Friday, June 29, 2007

The Week in Review(s)

Well it was a fun week, although in retrospect I really didn't do all that much. I interviewed Damien Lewis about his soon to be released book Cobra Gold, and it turned out to be a great interview. It ended up in syndication, so everyone is happy! In fact Damien is so happy he is sending me a couple more of his books. Cobra Gold is going to be available in the US mid July, and I recommend that you grab this one.

And my literary 'rant' of the week has to be the very disturbing book The Street Series - Is It Suicide Or Murder by Kevin Weeks. This is a book in a genre that I had previously never heard of, Urban Lit! What is Urban Lit I hear you ask. Well it is street talk. Almost the entire book is written in urban gang slang. I really didn't care for it a lot, and I think that came through in the review. Maybe what disturbed me most was that the only audience that this book would appeal to (teens) are the group that should not be allowed to read it. Steeped in sex, violence, and glorification of gang life, it is not a book that I would want my teen reading.

In my opinion The Street Series epitomizes all that is wrong with the shift to print on demand (POD) and self publishing. Obviously no Editor was involved in the butchering of the English language. An author may create the book, but a good editor makes the book. What I find absolutely amazing is this damn book won some (admittedly obscure) award. Maybe the really depressing aspect is the word 'series', he plans on producing more!

I read a lot of books, and there are a lot of great authors out there, authors that deserve recognition, but get none, because last year 290,000 new titles were released in the US alone. The only upside that I can see is that Kevin is currently in jail, while this may not stop him publishing, it should at least slow him down.

In TV world I did my usual Big Ideas For A Small Planet gig. What an interesting show, and one that I can recommend to everyone. I even got to include a brief interview with a guy who makes eco-friendly skateboards!

In the music world apart from the great day Jan and I had last Friday where we got to meet Sam Moore, and listen to Blood Sweat and Tears it has been a dead week.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Great Day!

Yesterday turned out to be a banner day. There was a steady stream of 'crackberry' messages pertaining to the Sam Moore concert, as best I could figure out we had to be on site before 6pm. So we rolled out of the house at about 3, and after a bus, train, and another bus we got to the festival site at about 5.

As the Moore's had promised our tickets were waiting for us, better still, a free booze coupon! We grabbed a couple of cold beverages and found a table off to the side of the stage. At first we thought it was just a bunch of local musicians tuning up on stage, and then we realized it was Blood Sweat And Tears, when they played Spinning Wheel is was a dead give away! Particularly as I recently reviewed a DVD by them. What surprised me was the very laid back approach to everything, it was reminiscent of the 70's.

My mission was to find Joyce Moore who had invited us. I knew nothing about her, other than the fact that her husband Sam is 71 years old, Black, and very famous! After Blood Sweat and Tears had finished their mini concert (I'll tell more about that in a while) a small dynamo appeared on stage, giving all sorts of advice to the folks running what had to be the worlds biggest mixing board, "Keep the top end high when Sam is on", "When he duets with the little ones boost the gain", "and remember louder is not always better" etc, etc. "I'll bet that's her" I said to Jan. And off I went to find out. It was Joyce!

Sam played an almost 2 hour set, which is about 90 minutes longer than most artists half his age. And a damn fine set it was. Then it was off back to the trailers. Poor Sam must have been exhausted but sat patiently chatting with the VIP's and signing copies of his CD. Meanwhile Jan and I were in the thick of the 'Sharp end' of the music biz. In between signing cheques and dealing with minor issues like missing musicians Joyce explained that this was 'just another day'.

What really impressed me was how musicians help each other out. Blood Sweat and Tears were down a keyboard player, and Sam was down a drummer, both were caught in the wonderful world of flight cancellations. Sam's keyboard player played both sets, and that is why they were practising when we first arrived. That man deserves a medal, he put in a 4 hour performance!

Jan and I got to spend a few minutes chatting with Sam, and he is a very unassuming, and really nice guy. He certainly sparked up when Joyce explained that I was the guy that was running with the piracy story! Of course Jan and Sam chatted about New Orleans, a place that Sam is quite familiar with.

A great evening, and certainly one that we will remember for a long time. They gave us a copy of the latest CD, and a link to a new video that is NOT FOR SALE. It is a tribute to Billy Preston who passed away last year.

Yup, all in all, a very memorable day!

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Week In Review(s)

Well, it certainly wasn’t a boring week!

