Veteran Indie Band’s New EP Is A Telling Statement

Courtesy: TAG Publicity

For a little more than two decades, Kalamazoo, MI-based indie rock act Willamena has made quite a name for itself in the music industry, releasing five studio recordings in that time, doing it all on its own no less.  That diy approach, coupled with songs that are just as marketable as those from more well-known acts to whom its works can be compared, has helped the band’s fan base continue to grow.  The release this past June of the band’s sixth studio recording, its aptly titled six-song EP Strong Enough to Last has undoubtedly served to build the band’s fan base and reputation even more.  The songs featured in this 24-minute record will appeal to a wide range of fans, including fans of Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox 20, Counting Crows and other similar acts.  This applies both musically and lyrically.  All things considered, this latest effort from what is – in this critic’s ears – one of the music industry’s best kept secrets is more proof that the indie music industry has just as much to offer audiences if not more.

Veteran indie rock outfit Willamena’s new EP Strong Enough to Last is an aptly titled record that clearly proves the underground music community has just as much to offer audiences today if not more.  That statement is supported right from the record’s outset in the form of ‘As Long As I Can.’  Musically speaking, the song bears a clear Goo Goo Dolls influence.  Intentional or not, that similarity is undeniable, and is not necessarily a good thing considering Goo Goo Dolls’ status in the mainstream.  Lyrically speaking, it offers just as much to like.  Guitarist and principal songwriter Chad Hendrickson writes in this song, “I grew up running/Away from the shadows//Darkness was always close to me/I saw tomorrow as the reason I was trying/I’d rather run to the day/Than hide from the night/Everyone gets tired/And I know that I’m no Superman/And I’m gonna run/As long as I can/As long as I can.”  He goes on to write in the song’s second verse, “Maybe I’m desperate/Maybe I’m just a fool/My happiness never seems real to me/But I could always dream/And that’s enough, you see/Cause I’d rather reach for my dreams/Than feel empty inside/And I know that I’m no Superman/And I’m gonna run/As long as I can.”  These two verses make up the song’s main lyrical body, and also make up quite a positive message in the process.  In the simplest terms possible, Hendrickson is writing about having a certain drive and determination no matter what.  It goes without saying that such a message is wholly welcome and needed nowadays for so many people.  When it is coupled with the song’s equally upbeat musical arrangement, the end result becomes a solid first impression for the band on this EP and even more proof of why this record in whole is another solid effort from Willamena.  It is not the only song to support those statements, either.  ‘Darkest Before The Dawn,’ which comes later in the EP’s run, supports those statements just as much as the record’s opener.

‘Darkest Before The Dawn,’ musically will appeal to Matchbox 20 fans thanks to its gentle, flowing, instantly radio ready pop rock arrangement, which is highlighted by the pairing of its guitars and vocalist Lukas Ross’ delivery.  That moving arrangement,  is only one part of what makes this song stand out.  Its lyrical content is just as important to note.  Ross presents another positive message here as he sings, “I hope what I heard is true/It’s darkest before the dawn/Cause I don’t know how much longer I can just sit back/And hold on/Well I’ve been down before/But never quite like this/Life seems to have just slipped away/And this midnight feels endless/It’s tough out here/It’s cold when you’re alone/It’s tough out here/I know it’s darkest before the dawn/It’s darkest/Darkest before the dawn/Here comes the sun and the rain’s moving on/It’s darkest before the dawn.”  That verse alone supports the interpretation of the song’s positive message, especially in its final lines in which Ross sings “Here comes the sun and the rain’s moving in.”  That is another way – seemingly – of saying life will not always be negative.  The song’s second verse hints at that positive message just as much, as Ross sings, “If the early bird gets the worm/Then I’d have been full by now/I keep trying despite the odds that have been holding me down/But I’m gonna climb that wall/I ain’t gonna stop/I’m gonna feel the light on my face when I make it to the top/It’s tough out here/It’s cold when you’re alone/It’s tough out here/I know it’s darkest before the dawn/It’s darkest/Darkest before the dawn/Here comes the sun and the pain’s moving on/It’s darkest before the dawn/I remember when I dreamed of the sun as it shined on a perfect day/Now there’s a darkness to the edge of the night that takes my breath away/Now I pray for the light/I pray for the light/I pray for the light/To shine on me.”  There is no doubt that this is a message of hope and determination.  Again, any time a band, act, etc. can present such a positive, uplifting message to its listeners, it is a good thing.  When that positive message is coupled with an equally radio friendly musical arrangement, the whole of the song proves why the song is such an important addition to its record.  It shows even more, along with the record’s opener, why the EP is so enjoyable, and is still not the last of the songs that prove the EPs strength.  ‘Close Your Eyes,’ the EP’s second (and third – the EP actually includes two takes of the song) work is one more example of what makes Strong Enough to Last such a strong new effort from Willamena.

