Saturday, October 25, 2008


Recent Releases of Note - for titles in red, there is a review in the last section of the post.
  • Beatles - All Together Now [documentary DVD]
  • Beck - Modern Guilt
  • Johnny Cash - Christmas Specials 1976-79 [4 DVD]
  • Johnny Cash - I Walked the Line [book]*
  • Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison [2 CD/1 DVD – 10/14]
  • Elvis Costello - Taking Liberties [digital reissue]**
  • Elvis Costello - Out of Our Idiot [digital reissue]**
  • Elvis Costello & the Impostors - Momofuku
  • CSNY - Déjà Vu Live
  • CSNY - Déjà Vu [DVD documentary]
  • Bob Dylan - Tell Tale Signs: Bootleg Series v.8
  • Stacey Earle/Mark Stuart - Town Square []
  • Genesis - 1970-1975 [7 CD/6 DVD box]
  • Mitch Hedberg - Do You Believe in Gosh?
  • John Hiatt - Same Old Man
  • Billy Joel - The Stranger [2-cd reissue]
  • Billy Joel - The Stranger [2-cd/2-dvd box]
  • Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
  • Nils Lofgren - Yankee Stadium []
  • Moody Blues - reissue of original 7 albums***
  • Move - Looking On [reissue w/bonus tracks]
  • Mudcrutch - Mudcrutch
  • Graham Nash - Songs for Beginners [CD/DVD reissue]
  • Willie Nelson - Stardust: 30th Anniversary Ed.
  • Willie Nelson/Wynton Marsalis - Two Men with the Blues
  • Randy Newman - Harps and Angels
  • Roy Orbison - Soul of Rock and Roll [4-cd box]
  • Amy Ray - Didn’t It Feel Kinder
  • Frank Sinatra - Nothing But the Best
  • Frank Sinatra - Sinatra at the Movies
  • Bruce Springsteen - Magic Tour Highlights [iTunes]
  • Mark Stuart - Left of Nashville
  • Loudon Wainwright III - Recovery
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic - Whatever You Like [iTunes]

Upcoming Releases
  • Beatles - Monopoly [board game – 11/20]
  • Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash’s America [CD/DVD – 10/28]
  • Stacey Earle - The Ride [TBA]
  • Indigo Girls - untitled [Feb ‘09]
  • Elton John - The Red Piano[2 CD/2 DVD–10/28]
  • Alison Krauss - A Hundred Miles or More [DVD-11/11]
  • Mudcrutch - Live EP [11/11]

On Tour in the Tri-State
  • Micky Dolenz - 11/22–Grand Victoria
  • Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart - 3/6 – Louisville; 3/7 – Lexington
  • Jim Gaffigan - 12/12 – Louisvlle; 12/13 – Clevlnd
  • Nanci Griffith - 11/15 – Kent
  • Herman’s Hermits - 10/31 – Cleveland
  • John Hiatt - 2/14 – Danville 
  • Gordon Lightfoot - 3/14 – Belterra 
  • Willie Nelson - 12/7 – Evansville
  • Amy Ray - 10/31 – Cleveland
  • Jerry Seinfeld - 11/5 – Columbus
  • Smothers Brothers - 11/15, 11/16 – Indianapolis 
  • B.J. Thomas - 1/23 – French Lick

*This is an autobiography of Johnny Cash’s first wife, Vivian, who felt herself unfairly portrayed in ‘Walk the Line’. She and daughter Roseanne thought she came off as a nutjob. I thought she was more a wife at her wit’s end with an immature husband who treated her like crap.

**Costello issued two albums of his own rarities – Taking Liberties (1980) and Out of Our Idiot (1987). They’re out of print on CD but are made available again as download-only albums. The collections were basically obsolete when all of the tracks were made available as bonus material when both Ryko and Rhino reissued the entire Costello catalog. If you didn’t get those reissues, these are worth a listen.

***The Moodies celebrated original seven albums have been reissued yet again. Not to be confused with the 1997 remastered reissues or the 2006 Europe-only 2-disc reissues from Universal. These are apparently improved remasters with bonus tracks. It’s hard to make a recommendation. On one hand, the 2-disc imports are out of sight, price-wise, but on the other, U.S. fans are getting cheated out of more bonus material.

MITCH HEDBERG – DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOSH? – A few years ago, I went to a local comedy club to see my then-favorite comedian, Mitch Hedberg. The sign on the door said the show had been cancelled. It would have been my only chance to see him, as he died of a drug overdose not long after. Until now, all we had left were some late night appearances on YouTube and two comedy albums. This posthumous release is a welcome listen, though it falls short of the other two in terms of laughs. Hedberg’s best bits here are interactions with the crowd, calling himself out on jokes that don’t work and flights of fancy (“What if a drummer accidentally picked up two magic wands instead of drum sticks?”). Someday someone smart at Worldwide Pants will put his ten Letterman appearances on DVD.