I read a great book by UK author Damien Lewis, While he may not be a household name on this side of the pond he is a bestselling author in the UK. Cobra Gold is his 7th book, and this guy writes with style. This is a cracking good yarn and well worth the effort to find in your local book store. I also suspect that Cobra Gold may be just the vehicle to break into the North American market. I believe it goes on sale here next month, and I will be watching the Amazon stats carefully.

Last Monday Jan and I went to the theatre, we saw a preview of A Mighty Heart that opens today. It is a movie about the Daniel Pearl beheading in Pakistan 5 years ago. I must say that I was very impressed with this production. No blood and gore, just a very moving and sad story. I am sure that it is going to have a good opening weekend.

On the video front I reviewed a great Britcom from the 80’s, Rising Damp, the fourth and final season has been released on DVD. It was funny in the 80’s and it is still funny today. Well worth picking up the next time you are in Wally-World.

In the world of TV there was a review of this weeks program in the ‘Big Ideas For A Small Planet’. This Sundance Channel series is really interesting; I get to like it more and more. This week the theme was plastic and it’s grim footprint on the planet. As part of the review I interviewed Frederic Scheer the CEO of Cereplast, a company that makes a biodegradable plastic.

I had a quick foray into the murky world of music piracy. One would assume that when you receive a DVD from a reputable company all should be kosher. However that was not the case. It looked like there was a DCMA takedown notice in my future so I took the review down before it became an official issue. On the upside, I did get an interview out of the deal. And tonight (assuming everything comes together) Jan and I are going to meet Sam and Joyce Moore, they are in Calgary for a gig, and they have invited us to come as their guests.

Transported back in time I had the opportunity to listen to the latest Jethro Tull cd, and I was greatly impressed by it. If you are an Ian Anderson fan, you will want this in your collection.

When I interviewed Al Stewart recently he asked me if I had heard his latest CD, I had to confess that I had not. Well the gracious Al sent me a copy of Beach Full Of Shells, and I like it a lot.

There were also various other music DVD’s that passed through my hands. The Jesus Lizard introduced me to the wonderful world of ‘full contact’ music, and From Zeros To Heroes is a look back at the Brit ‘Boy Band’ Take That.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


That was the exact word and only word out of Jan's mouth this morning when I showed her an email that had just arrived.

So what was in the email this morning? It was from Joyce Moore, wife and manager of soul music great, Sam Moore. And she was pretty happy with the way the whole thing worked out with the bootleg DVD story. In a zillion to one chance, it turns out that Sam Moore is going to be performing here in Calgary on Friday evening, and Jan and I have been invited to attend. Jan is a huge fan of Sam Moore, she is on cloud nine!

You just gotta love this reviewing business.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Busy Day.....

I hate Mondays at the best of times, and today was no exception. The first thing that happened this morning was my wife noticed a comment that was left on one of my reviews. While it was not quite a DCMA take down notice, it was obviously headed in that direction. As far as reviews go I am very above board, people send me stuff, and I review said stuff. It's really clear cut, I don't sell the stuff, I don't buy the stuff, I just review the stuff!

Well it turns out that some stuff that I received from the distributor is bootlegged! And the Artist involved is pretty ticked over it. And his wife (who is his manager was even more ticked). So a good portion of the morning got devoted to dealing with this less than attractive situation. The good news though is that the Moore clan (Sam and Joyce) turned out to be good sports and what started out as being potentially a bad scene turned out to have a silver lining, an interview about the problem. I'll have this up on BNN tomorrow. Oh and if you don't know who Sam Moore is do a Google on him, he is one of the most significant figures in the soul world for the past 50 years.

My trusty researcher and wife Jan managed to unearth all sorts of good interview questions, so this is going to be a great article.

This evening we took in a movie. I made the fundamental and not to be repeated mistake of not going to the real press screening, this was a sponsored screening, the one that radio stations, newspapers, and other MSM outlets run pointless contests to give away tickets. So instead of the usual 'count on the fingers of hand' local press, there were a stinking mob! I will not be doing that again anytime soon! Oh, the movie was fine, actually very good 'A Mighty Heart' will do well this weekend when it opens. I'd tell you more about it, but I am sworn to 'reviewing secrets' till it opens on Friday!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Week In Review(s) – Part 2

Although technically this review should go in next weeks article it is too good not to share. Jan and I watched the most bizarre concert of our combined 103 years of experience. The Jesus Lizard may not be band that is on many peoples radar, and their musical abilities are to say the least questionable, but they do put on a very unique performance.

