Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blog Revelation

I just realized something - I don't blog much.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Black Keys - Attack and Release: The brilliance continues...



Today, The Black Keys released their fifth album (Attack and Release), and like their previous four, it is simply brilliant! It's been well publicized that this one would have a few more production tricks thrown into it courtesy of Danger Mouse (a point of contention with some long-time fans), but with the exception of one added element (which I'll mention later) I personally think the added production values have only enhanced their already brilliant sound.


For those of you who don't know anything about The Black Keys (and if not, shame on you for depriving your ears of such sonic delights...damn, did I really just use the term "sonic delights"?...minus 10pts to me) they are a 2-man band consisting of Dan Auerbach on vocals and guitar, and Patrick Carney on drums. Hard rockin', heart-breakin' blues is their game...and they are the current champs in my opinion.


I would give anything to have a 1/4 of Dan's vocal and guitar talents; and there are probably many more, who actually play music for a living, who would give much more for even a 1/10th or less. Dan has a classic blues voice which shines incredibly bright on the slow, dark, heavy-hearted tunes; but it can also howl like a wolf with a blood-soaked mouth on all the rockers. Patrick's drum beats are Mitch Mitchell/Ginger Baker-esque with a funky rat-a-tat-tat when needed, guided by an ever-present heavy-footed kick drum. It's good stuff, folks.


Well, after first listen, I'm not sure quite where to rank Attack and Release in relation to the other four, but that doesn't mean I'm disappointed in it (just the opposite actually). It's just that, all four of their other albums are so damn good from beginning to end, that my favorite changes with my mood. Although, their third album (Rubber Factory) is one of the best albums released by any band this decade.


There's definitely more polish on this album than the others (though their last album, Magic Potion, was not exactly rough around the edges, production wise) but the classic Black Keys "sound" is all there - just spiced up a bit. I love the haunting chorus vocals featured in "I Got Mine", "Psychotic Girl" and "Lies". The banjo riff throughout "Psychotic Girl" was a welcome surprise. The whole trippy, hillbilly sound on "Remember When (Side A)" was visionary (I'll explain later). Again, as mentioned earlier, there was really only one addition that was a subtraction, and I'll also get to that in a moment.


1. All You Ever Wanted: Nice, simple, bluesy number to get things started, but you can hear the extra production value right away. You really hear it near the end when the organ kicks in. Dark, somber lyrics sung perfectly...as always.
Rating: Brilliant!


2. I Got Mine: Aw yeah! This song kicks ass! Classic rocker through and through, and at the half-way point, the song is elevated to cool, new heights with the spooky vocal harmonies and backward guitar sound. More of this, please! I would say, my 2nd-favorite song on the album.
Rating: Brilliant!!


3. Strange Times: Their current single, is oddly enough, nowhere near the best song on the album. Don't get me wrong, it's a good solid rocker, again with a touch of the spooky vocal harmonies at times, but it sounds a bit...like your typical single. Soooo, I guess that makes sense then.
Rating: Excellent


4. Psychotic Girl: From the opening banjo riff (yeah, BANJO riff) and cool drum beat, you can tell your ears are in for something special. More haunting harmonies blend in with a mix that is eclectic, but tasty. This song is...just...cool.
Rating: Brilliant!


5. Lies: My favorite song, not just on this album, but it is right there with Rubber Factory's "Stack Shot Billy", Thickfreakness' "Hold Me in Your Arms", and Magic Potion's "Just a Little Heat" as my all-time Black Keys favorite. Lyrics are top-notch; the ever-present spooky vocal harmonies are especially haunting and dark; and the lead vocals actually make your heart hurt, they're so expressively good. If you don't have a "tear in your beer" when you start listening to this song, you may just have one by the end.
Rating: Brilliant!!!!!!


6. Remember When (Side A): If this song were a painting it would look like the following: In the center, there would be an old, run down shack. On that shack's front porch would be an old, hand-made rocking chair barely supporting an old hillbilly, with hat covering face, half-slumped over with one arm hanging over the side, with an almost-empty jug of moonshine hanging from his finger. The shack in the middle would not be surrounded by green grass and blue sky, but rather, a psychedelic mish-mash of seizure-inducing color. Yeah, this song is trippy.
Rating: Brilliant!


