Thursday, 29 November 2012

End of Watch (2012)

End of Watch - Film Review - Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick

End of Watch, Trailer

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick
Director: David Ayer
IMDB Rating: 7.8/10
My Rating: 7.2/10
Runtime: 1hr 49mins

Synopsis: Described as a mix of reality TV meets Hollywood cop drama, (or as the director cites his own hit film)  David Ayer said, Training Day meets YouTube, End of Watch certainly ticks many of both boxes. Gyllenhaal has had quite a topsy-turvy career since 2001's Donnie Darko, highlights including Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac, lowlights being Jarhead, The Day After Tomorrow, and the likes of the slightly underwhelming Source Code falling in between two stools, which is where I would place End of Watch. Having said that I would recommend this film,the director certainly has a keen interest police dramas, following S.W.A.T.Harsh Times (starring Christian Bale) and especially Dark Blue, possibly Kurt Russell's last decent role. 

And now to the film itself, Gyllenhaal and Pena perform the traditional cop 'buddy routine' without over-cooking it, with the film centring on their very close bond, from light-hearted to semi-philosophical conversations as they cruise the streets of L.A.'s South Central. After a string of early successes officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala become emboldened and take more risks in answering the call of duty, which eventually leads them on course to a showdown with a ruthless Mexican gang, probably emulating Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13 - see here for good documentary ). While End of Watch does come across at times, as slightly testosterone filled, overall it is quite entertaining, probably the type of film that you would leave on if you saw it on TV a few years later, the car chase scenes are shot very well and the soundtrack is excellent, especially Public Enemies 'Harder Than You Think' which kicks in during a chase, see here!  

While by no means a classic, I would recommend End of Watch as the perfect Sunday night movie, just enough to keep you guessing, without challenging ones brain too much.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

1961 Bill Evans - Sunday at the Village Vanguard

'Waltz for Debby'

Info: William John Evans, or Bill Evans, as he was commonly known, was born on 16th of August, 1929 in New Jersey to a Welsh father and Ukrainian mother, and died in September, 1980. Evans was a classically trained pianist and from the ages of 6-13 he would only play classical music scores, citing Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven as his preferences. In his early career he generally operated as part of a trio, and rejected the new waves in jazz such as free-form and jazz fusion. In 1958 he joined Miles Davis' sextet, which he heavily influenced, and was a key member of the band when they recorded Kind of Blue, the biggest selling jazz album of all time. Evans left Miles Davis' group in late 1959 and went on to record no less than 10 critically acclaimed albums over the next 4 years, an immense output, starting with Everybody Digs Bill Evans in 1959 to Conversations With Myself in 1963. In 1961 Evans released Sunday At The Village Vanguard, followed shortly after by Waltz For Debby, a track from which I've featured in the video above, purely because there are no performed videos of any of the songs on this album available at present that I can find. Inevitable success was unfortunately followed by tragedy, as both Evans' long-term girlfriend, Elaine, and his brother, Harry, committed suicide, leading to him succumbing to both cocaine and heroin addictions, which would eventually get the better of him and lead him to his early death in 1980. 

Track Listing:

