Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Garden Of Earthly Delights

My September FTOTZ mix:

Cover art was stolen from the brilliant artist SHAG.

01 - XTC - Garden Of Earthly Delights
02 - The Dresden Dolls - Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner
03 - The 5th Dimension - Orange Air
04 - Josie Cotton - License to Dance
05 - Arthur Brown - I Put A Spell On You
06 - The Puppini Sisters - Walk Like An Egyptian
07 - Herbie Hancock - Honey From The Jar
08 - Sophie Tucker - Red Hot Mama
09 - Iceberg Slim - Broadway Sam
10 - July - Jolly Mary
11 - Boy George - She Was Never He
12 - Janelle Monáe - Many Moons
13 - Scrugg - Lavender Popcorn
14 - Cassandra Wilson - Last Train To Clarksville
15 - The Turtles - You Don't Have to Walk in The Rain
16 - Donnie - The Daily News
17 - Black Lips - Everybody Loves a Cocksucker
18 - Gavin Friday - The Slider
19 - The Grip Weeds - Telescope
20 - Brazilian Girls - Nouveau Americain

No theme on this multi-genre mix but a higher concentration than usual of psych rock and sixties influences. For instance, it opens with XTC's "Garden of Earthly Delights," a bit of Brit-pop psychedelia from their 1989 album Oranges & Lemons.

The Dresden Dolls coined the term 'Brechtian punk cabaret' (for fear of being labeled something that would include the word gothic) to describe their take on piano pop. "Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner" is a highlight of their 2008 release, No, Virginia.

I can't get enough of the smooth soul-pop stylings of The 5th Dimension, especially when they dip their toes into sunny psychedelia. Peep the lyrics to "Orange Air," from their Jimmy Webb-penned album The Magic Garden.

If I had to explain eighties new wave pop to someone who had never heard it, Josie Cotton's "License to Dance," from her 1984 album From The Hip, epitomizes the sound for me.

"I Put A Spell On You" is one of those songs I like well enough to have collected a folder full of covers (29 and counting). This version is from Arthur Brown's 1968 psych rock classic The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

I used to love The Bangles, then they released the hellishly overplayed "Walk Like An Egyptian" and I got over them. I never thought anyone could make me like this song but damned if The Puppini Sisters didn't make it catchy, and not in a way that makes me want to jam screwdrivers through my eardrums. Here they are performing it live. From their 2007 album The Rise & Fall of Ruby Woo.

Herbie Hancock's "Honey From the Jar" is a sticky-sweet serving of vocoder funk that would not sound out of place on a Funkadelic album. Appeared on his 1979 release Feets, Don't Fail Me Now.

"Red Hot Mama" is by Sophie Tucker, delightfully bawdy star of vaudeville, Broadway and film. Tucker "was billed as The Last of the Red Hot Mamas, as her hearty sexual appetite was a frequent subject of her songs, unusual for female performers of the era (wiki)." You can hear the song on Last of the Red Hot Mamas.

"Broadway Sam" pairs a jazz-funk instrumental with a great spoken word tale by Iceberg Slim, the famed pimp, writer and forefather of rap. From his seminal 1976 album Reflections.

July's "Jolly Mary" is probably the only psychedelic sea shanty I know. Odd and engaging. From their 1968 album July, another psych rock classic.

"She Was Never He" is a great but unknown Boy George tune with lovely vocal harmonies and flamenco guitar. From his little-heard 1999 album Unrecoupable One Man Bandit, Vol. 1.

Janelle Monáe's music blends rock, hip-hop, soul and cabaret into a theatrical melange I haven't quite heard before. She's great live too. "Many Moons" can be found on her debut EP Metropolis, Suite I: The Chase.

"Lavender Popcorn" is by the British psych rock band Scrugg. The song was compiled on Paisley Pop - Pye Psych (& Other Colours), 1966-1969.

I love a cover that takes a familiar song in an unexpected direction, as exemplified by Cassandra Wilson's cool jazz take on the Monkees hit "Last Train to Clarksville." From her 1995 release New Moon Daughter.

"You Don't Have to Walk In The Rain" by sixties pop group The Turtles, is easily as fine and memorable a tune as their best known hit, "Happy Together." Found on Solid Zinc: The Turtles Anthology.

