We're a geek couple living in PA with our two boys -- Milo and Otis -- who are short, orange, and furry. Oh, and they're the cats we're bookended by! We love movies, TV, comics, books, and comic cons. And, from time to time, we'll share our thoughts on these nerdy things.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday 80s Flashback for October 21, 2016



[Shadowfax Dreams] -- I thought I'd go in a slightly different direction with this week's flashback. The band Shadowfax formed in the 70s and took their name from Gandalf's horse in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. They were active until 1995 and disbanded after their bandleader died. Shadowfax didn't exactly burn up the charts or dance halls, but they did win a Grammy in 1989. You see, they were a new age band, but they were considered the loudest band in the sleepy stable of Windham Hill artists. I don't have a citation for that statement; I think I heard it on a radio show. Anyway, by the 80s, Shadowfax was filed under the category of World Music -- a description used as a marketing tool to push non-Western traditional music. There is no one definition for World Music. And, really, is there any music made on this planet that isn't world music? But, if I'm not too mistaken, World Music came to be categorized by its use of percussion and seemingly exotic instruments. So, to give you a taste of the band, I want to focus on their fourth studio album, The Dreams of Children (1984). With one exception in 1989, Shadowfax never released singles. So, I can pretty much choose any track from this record. And I'm picking my favorites. Check them out after the break.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Short Take: Green Valley #1

The unassuming cover image for Green Valley #1

Green Valley #1 (Image Comics) came out on 10/5/2016. I purchased a copy that day, but didn't read it until this weekend. And all I can say about it is that I had no idea I needed this series, but I do.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday 80s Flashback for October 14, 2016



[Trouble Boys] -- Last week Sound Opinions had author Bob Mehr on their show to talk about his latest book, Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements (March 2016, Da Capo Press). As I've written previously, The Replacements (or, simply, The 'Mats to their fans) are probably my favorite of what I call the "sloppy" American rock & roll bands.

According to drummer Chris Mars, the band's name reflected their sense of a secondary status: "Like maybe the main act doesn't show, and instead the crowd has to settle for an earful of us dirtbags" [Azerrad, Michael. Our Band Could Be Your Life. 2001. p. 199]. Sporting a combination of the arena blues-rock and post-punk, The 'Mats were never commercially successful, but they did receive critical accolades and have been cited as a major influence for many bands. That is likely what made lead singer and primary songwriter, Paul Westerberg, claim the band was perpetually "10 years behind and 5 years ahead."

For this post, I've chosen a few tunes from their 12+ year career. Before you check out my selections, you might want to visit the Sound Opinions episode with Bob Mehr. Or read a review of Trouble Boys. But if you're ready for my playlist, you can read and hear more after the break.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday 80s Flashback for October 7, 2016



[Critical Beatdown] -- I don't know much about hip hop, but I know what I like. Or, at least, I know what makes me tap my foot and nod my head to a beat(down). And, honestly, that's about what passes for dancing -- or replaces dancing -- in my book. Anyway, speaking of beatdowns, this week in 1988 (October 4 to be precise) saw the release of Ultramagnetic MCs' debut album, Critical Beatdown. You can be forgiven if you've never heard of Ultramagnetic MCs, which is likely the case if you're only a casual consumer of rap. I don't recall how I heard of them. My guess is someone introduced me this particular album. Or a single from it. So, some background for the uninitiated might be welcome here. Kool Keith, Ced Gee, and DJ Moe Love formed the Ultramagnetics in the Bronx in 1984. They recorded a demo of "Space Groove" that same year, but didn't release their first single, "To Give You Love," in 1986. On the strength of those recordings, and Kool Keith's personality, this crew picked up a record deal.

Their debut, Critical Beatdown, is the band's only 80s release (but they do have two releases in the 90s and a 2007 reunion album). Although their debut record did not chart very well, it has come to be highly regarded as a classic hip hop album. And these MCs were pioneers of sorts. According to All-Music, Ultramagnetic MC's can claim the following firsts: they were the first rap group to employ a sampler (the E-mu SP-1200) as an instrument, the first to feature extensive use of live instrumentation, and the first to feature a former psychiatric patient (the aforementioned Kool Keith) on the mic. For more info about this crew, you can visit The Unofficial Ultramagnetic MC's Website. And, for lyrical reference, you should check out the collection at genius.com.

Now, instead of my usual format of selecting three tracks for focus, I'm sharing a YouTube playlist that has all 15 tracks from the original release of Critical Beatdown.

Let's spin some wax, shall we? 

"Say what, Peter Piper? | To hell with childish rhymes! | Cause this jam is just movin' | The crowd is steady groovin' | To a supersonic pace"




Well, that's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.

And if you are on Twitter, and feel so inclined, please +K my influence in Music on @klout.

I'll see you in seven!