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Deface The Music
Deface The Music
Price: $9.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Face it - 'Deface' is worthwhile for diehard Beatlemaniacs, June 16, 2014
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This review is from: Deface The Music (MP3 Music)
While no one can ever really know Todd Rundgren's true motives for doing anything (he's as inscrutable as Frank Zappa), "Deface the Music" comes across as an affectionate tribute to the sound of mid-1960s Beatlemania. It's a fairly obscure album that some people compare to the Rutles but, to me, this is a different flavor of Beatleoid music. With the Rutles, part of the fun is picking apart the songs to see what Beatles song Neil Innes is parodying. With Utopia, on the other hand, it almost sounds as if Rundgren is playing a game in which he's constructing songs that sound close enough to the Beatles to fool you, but not so close that they sound like rewrites. There are many tips of the hat to specific songs through arrangements and production techniques, but direct musical quotes are few and far between. These are songs which you would automatically accept as being by the Beatles if you heard them on a soundtrack of a movie, but you wouldn't necessarily feel as though they were carbon copies. You'd half expect some of these to have turned up on the "Anthology" collection as Beatles outtakes. Others, however, are far less convincing forgeries.

"Alone" and "That's Not Right" are two of the highest points on the album. They push this up to a 4-star review for me.

The Merseybeat material (in essence the first half of the album) is much better than the psychedelic stuff because the obvious string machines on "Life Goes On" and the synths elsewhere stand out as inauthentic within the context of late-1960s music. Neil Innes ran into a similar problem with the Rutles - his heart just did not seem to be in the latter-day material. In this particular case, I was surprised because Rundgren's tenure with the Nazz showed that he certainly knew how to whip out convincing psychedelic when needed. If you're looking for better psychedelic pastiches, turn to XTC's "Chips from the Chocolate Fireball."

If you're not a diehard Beatlemaniac, you'll want to invert my rating of 4 stars to 1 star. Regardless, I'd much rather listen to a genuine tribute album like this one than an album of ill-conceived, lackluster and unnecessary cover versions.


The 1970s: The Decade Series for Guitar (Decade (Hal Leonard))
The 1970s: The Decade Series for Guitar (Decade (Hal Leonard))
by Hal Leonard Corp.
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.94
33 used & new from $4.52

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful 1970s various artists TAB compilation, June 3, 2014
Hal Leonard's fake books will give you more songs per dollar, but if you want/need complete guitar TABs for a variety of popular songs, then the Decade series can't be beat. There are 30 songs transcribed here, split pretty evenly between hard rock and soft rock. So, for every "Walk this Way" you get a "Time in a Bottle." Truth be told, the 1970s were a decade where guitar virtuosity was so common among leading rock bands that it was practically taken for granted, so it's a treat to have transcriptions of "Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo," "Godzilla," and "Freeway Jam" plus there's the melodic solos of "Show Me The Way" and "Oye Como Va." If you're in a cover band, you could take half this book and turn it into your 70s set.

As always with this type of compilation there are some pretty weird choices. I love ELO and Eric Clapton, but I doubt "Evil Woman" and "Lay Down Sally" are the among the most frequently requested songs in their catalogs. Since this is a guitar-oriented compilation, "Showdown" and "Cocaine" would have been much better choices. There are also some odd 1960s hangovers. Yes, "Let it Be" was released in 1970 but it's more closely associated with the end of the 1960s, and I would have preferred to see a different Van Halen song included than their cover of "You Really Got Me." None of the included songs are bad, but given the target audience for a book like this, a few different choices would have made this a truly superior must-have book.


Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Tomorrow and Tomorrow
by Thomas Sweterlitsch
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.50
62 used & new from $8.35

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Derivative, May 7, 2014
This review is from: Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Hardcover)
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Stop me if you've heard this one before.

A depressed, drug-abusing loner living in a dystopian United States in the near future questions the nature of reality after uncovering a conspiracy. That's the synopsis.

The first half of this book is actually decent, if not very original. The primary technologies we get to witness in this world are a virtual recreation of Pittsburgh's last days before it was destroyed, and a cybernetic implant called "Adware" which is a kind of embedded, advanced version of Google Glass. Both technologies are plausible and sound great in theory, but how human beings interact with such technologies is always ambiguous. The virtual Pittsburgh, rather than serving as a tribute to the city, is a place where survivors can engage in voyeurism and morbid rehashing of their lost lives and Adware seems to induce a permanent state of ADHD in its users, desensitizing them to tabloid-style press. This is what good cyberpunk has always been about - the relationship between people and new technology they may not really be suited for. Dominic, the lead character, seems to barely live in the real world, and is so passive that he finds himself manipulated constantly by psychological therapists, employers, and the few friends he seems to have. He clearly prefers the online world he can access through Adware to anything around him in Washington DC and thoroughly immerses himself in mysteries he is assigned to investigate rather than asking hard questions about his real circumstances and problems. And there are many mysteries in the virtual Pittsburgh because of missing data as well as certain people's tendency to alter records to suit their own agendas.

