Raffi’s New Hits Collection Is A Solid Start For Fans New To His Work

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Courtesy: Rounder Records

Veteran children’s entertainer Raffi has a new compilation record on the way.  Rounder Records will release Best of Raffi next Friday, Feb. 10 in stores and online.  This 16-song collection is hardly the first from the Canadian singer-songwriter, but it is still enjoyable in its own right.  That is due in part to the songs that make up the record’s body.  That will be discussed shortly.  The musical styles that are presented throughout the songs are just as important to note as the songs themselves.  That will be discussed later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  Each element is important in itself to the overall presentation of this latest compilation from Raffi.  All things considered, this new collection of songs may not be a new record in the purest sense of the term, but it is still an enjoyable collection nonetheless.

Raffi’s new hits collection Best of Raffi is hardly the veteran children’s entertainers first-ever compilation record.  Even with that in mind it is still an enjoyable collection of songs from his extensive catalogue.  Speaking of that extensive catalogue, the 16 songs that make up the body of this collection serve as its cornerstone.  The collection takes audiences all the way back to Raffi’s 1976 record Singable Songs For The Very Young with ‘Mr. Sun’ and ‘Down By The Bay’ and even all the way up to his most recent album, 2016’s Owl Singalong.  Obviously considering just how extensive Raffi’s catalogue is, there was no way that every one of his records could be represented in this collection.  However, he (and the people at Rounder Records) are to be commended for the effort made to represent as much of that catalogue here as possible.  Counting Owl Singalong, no fewer than nine of Raffi’s albums are represented in this record, with at least one song pulled from each record.  Others get two nods.  1980’s Baby Beluga gets three nods with ‘Thanks A Lot,’ Raffi’s cover of Harry Belafonte’s beloved ‘Day O’ and the album’s famed title track.  What is interesting to note of Raffi’s cover of ‘Day O’ is that lyrically speaking, the song has been changed around some.  The mention of the giant tarantula has been entirely removed as has the mention of the worker drinking rum.  Yes, both are in the original song, which in reality was not a children’s song.  Getting back on topic, though not every one of Raffi’s albums is represented here, the albums that are collectively speaking, a healthy representation of his body of work.  Keeping that in mind, they make this compilation a good introduction to Raffi for anyone not overly familiar with him or his body of work.  This is just one way in which this recording proves itself worth being added to any family’s music library.  It is just one of the record’s most important elements.  The musical styles that are presented within the featured songs are just as important to discuss as the songs themselves.

The songs that make up the body of Best of Raffi are important in their own right to the record’s presentation.  That is due to the fact that they represent so much of Raffi’s body of work.  While this is clearly important to the record’s presentation, it is just one of the record’s key elements.  The varied musical styles presented throughout the record are just as important to note here as the featured songs.  ‘Down By The Bay’ boasts a folk style arrangement that Pete Seeger fans will enjoy just as much as Raffi’s fans.  The arrangement at the center of ‘Baby Beluga’ is reminiscent (and here’s a wild connection) of The Beatles’ ‘When I’m Sixty-Four.’  Raffi’s gentle vocal delivery set against the horns and strings in ‘One Light, One Sun’ instantly conjures thoughts of some of the greatest ballads ever performed by Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick, Jr.  These are just a few examples of the various musical styles presented throughout this collection.  The easy-listening arrangement at the center of ‘Rise and Shine’ shows even more variance in Raffi’s stylistic approach over the years, as does the light, jazzy arrangement at the center of ‘Bananaphone.’  The arrangement, driven largely by its piano and drum lines, will put a smile on any listener’s face with its fun feel.  It’s just one more way in which Raffi and Rounder Records display the extent of Raffi’s musical talents in this record.  It goes without saying that the record’s other songs show just as much variety.  All things considered, the arrangements presented in each of this record’s songs show clearly why they are so vital to the record’s presentation.  That variance adds even more to the record’s depth.  On a similar vein, the record’s sequencing proves to be just as important to its presentation.

