Dec III Exhibits True Talent And Versatility Both Musically And Lyrically

Courtesy:  RADDIST

Courtesy: RADDIST

Jon Haber has spent the better part of life selling and making music.  Ironically, the music that the now 49-year old has crafted and sold isn’t what one might think.  Haber put his professional music career somewhat on the back burner years ago in favor of running his own chain of instrumental music stores called Alto Music.  He also serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), and even runs his own label.  So despite not being a professional musician in the sense that some might think, Haber has never been far from the business that he loves.  Now finally after years of putting it off, Haber’s dream will finally become reality.  His debut album Dec III will be released Tuesday, September 30th via Raddist, Haber’s own record label.  The new twelve-track record is a good, solid rock and roll record that is especially of interest for anyone that is a fan of King’s X and the solo work of the band’s guitarist Ty Tabor.  While the album boasts a familiar sound for some listeners, what really makes it stand out is its lyrical variety.  Haber and company run the gamut, lyrically speaking throughout the course of the album’s twelve tracks and roughly forty-five minute run time.  The band offers a deep and thought provoking piece in the socially conscious ‘Black Kid on a Pink Bike.’  There is also something more light hearted in the album’s rather suggestive opener, ‘Put Some South in Your Mouth.’  And on the exact opposite side of the coin is the politically charged ‘Red Line,’ which tackles the subject of the Syrian civil war.  For those that want to just turn off their brains, there are plenty of pieces centered on love found and love lost along the way, too.  It just goes to show the true depth of this debut and that this record is more than worth the listen by any true rock and roll fan.

As already noted, Dec3 is a record worth taking in at least once.  It may not be one of the biggest or most anticipated albums of the year.  But audiences will agree that it is still an enjoyable record from start to finish given that one listen.  One of the best pieces of evidence supporting that argument is the seemingly socially conscious ‘Black Kid on a Pink Bike.’  Front man Chris Saulpaugh sings in this sobering song, “I went to school each day/The old folks never hid their dislike/The other kids would point/And stare at the/Black kid on a pink bike/So off I go/With this double whammy all can see/Battling this war and peace/That’s raging all around me/All around me.”  The gentle strains of Haber’s acoustic guitar accents the pain in Saulpaugh’s voice as he sings.  One can almost instantly see this young, inner city kid who obviously doesn’t have much, being ridiculed by everyone around him.  The very image of a black child on a pink bike paints that picture vividly.  It is meant to bring attention to the struggles of young people living in an inner city setting.  It is such a real situation for so many today that this picture could have been lifted right from the pages of a book illustrating the civil rights era or even from today’s society.  Instead of just hearing lyrics, listeners can almost see the boy in the song singing Saulpaugh’s words in this bittersweet song.  As painful and bittersweet as the song proves to be, it is one that needed to be presented.  It forces listeners to look at one of those things that they would rather not see because it is not so pleasant to have to think about.  And that in itself is what gives this song so much power.  Together with its simple musical backing, it becomes even more powerful and important to the whole that is Dec3.

‘Black Kid on a Pink Bike’ is not the easiest song to take in by any means.  But it is an important piece to take in.  It touches on one of those topics that people would much rather ignore, sort of like a homeless person on the street.  Haber and his band mates are to be hugely commended for tackling the subject and doing so in such an impressive manner.  It’s just one part of the whole that gives this album so much heart.  Those looking for something more peppy need look no further than the album’s not so subtly suggestive opener ‘Put Some South in Your Mouth.’  This straight forward rock song mixes a solid 4/4 time with lyrics that leave very little to the imagination to make quite the opener for this first effort from Haber and his band mates.  Haber writes in this song of a man in a bar that meets a woman that is obviously ready to go so to speak.  He writes, of the couple’s meeting, “There I was/A New York boy/Drinking beer in some BBQ joint/A band out back with Tele twang/Thought I’d see out what kind of game I brang/There she sat on a torn up couch/With glassy red lips that screamed out loud/Put some south/In your mouth/I’ll show you/What the fuss is about/You northern guys/Think you’ve got clout/But I can chew you up/Make you close your eyes and shout/She said push my hair back/I’m no girl scout/Put some south/Put some south in your mouth.”  That’s just the song’s first verse and chorus.  Things get pretty interesting from here.  It’s definitely quite the first impression from the band.  But when set alongside the album’s other compositions, it becomes clear why it was chosen as the album’s opener.  Understanding that, it makes the album once again all the more enjoyable for listeners.

