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Elvis - Starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, directed by Baz Luhrmann (2022)

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A week before its actual screening on August 16, 2022 I bought tickets online to see Elvis - the first film I saw in a theater in at least two and a half years. At the time of my purchase, I had no idea that date eerily coincided with the 45th anniversary of the day Elvis Presley died way back in 1977. It's a day I remember well. My wife picked me up at the train station after work that day and told me the tragic news while driving home. Needless to say, I was shocked. The death of the King of Rock & Roll at age 42 is the epilogue to director Baz Luhrman's excellent film about Presley, a man who has now been gone from us longer than he was alive.  The long, over two-and-a-half hour movie discusses all of the events that turned a shy, polite, mama's boy into someone who at one point was probably the most famous man in the world. Despite its length, the movie is fast paced so it holds your interest. It helps if you know something about the singer's life before seeing

Buried Treasure: The Charlie Watts Orchestra - Live At Fulham Town Hall (1986)

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Big band -  A large dance  or jazz band  of ten musicians or more, usually featuring improvised solos by lead players but otherwise playing orchestrated music . When most people think of big bands today they often conjure up faded, black and white images of Glenn Miller, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Count Basie and Woody Herman. Those men led some of the more popular outfits whose heyday was during the latter part of The Great Depression and the Second World War - approximately 1935 to 1946. It's the only time in history that jazz was at the forefront of American popular music. As a kid I became a fan of these large ensembles through my Mother's old, scratchy, breakable, 78 RPM records. My fascination with big bands continued into my early adulthood and was a significant influence in giving birth to any interest I have in jazz today. Despite the fact he remained with The Rolling Stones for almost sixty years it'

Michael Weston King - The Struggle (2022)

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A few months ago I wrote about the most recent album   by the highly regarded country duo of  Michael Weston King   and his wife, Lou Dalgleish, of Birmingham, UK. Together, they're known as My Darling Clementine . That CD,  Country Darkness , is a thirteen song tribute to tribute to Elvis Costello.  King is a busy man these days because in addition to his day job he recently released his fifth career solo record.  It's his first one in ten years. (Dalgleish lends vocal support on one track.) The album,  The Struggle , is a lot more folk than country, but elements of both are readily apparent throughout the set.  The Struggle is actually named for a hill trail in England's Lake District, but given the serious lyrical content of the songs it could also be describing the singer-songwriter's view of the world. An indication of that is King credits Dalgleish in the CD's liner notes as being "the strength in my struggle."  On "Weight of the World" Ki

Last Albums: The Mamas & The Papas - People Like Us (1971)

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It's hard to top the beautiful harmonies given to us by Michelle Phillips, Mama Cass Elliott,  Denny Doherty , and vocal arranger and composer, Papa John Phillips - four singers known to the world in the second half of the 1960s as The Mamas & The Papas. Almost sixty years later many of the quartet's songs are indelibly etched into our brains, and is there anyone who doesn't love " California Dreamin' ?" All of that said, People Like Us  is an album that probably never should have been made. It was recorded in 1971 by the group only to fulfill a contractual obligation to their record company - ABC Dunhill - after they split up late in 1968. After The Mamas & The Papas went their separate ways their label discovered they were contractually obligated to release one more album. If they didn't comply each member could have been sued $250,000 for breach of contract. Years later - in the liner notes for a Mamas & Papas compilation CD - Michelle Phil

The Lone Bellow - For What It's Worth (2018)

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I've seen The Lone Bellow - Brian Elmquist, Zach Williams and Kanene Donehey Pipkin - in concert twice and they've delivered wholly satisfying performances each time. Their four albums, EP, and a handful of one-off singles are the epitome of the acoustic-rock sub-genre spearheaded over the last decade or so by more popular bands such as Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers. One of those singles is a remake of Buffalo Springfield's 1967 hit "For What It's Worth," released on iTunes and Apple Music in 2018. The Stephen Stills penned song was not exactly a loud burst of hard rock when it was released back in the day, and The Lone Bellow's ultra-mellow take of the classic song is even more laid back than the original. I'm probably not the only music lover who mistakenly believed that "For What It's Worth" is an anti-Viet Nam War song. Instead, Stills wrote what is perhaps his most famous single about an incident in 1966 that was much less alt

Buried Treasure: Sopwith Camel - Sopwith Camel (1967)

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A recent article on a hippie era band from Philadelphia, The Mandrake Memorial, was recently published on  The College Crowd Digs Me ,   a very fine music blog I read regularly. It's my inspiration for this post about  Sopwith Camel , another forgotten group from relatively the same time period . I found Sopwith Camel's eponymous LP decades ago in a bargain bin, and I don't know why I bought it because I didn't know who they were. Perhaps I was intrigued by their name and the album's cover art. Making a purchase that way is usually a mistake, but this time my instincts were rewarded with some pleasant tunes. The quintet was the first San Francisco band signed during the flower power days to have a top 40 hit. "Hello Hello" (1967) climbed to #26 on the Hot 100. The follow-up single, "Postcard from Jamaica" only made it to #88, and that was it for the band. After an unsuccessful attempt at recording a sophomore LP they disbanded before the end of t

Monica Taylor - Trains, Rivers & Trails (2022)

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When it was suggested to me that I listen to Oklahoma's Monica Taylor I immediately became interested mostly because the late, great, Jimmy Lafave - a beloved singer-songwriter who was also originally from the Sooner State - was a big fan. Lafave dubbed Taylor the Cimarron Songbird because she lives near the Cimarron River. It's a nickname she apparently relishes because she uses it on the colorful cover of her latest solo album,  Trains, Rivers & Trails . I've written here before that much of today's country music is rock and roll played mostly by people who speak Southern and wear cowboy hats, but Taylor sees to it that on her new album you'll be listening to the real thing. There is electric guitar - of course - but the eleven song set is loaded with banjos, dobros and mandolins. Old time country music fans will love this record because it sounds like the kind of music played in the Shenandoah Mountains of West Virginia or at Dolly Parton's Tennessee mo

Chet Baker - Career: 1952 - 1988 (2005)

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Career: 1952 - 1988 does an excellent job of showcasing all facets and time periods of Chet Baker’s career. This retrospective evenly divides the two talents Baker was known for: one disc is entirely instrumental and is called Trumpeter and the other is simply titled Singer . Each CD is in chronological order and includes both rarities and some gems. There are both vocal and instrumental versions of Baker's signature tune, "My Funny Valentine." The first one - from 1952 - opens the first CD, and the second version closes the vocal set and was recorded less than a month before he died in 1988. Trumpeter shows off Baker's versatility as a prominent member of the cool jazz movement of the 50s and 60s and beyond. While he was less known and respected for his singing the second disc also provides a true overview of Baker’s controversial but still appealing voice. The vocal disc is also a bit sad because, using his singing as a barometer, the listener can tell how far B