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Steve Ramm "Steve Ramm "Anything Phonographic"" RSS Feed (Phila, PA USA)
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A New Orleans Creole Christmas
A New Orleans Creole Christmas
Price: $13.99
16 used & new from $9.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creative NOLa arrangements (and world class playing) of seven Christmas standards, December 13, 2014
Generally I’m not a big fan of Christmas albums that include the standards. After all how many variations can there be? But I’m a big fan of Irvin Mayfield (who, in my opinion, does not get into the studio enough) and have seen him twice at his Jazz Playhouse in NOLa (one of the best spots for jazz in the Crescent City) and also in Philadelphia. So I was curious what he would do. After all there is not one newly written song among the eight tracks here (clocking in at just under 50 minutes).

I’m happy to say that I really like what he did. I guess I was a bit surprised to hear the piano as the primary instrument on some of these tracks (versus Irvin’s trumpet; it’s here and in great sound but not as prominent.

I’m not sure if Amazon has samples to hear but – if so – check out “Silent Night”. You’ve never heard a version like this. It sounds like it’s going to be “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” but then you realize it isn’t. There is one vocal here – Vince Guaraldi’s classic “Christmas Time Is Here” – with Michael Watson doing the singing. The song is repeated by Irvin and just his Trio to close out the album. My reason for four stars – rather than five is because that the song - which fills 8 ˝ minutes in total – does get repetitive (especially when playing the album again.) Otherwise it would be five stars all the way through.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Happy
Happy
Price: $24.71
2 used & new from $24.71

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THIS is another example of how historic reissues should be done. Jones earliest recordings for Brunswick in 1920, December 13, 2014
This review is from: Happy (Audio CD)
I find it interesting that, in recent years, while the major record labels – Sony/BMG, Universal – continue to release “historic reissue” box sets (mostly 60s and 70s artists like Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, or maybe jazz icons like Miles Davis), The Recording Academy has chosen to give props (in both Grammy noms and awards) to the small number of (very) small reissue labels like Archeophone and Dust-to-Digital, that are doing superb work in making rare (usually public domain or “orphan works”) recordings available to collectors with the best copies known (transferred from private collections) and authorities and informative liner notes. That’s why this 2-disc release garnered nominations for both the label and the biographical essay writer (David Sager) this year. (We won’t know till February 2015 whether they won either category).

Honestly, I only knew composer, sax player and orchestra leader Isham (pronounced “eye-sham”) Jones from his mid-1920s recordings, and I can’t say I knew much about him other than the hit songs he wrote (“It Had To be You” is best known, composed in 1924). But listing to the 100+ minutes of music on the 37 tracks on this album, and following along with Sager’s well-researched notes (in the 32 page booklet enclosed) gave me a new appreciation for the orchestra leader. As Sager point out in the notes, Jones composed (and published!)his first song – “Mid Summer Evenings” – in 1908 when he was only 14 years old. (A photo of the sheet music cover is included in colorful booklet.) Though he composed music to many songs, and probably made more in publishing royalties than as a band leader or recording artist (first for Brunswick; later for Victor), you will find only one of his compositions (“Sweet Woman”) on this CD set. This was a period just a few years before he hit it big as a songwriter and the music style falls in that crevice between the “orchestras” of the 19-teens and the beginning of “bands” playing 20s “jazz age” music. And you won’t find any vocals here either (though many of the songs had lyrics). But you WILL find ALL the recordings that Jones made with his seven- (sometimes eight-) piece Rainbo orchestra which had a long time gig at Chicago’s Rainbo Gardens in wonderful transfers by producer Richard Martin (his wife, Meghan Hennessey, is co-producer and designed the packaging and booklet).

Sager’s notes are designed to guide you through your first playing of the set. First he starts with bio material (and footnotes – he did his research!) and then goes through each track, pointing out what to listen for. He ends with a short section on Jones post-Rainbo years.

