Kurtzman-Counter’s Miles Books Are Excellent Teaching Tools For Parents, Educators

Courtesy:  The Mother Company

Courtesy: The Mother Company

Raising children is one of the biggest challenges that anyone will face in their lives.  This critic is learning that every day being the parent of a toddler.  Other more experienced parents will agree with this statement, too.  It is a challenge because parents themselves have to find inventive ways to keep children’s attention and to reach them on their levels without really talking down to them at the same time.  Thankfully, there are any number of tools and methods for parents in their efforts to do just that.  Some of those tools and methods work relatively well.  While others not so well, obviously.  Last month, a company known as Ruby’s Studio released a pair of books for parents, children and educators that every parent and educator will find quite useful and effective and that will relate to every child.  Simply put, the books—Miles is the Boss of His Body and When Miles Got Mad—are two very effective tools in raising children both at home and in an educational setting.  The central reason that both books are such impressive tools is the fact that they are books.  In an age when even children are being groomed to be part of a digital world, it’s nice to know that some out there still believe in the physical object.  Also worth nothing is that the books have been written in such fashion as to easily reach young readers.  Audiences will also appreciate the look of the books.  Their look is very similar to a series of books written by another very well-known author of children’s books.  All three factors noted here work together to make both of these books works that prove to be just as valuable in the home as in an educational setting.

 

Parents and teachers today have so many tools and resources at their disposal for teaching children.  From CDs and video games to play computers for kids, there are so many options.  Parents and educators will note that each of those tools prepares children to be part of an increasingly digital world.  Yes, there are still books out there for children.  But increasingly those books are becoming rarer or they are moving more towards the realm of e-readers and tablets.  Some schools out there don’t even use textbooks anymore.  They have been replaced by either students or teachers with tablets and online learning.  Even parents are increasingly being encouraged by the big tech companies to teach their children using the latest, hottest tech tool.  It’s really disheartening.  So both books (and Ruby’s Studio) win major marks for this factor alone.  Children need to know what true, physical books are versus just having a cold, battery operated object in their hands, staring at a monitor all the time.  Hopefully within the context of this aspect, Ruby’s Studio won’t fall victim to that trend and will remain a company that releases books in physical form only.

 

Courtesy:  The Mother Company

Courtesy: The Mother Company

The fact that Ruby’s Studio has made both books available in physical form is the key aspect to why parents and educators alike will appreciate them.  That is parents and educators that are not afraid of using a physical book over the digital object.  Examining both books on a closer level, they have been crafted in a way that makes their topics easily accessible to young audiences.  The topics in question are themselves extremely important.  The first of the books discusses people putting their hands on children.  It lets children know that it is okay for them to set limits on how people touch them.  It goes on to let kids know that it’s okay to tell people that they don’t like to be touched one way or another.  The other book focuses on children’s feelings.  More specifically, it touches on their feelings of frustration and anger.  It emphasizes to young audiences that they should use their words instead of using their actions.  The manner in which these topics are covered makes them easily accessible for those younger audiences.  Miles and Max look and do things that any kids do.  And they aren’t in some magical land.  They are placed in real world settings.  There aren’t lots of words involved, either.  What words are used are simple enough for younger readers to grasp.  So Kurtzman-Counter has actually established a way to keep the attention of her readers and make the concepts being discussed easy to understand.  It’s a double whammy in the best way.  It means an increased chance of these topics really sinking in with kids.  Any parent or educator will admit that it takes a lot to really get certain topics to sink in with children.  Kurtzman-Counter has found one of the best ways to do so in a long time with these presentations.  It’s one more aspect of the books that makes them an important tool whether at home or a given educational setting.

 

The accessibility that Kurtzman-Counter’s books offers  her young readers is something that so many children’s authors overlook.  Believe it or not, there are some authors of children’s books that make valiant attempts to reach this audience or that.  In some cases they do succeed.  But in just as many cases, the end result is a product that is far too broad in its attempt to reach as many audiences as possible.  In turn, said book(s) present topics that only children of certain ages will grasp and enjoy.  These two books are the polar opposite.  They are a couple that succeed in entertaining and reaching children anywhere from ages three to five and maybe even six.  The fact that these topics have been broached in physical books makes them even more enjoyable.  While both aspects of Kurtzman-Counter’s books are equally important in their overall success and enjoyment, one factor remains to be noted.  That final factor is their look.  Anyone that is familiar with the work of fellow author Mo Willems will recognize the look of his Knufflebunny books in these books.  It presents young Miles as a hand drawn figure set against real life pictures as backgrounds.  This is exactly the same format used by Willems and his publishing company in the Knufflebunny books.  Whether or not the appearance of that influence was intentional, it is visible.  And it serves as even more reason for audiences of all ages to check out these books.