The members of Dec3 show quite a bit of talent and versatility throughout the course of its self-titled debut record.  That’s evident through both the album’s not so subtle straight forward opener and through the more socially conscious ‘Black Kid on a Pink Bike.’  The combination of the songs’ music and lyrics exhibits that talent and versatility.  Just as much proof of that talent and versatility is the politically minded ‘Red Line.’  The song centers on the Syrian civil war and comes from the vantage point of a civilian caught in the middle of the conflict.  Again the band has shown a full understanding of a song’s impact by mixing together a somber yet somewhat heavy musical side with rather thought provoking lyrics.  Front man Chris Saulpaugh sings in this song, “There’s not a lot left to shell/Not much standing here in hell/Watch where you get your oxygen from/A simple breath might be your last one.” The song also makes mention of the United States government’s involvement or lack thereof in the conflict. Saulpaugh sings of that issue, “The leader of the whole free world/Said that he’d help rescue me/But he ain’t tryin’/He’s just coloring lines/He said he’d be coming soon/His mind changed by the afternoon/Now he’s working on a deal with the man/Whose guns are shooting at me/Shooting at me/I tried to believe in him/But hiw words were just a fading whim/Someday he’ll look back and say/He should have stuck to his guns that day.” One must remember that this is being sung from the standpoint of a Syrian civilian caught up in the nation’s civil war. To an extent, it could be argued to be a protest song of sorts being written by an American. But at the same time, it could also be just a song meant to raise awareness of the conflict in Syria, and the overall human cost of the conflict. Regardless of which side one takes on that discussion, one thing on which both sides can agree is that it is one more example of what makes Dec3 an album well worth at least one listen. Audiences can check out the video for the song now online via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19wi2J–DHQ.

Whether it be for the socially conscious ‘Black Kid on a Pink Bike,’, the not so subtle ‘Put Some South in Your Mouth,’ or the politically minded ‘Red Line,’ Dec3 proves to have quite the diverse lyrical content. And the King’s X style sound of the record will definitely resonate with some audiences. If the songs noted here aren’t to some audiences’ liking, worry not. There are also the songs steeped in the standard relationship topics, too (E.g. ‘Simple Mess,’ ‘In Front of You,’ and ‘Sunshine’). Regardless of which songs listeners choose as their favorites, every listener will agree once more that having gone through all twelve songs featured on this record, there is something for everyone both musically and lyrically. Such versatility and talent makes this a record that any pure rock fan will want to hear at least once. Dec3 will be available Tuesday, September 30th via Haber’s own label, Raddist. While fans wait on the record, they can keep up with all the latest from the band online at http://www.facebook.com/decband and http://www.dec3band.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Orioles To Host Yankees On Sept. 14th Edition Of Sunday Night Baseball

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Football season is officially underway.  College football and NFL stadiums alike are now rocking every week with rabid fans on both sides of the ball.  While football has taken center stage, audiences should be reminded that the 2014 MLB season isn’t over just yet.  With time ticking away before the playoffs start, ESPN has announced that the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees will face off live on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell on Sunday, September 14th.

The teams’ matchup on September 14th will be the last in a four-game series between the teams that weekend.  The series kicks off Friday, September 12th with a double-header between the AL East rivals. Whether or not audiences are Yankees fans, the scheduled game will be an important one as it is believed that it will be the last appearance by Yankees great Derek Jeter on Sunday Night Baseball.  It will also be the last for Jeter at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which is itself celebrating its 25th season this year.

Dan Shulman will have the call for the game.  He will be joined live by analyst John Kruk and reporter Buster Olney for additional commentary.  Fans that won’t be close to a TV to catch the game on  September 24th can still catch it on their local ESPN Radio affiliate.  Jon Sciambi and Chris Singleton will have the call for audiences listening on the radio.  It will also be available online via WatchESPN and on TV and radio for Spanish-speaking audiences on ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes radio.  As with every Sunday Night Baseball broadcast on ESPN, the matchup between the Orioles and Yankees will be preceded by ESPN’s Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown presented by Chevrolet live at 7pm ET.

Tomorrow night, audiences can catch the third game in a three-game series between the Indians and Royals.  The Royals currently sit atop the AL Central Standings while the Indians are third in the division, 3.5 games back.  Game two is tonight at 7:10pm ET.  Next Sunday night, September 7th, ESPN will carry the third game in a three-game series between the Giants and Tigers.

