2020’s New Hard Rock, Metal Albums Prove The Grammys Got It Wrong Again

Courtesy: InsideOut Music

Whatever committee or person makes the decision on who gets nominations and awards at the annual Grammy Awards ceremony needs a swift kick in the pants.  That is because that person or those people has/have never given much real respect to the hard rock and metal community.  This year’s list of nominees is the latest supporting proof for that argument.  Despite what certain parties might have audiences believe, 2020 produced a lot of albums that are far more worthy of awards.  Among those oh-so-notable new albums that have been released this far are new offerings from Lamb of God, Sons of Apollo, U.D.O., Sevendust, and even Firewind.  All of the noted albums are featured in this year’s Phil’s Picks Top 10 New Hard Rock & Metal Albums.  Between thrash metal, groove metal, pure hard rock and even electronic rock, this list proves how much great material was released this year that is far more deserving of awards than the acts that were nominated (maybe save for Body Count’s song).

As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, this list features the Top 10 new albums in the noted category and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 albums.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Hard Rock & Metal Albums.

PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW HARD ROCK & METAL ALBUMS

  1. Sons of Apollo – MMXX
  2. U.D.O. – We Are One
  3. Sevendust – Blood & Stone
  4. Lamb of God – Lamb of God
  5. Mushroomhead – A Wonderful Life
  6. Testament – Titans of Creation
  7. Static X – Project: Re-Generation
  8. Firewind – Firewind
  9. Julien K – Harmonic Disruptor
  10. Master Boot Record – Floppy Disc Overdrive
  11. Clint Lowery – God Bless The Renegades
  12. Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic
  13. David Reece – Cacophony of Souls
  14. Biff Byford – School of Hard Knocks
  15. Warbringer – Weapons of Tomorrow

Next up from Phil’s Picks is one last musical category, the year’s top new overall albums.  Stay tuned for that, and then it’ll be on to the DVD and BD categories. 

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Annihilator Proves Again Why It Is Thrash Metal Elite With ‘Ballistic, Sadistic’

Courtesy: Neverland Music, Inc.

Thrash metal is alive and well.  This critic has pointed this out more than once during the course of this year.  New, successful albums released this year from the likes of Testament, Warbringer and Sepultura have supported that statement without any doubt.  They are just a few of the albums that have served to support the noted statement.  They are just some of those examples of what has made the thrash world so strong this year.  They also were not the first of the year’s major thrash albums.  Annihilator beat all of them to the punch on January 24 with the release of its latest album Ballistic, Sadistic.  The band’s 17th full-length studio recording, its 10 total songs make the album everything that audiences have come to expect from the veteran metal outfit, musically speaking.  This will be discussed shortly.  The album’s lyrical themes work with that noted musical aspect to add to the record’s appeal.  It will be addressed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  It will also be addressed later.  Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of this recording.  All things considered, they make Ballistic, Sadistic another win for Annihilator and its fans.

Annihilator’s latest album Ballistic, Sadistic is a pure example from start to end of why this band has remained such a respected act both within the thrash and metal realms for more than 35 years.  That is proven in part through the 45-minute album’s overall musical presentation.  The album’s musical arrangements are, from one to the next, everything that audiences have come to expect from the band.  The shredding riffs are there as are front man Jeff Waters’ grinding vocals and drummer Fabio Alessandrini’s solid time keeping and fills.  From the full-throttle approach of ‘Out With The Garbage’ to the almost power metal approach of ‘Lip Service’ to the equally driving arrangement of ‘The Attitude,’ audiences get everything that they have come to expect from Annihilator on this latest offering from the veteran metal outfit.  What’s interesting to note in examining the arrangements is that for all of the familiarity present throughout the course of the 45-minute record, there are some aspects that audiences will find interesting in their own right.  That arrangement at the center of ‘The Attitude’ is just one of those moments that stands out.  The nearly five-minute song opens with what is best described as something of a doom sound with the slow, heavy guitars and equally impacting drumming.  This element lasts almost two minutes before the band launches into the more full-throttle, old school thrash sound for which it has come to be known.  ‘One Wrong Move’ is another  example of some changes from the band, that audiences will like.  Roughly halfway through the course of the nearly five-minute song, which in its overall presentation sounds a lot like old school Metallica circa 1991 (and old school Pantera for that matter), the song becomes decidedly subdued.  That change of tone is only temporary, though, as the song soon after, as the band gets right back to the song’s original heaviness after the brief respite.  Between these two changes, the more familiar aspects of the band’s musical work and the rest of the work not addressed, the album’s overall musical content creates a solid foundation for its presentation.  The record’s lyrical themes rest on that foundation, making the album even more appealing for audiences.