 

Samantha Kurtzman-Counter’s children’s books based around her fictional character Miles and his brother Max are wonderful resources for parents and teachers alike. Both books by themselves offer plenty of reason for them and younger readers alike to appreciate and enjoy them. Collectively, their positives—noted above—make both books all the more valuable whether they are used at home or in an educational setting. Both books are available now and can be ordered online http://www.rubysstudio.com/. More information on these books and others from Ruby’s Studio is available online at:

 

Website: http://www.RUBYsStudio.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheMotherCo

 

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The Midnight Special’s Re-Issues Will Have Audiences Singing, Dancing Well Past Midnight

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment/NBC

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment/NBC

StarVista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment have made quite the name for themselves over the course of recent years.  Releases of classic series such as The Carol Burnett Show, Mama’s Family, The Dean Martin Show, China Beach, and most recently The Wonder Years have taken a company that for years was the butt of many people’s jokes to a place in the upper echelons of home entertainment companies.  For years, Time Life was known mainly for the not-so-well-known products that it pushed through extended advertisements on television.  Now it has carved out even more of a comfortable place in that upper echelon with the release of The Midnight Special on DVD.  The classic late night live concert series was released in a number of formats last month, resurrecting one more important piece of television and music history.  The show’s six-disc collector’s edition is one of the best of the sets that any fan of classic television and music can add to their own home library.  That is because it is one of the best examples of what made this series so great during its nine-year run on NBC.  It presents ninety-six total performances from bands, artists and groups across the music industry’s spectrum.  The acts that make appearances throughout the set’s six discs are the center of this box set’s enjoyment and success.  Just as important to note is the quality of the footage.  More than four decades have passed since the Midnight Special first debuted in 1972.  In that time, the footage presented in these performances has stood the test of time quite well.  And last but not least worth noting in the set’s success is its companion booklet.  The booklet serves as an episode guide for viewers.  That is the central point of its importance.  It also features personal insight from the series’ creator Burt Sugarman. Sugarman’s retrospection on the series and its importance adds one more layer of appreciation for this series.  Together with the acts that appear on each set and the quality of the footage, all three factors together make The Midnight Train another wonderful release from Time  Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment.

The Midnight Special was one of the most famed and beloved series on television during its day.  Unlike so many other series of the time, acts that came on the series in its heydey actually sang instead of lip synching.  What’s more, unlike American Bandstand, The Midnight Special focused on more than just the big pop acts of its day.  The acts that came to perform on NBC’s live overnight concert series spanned the music world’s ranks.  That is the most important aspect of this recently released classic series.  The acts that performed on The Midnight Special included the likes of John Denver performing alongside Linda Rondstadt and Aerosmith performing alongside Barry White, The Stylistics, and ELO.  It also featured acts the likes of: B.B. King, Frankie Vallie, Sammy Hagar, The O’Jays, BeeGees, and so many other greats that are still remembered today.  Even the show’s host himself, radio host Wolfman Jack was a celebrity in his own right.  Even today, he and those acts noted here are just as beloved as they were decades ago.  In an era when so many musical acts are little more than flash-in-the-pan pop acts and rarely radio worthy rock bands, musicaians and audiences alike need to be reminded of what once made music great and could again–originality and real talent.  That in mind, it makes sense that the list of performers that came on The Midnight Special is the central point of this series’ success whether in its six-disc box set or its other formats.

The list of artists, bands, and groups that graced The Midnight Special’s stage during its nine-year run on NBC is the most important aspect of this series’ recent re-issue.  More than four decades have passed since it first debuted on NBC in 1972.  That makes for plenty of reason to be concerned about the quality of the show’s footage in its transfer from tape to disc.  Luckily for audiences of all ages, painstaking efforts were taken to present the performances as they appeared in their original broadcasts. Those efforts paid off in spades as both the audio and video of each performance have been well-balanced.  Any impurities in the quality of the footage whether in the audio or video are so minute that they are unnoticable.  The end result is a product that for the show’s original audiences will generate a much-welcomed sense of nostalgia.  Both for those same audiences and the show’s much younger audiences, it also serves to show just how far music has come (both in a good and bad way) and how far recording technology has come, too.  So in the end, the quality of the footage in these performances makes Time Life and StarVista’s new re-issue of The Midnight Special even more enjoyable for audiences of all ages.