More information on ESPN’s MLB coverage is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ESPNBaseballTonight.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Every Family Will Enjoy Listening To Stacey Peasley’s Debut record “Together”

Courtesy:  Stacey Peasley

Courtesy: Stacey Peasley

Children’s entertainer Stacey Peasley recently released her sophomore full-length album Lucky Day to the masses.  That album proved to audiences why given the chance, Peasley could be one of the next big names in the world of kindie-rock.  Peasley’s 2011 debut Together is just as good as that album if not actually better than Lucky Day.  Together is anchored by Peasley’s funky, celebratory ‘Dance Party.’  The song harkens back to the days of Kool and the Gang, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Sly and the Family Stone just to name a few groups.  ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ is an equally up-tempo piece that boasts a poppy 90s vibe.  And while hardly the longest song, its equally upbeat, optimistic lyrics will put a smile on the face of listeners of all ages.  Rounding out the whole album is a sweet, lullaby of sorts in the song ‘Snuggle Daddy.’  After all of the fun of the album’s previous group of songs, this song is a fitting closer.  It’s one of those songs that some parents might even find a guilty pleasure as it will make them think of their own children when they’re at school or asleep in their beds.  It might even bring a small tear of joy to some parents’ eyes.  And that’s perfectly fine, too.  That’s because it is just that wonderful of a song.  Of course it and the other songs noted here are not all that families will appreciate about Together.  There is also a fun little song about bath time simply titled ‘Soapy Bubbles’ and a bittersweet and somewhat heart wrenching song about a child in a broken family titled ‘Far Away.’  This song is especially interesting considering that so few kindie-rock entertainers delve into that topic.  It is a tough song to hear.   That song alongside the others featured as part of Together make this record quite the impressive first effort from Stacey Peasley.

Together is a wonderful first effort from Stacey Peasley.  From beginning to end, every one of the album’s offerings make the album a joy to hear in its own way.  The album is anchored most strongly by the funky and fittingly titled ‘Dance Party.’  This song will have parents, children, and even grandparents dancing and smiling, well, together.  Musically, the song harkens back to the days of musical greats such as KC and the Sunshine Band, Sly and the Family Stone, and even Kool and the Gang with its mix of horns, keyboards, drums and easygoing guitars.  Peasley herself even seems to channel some of the great vocalists of days gone by as she sings, “Come on everybody/We’ve got dancin’ to do/There’ll be no sittin’ down/We’ve got to get up and move/Listen to the instruments play their tune/They can play all day/Your imagination is all you need/Grab a microphone and you can take the lead/Go ask your mom and dad/And you know they’ll be glad/They’ll spend the day with you/Put on your dancing shoes/And have a dance party.”  It would be so easy to see this song in a live setting.  Both kids and grown-ups will be dancing and singing along so happily, the lights on the stage flashing in time with the band.  And even a music video in the same vein would make sense.  It’s just a fun, infectious song that will instantly get stuck in listeners’ heads and on their lips.  It’s just one of the songs that make Together such a fun album for the whole family.

While it boasts a slightly different sound than ‘Dance Party,’ Together’s penultimate song ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ is just as fun and memorable a song.  Whereas ‘Dance Party’ was more of a throwback to the great names of funk, ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ boasts more of a poppy 90s vibe.  The mix of the song’s piano line, guitar, and tambourine backed by Marty Beller’s drumming by itself makes the song so infectious.  Lyrically, Peasley perfectly captures the joys of childhood friendship as she sings, “When my friends and I get together/We always have a really good time/We laugh and play/And spend the day/With one thing on our mind/We have fun, fun, fun/As long as we can/When we get together/The day never ends/Fun, fun, fun/Until the sun sets/You’re my best friend/Til’ the very end.”  Kids will relate to these words just as much as parents to these words.  For kids, it celebrates the joys that they are currently feeling as they develop friendships and learn about the joys of having that social circle and those relationships.  For parents, it will take them back to their own childhoods.  What better way to get rid of the stresses of the work week than reminisce about better times? Kudos to Stacey Peasley for that.

