Profile for Christopher J. Jarmick > Reviews


Christopher J. J...'s Profile

Customer Reviews: 153
Top Reviewer Ranking: 226,759
Helpful Votes: 2153

Community Features
Review Discussion Boards
Top Reviewers

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Christopher J. Jarmick "Word Lover" RSS Feed (Seattle, Wa. USA)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-16
Michael C Ford - Look Each Other In The Ears
Michael C Ford - Look Each Other In The Ears
Price: $15.76
20 used & new from $0.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo!, June 19, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Assuming you stumbled upon this listing. . .and aren't quite sure what this might be . . .

What you have here is one of the best Los Angeles - based poets delivering a memorable 11 track music and spoken word album.

If labels help, the music is basically of the funky lounge jazz genre performed by former Doors members: Ray Manzarek (keyboards) Robby Krieger (electric guitars) and John Densmore (drums) and includes Paul Bushnell on Bass and Harlan Steinberger doing percussion things on all the tracks plus impressive backing vocals from folks like Tommy Jordan, Angelo Moore, Amy Jordan and others. Several tracks have Sax and or Trombone, Trumpet, Hammer Dulcimer and much more. It's got great production value.

Michael C. Ford (award winning writer/poet/teacher ) has one of those million dollar radio announcer voices and knows exactly how to bring out its best qualities as he delivers the words here with appropriate meter and pauses that matches the music in the sort of near perfect union many aspire to create but few deliver.

It's really really good. Buy it!

It's far too good to be mainstream, yet someone should be playing several tracks on the radio right now.

The Killer Poet's Guide to Immortality
The Killer Poet's Guide to Immortality
by A. B. Bard
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.66
31 used & new from $3.73

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp Satiric Gem with excellent poetry too!!!, December 3, 2012
To be quick and the to point: This is one of those rare laugh-out-loud books that's full of wild twists turns and surprises, not to mention sharp as a knife satire. Written in the voice of a madman poet who's willing to kill to promote his art (Poetry),I was reminded of Kurt Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout and in several ways Breakfast of Champions. This book is a wild ride. The author is fearless and even when it flies off the tracks, it's a great ride to be on. This is a must read for anyone who claims to be a writer/poet/artist.

Finding Water, Holding Stone
Finding Water, Holding Stone
by James Bertolino
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.20
28 used & new from $3.78

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding Water, Holding Stone,, June 25, 2009
Bertolino's masterful command of language, literary devices, and subtle internal rhymes make most poems in this collection as smooth and accessible as a Motown classic by Smokey Robinson. Nothing here has been over-worked into literary or academic obscurity.

I love Bertolino's insistence on clear concise communication. Read IN THE KITCHEN and you'll understand from the first strophe : `he overheard her saying something that sounded like `best dancer' how his dry wit, deepens the meaning and emotions of a poem without being too smart for the room.

I was not expecting that I would passionately enjoy most of the deceptively quiet poems in Bertolino's latest collection. I knew there would be meticulously crafted, constructed poetry by the former creative writing teacher. I was sure several poems would reveal his dry, wry sense of humor. I knew I would find a favorite or two that I would want to have a copy of; such as Bloodying August Polito's Nose.. . but I was not expecting to enjoy all 50 of the poems in this 80 page collection. After all, Bertolino has been publishing his poetry for over 40 years with about 10 books and 15 chap books to his credit. How much `good stuff' does this Whacom Country resident have in him?

The collection begins with The Path of Water and a quote from Ursula LeGuin: ` Nothing can make water better.' ; and ends with a poem comparing the sun breaking through a cloud with the unbuttoning of a ladies white blouse. In between, the words are the water we drink for survival and for pleasure. We taste, we savor. The water flows, the stones we hold.

There's no filler or laziness to be found on any page of this collection. I have at least a dozen favorites from the book and about three dozen runner ups. Pick up a copy of Finding Water, Holding Stone, and I suspect you'll be spending an afternoon in the near future, savoring Bertolino.

A Guest in All Your Houses
A Guest in All Your Houses
by Peter Ludwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.95
29 used & new from $7.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Guest in All Your Houses, June 9, 2009
Set entirely in the American West, the poems in A GUEST IN ALL YOUR HOUSES explore personal themes of history and culture identifying specific places. Some of the work is contemplative, some freewheeling and humorous, and one poem in the collection (I hope you are sitting down) even rhymes.

