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Steven I. Ramm "Steve Ramm "Anything Phonographic"" RSS Feed (Phila, PA USA)
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One Touch of Venus
One Touch of Venus
DVD ~ Janet Blair
Price: $27.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 1955 TV production of Weill/Nash musical is fun, sexy and tuneful, April 16, 2014
This review is from: One Touch of Venus (DVD)
The folks at VAI have done it again. Every few months they unearth some wonderful musical TV shows from the 1950s that haven’t been available to the public for almost 60 years and release them for the world to enjoy. The latest is this gem of American Musical Theater – One Touch of Venus”. The Kurt Weill/ Ogden Nash stage musical was made into motion picture – but many of the songs were deleted. (No I have not seen the film, but after watching the DVD, I have no reason to.). Even though the script was edited down so it would fit a tight TV schedule (the running time is a scant 79 minutes without the commercials) the 1955 production (on NBC) had most of the songs as well as shorter versions of the two ballets (originally choreographed by Agnes DeMille). Two of the songs are now standards: “Speak Low” (which is sung once and reprised twice) and “ I’m a Stranger Here Myself”. But there are other humorous numbers to discover as well. I had never heard “The Trouble With Women” before and it shows Nash’s quick wit.

The plot is silly: a wealthy art collector buys a 3,000 year old statue of the goddess Venus and when a timid barber places the engagement ring he bought for his fiancée on the statue’s finger she comes to life and seduces him. But this leaves the script – by humorist S.J. Perleman – to explore social customs and relationships. Watching it today I wonder how some of the material got through the censors of the 1950s. Janet Blair – as Venus – is not only gorgeous but very sexy to boot. And Russell Nype , as the barber is perfect for the part.

The archival print is actually quite decent – though at times the image near the edge of the 4:3 aspect picture does go out of focus. The sound is great. Sure, we could wish there was a color print out there but, if this is the best that restoration can do, I’m happy that at least we can see it after all this time.

As I noted above the commercials have been deleted in the Main Program. But VAI has provided them as a bonus and the four commercials for Oldsmobile add another nine minutes of footage. And the commercials are not totally unrelated to the musical since the announcer does refer to the scenes in the program.

The DVD is divided into 28 “chapter stops” so you can go to a particular scene or song on repeat viewing. (The chapters are listed on a nice printed insert which also contains an essay on the history of the play by George Dansker.

If you’ve seen the other TV musicals that VAI has released ( “The Mikado” with Groucho Marx or “Babes in Toyland” or “Bloomer Girl”- both with Barbara Cook) then you’ll certainly want this one. But this production is also a good place to start. I’m old enough to remember – as a child – when full musicals were present on TV in the 1950s. Thank goodness they were preserved via these kinescopes. I ca n hardly wait to see what VAI will bring us next. Christmas is never too early for music theater lovers.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Brasstronomical
Brasstronomical
Price: $29.87
3 used & new from $12.50

5.0 out of 5 stars If you like the Dirty Dozen or Rebirth, check out this brass sextet from Canada., April 15, 2014
This review is from: Brasstronomical (Audio CD)
Back in 2011 I received the first album from this Toronto, Canada-based brass band – It was titled “Don’t Bring me Down” – and was thoroughly captured by how these six white guys could capture the funky sounds of black New Orleans musicians like Rebirth and Dirty Dozen. They did it by reinventing songs made popular by Lady Gaga and Beyonce! I anxiously awaited the follow-up but none came – until now ! And these guys have grown and moved in other new directions. This time we get some hip-hop (a cover of “telephone” by Erica Badu and two my hometown band, The Roots), another of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I can Fly” and a nod to those NOLa bands with “St. James Infirmary Blues”. But they are also getting a bit more into jazz and, except for the closing track, “Exit”, which runs a brief 2:20, all the other dozen songs exceed four minutes and “Float” hangs around for over 6 minutes. But these guys have the chops. (Maybe they’re putting gumbo into their diet.).

I have to say that , side by side, I like the earlier album but a bit more, but that’s MY tastes. Sample a track or two and see if you don’t catch the beat. Remember this is a BRASS band, except for drummer Lowell Whitty and sax player Paul Metcalfe (the sax is a reed instrument) – these guys have instruments to polish and have not a string or keyboard to help them.

