Monday, October 10, 2011

Seen, Heard, Read...

LIVE: NICK LOWE, Oct. 8 2011, Largo in Los Angeles: Mr. Lowe did not disappoint, performing 80 minutes of wry solo acoustic gems from his new CD ("The Old Magic") and pulling oldies but goodies from the rest of his lengthy career. Some of his songs seem rather dark on the CD, but in performance, Lowe's almost continuous smile make it clear there is always a wry humor at work. Opener J.D. McPherson was also excellent, and their reggae-esque duet on Bread's "Everything I Own" (!) was a lot of fun. Mr. Lowe is touring with Wilco and doing solo sets along the way so if you get a chance to catch either, take it!

CD: By sheer coincidence, the same day I saw the elder Lowe in concert, I received a new remastered Kippington Lodge CD, "Sky Boy The Complete Recordings 1967-1969." These are some of Mr. Lowe's very earliest recorded efforts (working alongside Brinsley Schwarz and Bob Andrews, both later with The Rumour), and... well, it's interesting. Let's just say I don't believe any of this catalog made it into Saturday's show. I wish I could offer a more rousing appraisal... I like bright and sunny pop as much as the next guy, but this is pretty saccharin stuff. And proves we all gotta start somewhere!

BLU-RAY FUN: Brian DePalma's Scarface has been released on high def blu-ray, and to these sad blurry eyes it is an amazing transfer. Colors are bright and sharp and the movie has never looked better. I don't have earlier editions so I'm not sure if the extended features were available on DVD before, but you get a selection of outtakes, numerous "making of" documentaries, and in the metal box set, a DVD of the original Scarface with Paul Muni and Geo. Raft from 1932. I had never seen the original and sure enough, the Al Pacino version is pretty much a remake in terms of story. Tone, that's a different kettle o' fish. There isn't a single chainsaw in the original Scarface, though there is endless machine gun violence...

DOWNLOAD FUN: One of the Scarface making-of tracks mentioned a documentary on the coke trade in Miami circa the 80's, Cocaine Cowboys, available via Amazon download. Cowboys features extensive interviews with four or five surviving "entrepreneurs" from that era as well as several law enforcement officials. From the crime side, we hear from three folks involved in transporting coke from Colombia to the U.S. (making millions in the process) and a hit man serving consecutive life terms for over a dozen murders. What I drew from the documentary is that Scarface was a bit over-designed in terms of Tony Montana's life-style (most of the houses the actual gangsters lived in looked like middle class tract homes). But the violence in the DePalma Scarface was actually scaled down from reality. Real chopped up dead bodies (and the documentary does not spare the viewer from these ugly realities) are not particularly photogenic. Perhaps most disturbing was learning that the woman mastermind behind hundreds of drug murders got off with a light sentence because of troubles in the Miami prosecutor's office, and she was released in 2004. Actually, I take that back. Most disturbing is a lengthy coda that attributes a huge building boom in Miami back in the 80's/90's to the insane amounts of cash lying around from the coke trade. Miami's skyline wouldn't exist without all that drug money. That's kind of depressing...

OVER ON HBO, Martin Scorsese's 3 1/2 hour documentary on George Harrison ("Living In The Material World") is absolutely worth the time. I'm a fairly well read Beatles fan, so there weren't a lot of surprises per se, but watching the progression of Harrison's professional and personal career, with all the spiritual twists and turns, was involving and ultimately quite emotional. The Beatles material was fun (though the documentary skims over the actual break-up pretty quickly), Harrison's later collaborations with the amazing Ravi Shankar were explored in depth... and Ringo Starr tells some of the best anecdotes. There's a Ringo moment toward the end of the film that drew a tear from even this viewer's jaundiced eye. Highly recommended!

READ IN ACTUAL BOOK FORM: Torpedo Vol. 3, by Sanchez Abuli and Jordi Bernet. IDW's hardcover series, reprinting these insanely hardboiled gangster adventures, continues with Volume Three. Bernet's artwork is superb and the morally corrupt world of "Torpedo" never ceases to offer surprises. I think what I like best about these stories is that the lead character (the reprehensible hitman Torpedo) is screwed over and abused almost as much as the characters he's out to rough up and/or kill. There's a lot of (very dark) humor in these short pieces. These aren't for everyone but I like 'em...

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