Friday, February 10, 2017

Live at Jay Resort, Jay, Vermont 9/10/2016 (2016), by Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers

Music Download Fan Review

I was looking for a good overview of Bruce Hornsby’s thus-far 30-year career, and wouldn’t you know it, Hornsby himself just provided a great one as a free download at www.brucehornsbylive.com.

With a running time of at least two hours, this set not only revisits some seminal songs from The Range but also features a lot of Hornsby’s solo and Noisemaker material.

While the majority of the tunes are not as recognizable as Hornsby’s hits from his 1980s heyday, they all feature his unique talents on piano, keyboards, accordion, and hammered dulcimer, as well as his penchant for quirky, funky rhythmic grooves.

And from the sound of his voice, Hornsby’s pipes are as golden as ever, showing no trace of his 62 years of age. In fact, Hornsby’s singing leaves today’s younger “talents” in the dust.

Adding to the exhilaration and exuberance of this live performance is the energetic and enthusiastic playing of The Noisemakers: JV Collier on bass, Gibb Droll on guitar, JT Thomas on organ, Ross Holmes on fiddle and mandolin, and Sonny Emory on drums and percussion.

Musical highlights include “Take Out the Trash,” “Dreamland,” “The Show Goes On,” and Hornsby’s brilliant, beautiful, breathtaking fusion of his “Fortunate Son” with the Pink Floyd classic “Comfortably Numb.”

If you’re looking for an awesome and enjoyable celebration of Bruce Hornsby’s first 30 years of music, this timely and entertaining release certainly fits the bill.

--Raj Manoharan

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Richard Hatch (1945-2017)

I was a literally starry-eyed five-year-old when I first saw Battlestar Galactica upon its premiere in 1978.

For the next year, I was rapt as I watched Commander Adama (Lorne Greene), his son Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch), and Lieutenant Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) lead a ragtag fleet of spaceships in search of the lost thirteenth human colony, Earth.

Around the same time, or maybe a little while after, I remember seeing Hatch on the big screen in Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen.

In the late 1990s, I had the good fortune, honor, and privilege of interviewing Hatch by telephone for the IGN Sci-Fi Web site. At the time, Hatch had written a couple of Battlestar Galactica novels and produced a professionally made trailer for a potential sequel series starring him and many veterans of the original show.

At the end of the interview, I mentioned to Hatch that my mother was a fan of his since his soap opera days. He immediately asked for my mother’s name and address and promptly mailed her a personally autographed black-and-white photograph of himself.

Thank you, Mr. Hatch, for taking the time to talk to me, and also for your graciousness.

--Raj Manoharan

Friday, January 20, 2017

Miguel Ferrer (1955-2017)

My first encounters with Mr. Ferrer on film were Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (he wasn’t a known actor at that point; he played an unnamed bridge officer aboard the U.S.S. Excelsior) and Robocop.

Since then, he had become quite the familiar face in movies and television, racking up an impressive list of credits, the most recent being a long-running role on the hit TV series NCIS: Los Angeles.

One of the many progeny of Oscar- and Tony-winning actor Jose Ferrer and singer Rosemary Clooney (and thus a cousin of George Clooney), Miguel Ferrer was a fine, accomplished, and versatile actor.

Rest well, good man.

--Raj Manoharan

Cowboy Classics Sampler (2016), by Patrick Stewart

CD Fan Review

For a Royal Shakespearean actor from England who has trekked to the stars, fought magnetic mutants, and talked bluntly, Patrick Stewart makes quite the convincing country crooner.

Unlike his equally musically inclined intergalactic predecessor, Stewart actually sings these cowboy classics (with the exception of “Ringo,” and to great effect). And he does a pretty fine job of it.

It certainly helps that Stewart is backed by a top-notch band of musicians, including Ethan Eubanks (drums/percussion/vocals), Andrew Sherman (piano/accordion/vocals), Jim Campilongo (guitars), Jon Graboff (pedal steel/guitars/vocals), and Jeff Hill (bass).

But Stewart really goes for it and gets into the character of these Western ditties, giving it his all as he belts out his unique brand of British country twang in pitches I wasn’t previously aware that he was capable of. In fact, if I didn’t know beforehand that this was Patrick Stewart, I wouldn’t have recognized his voice for the most part (he does sound somewhat like himself on his gleefully giddy interpretation of “Here Comes Santa Claus.”)

If you like country (and Christmas) music and Patrick Stewart, you’re in for a real treat. What could have easily been an exercise in pure hokeyness (not altogether a bad thing in itself) manages to be both kitschy and classy thanks to Stewart’s talents and penchant for having a grand old time.

I do reckon there’s a future for Patrick Stewart in them there musical hills.

--Raj Manoharan

The Way It Is – Live (2016), by Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers

Music Download Fan Review

Thirty years after the release of his debut album The Way It Is (with The Range), Bruce Hornsby and his current band The Noisemakers revisit that seminal moment with live performances of the entire record. The concert, which comprises two dates, is available as a free download on www.brucehornsbylive.com.

In addition to demonstrating the timelessness of those 1986 songs, the new versions prove that, vocally, the 62-year-old Hornsby is nearly indistinguishable from his 32-year-old self.

Hornsby is also still at the top of his game instrumentally, maintaining his edge as a keyboard impresario on piano, accordion, and synthesizers. The Noisemakers aren’t too shabby, either. Consisting of JV Collier on bass, Gibb Droll on guitar, Ross Holmes on fiddle and mandolin, JT Thomas on organ, and Sonny Emory on drums, this band is as tight as they come.

While the songs remain essentially the same, some spirited improvisational detours ensure that they live on with a new vigor and vitality.

And that's The Way It Is.

--Raj Manoharan