The Cd comes packaged in a 6 panel digipak with a track list , a brief bio and lots of photos of the band at various locations.

I only hope I don’t have to wait another three years for the next HWBB album.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Rio
Rio
Price: $16.98
21 used & new from $5.00

3.0 out of 5 stars This is the SCORE (without vocals) – Nascimento is here, but mostly in the background., April 15, 2014
This review is from: Rio (Audio CD)
As other reviewers before me have pointed out – or those who bought this CD and found no vocals on it learned – Sony has released both the “songs from Rio 2” and this – The “original score” from the film. (Note that it does not say “soundtrack”; it is the orchestral score from the film.).

Others here may be more familiar with composer John Powell’s work than I am but I had a hard time finding anything really special here. Granted, I have seen the film yet (it just opened 4 days ago) so I may feel different after I see it. I was excited to see that one of my favorite Brazilian Artists, Milton Nascimento, was featured and Sergio Mendez name is listed as the Executive Music Producer. But What I heard as I played it was LOTS of strings, and some small vocalizing in the background. It didn’t give me the feeling of Rio or Brazil as much as I hoped.

The Cd comes with a 12 page booklet contains a 2-page essay by Powell and a center spread with the names of every member of the “Hollywood Studio Symphony” orchestra. The print is minuscule but it sure looks like about 30 violins and another dozen violas, 10 celli and 10 basses. So I guess it is a “string thing”.

If you are a big fan of Powell’s film scores, you’ll probably want this, as you know what to expect. I just can’t say the 55-minute score stood on its own, without seeing the film.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


The Wawa Way: How a Funny Name and Six Core Values Revolutionized Convenience
The Wawa Way: How a Funny Name and Six Core Values Revolutionized Convenience
by Bob Andelman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.26
32 used & new from $11.57

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The CEO of the Philadelphia are convenience chain gives company history, philosophy to celebrate 50th Anniversary, April 15, 2014
Wawa is the brand name for an ecer-expanding chain of 24-hour convenience stores headquarted in suburban Philadelphia with locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware (and moving into Florida). They are the third largest seller of brewed coffee in their market and one of the most recognizable brands in their region. The day after I post this review the company will celebrate its 50th anniversary. And in honor of that occasion the current president of the company wrote this book ( with help from an author who has “helped write” books for CEOs of other “innovated” companies such as Commerce Bank (now TD Bank) and Home Depot.

Based on my read-through of the 240-page hardbound volume (in typeface that is large, and easy to read) I see the book being mostly of interest to the following groups of readers:

1) First and foremost, the employees – both current and former – of Wawa. They are featured heavily in the book – with sidebars and photos of selected employees who either made a difference or tell why they love their employer. (One of Wawa’s images is the happy employees, who get lots of benefits and opportunity for advancement within the company.

2) Next in line are the Wawa customers. These are folks who go to Wawa at least every day for coffee (there are usually 5-6 types of brewed coffee at all times) and, in many cases, for gasoline. (Virtually all the new Wawa stores are being built on large plots of land outside the city limits, where the sell fuel.) And then there are the cigarette buyers. As the author points out in the book, selling tobacco at “the lowest price allowed by law” is a controversial issue but it sure brings in the money. And while folks are picking up cigarettes they’ll grab a coffee or a made-to-order hoagie (If you don’t know what a hoagie is, this book is probably not for you.)

3) The last group will be those folks who love books on innovative management techniques. Howard Stoeckel – Wawa’s CEO – give lots of marketing techniques here while applauding his employees.
I guess I fall into category 2 above as there are at least three Wawas within a mile of where I live (though none has gas stations). I found it a light read and, yes, a bit of self promotion. There are 16 pages of photos and graphics which brought back memories of the early days of Wawa for me. And, on page 141, there are even the lyrics to the Wawa Theme Song, something I honestly don’t remember!

