Vintage, Modern Offerings Gave Families Lots To Like This Year

Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group

Families spent a lot of time indoors together this year thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Between parents working from home and students forced to take classes online, parents and their children have seen a lot of each other this year; Probably a lot more than usual.  That increased time together can often lead to tensions between families.  Thankfully, plenty of new DVD and Blu-ray box sets were released this year to help relieve that tension and give families plenty to enjoy together.  That has already been pointed out in part through Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New DVDs & Blu-rays list.  Single disc presentations are just a part of what families had to enjoy together this year.  There was also plenty of content thrown in this year in the form of new DVD and Blu-ray box sets for families.  Among some of the best of this year’s new family box sets are first time releases from the likes of Time Life, PBS, and Nickelodeon.

As with each list from Phil’s Picks, this list features the year’s Top 10 new titles and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Family DVD & Blu-ray Box Sets.


  1. Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations
  2. The Buster Keaton Collection: Volume 4
  3. Dolly: The Ultimate Collection
  4. Arthur: The Complete Friendship Collection
  5. The Berenstain Bears: Tree House Tales Vol. 2
  6. The Berenstain Bears: Tree House Tales Vol. 3
  7. Molly of Denali: Molly’s Awesome Alaskan Adventures
  8. The Jetsons: The Complete Series
  9. Sesame Street: Old School Volume 1
  10. Sesame Street: Old School Volume 2
  11. Spongebob Squarepants: Season 11
  12. Paw  Patrol: PUP-tastic 8-DVD Collection
  13. The Flintstones: 2 Movies & 5 Specials
  14. Garfield & Friends: Season Three
  15. Benji 4-Movie Collection

Next up from Phil’s Picks is the 2020 Top 10 New Grown-Up Box Sets and then the year’s top new re-issues to finish off this year’s lists.  Stay tuned for all of that this weekend.

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Marcus King’s Solo Debut Is Almost As Good As Gold

Courtesy: Fantasy Records

Singer-songwriter Marcus is one of the next big names in the music industry.  Only 23 years-old, King has done more in his life so far than most people his age.  A fourth-generation musician – his grandfather was a country music guitarist and father an active musician — he started performing at the tender age of 11.  He has recorded and performed with some of the biggest names in the music industry by the time he became an adult, and has released three full-length studio recordings with The Marcus King Band – Soul Insight, The Marcus King Band and Carolina Confessions.  Late last month, he released his solo debut record, El Dorado.  The 12-song album has been met largely with praise from audiences and critics alike, and justifiably so, too.  The record boasts easily accessible lyrical content centered on the matters of life and love. The LP’s musical content offers just as much to appreciate.  The combination of those elements makes for lots for listeners to like.  ‘Too Much Whiskey’ is just one of the songs that serves to show how that combined content positively impacts the album.  It will be discussed shortly.  ‘The Well,’ the album’s lead single is another example of the power of the album’s combined musical and lyrical content.  It will be discussed a little later.  The same cane be said of the slow blues composition ‘Wildflowers & Wine.’  When these songs are considered along with the likes of ‘Turn It Up,’ ‘Say You Will’ and the subdued ‘Love Song,’ as well as the rest of the album’s works, the album in whole proves a positive debut for King that while maybe not solid gold is still solid in its own right.

Marcus King’s solo debut album El Dorado is a solid start for the singer-songwriter, who has accomplished so much so early in his still young life.  Its combined lyrical and musical content gives audiences plenty to appreciate, despite some questionable sequencing.  This is proven in part late in the album’s run in the form of ‘Too Much Whiskey.’  The song’s musical arrangement is an old school country music composition that shows clearly, the influence of King’s grandfather, who was himself a country music guitarist.  The arrangement easily lends itself to comparisons to the best works of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, just to name a couple of key similarities.  It boasts that infectious, old school honky tonk sounds that made country music during the 1970s and 80s.  That arrangement alone was enough to make this song one of El Dorado’s best offerings, if not its best work.  Of course it is just one part of what makes the song stand out.  As noted already, its lyrical content adds its own share of enjoyment to the work’s whole.

