I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two More Than Lives Up To Its Title

Courtesy:  Paramount/CBS DVD

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS DVD

Next Tuesday, Paramount and CBS DVD will release the second season of CBS’ classic sitcom I Love Lucy on Blu-ray. It comes a little more than a year after the release of the series’ first season on Blu-ray. Its release marks the first time ever that Season Two has been released in this format. Now, it is easy to question the importance of the show’s fans having this collection in their home collections considering the number of networks on which it currently airs–TV Land, Hallmark Channel, Me-TV, and possibly others. That is a lot of coverage. However, not everybody out there has access to each of the noted networks for one reason or another. That being the case and that it’s not always that easy to find the DVD box sets at the likes of Wal-Mart or Target (one has to be lucky enough to find them at either retail outlet), it increases the importance of this latest collection by quite a bit. It is just one element worth noting in regards to why audiences will appreciate this latest release even despite the one major issue of its price. The writing behind each of the set’s thirty-one episodes is one more reason and by relation the work of the series’ cast within each episode. Last but most definitely not least worth noting to the set’s positives is the massive amount of bonus material included throughout the five-disc set. From the episode-specific commentaries to the multiple viewing options of the set’s timeless season premiere “Switching Jobs” to the multiple viewing options of each episode overall, these bonuses and many more complete the positive viewing experience of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two. Each element in its own makes this collection well worth the addition to any I Love Lucy fan’s home collection. Collectively, they make it an ultimate tribute to a series and the series’ fans even despite its rather high price tag.

Paramount and CBS DVD’s upcoming release of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two marks the first time ever that the series’ second season has seen the light of day on Blu-ray (say that two times fast). Being that the series has already been released both in a full-series set and in its own standalone season sets, one can’t help but wonder why one would want to add this new standalone season set to one’s home collection. The answer is simple. It is the first of a number of reasons that it is worth the purchase even despite the relatively high price tag. While the noted DVD sets are currently available for purchase, one must get lucky to find any of the sets in question in any retail outlet. This means that it is easier for audiences to purchase said sets online. Here’s the problem with that. Not everybody shops online. Whether it be for concerns of security, which are fully justified especially in this day and age, or simply for lack of internet access, shopping online is not for everybody. The next argument is one of the show’s coverage on television today. Currently, I Love Lucy runs on no fewer than three networks–Hallmark Channel, TV Land, and Me-TV–on television. That could be argued to be plenty of reason for audiences to not pick up this set. The rebuttal here is that as with the online shopping option, not everybody has access to one or more of said networks. In some regions, issues with certain carriers has eliminated access to Viacom’s networks, thus eliminating TV Land. In others, a network such as Hallmark Channel is considered a premium channel available only via a digital tier. And in regards to Me-TV, it is growing every day in its reach. However still not every household in America has access to Me-TV. Considering all of this, it makes the presentation of Season Two in its complete all the more important for fans of all ages. Add in the fact that not everybody shops online and its upcoming release in stores makes it all the more important while it is available. These issues are in themselves strong arguments in favor of adding I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two to fans’ collections. It is hardly the only argument in favor of the brand new box set. The work of the series’ writers in Season Two adds even more fire to the argument in its favor.

The issues with the access to I Love Lucy’s DVD box sets both in stores and online make a solid argument in favor of adding I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two to audiences’ personal home libraries. Those issues are only the tip of the iceberg in the argument in favor of the brand new box set. The work of the series’ writers this season and by correlation the series’ cast adds even more strength to that argument. Season Two sees some of the most memorable episodes of the series’ entire six-season run including the beloved, timeless season premiere “Job Switching” and the multi-part story arc that follows Lucy’s pregnancy. “Job Switching” is one of the most beloved of I Love Lucy’s one hundred and eighty episodes if not its single-most beloved and timeless episodes. It is a clear example of why the work of the show’s writers is just as pivotal in Season Two as any of the series’ other seasons. This classic battle-of-the-sexes episode sees Ricky and Fred change places with Lucy and Ethel. The prior become the stay-at-home figures while the latter go out to find work. While Lucy and Ethel’s scenes trying their hands as candy makers are the episode’s most memorable of the episode, they are just part of what makes this episode such a laugh riot. The writers’ ability to make Ricky and Fred into just as much a pair of bumblers keeps the men and women on the same level. Audiences will be left in stitches as they see Fred completely char a cake he was trying to bake and Ricky completely losing track and control of a pot of rice. In the same vein, Ricky trying to clean the chickens (yes, he actually tries to clean them) makes for just as many laughs. On the other side of the proverbial coin, watching Lucy and Ethel sitting at the employment agency, trying to get a job in the first place is well worth its share of laughs, too. On another level, the manner in which the writers switched up the couples’ gender roles even before everything unravels (both literally and figuratively) will have viewers laughing just as uproariously. Fred and Ricky both sporting frilly aprons is hilarious in itself. Lucy reading the paper, drinking her coffee and ignoring Ricky is even funnier. And then there is Fred’s comment about Ethel not kissing him goodbye as she and Lucy leave. This is yet another great moment. The commentary about this moment and so many others throughout the episode show even more why the efforts of the show’s writers make this episode such a laugh riot. Said commentary will be discussed later. Getting back on topic, this episode is just one, rich example of how the work of the show’s writers makes this season of I Love Lucy well worth the watch. The multi-part story arc following Lucy’s real life pregnancy is another pivotal example of the importance of the writers’ work.

