Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Brian Setzer Orchestra - Christmas Rocks! Live - November 24th @ Montclair, NJ



Photo by Chip Duden


On November 24th, the holiday season kicked off with a bang as The Brian Setzer Orchestra put on a rocking extravaganza at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ. This was my first time seeing the BSO live in concert, and oh man am I glad I did! 

This night, Brian came with his musical elves and brought some holiday cheer to the NJ crowd. The stage was filled with Christmas trees, lights galore, and even a visit from jolly St Nick himself at the end of the show!

The show began with Andy Williams' "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" playing throughout the theater as the band took the stage. Once the entire band got settled, Brian came out to a thunderous applause and then jumped right into a performance of "Pennsylvania 6-5000". I've always liked BSO's version of this classic hit, but I really enjoyed their live performance much better. It was the perfect song to set the energy of the show. From there on, the audience was treated to a performance filled with holiday classics and well known hits of the BSO through the years. Hard to imagine the BSO has been doing this for 25 years. And yet, they sounded as fresh as ever. 

I think most people can agree that Brian is a great guitarist. But hearing him live, you really can see that he is a legend on the guitar. He hasn't lost a step after all these years as he played each track so effortlessly. 

Photo by Suzie Kaplan


It's hard to pinpoint my favorite moments during the show, since there were so many. From beginning to end, there wasn't a dull moment. Some concerts you go to, there are moments that you mentally drift off during some of the parts that feel stale. But not this show. I was engaged the entire time. They went through the obvious classics like "Jump, Jive an' Wail!" and "Rock This Town", and even a nice cover of Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down  A Dream", paying homage to Petty, who we lost way too soon. Things got real festive as they jumped into holiday songs like "Gloria in excelsis Deo", "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)", "Nutcracker Suite", and "Jingle Bells"!

Overall, it was a night to remember and a real holiday treat for a NJ crowd that came for some holiday cheer! Definitely try to catch one of their shows during this tour!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

ROMANCING THE STONE: LIMITED EDITION SOUNDTRACK (La-La Land Records)




I remember seeing Romancing The Stone on VHS around 1984. Although I was a fairly young kid at the time, I was absolutely amazed by this film. There was a certain charm the film had that really drew me in. It had a little of everything. Adventure! Romance! And who could forget "Pepe, the Mule"!

Fast forward 33 years, and it is still one of my favorite films.

Not only is it one of my favorite films, but it has one of the most memorable, catchy soundtracks ever. Alan Silvestri is a man that needs no introduction. He has composed so many epic movie scores that it's hard to keep up with. But did you know that this was his first major score? You wouldn't think so just listening to it. This soundtrack has got such a snappy, cool, jazzy, and heartwarming feel to it.

Thanks to the fine people at La-La Land Records, we can now revisit this classic score. They've released a limited edition (2000 copies) CD that has all the tracks from this beloved film, and includes an inside cover that makes this a true collectible. One thing I noticed about La-La Land Records is that they don't just put out quality CD releases of some great retro films. They also make sure to include a nice booklet inside the CD case with some more facts about the movie. That makes their CD's much more valuable in my opinion. 

It was so great to give this one a listen again, and be taken back to the Jack and Joan's adventure in Columbia. 

Overall, this is one gem put out by La-La Land. 


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

HE-MAN AND SHE-RA: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE CLASSIC ANIMATED ADVENTURES



He-Man, Voltron, and Thundercats.

In no particular order, those 3 cartoons basically defined my childhood. There were so many more that I loved as a kid. But for me, these were the holy trinity.

Whenever He-Man came on, I remember dropping whatever I was doing and running to the TV. Having the action figures and playsets made the experience that much more fun. After all these years, I'm not ashamed to admit that I am still a huge fan!

Lately, there’s been a surge of interest for anything He-Man related. There’s even a He-Man movie that was greenlighted to be released in 2019! Nostalgia is one hell of a drug.

What a wonderful time it is for fans of this classic show. There are collectibles, comics, and books coming out quite frequently to satisfy the average MOTU fanatic.

Speaking of He-Man books. Dark Horse has published a comprehensive guide to the series called He-Man and She-Ra: A Complete Guide to the Classic Animated Adventures. To put it bluntly, this book is NOT to be missed. My brain just about exploded on how detailed it went to recap the episodes of the show! This is a true fan’s dream! There is so much in this book to devour. At first it’s overwhelming due to the massive amount of info packed into this collectible hardcover book. But if you grew up watching this show, then you owe it to yourself to get this. Flip it open and you are immediately drawn into the world MOTU. Overall, I can’t highlight enough how cool this book is. It’s like stumbling across a book hidden in Castle Greyskull that holds all the secrets of the kingdom, if Eternia was real.


Now excuse me while I go back and read some more facts about one of the best cartoons to ever hit TV. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Billy Ocean - Here You Are: The Music of My Life


Any person who was able to live through the 80's must be familiar with the legend known as Billy Ocean. I'm very aware that I just used the word 'legend'. And that is one word I don't throw around lightly. If you go back and listen to his catalog of songs that spanned over decades, you'll know why I referred to Billy as a legend. His voice is golden, and as a person, he is genuinely nice. I say that, because I had the chance to meet him after one of his performances this year. To me, the guy is a pure class act. And his music is timeless.