The lyrical themes featured throughout the course of Ballistic, Sadistic strengthen the foundation formed by the album’s musical arrangements.  That is because the themes in question are topics to which listeners can relate.  “The Attitude’ is just one of the songs that serves to support the noted statement.  The song comes across as addressing those people who live to make others’ lives miserable.  It is a familiar topic that has been covered many times from one act to the next and from one genre to the next.  But even in the case of this presentation, it still maintains its appeal to listeners.  Case in point is the song’s lead verse, which states, “Years of blood, sweat and tears/Under the belt/Disregard, disrespect for what you’ve been dealt/best defense, arrogance/You know it all/Enjoy your time while it lasts/Before you fall.”  The damning indictment of such behaviors from those people continues in the song’s second verse, “It’s dragging me down/Pessimist/What do you know/In a couple of years, wait and see/You’ve got nothing to show/telling me how/Teaching me how it’s done/Feel the need to educate everyone” and adds in the song’s third and final verse, “You’ll learn the lesson/Learn it well/Save your tears/I’d wish you luck/Don’t fuck a f***/get out of here.”  That final statement is the most telling, as the song’s subject clearly is taking on that negativist, telling that person that he/she is not wanted or welcome.  When that forceful statement is coupled with the song’s equally powerful musical arrangement, the whole of the song is certain to leave a lasting impact on listeners.  It is just one of the most notable examples of what makes the album’s lyrical content stand out.  ‘Dressed Up For Evil’ shows in its own way what makes the album’s lyrical content so important to its presentation.

‘Dressed Up For Evil’ does not come right out  and say it, but could very easily be considered a statement against none other than the “Mango Monster” himself, Donald J. Trump.  This is inferred right from the song’s outset as the song states, “Put on your best suit and pick out your tie/Cover up the hooves/A devil in disguise/Jump in your fancy car/Women, a plaything/Everyone’s inferior/All hail the king/Lake Damien from The Omen/A business camouflage/Hanging with your worshippers/Your phony entourage/Blending in with all of us/A smell of rotten flesh/Fending off the flies.”  The seeming statement about the wannabe dictator continues in the song’s second verse, “So condescending/Rotten to the core/Everyone’s beneath you/Put ‘em down some more/Tempting with currency/Preying on the greed/Extend the family/With demon seed/People are just property/Amassing your net worth/Building up the empire/Right here on Earth/Delusions, illusions/All a fantasy/No guilty conscience/A moral bankruptcy.”  The song’s third and final verse follows in similar fashion, but at least ends the song with a “happy” ending, stressing to that evil figure, “The reign is over/Good has overcome/Dealing with the aftermath/The healing has begun.”  One can only hope that the healing will begin come November when hopefully the giant cheeto will be gone from the White House.  Considering all of this, the song is a song that will certainly resonate with plenty of listeners.  It is just one more way in which the album’s lyrical content proves so important to its presentation.  ‘Lip Service’ is yet another way in which the album’s lyrical content proves so important to its presentation.