‘Close Your Eyes’ stands out musically thanks to a guitar line in its verses that bears a striking similarity to that of U2’s classic hit ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ and a chorus that is more akin to so many radio friendly 90s mainstream rock hits.  The choruses are infectious and will stick easily in listeners’ minds long after the song ends.  Lyrically, it is just as interesting thanks to yet another positive message presented in its verses.  Ross sings in the song’s lead verse, “Night/Follows the setting sun/And the stars come out/When the day is done/Dreams/Only come when your eyes are closed/When you can shut out the world/Shut out that cold/I’m drowning from the weight of my dreams/Spent too much time running away from too many things/Cause I dream/As much as I can/When you close your eyes/You can see everything/You can close your eyes/Close your eyes and dream/When you close your eyes/You can do anything/When you close your eyes/Close your eyes and dream/Cause you can dream about anything/When you close your eyes.”  Ross goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “The wind/blows through her hair/But to me/She was already there/The day/Chases the stars/Now when I walk around I know/They’re not very far away/I’m drowning from the weight of my dreams/Spent too much time running away from too many things/Cause I dream/As much as I can.” These two verses come across seemingly about the power of actual dreams during sleep to be motivators for metaphorical dreams; those desires that one wants in real life.  That is inferred as Ross sings, “You can dream about anything when you close your eyes.”  The suggestion that the song’s subject “spent too much time running away from everything” would seem to hint at that inference about the power of dreams both literal and metaphorical, and their importance.  Whether that is truly the message or not, it goes without saying that the song is meant to be positive.  That positive message, coupled with the song’s catchy musical arrangement makes this song stand out just as much as its counterparts and in turn show once more what makes Willamena’s new EP so strong.  When it is set alongside the record’s other noted songs, and the two Tom Petty-esque pieces that round out the EP (its fifth and sixth songs), the whole of the record’s songs shows without doubt just how strong this record is.  They show collectively why Willamena, despite being just under that mainstream radar for more than 20 years, is itself in fact strong enough to last.

Willamena’s latest studio recording is not the band’s first effort.  The band’s sixth studio recording, it is another offering that proves why this band is still strong enough to last in itself.  That is due to six separate radio ready musical arrangements that are certain to entertain audiences.  The songs’ lyrical content is just as certain to entertain and engage audiences.  All things considered, Strong Enough to Last proves that even after a little more than 20 years Willamena is itself still strong enough to last and that the record itself is easily one of this year’s top new EPs.  It is available now.  More information on Strong Enough to Last is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.willamena.net

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/willamenaband

 

 

 

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‘The Talk’ Will Have Audiences Of All Races Talking

Courtesy: PBS/Public Media Distribution

Race and traffic stops.  The two matters have been prominent in the public eye in recent years thanks to stories of interactions between police and the public going very wrong.  What led those interactions to go bad is still being discussed nationwide to this day both in the media and in other arenas.  Because the issue has remained such a hot button topic, Public Media Distribution and PBS tackled the topic this past April with the powerful new documentary The Talk: Race in America on DVD.  The roughly two-hour program focuses on the clear rift that continues to divide America’s law enforcement community and the people who said community is supposed to protect and service.  It does this by presenting a series of segments that examine what has formed that rift.  Those segments form the foundation for this presentation and will be discussed shortly.  The discussions raised in each of the segments strengthen that foundation and will be discussed later.  The program’s pacing rounds out its most important elements.  Each noted element is important in its own right to the program’s presentation.  All things considered, they make The Talk: Race in America a program that is certain to have everyone talking for a very long time.