The efforts taken to transfter The Midnight Special’s master tapes to disc have definitely not been for nothing.  The show looks and sounds just as good as it did in its original run all those years ago in its rencet re-issue.  The acts that appeared on the show (and that are featured on the new six-disc compilation) are just as important to the overall presentation.  Both aspects together more than make the series worth a watch or two in any of its three re-issue formats.  The last aspect of the series’ re-issue (at least in its six-disc compilation format) that makes it a success and so enjoyable is the set’s companion booklet.  The booklet serves primarily as an episode guide, pointing out disc-by-disc and episode-by-episode each artist, band, and group that appears.  That listing even includes the songs performed by said acts.  By itself, the episode listing more than helps the enjoyment of the series’ re-issue.  The added insight from series creator Burt Sugarman adds one more layer of enjoyment to the series’ various presentations.  In terms of the six-disc box set, Sugarman recalls how so few people had faith in the show and how great it felt to prove those naysayers wrong.  That insight along with other comments from Sugarman make for even more interest and enjoyment in watching the performances culled for the show’s different re-issues.  While being the last of the noteworthy factors that make The MIdnight Special so…well…special, it is hardly the least important of the factors that make the series’ sets such a joy.  This aspect, along with the quality production values and the performances culled for the releases, makes The Midnight Special a truly special experience for viewers of all ages.

The Midnight Special is available online now.  Its eleven-disc and sixteen disc sets can be ordered online direct from Time Life’s online store at http://timelife.com/products/the-midnight-special-collector-s-edition.  The six-disc collector’s edition can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Midnight-Special-6DVD-Amaray/dp/B00L9OPJ5C/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1414009549&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Midnight+Special.  More information on this and other releases from Time Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.timelife.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/TimeLifeUS

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.

ESPN Announces Women’s College Basketball Broadcast Schedule For 2014 – 2015 Season

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN announced its broadcast schedule for the upcoming 2014 – 2015 Women’s College Basketball season over the weekend.

ESPN and its family of networks will cover a total of 131 games in the upcoming 2014 – 2015 Women’s College Basketball season. Coverage on the women’s side includes coverage on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, the SEC Network and Longhorn Network. Audiences will also be able to catch a number of those games online via ESPN3 and via Satellite on ESPN Full Court. Fans can also catch games online via WatchESPN and WatchESPN.com via the WatchESPN app. The breakdown of the upcoming season’s coverage is as follows:

ESPN will carry coverage of the annual Jimmy V. Women’s Classic presented by Corona on Saturday, December 6th. The lady Huskies will take on Number 5 Notre Dame in that game in a rematch of last season’s Division I Women’s Basketball Championship.

ESPN2 will carry thirty-six of those 131 games. ESPN will carry every Big Monday matchup as well as most Sunday games throughout the season. It all starts with an opening day doubleheader November 17th featuring four ranked teams. Those teams are: two-time defending champion Connecticut,  Number 20 Stanford, Number 13 Baylor, and Number 6 Kentucky.

ESPNU will carry nineteen of the season’s games, most of which will be Sunday double headers during the conference season. It will also carry the annual Play 4 Kay tournament alongside ESPN2. The tournament brings attention to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. It is held in partnership with The V Foundation and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). That tournament is scheduled to begin February 22nd, 2015.

The SEC Network will dedicate its time to carrying more than sixty games. That schedule includes a double head every Thursday and a game of the week every Monday.

The Longhorn Network will have thirteen games. Of those thirteen games, seven will feature the Longhorns taking on a Big 12 opponent.

The information noted above is just part of the ESPN networks’ coverage of the 2014 – 2015 Women’s College Basketball season. The current full schedule of games and networks is included below.

2014-15 ESPN Network’s Women’s Basketball Schedule (subject to change)

