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Steve Ramm "Steve Ramm "Anything Phonographic"" RSS Feed (Phila, PA USA)
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Smiling Through the Apocalypse
Smiling Through the Apocalypse
DVD ~ Peter Bogdanovich
Price: $19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The son of the Editor who took Esquire magazine through the 60s gets great interviews from the celebrated staff, May 21, 2015
This is another in the fine series of documentaries being released by First Run Features on the 1960s – especially the ones about iconic magazines like the New Yorker (I forget the title but I did review on Amazon) and this one on Harold Hayes who was the second editor for Esquire Magazine and tool it through the 1960s. These were the years of civil rights, great pop art and women’s liberation. Oh yes we had both the 1964 and 1968 Presidential elections along with the Vietnam War.

The 97 minute film is conceived, written, produced and directed by Hayes son Tom, who narrates the film as well. His father knew everyone but – apparently – wasn’t home a lot. Yet the younger Hayes has gather some great archival footage and snagged some really good interviews with folks like writer Nora Ephron, Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe and Gore Vidal (all Esquire writers) plus Hugh Hefner, who was competing with Esquire at being a “men’s magazine”. Ad exec George Lois created the many controversial covers and Lois is always great to hear. (I’d love it if someone did a documentary on him. He is funny and an engaging talker.).

There are some nice bonuses here too: Three extended interviews (from which some excerpts were included in the 2012 film): Gore Vidal (on his “war” with William Buckley), Nora Ephron (on working at Esquire) and Gay Talese (on his trend-breaking essay on Frank Sinatra).
With over 3 hours of material, this DVD will really appeal to anyone in publishing, anyone who lived through the 1960s and anyone who enjoys documentaries. I loved kit.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


New Orleans: The Underground Guide
New Orleans: The Underground Guide
by Michael Patrick Welch
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.45
49 used & new from $11.46

4.0 out of 5 stars Written more for locals, than tourists – Punk rock. And clubs and venues for locals with “alternative” lifestyles, May 20, 2015
Before heading to New Orleans for fun, food and music (all in equal parts) for 5 days, I sought out a few guidebooks on the city. Each was somewhat different and, though there were important and well known places, each one offered a unique benefit.

While the other books (mostly by Frommer) were the traditional guide book with lists of what to see on first day, second day, etc and where to eat and see music, this book focuses on two things: Alternative entertainment (burlesque clubs, thrift stores, literary book stores) and things that LOCAL New Orleanians might find interesting.

The author is opinionated and the book really is a list of his favorite places. If electronica and punk rock (two things I personally don’t associate with New Orleans) are of interest to you, the author will guide you there. But for the general tourist – especially the first time one – I’m not sure this will help much – and this is a book that’s not easy to carry around with you.

I did get a few tips (a few record stores – other than the famed Louisiana Music Factory) but I’m into music so it would not help many others.
For what it is – it’s good but it’s really a “guide book” for those who already live in New Orleans.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Frommers EasyGuide to New Orleans 2015 (Easy Guides)
Frommers EasyGuide to New Orleans 2015 (Easy Guides)
by Diana K. Schwam
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.11
60 used & new from $6.10

5.0 out of 5 stars Moderately bulky for walking but lots of helpful info in easy to read format, May 20, 2015
Before heading to New Orleans for fun, food and music (all in equal parts) for 5 days, I sought out a few guidebooks on the city. Each was somewhat different and, though there were important and well known places, each one offered a unique benefit.

This was one of TWO guides I got from Frommer’s. Again, each had its own pluses, but Frommer books (I go waaaaay back to the “Europe on $5-$10 a Day” volumes authored by Arthur Frommer himself) all have the consumer in mind and read like a friend’s journal.

The other Frommer’s Guide was the “New Orleans Day By Day” title – which I also just reviewed on Amazon. I liked it because it was compact and easy to carry. This volume is great too – just different . First off, it is more recent. Though dated 2015 the deadline for author must have been the summer of 2014 since the new Riverwalk Outlet Center had not yet opened and the ferry to Algiers was still free (It’s now $2.00). But the rest of info was really great. This book is written so you can read it from front to back and then mark parts that you want to return to. I liked the cautions about visiting the cenmetaries (don’t go without a guide) but I was there in high tourist season and even Lafayette Cemetary (across from Commander’s Palace Restaurant) was busy with people at mid-day and I felt very safe.