1. Gloria's Step
2. My Man's Gone Now
3. Solar
4. Alice In Wonderland
5. All of You
6. Jade Visions

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

1960 Wes Montgomery - The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery

Info: John Lesley 'Wes' Montgomery was born in March, 1923 in Indianapolis, Indiana, into a family of musicians, his brothers Monk and Buddy both played jazz and recorded a number of albums as The Montgomery Brothers. Although he played a four-string tenor guitar at the age of twelve, it wasn't until his late 20's that he began playing a six string, learning from radio recordings of his idol, guitar player, Charlie Christian. As he developed he became one of the great modern jazz guitarists, and many outside the genre cited him as a huge influence on them, such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Joe Satriani. Amongst his contemporaries he was also held in equally high esteem, and played and recorded with Cannonball Adderley and Jimmy Smith, and was also asked by Thelonius Monk to join his band after a jamming session, which he forewent to continue with the Montgomery Band. Purists favour his early works up to the mid 1960's, following which his sound became for popular and commercially very successfully as he reached a wider audience between 1965-1968. Tragically, on 15th June, 1968, he awoke one morning and told his wife that he felt quite ill, before collapsing and dying of a heart attack in his hometown of Indianapolis, aged just 45. The above album, The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, is #5 for 1960 on, and my preferred tracks would be opener 'Airegin' and the above video track, 'Four on Six'.

Track Listing:

1. Airegin
2. D-Natural Blues
3. Polka Dots & Moonbeams
4. Four on Six
5. West Coast Blues
6. In Your Own Sweet Way
7. Mr. Walker
8. Gone With The Wind 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg (2012)

Bugg on BBC Radio Nottingham, The Beat performing 3 songs (which amazingly didn't make his debut album)

Later With Jools Holland, 'Country Song', May, 2012

Info: I first came across Jake Bugg only last week in an interview in The Times admittedly with a good deal of cynicism as is my wont. Even though the interviewer wasn't spewing the usual fervent praise and whipping up hysteria over 'the next big thing' ageism got the better of me and I found it hard not to see 18 year old Bugg as the latest record label boss' wet dream. My guard had come down slightly by the end of the interview as he came across as quite down to earth and likeable, when talking about his friends he shakes his head and says; "They're out every Friday and Saturday night (clubbing) and it's always the same, I'd rather be sat at home, listening to Marvin with a couple of cans." From the Clifton Estate in Nottingham, where he still lives with his parents, he began playing in pubs when he was 15, and shortly afterwards, in 2010, uploaded some of his songs onto the BBC website, which landed him a gig at Glastonbury, the first time he'd even been to a festival. More recently he opened for The Stone Roses at a secret gig in London, is currently supporting Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds on their American tour, and can count Damon Albarn among his admirers, at least Noel and Damon agree on something, that at only 18, Bugg has already shown considerable talent for his age. He has said he is largely disinterested in modern music and his favourite artists are Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Don McClean, & Donovan. The influence of the folk singers is certainly very evident in a lot of his songs, but he does also slide into rock music on songs such as current single Taste It and Lightning Bolt, which mixes both genres nicely. While much of his lyrics are very innocent and some rhyming quite simplistic, it's also in some ways refreshing, it's nice to be able to enjoy an album without dissecting every line and lyric and appreciate it for what it is, a very young man's solid debut album. I expect a very bright future for Jake Bugg, but also hope he manages to develop his song-writing as independently as possible and doesn't end up like so many promising young artists before, releasing bland records after a talented first release. Finally, I thought I'd add one more video, it's for the song Broken, to be honest I found it hard to narrow down the videos because there are some excellent live performances, anyway, hope you enjoy.


Track listing:

1. Lightning Bolt**
2. Two Fingers
3. Taste It**
4. Seen It All
5. Simple As This
6. Country Song**
7. Broken
8. Trouble Town**
9. Ballad of Mr.Jones
10. Slide
11. Someone Told Me
12. Note to Self
13. Someplace
14. Fire

** Current Singles

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Excision (2012)


Excision trailer

Genre: Drama, Horror
Starring: AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Malcolm McDowell
Director: Richard Bates Jr.
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10
My Rating: 6.7/10
Runtime: 1hr 33mins

Synopsis: Described as 'a disturbed and delusional high school student with aspirations of a career in medicine goes to extremes to earn the approval of her controlling mother' it sounded like a fairly standard premise and a story we've seen many times before in films. However, Excision is possibly one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen, making A Clockwork Orange (nod to Mr.McDowell) seem like Ice Age 2. The film instantly opens with a very grotesque scene of the brilliant AnnaLynne McCord who plays main character Pauline in a dream sequence in which see sits opposite a double of herself who is profusely vomiting blood, set in a bizarrely sanitised and bright, tiled room. The film dips in and out of these dreams, each equally disturbing but visually powerful nonetheless. 