Date Time (ET) Matchup Network
Sat, Nov 15 TBD UT San Antonio at Texas Longhorn Network
Sun, Nov 16 8 p.m. Duke at Alabama SEC Network
Mon, Nov 17 7 p.m. Tip-Off Marathon Presented by Dish: Baylor at Kentucky ESPN2
  9 p.m. Tip-Off Marathon Presented by Dish: Connecticut at Stanford ESPN2
Thu, Nov 20 7 p.m. Clemson at South Carolina SEC Network
Wed, Nov 26 8 p.m. Texas Pan American at Texas Longhorn Network
Sun, Nov 30 1 p.m. Duke at Texas A&M SEC Network
Mon, Dec 1 9 p.m. Virginia Tech at Florida SEC Network
Wed, Dec 3 7 p.m. Louisiana Tech at LSU SEC Network
  8 p.m. New Mexico at Texas Longhorn Network
Thu, Dec 4 8 p.m. Charlotte at South Carolina SEC Network
Sat, Dec 6 3:15 p.m. Jimmy V Women’s Classic Presented by Corona: Connecticut at Notre Dame ESPN
Sun, Dec 7 1 p.m. South Carolina at Duke ESPN2
  4 p.m. Michigan State at Georgia SEC Network
Mon, Dec 8 Noon Southern at Texas Longhorn Network
Wed, Dec 10 7 p.m. Wisconsin at Florida SEC Network
Fri, Dec 12 9 p.m. Middle Tennessee State at Kentucky SEC Network
Sun, Dec 14 1 p.m. Mercer at Alabama SEC Network
  3 p.m. Holiday Hoops presented by Kay Jewelers: Tennessee at Rutgers ESPN2
  Northwestern State at Texas Longhorn Network
  6 p.m. Belmont at Kentucky SEC Network
Tue, Dec 16 7 p.m. Wichita State at Tennessee SEC Network
Wed, Dec 17 8 p.m. McNeese State at Texas Longhorn Network
Sat, Dec 20 1 p.m. Stanford at Tennessee SEC Network
Sun, Dec 21 1:30 p.m. SEC/Big 12 Challenge: Texas vs. Texas A&M (Little Rock, Ark.) SEC Network
3 p.m. Holiday Hoops presented by Kay Jewelers: Kentucky at Duke ESPN2
  3:30 p.m. SEC/Big 12 Challenge: Oklahoma vs. Arkansas (Little Rock, Ark.) SEC Network
  5 p.m. Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Holiday Showcase as part of Holiday Hoops presented by Kay Jewelers: UCLA vs. Connecticut (Uncasville, Conn.) ESPN2
Sun, Dec 28 Noon East Carolina at USF ESPNU
  1 p.m. Oregon State at Tennessee SEC Network
  8:30 p.m. Temple at Memphis ESPNU
Mon, Dec 29 9 p.m. Duke at Connecticut ESPN2
Tue, Dec 30 8 p.m. Rice at Texas Longhorn Network
Fri, Jan 2 7 p.m. Auburn at South Carolina SEC Network
  9 p.m. Missouri at Tennessee SEC Network
Sat, Jan 3 8 p.m. Kansas at Texas Longhorn Network
Sun, Jan 4 1 p.m. Maggie Dixon Classic: Connecticut vs. St. John’s (New York, N.Y.) ESPN2
  1:30 p.m. Texas A&M at Arkansas ESPNU
  2 p.m. Ole Miss at Kentucky SEC Network
  3 p.m. South Carolina at LSU ESPN2
  3:30 p.m. George Washington at Dayton ESPNU
  4 p.m. Florida at Auburn

 

 

More information on this season’s coverage 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 reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Animal Tales Is An Invaluable, Enjoyable Album For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Worm Hole Productions

Courtesy: Worm Hole Productions

Children’s entertainers Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke will release their latest album Animal Tales next Tuesday, October 21st.  The new album is the fifth for the British duo.  And it is a wonderful companion piece to The Whizpops’ latest full length studio effort Sea Blue Sea.  Whereas The Whizpops take audiences below the waves in Sea Blue Sea, Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke bring audiences back to the land for a journey around the world that teaches audiences about all the different animals that populate Earth’s different regions.  Along the way, they also teach a valuable lesson about ecological conservation that it very subtly mixed in.  So it doesn’t come across as being preachy.  The end result is an album that adults will find just as entertaining and valuable as children.

Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke have crafted an album in Animal Tales that adults will value just as much as children.  One of the main reasons for this is its accessibility in terms of its writing.  The elementary biology lessons prove to be just as enlightening for children as for adults believe it or not.  One prime example of that accessibility comes in the form of ‘Bear Song.’  The song introduces audiences of all ages to just some of the different species of bears that live around the world.  The duo introduces audiences to polar bears, black bears, and koalas, pandas, and even the different species of brown bears including the kodiac and the standard brown bear. Along the way, the duo makes note of pandas being endangered but keeps the mood light by making a light hearted joke about pandas not wanting to have babies in captivity.  It’s a light hearted joke.  But there is also a certain element of seriousness to this statement.  It shows the importance of trying to breed pandas especially in zoos as a means to hopefully one day take them off of the endangered species list.  The song’s semi country-folk sound adds to its enjoyment.  It’s just one of so many different musical styles presented throughout the album.  That variety of musical elements is another aspect of Animal Tales that makes this album such a joy for audiences.

The musical trip on which Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke take listeners on the duo’s new album is the central point of this record’s enjoyment.  Speaking of the album’s music, its musical side is another reason that audiences of all ages will enjoy the album.  Wilde and Clarke present each of the record’s songs in a different musical style from the others.  ‘Armando Armadillo’ is presented accordingly against a decidedly Tex-Mex sound.  ‘The Buck Stops Here’, clocks in at just under two minutes.  But in that short time, its semi-bluegrass feel proves to be just as perfect a fit.  By direct contrast, ‘Platypus’ is presented against a playful Dixieland style musical backing.  The song’s lyrical content makes that sound even more fun for audiences.  And the laid back, bluesy sound of ‘Alligator Get-Together’ fits this song just as well as alligators are so commonly seen mostly just relaxing on the banks of rivers or swimming easily up and down said bodies of water.  It’s one more example of how the musical variety presented throughout this record makes it even more enjoyable for audiences.  What’s more, the variety of musical styles presented on this record also serves as a great starting point in terms of introducing young audiences to different musical styles.  So not only does this album serve as a great elementary level lesson on biology and conservation, but it also serves as a solid introduction for music classes, too.  Once again, audiences are presented with another reason that this record is so enjoyable.