The songs that are presented in Raffi’s new hits collection and their musical styles are both critical in their own way to the record’s overall presentation.  The songs are a healthy representation of his work up to this point.  The arrangements show an equally wide array of influences, thus showing the reach of his talents.  While both elements are undeniably important to the record, they are not the record’s only important elements.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  Listeners will note in going through the record’s 16-song body that Raffi and the people behind the record’s production put a lot of thought into its sequencing.  From start to finish, the energy stays just enough at each point.  That is thanks to the thought put into each song’s placement in regards both to its energy and its style.  At no point does the record ever get too slow or too fast.  What’s more, at no point do the songs’ styles ever echo one another immediately.  They vary just as much as the energy exuded within each arrangement.  Keeping that in mind, the sequencing proves to be just as important to keeping listeners engaged as the songs and their arrangements.  All things considered, Best of Raffi proves, while hardly his first hits compilation, to still be a good introduction to Raffi and his music.

Rounder Records’ new Raffi compilation record Best of Raffii is a good introduction to the veteran children’s entertainer and his music.  That is proven in part through the songs featured on the record.  The songs represent a solid cross-section of Raffi’s body of work.  The arrangements presented in the songs are just as diverse as the songs themselves.  They present a wide range of talents and influences from Raffi.  Both elements were clearly taken into account with the record’s sequencing, the last of the record’s most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the record’s overall presentation.  All things considered, this record proves to be an enjoyable collection nonetheless, and an equally welcome introduction to Raffi and his music.  It will be available next Friday, Feb. 10 in stores and online.  More information on Best of Raffi is available online now along with all of Raffi’s latest news and more at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.raffinews.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Raffi.Cavoukian

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Raffi_RC

 

 

 

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Eagle Rock Gives Audiences Its All In Its New Sinatra Bio

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

On December 12, 1915 one of America’s greatest entertainers was born.  His name was Francis Albert Sinatra.  He was more well known as Frank Sinatra.  That was just a little more than a century ago.  And this past December America stopped to mark the 100th anniversary of the late, great entertainer’s birthday.  Tributes were paid throughout both the music industry and Hollywood since Sinatra’s career spanned both worlds.  There were even television specials that put the spotlight on some of Sinatra’s greatest achievements in his life and career.  And just ahead of the anniversary Eagle Rock Entertainment released a very special retrospective on the music legend’s life and career in the form of Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All.  The title lifts from his hit song of the same name.  And even while the hundredth anniversary of Sinatra’s birth has passed it does not detract from the importance of this bio.  As a matter of fact, with the milestone anniversary in question having passed, this documentary actually takes on even more importance.  It is such a thorough look at Sinatra’s life and career that the standard DVD presentation requires two discs to cover everything.  The main feature presented in Eagle Rock’s new bio of “Old Blue Eyes” is just one part of what makes this presentation a must have for fans of Sinatra’s life and work.  The bonus material included in the presentation adds even more enjoyment to the documentary’s overall presentation.    It is made up of various interviews with those that were close to Sinatra. But the anecdotes that are shared in each interview serve to make the portrait painted in the program’s main feature all the richer. The companion booklet that comes with the double-DVD set rounds out the set’s presentation. It gives even more background on Sinatra’s life and career, even including Sinatra’s own note written to fans announcing his retirement and then return from retirement. Each element plays its own important part in the whole of Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All. Altogether they make this presentation a piece that any Sinatra fan should have just as much as any lover of the true classics.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new Sinatra bio Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All is a presentation that any Sinatra fan should have just as much as any lover of music’s golden age. That is because it in fact gives its all over the course of its nearly two and a half hour run time. Specifically speaking its run time comes in at two hours and twenty-one minutes. Note this is in the case of the presentation’s DVD and Blu-ray presentation. There is so much information provided in the course of that time that the DVD portion requires two discs in order to cover everything. In other words Eagle Rock Entertainment doesn’t just give a quick over view of Sinatra’s life and career here. Rather, they present Sinatra the man, the myth, and the legend. The story doesn’t pull any punches along the way, either. Audiences are presented with the full picture of Frank Sinatra as a man that loved doing what he did and fully appreciated his audiences for their love of his work. They are also presented with a man that was a social activist of sorts, openly noting in interviews that he disagreed with segregation in every form. There is also plenty of mention of his support of America’s military. For all of the positives that audiences see here, audiences also see a portrait of Sinatra as a man that was a playboy of sorts, much like so many male celebrities of his time and who had a little bit of a controlling side, too. This and so much more is presented in the documentary’s main feature. From his birth in New Jersey right up to his final days, Eagle Rock presents in the bio’s main feature what is one of the most thorough Sinatra bios presented on DVD or Blu-ray in a very long time. As important as that thorough presentation is to the overall presentation of Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All it is just one part of what makes this presentation well worth the purchase. The bonus “interviews” included in the presentation add even more enjoyment to the presentation.

