Throwdown’s First Full-Length Record In Five Years Proves Throwdown Is As Strong As Ever

Courtesy: eOne Music

Courtesy: eOne Music

Veteran California-based hardcore band Throwdown has been making music for the masses for nearly two decades.  The band originally formed in 1997 and released its debut album Beyond Repair only two years later through independent label Indecision Records.  Since the release of that album, Throwdown has gone on to release six more albums despite a number of changes in lineups and labels.  And each of those subsequent records has been met with praise from critics and fans alike.   The band’s latest full-length studio release Intolerance is no exception to that standard.  From start to finish, the album’s mix of musical and lyrical content have proven Intolerance to be some of the band’s best work to date.  Right off the top, front man Dave Peters and bassist Matt Mentley prove along with studio drummer Jarrod Alexander and studio guitarist Dave Nassie just why this album is deserving of that acclaim.  ‘Fight or Die’ is a pummeling opener.  Its mix of semi-social commentary and full throttle musical side instantly conjures thoughts of Hatebreed.  The album’s third track is one of the best of the album’s tracks thanks to that same driving tempo.  Peters’ declaration of his continued dedication to the Straight Edge lifestyle set against that pummeling musical side makes this song one that is perfect for any live performance from the band.  And then there is the slightly slower but still just as hard-hitting ‘Suffer, Conquer’ which offers its own social commentary.  Each of these songs in their own way proves why Intolerance is the best material that Throwdown has released to date.  That is not to take anything away from the other eight songs that make up this record.  Each of those songs offers its own extra element of enjoyment for audiences, proving once again why this is some of the best material that Throwdown has released to date.

The members of Throwdown prove right from Intolerance’s opener that even having gone five year since its last album, it hasn’t lost a single step.  Musically speaking, ‘Fight or Die’ instantly conjures thoughts of fellow hardcore band Hatebreed.  That should come as no surprise especially considering that the album was produced by ZEUSS.  ZEUSS is also known for having produced records for both Hatebreed and Shadows Fall among others.  Lyrically, its semi-social commentary adds even more punch to the song.  Peters writes in this song, “The life I knew is but a memory, a better time corroded by a harsh reality/What have we let ourselves become/A mercenary culture doomed to burn/So tell me what it’s gonna be when fire lights your city’s streets/Fight or die/It’s your only choice to survive/Fight or die/When fear and chaos collide/What the f*(& has thsi world come to/I just don’t know/What the f^*) are you gonna do when the lights go black.”  This comes across as a rather scathing indicment concerning the current state of both the United States and the world in whole.  He asks blatantly, what has this world come to?  He goes on in the song’s next verse noting that people’s rights are being infringed on and that people need to stand up for said rights.  That intensity in Peters’ delivery coupled with the song’s musical intensity makes this song the perfect first impression from the band in its return after a five year absence.

The musical and lyrical intensity established by Throwdown in Intolerance’s opener doesn’t let up a single bit after that song ends.  It is just exhibited in different ways throughout the course of the album’s remaining ten tracks.  One of the most noticeable ways in which it varies is exhibited in the anthemic ‘Avow.’  Those that know the history of Throwdown know of its links to the straight edge culture.  Peters directly addresses the excesses commonly associated with the music world (specifically rhe punk) in this song, writing, “A poison tide, corrosive and alive/Rising to obliterate the weak/Anchored in spite, an unpolluted mind/This covenant, I’m sworn to keep…’cause I avow/I avow…to this straight edge.”  He goes on to write that he has stuck to that straight edge lifestyle throughout the course of the band’s life despite everything that has happened to the country’s culture.  He writes, “Twenty years, and everything has changed/A culture suffocated beneath the lies/Twenty years and I still remain/My allegiance never f&^$)* dies…Never dies/I avow…to the straight edge.”  Sure it comes across as being a little bit self-congratulatory.  But when taking into consideration the number of bands that have suffered losses among their numbers over the years, or have broken up as a result of the excesses tied to the music industry, it becomes far less self-congratulatory.  Rather, it becomes a reassurance to Peters himself and to Throwdown’s fans saying, “Hey, I’m still here.  We’re still here as a band despite our lineup changes and label changes.  We’re still here.”  It becomes a piece to really take in even more seriously when thinking about all of that.  And when really considered, audiences will see just how important of an addition ‘Avow’ is to the album in whole, especially being the number of years that have passed between this album and the band’s last full-length release.