Luckily there is on a small section on places to stay. I say this because NOLa has more hotels in a square mile than I’ve seen anywhere else and the internet will provide the info and reviews you need. They take up space in guide books you are going to carry with you. But I guess guide book companies feel they are needed.

So This was one of my favorite books in planning my trip and – like other Easy Guides I read from Frommer’s this is a series I find helpful.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Frommer's New Orleans day by day
Frommer's New Orleans day by day
by Julia Kamysz Lane
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.15
63 used & new from $3.24

5.0 out of 5 stars EASY to carry, easy to read (great layout) and nice suggested walking tours., May 20, 2015
Before heading to New Orleans for fun, food and music (all in equal parts) for 5 days, I sought out a few guidebooks on the city. Each was somewhat different and, though there were important and well known places, each one offered a unique benefit.

This was one of TWO guides I got from Frommer’s. Again, each had its own pluses, but Frommer books (I go waaaaay back to the “Europe on $5-$10 a Day” volumes authored by Arthur Frommer himself) all have the consumer in mind and read like a friend’s journal.
I referred to this as the “pocket Guide”. It is slim and sturdily bound and has a large fold out map in a pocket in the rear.

The title is a bit misleading as the book is not in a format by day. It is, like most guides by subject such as sights, sounds, hotels, walking tours, etc. Within each of these there are subjection by area (neighborhood) of the city. Up front are lists of what to see if you only have 1, 2, 3 or 5 days to see the city. (Honestly you need a minimum of three nights and 5-7 can be filled easily.

The print is not very large but easy to read with black ink on what background. And the maps of neighborhoods (as compared with the big pull out one) are well laid out.

Because of it’s size, I found it easy to carry around with me and the binding is sturdy too.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Eat Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Unique Food Culture of the Crescent City
Eat Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Unique Food Culture of the Crescent City
by Michael Murphy
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.97
42 used & new from $9.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Great book – fun read- neat “attitude” of author – Must read before you head to “The Big Easy”, May 20, 2015
Great book – fun read- neat “attitude” of author – Must read before you head to “The Big Easy”

I love the “attitude” of the author of this book (Michael Murphy). I got it a few months before heading off to New Orleans for five days of fun, music and food. My appetite was getting big as I read through Murphy’s listing on nearly all the major (and some minor) food places in “the Big Easy”. Food reviews are definitely subjective and Murphy is honest about his tastes. After each short essay he has a list of “Reasons to Go” and “What to Get”. I found at least three little known places here that I checked out and Murphy has some side essays too – like explaining the Brennan Family and which restaurants they own or USED TO own.

It’s well laid out graphically too, without the pages being confusing and the typeface is easy to read. It’s a bit on the bulky side so I recommend that you get the book, read from cover to cover and make notes. Unless yiu are driving to NOLa, you’ll probably not want the weight. It is not a guide book. It’s a guide book to food.

I heard that the publisher will have similar book “Hear Dat” out next year covering music venues. If it’s anything like this one, I’ll be anxious to read that one!

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued [Blu-ray]
Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Various
Price: $17.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BD and DVD add 6 full performances – 24 minutes - (including three songs that were not in the original film on Showtime), May 13, 2015
This documentary on the recording of the album “Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes” – the album where musicians Jim James, Marcus Mumford, Taylor Goldsmith, Elvis Costello and Rhiannon Giddens were given recently discovered lyrics from Bob Dylan (which he never completed in 1967) by producer T-Bone Burnett and asked to compose music and record with the other musicians, aired on the Showtime network earlier this year. It’s now out on home video from Eagle Rock (I was provide a review copy in exchange for an objective review). If you missed it on TV, I can highly recommend it and – even if you saw it – you’ll probably want to pick this up for the “bonus tracks” – six full performances including three songs that that are not featured in the 106-minute documentary as shown on TV. These bonus performances add another 24 minutes to the package.

The film itself provides background on the project from the lyrics being discovered in a box to the final songs being recorded at the iconic Capitol Records studio in Hollywood. There are comments from music critics as well as audio comments from Dylan himself along with archival footage from 1967. But the bulk of the film is watching the musicians – each of who was given a set of lyrics to turn into a complete song = struggle with making it work. The most emotional is Giddens (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops – a group now on hiatus as she pursues a solo career) who is having a tough time getting it so that she feels confident that the other members are impressed. Working with Burnett she changes the mood of her song – “Down on The Bottom” a few times.