As the title suggests, Ludwin's poems come from a perspective of a house-guest-- the houses loosely defined as places he's slept in or around including campgrounds off hiking trails. He also identifies other guests and their visits to various 'houses'.

What this review can never tell is how each vignette is part of a pure spirit within the heart and soul of Ludwin the poet. The soul of our culture is part of many of these poems that take us to places few will ever visit and let us hear the voices of not just people, but of ghosts, spirits, prairie grasses and adobe houses.

You'll find 19th century farm wives, hippies, native American spirits, pioneers, religious fundamentalists, and other visitors (guests) communing with raw nature and the chaos of progress.

This collection employs sensual language to impart subtle quiet themes. The book is divided into three sections: Compass Points; Four Corners and Fugitive Kind. There are 56 poems in this 89 page book.
We begin with
a 13 line intro poem

Acoma Codex

This is how it's always been:
you reach for Adam's rib
but pull out instead
a handful of pinon nuts
a small pocket of wind.

And then
Notes from a Sodbuster's Wife, Kansas 1868
I tried. Lord knows I tried.
Survived the locusts and even snakes
that fell from the ceiling at night,
slithering between us in bed.

And we end with Terlingua Return
Can mere aroma distill spirit?
Convince me that, like the yucca
like the slumbering desert itself,
I do not die, I only re-awaken?

And in between so many wonderful word images and memorable phrases

Cottonwoods wear the silver of shrouds
Their massive trunks so deeply grooved
They form brows tormented by thought.



she imagines her son
outlined in glowing rock,
his bandana an illumined petro glyph.
But then she feels her fingers
and knows their unconscious rubbing
shapes the owl that pecks her heart

From Monument Valley


If form changes, must content always follow?
It's July this morning in Taos.
I walk out into warmth
rising like freshly baked bread

From Vigas at the Sagebrush Inn, Taos


To be human now
means to hang my skin
from the nearest branch
and step with no bones
into the circle.

From Midnight, Steens Mountain

Wind as breath infusing root. Connected.
Curator of story and myth it blows
over endless horizons of corn.
Remembers the sound grass would make
when the wind wove through
when earth was loom,
Grass the stitch that held.

From Interpretation

We'd lost one of our own,
a house finch, a mustard flower
blooming where they'd once crushed ore.

From Funeral in Terlinqua

In case your still not convinced Peter Ludwin's A Guest in All Your Houses belongs in your house... here's a final excerpt from

Driving North toward the Hopi Reservation

Filets of earth
Lie exposed like salmon flesh
Torn apart by bears

The earth says My grasses sweep away
to horizons like the sea,

And I say I am the wind,
I will be a guest in all your houses

Stirring Up the Water (Earthworks)
Stirring Up the Water (Earthworks)
by Cat Ruiz
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.92
14 used & new from $14.17

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars liquid poetry, April 7, 2008
An ambitious generous collection of poems ofering a variety of 12 years worth of Cathy Ruiz's poetry that often reflect on her rich cultural heritage andher own personal history, memories of family, lovers, students, places she has visited and political perspective.

Not every poem is perfect, but many will resonate and connect with you deeply. The poems are easy to understand and full of beautiful details, stunning imagary, clever phrases and merit several readings.

There's a reason it has won awards, has been published in England, and is now available through Amazon.

Several poem titles should peak your interest : Beneath Bare Feet, At A Garthering of Friends, Why I Gave Jason B. an A On His Paper Even Though he Called Sherman Alexie a Hack, What Happened to Your Love Poems ?, Off Reservation Blues, Soft Clicking Prayers, and Saturday Afternoon at the Fights.

No cheap sentiment or pained cynicism here. There's an affectionate embrace of the past and a willingness to teach.

In Peeled Red Onions, her collection of published writing is compared to a yard full of weeds and dandelions, and then layers of onions.

Peeled red onions once lay in this box
where copies of my published writing are now packed
like layers of onion,
they are the pulp of past harvests
and this is but
another field of feeling
I pass
on an end of summer afternoon.