So if you live in the Delaware Valley – or USED to live here – I think you’ll find the book a fun read. Just remember it is a large bit of self-promotion for the company.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Boys Night Out
Boys Night Out
Price: $9.00
29 used & new from $4.91

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you want to “feel” like you are at an ORB concert., April 15, 2014
This review is from: Boys Night Out (Audio CD)
Over the years the Oak Ridge Boys – whose biggest crossover hit was “Elvira” – Have released many albums and repackaged some of their hits. I was surprised to learn that they have never released a live album in the group’s 50 years of HIT recordings. The group was originally formed in 1943 ! ( as The Oak Ridge Quartet) but changed the name to the Oak Ridge Boys in the Early 1960s and Duane Allen’s tenure goes way back to that period. It was the early 70s when Joe Bonsall and Richard Sterban joined the group so they have been around for a long while.

This “live” CD has their big hits and then some. The 14 songs have a lot of energy, and I Have to admit, a lot of crowd enthusiasm. Of course recording a concert doesn’t allow for as good sound as a studio recording. So you have to decide which you want more. Me, I guess I prefer studio recordings better than “live concert ones”, but it’s up to you. With 45 million records sold in their career there is no shortage of ORB fans. Whether they want another version of “Elvira” or “Amercan Made” will be determined by sales. I liked this but will probably play my ORB’s “greatest Hits” album a bit more.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Broadchurch: Season 1
Broadchurch: Season 1
DVD ~ David Tennant
Price: $19.96
12 used & new from $19.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly crafted British mystery – BUT PLEASE don’t read “detailed” reviews with spoilers, April 13, 2014
This review is from: Broadchurch: Season 1 (DVD)
I love British mystery series (and Australian ones too!) and have posted quite a few reviews of them here on Amazon. Those who have read my reviews know that I try to avoid “spoilers”. After all, it wouldn’t be a mystery if you knew too many facts before watching a film or series. This is especially the case with this terrific new DVD from eOne. The 8-part mini-series aired on BBC America (which I don’t get) and is now on DVD. So far, it’s ranking as my favorite British mystery of 2014.

The series was filmed in 2013 and (from one of the bonus features I learned that filming too from August to December 2012). There are eight episodes, each of which runs 45 to 52 minutes, since this was made for the commercial ITV network. So the whole series runs about 6 1/2 hours. Though you can watch each episode at separate times, there are a few that almost require you to watch them together, because of the suspense. I’m not suggesting that you binge watch all six hours (though I guess you could) but I will suggest that you watch at least two at a time and - to get the full emotional effect (and it will have an emotional effect on you) – you should watch episodes 7 and 8 together. And, because British commercial TV is more liberal than US networks, there is brief strong language and brief partial nudity.\

So here we are in my third paragraph and I haven’t discussed the plot or the subject. Well, I can tell yiou this much: In a small community (Broadchurch) of 15,000 people on the coast of England, an 11 year-old boy is found dead on the beach (death caused by strangling). A detective (with a problematic past) comes down from Scotland to handle the case with a local female detective. (All this happens in the first five minutes so it’s not a spoiler.) Over the next 59 days (that’s “story line” time, not viewing time – which is 6 hours) the two try to solve the murder. This has always been a quiet and close community but nearly everyone has a “secret”. The acting is so good that you’ll really have a hard time determining who the real killer is. And the script throws in lots of surprises. But, in the end, as I thought back over the clues that were revealed, it all made sense. And I have to say the music added a lot.
The DVD has a few special bonuses but, for probably the first time in the reviews I’ve posted, I can’t say that they added anything. I guess the main reason is that the series draws you in so well that you really don’t want to know how they filmed it or to see the actors out of character. The first “bonus” is the now-requisite “behind the scenes” featurette. This 27 minute bonus starts off with the first rehearsal where the actors are interviewed in a large, and VERY noisy, room, and you can hardly hear them. And, as I said, they are all out of character which bothered me (it may not bother you). The other “bonus” is a series of “deleted scenes”. These are not long scenes – often less than a minute – and they are grouped by Episode number and total 27 minutes. Not only, did they not add anything to the story, but the images in these deleted scenes had a very light “contrast” in the image (as compared with the final images in the program). And, lastly there is the Trailer.