Both ‘Avow’ and ‘Fight or Die’ are solid additions to Intolerance when considering them both by themselves and as part of the album in whole.  The 1-2 punch of the songs’ lyrics and music make them both excellent examples of what makes this album work as well as it does.  There is at least one more song that audiences will agree serves as a good representation of the album’s strength if not more.  The song in question is ‘Suffer & Conquer.”  Much like the album’s opener, it is marked by some very Hatebreed style guitar work and vocals on its musical side.  Its lyrical side is just as strong.  Peters writes in this song, “You want respect because you put in your time/Entitled and indignant, you resign to a lie/Now I’m not saying that it’s time to concede/But in your disillusion you forgot what it means to/Suffer, suffer to succeed.”  Everybody knows at least one person like the one described in this song.  Said person is a gloryhog who is reality rather lazy but thinks the world owes him or her everything.  This is someone that has become all too comfortable and perhaps even complacent in his or her situation.  Peters’ verbal assault on said figure continues through the course of the song.  Such ability to relate to audiences and continued intensity makes this song one more of this album’s highest points.  Together with the likes of ‘Avow’ and ‘Fight or Die,’ it exhibits even more why Throwdown is just as strong as ever almost two decades into its life.  They collectively exhibit, too why Intolerance is a welcome return from Throwdown after having released its last album five years ago.

‘Fight or Die,’ ‘Avow,’ and ‘Suffer, Conquer’ are all excellent examples of why Throwdown’s fans will want to hear this album if they have not yet heard it.  They are merely the songs that this critic personally felt best represent Intolerance.  Audiences will find their own favorites among the album’s remaining eight tracks not noted here when they hear this record for themselves.  The album is available now in stores and online.  All of the latest updates from the band are available online at http://www.facebook.com/throwdownOC.  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.

PBS To Release New Bing Crosby Documentary This Fall

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

PBS announced Wednesday that it will release a new documentary centered on legendary entertainer Bing Crosby this fall.

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered will be released on DVD Tuesday, December 2nd. The documentary focuses on Crosby’s role in the entertainment industry during his career. It also takes a look at the man behind the legend. Veteran actor Stanley Tucci (Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Hunger Games, The Terminal) narrates the program. All of the surviving members of Crosby’s family—his wife Kathryn, daughter Mary, and sons Harry and Nathaniel–are featured in interviews included throughout the program. Fellow entertainers Tony Bennett and Michael Feinstein also share their reflections on Crosby and his legacy along with producer Ken Barnes, biographer Gary Giddins, and writers Buz Kohan and Larry Grossman. Emmy Award-winning director Robert Trachtenberg helms the documentary. It will not be the first time that Trachtenberg has helmed an episode of American Masters. He also helmed episodes that focused on the likes of Cary Grant, Mel Brooks, and fellow acclaimed director George Cukor.

Trachtenberg discussed his thoughts on this latest episode of American Masters. He noted that it was not just Crosby’s achievements as an entertainer that lured him to the project, but who Crosby was out of the limelight that interested him in. “Bing’s remarkable appeal, which continues to this day, was in his seemingly effortless ability to pull an audience in to his intimate, laid-back voice,” he said. He added to that thought, saying, “With the new material I’ve found, I think the breadth, depth and candor of his story will hopefully allow people to see him in a new light.” American Masters Executive Producer Michael Kantor echoed Trachtenberg’s thoughts, noting, “Much like his talent, Bing Crosby is a natural for the series. With more No. 1 recordings than anyone, it is easy to overlook all of his other achievements. Thankfully, this film delves deeply into all of his remarkable work, and will surprise many viewers with a unique perspective on his private life.”