The lyrical content featured in ‘Lip Service’ presents a certain intentional double entendre.  On the one hand, there is a clear sexual aspect to the song, as it states at one point, “Sweat dripping from the skin/’m dancing with the ultimate done/Like a sweet peach dipped in honey/With a taste that’s second to none/Down we go/It’s just what you need/Your pleasure and my treat/I got dessert to eat.”  Again, the sexual nature is fully evident here, but at the same time, one can consider that lip service meaning someone lying to another, there is a commentary here about just that.  People so often will pay lip service to others in order to get what they want.  That could be what is being addressed here in the bigger picture.  It could be a man trying to woo a woman.  It could be a brown noser sucking up to a boss.  Overall, the song’s lyrical content, with that seeming commentary and double entendre will certainly reach listeners and keep them just as engaged and entertained as the lyrical content featured in the album’s other noted songs and those not directly addressed.  All things considered here, the lyrical themes featured alongside the album’s musical content, make the album that much more enjoyable for listeners.  While the overall content goes a long way toward making it worth hearing, it is not all that audiences will appreciate.  The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

The sequencing of Ballistic, Sadistic is important to note because it does just as much to keep listeners engaged and entertained as the album’s overall content.  Clocking in at just over 45 minutes in length, a lot is going on in the album.  Yet even with so much happening, the album is well balanced in its energies and time.  The album’s two halves each run just over 20 minutes, with the longest of the record’s songs each running a little more than five minutes.  That means that at no point does the album let itself drag.  Even with the slight stylistic changes in some of the songs, each song still keeps the album’s overall energy moving throughout.  The result is a presentation that is just as appealing for its aesthetics as for its content.  Keeping that in mind, the album in whole proves clearly why it is another positive offering from Annihilator that is also among the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.

Annihilator’s 17th album Ballistic, Sadistic is another successful offering from the veteran thrash metal outfit.  That is proven in part through it musical arrangements which present plenty of familiar sounds and stylistic approaches alongside a little something new.  The album’s lyrical themes will connect with listeners just as much as its musical arrangements, as has been pointed out here.  The album’s sequencing puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  Each item noted is important in its own right to the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Ballistic, Sadistic a presentation that the band’s established fan base will appreciate just as much as metal aficionados in general.  It is available now through Neverland Music, Inc.  More information on the album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.annihilatormetal.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/annihilatorband

 

 

 

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.

Warbringer’s Latest LP Brings Lots Of Musical, Lyrical Firepower For Audiences To Enjoy

Courtesy: Napalm Records

Thrash metal outfit Warbringer is an interesting act.  The band has only been in existence for sixteen years.  Yet in that span, the band has toured the globe with some of the metal community’s biggest names (E.g. Overkill, Soilwork, Exodus), and released six albums, all while going through label and numerous lineup changes.  Most bands can only dream to have done as much as Warbringer in that span of time, what with the average number of albums and associated tours run over that time being three.  Even having done so much in such a short time, the band has not lost its fire.  That is clear in the band’s latest album (it’s sixth), Weapons of Tomorrow.  The 10-song record is a presentation that is everything that audiences have come to expect from Warbringer, both musically and lyrically.  The guitar riffs, vocals, bass work and time keeping come together to make this record just as worthy of applause as any of Warbringer’s past records.  That is evidenced in part early in the record’s 50-minute run in the form of ‘Defiance of Fate.’  This song will be addressed shortly.  ‘Heart of Darkness,’ which comes just past the record’s midpoint, serves as another example of the album’s strength.  It will be discussed a little later.  ‘Glorious End,’ the album’s finale, is one more way in which this album shows its impact.  It is hardly the last of the album’s most notable entries.  ‘Outer Reaches,’ which focuses on the journey into space, ‘Notre Dame (King of Fools),’ which seems to tell the story of Quasi Modo, and ‘Firepower Kills,’ which really comes across as an indictment of the buildup of the military complex, are also important additions to the album.  When they are considered with the songs noted here and the rest of the album’s entries, the whole of the album proves itself to be a powerful new offering from Warbringer that the band’s fans will appreciate just as much as metal fans in general.