So there you have it. I hope I have encouraged you to seek this DVD out and, yet not spoiled any of the enjoyment by telling you too much. This – for me – was an undiscovered gem of a series>

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Theatreland
Theatreland
DVD ~ Theatre Land
Price: $34.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulously entertaining British docu-series is a must for ANYONE who works in – or even attends – theater! Can I give it 6 stars, April 6, 2014
This review is from: Theatreland (DVD)
This wonderful two-disc DVD set on the Athena Video imprint (distributed by RLJ) is a must watch program for anyone who loves live theater and essential for anyone who is involved in theatre arts, whether an actors, stage manager, usher or the carpenter who builds the sets. It’s a brilliant project conceived by writer, director and, yes, cameraman Chris Terrill, in which Terrill followed a 2009 production of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot” at the historic Royal Haymarket Theatre in London’s West End (built in 1720!), which sold out all 192 performances and is the most successful production of the play, from the rehearsals through the closing night. The cast was a “dream cast” of British actors with Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart as the leads and Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup (plus four young boys – each rotating through a role) filling out the cast. Terrill is also there as the next production at the theatre (also directed by Sean Mathias) begins rehearsals and opens a month after WFG leaves the theater. That play was a stage version of Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffanys” starring Anna Friel and Joseph Cross. (Terrill says many times in his narration that this was the first stage version of BAT but, in fact, there was a musical version, titled “Holly Golightly” that was staged in 1966 but closed after just four performances on Broadway. I was able to see that in its out-of-town tryout in Philadelphia.).
What makes this series of eight “episodes” – each running a fast-moving 25 minutes – that aired on SkyTV arts network in the UK so interesting is that Terrill is holding the camera at all times and asks the right questions of whoever he is filming, whether it be the actors, the creative team or – my favorites – the father and daughter team of plumbers who are renovating the rest rooms in the theater and need to get it done before the opening. Oh yes, then there is the new female usher (an aspiring actress) who is captured as she is assigned to serve intermission tea to Dame Maggie Smith. Another wonderful moment of many.

You don’t need to know much about “Waiting For Godot” either – though I learned a lot. Terrill, and even the actors in the play – oh, did I mention the understudy who sits night after night waiting for his “turn”?- admit that the play is ambiguous and hard to understand. There’s even a lively “original score” to the series that keeps things moving.

I could go on and on about the wonderful moments but that would spoil the fun. I’ll add a few more comments about the set and an update on the story. The DVD package includes a nice 12-page “Viewers Guide” which was written in 2014 that gives some background on the London theaters and major productions, though there is a major error in the authors’’ attributing the hit musical “Les Miserables” to Andrew Lloyd Webber. (He wrote many shows but not Les Mis.). There are also brief bios of the actors and the creative team of the two shows profiled in the series. What is odd is that there is no bio or info about filmmaker Terrill, something I would have liked.) It’s also noted in the “Guide” that the production of “Godot” did not, in fact, end in London. The same cast took it to the US in 2014 and it is actually closing the week that I’m posting this review.

I was able to receive an advance screen or this DVD from the distributor and it will not be released until May 13, 2014. But I urge every theater lover and educator to seek out this package (it can be pre-ordered). It belongs in every High School or University theater department library and may be the best , and certainly the most entertaining, course on the theater arts ever produced. It took five years to get to home video release. But now it’s here for all to see and enjoy.
I hope you found this review both informative and Helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Reading Financial Reports For Dummies
Reading Financial Reports For Dummies
by Lita Epstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.09
51 used & new from $12.27

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some useful info on analyzing those “corporate” Annual Report packages -if you have the time - but why a section on “budgeting”, April 4, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Most of my reviews on Amazon are for “entertainment related” items but – as a CPA and a CFO – I certainly understand finance books. This particular title was sent to me by Amazon as part of their “Vine Reviewer” program in which they send selected books to a selected group of reviewers.

The “Dummies” series has sure grown since 1991 when Dan Gookin authored “DOS for Dummies”. There are now over 1800 (!) “… for Dummies” titles. I’ve used – and reviewed for Amazon– quite a few of these books – especially business related and accounting volumes.