Her carefully chosen words convey several emotions and reflect on life changing events beautifully framed with visual cues that bring the right sense of depth and meaning without getting overly sentimental or maudlin. Notice how much she does in just 6 seemingly simple lines


Now a Hawk circles over the cemetery grounds
where my uncle's ashes are buried
and up high stretch two wings,
a brave and certain look in the eyes.
that must have been the same he'd worn when wounded in 1944
as he lay on a hillside waiting.

There's more of the same throughout this strong, memorable volume of poetry. ENJOY.

by Richard Beymer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.13
30 used & new from $13.00

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Preposterous IMPOSTER amuses & confuses, December 31, 2007
This review is from: Impostor (Paperback)
Ambitious, outrageous, revealing, frustrating, repetitious, funny, no make that f***ng hilarious at times, playful, sad, annoying, 100 pages too long, poorly paced, self-indulgent, quirky, tricky, goofy, stupid, smart, silly, obvious, passionate, surprising, like a puppy wanting to go chase the ball over and over again--it will exhaust you.

Impostor (rather than "Imposter") is a flawed, everything-and two kitchen sinks semi-fictional-memoir self published by actor/celebrity Richard Beymer. Beymer starred in West Side Story and made himself famous again 20 or so years later in the Twin Peaks television series. But don't expect tales about famous directors or working on movies and bedding starlets. Some of that is within the prose... but in dream-like stream of consciousness bursts of writing that zig and zag through a myriad of come-ons and self indulgent fantasies and ideas that will wear out most readers pretty fast. Instead, consider this an experimental work of fiction and enjoy the fun-house ride.

It starts quick and reveals most of its bag of tricks too soon,meaning it feels repetitious by the time you are 50 pages into it. But then again.. so what... why trust the reader to keep going if you don't lay it out for them? It's full of goofy revelations, half-baked philosophies, and it begins to feel like Kurt Vonnegut's Kilgore Trout is now an actor and frustrated filmmaker named Richard Beymer whose not quite sure how honest and truthful he wants to be about his life and thoughts about life that he wraps it up inside a 70s movie that should have been directed by Monte Hellman and Bob Rafelson--except it's a period piece done in 2007 that tries too hard. Or maybe you'll think of Hunter S.Thompson's adventures on Acid with his lawyer. It's manic, off-the-wall, frustrating, repetitious, annoying but clever enough and often funny enough to overcome its flaws and reward the patient reader with interesting insights, attitudes and plenty of spicy entertainment. It dares you to keep up with it and then makes it nearly impossible to do so. Oh screw you and all this game playing and nonsense. No wait... you crafty son. . . of . . . a. . .I'm gonna hang in there and play this game.

Beymer invents or perhaps that's invests himself as George a split personality who believes he's an alien cast in a life-long movie where he plays a very flawed personality struggling artist and actor who is trying to film everything he does. Got that? Good. Beymer's a trickster who wants to pull the rug out from you constantly and believes if he keeps hopping around using various literary devices and tricks he'll create energy and excitement and wit. Sometimes he's right. At other times he tries way too hard and the milk starts to spoil and go sour. Then, just as you start to give up and get too frustrated, Beymer throws something at you that works or is revealing enough you give the book another chance, and then another. It's baaad, it's good, it's awful, it's entertaining. It's challenging and different.

So who cares. Buy it and try to read it. You'll get some laughs out of the book and if you stick with it, a little bit more than that.

Film Alchemy: The Independent Cinema of Ted V. Mikels
Film Alchemy: The Independent Cinema of Ted V. Mikels
by Christopher Wayne Curry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $46.82
14 used & new from $30.94

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Annectdotal tales of eccentric low-budget cult film making, November 17, 2007
Anyone interested in an anectdote filled look at the world of low budget independent film making in the 1960s and 70s needs to get this book.

Author Curry relies amost entirely on Ted V. Mikels to tell his film-making tales which means we have Ted V. Mikels' word that it is all true.. and it probably is (but a little more research and a few more sources would have been even better). Ted is open and direct, names names and exposes his life behind the camera with some sense of perspective, integrity and gentlemaness. I know this is true because I've interviewed Mikels for articles of my own in the past. (my articles and interviews receive acknowledgment in the book and are used both directly and as background).