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered will be available Tuesday, December 2nd on DVD and on DVD/CD combo pack. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/search/index.jsp?kwCatId=&kw=bing%20crosby%20rediscovered&origkw=bing+crosby+rediscovered&sr=1. More information on this and other episodes of American Masters is available online at:

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AmericanMasters

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(Hed) p.e. Announces New Slate Of North American Tour Dates

Courtesy:  Pavement Entertainment

Courtesy: Pavement Entertainment

(Hed) p.e. announced a new slate of tour dates this week.

The band announced that it will hit the road for a whole new slate of North American tour dates this fall and winter beginning Thursday, November 20th. The tour is in support of its latest album Evolution. The album, the band’s ninth full-length studio effort, was released July 22nd. It can be downloaded now via iTunes. Psychostick will join (Hed) p.e. for a handful of dates from Wednesday, November 26th to Wednesday, December 3rd. And Dope will also come on board for one show on Sunday, November 30th.

Beginning Thursday, December 4th, (Hed) p.e. will join Nonpoint on its headlining tour. Nonpoint is currently touring in support of its own new release The Return. The Return is the eighth full-length studio release from Nonpoint. The full schedule for (Hed) p.e.’s upcoming North American tour is listed below.

Tour DATES:

Thu 20 Nov Eau Claire, WI Hipps Pub
Fri 21 Nov Lombard, IL Brauer House
Sat 22 Nov Janesville, WI Back Bar
Sun 23 Nov Mishawka, IN Smith’s Downtown
Tue 25 Nov Chesterfield, MI Diesel Concert Lounge
Wed 26 Nov Dayton, OH Oddbody’s PSYCHOSTICK support
Fri 28 Nov New York, NY Blackthorne PSYCHOSTICK support
Sat 29 Nov Poughkeepsie, NY The Chance PSYCHOSTICK support
Sun 30 Nov Baltimore, MD Fishhead Cantina DOPE / PSYCHOSTICK=SUPPORT
Tue 02 Dec Virginia Beach, VA Shakus PSYCHOSTICK support
Wed 03 Dec Winchester, VA Blue Fox Billiards PSYCHOSTICK support
Thu 04 Dec Cleveland, OH Agora Ballroom NONPOINT/ HED PE
Fri 05 Dec Rochester, NY Montage Music Hall NONPOINT/ HED PE
Sat 06 Dec Worcester, MA Paladium NONPOINT/ HED PE
Sun 07 Dec Portland, ME Asylum NONPOINT/ HED PE
Tue 09 Dec Richmond, VA Canal Club NONPOINT/ HED PE
Wed 10 Dec Morgantown, WV Schmitt’s Saloon NONPOINT/ HED PE
Fri 12 Dec Traverse City, MI Ground Zero NONPOINT/ HED PE
Sat 13 Dec Flint, MI Machine Shop NONPOINT/ HED PE
Sun 14 Dec Beckley, WV Munchez NONPOINT/ HED PE
Mon 15 Dec Atlanta, GA Masquerade NONPOINT/ HED PE
Wed 17 Dec Clarksville, TN The Warehouse NONPOINT/ HED PE
Thu 18 Dec St Louis, MO Mad Magician NONPOINT/ HED PE
Fri 19 Dec Springfield, IL Boondocks NONPOINT/ HED PE
Sat 20 Dec Columbus, OH Al Rosa Villa HED PE/ NONPOINT
Sun 21 Dec Steger, IL Another Hole In The Wall

All of the latest schedule updates and news from (Hed) p.e. is available online at:

Website: http://www.hedperocks.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hedpe

Twitter: http://twitter.com/hedpe

MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/hedpe

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.

