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“A Very Brave Witch… And More Great Halloween Stories For Kids!” (Scholastic)
Fall is my favorite season, Halloween my favorite holiday. So what better way to gear up for that most wonderful time of the year than by enjoying a few Halloween-themed children’s classics. All eight of the stories on this disc are worthy of being there, but my favorite is a tie between Tomi Ungerer’s “The Three Robbers” and the absolutely classic Robert Bright tale “Georgie.” Ungerer’s illustration work on “The Three Robbers” is an art school nerd’s dream, and Bright’s sweet tale about a ghost looking for a new house to haunt in “Georgie” is children’s book storytelling at its best. Kids will enjoy each of this set’s eight tales, but these two stories in particular will resonate with both the children of today and the kids of yesterday.

“Chicka Chicka 1-2-3… And More Counting Fun!” (Scholastic)
If you grew up in the early eighties, chances are some of the first books you cracked open were written by Bill Martin, Jr. We may be adults now (reluctantly), but we can pass on the writing of Martin with DVDs like this. Collected here are four stories about numbers and counting, starting off with Martin’s “Chicka Chicka 1-2-3” (which is illustrated by Milwaukee-based artist Lois Ehlert). Also included are Rosemary Wells’ “Emily’s First 100 Days Of School” and David M. Schwartz’s “How Much Is A Million?” and “If You Made A Million.” Still, I have to play favorites here and admit that Martin’s story is the best, mostly because of its nostalgia.

“Bad Boy Bubby” (Blue Underground)
If you’ve never heard of this movie its premise alone should be enough to grab your interest: After spending 35 years locked in an apartment by his deranged mother, the “demented man-child” Bubby has finally broken free of his prison and is ready to discover the “wonders of sex, crime, rock & roll, and pizza.” Christ, that describes the life story of some people I know. Anyway, the end result is as demented as you hope it to be, so if you’re looking for something you’ve never seen before (If you have seen something like this before, WHERE?!?), give it a try.

“Circle Of Iron” (Blue Underground)
Did you know that Bruce Lee co-wrote a screenplay with James Coburn shortly before his death in 1973? Yeah, me neither. But he did, and the result is this marriage of martial arts and magic starring David Carradine, Christopher Lee and Roddy McDowall. Released in 1978, some five years after Bruce’s death, viewers definitely get a sense from the film’s style that we’re getting dangerously close to the 1980s, and away from the Golden Age of kung fu cinema. It’s definitely dated, but still holds up as a solid action film some thirty years later.

“Tokyo!” (Liberation Entertainment)
An anthology film that collects the work of three directors: French directors Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”) and Leos Carax (“The Lovers On The Bridge”), and South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho (“The Host”). All three directors used the city of Tokyo as the backdrop for their tales of transformation (Gondry’s “Interior Design”), anarchy (Carax’s “Merde”) and rebirth (Joon-Ho’s “Shaking Tokyo”). Similar in theme to films like “Four Rooms” and “New York Stories”, it’s not entirely fair to judge this movie in anything but its entirety. And, as a whole, the film does work. But, just as is the case with those earlier comparisons, some of the stories are stronger than others. Oddly enough, the segment I enjoyed the most was from the director I knew the least about: Leos Carax. Still, check it out for yourself; your favorite (and least favorite) story might surprise you.

“Billie Holiday: The Life And Artistry Of Lady Day” (Idem Home Video)
A fairly narrow history of Lady Day that seems to use more footage and audio of the era than it does of the woman herself. If you’re not familiar with Billie Holiday or her work, this will serve as a good 101 course to bring you up to speed. But if you’re a fan of her work and have even a general knowledge of her life story (fame/addiction/death), this disc might not be as essential to your collection. Extras include a discography and bibliography, as well as select lyrics from some of her more well-known songs. Also collected are a handful of scenes from the 1947 film “New Orleans” in which Holiday appears as a maid. Starring in a few scenes alongside Louis Armstrong and other jazz musicians, these extras were a nice addition that I hadn’t seen before. But if you’re a huge fan of Holiday and that era of jazz, chances are you already own “New Orleans” in its entirety.