“Job Switching” is in itself a clear example of why the work of I Love Lucy’s writers is so important to the show’s overall success and enjoyment. It is just one example of why their work is so important, too. The multi-part story arc that follows Lucy’s pregnancy is another prime example of the importance of their work. Lucy’s real life pregnancy marked the first time ever that a TV series’ heads had allowed an actress’ pregnancy to be played out on television. Discussing pregnancy in general at the time was considered a major taboo for TV. Men and women at the time couldn’t even sleep in the same bed on television thanks to the censors. So to have her pregnancy directly addressed and even tied into the series is in itself is hugely important. The manner in which the writers handled her pregnancy makes these episodes even more key. Audiences will find themselves laughing just as much in the arc’s lead episode “Lucy Is Enceinte” as they will any of the arc’s others. There is a lot of truth even today in “Pregnant Women Are Unpredictable.” Lucy gets mad at Ricky here because she thinks he loves their baby more than her only to turn and get mad at the episode’s end because he had made no mention of the baby. The setting in which this moment happens makes for its own share of laughs even today. Men and women both will laugh because, again, they know that there is a lot of truth here. Even more to the positive is the fact that the writers handled the issue with such tact and playfulness. Much as with “Job Switching” the writers poked fun at both the mood swings that many women experience in pregnancy and the general inability of men to comprehend or even handle them. It is yet another example of everything that was once great about comic writing, proving again why the work of the show’s writers is so important to the overall enjoyment and success of I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two. It is not the last example of the importance of their work, either. “Lucy Becomes A Sculptress” is yet another example of what makes Season Two such a hit.

“Lucy Becomes A Sculptress” is another prime example of the importance of the work of I Love Lucy’s writers for not just one reason but two. The first reason is that it is actually a two-part episode in itself. It is part of that multi-part story arc that followed Lucy’s pregnancy. But it is also its own standalone episode that put Lucy into one of so many outrageous situations. In the case of this episode, Lucy decides to try her hand at sculpting art and even goes so far as to get an art critic to come in and judge her *ahem* work. As any fan knows, she becomes her work, leading to what is one of the all-time greatest episodes in the history of both “I Love Lucy” and of television in whole. Lucy’s initial attempts at creating art are in themselves worthy of more than their share of laughs, again putting the talents of the series’ writers on full display. It is just one more of so many ways throughout Season Two’s thirty-one total episodes in which the writers’ talents are put on full display. All thirty-one episodes considered together, they show with the fullest clarity why the writing behind the second season of I Love Lucy is so important to its general effect. Even with all of the laughs that the writing brings in each episode, the work of the writers is just one element that is worth noting. The work of the show’s cast is just as worth noting.

The work of I Love Lucy’s writers in the show’s second season led to what are considered today to be largely some of the series’ best episodes and some of the most timeless episodes in television’s history in whole. Of course, as impressive as the writing proves to be , it would have been nothing without the work of the show’s cast yet again. The work of the cast–Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley–is perfect from the season’s premiere to its finale. That is obvious in the season premiere when Lucy and Ethel struggle to keep the chocolates from getting past them on the conveyor belt. It is just as evident in this episode when Lucy and Ricky switch their household gender roles. Lucy is spot on as she sits at the table reading the paper and drinking her coffee, not paying any attention to Ricky as he talks. There is a lot of truth to that scene even today some six decades plus later. The truth is on both sides. The back and forth between Ball and Vance as Lucy and Ethel vie for head of the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League is another example of the importance of the cast’s work. The lengths that the pair reaches in its attempts to obtain that elusive leadership position is so hilarious not so much because it is this pair in question but because it is a situation that could apply both to women and men alike. It just so happened that in the case of this episode it was Lucy and Ethel that went toe to toe over the group’s position of leadership. Another example of the importance of the cast’s work this season comes early on in Lucy’s pregnancy as Lucy wants to initially tell Ricky that they are going to be parents. His reaction after learning he has to sing a song to an expecting couple is wonderful. He goes from table to table, singing happy birthday, becoming increasingly nervous as he tries to find out who the lucky couple is. The ultimate reveal that it is in fact him and Lucy will put a smile on any viewer’s face both from joy and the laughter at his reaction as he tries to solve the riddle so to speak. It is one more way that the work of the show’s cast throughout this season makes the season so enjoyable and a must have for any of the series’ fans.