The World Needs More Red Skelton And Less Blue Comedy

Courtesy: Timeless Media/Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Timeless Media/Shout! Factory

Television has come a long way since its heyday.  That’s not necessarily a good thing, though.  Between the advent of mobile video and the seemingly endless stream of overly violent and sexualized dramas and comedies available to audiences today, it has come a long way in the wrong direction.  Television used to be something that would bring families together.  Now it has become an increasingly divisive medium aimed at specific audiences from one time slot to another.  Whether it be those series aimed more at younger audiences or those geared more towards older audiences, they all seem to be equally violent and sexualized.  The result is that families rarely ever sit down together to sit down together to watch television.  The advent of mobile video hasn’t helped with this, either.  Thanks to Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory though, audiences have been given plenty of alternatives to that programming in recent years.  They have released titles such as I Spy: The Complete Series, The Gene Autry Show: The Complete Series, Highway 66 and others in recent years, much to the pleasure of classic television lovers such as this critic.  Earlier this year, Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory even went so far as to release The Red Skelton Show: the Lost Episodes.  Now they have followed up that release with the brand new release of another great classic in the form of The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 – 1955.  This new box set from Timeless Video and Shout! Factory is another excellent addition to the home library of any true fan of classic television.  The primary reason that classic TV fans will love this latest box set is for the show itself. To be more exact, audiences will appreciate the largely family friendly nature of the episodes that span these episodes.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this latest collection of Red Skelton Show episodes is the quality of the footage.  The footage in these episodes has truly stood the test of time.  It looks just as it did in the episodes’ original broadcasts decades ago on NBC.  Last but hardly least worth noting about this set is its packaging.  The set is comprised of eleven discs, the eleventh being a disc loaded with bonus features.  There’s no easy way to package so many discs in one set.  But Timeless Video and Shout! Factory pulled it off.  All three aspects taken collectively into consideration, they make The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 – 1955 a set that any true lover of television’s golden era will want to add to their personal DVD library.

The Red Skelton Show is one of the great comedy sketch shows to ever grace television screens across the country during its two decade-long run.  The brand of comedy presented by Skelton and his cast mates has influenced countless comedians and actors throughout the decades since its original broadcast from 1951 – 1971.  By comparison to the brand of comedy being offered to audiences today, the comedy presented in The Red Skelton Show is an example of what once made comedy great.  It serves as an example of everything that comedy has lost since shows such as this ended.  That is the central reason that audiences will enjoy this latest collection of episodes from Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory.  As audiences will see in these episodes, Skelton and his cast mates needed only rely on its physical comedy and family friendly writing to entertain audiences.  That same physical comedy and family friendly writing is just as entertaining today as it was decades ago.  Audiences will love watching Skelton’s prat falls and his monologues that start every episode.  It’s so easy to see just how many of today’s comedians have been influenced by Skelton’s physical comedy alone.  The various characters that he portrays are just as funny.  And even when his cast mates join in the fun, things never get too blue for audiences.  Though, older audiences will probably appreciate some of the sketches more than younger audiences.  From some not-so-lightly veiled political commentary to a skit about the reality of married life to Skelton taking on the role of a male ballet dancer and more, the skits within each episode will have audiences laughing uproariously.  Some might even be surprised at how much they will laugh.  The constant show-ending bit of Skelton being pulled under the curtain will have audiences laughing just as much no matter how many times it happens.  The fact that these episodes can entertain audiences of all ages so much even today with its older brand of comedy is a true testament to the work of the show’s writers and its cast, Skelton included.

