Cohen Media Group’s Re-Issue Of Syncopation Hits All The Right Notes

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group/RKO Pictures

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group/RKO Pictures

Every year, any number of classic movies is re-issued on DVD and Blu-ray. The re-issues range from modern movies that come from the latter part of the 20th Century (the 1980s and beyond) and those that come from Hollywood’s golden era (the 1970s and before). Among that yearly mass of movies, some are sort of memorable. And then there are those that prove to be must have movies for any true movie buff. While 2015 is still very young, already one movie has been released that is more than deserving of the title of a must have for any movie buff. The movie in question is the 1942 classic RKO Pictures movie Syncopation. It was re-issued on Blu-ray and DVD February 10th via Cohen Media Group. Syncopation is a must have not just for any true-blooded movie buff but for any true-blooded lover of music (and more specifically jazz). While it has never been known as one of the major blockbusters of Hollywood’s golden age, it is still a wonderful work. The main element of this movie that makes it a must have for any true-blooded movie buff and lover of music is its story. Writers Philip Yordan, and Frank Cavett have crafted a tale from Valentine Davies’ original story that bucks the general trend of most romantic movies. Rather than putting the script’s romantic plot line at the center of the story, they instead make the movie’s music the center of the story. It is the central element off of which the story’s romantic subplot works for its own development. And just as the story’s essentially inverted story makes the movie enjoyable, so do the transitions used throughout the story. Audiences are presented with solid scene transitions throughout the movie’s nearly ninety-minute run time that make the movie’s central story easy to follow. The end result is a story that will not only entertain viewers but is also easy to follow. In turn, it will keep viewers engaged from beginning to end and is sure to, again, show why this movie is a must have for any true-blooded movie buff and lover of music. The largely original story and its easily followed transitions are both key elements of what makes Syncopation a must have for any true-blooded movie buff and lover of music. If they are not enough reason, collectively speaking, for audiences to pick up this golden age re-issue, the footage and performances included with the movie as bonus material is sure to convince audiences. Cohen Media Group has included as bonus material a number of classic recordings from the likes of Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway and others that equals out to roughly nearly an hour and a half in itself. The recordings in question are taken from their original tapes. And being that they have not been re-mastered, they look just as they did nearly a century ago. And that is not a bad thing, either. As a matter of fact, it helps the overall presentation of Syncopation in terms of taking audiences back in time. It is a wonderful feeling brought on by both that bonus footage and the movie together is a realization that Cohen Media Group’s new re-issue of Syncopation is indeed a must have for any true-blooded movie buff and music lover and one of this year’s best new re-issues.

Syncopation is one of the best new re-issues of 2015 and a must have for any true-blooded movie buff and music lover. This movie was never one of the bigger names from Hollywood’s golden era. But it is still a wonderful classic that any movie buff and lover of classic movies and music will love. The main reason for this is the movie’s story. Crafted by co-writers Philip Yordan and Frank Cavett, the movie takes a route not very often taken by screenwriters both past and present. Instead of just being another romance movie, Syncopation makes its romance story secondary while putting the evolution of America’s greatest music front and center. From the Dixieland and blues sound of New Orleans to the more up-tempo sounds of Chicago’s jazz scene and more, audiences get to hear for themselves the roots of the jazz community. Even better for audiences is that jazz legends Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Harry James, and Charlie Barnet all get some screen time along the way. Getting to see and hear these legends perform makes for an excellent introduction to them and their music for those that might not be so familiar with them or their work. It could be a doorway into a whole new world of music for that matter. And for those that are more familiar with them and their music, it is that much more reason to add this movie to their home collections.

The musical elements of Syncopation’s story more than make this movie worth the watch by anyone that has any love of classic movies and the rich history of Hollywood’s golden era. They are just part of the story’s whole, of course. They are the base on which the movie’s secondary romance story sits. The romance side of the story follows Kit Latimer (Bonita Granville) from her childhood in New Orleans to her adult life finding love, losing that love because of war, and learning to love again afterward. Director William Dieterlie didn’t allow this subplot to overpower the movie’s central story honoring what is America’s music, instead balancing both elements together. The end result is a story that proves to be unlike so many other romance stories both of its age and Hollywood’s current era and in turn one of the perhaps most underrated movies in Hollywood’s history. It is one that any true lover of movies and music should add to their collections should they not already own it.