Twelve years ago, thrash metal outfit Warbringer first came onto the metal scene with its debut album War Without End.  In the decade-plus since that album’s release, the band has continued to impress audiences with each following album.  The band’s latest album, Weapons of Tomorrow – the band’s sixth album and eighth overall recording, counting its two EPs – is no exception to that rule.  That is proven through the album’s lyrical and musical content, as is evidenced early on in the album’s fourth track, ‘Defiance of Faith.’  The song’s musical arrangement lends itself to comparisons to Metallica’s timeless thrash anthen ‘Sanitarium’ what with its brooding, reserved approach in the work of guitarists Adam Carroll and Chase Becker.  Drummer Carlos Cruz’s work behind the kit adds even more to that comparison with his controlled performance, as does bassist Chase Bryant.  Given, front man John Kevill’s vocal delivery is more akin to something from perhaps Exodus or Overkill, but it still works in its own right, adding its own touch to the whole to make the arrangement its own strong performance.  The subdued nature of the song’s arrangement is important to note because it serves to help illustrate and translate the story presented in the song’s lyrical content, which is about a man trying to decide which path to take in his life, so to speak.

The story of that subject’s decision is told over the course of its seven-minute-plus run time, with the subject first asking himself about his path.  He says to himself in this verse,  “So far away/the night descends o one more day/I call your name/But no reply/Nothing/How to go on/Why wear a smile upon my face/I try to rise in vain/But I can’t defy/I can’t defy my fate.”  He continues his discussion with himself in the song’s second verse, with just as much emotion, “Can’t find a meaning/In a cold, uncaring world/I long for days/Days that once and never were/My hopes begin to fade/For I can’t defy/I can’t defy my fate.”  Eventually the song’s figure reaches an epiphany, realizing his fate is in his own hands.  This comes in the song’s third verse, as the subject states, “But will I lay down as my life passes by?/Or will I raise up my fist to the sky/I will not go silently into the dark/My flame will burn brighter than all of the stars/I will stand tall/I will not go silently/I will be known/My flame will burn bright/So bright/You will know my name/You will hear my voice/My life will have meaning/I have made my choice/Now I stand defiant/I stand in defiance of fate/For all of time/My will and my spirit remain.”  What’s really interesting here is that as the song’s subject gains his emotional and mental footing, so does the energy increase in the song’s arrangement, helping to illustrate the determination and confidence that is rising in the song’s subject.  Keeping all of this in mind, it is clear that a lot of thought was put into the song on both  sides.  Even more important to note here is that while this is just a story, it is a story to which listeners can relate, as it reminds listeners to not give up when they are in those situations in which they are feeling so much doubt.  To that end, the song proves even more important to the whole of Weapons of Tomorrow.  Whether making that connection was manifest from the band is anyone’s guess, but regardless, it is a connection that listeners can relate.  Keeping that in mind, this song is clearly an important addition to the album, and just one of the record’s most notable works.  ‘Heart of Darkness’ is another of the songs featured in Weapons of Tomorrow that makes the record worth hearing.

‘Heart of Darkness’ is notable because it stands out from the rest of the album’s songs just as much musically as it does lyrically.  Where ‘Defiance of Fate’ boasted a very Metallica-esque influence in its arrangement, this song’s arrangement is more of a 21st-century work.  It continues the band’s trend of experimenting with more black metal elements alongside its trademark thrash metal sound.  The two elements are well-balanced here, making the whole a work that is unique within the confines of the album and when compared to works from Warbringer’s thrash counterparts.  That combination makes this arrangement another work that audiences will appreciate just as much as the album’s other entries.  It is just one part of what makes the song stand out.  The foreboding sound presented through the song’s arrangement does well to help evoke the feeling in the song’s lyrical content.

