Friday, April 27, 2012

CD Review: Dark Shadows (Original Score)

Paul Anderson

Fans of the original ABC afternoon series may remember the familiar flute theme of Dark Shadows, which played as Dan Curtis announced the latest events of Collinwood with a soft spoken narrative. Danny Elfman effectively uses the alto flute to begin “The Prologue” (track 1), setting the right tone for Dark Shadows. Mr. Elfman's score begins with the nostalgic and expands to epic proportions. The Prologue is the longest composition on the original score and, in it, the composer explores a vast range of dynamic colorful textures and effects with the symphonic orchestra and choir. The piece ends with a dark foreboding, taking us into Dark Shadows indeed.

During the "Resurrection" scene (track 2), the use of sonic clusters and rhythmic effects with the string sections and low thumps of sub tone analog synthesizer pulses build to a frenzy and drop us into a "disquiet." A child’s vocals call out and are answered by the signature Dark Shadows flute, which entice and frighten simultaneously. Danny Elfman is a master of the art of cinematic imagery, wedded to the unexpected blends of orchestra and electronic textures which can be heard in "The End" (track 19). It almost sets up like a dance track, with fast strings driving us for one bar, joined by 16th note pulsing synthesizer pedal bass. Flutes, and vibraphone were a huge part of the sound pallet of the original series, again illustrating the significant role that music has always played in Dark Shadows). Elfman's textural explosions of sound sweep the listener away with larger than life symphonic power -- both live, and electronic. The breakdowns complement the editing as the dynamics of the cues cut through you as sharply as perhaps being bitten by Barnabas.

No matter what your opinion of the film is, the Original Score will thrill you.

Dark Shadows opens in theaters May 11, 2012.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

CD Review: Romance Language (Kirk Whalum)

Paul Anderson

Kirk Whalum's latest CD, "Romance Language" is significant for jazz. It brings jazz to music lovers who may never have heard John Coltrane, and Johnny Hartman's 1963 recording. Kirk is to Trane as his brother Kevin is to Hartman on this project. Kevin represents a new generation of vocalists who are finding fresh directions in jazz. Kirk's entire band brings ideas and arrangements that are clever, and effective. And yes, I really like the Eleanor Rigby quote on "Autumn Serenade!"

"Almost Doesn't Count", features Peanuts on vocals, Kirk's uncle of 83 years young, and he nails it! Jazz purists, I urge you to take a listen and be prepared to smile, because there is no gimmickry here -- just sincere performances and great artistry. This gentleman belongs right at the top where he is, and once again, bravo Mr. Whalum.

Note: Be sure to listen to the exclusive interview with Kirk Whalum, about "Romance Language" and much more on the Entertainment Bank. Coming soon!

CD Review: Soulmine (Frank Gambale)

Paul Anderson

Grammy winning guitarist Frank Gambale delivers an outstanding new recording in "Soulmine" that reflects a career of innovative playing. To illustrate the point, there's even a Frank Gambale Signature Guitar -- the FG1 made by Carvin Frank, which is the best of the best.The arrangements on "Soulmine" feature Gambale's beautiful wife Boca, and an amazingly talented vocalist whose voice is soothing, seductive, and made for jazz. While her presence, and artistry of expression clearly set the tone on the first tune, "Love Set Me Free," there's something for on the album for all listeners.

Boca's vocal style is engaging and there is a passion that clearly comes through in her performances. Jazz fans who miss the days of the  fresh, creative, and authentic music of  Jazz-Rock and Fusion will appreciate uncompromising harmonies and influences ranging from Latin to Pop, and I'm smiling because I've missed Return to Forever, and  Brand X. A big thank you to Frank Gambale for not forgetting to how to bring it! This album is sure to garner another Grammy nomination, and is a must have for any serious jazz collector and music lovers who enjoy good music in general. If you want to find out what's been missing on your smooth jazz station, "Soulmine" is your answer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

CD Review: International (SONNY)

Pop artist SONNY, a former member of Nick Cannon’s group 4Count, has gone solo, releasing his debut album, “International,” which is sure to be a favorite among pop lovers and those who like good music in general. It’s nice to listen to an album that doesn’t have a bad cut on it, and indeed “International” fits that bill, which is quite rare. Every song is danceable, and makes you want to get on the dance floor and party until the CD is over. SONNY reminds me a bit of Justin Timberlake with his vocal style, and his voice is definitely one that listeners will enjoy. Hot beats, great hooks, and solid vocal performances that are just right for the music are the hallmark of “International,” and if this album doesn’t make you tap your foot, bob your head, or at least put you in better mood, then you’d better check your pulse because you just might be in trouble. Not to mention, he has the chops for a great ballad, which I hope we’ll hear from him soon.