The Talk: Race in America is one of the most powerful programs that PBS and Public Media Distribution have presented to audiences in a very long time.  This roughly two-hour program — which addresses the clear rift between the police and the people that they are charged with protecting and serving — offers plenty to talk about, including its overall presentation.  Over the course of its two-hour run time, the program tackles the topic through a handful of segments addressing some headline-making incidents between police and the public.  The incidents include the case of Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot in 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio; the fatal shooting of Michael Brown the same year; the fatal police shooting of Oscar Ramirez in Los Angeles, CA in 2015 and other high-profile cases.  Those stories make up only one side of the story addressed in the program’s segments.  The segments that make up the program’s second hour allow law enforcement their time to show why law enforcement officers act (and react) the way that they do, even admitting that there are issues that need to be addressed with those actions and reactions.  From there, the program addresses training efforts being undertaken by law enforcement agencies nationwide to reduce those instances including in-house video training scenarios that discourage a shoot now – ask questions later mentality among officers.  Simply put, the segments presented here show, in a fully unbiased fashion just how very serious the issue of race relations still is today between the police and the public.  They show that this is an issue that must be publicly addressed and not brushed under the carpet.  They also show that the issue of rogue law enforcement officers must be addressed just as aggressively.  Keeping all of this in mind, the segments that make up the body of this program form a solid foundation for the documentary.  They are collectively not the program’s only key element.  The discussions raised in each segment are just as important to its overall presentation as the stories told throughout the segments.

The discussions presented throughout the course of The Talk: Race in America are critical to the program’s presentation because they show that efforts are being made on both sides of the badge nationwide to address the rift addressed through the program’s segments.  Viewers hear from law enforcement officials, community activists, and even celebrities to show that for all of the black and white (literal and metaphorical) that exists in that rift, there are also shades of grey.  There are those people on both sides who do in fact want that rift to be mended and who are working to close that gap.  Law enforcement officials discuss during their time the efforts that (as already noted) are being taken to train their own to de-escalate situations.  They also discuss the uncertainty of interactions that leads many officers to be so tense.  On the other side, there are those noted activists who organize public discussions with law enforcement officials that allow both sides to talk.  The program also includes a discussion by a minority couple who is teaching their son about the two sides so that he won’t become the next statistic one day, showing that maybe, just maybe, there is hope for the future.  At the same time, the couple also proves once more in its discussion that the tensions between police and minorities must continue to be addressed if that hope is to grow.  These discussions and so many others build on the foundation formed by the program’s segments and in turn show not only their own importance, but the importance of the program in whole that much more.  Even with their importance clearly displayed here, it can’t be said that the discussions are the last of the program’s most important elements.  The program’s pacing rounds out its most important elements.

The pacing of The Talk: Race in America is a critical part of the program’s whole because of its direct connection to the program’s segments and discussions (I.E. its overall content).  Considering that this program covers so much ground over the course of two hours, its pacing could have easily led audiences to fast forward through parts, ultimately making it a matter of what could have been.  Luckily though, that was not the case here.  From beginning to end, the segments and related material were balanced expertly both in terms of time and energy including even the segments’ transitions.  The attention to even the most minute details such as the transitions — and even the topics’ connections — ensures audiences’ engagement from beginning to end.  That ensured engagement will in turn lead viewers to see for themselves the importance of the program’s unbiased approach and the discussions connected to each segment.  That, in turn, will lead those viewers to agree to the importance of The Talk in whole to America and will most certainly leave viewers talking among themselves long after it ends.  The Talk: Race in America is available now.  It can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other titles from PBS is available online now at:

 

 

 

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‘Alive At 25’ Is Enjoyable For Its Visual, Not Audio, Experience

Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group

This past August, veteran rock act Jane’s Addiction marked a major milestone with the 25th anniversary of the release of its seminal 1990 studio recording Ritual de lo Habitual.  Originally released Aug. 21, 1990, the album has gone on to become one of its most important albums if not its most important album.  In celebration of its release, the band released Alive at 25 Aug. 4 of this year.  The recording captures the band performing Ritual de lo Habitual in its entirety at Irvine, CA during its 2016 Silver Spoon Anniversary Tour.  There is plenty to say good about this recording.  As much as there is to say to the positive about the recording, it is not without at least one major flaw.  That flaw – the recording’s audio – will be discussed later.  Getting back to the positives, the very fact that the band is performing one of its most important albums in whole in one set is obviously the most important of the recording’s elements.  This will be discussed shortly.  The recording’s other positive is, interestingly enough, its collective cinematography and video editing.  Each of the elements noted here is important in its own right to the recording’s whole.  All things considered, they make Alive at 25 a concert that is okay, but sadly could have been better.

