WMN Closes Out 2021 On A High Note With ‘The Rough Guide To Cape Jazz’

Courtesy: World Music Network

World Music Network has done quite a bit this year to take audiences into America’s rich musical history and culture.  That is thanks to successful compilations that present rich histories of the blues, gospel, and even country music.  Now as 2020 winds down, the label is presenting one more rich musical lesson in its brand new compilation, The Rough Guide to Cape Jazz.  The eight-song record is a presentation that will appeal widely to jazz aficionados and world music fans alike.  That is due in part to the compilation’s companion booklet, which will be discussed shortly.  The songs that make up the record’s body build on the foundation formed by the record’s companion booklet and add to the record’s appeal.  They will be discussed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will be addressed later, too.  Each item noted here is key in its own way to the whole of the compilation’s presentation.  All things considered, the record proves itself an enjoyable way for World music Network to close out the year.

World Music Network’s latest compilation record The Rough Guide to Cape Jazz is a work that will appeal just as much to jazz lovers as much as it will to world music fans.  That is thanks in part to the booklet that accompanies the record.  More specifically, the liner notes featured in the booklet are to thank for its appeal.  The notes lay the groundwork for the compilation, explaining the history behind Cape Jazz as a genre.  The notes point out that “Cape Jazz” as a genre is relatively young, having really gotten its start in 1993.  It is essentially popular folk and blues music paired with influences of the South Africa region of the African continent, according to the booklet’s featured liner notes.  This is just part of what is pointed out in the booklet’s liner notes.  The liner notes also the genre’s ties to South Africa’s own social and political culture, which adds even more interest to the genre’s story.  Between that, everything else noted here and the remainder of the booklet’s information, the whole of the information more than shows its importance to the whole of the compilation’s presentation.  It is just one part of what makes the compilation engaging and entertaining.  The record’s featured songs add their own value to the record.

The songs that make up the body of The Rough Guide to Cape Jazz are of note because while the genre allegedly is said to pair with South African musical elements for its presentation, none of the songs featured here would seem to reflect that pairing of influences.  Now ‘Liberation,’ which comes early in the 39-minute record’s run does seem to hint at the connection between the genre and region’s sociopolitical history and culture.  The energy in the arrangement hints at the emotion perhaps felt by the people of the region when apartheid came to its end in the early 1990s.  ‘The Dance of Our Fathers’ meanwhile bears quite the Westernized jazz sense a la Yellowjackets in its arrangement.  At the same time, the relaxed vibe that the arrangement exudes presents a sense of happiness that, considering the song’s title, seemingly reflects the upbeat tribute to the region’s history.  ‘Cape Joy’ come the closest of all of the compilation’s songs to featuring the noted combined South African and American jazz influences what with the use of the shakers, cowbell and other percussion.  Yes, what people call Latin is in fact African at its roots, so to that end, audiences will hear that noted pairing of influences here.  Between that and everything else noted here, along with the rest of the arrangements in all their presentation, the whole of the songs does plenty in their own right to make this record appealing.  They still are collectively just one more aspect of the record’s presentation that deserves attention.  The songs’ sequencing rounds out the compilation’s most important elements. 

The sequencing of The Rough Guide to Cape Jazz is important to address especially because this record is a compilation.  It ensures the record’s energy remains stable from the start to end of the nearly 40-minute record.  The record’s first half maintains a catchy, upbeat vibe thanks to the sequencing.  ‘Give A Little Love,’ the record’s midpoint breaks things up nicely as it slows things down noticeably.  The record’s energy picks back up from there, but never goes over the top.  The most energetic that the record gets from that point is in the funky ‘The Way It Used To Be,’ whose arrangement will appeal to fans of the likes of Weather Report.  As the album closes in ‘Crossroads Crossroads,’ the record’s energy pulls back one more time, landing listeners on a separate show so gently while also leaving them fulfilled.  Simply put, the record’s sequencing wholly ensures that its energy will keep listeners engaged and entertained just as much as the songs themselves and the information behind the songs.  All things considered, the record completely ensures its success and that it succeeds just as much as the other records released by World Music Network this year.

World Music Network’s final new compilation for this year takes the company out on a high note.  That is proven in part through the record’s companion booklet.  The booklet’s liner notes set the groundwork for the record’s presentation.  The songs that are featured in the record do their own part to entertain and engage audiences, as does the sequencing of those songs.  Each noted item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of this recording.  All things considered, they make the compilation a nice finale for World Music Network for 2020.  In the process, it leaves listeners looking forward to the company’s new slate of compilations to come in 2021.

More information on this and other titles from World Music Network is available online at:




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‘Star Trek: Picard’ Falls Short Of Expectations In Its Debut Season

Courtesy: Paramount/CBS/CBS All Access/CBS DVD

CBS All Access’ latest entry in the ever-expanding Star Trek universe, Picard is another disappointment in the “new generation” of Star Trek series, next to Discovery.  The 10-episode debut season of Picard gives audiences little reason to remain engaged or even entertained in its writing and acting.  That is not to say that this season is a complete failure.  It is saved at least in part by its special effects and the packaging of its home release.  Other than those aesthetic elements, there is really no other reason for viewers to even try out this attempt to resurrect the TNG era of Star Trek.

