Prep & Landing Double Feature Holiday Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Disney’s new Pre & Landing Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is a great holiday set for the whole family.  It includes not just the original adventure of Lanny and Wayne in Pre & Landing but also its half-hour follow-up, Pre & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice

Most audiences have likely already seen both of these enjoyable holiday shorts. But for those who have yet to see them, they’re both entertaining and heartwarming.  They both teach very valuable life lessons.  One even carries on Disney’s long-running tradition of emphasizing the importance of family.  In the original Prep & Landing, audiences first meet Lanny and Wayne when Wayne is teamed up with Lanny after being turned down for a long coveted promotion.  Wayne isn’t too jolly after finding out that he had lost his promotion to another elf.  So when he’s teamed up with the young, inexperienced Lanny, he’s anything but enthused.  But through a series of misadventures, Wayne learns a very valuable lesson about appreciating what one already has and where one is in life, regardless of which stage of life.  It’s a lesson that both parents and kids can learn together.

Equally valuable to the lesson taught in Prep & Landing is the lesson about valuing family taught in that feature’s sequel, Pre & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice. The follow-up to Prep & Landing re-introduces Wayne and Lanny to audiences.  This time the pair has to trace down a conduct calculator lost by another elf a year before at the house of a naughty child.  The child in question wants to use the calculator to break into the elves’ database of naughty kids so as to make a slight alteration.  In the process, audiences are also introduced to Wayne’s brother, Noel, as he joins Wayne and Lanny in their mission.  The long held issues between Wayne and his brother alone makes for a very important lesson about letting go of the past and forgiving.  Those same messages are taught when audiences discover who exactly the naughty child is that the elves have to face off against.  Audiences will have to discover for themselves the secret of the naughty child.  The revelation of the child makes the lesson of family that much more important, relatable, and heartwarming.

The main features presented in this new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack make for a great viewing experience for the whole family.  They’re just part of what parents and kids will enjoy in this set.  Families also get a bonus short in the Emmy award winning short, “Operation: Secret Santa.”  The elves have to help Mrs. Clause get something special from Santa’s office for her.  Why?  Again, audiences will have to find out for themselves if they haven’t already had the pleasure of seeing it.  Even Tiny gets his own little short that will have the whole family laughing.  And the retro style newsreels that teach the elves all about their duties are just as entertaining as bonus features here.  They, along with the pair of bonus shorts included in this new set, are the icing on the cake that is the Prep & Landing double feature BD/DVD combo pack.  Families can pick up the set in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online direct via the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/prep-landing-naughty-vs-nice-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1323107/1000316/ or at the official Disney DVD website at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/home.html

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Curious George Premieres New Season Dec. 3rd

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS Kids/PBS Kids Go!

Courtesy: PBS/PBS Kids/PBS Kids Go!

PBS and PBS Kids are bringing back Curious George for a seventh season.  Everybody’s favorite little primate pal comes back with a whole new season of adventures, fun and learning beginning this Monday, December 3rd.  The first new episode of the season sees Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat taking a trip down under.  It will guest star Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late Steve Irwin.  The young Irwin even gets her chance to spread her vocal wings as she gets her own song in this episode.  When the pair goes down under to the Aussie Outback, they meet Bindi and her mom.  George discovers kangaroos for the first time and even learns how to make a home-made watering hole while the Man with the Yellow Hat goes off with Bindi and her mom to take pictures of sea cows.

In the second half of Monday’s season premiere, George and his friends Bill and Allie learn about the Persied meteor shower.  “Bright Lights, Little Monkey” starts off with Allie telling George and Bill about “The Perseids.”  She tells them they’re nocturnal creatures and tells them she’s going to go hunt for them.  In the process of searching for the elusive “Perseids”, the trio also learns about communication through Morse code and other non-verbal means.  In the end, it turns out that the three had seen the Perseids after all.  That’s all on Monday, December 3rd.

On Tuesday, December 4th, George and the Man with the Yellow Hat go on a nature outing that leads George to make friends with a young otter pup.  He also has to get a very important key back from the young otter when the two get to playing too much.  The key is so important because it’s the last of a group of keys that had all fallen down drains.  What’s funny about those keys is where they turn up in the episode’s end.

