Saturday, January 30, 2016

Movie Review: That Touch of Mink (1962)

That Touch of Mink is a Doris Day and Cary Grant romantic comedy.  Grant portrays Philip Shayne, a multimillionaire, whose driver happens to splash water on Doris Day's character, Cathy Timberlake.  From this develops a relationship.  Shayne is intent on taking Timberlake to Bermuda where he can have his way with her.  However Timberlake, even though she goes with him, feels enough guilt that extramarital sex is not permissible.  They have fallen for each other, but the question is if they will ever get together with this difference of philosophies.

Book review: Old Hat New Hat (Berenstain Bears)

Old Hat New hat, by Stan and Jan Berenstain, Bright and Early Book, random House Publishing, New York, 1970.
This is a cute little book about buying a new hat.  Sometimes we get tired of old things, but then again sometimes old things are the most comfortable.  The many different types of hats are very creative.

Music Review: The Star Wars Trilogy: Episodes IV-VI

The music from these first three produced by the Star Wars crew are the theme songs for each of the episodes.  They are all similar, and have the hard orchestral tune that gets the blood moving.  However, my favorite Star Wars song is "Cantina Band."  The visual to this song was so amazing, with different creatures playing the songs.  I don't know how they created the sounds but this is really unique music, still driven by a pulse and a catch melody.  I love this song.  This whole universe was so new and exciting when it came out, and this one song caught that entire feel.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Music Review: Neil Diamond: Cherry Cherry Christmas, 2009

Cherry Cherry Christmas Neil Diamond 2009  This is a great collection of songs.  I don’t even know if Neil IDamond is CHritian (“The Chanukah Son” is included in the set) but the music is well done.  He starts with a parody of some of his own songs.  “Cherry Cherry Christmas” is a humorous son where the titles of many Neil Diamond Songs appear throughout such as “Don’t have a song sung blue year.”  I especially like “You Make It Fell Like Christmas” as Diamond sings of people who bring the Christmas spirit all year.  “Christmas Dream” is also very well done, and gives a depth of loving and worshipping Jesus at Christmas.  There is a short instrumental “Meditations on a Winter Night” that is also enjoyable.  Diamond also presents his version of “Amazing Grace.”  This is a show stopper. 

Music Review: Woody Guthrie Songs to Grow on for Mother and Child.

Woody Guthrie Songs to Grow on for Mother and Child.  In this set Woody Guthrie makes it clear he knows about being a father, and around little ones.  I especially like “Who’s My Pretty Baby (Hey Pretty Baby).  This song is accompanied only by spoons, but even so is very effective.  However some of the songs I don’t care for as much as they have a sing song quality that puts you to sleep.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Music Review: Disney Sonny With a Chance

Disney Sonny With a Chance This is music from a Disney Channel Sitcom.  For the most part I did not care for it.  It just sounds too much like Disney Channel which I don't watch.  This channel is gear for tweeners, and I am not there.  The music was too juvenile for my taste.  I must admit there was one exception.  The song, “Kiss Me” performed by Tiffany Thorton is very nice.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book Review: The Last Apprentice 10: Lure of the Dead

Lure of the Dead by Joseph Delaney, illustrated by Patrick Arasmith, Greenwillow Books, Harper Collins, New York, 2012.
This is the tenth book of this series of witch hunting and battling with the dark.  This book represents quite a battle, and for a time it appears the end of the spook.  It is looks like the head of the Fiend may be lost as the Romanian witches are conjuring a God of the dark.  However Tom Wards mother is with him I spirit and guides his steps. 
This book is exciting, and growing more so. Alice has returned to the dark, seeking a special weapon to complete a set needed to end the fiend.  However, if what Tom's mother has said is true, Tom will need to sacrifice the person he loves most, Alice in this case.  How will he ever do this?

