Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mister Tucker Reviews: Maria Takeuchi - Colors in the Diary



The following music review comes courtesy of friend and writer Marc S. Tucker, carried over from his newsletter VERITAS VAMPIRUS and is NOT of my doing, despite being featured on my blog. Please keep this fact firmly in mind for future reference.

MARIKA TAKEUCHI - Colors in the Diary
(no label cited)
Review written by Marc Tucker - 04/27/2016

Interestingly, pianist-composer-producer-arranger-copyist-educator (whew! that's a lot of hyphens!) Marika Takeuchi is synaesthesic, sees colors mentally when listening to music and literally hears musical notes when contemplating scenes of beauty. This trait can't help but imbue her work with a richness oft scamped in writers and players taken up with clustered chops, radically shifting velocities, convoluted compositions, and so forth. Much as I love those qualities, there's an entirely different experience contained in the measured approaches here, in the mindset of a spiritually-oriented existentialist rendering of tableaus sonically akin to well-considered still-lifes. In Colors in the Diary, though, the still-lifes refuse to remain placid, to sit as though wax fruit, but instead take on vivacities wedding Satie to Glass, opening up vistas, or embodying intimate cloisters of deeply considered thought and reflection.

The 12 songs here were all written and arranged/orchestrated by Takeuchi, but that 'orchestraton' attribution is actually a matter of chamber symphonics in spare or lush manifestations, the celebrated Eugene Friesen, he of Paul Winters' past esteemed Living Music imprint and marvelous old Consort, on cello and Si-Jing Huang on violin. Sometimes the pairing results in a stripped-down mellifluous airy trio setting with Takeuchi, other times in a simul-synched many-handed ensemble backing the pianist. Will Ackerman produced the CD (co-pro'ed with Marika and Andreas Bjork), so you know without asking that this is Windham Hill quality. Nothing Ackerman touches has ever been less than that, to my knowledge.

Painter Leonid Afremov contributed an eye-fetching semi-abstract night street-scene bursting with color and light, the sort of thing Thomas Kincade wished he could've produced ('n, boy, that Kincade was a piece of work, wasn't he?), highly suggestive of a number of songs in Diary. Glints and shards of Debussy, Saint-Saens, Faure, Rachmaninoff and others rise and pass as Marika, who's Berklee trained, dances her works about in dignified pastorality and decorously restrained ardor, recalling days past within the always-now. My favorite track? Probably Colorful Mind, a song ringing of Penguin Cafe Orchestra in a serious phase (hmmm, was PCO ever serious?), but, really, the entirety of Colors in the Diary is like sitting down with a book of cherished photographs, gliding through memories with a wistful smile, one's own history whispering seductively, entrancingly, half way between the sighs of Earth and the Paradise lurking just beneath.

RELATED LINK: Marika Takeuchi's Official Website

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mister Tucker Reviews: Luis Mojica - Wholesome (2016)



The following music review comes courtesy of friend and writer Marc S. Tucker, carried over from his newsletter VERITAS VAMPIRUS and is NOT of my doing, despite being featured on my blog. Please keep this fact firmly in mind for future reference.

LUIS MOJICA – Wholesome (2016 / no label cited)
Review Written by Marc S. Tucker

Weird. I like to bitch about how horribly, horribly, HORRIBLY (!!!) mistreated I’ve been under the aegis of editors (o woe and horror, that such a flock of albatrosses should us plague seraphic critics!!), except of course for FAME’s Dave Pyles, because I’m obliged to. It’s sez so right there on my License To Criticize and is in fact a grand tradition among writers, yet only now have I come to realize that the gig’s actually been evolutionary (no thanks to same editors).

Starting with my debut in Sound Choice (mid-80s) on up to this very moment, the river of CDs I’ve received has constantly increased and improved to the point that, now that I’m independent of overseerage and ensconced in my own private gig, the submissions have been ridiculously excellent. I can’t decide whether this is because the aesthetic levels in this country and in the world have ratcheted up so steeply, and they certainly have, or mayhap, in my dotage, that I’ve just come to dig the hell out of everydamnthing. Both perplexing and immensely pleasurable while simultaneously worrying, as my one-time beloved status of Cynical Shitheel Bastard stands endangered. CDs like Luis Mojica’s only “aggravate” my "problem".