The second half of Tuesday’s new episode sees George taking part in his very first ever community theater event.  It’s a medieval play.  As George helps out with the play, he falls asleep and dreams the he really is in medieval times and that he has to fend off a “dragon.”  This gives George an idea about how to keep the “dragon” away in the play that he is helping with.  The idea in question is something that kids and their parents will have to discover together for themselves as “Sir George and the Dragon” airs this Tuesday, December 4th on PBS Kids.

Last up in next week’s trio of new episodes is a pair of new episodes slated to air Wednesday, December 5th.  George’s canine companion, Hundley makes friends with a caterpillar in the first half of this episode in “Hundley, Jr.”  The caterpillar is on a bouquet of flowers that is delivered for one of the tenants in Hundley’s building.  At first, Hundley doesn’t like the caterpillar.  But then realizing how similar the two were in his mind, the more he likes the caterpillar.  So he does everything he has to in order to protect the now named “Hundley, Jr.”  IN the long run, it teaches a valuable lesson about letting go and about responsibility in general.  It makes for a great episode for parents and kids to watch together.

Next week’s brand new episodes finish off with the second half of Wednesday’s brand new show in “Curious George Gets Winded.”  This is a clever name for this episode as it’s an episode that teaches about problem solving skills.  When George’s friend Bill sets out to win a special paper delivery award, George helps Bill figure out the best way to deliver the newspaper in the snow.  It involves a sled and a sail, along with learning how to steer the sled.  Both kids and their parents will cheer on George and Bill as they figure out how to beat the clock as they deliver the paper to everyone.  It’s a nice finish for the week’s new episodes and a perfect fit being that the weather is beginning to turn colder.  Together with the week’s other episodes, all three days’ new episodes are a great chance for kids and parents to sit down together and enjoy another of PBS Kids’ best shows.  Parents can check their local listing for air times in their area online at http://pbskids.org/curiousgeorge/tv_schedule/

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Eagle Rock To Premiere Doors Live Online

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Eagle Rock Entertainment recently released one of the most iconic performances ever records from The Doors in Live From The Bowl ’68.  Now, fans of the Doors are getting a chance to see this classic performance online next week.  The performance will be streamed online at Facebook courtesy of digital streaming service, Qello.  Along with the streaming performance, Doors member Ray Manzarek will take part in a live online Q&A session after the performance is finished.  It will be hosted by Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres.

Fans can get in on the whole thing for a price of $4.99.  Ticket price includes access to Live at The Bowl ’68 for one month, access to the live Q&A, access to The Doors’ box set, and a free 30-day all-access pass to Qello’s entire library of HD concerts and documentaries available on up to five devices.  Current Quello All-Access subscribers get all of the noted features free.

Tickets to the Facebook digital premiers of The Doors’ Live at The Bowl ’68 are available online at http://apps.facebook.com/thedoorslive.  Those who purchase tickets to the digital premiere can post questions to the live Q&A now.

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Utah Teen Releases First Single, Prepping Debut EP

Teen pop star Chase Kroesche is about to be a household name.  But with the release of his debut single, ‘1-2-3’ from his upcoming debut EP, his name is going to very quickly get out there.  The catchy pop tune written by the once nationally ranked high school tennis player is just the latest in a line of accomplishments from this young star.  The Utah native was offered a scholarship to the highly revered Berklee School of Music at one point.  The now 19-year old Kroesche (pronounced Kro-sha) was already touring at the age of 14 and picking up awards at festivals and even performing at L.A.’s famed Whisky just to note a few of his laurels. 

Currently Kroesche is studying at USC’s Thornton School of Music.  He is working on a degree in Popular Music along with working on his debut EP, which is currently slated to be released in early 2013.  That sounds like a lot to many people.  But not to Kroesche.  “I’m ambitious, and a very disciplined, no-nonsense person.  That doesn’t make me sound very fun”, he says.  “But really, the reason I listen to music is to have fun, so when I write music, that’s what it’s about; it’s not about telling people about how bad I feel, or being sad, pissed and lonely and upset with the world.   I write to make people—and me—feel happy.”