The dual-lined story that serves as the body of Syncopation makes for plenty of reason for any movie buff and music lover to add it to their personal movie libraries. They are but a tiny portion of what makes it worth the purchase, too. Throughout the course of the movie’s story, director William Dieterlie and those behind the cameras make following the story especially easy thanks to the story’s scene transitions. The scene transitions are smooth dissolves. There is no jumping from point to point. Audiences will see this as Kit leaves her childhood behind in New Orleans for her new home. They will see it just as clearly when America is pulled into Work War I and the man she loves goes off to fight for her country, and after the death of her childhood nanny Ella. The examples could go on and on. But it should be clear just how Dieterlie used this effect to help advance the story. And because he used them when and where he did, it went a long way toward keeping audiences engaged from beginning to end thus making for even more reason for true-blooded movie lovers and music lovers to pick up this movie’s much deserved re-issue.

The writing that went into Syncopation is key to its success and enjoyment. Yordan and Cavett are to be commended for the way in which they balanced the movie’s two separate plot lines. Dieterlie’s handling of the transitions (and that of those charged with assembling the final product) is just as important to the whole of Syncopation. Both parts are integral to the enjoyment of the story in whole. On another branch, the presentation that is Syncopation’s re-issue is made all the more enjoyable thanks to the recordings that make up the movie’s bonus features. Cohen Media Group has included a total of nine classic recordings featuring some of the greatest names in jazz. The names in question include: Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and a handful of others. The recordings are presented exactly as they were in their original presentations nearly a century ago. They look and sound surprisingly good considering the fact that well over eighty years have passed since they were originally recorded. Their collective run time comes to almost an hour and a half if not more than that, with the shortest (Jazz A La Cuba w/ Don Aspiazu) coming in at five minutes and nineteen seconds. The longest (St Louis Blues w/ Bessie Smith) comes in at fifteen minutes and forty-one seconds. The recordings aren’t just audio tracks, either. They are actual audio/visual recordings that tell stories alongside the songs. And they will definitely keep audiences engaged even by themselves. Lena Horne even makes an appearance in one recording, singing ‘Stormy Weather.’ She is presented singing her song inside a house, rain falling on the window. The pain in her voice as she sings against that backdrop makes the classic gives the song so much emotional punch. The other bonus recordings offer their own entertainment, too. And audiences will see that for themselves when they pick up Syncopation for themselves whether on DVD or Blu-ray. It is yet another reason that Syncopation’s new re-issue is a must-have for any true-blooded movie buff and music lover. What’s more it is that much more way in which it proves itself one of this year’s best new re-issues. Together with the work of the movie’s writing team and the work of those behind the cameras, it proves that without even the slightest shadow of a doubt.

Syncopation proves in its brand new DVD and Blu-ray re-issue that it is one of the best new re-issues of 2015. It proves to be a piece that any true-blooded movie buff and music lover should have in their own home libraries. It proves this through the solid work of co-writers Philip Yordan and Frank Cavett. It proves this just as much through the story’s scene transitions. they make both of the movie’s story elements entertaining and interesting for audiences. The bonus classic recordings that were unearthed for this re-issue make its presentation whole. That is thanks to the surprisingly impressive quality of their audio and video. The combination of all of these elements makes crystal clear why Syncopation is such a welcome re-issue. Their combination shows without a doubt why it is one of this year’s best new re-issues and a work that every true-blooded movie buff and music lover should have in his or her home movie collection. It is available now in stores and online. Audiences can check out a trailer from the movie and check out the movie’s image gallery online at https://cohenmedia.net/films/syncopation. A link to Amazon and iTunes is also available at this website for those looking to order or download the movie online. More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online at:

Website: https://www.cohenmedia.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CohenMediaGroup

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ESPN Announces Latest Additions To Its Sunday Night Baseball Broadcast Schedule

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Major League Baseball’s 2015 season is just around the corner and in celebration, ESPN announced this week, its first official slate of games for this year’s Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell schedule.

This year’s Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell schedule kicks off Sunday, April 5thwith a matchup of National League foes St. Louis and Chicago. St. Louis will be on the road against the Cubs in the season’s first Sunday night broadcast. The following Sunday, April 12th, the Boston Red Sox make one of its annual trips up to New York to face their hated foes the New York Yankees. In week three, the Reds hit the road in an NL Central battle against the St. Louis Cardinals. And it’s the annual “Subway Series” between the Mets and Yankees in week four with the Mets leaving the safety of Shea Stadium to face the Yanks. Things only heat up from there as the season progresses. Dan Shulman will have the call for each week’s broadcast beginning at 8pm ET. He will be joined by analysts Curt Schilling and John Kruk, and reporter Buster Olney. Each week’s broadcast is preceded by ESPN’s weekly pre-game show Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown presented by Chevrolet at 7pm ET.