They seem to be waging war on the audience, in my review I refer to them as ‘a full contact band’. If you see this DVD in the $5 bin at your local Walmart grab it. It’s worth $5 just for the battle scenes!

Take That was a brit boy band from the early 90’s, you know what I mean, 5 insipidly clean cut teenage boys stage managed to appeal to preteen screaming girls. From Zeros to Heroes is a documentary that leads us through a series of bland breakfast TV interviews. My advice on this one is leave it in the ‘Bargain Bin’, it is not a bargain at any price.

Elvis – At The Movies is a double CD soon to be released on the Sony/BMG label. It is as the name implies a compilation of his music from his prolific movie career. For the Elvis lover this is a must have for the collection.

Celtic Feet was a DVD that I was disappointed in, I had been expecting a Michael Flatley-esque Riverdance inspired extravaganza of Celtic dancing. Instead it is a ‘how to’ guide. Yup, you can learn to dance in easy lessons!

Somewhere during the week I also reviewed Starz, T. G. Sheppard, and New England.

So all in all it was a pretty busy week.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Week In Review(s) – Part One

Well there was certainly no end of excitement. It maybe was not the most productive week, but it sure had its moments. For that reason I am splitting this into two posts.

The book scene has been fun. I finished The Infernal Machine by Matthew Carr, this is a fascinating look at the inglorious history of terrorism. From the 1880’s assassination of Tsar Alexander II through to Al Qaeda. I really enjoyed this book, it does not take sides, it explains the issues, the acts, and the responses. In fact he makes a convincing argument that the terrorists through the ages have generally (tho not always) failed in their objectives, and have instead become unwilling pawns in the enactment of unpopular laws that assist governments in their own agenda.

I was absolutely shocked when I interviewed Matthew, this is the second book in the last couple of months that I have reviewed that has been through the British law system. He was not very willing to discuss the actual details, not name the individual, but the entire first pressing of the book ended up ‘pulped’ over 3 sentences in it. London has become the Libel capitol of the world! Luckily The New Press are running with the book (sans the three sentences) in the US. Unfortunately for Matthew tho, his book is essentially unavailable in his home country.
My advice to everyone, is go buy it, it’s a great read.

Right now I am working on Cobra Gold by Damien Lewis and it is a cracking good yarn. Although entirely based around an actual event (The biggest unsolved gold robbery of all time), he has weaved a fictitious and very clever story around it. Damien is a best selling author in England, and one of his books made it to #4 on the Times Best Seller list. I can hear you ask, ‘so WTF are you doing with this book’? Well that’s a good story as well, I recently reviewed Peter Davies’ Scatterlings of Africa’. And it turns out they are buddies. Damien liked my style in the review and interview, and asked me if I would like to try his book. To say the least, I was flattered!

There was a little bit of TV excitement this week. I am reviewing a series of weekly TV shows. Usually it is pretty simple, I have a big pile of DVD’s, one for each week, on Sunday I watch the episode, and write the review, the show airs on Tuesday evening, and life is good. The problem that I had this week was….. the DVD was missing! EEK, how do you review something that you don’t have? The problem was resolved online. While it was a little too close to the deadline for my taste, no harm was done.

More about reviewing tomorrow!

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Week In Review(s)

It has been another wild week in the world of reviewing. Last Friday I received two boxes of 'stuff', and I am still trying to dig my way out of this hole!

I started off with Rick Wakemans latest creation Amazing Grace, I have been a fan of Rick's for many years. Who is Rick Wakeman? Well if you are old, like I am, and grew up in England in the 70's, there were two bands that ruled the Prog Rock scene, The Strawbs, and YES. Rick was the wild keyboard player for both of these bands. His signature was the number of keyboards this guy would have set up, six was not unusual! In Amazing Grace, he dumps all of his Moog's and Meletrons in favour of a Grand Piano. This is a great album, and I am hoping to interview Rick next week.

In the 70's Rick was very much a session musician, and in an amazing co-incidence he played on two Al Stewart albums, Orange, and Past present and Future. Well, I interviewed Al this week about his long and industrious career. What a great segway eh? Al Stewart has just had 13 of his albums put back in print, and I had the opportunity to talk to Al. He is a great performer, and he is just as charismatic one on one. I have to admit that this was one of the all time high spots in my reviewing career. I was amazed at how candid he was in his answers.