While audiences await the arrival of Kroesche’s new EP, they can check out his debut single online now at http://t.ymlp287.net/bacahhsmapauqavau/click.php.  Audiences can also get the latest news and more from him online at http://www.facebook.com/ChaseKroesche and https://twitter.com/chasekroesche

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Frampton Not Just Alive But Rocking On New Live BD

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Music legend Peter Frampton created what is one of the most talked about live albums in modern music history in Frampton Comes Alive in 1976.  Thirty-six years after the release of that landmark live release, the guitarist has shown that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks.  For that matter, he also shows that he’s got plenty of new tricks to teach his audiences on the new live release, FCA!35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton.

FCA!35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton was filmed during the band’s 2011/2012 tour celebrating the thirty-fifth anniversary of the album’s release.  It was filmed at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee and at New York’s iconic Beacon Theater.  The two shows come together for a performance that’s just as enjoyable and impressive as Frampton’s original live release.  The first half of the show features Peter and company performing that album in its entirety and in order.  Audiences will be amazed at how strong classic standards such as ‘Doobie Wah’, ‘Baby I Love Your Way’ and ‘Do You Feel Like We Do.’  And just as impressive is the band’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash.’  Being that the Stones are now celebrating their 50th anniversary together, it was likely just coincidence that Frampton decided on this cover.  But the timing of having this cover is pretty interesting.  It goes without saying that Peter and company paid proper honor both to the song and the Stones with his take on the song.

The band’s cover of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ isn’t the only cover included in this standout collection of performances.  There’s also an incredible cover of Ida Cox’s blues standard, ‘Four Day Creep.’  Frampton shares vocal duties here with band mates Rob Arthur (keyboards) and Adam Lester (guitars).  All three do an impressive job in their turn, too, sounding like seasoned blues vocalists.  Peter even shows that while he has definitely gotten older over the years, he can still smoke the strings.  That is for certain.  Viewers’ jaws will drop seeing the control he has over his instrument. 

Just as interesting as the cover of ‘Four Day Creep’ is the band’s cover of Soundgarden’s (yes that Soundgarden) ‘Black Hole Sun.’ This cover is a full on instrumental cover.  There are no vocals here, although the original has vocals.  Frampton’s take on this grunge classic is original to say the least.  His band mates show they’re just as praiseworthy as Frampton on this cover.  That’s especially the case with drummer Dan Wojciechowski.  His performance would make Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron proud.   Add in some rather interesting visuals on the video screens behind the band, and audiences get what is definitely one of the standout performances in this new release.  Yes it seems minor, but even the visuals play a role in the performance.  The visual here is a large mass of what is perhaps a sun like object exploding.  As it explodes, it changes color and shape throughout the song.  It’s a rather subliminal visual.  But it works to help add that extra something to the song.

The band’s covers of ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Four Day Creep’ mixed with the performances of its own original works goes a long way toward showing the band’s versatility.  It proves that not just Frampton himself, but the entire band still has some new tricks.  So much more could be noted of the songs included in this collection.  But that would take far too long as one should also note the video and audio quality of the performances included here.  The picture and sound are both crystal clear.  And those with Blu-ray players and HD TV’s will especially see just how clear the picture is.  Combine that with expert camera work and the equally expert performance from the band, and home viewers get yet another outstanding live release from Eagle Rock Entertainment.