Luis hails from one of the several female-fronted and/or all-women bands I’ve dug over the years (and so’s we’re straight on the subject, Lita Ford, Joan Jett, and all the radio mercantile mediocrity facsimiles were never in the running): Melora Creagar’s Rasputina. That group indexes with such acts as The Cocteau Twins, Shelleyan Orphan, Spires That in the Sunset Rise, and others whose art is decidedly eccentric, oft with classical bases by way of Elizabethan, Victorian, and chamber wonts (tho' Spires was a good deal more psychedelic than the rest, more Meredith Monk-y, vaguely Comus-esque). I say all this in order to prep the reader for Mojica’s music, which requires refined aesthetics and discernment and is damn near a new wrinkle in the sonic territory wedding chamber classicalism with progressive rock…yet sports a wide assortment of populist devices: beat box, pop, neojazz, and etc., everything informed, luxurious, and almost sinfully hedonistic.

Wholesome defies easy categorization – resists any attempts at pigeonholing, actually - but follows in the grand tradition of 70s genre-bending heard in the earliest works of Arthur Brown, Bowie, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Gentle Giant, the quiet side of King Crimson, etc. brought up to date, and is, I strongly suspect, influenced by the gaggle of classicalists who impressed those ensembles: Ravel, Debussy, Saint-Saens, Satie, the Romanto-Impressionists. The degree of sophistication is both ravishing and intriguing. Mojica’s possessed of a smooth, clear, lucid voice with a good deal of acreage, sliding easily from mid-range to falsetto, heard right from the opening “Conquered”, a composition residing in a cappella and chorale.

Then there are his keyboards, autoharp, glockenspiel, and percussives. I don’t know if 1) the gent’s academically trained, sure as hell seems like it, or 2) if the paganistic wont he embodies (the CD cover is festooned with three wild images, including an Ophelian-esque / Dalinian Dia de los Muertos back photo), a manifest of spirit that’s intellectually driven even above its spiritual ways, or 3) having spent the last four years  in the mountains account for the depth of composition in every bar and measure, but it hardly matters; the mere appearance of work on this level is justification and explanation enough.

There’s a very strong high-level degree of cabaret present, not Chicago or Chorus Line but rather what Weill and Brecht were doing in Weimar Germany…in a much different time and much different context, though the title cut’s indeed quite Weill-ian. The degree of literacy and intelligence places this disc in the RIO (Art Bears, etc.) and 4AD camps, but, I’m tellin’ ya, an exceedingly flavorful and gorgeously austere version of Bowie’s Aladdin Sane and Ziggy release pervades as well. Don’t expect Mick Ronson, Mike Garson, or Tony Visconti, though, as Mojica already has that covered on his own.

His sessioneers, Creager among them, were extremely well-chosen and then ceded the democratic ability to arrange their own participations within the compositions, resulting in a ne plus ultra degree of artfulness as kindred minds and spirits cross-collateralize so tightly that a stellar degree of cohesion is achieved. I must note that this song-cycle collection is so extraordinary that it’s so far captured the #1 spot on my year’s-end Best Of list, a status I’ve only ever awarded once in 31 years of reviewing, to a Kevin Kastning / Carl Clements’. Should something better come along, it might knock Wholesome off the pedestal, but, frankly, I don’t see that as even vaguely possible. The disc in fact de-throned the only other possibility: the hideously cool, high-spirited, heart-warming collection of kidz mania, Andrew & Polly’s way bitchin’ Ear Snacks - another extremely unique gig - down to the #2 position (something I’ve never awarded otherwise). God himself would hafta release a gatherum for any dimmest chance of…oh wait, I’m still way pissed with that asshole, so, no, f’geddabout it!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Enshohma and KaijuNoir Reviews BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE (2016)

Here's a 'video-podcast' where I and friend KaijuNoir have a rather extensive conversation on the recently released animated adaptation of Alan Moore's 1988 graphic novel (fancy speak for really long comic book issue), Batman: The Killing Joke.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Mister Tucker Reviews: All Things Must Pass (2016)


Poster for the 2016 film All Things Must Pass
The following film review comes courtesy of friend and writer Marc S. Tucker, carried over from his newsletter VERITAS VAMPIRUS and is NOT of my doing, despite being featured on my blog. Please keep this fact firmly in mind for future reference.