The native Danish artist who has been a part the entertainment industry since childhood and now resides in Hollywood/Los Angeles, co-wrote the album with close friend and musical partner Thomas Lumpkins (aka Tommy Parker), who has received critical acclaim for his work with Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, and J Lo. While SONNY has released the first video for the CD, Bad Girl, and displays a few of his moves here as he has on Dancing With The Stars and America’s Got Talent, I’m looking forward to future videos where he showcases his dancing talents even more.

The bottom line is that “International” is a CD that’s worth purchasing, and all of the tracks are airplay quality. Do yourself a favor and listen to this young gift to the world of music. I’ll be keeping my eyes (and ears) on SONNY as he continues to develop in his career.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Film Review: Orgasm Inc.

Michele Wilson-Morris

Orgasms. Who wouldn’t want to have one and how far would you go to make it a reality?  Liz Canner explores this very relevant topic in depth in a thoroughly entertaining and informative way in Orgasm Inc., as well as profiling pharmaceutical companies who are competing for what is sure to be a multi-billion dollar industry and one of the fastest growing segments in pharmaceutical research. Orgasm Inc. illustrates just how easy it is for us, the public at large, to be convinced that every problem we have is an illness that can and should be treated with pills.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3.   

  1.  Convince the public that there is a new generation of diseases.
  2.  Invent the disease.
  3. Create a market in which pharmaceuticals can prosper by curing or treating it.

Canner was asked to go beyond the role of journaling and documenting the development process to being a participant by producing porn for women that would allow them to become aroused. She was a true observer in her campaign to find the truth, or get as close to it as possible.

Is there really such a thing as Female Sexual Dysfunction? Or would pharmaceutical companies just like for us to believe there is. Orgasm Inc. presents many debatable points of view. The fact is that women should have the final say on whether there is truth in the issues presented. But is this all just another sham to make money from women based on a fictitious health problem that could probably be handled with more rest, less stress, and better, more informed partners as opposed to a new money making bonanza for the health industrial complex? Still, you can’t blame a girl for trying. The film is highly recommended and completely enjoyable. 

Film Review: Windfall

Paul Anderson

Director/Producer Laura Israel’s documentary film Windfall is based in the town of Meredith in upstate New York, and she does an excellent job at showing how “solutions” were offered to the hard working, well intentioned residents who needed money, or had fears of losing a dairy farm and/or a way of life, all of which were advantageous, to say the least, for shrewd prospecting wind developers.

Windfall explores how effective the techniques of contractual control and secrecy through non-disclosure agreements can destroy a community. In this particular case, AIRTRICITY, an Ireland based company, approached the town’s people to gain land leases for turbines to be installed in elevated regions of the town. The agreements between AIRTRICITY and the land owners/neighbors brought about a divide and ensured that there was no solidarity among the people who needed it most – the land owners. The results were disastrous. Unlike the poor in urban areas, the people in Windfall are land owners and moderately successful, so the mechanisms of manipulation necessitated a different tactic. The fears invoked by a potential lawsuit prevented residents from banning together to achieve the greater good for all involved as they soon found that the leases offered were merely years of inferior solutions to going green.

Windfall is a testament to how an industry can take green technology that is beneficial for society at large (i.e. alternatively fueled cars) and subvert it into another cynical shakedown of hope for the future.

I, after watching Windfall, felt the urge to get involved in some way to help expose this ongoing ruse to distract the public from viable solutions for tomorrow that are not shrouded in subterfuge. Strong communities will continue to face challenges from those who wish to benefit from the weakest parts of a divided society. It’s a great film, and one that is insightful, alarming, and very capable of moving the masses to demand what we deserve – a path to a truly green environment. Every American’s clock should go off to this wake up call, and we should hold the parties in power responsible for a cleaner, safer, more viable environment. 

