Sunday, May 31, 2015
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Friday, May 29, 2015
(H)e reached for the key in his trouser pocket and found his shirt-tail on fire.
Ipe! Josh jumped around like a Watusi, whacking at his right hip like a move in a Bob Fosse dance, while the damn woman in the van looked at him with the first honest smile he’d ever seen her wear.
How could he catch fire? Holy Batman, his whole shirt was on fire! What had he touched, what had he brushed against, how-
Yanking the shirt off to reveal the tattered and filthy sleeveless undershirt beneath, staring around in wild surprise, Josh saw, against the far wall, forty million dollars in counterfeit twenties in brown paper bags burning like a Magritte tuba.
(from Smoke by Donald E. Westlake)
7½*/10. The complete review is here.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Monday, May 25, 2015
Album : A New World's Record
Artist : The Brothers Four
Genre : Folk
Year : 1967
- Tracks - (favorites in pink)
01.) Walkin' Backwards Down The Road
02.) Umbrellas In The Rain
04.) Have You Got A Light Boy?
05.) It Was A Very Good Year
07.) Here Today And Gone Tomorrow
08.) No Sad Songs For Me
10.) The First Time Ever
11.) All I Need Is You
A New World's Record was album #17 from The Brothers Four. It came out in 1967, towards the end of their recording career, and no singles were released from this album. The heyday of The Brothers Four was in the early 60's, with their three big hits being Greensleeves, The Green Leaves of Summer, and Yellow Bird. They still tour, release CD's, and have a website.
This album will never grow to be my favorite album by TBR. For the most part, it consists of slow, mostly-sappy love ballads. Folk albums will always have those, but they need to be balanced with peppy and witty songs. Here, the only track that fits that bill is Have You Got A Light, Boy, which is by far my favorite song from the album. Not surprisingly, no one had posted it to YouTube, so I made and posted my own video of it.
But I don't want to bash this album too much. The harmonies are still great, and if you're in the mood for Easy Listening music by an accomplished folk quartet, this will serve you just fine. And if you're unfamiliar with them, YouTube does have a nice selection of Brothers Four videos, including a stunningly beautiful 4-song calypso medley.
I picked up this LP for $1 out of the bargain bin at Half Price Books. The cover is in poor shape; the LP can fall out of two opposite sides of it. So it was a pleasant surprise to find the disc itself in very good condition. This is another one that was clean enough to remove the scratches manually.
Wikipedia lists 19 albums by The Brothers Four, fully admitting it is a "selected discography". If you go to the TBF website, they list 45 albums, but only offer 18 of these for sale, and A New World's Record is not one of them. So if you want to add it to your MP3 collection, digitalization is the only option.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Hopper ran at me, swinging a pipe. He hit me with his full strength, which did absolutely nothing.
I picked him up by his arm and suspended him before my snarling face. I truly considered biting him in half. But then I remembered earlier at the party when he was screaming for the Sex Pistols at the top of his lungs while the camp ignored him.
You couldn’t really hate a man who had so much passion for something while everyone around him was numb with indifference.
(from The Whisper King by Wil Radcliffe)
8½*/10. The complete review is here.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Album : Eyes That See In The Dark
Artist : Kenny Rogers
Genre : Pop
Year : 1983
- Tracks - (favorites in pink)01.) This Woman
02.) You And I
03.) Buried Treasure
04.) Islands In The Stream
05.) Living With You
06.) Evening Star
07.) Hold Me
08.) Midsummer Nights
09.) I Will Always Love you
10.) Eyes That See In The Dark
This is another LP from the height of Kenny Rogers' career. Produced by Barry Gibb, with guest appearance by the Bee Gees, the Gatlin Brothers, and of course, Dolly Parton dropping by to sing the mega-hit duet, Islands In The Stream, which I found to be interesting in the fact that they trade off singing the lead and harmony.
For some inexplicable reason, Eyes That See In The Dark, like the KR album Gideon (reviewed here), is not available as MP3 downloads from both Amazon and iTunes. At least it is somewhat more-remembered than Gideon: 31 people have left ratings/and reviews for it at Amazon.
This LP actually comes from my personal collection. It is Liz's personal favorite Kenny Rogers album, and it is likely she who purchased it. I eschewed the scratch-removing software again, because I am somewhat of an audiophile. It is slightly embarrassing then, to admit that the bargain-bin Gideon LP was in better shape than this one. Both had about a half-dozen significant scratches, but my LP had a lot more minor ones.
I'm impressed how smoothly the Bee Gees and Kenny Rogers blend together. I like this album almost as much as Gideon. My only quibble is that it contains too many sappy ballads for my taste, especially Side 2. But then again, what would you expect from something produced by one of the Bee Gees?