Those that won’t be near a television on Sunday nights can still catch ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell on ESPN Radio and online via WatchESPN. Broadcasts are also available in Spanish for ESPN’s Spanish-speaking audiences via ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes Radio. ESPN’s current Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell schedule is listed below.

Current 2015 Sunday Night Baseball schedule:

Apr. 5

St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Opening Night presented by Scotts (ESPN2)
Apr. 12

Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees presented by Taco Bell
Apr. 19

Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals presented by Taco Bell
Apr. 26

New York Mets at New York Yankees presented by Taco Bell
May 3

New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox presented by Taco Bell
May 10

Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers presented by Taco Bell
May 17

Detroit Tigers at St. Louis Cardinals presented by Taco Bell
May 24

Texas Rangers at New York Yankees presented by Taco Bell
May 31

Detroit Tigers at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim presented by Taco Bell (ESPN2)
*July 12

St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates presented by Taco Bell
*July 19

Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim presented by Taco Bell

More information on ESPN’s weekly broadcasts of Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell is available online along with all of the latest Major League Baseball news at:

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ESPNBaseballTonight

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://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.

The Good Times Do Indeed Roll On JD McPherson’s New LP

Courtesy:  Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Singer/Songwriter JD Mcpherson recently released his latest full-length studio release Let The Good Times Roll. The album, his second, was released via Rounder Records. McPherson’s new album is an aptly titled record. That is because throughout the course of the album’s eleven tracks and thirty-six minutes, McPherson offers audiences an album that will have them dancing and singing from the album’s upbeat title track to its Buddy Holly-esque ‘Bridgebuilder’ all the way to the album’s full-on 1950s style rocker ‘Everybody’s Talking ‘Bout The All-American.’ And those are just a few of the reasons that audiences will love this album, too. There is not one bad song throughout this record from beginning to end. It takes the classic vibe established in his 2012 debut album Signs and Signifiers and takes it another step forward incorporating more influence from the rock and r & b acts that continue to make the 1960s one of music’s greatest eras ever. The end result is an album that is deservedly one of this year’s early contender’s for a spot on any critic’s year-end list of the year’s best new albums overall.

JD McPherson has crafted in his second full-length album Let The Good Times Roll a record that is quite aptly titled. That is because from start to finish, McPherson does indeed let the good times roll. Every performance will leave a smile on listeners’ faces and will leave listeners wanting to listen to it again once it’s done. That is evident right from the album’s opener and title track. ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ is a great rocker that harkens back to the days of John Fogerty and others of his ilk. McPherson’s guitar work and drummer Jason Smay’s driving tempo set the song’s backbone. The additional piano line makes that backbone even stronger. McPherson’s soulful vocals complete the song as he sings, “I miss you so/Every time I fall away/I miss you so/Every time I fall away/Let the sky open up little darling/Follow me when I go/Let the sky open up and/Let the good times roll.” He goes on to sing to his figure of interest, “Why can’t you see/I’m standin’ at your door/Why can’t you see/I’m standin’ at your door/Open your home little darling/Follow me when I go/Let the sky open up and let the good times roll. It should be noted that this is not a cover of the 1956 song written by Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee. That aside it is still an enjoyable song in its own right. Presented here is a man telling a woman how much he needs her and loves her. But it’s not done in the classic almost begging style. Rather, there’s a full on swagger to the song here. It’s a swagger that is—again—certain to have any listener on their feet, singing and dancing happily right to the last moment and just as anxiously waiting to see what he has in store next.

What McPherson offers to his audiences after the album’s opener/title track is nothing short of impressive. Every one of the songs that make up this album is well worth its own mention. That includes even the softer, slower sounds of ‘Bridgebuilder.’ The seemingly Buddy Holly/Roy Orbison influenced song will instantly take listeners familiar with music of the era back to the 1950s both with its musical and lyrical side. Audiences can almost see McPherson and his band mates—Jimmy Sutton (upright bass), Jason Smay (drums), Ray Jacildo (keyboards), Doug Corcoran (Saxophone, guitar, keyboards)—on some high school stage a la Back to the Future performing for a group of teenagers while their teachers and parents chaperone the school dance. That is not necessarily meant in a negative way. Rather, the rendition is so pure that it creates that vivid image in one’s mind. That image becomes even more vivid as McPherson sings, “I’ll build something that is real and true/Building bridges to you/I’ll build something that is real and true/Building bridges to you/Bridgebuilder, bridge builder build me a bridge/Draw a straight line on the water/Bridge builder, bridge builder/The waters are deep/Fear I may sink to the bottom/Waiting in shadow/In old merry times/Dreaming of some father’s daughter.” The combination of those lyrics and the song’s classic 1950s style music creates a truly incredible song. It actually sounds like it came direct from the 1950s rather than just being some modern song recorded to sound like something similar to the music of that era. That speaks volumes of this song. It speaks, for that matter, just as loudly as the album’s opener and every other track on this disc. Because it does so, it proves ‘Bridgebuilder’ to be yet another wonderful addition to Let The Good Times Roll.

