'Tis the Season'

Well, it's that time of year again, where chestnuts are roasting on the open fire, where Jack Frost got a nose job, and turkeys on grocery shelves are running from the butcher screaming, "Just 'cause the chicken gets it itn the neck, doesn't mean you've gotta pick on me!" Try a Presidential Pardon.

OK, enough foolishness! Hope all of you had a great Halloween and Thanksgiving, and with Christmas soon upon us there are a few things that have slipped under my nose that might be good stocking stuffers.

This time of year turkeys are voted the least likely to survive the holidays, but some years back a certain Keith Richards was voted most likely to expire for a full decade. Now please, don't compare Mr. Richards with a Thanksgiving delicacy, or this writer will surely get it in the neck! The point being, that Keith fooled everybody and came back with his new autobiography, Life (co-authored with James Fox), and has been Number One on the Los Angeles Times Nonfiction Best Seller List for three weeks in a row.

There's been a zillion books written about the Rolling Stones with much focus on the exploits of Mr. Richards. Some of these have been fair representations, and some tabloid crap, so it's refreshing to hear the man tell his own story, in his own way, with his own voice. In this 547 page volume, you find out what it was like in the early days of the Stones before they started rolling. Keith's childhood, the heady days of their club and ballroom gigs, the first American visits, recording at Chess studios and R.C.A. studios, and meeting their American idols. You'll be privy to how classic Stones songs were written, recorded, and realized on stage. Brian Jones slowly leaving the reality of a hard working touring band, Brian's abandonment of the guitar that launched him to stardom along with his band mates.

There's deep dish info on the classic albums, Keith's discovery of open tunings and the almighty five string guitar.

This is not to say that this tome is a skip in the park with the hearts and flowers. There's plenty of tragedy to balance out all the rock star stuffing. The death of Keith's second son, the passing of Stones founding member Ian Stewart, and the premature departure of Keith's musical foil, Gram Parsons.

Despite all odds, Keith survives and he has given us a slice of his life, which should be an inspiration to us all.

If you only read one rock 'n roll biography in your lifetime, this is the one you should read!

Rock on, Keith - you've struck chords that make the angels sing.

Now, three days after Brian Jones fled this mortal coil, the Stones played one of the largest outdoor shows in the U.K.'s history at Hyde Park, and one of the support bands of this event has just released five 40th Anniversary CDs.

King Crimson was a young band on July 5, 1969, when it wowed the audience at Hyde Park, and who would have guessed that four decades later they would still be releasing product. The releases, albums one through four, and album eight, have been remixed and remastered by Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp to bring a new light to these classics.

I remember my first exposure to the Crimson King on a now defunct Long Beach, California, radio station, and sitting there thinking the Moody Blues had gone nuts and become satanists upon hearing the title track from the first LP In the Court of the Crimson King (an observation by King Crimson). What a shock! But soon after, I heard the doom laden Epitaph, which is still as relevant today as it was 41 years ago, and the D.J. came on with a spiel about Crimson playing the Whiskey A Go-Go in early December.

The next album, In the Wake of the Poseidon, followed in the spring of 1970, and few listeners realized that this was a studio band, made up of the remnants of Crimson and some guest players. This didn't affect the power or dynamic of this second outing, which had been considered a classic since its release. The re-release has an ample selection of outtakes to please any self-respecting Crimson fan, and they give an insight into the recording process not available in 1970.

For Crimson's third offering, Lizard, the group takes a left turn into classic music and jazz, which confused many listeners at the time of its release. I remember playing this record to a group of friends who found the exotic blend of songs and epics a little too rich for their listening palate. Steven Wilson's work on Lizard casts a new light on this often overlooked masterpiece, and the selection of outtakes gives a clearer picture into this period of Crimsonizing. This band only made it through this record, and performed no live dates. The next lineup would be different!

If Lizard occupied a musical landscape of medieval madness, then Islands resided in its own out-world outpost. Point being, Lizard and Islands are both unique yet entirely different from each other, and from any other King Crimson catalog entries.