Film Review: The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Michele Wilson-Morris

Prior to viewing The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, I’m ashamed to admit that I had a certain stereotypical view of people who lived in housing projects. I didn’t understand why there was so much crime, hatred, and needless violence. Why couldn’t they just be more “civilized” like the rest of us? I must say with all sincerity that The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, quickly and  clearly brought things into perspective for me, giving background information on how this particular housing development, Pruitt-Igoe, came to be and began its descent on a downward spiral of a decline that was irreversible. The causes were clear, and I soon realized that perhaps that the state of public housing was more than about just housing – it was about the degradation and dissolution of the black community.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth presents a very sobering and painful look at how the government, in all of its wisdom (not!), can destroy families, and how racism under the guise of public housing can be a poison to one generation after another until finally it devolves into what we have today. The “Myth” has always been based on some truth. The first families to find refuge in Pruitt-Igoe were promised that "Shining city on a hill," which in this case, turned out to be the middle of St. Louis, Missouri. But the sweetness of the new promise was laced with insidious, proven elements of social and spiritual destruction, perfected during the time of slavery in that part of the country. The deliberate prohibition of the male influence in black families who were allowed to “escape” to the promised land of Pruitt Igoe trumped all other factors in the determination of whether these families would succeed or fail, and whether communities would be born or destroyed. The enticement of the white middle-class to "escape" to the suburbs with the same federal funding that entrapped the poor predominately black families, with the myth of the 'new' American dream, was a bait and switch. The icing on this cake was the ill-prepared lack of funding for intricate building maintenance which led to deplorable living and social conditions. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth makes all viewers witnesses of the complete and absolute failure of one social experiment, and the absolute success of another -- how to make a ghetto with bitter people who have no one else to take their rage and disillusionment out on but each other. The migration of jobs and work from traditional locations of easy access for the working poor is seen today on a national scale with corporation globalization moving American jobs to the poorest countries.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth is the template of systematic urban destruction under the false pretense of renewal, and this film is such an eye opener that it should be mandatory viewing in every classroom and all households so all may understand why certain things are the way they are. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth more than tugs at your heartstrings – it impacts you on such a deep level that if you have any conscience about yourself, you’ll never again be the same. The lesson learned from the film is that we have a responsibility to understand the failures of Pruitt-Igoe, learn from them, and do better.  It most certainly accomplishes its mission of imploding “the myth.”

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth was directed by Chad Freidrichs, and produced by Chad Freidrichs, Jaime Freidrichs, Paul Fehler, and Brian Woodman. It is heavily endorsed by me, the viewer and one who wishes to see the world a better place for all to live in, Michele Wilson-Morris.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Film Review: Surviving Progress

Michele Wilson-Morris

Surviving Progress, from Executive Producers Martin Scorsese & Mark Achbar and Producers Daniel Louis & Denise Robert, is a sobering and thought provoking look at the progress mankind has made over the ages, and whether we can really call it progress at all. Sure, we have the technology to put satellites into space, but are we mindful of the finite resources on the planet that we call home? Are we concerned enough about the plight of our fellow man? Or has negotiating with poor countries for their natural resources overshadowed the importance of human dignity and caring about whether people have the basic human rights to food, shelter, and a lifestyle that we so diligently enjoy and protect on this already overcrowded planet?

The film delves into the question of whether we’ve made enough good progress to separate us from the ancient mindsets ingrained in our DNA as the descendants of ice age hunters from which we are supposed to have evolved. Are we more than overeducated apes who are capable of great economic and technological progress or are we facing life today underneath a thin layer of civilization? Today’s mindset seems to be one of “You consume, therefore I have the right to consume, and I choose to do so regardless of the planetary consequences.”

Thought provoking arguments from such visionaries as Jane Goodall, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Hawking, Craig Venter, Robert Wright, Marina Silva, Michael Hudson, and Ronald Wright himself, keep the viewer highly engaged during this compelling film that bids us to all to ask more from ourselves and less from others, and to care more about the steadily dwindling resources of the earth, issues of poverty, and equalities of economy in a world that depletes the natural capital of poor countries to pay debts that its citizens can’t. Surviving Progress is a moral compass that we should all begin to use to gauge our actions and ask whether we’re doing the right thing. The 86 minute film, which was inspired by “A Short History of Progress” by Ronald Wright, and presented by Cinemaginaire & Big Picture Media, is a “must-see” for all who inhabit earth, especially those with the greatest wealth and gains from the losses of others. The answers to the great dilemma of whether we will ultimately pass or fail the “progress” test lie within the choices of the privileged, and the new possibilities of a shared consciousness and better, more ethical decision making by all.

