's an interesting observation by Andre Bazin, who saw film as the asymptote to reality, the imaginary line that nears but never touches reality, which if put into conjunction into the earlier definition of film being something that can't be explained.
All this leds to multimedia and virtual reality. Most of the latter deals with the information age, detailing the history of computers and Internet, which led to the control and access to information. This ties in with the ethics regarding copyright in the merging of texts, images and sound, and downloading MP3's in this postmodernist, recontextualization of art, where film sits squarely. Doesn't this surely affect burning DVD's from the Net, which serves to accelerate already shrinking box office takings? Monaco quotes Lenin on how ethics is the esthetics of the future, sums this dilemma up pretty well.
Monaco uses the example of David Bowman, the astronaut in 2001, and the virtual cage he's in at the end of the movie, to describe how our closed personalized environments, created to block out the noisy outside world, may give us security, i.e. Discmans, cellphones, VCR viewings as opposed to theatrical outings, but at the cost of losing touch visually and morally from our surroundings. Invaluable due to its being not only about the past of film, but its future as well.

Diamonds and Pearls
Diamonds and Pearls
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4.0 out of 5 stars Back in form, albeit more stripped down and back to roots, March 22 2004
This review is from: Diamonds and Pearls (Audio CD)
Following the misfire of Graffiti Bridge, Prince pulled his career from the coals of doom, avoiding being labelled a legacy of the 80's, and reemerged the following year with a new band and new sound, more stripped down, lively, and natural, as if trying to get the feel of a live band rather than studio trickery, and adding hip-hop and rapper Tony B to his repertoire. Diamonds And Pearls may have yielded some radio-friendly singles, but the rest of the album's another matter altogether.
"Thunder" shows Prince as still a religious man, and at times reminds me of a stripped down "When Doves Cry," while "Daddy Pop" has identical instrumentations to "Cream," but with a more rapid beat than the single, and vocals from Prince and Elisa matching the beat. One of the better songs here.
Add the romantic title track to another prime Prince ballad, with special vocal help from Rosie Gaines, whom Prince respected so much that he vowed never to play this song live with anyone else but her. Heraldic horns and guitars in the bridge add to the magic. While stripped down and simple, it's a far cry from sensually lush lovescapes such as "Do Me, Baby," "International Lover," and "The Beautiful Ones." That honour belongs to "Insatiable," which has a slow-dancing/bedroom tempo keyboards and percussion and Prince's crooning falsetto.
"Cream, sh-boogie bop!" Measured and paced percussive beats, guitar and organ riffs, and a sound that turns dark coffee into latte, "Cream" stands as a fair single.
"Strollin'" is a frisky musical leisure promenade sung in Prince's falsetto, with a simple message of relaxing by playing one-day hookey from responsibilities and gain that sense of feeling swell.
The Steeles, whom Prince used on Graffiti Bridge, do a gospel-like power harmonies on the equally frisky "Willing And Able" a song on being confident enough to take risks, with a cards motif equating face cards with what it takes to follow one's dream
Prince still had his overt and aggressive entendres with "Gett Off," which was probably his most suggestive song since "Darling Nikki," and experimenting with grinding hip-hop motifs. "23 positions in a one-night stand?" and "something about a little box with a mirror and a tongue inside"? A song showing that if a girl's a star, he's the big dipper, and a preview to the simpler but just as explicit single from his next album.
The party atmosphere of "Jughead" takes rap a step further than "House Quake" did in Sign O The Times, with Tony M taking a more prominent role than Prince. On first glance, it seems to be about a dance, but it ends with a slick, Anglo manager delivering some "wheelers and dealers" royalties sales talk to Tony, who after delivering a rant on how managers are parasites who cheat artists out of their deserved royalties, settles the score with a slug. And it continued with one of the Cavallo-Ruffalo-Fargnoli team suing Prince for defamation.
