Tuesday, June 21, 2022

TV Snide: May 2022

TV of the Month: Ozark (Netflix): I’m sad to see this come to an end, and what an explosive ending it is. I place this among my favorite dramas, right up with the likes of Mad Men and Friday Night Lights. Jason Bateman’s Marty Byrde is the picture of stability as he and his wife Wendy fight through an endless serious of hoops to get the drug cartels to leave them alone and let them go about their hillbilly embezzlement schemes. 5 out of 5 stars

The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+): This Peter Jackson epic documentary may not be for casual fans, but it placed me, a diehard, into the seat of all those band practices and meetings I was part of in my 20s with my various bands like Dirt Loaded, Birmingham Squadron, Monotremes, and Fine Wine. It’s hard work being in a band and keeping it together. You can see Paul bordering on impatience while John and George goof off during recordings of “serious” tracks like Let It Be and The Long and Winding Road. These guys loved each other. There’s no doubt. Their serious professionalism is ultimately what kept them together for a decade, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness, even if this was after their prime, if it can actually be said that The Beatles had any time that wasn’t their prime. 5 out of 5 stars

Movie of the Month: Raising Arizona (Sling TV): Nicolas Cage’s career highlight anchors this classic and heartwarming comedy from the Coen brothers about a couple of losers who steal the baby of an Arizona furniture magnate before heading down a long road of crises in conscious. 5 out of 5 stars

Watch Me Jumpstart (YouTube): At only 36 minutes, this film plays like an equally brief Guided By Voices album. Like those albums, this rock doc packs a lot in, telling the wonderful story of Robert Pollard and his band’s rise from the gutters and grade schools of Dayton into counter-culture rock icons. 5 out of 5 stars

Novel of the Month: The Wonder Bread Summer by Jessica Anyu : Allie is finishing up college but first she somehow steals a Wonder Bread bag full of coke from a mean and perverted drug dealer, which sets her off on a series of adventures with a series of wacky characters up and down the California coast between Berkeley and Los Angeles. A great fun and fluffy read. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Speed (HBO Max): Keanu Reeves offers his usual cool self, matched up with the always excellent Sandra Bullocl and Jeff Daniel’s, as they try to end ex-bomb squad cop Dennis Hopper from maniacally killing everyone he can for a ransom. 4 out of 5 stars

Bill & Ted Face the Music (Amazon Prime): Keanu Reeves does his usual, can't-not-love self in achoring the hilarious and fun wacky ride through time as the pals try to locate a new song they need to write by mining the inspirations of their younger selves. 4 out of 5

Creep (Netflix): Ever since The League, Mark Duplass can do no wrong in my eyes. I didn’t picture him taking this turn, as a lying creep who lures a filmmaker to an isolated cabin to play mean practical jokes on him. It's a great performance and, at just over an hour, well worth your time. Keep the lights off for ultimate "creeps." 4 out of 5

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

McCartney in Baltimore continues to show how peace and love (and rock) can still win

It’s always a major life event when I have Paul McCartney tickets. That happened for the third time in my life last night (Indianapolis 1989 and DC 2013 were the others) at Camden Yards in Baltimore. And while our seats were up in the top deck, they were still pretty good and the sound was amazingly great.

It’s very tough to pick out highlights because the whole show was so immaculate, but here are some reflections:

  • One of the reasons Paul includes so many Wings songs in setlists is that they are so arena and stadium ready. Tunes like Live and Let Die (with its massive fireworks show), Letting Go, Junior's Farm, Let Me Roll It, Let 'Em In, Jet, and Band on the Run are McCartney concert staples. Probably the most glaring omission was Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.
  • I've Just Seen a Face and Lady Madonna were fun mid-Beatles choices. You Won't See Me and Here, There, and Everywhere would have been great additions.
  • In Spite of All the Danger was a cool choice from the pre-Beatles Quarrymen.
  • Getting Better, Blackbird, and Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! were huge crowd-pleasers from the mid/late Beatles era.
  • Playing Gorge's Something was a truly beautiful highlight. How great would the addition of John's Nowhere Man and In My Life be in future shows?
  • Speaking of John, having him duet on the big screen for I've Got a Feeling was genius and pulled off without a hitch.
  • Probably the biggest moments were the songs that I tend not to listen to that much but which are clearly traditionals: Get Back, Hey Jude, Let It Be, and Birthday.
  • Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da works really well in the live setting, and Helter Skelter and She Came in Through the Bathroon Window (like just about the entire Beatles catelog) seem uncuttable.
  • Finally, I can't imagine there will ever be a better closer than Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.


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Sunday, June 12, 2022

McCartney’s Ram is one of many great primers for seeing him in concert

To celebrate seeing Paul McCartney (for the third time) tonight at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, I figured I would read MOJO Magazine’s recent feature on his breakaway album from The Beatles, Ram. 

Here’s what I learned:

  • Recording it with many-layered Pet Sounds-like tracks in Los Angeles, the follow up to his solo debut, McCartney, was aimed to be lush and far from the sparseness of that album. Also interesting because, with its pastoral sheep cover, I had always assumed this was recorded in Scotland.
  • One of the many session drummers who auditioned for the part thought Another Day sounded like Eleanor Rigby transplanted to Manhattan, where the auditions took place.
  • Linda was credited with co-creating the whole album, but rather than musical, most of her contribution seemed to be to get Paul off his ass to make it amidst his post-Beatles depression and funk.
  • That said, the interweaving voices of Paul and Linda throughout the release are no doubt a thing of beauty.
  • McCartney conducted the New York Philharmonic on the masterful (still one of my favorite Paul tracks) Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. Same for Long Haired Lady and The Backseat of My Car. And George Martin also helped.
  • Producer Eirik Wangberg was given a lot of latitude to edit down some of the orchestration and the track sequencing.
  • Despite Ram’s commercial success, major detractors at the time included Ringo, John, and Rolling Stone.