Everything noted already in regards to I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two makes a solid argument why fans of this timeless sitcom should have the brand new Season Two standalone box set in their own home libraries. For all of the importance of each already noted element, there is still one more element worth noting in regards to this set. That final element is the massive amount of bonus material included with the set. As with the previously released Season One box set, Season Two includes among its bonus features: multiple episode-specific commentaries for starters. One of the commentaries in question centers on the season premiere. Audiences will be interested to learn in this episode that Ricky’s bumbling around in the kitchen was just an act. He was, as is revealed, in fact quite the accomplished chef. Just as interesting is the scene in which Lucy and Ethel prepare to leave and look for a job. Fred tells Ethel that she forgot to kiss him goodbye here. It is a great switching of gender roles. Even more interesting is the revelation in the commentary is that this moment was actually wiped from the episode. According to the commentary, it was not the censors that had it eliminated. Rather it is inferred that it might have been Vivian Vance herself who had it removed. If in fact it was her who had it removed, one can’t help but wonder why. Perhaps there was tension off camera between her and co-star William Frawley. It’s anyone’s guess. Regardless, it is definitely an intriguing tidbit to learn. These are just a couple of extras that make the work of the series’ writers so enjoyable this season. It is just one more reason that the commentary included in this episode proves to be a bonus in every sense of the word. It is not the only episode that receives the bonus commentary treatment, either. There are others throughout the season’s run that get their own commentary, too. The commentaries are only the tip of the iceberg in regards to the bonus material included in this box set. Audiences get to see “Job Switching” both in their own standalone black-and-white presentation and color presentation. There is also an option to watch the episode with its own French-Canadian presentation, which included its own special opening and closing graphics, and French-Canadian audio track. This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to the set’s bonus material. There is far more to discuss including other episode viewing options.

The multiple viewing options offered for Season Two’s premiere are bonuses in their own right and fully deserving of being called bonuses. They are however anything but the only bonuses included in this set. Audiences are also treated to the option of watching every episode with or without their original opening and closing sponsor segments from Phillip Morris. The Phillip Morris segments even include a clear disclaimer noting the now known dangers of smoking and that neither Paramount nor CBS DVD advocate smoking in any form. Both companies are to be highly commended for taking this measure along with giving viewers the season’s run in its original presentation. On the same note, audiences can watch each episode with or without their original “heart” openings. As if all of this isn’t enough, Paramount and CBS DVD have also included with this set, the entire story arc involving Lucy’s pregnancy in the special Lucy movie I Love Lucy: The Movie as well as even more installments of the beloved radio series My Favorite Husband. Audiences will note in the select commentaries included throughout this season that it was My Favorite Husband that led to many of its episodes as well as episodes from other seasons of I Love Lucy. There is much more to note, including a sketch from the Red Skelton Show, guest profiles, an episode guide printed on the indie front and back of the set’s case, and so much more. But to go into each one would take far more time and space than is available. Considering that and everything already noted, it is safe to say that the bonus material included in I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two more than lives up to its title and in turn shows yet again why this season in whole also lives up to its name even despite its rather high price tag.

I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two shows in so many ways why it lives up to its title. Its very availability versus that of the series’ previous DVD releases lies at the heart of the ways in which it lives up to its name. The collective work of the show’s writers and cast once again makes for so many laughs and even heartfelt moments from beginning to end. The material included in the set as bonuses more than lives up to its title, too. The end result of all of these factors together is a box set that is in fact the ultimate Season Two experience for any fan of I Love Lucy. I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season Two will be available in stores and online Tuesday, August 4th. More information on this and other titles from Paramount and CBS DVD is available online now at:

CBS HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Website: http://www.cbshomeentertainment.com

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

PARAMOUNT STUDIOS HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Website: http://www.ParamountMovies.com

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

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Rubikon’s Third Album Was Well Worth The Rather Long Wait

Courtesy:  Round Hill Records

Courtesy: Round Hill Records

Roughly eleven years have passed since the up-and-coming blues/rock band Rubikon released its debut album The Hollow Men. Being that so much time has passed since that album was released fans couldn’t help but figure that the band would just be another that tried its hand only to fold soon after. However recently announced that it has in fact not gone away. As a matter of fact, it will release its third full-length studio recording Delta next month. The album, which will be released via independent record label Round Hill Records, boasts nine tracks of blues-based rock that will impress fans of Clutch, Deep Purple, COC, and even Zodiac to a slightly lesser degree. While the album boasts only nine tracks and comes in at a grand total of thirty-seven minutes, that does not take away anything from the whole of the record. Speaking of the whole of the record, the record is anchored by the full-on blues rock opus ‘Sermon.’ The song starts out slowly in its first few bars before really launching full force into a rather heavy piece that fans of both Clutch and COC will enjoy. The album’s opener ‘Live That Lie’ is another solid addition to this record. As is noted of the song, it is a work that is centered on the personal journey of the band’s members. Its heavy, blues-infused musical backing adds even more enjoyment to the song in whole. For all of the heaviness displayed throughout this record it isn’t without its softer side as is evident in the more reserved sound of ‘Wasting Time.’ This song starts off softly enough. But it doesn’t take long for the song to pick up even if only slightly in comparison to the album’s other songs. It’s just one more example of how worth the wait Delta proves itself to be . That is not to ignore the album’s other tracks. All nine of the tracks that make up Delta’s body each show in their own respective way what made the wait for this record worth it. All things considered Delta proves in the end to be a piece that any blues/rock aficionado will appreciate regardless of their familiarity with the band’s body of work.

