Music’s Past, Present, And Future Come Together In 2015’s Best New Live CDs List

Going to see live shows is anything but cheap. Anyone that has ever been to one will attest to that. Regardless of whether the show is close by or a long drive, it seems going to see shows nowadays is anything but cheap. Not to mention it’s not always easy because of time constraints. Weekday and weeknight shows are anything but easy just because of scheduling regardless of whether or not one has a family. So that leaves the question what is one to do in place of going to see a show? The answer: Pick up one’s favorite live recording on CD or DVD/Blu-ray. Both formats offer their own pros and cons. And in many cases, what is available on CD might not necessarily be available on DVD/Blu-ray or vice versa. That leads to the need for a list both for the year’s best new live CDs and new live DVDs/BDs. For the sake of this list the attention will go to the year’s best new live CDs. This year’s list includes a number of live CDs that were not accompanied by live DVDs and Blu-rays. Legendary guitarist Jeff Beck’s new live CD Live + is one of those that only received the CD treatment. It topped this year’s list. Saxon’s The Saxon Chronicles is another live CD that didn’t get the companion DVD/BD treatment. It’s on the list, too as is Birth of Joy’s Live at UBU, Jimi Hendrix’s Atlanta Pop Festival performance, and Zodiac’s The Road Tapes Volume 1. In other cases such as The Rolling Stones’ “From The Vault” recordings, audiences were lucky enough to get the recordings in complete packages. The same applies with Whitechapel’s Brotherhood of the Blade. These are just some of the titles that made the cut for this year’s list of the year’s best new live CD recordings. This was by no means an easy list to assemble. So no offense is meant against any recording that was left off the list. Set lists had to be taken into account as well as production values and also the acts’ stage presence. Taking all of that into account the following is the final list. Without any further ado I offer to you, dear readers, 2015’s Top New Live CDs.

2015 TOP NEW LIVE CDS

1. JEFF BECK — LIVE +

2. CARLOS SANTANA/JOHN MCLAUGHLIN — LIVE AT MONTREUX 2011

3. LYNYRD SKYNYRD — SWEET HOME ALABAMA

4. DARYLL HALL AND JOHN OATES — LIVE IN DUBLIN

5. TESSERACT — ODYSSEY

6. JIMI HENDRIX — ATLANTA POP FESTIVAL

7. ZODIAC — THE ROAD TAPES VOLUME 1

8. WHITECHAPEL — BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE

9. THE ROLLING STONES — FROM THE VAULT: LIVE AT THE TOKYO DOME

10. THE ROLLING STONES — FROM THE VAULT: LIVE IN LEEDS

11. THE ROLLING STONES — FROM THE VAULT: THE MARQUEE CLUB LIVE IN 1971

12. EUROPE — WAR OF KINGS (SPECIAL EDITION WITH WACKEN OPEN AIR 2015 CONCERT)

13. SAXON — THE SAXON CHRONICLES

14. EMERSON, LAKE, & PALMER — LIVE AT MONTREUX 2011

15. BIRTH OF JOY — LIVE AT UBU

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ESPN’s CGD To Broadcast Live From Ohio State This Weekend

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN is headed to the Buckeye State this weekend.

This weekend, ESPN’s College GameDay Built by The Home Depot will come live from the campus of Ohio State University. It marks the first time since 2010 that the Emmy Award-winning college football broadcast will come live the the campus of The Ohio State University. Saturday’s broadcast will come live from The Oval in front of the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library beginning at 9am ET and will run until noon eastern. The broadcast is in anticipation of Saturday night’s showdown between the #2 Buckeyes and #9 Michigan State Spartans. That game will be the feature match on Saturday Night Football on ABC presented by Wells Fargo. Kickoff for that game is scheduled for 3:30pm ET.

Rece Davis will anchor Saturday morning’s broadcast. He will be joined at the desk by analysts Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard and David Pollack. Contributors Samantha Ponder, Tom Rinaldi, George Whitfield, and Gene Wojciechowski will be on hand for additional commentary an reports. Herbstreit will have the call Saturday night on ABC. He will be joined in the booth by Chris Fowler. Reporter Heather Cox will also be on hand for additional commentary and reports.

