Monthly Archives: February 2012

Random Awesomeness (part 49)

The Black Keys are coming!

When El Camino came out at the end of 2011, I became an instant Black Keys fan. I was vaguely familiar with the band prior to that, but their latest album pushed me over the edge of fandom. And soon, I will be able to add them to the list of artists I have seen live in concert. Barring unforseen circumstances, I will be at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati on Friday night as Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney roar through their set. I have to admit, I’m a bit excited.

Is anyone else going to catch the band on their current tour?

If you are not familiar with the Black Keys, there is a guide to help you discover their best songs at Vocals On Top. This guide has been very helpful to me as I prepare myself for their non-El Camino tunes.

Check back Saturday for a handful of photos from the show.

I do hope I get to hear “Little Black Submarines.”

R.I.P. Davy Jones

(December 30, 1945 – February 29, 2012)

One of the stars of the Monkees, a show that I watched often on Nick At Nite as a young lad.

He was also one of the many guest stars on the Brady Bunch.

Revolver Golden Gods

Voting is open for the 2012 Revolver Golden Gods. I’m not crazy about all the nominations; I feel a lot of deserving artists were left out. Here’s how I voted…

  • Best drummer: Charlie Benante (Anthrax) – Anthrax and Foo Fighters were the only bands mentioned here that I was really familiar with. If I could have written in a vote, I would have given it to Alex Van Halen.
  • Best guitarists: Dave Mustaine and Chris Broderick (Megadeth) – Again, the only ones that I know anything about. I’ve seen Five Finger Death Punch in concert, but I was not impressed.
  • Best vocalist: Sebastian Bach – His latest album was not that great, but I didn’t like any of the other nominees. Honestly, I’m not sure who I would have written in on this one. Most of my favorites are way past their prime.
  • Album of the year: Anthrax, ‘Worship Music’ – “The year” is evidently 2011. While this made my list of best releases of the year, it wasn’t at the top. Alice Cooper and Sixx:A.M. tied for the best of the year in my book.
  • Best live band: Guns N’ Roses – I only saw two hard rock concerts last year: Judas Priest (with Thin Lizzy and Black Label Society), and Guns N’ Roses (with D Generation). Both were nominated, and as great as Priest was, GNR was better.
  • Most metal athlete: Evan Longoria (MLB baseball) – The only baseball player on the list.
  • Comeback of the year: Van Halen – As if there was any question.
  • Riff lord: Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen) – Best hard rock guitarist ever.
  • Best bassist: Wolfgang Van Halen (Van Halen) – This was a difficult category. Michael Anthony (Chickenfoot) was also nominated, but I really don’t like Chickenfoot that much. Nikki Sixx (Sixx:A.M.) was also nominated, and as I already mentioned, they released a great album in 2011. But after seeing Van Halen in concert last week and hearing what Wolfie can do on record, he’s the winner.
  • Best international band: -blank-- Not familiar with any of the bands, so I decided to leave this one blank.
  • Most dedicated fans: -blank- – I don’t understand this category at all. I don’t like any of the bands, so why would I vote for their fans?

Go vote now.

The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics (2012)

The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics
Directed by Ilko Davidov
80 minutes
Wild Eye Releasing
(available April 24, 2012)

If you have vague memories of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics series, this documentary might help bring those memories back into focus. Originally debuting at various film festivals under the title Unauthorized and Proud of It in 2006, it is now getting a proper DVD release with a new title through Wild Eye Releasing.

The focus of The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics is Todd Loren, the mastermind behind Revolutionary Comics, whose most famous line was Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics but also included Baseball Legends, Alternative Comics, Carnal Comics and some conspiracy-based issues such as “Marilyn Monroe: Suicide or Murder?” and “Who Really Killed JFK?”

A comic book enthusiast as a youth, his father helped him organize a convention for collectors. His love for comics continued to grow and he proceeded to start his own mail-order business, Comicade, specializing in out-of-print issues. He then started Musicade, selling rock memorabilia and imported records. After building a successful business, and against the advice of his associates, Loren decided to begin a new business venture: comic book publication. He faced struggles, including the threat of lawsuits from some high-profile bands (Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi), but when the New Kids on the Block too him to court, the judge ruled in favor of Revolutionary Comics based on the First Amendment.

Not everyone was against Loren. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and Gene Simmons of KISS both called off their respective lawyers, and Simmons went so far as to give Loren information to use in his books. The documentary features an audio recording of a telephone call between Simmons and the comic book company, after which Loren and his staff celebrated because of the demon rocker’s willingness to work together.

