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Monstrous Interest Rates: Diamond Select Toy’s Bust Banks

Universal Monsters Creature Bust Bank (Photo Courtesy Diamond Select Toys)


The Revenge of Bankenstein
You certainly can’t get a good interest rate at your bank these days, but Diamond Select Toys (DST) is making sure that you can keep your money in a place of great interest. Namely their soon to be released Universal Monsters Bust Banks.

The Creature’s Features
It’s already been a month since I reported on DST’s varied series of licensed Universal Monsters collectibles displayed at Toy Fair 2012. You can read that entry here. I relished the chance to ogle and photograph the very cool looking Frankenstein Bust Bank prototype, it’s a lean mean Karloffian depiction. Unfortunately its counterpart, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, was not available for display. I’m a big fan of the Gill-Man and that one missing piece has kept me in suspense. Well, the wait is over as DST released this image today. It’s quite a beautiful sculpt and paint job, and I like the unique artistic flair portraying him emerging from the depths. DST’s press release says you can slide your coinage into a slot behind his gills.

The Bust Banks will measure approximately 8 inches tall, are listed at a SRP of $19.99, and should be available in mid-September 2012. These will make perfect Halloween presents for “monsterkids” of every age. Imagine trick or treating for UNICEF carrying around one of these puppies. Who could resist donating. They’ll be too frightened not to.

Creepy Close-Up of DST's Frankenstein Bust Bank

Everyone’s Accusin’ Me: Shonen Knife @ Bell House 11.18.11

CJ Ramone joins Shonen Knife for a Ramones Rave-Up


A great night of music at Brooklyn’s Bell House with Shonen Knife and opening acts Heavy Cream and The Hard Nips. Full Photo Galleries of the show are coming soon but in the meantime enjoy this slice of the encore as CJ Ramone joins the “Osaka Ramones” for “Pinhead”.

Shonen Knife 11.18.11 setlist

King Midas In Redux: Brit Invasion Series Adds The Hollies

Eagle Vision & Reeling In the Year's Newest British Invasion Offering


The Hollies: Look Through Any Window 1963-1975
184 Minutes, NTSC, 4:3 Screen Format
Release Date: October 4, 2011

A delicious dollop of ‘sixties pop confection will be offered up on Tuesday, October 4 as Eagle Vision and Reeling In The Years add another British Invasion title to their catalogs. Previous films documented Dusty Springfield, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and The Pacemakers, with my favorite being a mind blowing DVD of Small Faces performances. This time The Hollies are the focus of attention with “Look Through Any Window, 1963-1975”. As the title suggests, the group – most noted for their tight Everlys-esque harmony vocals – had a worldwide string of hits spanning more than a decade. The 22 songs represented here include era defining tunes like “Bus Stop”, “Carrie Anne” and “The Air That I Breathe”. In many cases (mostly with the mid-sixties hits) we are treated to live performances from European television appearances. Hearing The Hollies’ recreate their exceptional vocal recordings in a live setting makes this disc a real treasure.

Long Cool Career
Presented in chronological format the DVD views the band from its origins in the childhood friendship of Graham Nash and Allan Clarke and includes newly filmed interviews with both as well as guitarist Tony Hicks and drummer Bobby Elliott. Chats feature interesting anecdotes on song origins, recording sessions and the inevitable personnel changes. Most famously we all know that Nash left his band, his country and his wife in December of 1968 and within three days of the up-rooting was recording the first CSN album. Keep in mind that the first single from that ground breaking Laurel Canyon/Woodstock generation album was Nash’s Hollies transplant “Marrakesh Express”.