RANDY NEWMAN – HARPS AND ANGELS – Newman caused a minor stir last year when he released “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country”, a downloadable single that was excerpted by the New York Times. I found it odious, with it’s comparison of George W. Bush to Hitler and Stalin, as well as it’s insulting of Clarence Thomas and, by extension, conservative blacks. It’s included here in this otherwise enjoyable set of ten songs, in which Newman satirizes immigration, class warfare and his own aging and mortality. The only song where he hits the satirical mark spot on is “Korean Parents”, in which he *gasp* blames parents for poor performing children and suggests they hire Korean parents to make their children study hard. Newman also finally gets around to recording “Feels Like Home”. It was written for his 1993 musical, ‘Faust’, where it was performed by Bonnie Raitt (it was also my first dance with my wife at our wedding reception). Newman has said his non-satirical love songs, like this one, will probably be the ones that endure the passage of time.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN – MAGIC TOUR HIGHLIGHTS – I’ve seen the Boss in concert, so I know this mixed bag of four tracks couldn’t have been the highlights of his latest tour, particularly the one supporting ‘Magic’, the best album of 2007. Rather, the first three tracks have Bruce inviting a surprise guest onstage. “Always a Friend” with Alejandro Escovedo is the best of these, with Bruce and the E-Street Band basically backing Escovedo on his own song (from 2008’s ‘Real Animal’). Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello guests on “The Ghost of Tom Joad”, which begs for spare treatment and flounders under Morello’s squealing guitar and cue card vocals. There's also a cover of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" with Roger McGuinn himself which I initially judged to harshly as 'unlistenable'. Now I'll just categorize it as 'would've been better 20 years ago'. The only real keeper is the version of ‘Sandy’ that prominently features E-Streeter Danny Federici on accordion. Federici died from cancer the next month after this show.

JENNY LEWIS - ACID TONGUE (by guest reviewer Jim Bates of A Scale Canadian) In 2006 Jenny Lewis broke free from the reins of Rilo Kiley and released 'Rabbit Fur Coat', not only one of the best albums of 2007, but also one of the best solo debuts of all time. 'Rabbit Fur Coat' was a flowing masterpiece of county rock/folk singer-songwriter tunes with great lyrics and nice harmonies provided by the Watson Twins. After the success of 'Rabbit Fur Coat', Jenny returned to Rilo Kiley for an attempted pop cash-in with 'Under the Blacklight'…a highly uneven effort with both some great songs ("15" and "Smoke Detector") and some bad (the woeful "Dejalo") Now, Jenny returns with her next solo album, 'Acid Tongue'. It doesn’t have the flow of her debut and at times comes across as a disjointed set of songs.

Jenny opens up the album with her little girl voice on the pretty "Black Sand". "Pretty Bird" could be a Neil Young and Crazy Horse song…but without the guitar freak-outs…and…well, with a girl singer. Next up is the slinky and shape changing "The Next Messiah". Here, Jenny drops the little girl voice and starts to rock out. The song is eight minutes and forty seconds of Bo Diddley beat rock and male/female sing-alongs. If Jenny wanted to be less generous it almost could have been broken up into two or three songs. Other highlights include the “interesting family dynamic” tempo-shifting rocker "Jack Killed Mom", and the energetic country-rock pop of "See Fernando"…no not the ABBA tune. "Carpetbaggers" starts out strong and only stalls when Elvis Costello starts mumbling his way through the second verse. Jenny recovers, but she really should just have excised Elvis from the song. Also, don’t miss the stunning title track with Chris Robinson on backing vocals. Here Jenny strips down to just acoustic guitar and vocals and comes out with an amazing song about a hole in her shoe, liars, acid, and love. A few of the lesser songs echo 70s pop/rock/country/jazz with a few chamber music touches…nothing bad, they just aren’t that memorable.

This is a good album and it is growing on me, I just don’t think Jenny has equaled Rabbit Fur Coat…yet.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I don't talk politics on this blog because I like to stick with what's important, which we all know is comics, music and TV. Outside the blog, though, I'm a politics junkie...and now I'm exhausted. A presidential race shouldn't go on for almost two years. So, with a short time left to go, I'm taking a week off. No election news, no talk radio, no campaign ads. It's for my mental health. Before I shut off the talking heads and put a happy face on, I'll share some links. They're from my friend, Jeff Miller, who has his own blog, the Trunk, which I always have linked at right. Like me, Jeff thinks about things. But while I'm thinking about Spider-Man and such, Jeff is thinking about political philosophy. I'll read stuff of his and say, "Oh, now I understand this better." Here are some highlights...

Fairness and Taxation

How to talk like Obama and like McCain

Spreading the wealth. In this post, Jeff is responding to another blogger, 'squashed', whose comment is in italics.

How government has made things worse

A review of Obama's radical socialist policies

Now, given the headers I've linked to, you may be shocked to see other posts where Jeff talks about how Obama is a smart and cool guy he'd like to hang out with. You can't broad brush this guy, and I'll assure you that arguing with him's always been a pain in the a$$.