Jane’s Addiction’s latest live recording Alive at 25 is an enjoyable recording, but only to a point.  The recording’s audio is a factor that cannot be ignored.  It would of course, be unfair to focus only on that negative in examining the recording in whole.  Keeping that in mind, the recording does have its positives as well as its negatives, not the least of which being the fact that the concert presents the band performing Ritual de lo Habitual in whole in one set.  From start to finish, audiences get the band’s landmark album in whole plus some of the band’s more recent works to boot.  What’s really interesting to note in the concert is that front man Perry Farrell makes more than one mention of the band playing at Irvine “one last time.”  Considering that the band is still touring, such statement leaves one wondering what that statement might have meant since there is currently no word on any new music from the band on the way.  Regardless of whether or not that means anything for the future, the very fact that the band has presented here one of its most important albums in whole is still undeniably critical to the recording’s whole.

What’s more, audiences will enjoy the stage presence of guitarist Dave Navarro, bassist Chris Chaney and drummer Stephen Perkins throughout the show.  The trio puts on quite a performance, thankfully making up for Farrell’s seemingly blasé demeanor as he sways around the stage almost listlessly throughout the show.  Their collective work, coupled with the recording’s set list, cinematography and editing serves to give the concert what energy it does have and in turn giving reason to watch the recording at least once.  Of course even with the noted positives, the recording does suffer from the previously noted negative of its audio.

From start to finish, it is clear that this recording was recorded at an extremely low level.  Audiences are forced to nearly max out the volume on their televisions in order to be able to hear the concert.  This is the case even with the pre-show interviews with the band members and applies regardless of the sound setting on viewers’ televisions and whether or not they have home surround sound systems.  Audiences should not be forced to nearly blow out their televisions’ speakers in order to enjoy a concert and then push that volume all the way back down before switching the television back to regular settings.  This may not seem overly important on the surface.  But when examining the recording’s overall presentation, it is just as important to note as the recording’s cinematography and editing, which proves far more impressive.  It is part of the recording’s overall production values, and should have been addressed far more seriously than it apparently was here.  Keeping that in mind, it is the one element that could potentially keep this recording from being named among the year’s top new live recordings by critics next month.  Despite this, the recording is still not a total loss. The aforementioned cinematography and video editing make up for the problems caused by the recording’s audio issues.

The cinematography and video editing exhibited throughout the course of Alive at 25 serves as one of the recording’s cornerstones.  Thanks to the work of those behind the cameras, audiences are presented with a concert experience that visually is not just another run-of-the-mill recording.  Certain fades and visual effects are used throughout the concert to keep audiences engaged and entertained — effects such as black and white shots, slow fades and dissolves, and even the use of slower shutter speeds.  The editing mixes those elements and shots, which are largely presented around the stage, to make the concert here not just a concert, but a standout visual cinematic concert experience. When that is considered along with the previously discussed stage presence of Farrell’s band mates, the two elements together make even more important the concert’s visual elements.  It is that overall visual experience that, when coupled with the show’s set list, makes this recording worth at least one watch.  If the audio had been better, it would have been worth far more.  Ultimately though, that one negative keeps the concert from being worth more than that much.  Keeping all of this in mind, Alive at 25 likely won’t be alive in audiences’ minds far beyond that one watch.

