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Steven I. Ramm "Steve Ramm "Anything Phonographic"" RSS Feed (Phila, PA USA)
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The View
The View
Price: $15.98
12 used & new from $11.13

4.0 out of 5 stars Another fine bluegrass album from this brother-sister duo and their band., September 2, 2014
This review is from: The View (Audio CD)
For their fourth album in four years, the brother-sister duo Elaine and Lee Roy (better known as The Roys) have decided to use their touring band for this release and recorded it in their own studio. Lee wrote or co-wrote all 11 songs on this 37 minute album and Elaine collaborated on five of them.

This is what one would expect from a traditional bluegrass album: songs about family, God and country played by a five piece band with guitar, mandolin, fiddle, dobro banjo and string bass). There’s nothing wrong with that and The Roys’ last three CDs were all chart toppers.

Like every album there are some standout tracks. For me there are three (maybe four): “Those Boots” is a tribute to those who serve (or have served) in the military. It’s a patriotic song which a melody the will encourage folks to (rightfully) sing along. “Mandolin Man” is their tribute to the Father of Bluegrass Music, Bill Monroe, and, though Lee is the mandolin player in the band, the album insert lists Doyle Lawson as a “special guest” on this track, so I’m guessing that’s Lawson picking away. Speaking of “pickin’” I really liked Lee’s solo-write, the albums sole instrumental – “Northern Skies” – with lots of interplay between the banjo and mandolin.

Though we don’t know if the songs are autobiographical, “Sometimes” speaks of the oncoming of Alzheimer disease and the title track – “The View” – is about visiting a grandparents grave. The most –published country music songwriter – and performer himself – Bill Anderson helped Lee and Elaine write this track. Yes, there is the requisite song about Jesus and God (“Mended Wings”) and another about dying coal miners “ Black Gold” here as well.

The CD contains an eight-panel foldout with the lyrics to all the songs (in print that will probably require you to seek out a magnifying glass.) and a full page of “thank you”’s (again in tiny typeface.

Though The Roys have made the stage of Country’s Grand Old Opry, and I had the chance to hear them and meet them (what really nice folks they are) at this year’s International Folk Alliance Conference, they are mainly a bluegrass band, and a fine one at that. My guess is this album will go high on the bluegrass charts – just like the others. If you are a fan of The Roys, you’ll certainly like this one.

I hope this review has been informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Casting By
Casting By
DVD ~ Marion Dougherty
Price: $24.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-see for any film buffs. Great stories and an “A-list” of actors telling of their first films., August 29, 2014
This review is from: Casting By (DVD)
This is another great documentary from the folks at First Run Features on the movie industry. It ranks nearly as high the one titled “Directors: Life Behind the Camera” (which wins over this one only because the amazing amount of bonus interviews) and “Tales from the Script” (about screen writers. All this are MUST SEE DVDs for anyone interested in the movies.
This 89 minute film – made in 2013 could be subtitled “The Marion Dougherty Story” because – while her name isn’t even on the front cover – she is the central character here. Both Dougherty – who was a Casting Director (you’ll learn more on the word “Director” as you watch the film) for over 50 years until she was fired – and Lynn Stalmaster (he is a male, contrary to his first name) are the legends in the business, but even Stalmaster defers to Dougherty when it comes to longevity in the business. There are five or six other CDs interviewed but they are all disciples of Dougherty and worked for here at one time or another .
The A-list of celebrities that Director Tom Donahue got for interviews is truly amazing. Name an actor (DiNiro, Pacino, Bette Midler, John Travolta and they are here. There are earlier interviews (from another source I guess) from Dustin Hoffman (Dougherty cast Hoffman for “The Graduate” and paired him with Jon Voight for “Midnight Cowboy”). She started in TV and the clips with celebrities from the “Kraft Theater” and “Naked City” are wonderful to see.

I could go on and on about this film, but you get the idea. If you love movies this is for you. Sadly, unlike the Directors DVD, there are no special features here or outtakes. But what’s included is prime stuff.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


For No Good Reason [Blu-ray]
For No Good Reason [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Ralph Steadman
Price: $26.99
8 used & new from $26.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You’ve seen his “drawings”, now learn about the man with this eye-opening documentary, August 27, 2014
I knew Australian artist and painter Ralph Steadman mostly from his work in the early years of Rolling Stone Magazine. I knew he did illustrations for Hunter Thompson’s book “Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles” too, but, I admit that I’ve never actually read that book. When you see a Steadman illustration you know that it is him, and no one else.
During the 90 minutes of the documentary film that forms the core of this BD combo pack release, I learned a lot about Steadman – in his own words (he self-narrates part of it) – and Thompson as well (he also does some of the narration). For “star power” there is their friend, actor Johnny Depp who hangs with both of the guys and offers some comments as well – though he’s in the background much of the time. Other folk you would know are Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam (whose animated films were certainly influenced by Steadman) and Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner and actor Tim Robbins.