Particularly exciting are the 1967 clips from EMI studios capturing the band recording “On A Carousel”. The soloed vocals on that session make one wish that the producers had been able to offer vocal only bonus tracks as they did on several of their Motown features. Abbey Road fan-boys will melt at the sound of the famous in-house echo chamber, as produced by the late Ron Richards. A clip of Tony Hicks tracking his guitar part from the same session reveals him as the quintessential mod poster boy; a blueprint for Blur and Oasis decades later. Additionally pristine color footage of the band at their most “fab” lip synching “Baby That’s All” and “Here I Go Again” from the 1964 pop music flick U.K. Swings Again will you leave you “gob-smacked” by its clarity. Catch the holly sprig on the front of Bobby’s bass drum.

This DVD’s overview ends in 1975 but the band continued to pull some radio play into the early 1980’s. Allan Clarke, to his credit, attempted to draw attention to a young Jersey boy by the name of Bruce. During his solo hiatus in the ’70s Clarke recorded “Blinded By The Light”, “Born To Run” and “If I Were the Priest”. They were stalled for release by record company dallying until well after his prescience would be valued. The Hollies did manage a lovely take on “The Boss’s” “Sandy” so it was no surprise when E Streeter Miami Steve Van Sant inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2010. Hicks and Elliott continue to tour under The Hollies moniker to this day. They couldn’t be at the HOF induction; they had already booked a Hollies’ gig in London.

The DVD comes packaged with a 12 page color booklet that features a thorough biography by Ben Fong Torres extolling the virtues of this often overlooked band. The center spread highlights a staggering array of album covers, 45 RPM picture sleeves and concert posters. All of the songs featured during the course of the film are available as complete performances in the bonus section, no chat, no voice-overs.

What’s Missing…
As mentioned above, vocals only bonus tracks would have been a revelation based on the snippet of “On A Carousel” we do get to hear. I’ll venture that the source being EMI this would have been a prohibitive task. On the interview side, some current words from Terry Sylvester, who joined on Nash’s departure, would have been welcome also. His vocals added so beautifully to the lush arrangements of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, “The Air That I Breathe”, “Long Dark Road” and kept the band’s classic sound intact in their latter days. He also recorded an excellent self-titled solo album in 1974, produced by Ron Richards and engineered by Alan Parsons.

SkeletonPete Says…
Classic music clips like these now packaged in Director David Peck’s beautifully mounted series were once solely the mainstay of fan conventions like BeatlesFest. We were thrilled to sit in a hotel ballroom once a year for the chance to glimpse even the most beat to heck 16mm copies of these gems. Unlike some of the slap dash compilations of disparate styles and varying quality you’ll find on the DVD bargain shelves, Reeling In the Years and Eagle Rock serve them up with historical context, fresh interviews, and nice packaging at a “how can you pass it up” price point. The four previous British Invasion titles can be found in a slip cased package which includes a bonus DVD loaded with additional goodies.

Purchase on Amazon.
The Hollies: Look Through Any Window 1963-1975

Bridges -burn -build: SViiB @ Cameo Gallery 8/26/11


Addendum 9.6.11: Added Setlist to Image Gallery.

My first trip to Cameo Gallery was a nice opportunity to catch one of my favorite groups, School of Seven Bells, headlining a small club and debuting some new material. I know I’m a bit behind the curve on this venue but the wealth of musical offerings at The Bell House, Southpaw, Union Hall have glued me to my own locale (Sunset Park, Bklyn) over the last several months. Cameo is a kind of hidden space entered through The Loving Cup Cafe on North 6th in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. You sneak sideways down past the restrooms into a corridor that leads to the venue’s door giving a speakeasy effect to the whole experience. Once inside the area opens into a high ceilinged music & art space. It’s kind of like the much missed Under Acme – bar at one end, stage at the other – but taller. A wooly kinetic sculpture hangs over the stage. It resembles a long-haired yak pelt interpreted as a summer camp hook-rug project, then turned upside-down. It’s continuous shimmering movement is accentuated by colored stage lights and it makes an out of the ordinary background for band photos.