If you are a fan of any (or all) of the musicians involved in the recording I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy this BD or DVD. I know I did. It’s virtually the same price as the CD of the finished album and you actually get to see the performances.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


At The End of The Rainbow
At The End of The Rainbow
DVD ~ Richard Strauss
Price: $24.99
18 used & new from $16.62

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of a critical analysis for the composer/conductor/musician’s work than a biography – but with great archival clips, May 13, 2015
This review is from: At The End of The Rainbow (DVD)
For those looking for a biography of the well-known 20th century German composer (who if he only wrote the opening bars of “Also Sprach Zarathrustra” – the opening theme from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” – would be a legend), conductor and musician, I think they will be somewhat disappointed. That is not the purpose of film director Eric Schulz. But if you know Strauss’s best known pieces – “Til Eulenspiegel”, “Salome”, “Don Juan”, you will learn about his other compositions as well (he composed over 200 “songs” starting at the age of six (yes, you read that right – though his mother wrote the words) and continuing until a few months before his death in 1949 at age 85. And, most importantly, you will see Strauss conducting his own compositions in rare films from the late 1930s and early 1940s. The film clips are excerpts but the images are pristine as is the sound.

Tying all this together are recent interviews with music historians – most are German, with one American – who critique Strauss’s work. One sits at a piano and demonstrates his comments musically. Most of the dialogue is in German (only the American speaks English) but the subtitles are large and easy to read. Note that the subtitles are available in English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese and Korean!

Diorector Schulz tries to get “creative” by having a young man read from Strauss’ journal and letters while a young woman sits by his side listening. Late, the woman reads some of Strauss’s wife’s letters while the young man listens. We are get to follow a young soprano as she goes to voice lessons and takes the train (while listening to Strauss music with headphones). Personally I found this distracting but that is subjective.

I’m not a classical music expert – just a general music lover – so I did learn more about Strauss, though many of the critical commentary was beyond me. The highlight – at least for me – was the archival footage. There are no bonus features on the BD and I would have appreciated at least a few full performances as “bonuses” but they aren’t there.

I’m giving this four stars because I thought the film was not focused enough for the general viewer. But it probably would get five stars from a classical music or opera enthusiast.

The pkg includes a 16-page booklet with an index to the “chapter stops” and a 2 ˝ page essay – in English, German and French.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Revelers
Revelers
Price: $19.99
12 used & new from $13.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Don’t let the packaging fool you – this is down home Cajun and zydeco to keep you two-stepping, May 12, 2015
This review is from: Revelers (Audio CD)
All the publicity about this band calls it a “supergroup”. Honestly, I think that word is overused and really isn’t needed to describe this seven-member band comprised of members from the Pine Leaf Boys (the young Louisiana Cajun dance band) and the Red Stick Ramblers (another Southwest Louisiana band – which changing members – who are more country-oriented). This just a fine band of accomplished musicians. The 11 tracks on this 37-minute album are all new compositions in the style of traditional music but I really liked them. This is music that you dance to (or at least tap your feet to) and the words don’t mean much. And – since three of the songs are sung in French, it wouldn’t matter much.

I’m scratching my head over the graphic design for the package. The CD is slipped into a digipak with virtually no text except for the track list, list of the band members and name of the producer. There’s a photo of the band inside but look at the front cover photo. Here’s an African-American woman getting ready for a date with her “girlfriend” (?) holding a 45 rpm record in one hand and an iPad in the other! The photo on the back shows an Lp record. At first glance this looks like a hip-hop or soul album. Yeesh! Whose idea was this? Bad move in my opinion. I’ll bet some folks picking this up in a record store will be surprised what’s inside.

But, as for the music, it’s great and if you old time groups like Beausoliel, you’ll love this one.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


1,001 Accounting Practice Problems For Dummies
1,001 Accounting Practice Problems For Dummies
by Kenneth Boyd
Edition: Paperback
Price: $20.33
29 used & new from $15.20

3.0 out of 5 stars This is not an accounting course – it is a 362 page “quiz book”, May 11, 2015
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 major occupation, I am a CPA with over 40 years of experience so I feel qualified to provide an accurate review of this book, which as offered to me by Amazon as part of their Vine Reviewer program.

This is one in the series of “For Dummies” books now published by Wiley. The “Dummies” series goes back to 1991 when Dan Gookin wrote “DOS for Dummies”. To date over 1700 (!) “Dummies” titles have been published. The topics range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Most of the titles share a format in common. Chapters begin with a related cartoon; There are “remember” and “tip” icons and all see to run about 300 pages. In a series this large, some are too simple and some too complicated.

