Monday, November 26, 2012

CD Review – The Maiden of Stonehenge, by Michael Brant DeMaria

This CD is a soundtrack to Florida’s Pensacola Little Theatre production of the same name co-written and coproduced by psychologist and recording artist Michael Brant DeMaria.
The play revolves around a young girl in Ancient Britain who sets out in search of acceptance and a new start, embarking on a deeply personal journey of exploration and self-discovery that culminates at the iconic assemblage of mythical stone structures in England.
As befits the mystical story and setting, the music is appropriately dark and mysterious, its nocturnal enchantment truly coming alive during a nighttime drive on forest roads beneath a starry sky. Given that the play revolves around an excursion, the album is ideal as a soundtrack for traveling. DeMaria works from a sonic reservoir full of keyboards and synthesizers, flutes, percussion, and chants, resulting in a rich, thought-provoking, otherworldly sound. Maggie Crain, the lead actress from the play, also provides serene vocals on a couple of tracks.
Judging from the song titles, themes, and story strands explained in the liner notes, I imagine that the music on this CD brings the play to life like no standard soundtrack could. However, the album also stands on its own as a penetrating piece of art conducive to pause and reflection.
--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, November 18, 2012

TV – Goodbye Carly

This Thanksgiving weekend marks the end of an era as iCarly concludes five and a half glorious seasons as the most popular show in Nickelodeon history. The series has been so successful that its reach has expanded well beyond its niche network fan base and demographic, ensuring its place in the annals of pop culture.
The show revolves around teenage friends who produce a popular Internet variety show. However, the focus is not so much the Web program as it is the friends themselves, as well as their peers, family members, and schoolteachers. This is why the show is so relatable to kids and adults. Also, the fact that the main characters produce a Web show is far from far-fetched in this day and age. Not many people can relate to attending a performing arts high school or living on a cruise ship. But anyone can have a Web site or a blog – even me.
The show’s widespread success is also due to the fact that it is actually funny. This is no surprise considering that the series’ creator and executive producer is Dan Schneider, who starred as one of the high school students in the 1980s ABC sitcom Head of the Class before becoming one of Nickelodeon’s most successful writer-producers. In fact, I dare say that iCarly is far superior to most of the sitcoms on network television today.
It has been a pleasure to watch these talented kids grow up. And the show wouldn’t be what it is without the excellent grown-up actors as well, especially Jerry Trainor (who resembles Jerry O’Connell and has the comic elasticity of Jim Carrey) and Tim Russ (who played Vulcan security officer Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager and who here as Principal Franklin implores his students to “study hard and prosper”).
Even though two of the teenage actors will continue playing their characters in two new Nickelodeon shows, it just won’t be the same. The kid and adult ensemble cast have a unique chemistry that will be hard to replicate, if ever.
Farewell, iCarly, and thanks for the laughs.
--Raj Manoharan

Friday, November 2, 2012

Please Stand By

My thoughts and condolences go out to the families, friends, and loved ones of those who didn't make it, as well as to all those who are enduring and suffering extreme hardship as they deal with the loss of their homes and struggle to survive without the basic necessities of life.

As far as I know, all of my family, friends, and colleagues in this area are fine, and I am thankful for that.

I myself had a couple of close encounters, and so I am thankful that I am able to write this, even as there are damages and other issues to contend with.

To all the artists who have sent me copies of their CDs and not seen reviews yet, please bear with me. It will be at least a couple of weeks before I get going again. In addition, I have a huge backlog, so it may be a couple of months before you see your reviews. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Again, I send my best to all those recovering in the New York Metropolitan/Tri-State Area, as well as up and down the East Coast and other affected areas/regions.