Don't look here for an honest assessment of Mikels films or the value his productions may or may not have given to the world of cinema. Press book type plot synopsis and cast and crew credits are used rather than the authors. So be prepared, this book pretty much embraces Ted V. Mikels as an important, generous, warm hearted, sometimes mis-understood survivor of independent filmmaking.

This is not a fan-boy kind of book, however. It may be too generous and appreciative of its subject, but it is not fawning. I wish a disgruntled ex-employee, dissapointed ex-girlfriend or someone would have been found to say something negative about Ted (even though it would be difficult to find someone like that.).

Even so, you don't have to agree with the premise that Ted V. Mikels is an under-appreciated, valuable low budget movie making pioneer eccentric to be fascinated with the hundreds of stories that are told about the making of movies from the 1950's through the present. There's a need for this kind of anectdotal history of the cinema, and it's a great idea that we preserve the thoughts and words of a guy whose been in the trenches for 50 years, obsessed with making movies.

The book is perhaps a bit pricey, but McFarland is a smaller publisher and has been given us unique books for years. If you are interested in the subject, it's an informative, completely engrossing and entertaining book. Plenty of black and white stills appear throughout the book. Buy it.

Of One and Many Worlds
Of One and Many Worlds
by Rayn Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.50
19 used & new from $9.12

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Be Still As You Move", January 6, 2007
This review is from: Of One and Many Worlds (Paperback)
"Be Still as Your Move" is a line from one of the poems in this collection and I wish it was the title of the collection.

I feel it sums up the voice author Roberts has in most of the poems in this collection. There are some awkward poems, some that try to too hard, but there are some truly spectacular lines and poems here-- enough to rate the collection at least a 4 1/2 and push that to a 5 so anyone on the fence will take the plunge and part with a few bucks to buy a book of poetry. (It is still such a daring, crazy thing to actually shell out a few bucks to buy a book or poetry and commit to sitting quietly for a couple of hours and reading some poetry I suppose. I wish more would do such things. Self medicating through the reading of poetry seems like such a better idea than constantly numbing of dumbing ourselves down with extra television or movie watching).

Where was I?

I'm writing a review of the book for a lit-magazine out of Seattle called Raven's Chronicles. I don't know Rayn, well, but have had the pleasure of seeing him perform some of his poetry at a few readings over the years and he's come up with a solid collection that contains some of his very best work.

Rayn is doggedly determine to capture the aesthetic experience of every day life and not create pretentious art out of it in his poems, or write the kind of poem that takes years to decipher. He wants us to experience the 'art' in the ordinary journeys and things we do on a daily basis. Sometimes his words will connect with you, sometimes they try too hard to teach you something, but when they find the right balance (and several of the 52 poems in this collection do have the right balance) it's an uplifting positive experience.

There a gentle lyricism in many of the poems and there's also humor, some very dry, some the kind you get from a sweet surprise of a brilliant turn of the phrase

"All poets are priests"

He proclaims in the poem, `Religions' and then writes:

"Poetry is an offering of being

A meditation of who I am"


"A rocky religion plain and true

Working sound without faith in heaven."

One of the easiest poem in this collection to like is this whimsical, humorous gem:


While I sat on a bench

A pheasant peeked out

Of the underbrush nearby

I only moved my head

To look up and see it

When it took to the air

As if I was a hungry cat!

Did you think, pretty bird

I wanted you for dinner?

I was only reading a book.

The lengths of the poem vary, so you really feel you have a couple of complete meals to enjoy. I sampled the collection, I read part of it and I have also sat down and read the whole thing straight through.

I like the blunt honesty, the questioning of the poets own faith and path in the poem: "The Temple as Cage". It's personal, graceful and intensely truthful.

A bird flies into the temple and inspires these lines:

"It appears more imprisoned by its own ignorance

Much as I am, making long flights over water and land

The lazy Bodhisattva, blinded by wanderlust and poems."

Since I know I'll be reading "Of One and Many Worlds again, (and)soon, I don't hesitate to recommend you consider purchasing a copy for yourself.