The central feature of Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All is in itself plenty of reason for audiences to add this video bio to their home DVD/Blu-ray collections should they not have access to the extended Deluxe edition of Eagle Rock’s new Sinatra bio. The bonus “interviews” that are included with the bio’s main feature are just as important to the overall presentation here as its central feature. The “interviews” are not that long. In all they total roughly thirteen minutes. But even in that short time, audiences get even more background on Frank Sinatra the performer and the man. Ex-wife Mia Farrow notes in her interview how casually he suggested they get married, laughing as she recollects the suggestion. And close friend Jerry Weintraub recollects Sinatra telling him at one point that he [Weintraub] needed to get his heart checked, only to end up getting him drunk shortly thereafter. Weintraub’s recollection of what Sinatra said days later will leave audiences in stitches. That won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that haven’t yet heard this anecdote. But it is funny needless to say. Jill St. John shares her own interesting bit of info in her interview noting that Sinatra did not like doing multiple takes when recording. She notes that he was more of a one-take type of person. It really showed his dedication to getting the music right and getting it the best that it can possibly be. Comedian/entertainer Jerry Lewis offers what is one of the most enlightening and moving memories of Sinatra as he recalls going to Richmond, Virginia to perform at a private benefit show for a fireman that had died doing his job. Lewis recalls that Sinatra never answered his question as he asked about people knowing that he [Sinatra] was a good man. The response that Sinatra gave will both leave audiences laughing but also being moved. It’s just one more way that the bonus “interviews” included in the presentation of Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All prove to be their own collectively important way to the documentary’s overall presentation. Together with the program’s central feature both elements show even more clearly why this latest Sinatra bio is one of the best to come along in a very long time. Even as important as both elements are both by themselves and together, they are still not the only elements worth noting in the program’s overall presentation. The companion booklet that is included in the double-disc DVD presentation rounds out said presentation.

Both the main feature of Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All and the bonus “interviews” included in the package are equally important to the documentary’s overall presentation. As important as they are to its whole, they still are not all that make it an interesting program to watch. The companion booklet included with the package rounds out its presentation. The booklet offers even more history for fans and audiophiles alike. It gives a much shorter version of the bio presented on the program’s discs. But it is still just as concise, offering up the most important parts of Sinatra’s life. It even includes Sinatra’s own to his fans announcing his retirement. That is followed by the history of his return from retirement, including his own explanation as to why he came out of retirement. His humble explanation plays even more in tandem with the statements made by his friends and family in the program’s main feature and interviews. He notes that, “After the so-called retirement I was struggling, I was really fighting my way out of the doldrums because when I quit, I let everything go, and it all fell down. He goes on to offer more in his explanation for his return. But that will be saved for audiences to discover for themselves when they purchase this documentary or its deluxe edition. Those statements couple with everything else presented in the program’s companion booklet to prove in whole why the booklet is more than just a booklet. It is its own important part of the bio presented in Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All. Together with the program’s main feature and bonus “interviews” all three elements combine to show with full clarity why this documentary is, again, a must have for any Sinatra aficionado and for any audiophile in general.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new Frank Sinatra bio Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All is a must have for any Sinatra aficionado and for audiophiles in general. That is because it is one of the most thorough bios presented about the music legend in a long time. That depth of information is centered on the program’s main feature. The main feature comes in at nearly two and a half hours. And it is nearly two and a half hours that will keep audiences completely engaged from beginning to end. The bonus “interviews” and companion booklet that complement that feature complete the presentation, giving even more background and history on Sinatra the man, the myth, and the legend. Each element plays its own integral part to this documentary. Altogether they make it a documentary that any Sinatra fan should have in his or her own home DVD/Blu-ray library. That is especially the case for those that can’t get their hands on the documentary’s deluxe edition. That edition gives audiences the fullest experience. That is not to take anything away from this presentation of course. It offers its own entertainment and value. It is available now in stores and online. It is available on 2-DVD, 2-Blu-ray, Deluxe Edition and digital formats. The 2-DVD and 2-Blu-ray presentation will both retail for MSRP of $29.98 while the Deluxe Edition will retail for MSRP of $69.99. That is because of the expansive amount of material included in the Deluxe Edition. It features the All or Nothing At All Documentary on two DVDs, Sinatra’s complete 1971 “Retirement Concert” on both DVD and CD platform, a one-on-one interview between Sinatra and famed newsman Walter Cronkite originally recorded in 1965 (on one DVD), a reproduction of the 1971 Life Magazine article discussing Sinatra’s “Retirement Concert,” a separate bonus booklet, and six art cards housed in their own envelope. More information on Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now along with all of the latest news from the leading name in live recordings at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