Friday afternoon, Samantha Ponder, Desmond Howard, and David Pollack will be on site for ESPN’s weekly broadcast of College Football Live. That broadcast will begin at 2pm ET. Over on ESPN Radio, Doug Kezirian will anchor ESPN Radio’s broadcast of College GameDay. He will be joined by Brad Edwards and Trevor Matich for the broadcast. Maria Taylor, Joey Galloway, and Andrea Adelson will be on hand for additional commentary. Broadcast begins at 3:30pm ET on ESPN Radio affiliates nationwide. More information on this weekend’s edition of College GameDay Built by the Home Depot is available online now along with all of the latest college football headlines at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/college-football

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/CollegeGameDay

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.

Every Anthrax Fan Will Want Band’s New “Disease”

Courtesy: Island Records

Courtesy: Island Records

Early this week veteran metal act Anthrax announced the name and release date for its upcoming eleventh full-length studio recording. The album, For All Kings will be released Friday, February 26th, 2016. Considering that as of next Sunday, November will be halfway wrapped, it’s safe to say that February 26th is not that far off. While fans wait for the big day, Anthrax is giving audiences a special treat to tide them over. The treat in question is the re-issue of the band’s 182 sophomore album Spreading the Disease. The album will be released Friday, November 20th via Island Records. Whether or not fans already own this classic collection of songs, its new re-issue proves to be a great addition to the music library of any of the band’s fans. The main reason for that is its overall presentation. The band didn’t just phone it in per se and re-issue the original album and call it done. Along with the original album it features a complete concert that spans seventeen songs and runs for a total of an hour and sixteen minutes. This will be discussed at more length shortly. Speaking of the concert, its set list is just as worth mention in the overall experience. Last but not least worth noting is the concert’s audio mix. Considering that the concert was originally recorded in 1984 as part of the band’s tour in support of the then upcoming album, the audio quality in this recording stands well apart from so many other recordings. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Rather it makes the overall listening experience of this concert all the more interesting. In turn it makes the whole of Spreading The Disease’s re-issue that much more worth the listen among the band’s fans. All things considered, Anthrax’s new re-issue of its seminal 1985 album Spreading the Disease is one of the best of this year’s music re-issues.

Anthrax’s re-issued 1985 sophomore album Spreading the Disease is one of the best of this year’s music re-issues. The central reason for such honor is that it isn’t just another music re-issue. In other words, the band didn’t just simply re-issue the album and call it done. Instead it re-issued the album alongside a complete live performance recorded in 1984 ahead of the album’s original release. On the surface that might not be saying much. But in the grand scheme of things, it is in fact quite important to the record’s presentation here. The album itself was part of the movement of the rock world at the time away from the glam and hair bands that had dominated the rock community for the first half of the decade. Not only that but its brand of thrash separated it clearly from its counterparts on the west coast. It opted for substance instead of just speed and shredding. That is evident throughout the course of the album’s eleven tracks (nine of which come from the album’s original release and two that are bonuses) and forty-eight minute run time beginning with the Metallica style opener ‘A.I.R.’ ‘Medusa,’ ‘Lone Justice,’ and ‘The Enemy’ each exemplify that difference from the west coast thrash sound just as much. And they are not the only examples that could be cited as examples either. The combination of all ten tracks paints a vivid picture not only of Anthrax’s roots but those of so much of today’s thrash metal. In simple terms, it serves not only as a source of musical entertainment but as an important piece of music history, too. And it is just one part of the reissue’s whole that makes the album’s presentation so important. The bonus concert included with the record is just as important to the package’s presentation as the album itself.

The presentation of Spreading the Disease by itself is an important part of this album’s re-issue. It is just one part of what makes the album’s presentation so important to its overall listening experience. The bonus content included with the record’s re-issue is just as important to the package’s presentation as the album. The bonus material in question includes an eight-song performance that was originally recorded in 1987 during a performance by the band at Sun Plaza in Tokyo and nine isolated tracks. The bonus live material boasts songs from both Spreading the Disease and the band’s 1984 debut album Fistful of Steel. That element will be discussed shortly. What is truly important in regards to the concert’s recording is the fact that it displays the band in its younger days. This is especially important considering that front man Joey Belladonna and bassist Frank Bello had joined the band only three years prior to the concert. That means that Spreading The Disease marked the first time that the pair had recorded with Scott Ian and Charlie Benante and at the time of the concert’s recording the group had obviously not been together all that long. Even having not been together but so long one would not know it from the band’s stage presence in the featured live performance. it is just one element of the bonus disc that makes this re-issue such a worthwhile addition to any Anthrax fan’s home music library. The bonus isolated tracks add even more enjoyment to the package’s overall presentation. That is because they give the featured songs (most of which were recorded in the sessions for Spreading the Disease) a whole new identity. They give fans a glimpse into the creative process at the time and in turn make the reissue’s overall listening experience even more interesting for fans. The combination of the live elements and studio elements together makes the reissue’s bonus disc a bonus in both name in content. They still are hardly all that should be noted in regards to the reissue’s overall presentation that makes it enjoyable for fans. The live songs included in the package’s bonus disc are just as important to the package’s presentation.