California Split
California Split
DVD ~ George Segal
Offered by 5_star_sales
Price: $39.99
20 used & new from $19.44

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This lesser known Altman gem should be in your collection., May 29, 2006
This review is from: California Split (DVD)
Altman movies are rarely box-office champs--sometimes they are box-office duds. Most break rules but not necessarily in an audience pleasing way. Altman's priority in making films is not in telling a story or giving the audience a roller coaster ride. He makes films to explore ideas and character or just to try something he hasn't done before.

Sometimes he slips and slides all over the place and will turn you off, at other times he get things as right as any artist working in film past or present. What he is doing interests or intrigues him and/or the actors involved--hopefully the audience will appreciate it--but that is never the most important consideration with Altman.

Altman may have been appreciated by film critics, but he rarely had a hit with general audiences and he has never won an Oscar until he was given his honorary trophy in 2006.

In 1974, the subject of gambling addiction was not in the headlines. It was Watergate front and center and politics. Altman's 1975 breakthrough- Nashville was in production and California Split was released to theaters to critical acclaim but audience indifference.

I was hoping the popularity of poker and celebrity poker programs on television would create a little more buzz around the restoration of California Split and it's DVD release a year and a half ago. It didn't happen. This Altman gem, one of his best films, is still not well known. It is not an easy film to categorize. It's not an action film, despite several funny moments it is not a comedy either. It is not one Altman's large multi-character films (Nashville, Short Cuts, Dr. T and the Women, Player, Gosford Park). It's not a romance, not a western, not a thriller, not a mystery who-done-it, fantasy or science fiction. It's a movie about several weeks in the lives of two gamblers. They meet in a Gardena (Los Angeles) poker parlor, run a little bit of a scam, and become friends shortly after they are mugged in a parking lot.

Charlie Waters (Elliott Gould) is a semi-professional small-time gambling man who likes the seemingly care-free lifestyle even though he exists on the brink of constant and nearly certain financial collapse. He doesn't really have very much to lose however. He lives in the apartment of two part-time escort -would-be-prostitutes Barbara ( Ann Prentiss) and Susan (Gwen Welles). They work just enough to pay the bills and are excited that a couple of Johns want to take them to Hawaii on a trip. It's clear all these people are living temporary lives that don't involve any kind of realistic career ambitions.

And then there is Bill Denny (George Segal) who is the editor of a successful magazine and is destroying his upper middle class lifestyle because of his gambling addiction. He is separated from his wife, he is in debt to his bookie and he's becoming more irresponsible towards the duties of his job. We watch him become so obsessed with gambling after meeting Charlie that he tries to sell everything he has--camera, real estate and car to get the stake he needs to play in the big poker tournament being held in Reno, Nevada.

We spend a lot of time with Charlie and Bill as they go on a gambling spree to poker parlors, race-tracks, casinos and bar-rooms. Most of the places are smoky and run-down seedy, either lit with garishly bright cheap fluorescent lights or poorly lit dingy hole-in-the-walls. These places buzz with the activities of drunks, losers, gamblers, thrill-seekers, hangers on, bored housewives and senior citizens, with background music supplied by the jazz-blues ballads of Phyllis Shotwell piano bar style.

Although the film has plenty of humorous moments, it depicts a bleak world inhabited by desperate people, who dress at their best like used-car salesman (from the 70s). There is an anarchy at work with their lifestyles where schedules and times are built around an after-hour world of gambling and long poker games. You can almost understand the initial attraction to this rebellious sort of un-disciplined lifestyle, but we discover it's a sad, lonely, repetitious life--even for those who win more than they lose. Most of the time the characters front and center and to the sides are not having fun as they play and gamble.

Everyone lives for the next deal, the next pot, the next roll of the dice, the promise of tomorrow. The gambling fever is insatiable inside Charlie and Bill who create side bets based on naming all seven dwarfs. Their friendship is intense but based only on their gambling exploits and pushing themselves to do more gambling.

This leads to the big stakes poker game in Reno. It is peopled by the kind of traveling professional gambling character types we've seen on television poker shows. However, we aren't sure whether we want Charlie and Bill to win. We know losing will be devastating, but they might be able to recover from it--You aren't quite sure what would happen if they win !!!