FCA!35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Eagle Rock’s website at http://www.eaglerockent.com.  And for all the latest from Peter Frampton, fans can check out his website, http://www.frampton.com or “Like” him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/PeterFrampton.  Fans can also get the latest news and more from Peter on his Myspace page, http://www.myspace.com/peterframpton

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Finding Nemo Re-Issue Another “Splash” Hit

Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Finding Nemo does so much right.  It all starts with the story itself.  What makes the story so enjoyable is its reflection of life.  The story is relatable to both parents and children.  That’s because it’s a story about family, and about loss.  The death of a parent/spouse–as dark as it may be–is part of what makes the story so relatable.  Some people complained about the movie’s early scene in which Marlin’s wife is killed.  But in the grand scheme of things, it was necessary.  It was a dual purpose scene.  It reminds audiences that–as dark as some want to argue it was–sometimes tragedies happen.  And as a result of those tragedies, the effect on surviving family members can vary in intensity.  In the case of Finding Nemo, the effect on Marlin (Nemo’s Dad), was that it made him overly protective of Nemo.  He even became scared of living life, period.  Marlin was so broken from having lost his wife and the rest of the babies, that he smothered Nemo.  That coddling played a direct role in the father-son dynamic set up throughout the story.

The father-son dynamic is another factor that makes Finding Nemo relatable to audiences.  Marlin is like any other parent.  He wants to hold on to his child as long as possible.  What sets him apart from other parents–and makes him relatable at the same time–is the tragic loss of his wife.  It makes him want to hold on to his son even more so than most parents would.  That’s what leads Nemo to start breaking away from his dad.  That coming-of-age story is seamlessly interwoven into the overall plot.  Again, it’s a story that both parents and children alike can relate to.  After all, every parent was once a child.  And every child reaches the “breakaway” point at one time or another; some earlier than others.  Nemo was one child who reached it earlier than others.  That goes back to the family tragedy at the beginning of the story.  The result of the child reaching the “breakaway” point is that sometimes, things are said and done that aren’t meant on both sides.  Despite that, family is family.  And a parent is still going to love a child regardless of who said what.  That love will lead a parent to do anything in order to protect his/her child.  Marlin does just that, swimming across the ocean to find his son.

Marlin’s journey across the ocean leads to another key story item.  The introduction of Dory (voiced by Ellen Degeneres) is an illustration of a person’s need for a “social net”, especially in the case of a family tragedy.  Dory plays a dual role.  One role is the voice of reason.  As “light-headed” as she may be, there are moments in which she manages to talk some sense into Marlin.  Along with talking sense into him, Dory also helps Marlin lighten up when he gets really stressed out.  She doesn’t even have to try.  It’s that same “light-headedness” that leads Marlin to do so.  What’s ultimately happening here is that the writers are reminding audiences that as bad as things can get, it’s still okay to laugh.  In fact, as bad as things can get, we all need to laugh.  She even reminds Marlin—or rather the audiences–that a parent has to eventually let a child go, and grow up.  It’s just more proof of everything that Finding Nemo does right.

One more thing that Finding Nemo gets right is something very subtle.  The story starts off very dark, both subject-wise, and color wise.  After that, the general colors used throughout the story are very bright.  It could be argued that as hopeless as Marlin wanted to be, he still had fight and hope.  And the use of the brighter colors helped emphasize that mood.  Just as near the end, audiences see the color darken at a key moment, only to brighten back up as the scene in question progresses.  That could be grasping at straws in interpretation.  But it does seem that there’s a direct link between the colors and the mood of the story from one scene to the next.  It’s just one more element of the whole thing that makes Finding Nemo so enjoyable.

Finding Nemo easily made a splash (pun fully intended) in theaters. And now on the upcoming DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, it’s just as much of a hit, if not more. Almost everything that could have been done right for the new presentation was done right, too.  The new re-issue has carried over a couple of the bonus features from the original DVD release.  But there are also many new features in this new release. The director’s commentary from the previous DVD release has been carried over.  But it’s been changed.  This time the commentary is presented in what has been called “CinExplore.”  That is the director commentary mixed with storyboard illustration placed into the movie at the same time.  This is a time saver in that it keeps viewers from having to go back to the special features to look through the movie’s original storyboard art.  Rather, it’s right there to view as audiences listen to the movie’s updated commentary.

In relation to its commentary, the new BD/DVD re-issue of Finding Nemo offers another related commentary that future script writers will appreciate.  Writer/Director Andrew Stanton discusses the use of flashbacks and his training on the use of them in “A Lesson in Flashbacks.”  On one hand, it’s a glorified deleted scenes feature.  But at the same time, it really is a lesson of sorts in which he explains how and why he was taught to use flashbacks as little as possible.  In relation to the flashbacks that never made it to screen in Finding Nemo, his lesson makes sense.  And why the flashbacks in question were never used makes just as much sense, too.