The images shown are really crisp on the Bluray and a real treat is seeing Steadman’s illustrations animated by a person whose name I forget –and it’s not on the package credits. I’ll highly suggest that you watch this sober the first go through, though it’ll probably be a different experience if your mind is “enhanced” by a bit of alcohol or other mind changing substance. (no I'm not advocating it; just saying...)

Steadman and Thompson were the pioneers of “Gonzo journalism” and no mainstream film has covered their careers like this one.

There are LOTS of bonus features to keep you busy for at least a few more hours. There is a full length Director/Producer commentary, extended interviews, deleted scenes, an extra animated short and a Q&A with both Steadman and Director Charlie Paul from the Toronto Film Festival screening.

Anyone familiar with Steadman’s iconic artwork or read Thompson’s writing will definitely want to see this. And there are enough bonuses that you’ll probably want to pick up the BD, since the bonuses are not on the “Instant” and “streaming” versions.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Love Punch
Love Punch
DVD ~ Pierce Brosnan
Price: $12.99
19 used & new from $8.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A slapstick film with two major stars who IMHO are “slumming it” for a free trip to the French Riviera, August 27, 2014
This review is from: Love Punch (DVD)
It looks like I’m already in the minority here but this film just didn’t “do it” for me. I think that at least once in every major actor’s career they take the “easy way out” and make a film for the $ or the location. I think back on when Helen Mirren made the film “Love Ranch” (directed by her husband Taylor Hackford) playing a madam in a Nevada brothel. And the late Robin Williams had some duds too.

I came to this film because of Emma Thompson – who I think is great! Pierce Brosnan is also well-known though – not being a fan of James Bond films, I didn’t come because of him. Look at the rest of the cast and see if you recognize any names – I think not. Yes, the film has great scenery in Paris and the French Riviera, but that wasn’t enough to hold my attention. This is a slapstick “romantic” comedy with the emphasis on the slapstick. Thompson carries it off but after 30 minutes I was bored. And the plot is a dumb set-up. Brosnan heads the department of a company – and we are never really told the business they are in – and at the beginning of the film the company finances crash because of economic meltdown. We see all the employees who lost their jobs and savings and then we never see them again – except for Brosnan and Thompson who are divorced couple. I’d probably wrote more about this but – in my opinion – the less time spent the better.

The DVD has two bonuses: First is the “Trailer” which, in under two minutes, shows you all the “highlights” (as though there are many. The second is a six-minute interview with Brosnan who rattles off nearly the complete plot outline and – frankly – looks both bored and interested in doing something else.

I’m afraid I may be in the minority so far but the highlight on the DVD for me was the “trailer” for another film from Ketchup Entertainment about a soccer team from American Samoa. Now THAT I’m looking forward to seeing.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Almondina Chocolate Cherry Biscuit, 4 Ounce -- 12 per case.
Almondina Chocolate Cherry Biscuit, 4 Ounce -- 12 per case.
Offered by Peters Select
Price: $43.54
7 used & new from $37.05

5.0 out of 5 stars Though they added cherries to the chocolate they are firm and not cloyingly sweet, August 26, 2014
Though most of my reviews on Amazon are of CDs, DVDs and books, I do eat (big grin) and Amazon has been sending me food items to review over the past year. Because I previously had a gift basket business, I attend the huge annual Fancy Food Show every year. At this year’s FFS a number of companies who are now selling on Amazon asked if I would review their product. I accepted some of those offers and let the company know that it would be an honest review.

I’ve seen Almondina brand “cookies” at the show – and in stores – for many years. They are the original brand and, this year alone, I saw four other “copy cats”. Honestly, I had only been buying the “original flavor” – Almond – which is where the name of the company came from. But one of the samples I received this month was this “combo” with both almonds and cherries in a chocolate cookie. I thought I’d find artificial flavor and an overpowering cherry taste (sort of like Black Forrest Cake) and was surprised that the taste was even and these were real dried cherries. They are all natural. Basically (in this order) Nuts, cherries, flour, sugar.cocoa mass, cocoa powder and egg whites (plus “Natural flavor”) and they appear to be “shelf-stable” since my package in August 2014 had a “best used by” date of March 2015.

The calorie content is 132 but you get 4 cookies for that and much of the calorie content (and fat 4.2 g for 4 cookies.) comes from the “healthy” – in moderation, of course –nuts. Each 4 oz package holds 16 cookies (I prefer to call them wafers). They are really nice to add a bit of a “treat” to your mid-morning or after dinner coffee (when I have always used them).