The sound of the Jones orchestra is heavy on the saxophone (Jones’ instrument) but, throughout the album you’ll discover the amazing talents of trombone player Carroll Martin such as the “rapid-tonguing” he performs on tracks like “Wait’ll You See” on Disc 1. And some of the tracks have dual pianists, which was unusual for the period.
No, don’t expect a “jazz band” here, or even a dance band like Paul Whiteman’s. But if you have an interest in the music of this period or – better yet – have knowledge of Jones, this is another Archeophone album you’ll want to add to your collection.

I note that, as I post this, Amazon is out of stock of this title. You can always go to Archeophone’s website to order direct, if you want a copy sooner.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Brasstronomical Extended Play
Brasstronomical Extended Play
Price: $3.96

5.0 out of 5 stars This Canadian-based Brass Band adds guitar and a Rhodes and gets funky with this new EP, December 12, 2014
If you check out this 6 member band from Toronto on Amazon, you’ll find my review of their Physical CD “Brasstronomical” in the CD section. Even though their newest release – the 4 track EP “Brastroniomical – Expended Play” is only available as an MP3 download (it is available as a physical CD, just not here) I felt I needed to review it (though I’m more a fan of physical releases – with track info etc, - than MP3s) here.

Unlike the traditional brass bands of New Orleans – or even the modern reincarnations like Rebirth – The Heavyweights add a Rhodes keyboard to the six basic brass band instruments (all brass except for the drum), in the form of guest Robi Bolos on the track titled “425”, written by Sousaphone player Rob Teehan. There are guests on two other tracks (Kevin Breit on guitar for “Get off The Ground” and DJ Dubmatix for the remix of the title track. There’s cover of Robin Thicke’s hit “Blurred Lines” (the only track I thought was just “ok”, but I;m not a fan of the original either) plus two songs composed by Lead trumpet player Jonathan Challoner.

Amazon will let you sample the album so give it a listen. I guess this will keep me happy until their next full-lengther.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Nutcracker [Blu-ray]
Nutcracker [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky
Price: $29.89
17 used & new from $24.65

4.0 out of 5 stars A darker Nutcracker with hip-hop dance movement to both Tchaikovsky and new percussive score, December 12, 2014
This review is from: Nutcracker [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Recently I watched (and reviewed here on Amazon) a Bluray titled “A Swan Lake” issued by the German Arthaus label. It was a modern version of Tchaikovsky’s ballet. Now comes another modern version of another of the three ballets that the composer wrote the music for (the third being “Sleeping Beauty”. This time it is The Nutcracker, but reimagined by the French choreographer Bouba Landrille Tchouba who specializes in hip-hop dance. It sure is different.

The original story – The Nutcracker and the Mouse King – was not the light and happy story that families flock to see at their local ballet company each Christmas season. It’s much darker and stranger. That’s the concept here. There is also a minimalist staging with only cardboard boxes (sometimes enclosing the dancers) as scenery. The performance runs 70 minutes and uses both Tchaikovsky’s music and new music by Yvan Talbot that is often atonal.

I found the beginning slow going with not a lot of movement until the Tchaikovsky music kicked in. And it was interesting to see all the moves that I associate with break-dancing being performed slowly to the 19th century score. Talbot’s music uses a lot of simple percussion.

The camera work is great. The performance was recorded in HD for French TV.
I can’t say I liked it as much as “A Swan Lake” but I’m glad I saw it. As with other Arthaus DVDs, there is a 12 page booklet with liner notes in English, French and German and a few photos. There are no other special features on the BD, except for three trailers for other Arthaus productions.

If modern dance is of interest to you I think you’ll find this BD interesting. And – because there is so little “Christmas” in it, it’s appropriate all year round.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Magic in the Moonlight [Blu-ray]
Magic in the Moonlight [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Colin Firth
Price: $22.79
16 used & new from $22.16

4.0 out of 5 stars Review of BD Combo including Bonus Features – and NO SPOILERS, December 8, 2014
I had a chance to see this film in the theater this summer and liked (not quite loved) it. I’m a big Woody fan and this was a bit different than some of his. I also like Colin Firth. The plot does have a few twists and turns and I hope other reviewers don’t provide spoilers in describing the film. Honestly I wasn’t sure what would happen in the end and it caught me by surprise.