The documentary clocks in at eighty minutes, and the viewer is treated to extensive interviews with rocks Alice Cooper and Mojo Nixon, writers and artists for Revolutionary, as well as Loren’s father Herb Shapiro and archive footage of Loren himself talking about the company. Jay Allen Sanford, a writer and editor for Revolutionary Comics, and Spike Steffenhagen, a comic writer, both share a great deal about the inner workings of the company and Loren’s dealings with the talent. As with any controversial figure, some saw him as a good guy, while others saw him as a snake in the grass.

Nearly an hour of the movie examines the business, while the murder of Loren is touched on during the final twenty minutes. In June 1992, the publisher was found stabbed to death at his home. The case has not been solved to this day. Theories abound, probably enough to fill the pages of one of Loren’s own publications. One suggestion is that the serial killer Andrew Cunanan, who in 1997 murdered five people including Gianni Versace before taking his own life, was responsible for Loren’s death.

The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics presents both sides of Loren, interviewing both friends and enemies. It is an inspiring story for those who love their First Amendment rights, while a heartbreaking story as it warns against the dangers of abusing those rights, and the cost of protecting them.

This documentary is recommended for all adults who love comics and rock and roll. (Side-note for parents, there is foul language in the film as well.)

Learn more about Wild Eye Releasing.

Pre-order The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics.

Star Wars MIMOBOT: R2-D2 (from MIMOCO)

This is the droid I’m looking for!

MIMOCO recently sent me a couple of MIMOBOTs to review on the blog. I decided to open up and play with R2-D2 and put Boba Fett up for grabs.

These drives are 2.5″ x 1″, compatible with both the PC and Mac. You can get a drive that holds as little as 2GB or as much as 64GB, and there is a one-year limited warranty included.

The design is very nice, both front and back (and even the sides). As you can see from their full Star Wars line, MIMOCO does a great job with the likenesses of these George Lucas creations. It’s much more entertaining than all of those black USB flash drives that everyone else carries around. And it’s not just the design that’s different…but I’ll get to the other goodies in a minute.

Some of the MIMOBOTS (such as Boba Fett) feature a face underneath the cap, while others (such as this R2-D2), the cap just protects the connector. There are even a couple of variations; for Darth Vader “Unmasked,” you have a 1 in 6 shot of getting the pale-faced Anakin from Return of the Jedi, while with the Stormtrooper “Unmasked,” there is a 50/50 chance to get Han or Luke underneath that mask!

In addition to the sweet design, there are some goodies pre-installed onto the drives that, when installed on your computer, make them even more fun to use. When I plug R2-D2 into my laptop, I hear Princess Leia say, “You must use the information in this R-2 unit to help plan the attack; it’s our only hope.” And when I click to eject it, C-3PO cries out, “R2-D2, where are you?!?” There are several different sound effects that can play when inserting or ejecting the drive, and it makes me smile every time.

The drive also includes wallpapers, screensavers, and desktop icons for your computer. I have the screensaver installed on my laptop, but it doesn’t quite cover the entire screen, and instead of black where there is no graphic, it’s white. Other than that minor issue, it’s fun to watch Stormtroopers, Jawas, and Droids run across the screen through the streets of Mos Eisley.

I’ve used the drive to transfer files from one computer to another several times without a glitch, so as a flash drive, it works perfectly. But the added Star Wars components make this the coolest flash drive I have ever owned.

Click here for your chance to win a MIMOBOT 4GB Boba Fett USB 2.0 Flash Memory Drive by MIMOCO! (The contest is open to U.S. residents only and you can enter until 11:59 PM eastern on March 4, 2012.)

Learn more about MIMOCO!

Click here to order a Star Wars MIMOBOT from MIMOCO!

Random Awesomeness (part 48)

Greatest non- “greatest hits” albums

In Chuck Klosterman’s review of Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth, he made the following comment in a footnote:

The ’78 debut is almost like Are You Experienced? for two reasons: The first is that it now seems closer to a greatest hits collection; the second is that it’s retrospectively impossible to grasp how new and explosive the guitar sounds must have seemed when heard for the first time.

I agree with that assessment, and would like to further explore that first thought as it applies to other records. Let’s start by looking at Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced?, and then look at a few other records that might fall in the same category.