King sings in his trademark gritty style in the song’s lead verse, “To much of that old whiskey river/Leaves a young man feeling old/That old love you still remember/Cuts you deep down in your soul.  He continues in the song’s second verse, “Lost that girl down in New Orleans/Chasing some old voodoo dream/Levee broke on Whiskey River/Got me trying to swim upstream.”  As he reaches the song’s final verse, King sings, “Shotgun Willie on the stereo/Words are speaking right to my heart/If I keep reaching for that bottle/It’s gonna tear my world apart.  He adds in the song’s chorus, “Getting tired of going crazy/Headed back to Tennessee/I gotta crawl on out of this river/’Fore it drowns me in the sea.”  Quite simply, this is a song about someone dealing with alcohol addiction.  The thing is that it is presented lyrically in a fashion that is classic country in every way.  That taken into consideration alongside the song’s musical content, which is equally infectious  classic country, makes the song in whole the record’s most standout offering and just one of the clear examples of what makes El Dorado such a strong new offering from Marcus King.

It goes without saying that ‘Too Much Whiskey’ is a key addition to Marcus King’s debut album, as has been noted.  It is just one of the songs featured in this recording that makes the album so appealing.  ‘The Well,’ the LP’s lead single is another way in which El Dorado proves itself a musical treasure in its own right.  This song’s musical arrangement is a distinct change of pace from that of ‘Too Much Whiskey.’  This arrangement boasts more of a straight forward blues-based rock sound than any country music influences.  This is important to note in that it is another way in which they record’s musical diversity is displayed.  There are hints here of influences from Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band just to name a few acts with similar sounds.  The dual-layered guitar approach forms the arrangement’s foundation while the drums couple with the bass and King’s vocals to flesh out the arrangement even more.  The end result of those lines combined, is an arrangement that is just as enjoyable in its own right as that at the center of ‘Too Much Whiskey.’

The musical arrangement at the heart of ‘The Well’ goes a long way toward making the song appealing to listeners.  When it couples with the song’s lyrical content, the two together make even more appealing to said audiences.  King sings in the song’s lead verse, “When I was just a youngin’/Bouncin’ on my mama’s knee/Said, “Son, there’s only one thing that sets your soul free/There wasn’t no sleep until the work was done.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “Papa was a-preachin’/’Bout the fires of hell/If you want a drink of water/Got to go to the well/The Cornerstone Chuch tried to curse my soul/But the good Lord gave me that rock and roll.”  He adds in the song’s third and finale verse, “Let the spirit pull me under/To the bottom of the well/You wanna live forever/But you can never tell/So, one for the money/Two, another show/Three for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”  What audiences get here is what comes across as a story about perhaps King’s upbringing and perhaps a commentary about his division from established religion.  It’s a unique approach, to say the least, if in fact that is what is happening here. Keeping that in mind, when it is considered alongside a musical arrangement that is fiery (no pun intended), but not in the fashion that one might think from a song that seemingly takes on the establishment of religion, the whole of the song becomes a work that stands uniquely among others of its ilk.  That whole becomes a work that shows again why this album is such an important addition to King’s catalog.  It is just one more of the album’s important additions.  ‘Wildflowers & Wine’ is yet another example of what makes El Dorado one of the year’s early most notable albums.

‘Wildflowers & Wine’ stands out as its musical arrangement boasts its own unique musical arrangement.  This time, King and his fellow musicians opt for a distinct, direct bluesy arrangement that lends itself easily to some of the best works of Mavis Staples and BB King.  The gentle, subtle keyboards couple with King’s vocal delivery and the equally subtle percussion element and bass to make the whole a work that takes listeners back to a greater era of music.  The effect there is such a positive impact that if only for this element, the song becomes another favorite for listeners.

The musical arrangement at the center of ‘Wildflowers & Wine’ does more than its share to make the song a key addition to El Dorado, and is just one part of what makes the song stand out.  Its lyrical content, which comes across as a love song of sorts, adds to its appeal.  The song’s subject sings in the song’s lead verse, “Wildflowers and wine/An old scratchy record plays in the background of our lives/We’re still here dancing after all this time/Wildflowers and wine.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “I walk through the fields of evergreen/A golden sun like I’ve never seen/I picked them one at a time/Wildflowers and wine.”  He adds in the song’s chorus, “No, I can’t help it/Feeling the way I do/I know you feel it/Feel it the same way, too/No I can’t help it/You’re all I need tonight/You know I mean it/When I look/Look in your eyes.”  Again, this is a love song.  Fittingly, Valentine’s Day is almost here, so this would make for a fitting mood-setter for any lovers out there as the big day nears.  When these deeply emotional lyrics are set alongside the song’s gentle melody, the whole becomes a powerful work in its subtlety and simplicity.  When the song in whole is considered along with the other songs discussed here, the likes of ‘Turn It Up,’ ‘Say You Will,’ the subdued ‘Love Song,’ and the rest of the album’s entries, the album in whole proves to be a strong solo debut for King.