This week I was provided with a screener by the film studio and so this review is based on the Bluray Combo pack. The image on my flat screen 1080 TV was fine and the French countryside where it was filmed lo0oked gorgeous.

There are two “Bonus Features”, plus the theatrical trailer, on the BD (and I think the DVD too). First is a featurette – “Behind The Magic” which runs 11 minutes and features comments from actors Colin Firth, Jacki Weaver and Hamish Linklater. Allen is rarely in these featurettes and is not here. The lead actress Emma Stone (charming in the film) is not here either. The first section has the three actors discussing spiritualism (the subject of the film) and then moving on to complimenting each other. There are a few brief scenes included. The short includes “spoilers” so you shouldn’t watch before playing the film.

The second Bonus is “On The Red Carpet at the Los Angeles Premiere. This runs 2:45 and includes a few more of the cast (but no Allen or Stone) and even critic Leonard Maltin appears on the Carpet (why??). This bonus won’t add anything to understanding the film.

So, while not Woody’s best, I did enjoy this – even twice.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Vera, Set 4
Vera, Set 4
DVD ~ Brenda Blethyn
Price: $41.41
10 used & new from $27.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of DVD – NO SPOILERS! – Another great set with easy to read subtitles, December 7, 2014
This review is from: Vera, Set 4 (DVD)
Review of DVD – NO SPOILERS! – Another great set with easy to read subtitles

First, off, know that Amazon will often group reviews of different formats of a film or TV series (streaming, and various regions) so, when reading a review, you should note which version the review is commenting on.

If you’ve come to this review, you have probably already seen Series 1 through 3 and know the basic characters for this wonderful mystery series produced by the commercial ITV network in the UK (as opposed to the BBC). So I won’t rehash that info. Like the previous sets there are four “approximately” 90 minute episodes – one on each DVD in the package. Each has a murder (or two or three) that must be solved by DCI Vera Stanhope portrayed by the wonderful actress Brenda Blethyn. Vera and her team work in northern England and the country scenery (especially in the third story in this set) is gorgeous. As others have pointed out there is some graphic violence to be aware of, but no profanity. Some compare the frumpy Vera to Peter Falk’s detective Columbo but I don’t see much of a similarity other than their attire.

Some reviewers here have posted the plot summaries that show up on your screen before you get to select the “Play” button. I’m not sure they add much to enjoying the stories. After all they are mysteries. The murders happen at the beginning and they are solved by the end. So I won’t discuss the plots.

I will point out that for the US NTSC release Acorn has added English subtitles in really easy to read YELLOW fonts. While I can easily understand what Vera is saying, some of the regional accents can be a bit tough so I’ve enjoyed using the subtitles. It’s also interesting that sometime the subtitles add info you might not hear (a certain sound) or provide the name of a character whose name is not spoken. I think Acorn should be thanked for providing what I consider the best (well, easiest to read) subtitles of all the companies releasing British TV series in the US.
The other nice thing about th8is series is that not a lot of time is spent on personal lives of the crime team. It happens occasionally but not often and each story can stand on its own.

If you’ve come to this volume by watching the previous ones, you’ll certainly enjoy this one. Yes, you “could” start here but I really like starting with Series one of any series.

There are no special bonus features on the DVD.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Richard Pryor: Icon
Richard Pryor: Icon
DVD ~ .
Price: $16.79

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This 53-minute PBS show obviously has strong langue but the interviewees are limited and very few Pryor performances included., December 6, 2014
This review is from: Richard Pryor: Icon (DVD)
Very shortly after comedian/actor Robin Williams died this summer PBS put together a special American Masters series documentary called “Robin Williams Remembered”. It was released this month on DVD (you can see my review on Amazon). Now comes a similar documentary on another comedian actor – who had a troubled life – but who died nearly 10 years ago, in 2005. I guess this could also be titled “Richard Pryor Remembered”, since MOST of the screen time is taken up with interviews with about a half-dozen fellow comedians or friends. (It’s interesting that no “actors” who starred with him are included nor any interviews with his family other than a former wife. (he was married four times).