As is evidenced by both the Buddy Holly/Roy Orbison influenced ‘Bridgebuilder’ and the Jon Fogerty influenced opener/title track to Let The Good Times Roll, JD McPherson gives audiences plenty to like about his new album. They are definitely not all that there is to like about this album, either. McPherson and his band mates keep audiences entertained from start to finish on this album. And hearing the album’s rock and roll/r & b hybrid sound of the album’s closer ‘Everybody’s Talking ‘Bout The All-American’ listeners will agree with that sentiment. McPherson sounds almost like Little Richard here as he sings, “Everybody talking ‘bout the All-American/Knockin’ down walls like a bombardier again/Hair fallin’ down like a razor blade/Breakin’ every heart in every place you’re playing/Everybody talking ‘bout the All-American.” The sax and the drums coupled with McPherson’s work on the guitar and his vocal style make this song feel like something pulled right out of a time capsule that was buried decades ago. It is a solid and rocking final statement from McPherson and company that leaves the absolute best impact on listeners’ ears. Coupled with the rest of the album’s compositions—both those noted and not noted—it will leave an impact so strong that it will have listeners hitting play almost instantly to listen to the album again. That is how impressive this album proves itself. To have such a lasting impact on listeners means that it is definitely deserving of being called one of this year’s best new albums overall.

JD McPherson is currently touring in support of his new album. He will be at the Bowery Ballroom in New York, New York this Wednesday, February 25th for a sold out performance. From there, he and his band mates will wind their way through the Northeast before heading to the Midwest by way of Charleston, WV on March 8th. After those dates, the band will make its way down South beginning April 9th in Paducah, Kentucky. The band’s late spring schedule across the South includes a stop at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 23rd at 7pm. That performance date will see McPherson supporting country music superstar Eric Church. Even more tour dates follow that show. McPherson’s latest tour schedule can be found online along with all of the latest news from McPherson online at:

Website: https://www.jdmcpherson.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jdmcphersonhistyle

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jdmcphersonjr

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://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.

Lucky Diaz & The Family Jam Band Looking To Its Fans For Its Next LP

Courtesy:  Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band

Courtesy: Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band

Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band is looking to fans to help fund its next album.

The band has released six albums, all of which were released independently. It has its own show on PBS called Lishy Lou and Lucky Too. The show in question is produced by the band’s own production company, meaning it puts its own money into the show. It has even won a Latin Grammy for its 2013 album fantastico. That album was the band’s first US release to win a Latin Grammy. As if these accolades aren’t enough, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band has been featured by no less than NPR’s All Things Considered, USA Today, CNN, Sprout TV, American Airlines, Univision, and many more outlets.

For all of the success that Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band has had over the years, it should be noted again that said success has come from the pockets of the band members’ own pockets. Now Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band is looking to its fans to help fund its next album Adelante. The band is looking to its fans for help in part because while working on Adelante it suffered a heartbreaking setback. Someone broke into the band’s storage locker, stealing its instruments and destroying the set that it uses for its show on PBS. Sadly the band’s insurance apparently only covers a very minute portion of its damages and losses. So now it is asking its fans to be part of its new bi-lingual record’s creation. The money donated by fans will go toward purchasing new instruments and replace the set for its show. And what’s in it for fans that help make Adelante a reality? Fans can pick up autographed copies of the band’s albums, props from its show, private concerts, skype time with the band and pretty much anything else that fans could probably think up. Donation levels start as cheap as $15 and run as high as $15,000. Here’s how it breaks down:

For $15, fans will get an advance digital download of Adelante and monthly behind-the-scenes video journals. Also at this level, fans will get a digital download code for the album a month ahead of its release as well as monthly behind-the-scenes video journals from the band. Only forty of these offers are left.