The first half of the book is probably the inspiration for the back cover's ravings, comparing author Thomas Sweterlitsch to Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick, and William S. Burroughs. The Chandler and Burroughs comparisons are off-the-wall, but the Dick comparisons are half-right. Sweterlitsch's novel actually has more in common with the film adaptations of Dick's material (particularly 'Total Recall' and 'Minority Report') than to Dick's actual written work. This may also account for why this book was optioned by Sony for a motion picture. It's not particularly innovative but it isn't bad either, and it's a good time-filler.

The second half of the book, on the other hand, almost seems as if it had been written by a different person. Unlike the moody, somewhat trippy first half, the second half of the book ramps up the sex and violence, tossing in an incredible number of coincidences that are intended to move the plot along. The sex comes mainly from smutty references, and the violence is of the graphic, gory kind found in horror movies. Both are turnoffs. The coincidences are necessary because Dominic is such a passive character that there is no other way to get him to do anything. It's manipulative. I don't object to a bleak worldview in science-fiction, but I do object when I start to sense that certain topics are being tossed in for sheer shock value. It's ugly, and all of this bludgeoned me to the point where I found it impossible to care about Dominic's quest to get to the bottom of the conspiracy or any of the increasing number of one-dimensional characters that Sweterlitsch chose to introduce into Dominic's story. It's still cyberpunk, but we've gone from something vaguely inspired by William Gibson to something better suited to an obscure manga. The second half of the book is so awful, it actually negates much of the mood established in the first half and destroys whatever goodwill Dominic managed to engender.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 25, 2014 7:51 PM PDT


The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America
The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America
by Brian Kevin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.08
75 used & new from $6.39

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Buy the ticket, take the ride", April 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Brian Kevin sets out to pay tribute to Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's early 1960s adventures in South America in this enjoyable travelogue. HST's writings about South America would be all but forgotten today if some of them were not included in the "Great Shark Hunt" anthology, but that's more of a comment on the lack of attention South America gets in North American mass media than on the quality of those essays. I, for one, vividly remember those excellent essays and thought of them myself when I traveled through Ecuador a few years back. If they were more widely available, they would be more influential. Brian Kevin obviously remembers them too, and he sets off to visit as many of the places that HST did, hoping to show what has changed and what has remained the same since 1963.

The result is a kind of "Julie and Julia" for HST fans, with the relatively inexperienced Kevin hoping to grow by emulating his literary hero. HST was a larger-than-life personality, and his writing style at its prime was both powerful and inimitable (though that didn't stop endless sub-HST writers from trying to channel his mojo into gonzo gold). Brian Kevin realizes this, and wisely tries to avoid impersonating HST's voice while trying to find his own voice while following in HST's footsteps. Perhaps realizing that he isn't going to match any of HST's insights, Brian Kevin instead gives us an often impressively detailed travelogue of Peru, Colombia, and Brazil, while recording his own adventures and observations. He can't help but be totally swamped by trying to come to terms with HST's legacy, but it's a valiant effort. And, again, I give him credit for consistently being himself rather than trying to be a HST impersonator. (To me, the book's strongest chapter is the one devoted almost exclusively to Quito. Brian Kevin is positively charmed by the city of Quito, but HST was not, and it's here that we see Kevin's insights fully flower without interference from his reverence for HST.)

The result is a nice supplement to HST's South American essays, but you could say that about almost any book written in the past 50 years about Americans abroad in South America. It's episodic, lends itself to browsing rather than reading from cover-to-cover, and ironically enough will probably read just as well to those who could care less about HST. I expected a bit more from this book - perhaps a book in which more digging was done on the events that HST wrote about - but that book just might be impossible to write.


Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris
Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris
by Steven E. Levingston
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.31
82 used & new from $10.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solidly written historical true crime procedural, March 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a spoiler-free review of "Little Demon in the City of Light."

If you're a Francophille, a Gay Nineties history buff, love police procedural literature, and have a strong interest in hypnosis, you'll probably want to add a star to my review. If you're none of the above, you'll likely want to deduct a star, as Steven Levingston's approach is methodical, unrushed, and leans toward thoughtful academia. This isn't a breezy, quick read despite the relatively short length.

"Little Demon" is Levingston's chronicle of a murder mystery that, while historically important, is sufficiently obscure to most of us in the 21st century that it makes for fresh reading. It's for that reason that I am hesitant to reveal too much of this true story. While the circumstances of the murder itself are indeed lurid, and while there is high drama in the courtroom and a degree of both international intrigue and despicable yellow journalism, the real star of the story is Surete Chief Marie-Francois Goron. How often have you heard that a given police detective is a real-life Sherlock Holmes? Well, Goron truly fit that bill, making careful use of then-cutting edge science to identify corpses and bolster cases that would otherwise be circumstantial. Goron is the most richly-sketched of all the real-life characters, but Levingston also makes a solid attempt to bring each of the figures in "Little Demon" to life and he does so without resorting to the techniques of historical fiction.