The lyrical content featured in ‘Heart of Darkness’ seems to reference author Joseph Conrad’s timeless novella written by the same name.  The novella took on the themes of imperialism and racism.  At the same time, while the title of that publication is referenced here, the actual lyrical content seems to address more, the history of mankind on one another.  It can just as easily be likened to the influence of the Spanish on certain other societies, Europeans on native cultures in America (and Africa) and even the British on peoples of other nations.  In other words, it is a theme that connects to reality in so many avenues.  To that end, the two topics ironically intertwine with one another seamlessly.  The song states of that history in its lead verse, “Far into the unknown/They find this land/Yet unspoiled by time/Its people quite defenseless/Its riches ripe for the taking/They brought the torch/They brought the sword/To seek their fame/To seek reward/They venture into the jungles and mists/And blinded, they see/Only an infinite darkness.”  The story continues in its second verse with what seems to reference the atrocities of slavery in America, stating, “The crack of whips/The clack of chains/To bring the light/But why such pain/To rule by force and domination/And then to speak of civilization/The ivory face/The eyes so cold/The lust for power/The glimmer of gold/There lies a sickness deep in the soul/One glance in the mirror/Reveals an infinite darkness.”  In hindsight, the mention of “the lust for power/The glimmer of gold” might in fact make this a reference to the mistreatment of Native Americans by white Americans of European descent.  Either way, the picture of that mistreatment by one group to another is clear and powerful.  The song’s powerful story continues in its third verse, as Kevill “sings,” “Stained human soul/Which no one can disguise/What evil lurks in the recesses of the mind/Would you chain another/If you gained from their demise/To peer into this darkness means to face the horror/The horror within us all/Far/So far into the unknown/The hateful seeds that have been sown/The quest for wealth/That grim desire/The severed hands/The homes afire/Through the years, an unending stain/The crack of whips/The clack of chains/And even today, the echo remains/Witness the still-beating heart/Heart of darkness.”  Again, what is being addressed here is imperialism and racism throughout history from one group’s oppression of another to another group’s oppression of others.  It is a very unique way in which this familiar topic has been approached here.  Together with the song’s musical arrangement, the topic is even more impacting.  In turn, the song becomes another clear example of what makes Weapons of Tomorrow worth hearing.  It is just one more of the album’s most notable entries.  The record’s finale, ‘Glorious End’ is one more example of the album’s strength.

‘Glorious End’ stands out because while its musical arrangement does present more of the band’s familiar thrash sound – coupled with more black/death metal influence – the song’s lyrical content presents its own unique tale.  The tale here is that of a young man growing up and going off to war in World War I.  It is a story that will appeal widely to fans not only of Warbringer, but also to fans of Sabaton.  At the same time, it is also an indictment of war and what it causes.  The song’s subject states in the song’s lead verse, “I hear the call to arms/I shall answer at once/My brothers, now we march/Toward the sound of the guns/yes, men will die/But I will not be afraid/I remember the words that my father told me/My son, you must be brave/Your steel must be true/And upon that field of war, my son/You know what you must do.”  The story continues with the song’s subject paying tribute to his father, stating, “My father, my father/Your sons will stand tall/We will return to home/In victory or not at all/For I am no coward/I will laugh at death again/No onward my brothers/To our glorious end/Oh, the banner stands so tall/What glory awaits us all.”  The story continues even more over the course of the song’s nearly seven-minute run time, but does not have a happy ending.  The young soldier eventually dies as a result of a chemical attack. He and his fellow soldiers were gassed.  As the young man dies, he says, “My father, are you proud?/truly a glorious end/Into a silent tomb I fall/What glory awaits us all/Tell me father, have you lied?/this is no way for a soldier to die/Was there a meaning when I fell/Where is the glory/Where is the glory for me?”  Again, this becomes an indictment of war and its effects.  It is a not so veiled statement about those who blindly go off and serve out of their own inflated sense of patriotism and self aggrandizement.  It is a powerful statement that, when considered along with the album’s opening statement about the buildup of the industrial military complex, adds even more impact from the album.  Considered along with the rest of the songs noted here and the rest of the album’s offerings, the record in whole proves itself to be a record that will appeal widely to Warbringer’s fans, those of the thrash realm and of the metal world in general.  Simply put, it makes itself an easy candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.