Ghost Echoes
I was first drawn to SViiB based by their sonic similarity to some of my favorite shoe-gaze music from the 90’s. My Bloody Valentine, Lush and the 4AD milieu came to mind immediately when I first encountered them and that was just fine with me. A band that names an album after a Brian Eno Oblique Strategies instruction or references Rene Daumal’s “Mount Analogue”, a double sucker punch on my checklist. Since then I’ve have come to appreciate the style they’ve created beyond its influences. It’s dreamy-pop with beautifully harmonized vocals from twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia over driving dance rhythms and sublimely distorted guitars by Benjamin. They’ve managed to find a compelling ground between the heart pounding and the hypnotic with words that often break across melodies and meters in unexpected ways. I’ve pretty much had the “Disconnect From Desire” album (and much of their earlier work) on endless loop since its July 2010 release and have completely worn out all my friends by proselytizing.

Consider Transitions
School of Seven Bells’ gig at Brooklyn Bowl last fall was a real treat. Killer show from end to end. Zach “Shigeto” Saginaw was on drums and also opened the night with an excellent set of his own material. The equally enjoyable Active Child was direct support. Their newest album, just released this week , is another must hear. Shortly after, I caught SViiB’s spot on The Jimmy Kimmel Show. Why didn’t the camera ever move over to Claudia’s side of the stage? Hmm. I was dismayed to learn that Claudia had left the group. Would this be a fatal blow for a band I love so much? Familial vocalizing is hard to beat; a thing of power and beauty and a key element of this band’s sound. Sibling voices mesh in a way that can’t be approached by mere musical acquaintances – think of the Everly Brothers, Staples Singers, The Beach Boys.

Seeing the band perform a couple of times after the transition it was clear that Ben and Ally were searching for the proper way to re-align the sound and feel on stage; attempting to present a trio’s material as a duo. Having dealt with the effects of band personnel changes myself more times then I care to innumerate I could commiserate, but dilemma is nothing if not cathartic. I’m happy to report that the Cameo show brought back the feelings that enamored me with SViiB in the first place. I wasn’t sure exactly how adding a bassist to the mix as a replacement for a singer/keyboard player would be the fix, but they figured it out. It’s different, but it works. It’s a band. Even on this first outing with the new line-up they seemed comfortable and self assured. The new material (Low Times, The Night) suggests a heavier sound on the next album and I’m excited to hear what they’ve cooked up this time around.

(Dead) Sea Salt
Only lament from me is that “Bye, Bye, Bye” was missing from the set. It’s a tune I’m particularly addicted to both melodically and lyrically. It plays with images from Orpheus & Eurydices and the Biblical tale of Lot’s wife and finds the singer wishing to turn an unfaithful lover into a “standing pile of stones” to “skip across the ocean”… “one by one” until nothing is left of them. Wow.

SkeletonPete Says
Give School of Seven Bells’ 2007 single “My Cabal” a spin or three. If you dig what you hear move straight to the “Disconnect From Desire” album. There’s a lot to recommend it from the chanted opening of “Windstorm” to the pulsing beats and background vocals of “Dust Devil”, and one of the simplest but bravest love songs in recent memory, “I L U”. Once obsessed, fill in the various remixes and explore the earlier “Alpinisms” album. Thank me later.

Click Any Image To Launch Gallery

Keys To The Highline

Bobby Keys

Click here to view full Photo Gallery.

What It Is…
New York City’s Highline Ballroom was the site of a grand music summit on July 28, 2011. The venue was packed to the rafters with fans, friends and industry folk who came out to see a creme of the crop group of session musicians that for the most part comprise The Rolling Stones touring band. Ostensibly brainstormed as a night to feature long time Stones cohort saxophonist Bobby Keys, the group became Band 2 (dubbed for the number on their rehearsal room) when Keys preferred to shine the spotlight in a more communal fashion. If you’ve turned on the radio in the last 40 years you’ve undoubtedly heard the Texas born Keys. His saxophone solos grace “Brown Sugar”, Dion’s “The Wanderer”, Elton & Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through The Night”, he was a Mad Dog for Joe Cocker and a “Friend” of Delaney and Bonnie. He first met The Stones during their 1964 tour of the U.S. and later joined the band during sessions for what became the “Let It Bleed” album. He shares a birthday with Keith Richards and also shared some now legendary carousing, including being “exiled” in France, in the basement of Villa Nellcote, during the summer of 1971.