The film is full of small details. Elliot Gould and George Segal play well off each other seeming to ad-lib quite naturally all of their dialogue (much of it was actually written by Joseph Walsh). There's a road-trip breeziness to much of the film but at times it conflicts with some of the almost brutal doses of reality that are doled out to the characters at various times. We realize these characters will suffer through nearly any indignity provided that just pass the `hurdle of hurt' is another game, another bet, another hope of a win.

The film does have a truly terrible strained scene, that seems dropped into the film from some other universe. It involves the sudden introduction of a pair of transvestite `dates' of the girls Charlie lives with(for one 5 minute too long scene). Actor Bert Remsen humiliates himself with full commitment playing an old nervous transvestite (he does a great job). It's a mis-fired comedic bit that calls too much attention to itself. It feels completely artificial in a movie that had seemed utterly real previously. Thankfully the scene is not very long and the movie goes right back to being as honest and authentic as it had been before.

What distinguished this film from any other about addiction is that we are not given a morale lecture or morality lesson. There's no heavy message. We can see for ourselves how sometimes the life-style is `fun', how often it is desperate, and how it is not something to aspire to. Win or lose, there's good and bad for these characters. Who can forget Charlie recklessly trying to finagle a few bucks for himself when he is being robbed at gun-point or the look on Bill's face when he realizes he may at least temporarily be on a good luck streak?.

And ignoring the transvestite scene, there's not a Hollywood type of manufactured moment in the entire film. As we get close to a movie moment, something authentic and realistic keeps it from going into the manufactured realm. In fact it turns out the movie is one of Altman's most personal. He had a gambling addiction, he identified completely with these characters which is why he wrestled the project away from up and coming Steven Speilberg (who had t.v.'s Duel and the feature Sugarland Express under his belt at this point). That left Speilberg free to do JAWS!!!

Oh and look fast for Jeff Goldblum.


California Split is presented in an anamorphic transfer with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film has been digitally restored but film stock imperfections and lens limitations can not be fixed.. One of the important advances Altman played with during production was the 8 track recording of sound on the set. The full 3.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack provides a vast improvement over previous video incarnations. There's a lot of over-lapping background chatter going on and you may have to train yourself to hear it (the subtitle feature does cover some of this ).

The best extra is the feature-length commentary track recorded by Robert Altman, Elliot Gould, George Segal, and writer Joseph Walsh (who we see in the film playing Segal's bookie Sparky). It's not a great commentary session but it is fun listening to the group clearly enjoying watching the film and talking about it together.

Also included are some trailers.

If you are already an Altman fan and somehow are not familiar with this film, buy it and add it to your collection.

Altman's incredible attention to detail is something to go back and savor in this little masterpiece--and I'm talking here about background detail, how everyone in the frame whether at the center or out of focus in the background is part of the scene we are watching; how we hear conversations going on just outside of the one we are supposed to be paying attention to which consists of realistic over-lapping, impossible to edit and manipulate moments that are created by actor, writer and director trusting each other completely. It's a difficult thing to do this on a creative AND technical basis. The Altman mise en scène is what sets him apart from every director working today. The fact that in most of his films several scenes are constructed to play out in real time and are mic'ed and photographed to create the kind of ambience and feeling you would have if you were sitting in the same place the characters are is nothing short of a remarkable almost incomprehensible difficult achievement. It goes beyond even what Scorcese dares to do in his best movie scenes.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 25, 2011 9:02 AM PST

The Name of This Band is Talking Heads
The Name of This Band is Talking Heads
Price: $17.90
66 used & new from $6.52

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering the great years of this band., May 29, 2006
In 1982 the original vinyl version of The Name of This Band is Talking Heads was released in 1982. Even though the sound quality was far from perfect it offered a gold mine of great live performance tracks mostly from the early incarnation of the band.

Talking Heads were THE alternative Band for at least a decade, (1977 to 1987). They brought African, Latin American, World rhythms into their music (courtesy of a great collaboration with Brian Eno) before Paul Simon re-invented himself with GraceLand. David Byrne was the hopeless geek who became a spazzing epilectic singer who fell in love with witty nosequiters that became unlikely catch-phrases -- `This is not my beautiful wife!"