Music review: Simon and Garfunkel: Sounds of Silence

This album was originally released in 1966.  It has been rereleased on CD with a few bonus tracks.  The two most familiar songs are :Sound of Silence" and "I Am a Rock."  "Sound of Silence" is a song I learned to sing in the Junior High Choir, and I enjoy singing along with this C.D.   Simon and Garfunkel make a delightful sound with their harmonies and melodies.  Simon usually plays the guitar.  The original album was sandwiched by the two songs mentioned.  "I Am a Rock" would have been the last song before the bonus material was added.  I don't know if this song is an expression of their status as singers, but they talk of being isolated from others.  Other songs of note are  "Leaves That Are Green" is a song about the passage of time, and the lose of love, comparing this to the leaves which are green and then turn brown and crumble away.  This album includes a couple bass oriented songs, including an instrumental entitled "Anji."  "April She Will Come" is a recitation of the months.  This song has a beautiful sound with just guitar and vocal.  

Movie Review: ***^Donovan's Reef (1963) (John Wayne and Lee Marvin)

This is really a pretty good movie, but honestly I don't get why Guns Donovan (John Wayne) and Boats Gilhooley (Lee Marvin)( are always fighting.  This is something that is a tradition from the war.  However, as for our current story Donovan has a bar Donovan's Reef.  Donovan entertains the daughter of the local doctor's (Jack Warden) (and also Navy friend) Ameilia Dedham (Elizabeth Allen), claiming to be the father of the doctor's children so as to preserve the doctor's good name.  The doctor is away visiting other islands.  Daughter is visiting in order to establish the poor character of her father, to cut him out of the shipping business.  Shipping is also Donovan's business, but on a local basis in the islands.   The doctor, Donovan and Gilhooley are all left overs form the war.  They were marooned on the island and the locals helped them stay clear of the Japanese, and so they decided to stay.  Dr. Dedham started a new family, and felt the islands needed him more than his family in Boston.
Turns out the doctor's oldest island daughter of the doctor is also the local princess.  Her mother died in childbirth to a younger sibling.  She is due to honored as the princess upon her birthday.  The doctor eventually returns, but by this time Donovan and Ameilia have fallen for each other.  Haver Ameilia does not want her children to have a bartender for a father.  However this problem has already been resolved as the bar has been gifted to Gilhooley.
This movie is more a year in the life of the characters involved.  There is reconciliation and family love and attachment.  So I guess the theme is one of family.  There is another suitor, the local mayor, who hearing that Ameilia is rich wants to become her husband.  However he is found out to be a heel.   This is a romantic comedy, and Wayne excels in this genre.  However, similar to other movies he does the spanking thing in this one as well.  In todays society spanking is no longer funny.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Movie Short: Toward a Theory of the Evolution of the Turkey

This short is a bit hard for me to wrap my head around.  It is almost more like a 1960s pot trip, centered around the drawing of a turkey.  The turkey happens to have a baritone saxophone attached to his beak, and loves to play.  The girl also draws a turkey spider with a mean kind of bass, and then she plays drums while they perform.  There is something about rescuing the first turkey from a cage, but that is just strange.

Children's Book Review: The Ugly Duckling (El Patito Feo)

The Ugly Duckling (El Patito Feo), adaptation by Merce Escardo I Bas and illustrated by Max, Chronicla Books, San Francisco, CA 1997.  This is a dual language book.  I like these as I can compare side by side and thereby improve my Spanish.  It seems there is always a word to add to my vocabulary.
This is based on the classic Hans Christian Andersen story, although he is not credited.  The story is pretty much the basic Ugly Duckling story, however it adds some depth as it tells what happened to the duck over the winter when he left the other ducklings to be to himself.  You can only put up with so much negativity.
I really like the theme; we never know what we will turn out to be and should not base our feelings of self on the opinions of others who do not know where we come form.  At the same time, others should give up the bullying and negativity and realize we all have a place.  Illustrations are adequate.  I like the necks of the swans.

Movie Review: ***^River of No Return (1954)

This movie leaves no doubt that Marilyn Monroe was an actress.  She also sings in this movie as the bar singer.  However, I don't think she plays the guitar.  She portrays Kay, who shows up at the farm of Matt Calder (Robert Mitchum) with her intended (or just married), Harry Weston (Rory Calhoun).  Calder is trying to eke out a living with his son (who newly has come to him since his mother's death), Mark (Tommy Rettig).  Turns out Weston is desperate to get to town to file a mining claim, and comes down the river with Kay and they are rescued by Calder and his son.  He advices them against trying the river to town.  However he is desperate to file a claim, and steals the horse and rifle of Calder, leaving him at the mercy of the Indians who inhabit the area, but Calder has kept them at bay with his rifle.  They observe the theft from the mountains, and are quick to react.  Calder is one step ahead, as he and his son and Kay take off in the raft just ahead of the Indians.  They have quite the adventure getting to town, with mountain lions and Indians trying to stop them.  However they get there, and then comes the awaited confrontation with Weston.  However Weston is desperate to eliminate his accuser for horse theft and quickly gets the drop on Calder.  The ending is unexpected.

Movie Review: * Norm from the North (2016)

Tony and I visited the theater this last weekend to check out this movie.  Tony loved it, and I was a bit disappointed with it.  Too much potty humor for me.  Who knew Lemmings could pee so much and for so long.  I guess they needed long pees to milk the crowd for more laughs but I must admit it didn't work with me.  This seemed to be a propaganda piece about the environment geared to elementary school age kids.  Such movies really disturb me.  However there was something there about saving grandfather which was pretty cool.  When getting home my wife liked how the movie was.  I gave it a D,  My son a B, not even potty humor could save this dribble.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Movie Review: ***Penguins of Madagascar (2014)

This is a silly movie I started watching at Camberly's and finished up with Tony at our house.  I think this movie is very appealing to children.  It tells the story of Private for the most part.  How he was the egg that was going to be left behind, but was rescued by the three penguins and these four are the Penguins of Madagascar.  They are a spy group, but have competition in the spy business from a group who just want our penguins out of the way.  They are both in pursuit of the evil octopus, who holds a grudge against all zoo and performance penguins as they are "so cute" they cut out the octopus act at the zoo.  The octopus bitterness runs deep, and he is determined to turn the penguins into monsters and set them loose on the city.  His plan would work, except for private, whose is just too cute.  The theme of this story is that all are important, even the lowest of us.  Also that getting along is more productive than competed, as the two spy groups reconcile in the end.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Movie Review: Nanny McPhee

This is an excellent movie.  Emma Thompson played a huge part in this project.  She wrote the screen play based on the book by Christiana Brown.  Thompson also star as Nanny McPhee.  Her character changes the most, from an ugly nanny to a handsome woman.  As she teaches the children lessons, her warts and other blemishes disappear.  She comes to a family in need.  Mr. Brown (Colin Firth) has lost his wife, and has seven uncontrollable children.  They chase away all available nannies.  Mts. McPhee is the last hope.  Only through magic is she able to teach her lessons.  "As long as you need me, even though you don't want me I will stay.  When you no longer need me, even if you want me, I will have to go."
Mr. Brown is desperate to find a wife, at the insistence of his former wife's Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury).  She has given him a deadline, and as a result he makes a very poor choice.  When the wedding falls through, they are due to be kicked out of the house if an alternative bride is not found.  Simon (Thomas Sangster) suggests the scullery maid, who was taken in by the aunt and refined.  Evangeline (Kelly Macdonald) and Mr. Brown do love each other.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

TV Music Review: A Very Murray Christmas (2015) (Miley Cyrus, Silent Night)

This is a christmas special which was available through Netflix this year.  Bill Murray is due to host a Christmas Eve special.  However New York is snowed in, and as his special guests are not going to show, he is looking for anyone to perform.  I felt most of this show was a train wreck.  The performances are very poor, with the exception of Miley Cyrus singing "Silent Night."  However even that is convoluted because Miley Cyrus and George Clooney only show up in Bill Murray's dream after he passes out due to drinking too much alcohol.  Paul Shaffer is also a breath of fresh air in this mess.  He is very talented on the piano, as shown by his playing for Miley Cyrus.

Book Review: Henry and the Clubhouse by: Beverly Cleary

This book may better have been called "Henry and the Clubhouse," but then that was the title of the previous book.  This is the fifth of the Henry books.  Henry and his friends are making a clubhouse, for boys only.  This doesn't sit well with Henry's friend Beezus and her little sister Ramona.  Ramona's retaliation puts Henry's newspaper route at risk.  Plus she is always following him, pretending she is a newspaper man.  One day she follows him, and gets caught in a storm.  The only thing Henry can do is volunteer to take her home, making him late with his deliveries.  However in this case, one of his customers tells on him, and that is a good thing.  She writes of Henry's heroics in a letter-to-the-editor.  Even Henry's dad is impressed.

Music Review: Jackie Evancho: Songs form the Silver Screen

I have discovered a new singer.  She is in the same mold and probably about the same age as Lexi Walker.  Jackie Evancho is now 15, but this CD was recorded in 2012.  This is all silver screen numbers, and mostly male numbers.  My only criticism is that perhaps she should have performed more woman oriented songs rather than male songs.  For example she sang, "Pure Imagination," "Music of the Night,""Some Enchanted Evening" and "What a Wonderful World," all songs which were performed by males in the movies.  It is hard to have the same feel for a woman to sing these songs, especially a young woman of twelve years.  Jackie a couple years earlier had been the runner up on America's Got Talent."  Despite this handicap, she does very well on "Music of the Night."  Her Disney songs are terrific, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," from Lion King, 'Reflection" from Mulan and "I See the Light" from Tangled.  She sings "I See the Light" with her older brother.  It is a good performance, and this is one of my favorite movie songs of all time.  "My Heart Will Go On" she sings the Celine Dion song from Titanic.  She has a tendency towards classical music, and this is seen in the song "Se."

Music Review: Feuding Banjos

This CD set was released in 2005.  It is an anthology and is the combination of two other anthology, Feuding Banjos and Anthology of the Banjo.  My reaction is that 21 Banjo songs is too many.  The banjo is nice short term, but it is very tinny, and not the right instrument for us who have tinnitus.  I was hoping to hear the song Dueling Banjos like Roy Clark and Buck Trent or from the movie Deliverance.  However I was disappointed.  There was a version of "Whistle While You Work."  There is also a "Feuding Banjos" which is more a banjo duet.  Lots of mountain songs.  However the song I preferred of all is "Banjo Bach."

Movie Short: Dr Seuss' The Zax

This animated short is a good demonstration of what happens when we refuse to compromise.  Stubbornness and arrogance do not lead to good results.  
The world goes on, but sometimes we do not.

Movie Review: Dr Suess - Green Eggs And Ham

This is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories.  This animated version tells the story as written by Dr. Seuss, just adding a little jingle.
The best version of this story I have heard was at Camp High Sierra when the camp director recited the story for us.  It was very fun.  This was in the cafeteria.
Of course the theme of this movie is sometimes if we try things we find we like things we haven't tried before.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Movie Review: ****^The Secrets of War (2013)

This movie was made in the Netherlands, and it is presented in Dutch with English subtitles.  Even so, it does a great job of telling its story.  I found the story very disturbing.  This is a WWII era story, where a community in the Netherlands is torn apart by the Nazi occupation, and the evacuation of the Jewish population to concentration camps.  This is mostly kept from the children of the community.  However, the community is dividing.  Some children join the Nazi Youth, and other families wouldn't have their children in this program.  Of course the mayor's son is part.  He plays a role in having some community members arrested for harboring a jew.  Tuur (Maas Bronkhuyzen) and Lambert (Joes Brauers), the mayor's younger son with a club foot, are best friends.  They do many things together, including exploring a cave, where they find English comic books.  Father warns him not to snoop.  However he does, and discovers his own father is part of the resistance.  A new girl comes to town, Maartje (Pippa Allen) and only tells Tuur that she is Jewish and in hiding.  When Lambert becomes jealous of his friend, having a new friend, he goes to the home and discovers a hidden pig.  He inadvertently mentions this to his own father, the mayor, and then everything goes wrong.  However, there is still some hope for the friendship, as Lambert can help his friend and his family one last time before they flee the country.

Movie Review: ****^Selma (2014)

This is a terrific film about the right to vote.  Many southern states would have criteria, which was stricter for blacks than others, and used these to deny the right to vote to their citizens of color.  Selma was a calling out of this practice.  I remember how disturbed I was when I watched this film.  It left me feeling uneasy for some time.  I found it interested how the first march was called off at the last minute, as it was suspected it would have ended in a blood bath.  After what is known as Black Sunday, where local rioters injured many protesters, and even killed a few, Washington was heavily influenced.  President Lyndon Johnson subsequently was firmly on their side as well, and vowed to assure voting rights.  The march went forth and the protestors made their point.  In 1965 the Voting Rights Act was passed.
David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King
Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King,
Tom Wilkinson as President Johnson

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Movie Review: Dr Seuss' The Sneetches Full Version YouTube

This is one of Dr. Seuss' more important works.  In this movie he explores prejudice and bias.  The star-bellied sneetches feel they are superior.  The look down upon those sneetches without stars, feel their children should not play with them, and try to exclude them from their activities including bonfires on the beech.  They are determined to keep their differentness, even if they go broke trying to maintain it.  It is only after they go broke that the learn the lesson, that a sneetch is a sneetch no matter whether he has stars on his belly, or his butt or none at all and they should treat each other with respect.  I think that is an important lesson.

Movie Review: Wild in the Country: Elvis Presley (1961)

This is an interesting early Elvis Presley movie.  In this case he plays an aspiring young author, Glen, who falls for his mentor and teacher, Irene Sperry (Hope Lange) who is working hard to get him into university so he can pursue his dream.  For a time Glen loses focus on his dream, and it becomes the relationship with the teacher.  They fall in love, but they do not become sexually involved.  However rumors of this involvement become a focus of the book.  They take refuge on a trip to a university, and they are seen.  They have two rooms, and profess their love, but do not go further than this.  However when the rumor flies, it results in an altercation between Glen and a young man, who dies after Glen hits him.  Glen is arrested, but later it becomes known that he has a bad heart condition.  They eventually get their focus back, and Glen pursues his original dream.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Movie Review: 40 Guns to Apache Pass (1967)

This is an Audie Murphy Indian War movie.  Murphy portrays Captain Coburn, who is a stickler for rules, and his men don't like him.  They end in a scrape, and many are killed, including his girlfriend's brother.  What is worse he later is taking guns, Winchester repeating rifles to an outpost when a couple of his men turn on him and leave him for dead.  His sergeant is wounded, and the guns stolen.  He escapes his ropes, but has to get the Sargeant back to help.  He does this by stealing an Apache pony.  However he is in big trouble with the Colonel, and his girlfriend, whose younger brother was convinced to go with the soldiers fleeing with the guns has become a deserter.
He is ordered to stay on the post, but tricks a man holding the horses to let him go, his orders were not generally known.  He must find the rifles before they are sold to Cochise, as then the outpost would be easily overrun.  The brother rejoins his side, and together they over take the men holding the guns and head for the outpost with the guns with Cochise in pursuit.  Coburn keeps five repeating rifles (each give the possessor quite an advantage) and sends the brother to the post with the others.  He makes good use of the weapons, but still is almost overwhelmed by the Indians.
This show is the kind I loved growing up, with canned military pride of Audie Murphy type.  His type of patriotism seems to have been lost.  I always look for racism in old Westerns, and I imagine you could find some here.  Many Native Americans fall to those guns.  But movies are more enjoyable if you don't worry about such things.

Music Review: Elvis The Platinum Collection: Elvis Presley

This is a collection of 75 songs.  If this is just his platinum songs, it makes you wonder how large is Presley's repertoire.  There are many fantastic songs included.  There are three discs, 25 songs each. The first disk is devoted to classics: "Can't Help Falling in Love", "It's Now or Never", "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", "Jailhouse Rock", "Love Me Tender," "All Shook Up" and "Hound Dog" among others.  I was amazed at how many Presley songs have a Latin feel.
The next disk has mostly movie songs.  The last disk gets into his Hawaiian period.  It includes songs like "Blue Hawaii" and "Midnight Swim".  This has plenty to like.  Sheri and I listened in the car.  Sheri wanted to dance, rare for her.  However putting one of these on at home will be a great way to dance.      

Monday, January 11, 2016

Music Review: Credence Clearwater Revival: Willy and the Poor Boys

This is the fourth of the Credence Clearwater albums, and the third in 1969.  It was remastered with three bonus tracks (all replays of songs on the original) in 2006.  This CD starts off with a bang and doesn't stop.  The title song is "Down on the Corner" which talks about Willy and the Poor Boys singing down on the corner.  They also covered "Cotton Fields" and also "Fortunate Son" highlights the second song.  This song later had great political meaning and became an antiwar song.  However one of my person favorites in "Poorboy Shuffle" an instrumental piece.  "It Came Out of the Sky" and "The Midnight Special" are also in this mix.  Very entertaining.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Music Review: Back Roads to Cold Mountain