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.

Eagle Rock To Release New Sinatra Retrospective Collection Next Month

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Legendary crooner Frank Sinatra is one of the greatest figures to ever grace the entertainment world with his talents on the mic and on camera. He released any number of studio records over the course of his career and starred in at least sixty-four total collective TV shows and movies. Whether for his work as a recording artist, as an actor or for both, it can be said that Sinatra’s body of work and its longevity makes him a legend in every sense of the word. Now thanks to the efforts of the people at Eagle Rock Entertainment, fans of Old Blue Eyes will get to add the most extensive record of Sinatra’s life and legacy to their home musical and DVD/BD libraries when it releases Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All.

Eagle Rock Entertainment will release Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All on Friday, November 20th. The recording will be released on 2-DVD, 2-Blu-ray, Deluxe Edition and digital formats. The collection includes clips of a number of classic Sinatra tunes such as ‘Fly Me To The Moon,’ ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin,’ ‘Fly Me To The Moon,’ ‘All Or Nothing At All,’ ‘The Lady Is A Tramp,’ ‘Nancy (With The Laughing Face),’ ‘That’s Life,’ ‘Luck Be A Lady Tonight, ‘New York, New York,’ ‘(Love Is) The Tender Trap,’ ‘Love and Marriage,’ ‘Night And Day, ‘ ‘Stardust,’ ‘Young At Heart,’ ‘Angel Eyes’ and a number of other timeless classics.

The songs featured in Eagle Rock’s new box set are just part of what makes this new collection such an important addition to Sinatra’s legacy. It also features first hand interviews with Frank Sinatra that were collected from vintage, archived footage. There is also footage from Sinatra’s rarely seen 1971 “Retirement Concert” included in the package. The presentation in whole was assembled with the help of archivists, Sinatra’s family members, and those that run his estate. It traces Sinatra’s life and impact on American popular culture beginning with his birth in Hoboken, New Jersey and his surprise rise to stardom early in his young adult life all the way to his international fame. The story is told through concert performances, interviews with those that were closest to Sinatra, and even never-before-seen home movies recorded during Sinatra’s life. The whole presentation was directed and produced by Oscar-winning Alex Gibney. Five-time Oscar nominated producer Frank Marshall served as one of the production’s EPs alongside Charles Pignone, Sharon Hall, and Alcon Television Group’s Co-Founders and Co-CEOs Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson.

Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All will be released Friday, November 20th. it will be available on 2-DVD, 2-Blu-ray, Deluxe Edition and digital formats. The 2-DVD and 2-Blu-ray presentation will both retail for MSRP of $29.98 while the Deluxe Edition will retail for MSRP of $69.99. That is because of the expansive amount of material included in the Deluxe Edition. It will feature the All or Nothing At All Documentary on two DVDs, Sinatra’s complete 1971 “Retirement Concert” on both DVD and CD platform, a one-on-one interview between Sinatra and famed newsman Walter Cronkite originally recorded in 1965 (on one DVD), a reproduction of the 1971 Life Magazine article discussing Sinatra’s “Retirement Concert,” a separate bonus booklet, and six art cards housed in their own envelope.