7. Remember When (Side B): The psychedelic trippiness of "Side A" gives way to a Zeppelin-esque rocker, circa Houses of the Holy, for this "Side B".
Rating: Excellent


8. Same Old Thing: Ok, here's my one gripe. The addition that should have been a subtraction. This song starts and ends with...*gulp*...(I almost threw up a little)...JAZZ FLUTE! Nooooooooo! Ok, sure, I enjoyed Ron Burgundy's jazzy flute skills in Anchorman as much as the next guy, but there's no place for jazz flute in real rock or blues - and I don't care what Jethro Tull says! That grievous error aside, this song still brings it with a heavy, rockin' sound. Please, Black Keys, don't let the jazz flute rear it's uncool, peter piper, flaccidness in any of your songs again. It is the anti-Viagra of rock.
Rating: Excellent


9. So He Won't Break: Not much I can say about this song, except that it just has a cool, lounging-on-a-sunny-Saturday-afternoon-by-the-pool-with-a-cocktail type of sound. It kind of reminds of a Guess Who song...and that's not a bad thing at all.
Rating: Great


10. Oceans and Streams: I could see Sheryl Crow doing a song like this...it just sounds like one of her songs. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing - I like a lot of her songs. There's also some nice slide-guitar work on this one (I can never get enough of that bottleneck slide-guitar sound no matter how heavy or subtle). Something tells me this one may be another single from the album.
Rating: Great


11. Things Ain't Like They Used to Be: You'll have to fight the urge to start singing The Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down" throughout this song - they both sound quite similar. This one features the added vocals of Jessica Lee Mayfield to add a little pizazz (and with the use of that word, I think I'm done here).
Rating: Excellent


All in all, another gem from the Akron, Ohio, duo. Keep on truckin' fellas - your tunes feed my ears and soothe my soul.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My KC Royals predictions for 2008 - It's gonna be great! (cheezy rhyme excluded)

Ah! It's almost here! The echoes of "This Week in Baseball"'s classic theme grow louder and louder in my mind as Opening Day nears (though, to be honest, the theme they played at the end of the show when they showcased baseball's brightest rounding the bases in slow-mo, culminating in Pete Rose diving head-first into third base was...well...well, let's just say I had alot of long-lasting reminders of the crappy, rock-laden, local fields etched into my chest and stomach from emulating ol' "Charlie Hustle". Yeah, the music moved me. On a side note, I bet I'm still emulating Mr. Rose as I already have my NCAA Tourney bracket ready to go!)


Hmm...ok, I think I got a little sidetracked there.


Basically, baseball season is starting and once again, like year after year...after year after year...my hope is springing eternal for my hometown Kansas City Royals. This is the second straight year I've put my thoughts down onto digital paper as to what I think is in store for "my team". Last year, I put those thoughts down in early February already, as there really weren't a whole lot of unknowns going into the season. This year, things are a little different.


Like last year, the Royals landed a big free agent signing in the offseason. Like last year, there are quite a few key positions that are already filled. But, unlike last year, there are so many little unknowns that have yet to be resolved at this stage in Spring Training, that the Opening Day, 25-man, roster is anybody's guess. However, all of those "little unknowns" will all work out in the end because - we have a new manager by the name of Trey Hillman...and he will lead us to the promised land! How do I know that? Dude is rockin' a mullet. 'Nuff said.