"Money Don't Matter 2 Night" is one of the better songs, a lush and leisure number that weaves losing at a blackjack table, an attempt to find partners for an investment, and killing children to control the oil supply. The key thing is that one's soul is more important than money. The musical motifs of this would be revisited in "Sweet Baby" on his Symbol album.
"Push" is a song out of LoveSexy that has been given hip-hop arms and legs, rap scratches, and runs the 400 in quality time, with "Glam Slam"-like string synths, and a rap written on the sleeve verso mentioning the first seven songs in a verse.
Prince's political consciousness is alive and kicking in "Live 4 Love," a story of a bomber pilot who after being hit in enemy territory, wonders just what he's fighting for, and makes his decision after coached by his guardian angel, who tells him "live 4 love, without love u don't live."
Whereas the Revolution was an ethnic mix harkening to Sly and the Family Stone, most of the musicians here are black, showing Prince leaning towards a 70's style cultural nationalism stage in his career, and that would be taken to more on his Symbol album.

Definitive Collection
Definitive Collection
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5.0 out of 5 stars Feelin' Alright? Actually, I am feeling good myself, March 22 2004
This review is from: Definitive Collection (Audio CD)
Of the bands Steve Winwood's associated with, there's Traffic, formed after his departure from the Spencer Davis Group, in which he temporarily departed during his sojourns with Blind Faith and Ginger Baker's Airforce. He reformed the group, which stayed together till 1975. This is also the group associated with Dave Mason, who left and rejoined several times before embarking on a mostly unsuccessful solo career and a brief stint with Fleetwood Mac in the 90's. Traffic itself contributed to the British psychedelic scene, replete with organs, flute, saxophones, sitars, and harpsichords, as well as other instruments, showing how they embraced Indian sounds, the neo-Bachian music by Procol Harum, and the like, and they're all here on this greatest hits compilation.
Some live performance clips of Traffic made their way to MTV's closet classics. Three of those were from John Barleycorn Must Die, the album where Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood reformed after Winwood's temporary split. "Freedom Rider" featuring a moody sax and fluttering flute along with Winwood's usual psychedelic organ, showed that a two year absence hadn't done the group any harm. The near-seven minute instrumental jam "Glad" was my favourite, demonstrating Chris Wood melding saxophones, flute, and percussion together, with Winwood's piano, wavering from left-hand keys to right, with the slow walking rhythm of the piano towards the end. The sobering guitar and flute title track to John Barleycorn was a tale of the struggle against alcohol as personified by the title, with the growing of barley as an analogy to John growing up. Beer, ale, whisky... we get that from barley, yeah?
From their debut Mr. Fantasy, the dreamy title track with heavy guitars merged with psychedelic organs, a plea to the title character to cheer them up with a tune, is one of their signature tunes and the way Winwood wanted the band to go. The first two singles from that album are the UK Top 5 "Paper Sun," a bright psychedelic piece that mirrors the sound Floyd had with their debut, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. A sitar introduces and later continues on their UK #2 hit, "Hole In My Shoe" lyrically "I walked through a field that just wasn't real with 100 tin soldiers" and musically like "Strawberry Fields." Oh, and Neil of the Young Ones covered this on his Heavy Concept Album.
Dave Mason's contributions from the second album include "You Can All Join In" with its skippy rhythm and bluesy guitar. He also did what I consider to be another signature tune, the well-paced rockin' jam "Feelin' Alright." Winwood steps towards blues in the upbeat "Pearly Queen," also from the same album.
By the time "Rock and Roll Stew" and the Low Spark of The High Heeled Boys came out, Traffic had added Rick Grech (ex-Blind Faith) on bass and Jim Gordon (ex-Derek and the Dominos") and they were more accessible on FM radio. The near 12-minute title track was an intricate composition hinting more towards jazz/rock as evidenced by the extended piano and sax bits.
Nothing from their last three albums, Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory, On The Road, and Where The Eagle Flies are here, but what is here is the best during their formative years, mostly with the original four members.