After an introduction by longtime NY rock disc jockey Ken Dashow, the band slid into the show with a jazzy “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, cast in the style presented on Tim Ries’s “The Rolling Stones Project” recordings. Nearly every tune required some change of personnel and multi-instrumentalist Ries acted as defacto stage manager and band leader for the evening. The show progressed “revue” like with players entering and leaving the stage as song arrangements required. Working their way around a stage strewn with innumerable instruments, microphones, music stands, stomp boxes and cables the group took turns as soloists, duos and trios, voices with simple horn accompaniment and/or acoustic guitar through full on rockin’ ensemble.

Can’t You Hear Them Rockin’

Bobby Keys took the stage joking that in 30 years on the road he’d never been given a microphone to speak into and claimed he “might take it home”. Relating a story of his youth that correlated hearing King Curtis and “leaving” school Keys led the band through a really sweet version of Curtis’s 1962 tune “Soul Serenade”. One truly timeless melody. I dig Willie Mitchell’s version also. Later in the evening he presented a loose version of Booker T. & The MG’s instro “Bootleg”. Things really got rockin’ when the audience caught a hint of the slippery opening riff to “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” and with the full band on stage the tune took on barnburner status. Keys wowed everyone with a note perfect run through his classic solo over the latin influenced coda.

The show made a couple detours from The Stones catalog. The Beatles were referenced twice with Lisa Fischer singing “Come Together” in similar fashion to Rosetta Hightower’s version and Fab Faux Bassist Will Lee doing a Stax inflected “She’s A Woman”; one of my favorites of the evening. Ries presented an original in progress with daughter Chelsea at the microphone. Lisa’s, Ann Wilson style vocal on Led Zep’s “Rock N Roll” closed the first set with a bang.

There were many highlights during the night. Bernard Fowler sang lead on that most beautiful and heartfelt of Stones songs, “Wild Horses”, with Blondie Chaplin harmonizing. Always makes me think of Graham Parsons. Blondie opened the second set with a scratchy reggae tune and sang a gorgeous rendition of the evergreen “Smile”. Tim added some great accompaniment on soprano sax. That tune began life as a melody written by another chap named Chaplin (Charlie) in the 1930’s and with added lyrics was made famous by Nat King Cole in the early 1950’s. The unquestionable grand slam of the show was “Gimme Shelter” with Lisa’s spectacular vocal and Sugar Blue’s haunting harp playing. The original vocalist on this foreboding juggernaut was Merry Clayton, who set the bar super high for all who followed. Lisa not only met that “threatening storm” head-on but blew it back a few clicks. The encore sent everyone home on an up note with the audience spontaneously joining in on the chorus as Bernard sang “Ruby Tuesday”.

Wish List
Considering the talented horn section and the Stones-centric spin of the show it was surprising to find tunes like “Brown Sugar”, “Live With Me”, “Bitch”, “Happy” and maybe even the obscure but great “I Got The Blues” missing from the presentation. I would have also been glad to hear some more tunes specifically featuring Keys at center stage. Maybe next time, which I truly hope there will be.

SkeletonPete Says:
This jammy stage session was a nice peak at the The Stones mega-talented backline in action on their own. It had the relaxed mood of sitting in your living room while a slew of musician friends play their favorite tunes. Though the audience might have been hoping for a “Keef” sighting, the overall presentation did not suffer without it. Though essentially famous as a backing band, each member could easily star in their own right (and often do) and that was clearly the point of this showcase.