EXCLUSIVE VERITAS VAMPIRUS DVD REVIEW 

COLIN HANKS - All Things Must Pass (DVD) (2016 / MVD)

The title is George Harrison’s, the film is Colin Hanks’, but the story is Russ Solomon’s. The legendary Tower Records is the subject. I make no secret of my love for rock docs, especially in an age where what was, rightly or wrongly (mostly the latter), once the bastion of rock and roll journalism, Rolling Stone, is now a combination of Esquire, GQ, Maxim, and People magazine…with a speck or two of non-mega-flog sell-through regarding a CD or a concert when space occasionally needs to be filled here and there…and don’t even get me started on Spin, Sonny Boy Guccione’s crass and fumbling whatever it was. Film is now the medium most reliable and most vital when it comes to getting the inside and outside dope on the history and evolution of the banging, clanging, and noisily haranguing world of rock and roll.

Am I helping put the last nails in the coffin of rock criticism, working myself out of a job? I hope so.

Tower Records was not the alpha and omega of record shops in America, but it was far and away the most the most spectacular single feat in the rise and fall of such brick and mortars, and it’s pretty much assured we’ll never see its like again. Though Hanks never quite makes that evident, he makes it more than clear that the chain’s insane success was due to owner Russ Solomon’s innate sense of socialism – well, insofar as such a wont could ever properly exist in America anyway. No profit-sharing occurred, but the apprenticeship process and meritocratics were there and Solomon’s hands-off mentality when it came to letting the creatives among his workers prevail was the foundation for the yellow and red bannered stores’ wild popularity.

No one has yet, however, stumbled to the fact that the dramatically prolonged history of album sales in America was predicated on the aftermarket, the practice of the once-taboo merch-flogging of used records. New LPs were the rooster in the hen house throughout the 30s, 40s, 50s, and most of the 60s, but when certain mom ‘n pops started popping up, a gaggle of almost-clandestine stores heretically vending pre-owned discs along with the shrink-wrapped variety, that was when rock-shop viability went through the roof. In my area of SoCal, Crane’s Records was hole-in-the-wall Mecca in Inglewood. I lived in Hawthorne, and, before them (Hawthorne eventually got one, but it quickly perished), LPs could be purchased only at Thrifty Drug Store, Hogan’s House of Music (mainly instrument sales), and other businesses where licorice pizzas were stocked no differently from lipstick, frozen chickens, stationery, and galoshes.

Once, however, people could afford to buy more slabs for the same amount of money, the desire to collect became a consuming passion to a degree never before witnessed. I should know: I have 50,000 LPs, CDs, cassettes, reel-to-reels, and, yes, 8-tracks (no longer playable but I’m an irreconcilable fetishist), and every record store owner from Hollywood to Long Beach would smile when I walked through their doors in the late 60s through the 90s. I worked in aerospace, I could afford to buy a lot of records. And I did. So did a whole lot of other drooling slavering fanatics like me. And who, you might ask, could’ve been the seed of all that? It was Solomon’s dad who owned Sacramento's Tower Cut-Rate Drug Store flanking the Tower Theatre whence the record giant cribbed its name.

One day, Solomon senior, an enterprising soul in his own small-town way, hit upon the notion to sell the used 45s from the jukebox to kids nuts about popular music. He couldn’t have been more visionary. Mr. Solomon approached the juke jobber to buy the plastic circles for 3-cents each and sell ‘em for 10. They flew out the door. When the theater went out of biz, Solomon knocked a hole through the wall and started up a record shop. Son Russ, however, had visions of his own and, ‘ere long, went from shop clerk to buying the business from pop. That was how Tower Records began. Not from the multi-millionaires and billionaires who funs such enterprises as 99-cent Store, Dollar Tree, and such, but a father and son who looked beyond the sales of gum and shoes to emerging possibilities. From the moment Russ Solomon took over that adjunct of the family store, he did nothing but well, very well indeed, never making a wrong move…almost.