Animal Tales offers so much enjoyment for audiences.  As noted, it is an entertaining and easily accessible musical lesson on biology and conservation.  It also serves as an equally enjoyable elementary level introduction to a number of different genres of music.  Simply put, Animal Tales is more than just a bunch of songs about animals.  It is a multi-purpose teaching tool that can be used in both an elementary level science class and a music class at the same level.  That is actually a much wider expanse of uses than some might think.  Young audiences could even use it as a learning tool at home as it does offer a number of pneumonic devices throughout each song.  That multi-purpose educational use is just as important as the record’s general entertainment value.  When both of those factors are examined in depth as has been done here, they prove once more why this record is just as entertaining and valuable in the classroom as the living room.  It is an album that adults will find just as valuable and entertaining and children.

Animal Tales will be available in stores and online next Tuesday, October 21st.  It can be ordered online direct from Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke’s website.  More information on this album, all of the latest news from Key Wilde and Mr. Clarke, and all of the duo’s latest tour updates is available online at:

Website: http://keywildeandmrclarke.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Key-Wilde-Mr-Clarke/112784651164

Twitter: http://twitter.com/wildeclarke

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.

Symmetry In Black Is A Welcome Return From Crowbar

Courtesy:  eOne Music

Courtesy: eOne Music

2014 has been quite the year for hard rock and metal.  New releases from the likes of Anti-Mortem, Fozzy, and Wovenwar have already highlighted an already busy year.  And new releases on the way from Machine Head, Exodus, and Slipknot before the year lets out are giving metalheads the world over even more reason to be excited.  If that’s not enough reason for the metal masses to be happy this year, then perhaps the latest full length studio release from Crowbar will excite some members of the metal nation.  The band released Symmetry in Black late this spring via eOne Music.  This latest record, the band’s ninth, presents some of the band’s best material to date.  One reason for the quality and heaviness of the songs on this record is the full focus of guitarist Kirk Windstein.  Having put his other projects on the side so as to give full focus to Crowbar, he sounds at the top of his game.  And along with his band mates—Matt Brunson (guitar), Tommy Buckley (drums), and Jeff Golden (bass)—the work of the New Orleans-based four-piece presents a band that is at the top of its collective game.  The songs on this album are impressive not just for their heaviness, but for their lyrical content.  The album’s opener ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely’ is proof of that.  The same can be said of ‘Teach The Blind To See,’ which comes late in the album’s run.  ‘A Wealth of Empathy’ offers its own interesting lyrical content set against some rather heavy riffs, too.  The combination of this trio of just these three works shows how much Crowbar still has to offer audiences even today.  There are nine other songs on this record from which audiences can choose their own favorite(s).  In listening through those tracks and the songs noted here, audiences new and old alike will agree again that Symmetry in Black proves to be Crowbar’s best full length studio release to date.

Crowbar’s ninth full length studio release is some of the band’s best work to date as already noted. That is evident right off the top in the album’s opener ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely.’ This song is a pure, heavy slab of southern sludge metal. Vocalist/guitarist Kirk Windstein is at the top of his game here, having put his other projects on the back burner for the time being. That pure, heavy sound set against the song’s thought provoking lyrics make it a hard-hitting return for the band. Windstein writes in this song, “My will cannot be broken/Cause when I rot I crawl back from the dead/I am the living proof/That you can right what is wrong in your head/The weak can always overcome/But only if they burn with desire.” Those few lines alone are empowering to say the very least. Their juxtaposition against the song’s dark, heavy sound makes them even more impactful. They become two polar opposites that together make a clear statement of determination and its payoff. As if that wasn’t enough of an example of the song’s message, Windstein goes on to write, “I am the living proof/That a soul can burn a thousand times/Accept what God has given you/And you’ll find the answer all around.” Don’t mistake that lien for Crowbar being a “Christian Band.” That’s hardly the case. It is simply Windstein and his band mates hammering home the fully positive message that it is possible to overcome so much of life’s negativity and difficulty. What better way to return after three years than with such a powerful musical and lyrical statement?

‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely’ is a powerful first statement from Crowbar on its new release. That’s because of the mix of its heavy sound and empowering lyrics. On the other side of things, a song such as ‘Teach The Blind To See’ will raise just as much conversation. That is thanks in large part to its lyrical content. Windstein writes in this song, “So many years so many words/Bringing honesty to you/Just follow me/You won’t regret/It’s what I do/I don’t forget/I’ll lead you to the truth.” One the one hand, one could argue that this is meant to be a social commentary of sorts. It could potentially be aimed at religious leaders whether they come from organized religion or from cults. The message would pretty much be the same regardless in that case. Making for even more conversation, Windstein goes on to write, “Know I’m not the enemy/I can teach the blind to see/Too many tears too many wounds/Bringing healing to the ill/Just follow me/You won’t regress/I’m giving life, I’m giving breath/At times it’s hard, at times I’m blind/But I bring new life to you/And in the end/That’s what is real/Cause agony will make you feel/Into freedom I lead you.” It goes without saying that this makes for even more discussion. It would be interesting to know for certain the inspiration for this song. Regardless, the fact that it has the potential to create so much discussion combined with its pummeling musical heaviness makes it one more of the best pieces on this album.