Jane’s Addiction’s latest live recording Alive at 25 is a valiant effort from one of the rock community’s most pivotal bands.  It offers a set list that presents one of the band’s most important albums in whole in one setting, and a performance of that album by most of the band, that is certain to entertain audiences.  The concert’s video work is just as certain to entertain audiences.  Even with all of this in mind, it still is almost not enough to make up for the problems raised by the recording’s audio issues.  If audiences have to nearly max out the audio on their televisions in order to hear the concert, there is not a lot of point to even take in the show. At the same time, audiences should not have to push the volume on their televisions way back down after the concert ends in that continued effort to not blow out their televisions’ speakers.  Keeping all of this in mind, Alive at 25 sadly likely won’t be alive in audiences minds after just one watch.  That is painful to say considering the quality of the band’s past live recordings.  Hopefully the band will take all of this as a learning experience for its next live recording, when and if there will be another live recording from the band.  Alive at 25 is available now in stores and online.  More information on Alive at 25 is available online along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.janesaddiction.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/janesaddiction

 

 

 

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Former Holiday Entry ‘Trespass’ Will Entertain Audiences Looking To Get Away From The Standard Holiday Fare

Courtesy: Universal Pictures/Shout! Factory

The holiday season is officially upon us once again, and that means very soon TV networks and theaters alike will be inundated with their respective annual holiday fare.  Of course that fare, both new and old alike, is not for everyone.  Keeping this in mind, Shout! Factory has an interesting alternative for those looking to avoid that standard fare in the form of the recently re-issued 1992 action flicked Trespass.  Originally released in theaters nationwide on Christmas Day 1992, Shout! Factory re-issued the largely forgotten flick on Blu-ray June 27 of this year. The fast-paced ensemble flick features famed actors/rappers Ice-T and Ice Cube alongside then up-and-coming actors William Sadler (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Iron Man 3) and Bill Paxton (Titanic, Apollo 13, Aliens) as its leads.  Trespass is not the most memorable action flick out there, but that is due in part to its original release date, which is discussed in the movie’s bonus material – the re-issue’s foundation.  That material will be discussed shortly.  The movie’s story is also discussed in its bonus material, and will be discussed in regards to its importance to its whole later.  The cast’s acting rounds out the movie’s most important elements.  When it is joined with the other noted elements, the whole of those elements makes this largely forgotten action flick one worth at least one watch among action aficionados.

Universal Pictures’ 1992 action flick Trespass is an interesting presentation for those looking for an alternative to the standard holiday fare on television and in theaters.  Having debuted in theaters nationwide on Christmas Day 1992, the 101-minute (1-hour 41-minute) movie is not one of the 90s most well-known action flicks.  It debuted at #7 and pulled in just over $5 million in ticket sales nationwide in its opening weekend, eventually reaching sales of $13.2 million before moving from theaters to home video.  That is according to boxofficemojo.com.  Thanks to Shout! Factory though, it now is getting the chance that it never truly got back in 1992, and the bonus material included in its recent re-issue forms the proverbial foundation for its presentation in its second life.

As Bob Gale, one of the movie’s two writers (the other writer was Robert Zemeckis, of Back to the Future fame), noted in the re-issue’s bonus material, the movie’s original Christmas Day 1992 release date was one of a number of obstacles that the movie faced in its original theatrical release.  Also against the movie was the fact that Gale and Zemeckis had to change the movie’s title not once but twice before it even went into production.  Gale notes in his discussion that the movie’s original title was The Looters, and eventually was changed to just Looters before the riots from the Rodney King verdict forced its title to change simply to Trespass out of concern of how audiences would potentially connect the two.  Ironically enough, the title actually works considering the story’s title.  That story will be discussed later.  As if the already noted items were not enough obstacles, Gale also notes in his discussion that his agent was concerned about possible race relation issues that he found in the script, darkening the movie’s hopes even more.  Considering all of these factors discussed by Gale, it is clear that the deck was stacked against Trespass right from the get-go. This vivid revelation shows why Trespass needed, if not deserved, its second life from Shout! Factory.  It also serves to show the importance of bonus material included in the movie’s Blu-ray re-issue.  Much the same can also be said of the separate interviews with Sadler and the movie’s producer Neil Canton, which present their own insight into the script’s roots and its production.

Keeping this in mind, it is wholly clear why the bonus material included in Trespass’ recent re-issue is so critical to its presentation.  It is only one of the elements proving why action flick fans looking to escape the annual holiday TV and movie fare will want to give this re-issue a chance.  The movie’s story is just as important to its overall presentation as the bonus material included in its recent Blu-ray re-issue.

