Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
Album #24: “The Best of Earth Wind & Fire Vol. 1” — Earth Wind & Fire (1978)
Best Of albums are usually, at best, a sign a band is done — little more than a ploy to squeeze more money out of old songs. (Even my favorite band of all, The Cars, is guilty of this; they put out five “greatest hits” records, yet only have seven albums of original material.) At worst, it is an excuse to trick listeners into buying crap that didn’t sell the first time by repackaging it with a few bone fide winners (I’m looking at you, Heart). For the casual consumer, however, the appeal is obvious: they only want the top 40 hits they heard on the radio, and this is the fastest, easiest way to get them.
Every rule has its exception, and in this case the exception is Earth Wind & Fire’s Greatest Hits, Volume 1. It really is all that and a bag of chips, yes indeed. It was one of Lisa D’s favorite albums, and was in constant rotation the year we lived on Esch 1. (“Reasons” also ranked high on friend Darrell Smith’s list of favorites, and got a lot of play in high school.) Beyond any personal sentimentality I might have, “The Best of EWF, Vol. 1” is a perfect encapsulation of a band at the height of its powers, and a nearly flawless jem that has only become more polished over time.
Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
Comedy #9: “The Commitments” (1991)
For all of his success, Alan Parker is still underrated as a director. Here is a guy who went directly from working with a young Jodie Foster in the strange all-children gangster musical “Bugsy Malone” to the infamous Turkish prison movie “Midnight Express,” and back to musicals with “Fame.” In “Shoot the Moon” he did possibly the best — that is to say painful, bleak and hopeless — film ever about divorce, and took on the unenviable task of plumbing the psychological depths of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and turning it into a real opera.
Almost as notorious as “Midnight Express” was his film noir/gothic horror mashup “Angel Heart,” — one of the few movies I ever went to see twice in the theater in the same week — with Robert DeNiro in one of his most effective roles, and a blood-soaked Lisa Bonet going all out in an attempt to break away from her Bill Cosby good girl image.
Alan Parker’s best film however (and another we went to see twice in the same week) was his paean to soul music, “The Commitments.” Set in Ireland, it follows a dozen Dubliners in their doomed attempt to launch a band. Heartfelt, eminently quotable and fooking hilarious, with a cast of talented unknowns and a kick-ass soundtrack, “The Commitments” actually had us dancing in the aisle of the movie theater.