The interviewees are black comedians George Wallace (who was a contemporary of Pryor’s in his early days appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show), and Tracy Morgan (who considered Pryor a mentor), Hispanic comedian/actor George Lopez, and white comic Louie Anderson.

We learn that Pryor grew up in the whore house run by his grandmother and that his father was a pimp and his mother was a prostitute. He turned to comedy to keep his sanity. There are many clips of Pryor from his pre-expletive days and lots from his regular appearances on the Merv Griffin show. And, though there is maybe a minute or two from the legendary HBO “Live on Sunset Strip” performance, there are way too few clips of Pryor performing. Sure, he used strong language – and the DVD is unedited but most of the time it’s the N-word that will cause people to be concerned. Both the interviewees and the narrator talk about how – in his early career- Pryor turned to Bill Cosby for influence, it’s interesting to note that pioneer black comedian and activist Dick Gregory is rarely if ever mentioned. It was Gregory who with the N-word as the title of his first book and it was he who used it in his night club act (for the purposes of “desensitizing” the word by frequent use) long before Pryor.

So, yes, Pryor was an important person and a big influence on a generation of comedians but I found that this 53 minute “tribute” could have been much better in telling his story. Still, it’s the only one ever done.

And finally, I don’t know whose idea it was (probably the Director) to play a very repetitive music score both behind the interviews and the few clips of Pryor performing, but they are very distracting and, in my opinion, inappropriate to the theme of the film.

There are no bonus features on the DVD.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


What Is Cinema? [Blu-ray]
What Is Cinema? [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ David Lynch
Price: $24.99
9 used & new from $19.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A survey of Cinema focusing primarily on foreign and experimental films. The BD has 2 hours of bonus films, December 3, 2014
If the name of the Director of this 78-minute film (produced in 2013) – Chuck Workman – sounds familiar it is because it is Workman who creates the tightly edited film montages which used to open the Annual Oscar Awards (before they were replaced by musical comedy numbers) and is probably still responsible for the “IN Memorium” segments for the Oscars, Emmys and Tony Awards. He’s an expert at editing clips to a musical soundtrack. I always loved his work and that’s what brought me to this BD from Cohen Media Group.

Yes, there are clips from films you know like “Vertigo”, “The Smiling”, “Bonnie and Clyde” and, even Michael Moore’s “Roger & Me”. But that’s about the limit for mainstream films. Workman is more concerned with foreign and, even more, experimental films. The opening interview is with David Lynch and then Jonas Mekas takes over the screen. We see a lot of films from the French New Wave and there is a lengthy discussion of both Japanese director Akiro Kurosawa’s classic film “Ran” and French documentary about Kurosawa (“A.K.”) by Chris Marker. Workman uses both archival interviews (Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Altman) with new interviews with Mike Leigh, Moore and quite a few independent directors who were new to me.

If you are a fan of classic foreign films or experimental films (which are all about images and not a plot) then you’ll definitely want to see the film and get the Bluray version. The reason is that there are 10 experimental films (some excerpted in the documentary) that go back as far as the 1930s included as a bonus. Together, these bonuses run nearly two hours!

If you have a general interest in film as “art”, I think you’ll learn about new, lesser known filmakers.
But if you are looking for the kind of short collages that Workman makes for the Awards shows, I think you might find this film a bit boring/ It’s certainly not “mainstream”.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Rockin' the Wall
Rockin' the Wall
DVD ~ Adam Baldwin
Price: $17.98
16 used & new from $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A well-done documentary on how Rock Music held bring down the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, December 3, 2014
This review is from: Rockin' the Wall (DVD)
This 78-minute documentary was produced in 2010 but is just making its home video debut thanks to eONE distribution. It’s both a world history lesson and an example of how music – whether pop or rock can change the politics of the world.

For those – like me - who lived through the cold war of the 1950s and 60s, it will be a reminder of events that occurred in our lives from the “duck and cover” exercises in school (remember fallout shelters?) to the Cuban missile crisis. And there is music of the period too, though much of it is limited to recreations by the musicians who participated in the interviews. (Obviously licensing costs were the reason for this.).