During his performance, he mentioned the latest album that he released called Here You Are: The Music of My Life. That peaked my interest and I knew that I had to give this one a listen.

This album is a bit of a mixed bag. Part of it acts as a "greatest hits", and the rest of the album are covers of well known songs that influenced Billy throughout his life. Being the classy guy he is, Billy treated these classic tracks with respect, all the while adding his own personal touch to each one. Take "No Woman No Cry" for example. Billy's version is a smooth, soulful take on this Bob Marley classic. He really nailed this particular track. Another standout is Billy's cover of Frank Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year". Doing a cover of any Sinatra song is pretty bold, but Billy really held his own on this one. The other songs are a real joy to listen to for any fan of Billy's, or anyone that just wants to hear a modern take on classic hits.

Overall, this album was a very satisfying listen. As a big fan of Billy's, I was so glad to hear some new material. And I hope to hear more to come from him in the years ahead!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

IT (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)




Every once in a while, a movie comes by and takes the audience by storm (no pun intended 😃). For 2017, that movie was IT. 

This highly anticipated film retold the the story about the poor kids from Derry getting terrorized by the demonic clown known as Pennywise. For those of us that grew up seeing the 1990 miniseries, expectations were extremely high for this. And oh man, did IT deliver.

I absolutely loved this movie. Without getting too much into the film itself (since this review is about the soundtrack), I'll just stop at saying it was one of the most enjoyable theater going experiences I've had in YEARS. 

For every movie that we hold dear in our memories, is a brilliant soundtrack to accompany it. Think of movies like Back To The Future, for example. When you think back to every iconic scene in the film, you probably remember the score playing in the background. The same goes for the IT soundtrack.

Benjamin Wallfisch has composed a masterpiece that works hand in hand with this outstanding film. Each track perfectly fits the mood for each scene that it was in. The songs truly capture the terror, the heart, and the drama that each character faced in the film. Perfect example is the track "Georgie, Meet Pennywise". Anyone who knows the story, knows exactly what happens in this scene. Listening to this track takes you through an emotional journey, sending chills down your spine as you imagine the terror that is about to happen in the film. 

Overall, this score (like the movie) takes you through the story of Derry, and all of its heartwarming, funny, and terrorizing moments in a way that you won't forget.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Scared In Jersey at the PNC Bank Arts Center!



On Thursday, October 5th , I was invited to a press event at the opening night for Scared In Jersey.at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. "Scared In Jersey" is a new Halloween themed event created by Bobby Alt, Adam Alt and Frank Zummo of Blood Drums. The event takes the folklore of the Jersey Devil, and starts off with a reenactment of the "birth" of the Jersey Devil, followed by a walk through the haunted Pine Barren Maze, and then ends with a performance by Blood Drums. As a horror fan and someone that loves Halloween, this event was definitely a lot of fun. Everything from the skit that showed the birth of the Jersey Devil to the maze and the Blood Drums performance was worth the trip. The maze had its creepy moments, but nothing that will give you nightmares. And the final performance by Blood Drums was a very intense and energetic way to end the night. The guys from the band were nice enough to invite the fans up for photos on stage after their set. Overall, a great new Halloween attraction for the NJ area. I would like to see them add on to the maze and try to crank up some of the creepy parts in the future. But overall, it was a fun event that I wouldn't mind seeing again!












Friday, September 15, 2017

CREEPSHOW: LIMITED EDITION SOUNDTRACK (LA LA LAND RECORDS)



I've been a horror fan ever since I was a kid. Growing up in the 80's, I was fortunate to have gone through the best decade for horror films. There are so many to choose during that time that are really good, quality films. In fact, when I think back to the films that catapulted my interest in horror movies, I narrow it down to a trinity of films: A Nightmare On Elm Street, Fright Night, and Creepshow. I remember seeing these on VHS tapes rented from the local video store, and they terrified me. Yet, they also sparked an interest in the genre. The matching scores for these movies also made them more terrifying to watch. Creepshow in particular, had a very heavy, synth driven score that was the perfect sound to drive the movie. The sounds in this film highlighted each creepy moment and became embedded into my subconscious. It was a brilliant score. So when I saw that La La Land Records released a limited edition, restored version of the soundtrack on CD, I absolutely had to cover it here.

Let's get to the point. If you are a fan of this movie, then this CD is an absolute must have!

If you haven't seen the movie, but are a fan of 80's pop culture and horror movies in general, definitely check this out.

To fully realize how creepy this score is, just listen to it without even watching the film. The other day I had it playing in the car, and I got flashbacks of being creeped out exactly how I was as an 8 year old watching it for the first time. 

From the beginning on down, the tracks are in the same order as the film. It takes you from the film's intro (with the creepy kid), to Father's Day, to The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill, to Something To Tide You Over, to The Crate, to They're Creeping Up On You, and then the Epilogue. The tracks sound crisp, and really make you feel like watching this classic again.

Listening to this reminded me how much I like this movie, and probably will never get tired of it. Kudos to John Harrison for a brilliant score that still holds up after all these years. And kudos to La La Land Records for providing such a diverse catalog for all us nostalgic movie fans!

With Halloween coming up, this is a great CD to have to make the season much more fun!