“History On My Arms w/ Dee Dee Ramone” (MVD Visual)
Three separate documentaries are collected here to look into the life and times of late Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Glenn Colvin). The first is director Lech Kowalski’s 2003 documentary “Hey Is Dee Dee Home.” The footage was originally filmed in 1992 for Kowalski’s documentary “Born To Lose: The Last Rock And Roll Movie”, but after Dee Dee’s overdose in 2002, the director pieced together what footage he had of the bass player and released this hour-long documentary. More about his addiction than his music, the film is now merely documentation of what fate Dee Dee would face just a decade later. Next up is the half-hour “History On My Arms” short, which is essentially some of the more light-hearted segments that were taken out of the full-length. These 27 minutes concentrate more on the music than any other segment. And finally, the 22-minute short “Vom In Paris” is an interview with drummer Vom Ritchie about a night he spent with Dee Dee in Paris in 1989. Also included is an audio CD titled “Dee Dee Blues” which collects a handful of live blues recordings Dee Dee made himself with nothing more than a guitar and a microphone.

“My Breakfast With Blassie” (Video Service Corporation)
In 1983, less than a year before he succumbed to cancer, Andy Kaufman made a parody of “My Dinner with Andre” called “My Breakfast with Blassie.” Shot at Sambo’s restaurant in Hollywood, Kaufman meets with legendary wrestler “Classy” Freddie Blassie (who, of course, is “The King of All Men”) to discuss personal hygiene, fame, and why eating pancakes is bad for you. As incredibly boring as that may sound, you’d be surprised at how entertaining it truly is. It’s like sitting next to two insane men in a diner and listening in on their equally-as-insane conversation. Of course, I’m a fan of both Kaufman and Blassie, so I admittedly go into this review with a bit of bias. But the real shock for me was how Blassie steals the show from Kaufman, providing more hilarious one-liners and anecdotes than the comedian himself. At one point he refers to their Thai waitress as having come from “the Orient.” And he does it to her face! Blassie’s brash attitude plays along well with Kaufman’s attentive interest in all things wrestling, resulting in a bizarre mixing of the minds in a short film we’ll probably never see the likes of again.

“Porn Stars Of The 80’s” (Blue Underground)
There was seriously a late-night cable talk show about porn? Sadly, yes, and its name was “Midnight Blue.” Collected here are the “best” (?) clips of that show from the decade we’d all like to forget: the 1980s. Cameo “appearances” and interviews with well-known stars of the era (Ron Jeremy, Nina Hartley, et al.) are interspliced with smart-assed commentary from magazine publisher/TV host/porn czar Al Goldstein (who is as slimy a human being as you’d expect a porn czar to be). I have to be honest here: this disc left me feeling embarrassed for anyone who actually ever watched this show. Seriously, if you want porno, watch porno. Don’t watch some gold chain-wearing sleazeball interview ghastly gutter-hookers as he tries to justify the legitimacy of pornography. It’s sex, Al! It doesn’t need a commercial!

“Porn Stars Of The 90’s” (Blue Underground)
Exactly like the review above only with slightly better production quality, Christy Canyon, and a fatter (and even more disgusting, if you can believe that) Al Goldstein.

Integrating children’s books and pornography since 1976,

-Shady

You’re not going to believe this, but I got ten CDs sent to me for review and I love them all! If you know me, you know this is a pretty rare occurrence.

I also have a HUGE stack of music to review after this batch, so I’m going to try and keep these as short as humanly possible. Because, you know, I sometimes have a tendency to go on and on.

Like this one time, when I–

Just kidding. Let’s go!

Tone-Loc “Loc-ed After Dark: 20th Anniversary Edition” – Tone-Loc is back?!? Get the Loc out of here! Okay, so he’s not really back. They’ve just gone ahead and released a remastered version of his rap classic that is now… twenty years old? THIS ALBUM IS TWENTY FUCKING YEARS OLD?!? Oh my God… that makes me… OLD! Yeah, the album is both cheesy and camp-tastic, but that’s what makes it great. Oddly enough, Young MC (of “Bust A Move” fame) wrote most of Loc’s most popular hits, including “Funky Cold Medina” and “Wild Thing.” The entire original album is here, along with a few remixes and B-sides thrown in for good measure. You won’t be able to find this in stores or on Amazon (it’s a digital-only release), but download this oldie-but-a-goodie and relive all of those awkward middle school dances.

Dude, I’m doing a shitty job of keeping these short.