While the musical and lyrical content that makes up the body of El Dorado does a lot to make the album a positive new offering from Marcus King, the album is not without at least one negative – its sequencing.  Being that slower, more reserved songs outnumber the album’s more upbeat works, there is a lot of that music here.  The problem with that is that in examining the album’s sequencing, the album spends a lot more time focused on that slower, more reserved music than its more infectious, energetic work.  It would have made more sense to have spaced the album’s slower, reserved music out more than was done here instead of just sequencing those songs one after another for such a long time.  Sadly though, that didn’t happen here.  To that end, it is a concern that cannot and should not be ignored.  Even with that in mind, it is not enough to make the album “unlistenable.”  It is just something that hopefully King and those behind the boards will take into consideration when and if he releases another solo effort.  Even with this in mind, El Dorado still proves in the long run to be a positive new offering from Marcus King that deserves at least one listen.  It is available now.

Marcus King is in the midst of a tour in support of El Dorado.  King is scheduled to perform life Feb. 6 in Sacramento, CA as part of the tour. More information on El Dorado is available online now along with all of Marcus King’s tour dates, latest news and more at:










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Jazzy Ash “Swings” Her Way To The Top Of Phil’s Picks’ 2017 top New Family Music Albums List

Courtesy: Leaping Lizards Music

Children’s music, this critic has noted time and time again, is one of the most underrated genres of the vast musical universe.  To this day, so many people still have the belief that children’s music is cutesy pre-school level material that will only appeal to its young target audiences.  The reality of children’s music is that while some of that music does appeal mainly to younger listeners, just as much of it will appeal to older audiences, too.  The bluegrass sounds of the Okee Dokee Brothers, the hip-hop vibes of Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, and even the light jazz arrangements of Diana Panton prove that there is just as much music out there that will appeal just as much to adults as it will to children.  That being the case, this critic is hereby proposing that the music industry eliminate the term “Children’s Music” from here on out and replace it with the term “Family Music.”  Now with that in mind, this critic has been focusing quietly a handful of Family Music albums yet again this year, and this year’s list has some interesting new additions that will indeed appeal to the whole family including the list’s topper, Swing Set, from veteran Family Music entertainer Jazzy Ash.

Also included in this year’s list of new Family Music offerings is the soundtrack to the Junie B. Jones stage play, Dolly Parton’s (yes, Dolly Parton) I Believe In You, Danny Weinkauf & The Red Pants Band’s Totally Osome! and so many other offerings.  As always, this critic’s list includes the top 10 New albums plus five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 records.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2017 Top 10 New Family Music Albums.


  1. Jazzy Ash — Swing Set
  2. Ladysmith Black Mambazo — Songs of Peace & Love for Parents & Kids Around The World
  3. Putumayo Presents — Cuban Playground
  4. Putomayo Presents — Italian Playground
  5. Junie B. JonesThe Cast Album
  6. Mr. Dave — Feeling Good
  7. Mister G. — Green World
  8. Danny Weinkauff & The Red Pants Band — Totally Osome!
  9. Paper Canoe Co. — Beanstalk Jack
  10. Dolly Parton — I Believe In You
  11. Twinkle — Just Dance
  12. Joanie Leeds & The Nightlights — Brooklyn Baby!
  13. Hullabaloo — The Best of Hullabaloo
  14. Laurie Berkner — The Dance Remixes
  15. Dana Cohenour — Dana’s Best Jump & Jam Tunes

That’s it for this list, but not it for Phil’s Picks year-ender lists.  With this list out of the way, there are still lists of the year’s top new Jazz & Blues albums, rock, hard rock & metal albums, live recordings, albums of the year, and plenty of DVD/BD lists.  Since time is short in the year, Phil’s Picks will offer multiple lists each day in an effort to make it to the year’s end.  So stay tuned for all of that.