Rubikon’s upcoming album Delta is only the third full-length recording that the band has crafted since forming in its nearly fourteen years together. Roughly eleven years have passed since the band released its debut album The Hollow Men. This new record proves quite well over the course of its nine tracks and thirty-seven total minutes that the decade-plus wait for this album was well worth it. That is most clearly evident in the album’s anchor ‘Sermon.’ The song’s bluesy/southern sludge rock sound instantly grabs listeners by the ear and refuses to let go. That is especially thanks to the transition of its slow, bluesy opening bars to the much harder, heavier riffs that make up the body of the song. The overall content presented in the body of this song in itself makes for plenty of enjoyment. The lyrical content incorporated into the song gives it even more enjoyment. Drummer/vocalist Diggs sings in this song, “I’m already dead/So long gone away/Lay my body down/Old-fashioned way/Old heart won’t last a day/Tryin’ to get back home/Sit here in them clouds/Watch over me.” Listening to this single opening verse, listeners would swear that they were hearing Clutch front man Neil Fallon singing instead of Rubikon’s drummer/vocalist Diggs. The similarity in the pair’s vocal delivery styles is striking. The similarity is just as striking as the song progresses through its near six-minute run time. That powerhouse delivery coupled with the song’s outstanding guitar work makes this song a solid anchor on which Delta can rest and a work that every listener will enjoy.

‘Sermon’ is a solid anchor for Rubikon’s new album. Drummer/vocalist Diggs’ delivery style partnered with the song’s musical content makes it a song that rivals anything ever crafted by the likes of Clutch or COC. It is just one example of what has made the decade-plus wait for Delta worth it. The album’s lead track ‘Live That Lie’ is just as solid an example of what makes the record so impressive. This mid-tempo rocker wastes no time grabbing listeners by the ear and holding tight. According to the band, the song is meant to be a commentary on the personal journey of the band’s members from who they were before to who they have become now. The song’s musical makeup does an impressive job of expressing that message. The contrast of the fiery energy exuded through most of the song to the more reserved sound of the song’s bridge, which comes nearly three minutes in, exemplifies that. That is of course not to ignore the song’s lyrical content. Diggs sings, “Well I’ve been knocked down in chains and lied to/That’s what you get when you don’t play the game/When I step out of line/You’ll follow.” These few lines in themselves paint a clear picture in regards to the comments of the song’s basis. The same can be said of the rest of the song’s lyrical content. What is present here is just a glimpse into the lyrical content’s ability to translate the song’s message. That content set alongside the song’s musical content makes this song an even more solid addition to this record and even more proof of why Delta was worth the wait both for the band’s long-time fans and for those that are less familiar with Rubikon’s body of work.

‘Sermon’ and ‘Live That Lie’ are both clear examples in their own right of why Delta was well worth the wait regardless of listeners’ familiarity with Rubikon’s body of work. While both songs exhibit in their own right plenty of enjoyment, they are hardly the only examples of what makes it so enjoyable. The band shows that for all of the heaviness and power exhibited, it also has a softer side of sorts, too. That is exhibited in the form of the slightly more reserved ‘Wasting Time.’ The song starts off as a fully acoustic piece that is just as certain to hold listeners’ ears as the album’s heavier material. Even at its highest points it still doesn’t get anywhere near as heavy as any of the record’s other songs. That is only one part of what makes this song so enjoyable, too. The manner in which the song’s lyrical content was handled adds even more enjoyment to the song. Because the vocal delivery style here is just as reserved as the music itself, it requires just as close of a listen. What can be deciphered from such an examination is that there is a lot of introspection here. The delivery style is a perfect match for that introspection, too just as with the song’s musical content. All three of the song’s elements connected, they show clearly why this song is just as key to Delta’s enjoyment as ‘Sermon,’ ‘Live That Lie’ and the rest of the album’s songs. All things considered Delta proves that while it was more than ten years in the works, it is an album that was well worth the wait whether or not fans are familiar with the band’s body of work.

Rubikon’s third full-length LP has been more than ten years in the making. Considering how long the wait has been for this record, it has proven with its nine tracks and thirty-seven minutes that the wait was well worth it. Whether for ‘Sermon,’ ‘Live That Lie,’ ‘Wasting Time,’ or any of the remaining half-dozen tracks that make up the body of the album, every element–both musical and lyrical–of this record proves itself important to the whole of the album. All things considered, Delta proves in the end to be an album that is a potential candidate for this year’s list of the best new independent recordings and best new rock records. It will be available Friday, August 21st via Round Hill Records. More information on Delta is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.rubikonmusic.com

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

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Nation Beat Releases Carnival Caravan Today

Courtesy:  Nation Beat Music

Courtesy: Nation Beat Music

Multi-cultural music group Nation Beat releases its new EP today. Carnival Caravan will be released today in stores and online. The Brooklyn, NY-based collective’s five-track EP feature performances by not only Nation Beat but also from the Mardi Gras Indian/funk group Cha Wa. Carnival Caravan’s complete track listing is noted below.

Carnival Caravan Track Listing

  1. Casa Diamante / Sew Sew Sew (feat. Cha Wa)
  2. Vou Cantar Esse Coco (feat. Silverio Pessoa)
  3. Golden Crown (feat. Cha Wa)
  4. Canto da Ema / All On a Mardi Gras Day (feat. Cha Wa)
  5. Liza Jane (feat. Cha Wa)

‘Cantar Esse Coco (ft. Silverio Pessoa)’ and the disc’s opener ‘Casa Diamante /Sew Sew Sew,’ which also features the music of Cha Wa, are both Latin-tinged works that will have listeners instantly on their feet. There is also a Dixieland-style piece included in the record that comes in the form of the group’s cover of ‘Liza Jane (ft. Cha Wa).’ Nation Beat is currently touring in support of Carnival Caravan. Its current schedule takes it through September 17th in Hartford, CT.  The group’s current tour schedule is listed below.