The overall collected bonus material featured in Spreading the Disease’s bonus disc is important in its own right to the reissue’s overall packaging. And while they are hugely important altogether, both elements in themselves play their own important role. Having noted the importance of the bonus disc’s featured isolated tracks the natural progression is to examine the featured live performance also included in the bonus disc. The live performance included in the bonus disc was originally recorded in 1987, three years after the original release of Spreading the Disease. And of its eight total tracks, five of those tracks were lifted from Spreading The Disease. The remaining three were lifted from the band’s 1984 debut record Fistful of Metal. The live performance paints a clear picture of the band both musically and personally at the time of the concert’s recording. In comparison to the band’s live show today it shows how far the band has come since that recording and how much its members have grown since then.

The set list featured in the live section of Spreading The Disease’s bonus disc is in itself an important portion of the disc and the performance. It is not the only aspect of the performance that should be noted however. The concert’s audio mix is just as important to the whole of the recording as the set list. What makes the audio mix so important is that unlike so many of today’s live recordings this recording’s audio mix sounds raw. It doesn’t have that, re-mastered, spit-shined sound of said recordings. Listeners will actually feel in listening to this performance like they are really there with the people who were there at the show’s original recording. This is obvious in the open, airy sound presented from beginning to end. Anyone that has ever been to a live concert in person knows exactly what that sounds like. It is different from when one hears it on disc. Even with that noticeably truer live sound, the concert still sounds surprisingly impressive. It never sounds like any of the band members are way off in the distance but that they are right up on stage. It makes for a truly interesting experience for audiences. Together with the concert’s featured set list, the performance in whole makes for a wonderful addition to Spreading The Disease’s new re-issue. The concert in whole, coupled with the album’s original presentation (and its bonus tracks), makes Spreading The Disease a great addition to any metal purist’s music library. Of course for all of the positives offered by the reissue’s noted elements one would be remiss to ignore the isolated tracks included in the presentation’s bonus disc. They play just as important of a role in the overall presentation as the album, its bonus tracks, and the bonus live recording included in the bonus disc.

Spreading The Disease’s full album presentation and its bonus tracks give plenty of reason for this re-issue to be added to any metal and rock purist’s home music library. The bonus concert gives those audiences even more reason to purchase this package. That is because it acts–together with the main album and its bonus tracks–as a complete look back at where Anthrax was then versus where it is now as a band. For all of their importance to the whole of this package, one would be remiss to ignore the isolated tracks included in the bonus disc alongside the concert. The isolated tracks add even more interest to said disc. That is because they give the featured songs new identities in whole. They also serve to give a glimpse into the work that went into bringing each song to life. From time to time, viewers get to see and hear behind-the-scenes featurettes on how bands’ albums come into being. The problem is that none of the noted featurettes give the kind of view as these isolated tracks. Rather they are typically short vignettes shot in guerilla style that do little if anything to illustrate the time and effort spent to create said albums. While the isolated tracks presented here are audio-only, they offer quite a bit more than so many of those “making of” featurettes included with so many of today’s albums. That being the case, the tracks featured here are quite the positive addition to Spreading The Disease in its new re-issue. And together with the bonus live recordings, the whole of the bonus disc proves to be a bonus in far more than just name. It is an extra that will not only entertain but enlighten fans regardless of their familiarity with Anthrax and its body of work. Together with the package’s main album and its bonus tracks, the bonus material included with the album makes Anthrax’s Spreading the Disease re-issue one of the best of this year’s music re-issues.