Starting Lineup
1. David DeJesus - CF: Great sparkplug to the lineup. Pretty much, my thoughts are the same as what I wrote last year.
2. Mark Grudzielanek - 2B: The wily, old veteran is still plugging away. Great to have him on the team again, but I would be surprised if he plays more than 100 games this year. Look for Alberto Callaspo to log in quite a bit of time at this position and this spot in the lineup.
3. Mark Teahen - LF: Man, I'm starting to have my doubts about Teahen in the number 3 spot. I think Alex Gordon could soon be making this spot in the lineup his home. Although, I still remember watching Teahen hit during the second-half of the 2006 season and thinking to myself, "damn, this kid reminds me of George Brett at the plate"! If he regains that form, the 3-spot is his, and the Royals will be creating some sparks come September.
4. Jose Guillen - RF: Our big free agent signing, brought in to add some muscle to the lineup and drive in runs, to the tune of $12 million a year. Yeah, you better produce, Jose. Oh, and a word of advice, KC fans don't take kindly to cry-baby's and/or prima-donna's - so save the drama fo' yo mama! Of course, if you hit .350, and mash 50 HR's with 150 RBI's, we'll probably cut you some slack.
5. Billy Butler - DH/1B: I had been anxiously awaiting this kid's arrival to the big leagues since the moment we drafted him. I was pleasantly surprised to see him called up last year already, and he hasn't disappointed. Memo to Dayton Moore: Lock this kid up on a long-term contract now - dude can mash!
6. Ross Gload - 1B/DH: Well, I don't have anything against Ross Gload...he'll probably get the nod at 1B. I think he would be a serviceable, everyday 1B, but he's not the guy I want to see playing everyday at this position. Last year, Ryan Shealy was our 1B, but injuries quickly ended his season. Though I still think he could be a great 1B (he's had a very fine Spring), he should spend some time in AAA this year. No, the guy who I would really like to see at 1B full-time is: Justin Huber. This guy is a hitting machine! He doesn't have the added pop in his bat like Billy Butler, but I think he could seriously challenge for a batting title if given a full season. So, c'mon Royals, give the Aussie a chance!
7. Alex Gordon - 3B: I had Alex pegged for the 7th slot last year in my predictions as well (again, you can read last year's post for my reasons). Manager, Buddy Bell, had different ideas though, hitting him 5th most of the year. Alex is not a number 5 guy...he's just...not. He and Teahen could easily swap spots in the lineup - 3 or 7...3 or 7. I was pretty excited to hear that new manager, Trey Hillman, had the same idea to hit Alex 7th...I was probably the only guy in KC to agree with him. He'll probably bat 5th...geez. That aside, Alex is another guy I'd like to see get tied up with a long contract - dude may not have won Rookie of the Year like so many thought he might, but he will be a star!
8. John Buck - C: I'm fine with either Buck or Miguel Olivo getting the majority of starts. Neither one excites me. I think it could be argued that the guy behind both of them, Matt Tupman, has had the more impressive Spring.
9. Tony Pena Jr. - SS: I like this guy. He's a real gamer. Is he the best shortstop out there fielding and/or hitting-wise? Meh, no - but he'll give 100% every inning of every game!
Bench
Joey Gathright - OF: I hope he gets alot of playing time. Incredible speed; if he can make consistent contact and get on base - we've got a great weapon!
Miguel Olivo - C: Will probably be John Buck's backup, but will still see plenty of playing time.
Alberto Callaspo - IF: I like this guy; he's hitting as advertised. I was surprised when we traded one of our young pitchers for him, but hey, kudos to Dayton Moore.
Esteban German - IF/OF: German is not a bad player, but I would rather see this last spot go to Huber. German may get it though due to his versatility and proven OBP (a stat that Trey Hillman holds in high regard). Though, to be honest, I would even pick our 2007 Minor League Player of the Year, Mike Aviles, over German.
Rotation
1. Gil Meche: Proved everybody wrong by earning every cent of his $11 million a year contract last year. I just wish he would have had more offensive support to up his win total. Our first bona-fide ace since Kevin Appier.
2. Zack Grienke: I think he's actually penciled in to be the number 3 guy, but I think his stuff warrants the number 2 spot. I can relate quite a bit with the way this kid is, well, minus the awesome baseball talent (I made an All-Star team in Little League though!), so I want to see him succeed. He has Cy Young Award-talent, it's just a matter of putting it all together over the course of a season.
3. Brian Bannister: Again, read my thoughts from last year as they are the same this year. Brian is Mr. Steady Eddie, and thus, should be the number 3 guy.
4. Brett Tomko: Well, I think it was pretty much pre-ordained that Tomko would get the number 4 spot no matter how he performed in Spring Training. I'm not sold on him, but what the hey, I guess. I'd rather see Luke Hochevar in the 4 spot, but he'll probably start in the pen, and it's just a matter of time before he is in the rotation.
5. John Bale: The one lefty in the rotation has truly earned his spot by having a great Spring. He could surprise some folks.
Bullpen
Luke Hochevar: Will probably be the long man, should make the rotation soon.
Hideo Nomo: Here's a shocker! He's had a very fine Spring though. Give him a shot, I say.
Jimmy Gobble: A lefty, he has turned into a solid reliever.
Joel Peralta: Veteran reliever, he's had a less than stellar Spring, but hopefully he's saving it up for the regular season.
Ron Mahay: Situational lefty, he's a proven veteran. I hope he proves it with us.
Yasuhiko Yabuto: Signed out of Japan as the replacement for setup man David Riske, I'm hoping he'll deliver like Riske did.
Joakim Soria: Proved himself as a Closer last year, he's the Closer again. Another young arm who could be Mariano Rivera good...get him signed to a long-term contract!
Kyle Davies, Jorge DeLaRosa, Leo Nunez, and Neil Musser could take one of these spots too. It's a long season, so they'll be pitching for us at some point.