More information on Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now along with all of the latest news from the leading name in live recordings at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

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.

Audiences Will Discover A Lot To Like About “Bing Crosby Rediscovered”

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

This past October, Paramount Pictures re-issued the 1942 holiday classic Holiday Inn on Blu-ray.  It marked the first time ever that the movie, which starred legendary actor Bing Crosby, had seen the light of day on Blu-ray.  Fittingly, PBS will release a new episode of its hit biography series American Masters featuring Crosby next Tuesday, December 2nd.  While not necessarily a companion to Paramount’s recent BD re-issue of Holiday Inn, the timing of the two releases makes them a perfect pair.  Whether before taking in Holiday Inn or after, audiences will find plenty to like about American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered.  The most enjoyable aspect of this new DVD is the fact that it isn’t just another typical video documentary of a celebrity.  It doesn’t follow that standard formula of life to death that so many bios use in their presentations.   Rather it focuses on Crosby the man, the myth, and the legend.  This includes the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.  The fact that American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered isn’t another standard bio is just part of what audiences will enjoy about this new documentary.  The use of actual vintage footage and pictures from Crosby’s career and personal life as part of the discussion on both parts of his life makes the presentation even more enjoyable.  And last but hardly least worth noting is the inclusion of interviews with those that knew him best including his own wife as well as famed biographer Gary Giddens and fellow jazz legend Tony Bennett among others.  Each aspect by itself makes this episode of American Masters well worth the watch.  Collectively, they show once again why PBS remains the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming today.

PBS will release another new episode of its hit bio series American Masters next Tuesday, December 2nd.  The upcoming release focuses on legendary entertainer Bing Crosby.  Just as with all of PBS’ other series (both domestic and imported), it is more proof of why PBS stands as the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming.  Audiences that are not so familiar with the life and times of Bing Crosby will appreciate first and foremost in this DVD the depth of information shared throughout the course of its roughly ninety-minute run time.  The bio presented here isn’t the standard formulaic bio presented so often by other networks and filmmakers.  It’s a fully unbiased bio that presents Bing Crosby the man, the myth, and the legend.  It presents his good side and his bad.  From his superstardom to his alcoholism and womanizing to his working relationship with fellow entertainer Bob Hope in the famed “Road To…” movies (apparently the duo spent nearly no time together off-screen), audiences see every angle of Crosby’s life. Audiences learn that he was hardly the easiest person to work with when it came to recording songs. And sometimes, he was just as tough to work with in live settings.  Also included is the downright ugly part of his family’s life in which two of his sons took their own lives. There is much more information shared throughout the course of the program that many might never have known. For those that have always known one thing or another about Bing Crosby the entertainer or Bing Crosby the man, the information contained within this program completes the picture of the legendary figure’s history. It proves to be the fullest picture that audiences can get in regards to Crosby’s life. And in turn it proves once more why American Masters is such an important part of the whole that is PBS.

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered offers to audiences what is one of the most complete portraits of the legendary entertainer that audiences will find to date. As with the series’ previous portraits, it far outperforms any celebrity profile presented by any other major network past or present. The amount of information provided throughout the course of the documentary is just one reason that the program in whole is so impressive. The vintage video and photographs that are included with the breadth of information on Crosby and his life enhances the viewing experience even more. Audiences get to see pictures of Crosby with his family away from the bright lights of Hollywood. They get to also see snippets of his famed “Road To…” movies and much more. The combination of these elements and the story of Crosby’s life in and out of the limelight makes the overall content of this program all the more important to its enjoyment. It collectively shows once again why American Masters outperforms any celebrity-based series on any major broadcast and cable network today.