Courtesy:  Nation Beat Music

Courtesy: Nation Beat Music

DATE                                               CITY                                          VENUE

August 1                                       Queens, NY                                  Queens Library

August 2                                       New York, NY                    Central Park Summer Stage

August 8                                       Bethlehem, PA                                  Musikfest

Sept. 17                                        Hartford, CT                                  Real Art Ways

Audiences can keep up with the latest updates on Carnival Caravan and Nation Beat’s tour schedule online now along with all of the group’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.nationbeat.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nation-Beat/10175932771

Twitter: http://twitter.com/nationbeat

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Blanchard’s New Album Will Leave Listeners Breathless

Courtesy:  Blue Note Records

Courtesy: Blue Note Records

Famed trumpet player Terence Blanchard has seemingly done it all since first becoming a household name some thirty-five years ago with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. He has remained one of the most influential musicians in the music industry throughout that time. He has also composed and arranged some of the most beloved songs that music lovers and moviegoers have ever heard. He has also become a well-respected educator. Considering this, one would think that Blanchard would be happy doing everything that he does. Apparently he is not one to rest easily on his laurels, having released countless studio recordings and movie soundtracks throughout his career. This past May, Blanchard added to his already extensive catalogue of recordings when he released his latest studio effort Breathless. Released May 26th via Blue Note Records, Breathless is an aptly titled record. That is because it will in fact leave listeners breathless with awe with its thirteen total tracks. The songs that make up the body of the record will leave audiences so in awe primarily because of their diversity. Blanchard doesn’t stick solely to the realm of jazz in this album. Rather he expands out into other musical avenues throughout the course of the record, presenting pieces that audiences of all tastes will appreciate. The structure of the songs is also of note. That is especially the case in regards to the more jazz and fusion oriented pieces. The attention to detail in regards to those songs’ structures will keep listeners entirely engaged even despite the length of some of said compositions. Last but not least worth noting of Breathless that makes it an aptly titled album is the sequencing of the album’s songs. Just as much attention was paid to the general effect of the album in its sequencing as to the creation of the songs themselves. That element, when set alongside the structure of the songs, and their diverse nature, completes the album and shows in full why Breathless will indeed leave listeners breathless in the best possible way.

Terence Blanchard’s latest full-length studio release Breathless is an aptly titled album. As noted already, that is because it will in fact leave listeners breathless in the best possible way. The main way in which it leaves audiences so in awe is in its selection of songs. Throughout the course of the album’s thirteen tracks, Blanchard and his fellow musicians–Oscar Seaton (drums), Donald Ramsey (bass), Charles Altura (guitar), Fabian Almazan (keyboards, electronics), and P.J. Morton (vocals)–do not stick solely to one style of music. Blanchard’s jazz roots are there in the form of the Miles Davis-esque ‘See Me As I Am’ and the more smooth jazz style ‘Everglades.’ ‘Shutting Down’ exhibits blatant R&B sounds, and ‘Compared to What,’ the album’s opener, exhibits a clear funk style vibe. There is even a song in ‘Cosmic Warrior’ that could be argued to have something of a rock influence. That obviously doesn’t even cover all of the songs featured throughout the course of the album’s seventy-eight minute run time. Along with everything else already noted, Blanchard and company have also included a pair of semi-spoken word pieces of sorts in the form of ‘Samadhi’ and the album’s title track. Those wanting something with a little more energy will enjoy the fusion style of ‘Confident Selflessness.’ If all of that isn’t enough, the funk/hip hop hybrid sound of ‘Soldiers’ will impress listeners. That sound combines with that of the other noted songs and that of the compositions not noted to display a variety of sounds that will impress listeners of all ages and in turn keep said listeners engaged from start to finish. That variety is within itself plenty of reason for listeners of all ages to take in Breathless. In giving it a chance, those listeners that do will agree that such a swath of sounds in itself will leave them breathless and in awe. It is just the tip of the iceberg in what makes Breathless such an aptly titled record, too. The structure of many of the songs is just as certain to leave listeners breathless.

The diverse range of sounds displayed throughout the course of Breathless’ thirteen tracks is within itself certain to leave listeners breathless and in awe by the time the record ends. Of course as key as this is to the record’s enjoyment, the structure of the songs is just as important to note. ‘Everglades,’ the album’s third track is proof positive of the importance of the songs’ structures. ‘Everglades’ runs a total of fourteen minutes and thirty-four seconds. For many listeners, that may seem like a rather long run time. However those that allow themselves to be immersed in the song will hear for themselves just why the song’s structure is so important in relation to its run time. The song is split clearly into a definitive ABC pattern over the course of its run time. Throughout the course of those three sections, the song doesn’t just switch from one section to the next. Rather it evolves as it progresses, starting softly and growing until it reaches its climax roughly halfway through. From there, it switches very quickly, gradually descending in intensity straight through to the song’s closing seconds. The song’s balance as it rises and falls makes its fourteen-minute plus run time feel much less. Simply put, it makes that run time feel like little more than a background note for lack of better wording.