Also new to this re-issue is a feature focusing on Disney’s classic submarine ride and how it has been updated to fit Finding Nemo.  Audiences get a history lesson on the ride from its roots to where it is today.  Viewers get to see all the work that went into revamping the ride to make it current for today’s Disney theme park guests.  This is interesting for anyone who has any interest in special effects and computer graphics work.  It’s pretty interesting learning that the people behind the ride would do something as simple as using crushed colored glass to help accentuate the coral for riders.  It’s just one part of the near twenty-minute bonus that audiences will find an interesting update in itself and on this new re-issue.

Finding Nemo made big a huge “splash” in theaters when it was originally released in 2003.  Now nearly a decade after its original debut, it still has just as much relevance and importance to audiences as it did then.  Keeping that in mind, it’s good to see this modern classic back in stores and nearly fully updated for a whole new audience to enjoy.  The new Finding Nemo BD/DVD combo will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, December 4th.  It can be ordered direct via Disney’s online store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/finding-nemo.html.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philpicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Doobie Brothers Documentary A Nice Addition For Any Fan’s Collection

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Over forty years ago, the very first ever Doobie Brothers album was released.  Since that first release, this iconic band has gone on to release twelve more full length studio albums and has toured the world in support of each one.  Those travels and albums have produced more than their share of stories, and probably more than can be put to a single documentary.  But on the band’s new documentary, Let The Music Play: The Story of The Doobie Brothers, the band and Eagle Rock Entertainment have made a valiant attempt to tell as many of those stories as possible.

Let The Music Play: The Story of The Doobie Brothers is a good introduction for anyone who is new to the music of the iconic band that first came to fame in the 1970’s.  It culls interviews with the band’s members, its manager and those closest to them as the band’s story is told including both its good times and bad.  And it’s all set against the backdrop of the band’s biggest hits, including ‘Listen To the Music’, ‘China Grove’ and so many others.  The main feature documenting the band’s journey through each album runs a little less than two hours.  In that time, newer fans are welcomed into the world of The Doobie Brothers with just enough information to hook them and reel them in.  For the more seasoned fans of this veteran rock act, it’s more of a trip down memory lane so to speak.  It’s a reminder of what made this band so great in its heyday and what still makes it such an important band to this day. 

The documentary focusing on the career of The Doobie Brothers is obviously the primary feature of this new release.  The stories are entertaining and at times tough to hear.  They do their part in making this a nice watch for fans of all ages.  It’s just one part of the whole. Along with the main presentation, Eagle Rock has also included a near hour long set of live performances from The Doobie Brothers.  To some this collection of songs is just bonus material, as noted on the case for the disc.  But they’re more than that.  The live performances included with this new release serve as an accompanying piece to the documentary.  They help to illustrate the band’s memories of performing.  So in its own right, the collection of live performances included here is actually not just a bunch of songs, but a visual aid that helps to bring full circle what the band discussed in the documentary.

So few people give the bonus features of any DVD and/or Blu-ray the credit that they deserve. But this presentation is one more that proves the importance of bonus features.  And there is at least one more bonus feature not on the disc that makes the entire Doobie Brothers experience presented here even richer.  That feature is the included booklet.  Most people in general are quick to just skim through liner notes and booklets that come with DVD’s, Blu-ray’s and CD’s.  But were they to take the time to read through said notes and booklets, they might find out some interesting facts.  This Blu-ray’s booklet is a prime example of that. San Francisco Chronicle writer Joel Selvin opens his notes on the band by explaining how this very project came to being.  He writes, of how Pat Simmons started working on this documentary after stumbling across music from The Doobie Brothers.  Selvin goes on to explain that the music was from TV shows, movies and lots more, thus leading Simmons to start working on this project.  Selvin goes into even more depth with his liner notes of sorts, thus providing a solid prologue to the presentation.  Yet again, it’s one more piece of the puzzle that makes this a whole work that’s worth at least one watch by all fans of The Doobie Brothers.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Skyfall Is Bond Done Right