I guess you could say Russ was a hippie, a skewed and head-scratching example, sure, but the guy was definitely not a Brooks Bros. suit-wearing robo-clone, and he extended his personna, a rather free-wheeling carefree one, to his employees. Tower never for a day had a dress code and always hired knowledgeable people, individuals who loved music and knew much about it. In the capitalism's typical exploitationalist wont, they were underpaid but loved their jobs, and All Things Must Pass is told exclusively orally, first from the people who manned and ran it, and then from Elton John, Bruce Springsteeen, and celebs who loved the joint. Voiceovers are absent.

One day, Bud Martin waltzed in and never left, the partner Solomon hadn’t even known he’d been looking for, a true businessman, a hidebound conservative (well, Republican anyway; the U.S. has almost never had true conservatives aside from David Cay Johnston and a handful of others) and the guy who likely could’ve saved the colossal chain but didn’t (he, heh!, was forced out for being too sensible [and kind of an asshole]). Martin was schooled, Solomon wasn’t, but the combination of book savvy and street smarts worked to greatly benefit both. ‘Ere long, Tower, which had been a West Coast phenomenon, went East, to New York and elsewhere, and then further, to Japan. Wherever the migrant bird landed, it never failed to do well. It was pretty damned incredible.

Russ Solomon had the Midas Touch, and Bud Martin was his conscience - albeit, gain: a typical Republican (All Things more than hints at his hiring women he could screw, being an dipdhit drunk, and etc.) - but, along the way, Solomon encouraged employee input, listened to it, and then acted upon it. Everyone started at the bottom in his chain so that all knew intimately what was going on at all points, and it’s surprising to discover that his people succeeded to ever higher positions because Russ often forced them into better jobs in order to benefit one and all - himself most of all, of course. Marx would’ve embraced this guy as a fellow spirit. Solomon, without even knowing it, was using the apprenticeship system and profitting wildly…because that’s the most optimal business mode available to human beings, despite all the psycho bullshit capitalists blather on about. The guy was acquiring huge capital (at one point, Tower earned a billion dollars in a year) by being socialistic. Bernie Sanders, not Bud Martin, shoulda been his partner.

But Solomon fucked up when he ignored Martin’s and others' advice not to overreach. Instead, he delved into Latin America and elsewhere, and the meltdown began. He was over-leveraged in debt, and the banks came sailing in. Ragnarok was knocking at the door. Many co-factors are considered – the advent of CDs and such – and David Geffen makes a VERY cogent observation, one I’ve been yodeling about since my days at E/I, Progression, and OpEdNews.com: “They should have made records cheaper”. Absolutely! Because the cheap-ass electronic distribution of music is now killing everyone. Few foresaw that; all they cognized was cost reduction. CDs engulfed the market, Napster arose, and the game was afoot.

In ’98, Solomon had an 8-way heart bypass (!!!), and son Michael became CEO. That was a huge mistake as well. Throughout the film, Mikey comes off as a boggle-eyed naïf lacking the essential ingredient: unlike everyone else, he started at the top, not the bottom. He was a trained lawyer but not terribly impressive in the film, not coming off as all that intelligent, apparently a by-the-book kinda gent, very unlike his dad, but, really, the demise of Tower was not his but rather a concatenation of events, as is usually the case in all businesses.

A buddy of mine worked at Tower Sacto, was a book-keeper there, and he remarked more than once, a couple years before the crash, that something fishy was going on but that he couldn’t determine what it was. None of that is mentioned in All Things nor, curiously, were any customers ever filmed, people who could have enthusiastically attested to the popularity of the chain. As other crits have noted, this film is a tribute, not a journalistic inquiry, so let me end out with a personal anecdote.

In my mid-teens, I became a devoted record collector, and, one day, while sweeping the floors at my job at a used book store run by a miserably failed opera singer, I heard Barclay James Harvest’s “Dark Now my Skies over the radio (I’d talked the bastard into allowing an hour or so of rock over the shop radio rather than non-stop Puccini, Verdi, Rossini, Wagner, etc.). Already a huge Moody Blues fan, I was transfixed by the cut, had to have it, but no one carried it or would order the LP except for Tower Sunset, which, when I called, informed me it had multiple copies…except…the store was 17 miles away! I had no car, and this was before me and my buds used to haunt the Whiskey a Go Go just down the street from TR. What to do, what to do? I had to have that LP!!!!!

