Friday, March 28, 2008

The Black Crowes: Warpaint

Angelus Entertainment

I'll admit my musical tastes run toward the old-school, being that I am old-school. Hey, let's call a spade a spade: I'm old. That said, I still love rock n' roll, and I've always loved the Black Crowes for carrying on the tradition of full-tilt boogie originated by the Stones, the Faces, and Humble Pie.

It's been seven years since the last Crowes' studio album, Lions, and the 2001 "Tour of Brotherly Love" with Oasis. In the interim, Chris Robinson married Kate Hudson and fathered a child, the band broke up, Chris and Rich released solo records, Chris and Kate's marriage broke up, the band reunited for a series of critically acclaimed live performances featuring the classic line-up from the Southern Harmony and Musical Companion era, then set out to make this album. In the process, longtime Crowes Marc Ford and Eddie Harsch were replaced by guitarslinger Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and organist Adam MacDougall, respectively.

While it doesn't reach the heights of the band's first three albums, there is much to recommend about Warpaint. The production, courtesy of Paul Stacey, is crisp, clean, and heavy in the right places. The playing is spirited, and while the lyrics contain the usual drug-inspired cliches, they also carry a good deal of emotional weight, as Chris wears his heartbreak on his sleeve on songs like "Oh Josephine" and "Wounded Bird." While his post-divorce blues make for perhaps one too many ballads-in-urgency, there are more than enough rockers for the faithful.

The opening cut, "Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution" sets the tone with the Crowes' characteristic blend of
stoned sloganeering and crunchy slide guitars, while a stomping cover of Reverend Charlie Jackson's gospel classic "God's Got It" is my personal favorite on the disc.

20 years into their career, the Black Crowes are still delivering the goods, bloody but unbowed, a vanishing breed still dealing in boozy, bluesy Southern rock that kicks out the jams righteously.

Long may they fly.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Alternative Amazon: Must Have Films

I love movies. If I had the money, I'd build a screening room in my home that would seat a dozen or so, and I'd have a film and DVD library to rank with the Library of Congress. I'd own the entire Criterion Collection, not just Straw Dogs and Gimme Shelter.

But I don't have my own private Xanadu, or a huge DVD collection. If I don't really need to own the DVD, and most times I don't, I get it from Netflix. If I need to own it, I try to get it used on or cheap on Ebay.

That said, there are many titles that have never made it to DVD, or VHS for that matter. There are a number of private collectors who are currently putting their rare and otherwise unavailable films up for sale as DVD-Rs via the internet.

This gray market is invaluable for completists like me. When I was putting together The Oliver Reed Film Festival, I scoured the internet for a copy of The Party's Over, from 1965, to no avail. I even had the poster hanging in my office, yet I'd never seen the film.

So when I came across Must Have Films, and saw that it listed The Party's Over among its titles, I had to place an order. I also picked up the non-horror Hammer flick The Crimson Blade, another early Ollie performance. The service was pretty quick, which given that MHF is located only a few hours away from Austin, was to be expected. The artwork was nicely done, even if the print quality on The Party's Over wasn't great (forgivable given the rarity of the title). However, I would suggest MHF adopt a letter-grading system for dubbing quality/image resolution. Due to the washed-out quality of the taped-from-British-TV source tape, the viewer misses at least 25% of Oliver Reed's sullen scowl, and 30% of his glowering rage.

The site deals exclusively in titles that are not commercially available, and will pull a DVD if it is announced for legitimate release. The fact is, most of these films will never be issued on DVD, so Must Have Films will continue to offer them.

Another cool site is Yammering Magpie Cinema, which deals heavily in film noir titles.

Save "Friday Night Lights"!


LOS ANGELES (AP) - "Friday Night Lights" just may score another season.

Executive producer Jason Katims said he's "incredibly optimistic" about a third season for the drama, which has been in limbo since the writers strike ended.

"There's no deal yet for the show," Katims said Wednesday at the William S. Paley Television Festival. "But we are being incredibly optimistic that's going to happen and happen soon."

Although a critical hit, ratings were low for the show, which depicts small-town Texas life where high school football is king.

When viewers last saw the Dillon Panthers, the team was gearing up for the playoffs. Because of the writers strike, which halted most TV production, seven of the 22 episodes NBC ordered for season two weren't produced.

Fans have fought to keep the show on the air, launching and asking viewers to send donations to fill NBC entertainment chief Ben Silverman's mailbox with miniature plastic footballs.

"I think the answer is going to be pretty soon," Katims said. "I have a feeling we're two or three weeks away from knowing."

A spokeswoman for NBC said Thursday the network had no comment.

Katims said a third season would likely pick up after the planned events of season two. However, the series would integrate unused story lines into the new season, which he said could begin filming as soon as July.


NBC is owned by the General Electric Co. (GE)



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nothing But a Man: Ivan Dixon 1931-2008

From the Associated Press:

Actor Ivan Dixon, who brought the problems and promise of contemporary blacks to life in the film "Nothing But a Man" and portrayed the levelheaded POW Kinchloe in TV's "Hogan's Heroes," has died. He was 76.

Dixon died Sunday at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte after a hemorrhage, said his daughter, Doris Nomathande Dixon of Charlotte. He had suffered complications from kidney failure, she said.

Dixon, who also directed scores of television shows, began his acting career in the late 1950s. He appeared on Broadway in William Saroyan's 1957 "The Cave Dwellers" and in playwright Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking 1959 drama of black life, "A Raisin in the Sun." In the latter, he played a Nigerian student visiting the United States, a role he repeated in the film version.

