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Mark Isham
Mark Isham
41 used & new from $1.80

4.0 out of 5 stars 25 yr. old album sounds like it could've been released in 2015, April 21, 2015
This review is from: Mark Isham (Audio CD)
I recently picked up this CD sound unheard from my local record store (more on that later). As I ws looking at the CD, I wondered what year this was released. I studied the CD and the booklet and literally could not find any clue anywhere as to what year this was released. Pretty strange. Not that it stopped me from buying this. As with many of you, I became a big fan of Mark Isham with his 1984 album Vapor Drawings on he Windham Hill record label. Over time, Isham really established himself as a big-time movie composer, but along the way he kept releases the occasional solo album as well. After looking into it, I finally figured out that this particular album was released in 1990, yes a quarter century ago!

"Mark Isham" (9 tracks; 46 min.) kicks off with "Honeymoon Nights" and the title is a dead-giveaway: a dreamy track fronted by Isham's trumpet. There are 2 tracks on here featuring singer Tanita Tikaram. I liked the first one "I Will Never Know" but didn't care much for the Rogers/Hart cover of "Blue Moon". Frankly, I prefer the instrumental tracks and Isham finds a great balance between jazzy and dreamy tracks. Other highlights for me include "Towards the Infinite White" and the album closer, the 7 min. "Turkish Delight". If you are familiar with Isham's work in general, this album is not going to surprise you, as it is in line with Isham's sound in general. The fact that this album is now 25 years old is amazing to me, as it sounds like it could've been released this year. In that sense, the "Isham sound" is quite timeless.

Back to the record store: I was browsing the used CD bins and fell upon this. Keeping in mind that it was selling for literally just one buck, this was pretty much a no-brainer and I picked it up. Glad I did. "Mark Isham" will make a nice addition in your CD collection as well.

What For?
What For?
Price: $11.99
26 used & new from $8.10

4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars... Best album to date from Toro Y Moi, April 20, 2015
This review is from: What For? (Audio CD)
I first heard of Toro Y Moi, the stage moniker of singer-songwriter-guitarist Chaz Bundick, on 2011 his sophomore album "Underneath the Pine". While difficult to categorize as such, to me the album felt like a much needed breath of fresh air in the indie music scene. I was not quite so enthusiastic about the next album, 2013's "Anything In Return". Now we're yet another two years down the road, and here comes the latest offering from Toro Y Moi.

"What For" (10 tracks; 37 min.) marks yet another shift for Bundick. As is immediately apparent from the opening track "What You Want", the sound is steering towards heavy guitars,, but with melodic hooks more prominent than ever before. "Buffalo" and "The Fight" are lighter tunes that somehow remind me of the 1970s FM radio sounds. "Empty Nesters" feels like a continuation of "Whatever You Want", at least in style and its readily accessible sound. The AOR-reminding "Ratcliff" caps Side A. The second half of the album starts promisingly with "Lily" but then really kicks into overdrive with "Spell It Out", my favorite track on the album, with hints of funk and even disco. It all leads up to the album's closer, the epic (6+ min.) "Yeah Right", which perfectly summarizes the album in a single track. Bottom line: "What For?" feels like Toro Y Moi was always destined to make at some point, and to me is his best album yet.

I've had the good fortune of catching Toro Y Moi in concert several times over the years. In 2011 I caught him at the MidPoint Music Festival here in Cincinnati, when I was just getting to know his music. In 2013, I saw him at the FYF festival in Los Angeles. Each time, Bundick and his touring band brought thoroughly enjoyable sets. I can only hope to get a chance to see how the new material translates in a live setting. Meanwhile "What For?" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins
Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins
by Ian Abrahams
Edition: Hardcover
11 used & new from $122.86

4.0 out of 5 stars A can't-miss for longtime Hawkwind fans, April 19, 2015
Imagine my surprise when I was surfing around on the website of my public library here in Cincinnati, and I stumbled upon this item. Had never heard of it, and I ordered it sight unseen. Imagine my equally delightful surprise when the book arrived!

“Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins” (2004 publication from the UK; 288 pages) brings the detailed account (written by Ian Abrahams) of the Hawkwind story, from its very early and humble beginnings up to today. As a fan of their mid-1970s stuff, it was an incredible time warp to read about these guys after all those years. The book contains s boatload of information that I had never known about before or simply may have forgotten(such as: it was John Peel, yes, THAT John Peel, who suggested that the band shorten its name from Hawkwind Zoo to just Hawkwind, who knew? or the background story on how Lemmy joined the band; the time when Ginger Baker, yes, THAT Ginger Baker, recorded (1980’s “Levitation” album) and toured with the band, etc.). Having lost interest in them around that time, I also much lost interest in the book, as by then we’re just about half-way into the book. But that is a minor quibble.

I grew up in Belgium, and in 1977 or thereabouts had tickets for their show somewhere in Belgium. My friends and I got there, and were told the show had been canceled due to “illness in the band” (ahem). We were devastated. Never came close to seeing them again in concert. Ah, the memories! If you are a Hawkwind fan, you cannot go wrong with this book, period! “Hawkwind: Sonic Assassins” is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Game of My Life Cincinnati Reds: Memorable Stories of Reds Baseball
Game of My Life Cincinnati Reds: Memorable Stories of Reds Baseball
by Lew Freedman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.59
42 used & new from $12.69

3.0 out of 5 stars Could be worthwhile for the casual Reds fan (if there is such a thing), April 18, 2015
"Game of My Life Cincinnati Reds: Memorable Stories of Reds baseball" (2013 release; 269 pages) brings about a collection of Reds players' profiles, who then recount (directly or indirectly) the 'game of my life'. Starting with Johnny Vander Meer's memorable back-to-back no-hitters in 1938 (a feat never before or since then ever achieved again), the book walks us through the big names of Reds baseball. Frank Robinson, Tommy Helms, Tom Browning, most of the Red Machine, on to latter day greats like Barry Larkin, Sean Casey, Joey Votto, etc. Somehow questionable talent from today like Zack Cozart (great defensively but a dud on offense) and Drew Stubbs (a flop all around and traded away several years ago) also got their chapter.

If you are a dedicated Reds fan, very little in what is written here will surprise you. The chapter on Barry Larkin is typical in that regard. The 'game of my life' moment here is Larkin's Hall of Fame pre-induction press conference (July 21, 2012), and while there is no question that his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame is the crowning moment on Larkin's illustrious career, I failed to get any new insights or other tidbits of information that I hadn't heard before.

Lew Freedman has written dozens of sports books, including a number of "Game of My Life Books" (also for the Cubs, the White Sox, and others), and while the book notes that "Freedman resides in Reds territory in southern Indiana", the book frankly feels a little impersonal. I picked this up a couple of weeks ago, as we are now celebrating the start of a new baseball season, and hopes are high for many teams, including the Reds. I've read better books about the Reds but if for some reason you are a casual Reds fan looking for highlights of the Reds players, this isn't a bad place to start. Play ball! Go Reds!

God's Slave
God's Slave
DVD ~ Mohammed Alkhaldi
Price: $19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When there is no point of return from religious hatred and fanaticism, April 17, 2015
This review is from: God's Slave (DVD)
"God's Slave" (2013 release from Venezuela; 91 min.) brings the story, based on true events, of two men whoc ouldn't be more different, yet find their paths crossing each other's lives. As the movie opens, we are reminded it is "Lebanon, 1975", and Admed, a young Muslim boy, sees his father getting brutally murdered. But by whom? We then shift to "Caracas, 1990". Admed is now a man and he has been selected (by whom?) to build a new life in Venezuela, where he marries a local, has a baby and integrates in the community as a doctor. Yet it is all a sham and he is just waiting "for a phone call some time in the future". We then shift to "Buenos Aires, 1994", where we get to know David, the head of the Israeli Embassy's Security Department. He is tasked with protecting the large Jewish population in Buenos Aires. What will become of Admed and David? To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: the first half of the movie is tough to watch, to be honest. Not because the movie isn't any good, but because you will likely be appalled, as was I, by the senseless fanaticism displayed by the Muslims, who will go to any length, if we can believe the portrayal shown in the movie, to kill Jews. At some point there is a large attack on a Jewish synagogue resulting in 80 deaths and dozens more severely wounded, and the movie shows a group of Muslims watching it on TV and screaming "We crushed the Jews!", celebrating like their team has scored a goal in the World Cup. Just sickening. The second half of the movie is far more nuanced, when it focuses much more on the two lead characters, and the doubts both of them have as they plow on. Whereas the first half focuses on religious hatred and fanaticism, the second half plays out more like a political cat-and-mouse thriller. It's amazing to think that this movie is directed by a young (27) and upcoming talent in hisfeature length debut. I also want to point out the beautiful (even if mostly somber) musical score, composed by Emilio Kauderer. The DVD comes with a making-of featurette as well as interviews with the director, producer and the lead actors. Bottom line: "God's Slave" is definitely worth checking out.