The well thought out structure of ‘Everglades’ is within itself solid proof of the importance of the overall structure of Breathless’ songs in its enjoyment. It’s just one example of the importance of the songs’ structure in the record’s overall impact. ‘See Me As I Am,’ the album’s second song is another example of the importance of song structure to the album’s enjoyment. This song is in part a direct throwback to Miles Davis’ legendary album Kind of Blue thanks to Blanchard’s smooth work on the trumpet alongside the talents of his band mates. The song comes in at nearly nine minutes (8:53 to be exact). Yet its structure (its arrangement) makes that run time just as inconsequential as that of ‘Everglades.’ Its arrangement encourages listeners to close their eyes and take in the music. Those listeners that do take it in will note how time seems to simply slip by as the song progresses. That is again thanks to the attention paid to the song’s structure as it was being composed and performed. Understanding this, audiences will once again agree why the structure (arrangement) of the songs is just as pivotal to leaving listeners breathless and in awe by the album’s end as the diversity of the songs themselves.

‘Everglades’ and ‘See Me As I Am’ are both solid examples of why the arrangements, or structures, of Breathless’ songs are so important to the album’s enjoyment overall. ‘Compared To What’ is one more example of the importance of the structure of the songs in the bigger picture of the album’s enjoyment. At five minutes and forty-nine seconds, it is not the album’s shortest song. Nor is it the album’s longest. But it does exceed the standard three to five-minute run time of most mainstream songs. Audiences will note in regards to this song’s arrangement that it keeps the energy flowing from start to finish. At no one point from start to finish does it let up. Its sustained energy makes it a perfect choice to open the album and an equally solid lead-in to the more reserved sound of ‘See Me As I Am’ before the rest of the album progresses. Speaking of the rest of the album, this composition is just one more of so many included in Breathless that could be used to exemplify the importance of the songs’ structure in the enjoyment of the record in whole. The structure of those other songs together with that of the pieces noted here shows in whole why together with the choice of songs, Breathless will leave listeners breathless and in total awe of the talents of Blanchard and his band mates.

The structure, or arrangement, of each of Breathless’ songs taken into consideration along with the choice of songs featured throughout the record show clearly why this record will leave listeners breathless in the best way possible. While both elements together play an important, collective role in the success and enjoyment of Breathless, they are not all that should be noted in that success and enjoyment. The sequencing of the songs is noteworthy, too. Listeners will note that from its high-energy opener to the laid back grooves of its title track to the deeper, and at times heavier sound of ‘Cosmic Warrior’ to the gentle tones of the album’s closer ‘Midnight,’ the sequencing of each of the album’s songs proves quite important in its own right to the enjoyment and success of this standout album. The energy level of each song in relation to the other makes the album’s near eighty-minute run time pass by in the best way possible, leaving. By the end, listeners will feel completely satisfied knowing that they have just heard an album that once again will leave them breathless in the best way possible.

Terence Blanchard’s latest full-length LP is a surprisingly enjoyable new release. From start to finish, the thirteen-track record shows in a number of ways just what makes it such an enjoyable collection of songs. The ways in which it does so include: its diverse selection of songs, the structure, or arrangement of said songs, and the overall sequencing of those songs. All three elements prove to be of equal importance in the enjoyment of this album. Collectively, they prove with the fullest clarity why Breathless will leave listeners breathless in the best way possible. Breathless is available now in stores and online and can be ordered direct from Blue Note Records’ online store at http://bluenote.shop.bravadousa.com/Product.aspx?cp=60921&pc=BGCDBU37. More information on Breathless is available now online along with all of the latest news and more from Terence Blanchard at:

Website: http://www.terenceblanchard.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/T_Blanchard

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Devil City Angels Debuts New Single

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Rock and roll super group Devil City Angels will release its self-titled debut album this fall. In anticipation of its release, the collective of veteran talents—Rikki Rocket (Poison), Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake), and Brandon Gibbs (Cheap Thrill)—has debuted the latest single from its upcoming album.

Devil City Angels debuted its latest single ‘All I Need’ this week and is currently streaming the single online via Revolver Magazine. Audiences can hear the song now at Revolver’s website at http://www.revolvermag.com/news/devil-city-angels-premiere-new-song-all-i-need.html. Audiences that are fans of the rock sound of the late 80s and early 90s will enjoy this song with its lighthearted sound. Its debut follows the premiere of the video for the album’s lead single ‘Boneyard,’ which can be seen online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjrB0N6aBvY&feature=youtu.be. The video is a direct throwback to the classic rock videos of the 80s complete with footage of the band performing and of course the mandatory female dancer.

Devil City Angels will be available in stores and online on Friday, September 18th via Century Media Records in a variety of bundle packages as well as by itself. Pre-orders for the album begin tomorrow via iTunes and Century Media’s online store. Those choosing to pre-order the album via Century Media’s online store can do so online at http://www.indiemerch.com/cmrecords/brand/devil-city-angels. Those that pre-order the album via iTunes will get both ‘All I Need’ and ‘Boneyard’ as instant grat racks. It can also be pre-ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Devil-City-Angels/dp/B01169B5NY.