  • Van Halen, Van Halen, 1978
    The greatest of the greatest: “Eruption”/”You Really Got Me,” “Runnin’ With The Devil,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Ice Cream Man” – a concert-goer might feel cheated if any of those classics were left out of a live performance.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Little Dreamer” and “On Fire” – of the eleven songs on this disc, only these two are excluded from the band’s “Guitar Hero” game.
  • Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced?, 1967
    The greatest of the greatest (from the US edition): “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” “Foxey Lady,” “Fire” – I hate to stop there, but those are probably the cream of the crop. It is interesting to note, however, that neither “Purple Haze” nor “Hey Joe” was not on the British version of the record.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Love or Confusion” and “Third Stone from the Sun” – unless you are a diehard music fan, you might have to look these up on YouTube to remind you what they sound like.
  • AC/DC, Back In Black, 1980
    The greatest of the greatest: “Hells Bells,” “Back In Black,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” – the band’s first album with singer Brian Johnson, even Bon Scott apologists can’t argue that as an album, this one can’t be beat.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Given the Dog a Bone” and “Shake a Leg” – if these songs weren’t on this album, fans would probably have a higher opinion of them because they are better than most post-1980 songs recorded by the Aussie rockers.
  • Led Zeppelin, II, 1969
    The greatest of the greatest: “Whole Lotta Love,” “Heartbreaker,” “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman),” “Bring It On Home” – It was difficult to choose between II and IV, but ultimately II is just better on the whole.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: Hmmm…I guess “Thank You.” I almost said “Moby Dick,” but then I remembered how awesome it is.
  • Michael Jackson, Thriller, 1982
    The greatest of the greatest: “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Thriller” – seven singles were released from this album beginning in October 1982, culminating with one of the most epic videos of all time with “Thriller” in January 1984. Throw in Eddie Van Halen and a Beatle for good measure, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Baby Be Mine” and “The Lady in My Life” – the only two songs not released as singles, but probably could have been on his prior album.
  • Def Leppard, Hysteria, 1987
    The greatest of the greatest: “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Armageddon It,” “Women,” “Animal” – this album features Mutt Lange’s slick production skills, and still holds up today as a great listen from beginning to end. Seven singles were released from this 12-track record, which was at the time and is still today unheard of for hard rock releases.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Run Riot” and “Excitable” – just think of how epic Hysteriacould have been without these filler tracks.
  • Mötley Crüe, Dr. Feelgood, 1989
    The greatest of the greatest: “Dr. Feelgood,” “Kickstart My Heart,” “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” – it’s hip to hate the Crüe’s best-selling album (6x Platinum in the US), but it truly is their best release.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “She Goes Down” – I started to type “Time For Change” in this section, decided to go listen to it again, and found that it is much better than I remembered. Several of the non-singles on the album feature some famous singers in the background, from Jack Blades to Steven Tyler to Sebastian Bach to Bryan Adams.
  • Beastie Boys, Licensed To Ill, 1986
    The greatest of the greatest: “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party),” “Girls,” “Brass Monkey,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” – I really apologize for getting those songs stuck in your head, but the Beasties have some of the most ear-wormy songs in the world.
    The worst, which aren’t bad at all: “Posse In Effect” – Another album that made it really difficult to pick a “worst” song.

These are all just off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are many others that could be mentioned. What other regular studio albums come so close to “greatest hits” status?

Random Awesomeness (part 47)

“Being Human” (US) Season 1

“Being Human” (SyFy)
Created by Jeremy Carver, Anna Fricke
Starring Sam Witwer, Meaghan Rath, Sam Huntington, Mark Pellegrino, Kristen Hager

A vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost rent a house together…

No, you’re not experiencing déjà vu. If you regularly read The Writer’s Journey, you know that just two weeks ago I wrote a review of the BBC series “Being Human.” As soon as I was finished watching the first three seasons, I turned my attention to the American adaptation of the program, airing on the SyFy Channel. Last night, I watched the final episode of the first season.

There are several parallels between the two versions, but there are also a number of differences. The first difference is the character names. Instead of Mitchell (the vampire), George (the werewolf), and Annie (the ghost), there is Aidan (played by Sam Witwer), Josh (Sam Huntington), and Sally (Meaghan Rath). There are also some personality differences, as each actor brings a different perspective to the character. However, the underlying basis for the program is the same, and the American version is quite good (despite my low expectations).