The combination of vintage footage and photos and in-depth story of Crosby’s life used in American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered make this feature more than worth the watch. The bonus videos and interviews that come as companion material make the overall presentation even more enjoyable for audiences. Viewers learn from director Robert Trachtenberg that he worked directly with the estate of Bing Crosby to bring the documentary to life. Trachtenberg and others note Crosby’s hard work ethic and his humility among so much more. There is also a full clip of Crosby performing with his sons later in his life. The clip in question is presented only in part during the primary presentation. So audiences actually get to see the full performance in this clip in question. It’s a truly moving moment taking into consideration the story of what happened to two of his sons later in their lives. And along with the bonus interviews, it becomes one more welcome addition to American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered that makes the presentation in whole a piece that any Crosby aficionado will enjoy.

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered is a wonderful piece for anyone that has ever had any interest in the life and legacy of the famed entertainer. It reveals that Crosby is more than just that guy known for having sung ‘White Christmas.’ It also debunks some of the biggest myths surrounding his life. It is a fully unbiased look at the life of one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century showing Crosby in his glory and even more tarnished side. The bonus interviews that were added as companion material adds even more depth to the overall presentation. All things considered, American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered proves in the end to be one more welcome addition to another wonderful piece of PBS’ overall programming schedule. It will be available next Tuesday, December 2nd. It can be ordered online direct from PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=50703406&cp=&sr=1&kw=american+masters&origkw=American+Masters&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of American Masters is available online at:

 

Website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters

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

 

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From Dust To Dreams A Concert Dream Come True

Courtesy:  PBS

Courtesy: PBS

Las Vegas is typically known by its nickname, “Sin City.”  The other “city that never sleeps” is dominated by gambling, girls, and much more.  Because of that reputation, few people would ever associate the famed city with a center for the performing arts.  But there is in fact a center for the performing and cultural arts in Las Vegas now in the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.  Thanks to PBS, audiences that weren’t able to be in attendance at the celebration of the center’s opening can now re-live the concert event any time that they want.

from Dust to Dreams: Opening Night at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts chronicles the celebration held in honor of the center’s opening.  What can be said of this performance but it was an impressive show from a who’s who of the music and entertainment community.  Performers the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Mavis Staples, John Fogerty, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and more than can be named here took part in the two-hour long celebration of the arts coming to Las Vegas at long last.  Host of the Tonys and star of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother served as emcee of this presentation.  What’s interesting to note about his presence in this performance is how much different it was in comparison to what audiences have become accustomed to from the actor.  This isn’t a bad thing, either.  If anything, it only serves to heighten the enjoyment of the overall presentation.  Add in expertly mixed audio and video, and audiences get what is in retrospect one of the best live recordings of 2012.

The very first thing that can be noted of from Dust to Dreams is that it opens and closes in fine fashion.  The opening number performed by trumpet player Arturo Sandoval.  Sandoval’s performance was an outstanding opener for the two-hour event.  His control over his instrument shows the result of his years of training.  This is especially the case when he hits the final high note of his opening number.  Far too often, some overzealous performers hit high notes in songs, thinking they sound good.  But in reality the performers in question are blasting out the notes, resulting in a very harsh sound.  That wasn’t the case with Sandoval’s performance.  His performance got the energy flowing and set the bar for what was to come through the rest of the show’s performances.

The performances that follow that of Sandoval hold the bar quite well.  Whether the medley of songs from Man of La Mancha and West Side Story, the classic country of veteran artist Willie Nelson, or even the more rocking sounds of John Fogerty, this show spans the musical spectrum and will entertain audiences of all ages and musical tastes.  Adding to the enjoyment of the concert is the presence of emcee Neil Patrick Harris.  Yes, Harris was more subdued in his hosting duties here than as host of the Tonys.  But this was an entirely different event.  Even the performers had their time on stage limited as there were so many performers.  What’s more, Harris did offer his share of pretty funny jokes when he was on stage.  Audiences need to keep this in mind in considering his performance as emcee of this event.  In doing so, those same individuals will enjoy the laughs that Harris shares when he is on stage.