Back to Basics: The Essential Collection 1971-1992
Back to Basics: The Essential Collection 1971-1992
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5.0 out of 5 stars I honestly love her...Really. Great Olivia collection, March 20 2004
Despite starting with folk and country roots, Olivia Newton-John came to the forefront with her relocation to North America and retooled herself to more pop standards, despite winning a Grammy for Best Country Female Vocal for "Let Me Be There." No, there was one more Grammy to be won, and that was Record of the Year (1974) for the tearful heartfelt piano and strings "I Honestly Love You," definitely the best song here.
That was from the If You Love Me, Let Me Know album, and the country title track is also included. The basso male backing vocalist provide a good balance with Olivia's winsome pop vocals.
As for the rest, it's the requisite collection of hits, of which there are plenty, as well as four new songs. The first one was penned and co-produced by Diane Warren, showing she has something in her magic pen for O N-J. "Deeper Than A River" belongs squarely in the 80's tradition of dreamy pop ballads, complete with synthesizers and strings.
"Not Gonna Be The One" could easily belong on one her Totally Hot album, as there are similarities to this and "A Little More Love." Produced by her longtime producer John Farrar.
Her cover of Brenda Lee's #1 hit, "I Want To Be Wanted,"--who doesn't want to be?--is my favourite of the four new songs here, showing her ability to put forth great ballads haven't diminished with her Grammy winner. And with Peter Asher (Peter of Peter and Gordon) as producer, how can she go wrong?
"I Need Love" is 80's soul/pop and synth fills set to a funky bass backbeat, with some monologue thrown in. In an ironic reference to an earlier hit, she sings that she holding out for something more than physical. Clearly it's something more permanent: "I'm not looking for a bandaid on loneliness." Aren't we all? And this is the most un-Moroder sounding Giorgio Moroder production I've heard.
In a twist of fate, many of her best-known songs turned out to be soundtrack hits. And because of that, N-J gets tarred with the epithet 70's cheese when many are asked to classify her. Two of them were from Grease, both duets with John Travolta. The bouncy "You're The One That I Want," penultimate number in the movie with the catchy bass setting the rhythm of the song, and a big hit in the US, spent nine weeks at the top in England. "Summer Nights," a song placed clearly in the musical genre, also went to #1 in the UK. The other #1, "Xanadu," is not on there, but "Magic" also from that movie, is.
Of the other movie tracks, the fast-paced pop of "Twist Of Fate," from Two Of A Kind, her second teaming up with Travolta, with its racing electropop bass synth and fuzzy guitar, definitely shows her staying power in 1983, and as far as this collection went, as material from Soul Kiss and The Rumour are excluded. The other, from Grease, is her soaring strings and steel guitar ballad, "Hopelessly Devoted To You," showing a mixture of pop and country instruments.
In the US, one of her last gasps at greatness was the smart and punchy title track to her "Physical" album, but singles like thatand lines like "let's get physical/let me hear your body talk" showed her embracing the naughty Sandy side of her. Small wonder the album cover, showing her flushed from an exercise workout, was mistaken for...well, physical things.
From Don't Stop Believin' (1976) comes the melting strings ballad "Sam." And from the previous year, "Have You Never Been Mellow?" taken from the album of the same name, was a leisure mid-paced number with strings, and showed Olivia adding her two cents to the feminist bandwagon: "someone else be strong" or "comfort from inside," reflecting the inner spotlight people began turning on in the 70's. Another song from that album is the country tune "Please Mr. Please," a pleading request to someone not to play a certain song for fear of being reminded of a past love.
Despite the subtitle 1971-1992, the earliest songs here date from 1974's If You Love Me, Let Me Know. For a first-time listen at Olivia, much recommended, and if you love her stuff, let me know. If not, let her be.

Grease (Original 1978 Soundtrack)
Grease (Original 1978 Soundtrack)
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5.0 out of 5 stars 50's fun with 70's production values-a classic, March 20 2004
Given the national funk the USA was in, the songs in Grease was also a longing for a funner, simpler time, when rock wasn't so complicated. Stylishly, it's 50's music, some with 70's disco sensibilities, 70's non-disco pop, and songs whose sound harken back to the stage play, clearly meant to stay within the confines of the movie.
The order of songs on the soundtrack frontloads the theme song and singles in the first part before getting back in movie order for the rest. Note: songs reviewed in order of film, not CD.
After the brief "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing," comes the title song, the perfect marriage of the 50's, exemplified by singer, Frankie Avalon, and the catchy disco-like rhythms of the 70's, hardly surprising given that Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees penned this song.
"Summer Nights" the first duet between John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, featuring members of the cast, harkens back to its stage origins, with the differing versions of what went on in Danny and Sandy's fateful summer marked by vocal tradeoffs between the two, highlighted by predominantly male voices in Travolta's segment, female ones in Newton-John's.
"Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" too is a stagey song, sung by Stockard Channing when making fun of Sandy, with references to Elvis, Troy Donahue, and Doris Day making it a look back at the late 50's. The sugary pop ballad "Hopelessly Devoted To You" was tailor-made for Newton-John, a ballad alternately with steel guitars one moment, strings the next. One of her best songs.
"Why this car is automatic, it's systematic, it's hydromatic. Why it's greased lightning!" For downright fun and energy, "Greased Lightning" bears the hallmark of Elvis and Eddie Cochrane-type rockers, an ideal song accompanying the spanking red hot rod fantasy sequence.
"It's Raining On Prom Night," sung by Cindy Bullens, is another vintage 50's-type slow ballad, and is the song that plays when Sandy goes to the jukebox, only to have Danny make fun of her relationship with the jock she's hanging out with.
Frankie Avalon's slow-dance "Beauty School Dropout" is a nod back to the days when his "Venus" was a big hit, strings laden doo-wop style female accompaniment including Stockard Channing. This number was done in the guardian angel (Avalon) telling Frenchie to get her act together and go back to school.
"Rock And Roll Party Queen" can be briefly heard in the dance segment when the people start entering the decorated gym.
Another example of 50s/70s dynamic is Sha-Na-Na, who spearheaded a rock and roll revival movement. Their songs is one fun track after another, from Danny and the Juniors' "Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay," the slow dance of "Those Magic Changes," Little Anthony's "Tears On My Pillow," Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog," the climactic and fun-brimmed "Born To Hand Jive," and then a cover of "Blue Moon."
Travolta's solo song "Sandy," done after Sandy storms out of his car after his manhandling her, is more a defense than an apology, as he says in the monologue that she hurt him. The monologue he has inbetween the singing segments is more a hallmark of girl group songs like "Leader Of The Pack." Solo, Travolta's actually not bad, replicating 50's-style falsetto at times.
Next, is another Stockard Channing solo, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" and a reprise of "Sandra Dee" by Olivia Newton-John, before the final blowout. In the interview segment of the video, Olivia Newton-John herself knew that with the bouncy bassline throughout the energetic "You're The One That I Want," the second Travolta duet, was going to be a hit, and it was. And in the movie, it's followed by the equally vivacious "We Go Together," which could've been a single.
Other notes: A kewpie doll for whoever can figure out when the instrumental "Alone At the Drive-In," "Mooning," "Freddy My Love" and "Rock N Roll Party Queen" were in the movie, because I don't remember them. At least two numbers, Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba," and Jerry Lee Lewis's "Whole Lotta Shakin'," heard before and during the action at the Frosty Palace hangout, are missing. Oh yes, and for those wanting to programme their CD player so that it plays the exact sequence in the movie, try 23,24,2,7,3,8,9,6,19,12,13,16,14,15,11,5,20,21,4,22,1. Another exemplary soundtrack from the 70's and perhaps of all time.

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