This is the April, 2015 release in Film Movement's DVD-of-the-Month-Club. As usual, the DVD comes with a bonus shortie, and this time we are truly treated to something special. "Machsom" (2013 release from Israel; 24 min.) brings the story of a conflicted 19 yr. old Israeli soldier who is stationed at a dangerous checkpoint along the West Bank. Just watch! Meanwhile, "God's Slave" is a worthwhile addition to the ever-growing Film Movement catalogue of foreign and indie movies.

No Need to Argue [IMPORT]
No Need to Argue [IMPORT]
Offered by megahitrecords
Price: $7.17
663 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars... 20+ years on, standing the test of time, April 16, 2015
As incredible as it may sound 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of the Cranberries second album, and the one that truly shot them to mega-success and fame in the US. I was browsing my CD collection the other day, and fell upon this. Hadn’t listened to it in ages, so I was curious how it would stack up after all these years.

“No Need To Argue” (13 tracks; 50 min.) stars off with a whimper, the gentle “Ode to My Family” which is a bit too sweet and sugary for my taste, but that’s just me. Things perk up right away after that with “I Can’t Be With You”. Then comes the haunting “Twenty One” (with lyrics like “You took my thoughts from me/Now I want nothing more/ And did you think you could just take it all away?”, wow). The CD booklet notes by the way that Dolores wrote this song on September 6, 1992 (her 21st birthday to the day). This is followed by “Zombie”, the monster-sized song that became a monster hit, and a poster child for “alternative” radio, which probably was at its peak in the 94-95 era. “Zombie” to this day remains one of my all-time favorite Cranberries songs. After that, the album continues to flow nicely. Other highlights on here are “Ridiculous Thoughts”, “Dreaming My Dreams” and the album closer, also the title track. (The album was eventually reissued with 5 bonus tracks, most of which I found unessential, with the best one of those being “So Cold In Ireland”. The worst is the 8 min. “Zombie (Camel's Hump Mix)” which is completely unrecognizable from the original song. )

Bottom line: I am astonished, and very pleasantly surprised, how well this album has aged since it came out 2 decades ago. With this album, and their next one as well (1996’s “To The Faithfully Departed”), the Cranberries made their mark on the “alternative” music scene, achieving mega-mainstream success along the way. I saw the Cranberries in concert for the first time here in Ohio in early 1995 when they were touring in support of “No Need To Argue”, and it remains a fantastic concert memory after all these years. Meanwhile, “No Need To Argue” clearly stands the test of time and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

DVD ~ Andreas Mřl Dalsgaard
Price: $19.39
12 used & new from $15.93

4.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile documentary on urban planning and architecture (even with self-serving Danish twist), April 15, 2015
This review is from: THE HUMAN SCALE (DVD)
I was recently browsing the documentary DVD section at my local library in search of something interesting to watch, and fell upon this. Certainly the sleeve jacket picture of a city upside down caught my attention, but then when I read what this was about, I thought that this could be really interesting, and I decided to pick it up. So glad I did.