The vinyl album was out of print for nearly 20 years. And following Jonathan Demme's super 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense; it became easy to forget about the `other' live collection of music--at least for a while.

However once the band stopped making new albums, fans wanted all of their recordings on CD and the missing one had been this album.

Rhino Records has reissued the album with 12 previously unreleased tracks, a generous booklet of photos and press clippings and a sound quality that is far better then the original album. The downside? A few tracks have been re-shuffled, a minute or two of intro and outro music has been trimmed (most for time reasons but in one case because of sound quality problems). So if you were in love with the original album and are a die-hard purist-- you can still whine about how they have released the album.

I find the album reason to celebrate big time.

Two discs, each one approximately 78 minutes long. Disc 1 covers 1977 to 1979. Disc 2 1980 to 1981. Some of the live tracks sound very close to the studio versions you have heard on Talking Heads. There is still a bit more spontaneity and range in Byrne's vocal, a few more grunts and odd cartoon noises and from the band a little bit more instrumental noodling than on the studio recordings. There's also the previously unreleased song: `A Clean Break (Let's Work)' which is a fine sounding mid-tempo kind or art pop alternative song.

The Talking Heads are nothing at all like The Ramones. David Byrne isn't really Iggy Pop--but they both seem to have at times a manic style. Byrne's was always actually in control, sometimes purposefully too tightly wound and it would explode on demand in glorious artistic pretensioness--that no one was ever supposed to take seriously.

What you hear is a very talented group of musicians wound tightly around the David Byrne show. His vocal style is treated as the lead instrument--but it's a jazz instrument and not put up on a pedestal, instead it represents sounds that the musicians can play with, improvise with. Byrne' grunts, squawks and creates guttural sounds in and around the jittery, just short of strained vocal delivery he gives his lyrics. And the lyrics range from semi-conscious, stream of conscious herky-jerky rants, to eerie imagery and those fascinating lists he comes up with. Sometimes the lyrics are beautifully simplistic, at other times they jump and leap frog from subject to subject and are delivered with tones that vary from blissful naivety to cynical spitefulness--sometimes within 10 seconds.

One of my all-time favorite tracks is #14 -- For Artists Only where we hear the childish rantings of a frustrated artist voicing both his joy and frustration with the creative process teasing and cajoling either his lover or muse (or both), your choice.

Disc 2 covers performance from 1980 to 1981. This included the tour in support of the brilliant Remain in Light album and the Talking Heads expanded it's original quartet: (singer/guitarist Byrne, drummer Chris Frantz, bassist Tina Weymouth, keyboardist/guitarist Jerry Harrison) to also include Parliament keyboardist Bernie Worrel, guitarist Adrian Belew, percussionist Steve Scales, second bassist Busta Jones and backup singers Nona Hendryx and Dolette McDonald. This resulted in a sound that wasn't just quirky but positively bursting with loud defiant kinetic funk--world pop style. It also made Byrne less odd-ball nerdy and more pretentious--but in the best way possible--with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Three different concert performances in Tokyo (previously available on a bootleg album), Cherry Hill N.J. and Central Park.

There's more melody and fleshed out musical highs when material from the stripped down Fear of Music album is played and that works well in terms of Animals. Sometimes a few bars of a suggestion that was on Remain In Light is fleshed out in the most entertaining way imaginable such as with Houses in Motion and Born Under Punches.

You have three songs that get two versions on these discs. The second disc's version of Psycho Killer is as expected complete with a longer funked out conclusion. The Take Me To the River rendition has a loose gospel feel but not as show-stopping over-the-top as in Stop Making Sense. The version of Cross eyed and Painless on this CD is minus an excellent musical interlude introduction. If you don't know it, you won't miss it, if you do know it, it's the one bit of editing you might find hard to figure. However this collection adds so much richness in terms of more material and much better sound--let's not quibble about that.

If you're a fan of the band, I can't recommend this collection highly enough to you. Over the last few months I've fallen in and out of love with various songs, embracing and rejecting and then embracing again just about every song on these discs. That's why I'm not doing a song by song run through of the entire 33 songs that are listed on this album. Some days I like some songs better than I do on other days. I listen to this one obsessively for a few weeks, than after a month or two return to it again and again.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 3, 2012 10:24 AM PST

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-16