Well produced, interesting, and stunningly brilliant, the conclusion of Surviving Progress is dramatic, offering the truth that when one of us loses, we all lose. Nature has the only answer to this global human experiment of civilization, and most certainly the final say. As they sat in the old Chiffon margarine commercial, “You can’t fool mother nature.” We'll all be better off when man stops trying to.

Kem: Observing An R&B Legend In The Making

Michele Wilson-Morris

Singer, songwriter, pianist, life coach, dad, marriage and relationship counselor, philanthropist, preacher, Christian, and performer extraordinaire: These adjectives could only describe one man in the world of R&B with the intensity and sincerity with which they are meant – Universal Motown Records artist Kem. The once homeless superstar who financed his first album "Kemistry" in 2003 by using his American Express, singing top 40 cover songs in a wedding band, and waiting tables has made it to the top, but he remains as humble and thankful for his blessings as anyone could ever be.

Kem has released three albums to date – "Kemistry" (2003), "Album II" (2005), and Intimacy (2010), and is currently writing songs for a new CD, which he expects to be completed in about 18 months. "Kemistry" introduced him to music lovers all over the world and immediately earned the soulful crooner a large and faithful fan base, "Album II" proved that he was anything but a "one album wonder," and "Intimacy" more than solidified his place in the music industry as a bonafide superstar, as within hours of its release, it had taken the number one spot on iTunes' R&B Albums chart. He has also been nominated for two Grammy awards, and has had two Smooth Jazz Tribute albums dedicated to him (2006 and 2010). Yes, the Detroit native is here to stay.

My first time seeing Kem perform was in 2011 at the Ryman Auditorium In Nashville during his Intimacy tour. I had the pleasure of seeing him in concert again in February 2010 in Birmingham, Alabama for his An Evening Of Love tour with Tony Terry and K'Jon. The first time I saw him, I had no idea what to expect, so being completely blown away wasn't a shocker. Sure, I had heard his songs on the radio – "Love Calls," "Find Your Way," "You're On My Mind," "Why Would You Stay," "Love Never Fails," and my personal favorite "Share My Life," but none of that prepared me for what Kem did onstage either night. Although I had high expectations the second time around, I was still absolutely mesmerized, and even purchased my own Kem hat after the show.

Kem is a master entertainer who connects with the audience in a way that I've never seen anyone else do. With thousands of screaming and singing fans, he still manages to make the evening feel intimate and personal. Kem speaks to the ladies in a way that makes each one feel beautiful, confident, and deserving of only the best that a man can offer. He imparts the wisdom that we are complete in ourselves, and don't need a man to make us whole. Kem addresses the men in the audience as his brothers, imploring them to treat their women special and let them know they are loved. He reminds us that we should thank God in both good times and bad, and that in his life personally, while he certainly enjoys the peaks, it was during his journey through the valleys that he learned the most. He is energetic, charismatic, smooth, engaging, and captivates the audience with his very distinctive voice, which he wields like an instrument. The show is tight and professional to the nth degree with a band and background singers who are consummate performers as well. It's so more than a concert – it's an experience. When asked about the secret is to putting on such a great show, he says, "I use the same musicians onstage as I do in the studio to protect the integrity of the music by sounding as much like the record as much as I can. Over the years, you find out what works and what doesn't work. Each performance builds upon itself, and we try to be real about what we're doing. There's not a lot of gimmickry – I just really try to be genuine onstage."

I spoke with Kem backstage after the concert in Nashville, and by phone after his show in Birmingham. He attributes the success of his music to "grace," confessing "My music is a ministry that allows me to support missions in Kenya, missions in Jamaica, T. D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer and other evangelists, rescue missions, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and substance abuse centers." He laughed and added, "I give some, I save some, and I spend some. On a good day, I give first." Kem says that he enjoys the songwriting, recording, and performing aspects of being an artist equally, though he admits that the recording process is the most taxing, but acknowledges that without it, nothing else would be possible.

So what does Kem do when he's not touring? "I spend a lot of time writing songs, being a dad, being a son, and taking care of family business. Another thing is, it takes time to make a good record. I don't take my fan base for granted. I know they expect a quality product and for me, it takes time to do that. I don't want to put a record out just because people are expecting another record. I want to put a record out because I think the songs are worthy to be given to my fans."