You may recognize at least two of the actors due to a Superman connection: Sam Witwer protrayed Davis Bloome (the human alterego of Doomsday) during the eighth season of the CW series “Smallville,” while Sam Huntington played Jimmy Olsen in 2006′s Superman Returns. I was not a fan of the Bloome character on “Smallville,” and I personally prefer the Mitchell character from the British version of “Being Human” over Aidan, but Witwer does a very good job in the role. He is, for the most part, quite a different character than his British counterpart. As for Huntington, I can relate more to the Josh character than I can Russell Tovey’s George in the BBC series (not to mention that Tovey’s screams during his transformation are like fingernails on a chalkboard, even if the BBC’s special effects are better).

Many of the storylines for the SyFy series were lifted from the BBC program. There is an episode in which Aidan befriends a neighbor boy, and the boy goes home with a DVD of a vampire killing a man instead of the intended Three Stooges disc. Josh befriends another werewolf, only to find out that the werewolf was his maker. Sally is killed by her fiancé, though the circumstances leading up to that event are changed for US audiences.

I must admit that I was quite disappointed with the werewolf transformation on SyFy; the CGI simply looks fake. Other than that, I enjoyed “Being Human” very much. American television is different from British television. The way stories are told is different. I’m used to American TV, and that may be why I generally like SyFy’s “Being Human” better than BBC’s, even if only by a little. Some aspects of the British program are better (most notably the werewolf special effects), but overall I prefer the American version.

Watch “Being Human” (US) on Netflix.

(Note: I just found out that season 2 full episodes are being broadcast on Hulu…so I guess I can continue watching it! Yay!)

Do you like to waste time?

No?

But you probably do anyway, don’t you? I mean, why else would you be here right now if you weren’t just wasting time?

Here’s a fun way to waste time: play “Who Is The Most Famous?”

This website gives you a series of names, and you try to guess who the most famous is (according to others who have played the game). The more players you agree with, the higher your score. Who is the most famous Christina? The most famous Christopher? The most famous Michael?

It’ll keep you busy for a little while at least.

Random Awesomeness (part 46)

Photoset: Van Halen (February 22, 2012 @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN)

Hot on the heels of a #2 debut on the Billboard charts with A Different Kind of Truth, Van Halen is hitting the road…and they are hitting it hard. The third stop on their 2012 tour was Wednesday night in Indianapolis, and the house was packed to hear the boys jam like it’s 1979.

The last time these four were on the road together, it was a “greatest hits” tour. Roth had only released two songs with Van Halen since 1984, and even those songs were ten years old at that point. Now, with ADKOT in stores, they have some new material to play. Four Different songs have been played at each concert so far: “She’s The Woman,” “Tattoo,” “China Town,” and “The Trouble With Never.” But the band isn’t buffering them with only the hits from the first six albums; several “deep cuts” from Van Halen’s history are being featured on the current roadtrip.

In Louisville, fans were surprised to hear “Women In Love” and “Outta Love Again,” which had not been performed live since 1980 and 1979, respectively. In Auburn Hills, “Outta Love Again” was replaced by “Girl Gone Bad.” In Indianapolis, Van Halen added “Hear About It Later” to the mix, dropping “Mean Street.” It is a real treat to hear unexpected songs in concert, especially when the band has such an impressive catalog to choose from. Hopefully, other groups will take note of the positive response Van Halen is getting to these songs and follow their example (yes, I’m talking to you Poison).

The musicianship, as expected, was top-notch. Alex and Wolfgang provided a solid rhythm section while Eddie wailed on his axe, never missing a note. I was especially impressed with both the guitar solo and the drum solo; both sounded fantastic, and neither went too long. Eddie was especially on target, not only during his solo spot, but during the entire concert. Everyone could tell he was genuinely having a good time on stage.

David Lee Roth…well, he’s David Lee Roth, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to see him sharing the spotlight with the Van Halens. The showmanship is always over-the-top, even if the vocals are lacking a bit. He started off strong, but seemed to be struggling during the latter part of the concert. I do not believe he was having trouble remembering lyrics, as some have suggested. Rather, I believe he may have been out of breath. I mean, how can anyone forget the lyrics to “Panama?” Back to the showmanship, Roth appears to have taken up interpretive dance (watch him during the musical interludes of “China Town” and “Girl Gone Bad” in particular).

Overall, a great concert. You couldn’t ask for anything more from guys who have been doing this (off and on) since the 1970s.