There is plenty of dark humour and the dysfunction of the family worsens as the film proceeds, although Pauline does maintain a good relationship with her younger sister, Grace, throughout. As Pauline's behaviour becomes more erratic her conservative, straight-laced mother, also played excellently by Traci Lords, goes to greater, and more humiliating measures to reign her daughter in, but to no avail, resulting in the harrowing conclusion of the film. Excision is a must see for fans of films with psychotic main characters (I don't know what that says about them!), but it is definitely not for the squeamish or those easily shocked. Great performances from the main characters and intriguing visuals make it worth the watch for everyone else.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

1959 Champion Jack Dupree - Blues From The Gutter

Info: From my own viewpoint I can see that the Blues only really became mainstream in the late 1950's, and the album, Blues From The Gutter, is the perfect introduction, slow, moody and amazing piano playing. There is no confirmation of William Thomas Dupree's true date of birth, 1908, 1909 or 1910, however, he passed away on 21st January 1992 in Niedersachsen, Germany, interestingly, he asks at the beginning of the above video (1971) 'Where will I be in 1999!?'. Dupree came from an intriguing background, his father was from the Belgian Congo, and his mother was part Native American, at the age of two, he was sent to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, an orphanage, which was also the alma mater of Louis Armstrong. During his time in the home, he learned the piano, from his mentor Tuts Washington, who taught him how to play Junker's Blues (above video). His career was put on hold when he joined the U.S. Navy as a cook during the Second World War, he would go on to spend two years as a prisoner of war in Japanese camps. In the 1960's he migrated to Europe, where he spent time in Switzerland, Denmark, England, Sweden and Germany (where he eventually died of cancer).  My favourites on this album are tracks 1-4, but personally I love "TB Blues", track 2, and "Bad Blood", track 7, and "Goin' Down Slow" for blues guitar heaven, it really is an album that can be listened from start to finish as one.

Track Listing:

1. Strollin'
2. T.B. Blues
3. Can't Kick The Habit
4. Evil Woman
5. Nasty Boogie
6. Junker's Blues
7. Bad Blood
8. Goin' Down Slow
9. Frankie and Johnny
10. Stack-O-Lee

This review is my final of the 1950's, and in some way I'm relieved due to my ignorance of the decade, but I would like to add some albums from the 1950's that I think are very good and necessary listening;

1) Clifford Brown & Max Roach - Clifford Brown & Max Roach (1954)
2) Kenny Dorham - Afro-Cuban (1955) *
3) Louis Prima - The Wildest! (1956)
4) Thelonius Monk - Brilliant Corners (1957)
5) Billie Holiday - Lady In Satin (1958)
6) Marty Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs (1959) *
7) Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (1959)
8) Art Blakey - Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers (1959)
9) The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out (1959) *
10) Chet Baker - Chet (1959)

* best of the rest

1958 Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else

Info: Julian Edwin "Cannonball" Adderley was born in Tampa, Florida, in 1928, he was a jazz alto saxophonist of the hard bop era of jazz in the late 50's and early 60's, and would indeed become a major influence on famous jazz players such as those mentioned on the above album cover, mainly Miles Davis (who drew on Adderley's style for his 1970 album, Bitches Brew) and Art Blakey. Adderley moved from Florida to New York in the mid-50's, with his performance name, Cannonball, originating from his high-school nickname of cannibal, as a result of his ability to eat large amounts of food in one sitting, purely for spectacle. Adderley and his brother Nat, who composed many of his songs, also both worked with Ray Charles in the 1940's when he was in Tallahassee, Florida, and in 1957 he joined the Miles Davis Sextet, 3 months before John Coltrane's return, and played on arguably Davis' most famous album, Kind of Blue. My own introduction to Cannonball Adderley came from the 1966 album, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (Live At The Club), however, the above album is probably his finest solo recording, rated #2 on RYM for 1958. Key tracks for me are the first track, "Autumn Leaves", probably the best on the album, but followed closely by "Dancing In The Dark" (which is not a Bruce Springsteen cover). As an absolute jazz novice, and admittedly having had very little interest in the genre up until about 5 years ago, I would place this album as my favourite jazz album, I hope you get a chance to check it out.