More information on Devil City Angels is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at http://www.facebook.com/DevilCityAngels. 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Hill Street Blues Reaches One Of Its Highest Points In Its Fifth Season

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/NBC

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/NBC

Crime dramas today are a dime a dozen.  It seems like every broadcast and cable network across the spectrum today has its own crime drama original or otherwise.  The problem with this overabundance of crime dramas is that given their massive numbers it is difficult if not impossible to truly point out one as being more original than others.  For all of the cookie cutter crime dramas that are splashed across the networks every week, there are those that have and still do stand out even today.  One of the most notable of those dramas is NBC’s classic series Hill Street Blues.  Last year, Shout! Factory released the series in its entirety for its fans.  It proceeded to follow up that release with the release of the series’ third and fourth seasons in their own standalone box sets.  The reason that the company didn’t start those standalone season sets with Season One is likely linked to distribution rights.  Seasons One and Two were released in their own box sets nine years ago by 20th Century Fox.  With any luck Shout! Factory will obtain the rights in the not too distant future for those two seasons so that Shout! Factory will be able to release the series in full even in its own standalone boxes.  Getting back on track, Shout! Factory continued its series of Hill Street Blues standalone sets this past May when it released Season Five in its own box.  Five seasons into its run Hill Street Blues proved why this classic series was then and is now one of the best of its kind.  The central way in which it shows this is throughout its writing.  The writing behind this season’s run continues to expertly balance both the stories of the officers on duty and in their own personal lives without re-hashing story lines that had already been used in the series’ previous seasons.  By direct connection, the level of explicit content displayed throughout these episodes is completely unlike that of the crime dramas that fill out the networks today.  Having noted both elements, there is one more element to note of Season Five that makes it stand out.  It is the set’s packaging; more specifically, the inclusion of a full episode guide yet again with the box.  This is nothing new for Shout! Factory or for its Hill Street Blues releases.  And it is yet another welcome addition.  That element alongside the writing behind each of the season’s episodes and the episodes’ overall content rounds out the set and proves in the end why it is yet another release that fans will want to add to their own home collections.

Hill Street Blues is one of the most original crime dramas to grace any television network broadcast or other since the advent of the genre.  It proved this for seven seasons from 1981 to 1987.  Even in comparison to the various crime dramas across the TV spectrum today, it stands proudly against those overly (and unnecessarily) violent, gritty programs.  That is just as evident in the series’ fifth season as any of its first four runs and the final pair that would come after.  It is so evident primarily thanks to the work of the series’ writers.  Instead of being a show centered purely on crime investigations, it also focused on the personal lives of the officers even five seasons into its run.  Sure, other crime dramas that have come since have tried to echo that writing style.  But few if any have truly succeeded in emulating it.  One example of how the writing continued to stand out in its fifth season comes in the form of Episode 87 “Fuched Again.”  This episode tackles the classic story lines centered on corruption within the police force and even city government.  While the story lines are nothing new to the realm of crime dramas, the way in which the show’s writers handled them here sets them apart from every other instance in which they have been presented in other shows.  One way in which it is set apart from those other instances is that there is a sort of Jack Ruby feel added in to the story as a former high-ranking officer is implicated in the killing of a would-be assassin who tried to kill the city’s mayor.  On a similar note, it just so happens that the corruption that is discovered within the force is linked directly (and fittingly enough) to a member of the squad’s narcotics department.  There is much more that goes on in this episode, proving why this episode stands out as an example of the strength of the season’s writing.  Audiences will just have to find out the other ways in which the writing stands out for themselves when they pick up this set for themselves.

The writing exhibited in “Fuched Again” is just one example of how the writing incorporated into Season Five’s episodes makes Hill Street Blues stand out yet again.  “G.Q.” is another example of how the series’ writing keeps the series so enthralling even five seasons in.  At the heart of this episode is a conflict between Hill and Renko that finally boils over.  The conflict between the pair rose from events that happened previously in the season.  The very fact that the show’s writers could carry what is essentially one story arc within the season without letting it become the center of the entire season is in itself a clear example of the writers’ talents.  In an age today when serials seem to control every aspect of mainstream television, this series shows that it is possible to have a show with its own self-contained story arcs within each season.  On another note, there is another, smaller story of police corruption being uncovered as Davenport has to take a stand against housing authority officers who framed a young African-American boy for a broken window at the O’Neil Projects.  The ability of the writers to balance this story with the episode’s two other story arcs and said stories’ originality shows again expert talent from the writers.  That talent shows in larger part again why the writing incorporated into the fifth season of Hill Street Blues is so pivotal to its success.

The season premiere, in which Jablonski is introduced to the squad, is yet another example of the writers’ continued talents this season.  New character introductions are commonplace in ongoing series such as this one.  The problem is that the manner in which they are introduced has become just as trite as other stories presented within the world of crime dramas.  Jablonski’s introduction stands out from other new character introductions as it is linked an allegedly not so pleasant incident with another officer at another station.  In other words, he was brought to Hill Street not because of a promotion but because of a re-assignment.  This isn’t typically the case when it comes to such introductions in other crime dramas.  The writers also take on the topic of capital punishment as Celestine Grey is scheduled to be executed.  Interestingly enough, not everyone is for the execution.  Both story arcs will have audiences completely engaged from beginning to end and are just as expertly balanced as those presented in the previously noted episodes.  It shows yet again the talent of the series’ writers even so deep into the show’s run and proves even more why the show’s writing is so key to its success at this point.  Whether for this episode, the other two noted here or for any of the season’s other episodes, every episode presented across Season Five’s standalone set shows in its own way the talent of the show’s writers.  All episodes considered together, they show clearly why the writing behind this season lies at the center of its success.