OK, as for our Win/Loss record...I'm not picking one like I did last year. I'm dreaming big this year - PLAYOFFS! Division Champ or Wild Card, I don't care. PLAYOFFS, baby! Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find an old ratty baseball field and practice my head-first slides.


Yeah, on second thought, I think I'll have me a glass of grape juice and call it a night. Need those anti-oxidants, ya know.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The most heartbreakingly brilliant moment of The Twilight Zone

One of these days I'm going to do my own personal "Top 10" list of favorite Twilight Zone episodes. Until then, the following can be thought of as a preview of sorts to just such a list, as The Trouble with Templeton is securely locked into my personal "Top 10" of Twilight Zone episodes.

The reason? A four-star story, with four-star acting, featuring the single most heartbreakingly brilliant moment of the series, and to be honest, of any TV series that I've ever seen.

The Trouble with Templeton, written be E. Jack Neuman, aired during the second season of The Twilight Zone back in 1960. The episode starts out with an aging stage actor named Booth Templeton (played with four-star caliber by Brain Aherne) peering out the window of his house, depressingly witnessing his young wife clearly enjoying the company of another younger man. His depressed outlook is further darkened as his assistant brings him pills which presumably are being taken to stave off some sort of serious illness. At one point, Booth even notes - "Perhaps she's waiting for the day when these won't do what they are designed to do...perhaps I'm waiting for that day too."

Mr. Templeton then notes that he wasn't always in such a depressed state. No, back when he was a young man himself, married to his first love, Laura, things were different. "The freshest, most radiant creature God ever created," Booth says, and then lamentably continues - "18 when I married her...25 when she died". It is at this point when you realize the source of his unhappiness - so many empty years lived without the fulfillment of his one, true love.

Booth Templeton then makes his way, albeit a little late, to the first day of rehearsals for a new play in which he is to star. Before making his way into the building, he is notified by the play's financial backer that his long-time director had been fired and that a new, younger director was to take that guy's place. Another insulting blow from the "winds of change", to a man that yearned for days gone by.

As Booth enters the building, he is greeted with much disdain from the new, young director, as this new whipper-snapper is not at all happy with the old actor's tardiness. Booth begins to feel a bit uneasy and grabs near his chest as if, indeed, his pills are no longer doing what they are designed to do.

Booth races out of the building, and it is at this point when he, and we the viewer, enter...The Twilight Zone.

Now, different people may have differing opinions on what Booth is experiencing in the next segment of this episode. Myself, I believe Booth to be having some sort of near-death experience..."near-death" I say, because though Mr. Templeton may be entering what may be his own slice of Heaven that he has long yearned for, Heaven is not yet ready for him, and will do what it needs to do to send him back among those filled with life.

As Booth leaves the building, he suddenly finds himself among a crowd of cheering fans. The crowd disperses, and obviously a bit confused, he becomes even more confused when he sees a theater marquee advertising a play he starred in back in 1927 that was directed by an old friend. An old man then comes up to him and assures Booth that it is in fact, 1927; and that he is supposed to meet his long-deceased wife, Laura, the love of his life, at the old speakeasy they often patroned during that time.

Booth is greeted at the speakeasy by the same doorman from back during that time, a doorman that has long since been dead. Upon entering the speakeasy, however, though some things are the same, he'll quickly learn that the wicked winds of change have hit this place too.