Unlike the pistachio variety I tried a few weeks ago – which crumbled easily – these cookies seem firmer and – though they were shipped, none of the 16 cookies was broken. They are thin and you should treat the packages also as gently as a bag of potato chips.

If you like the other flavors I can certainly recommend this variety. Just make sure you like cherries.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Still on the Levee
Still on the Levee
Price: $16.99
31 used & new from $11.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Re-recorded versions of his 50 year catalog - and the 60-page oversized booklet is a real treat!, August 25, 2014
This review is from: Still on the Levee (Audio CD)
I think I've been following Chris Smither's career as long as he's been performing and, as Chris celebrates his 50 years of performing with this magnificent two CD set (with a great booklet too!) I realized that Chris is the same age as I am and we've been through those 50 years together - he as performer; me as listener and fan. Listening to the lyrics of the song "Leave The Light On" (actually performed to two different tempos - each one ending on of the discs) I realize that he's got the right attitude to aging.

For his own celebration of his own songs, Smither re-recorded classics from his catalog in 2013 and invited along some well-known - and talented - friends for the ride. There's Loudon Wainwright III and Rusty Belle plus members of the band Morphine. It's also a "family affair" with both Smither's sister and daughter chiming in.

I see a bunch of other reviews here discussing the songs. I'd like to point out that the graphic design and packaging gets kudos to. The cardboard package holds the two CDs in slots (so no plastic to chip and there is an oversized 60-page (!) color booklet with lyrics to all the songs (in large, easy to read typeface!). Someone was thinking about the listener when they put this package together.

I you don't know Smither's work - or if you only know a few songs - this is a great intro. For the long-time fans, this is a must. We get to hear old "favorites" re-recorded with great sound.

In the fall Signature Sounds will be releasing a "Tribute" album by many of Smither's friends. I'm looking forward to that one too!

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"


The Blacklist: Season 1
The Blacklist: Season 1
DVD ~ James Spader
Price: $34.11
13 used & new from $30.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NO SPOILERS in this review of the DVD version – but (hopefully) helpful info!, August 25, 2014
This review is from: The Blacklist: Season 1 (DVD)
First off, as I go to post this review of the DVD set there are already 1735 reviews here! That is because many of them are of the TV series. It is August 25th and the DVD was released on August 12th. Since the running time of the 22 episodes alone is over 15 hours! (not including bonuses), my guess is that – unlike me – these reviewers are basing their revie3ws on the televised version of this NBC show.

I just received my copy last week and have started to watch the episodes in order. I know I won’t have time to get all the way through it before heading off on vacation but I wanted to provide some info that I hope is helpful to those who might be considering purchase of the DVD.

As I say in the title of this review, I am not a fan of spoilers – especially in “mystery” series. The less you know about the plot, the better. You just need to know info on the subject. I had not seen the NBC show on TV, but I’m a big fan of James Spader so I took a chance and watched the pilot without knowing much. To say that there are “surprises” this this series is almost an understatement. Within the first 10 minutes of the pilot, things happen that you least expect! I admit that I was surprised at the graphic violence and gore in the show – I’m guessing the episodes were not edited for TV because they each run 40-43 minutes. Of course this means that by watching the DVD set – rather than the TV broadcast versions you can watch it in 25% less time. Still 15 hours is a lot.

As I said the direction is great but I’d like to also comment on the music. There are lots of pop music songs used on the soundtrack. Surprisingly none of them are listed in the closing credits to each episode.

The DVD set includes some neat bonuses (I still need to watch those, but not tioll after I’ve seen the full series – there are often “spoilers” in these bonuses. There is a Producer Commentary for the pilot and two other episodes (that adds another 2 ¼ hours of entertainment. There are also 22 Episodes of “Beyond The Blacklist” and a Behind the Scenes featurette.

I did not get the BD but that includes even more bonuses: The Making of the Pilot, A Rogue’s Gallery and Character Dossiers.

So, I can highly recommend this DVD version because of the lack of commercials and the bonuses. Now to find the time to finish it.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch
Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch
Price: $10.00
29 used & new from $6.44

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOLa piano legend Dr. John – captures the “spirit” of Satch with lots of famous friends. It’s certainly not “trad jazz”, August 24, 2014
Okay first off, I’m a huge Dr. John fan as well as a Louis Armstrong fan (I prefer his playing and singing pre-“Hello Dolly” and so I was really anxious to hear this new album. I recognized most – if not all – of the song titles and I certainly recognized the “guest artists” that Dr. J chose with names like Terrence Blanchard and James Andrews (both filling in for “pops” horn blowing), Bonnie Raitt, The Blind Boys of Alabama and the always great McCrary Sisters. Yes, there was a rapper here too – but The Dirty Dozen Brass Band had their own rap and they’ve been doing it for years.