The performance of host Neil Patrick Harris and that of the show’s performers make from Dust to Dreams quite the enjoyable live recording.  One would be remiss though, to ignore the importance of the show’s audio and video mix.  Going back to the show’s opening number by Arturo Sandoval straight through to the show’s closing number, the audio and video have been expertly mixed.  There are some songs that absolutely soar throughout the course of this program.  And then there are other, more subtle pieces that were captured so well.  Whether one has a home surround sound theater or not, one can still experience so much.  Those that do have home theater systems will appreciate the performances even more.  That’s because the picture will look crystal clear on an HDTV and the sound will sound just as clear.  This is especially true for those with surround sound.  It is these aspects that make the overall presentation on this DVD so enjoyable.  In retrospect, it makes this collection of performances one of the best live recordings of 2012.  From Dust to Dreams is available now.  It can be ordered online direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=13233132&cp=&sr=1&kw=from+dust+to+dreams&origkw=from+Dust+to+Dreams&parentPage=search&searchId=1374600.

Fans of PBS and its programming can keep up with all of the latest news, releases and more from the network online at http://ww.facebook.com/pbs and at http://www.pbs.org.

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

Die Hard BD Set A Great Anniversary Gift For Franchise’s Fans

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Detective John McClane is coming back to theaters one more time in only a matter of days in a brand new installment in the Die Hard franchise.  In celebration of the upcoming adventure, 20th Century Fox and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have released a somewhat new collection of McClane’s adventures.  The new Die Hard 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Collection is an excellent addition to the home library of any action film fan that doesn’t yet have the franchise’s films or the previously released eight-disc Ultimate Collection.

Die Hard fans get in the new Blu-ray Collection much of what was included in the aforementioned DVD set with a few minute changes.  Those changes show up mainly in the removal of the unrated versions of the movies that were included in the original eight-disc DVD set and a couple of bonus features from Live Free or Die Hard.  But 20th Century Fox and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have more than made up for that with seven brand new in-depth features included in their very own disc in the set, thus keeping this set as entertaining as the previously released mega set.  Included in this new five-disc set are features that any true movie buff and Die Hard fanatic will appreciate.  It starts with the bonus feature, “Reinventing the Action Genre.”  This feature provides a glimpse into how each one of the Die Hard movies came to life.  It’s interesting to learn from this feature that the series’ first two movies actually came from two totally separate books that were adapted into Die Hard and Die Hard 2: Die Harder.  Even more interesting to learn is that the author of the book which became Die Hard originally didn’t like the idea of his book being turned into the franchise’s base.  And that book in question was actually the sequel to another book that had been turned into a movie starring Frank Sinatra.  When asked about doing a movie adaptation of that book’s sequel, Sinatra turned down the chance, and thus Die Hard was born.  There is plenty more here for audiences to enjoy; so much so that there is neither time nor space to go into it all.  That’s something that audiences will have to discover for themselves.

The very first of the set’s new bonus features alone makes for plenty of extra insight into this landmark franchise.  It includes interviews with cast and crew of each movie, as well as each movie’s writer.  From here, audiences are taken on a journey behind the scenes of the movies’ special effects, the action sequences, the fights, and even McClane’s sidekicks and so much more.  This is just one part of what makes the new Die Hard 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Collection worth the money for any true Die Hard fan.

Also making this new set just as positive as the DVD set is its packaging.  Whereas the previous set was contained in a rather large, bulky box, this set is contained much like that of 20th Century Fox’s 2010 Blu-ray release of the Alien Anthology on Blu-ray and Paramount’s recently released Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures on Blu-ray.  The set’s packaging is something of a book that is far slimmer than the previously released DVD set.  As impressive as the new set’s packaging is, it should be considered for any new box set released as part of the home release of It’s A Good Day To Die Hard later this year.  The discs are placed into sleeves of sorts, rather than regular disc “trays.”  This isn’t an entirely bad thing.  It isn’t without its concerns.  But considering that a new box set is highly likely upon the home release of the franchise’s latest installment, one can only hope that this single con will be turned into a positive in the next box set’s release.