Kem says the best advice he's ever been given as an artist was imparted by his father. "My dad once told me that if you know what it is that you want, it's easier to make your decisions. If the decisions you're making are not taking you towards what you want, then you can reassess, discard what you don't need, and make other decisions. Don't give up, never give up. Stay in your lane, do what you do, and the rest will come." Kem, you are definitely in your lane, and the world of music is so much better because you are.

Hiroshima: A "Departure" From The Rest

Michele Wilson-Morris

Hiroshima's newest release, appropriately entitled "Departure" after leaving their label behind to pursue a career on their own terms as independent recording artists, is a solid and thoroughly enjoyable jazz album. Although the group is so distinctive that they probably should have their own genre to better describe their songs (perhaps Urban World Music), jazz lovers and music enthusiasts of every genre can enjoy this CD, which just may be their greatest work yet. Hiroshima's style has yet to be duplicated, and "Departure," which boasts nine tracks, is pure listening pleasure from the first track to the last.

My personal favorite on the album was the first track, "Have You Ever Wondered," which is a sensual and romantic piece, featuring Tetsuya "Tex" Nakamura. "Koto Cruise" allows Kimo Cornwell to really shine along with June Kuramoto , with a big Hiroshima signature sound and perfect chord ."Blues for Sendai" is a grooving mid tempo jazz waltz with soft intimate fluting played at a leisurely pace and a rich, warm sound. Cascading pads, cleverly punctuated rhythms, great piano and continuous bass along with great voicing enhance this song, which clearly shows that Hiroshima is still at the top of their game and stronger than ever. "Smiling Jack" features a funky drum solo with a Koto and flute melody, and big tenor sax exchanges. A nice B section with the Tenor sax and a funky breakdown with building organ padding into a nice solo and string section are the reason Jack must be smiling.

"See You Again" is a tribute to the late, great James Moody who was a mentor and friend to Hiroshima. The song is a tender farewell with a beautiful melody, tinged with heartfelt tones, with the Tenor and Koto interplay over the soft Rhodes textures engaging the listener. The touch of "Moody's Mood For Love," is quoted from sax solo to Rhodes solo, "There I go. There I go."

The vocal drone sets the tone for "Yamasong Duet," which is a cool and interesting piece with a unique chant and serious groove. The tempo change as a transition to a Taiko type percussion section adds an unexpected but exciting bit of spice to this number. "First Nation," showcases sounds of the Shakuhachi Flute and the Koto, and vocal textures build into a cool jazzy horn section with some great soprano sax, which are very reminiscent of Weather Report. The unmistakable style of Hiroshima is driven by a McCoy Tyner type piano solo that show the group's tremendous fusion of traditional jazz with the world of Japanese instrumental textures. The quoting of ‘Afro Blue' adds major coolness here.

"Thousand Cranes" is a beautiful, expansive piece which is greatly complemented by the Koto and orchestral arrangements. The melody is simply enchanting, and fans will find this to be one of the best tracks on the album. The last song, "One Wish," has a nice intimate sound with piano and the breathy flute tones without drums, followed by the classic reprise of the Hiroshima Classic, yet unplugged version. With the world in such chaos and turmoil today, "One Wish" is a fantastic way to speak to many hearts, sending a message through music that mere words cannot properly convey.

Hiroshima is a master jazz band, legends in their own time, and "Departure" will take you to many moods and places – all of them exciting and wonderful, hypnotic and tranquil. There's something for everyone here, and this reviewer is both amazed and pleased that the band, after more than 30 years in the music business and 18 CDs, continues to push the envelope and remain innovative, genuine, and extraordinary.

Welcome To The Entertainment Bank!!!

Thank you for stopping by The Entertainment Bank. Please know that we’re a work in progress, with great things ahead. While we fully intend to be a major online magazine in the future, for now, we’re taking baby steps. Our goal is to find the best movies, and music from both major label and indie artists, and share those with you. We will also provide services such as press release writing, copyediting, one-sheets, EPKs, track and album reviews, and all forms of business writing – all at a reasonable price, and with honesty, integrity, and good customer service. We believe these things are in short supply and high demand. So, no matter what your entertainment tastes are, you’ll find something here that you like. 

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