The brand of comedy presented across the episodes in The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years–1951 - 1955 is a big part of what makes this set well worth the purchase by any true classic TV connoisseur.  The brand of comedy presented in this series can be seen in the likes of The Carol Burnett Show, The Sonny & Cher Show and other variety shows of the ilk.  It’s just one part of why audiences will appreciate this latest release.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this box set is the footage itself.  Almost sixty-five years have passed since the show’s debut in 1951.  And nearly sixty years have passed since 1955.  The footage presented in this box set has stood the test of time quite well since then.  The footage looks just as it did in the show’s original broadcast so many decades ago.  That is a testament to the work of those charged with resurrecting these only reels that remain from the series.  While television in the 1950s was not exactly on the level of today’s television in terms of its resolution, there’s still something special about seeing this old footage. It’s like finding an original 45 rpm record and hearing that static from days gone by once the needle drops.  It’s just a special feeling that can’t fully be explained in words.  The best way to understand it is for viewers to see these episodes for themselves.  Audiences will understand and appreciate the look of the footage when they pick up this box set for themselves.  That understanding and appreciation will in turn lead viewers to be in agreement as to why the episodes’ footage is just as important as the episodes themselves to the episodes’ enjoyment.

The quality of the episodes’ footage, the writing for each episode and the acting on the part of the show’s cast (I.E. the episodes overall) collectively does so much to make The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years—1951 – 1955 a wonderful addition to the personal collection of any classic television connoisseur. The packaging of the set is just as important as the set’s content and the look of the episodes in their presentation. Its final count is eleven discs. There’s no easy way to package that many discs into a single box set without a certain amount of space being taken up on a DVD rack. So taking that into account, the means of packaging in this set is itself worth noting. The set’s primary ten discs are placed inside their own slim cases inside the bigger box. Each slim case holds two discs. The eleventh and final disc contains the set’s bonus material in its own slim case. Again, it’s not the smallest box. But considering the fact that the people at Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory took the high road makes it impressive in its own right. There are companies out there even today that package multi-disc sets by overlapping discs within the boxes. That is hardly smart. It means the potential of scratching the set’s discs. Such a practice greatly reduces the life of discs in said boxes and eventually wasted money on the part of the consumer. So while the packaging for The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years—1951 – 1955 may come across as slightly bulky, the reality of the packaging is that it is actually quite smart. Even if the companies had packaged the set with two boxes holding five discs in one and six in the other, the end result would still have been about the same. Again, the conclusion is that Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory have taken the smart route with the set’s packaging. That smart packaging along with the quality of the footage and the episodes themselves collectively makes The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years—1951 – 1955 that much more of a must have for any true fan of classic television and for anyone looking for a way to bring the family back together every now and then for some quality time together.

The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years—1951 – 1955 is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online direct from the Timeless Video store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/the-red-skelton-show-the-early-years-1951-1955. More information on this and other releases from Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory is available online at:

 

Website: https://www.shoutfactory.com/tentpoles/timeless-media-group

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Timeless-Media-Group/358391474233364

 

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Daugherty, Others Staying With ESPN After 2014 NASCAR Season Ends

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN and NASCAR are parting ways at the end of the 2014 season. Despite this change, there’s good news for audiences and ESPN’s NASCAR broadcast team. ESPN announced this week that analyst and team owner Brad Daugherty will remain with the worldwide leader in sports.

ESPN announced this week that Daugherty will join ESPN’s basketball broadcast team beginning Monday, December 1st. Daugherty is a former five-time NBA All-Star and college basketball standout. He will serve as an analyst on ESPN’s NBA Tonight, NBA Coast to Coast, and SportsCenter regularly. He will also make appearances on ESPNU’s ACC Sunday Night package along with other other programming across the ESPN family of networks.

Before joining ESPN’s NASCAR broadcasts, Daugherty served as a reporter for ESPN and ABC’s college basketball from 1999 – 2001. Prior to joining ESPN’s ranks, he also served as a game analyst for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs local broadcasts. His playing career included eight seasons as a member of the Cavaliers after being selected in the first round of the NBA Draft in 1986. He averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during his career. His love for NASCAR showed throughout his career as he wore the number 43 in honor of “The King” Richard Petty. The Cavs retired his number in 1997.