Track Listing:

1. Autumn Leaves
2. Love For Sale
3. Somethin' Else
4. One for Daddy-O
5. Dancing In The Dark

Thursday, 11 October 2012

1957 Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Colossus

Info: Born Theodore Walter Rollins in New York, September 1930, Rollins began playing piano aged 9, but gave it up before picking up the saxophone in high school, after which he made his first recordings with the likes of Bud Powell, in 1948, which would eventually lead to him playing with Art Blakey and Miles Davis in the early 1950's. Saxophone Colossus was released in 1957 and is currently ranked as the No.1 album for the year on and also has 5 stars on . Recorded during his peak period, with pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins and the legendary jazz drummer, Max Roach (of Max Roach and Clifford Brown fame, This album is widely considered Rollins' finest work, with the final track "Blue 7" capturing his individualism, other key tracks include "Moriat" and "St. Thomas" (above). 

Track Listing:

1. St.Thomas
2. You Don't Know What Love Is
3. Strode Rode
4. Moritat
5. Blue 7

1956 Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley

Elvis, 1968 performance

Info: Although far from Elvis' best album, it's a pretty solid debut. The album consists of 7 tracks recorded in early 1956, with the remainder coming from the scrapheap of his Sun Records songs from 1954, leading to a slightly lopsided album at times. Seen as the album that sparked mass interest in rock n' roll, following in the footsteps of the likes of Chuck Berry, teenagers were mesmerised by Elvis and bought the record in droves, remarkably, because at the time they were more inclined to buy 45's than LP's. Elvis Presley went on to become the first No.1 rock album in the US charts and made record company RCA millions. Key tracks include opener, "Blue Suede Shoes", "I'm Counting On You", the Ray Charles cover "I Got A Woman" and "Blue Moon", not to mention "Trying To Get You" (above). A point of interest also comes from the album cover, an iconic photo taken in Tampa, Florida in 1955 by William V. Robertson, which would be later copied by none other than The Clash for 1979's London Calling

Track Listing:

1. Blue Suede Shoes
2, I'm Counting On You
3. I Got A Woman
4. One-Sided Love Affair
5. I Love You Because
6. Just Because
7. Tutti Frutti
8. Trying To Get You
9. I'm Gonna Sit You Right Down (And Cry Over You)
10. I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin')
11. Blue Moon
12. Money Honey

Friday, 5 October 2012

1955 Julie London - Julie Is Her Name

Info: Real name Gayle Peck, she was born in Santa Rosa, California in 1926 and died in October, 2000 in Encino, in the same State. London was originally an actress (appearing in more than 20 films) but was convinced to pursue a singing career by her second husband, composer Bobby Troup. Julie Is Her Name was released in 1955, reaching No.2 in the charts, as her debut and is currently #7 on for this year. The most well known of the tracks off the album is "Cry Me A River", where London is accompanied by gentle guitar and a bassist, and the unique sound of her singing was achieved mainly by her standing very close to the microphone when recording. The song reached No.9 in the US charts in December, 1955 and has appeared in scenes of films such as The Girl Can't Help It, starring Tom Ewell and Jayne Mansfield, in which an alcholic press-agent is paid by a gangster to make his girlfriend a famous singer, in one scene where the main character hits rock bottom he plays "Cry Me A River", and suddenly Julie London appears singing the song using a faded visual technique. The song has more recently been in 2005's V for Vendetta when Natalie Portman arrives in V's underground dwelling (where I first heard the song). Other key tracks are opener "Say It Isn't So", "I Should Care" and "Easy Street". I managed to get the album on vinyl recently and it's a very enjoyable and easy-listening recording, it was also released at the very edge of the rock n' roll explosion, and in some ways marks the end of one era and the beginning of another.