On the TV front I have started doing some work with the 'Sundance Channel', they have a great weekly series 'Big Ideas For A Small Planet', my review of the last program 'Create' was picked up for syndication. So everyone involved was pretty happy. I have an interview scheduled with the CEO of one of the companies that going to be featured in two weeks.

I also reviewed a whole schwack of music DVD's that quite honestly I can't even remember the titles of.

On the book front I finished Funny Business, which is a very funny book. I enjoyed it a lot. While the author may not be a name that you have heard of Allen Rosenshine, he is a very powerful name in the advertising world. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 50 years, you have seen this mans work. BBDO is the worlds largest Ad agency, and Allen Rosenshine was the guy driving the car. I am sure you remember the famous Pepsi ad that has Michael Jackson in it, maybe even more famous, the fact that Michael's hair got set on fire, well Allen was the guy on the 'Hot Seat', as opposed to the hot hair! This is a great read, and I laughed a lot.

Right now I am almost finished 'Infernal Machine - a history of terrorism' by Matthew Carr, and as the title suggests, it it all about terrorism. Matthew has created a really fine book, and he argues very convincingly that it is not a new phenomenon, the names may change, the locale may change, even the goals may change, but there is a constant theme behind it. In fact, what is one mans terrorist, is another mans freedom fighter! It has a lot to do with how you view it, and how the government of whatever country involved spins it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

An Interview With Al Stewart

I have been a big fan of Al Stewart since I saw him perform way back in 1971. When I read a press release about 13 of his CD's being remastered and re-released I was in there like white on rice asking for a review set. I was really, really happy when I got them in my hot little hands.

On a whim, I decided to go for the big one, and saa if I could get an interview with the maestro himself. Well, I did, and this morning I got to chat with him. You can find the interview on Blogger News.

I was most impressed by his wit and charm, this guy is a class act. He was also very candid in his answers, and certainly did not try and duck any questions.

Maybe the most memorable moment was towards the end, he was talking about his latest album and asked me if I had heard it, I have not. "Thats a pity" he says "You really should, I'll get my pr people to send you a copy". Now I think that is very nice!

Great performer, and a really all round nice guy.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I Didn't Dodge The Bullet

It was about 3:30 on Friday afternoon, I was standing outside my front door smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer, and congratulating myself of having a nice peaceful weekend. Then I saw the dreaded delivery truck come ambling down the road. Silently I muttered a prayer that maybe it wouldn't stop. But no such luck.

Mrs Postman gets out and brings not one, but two good sized boxes. My friends at MVD have obviously been working overtime releasing new material, after the dust had settled there was a combo of 20 DVD's and CD's!

There was one little nugget of gold in this delivery Rick Wakemans new CD/DVD combo Amazing Grace. I really, really like Rick Wakeman, and this album is superb! In fact I like it so much I have a message into his management company to see if he will do an interview about it.

As for the other 19, well its a pretty mixed bag. Guess it's going to be another busy week.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Week In Review(s)

It has been a very interesting and very busy week in the reviewing business, as I wrote earlier the week got started with a marathon session of Al Stewart, 12 CD's to be exact. That was two solid days of work. But I am a big fan of Al so it was pleasure all the way. A Google News search of Al Stewart will show you the results of my labors. Yesterday I heard back from Al's management team and it looks like I am on for an interview with Al Next week.

The Gothic Vampires From Hell reared their heads again! Out of the blue I found a comment left on my article, and it was from Jeremiah Campbell who was the screenwriter for Gothic Vamps. Well what an opportunity! I signed Jeremiah up for an interview, and if I say it myself, it worked out quite well.

We also managed a few movies Shanghai Express, Above The Law, and Hannibal Rising.

Somehow I have also got caught up with the world of TV, the Robert Redford inspired Sundance Channel has some very innovative and interesting programming. Green: Big Ideas For A Small Planet is a fine example.

On the book front I read Taj by Sandra Wilson, and I am just about finished Funny Business.

I know that I have missed a few reviews in this post, somewhere in the week there was a music DVD of some great R&B and a review of the Prog Rock group Andromeda.

I think I need a beer...... More later!