Daugherty is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill at the age of 16 and graduated from the university in 1986. He was named an All-ACC player twice during his college career and a first-team All-American in his senior year at the university. He averaged 20.2 points and 9 rebounds per game during his senior year at UNC.

Daugherty’s is not the only move that ESPN has announced in regards to the network’s NASCAR broadcast team. Veteran racer and long-time ESPN NASCAR analyst Ricky Craven recently signed a new deal with ESPN that will see him remain with the network as a NASCAR analyst for SportsCenter and other ESPN news platforms. Nicole Briscoe, it was announced last month, will serve as an anchor on SportsCenter and will also take on additional assignments. And reporter Marty Smith will stay on board with ESPN, too. He will remain with ESPN as a Bureau Reporter for ESPN. Allen Bestwick, who has led ESPN’s NASCAR coverage each week, will remain with the network, too. He will stay on to call ESPN’s IndyCar races and to cover tennis and golf coverage. He will also anchor some programming on ESPN’s new SEC Network.

More information on ESPN’s on-air staff and all of the latest sports headlines from ESPN is available online at:

Website: http://espn.go.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ESPN

Twitter: http://twitter.com/espn

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.

Laurie Berkner Band’s New Hits Compilation Will Be A Hit In Any Pre-School Setting

Courtesy:  Two Tomatoes Records/Razor & Tie

Courtesy: Two Tomatoes Records/Razor & Tie

The Laurie Berkner Band released its latest hits compilation The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection this month.  The compilation of songs is not the first hits collection released by Berkner and her band mates.  However, it is still an enjoyable collection in its own right.  This is especially the case for any early childhood educator, as audiences will learn in listening to the compilation.  It is loaded with songs that are a good fit for any pre-school setting.  One of the best of those songs is ‘My Energy.’  This is a great song as educators can use it to get kids moving and get out their energy.  ‘Mahalo’ is another good addition to this collection of songs.  That is because it proves to be a multi-purpose song.  That will be discussed at more length later.  Perhaps most interesting of all the songs in this collection, is the inclusion of the standard ‘The Cat Came Back.’  That, too will be discussed at a later point.  It is a good addition to this collection, regardless.  And it isn’t the only positive addition to the record in whole, either.  ‘Drive My Car’ harkens back to another standard.  And the record’s opener ‘Walk Along The River’ is a wonderful celebration of one of childhood’s joys much like ‘Running Down The Hill.’  These are each positive additions to The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection as are the compilation’s other tracks in their own right.  Altogether, the songs culled together for this record prove why it is a welcome addition to any pre-school classroom.

The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band is a welcome addition to any pre-school classroom setting.  The reason being the songs culled for the compilation mix together catchy, simple tunes with lyrics that teach equally simple lessons.  The end result of that combination is a grouping of songs that proves to be a useful teaching tool for any early childhood educator.  One song that proves this is the up-tempo ‘My Energy.’  This song is a great tool in itself for said teachers.  Berkner sings more with her young listeners than to them about having so much energy.  Interestingly enough, the song’s musical style contradicts its title and its lyrics.  That’s not to say that it doesn’t possess any energy.  Rather, its energy is not as frenetic as one might think.  That aside it will still have young listeners singing and dancing along.  So to that extent, it still proves to be a good addition to this compilation in its own right.

‘My Energy’ is a good addition to The Laurie Berkner Band’s new hits compilation.  It serves as a good tool for pre-k teachers looking for a way to get kids active in the classroom whether in sun, rain or other inclimate weather.  It helps get kids’ energy out while also entertaining them at the same time.  That dual use makes it one of the record’s best pieces.  Staying on that same thought pattern, ‘Mahalo’ is another great addition to this compilation as it too proves to be a dual-use song.  On one side, the song introduces young listeners to a whole new culture through the use of traditional Hawaiian music and instrumentation, and the most basic of Hawaiian language.  On the other, Berkner and her band mates give teachers a way to start a lesson on manners having crafted a song here that centers on the words “thank you.”  That in itself could lead to discussions with young children about being grateful for what they have.  The song comes in at just over two minutes.  For such a short song to have so many purposes makes it even more worth the listen, and even more valuable an addition to this latest hits compilation from Berkner and her band mates.