The writing incorporated into Season Five is the central point of its success.  That is clear in examining each one of the season’s episodes.  While it is central to Season Five’s success, it is just one element of the season’s success.  The overall content displayed in each episode is just as key to the season’s success.  Viewers will note that in comparison to the crime dramas on television today, the level of overt blood, violence and sexuality presented throughout Hill Street Blues’ seven-season run is far less than that of said programs.  That is just as obvious in Season Five as in any of the series’ previous seasons and the pair of runs that followed.  Considering how limited said content proves to be, it makes the show that much more worth the watch.  It proves yet again that a series doesn’t have to rely on such elements in order to succeed.  Being that it doesn’t have to rely on said elements, that lack of overt violence and otherwise graphic content  coupled with the writing incorporated into Season Five makes this collection that much more enjoyable for the show’s original fan base.

Both the writing incorporated into Season Five’s episodes and the overall lack of graphic content are important in their own right to the success and enjoyment of Hill Street Blues: Season Five.  While both elements are of equal value and importance they are not all that makes it another win for fans of the series and for Shout! Factory.  The packaging used for this season rounds out its positives.  More specifically speaking, the inclusion once again of a complete episode guide inside the set’s case rounds out the set.  As with Shout! Factory’s previous Hill Street Blues box sets (and so many other box sets from the leading name in home entertainment), audiences get a complete episode guide printed on the inside of the box’s cover art.  It is printed on the front and back of the box art, clearly outlining which episodes are on which disc.  There is also a short but concise summary of each episode included with each episode listed inside the box. Each summary gives just enough information to catch viewers’ attention and give a clear picture of the episodes’ stories at the same time. Thanks to that packaging element, audiences don’t have to waste their time going through each disc or looking up the episodes online to figure out whether or not they want to watch them. It is a great way to round out this latest full season set of Hill Street Blues. Together with the work of the show’s writers displayed across the noted episodes, and the relatively tame content (in comparison to today’s crime dramas), all three elements together show fully why Hill Street Blues: Season Five is another welcome addition to the collection of any of the series’ fans.

Hill Street Blues: Season Five offers fans of the classic crime drama plenty of reason to add this collection to their personal home DVD collections. The writing incorporated into each of its episodes presents stories that once again stand apart from anything offered to viewers by today’s crime dramas. They are more human for lack of better wording. The overall lack of explicit content once again presented here adds even more reason for fans of the classic series to add this standalone season set to their own home collections. The inclusion of a full episode listing complete with episode summaries rounds out the set’s positives. All three elements considered together, they show clearly why any fan of Hill Street Blues should have this latest collection of episodes to their own home DVD library. Hill Street Blues: Season Five is available now online and in stores and can be ordered direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/crime/hill-street-blues-season-five. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

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Angels, Astros Face Off In AL Divisional Matchup Tonight On WNB

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

All eyes will be on the Astros and Angels tonight as the teams face off in an AL West divisional showdown on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball.

Tonight’s matchup is the rubber match in the teams’ three-game series. It marks only the second time this season that ESPN has traveled to Houston for its MLB coverage. Lance McCullers is slated to get the start for the ‘Stros while Garrett Richards is expected to get the start for the visiting Angels. Richards’ last time on the mound was last Thursday against Minnesota. He took the loss in the game, allowing four hits, three runs, three earned runs, and three walks and one home run over eight innings pitched. He struck out five batters En route to the Angels’ loss. Mike Morin replaced Richards in the ninth, allowing only one hit, no runs, no earned runs, no walks, no home runs, and struck out two batters.

McCullers’ last time taking the mound was this past Thursday against the Red Sox. He pitched five innings in the team’s 5 – 4 win over Boston, allowing six hits, two runs, two earned runs, three walks, and one home run along the way. He also struck out two batters before heading to the dugout. While those numbers paint one picture, McCullers didn’t do too badly having faced twenty-four batters in his time on the mound, throwing fifty-two strikes in eighty-nine pitches.

The Angels currently lead the AL West division sitting near even with the second place Astros. Both teams are far better at home than on the road so far on the season with the Angels going 32 – 21 (h) and 23 – 23 (a), and the Astros going 34 – 17 (h) and 22 – 28 (a). The Angels are 6 – 4 in their last ten games versus Houston’s 7 – 3 record in its last ten games.

Dave Flemming will have the call for tonight’s NL showdown. He will be joined in the booth by analyst Rick Sutcliffe. Fellow analyst Doug Glanville will be in the outfield covering both teams’ defense while analysts Eduardo Perez and Eric Wedge will be in the Astros’ and Angels’ dugouts respectively with all of the latest from both teams. Perez is a former Astros coach and Angels 1991 first round pick. Tonight’s game will be simulcast on television and online via ESPN, ESPN3, and WatchESPN. More information on tonight’s game is available online now along with all of the latest MLB headlines at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/mlb

Facebook: 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 and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.