Both ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely’ and ‘Teach The Blind To See’ are important in their own right to Symmetry in Black in terms of its overall presentation. Musically, both songs are extremely heavy. Lyrically speaking, they couldn’t be more opposite from one another. One is empowering. The other seems something of a commentary. So both songs present their own value to the album in whole. They just do so in their own way. The same can be said of ‘A Wealth of Empathy.’ Much like the album’s opener, this song presents a rather positive message of hope set against a rather heavy musical side that directly contrasts its lyrical side. Windstein writes in this song of overcoming all of the negativity thrown out in life. One could actually argue in the case of this song that it is in its own right a companion to ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely’ as that song discussed trying to overcome said difficulties and negativity in life. This piece goes more in an introspective direction, with Windstein looking back on those difficulties and negativity, declaring that he has overcome them. He writes here, “I can’t explain my suffering/But I have lived through misery/My faith will pull me through/And bring to me new life/No need for sympathy/I’ve overcome/My strife/No longer feeling cold/The mind grows wise as we grow old.” That is quite the hopeful statement. And as with the album’s opener, such statement set against the song’s foreboding musical element, it makes for an even more powerful statement of personal emotional strength. That overall impact makes this song one of the highest of points on this record. Together with ‘Walk With Knowledge Wisely,’ ‘Teach The Blind To See,’ and the album’s remaining nine tracks, they make up an album that is one that any long-time fan of Crowbar will thoroughly enjoy.

Whether it be for the album’s more inspirational songs such as the pair mentioned here or for others that make up this record, every fan of Crowbar will find their own reason to enjoy this new record. It is available now in stores and online. Fans can get more info on this and other releases from Crowbar as well as the latest updates from the band online at:

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/crowbarrules

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.

BTBAM’s New Live Release Deserves A Spot On Any Critic’s List Of 2014’s Best New Live Recordings

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Between the Buried and Me’s 2012 concept album The Parallax IIFuture Sequence is one of the band’s best albums to date.  The follow-up to the band’s 2011 album The ParallaxHypersleep Dialogues, it proved to also be one of the best new metal and hard rock albums of that year.  Earlier this year, the members of BTBAM went into a studio in the band’s home state of North Carolina to record a live in-studio performance of The Parallax IIFuture Sequence.  The end result was the band’s new live recording Future SequenceLive at the FidelitoriumFuture SequenceLive at the Fidelitorium is not the first live recording from BTBAM.  Regardless, it is still a great addition to the collection of any fan of this band.  The central reason for the success of this new release is the very fact that it is a live recording that is live without actually being live in the traditional sense.  Another reason for its success is the recording’s audio and video mix.  It doesn’t leave audiences feel like they are just watching a band record in a studio space.  And last but most definitely not least of all worth noting is the very fact that Metal Blade Records has presented this recording as a bundle pack with both Blu-ray disc and an audio portion only on separate CD.  Of course that isn’t to take away from the recording’s bonus interviews with the band and the “Behind-the-Scenes feature.  The interviews show just how much thought and planning went into the process of recording the presentation here.  The Behind-the-Scenes featurette that accompanies the bonus interviews lets audiences follow the process of recording the performance, from the initial planning process to the final rehearsals before the actual recording began.  These bonuses round out the whole thing, showing why this recording is a dark horse candidate for any critic’s year-end list of the year’s best new live recordings.

Future SequenceLive at the Fidelitorium is, as noted, a dark horse candidate for a spot on any critic’s year-end list of the best new live recordings.  The main reason for that is that the members of BTBAM have crafted in this recording a presentation that is live without being live in the traditional sense of the term.  It is a live in-studio recording rather than being a live recording in front of thousands of fans.  Bassist and founding member Dan Briggs explains in the bonus interview segments that the band consciously made the decision to take this route instead of the traditional live route as it would give a different feel.  He could not be more correct in that evaluation.  BTBAM isn’t the first band to ever record a live recording in studio verses at an actual live venue.  However, the number of music acts that put out releases in this format is not as large as some might think.  Keeping that in mind, it makes this performance all the more enjoyable.  Adding even more enjoyment to the performance is that fact that it also isn’t just some run-of-the-mill making of the album presentation.  It’s better than those all too often used featurettes used to sell records.  What audiences get in this recording is the band in studio performing its hit album in its entirety.  It is like seeing the band record the album without all of the constant stop-start process and useless banter.  Keeping that in mind, the recording itself is made that much more wonderful of an experience for viewers.  It shows even more why this recording stands out in this year’s crop of live recordings as a must see.