Monday, October 13, 2008


As newspapers decline, another editorial cartoonist disappears

Jim Borgman was staff editorial cartoonist at the Cincinnati Enquirer for the past 32 years. His work and art style are a beloved part of Cincinnati life. Borgman said goodbye to his readers in this column over two weeks ago. He cites a desire to reduce his workload, as he also draws the popular Zits comic strip. But you'll notice that he won't be replaced.

I'm partially to blame, I guess, as in recent years I haven't bought a daily paper or thought to read him online at the Enquirer website. He, like many Enquirer staffers, took a recent severance buyout package. Borgman is no lone case, as a spate of staff editorial cartoonist positions have been cut nationwide in '08. It's sad to not only see markets for cartoonists dry up but also the disappearance of local voices. Someday we won't know anything's happened until the AP and Reuters tell us it did. Then after that the newspapers will be gone, the cherished comics page will be Web-only and the only laments will come from crazed bloggers like myself.

Though I haven't always liked his politics, I've always liked his work overall. He's a master of caricatures and facial expression. I saw him draw in person for kids at a library. They could guess in a few strokes who he was drawing. Like any great artist, he made something look easy that's actually difficult to replicate. He won a 1991 Pulitzer Prize and is a five-time winner of the National Cartoonist Society award for best editorial cartoonist. Cincinnati was lucky to have him. I used to clip Borgman cartoons as a kid, but they may be one of the few things I've thrown out. He's had a few published collections, which I loved as a kid, even though I probably didn't understand most of the cartoons. There's no good web archive of his work, but here are some I could scrounge up on the Web that I like -

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Bursting forth from the lame doldrums of the past two Mid-Ohios was a memorable show full of good crowds and amazing guests. The one guest flying high above all others was Joe Kubert, who is honestly the greatest living comic book artist. I only went to one presentation at the con, and it was Mark Evanier conducting a conversation with Kubert. The panel was moderately attended when it should have been standing room only. I think most con attendees didn't realize the extraordinary opportunity to be had here, plumbing the active thoughts of a man with seven solid decades of comic book experiences. He draws as well as he ever did, and says he loves it more than ever. That's me with Kubert in the above photo, after he kindly signed three books for me and solved a Caniff mystery I'll blog about at a later time. While this is the first time meeting Joe in person, several months ago I did this interview via phone. Did you ever meet one of your heroes and he was exactly how you hoped he would be? That's what it was like to meet Joe.

Mark Evanier (pictured at left), is a writer, primarily of comics and television, and whose blog is a daily visit for me. He did a great job of asking Kubert interesting questions and eliciting insight from a man who's done it all. Evanier asked him about his method of drawing, whether he sees the full picture in his mind before he draws and just draws what's in his mind, or if he just starts drawing and something emerges. Kubert paused..."I never really thought about it before, Mark," he replied. I wanted to shout, 'Don't think about it!', worrying some magic spell would be broken if he over-analyzed his technique. Kubert, looking every inch the wise professor, said he has an idea of what he wants to draw, but that it's more of a flow where "each line engenders the next line."

Alan Dean Foster, author of about a kabillion sci-fi books, was another special guest at the con. I admit I haven't read anything of his since '94, but I always liked his work. What holds him close in the hearts of geeks are his novelizations of sci-fi movies, including ghostwriting the 'Star Wars' novel for George Lucas in 1977. He then wrote 'Splinter of the Minds Eye', a sequel to Star Wars, in 1978, satisfying an appetite for more Star Wars stories before the 1980 release of 'Empire Strikes Back'. Today, Star Wars is a media monster with cartoons, video games, comics and novels. Back then we had 'Splinter' and the Star Wars Holiday Special. Foster signed my copy of his novelization of The Black Hole.

Artist Alan Davis was the most sought after guest with the longest lines. My friend, Ted, waiting two hours to meet Davis, who was doing head sketches for the ridiculously low cost of 10 bucks. Ted gave the amiable Davis a choice of doing either Green Arrow or Nick Fury. Davis thought that G.A. has more style and Fury's really "just a guy with an eye patch." The con was closing, lights dimmed and all, as Davis sketched the above picture. "A little rougher than I'd like," Davis said, but Ted's happy and I'm - all together now - green with envy. Speaking of envy, I met the man with my dream job. Dean Mullaney's in charge of essential books like the 'Terry & the Pirates' collections and the Noel Sickles book from IDW. It was great to chat with him about Caniff and I hope to interview him for a future post. Thanks to Beau Smith for introducing us. It's always great to see Beau!

No con report would be complete without a shot of some costumed folks. The gal in the middle took home 2nd prize in the costume contest. The most professional looking costumes are the Star Wars gang, which I'm sure cost a pretty penny. It looks like being a stormtrooper is 'out' and being a clone trooper is 'in'.