Warbringer’s latest full-length studio recording Weapons of Tomorrow is an engaging and enjoyable new offering from the young thrash metal veterans.  That is proven through the record’s musical and lyrical content, as is evidenced through the songs examined here.  When those songs are considered along with the rest of the album’s offerings, the album in whole becomes another positive offering from Warbringer that boasts plenty of its own musical and lyrical firepower.  The album is available now through Napalm Records.  More information on Weapons of Tomorrow is available along with all of Warbringer’s latest news at:

 

 

 

Websitehttp://www.warbringermusic.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/Warbringermusic

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/warbringerband

 

 

 

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.

Exmortus Announces Details For New Album, Tour

Photo Credit: Stephanie Cabral

Photo Credit: Stephanie Cabral

Speed/thrash metal act Exmortus made some big announcements this week.
The California-based speed/thrash metal quartet announced the title of its next album and that the album, Ride Forth, will be released early in 2016.  The album comes on the heels of the release of the album’s lead single ‘For The Horde’ and its companion lyric video, which can be viewed online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo35U4PTQ90.  The lyric video presents the band’s new single coupled with its lyrics and shots of the single’s artwork.  It is a full-on adrenaline-fueled piece that will impress any metal purist.  Fans can also check it out by simply clicking the graphic below.

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Along with the announcements of the album’s title and expected release time frame, the band also announced that it will hit the road in support of the single and album beginning this Saturday, October 10th.  The upcoming forty-seven-date tour will kick off in Long Beach, California at the Metal Before Dishonor Festival.  Enforcer, Warbringer, and Cauldron will come on board beginning January 5th.  The band’s complete tour schedule is listed below.
UPCOMING SHOWS 
10/10 Long Beach, CA – Metal Before Dishonor Fest @ Club Hydra
10/14 Los Angeles, CA – The Lyric Theater ( Night Time Show w/ Stephen Kramer Glickman​ )
10/23 Santa Cruz, CA  – Catalyst (w/ A Band of Orcs) 
1/5 New York, NY – The Gramercy Theatre * 
1/6 Trenton, NJ – Championship Bar & Grill * 
1/7 Clifton Park, NY – Trickshots * 
1/8 Hartford, CT – Webster Theater *
1/9 Worcester, MA – The Palladium *
1/10 Montreal, QC – Foufounes *
1/11 Quebec City, QC – Salle Multi *
1/12 Ottawa, ON – Ritual *
1/13 Toronto, ON – Hard Luck *
1/14 London, ON – APK *
1/15 Rochester,NY – Montage Music Hall *
1/16 Cleveland, OH – Agora Ballroom *
1/17 Pittsburgh, PA – Altar Bar *
1/18 Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups *
1/20 Westland, MI – Token Lounge *
1/21 St. Louis, MO – Fubar *
1/22 Joliet, IL – The Tree *
1/23 Cudahy, WI – The Metal Grill * 
1/24 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club * 
1/25 Winnipeg, MB – Zoo Cabaret * 
1/27 Calgary, AB – Nite Owl * 
1/28 Edmonton, AB – Pawn Shop *
1/30 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theater *
1/31 Seattle, WA – Studio Seven * 
2/1 Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre *
2/2 San Francisco, CA – Thee Parkside *
2/3 West Hollywood, CA – Whisky a Go Go *
2/4 San Diego, CA – Brick by Brick *
2/5 Tempe, AZ – Club Red *
2/6 Las Vegas, NV – LVCS *
2/7 Reno, NV – PB&J *
2/8 Salt Lake City, UT – In The Venue * 
2/9 Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater *
2/10 Merriam, KS – Aftershock *
2/11 Austin, TX – Red 7 * 
2/12 San Antonio, TX – 210 Kapones * 
2/13 Houston, TX – Scout Bar *
2/14 Dallas, TX – Trees * 
2/15 New Orleans, LA – Siberia * 
2/16 Tampa, FL – Orpheum *
2/17 Orlando, FL – The Haven * 
2/18 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade * 
2/19 Louisville, KY – Expo Five *
2/20 Richmond, VA – Canal Club *
* with Enforcer, Warbringer & Cauldron
 
More information on Exmortus’ upcoming album, tour and more is available online now at:
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.