The debut season of CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Picard is a rough first outing for the show.  It is not a complete failure, though.  It does have at least a couple of positives, one of which is its special effects.  Technology has come a long way in terms of the use of special effects, and they were used quite well throughout the course of Picard’s debut season.  Audiences will marvel at the upgrades made to the Borg cube that was so badly damaged in an epic battle with the Enterprise back in the days of TNG.  In a similar vein, the effects that were used to create the home world of the “synths” and the Federation headquarters is just as impressive.  The space battles that took place were just as  enjoyable to watch, even though they looked more like something out of Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5.  The effects that were used to create the early destruction of the Mars shipyards is worth acknowledging, too.  Those sequences are pretty brutal, even though again, one can’t help but think of BSG in this case, too.  Simply put, the special effects that were presented throughout the course of Picard’s debut (and hopefully only) season give viewers at least something to appreciate here.  Going back again to the mention of the BSG comparison, that item is just one of many that brings about the season’s one major detractor, its writing.

The writing that is featured in the first season of Picard is problematic to say the very least.  The whole thing starts off as essentially a “sequel” of sorts to Star Trek: Nemesis, the finale to The Next Generation’s cinematic universe.  That 2002 movie was the lowest point for the TNG franchise at the time, but Jean Luc’s desire to find Data’s consciousness here is just cheesy to say the very least.  The real Jean Luc-Picard did mourn for Data in Nemesis, but he ultimately would have accepted Data’s passing.  So to have this story open like this makes suspension of disbelief difficult to say the least.  From there, audiences are presented with the all too familiar topic of whether artificial intelligence can become fully sentient.  It is a topic that became central to TNG, but was addressed far before Star Trek was a thing, thus the reference to Isaac Asimov throughout this season.  It has been used and used again so many times throughout the sci-fi world that it has become little more than a trope.  The over-the-top preachiness that ensues in regards to the Romulans’ blind hatred of synths is yet another echo of something that has been addressed so many times in other movies and television shows that preceeded Picard.  To that end, it makes the topic that much more unengaging. 

Of course for all of the negative in the show’s writing, it does have some positives.  One positive element of the writing comes in Jean Luc’s revelation about the Borg being “victims, not monsters” as he visits the Borg cube in which he himself became a Borg in TNG.  He realizes that the Borg were in fact real, living beings who were transformed by the sentience.  That is a direct connection to the bigger discussion on the synths’ place in the universe, but is still far less preachy than the other noted talk.  Considering that the story line in Star Trek Discovery states the Federation essentially made the Borg when it created “Control,” Picard’s statement holds even more water so to speak.

Staying on the topic of Jean Luc’s revelations, his comment early on that the Federation does not decide which society survives is powerful in itself.  It echoes back to Luke Skywalker’s disillusionment with the Jedi order in the Star Wars universe.  The Federation’s Prime Directive was to not get involved directly in any society, so for his fellow Admiral to declare the Federation does hold that power makes Jean Luc a more sympathetic character.  It shows that there is at least a little bit of positive to the writing.  Sadly though, other than these revelations, most of the writing still poses its share of problems.  There is so much exposition and waxing philosophical throughout the season that the show’s pacing starts to suffer many times.  It isn’t the lighter but direct writing that audiences enjoyed in the “old days” of Star Trek.  Audiences are even made to endure an extensive discussion on mortality in the season finale (not to give away too much) that is way heavy. 

As if everything noted was not enough, the blatant foul language and often gory content written into the scripts detracts from the writing even more.  TOS, TNG, DSN, Voyager, and Enterprise did not need violence and foul language in order to work.  To that end, why did the show’s creative heads think these elements were so necessary in this case?  It leaves one shaking one’s head in disbelief that much more.

Simply put, the writing detracts from the presentation of Picard: Season One noticeably.  That is even with its rare positives.  While the writing does considerable damage to this season’s presentation, there is at least one more positive for audiences.  It is the packaging of the season’s home release.

Audiences will note that Season One’s packaging actually is its own positive.  The set’s three discs sit on their own “plate” inside the box.  This protects them from being damaged in any form.  Brief but concise episode summaries are also printed on the inside of the set’s cover art.  This is where things get a little bit problematic.  Due to being printed on the inside of the case’s art, some of the summaries are partially covered by the package’s “bones.”  This leads to the need to shift the box so that they can be better read.  Even doing that is problematic because even in doing that, there is still some difficulty in reading said summaries.  Thankfully it doesn’t happen with all of the summaries.  To that end, the inclusion of the summaries is still mostly positive in its own fashion.  When all of this noted packaging presentation is considered along with the show’s special effects, the show’s presentation proves to have at least something to appreciate

The debut season of CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Picard is a rough start for this series.  It does not give audiences much to appreciate.  Rather, it comes across more as a cash grab attempt by someone to get fans of The Next Generation to welcome the “new age” of Star Trek.  That is evidenced in large part through the season’s central story and writing.  The writing comes across as some kind of attempt by the  show’s creative heads to see if they could make up for the failure that was Nemesis while also rehashing the far too familiar topic of artificial intelligence and the potential results of said intelligence becoming sentient.  It all feels so forced.  To the show’s defense, there are at least a couple of positives to the writing, but they are just not enough to make this season memorable.  The only real positives to this season are its special effects and the packaging of its home release.  Even as much as they do to help the season’s presentation, they just are not enough to save Season One.  Ultimately, one can only hope that considering all of the problems posed throughout the season, the now confirmed second season will be anything but the failure that is Season One.

More information on Star Trek: Picard is available along with all of CBS All Access’ latest news at:

Website: http://www.cbs.com/allaccess

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/cbs

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