‘Dance Party’ and ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ are two great examples of what makes Together an album that every family will in fact enjoy listening to together, thus the album’s title. The album’s gentle closer ‘Snuggle Daddy’ is one more example of what makes this album so enjoyable for families. It would be a surprise if this song doesn’t put a smile on a parent’s face and a slight tear of joy in said parent’s eye. Peasley sings of the joys felt by a young child spending those all-important minutes before bed with his or her father. What really makes this song great isn’t just the song’s gentle musical side or even its lyrical side, but the fact that it could come from the angle of a young boy or girl. The song’s gentle, almost sleepy vibe is a perfect complement to the lyrics. Peasley sings from the vantage point of the child, “AFtermy bath/Before I go to bed/I like to lay close/And rest my head/On my daddy/Snuggle daddy/Sometimes we hide/So mommy can’t see/Under the blankets/It’s just me and my daddy.” She goes on to sing of the child happily reading a bedtime story and more before heading off to dreamland. It’s such a short song. Yet it is so emotionally powerful. Being such a powerful piece, it is a wonderful finale from Peasley on her debut. And alongside the likes of ‘Dance Party’ and ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ it makes even clearer why any parent should listen to this record. It will bring such joy to not only children but parents, too.

The songs noted here are three fine examples of what makes Together such a standout release from Stacey Peasley. Especially being an independent release it is a surprise that none of the major children’s music labels picked her up. Perhaps after hearing the noted songs, those same labels will give her more of a chance. The same can be said of the heart wrenching ‘Far Away’ and the fun bath time song ‘Soapy Bubbles’ ‘Far Away’ comes across as delving into the difficult topic of a young child being stuck between two divorced parents. That’s a tough topic for kids, which is why so few children’s entertainers tackle the subject in their music. Mrs. Peasley is to be highly commended for such bravery. And on the totally opposite side of things is the much more lighthearted bath time song ‘Soapy Bubbles.’ This fun little romp is sure to put just as much of a smile on the face of any listener regardless of age. Peasley sings of the joys a child feels playing with bubbles in the bathtub. What parent can’t relate? This parent certainly can, watching his own son’s eyes glimmer with joy as he blows them around the tub. It’s just a fun song. And it’s one more addition to an album that while it has been out for a few years is still just as good as any album that has been released this year. As a matter of fact, had it been released this year, it might have even made this critic’s list of the year’s top new children’s albums.

Audiences will get a chance to hear all of the songs noted here and even more later this year when Stacey Peasley performs live at the Long Island Children’s Museum Show. That concert is scheduled for Saturday, December 27th at 11am. It is an all-ages show. To get more information on this show, more upcoming dates, and to keep up with all of the latest updates from Stacey Peasley, audiences can follow her online at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Stacey-Peasley-Band/60359963730 and http://www.staceypeasley.com. Fans can also order both of her current releases through her official website. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Educators, History Lovers Alike Will Enjoy History Channel’s New WWII Documentary Set

Courtesy:  A&E Home Video/History Channel

Courtesy: A&E Home Video/History Channel

History Channel’s new military documentary 75 Years of WWII is scheduled to be released this week.  The double-disc documentary is another nice addition to the library of any military history buff out there. Unlike its partner documentary, 100 Years of WWI was somewhat mistitled, the title of this feature actually works to a point.  That is because it actually takes into account the start of WWII in Europe, rather than from the point of the United States’ entry into the war.  So it is actually factually correct.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this program is that while it does not present the depth of documentaries such as WWII in HD and Vietnam in HD, it is a good starting point for any discussion on World War II especially for any military history class or even history class in general.  And last but not least of all worth noting is the packaging for the double-disc presentation.  That packaging alongside the program’s content and smart title work together to make 75 Years of WWII another welcome addition to the library of any teacher, professor, or history lover in general.

The very first aspect of 75 Years of WWII that makes this latest set from History Channel work is its title.  Most audiences take far too often for granted the title of a given box set, movie, etc.  But the title of this release is quite important.  It is actually so important because this September marks the 75th anniversary of the start of WWII.  That is the 75th anniversary of the start of the war in Europe, not since America joined the war.  So it is a factually correct title.  Some might ask why this matter.  It matters in that unlike so many DVDs out there already, it doesn’t end up misleading audiences.  On another level, that factual certification also serves in itself as the basis for its own history lesson that is broadened quite well by History Channel’s other recent World War II documentary, WWII in HD and the network’s other WWII-based series, one of which sees a two-part episode included on this disc.  That inclusion plays its own part in the overall success of this set, too.