Courtesy: MGM/Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures

There’s an old adage that states something to the effect of the third time is the charm.  That adage has never been truer than in the case of Daniel Craig’s take on the revered Bond franchise.  When Casino Royale first debuted, it was met with mixed reviews.  That is because it came across more as a movie that was struggling to deal with the expectations placed on it by critics and the public.  In trying so hard, it lost its identity, and became more of a melodrama than a classic Bond flick.  Then came Quantum of Solace.  The second of Craig’s Bond films wasn’t bad.  It was just misunderstood.  Its problem was that it was more a sequel to Casino Royale than its own standalone movie.  Enter Skyfall.  This is the Bond flick that fans have wanted from the very beginning.

Skyfall is the movie that long-time Bond fans have waited for since the release of Casino Royale.  This movie is a throwback to the glory days of James Bond in every sense of the word.  Right from the beginning of the movie, audiences are taken back in time with a classic Bond style opening credit sequence complete with musical number.  This time the opening musical number is provided courtesy of pop star Adele.  And go figure, she sings in the song’s chorus, “This is the end.”  For those who haven’t seen Skyfall yet, this single line is far more prophetic than anyone could realize until the story’s surprise ending.  In between the classic opening and the surprise ending, the rest of the movie is entirely classic style Bond, complete with a wild opening chase scene, and nonstop action throughout the story’s first two acts.  The story’s final act is the only downside to the entire presentation.  The buildup to the final confrontation between Bond and Silva drags on more than it really should have.  But the story’s surprise epilogue makes that slow boil forgivable.

The meat and potatoes of Skyfall is classic James Bond in every sense of the phrase. The action is much the same as old school Bond flicks.  And fans will thrill at the inclusion of a certain classic Bond car complete with ejector seat and guns in the headlights.  Yes, that car.  And then of course there is the classic Bond attitude on the part of Daniel Craig.  Rather than being the finely trained killer/agent with emotional baggage that audiences came to know from the franchise’s previous efforts, what audiences get here is a mix of Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery and his own attitude, too complete with the occasional semi-cheesy one-liners.  Combined with the story’s non-stop action and the constant references to the Golden Days of Bond, Skyfall quickly becomes the first true definitive Bond film for this generation.  Keeping that in mind, it also has made its argument for consideration to be one of the year’s top movies.  With any luck, now that the people behind Skyfall have crafted a movie for ALL Bond fans, those same people will realize that “the end” is just the beginning for this Bond.

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Chacon’s Self-Titled LP A Solid Sophomore Effort

Courtesy: Pie Records/Kayos Productions

Folk/country artist Thom Chacon’s upcoming sophomore self-titled album is quite the listen.  Typically, the case with sophomore albums is that much like movie sequels, they rarely live up to the expectations created by the first opus.  That’s not the case with Thom Chacon.  His new album carries a similar feel to that of his 2010 Pie Records debut, Featherweight Fighter.  But it has an overall different sound.  Whereas Featherweight Fighter sounded like something that Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder would have crafted for a solo record, this new record shows more influence from the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and even Bruce Springsteen to a lesser extent.

Chacon’s sophomore release carries the influence of Dylan, Springsteen, and Petty both musically and lyrically.  The album’s opener is proof of that.  ‘Innocent Man’ is an obviously Dylan influenced song all the way around.  Chacon sings mournfully about a man who has been wrongfully convicted of something he didn’t do.  He sings, “I swear on the lord, I’m an innocent man.”  Even when he becomes more defiant, singing, “You can all go to hell, I’m an innocent man”, his response is so subdued.  That subdued nature makes this a tragically beautiful song.  That being noted, it does the job setting the tone for what listeners can expect in this new release.

