Queen for A Day: 426 Alien Celebration

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NECA’s 15″ Aliens Ressurrection Red Queen Mother is ready for her close-up.

30 Years of Xeno Fears…
2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the 20th Century Fox space shocker Alien. It’s hard to describe what it was like seeing that film in a theater for the first time, no preconceptions, no spoilers, no a clue as to what was ahead. I’m still trying to retrieve bits of the skin that I jumped out of. The spectacular H. R. Giger bio-mechanical designs for the facehugger, chestburster and the original xenomorph were all brand new to the horror genre, like the first time the Frankenstein monster stepped into view in 1931.

Even through a fairly rocky series of sequels, where James Cameron’s Aliens jettisoned suspense for Big F*n Guns, Alien 3 suffered from a protracted story development, followed by equally fudged Predator co-minglings, a love for the core idea survived in the imagination of the general public. We’ve seen all manner of alien inspired merchandize has been rolled out, from cuddly face huggers to xenomorph cookie jars in the ensuing years.

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Based on the Alien Prototype suit, this is another one of my favorite NECA figures.

So, as the map designation of the moon Archeron – from whence we first encountered xeno life forms – is LV-426, this 26th day of the 4th month of the year becomes a calendar driven excuse to celebrate all things Alien. Fine by me as a great excuse to post this gallery of images from NECA Toys‘ always creative American International Toy Fair displays.

RipMe ley a New One…
NECA has also released a special Alien Day Kenner Tribute Ellen Ripley Aliens figure for the 426 occasion (yes with a really BFG) and you can see the company’s official photos of her by clicking here.

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Cinemachines are NECA’s new line of movie inspired collectibles.

SkeletonPete Says…
I’m particularly enamored with the “Fossilized Space Jockey” of NECA’s newest collectible line called Cinemachines. The first series includes all things Alien(s) and is set for release this week. Each 5-6 inch presentation piece is created in die-cast metal and is hand painted. Clearly a wonderful desktop memento for the Alien fan in your family.

Click Any Image to Launch the Gallery

Tiger Beat: Original Santana Band Reunites

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Interviewer Joe Pascal with “Santana IV”. Carlos Santana, Neal Schon, Greg Rolie, Michael Shrieve and Michael Carabello

Return To Forever…
“I’m thinking I’m 17 years old again,” was the answer Carlos Santana gave when asked what he thought upon first hearing the lyrics of Greg Rolie’s “Anywhere You Want to Go.” That recently released single track and an album’s worth of others find the guitarist working once more with the musicians who created the Santana III album in 1971. The core of the original Santana band.

That Santana was a band to be experienced live on stage, was immediately apparent to anyone who compared the studio version of their premier jam tune “Soul Sacrifice” to the Woodstock soundtrack version. While their second record, Abraxas, may have yielded more recognizable hits like “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va,” but it was Santana III, with the addition of then 15 year old guitarist Neal Schon, that captured the group at the apex of their musical powers and finally translated the fire of their live performances onto studio tracks. Songs like the jubilant, horn studded, “Everybody’s Everything” and languid latinized blues “Taboo” sit next to barn burners like “Toussaint L’Overture,” “Jungle Strut” and “Para Los Rumberos.”

Ultimately the diverse musical tastes that informed what was best about the band also began to splinter them. You can hear it in the experimentalism of 1972’s Caravanserai album. Carlos moved toward a spiritual quest in collaboration with John McLaughlin. Rolie and Schon formed Journey, which in its earliest incarnation produced 3 albums of fusionist rock before morphing into 1980’s hit makers.

45 years have passed since the group was on stage together, but seated aside each other at Manhattan’s Signature Theater on April 12, 2016, Carlos, keyboardist Greg Rolie, drummer Michael Shrieve, conguero Michael Carabello, and guitarist Neal Schon were relaxed, jovial, and clearly happy to present the new project they call Santana IV. The press event included a 40 minute interview conducted by Joe Pascal of the Hudson Union Society, followed by questions from worldwide media representatives.

santana iv, neal schon

Neal Schon’s suggestion for a “guitar album” with Carlos Santana blossomed into a full blown reunion.

Love, Devotion and Surrender…
It was Schon, a fellow Marin California resident, who pitched a guitarists’ album to Santana several years ago. That suggestion eventually kindled this full blown reunion of the core 1960’s through early 70’s members.

“There’s pretty much a natural chemistry between Carlos and I guitar wise. We fall in together even more so on this record than on Santana III or Caravanserai,” said Schon.

“I surrendered to Neal,” admitted Carlos “I call him vortex. Ever since I saw him when he was a child it wasn’t cute, it wasn’t clever, it was just kick your ass vortex.”

It’s still their work ethic today. A “tornado of fire” with “intense intentionality” is how Carlos described the band while noting that many of their Woodstock era contemporaries (those still living) have reduced themselves to “embers” for any number of reasons. “We like to ignite ourselves in front of you and burn in front of you. Tony Williams, Miles Davis, Coltrane played like that.”

carlos santana, santana iV

Guitarist Carlos Santana describes Mach IV as a “tornado of fire.”