While not a hit, the 1964 "Nothing But a Man," in which Dixon co-starred with Abbey Lincoln, also drew praise as a rare, early effort to bring the lives of black Americans to the big screen.

Other film credits included "Something of Value," "A Patch of Blue" and the cult favorite "Car Wash."

"As an actor, you had to be careful," said Sidney Poitier, star of "Patch of Blue" and a longtime friend. "He was quite likely to walk off with the scene."

In 1967, Dixon starred in a CBS Playhouse drama, "The Final War of Olly Winter," about a veteran of World War II and Korea who decided that Vietnam would be his final war. The role brought Dixon an Emmy nomination for best single performance by an actor.

He was probably best known for the role of Staff Sgt. James Kinchloe on "Hogan's Heroes," the hit 1960s sitcom set in a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.

The technically adept Kinchloe was in charge of electronic communications and could mimic German officers on the radio or phone.

Dixon was active in efforts to get better parts for blacks in movies and television, telling The New York Times in 1967: "Sponsors haven't wanted anything negative connected with their products. We must convince them that the Negro is not negative."

"Heretofore, people have thought that, to use a Negro, the story must pit black against white. Maybe we're getting to the problems of human beings who happen to be black."

While Dixon was most proud of roles such as those in "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Nothing But a Man," he had no problem about being recognized for Kinchloe, his daughter said.

"It was a pivotal role as well, because there were not as many blacks in TV series at that time," Nomathande Dixon said. "He did have some personal issues with that role, but it also launched him into directing."

Dixon also directed numerous episodes of TV shows, including "The Waltons," "The Rockford Files," "Magnum, P.I." and "In the Heat of the Night."

In 1973, he directed the film "The Spook Who Sat by the Door," a political drama based on a novel about a black CIA agent who becomes a revolutionary. He also directed the 1972 "blaxploitation" story "Trouble Man."

His honors included four NAACP Image Awards, the National Black Theatre Award and the Paul Robeson Pioneer Award from the Black American Cinema Society.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spitzer Swallows

Apologies for the title. According to Google, I'm the 58,903rd person to use that joke this week.

The absurd political theater currently playing out on the nation's TV screens is certainly a mind-boggling, and ultimately saddening, spectacle. At a time in our history when we teeter on the brink of disaster, the top stories were Elliot Spitzer's "Whoregate" and Geraldine Ferraro's matter-of-fact racism regarding Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, life, and death, go on. "Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends..."I haven't resided in New York State since I was a teen, except for brief periods in '96 and '01 (I also apartment-sat for my friend Marc in Brooklyn for three weeks in '89, trying to write a novel), so I didn't vote for Elliot Spitzer, but he didn't do anything that thousands of powerful men don't do every second of the day. In case you've been away, I'm talking about enjoying the services of high-priced prostitutes. He just covered his tracks very badly.

The soon-to-be ex-governor probably pissed somebody off during his days as a crusading attorney general, and is now paying the price in public humiliation and potential criminal prosecution. Throw in the media circus, and the overall disgrace factor is off the charts.

As far as the Presidential race, I don't know who to support. Obama's the best of a bad lot, but such an unproven commodity. Hilary is clearly insane, and McCain's time was eight years back on the Straight Talk Express.

If I had to cast my ballot tomorrow, I'd still vote for Ron Paul.

Madonna in R&R Hall of Fame?

I have written in the past regarding the so-called Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the filthy politics that are involved in getting worthy artists inducted into it, thanks largely to Hall of Fame committee fuhrer Jann Wenner.

Last year, the Dave Clark Five got bumped from the list of inductees in favor of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, despite having more votes. Nothing against the Grandmaster, I mean sometimes I wonder how I keep from going under, but the DC5 should have been inducted in '07, rather than this year, because lead singer Mike Smith passed away in the interim.

Thanks, Jann.

While I have no argument with the majority of inductees throughout the years, this year's induction of Madonna is particularly absurd. How can they induct someone who has never made a rock & roll record in her life? I suppose "Beautiful Stranger" from the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack might qualify, the hook having been lifted from "She Comes in Colors" by Love, a band that should be in the Hall, but isn't.

I know that Madonna is a groundbreaking trend-setter, an icon of style and all that shit, but "Borderline" and "Vogue" ain't no "Heartbreak Hotel" or "Johnny B. Goode."

She deserves to be in the R&R Hall of Fame about as much as she deserved the Best Actress Oscar for Shanghai Surprise or Swept Away.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gerberding Must Go


GerberdingToday we call for the resignation of CDC leader Julie Gerberding for ignoring the health and safety of our children. The following provides contact information for the CDC, White House and other organizations. (We can not guarantee all of these numbers will be reachable throughout the day.) Thank you to two A of A readers for these numbers.
Let's give our children the voice autism took away. Start "dialing."

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
(404) 498-1515
(800) 311-3435


Senator Obama 202-224-2854
Senator Clinton 202-224-4451
Senator McCain 202-224-2235

Main phone number: 202-456-1111

Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Fax: 202-456 -2461

First Lady Laura Bush's office: 202-0456-7064

Chief of Staff Josh Bolten: 202-456-6798

Presidential Scheduling: 202-456-5251

White House Counsel: 202-456-5257

Political Affairs: 202-456-5275/5277
President Bush:
(There's a link to send message to President Bush)
Vice-President Dick Cheney:
(Gee! There's email in the bunker?)