As subtle as it is, the title of 75 Years of WWII is an important piece of the whole that makes this latest release from History Channel enjoyable for history lovers, teachers, and military history lovers alike.  It is a subtle yet important starting point for any discussion point on World War II whether in the classroom or the living room.  Just as important as the presentation’s title is the actual content contained on the set’s two discs.  The material included on this presentation may not be as in-depth as History Channel’s previously released WWII box set WWII in HD.  However, it does collectively offer its own share of in-depth information making for even more solid starting points for many more discussions on the history of World War II.  It all begins with the two-part special D-Day in HD on the set’s first disc.  More than likely, this was chosen as the world stopped and observed the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the end of World War II this year.  It’s a fitting starting point for viewers considering the timeliness of the set’s release.  Disc II is anchored by the two-part Battle 360 episode that focuses on the U.S.S. Enterprise and its role in the battle of Guadal Canal.  There is also a short feature on the Top 10 most important pieces of military hardware that were developed over the course of World War II. This ties directly into History Channel’s previously released programs World War II from Space and 100 Years of WWI, which focused primarily on the military tech developed in World War I, rather than the war’s history.  The Germans, Japanese, and Americans are all featured in this countdown, from land to sea to air.  It’s a fitting finishing piece for a grouping of content that any history lover, military history lover and educator will appreciate.

Both the content included on 75 Years of WWII and its very title are key to the set’s overall presentation and enjoyment.  As important as both factors remain, there is still one remaining factor that audiences should consider when purchasing the double-disc set.  That remaining factor is the set’s packaging.  There are only two discs in this package.  But both discs are placed on their own spindle inside the case.  Disc one is placed on its own insert inside the case while disc two has been placed on a spindle on the back inside portion of the case.  This protects the discs from one another all while making them easily accessible.  The end result is a pair of discs that audiences will be able to enjoy time and again for years to come.

The packaging used to house the discs in 75 Years of WWII rounds out History Channel’s new presentation.  Together with the set’s equally important content and factually accurate title, the three factors noted here make 75 Years of WWII an even more welcome addition to any classroom or living room.  It can be ordered online now direct from History Channel’s online store at http://shop.history.com/detail.php?p=577134&SESSID=a067958912a6f2c2d1ab21dca48b384a&v=history.  More information on this and other titles from History Channel is available online at http://www.facebook.com/History and http://www.history.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Rise Against Announces Dates For Upcoming Tour

Courtesy:  Interscope Records

Courtesy: Interscope Records

Rise Against is hitting the road this summer.

The band is hitting the road in support of its brand new album The Black Market (Interscope Records).  The band’s tour kicks off next Sunday, August 31st at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles, California.  The first half of the band’s current 24-date tour will see the band play a handful of dates in the Midwest before it makes its way through various dates in California.  The second half of the band’s current tour schedule brings the band to the East Coast after another handful of Midwest dates September 22nd, 23rd, and 24th in Missouri and Ohio.  Rise Against will be joined by Touche Amore and Radkey for its upcoming tour.  The band’s current tour schedule is listed below.

RISE AGAINST
with Touché Amoré and Radkey

Aug 31 Made In America Festival Los Angeles, CA
Sep 06 Riot Fest Toronto, ON
Sep 07 Chill on the Hill Detroit, MI
Sep 09 Myth St. Paul, MN
Sep 11 Aragon Ballroom Chicago, IL
Sep 12 Riot Fest Chicago, IL
Sep 14 Aftershock Festival Sacramento, CA
Sep 16 The Wiltern Los Angeles, CA
Sep 17 The Wiltern Los Angeles, CA
Sep 18 RIMAC Arena La Jolla, CA
Sep 19 Fox Theater Oakland, CA
Sep 21 Riot Fest Denver, CO

Sep 22 Uptown Theater Kansas City, MO
Sep 23 The Pageant St. Louis, MO
Sep 25 Jacobs Pavilion Cleveland, OH
Sep 26 Best Buy Theatre – SOLD OUT New York, NY
Sep 27 The Shindig Festival Baltimore, MD
Sep 29 House of Blues Boston, MA
Sep 30 The Wellmont Theatre Montclair, NJ
Oct 01 Tower Theatre Upper Darby, PA
Oct 03 The Tabernacle Atlanta, GA
Oct 04 House of Blues Orlando, FL
Oct 05 Jannus Live St. Petersburg, FL
Oct 31 Voodoo Music Festival New Orleans, LA

The Black Market debuted at #3on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart and at #1 on iTunes’ Alterative Albums Chart.  The album’s lead single, ‘I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore,’ is currently in the Top 10 at both Alternative and Active Rock radio.  The song is meant to raise awareness about the overwhelming amount of violence in nations around the world from the United States to countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.  It is accompanied by a video that can be viewed now here.