Soul Sacrements…
Each member is still quite reverential to their personal musical inspirations and more than willing to share. A healthy part of the press conference was a litany of artists that would stand as a perfect primer for young fans to sample. Carlos profusely thanked Michael Shrieve for turning him onto a stack of LP’s that years ago brought the “Miles and Coltrane genii” out of the lamp. Other influencers mentioned included Wes Montgomery, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Cornell Dupree, Willie BoBo, Ike and Tina Turner, Jimi Hendrix, Bola Sete, Mavis Staples, Tony Williams, Marvin Gaye, Cal Tjader, Gato Barbieri, Aretha Franklin, Buddy Rich, John Lee Hooker and Les McCann.

In keeping with that ethos Santana IV features two tunes sung by Ronald Isley, founder of the Isley Brothers (“Shout,” “It’s Your Thing,” “That Lady.”) “He’s our King …more important than the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate,” said Carlos. The band recorded 16 songs with the 74 year old Isley over four days of sessions and the additional material may be slated for release as early as this coming fall.

santana iv, heather griffin-vines

Heather Griffin-Vines’ “Santana IV” cover design.

More on “IV”…
In the meantime there is plenty to recommend and enjoy about the expansive Santana IV, which will be released on April 15, 2016 on Santana IV Records, distributed by Thirty Tigers/RED distribution on CD, double 180 Gram Vinyl with download card, as well as digital configurations. Album art afficianados will want to purchase the vinyl version, as a nice 12”X12” version of Heather Griffin-Vines’ design will reward visual sleuthing as you listen to the record.

Long time fans will welcome back the voice and organ solos of Greg Rolie, the core percussion section of the two Michaels, and the “entanglements” of Carlos’ and Neal’s lead guitar lines.

Opening with a panther snarl guitar effect “Yambu” plunges us immediately into a dense musical jungle. It’s part Curtis Mayfield or Isaac Hayes soundtrack, part Fania All-Stars call and response.

Many tracks have analogs in the early Santana canon, something that may not be immediately apparent to a younger audience that only knows the Rob Thomas and Michele Branch sung hits. That said, Supernatural era fans will find a familiar sonic territory here as IV is recorded and mixed for a modern audience.

The instrumental “Sueno” joins “Samba Pa Ti” and “Europa” on the list of exquisite Santana melodies, while shades of their freeform “In A Silent Way” performances creep into the ethereal “Fillmore East.” “Blues Magic” is designed to remind listeners of the blues origins of the group with its tip of the hat to Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, from whence “Black Magic Woman” originated.
santana iv
SkeletonPete Says…
With Santana IV, the originators have achieved their goal. You can go home after all. As Carlos professed, “I don’t want to ever lose that innocence. Being 17 years old forever. It should be a mind set, not dictated by a watch or the time or a calendar, and you can just park yourself with that innocence and wonderment.”

Blue Skies Smiling At Me: Activision & Autism Speaks Team-Up

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Special edition “Light It Up Blue” Skylanders figures released for Autism Awareness Month.

Sky High…
At SkeletonPete we’ve been fans of Activision’s Skylanders, since Ken Pierce ( and I first experienced a pre-release demo of Spyro’s Adventure at the Toy Industry Association Toy Fair almost six years ago. The combination of video game play with collector figures that “entered” the screen was a stroke of genius. Since then the company has built success upon success, turning the product into a collossal licensing franchise. Along the way the characters have been giant-sized, captured in crystal traps, split into swappable pieces, presented as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, and more recently given supercharged vehicles to traverse land, sea and air. Our first encounter with the Superchargers was at last summer’s Toy Insider Sweet Suite press event. Check the images below.
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Fair Play: 2016 TIA “Toy of the Year” Winners

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The Toy Industry Association timeline delineates 100 years of service to the trade.

This week The Toy Industry Association, Inc. (TIA) celebrated it’s 113th annual trade event, once again bringing together creators, vendors, buyers and press outlets to North American International Toy Fair.
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Hellish Glare and Inference: Mezco “Living Dead Doll” Series 31

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This little fellow gives a whole new meaning to blood, sweat and tears.

The Light That Never Warms…
What’s that wheezing under your bed? Peering, gape mouthed, from that crack in your closet door? Tap, tap, tapping in your crawl space? It’s likely Mezco ToyzLiving Dead Dolls Series 31 figures. This group of five represent the theme of all the things that thrive in the dark. Night lights won’t help as these nocturnal kiddies dart from shadow to shadow.
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Mezco’s Living Dead Doll Series 31. When darkness falls these creepy kids emerge from their hiding places.

They Are Legion…
Series 31 features, Umbral, Kreek, The Dark, Bea Neath, Thump, who join the legion of LDD’s brought forth from the twisted creative minds at Mezco over the last 18 years. Collectors can expect this individually coffin boxed group of 8 inch tongue tied and tongue eyed spirits to emerge from their pitch black sanctum later this spring.
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