Trespass’ story is relatively simple:  Two firefighters discover a map to an allegedly hidden treasure in a building that the pair had only recently tried to save from a fire.  When they go back to the building to search for said treasure, they unwittingly witness a gang crime that they otherwise would not have seen had they not been there.  When the pair is caught by the gang, action ensues that ultimately leads to things somewhat coming full circle by the story’s end.  There are no underlying subplots or any other elements here to distract audiences and cause the story to get bogged down in itself.  It’s a straight-forward early 90’s shoot-‘em-up action story that is sure to appeal to the most devout action flick aficionados, even those likely not so familiar with the story or the movie which influenced it, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – another item discussed in the movie’s bonus material — since it doesn’t require audiences to do a lot of thinking, opting instead for just entertainment, which is what action flicks are supposed to do.

Considering this simplicity and the draw that it was certain to have had, it’s easy to see why the movie likely would have had at least a fighting *no pun intended* chance in its original release had it been given perhaps an early spring or early fall release in its original release. Again, at least it will have that chance with its re-issue.  Even as important as it is, it still is not the last of the most important of the movie’s elements.  The work of the movie’s cast rounds out its most important elements.

Considering that the movie’s lead cast – all four previously noted actors – was still very young when it starred in Trespass, its collective work is important to note in examining the movie.  That is because of how surprisingly entertaining the cast proved to be in whole.  Ice Cube and Ice T showed through their performances their natural on-screen talent – talent that has since proven itself time and again for both men.  One moment that proves this comes late in the movie as Savon (Ice Cube) and King James (Ice-T) go toe to toe against one another over the treasure and what to do about Vince (Paxton) and Don (Sadler).  That moment of conflict shows just how much tension had been underlying between the men even before the events of the story happened.  It would have been so easy for both actors to go over the top, but instead, both men showed such control that they ensured just as much here as in any other moment, viewers’ engagement and entertainment.  Much the same can be said of Paxton and Sadler as tensions eventually grow between their characters, too.  Audiences will be kept fully engaged as Vince and Don start to clash over their search and related safety or lack thereof.  The pairs’ growing conflicts generates a certain ambiguity over whether the story even has a real villain or hero.  Were Don and Vince the heroes or villains?  Were the gangsters Savon and King James the villains or good guys?  That ambiguity, and its ability to create so much discussion is a tribute to each actor’s work.  It shows once more the importance of their work to the movie’s presentation.  When that expert work is joined with the movie’s simple story and the in-depth bonus material included in the movie’s recent Blu-ray re-issue, the whole of these elements makes Trespass a movie that proves well-deserving of its second life.  It also proves it to be a former holiday movie in itself that deserves at least one watch by those looking today for an alternative to the current standard holiday fare.

Universal Pictures’ 1992 holiday action flick Trespass is one of the famed studios’ least known and least appreciated offerings.  It is a movie that, thanks to its recent re-issue via Shout! Factory, proves to be worth at least one watch by those looking for an alternative to the current standard holiday fare.  This is proven in part through the extensive interviews that make up the re-issue’s bonus material.  Those collective interviews form the re-issue’s foundation.  The movie’s simple story strengthens its presentation even more, proving again why it is deserving of that chance.  The collective work presented by the movie’s cast shows in its own way why the movie deserves its new chance, too.  Each element is important in its own way, as has been noted here.  All things considered, Trespass proves to be a former holiday release that is deserving of at least one watch by those looking for an alternative to today’s current holiday fare.  It is available now in stores and online, and can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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Tarja’s New Holiday LP Is A Beautiful, Haunting New Collection Of Holiday Standards

Courtesy: earMusic

The holiday season is officially upon us once again.  Halloween has come and gone, and now the annual flurry of Christmas ads has hit the airwaves and it won’t be long before the annual overdose of Christmas albums hits stores, either.  From one to the next, those albums exhibit little variance or originality.  Next Friday though, earMusic will offer that rare variance in the always overcrowded holiday music scene when it releases Tarja’s new holiday album from Spirits and Ghosts (Score for a Dark Christmas).  The best way to describe this new effort from the veteran Finnish performer is that it is as if famed goth director Tim Burton ended up manning the boards for a Trans Siberian Orchestra record.  Oddly enough, that actually is not a bad thing in this case.  From start to end, this 12-song record proves to be a solid standout holiday offering even with some of its more goth-style arrangements.