"Little Demon" may be an acquired taste, but it's a taste worth acquiring.


Dangerous Neighbors: Volcanoes and Cities
Dangerous Neighbors: Volcanoes and Cities
by Grant Heiken
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $27.00
64 used & new from $17.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slim and informative book about volcanoes, January 28, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
'Dangerous Neighbors' focuses on contemporary cultures that live within striking distance of volcanoes. With urban sprawl as a global phenomenon, more people than ever before live close to dormant volcanoes and the reasons for this (as well as the risks) are explored in this very thin volume. There are multiple short chapters about different cities and regions (Naples, Quito, Hawaii, Japan, etc.) that are closely associated with volcanoes, how living close to volcanoes has influenced their cultures, and how prepared these places are in the event of a catastrophe.

The target audience for this book seems to be people who know next to nothing about volcanoes, as the science presented here is very basic and accessible. For that reason, I imagine this book would be a good supplemental reading for an Earth Science course at the high school or community college level. It does an excellent job of debunking popular ideas about what most volcanic activity looks like (hint: slow, glowing masses of lava are not always what you should expect).


How I Feel (Vocal Karaoke Version) [Originally Performed By Flo Rida]
How I Feel (Vocal Karaoke Version) [Originally Performed By Flo Rida]
Price: $0.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Ok karaoke for the hit song, January 15, 2014
Like most karaoke recordings of hit songs, this one sounds bland compared to the original. However, this particular song has an excellent vamp, and that's why I downloaded it for use as background music for short slide shows. It works fine for this purpose, because I find lyrics distracting for slide shows unless they are directly related to the photos.


Daffodil ULT300 USB Light - Reading Lamp with 28 Bright LED Bulbs, Flexible Gooseneck and Desk Clamp / Plugs into Your PC or Mac's USB Port to Light-up its Keyboard and Screen. No Batteries Needed
Daffodil ULT300 USB Light - Reading Lamp with 28 Bright LED Bulbs, Flexible Gooseneck and Desk Clamp / Plugs into Your PC or Mac's USB Port to Light-up its Keyboard and Screen. No Batteries Needed
Offered by Daffodil US
Price: $19.95
2 used & new from $12.93

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally bright and great for use with a laptop, January 4, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
For some reason, many laptop manufacturers make their keyboards out of black or dark grey plastic which is a pain if you're not working in a well-lit area. And yet, because laptops are portable, you just might find yourself in a poorly-lit area some of the time. That's why a little USB-powered lamp like this is essential. I use mine whenever I'm using my laptop during that time when the light from the windows is fading but it's not quite dark enough to turn the house lamps on. I also use it if I am reading printed materials at the same time as using my laptop, just like a regular desk lamp.

The lamp is surprisingly bright, due to the large number of LEDs concentrated in a small area. It also runs on AA batteries, but I have no idea how long it lasts on battery power instead of USB phantom power. The gooseneck is easily manipulated and the base is very lightweight, but the clamp is very strong.


Cheap Trick The Best Of (Guitar Recorded Versions)
Cheap Trick The Best Of (Guitar Recorded Versions)
by Cheap Trick
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.04
41 used & new from $10.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Most of the hits - and mostly accurate, too, January 4, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Still like Cheap Trick? Of course you do, and because Rick Nielsen's guitar licks are always a little off-the-wall, this is a band that a fake book just can't do justice to. Guitar Recorded Versions are definitely the way to go. Not every fan favorite gets represented in this mid-1990s compilation, but this is a decent cross-section of self-penned material, covers, and outside material like "The Flame." Most of the songs that got significant airplay are here. Despite Nielsen's quirkiness, much of this material isn't too hard to play once you see the TAB, although his alternate picking and pull-offs on "Ain't That A Shame" are a devilish workout at the recorded tempo.

From time to time, I did catch incorrectly labeled chords that didn't correspond to the TAB, which is a problem if you're using this book as a springboard to creating your own arrangements and not playing the TAB transcription per se. Also, given how important the bass lines are for fleshing out the harmonies on the "In Color" and "Dream Police," I really would have liked to have seen them here as well, if only as "bass arr. for guitar." I would have wanted the same thing from a Guitar Recorded Versions for the Who, as well.

Have fun playing and learning from this book!


WWE: Live in Fear (Bray Wyatt)
WWE: Live in Fear (Bray Wyatt)
Price: $0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best WWE Entrance Music in Years, September 29, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
"Live in Fear" is an excellent piece of creepy, swampy blues-rock that sounds straight out of a Tarantino soundtrack. It's totally different from the usual vamps that most current entrance music sounds like lately - for a good reason. This wasn't written as entrance music! It's a track from Mark Crozer, who's obscure enough that you probably haven't heard of him before. Thanks to Bray Wyatt, we've now discovered Mark Crozer's music!


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