A lot more photos after the jump… Read the rest of this entry

Photoset: Kool & The Gang (February 22, 2012 @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN)

Kool & The Gang is performing as the opening act for Van Halen on a number of the classic rock band’s 2012 tour. The crowd was sparse for their set, but during the three songs I watched, the disco group was energetic. I’m not going to review their performance since I did not see it all, but here are a few photos I snapped while they played.

Fun Cards: 2012 Topps Daniel Corcino

This dude ain’t gettin’ a card this year.

That’s the theme of my 2012 Topps “fun cards”…the guys who are long shots to be included in Topps’ flagship product this season.

Daniel Corcino is a 21-year old righty who has been with the Reds organization since signing as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2008. His record with the Dayton Dragons last year was 11-7 with a 3.42 ERA and 156 K’s in 139.1 innings.

Bleacher Report just did a report on Corcino, while Red Reporter compared him to Johnny Cueto.

And here is some YouTube video of him pitching last April:

Tortured Artists by Christopher Zara (2012)

Tortured Artists
by Christopher Zara
Illustrations by Robbie Lee
Adams Media, 2012
272 pages

From Picasso and Monroe to Warhol and Winehouse, the Twisted Secrets of the World’s Most Creative Minds

Are the most creative minds also the most disturbed? We are familiar with the tragic deaths of many of our pop culture heroes at a young age (Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger), and often their emotional struggles come into the limelight when such tragedy strikes. But even those who did not leave at such an early age (Johnny Cash, Charles M. Schulz, Michelangelo, etc.) had their own personal demons. Cash’s brother died at a young age, an event that grieved the singer deeply and created a deep sense of guilt, though he was not personally responsible (despite what his father said). Yet that suffering could have been the motivation behind Cash’s continual desire to please his father through his success.

Tortured Artists explores the connection between insanity (or, at least, personal tragedy) and creativity. Zara provides case studies of celebrities who suffered as children, those who faced more than the average difficulties of a teenager, and others whose obstacles continued into adulthood. Living artists profiled include James Cameron, Madonna, and J.K. Rowling – though they are included in the most questionable chapter in the book. Does arrogance and the need to control fall under the heading of “tortured,” or is it simply arrogance and the need to control?

Each profile includes a sketch of the artist portrayed, illustrated by Robbie Lee. While it is doubtful anyone considers these “high art” (though the caricatures are quite good), the question must be asked, “Is Lee tortured?”

At the end of the book, Zara provides a timeline of birthdates, deathdates, and dates of some significance. Violence, drug abuse, and suicide are common themes in the timeline, from cave paintings to Dana Plato to Evelyn Nesbit to Spalding Gray.

Zara writes, “Ultimately, I wanted Tortured Artists to comprise the broadest sampling of eras and artistic genres possible, without telling the same repetitive stories about poor alcoholics whose mothers never lvoed them.” He accomplishes this goal, featuring actors, authors, comedians and musicians with compelling stories that seem to lend credibility to the idea that yes, there is insanity in creativity.

Visit the Tortured Artists blog.

Learn more about Adams Media.

Purchase Tortured Artists by Christopher Zara.

Random Awesomeness (part 45)

Some new projects from old rockers…

Everyone knows that Van Halen is back, debuting at #2 on the Billboard charts last week with A Different Kind of Truth. Here are a few other hard rockers from back in the day that are still out there recording and touring…

  • Tracii Guns of L.A. Guns fame has a new project called League of Gentlemen. There is a short sample of the song “Feathers in a Hurricane” posted on Tracii’s Tumblr. So short there’s really no way to form an opinion one way or the other.
  • Bang Tango is back, and their new album, Pistol Whipped in the Bible Belt (review coming eventually), sounds nothing like the pop metal they were putting out in the 1980s. It’s heavy, dark, and all sorts of good. As great as “Someone Like You” was, I’m glad they went another direction this time.
  • Donnie Vie, a vastly underrated songwriter from the vastly underrated band Enuff Z’nuff, has a new album called Wrapped Around Your Middle Finger (cover image to the right). I haven’t heard it yet, but my expectations are pretty high.

Are there any releases (hard rock or otherwise) that you are looking forward to this year?

Random Awesomeness (part 44)

Fun Card: 2012 Topps Mike Leake

Yes, Mike Leake already has two cards in 2012 Topps. But I couldn’t resist making a shoe card of him just like Skip Schumaker.

And if you really like these shoe cards, check out Lance Berkman‘s short-printed card at JoeSportsFan.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 453 other followers

%d bloggers like this: