29 November 2011

Music Review: Xmas! The Beatmas By Rubber Band

What would have happened if the Beatles had made Christmas music instead of popular music? Pure effin' magic, that's what!

Rubber Band is (or was ... I don't right know because they don't have a presence online) a Beatles tribute band from Denmark. In 1994, the Fab Fire released an album of Christmas songs with a Beatles twist. See, what they did was take the lyrics from some of our most favorite Christmas songs and paired them with the instrumentals from some of our most favorite Beatles songs, with a little re-arrangement of course, to concoct a delicious blend of Yuletide cheer to bless your ears.

You can buy an import CD, but it will cost you an arm and a leg. My best advice is to click the link up there for the iTunes store to buy a copy of this album. Or you could get it through nefarious means ... but you didn't get that idea from me.

Either way, this album simply must become a part of your holiday music library. Trust me, you'll thank me for it.

Movie Review: The Muppets

I recently saw The Muppets. This decision was a foregone conclusion from the first time I heard rumor that a new Muppet movie was being made, one that was going to bring them "back to form". It certainly helped that the movie is getting glowing reviews from big-name critics and small-name bloggers. The gist of what the reviews are saying are:
  • The Muppets, who seemed completely lost after Muppets From Space, have found their way back into our hearts and imagination.
  • The cornerstone of The Muppets has been, is, and always will be their realness. And this movie cements that cornerstone even more securely.
  • Stars of stage and screen, past and present, will still do the ridiculous to be in a Muppet movie.
  • The Muppets are as sweet, topical, and subversive as ever.
  • The humans aren't too shabby either.
  • There is humor for all ages. And all ages can enjoy this flick without worry.
There are a few misfires ... a "WTF" moment with an ill-advised song, an over-abundance of human actors taking up Muppet screen time, too much breaking the Fourth Wall, too much self-referencing. But there are also some great moments ... David Grohl's brief cameo, Sweetums' introduction (for you who've watched all The Muppet movies), Jack Black's performance, the musical numbers (one touching number, specifically, which references something that actually happened on The Muppet Show). Go watch it; this movie gets a solid 4.5 out of 5.

But this isn't what my movie review is really about. I'm about to go deeper into my impressions and thoughts on the movie. Those of you who want to remain untainted by opinion before seeing it should stop reading now and come back again afterwards.

The plot is a superfan getting the crew together to save a forgotten and decaying relic of the past from destruction and desecration. Basically. There's a lesson about finding one's own way in life, discovering one's true self. But, really, who can pay attention to that when we have to get The Muppets back together again?

Don't be fooled. This movie is about reclaiming and reviving one's childhood. Not reliving it ... resuscitating it, bringing it back to life.

There are many out there, Mr. Segel included (at 1:49), who think that The Muppets had to be brought back from the dusty crates and moth-ridden closets for this newest generation to truly appreciate them. And, you know, for this newest generation, those who presumably have never seen The Muppet Show or any of the first three Muppet movies ... maybe they did need a new movie. Maybe they needed this fresh view to really get what The Muppets are and why the people of my generation cherish them so dearly.

Except these aren't my Muppets. Jim Henson has been long dead. The same is true for Richard Hunt. Frank Oz decided to sit this one out. These were the heart, soul, voices, and operators of at least thirteen of your main Muppets, most of whom are major characters in this movie. The kids won't know. But I do. See, The Muppets aren't like James Bond ... you can't just insert new voice and hand and go along as if nothing's changed. Because everything has changed. These people didn't just operate these characters ... these characters were an extension of their unique personalities. You can't just replace a personality (although Madonna has certainly tried to do that over the course of her career).

No, these aren't my Muppets. They are Muppets playing my Muppets. Acting, if you will. And on that point they succeed. Just like I could accept Roger Moore as James Bond, just like I could accept Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, just like I could accept Brian Johnson as lead singer of AC/DC, I can accept these Muppets as a more than adequate substitute for the Muppets of my youth.

So I went and saw The Muppets and I enjoyed it. The Muppets allowed me to fall in love anew with my felt friends. It allowed me to reminisce on my childhood. But it made me want to go back to my The Muppet Show DVDs and watch the real deal. Because no matter how much we wish we could, we can only relive the past; we can't recreate it.

