Sunday, August 24, 2014

CD Review – River Serene, by Timothy Wenzel

The title and the cover artwork set the mood for composer/keyboardist Timothy Wenzel's latest work, a deep and insightful musical journey into the heart of melodic solace.

In addition to writing all the compositions, Wenzel performs all of the pieces himself on synthesizer, making this a genuine solo effort, and a remarkable and outstanding one at that.
 
Especially since he is the only musician on this outing, Wenzel utilizes all the sonic capabilities of the synthesizer at his disposal, resulting in a full, rich sound that registers the signatures of guitar, bass, and percussion, as well as a host of exotic instrumentation.
 
The music is gentle and placid, but it never loses interest due to its dynamism and creativity. This is the perfect soundtrack for a quiet, peaceful voyage of any kind.
 
--Raj Manoharan


Sunday, August 17, 2014

CD Review – Nocturnes, by Dan Chadburn

I've read reviews that say quiet music is great for getting in the mood to drift away peacefully to sleep and also that such music should not be listened to in the car for danger of dozing off at the wheel. I've heard some “hard-driving,” “rocking” music that is such a dreadful bore that it put me out. I say that good, dynamic music should never induce slumber, serene and tranquil though it may be. Rather, it should always command attention regardless of its level of amplitude. Dan Chadburn's latest album is one such example of quiet music that merits and rewards careful and concentrated listening.

As the title suggests, Chadburn's compositions are inspired by and reflective of nighttime calm and rest. However, the writing is so creative and the performances so brilliant that you can't help but be positively rapt by Chadburn's muse and execution.

In addition to Chadburn's delicate and deliberate mastery of the keyboard, the CD features the talents of Martin Hackleman on French horn, Helen Hausmann on viola and violin, and Carole Libelo on English horn, adding a dimension of elegance to Chadburn's already eloquent music.

Whether you're a fan of piano music or just like good music in general, you can't go wrong with this collection.

--Raj Manoharan


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Happy Birthday, Eric Johnson!

On Sunday, August 17, 2014, one of my favorite guitarists, Eric Johnson, turns 60 years old.

I was first introduced to the music of Johnson in 1990 by an employee at a local cable television station I was interning at during my senior year of high school. That was the year Johnson, then 35/36 years old, released his breakthrough second album, Ah Via Musicom, which achieved the distinction of having three instrumental songs reach the American Top Ten.

Every one of Johnson's albums showcases his incredible electric guitar wizardry and his soft-spoken heartfelt vocals, but if you want a good overview of Johnson's career, you can't go wrong with his two most recent releases, Up Close and Europe Live, reviews of which follow below.

--Raj Manoharan

CD (Fan) Review – Europe Live, by Eric Johnson

As the title indicates, the CD documents the legendary veteran Texas guitarist's recent European tour in support of his 2010 studio album Up Close.

While the new album includes cuts from that CD, the live disc also features classics from Johnson's nearly three-decade-long career as a solo recording artist, as well as two new songs.

This is Johnson's best live album to date. Not only does it have the advantage of providing the broadest live retrospective of Johnson's solo career, but it also has the benefit of showing how some of his old tunes have evolved in the hands of a wiser and more refined – but still very dynamic and energetic – Johnson, who seems to keep getting better and better as time goes on.

--Raj Manoharan

CD Retro (Fan) Review – Up Close, by Eric Johnson

The seventh studio album from Grammy Award-winning Texas guitar hero Eric Johnson is quite the trip. Like his other CDs a mix of instrumentals and vocal songs mostly penned by him and showcasing his unique virtuosity on the electric guitar, Up Close includes some of the best work that Johnson has ever written and recorded.

The album is dripping with crackling guitars. If a guitar died and went to heaven, this is what heaven would sound like. Johnson is on fire, effortlessly weaving incredible, sparkling solos in and out of both the instrumental and vocal tracks. The vocal songs range from energetic blues and rock numbers to gorgeous, heartfelt ballads. Inspired like never before, Johnson plays and sings with a fervor not present in his previous work. Perhaps Johnson is like a fine vintage wine, improving with age.

I was first introduced to the music of Johnson in 1990 by an employee at a local cable television station I was interning at during my senior year of high school. That was the year Johnson, then 35/36 years old, released his breakthrough second album, Ah Via Musicom, which achieved the distinction of having three instrumental songs reach the American Top Ten.

As accomplished and groundbreaking as Ah Via Musicom and its edgier and sonically more expansive 1996 follow-up, Venus Isle, are, Johnson has really poured his living, breathing essence into Up Close. The result is the best guitar-based album of the last several years, and one of the best guitar-based and general music albums of all time.

With Up Close, Johnson is at the top of his game as a guitarist, composer, and singer. He has created a masterwork of soulful jazz/pop/rock fusion that exudes passion, especially through his trademark virtuosic guitar sound. Even with guest vocals by Malford Milligan, Steve Miller, and Johnny Lang, and guitar performances by Jimmie Vaughan, Steve Hennig, and Sonny Landreth, the album is clearly all Eric Johnson up close front and center.

--Raj Manoharan


Friday, August 15, 2014

TV – Superman Returns! See the Dawn of Justice on Me TV Before It Arrives in Theaters!

This is what I wrote back on December 28, 2013:

Watching Batman and Wonder Woman on Me TV is a great way to prepare for the Man of Steel sequel set for release in 2015, with Henry Cavill reprising his role as Superman and joined by Ben Affleck as Batman and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Now all Me TV needs to do is add the 1950s series The Adventures of Superman to the lineup.”

This fall, my thought from last winter becomes fact as The Adventures of Superman finally joins Me TV's Sci-Fi Saturday lineup, starting September 6, 2014.

The classic show starring George Reeves as TV's first live-action Man of Steel kicks off a super-powered evening of super-heroics at 6:00 p.m., followed by Adam West and Burt Ward as the Caped Crusading Dynamic Duo in Batman at 7:00 p.m. and Lynda Carter as the original warrior princess in Wonder Woman at 8:00 p.m.

Now, thanks to Me TV, super fans will be super ready to anticipate the theatrical release (now set for 2016) of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, starring Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, respectively, and introducing a host of other legendary DC Comics superheroes.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Publications and Interviews

Publications
TV Key (King Features Syndicate); CableView; PrimeStar; DirecTV: The Guide; Starlog; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Star Trek: Voyager; IGN Sci-Fi (Web site)

Interviews

Richard Dean Anderson; Amanda Bearse; Jim Belushi; Don Berliner; Ken Burns; LeVar Burton; Timothy Busfield; Kim Catrall; Robert Conrad; John De Lancie; Cleavant Derricks; Fred Dryer; Erik Estrada; Greg Evigan; Lou Ferrigno; June Foray; Jonathan Frakes (twice); Stanton Friedman; David Alan Grier; Mark Hamill; David Hasselhoff; Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica); John Henson; Bruce Hornsby; Chuck Jones; Eartha Kitt; Stan Lee; Scott Leva (who told me that could be him in my profile picture); James MacArthur; Poppy Montgomery; Leonard Nimoy; Jerry O’Connell (also my NYU Tisch classmate); Edward James Olmos; Joe Pantoliano; Michael Piller; Sam Raimi; Ernie Sabella; Katey Sagal; John Schneider; William Shatner; Sinbad; Patrick Stewart; Andy Summers; Henry Thomas; Tim White; Larry Wilcox; Brian Wilson; Tom Wopat; Bill Wyman