The performance recorded by BTBAM in Future SequenceLive at the Fidelitorium is central to the success of the recording’s presentation overall.  It isn’t just some run-of-the-mill in studio piece that documents the making of a band’s album.  It is actually a full performance of the band’s album The Parallax II.  The performance just happens to be held in a studio space rather than a live venue.  Being that the performance was recorded in a studio space, the initial thought pattern among audiences might be that the audio will be hollow and that the video might be recorded in somewhat guerilla style.  The reason for that is that so many in-studio documentaries end up presenting exactly such audio and video.  Luckily for viewers the audio and video mix in this recording are collectively and completely unlike those more raw presentations.  The audio in this recording sounds just as good as that of the originally released album.  And the quality of the recording’s video is just as laudable.  What’s really interesting about the recording’s video is that while presented on Blu-ray, it presents a certain grainy quality.   It’s obvious that said effect was used intentionally.  It adds a certain depth of emotion to the presentation especially when taken into consideration with the music itself.  That wise use of video effects and equally impressive audio mix works in combination with the rather creative format of the recording to make Future Sequence: Live at the Fidelitorium even more enjoyable for the band’s fans.

The format of Future Sequence: Live at the Fidelitorium along with its production values (its audio and video) both play pivotal roles in the success and enjoyment of the recording.  Having examined both of these factors, audiences are left with one more factor to examine in this recording.  That factor is the presentation’s packaging.  The recording is presented to fans both on Blu-ray and CD in one package.  Combining both the audio-only and the AV presentation together in one package presents audiences with a complete musical experience.  As noted previously, the audio portion of the performance is just as solid as that of the original album on which this performance is based.  So listening to the performance on CD whether in the car or at home will leave listeners feel like they are actually listening to the album in question.  The inclusion of the Blu-ray disc is the center of the experience.  It brings everything full circle.  It reminds audiences that they are taking in the album in full and that they are experiencing it in a setting that is rarely used by any musical act when releasing live recordings.  Together with the other previously noted aspects of the performance, it rounds out the recording proving once more just why this recording deserves to be not just a dark horse candidate but a viable candidate for any critic’s year-ender list of the best new live recordings.  It isn’t to discount the bonus material included on the Blu-ray, either.  The bonus interviews show the members of BTBAM as not just another group of metallers, but a group of talented musicians.  The companion bonus “Behind-the-Scenes” featurette  follows the band from pre-planning to final rehearsals before taking on the performance presented in the final product.  It runs just shy of the thirty-minute mark.  Throughout that time, audiences see that preparing for a live in-studio performance takes nearly as much work as prepping for a performance in a traditional live venue.  It makes for even more appreciation of this recording and proves to be the proverbial icing on the cake or the show.  Together with everything else noted, everything noted here collectively makes Future Sequence: Live at the Fidelitorium a must see by any member of the Metal Nation worldwide.

Future Sequence: Live at the Fidelitorium is available now on Blu-ray/CD combo pack in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via Metal Blade Records’ website at http://www.metalblade.com/us/releases/between-the-buried-and-me-fidelitorium/.  More information on this and other releases from BTBAM and all of the latest news from the band is available online at:

 

Website: http://betweentheburiedandme

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/btbamofficial

 

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Set It Off’s “Duality” Is A Solid Sophomore Effort

Courtesy:  Equal Vision Records

Courtesy: Equal Vision Records

Set It Off releases its brand new full-length studio effort Duality today.  The album, the band’s second full-length release and fifth overall release is an impressive new work. That is because it does so much to continue establishing the band’s identity, separating it even more from other bands to whom it had been compared early on in its existence.  While the band exhibits quite a bit of growth on this album, it also hasn’t lost the sound that made it so popular early on among its fan base.  That makes Dualityeven more of a solid new recording from Set It Off.  The combination of the band’s musical growth is evident in the album’s lead single ‘Why Worry.’  The band’s harder edged sound is present in this song.  But there is also a poppier sound mixed into the whole.  That balance of sounds alongside the song’s thought provoking lyrics makes clear why this song was chosen as the album’s lead.  Staying on a similar page, audiences will also enjoy ‘Tomorrow.’  Its Jimmy Eat World style sound crosses with its equally optimistic lyrics to make this song just as much of a surefire hit with listeners.  On the completely opposite side of things, the lyrically searing ‘Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing’ is sure to ignite just as much of a fire in listeners because of its intensity both musically and lyrically.  These songs are just a few that exhibit what makes Dualitya solid second full-length release from Set It Off.  The album’s other eight tracks are sure to become favorites to listeners in their own right, too.  Collectively, all eleven tracks on Duality prove just why audiences will want to check out this latest release from Set It Off regardless of their familiarity with the band and its sound.