Track Listing: 

A1   Say It Isn't So    
A2   It Never Entered My Mind                         
A3   Easy Street                       
A4   S' Wonderful                    
A5   No Moon at All                
A6   Laura                   
A7   Gone with the Wind                     
B1   Cry Me a River                 
B2   I Should Care                   
B3   I'm in the Mood for Love                            
B4   I'm Glad There Is You                   
B5   Can't Help Lovin' That Man         
B6   I Love You

Thursday, 27 September 2012

80's Hair, Top 10

(1) Kix - Don't Close Your Eyes (1988)

(2) Cinderella - Nobody's Fool (1986)

(3) David Lee Roth - Goin' Crazy! (1986)

(4) Poison - Talk Dirty To Me (1986)

(5) Ratt - Wanted Man (1984)

(6) Def Leppard - Photograph (1983)

(7) Twisted Sister - The Price (1985)

(8) Dokken - Just Got Lucky (1984)

(9) Whitesnake - Here I Go Again (1987)

(10) Skid Row - 18 & Life (1989)

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

70's Glam, Top 10

(1) Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies (1973)

(2) Silverhead - Underneath The Light (1972)

(3) Slade - Mama Weer All Crazee Now

(4) Mott The Hoople - All The Way From Memphis (1973)

(5) The Move - Don't Make My Baby Blue (1970)

(6) Sweet - The Sixteens (1974)

(7) T-Rex - The Groover (1973)

(8) Thin Lizzy - Emerald (1976)

(9) David Bowie - Life On Mars? (1971)

(10) Skyhooks - Living In The 70's (1974)

Seventies Glam & Eighties Hair

As an interlude I'm going to put up a quick list of the Top 10 Glam Rock bands from the 70's and the Top 10 Hair Bands from the 80's (extra cheese warning). 

Monday, 24 September 2012

1954 Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings

Info: Chet Baker (1929-1988) is described in 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die as the Monet of the music world as "a master of mists and gentle inflections". Dropping out of high-school at 16, he joined the army and was sent to Berlin in 1946 for 2 years where he played in the 298th Army Band, following another stint in the army in the early fifties Baker started playing trumpet with various bands and performers before going solo in July, 1953. The following year the above album, Chet Baker Sings, was released, having traditionally been solely a trumpet player, many of Baker's fans who were jazz purists were alienated by him singing on the album as well, indeed as observed in the liner notes of the album, "Is Baker a trumpet player who sings, or a singer who plays trumpet?". Key tracks are; 'My Funny Valentine', 'My Ideal', 'But Not For Me' and 'Time After Time', above. Baker became addicted to heroin in the 1950's, and it started to really impact on his career by the 1960's, he was imprisoned many times in different countries, particularly West Germany and France where he spent much of his time, he also began accepting any recording offer that was put before him, merely to feed his addiction, which sadly diluted the quality of his output. Baker died in Amsterdam in 1988 when he fell from a window at the Hotel Prins Hendrik following a cocaine and heroin binge, a plaque in his honour (below) can be seen at the entrance to the hotel.