Writer/director Marc Leif was able to get a good balance of viewpoints in securing his interview subjects. Starting with a History Professor who was once a member of a rock band in the early 60s –the viewer is shown how the Iron curtain – and later the physical presence of the Berlin Wall came to be. A former manager for the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe operation tells how the US and its allies were able to broadcast jazz and rock to those in the Communist countries in Eastern Europe. We also hear from a half dozen people who were behind the wall and how they would smuggle or trade 10th generation cassette tapes of rock music. One interviewee in particular tells his harrowing story of escaping through a train tunnel to get to the West where he became a well-known record producer.

Speaking of well-known Leif was able to get new interviews with the two original lead members of Vanilla Fudge (who recreate their hit psychedelic version of the Supremes’ hit “You Keep Me Hanging On”, as well as a member of the band Toto and one from the Yellow Jackets and another from Quiet Riot. Another trio – Mother’s Finest – was new to me but this Atlanta-based group was apparently big in Sweden (based on the concert footage).

The flow of the film is excellent with discussions of world politics, repression in the Soviet Union and what it was like for American musicians to travel to play and go through “Checkpoint Charlie (the only opening in the “wall”.
This would make a great film for history classes in both high school and college. And, because there is no strong language, I think it still appropriate for any junior high level student as well.

Sadly, there are no special features on the DVD – just chapter stops – but when the Eastern European interviewees are speaking English, the director also includes easy-to-read English subtitles.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
“Anything Phonographic”


Discovered: Live In Concert
Discovered: Live In Concert
Price: $11.88
39 used & new from $6.41

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This COULD have been five star album but it's really only for long time PP&M fans, December 3, 2014
When I received this new CD - which contains 13 concert recordings of the seminal 1960s folk trio - including 12 songs that never appeared on any of their albums (the 13th was only on the "Carry it On" box set), I had great hopes for a wonderful listening experience. What a great idea.

Then I put it on my stereo and the first track - the Gibson/Camp composition "You Can Tell The World" and I felt something was just not right. The sound was muddy and there was "blasting" in the vocals. This continued for the next five or six tracks and then the sound was better - until the final one - "Midnight Special" - where the blasting appeared again. The notes - more on that in a minute - say that they were recordings made by PP&M for themselves and "maybe" might fit on a concert album. And they are in Mono too.

Next I looked at the package - a tri-fold digipak. There is a two page essay there but - surprise! - no one is credited with writing this essay. The Cd is "Produced by Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Kevin Salem" but the credits don't say who wrote the essay. PP&M were together for 50 years (until Mary died in 2009) and these recordings span many years. Yet there is no indication anywhere in the package of WHEN or WHERE they were recorded. (track 6 - "Little Ship" - was obviously recorded in a foreign country - France?- because the intro by Noel Paul is not in English.). Obviously the tapes had this info and it would put things in perspective. We should be able to guess that the songs penned by David Wilcox and John Gorka were from later in their career but how hard would it have been to provide dates?

My favorite track here is the late Kate Wolf's "Give Yourself to Love" (and it's hard not to sing along with this track.)

PP&M rarely appeared in concert as just a trio. There was usually Dick Kniss on upright bass (take his bass out of the mix of any PP&M song and there is something missing. And guitarist Paul Prestopino was their music director and always in the background. There's a photo of both these men on one of the flaps but they are neither identified nor are their names listed in the credits. An oversight?

I reviewed the recent PP&M book here on Amazon and liked it. I just watched the PBS Documentary as well - though it was not shown complete (the stations were hawking the DVD to see "additional things we couldn't show as there were pledge breaks.). But the documentary was wonderful and had many full performances - with great sound.

So, I have to rate this "new" album as a "curiosity" and not something you'll play a lot. I'm sure the engineers at Rhino could have cleaned up the tapes so that the sound wasn't so muddy. These were not recorded on a small cassette player.

Yes, I'm giving this album just three stars. (Amazon's definition is "It's OK"). It feels like rush job made to coincide with the book and the PBS documentary. I have many of PP&M's albums and have seen them a few times. My best suggestion is to listen to the samples on Amazon and decide for yourself if the sound is a bit off.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 4, 2014 10:23 AM PST


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