This is the music to the film Cold Mountain.  It is Bluegrass genre from several different performers.  It is suppose to be Civil War Era music.  There is lots of banjo and violin playing here.  Bluegrass vocals for the most part sound to me like someone singing who is sick, for the most part it is bad.  However they sing on key, just with an "I don't care" attitude.  They best songs in this set, I felt were the two about strangers, "Wayfaring Stranger" by Bill Monroe and "Rank Stranger" by The Stanley Brothers.  If you want a sad, slow song then "And I am Born to Die" by Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton would be a good listen.  I mildly enjoyed this music.  Sheri hated it.  I must admit, it was a bit much by the time we got through 27 tracks together.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Music Review: Neil Diamond: Moods

This album is the eighth for Neil Diamond.  It was released in 1972.  This album included two hit songs, including his second number one song "Song Sung Blue."  This song is simple and easy to sing, but is everyone's favorite because they can sing along.  It is also a good song to sing when you're down as it cheer you up.  The other song hit song is Play Me."  On this album Diamond also sings in Spanish "Canta Libre."  He sings about pies, a baby song sort of with "Gitchy Goomy."  There is also a short instrumental.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Movie Review: ****Purgatory (1999)

This is a very intriguing movie.  Sonny (Brad Rowe) is on his first ride with his uncles outlaw gang.  He is riding with Blackjack (Eric Roberts).  As they will, things go awry with their holdup, They get shot up, but escape with the money, and some wounded riders.  When the posse catches up to them, the horse with all the money is killed.  They cannot rescue it, in fact barely get away, through a mountain pass, and to an unexpected city.  The pose as cattlemen who fell on hard times.  The citizens of the town, Purgatory, welcome them to anything the town has to offer.  Slowly the mystery unravels.  These are all people who have killed others.  They are now in purgatory awaiting their final destination.  They are all pious, abhor guns and violence.  However this gang of thugs is sitting on their last nerve.  Sonny falls for one of the women, Rose (Amelia Heinle) and over time Sonny discovers the secret.  Also in town are Wild Bill Hickock (Sam Shepherd), Billy the Kid (Donnie Wahlberg) Jesse James (JD Souther) and Doc Holliday (Randy Quaid).  We are headed for a show down.  However if the people in purgatory go back to their old ways they are doomed the hell.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Movie Review: ***^Capricorn One (1977)

This is a movie that leaves you unsettled.  There is a problem with the life dome for a Mars mission.  However, rather than scrub the mission, the leaders of NASA decide to fake the mission.  Dr. Kelloway (Hal Holbrook) explains they need to agree to cooperate to assure the safety of their families.  All is going well.  They have faked the mission for almost a year.  Upon re entry, the heat shields of the unmanned spacecraft fail.  Now NASA has a problem; three live astronauts (James Brolin, O.J. Simpson and Sam Waterston) who should be dead.  It doesn't take long for them to figure out the puzzle.  They escape, and take off first in a jet, then on foot in a desert.  NASA finds two of the astronauts, and we assume they are murdered.  Only one is alive, but sure to be captured.  There is a reporter (Elliott Gould) on the case who is unravelling the plot.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Christmas Music Review: Garth Brooks: Beyond the Season (1993)

In this CD Garth Brooks includes a very special song, "Unto You This Night."  There is something in country music and its ability to tell a story with lots of emotion.  This is one of those songs.  It is beautiful.  There is also a very good rendition of "The Friendly Beasts."  It has a different singer on each verse.  Brooks goes humorous in singing "Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy."  "Silent Night" is a great sing-along song, and it is performed with a great deal of reverence.  "Mary's Dream" is a short instrumental, violin and piano, interlude that really sets a good mood.  "What Child Is This" is the concluding number.

Christmas Music Review: O Christmas Tree: A Bluegrass Collection for the Holidays (2002)

Bluegrass and Christmas music has a different sound.  Sometimes it works, well it seems to always work instrumentally; but sometimes the vocals are too much something that isn't very enjoyable.  However this is not true for all, but just a few of the songs.  For example I didn't care for Ron Stewart's version of "Silver Bells" but the Cox family "Go Tell It on the Mountain" is just wonderful.  "O Come All Ye Faithful" is a banjo number that is very effective.  James King Band performs "Call Collect on Christmas" reminding of the need for family on Christmas.  Doyle Lawson (and others) sing a nice Acapella medley version of "The First Noel" "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and "Joy to the World."