The follow-up to ‘Innocent Man’ is just as painful and real.  ‘American Dream’ comes across as a commentary on the housing crisis in America.  He sings, “Got a letter in the mail today/said we’re gonna foreclose/I wanna check out of this place but/I’m broke/I’m living the American Dream/For sure/I’m worth more dead/Cause baby, I owe.”  Chacon doesn’t pull any punches here.  He puts it right out on the table.  This song instantly conjures images of the damages done to the American housing industry since about 2008.  And the way in which he sings the song, it makes those images that much more vivid in listeners’ minds.  That’s a powerful statement when a musician can hit home so hard so easily with a few words.

The few words of ‘American Dream’ make up just one more of the many interesting tracks here.  For all the harsh realistic songs that Chacon has on his new album, he does offer listeners something more upbeat in the form of ‘A Life Beyond Here.’  What really makes this song interesting are its spiritual aspect and his love for his mother.  He sings, “I tried and tried the faith/It just wouldn’t take/Now I’m a man/who never believed/But maw/When you left this world/I was able to see/There’s a life/Beyond here/I don’t’ know much/But I know you’re near/Don’t believe in anything/But this much is clear/that there’s a life/Beyond here.”  It’s a bittersweet song, yes.  But it’s also more positive than the album’s other songs, too.  It will easily bring tears to the eyes of anyone who really listens to it and takes his lyrics as he meant them to be heard. 

As is noted here, the songs on Thom Chacon’s new self-titled LP will hit home in so many different emotional avenues.  They make for a hit for anyone that is a fan of real old school folk/country style music.  But the lyrics aren’t all that make the album a success for fans of said genre.  The songs’ length is another positive to this record.  The longest of the tracks on this record clocks in at less than four minutes long.  The shortest comes in at two minutes and eleven seconds.  So not only do the songs paint powerful pictures in listeners’ minds, their length makes them that much more easy on the ears and minds of listeners, too.  The two factors combined add up to proof of the old adage that less is more.  Each song is a short story that paints a big picture. That ultimately is what makes Chacon’s new upcoming release a welcome new collection of songs for both his own fans and for fans of the folk/country style as a whole.  Chacon’s new album is set to hit stores in early 2013.  While audiences await its arrival, they can go online to get the latest news and more from Thom Chacon online at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Thom-Chacon/188502570061 and at http://www.thomchacon.com

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Experience Hendrix, Legacy Recordings Offer Track-By-Track Rundown Of New Hendrix LP

Bob Merlis/M.f.h./Experience Hendrix, LLC/Legacy Recordings

The music world has spent 2012 celebrating the seventieth anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s birthday.  And now rather than let the celebration end, Experience Hendrix, LLC and Legacy Recordings have decided to extend the celebration of the late musician’s birthday anniversary with a new release in the New Year.

Experience Hendrix, LLC and Legacy Recordings have teamed up for the release of a brand new compilation of previously unreleased Hendrix recordings title, People, Hell and Angels. The album, which shows Hendrix’s post- Jimi Hendrix Experience works, will be released March 5, 2013.  In anticipation of the upcoming release, Jimi’s sister and Experience Hendrix, LLC President/CEO commented on the new album.  “We’re thrilled to be able to release People, Hell and Angels during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of my brother’s birth.  The brilliance of the album serves to underscore what we’ve known all along: that there has never been and never will be a musical force equal to his and that we cherish and take inspiration of what he left us both now and for many generations to come…simply eternity.”

Legacy Recordings president Adam Block also shared his thoughts on the upcoming release.  “People, Hell and Angels provides us with further insight into the genius of Jimi Hendrix”, he said.  “Working with new rhythm sections and instrumentation, Jimi Hendrix was opening up the horizons of his music, creating new sounds filled with endless possibilities.”

While People, Hell and Angels won’t hit stores for at least another four months, Experience Hendrix and Legacy Recordings are offering a track-by-track rundown of the album for fans.  Each song on the album is given explanation in this new rundown.  And they are explained right here as follows:

People, Hell & Angels – Track by Track

 

Earth Blues:

Totally unlike the version first issued as part of Rainbow Bridge in 1971, this December 19, 1969 master take features just Hendrix, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles–stripped down funk at its very origin.  