The Black Market is available now in stores and online.  More news from Rise Against including the band’s latest tour updates is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/riseagainst, http://twitter.com/riseagainst, http://www.myspace.com/riseagainst, and http://www.riseagainst.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

eOne’s Latest Geronimo Stilton DVD Is More Mousy Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Geronimo Stilton is back again.  Everyone’s favorite rodent reporter is back in a brand new DVD courtesy of eOne.  Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures is available now on DVD in stores and online.  There is just as much to enjoy about this new DVD as eOne’s previous Geronimo Stilton compilations.  The first factor worth noting is of course the writing that went into each of the four episodes included on this disc.  Also worth noting is the series’ animation.  The original style animation to which audiences have become accustomed on previous Geronimo Stilton DVDs is present here, too.  And rounding out the whole thing is the return of the series’ voice cast once more.  All three of these factors, when taken into consideration both by themselves and collectively, show why any family will want to watch Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures.

The central reason for the overall enjoyment of Geronimo Stilton’s latest DVD compilation is the writing that went into each of the episodes included on the disc.  Stilton is essentially Scholastic’s answer to Indiana Jones.  While he’s a mild mannered reporter by day, he is also quite the adventure seeker.  In the disc’s title episode, audiences see Geronimo and his friends go on an adventure that leads to quite the unexpected end after finding a mysterious old letter and map.  What makes this episode really enjoyable is that it actually incorporates a light history lesson along the way.  That lesson is taught so covertly that young audiences wouldn’t even know.  The series’ writers are to be commended for balancing that educational content so well with the show’s more entertaining side.  The surprising end result will leave a smile on any viewer’s face as it in itself teaches quite the valuable life lesson.  And it’s just one of the wonderful lessons shared throughout these episodes that make them such a joy.  It’s just one lesson taught in this collection of episodes.  The overlying lesson that runs through each episode is that it’s perfectly fine to have a love of knowledge.  That is key to the enjoyment of these episodes more so than any other lesson.  Being that this lessons isn’t shoved down audiences throats, the end result is even more enjoyment of each of the compilation’s episodes.

The writing used in each of this set’s episodes is of the utmost importance in considering what makes the collection work.  As important as the writing is to the overall presentation, it isn’t the only factor to be taken into consideration in the presentation’s overall enjoyment and success.  One would be remiss to omit any mention of the original animation style used in this collection of episodes.  The animation style used throughout the Geronimo Stilton animated series looks to have been actually hand drawn.  While it is possible that there might have been some computer usage, it isn’t clearly evident.  If anything, the animation used in this series is similar to that of the short-lived DC series Krypto The Superdog.  Whether or not there was some computer usage, the fact remains that in an age of cookie cutter CG-based children’s shows, animation such as this stands head and shoulders above the rest.  And together with the continued solid writing, that animation makes this box set stand out among this year’s current crop in its own right.

The animation and writing that went into each of the episodes in this set both play their own role in making Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures enjoyable for audiences of all ages.  Having examined both factors, there is still one factor left to examine that makes this DVD worth the watch.  That final factor is the voice cast.  Included among the talents that worked on the series were the likes of: Brian Drummond, Erin Matthews, Sarah Edmonson, Richard Ian Cox and many other. The significance of the series’ voice cast is that many of them have also worked together on the likes of the hit anime series Inuyasha and Dragonball Z among other TV shows and movies. So, that familiarity with one another helped in its own way here as it helped to create a certain chemistry among much of the cast. The end result of that chemistry is an easily suspended disbelief among audiences. The ability of the show’s cast to make suspension of disbelief easy for audiences couples with the series’ animation and writing to make even clearer why any family not yet familiar with Geronimo Stilton will want to check out this DVD.

Geronimo Stilton: Going Down To Chinatown And Other Adventures is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K2OBWTM/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1WPBH8WP2DTRA82510SA&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846. More information on all of the latest Geronimo Stilton books and DVDs is available online at http://www.geronimostilton.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Dragonforce’s New LP More Than Lives Up To Its Title

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Euro-metal band Dragonforce released its latest album to American audiences this week.  Maximum Overload, the band’s sixth full length studio effort, is an aptly titled record.  That is because the album pushes the envelope of power metal from start to finish on this album.  From the album’s pummeling opening number ‘The Game’ to the full throttle ‘Defenders’ to the album’s equally nonstop pounding instrumental closer ‘Galactic Astro Domination,’ the members of Dragonforce leave listeners breathless by the album’s end.’  Listeners will agree that by the time the album finally ends—it runs a total of fifteen tracks and just over an hour—they have on their hands some of the best work that the band has crafted to date.