Anthrax’s Spreading The Disease reissue is one of the best of this year’s new music re-issues. That is because it doesn’t more than just present the original album and call it done. Anthrax, together with Island Records, has included a number of bonuses for audiences new and old alike. The main disc presents the original album and also includes a pair of bonus tracks for a total of eleven tracks. Along with the main album, the two have also included a bonus disc that is indeed a bonus in every sense of the word. It features an eight-song set recorded during the band’s 1987 tour of Asia and nine isolated tracks recorded in studio that display in-depth the work put into bringing Spreading the Disease to life. The bonus live set adds its own share of positives to the whole of the presentation. Each of the elements in their own right make Spreading the Disease’s new re-issue well worth the listen by any metal purist and Anthrax fan alike. Together with the package’s main disc the whole of this package makes it one of the best of this year’s crop of music re-issues. Spreading The Disease will be available in stores and online on Friday, November 20th. More information on this upcoming release is available online now along with all the latest updates on the band’s next new album and all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://anthrax.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/anthrax

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Nonpoint Signs New Deal With Spinefarm Records

Courtesy:  Spinefarm Records

Courtesy: Spinefarm Records

Spinefarm Records announced today a major new addition to its roster.

Spinefarm Records has added veteran rock band Nonpoint to its roster. Officials with Spinefarm Records announced that the band will begin work on its ninth full-length studio record early in 2016 and release the album via the upstart record label soon after. Nonpoint has built a worldwide following from the release of its debut album fifteen years ago all the way up to its most recent recording, 2014’s The Return all while making its way around the country and the world alike and facing a number of lineup changes along the way. Nonpoint front man Elias Soriano, who has fronted the band since its formation, spoke briefly on the band signing with Spinefarm. He noted that the band agreed to the deal with Spinefarm because the label shared the band’s drive for getting its music out there. “In the 15 years of being part of this big machine, filled with radio stations, labels and all-around crazies, it feels nice to sit down and talk about the future of your lifelong dream with a team that shares the passion and excitement that we do performing the music,” he said. “Spinefarm is home now. Hallelujah.”

Spinefarm GM Jonas Nachsin put into words the excitement and drive on the labe’s behalf saying, “”As our roster continues to build, we are very excited to have such a quality act join forces with us.” He added, “Nonpoint’s new music sounds amazing and along with their great team including Steve Davis, we are very excited to bring it to the world in the very near future.”

Before it heads back into the studio to start recording its upcoming album, Nonpoint will hit the road overseas alongside Fozzy. A Full list of the band’s upcoming tour dates is available online now along with the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.nonpoint.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/nonpoint

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Slayer Debuts Video For Repentless’ Lead Single

The wait is over at last. After a long five-year wait, Slayer has returned to reclaim the metal crown with its new album Repentless. And now, the band has officially debuted the video for the album’s title track and lead single.

Slayer and its new label home Nuclear Blast America debuted the video for the album’s title track/lead single on Friday alongside the release of the band’s new album. The video can be viewed online now via Rolling Stone magazine’s website at http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/see-slayers-bloody-prison-nightmare-in-repentless-video-20150911.

Courtesy:  Nuclear Blast America

Courtesy: Nuclear Blast America

The video sees Slayer performing inside a prison in which the inmates have gotten free and taken over. Parental discretion is advised. In regards to the graphic nature of the video, front man Tom Araya noted in an interview with Rolling Stone writer Kory Grow, “We’re telling the story that we’ve always told about society and how humans treat each other,” frontman Tom Araya said. “It can get pretty violent. It can get pretty stupid. But that’s OK. That’s human nature.” Fans can check out Grow’s entire article online now at the link noted above.

The video for ‘Repentless’ marks the first time ever that director BJ McDonnell has delved into the realm of music videos. His most recent directing role was on the 2014 horror flick Hatchet III. He has also worked as a cameraman on Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and The Interview. Stunt coordinator Nils Allen Stewart was brought in to help with the video, too. His credits include work on: Planet of the Apes, Anger Management, and Daredevil.

Viewers that watch closely will note cameos by some mbig name actors including: Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Til Dawn, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), Tony Moran (Halloween’s Michael Meyers, American Poltergeist, Dead Bounty), Jason Trost (Hatchet III, All Superheroes Must Die, The FP), Sean Whalen (Men in Black, Halloween II, Twister), and Vernon Wells (Mad Max 2, Commando, Weird Science).