 

Somewhere:

This newly discovered gem was recorded in March 1968 and features Buddy Miles on drums and Stephen Stills on bass.    Entirely different from any previous version fans have ever heard.

 

Hear My Train A Comin':

This superb recording was drawn from Jimi’s first ever recording session with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles–the powerhouse rhythm section with whom he would later record the groundbreaking album Band Of Gypsys

 

Jimi shared a deep love for the blues with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles.  Both musicians understood Jimi’s desire to create what he described as a ‘new type of blues’.   Jimi’s menacing lead guitar is the centerpiece of this dramatic addition to his remarkable legacy.

 

Bleeding Heart:

This Elmore James masterwork had long been a favorite of Jimi’s.   He had performed the song earlier that year with the Experience in concert at the Royal Albert Hall and had attempted to capture the song in New York studio sessions during the weeks that followed.

 

Recorded at the same May 1969 session as “Hear My Train A Coming,” the track conveys Jimi’s firm understanding of the arrangement and tempo he desired. Before they began, Jimi instructed Cox and Miles that he wanted to establish a totally different beat than the standard arrangement.  He then kicked off this amazing rendition that was nothing like any other he had ever attempted. 

 

Let Me Move You:

In March 1969, Jimi reached back to another old friend, saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood.   Before he was discovered by Chas Chandler in the summer of 1966, Jimi had contributed guitar as a nondescript studio sideman for Youngblood and such infectious rhythm and blues styled singles such as “Soul Food”.

 

This March 1969 session features Hendrix and Youngblood trading licks throughout this never before heard, high velocity rock and soul classic.

 

Izabella:

In the aftermath of the Woodstock festival, Jimi gathered his new ensemble, Gypsy Sun & Rainbows, at the Hit Factory in August 1969 with engineer Eddie Kramer.  “Izabella” had been one of the new songs the guitarist introduced at the Woodstock festival and Jimi was eager to perfect a studio version.    This new version is markedly different from the Band Of Gypsys 45 rpm single master issued by Reprise Records in 1970 and features Larry Lee, Jimi’s old friend from the famed rhythm & blues ‘chitin’ circuit’, on rhythm guitar.

 

Easy Blues:

An edited extract of this gorgeous, free flowing instrumental was briefly issued as part of the long-out-of-print 1981 album Nine To The Universe.  Now nearly twice as long, the track offers fans the opportunity to enjoy the dramatic interplay between Jimi, second guitarist Larry Lee, Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

 

Crash Landing:

Perhaps known as the title song for the controversial 1975 album that featured Hendrix master recordings posthumously overdubbed by session musicians, this April 1969 original recording has never been heard before.   Jimi is joined here by Billy Cox and drummer Rocky Isaac of the Cherry People to record this thinly veiled warning to his girlfriend Devon Wilson.

 

Inside Out:

Jimi was fascinated by the rhythm pattern that would ultimately take form as “Ezy Ryder”.  Joined here by Mitch Mitchell, Jimi recorded all of the bass and guitar parts for this fascinating song–including a dramatic lead guitar part amplified through a Leslie organ speaker.

 

Hey Gypsy Boy:

The roots of Jimi’s majestic “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” trace themselves to this March 1969 recording.  Unlike the posthumously overdubbed version briefly issued as part of Midnight Lightning in 1975, this is original recording that features Jimi joined by Buddy Miles.

 

Mojo Man:

Jimi would lend a hand to Albert & Arthur Allen, the vocalists known as the Ghetto Fighters, whom he had befriended in Harlem long before he achieved fame with the Experience.  When the two recorded this inspired, previously unreleased master at the legendary Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama they took it back to Hendrix at Electric Lady Studios.  Jimi knew just what to do to elevate the recording beyond contemporary R & B to the new hybrid of rock, rhythm and blues he was celebrated for.

 

Villanova Junction Blues:

Long before his famous performance of this song at Woodstock, Jimi recorded this studio version with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles at the same May 1969 session which yielded “Hear My Train A Comin'” and “Bleeding Heart” also featured on this album.  Never fully finished, the song stands as an example of the fertile ideas he hoped to harness and bring to fruition.

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.