At the $25 level, fans can get a physical autographed copy of Adelante from the band as well as a secret download code for the album and monthly behind-the-scenes video journals. Fans that donate at the $25 level will even get their name in the album’s liner notes along with that downloadable copy of the album. Supplies of both rewards at this level are limited.

From the $25, the level jumps to $40. At this level, fans can get a two-fer. Fans at this level can get one personalized copy of Adelante for a family member and a signed copy to give as a gift. The band will send out the gift copy personally with a card letting the recipient know who had it sent to them. Or both copies can be sent to donors for donors to send out themselves. Less than 20 of these are left.

The rewards increase at each donation level from here. Fans can find out what they can get for donating at each level at the band’s indiegogo website at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/new-album-adelante-lucky-diaz-the-fjb. And for all of the latest news on the album’s progress, fans can follow the band online at:

 

Website: https://www.luckydiazmusic.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucky-Diaz-and-the-Family-Jam-Band/182600891967

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://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.

ESPN’s College GameDay To Air Live From Wichita State For The First Time February 28th

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Next Saturday’s broadcast of ESPN’s College GameDay Covered by State Farm is another big one for the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

Next Saturday, ESPN’s College GameDay Covered by State Farm will broadcast live from the campus of Wichita State. The broadcast will marks the first time ever that College GameDay Covered by State Farm will have ever broadcast live from the university’s campus. Saturday morning’s edition of College GameDay Covered by State Farm will kick off live at 10am ET on ESPNU and will continue at 11am on ESPN. It will precede the matchup of No. 13 Wichita State ad No. 11 Northern Iowa. Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 2pm ET.

The eveing edition of College GameDay Covered by State Farm will come live at 4pm ET on ESPN. It will come live from Lawrence, Kansas ahead of No. 8 Kansas taking on Texas. Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 5pm ET. Saturday evening’s broadcast from Lawrence marks the sixth time since 2005 that College GameDay Covered by State Farm has broadcast live from the University of Kasas. The last time that it originated from Lawrence, Kansas was 2013.

Stephen A. Smith will appear alongside host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg, and Jay Williams for the A.M. edition of College GameDay Covered by State Farm. Once they finish with the morning edition, Davis and company will pack up and head to Lawrence for the evening edition. Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas will have the call for the Jayhawks-Longhorns game while Rich Hollenberg, Seth Greenberg, and Mark Adams will have the mic for the matchup of the Shockers and Panthers. Shannon Spake will be on the sidelines for the Kansas-Texas game.

All customers with access to ESPN3 will be able to watch that game with ESPN3 Surround featuring in-arena natural sound and exclusive views from high above the rim at each end of the court.
More information on next Saturdays’ broadcasts of College GameDay Covered by State Farm and all of the ESPN networks’ college basketball coverage is available online at:

Website: https://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ESPNCBB

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://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.

Boardwalk Empire’s Third Volume Is A Wonderful Musical Love Letter To Music’s Golden Age

Courtesy:  ABKCO Records

Courtesy: ABKCO Records

HBO’s hit drama Boardwalk Empire wrapped up its fifth and final season late last year. the series, which starred veteran actor Steve Buscemi, wrapped up after five seasons. The series’ final season. With the series at its end, its final season was released on DVD last month alongside its soundtrack, Boardwalk Empire Volume 3. It is still very early in the year. But it is safe to say at this point that Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 is one of this year’s best new overall albums. The reason that it is deserving of such high honor is the fact that listening to this record is like taking a musical trip back in time. And while that phrase is tossed around sometimes too often by critics (this critic included sometimes), this compilation of songs is one of those rare pieces that truly is wholly deserving of such note. The collection resurrects some of the greatest jazz songs of all time, reaching all the way back to the 1920s ad 30s for its track listing. The catch is that each of the record’s nineteen tracks is recorded by a modern act. Yet none of the songs has been updated. It would have been easy for the acts in question to put their own spin on each song. But they didn’t do that. They recorded the songs exactly as they were recorded so many decades ago. The only thing that the songs on this record is missing is the static of an old vinyl. If that had been there, it would have pushed the record over the top. Even without that static, the songs still comprise a record that any true lover of jazz will appreciate and one that should be on every critic’s list of the year’s best new albums overall come December. That is just part of what makes this record a must hear for any true-blooded lover of jazz. Another reason that audiences will appreciate this collection so much is the fact that while classic jazz songs make up the majority of its body, there is also a light touch of the blues and even some classic Latin-tinged pieces, too. That mix of musical styles coupled with the fact that the songs themselves are true classics makes Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 all the more enjoyable. Last but not least worth noting of this collection is the fact that while it is a soundtrack, the songs that make up the record make it just as solid a stand-alone collection as a companion to the series’ recently released fifth and final season DVD box set. Listeners can enjoy this record without having to have any prior knowledge of Boardwalk Empire’s five-season run on HBO. Rather they can just enjoy it as the collection of classic jazz tunes that it is. It is just as important a factor in the record’s success and enjoyment as the songs themselves and their renditions. All things considered, Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 proves in the end with its full complement of songs to justifiably be considered an early contender for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new albums overall.