More information on ‘Repentless’ and the rest of the songs on the band’s new album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.slayer.net

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

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.

ESPN Kicks Off NFL Training Camp Coverage

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The start of the 2015 – 2016 NFL season is still six weeks away (not counting the pre-season, which kicks off August 9th with the Hall of Fame Game). That aside, any NFL fan will agree that it is never too early to talk football, especially as pre-season camps have officially gotten underway. And thanks to ESPN, football fans are now getting in-depth coverage of every team’s training camp.

ESPN kicked off its NFL training camp coverage Saturday, July 25th and Sunday, July 26th with reporter Ben Goessling and Jeremy Fowler. Goessling was imbedded in Mankato, Minnesota with the Minnesota Vikings. Fowler was imbedded with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Trey Wingo and company take over coverage of the Steelers’ training camp Monday, July 27th on ESPN’s NFL Live. Wingo will be joined by former Steeler and member of the 2015 NFL Hall of Fame class Jerome Bettis, Ryan Clark, and Merril Hoge. Reporter Josina Anderson will also be on hand for additional commentary and news. Also on Monday, reporter Mike DiRocco will have all of the latest from the Jacksonville Jaguars’ training camp. Continuing its full, in-depth coverage from around the leage, SportsCenter will have three of its anchors–Jay Harris, Lindsay Czarniak, and Matt Barrie–on the road on site for even more coverage. Harris will report from the Broncos’ training camp on Friday, July 31st, while Czarniak and Barrie will report from the Bucaneers’ and Texans/Redskins joint camps on August 7th and 8th respectively. In all, ESPN’s flagship program will have coverage from thirty of the league’s thirty-two total camps throughout the month of August. Additional coverage of each camp wil come from ESPN’s bureau reporters, from ESPN.com, and from NFL Nation team reporters. Those reporters will offer on-site reports and daily look-ahead stories giving insight into what fans should look for at each team’s camp. The current schedule for ESPN’s NFL training camp broadcasts is noted below.

Date

NFL Team

On-Site Commentator(s)

Sat, Jul 25

Minnesota Vikings

Ben Goessling

Sun, Jul 26

Minnesota Vikings

Ben Goessling

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Jeremy Fowler

Mon, Jul 27

Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL Live: Trey Wingo, Jerome Bettis, Ryan Clark, Merril Hoge and Josina Anderson

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike DiRocco

Wed, Jul 29

Dallas Cowboys

Todd Archer

 

New England Patriots

Sal Paolantonio

 

New York Jets

Rich Cimini

Thu, Jul 30

Dallas Cowboys

Todd Archer

 

New England Patriots

Sal Paolantonio

 

Green Bay Packers

Rob Demovsky

 

Washington Redskins

John Keim

 

Denver Broncos

Jeff Legwold

Fri, Jul 31

Denver Broncos

Jeff Legwold, Jay Harris, Tom Jackson, Adam Schefter

 

New England Patriots

Sal Paolantonio

 

Buffalo Bills

Mike Rodak

 

Seattle Seahawks

John Clayton

Sat, Aug 1

Indianapolis Colts

Mike Wells

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Josina Anderson

Sun, Aug 2

Tennessee Titans

Paul Kuharsky

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Sal Paolantonio

Mon, Aug 3

Carolina Panthers

David Newton

 

Detroit Lions

Michael Rothstein

Tue, Aug 4

Dallas Cowboys

TBD

 

Cleveland Browns

Bob Holtzman

Wed, Aug 5

Seattle Seahawks

John Clayton

 

Chicago Bears

Jeff Dickerson

Thu, Aug 6

New York Giants

Dan Graziano

 

Oakland Raiders

Shelley Smith

Fri, Aug 7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pat Yasinskas, Lindsay Czarniak, Ron Jaworski

Sat, Aug 8

Houston Texans/Washington Redskins joint practice

Tania Ganguli, John Keim, Matt Barrie, Ryan Clark, Louis Riddick

Sun, Aug 9

St. Louis Rams

Nick Wagoner

Mon, Aug 10

Kansas City Chiefs

Adam Teicher

 

Miami Dolphins

James Walker

Tue, Aug 11

Cincinnati Bengals

Coley Harvey

 

Baltimore Ravens

Sal Paolantonio

Wed, Aug 12

Arizona Cardinals

Pedro Gomez

 

San Diego Chargers

Eric Williams

Wed, Aug 19

New England Patriots/New Orleans Saints joint practice

Mike Triplett, Britt McHenry

*Subject to change

More information on ESPN’s NFL training camp coverage is available online now along with all of the latest NFL news at:

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

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

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.