Christmas Music Review: Lee Ann Womack: The Season for Romance (2002)

Womack gives us a Jazzy Christmas.  The songs I like most are the traditional songs.  "Her version of "The Christmas Song" is very nice.  However, she delves into some new songs, and they just don't resonate with me.  However "The Man with the Bag" is more a big band jazz feel and is contrary to that general theme.  This is a new song that gets the heart beating and the blood moving.  It includes a very nice saxophone part.

Bright and Early Board Book: Summer

Summer by Alice Low illustrated by Roy McKie, Random House, New York, 1963.
This is again a cardboard book published in 1991 based on the 1963 publication.  It shows the many joys of summer, including water mellon, the beach, swimming, fireworks, ice cream, swings and bug collecting.  These are all activities I enjoyed as a child.

Bright and Early Board Book: Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb (1969 original book)

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, by Al Perkins and illustrated by Eric Gurney, Random House Books, New York, 1969.  This is a book with cardboard pages for baby chewing and teething.  This tells an interesting story, using monkeys as the characters with fingers and thumbs and hands.  These hands can drum, wear rings, pick plums and apples, pick and strum; but most of all the drum, drum, drum.

Christmas Music Review: The Christmas Music of Johnny Mathis (1993)

This collection is a compendium of songs from Johnny Mathis' Christmas albums over the years.  It starts with the classic "Silent Night."  This is a beautiful song and Mathis does it justice.  He then continues with "Silver Bells" and this song is likewise well done.  He always sings the introductory music lyrics to his songs.  This includes "White Christmas" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  He introduces a couple of new songs, "Marshmallow World" and "The Christmas Waltz."  I would really like to dance to the waltz.  His version of "We Need a Little Christmas" is the best version of this song I have heard.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Christmas Music Review: Luciano Pavarotti: O Holy Night

I don't normally go for opera, but Luciano Pavarotti can make you cry without even understanding the words.  There are a few songs that make this CD worthwhile, starting with the titular number, "O, Holy Night."  This is presented in a couple of languages, but Pavarotti's voice makes listening a nice experience.  "Ave Maria" also falls in this category.  there are two versions.  I prefer the Schubert version.  However the highlight is definitely "Gesu Bambino."  This is a very beautiful song.  The melody is catching.  Pavarotti is joined by a boy's choir.  He concludes with "Adeste Fideles" which is also very nice.

Christmas Music Review: George Strait: Classic Christmas

The title says it all, classic Christmas song by George Strait.  There is no song here which is not known to the listener.  This set includes such favorites as "Joy to the World," We Three Kings," "Silent Night," "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing."  However Strait also sings some classics which you don't hear much anymore, such as "Up on the Housetop."  This was an enjoyable collection.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Movie review: **The Lost Medallion (2013

The theme behind this show is good.  That we all have worth.  This is a story told to a group of foster children, and draws them all into the story as characters.  The story told is about a medallion with secret powers.  However it only works for one with a pure heart.  A man and has family over many generations long for the medallion, even killing a king, however it was hidden and never found.  Billy Stone (Billy Unger) discovers the medallion in modern times, but accidentally sends himself and Allie (Sammy Hanratty) back in time, where the enter the plot to track down the medallion with a ruler intent on killing all in his way.  He does get the medallion, but it doesn't work for him.  The question is can Billy and Allie, and new friends, Huko (James Hong) and Faleaka (Jansen Panettiere) get the medallion back, despite risk to themselves facing an army and an evil ruler with a molten cellar where he throws his victims.
This movie had a good story, and would have been better with better acting and better character development.

Music Review: Nat King Cole An Evening With Nat King Cole HD

I really loved the music for this BBC concert special, 1963.  Nat King Cole starts with "Unforgettable" and just continues from one hit to another.  "Just the Way You Look Tonight" really moves me.  "When I fall In Love" is beautiful, and Cole performs this song better than anyone.  "When I fall in love it will be forever...When I give My Heart It Will Be Completely." Cole does a few song with a quartet, bass, drums, trumpet and guitar while Cole is the fifth on piano and vocals.  He starts with "Paper Moon" a personal favorite.  "Let There Be Love" is also beautifully done.  This group has incredible talent and there playing is very moving.  Cole's jazz piano is superb.  "Mona Lisa" is also very nice.  Later in the show Cole does a series of songs with a small choir.  I did not care for this section as much.