Tarja’s new holiday album from Spirits and Ghosts (Score for a Dark Christmas), is one of the most standout offerings in this year’s annual sea of holiday albums.  That is because its arrangements, while sometimes goth-oriented, actually are quite touching in their attempts to balance Tarja’s goth side with the arrangements’ source material. Her take on ‘We Three Kings’ is a prime example of this balance.  For the most part, this arrangement stays true to its source material.  However, it does add in Tarja’s familiar goth leanings through the use of keyboards (including what sounds like a harpsichord) and electronics.  When those elements are coupled with Tarja’s own soaring vocal delivery, the end result becomes a powerhouse composition that is certain to move even those not the least familiar with Tarja and her body of work.  That is especially the case when those elements are coupled with the fact that the song in large part stays true to the source material.  All things considered, the overall impact is one that easily shows that previously noted comparison to Trans Siberian Orchestra, and makes this entry one of the compilation’s most notable moments.  It is just one of those notable moments, too.  Tarja’s take on ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is another of those moments.

The arrangement put together for Tarja’s take of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,’ much like that of ‘We Three Kings,’ balances her general goth leanings with the song’s already minor chord arrangement for yet another powerful new take on the song.  Right from the song’s outset, the use of the multiple vocal lines conjures thoughts of some of Celtic Woman’s greatest compositions.  Yes, a comparison to Celtic Woman was just made here.  Just as interesting is the Middle Eastern vibe created from there through the use of what sounds like a tabla, a triangle.  The string arrangements, while creating again that goth vibe, also somehow creates a certain warmth to the song.  That warmth is only increased when it is set alongside the song’s keyboard arrangements and tubular bells.  As with ‘We Three Kings,’ the overall arrangement stays true to its source material, but when it is all joined as one, the end result is a take on a holiday standard that is almost completely unlike any other take on the song out there today or days past.  Considering this, it shows even more why from Spirits and Ghosts is one of the most standout of this year’s annual influx of holiday fare, and is still not the last of the collection’s songs to support that statement.  Tarja’s take on ‘Have Your self a Merry Little Christmas’ is one more of the collection’s most notable covers.

The cover of ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ included in Tarja’s new holiday album is yet one more example of what makes from Spirits and Ghosts such a standout collection of holiday musical fare.  This arrangement, highlighted largely by flowing keyboard lines, emotional accents crafted through cymbal rolls and expertly balanced crescendos and of course Tarja’s own moving vocal delivery, comes across as a work that could easily be used for a big budget holiday movie’s soundtrack.  That should come as no surprise considering the fact that the compilation was produced in part by Emmy Award®-winning film score producer Jim Dooley.  His work, along with that of co-producer Tim Palmer (Pearl jam, U2, David Bowie, The Cure), makes this one of the album’s most powerful works if not the compilation’s most powerful.  When it is set alongside the other arrangements noted here, and those not so directly noted (including the equally powerful but not necessarily holiday-themed take of ‘Amazing Grace), the end result is a collection that is certain to stand head and shoulders above its counterparts this holiday season.

from Spirits and Ghosts is one of the most notable of this year’s holiday offerings.  From start to finish, it offers takes on holiday standards that are almost completely unlike anything presented by its seemingly endless sea of musical holiday counterparts.  That is proven clearly through the songs noted in this review and even through those not noted, including the powerhouse take of the non-holiday-themed ‘Amazing Grace’ and the deeply moving take of ‘Feliz Navidad.’  Considering the world’s current political climate, Tarja’s take on this holiday standard gives it a powerful new identity that is so fitting this holiday season, ironically enough. Considering this and the rest of the record’s other covers, the whole of the record’s presentation makes it stand head and shoulders above its fellow musical holiday counterparts – a record that deserves at least one listen even if one is not familiar with Tarja or her body of work.  It is that powerful overall.  It will be available in stores and online next Friday, Nov. 17.  More information on this compilation is available online now along with all of Tarja’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.tarjaturunen.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/tarjaofficial

 

 

 

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Outlaws & Moonshine Debut New LP’s Title Track

Courtesy: Vanity Music Group

Outlaws & Moonshine is giving audiences a preview of its latest album.