Curious George: The Complete First Season Is Complete In Name Only

Courtesy:  Universal Studios Home Entertainment/PBS/PBS Kids

Courtesy: Universal Studios Home Entertainment/PBS/PBS Kids

Curious George is one of America’s most beloved literary figures. For generations everybody’s favorite curious little monkey has been entertaining readers and viewers of all ages with his adventures. From an extensive series of literary adventures to a classic animated series of sorts in the 1980s to his most recent series, which debuted in 2006, George’s adventures have been teaching important lessons and putting smiles on families’ faces for ages. And this past May fans of George’s most recent animated series were finally rewarded for their loyalty to the series as Universal Studios Home Entertainment (USHE) finally released the series’ first season in its entirety on DVD. Its release marks the first time that this series’ first season has seen the light of day in whole on DVD. And as entertaining as it is, it has to be said that it isn’t a perfect release. On the good side, audiences get the entire sixty episode (yes, sixty episodes) run from Season One on just four discs. That equals to roughly ten hours of entertainment and education for audiences of all ages. This is especially important for a number of reasons and will be discussed shortly. Sixty episodes is a lot of episodes. So one would naturally think that an episode guide of some sort would have been included in this set. Sadly the exact opposite proved to be the case. There is no episode guide. And that’s just one of a handful of cons that weigh down the set. For all of the cons that weigh it down, there is at least one more positive to consider. that positive is in fact the writing that went into each of the set’s episodes. More simply put, the mix of entertainment and education incorporated into each episode offers its own value to the whole of Season One. That value set alongside the set’s cons and its one major positive, Curious George: The Complete First Season isn’t a total loss for audiences. It is one of the year’s best new box sets for children and families. Though, sadly it can’t be said that it is the year’s best.

Curious George: The Complete First Season has been a long time coming. Ever since the series made its debut nine years ago, audiences have waited patiently for its release. Yet for some reason the people at USHE instead started with the series’ sixth and seventh seasons and only now released its first season. Why USHE would take that route is anyone’s guess. Getting back on track, audiences will appreciate that while it is complete in name only, Curious George: The Complete First Season is complete at least in terms of its episode listing. Season One boasts a total of sixty (yes, sixty) episodes. Those episodes are spread across a total of four discs that are packaged wisely inside a standard DVD case. The inclusion of all sixty original Season One episodes here is a positive in that it replaces a number of USHE’s previously released standalone Curious George compilation discs. This critic alone owns no fewer than a dozen of those standalone DVD compilations. That means that no less than half of those DVDs can now be eliminated. In other words, that means less DVDs cluttering up the house. Any parent will welcome less clutter. What’s more, owning sixty episodes in one set means that much less worry about missing George when it comes on TV regardless of whether it be on PBS or a family’s local PBS Kids affiliate. Keeping all of this in mind, the inclusion of all sixty Season One episodes in a wisely packaged four-disc set definitely makes Curious George Season:  The Complete First Season worth the addition to any family’s home DVD library.

The presentation of all sixty episodes from Curious George’s first season is within tiself plenty of reason for families to add this box set to their home DVD library. It potentially eliminates clutter from families’ homes. And it means that much less worry about missing Curious George when it comes on TV. Those are all great aspects of Season One. For every positive there is always at least one negative, though. Sadly, Curious George: The Complete First Season has its share of cons. The most glaring of those cons is linked directly to the season’s sixty-episode run. It is the lack of an episode guide of any kind. Considering that Season One boasts so many episodes, one would have thought it common sense that some thing as simple as an episode guide outlining which episodes are on which disc would be included in the set. Apparently someone at USHE thought otherwise. So audiences essentially have to either memorize the episode listing or write up an episode listing themselves and add it into the box. It’s sad that that was apparently an afterthought for the people at USHE. It is just one of a number of cons that weigh down this set, too. Along with that con, audiences will also note that there are no bonus features to speak of anywhere in the set.