Duality is a record that every lover of rock should hear regardless of their familiarity with the band and its sound.  ‘Why Worry,’ the album’s lead single, takes the sound that made the band a fan favorite early on and mixes it with a somewhat more poppy, Fall Out Boy style sound in its chorus to make a song that proves to be quite catchy musically speaking.  The song’s positive lyrics make this piece even more enjoyable.  Front man Cody Carson sings in the song’s opening verse, “This sinking feeling sets/It feels just like a hole inside your chest/I know you’re thinking No, no, no, no it is easier said than done/But please let me attest/I know it’s hard/You’re feeling like you’re trapped/But that’s how you react/When you cannot see the light/But try and see the light/I’m telling you no, no, no, no you’re the only one/Standing in your way/Just take a breath/Relax/And tell me….Why/Please tell me why do we worry.”  The song comes across as addressing those individuals that think to themselves “Oh woe is me.” Carson says to those people in an attempt to motivate them, “You’re the only one/Standing in your way.”  The song’s second verse in which Carson sings about handling each day’s difficulties as they come rather than trying to cross bridges that don’t yet exist.  It proves to be quite the enlightening work and uplifting at the same time.  The addition of the song’s catchy hooks and choruses make it even more enjoyable and clearer why it was chosen as the album’s lead single.  Thanks to a partnership with Fuse TV, audiences can check out the song’s brand new companion video online at http://www.fuse.tv/videos/2014/10/set-it-off-why-worry-premiere. 

‘Why Worry’ was an excellent first choice to represent what Duality has to offer audiences.  Its combination of catchy hooks and choruses alongside its positive lyrics will both move listeners and get them moving.  Much in the same vein, ‘Tomorrow’ offers its own enjoyment and positivity.  Intended or not, this song exhibits something of a Jimmy Eat World style sound in its musical side.  Lyrically, it is just as uplifting as ‘Why Worry.’  Carson sings in this song, “They’re gonna try to clip your wings/Lock you up and make you sing/But they’ll never cage your dreams/So fly away/Cause we’ve got tomorrow/We’re the pages in the wind/We’ve got tomorrow/We’re the tale that lies within/There’s always another day/Another night/A bittersweet blessing in disguise/Tomorrow/We’re the authors of our lives tomorrow.”  Carson’s note that there’s always another “bittersweet blessing in disguise” is such a short statement.  But it speaks volumes.  He is saying that even things that seem bad could be blessings in disguise. And those hidden blessings are what make tomorrow better than today.  It is truly a positive message.  It is a message from which audiences of all ages can take some heart and hope.  That positive message set against the song’s catchy musical side makes it another of the best of this record’s moments.

The positive messages and catchy music that make up ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Why Worry’ make these songs two of the brightest moments on Duality.  On the completely opposite side of things, the lyrically searing ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ is certain to get any listener’s adrenaline flowing.  The song’s title and its lyrics leave zero doubt as to what the song’s topic.  It is a full-on lyrical assault on those that would attempt to lie and deceive others.  Those people include those people that call themselves friends but are so fast to stab people in the back among others.  Cody makes this painfully clear as he sings right off the top of the song, “Beware, beware be skeptical/Of their smiles/Their smiles of plated gold/Deceit so natural/But a wolf in sheep’s clothing is more than a warning.”  He goes on to sarcastically use nursery rhymes to illustrate his point.  That use of children’s nursery rhymes as a juxtaposition of children’s mentality to that of older individuals adds even more punch to the song.  And Carson’s diatribe that builds into the song possesses enough vitriol to make Eminem proud.  Though in his defense, who wouldn’t want to scream “Burn in Hell!” to those that have deceived us for one reason or another?  It is a powerful finishing touch to what is one more of Duality’s best moments.    Together with the likes of ‘Why Worry’ and ‘Tomorrow,’ Set It Off has proven once again why it is one of the best in the next generation of its genre.

‘Why Worry,’ ‘Tomorrow,’ and ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ are each excellent examples of what makes Duality a solid sophomore effort from Set It Off.  They aren’t the only positives to this album in whole, though.  The album’s gentle closer ‘Miss Mysterious’ is the polar opposite of the album’s opener ‘The Haunting.’  ‘Bleak December’ also offers its own value to the whole as does ‘N.M.E.’  All things considered, Duality is proof that Set It Off has just started and the future looks bright for this u-and-coming band.  The band will hit the road in support of Duality beginning tomorrow, October 15th in Orlando, Florida on the “Black Mass 2014” tour presented by Hot Topic.  Also along for the ride will be Black Veil Brides, Falling in Reverse, and Drama Club.  The tour brings all four bands to North Carolina next month.  It will make a stop at The Fillmore in Charlotte, North Carolina on December 5th.  Tickets for the concert can be ordered online via Ticketmaster.  Set It Off’s complete tour schedule is available online along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.setitoffband.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/setitoff

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

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.