Soundtracks for movies and television series far too often are little more than a bunch of songs tossed together for the purpose of bringing in extra money for a given movie studio or television company. The mass of soundtracks that meet that mantle is so extensive that it would be impossible to name all of the soundtracks that never should have seen the light of day. For all of the forgettable soundtracks that are churned out each year, there are actually some rare diamonds in the rough among that mass. Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 is one of those rare diamonds. It proves to be one of those rare diamonds first and foremost because of its songs. The songs collected for this latest (and final) volume of songs from HBO’s hit drama is a wonderful arrangement of songs that any true lover of classic jazz will appreciate. The songs that make up Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 reach all the way back to the 1920s and 30s, music’s golden era. From Elvis Costello’s take of Harry Barris and Gordon Clifford’s timeless I Surrender Dear as the record’s opener to Margot Bingham and David Mansfield’s take of Ma Rainey’s blues classic ‘Farewell Daddy Blues’ to Bingham’s cover of the equally timeless Fabian Andre/Wilbur Schwandt/Gus Kahn song ‘Dream A Little Dream of Me,’ to all of the record’s other songs, the record in whole presents itself like a musical trip back in time. That phrase is thrown around sometimes too often by critics. But in the case of this record, it is deservedly used. From start to finish, every one of the songs that makes up the record’s body was recorded in the exact same fashion as in their original recordings. There was no attempt by any of the artists to put their own spin on the songs. This makes the songs feel like they were pulled right from the original masters instead of having been re-recorded by modern artists. The only thing that is lacking in the presentation of the record’s songs is that classic sound of static. Even without that sound though, the quality of the songs is reduced by a factor of zero. That is how incredibly believable these songs are in their presentation and why the songs and their presentation combine to make the most important part of Boardwalk Empire Volume 3’s enjoyment and success.

The songs that were chosen for Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 and the uncanny similarity to their original recordings are collectively the most important part of the record’s enjoyment and overall success. For all of its importance, just as important to note of the disc’s success is its overall makeup. Classic jazz songs make up most of the record’s body. But they are not all that audiences get in this collection of songs. As noted perviously, there is a touch of the blues in Margot Bingham and David Mansfield’s cover of Ma Rainey’s ‘Farewell Daddy Blues.’ It is an acoustic performance that must be heard to be fully appreciated. There is also a Latin-tinged piece in ‘Son Que Quita Las Penas,’ which translates roughly to ‘They are that it removes penalties.’ And ‘The Yodeling Chinaman’ offers its own interesting sound that adds even more interesting musical variety to the record. The combination of those varied sounds across the album’s nineteen songs and sixty-two minutes coupled with the incredible presentation of each song makes even more evident why any jazz purist will love this record and why it is one of this year’s best new albums overall.

The songs that make up the body of Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 display a wonderful window into the music industry’s past. They take listeners on a musical trip back in time to the business’s golden era more so than any classic collection since. Making this collection of songs even better is the fact that the artists that re-recorded them for the collection didn’t try to make some artsy remake in their own vision. Rather they stayed true to the original rendition of each song. Save for the static in the background, the end result of the recordings is a group of recordings that sounds like it was lifted right from the original masters. Both aspects of Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 are of equal importance to the record’s presentation. As important as each element proves to be to the whole, the fact that audiences don’t have to have any knowledge of Boardwalk Empire’s televised side in order to enjoy these songs. Unlike so many other soundtracks released every year in partner with their movies and television series, this collection of songs wasn’t aligned in time with its show’s episodes. So there’s no need to have any background information on the show in order to enjoy the songs. A basic understanding and appreciation of jazz history is all that audiences need. And even for those lacking even that understanding and appreciation, it makes for just as solid a starting point for anyone wanting to learn about the history of both music and jazz more specifically. It’s yet another way that Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 proves to be one of this year’s best new albums overall.