Keeping in mind everything noted about this new Blu-ray box set, there’s no denying that it is well worth the money for any true hardcore fan of the Die Hard franchise.  It’s available now in stores now and can be ordered online direct via the 20th Century Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com/die-hard-25th-anniversary-collection.html.

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Suddenly Re-Issue Another Welcome Remnant Of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Courtesy:  Image Entertainment

Courtesy: Image Entertainment/United Artists

Almost half a century ago, the United States suffered one of the worst tragedies of the twentieth century.  That tragedy was the assassination of then President John F. Kennedy.  Conspiracy theories aside, what many people might not know is that according to author Kitty Kelley, it was Sinatra’s 1954 movie, Suddenly that was the alleged influence behind Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of then President John F. Kennedy.  According to her bio on the singer, His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra, Oswald allegedly watched the movie the day before he changed history.  As a result of this accusation, the movie was pulled for years before it was finally allowed back into the public realm.  And now audiences can see how Suddenly may have played a role in that dark day for themselves as it has been re-issued on Blu-ray by Image Entertainment.

Suddenly is hardly the longest movie ever made.  But that’s not a bad thing, either.  In a time when it seems like so many movie studios seem to be competing with one another to see who can make the longest possible story, this movie comes in at a little less than ninety minutes.  Throughout the course of its hour and fifteen minute run time, audiences are kept engaged thanks to the growing tension between Sinatra’s psychopathic ex-military officer John Baron and Sterling Hayden’s clean cut fellow ex-military officer Sheriff Tod Shaw.  Much like 12 Angry Men which wouldn’t see the light of day for another three years, what really heightens the story’s tension is that the majority of the story takes place in a limited set.  This is a minor factor to some audiences.  But in viewing the movie from a more analytical vantage point, it’s a factor that plays a much larger factor.  Understanding this makes the movie that much more interesting and worth the watch.  Add in the understanding of the controversy surrounding the movie, and audiences get a movie that is that much more intriguing, underappreciated, and worth the watch.

A single viewing of Suddenly shows how Lee Harvey Oswald could easily have been influenced to commit a copy-cat act.  But it’s not necessarily the attempted act in question that will have audiences talking after watching.  If anything it’s Baron’s (Sinatra) comment late in the movie that he wasn’t the one committing the act.  Rather he was doing it for someone else, purely for the money.  Baron told Sheriff Shaw that he didn’t know for whom he was working and didn’t care to know, either.  If anything this brief moment will surely re-ignite the discussions between conspiracy theorists about whether or not Oswald worked alone.  On another level, it serves as one more example of the possible power of media to influence real life.  Should there be any credence to the influence of Suddenly on Oswald’s actions, it can be just as strongly used as another warning to the media in regards to taking responsibility for the potential impact of what is written for TV shows and movies.

Getting back to the story behind Suddenly as art.  Writer Richard Sale accomplished quite the feat with this movie.  It wastes no time establishing the story’s plot and its cast.  As a result of this quickness, the rest of the story is spent in just a few rooms of a house.  For most film makers and script writers today, limiting a story to so few sets would prove a mind twist, so to speak.  That’s because so many of today’s movies rely more on flash-boom-bang special effects and overt sexuality to drive their stories.  But for Sale, his writing was solely story based.  It allowed for more tension between Sinatra and Hayden.  And that tension is what keeps audiences so engaged.  There was obviously some chemistry between the two as they expertly played off of one another throughout the story making it increasingly emotional.  The chemistry between the two men made for a movie that was entirely enthralling; so much so that it’s ironic that it wasn’t Hayden whose character was ultimately responsible for the movie’s final outcome.  That outcome won’t be ruined for those who haven’t yet seen it.  But it is an ending that has quite the twist in and of itself.  It’s a twist that will leave audiences completely breathless after everything that had happened through the course of this underrated thriller.  That twist ending is the icing on the cake for Sale’s writing here.  And combined with the equally expert acting of both Hayden and Sinatra (and their supporting cast), it all comes together for a movie that is at the same time underrated and underappreciated.  And now that it’s available once more on Blu-ray, it’s a movie that every movie lover should see at least once.

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