"The Daily News" is the title track from soul singer Donnie's second album. If you like good soul music with socially conscious lyrics in the manner of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, you should check this guy out. He's amazing.

What can I say about a song title like "Everybody Loves A Cocksucker"? This dissonant, slurry psych-out from Atlanta garage punks Black Lips still manages a melody catchy enough to sing along to, when you can make out the words. From their 2003 debut Black Lips!

Former Virgin Prune Gavin Friday released a great glam-cabaret-pop album in 1996 called Shag Tobacco that remains one of my favorites from the era. If you liked "The Slider "you should go buy it- not a bad tune on there.

The Grip Weeds are psych pop revivalists who have been around since 1994, although I only recently discovered them. "Telescope" is on their 2004 album Giant On The Beach.

Brazilian Girls are an eclectic electronic group featuring the sultry multilingual vocals of Sabina Sciubba. "Nouveau Americain" is from their latest release, New York City.

Download "Garden Of Earthly Delights"

Listening to: Janelle Monáe - Violet Stars Happy Hunting!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fabulous Stains DVD review

From Home Theater Forum:

The cult classic "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS" received only a limited initial theatrical release and has been seen only on television and occasionally at film festivals since it was made in 1981. The movie has never been released on home video or DVD. Yet this little-seen film about a trio of misfit teenage girls (including a young Diane Lane and Laura Dern) who start a punk band went on to inspire a generation of female rockers like Bikini Kill, L7, and Courtney Love. Jon Bon Jovi, St Ettienne and The Ramones are also huge fans of the film.

Rhino Entertainment are reviving this lost cult classic with the DVD release of LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS on September 16th.

Directed by Lou Adler (Up In Smoke, Rocky Horror Picture Show), the film stars Oscar nominee Diane Lane (Unfaithful, The Perfect Storm) and Laura Dern (Jurassic Park, Wild At Heart) as members of The Stains, along with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols, Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Fee Waybill of the Tubes, Black Randy from Black Randy and The Metrosquad, plus Ray Winstone (Beowulf, Sexy Beast) and Christine Lahti (Running On Empty).

Surly and sexy in one of her earliest starring roles, Diane Lane is the archetype riot grrl. Recently orphaned and struggling in a poverty stricken existance she forms a punk rock group with her sister and cousin. Sporting a memorable skunk hairdo, sheer see-through top, high-stiletto heels and fishnets, she sings songs like "I'm A Waste of Time," verbally assaults the audience and leads her legion of adoring female fans in the chant, "We don't put out!". Before long "The Stains" are becoming media darlings because of their image rather than any actual talent. However, the music industry being what it is, has some rather shocking surprises for the fledgling band.

This is a really wonderful film. The music, the camera work, the performances, the rags-to-riches/riches-to-rags story. It is all very entertaining and engrossing. It also says so so much about the music industry and fame... including the way that almost everyone uses and manipulates everything for their advantage only to be manipulated themselves and then destroyed by the very thing that made them.

Diane Lane totally owns the film and really imbues her character of Corrinne "3rd Degree" Burns with both a biting wit, a certain sympathy, and yet a tough bitchy quality. It is a very VERY memorable performance. Ray Winstone (with a very thick cockney accent) is superb also. These two also really look the part on stage. Diane Lane was to play a rocker in "Streets Of Fire" a few years after this too. Laura Dern is superb in support and Fee Waybill steals every scene he is in.

Filled with great rock and roll, it's no surprise that much of the film's underground following consists of musicians. Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail has said: "It is the most realistic and profound film I have ever seen." While not everyone will appreciate this time capsule of a movie, everyone should at least see it once. It is an important movie that somehow predicted much of how the music industry was to become. It was slightly passe when it came out (due to re-editing and re-shooting the film was delayed and plagued with behind-the-scenes problems) but it is now quite refreshing and doesn't seem dated. A time-capsule of a film that is definitely worth a look.