Finally, I could stand it no more and one night, putting my cross country and track athletics to good use finally, hopped on my 10-speed, taking La Brea Avenue in the late evening - Tower was open until midnight - arrived at Hollywood shop, bought the LP, and biked back home. Now, I hafta look at that as crazy: I had no repair kit, no money for a taxi should a tire go flat, and the ride was a bear amidst traffic, hills (Stocker Hill is a pain in the ass both ways), and South Central, but Tower was THE place when you couldn’t find what you wanted anywhere else, and that’s where I went. I was crazed, I’d traversed territory Dante might’ve included in his trilogy, all for the sake of just one LP, but, when I got home and threw on the disc, I blissed out. To quote Goethe, collectors are happy people; a little soft in the head but happy.

At its height, the chain boasted 182 locations and money was pouring in, but we know the way of all flesh, and, like every empire known to man, the magnificent experiment rose and fell. There are presently 85 Tower stores in Japan but, in America, no replacement venue even close to that (FYE fucked up royally – though, um, I made good use of it while it was around - and I don’t count shitholes like Sam Goody’s multi-hundred site mega-octopus corporate labyrinth at all, ever; I never bought a single record from SG and never will [it’s all but dead anyway]). In California, the Amoeba chain of 3 stores - San Fran, L.A., and Berkeley - wised up and sells huge quantities of both new and used records, CDs, videos, and other merch from gigantic paradisical locations, but it will never expand like Tower. It’s impossible any more. Ah well.

Though I may seem to have herein encapsulated the DVD, I haven’t. Much of what I’ve written is commentary, and the film is a very well made fascinating chronicle of what one rebellious indomitable character could do in America in a certain era. The virtue of the film medium is that it can convey one hell of a lot more than a simple written review could ever muster. It’d take a very long essay to convey all the elements of All Things Must Pass, maybe a small book, and even that wouldn’t replace seeing the film footage, the interviews, the juxtapositions of events, and so on. This doc is a must for record collectors and for aficionados of the whole panoply of various histories in rock and roll, not to mention the value of presenting an alternate business model that succeeded beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. Would, o Gawd Almighty!, that someone would come along and follow in Russ’ footsteps.

Oh, and to show the kind of enthusiasm people have for projects like this, 1,686 contributors Kickstarted All Things into existence, trusting implicitly in Hanks’ work. That’s amazing and yet another socialistic business model that should be more widely covered in our society…but that’s another topic altogether, and my meta-anarchist keister is already in enough trouble with too many candyassed so-called "Left" organizations (the Pacifica radio chain, OpEdNews.com, etc.) to breach it today.


RELATED LINKS OF INTEREST:

Official Website for ALL Things Must Pass.
Good Bad Flicks Video Review for the Film.

Monday, July 11, 2016

MONSTROSITIES Reviews Godzilla vs Gigan (1972)

What's this? Enshohma's using other Kaiju fans works to pump up his own blog's content? Is this a case of spreading the monster love online? Or monster-sized plagiarism from an  untalented weirdo ultra-talented God(zilla) among men and ladies?

YOU DECIDE!

Anyhow...The boys over at the MONSTROSITIES: Tokusatsu Vlog continue their series of classic Toho monster movie reviews with their take on 1972's "Godzilla vs Gigan". And I must agree with them that there is quite a lot to love about this otherwise not-all-that-great entry into the Godzilla film series.

Give it a watch and support these guys when you can.




Direct Linkage: https://youtu.be/5MrlkzZ7558


UPDATE FOR 7/12/2016: MONSTROSITIES posted a deleted scene from main review as its own video review, discussing the bizarrely 'fan-popular' fictional monsters WITHIN the fictional monster movie, Shukra and Momagon.





Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Poison Gas Monster Dorugo

As mentioned in my longer version of that overlong snails article, there's a lot of overlooked and obscure Kaiju (Giant Monsters) that need more exposure online.