"The Human Scale" (2012 release from Denmark; 77 min.) provides a renewed look at how to plan and build our cities, as seen through the eyes and the vision of Danish urban architect Jan Gelh and his colleagues at Gehl Architects. The opening images, combined with the stirring soundtrack, made me think of the movie "Koyaanisqatsi" from the early 80s. Soon thereafter, we dive into Chapter 1 (of 5), where the movie makers look at how cities in China have changed (don't call it progressed) in a compressed time period of just 30 years. Chapter 2 looks at Copenhagen and New York, and it quickly becomes clear what the movie makers' perspective is, assuming you agree that the way we build cities influences our daily life and our quality of life (which I agree with). The before and after pictures of the changes in Manhattan are fascinating. Chapter 3 looks at Chongoing (China), Siena (Italy) and Melbourne. Chapter 4 brings us the challenges facing Dhaka (Bangladesh). But the best is saved for last: a fascinating look at what is going on in Christchurch, New Zealand. I'm not going to tell you what, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

In all, at just 77 min., this documentary flew by in no time and I enjoyed it for the most part. Yet I also was bothered by two particular things: (1) the documentary is in essence one long commercial for the services of the Gehl Architects firm. Couldn't the movie makers really not find anyone else to provide other perspectives (even if they are similar to Gehl's)? (2) In the documentary, the point is made several times that the "gold standard' of urban planning is of course Copenhagen ("can X be the next Copenhagen?"). Really? I find it incredibly self-serving, when you realize that this movie is made/produced by Danes and that Gehl is also Danish. Plus it's presented like a matter of fact, when in reality this is a very subjective conclusion and I'd venture to say that there are quite a few cities in Europe that are not all that different from Copenhagen in its urban lay-out. All that aside, if you have any interest in urban planning, I'd strongly suggest that you check out this documentary, and draw your own conclusion on all this.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter - Trailer
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter - Trailer
Offered by Short-form Videos
Price: $0.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars “I’m like a Spanish Conquistador!”, April 14, 2015
(I am surprised that Amazon does not have a listing for this yet as a future DVD release, as it usually does for movies currently playing in the theater. But to be clear, this is a review of the entire movie, not the trailer of the movie.)

“Kumiko The Treasure Hunter” (2014 release; 104 min.) brings the story of Kumiko. As the movie opens, we see Kumiko walking alongside the beach with a map, eventually retrieving a VHS tape from under a rock. It turns out to be the movie “Fargo”, and Kumiko becomes obsessed with it, and in particular the character played Steve Buscemi , who buries a briefcase full of money in the Fargo snow. Meanwhile, we witness Kumiko becoming more and more aloof and isolated in her day-to-day life, including her job as an Office Lady in corporate Japan. It’s only when she is watching “Fargo” that she feels alive. Kumiko eventually decides to go to Fargo. To tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you’ll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Several comments: the movie is directed, co-written by and stars David Zellner (his brother Nathan co-wrote the script). The story is a fantastical concoction that is loosely based on true events, and when I say “loosely”, you should read that in the broadest possible meaning. The movie’s initial 45 minutes play out in Tokyo, and Zellner captures the loneliness and isolation of the Kumiko character, still an Office Lady at age 29, perfectly. When Kumiko is caught trying to steal a huge world atlas from the library and is asked why, Kumiko passionately explains that “I am like a Spanish Conquistador, retrieving untold treasures!”, to the shock of the library guard. The last hout of the movie plays out in the US, and captures the mood of the ‘frozen tundra’ and also the mood of the “Fargo” movie perfectly. When Kumiko is wondering the snowy fields, the movie becomes the anti-“Wild” movie: rather than finding herself, Kumiko becomes more and more lost. Please note that, like in “Wild”, there are long stretches in this film where not a word is spoken. Knowing some of the background on the real life events on which this is loosely based, I was quite surprised with the ending offered by this movie… Last but not least, there is a great instrumental soundtrack, composed and performed by Austin-based indie band The Octopus Project.