First, he finds out that Laura is not sitting at their usual table that they always sat at back during those years. A very minor change that does little to prepare him for the very major change to come.

It is at this point when he sees her - his first wife Laura - sitting at a table with his old director buddy - two people that had been nothing but memories for so long. To see the expression on Booth's face when he sees her for the first time since her death, and when he sits down next to her, you can't help but be happy for the old guy. I gotta tell ya, he has a lot to be happy about because Laura (played with four-star caliber by Pippa Scott) is pretty damn good-looking!

Well, Booth quickly realizes that his Laura is not the same Laura that he remembered. The Laura that he is sitting with now, though just as beautiful as she was when they were married, is rude, crude, crass, and lewd. This is a situation that quickly becomes frustrating and confusing to him. During one of these frustrating exchanges, Booth snatches a script out of Laura's hand that she had been using to fan herself with, and stuffs it in his coat pocket - this later proves to be a key point in the episode.

The shenanigans continue until Booth can bare it no longer. He is so frustrated and appalled by Laura's behavior that he is ready to storm out of the place. Then, Laura puts the final nail into it when she slaps him and cries, "Why don't you go back where you came from? We don't want you here!" At this point, Booth dejectedly leaves the speakeasy, and as a viewer, I felt similarly dejected. I mean, you really feel bad for the guy and you're also wondering, just as the character of Booth Templeton is, just what the hell happened? This was supposed to be the great reuniting with his one true love! Shit.

But then - ah, but then! As Booth leaves the speakeasy we, the viewer, stay there and see the expressions of the patrons all change to one of loud revelry to quiet somberness. Then, it happens. The most heartbreakingly brilliant moment of The Twilight Zone happens. The camera pans to Laura and her expression changes to one of such heartbreaking regret, you clearly see that the rude act she put on was not something she wanted to do - but unfortunately, had to do. The whole scene then fades to black. Man, I had never seen anything like that, ever. With just that one expression, everything in the episode was made clear. Absolutely beautiful.

We then cut back to Booth who is hurrying back into the same building in which he had exited earlier, entering the "Zone". As he shuts the door behind him, Booth finds himself back in the present day building he had left. Feeling hot and flustered, he takes that script out of his coat pocket, the same script he took from Laura while in the "Zone", and fans himself with it. He then opens the script up and as he browses through it, he too realizes what had just happened to him. The entire ordeal he had just found himself in while in the "Zone", was all written out in screenplay form; it was titled "What to do when Booth comes back". Booth Templeton then realizes that his wife had been acting. Acting for his benefit. Telling him that he still had a life to live, and that he should live it.

Man, that episode is just amazing. Easily in my "Top 10".

Would you like to see this episode for yourself? Watch "The Trouble with Templeton" at fancast.com - they have a Twilight Zone section there where you can watch full episodes!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Great YouTube find: Richard Dawson's "Family Feud" farewell

For whatever reason, I got to thinking about the game show Family Feud. Not the new version that is on now; not even the older Ray Combs' incarnation; but the true Family Feud - the Richard Dawson years (1976-1985). Man, I always wanted to be on that show back then. Dawson was cool as hell (the effortlessness in which he hit on virtually every chick on that show - it was, and is, quite impressive to a dork such as I); and who among us at that time didn't covet the opportunity to pick out a lucky Tootsie Pop with the black tape-covered stem (worth a cool $100 in cold hard cash!)?

So, I got on YouTube to see if, perchance, anyone might have posted some funny moments from those old, "King Richard"-era, episodes. Well, of course there were some - it's YouTube!

There were a few hilarious clips, the best being the one where a lady answers the following question - "During what month does a woman start to look pregnant?" with "September". Richard Dawson totally loses it. However, I unexpectedly found a clip so much better than any funny clip, that I just had to post it here in my blog...and precede it with a few paragraphs of my own ramblings.

The clip in question features Mr. Dawson's farewell speech at the end of Family Feud's initial run of shows in 1985. For about the first minute and a half, it's pretty much your standard semi-tearful "thank-you"-filled farewell. But then he goes into a story about something his mother told him when he was younger; and then in some even rarer footage, tells the story of a young cancer patient. Both stories are very moving, very inspirational, very impressive. I've watched this clip a couple of times now, and it is quite something. Enjoy.