This volume is different. There are no cartoons, no “tips” and no “remember” sections. The first half (178 pages) consists of “questions” (some with single word answers, some multiple choice, and some which require calculation. In a few cases the author gives you basic assumptions and then asks you to calculate the answer. The answers (with a 1-2 sentence explanation) fill the second half of the book. I guess you could jump from the front to the back as you go through the questions (which are grouped by sun topics) or you could write in the answers in the small blank spaces that separate the questions, and then “grade” yourself.

This is really a review quiz and you should know that going in. This will not teach you “Accounting”; there are other “For Dummies” books that do that and I’ve reviewed many of them on Amazon.

One odd thing I noticed was “Authors’ Names” on the front cover. Kenneth Boyd is owner of a Test Prep company and he is listed first. Then (below his name) is that of Kate Mooney. When you open the book you will see only Mooney’s name on the title page. And, in the back – under “About the Author” – it only gives Mooney’s credentials (she heads the Accounting Dept at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

So if you are taking accounting courses, or have been out of the accounting field for a number of years and want to “brush up” on your knowledge, you might gain something from this book. Otherwise I can’t really recommend it.

Steve Ramm
Steven Ramm CPA


Strange Magic 1-Disc DVD
Strange Magic 1-Disc DVD
DVD ~ Evan Rachel Wood
Price: $16.99
15 used & new from $16.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of DVD (including bonus features) – This is a film that George Lucas produced “just for fun”, May 11, 2015
This review is from: Strange Magic 1-Disc DVD (DVD)
As I get ready to post this review I see that there are 27 reviews already posted, even though the home video (DVD only – no BD planned) version will not be released until next week. That’s because Amazon has a policy of grouping ALL reviews of ALL formats (theatrical, streaming, DVD and BD) together. I always recommend to folks that they use the “sort by most recent” option when searching reviews and to note the format that is being discussed. This review is of the DVD release based an advance screening copy I received for the purpose of an objective review.

The other reviews here focus on the film itself. I missed it in the theaters and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I did note that it is rated PG (for scary parts!) and, though I don’t have young children, I have to say that those under five or six may find it a bit too scary. It’s is about good and evil. I’d even call it a darker version of Shrek. As all the packaging says this film is “from the mind of George Lucas”. Yes it is. As you will learn in the bonus features – more on those in a moment – the “story” comes from Lucas (though he neither wrote the screenplay or directed the film.). He wanted to produce a “fantasy opera about love using contemporary music” and he wanted to “have fun”. The result is a HIGH QUALITY CGI animated film ( the credits listing the artists and computer folks gores on for six minutes at the end (about the same length as the end titles for “Star Wars”!). Because Lucas is a “baby boomer” who loves pop music he populated the soundtrack of this 99 minute film with new recordings of song from the 1950s to the 1990s. Only those over 60 will be able to identify all the songs (yes, I fall into that category, so I was familiar with Mickey and Sylvia’s hit “Love is Strange”, “People are Strange” by the Doors. And the Bacharaxch/David chestnut “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”. (Note a “love” connection here?). The title song comes from one of Lucas’ favorite groups – The Electric Light Orchestra.

While there are some clever “pop culture” mash-ups here (the Frankie Valli classic “C’mon Marianne” is sung while the chorus performs steps from “Riverdance”!) – much of the action is composed of chase sequences. These are fine for part of a film but I found the film composed MOSTLY of chase scenes. Again, this is a subjective opinion but after 60 minutes I was hoping it would be over soon and just concentrated on the music and the amazing detail in the animation.

Now on to the DVD – For those concerned that it not available on BD, be aware that the images on the standard DVD are so sharp and colorful that you probably won’t even notice it’s not a BD.

Yes, the DVD has bonus features but they are small: First comes a “Creating The Magic” featurette which runs just over 5 minutes. The package accurately describes it as “Meet the cast and the filmmakers”. That’s where you will hear accolades from cast members Evan Rachel Wood, Alan Cumming, Director Gary Rydstrom and Lucas. Kristin Chenoweth fans, don’t look for her. She’s not here. Personally, I would like to have known more about the technical parts of the production but they aren’t here either. The other “bonus” is titled “Magical Mash-up: Outtakes, Test and Melodies”. It runs 4 minutes and uses as its soundtrack – the songs “I’m Evil”, “Wild Thing” and the film’s title song. It’s cute but not essential.

This is a “fun” project for Lucas and will probably never be a classic. But I did like it and am glad I saw it.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


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