I do wish this new iteration ... this "reboot", if you will ... all the best. In my opinion, they did the legacy of Jim Henson and all of those original Muppeteers proud. I hope that they can continue to build on this foundation that Jason Segel has built because it's a pretty solid one.

25 November 2011

Music Video Friday: My Favorite Christmas Special

Once again I am forgoing the usual music video for something different. But not terribly so, because today's offering features music! So there.

This is the 1974 Rankin/Bass stop motion animated television special The Year Without A Santa Claus and it has my all-time favorite siblings performing in two parts one of my favorite holiday tunes. It was the first time that I remember even pondering the notion that there really wasn't a Santa Claus, which was a bit traumatic and prompted my parents to come clean about the whole Kris Kringle thing (I think). My only real negative criticism is the use of "Blue Christmas" in the show ... even at a young age, before I knew it to be one of the most overplayed Christmas tunes ever and an Elvis one to boot, I knew that this song really didn't belong here. Otherwise, this is classic stuff that should be shared with each new generation.

(Oh, and I don't care what you say, this never happened. Are we clear? NEVER HAPPENED!)

18 November 2011

Music Video Friday: The Motown Song By Rod Stewart With The Temptations

I'd been thinking all week about what song to feature in this week's Music Video Friday. It's been a rough week for me and for many people I know. I wanted something upbeat and fun. But I couldn't figure out what. Then, on my way in to work this morning, the perfect song was played on the radio.

In 1991 Rod Stewart released his 16th studio album, Vagabond Heart. The album reached the Top 10 in the US and contained three Top 20 singles. Among them is this week's selection.

"The Motown Song" was written by Larry John McNally and was originally featured on the Quicksilver soundtrack. Rod Stewart made his recording with the help of the legendary Motown group The Temptations. Their inclusion actually adds a lot of heft and cred to the song ... a smart move by whoever made it.

The video for the song was produced by Animation City, the same company that made Elton John's "Club At The End Of The Street". What really makes this video fun is the various cameos. See how many you can spot!

11 November 2011

Music Video Friday: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy By The Andrews Sisters

Today is Veterans Day. It is on this day, every 11th of November, that we pause to remember and honor all of those who have served in our military, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

As my tribute, I offer you what is arguably the quintessential popular "military" song. While not specifically written for the military, this song has come to be associated with World War II and the USO. It is also ranked #6 in the "Songs Of The Century" list.

Now, beat me daddy, eight to the bar!

08 November 2011

Building A Dynasty?

My faithful readers know that I have no love for Marion Barry, my current council member. He was elected to his position the same month that I moved into my condo. When I discovered that I was the newest resident in Ward 8, instead of Ward 7 where the apartment from which I was moving out resides, I was none too pleased. The man is a politician of the worst kind and we can't be rid of him soon enough.

But he doesn't want to go quietly into that gentle night. On the contrary, he is already scheming to cement his blight ... er, legacy ... in the District's history books.
Barry (D) has outlined plans to run for a third consecutive term as D.C. Council member for Ward 8 but serve only part of that time, backing his only son, Christopher Barry, to fill his seat.
Let us allow that to sit for one moment so that we may meditate upon those words ...

... okay.

This only son of The Night Owl has shown no interest in District politics on any level. He has largely stayed out of the limelight. He's already had a couple unfortunate brushes with the law in his short adult life. Having him serve on the council only prolongs The Elder Barry's (pun intended) stranglehold on the people of Washington D.C. in general and Ward 8 in particular.

Neighbors of Ward 8, we simply cannot allow this.

If Christopher Barry ever decides he wants to follow his father's footsteps into public service, let him do it on his own terms ... and prove to us, the voters, the he deserves our trust and confidence. Otherwise, let him live where he can battle and conquer his personal demons in quiet civilian peace.

04 November 2011

Music Video Friday: What's Opera, Doc? By Looney Tunes

I want slapstick comedy and I want highbrow entertainment. I want romance and I want violence. I want blood-thirsty warriors and I want vampy cross-dressers. I want to laugh and I want to cry.

And I want it all in one nice, colorful, 6 minute 50 seconds package.

My pick for today's music video isn't technically a music video. It's a cartoon set to several of Richard Wagner's operas. So, I think it counts.

By the way, I was not aware that the Looney Tunes (and Merrie Melodies) cartoons were originally created to promote the Warner Bros. music catalog. My, how far we've come since then.

Take seven minutes out of your busy Friday to watch this. You'll thank me later.