Boardwalk Empire Volume 3 is one of this year’s best new albums overall. Given, it is a soundtrack for all intents and purposes. But it is still deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new albums overall. That is because the songs presented on the record make this recording more than any before, a musical trip back in time to a better age. The renditions of the presented songs pay full tribute to the original songs. And audiences don’t even have to have any previous knowledge of the series in which they are utilized. That’s because the songs aren’t used in that same chronological fashion as songs that comprise other soundtracks. They are just great classic jazz tunes. They are a window into a better era of music. Because audiences don’t have to be fans of the series from which they were lifted, and because of the fact that they weren’t altered in their new versions from their original performances, they are made all the more enjoyable. The very fact that they have been resurrected for a whole new generation of music lovers is the ultimate statement of love and respect for their legacy. Whether for one of the aforementioned reasons or all of them, any listener that gives this recently released soundtrack/compilation will agree that it is indeed one of the best new albums of 2015. It is available now in stores and online.

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Bonz Speaks Loud And Clear On Broken Silence

Courtesy:  Pavement Entertainment

Courtesy: Pavement Entertainment

Twenty years ago, Stuck Mojo released its first ever full-length album. That album, Snappin’ Necks would be only the beginning for the Atlanta, Georgia-based rap-metal band. The band would go on from there to release five more albums an EP and a hits collection in the form of Violate This (2001). Of those recordings, front man Bonz handled vocal duties on all but two. That is because after the release of 2000’s Declaration of a Headhunter, Bonz parted ways with his band mates in what was allegedly a less than amicable split. He would go on to be replaced by Lloyd “Lord” Nelson on Southern Born Killers (2007) and The Great Revival (2008). Late last year though, Bonz and his band mates seemingly buried the hatchet and reunited for what many thought would be a one-time only show in Atlanta. Though, now the band also has another show planned for April 17th in Charlotte, North Carolina. Word is that this reunion is in fact just temporary as Ward and company still have their own projects going on as does Bonz.  Bonz has his own band bearing his name and a new album to boot titled Broken Silence. That album was released last week via Pavement Entertainment. And for anyone that is familiar with Stuck Mojo’s sound, those fans will especially appreciate Broken Silence as it stylistically bears quite the similarity to Stuck Mojo’s ’95 debut from beginning to end. That is clear right from the album’s lead single and title track in which Bonz tackles the fallout from his split with his brothers in the self-proclaimed four piece of doom in the early 2000s. ‘Sinister Grin’ proves to be just as deeply personal in examining its lyrical content. There is a lot of pent-up emotion behind this song. He even goes after his naysayers in the heavy, headbanger ‘Take It Personal,’ essentially saying he isn’t ignoring them and that it’s them that makes him stronger. It’s another piece proving that regardless of whether he is recording and performing with his brothers in Stuck Mojo or with his new family in his own band, Bonz hasn’t lost any of the fire that was there nearly three decades ago when Stuck Mojo first formed. Whether for the songs noted here, for those not noted, or for the record in whole, Broken Silence proves to be a record that any long-time fan of Stuck Mojo and/or Bonz himself will appreciate.

Broken Silence is, as noted, a record that any long-time fan of both Stuck Mojo and Bonz will appreciate. That is due in large part to the coupling of a sound that harkens back to Stuck Mojo’s 1995 debut Snappin’ Necks and lyrical content throughout that exhibits quite the emotion and depth. The album’s title track is a prime example of how that mix of musical firepower and lyrical depth makes the album worth the listen. ‘Broken Silence’ utilizes song titles and lyrics from all of the albums that Bonz recorded as a member of Stuck Mojo to take on the fallout from his split with the band after the release of its album Declaration of a Headhunter in 2000. Right from the song’s outset, the similarity to Stuck Mojo’s early days becomes fully evident through the work of guitarist Curt Taylor, drummer Erin Stagg, and Bonz’s own vocal delivery style. The anger and frustration that obviously built up after Bonz’s split with his former band mates is just as evident in the ferocity of his delivery. He raps in this song, “Who’s the devil/On a pigwalk/Crooked figurehead saying it’s all my fault/Been violated/Even changed my ways…snappin’ necks from beginning to the end…Mental meltdown/Twistin’ my game/Monkey behind the wheel deciding my fate/Don’t get started/You left that out/Step up, step up what’s next out your mouth.” Bonz continues in this same fashion, citing Stuck Mojo’s body of work to verbally assault one of his former band mates. Anyone with any knowledge of the split between Bonz and the rest of the band can only assume that the target of Bonz’s lyrical attack here is guitarist and Stuck Mojo founding member Rich Ward. Making the song even more interesting is the very fact that now Bonz and company have reunited at least temporarily. So one can’t help but wonder if the animosity expressed by Bonz has been tempered at least to a point and the proverbial hatchet buried. Regardless it makes for a solid anchor to Broken Silence and an equally look into the fallout from Bonz’s split from Stuck Mojo for any fan of both sides.