The songs that make up The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band’s new hits compilation each possess the ability to both educate and entertain young listeners in a variety of ways.  That is evidenced in the previously noted songs.  While many of the songs on this compilation offer a good balance of education and entertainment, there are those pieces that are strictly there for entertainment.  They add their own layer of enjoyment, too.  One of the most interesting of those songs is Berkner’s rendition of the children’s standard ‘The Cat Came Back.’  The song is rooted in Harry S. Miller’s 1893 song by the same name.  Since its first publication over a hundred and twenty years ago, the song has seen its lyrics change multiple times as it has been passed down from one generation to the next.  The rendition handled by Berkner and her band mates here is just as entertaining as any other rendition.  Unlike the original in which the cat died, Berkner is content having the cat survive a train wreck and come back once more.  The train element is a constant in many of the song’s variations.  However its use within the context of the song has varied within each of the song’s variations.  Adam Bernstein’s walking bass line drives the whole thing, making it all the more enjoyable and one of the compilation’s best moments, too.  It proves to be one more reason for any early childhood educator to add this record to their daily lessons.

‘The Cat Came Back,’ ‘My Energy,’ and ‘Mahalo’ are each excellent examples of why The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection is a welcome addition to any pre-k classroom.  They are just a few examples of what makes this album so enjoyable for young listeners and teachers alike.  Listeners will also enjoy ‘Drive My Car’ as it harkens back to another standard in the form of ‘Bear Hunt’ with its use of sound effects and acting out behaviors.  ‘Walk Along The River’ and ‘Running Down The Hill’ both celebrate the joys of childhood in their own ways.  They, too will entertain young listeners as well as older audiences.  The same can be said of any of the compilation’s twenty-plus songs that haven’t been noted here.  Collectively, the songs on this record will impress any listener whether they are familiar with Berkner’s previous work or not.  The record is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Berkner’s website at http://www.laurieberkner.com.  Fans can also check out her official website for all of her latest news and tour schedule updates.  They can also keep up with the latest from Berkner and her band mates via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LaurieBerknerBand. 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.

Independent Indian Prog-Metal Band’s New Single Is A Deeply Compelling Work

Courtesy:  Symphony Novel

Courtesy: Symphony Novel

India-based progressive metal band Symphony Novel recently debuted its latest single.  ‘Ethereal Ash,’ the band’s latest single is a piece that is unlike the works crafted by most other bands of its ilk.  Its mix of traditional Indian musical styling and heavier, progressive metal makes for a song that defies the standards of progressive metal itself.  The song’s rather thought provoking lyrics set against that hybrid musical side makes the song even more intriguing for anyone looking for something that will actually make audiences stop for once and take real notice.  The song’s companion video adds even more depth, making for even more interest among audiences.  Together with the song’s lyrical and musical side, it serves to make ‘Ethereal Ash’ a song that everyone should hear at least once.

One of the most common practices that many American rock bands use in their records is incorporating a Middle Eastern sound into its music.  It’s something that’s used all too often in the hard rock world.  Save for indie rock band Boy Hits Car, few other bands today have really utilized Indian music in their records.  So hearing a band from India actually turning the tables and utilizing more Western elements into its own sound to create this song is actually relatively original.  That hybrid sound is the core of what makes ‘Ethereal Ash’ so intriguing.  The dual guitar attack of Vivek Khati and Rachit Sachdeva conjures thoughts of Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci’s own work.  And the harmonies created by Gauri Ayeer and Suvarna Tiwari’s dual vocals are so haunting to say the very least.  There is so much power in the subtle manner in which they carry their parts.  The addition of a cello line to the song adds even more depth to the song’s musical side that must be heard to be fully appreciated.  As subtle as it is, this part combined with the heavier elements of the song’s musical side adds so much emotional depth to the song.  ‘Etheral Ash’s’ musical side is by itself an impressive part of the whole song.  The reality of the matter is that if the song were to have only its musical side to boast, it would still be just as interesting as it is with its lyrical side.  Speaking of the song’s lyrical side, the lyrics are one more element of ‘Ethereal Ash’ that makes it such an interesting work.