The opening track, "Formentera Lady," is one of the most bizarre pieces of music offered to rock music fans in Rock's sordid history. Not rock, not folk, not jazz, it is of itself, and unto itself in its compelling way of drawing the listener into this groundbreaking sonic universe. "Formentera Lady" is the calm before the storm, and it's a guitar storm of Robert Fripp's making! Kicked off by the rhythm section of Boz Bureell and Ian Wallace, "Sailor's Tale" is a musical space shuttle liftoff, with Fripp's angular guitar jabs bouncing off master reed man Mel Collins' scintillating sax riffs, which all ends in the greatest sonic windup since the conclusion of the Beatles "Day in the Life," with a sinister brass mellotr8on fadeout that is sheer death of the universe!

"The Letter" is a rewrite of "Drop In," which was a featured tune in the first Crimson live show, followed by a cautionary tale of groupies and musicians in those far away 1970s, entitled "Ladies of the Road."

After the lesson in road wise females, Islands takes an unexpected turn; a couple of them, in fact.

"Prelude: Song of the Gulls" is a piece of music which can only be described as modern classical, and the title track "Islands" is an ecological song of peace, nature, and the fate of an eroding landscape washed over by the tides of time.

Now, for whatever reason producers Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp have chosen, after releasing albums one through four, to skip three of the other records and issue Crimson's eighth album, Red. Red is a stark contrast, compared to the first four offerings. A fan favorite with Generation X, this recording is of a stripped down power trio putting the pedal to the metal. From the opening power chords of the title track, to the West Side Story vibe of "Fallen Angel," on down the funk grunge trail of "One More Red Nightmare," to the live improv of "Providence," finally ending with Crimson's 70s swan song "Starless," this 40th Anniversary edition represents this material with a freshness few re-issues achieve. There are plenty of bonus tracks, and a not to be believed French television show which will illustrate what an amazing live band this version of Crimson was! After Red, Fripp declared King Crimson ceased to exist. It resurfaced half a decade later in a completely retooled form.

If any readers are interested in the progressive rock movement past, present, and future, we would highly recommend a new book by Will Romano, Mountains Come Out of the Sky, the Illustrated History of Prog Rock, with a forward by drummer, percussionist extraordinaire, Bill Bruford, on Back Beat Books. The excellent visual, oral history covers the four decade long progression of progressive rock, old school and new school prog bands.

Shifting focus back to cinema and television, the newly released Thriller box set is a gruesome joy to behold. Brought out the last day of August of this year by Image Entertainment, this sixty-seven episode package is the answer longtime fans have ben waiting for. Some viewers posted disappointment about the studio created audio tracks, but for this viewer these revamped 5.1 audio reconstructions add a new dimension to these mono television mixes. To be fair, there is one show where the track gets out of sync with the picture, but what the hey - we don't exist in a perfect world. Old fans with mono television sets will notice these sonic anomalies, but through even a 2.1 stereo home theater system these babies rock, so beware!

Host Boris Karloff had an extraordinary career, which was pretty much nonstop. While most actors had dry periods in their careers, Boris became more diverse as he grew older. Records, Plays, television, and starring roles in motion pictures right up until the end of his life, not to mention personal appearances, comic books, and literary anthologies; his presence as host and occasional guest starring roles made Thriller one of the strongest TV series on the tube in the early 60s. There are plenty of extras on these DVDs, to keep even the casual fan in horror heaven for days (or should I say nights) on end.

Another popular television show of the early to mid 60s was The Fugitive, starring the late David Jansen. CBS Paramount has just released the first fifteen episodes of the last season, shot in color. While The Fugitive in color has the same production values and potent story lines, somehow the addition of color demeans the film noir quality of the show's previous seasons. This is a small fault, and was a business fiddle, and should not discourage viewers from purchasing this new set. The music seems to be the original soundtrack augmented by Outer Limits cues penned by composer Dominic Frontiere, who is interviewed in a special feature called "Season of Change," which is the first supplemental feature on this series of DVDs.

Hopefully these suggestions will give you readers some ideas for those hard-to-buy-for friends and family. If not, remember that fat guy in the red suit is doing his holiday gig for free, so be kind when he slides down your chimney!

Have a great Christmas and the happiest New Year ever!
From janalanhenderson.com

See you next year!
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