And well beyond unreliable if not flimsy internet archives such as message board forums, Tumblr or Facebook, which might be fun services for those with the shortest of attention spans (common of most Humans these days), but not for the more serious-minded monster fans and 'pop culture scholars' like myself and my many(?) fans.

Today's obscure Kaiju has been featured before on numerous fan sites, but again all those being things like message boards, Tumblr and Facebook posts, and thus I wanted to give this trunk-faced fellow a more solid home so-to-speak.
I know some miserable negativists might say the same about a blog like the one that you're currently reading, but I trust that my non-negativist readers are way smarter than that.

And if you still feel otherwise, well than screw you because its my blog!


Today's monstrous subject, Dorugo.

Most modern-day Americans really have no idea just how BIG the Kaiju Boom of the 1960's and its proceeding successor of the Henshin Boom during the 1970's really was.
Not only were there fantastical and colorful monsters in movies and on television, but also board games, toys, books, newspaper articles, novels, manga, magazines, bromide postcards, trading cards, radio programs, vinyl records, a renewed interest in Yokai mythology, and even imported fantasy shows and films from other countries such as the works of Irwin Allen and Ray Harryhausen.

And our following subject is among the book-based creations of this Monster Boom.

Poison Gas Monster Dorugo originates from the Japanese book “Shin Sekai No Kaiju” (“New World of Monsters”), which was the sequel to the 1967 book "Sekai No Kaiju" ("World of Giant Monsters"). 

And sadly that's all I really know about these books and Dorugo itself (and such a long, slightly vindictive intro for this relatively short article), though the character subtitle of Poison Gas Monster gives a good impression of its deadly powers, despite the goofy elephant-like appearance. It has been heavily suggested that Dorugo might be a space alien in origin, but I can't confirm nor deny that character tidbit at the time of this writing.

Like a lot of the original monsters from these books, more recent vinyl figures of Dorugo were produced decades late, becoming collector items for people ignorant (if not uncaring) of the character's conceptual history.


Photos courtesy of Trampt.com

And something common of printed monster media from this era, here's a cross-section of Dorugo's internal workings.

Thankfully, my friend and fellow Kaiju fanatic Titanollante, one of the founders of Wikizilla, helped translate the anatomy image, as seen in the secondary version beneath the first. This reveals that Dorugo can also shoot fourth a deadly energy beam from its trunk in addition to the alternative of lethal gas, as Dorugo possess two organs (sacks) for either ability.




To all other 'Kaijuhistorians' reading this: these simplistic articles that I'm posting are simply here to make these obscurities more well known online. And with that said, if you find more extensive information on both Dorugo or his debut book "Shin Sekai no Kaiju", by all means PLEASE make your own articles and spread the obscure love across the web!

The foolish mentality of 'Reviewer Dibs' don't mean crap where the unknown and unloved is concerned.

And an additional HUGE THANKS to the tumblr site Kaijusaurus for helping me create this article in the first place.

Thanking a singular tumblr after bad mouthing the very concept itself - hypocrite much, Enshohma?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

POWERPUFF GIRLS 2016 Reboot Review by RebelTaxi

Although I subscribe and enjoy RebelTaxi's (alias Panpizza on Facebook) videos, it's more out of curiosity for lesser known animated TV shows and movies than actual review analysis and related intellectualism, especially since he seems to waste more time on sexual gags and word mispronunciations jokes, which are entertaining, but I see that kind of lowbrow stuff ALL the time in Los Angeles and from way less forgivable individuals than the aforementioned (sorry, but my home town kind of sucks).

But in his latest video, RebelTaxi turns down the flippancy dial back down to 3 (a 6?), and brings up some very reasonable points as to why the newer 2016 "Powerpuff Girls" animated series does not work, without using the 'original series was way better' trump card argument. And this shout out is coming from someone (myself) who wasn't that much of a fan of the original series, despite letting it play whenever it was on.

Yes, I know "The Powerpuff Girls" had some pretty nifty Kaiju in, SO WHAT!?!?

The following video review also touches upon a lot of what's wrong with entertainment (animation or otherwise) in general these days, including the rather disturbing trend of gleefully destructive superheroes in otherwise non-comical action-adventure films.

My hat is off to you, Mister Taxi!



Basic Text Link: https://youtu.be/QExDCEiYP7I