The musical side of ‘Etheral Ash’ by itself makes this latest single from Symphony Novel worth more than just one listen.  It makes the song one that anyone looking for something truly original should hear.  The lyrical side of ‘Ethereal Ash’ takes the song’s musical side and adds even more depth to the song.  The band explains that the song’s lyrical content is rather socially charged.  It centers on mankind’s mistreatment of the Earth, and the potential outcome of mankind’s mistreatment.  Ayeer and Tiwari sing in the song’s opening verse, “Rain falls again/Unfurls wild color/The earth smirks insane/Carpets the stain of sorrow/New wings span everywhere/Embrace the veil of destiny.”  The band urges a warning in the song’s verse with Ayeer and Tiwari singing, “Heavens are clear now/But it wouldn’t last forever/Winds stay sealed in a jar/Away from all the torture/Silence kills me now/Leaves a trail of bleeding tears/From the pages of a story foretold/Epiphany.”  Sachveda notes of these words that they are meant metaphorically, saying that mankind has done such damage to Earth that the winds themselves want to be put in a jar away from all of the bad things humans have done to the planet.  He goes on to note that the lines regarding all of this environmental destruction were foretold.  That likely isn’t necessarily a reference to Nostradamus but to other “prophecies.”  Things only get more dire in the song’s second verse with Ayeer and Tiwari singing of crashing waves (tsunamis) and other signs of the prophecy in question.  Sachveda notes that in writing this line, he was thinking of all of the natural disasters that have been ravaging the Earth in recent years, thus that verse was written.  It’s a foreboding warning, true.  But it is also a very powerful statement, too.  It was not meant to be preachy, but rather to get people to sit up and take notice of what humans have done to the world.  He wanted to get people to consider the ramifications of the damage being done to the Earth without being preachy but rather more poetic.  The good news is that said goal was attained and done expertly, too.  It really doesn’t come across as just another nihilistic downer of a song.  But it definitely does hit hard when taking those lyrics into consideration.  Taking also into consideration such hard-hitting lyrics next to the song’s deeply emotional musical side, ‘Ethereal Ash’ becomes an even more powerful piece for audiences to take in.

The combination of ‘Ethereal Ash’s’ musical and lyrical sides makes this song a hard hitting work.  They combine to make a song that is just as strong as anything released by Symphony Novel’s more well-known prog-rock counterparts both stateside and overseas.  Given the chance, ‘Ethereal Ash’ could make Symphony Novel one of the next big names in prog-metal and even world music.  Thankfully, the band has increased its chances of the song being heard around the world as it has posted the song’s companion video online via YouTube.  Audiences can view the video online now at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqRPUvJkPqI.  The video incorporates that element of a prophecy of sorts to add even more depth to the song.  It presents right off the top, a document that is surrounded by candles in an otherwise dark room.  That same document comes into play throughout the course of the song, with the song’s lyrics fading in and out.  This is mixed in with shots of the band recoding the song in the studio.  It heightens the song’s emotional impact even more when given full attention.  That added emotion coupled with the combination of the song’s musical and lyrical sides prove even more why ‘Ethereal Ash’ is the song that could help Symphony Novel become one of the next big names in the realm of prog-metal.

‘Ethereal Ash’ is Symphony Novel’s latest single.  The band’s debut album ARIA is available online now via Amazon, CDBaby, and other online retailers.  More information on that album and all of the latest news from Symphony Novel is available online at:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SymphonyNovel

Twitter: http://twitter.com/SymphonyNovel

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