This volume is authored by Lita Epstein, who holds an MBA and has authored over 30 books , including two previous editions of this book (the previous one was in 2009) and even books on surviving a layoff. She seems to know her stuff and – at least for the first 23 chapters (of 25) she is pretty objective. For the Chapter on financial “scandals”, she does editorialize some. As Epstein states in her Introduction, “You can start anywhere in the book” (I’m paraphrasing here). I wouldn’t suggest that – at least for the first pass. But, saying that, I’ll point out that the author jumps from teaching an outsider to read and analyze Annual Reports from public companies to a large section on “Budgeting” which will not be of much use to someone not in a financial position in a company. At times I couldn’t determine if she wanted the book to be read by a bookkeeper, a stock investor (I think that’s were she is really aiming for) or someone who wants to form a corporation (for which there are other more helpful “Dummies” books.).

So, if you are an investor who likes to research companies to make your own investment decisions (rather than using an investment advisor) and you love to delve into those Annual Report packages that arrive in the mail once a year (per investment) – and actually have the time to analyze them – this might be good book for you. But, honestly, it is not a “basic” course in Accounting or preparing Financial Statements. The key word in the title is “Reading” (Financial Reports).

One additional note: Unlike many other “for Dummies” books, there is no humor (and none of the clever “cartoons” that head up each chapter. This one is “all business” (pun intended).

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic” – and a CPA


Looking Into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne
Looking Into You: A Tribute To Jackson Browne
Price: $20.29
39 used & new from $15.18

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Stephen Foster, then Guy Clark; now Jackson Browne gets the deluxe tribute package!, April 4, 2014
Before posting this review I see a whole bunch of other reviews – some of which are fairly lengthy. I won’t repeat a lot of what has already been said and will try to provide some additional info.

I’ve been listening to the two CDs that comprise this album (and contain 114 minutes – nearly 2 hours! – of listening pleasure) for a few days and have enjoyed hearing the familiar JB songs as well as ones that are new to me. You see, I’m familiar with Browne – heck, is there anyone who didn’t live through the 1970s who isn’t? – but I probably own only one Browne album. So I can’t say that these are definitive cover versions of his songs. I’ll leave that to JB experts. But A can say that I’ve loved every one of the “Tribute” albums that have been put together in recent years by publicist Tamara Saviano, including the Grammy-winning Stephen Foster one and the Americana Music Award-winning Guy Clark tribute CD. Saviano (along with well-respected singer/songwriter/record label exec Jimmy LaFave) seems to have the magic touch when she calls on folks like Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Hornsby, Lyle Lovett and, yes, Bruce Springsteen, to contribute new tracks to a tribute. These folks are here on tracks that were recorded in separate studios. But the glue that holds it all together are the words of Browne, going back to his early pop hits. Yes, I agree with those who mention that most of the versions are straight “cover arrangements”, but they are fine and, honestly, there is a lot of entertainment value here.

The CDs are housed in an eight-panel digipak with photos of the Abbey San Encino where Browne and his brother were raised (and where his bother Severn still lives)., and a track list. Inserted in a slot is a 20-page color booklet with details on each recording (including personnel) and a series of “quotes” from some of the performers (Don Henley, Bob Schneider, Paul Thorn, Venice, Shawn Colvin , among others.).

So, I’m happy with the CD package and –of course – curious, and anxious to see who Saviano and LaFave decide to pay tribute to next.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Eucerin Baby Eczema Relief Body Creme, 5 Ounce
Eucerin Baby Eczema Relief Body Creme, 5 Ounce
Price: $7.99
11 used & new from $6.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously, this is not just for babies. It’s great., April 3, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
While I usually review CDs and DVDs as well as entertainment related books here on Amazon, in my daily life I deal with my own health issues and one is very dry itchy skin on my ankles so when this cream was offered to me from Amazon in its Vine Reviewer Program, it peaked my interest. I’ve had issues with itchy skin and have been seeing a dermatologist for a few years.
I’ve used it for the last 3 days and I’m impressed. Honestly, I don’t know why the word “baby” is on it – though it probably means that it’s SAFE for baby use. It’s SCENT FREE and not oily and REALLY REALLY thick, so I only needed a little bit. I’d describe the texture of this crème (the description on the tube) compared with regular creams and lotions as the difference between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt. This THICK (I know I said that already, but it is!)

The tube is not but fits easily in your hand (but don’t drop on the baby – it’s 5 oz of crene but weights almost 6 ounces when I put on scale.
Price seems fair since you use so little. So, Yep, I’ll continue to use it.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


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