When I put on the 58-minute, 13 track CD there was Nicholas Payton AND the Blind Boys backing Dr. J for the one Armstrong pop vocal I do enjoy – “What a Wonderful World”. It’s great and I would have thought that it come as the last – not the first –track. But it works.

“Mack The Knife” with Blanchard was a bit different than Satchmo’s version. And then we come to Track 3 – “Tight Like This”. If ever a song called for a NOLa arrangement this somewhat suggestive ditty instead gets a slow arrangement – and in Spanish too – with Arturo Sandoval doing the brass chores here.

Bonnie Raitt’s “I’ve Got The World on A String” is in the true spirit of Satch as is the closing track – “When You’re Smiling”- with the Dirty Dozen taking it on home.

The key words here are “In The Spirit”. I think Satch would like how the songs he made classics were reinvented for a new generation. And – thank goodness – no one dared to include “Hello Dolly”.

The CD is packaged with a 12 page booklet with each page listing the musicians for two of the tracks. There are also photos of Dr. John. But… there isn’t one photo – or image of the honoree – Armstrong – to be found. The only fault I could find in the whole project.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic


70s Soul
70s Soul
Price: $16.37
23 used & new from $5.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A hybrid of two albums – the “heavy echo” tracks detract from the musical flow., August 24, 2014
This review is from: 70s Soul (Audio CD)
As I post my review – the second one for this title – I see the one posted by my fellow reviewer DJ Joe Sixpack. While Joe seems to be quite familiar with the music of this “soul” singer from Nairobi in Kenya, I can’t say the same for me. Honestly, I never heard of him. So my review is based on my hearing this 60-minute album with 15 tracks for the first time.

In reading the brief liner notes (they are in both English and German) I learned that Ali recorded three albums. They included slow ballads as well as funkier numbers. The ARC label chose to split the music styles and put the slow ones on this disc and the faster ones on a title listed as 70s Soul. (I have not hear that album, which contains Ali’s one big hit).

Because the contents here come from two different albums and one was recorded with echo (LOTS of echo on “Let There Be Love”, the album doesn’t have a flow to it. And the recording volume on track 6 is much louder than on track 5. Most of the songs are in English and the words “peace” and “love” are prominent. There’s a strange title named “Afro Disco Music” which has nothing to do with disc.

Ali bases his style after artists like Percy Sledge and Teddy Pendergass. And Otis Redding. Track 11 – “Something Good” has the same feel as Otis had and is the one track I liked here.

If you know Ali’s music this might be for you, but I’m afraid it didn’t do much for me. And the jarring “echo chamber” tracks really turned me off. But listening is subjective.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.
Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Touching the Sound: The Improbable Journey of Nobuyuki Tsujii [Blu-ray]
Touching the Sound: The Improbable Journey of Nobuyuki Tsujii [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Nobuyuki Tsujii
Price: $25.28
20 used & new from $20.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Bluray Version – This young man is a genius!, August 22, 2014
As I post this review I see one before me from someone named Central Coaster. He describes himself as the biggest Nobuyuki Tsujii fan on this side of the ocean. Well, I’m a lot different from CC. I honestly was not familiar with this amazing BLIND SINCE BIRTH classical pianist and have never seen or heard him play. And, because of that this 70 minute documentary may even more relevant to me. I enjoy classical music but it’s not my primary genre. But also love a well-produced documentary film. Director Peter Rosen has woven archival video -Nobuyuki’s mom started videotaping him from birth – with performances in piano competitions and a performance at Carnegie Hall. I’m not a big fan of spoilers so I won’t tell you the story but rather say that you have never seen a prodigy like this young Japanese man.

The film was co-produced by German Television and a Japanese firm. The film is in both Japanese and English (and the English subtitles are (thankfully) easy to read. Most of the musical performances are excerpts but there are a few full performances. The only weakness I found was that the title of the compositions is not displayed on the screen. They are only listed in the closing credits. It’s a minor deficiency but it would have been helpful. I also had an question which was unanswered in the film – but is probably easy to research on the internet. We see Nobuyuki’s mother through much of the film but his father is never discussed. A father is an important part of a boy’s growing up and, unless I missed it (possible!) he is never discussed.

The Bluray images are gorgeous and the sound is wonderful. Though most of the musical selections are by the great masters, we also hear a composition composed by Nobuyuki. It’s gorgeous! This young man (he was playing his toy piano at age 2 and won a competition while in the First Grade!

The BD comes with a 16 page booklet which contains photos as well as a 2 ½ page essay – in English, German and French.

Surprisingly there are no bonus features (outtakes; full performances) but the documentary alone is worth seeing if you have any interest in either classical music or, like me, well-made documentaries!

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


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