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Cason’s Latest LP Has Plenty Of “Heart”

Courtesy:  Plowboy Records

Courtesy: Plowboy Records

Singer/Songwriter Buzz Cason has spent some six decades making music. He started his career by starting the very first rock and roll band in Nashville, Tennessee. He has founded his own recording studio where greats such as Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and The Doobie Brothers have recorded hit songs among many other major names. He has also spent much of his career making his own music. He has continued making his own music up to this year. As a matter of fact, Cason released his latest record, Troubadour Heart earlier this year. The album is quite aptly titled considering Cason’s storied career. And for those audiences that might not be so familiar with Cason’s body of work, Troubadour Heart serves as quite the first impression, too. The album exhibits quite the number of influences. The laid back bluesy ‘Goin’ Back To Alabama’ presents an influence from the likes of Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, and Robert Johnson. This applies both musically and lyrically. And then there’s the southern rock styling of ‘Something I Can Dance To.’ This song shows Cason’s Nashville roots and his rock leanings at the same time. Troubadour Heart’s penultimate tune ‘Cowboys & Indians’ exhibits more of Cason’s southern rock influences. Audiences more familiar with the history of modern rock will hear tinges of Eagles and even George Thorogood to a slightly lesser extent. There are also hints of The Grateful Dead and Dire Straits peppered throughout the course of Cason’s latest release. All of these influences together make Troubadour Heart one of 2014’s more interesting new records.

Troubadour Heart is one of this year’s more interesting records. That’s because of the range of influences exhibited throughout the course of the album’s fifteen total tracks. One prime example of this comes in the laid back bluesy ‘Goin’ Back To Alabama.’ The song—the album’s only blues-influenced piece—conjures thoughts of Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, and even Robert Johnson thanks both to its music and lyrics. Cason sings of a subject reminiscing of his younger days in Alabama. He sings, “When my world/Comes unraveled/I know it’s time/For me to travel/Going ‘round the bend/Gettin’ in that Dixieland.” He goes on in the song’s chorus to sing in semi-celebratory fashion about going back to Alabama. The most interesting aspect of this song is that not only does it exhibit classic blues influence, but that guest singer Dan Penn actually sounds just like Eric Clapton. If one were to hear this song without knowing that it was Penn backing Cason here, one would swear that one was hearing Eric Clapton. The similarity between the pair’s vocals is incredible. That and the song’s easygoing lyrics and music show just why ‘Going’ to Alabama’ is such a solid example of what makes Troubadour Heart such an interesting listen.

‘Goin’ Back To Alabama’ is an excellent example of the diversity of Cason’s talent on his latest record. It is just one example of that talent, too. Another equally impressive example of that diversity is in the more up-tempo southern rock tinged song ‘Something I Can Dance To.’ It clearly reflects Cason’s early days growing up in Nashville with its sound. That up-tempo sound and the song’s lyrics—which are slightly sexually charged in their own right—make this song a perfect fit for so many country-western style bars and clubs. The energy exuded by this piece will have listeners up and dancing in no time regardless of whether or not there’s a formal dance floor.

‘Cowboys & Indians’ is the penultimate track included in Troubadour Heart’s fifteen total tracks. It is also one more fitting example of the diversity of music presented on this record. This song presents a pretty obvious country-western influence as Cason sings about a Romeo and Juliet style story. Cason’s story here presents the love story of a Native American woman falling in love with a seemingly White male. Despite the fact that one’s parents doesn’t approve of the other, the couple doesn’t let that stop them. They end up happily ever after and having their own family together. It’s a fun story and an equally fun final blast from Cason before he gently closes out the album with the aptly titled beachy tune ‘Pacific Blue.’ That final song is a fitting closer as it is one more song showing the pure vastness of Cason’s talent and influences. Having taken in this song and those mentioned before it, listeners will agree once more that Troubadour Heart is without a doubt one of the year’s most intriguing records.

Troubadour Heart is available now in stores and online. It can be downloaded via Amazon at His new album can also be purchased at any of his upcoming live shows. Cason is scheduled to perform live Wednesday, Jun e18th in Okoboji, IA. He also has a pair of shows scheduled in Nashville and one in Lincolnton, North Carolina. That concert is scheduled for Saturday, August 16th. Audiences can get a complete list of Buzz Cason’s live events and news online at,, and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at