Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

All hail the Pop of Rock!

And still poppin' and rockin' in peace!

New album out June 17!

--Raj Manoharan

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Logan (2017)

Movie Fan Review

At the very least, this is the best film adaptation of Marvel characters not produced by Marvel Studios. It is hands-down easily one of the best motion pictures of all time.

As graphic and unrelenting as the violence on display is, the writing, directing, and acting – all of which are far superior to the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies – transcend it.

The Western road-trip structure of the production, as well as its gorgeous location cinematography and organic action scenes, makes it a refreshing change of pace from the typical superhero saga super-soaked in outlandish computer graphic imagery. Also, the inclusion of actual X-Men comic books as props is a brilliant, self-referential touch. Plus, there are a couple of really intense, literally mind-numbing sequences.

Hugh Jackman’s and Patrick Stewart’s career-high performances in this are without peer among superhero movies, and their relationships with each other, newcomer Dafne Keen, and the other actors/characters are compelling and involving. You really root for the good guys, and you truly despise the bad guys.

Keen is a star in the making with her debut in this as the wild, feral, brutal, obstinate, and ultimately endearing Laura. Keen is the best child actor I’ve seen in a long time, if ever.

What our beloved Logan (Jackman) and Professor X (Stewart) go through is sobering and tough to watch, making their climactic payoffs substantive and dramatically and cathartically satisfying. Logan especially undergoes a transformative experience unlike any other superhero character on film before him, giving this movie a depth and soul that no other superhero picture has and thus making it the best in the genre.

The entire film, especially the very end, is a fitting tribute to the most beloved X-Men character both in comics and on screen.

On a tangential note, the Deadpool short preceding Logan is a riot and, although completely different in feel and tone, a great lead-in to the main show.

--Raj Manoharan

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Andy Summers' New Album Due for Release in Late March

Andy Summers' latest album, Triboluminescence, is scheduled to be released in late March (Summers' Web site says March 24; Amazon says March 31).

Continuing in the experimental vein of Summers' last release, 2015's Metal Dog, the new collection again features Summers playing all the instruments in addition to his signature guitars, with the exception of the cello played by Artyom Manukyan on the track “Garden of the Sea.”

Triboluminescence is available for pre-order on Amazon.

--Raj Manoharan

Monday, February 27, 2017

EJ (2016), by Eric Johnson

CD Fan Review

To this day, Eric Johnson’s acoustic guitar instrumental “Desert Song,” from his 1986 debut album Tones, strikes me as underwhelming. Perhaps it’s because it stands alone among and pales in comparison to his vastly superior electric guitar songs on that record.

However, Johnson’s acoustic compositions have improved greatly over the years – his virtuosity as both an electric and an acoustic guitarist was never in question – and EJ, his first full acoustic guitar and piano album, showcases him at the apex of his skills away from the electric guitar.

Housed in an elegant digipak with a glossy booklet and high-quality artwork and photographs, the collection provides a balanced mix of acoustic guitar and/or piano instrumentals and vocal songs – some covers and some originals – with additional backing from guest musicians and vocalists on a few tracks.

In addition to his superb mastery of frets and keys, Johnson is also at the top of his game as a singer. At 62 years of age, he still sounds exactly like he did in his 20s, but with more soulful nuance and the wisdom of much experience.

Instrumental highlights include “Once Upon a Time in Texas,” “Song for Irene,” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” Of the vocal songs – all of which are excellent – my personal favorites are the folksy jazz-rock fusion take on Jimi Hendrix's "One Rainy Wish," "All Things You Are," and the epic, stunning solo piano rendition of Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair/Canticle."

EJ not only takes its place alongside Eric Johnson’s finest works and the top guitar/piano albums, but also as one of the best efforts in any music genre.

--Raj Manoharan