Christmas Music Review: Christmas: The Singers Unlimited Leader: Gene Puerling

This is quartet music, mostly acapella.  The mood of some of the songs is too low, and often the tempo changes suddenly to change the mood.  These singers, Gene Puerling, Don Shelton, Len Dresslar and Bonnie Herman, have excellent pitch, and the intricate cords they make are exciting.  However too the album in general has some boring parts.  This is mostly when the bass sings a solo, which is washed away by the low notes.  However the progression of cords in "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and "Silent Night" make these songs very interesting.  "Caroling, Caroling" is also very well done and up beat.  The song "Nigh Bethlehem" is in a minor key, and has a very interesting feel that is very compelling.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Music Review: Natalie Cole - The Unforgettable Concert (1992)

This is a wonderful collection of Natalie Cole.  In this concert she covers some of her father's music.  This makes for excellent jazz.  Her father, Nat King Cole was so successful and such an artist; and nothing is lost in these covers.  There are places where Nat King Cole is invited to the stage through media.  He plays the piano, or sings and nothing is lost.  I would suggest that a person seek out these songs for listening, "Nature Boy" which ends with the important statement "The greatest thing you'll ever do is to love and be loved in return;" "Mona Lisa with her crazy smile;" "Almost Like Being in Love" from Brigadoon;" "Route 66;" "The song is ended" put the melody goes on; "L-O-V-E;" "Autumn Leaves" (included in the medley) and then of course "Unforgettable."  Unforgettable is a song that is timeless, and beautiful.  In this case Natalie Cole sings a duet with her father, while pictures of her father are displayed as a tribute to him. This set really is exciting, and moving.  It even includes some jazz scat.
January 1992, Pasadena Civic Auditorium, Pasadena, CA, USA
The Very Thought of You
This Can't Be Love
Paper Moon
Nature Boy
Mona Lisa
Lush Life
Non Dimenticar
Almost Like Being In Love
Route 66
Straighten Up and Fly Right
This Will Make You Laugh
Frim Fram Sauce
For All We Know
The Song Is ended
That Sunday That Summer
Orange Colored Sky
Thou Swell
Medley: For Sentimental Reasons, Tenderly, Autumn Leaves
Don't Get Around Much Anymore
Dance Ballerina Dance
Unforgettable (reprise)

Movie Review: ***Reprisal (1958)

This is a movie about Frank Madden (Guy Madison) who has come to a new town to make a start for himself.  He is half Indian, but has decided to just be white so he can own property.  It just happens that he arrives at a town ripe with racism against native Americans.  A girl likes him, but even she has an attitude against Native Americans.  Turns out two Native Americans were lynched for trespassing.  The Shipley brothers responsible for the murders are found not guilty by the white jury.  Madden does not want to take sides, but he is drawn into the conflict.  The name reprisal comes from a Native American, whose wife was one of those lynched.  He gets reprisal by killing one of the Shipleys.  However Madden is blamed, and he is close to the end of a rope by the mob, unless someone stands up for him.
This movie shows Native Americans in a bit better light than some.  However even in this film, the actors portraying the Native Americans seem to be white.  It appears it is OK to pretend to be Native American, but still having an actual Native American in the film is no good.  This is a film made, now almost 60 years ago.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Christmas Music Review: Mannheim Steamroller: Christmas Celebration (2004)

This collection of songs really sounds like a celebration.  It continues the Mannheim Steamroller tradition of good new age Christmas music.  this set includes synthesized music with flutes as well as vocal selections.  My favorite is "Deck the Halls."  The synthesizer was really cooking for this song.  It hits that spot of being a fun song, and takes the catchy tune and makes it better.  However I cannot say the same for "Carol of the Bells."  I do not like at all how the synthesizer arrangement pretty much destroys this song.  Many of these numbers have vocal choruses and this is very effective as they weave back and forth with vocals and instrumental.  This set sets a good Christmas mood.