N.A.S.A. “The Spirit of Apollo” – Every once in a great while, an album comes along that nearly everyone can connect with. In the past, bands like Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz and OutKast released albums that did just that. And now, mark my words: Three months from today, everyone is going to be listening to “The Spirit of Apollo.” They’re gonna be playing it on TV commercials; it will be put into heavy rotation during sporting event halftimes; even your grandma will be spinning it (in the background, as she gets nailed by your grandfather). The brainchild of Squeak E. Clean (Sam Spiegel, also known as the younger brother of director Spike Jonze) and DJ Zegon (Ze Gonzales), this dynamic duo somehow managed to record an album that features every musician ever known to man. No, seriously. Their debut features guest appearances from: Chuck D, Chali 2na, Gift of Gab, Z-Trip, David Byrne, DJ Swamp, Method Man, John Frusciante, RZA, KRS-One, Fatlip, Slim Kid Tre, Karen O, Tom Waits, Kool Keith, Kanye West, Santogold, George Clinton, Lovefoxxx, Spank Rock, M.I.A., DJ Qbert, DJ AM, Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Ghostface Killah. And guess what?!? I DIDN’T EVEN NAME EVERY GUEST ON THE ALBUM! Even though I love all of the albums I’m reviewing here today, this one should be at the top of your purchase list.

These reviews are ridiculously long. For realsies.

Animal Collective “Merriweather Post Pavilion” – I first got into Animal Collective when they released the four-song single “Prospect Hummer” back in 2005. I think Animal Collective is similar to bands like Yo La Tengo in that people either love them deeply or forget them immediately. I’m more the former, though this album did hit a few cold spots along the way. I prefer my Animal Collective a little more experimental and out there, but at times “Merriweather Post Pavilion” felt almost too rehearsed. Still, I’d say about 80% of the disc is solid, and that’s more than you’re gonna get from most bands out there today.

Pete Doherty “Grace/Wastelands” – Pete Doherty is one sad motherfucker, and “Grace/Wastelands” sounds like his suicide note to the world. I never got into The Libertines, of which Doherty was a member of, but this disc is a far cry from the punk-driven sound of his musical alma mater. Instead of standard “fuck the man” punk anthems, we’re given stripped-down singer/songwriter gems that leave us feeling like total and utter shit. So the next time it’s gray outside and you want to cry, put this disc on! Just be sure to hide your knives first.

The Five Corners Quintet “Hot Corner” – The Five Corners Quintet is a Helsinki-based jazz five-piece. Read that again: They play jazz! In Finland! And somehow, though I’m not exactly sure how, they manage to capture all of the nuances of early American jazz and then twist it and mash it into becoming its own thing. It’s as if the old innocent standards were slipped a mickey and then quickly bent over by an abusive and demanding postmodern jazz. Does that make any sense? Because it does to me, and I heard the disc. I think you’ll just have to pick it up to see if I’m spot-on or just silly drunk. (But keep in mind that I could be both.)

Bibio “Vignetting the Compost” – I love this disc. Unfortunately, it’s so different from anything else out there that I’m having a hard time explaining what it sounds like. Still, let me try: Bibio creates old-timey, scratch- and hiss-filled tunes that blend the simple sounds of yesterday with the technical studio know-how of today. It’s like if you were to find an old pair of those huge headphones from the early seventies, and then put them on and only hear sounds from the turn of the century. That is Bibio. How could it get more impressive? Like this: Bibio is one man, a fellow named Stephen James Wilkinson. And this is his third full-length release. Looks like I’ve got some CD-bin digging to do at Amoeba.

Q-Tip “The Renaissance” – This came out awhile ago, but I want to point out how good of an album it is. The Abstract is back, and in classic Tribe fashion. I know he lost a few listeners with his “harder” and more pop-driven solo release “Amplified” back in 1999, but “The Renaissance” returns to the roots of what made Q-Tip the member of A Tribe Called Quest. From the first beat to the last break, Q dishes out new rhymes with an old sound that are sure to become instant classics. Be sure to pay close attention to “We Fight/We Love” (featuring guest vocalist Raphael Saadiq), and “Life Is Better” (with guest Norah Jones).

Various Artists “Let Freedom Sing: The Music of the Civil Rights Movement” – I’ve been reviewing CDs for ten years now (Christ!), and over the years I’ve become a fan of many of the compilations that Time Life has released. This three-disc set is no exception. “Let Freedom Sing” collects nearly 60 songs that were created for or inspired by the history of the Civil Rights Movement. From Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” in 1939 to Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in 1971, this set documents the decades-long journey of African-Americans as they transform their hopes and fears into beats and lyrics. Sure, I own most of these songs already on other discs, but the strength of the set isn’t one or two individual songs. Instead, its strength lies in its numbers and the story it tells. It also features a set introduction by Chuck D, and comes in a nice book-like case. A nice addition to one’s already-respectable music collection. And by “one’s” I mean “my.”

-Shady

Old Poop!