I had read about this movie, and was intrigued by it. Imagine my surprise when “Kumiko The Treasure Hunter” recently opened without any pre-release fanfare or advertising at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati. I went to see it right away and the Sunday matinee screening where I saw this at was attended okay but not great. Which is a shame, as this is a very nice ‘little’ movie that is quirky and off-center, yet always entertaining if not intriguing. If that sounds like it might appeal to you, you cannot go wrong with this. “Kumiko The Treasure Hunter” is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

The Keeper: A Life of Saving Goals and Achieving Them
The Keeper: A Life of Saving Goals and Achieving Them
by Tim Howard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.70
64 used & new from $11.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quick and easy read, and ah yes, that Belgium-USA WC game!, April 13, 2015
"The Keeper - A Life of Savings Goals and Achieving Them" (2014 publication; 318 pages) is the memoir from US soccer goalie Tim Howard, who made World Cup history last summer when he made a WC record 15 saves in that epic Round of 16 elimination match again Belgium (more on that later). Not unpredictably, the book is structured in four parts which all start off with a reflection on that game against Belgium (Pregame; Warning Shots; Nothing Gets Through; Still Alive). Otherwise it is a straight-forward, chronological memoir, from his early days in New Jersey (or "Jersey" as he calls it), rising through the ranks in the US, to then break through as a 24 yr. old in the English Premier League. Frankly, he has been at Everton for so many years that I had forgotten he actually started out his first 3 seasons in t EPL at Man United.

As to the book itself, this is very easy and quick reading. Even though it's a bit over 300 pages, I blew through this in a single afternoon recently (while having EPL games on the telly).

As to Tim's comments on the Belgium game, he says time and again "I believe that we will win", and certainly his performance isn't the reason why ultimately Team USA did not beat Belgium. Being a dual citizen of both Belgium (where I grew up) and the US (where I've lived 30+ years), you can only imagine how conflicted my feelings were about this game. In the end, the most important thing is that this was probably the most enetertaining match of last year's entire World Cup, where each team gave their all, and then some. I look forward to having Tim Howard be the goalkeeper for Team USA for a few more years, maybe even to the next WC. If you are a football fan (and you know who you are), you will enjoy this book from start to finish.

While We're Young (Original Soundtrack Album)
While We're Young (Original Soundtrack Album)
Price: $13.99
27 used & new from $7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant soundtrack matches the movie's mood perfectly, April 12, 2015
I recently saw "While We're Young" in the theater (more on that later). I really enjoyed the music that appears in the movie, both the original score and the song placements. I made a mental note that I needed to check out the soundtrack afterwards, and it led me to this.

"While We're Young - Original Soundtrack Album" (14 tracks; 50 min.) brings both the original score (by none other than James Murphy, yes he of erstwhile LCS Soundsystem, and the songs that appear in the movie. The soundtrack collection starts off with one of the few James Murphy pieces, a minimalist cover of David Bowie's "Golden Year", which plays over the opening scene of the movie, when the Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts characters are visiting their friends who just got a baby. There are two more James Murphy pieces on here: the electronic yet dreamy "Only The Stars Above Welcome Me Home" and towards the end "We Used to Dance", another electronic instrumental. I'm surprised that not more from the James Murphy music from the movie isn't included here. Director Noah Baunbach's vision for the movie mixed it up nicely and hence we also get several classical music pieces, two of which are on this soundtrack. The remainder of the soundtrack collects the mostly big-name songs that are sprinkled throughout the movie: Lionel Richie's "All Night Long (All Night" (which plays as the Stiller and Watts characters visit their new friends' place for the first time, which is heavy on old-school stuff (vinyl album galore, old TV without cable, vintage typewriter, etc.). A Tribe Called Quest's "Bugging Out" plays in a hilarious scene where the Watts character ends up in a hip-hop dance class, too funny. I honestly de not recall hearing Haim's "Falling" in the movie. Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" plays when the Stiller character needs to meet with a potential investor for his documentary. Paul McCartney's "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five", one of his best tracks ever (for me personally), plays at a crucial scene late in the movie at Lincoln Center. Bowie's "Golden Years" plays over the movie's end titles. In all, this is a very pleasant soundtrack, matching the movie's mood perfectly.

Speaking of the movie: I'll go see just about any film directed by Noah Baumbach (The Whale and the Squid; Greenberg; Frances Ha). Here, it seems Baumbach isn't really sure whether this is a movie about aging, or about childless couples, or about troubles marriages, and in the end Baumbach is a bit all over the place. "While We're Young" is certainly not a bad movie, but it's also not Baumbach's best.

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