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F. J. Hoffknecht "49 States" (Redwood City, CA)

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Heavy Horses
Heavy Horses
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 27.05
36 used & new from CDN$ 6.32

2.0 out of 5 stars Tight playing marred by songs, vocals, Jan. 7 2004
This review is from: Heavy Horses (Audio CD)
When it first came out, many dubbed "Heavy Horses" as "Songs From The Wood Part II", which couldn't be further from the truth. "SFTW" was fresh, intelligent, inventive and naughty, "HH" was dull, trite and forced. Also, "SFTW" was timeless yet Elizabethan, while "HH" was current and rural (not necessarily "woodsy"). Yes, "HH" used a lot of the same instruments and the same line-up, but the songs and the vocals drag the whole project down.
I can recommend exactly three songs off the whole album, "Acres Wild", "Moths" and the title track, which, combined, pretty much give us the idea of the whole album. The rest of the titles consist of personifying some of mankind's favorite critters (cats, dogs, mice) and even inanimate objects (weathervanes, kids' nightmares) to self-indulgent effect. Many of Ian Anderson's lines, such as "gather your toys to a call to arms; and swing your big bear down" make one cringe instead of go "awww!" It's almost as though Anderson's making an atonement for the bawdiness of "SFTW".
And it doesn't help that Anderson delivers these songs in a gruff, Cat Stevens-like growl rather than his (then) perfectly good voice, which magically came back for "Stormwatch", "A", "Broadsword" and "Under Wraps". I'm guessing that he figured in order to deliver the too-precious lines in "Rover", "Weathercock", "No Lullaby", etc. he had to come across as a removed, folky curmudgeon in order to give the tunes some kind of rock credence.
"Rock", in fact, is an operative word here. "Heavy Horses" just doesn't rock, soft-, folk- or otherwise. You barely hear Martin Barre or John Glascock (possibly the band's best bassist ever [?]). You hear a lot of David Palmer's portative pipe organs and calliopes, but too much, I'm afraid.
There are positive things about the album. It has the best recording and performing line-up of Jethro Tull ever; tight, confident and professional. "Acres Wild" could have been lifted right off "SFTW" (that's a good thing). The Capitol re-release sounds terrific, comes with never-before seen photos and even extra tracks, which are better than the bulk of the album.
Overall though, "Heavy Horses" just adds up to an unmemorable experience where the 'Tull canon is concerned. I'd actually recommend "Under Wraps" and "A" before this one.

Pee Wee's Playhouse Xmas Special [Import]
Pee Wee's Playhouse Xmas Special [Import]
2 used & new from CDN$ 18.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who thought Christmas could be so campy?, Nov. 22 2003
When this special was originally aired, I watched with gritted teeth, as I expected this prime-time family Xmas show to lose some of the edge of the Pee-Wee's Playhouse shows. Quite the opposite!
"Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special" is the funniest, smartest, campiest, most original holiday program to ever come out. How could it not be? Along with the regular Playhouse gang (including Lawrence Fishburne), we have a dizzying array of stars (Frankie & Annette, Cher, Oprah Winfrey, Little Richard, Magic Johnson, etc.) making guest appearances. And there's tons of music from the likes of Dinah Shore, Charo, k.d. lang, Grace Jones, the Del Rubio Triplets, etc. How all this was crammed into a 1-hour broadcast is still a mystery to me.
If your kids have attention deficit disorder, this video is for you. It's colorful, fast-moving and full of jokes they'll love and others they won't get! I've seen roomfuls of grown men watch "Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special" and laugh their behinds off. Well, maybe it is more for adults than children.
If you hate Pee Wee to begin with, you obviously won't like this. Otherwise, it's a total hoot that you'll play every year.
Lastly, as of this writing (November 2003), this video STILL ISN'T OUT ON DVD! I see the video shelves crammed with Christmas titles noone would buy, yet this classic remains in mothballs. Where is the justice in this world?

Jeffrey (Sous-titres franšais) [Import]
Jeffrey (Sous-titres franšais) [Import]
DVD ~ Steven Weber
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 57.91
12 used & new from CDN$ 22.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Would've been great; a miscast and skimpy DVD drag it down, Aug. 18 2003
This film version of (the fabulous) Paul Rudnick's successful play very nearly works. Written after a time of AIDS awareness, "Jeffrey" was one of (if not the) first attempts to make a comedy around the subject. This makes the story slightly dated, but I prefer to look at it as a period piece. The humor, characters and situations are sharp, poignant and memorable.
Jeffrey is a young-ish gay man caught at the crossroads of his sexual desires. The fear of AIDS and relationships, though, cause him to put his life on hold, to the point of announcing his celibacy. Just about that same day, he runs into the hunkiest guy he's ever met, who seems to like him too. His friends, peers and family all have opinions and advice for him, but it's up to Jeffrey to chart his own future.
Michael T. Weiss is wonderful as Jeffrey's new love interest and the rest of the cast, including Sigourney Weaver, Olympia Dukakis, Nathan Lane, Bryan Batt, Christine Baranski and Kathy Najimy, are hilarious and well-cast. But the scene-stealer is Patrick Stewart who is beyond marvelous as Jeffrey's older friend who is a flaming, opinionated and successful decorator.
So, what don't I like about "Jeffrey"? Unfortunately, it's the casting of Steven Weber as Jeffrey himself. Hard as he tries, he's unconvincing, first of all, as a gay man. He also doesn't seem to understand all the great lines he's been given and can't seem to react to his fabulous co-stars. Surely, there was someone auditioning for this plum role who would come across as less wooden. But, at the time "Jeffrey" was made, straight guys wanting gay roles was the hot thing to do and Weber was one of many who wanted to tackle this formerly taboo subject. Plus, he was good name recognition at the time.
So, if you can buy Weber in the title role, "Jeffrey" is a fun, clever and, at times, heartbreaking ride. It's also nice it's finally out on DVD,(...) Such a rich story must have lots of extras and this DVD has none.

Private Function, a (Sous-titres franšais) [Import]
Private Function, a (Sous-titres franšais) [Import]
DVD ~ Michael Palin
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 131.78
6 used & new from CDN$ 26.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A comedy about post-war rationing?, May 10 2003
A true lost-between-the-cracks comic gem. My friends and I have enjoyed this movie since we first saw it and finding good copies of it were difficult, to put it mildly. Although the DVD is skimpy, it's here, and damn reasonably priced, too.
Even with the DVD remaster, the sound is typically lousy (what IS it with the British...refuse to use German microphones?) and one almost has to turn the subtitles on to understand all the muffled dialog. Miking problems aside, "A Private Function" is a delightful, funny, occasionally crude comedy about class struggle in post-war Britain. A small "who's-who" of England's character actors make up the perfect cast of this film and all turn in splendid, low-key performances. Michael Palin, possibly the best "actor-actor" of the Monty Python troupe, is charming as the chiropodist who unwittingly stumbles unto the upper-middle-class via his female clientele, much to the delight of his social-aspiring, piano teacher wife, Maggie Smith.
Thank George Harrison's Handmade Films, without whom this, and many other films would have never been made, however low-budget and poorly-received they were. "A Private Function" may not grab you on the first viewing, but there's much to go back for on repeated viewings. And it gets funnier each time.
One warning: if you're at all squeamish about the butchering business (or piggie gastro-intestinal business), you may want to skip this one!

Fear of Music
Fear of Music
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 18.21
50 used & new from CDN$ 6.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Album #3 is the ultimate Talking Heads album, May 10 2003
This review is from: Fear of Music (Audio CD)
Talking Heads are one of a very few bands who´¿ve never released a bad album (though "Naked" and "True Stories" skirt mediocrity). If I were pressed to select a high-point album, I´¿d have to choose "Fear of Music", only slightly over "Remain in Light". Before they became media darlings and after they made their punk/new-wave impact with "77" and "More Songs´¿", "Fear of Music" is a comfy, identifiable spot where the band further expanded their groundbreaking style with polyrhythmic funkiness, experimental electronics and minimalist poetic imagery. Everyone is in peak form here.
While "Remain in Light" is a 5-star album unto itself, it could have been released under the name of "Byrne/Eno & Friends" as easily as Talking Heads. "FoM" is startling, danceable, original, and, generally, a good musical high. You´¿ll never think of such pedestrian things as paper and air in the same way again.<BR...

Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young To Die
Too Old To Rock 'N' Roll: Too Young To Die
Price: CDN$ 15.51
38 used & new from CDN$ 6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Great music, vocals; marginal "concept", April 12 2003
A real oddball ´¿Tull album, "Too Old´¿" was released between the classy and polished "Minstrel in the Gallery" and the acoustic, Elizabethan "Songs From the Wood". It is, nowadays, generally torn to pieces by ´¿Tull purists, and the title (and title track) were just asking for trouble.
It was hard to envision what Ian Anderson was going after with this album. I think, after his recent divorce, he was sowing wild oats and I remember all the publicity shots for "Too Old" revolved around motorcycles and he was interviewed in American biker magazines.
The sound was acoustic and pared-down (no synths and little electric guitar), with a bit of a late-50s/early-60s beat-poet feel. The loose concept centered around a character who started out as a bright young thing who gains celebrity by winning on a popular game show, then enjoying the perks to excess. He then burns out and, literally, crashes. By the time he heals up, the style of his youth is nostalgic retro and he´¿s in fashion again. Whatever.
Maybe half the songs stick to the story and others are downright dull. It´¿s not the most inspired JT album ever and it comes off as mildly pretentious.
Musically, however, this is one of ´¿Tull´¿s most interesting albums. The attention-getting opener "Quizz Kid" is an all-over-the-place adrenaline rush. "Crazed Institution" is a great commentary on modern celebrity status. "Salamander" shows off great acoustic picking as well as Ray´¿s (the main character´¿s) descent into debauchery. Everyone seems to hate "Taxi Grab", but I rather like it; a greasy rocker where Anderson gets to blow some mean harmonica to good effect. "Big Dipper" is a very original arrangement which showcases Anderson´¿s voice, which, IMHO, is at its best on this album - in fact, the album seems to use the vocals as a base more than the rhythm track (there´¿s even female backing vocals here and there on this album). The last great number is "Pied Piper", a very adult, lightly orchestrated track about picking up young girls at schoolyards to "roll some alley bowls" (a precursor to Aqualung?). The rest of the tracks are inappropriate or forgettable. "Too Old To Rock ´¿n´¿ Roll: Too Young To Die", while captivating on first listen, is overlong and overdramatic on closer observation.
Lastly, the recent Capitol re-issues of the original Chrysalis JT albums are damn nice and this one´¿s no exception.
So, if you already have "Aqualung", "Songs From the Wood", "Stand Up", "Benefit", "This Was", "Thick As a Brick", "Minstrel In the Gallery", "A Passion Play", "Stormwatch", "Roots To Branches" and "War Child", do get "Too Old To Rock ´¿n´¿ Roll: Too Young To Die". Not a wholehearted recommendation, but it´¿s good to listen to as opposed to pay attention to.

Wish You Were Here
Wish You Were Here
Price: CDN$ 21.82
21 used & new from CDN$ 10.35

3.0 out of 5 stars A Good (Not Great) Pink Floyd Album, March 22 2003
This review is from: Wish You Were Here (Audio CD)
I'm gonna get [razzed] for this rating, but I think *** is quite fair for this album (and *** ain't so damn bad to begin with).
Pink Floyd has had a spotty history, album-wise. "Wish You Were Here" had the unenviable task of following-up "Dark Side Of The Moon" and by over two years, almost a death-knell in the 70s.
Some people trashed "WYWH" because it "only had five tracks", which is no indicator of how good an album is (Jethro Tull's "Thick As A Brick" and "A Passion Play" are each only one track). In this case, though, it was apparent Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright didn't have a wealth of song ideas to mine, so over half of this album is used for the repetitious homage to original bandmate, Syd Barrett. Musically, "Shine On..." takes its time with some tasteful guitar fills from Gilmour and decent synth noodling from Wright, but it all doesn't add up to much. In fact, you hear pretty much just these two "Floyds" throughout the album and little evidence of Mason or Waters.
The middle of the album is the best part. "Welcome To The Machine", while kinda shallow, is at least fun to listen to. "Have A Cigar" is fun too, but guest vocalist Roy Harper sounds so much like Roger Waters I'm not sure why anyone bothered. The title track, while still about Barrett, is a nice acoustic-based lament that the listener can relate to on their own level.
The main drawback of "WYWH" is Pink Floyd had fallen back into their pattern of mucking about with studio noises and electronic experimentation (a la "Atom Heart Mother" and "Ummagumma"). "DSOTM" and "Animals" muck about too, but the results are very cohesive and the songs sound structured. "WYWH" just doesn't knock you over the head. It sounds like the band, in the foreboding shadow of "Dark Side..." just threw up their hands and cranked out what they had.
I feel like a mean old schoolmarm where 'Floyd is concerned; I'm only hard on them because I know they're capable of so much more.
On the bright side, this, along with all the other 'Floyd remasters, sure sounds great compared to the older CDs. The album art, again by Hipgnosis, is, as always, first-rate.

Led Zeppelin IV (aka ZOSO)
Led Zeppelin IV (aka ZOSO)
Price: CDN$ 22.79
34 used & new from CDN$ 5.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Right elements at the right time, Feb. 28 2003
I've lived through a lot of music, a lot of bands, a lot of trends, styles, etc! Though in my mid-40s, I try to lend an ear to new stuff and be fair (i.e., demeaning) to stuff of "my age". In other words, I'm damn objective!
Yeah, the Beatles are GREAT, Who, Stones, Kinks, Fleetwood Mac...are all great. And, yes, Led Zeppelin are great and even underrated. It irks me that LZ are often filed under "heavy metal" or "head-banger" music, when the truth couldn't be further. Were they the deepest, most poignant songwriters of all time? Hell, no, but to judge them on this is to miss the point. Dylan, Joni, Davies, Lennon/McCartney, Costello, etc. kill 'em all in the songwriting category, but folks like LZ, Moody Blues, Bowie, Ian Anderson, Townsend, etc. made lots of permanent marks in our collective musical history. We'd be so much less rich without any of the above.
That said, you should take it from an old f**t like me that when classic albums originally came out and stayed on the charts or became a mainstay of FM radio playlists, it hadda be a good, or even great album. Lots'a classic rock albums are just shy of a perfect *****, even those on aficianados' lists are missing a certain spark or lacking a whole-ness.
The fourth album from Led Zeppelin was cranked out in the magical era of the early 70s, when talented bands were just trying to do their thing and put it out on vinyl and seeing how it would do. LZ came out of the gate at high speed and would have gone down in history just for the first album in '69. Zep II just solidified their reputation. Zep III held ground and showed off their serious musicianship.
LZ had no deeper mystical insight that, say, the Moodies, but what they wanted to convey they did to great conviction. Do you follow Buddhism or Tolkein? It was fine either way (or neither way), but the basis of a song always at least gave you something to think about. Naturally, LZ were labelled heathens and anti-Christs, but, come on, it was just Robert, Jimmy, John and John-Paul! Should we all be prosecuted for having our own minds?
So, in late 1971, came the fourth LZ album, call it what you like. Like other bands of the time, it could have been inferior to the first three and the beginning of its downfall, but this was not to be the case. "LZIV" was an arresting, absorbing, original journey. I first acquired the album on reel-to-reel (oooof!) and was floored by the opening track "Black Dog", thinking something was wrong with my stereo or the copy of my tape because the guitar playing was so disjointed and free-form - could a human play this way intentionally? It was then I realized I was in the presence of greatness. "Rock and Roll" didn't let up from this grip, leaving no doubt that LZ were the rockers of the moment. "Battle of Evermore" was so pretty and otherworldly I couldn't believe it was the same album, much less the same band. "Stairway To Heaven" became the standard that sensitive, epic, FM rock 'n' roll was to be based on forever. Aspired to, but never matched. "Misty Mountain Hop" was less serious, but very indicative of the era. "Four Sticks" was a glorified jam, but in LZ's case, that was a great thing - plus it was kind of a "breather". "Going To California" was, again, a LZ original, acoustic and engrossing, without needing to prove itself. "When the Levee Breaks" is a perfect closer, a free-form heavy blues that would have been the standout track on any other album.
The best thing about LZIV was its level of restraint and assuredness. It didn't bludgeon you with its cleverness or heaviness, it was just what it was. It also ruined the careers of many an up-and-coming rock band, as there was now so much less to prove or say. This album did it all, in eight non-45RPM-length tracks ("STH" was a nightmare for AM stations; everyone wanted to hear the whole thing, but its seven minutes way exceeded their playlist format), but these individual tracks, at the same time, created a whole, single piece of work. Yes, it was to be LZ's albatross, but, jeez, they still produced "Houses of the Holy" and "Physical Graffiti" afterwards! And they had the class to call it quits after the untimely death of John Bonham. Kudos; this will never happen again.

The Lord of the Rings (Widescreen) [Import]
The Lord of the Rings (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Christopher Guard
Offered by SpreePoint
Price: CDN$ 25.00
21 used & new from CDN$ 2.04

3.0 out of 5 stars Lots going for it; worth a look, Feb. 28 2003
Everyone knew this project was doomed from the start; an almost foolish undertaking. Even if Bakshi had the time and budget to finish the "Two Towers" part of the trilogy (let alone "Return of the King"), this 1978 animated "Lord of the Rings" would have been trashed all the way 'round.
What we do have, however, is an inspired, faithful (tho' incredibly condensed) animated version that is hardly a "cartoon". The design, direction and acting is very live action, which lends itself well, I think, to the rotoscoping process that is extensively used. In any era of moviemaking, new techniques are introduced and are sometimes used with laughable results. Not so here, although rotoscoping was rarely used elsewhere before or since. I found the dialogue selection very appropriate and well-executed, tho' we all have chapters and conversations we'd prefer left in over others.
The other thing that kills this version is, obviously, the full-length, full-budget trilogy being filmed by Peter Jackson and its wealth of computerized techniques, location shooting, costuming and set and model design. Jackson himself admits to not having read the LOTR until he saw this Bakshi version and many of PJ's scenes seem directly lifted from Bakshi (tho' details in Tolkein's books are so precise, down to angles and scenery, that this is a debatable point).
I rather enjoy the pacing and cohesiveness of this version. There's much dialogue not used in the Jackson version that I think helps propel the story forward. Many scenes are more accurate (Frodo at the Ford of Rivendell) than the PJ version. I really enjoyed the score, too.
Much of the character development is debatable: Sam, for instance, should be simple and slow-witted, but in the Bakshi movie he is made an oafish buffoon, whereas the live-version makes him, mentally, indistinguishable from the other hobbits.
So, given the time and resources available at the time, I feel Ralph Bakshi's "Lord of the Rings" is worth a look and is, at worst, a different interpretation of the much-interpreted trilogy.
(Note: this movie has nothing to do with the Rankin-Bass ["Santa Claus is Coming to Town"] animated films!)

Completion Backward Principle,
Completion Backward Principle,
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 18.49
26 used & new from CDN$ 11.77

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This BGO version stinks, Nov. 22 2002
Actually a **** album, this release by British label BGO is, currently, the only way to get the CD. Well, this version is the absolute pits. The shallow, low-volume, third-hand sound quality is rivaled only by the bizarre re-shuffling and re-editing of the original track sequence. A true non-listening experience. Let's get at least a mediocre mastering of this album out, then we'll talk about it.
Will someone at Razor & Tie, Rhino, Ryko, One-Way or even Capitol or A&M please acquire the Tubes' catalogue and treat it with the respect it deserves? BGO's release of "Love Bomb" stinks, too.
And, while we're at it, someone needs to release the wacky, innovative "Completion Backwards" video-album on DVD! It's a no-brainer.

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