Track Listing:

1 That Old Feeling
2 It's Always You
3 Like Someone In Love
4 My Ideal
5 I've Never Been In Love Before
6 My Buddy
7 But Not For Me
8 Time After Time
9 I Get Along Without You Very Well
10 My Funny Valentine
11 There Will Never Be Another You
12 The Thrill Is Gone      
13 I Fall In Love Too Easy
14 Look For The Silver Lining

1953 Duke Ellington - Ellington Uptown

Louie Bellson incredible drum solo from Skin Deep, 1957 (below)

Info: It is widely accepted that Duke Ellington is the greatest jazz composer of all time. The son of a White House butler, he first learned the piano aged 7 and would go on to become a mainstay of the jazz music scene from the 1920's, right through to his death from cancer and pneumonia in 1974, when his son Mercer took over the Ellington band. Ellington Uptown is ranked #2 for 1953 on RYM and 4.5/5 stars on The standout tracks for me (granted there are only 5) are 'Skin Deep' above, mainly for Louie Bellson's amazing drum solo  and evolutionary double-bass drum techniquewhich begins at 3.15 in the video of the song, however, I also came across a video of him performing the same solo just to get a better appreciation, he would have strolled into McFly that lad. The second song I particularly liked was 'Take The "A" Train', which features vocals from Betty Roche, who regularly appeared with Ellington's band in the early 50's. For background music or maybe when cooking a 15 minute meal, track 4, 'A Tone Parallel to Harlem (The Harlem Suite)' fits the bill.

Track Listing:

A1   Skin Deep                                                         
A2   The Mooche                                                        
A3   Take the "A" Train                                               
B1    A Tone Parallel to Harlem (The Harlem Suite)      
B2    Perdido                                                             

Thursday, 20 September 2012

1952 Milt Jackson - Wizard of the Vibes

Info: First off, I suppose I wouldn't be a massive fan of the rather large xylophone which is actually a vibraphone, but if it sounds like elevator music, it's very good elevator music! Favourite tracks for me are 'Lillie' and 'Willow Weep For Me' and the album is ranked #2 for 1952 on RYM. 

Milton "Bags" Jackson was born a few months before Bud Powell in Detroit, Michigan on January 1st, 1923, and he would also end up having very close ties to the famous Dizzy Gillespie, who discovered him in 1946. Milt is best known as a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, an influential music group established in 1952 and for most of their long career composed of John Lewis (piano, musical director), Milt himself (vibraphone), Percy Heath (double bass), and Connie Kay (drums). His nickname "Bags" was given to him by a bassist in Detroit, in reference to the bags under his eyes as a result of him being fond of staying up all night. He died on 9th of October, 1999 and was buried in the Bronx, aged 76.

Track Listing:

A1 Tahiti                   
A2 Lillie                     
A3 Criss-Cross                        
A4 Willow Weep for Me                    
B1 What's New?                   
B2 Bags' Groove                   
B3 On the Scene                   
B4 Eronel

1951 Bud Powell - The Amazing Bud Powell

Info: Ranked #1 on for 1951, and an artist I can definitely see myself getting more into, Bud Powell's albums of the 50's feature highly in Top 10's, either as solo or collaboration works, again, I don't know much about him, and this is the only album I know, but I'm looking forward to more. My favourite tracks are the above video, 'Over The Rainbow', 'It Could Happen to You' and track 7, 'You Go To My Head'. 

Real name Earl Rudolph 'Bud' Powell, he was born in September 1924 in Harlem, New York, his main influences were Art Tatum and Thelonius Monk, who he became a close friend of. Powell's father was also a pianist and when Bud was aged 5, he paid for piano lessons for him, by the age of 10 he began to show an interest in jazz which he frequently heard in his neighbourhood, by 15 he was playing in his brother William's, a trumpet player, band. Bud spent much of his career performing in his home city of New York, followed by a period in Paris between the years 1959-1963, before he contracted tuberculosis. Powell returned to New York and soldiered on, but eventually the TB, along with malnutrition and alcoholism got the better of him and he died on 31st July, 1966, several thousand people followed his funeral procession through Harlem. 

Track Listing:

A1  Un poco loco                    
A2  Over the Rainbow                         
A3  Ornithology                      
A4  Wail                     
B1  A Night in Tunisia                           
B2  It Could Happen to You               
B3  You Go to My Head                       
B4  Bouncing With Bud