The “mid-show” segments that feature kids doing what George did in the corresponding episode are nowhere to be found, either. The “mid-show” segments are commonplace with each broadcast on television. They are even there on the series’ standalone sets. So why not here? It’s doubtful having them in each episode would force an extra disc or even more to the set. So why not have them here? It seems a trivial aspect. But in reality those segments help to drive home the concepts being taught in each episode. They drive home the presented concepts because they present children doing the things that George did in the corresponding episodes. This makes them that much more relatable for young viewers and in turn more capable of reaching them. So not having them included here yet again weighs down the set even more. It means that parents and teachers have to find ways to keep those audiences engaged after the episodes are over and figuring out how to drive the lessons home themselves. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it would have been nice to have that starting point regardless. Because it isn’t there audiences are actually losing out by not having them included here. The same can be said of the lack of bonus features.

The bonus features that are so commonplace in the series’ standalone compilations also help to drive home the concepts being taught in the presented episode. They, too are starting points for bigger lessons that can be taught on the presented topics. A prime example is the rocket building game that corresponds with “Curious George’s Rocket Ride.” That game is included in the standalone DVD which features said episode as its focal point. That game in nowhere to be found anywhere on this set. It keeps children interested in rockets and space all while teaching a basic lesson about shapes. It’s just one of so many games and other activities not included in this set that could have been included. Because it and the others from other Curious George DVDs aren’t here, it means teachers and parents having to figure out how to come up with a cost-effective way to present the same games on their own. Yet again, that’s not a total loss. But still it would have been nice to have at least something there. Not having any bonus games, “mid-show” segments, or episode guide to go by, so much enjoyment and even education that could have been had is potentially lost from this set. Considering this, Curious George: The Complete First Season loses a lot of points and shows even more to be in reality complete in name only.

Curious George: The Complete First Season is sadly complete in name only. That is because despite having its full complement of sixty episodes, it is lacking in a number of other areas, as has been pointed out. For all of its cons, there is at least one more important pro that should be noted here that is directly related to the cons. That pro is the actual writing that went into this season’s episodes. The writers expertly balanced the series’ entertainment value with its educational content in every episode without fail. From one episode to the next there are various lessons that teach problem-solving skills, basic math and science skills, and so much more. For example, in “From Scratch,” George teaches viewers about using deductive reasoning by trying to solve what made scratches on the furniture at Chef Pisghetti’s restaurant and clear Gnocci’s name. Young viewers won’t even realize that they are being taught thanks to the fact that the series’ writers made the episode a whodunit sort of story with George playing the detective. “Zero To Donuts” teaches viewers basic math skills as George accidentally orders one hundred dozen donuts when he should have only ordered one dozen. So he has to learn about the values of certain numbers. And in “The All Animal Recycled Band” kids learn both about music and conservation as George wants to make a band of his own. The problem is that he has to figure out how to make his instruments and who will play them. His decision on who will play makes for plenty of laughs for the whole family. The lesson about conservation taught through George’s development of his instruments is just as important to the episode. It’s another example of the writers’ ability to balance important educational content with entertainment throughout Season One. There are plenty of other episodes that could be used as examples of how the writers’ ability to balance educational and entertainment content make Season One’s episodes makes them so enjoyable. There just is neither enough time nor space for a discussion on each one. Needless to say, the talent of the writers to balance both elements set along with the fact that all sixty episodes are finally presented in one complete set makes Curious George: The Complete First Season a welcome addition to any family’s home DVD library. This is the case even with all of its negatives. Those negatives make this season enjoyable but sadly complete in name only.

Curious George: The Complete First Season is a welcome addition to any family’s home DVD library. The fact that al slixty of its episodes have been presented together here for the first time is just one reason that it is such a welcome addition. The balance of educational and entertaining content within each episode makes for even more reason for families to add this box set to their home DVD library. Sadly there are some glaring issues with the set including the lack of something as basic as an episode guide, the “mid-show” segments that are commonplace in the series’ TV broadcasts and its standalone DVDs, and any bonus features that are common on those same standalone DVDs. Even with those cons noted, they don’t make Curious George: The Complete First Season a total loss. They only make it complete in name only. All things considered, Curious George: The Complete First Season is one of the year’s best new box sets for children and families. But it is hardly the best. It is available now in stores and online. More information on this and other available Curious George DVDs is available online along with the latest Curious George news at:

Website: http://www.curiousgeorge.com

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

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