Monday, May 18, 2015
There had been a time – he was not sure when, but he knew there had been one – when the head of a Roman household had enjoyed absolute power as well as ultimate responsibility. When orders were obeyed without question. When women were grateful to be protected – grateful, indeed, not to be left on the rubbish heap at birth – and happy to be married off whenever and to whomever the family deemed appropriate. When a decent man could keep his household in order by threatening them not only with a sound beating but with execution.
He had to concede that the beheading of unruly relatives seemed a little harsh, but obviously one would exercise discretion.
(from Persona Non Grata, by Ruth Downie)
8½*/10. The full review is here.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Saturday, May 16, 2015
It'a mid-May, and it snowed in Arizona yesterday. And as you can see, it was more than just a "dusting". Now, to be fair, this is in Flagstaff, 100 miles north of Phoenix, and at a considerably higher elevation. But still, this is quite unusual.
All will be back to normal in a bit over a week. The high temperatures for Phoenix for the week after Memorial Day are predicted to be in the 108°F-112°F range,. Ouch! That's not supposed to happen until the middle of June.
Friday, May 15, 2015
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
They came to another fenced area. Inside was a shack and tied to it was a strange gangbanger mix of Rottweiler, pit bull, and wolf, a brindle-dun carnivore without an ounce of extra fat and with chewed-off ears.
“Lord have mercy,” Clive said under his breath.
The dog was 120 pounds of head, jaw muscles, and shoulders. His eyes scanned the yard and stopped on the men. Slowly, he walked forward with the off-kilter stare of a Mexican street dog charged up on a jolt of methamphetamine. He did not look anything like Clive’s golden retriever. He looked like something that fed on golden retrievers.
(from Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley)
7½*/10. The full review is here.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Album : Gideon
Artist : Kenny Rogers
Genre : Country, Pop
Year : 1980
- Tracks - (favorites in pink)01.) Goin' Home to the Rock
02.) Gideon Tanner
03.) No Good Texas Rounder
04.) Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer
05.) The Buckeroos
06.) You were a Good Friend
07.) Call Me Up
08.) These Chains
09.) Somebody Help Me
10.) One Place in the Night
11.) Sayin' Goodbye
12.) Goin' Home to the Rock
You're Kenny Rogers. You've had two straight smash-hit albums ("The Gambler" (5x-platinum; 1978) and "Kenny" (3x-platinum; 1979). How do you possibly follow them up?
Answer : by doing a concept album, a retrospective story of a cowboy (and somewhat of a scoundrel) named Gideon Tanner. All songs were penned by Kim Carnes, who wrote them with Kenny Rogers specifically in mind. He returned the favor by singing a duet with her on the one radio-play hit from the LP, Don't Fall In Love With A Dreamer.
I picked this LP up a couple weeks ago for $2.99 at Half Price Books. It was in pristine condition; maybe a dozen scratches or so. So I removed them manually, which helps preserve the original audio quality, especially the highs and lows.
Gideon was a wonderfully pleasant discovery for me, with fantastic lyrics (thank you, Kim!), excellent musicianship, smooth vocals, and almost no filler. Tracks 10 and 11 are ballads, which I found to be a bit ...well... slow. But I could've marked all the other tracks above in pink. Track after track is one treat after another.
Truth be told, Gideon didn't quite meet the dizzying success of its two predecessors. It only achieved single-platinum status. Surprisingly, Amazon doesn't offer this album as MP3 downloads, and the audio CD will run you a mind-numbing $49.99. Presumably because it's an import. Over the years, only nine people have left comments/ratings for the album on Amazon. Fame is apparently fleeting.
If you come across this album - vinyl, CD, or otherwise - snatch it up, and give it a listen. You'll not be disappointed.
Friday, May 08, 2015
Thursday, May 07, 2015
People who teach wine-tasting classes often tell funny stories about how their students, even with training, prefer box wine in a blind test. And research shows that people say they enjoy a wine more if they know it’s more expensive. Sure, that bottle of red from the little village you found when you and your first love got lost in Tuscany on that rainy night was the best bottle of wine the world has ever made. Just don’t try the same bottle again alone, sitting in front of a Star Trek rerun.
(from Proof - The Science of Booze by Adam Rogers)
9½*/10. The complete review is here.
Wednesday, May 06, 2015
Monday, May 04, 2015
Saturday, May 02, 2015
“What did you do, sir?” asked Bohr. “In your other life?”
“I was a writer,” I said. They all looked at each other. “What?” I asked.
“Strange way to live, sir,” Mendel said. “To get paid for stringing words together.”
“There were worse jobs,” I said.
(from Old Man’s War by John Scalzi)
9½*/10. The full review is here.