Dragonforce wastes no time getting things moving on its new album.  The band opens the album at breakneck speed in ‘The Game.’  The song initially comes across as being rather nihilistic.  But the reality of the song is that it is in fact a song that presents hope through all of the negativity in the world.  New front man Marc Hudson starts out singing of life’s difficulties, “Messed up once again/Told me it’s okay/But this path that I’m taking/I’m lost in the deep end…I tried/So hard/To reach for the stars/But I failed you all/Tried to keep standing tall/Never had a real chance at all/But I’m still searching.  That final line in which Hudson states “But I’m still searching” is a hint at the ability of the song’s subject to keep pushing on somehow despite so many negative thoughts.  That mix of emotions and strained thoughts continues late in the song as Hudson sings, “Ten thousand ways to say sorry/But life writes its own tragic story/Time marches onwards and nothing can ever be the same/But we’ll pray for a brighter tomorrow/Break free from this lifetime of sorrow/Years pass us by/But we’re all just a part of the game.”  In its own way, the song is presenting an image of someone pushing on through everything despite what seems like a battle with his or her own personal emotional demons.  Said figure won’t let those negative emotions take over no matter how many years pass.  This is just one critic’s own take on this song.  So it could very well be wrong.  If it is in fact incorrect, then apologies go out to the members of Dragonforce for the misinterpretation.  But it certainly seems to present that message of determination through the toughest of emotional odds.  That seeming positive lyrical message set alongside the pummeling dual guitar attack from Herman Li and Sam Totman, and drummer Gee Anzalone’s machine gun-like drumming makes even clearer why this song was chosen to open Maximum Overload.  The band doesn’t stop here, either.  Rather, it keeps the energy flowing well into the red and beyond right into the album’s midpoint, ‘Defenders.’

The seeming positive lyrical message presented by Dragonforce in Maximum Overload’s opener is echoed even more clearly as the album reaches its midpoint, ‘Defenders.’  Hudson sings in this song that there are those in this world that will try to bring others down.  But one can’t let those people win.  He sings of those people, “Life’s uncertain/A rat race of pain/Endlessly searching for more/Hopeless and aimless/Held back by the chains/Until we can’t take anymore.”  For all of the obstacles in life—both physical and emotional—Hudson reminds listeners that they should not give in or give up.  He goes on to sing, “Hold on/Stay strong/Breaking out from a past life fading/No more/What for/All we got is to keep on praying/Wait for their downfall/Their lives in dismay/Witness the final decay/Suffering in silence/For years we were blind/But now we got something to say.”  It’s almost as if Hudson is saying to the band’s audiences to let life’s obstacles destroy themselves whether they be other people or some other obstacle.  As with the album’s opener, the band keeps the energy going full throttle in this song.  That energy serves to make the song even more hard hitting and even more of a valuable addition to the album in whole.

The members of Dragonforce show time and again throughout the course of Maximum Overload their high level of talent. That is clearly evident in the songs already noted here. The album’s closer, ‘Galactic Astro Domination,’ more than exhibits that talent, though. Anyone that is familiar with the work of Dragonforce’s American counterparts in Powerglove will agree that Dragonforce takes the similar sound crafted by that band and ups it by a factor of at least one hundred in this full-on instrumental attack. And considering the nonstop adrenaline rush experienced throughout the songs that precede this one, it makes for a fitting final statement from Dragonforce on its new album. Whether it be for this full throttle finale, the other pieces noted or those equally driving pieces not noted here, fans of Dragonforce will find plenty of positives throughout this latest release from start to finish. Those fans will likely also find this album playing in their CD players and MP3 players quite a bit as a result.

Maximum Overload is available in stores and online now. It can also be purchased at any of the concerts on the band’s upcoming European tour. That tour will kick off Wednesday, September 17th at the Liquid Room in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. It runs through February 1st, 2015 in Brussels, Belgium. The band’s current tour schedule, news, and latest updates are all available online now at http://www.metalblade.com/dragonforce, http://www.facebook.com/dragonforce, and http://twitter.com/dragonforcehq. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.