The Indianapolis, IN-based southern rock outfit released this week ‘Devil in the Moonshine,’ the title track from its forthcoming album.  Devil in the Moonshine will be released Nov. 24 via Nemesis/Vanity Music Group.

Front man Beau Van talked about the song in a recent interview, saying that lyrically it leaves little doubt about its subject matter.

“Well, the inspiration for the song is … remember when you were a kid and you put toothpicks in cinnamon and sucked on them?  Well, now I mix ¼ pure moonshine – not the store-bought crap – with ¾ Fireball and that’s my Devil,” Van said with a laugh.  “As for the song, there’s no mystery there, it’s just a damn good drinking song.”

‘Devil in the Moonshine’ is the debut for the band’s newest member, steel guitarist Travis K, who lead guitarist Mike Back referred to as “an accomplished slide player and with a great ear who teaches guitar on the side.  He tends to be the quiet one of the band, but, his slick slide guitar give our music more of that southern core.”

Audiences can purchase ‘Devil in the Moonshine’ now online via iTunes and streamed on Spotify.  More information on ‘Devil in the Moonshine’ is available along with all of the band’s latest news at http://www.facebook.com/outlawsandmoonshine.

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.

AT&T, Audience Network To Air Andy Grammer Live Event Friday

Courtesy: S-Curve Records

Andy Grammer is getting a special new live concert event.

AT&T and Audience® Network will feature Andy Grammer live Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on DIRECTV Channel 239 and U-Verse Channel 1114.  The live event, which is in support of his forthcoming third album The Good Parts, will also be broadcast on DIRECTV Now.

Pre-orders for The Good Parts are open now.  The album is currently set for release Dec. 1.  Two of the its songs – ‘Fresh Eyes’ and ‘Smoke Clears’ – are streaming online now in full.

Friday’s one-hour concert event was shot on location in Los Angeles, CA in 4k and features a number of Grammer’s biggest hits so far from his two full length studio recordings and various EPs.  After the concert, Grammer will sit down with Audience Network’s Audience Music host Ted Stryker for a one-on-one interview.

Friday night’s concert event is just one of a number of chances for fans to take in Grammer’s live show.  His current tour schedule sees him performing live this Sunday, Nov. 12 in Shippensburg, PA; Dec. 16 in Orlando Florida; Jan. 12, 2018 in Santa Barbara, CA and many other dates.  The tour’s schedule is noted below.

Catch Andy Grammer on tour in the following cities:
DATE
LOCATION
VENUE
SUN
11/12
Shippensburg, PA
Shippensburg University w/ Jesse McCartney
SAT
12/16
Orlando, FL
Autonation Cure Bowl & Andy Grammer Pre-Game Concert
FRI
1/12
Santa Barbra, CA
The Granada Theatre
WED
3/14
San Francisco, CA
The Fillmore
THU
3/15
Los Angeles, CA
The Belasco
FRI
3/16
Santa Ynez, CA
Chumash Casino
SAT
3/17
San Diego, CA
House Of Blues
MON
3/19
Portland, OR
Wonder Ballroom
TUE
3/20
Vancouver, BC
Vogue Theatre
WED
3/21
Seattle, WA
Neptune Theatre
FRI
3/23
Salt Lake City, UT
The Depot
SAT
3/24
Englewood, CO
Gothic Theatre
SUN
3/25
Kansas City, MO
Madrid Theatre & Café
TUE
3/27
Minneapolis, MN
Music Hall Minneapolis
WED
3/28
Milwaukee, WI
Turner Hall Ballroom
FRI
3/30
Indianapolis, IN
Deluxe at Old National Centre
MON
4/2
Toronto, ON
The Phoenix Concert Theatre
TUE
4/3
Detroit, MI
St. Andrews Hall
THU
4/5
Nashville, TN
Cannery Ballroom
FRI
4/6
Atlanta, GA
Variety Playhouse
SAT
4/7
Charlotte, NC
The Underground
MON
4/9
Ridgefield, CT
Ridgefield Playhouse
FRI
4/13
Boston, MA
Paradise Rock Club
SAT
4/14
New York, NY
Irving Plaza
SUN
4/15
Philadelphia, PA
The TLA

More information on Grammer’s upcoming live dates, album and more is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://andygrammer.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/andygrammer

 

 

 

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.