Film: 4/5

The FABULOUS STAINS DVD features the film restored from original vault elements and the picture quality on this 1.85:1 anamorphic enhanced DVD is pretty good. Considering the age of the film and the fact that it has been lost in some vault somewhere for almost 30 years it actually looks excellent. Nobody is gonna mistake this for a "Transformers" blu-ray but it is BY FAR the BEST this film has ever looked. Anyone used to $40 bootlegs on Ebay will be blown away! The picture is sharp, colorful, and clearly defined. There is some nice film grain but it isn't overly grainy. The low-ish budget and film stock is still apparent but some scenes really do look wonderful (even for SD). There are the odd instances of film debris (a few white speckles here and there) and there were one or two instances of pixellization (in a few scene transitions) but you have to really be on the look out for them. All in all this is a very nice DVD presentation from Rhino.

Picture: 3.5/5

The sound on this DVD is the real star of the show. The film has been completely remastered in 5.1 and wow, that music does sound good. There is a punch to the bass and a lively quality that blows away all those TV screenings and bootleg DVD's. The concert footage especially is very dynamic and nice. The dialogue is clear and centre focussed and well integrated into the mix. Overall, this is a very very impressive remaster.

Sound: 4/5

The extras on the DVD are all quite good but there are also some notable things missing. First there is the menu screens with the music from the film over some footage playing the background. Menu options are "Play Movie", "Scene Selections", "Set-Up" and "Special Features".

Under the extras you will find an informative brand new audio commentary with Lou Adler. Adler is quite quiet and unassuming. He also admits to watching and enjoying the movie. Sadly, for us... that means he goes quiet too often and we have patches of silence where he doesn't say much. He is quite informative when he does talk but the commentary is a bit dry. I guess sproradically informative is the best way to sum this one up.

The second commentary makes up for the first. Stars Diane Lane and Laura Dern sit-down together for this track and it is very entertaining and even downright hilarious in parts. While probably not as informative as Lou Adler's track the girls have an absolute ball revisiting this film. They joke and laugh, giggle and tell stories and anecdotes about the production and the films troubled shoot. Both Lane and Dern also show that they are very into their music too. Lane for instance mentions several bands and musical references throughout from The Ramones and The Go-Go's to Flock Of Seagulls and The Thompson Twins. There is also some funny moments where Diane Lane does some spot-on impressions of Ray Winstone! An entertaining and lively listen.

There is a cool photo-gallery with about 50 photos from the production. These are either promotional shots or behind-the-scenes shots taken during the shoot. Most of these I have never seen anywhere else. Even if you are an ardent fan of this film there will be many here that you too haven't seen before.

There is also an attractively produced and informative booklet inside the DVD case too.

While the commentaries are good (the Lane and Dern being great!) and the photo gallery is superb, there are still some things that didn't make the package sadly. The wonderful "Making Of" documentary (available here: index and here: YouTube - Making of 'Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains' Part 1 ) is sadly not included (apparently a rights issue). It is available on this DVD however: Amazon.com: The Rainbow Man/John 3:16: Diane Lane, Laura Dern, Ray Winstone, Paul Cook, Paul Simonon, Marin Kanter, Lou Adler, Nancy Dowd, Fee Waybill, Caroline Coon, Jake Fogelnest, Debbie Rochon, Rollen Stewart, Sarah Jacobson, Sam Green (II): Movi ).

Also, the films theatrical trailer is not included although you can view the Rhino version of the trailer here: Amazon.com: Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains: Diane Lane, Ray Winstone, Laura Dern, Peter Donat, Barry Ford, Christine Lahti, John Lehne, Cynthia Sikes, Brent Spiner, Fee Waybill, Janet Wright, Marin Kanter, Debbie Rochon, Paul Simonon, Vinc and here: YouTube - Ladies & Gentelmen, The Fabulous Stains Trailer ).

If these two things were on this Rhino disc that would have made it pretty much perfect but sadly they are not. What we have is very good though so hey, we'll just have to live with it. That being said, to have any extras on this film is something to be applauded. Well done Rhino.

Extras features: 3/5

Overall, to own this lost cult classic on DVD is a miracle and to have it atlast in such good quality is even more impressive. The picture is fine, the sound is amazing, and the extras (while not completely all encompassing) are also excellent. The Diane Lane and Laura Dern commentary is especially entertaining and funny. A recommended purchase!

Total: 4/5