Broken Silence’s title track makes for quite the introduction to Bonz’s new album. This is especially the case for any fans that might have wondered what Bonz has been up to and where he has been ever since the two sides split. It serves as such a solid introduction (or re-introduction) for audiences because of it searing honesty and equally powerful musical side. For all of the musical and lyrical punch offered throughout the course of the song, it is just one of the album’s songs that exemplifies the emotions that Bonz has felt over the years. The album’s opener ‘Sinister Grin’ displays just as much musical and emotional power. Bonz raps against Curt Taylor’s full throttle shredding and Erin Stagg’s machine gun-precision drumming, “How do I smile without a sinister grin/I grab my pen and then the lyrics begin/How do I smile without a sinister grin/The enemies used to be my friends/How do I smile without a sinister grin/I grab my mic and the lyric then begins/How do I smile without a sinister grin/Friends, success imagine my chagrin/I’m reminiscing about those b!&@%#$/Steady a$$ kissin’ always on a mission/I hear ‘em hissin’, swearin’ and wishin’…” He goes on in this similar fashion through most of the song, even going so far as to verbally stand up to the subject(s) of his verbal punches saying that he has nothing to hide unlike said figure(s). It could easily be a misinterpretation on the part of this critic. but considering the venom that he spit in the album’s lead single, this song seems to lyrically follow the same pattern, attacking his former band mates in Stuck Mojo. Of course that is again merely the interpretation of this critic. It would be interesting to find out the full story behind this song and see if it gels with that interpretation. Right or wrong, it still proves both verbally and musically to show even more just how much power Broken Silence boasts both musically and lyrically. And considering that, it shows even more why Broken Silence proves to be a good introduction and re-introduction to Bonz.

Both ‘Broken Silence’ and ‘Sinister Grin’ show in their own way what makes Broken Silence a solid introduction and re-introduction to Bonz and the music that he’s crafted since splitting from Stuck Mojo. They also tell quite the interesting story of what he’s gone through at least emotionally since those days. That is thanks to their mix of music and lyrics. Both songs serve as excellent examples of what audiences have to expect from Bonz and company on the band’s debut release for Pavement Entertainment. While both songs serve as excellent examples of what Broken Silence has to offer in their own right, the band offers another equally solid example of what makes Broken Silence a solid return for Bonz just past the album’s halfway point in the song ‘Take It Personal.’ Rather than focusing his pent-up emotions on his former band mates here, he puts his crosshairs on his naysayers in general. The musical backing offered by Bonz’s band mates in this song will make the purest of purist headbangers happy. [Curt] Taylor’s guitar line and Erin Stagg’s drumming in the song’s chorus conjure thoughts of certain sludge/doom bands while Don Leslie’s bass work expertly accents Bonz’s own verbal skills in the verses. Speaking of those verbal skills, Bonz adds his own impact to the song as he raps, ‘Here’s a middle finger/Now you got a clue/That I don’t give a damn who the hell are you/B-O-N-Z man you cannot boo/No we ain’t goin’ down and play the fool.” Bonz goes on in similar fashion throughout the course of the song’s nearly four and a half-minute run time, shooting verbal missiles at his critics and at those of his new band. Bonz’s stylistic approach in this song is almost methodical in the verses. He makes his point entirely clear throughout the verses without having to be forceful, saving his energy instead for the song’s chorus sections. The juxtaposition of the two vocal styles coupled with the work of Bonz’s band mates leaves no doubt as to why this song is one more solid addition to Broken Silence and one more part of what makes Broken Silence in whole an album that any fan of Bonz and/or Stuck Mojo will enjoy.

Broken Silence is a solid introduction and re-introduction to Stuck Mojo’s original vocalist. That is evident in the songs examined here. While all three songs play their own part in the success of Broken Silence, the album’s remaining seven songs–including the live take of ‘Take It Personal’ that closes out the album–each present their own examples as to why fans of both Bonz and Stuck Mojo will appreciate this record. Whether for those songs or the pieces noted here, the album in whole proves to be one in the end that any Stuck Mojo fan should hear at least once regardless of whether they are fans of the band or of its outspoken front man. It is available now in stores and online. More information on Broken Silence and any upcoming live dates from Bonz is available online now at:

Website: https://www.bonzband.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bonzband

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