THE ENGLISH BEAT: FINALLY…THE COMPLETE BEAT!

This piece was originally published July 30th, 2012.

Birmingham, England has been called the birthplace of Heavy Metal.

Primarily since this industrial, largely working class city was home to Black Sabbath and later, Judas Priest.

However, though musically the city of Birmingham has stood in the shadows of both London and Liverpool as landmark cities in the U.K.’s rich musical timeline, it is just as illustrious, culturally vibrant and hugely important.

Birmingham’s musical scene in the 60’s was second greatest to Liverpool and while no city anywhere produced an act as world changing as The Beatles, Birmingham gave music The Nightriders/The Idle Race with first, Roy Wood and then Jeff Lynne, both of who became huge stars. Wood joined The Move, enlisted Lynne and then the two eventually transitioned the band into The Electric Light Orchestra (Roy Wood then formed Wizzard). There was The Moody Blues, Traffic, The Spencer Davis Group and in the 80’s Duran Duran, among many other notable acts that came form Birmingham.

Meanwhile back in the 70’s as punk rock caught on with England’s disenfranchised youth, so too did Reggae, Ska, Rocksteady and Dub music, which was always a part of the fabric of the nation’s heavy Jamaican populace since the 60’s anyway, as well as what many teenagers that gravitated towards punk rock also grew up listening to.

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Kelan Phil Cohran & The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

This pice was originally published July 16th, 2012.

KelanKelan Phil Cohran is a jazz musician currently in his mid eighties.

Born in Oxford, Mississippi he grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where, in the early fifties, he played trumpet with the U.S. Navy band and a few other bands.

Migrating to Chicago, a turning point came in 1959 when he joined the inimitable Sun Ra Arkestra.

Cohran was introduced to Sun Ra by his friend, Ra’s tenor sax player and constant member John Gilmore. With Sun Ra, Cohran was playing trumpet, cornet and at times zithers plus another instrument of his own inventionThe Frankiephone.

 



Essentially an electric kalimba, on the Sun Ra albums that he appears on: Interstellar Low Ways, Fate In A Pleasant Mood, Angels and Demons At Play and We Travel The Spaceways, Cohran’s Frankiphone was called theSpace Harp. Cohran and his kalimba was also a big influence on a young Maurice White, who formed Earth Wind and Fire in Chicago, 1969.

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CHRIS ISAAK: Carrying His Rock ‘n’ Roll Torch ‘Beyond The Sun’

This piece was originally published July 2nd, 2012.

Chris Isaak Post TemplateAs Chris Isaak puts it, he grew up incessantly listening to his parent’s record collection as a child in Stockton, CA.

It wasn’t an outrageously huge collection, but it was one that would influence Chris to this day.

The collection was heavy on Sun Records recording artists and included records by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.

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THE SMITHS ‘COMPLETE’ – A BOXFUL OF BRILLIANCE

This piece was originally published June 18th, 2012.

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of nineteen year old John Maher (he changed it to Johnny Marr to avoid confusion with Buzzcocks drummer, John Maher at the time ) getting together with a twenty three year old unemployed writer named Steven Patrick Morrissey to forge what many have called not only the greatest independent alternative U.K. band of the ’80s, The Smiths, but perhaps the last truly important classic pop songwriting partnership that popular music history has seen.

 

Can you name another songwriting team that has come along since that tops them?

 

 

 

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Andy Rourke, Morrissey, Johnny Marr and Mike Joyce  as The Smiths

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With this anniversary, there have come remastered editions (overseen by Johnny Marr) of their entire catalog, including a limited edition super deluxe pricey vinyl LP box, and (reviewed here) a more easily purchased CD box set version entitled The Smiths Complete.

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Despite any claims by fans or critics of who was the best or greatest, one thing is undeniable, that once they secured the line-up of Marr, Morrissey, drummer Mike Joyce and bassist Andy Rourke, The Smiths of Manchester U.K. found an exquisite chemistry that rang of the sublime and the catchy.

They released unquestionably beautiful music for the ages. Continue reading, please click here…

Standing At The Sky’s Edge: RICHARD HAWLEY’s Unexpected Musical Turn

This piece was originally published June 4th, 2012.

Richard Hawley Post TemplatePsychedelic Rock by its usual connotation, conjures up effects laden productions, replete with swirling overdriven guitars, echoed vocals, feedback squalls, Eastern model musical scales and exotic instrumentation drenched in reverb, all of which hearkens back to the acid fueled music of the late sixties and an early practitioner such as Jimi Hendrix.

The freedom that this music has given musicians and listeners has ensured that regardless of whether any of the participants have ingested mind altering substances or not, over the decades the fresh breath of Psychedelia has been an influences for artists, bands and music fans.

The sounds of Psychedelia have come back time and again as a healthy kick in the seat of musical complacency.

So while the anger of punk might have been the thing to give a big angry boost to said bloated complacency in the mid seventies, the creativity and subtleties allowed within the giant umbrella that is Psychedelia is often the direction to turn to when a sprinkling of something special, perhaps a small pinch of musical “Saffron,” is needed.

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Richard Hawley’s newest album Standing At the Sky’s Edge (Parlophone) is a perfect example of taking a great discography of near perfect albums and stretching out with a different and a very unexpected musical turn.
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JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI : I DREAM OF JIRO

This piece was originally published May 21st, 2012.

jiro Dreams Of Sushi Post TemplateIn the last 25 years Japanese cuisine has become as easily obtainable as a trip  to your local supermarket or a quick walk down the block to a nearby Japanese restaurant.

However, with the rapid influx of this delicacy, what quality are we getting?

What standard is upheld within the industry?

And just how dedicated to sushi is the person making it to sell in the prepared food section of your nearby mega chain supermarket?

Sushi, one of the mainstay items almost always offered at a Japanese restaurant, by its simplest definitions is cooked vinegared rice (shari) and whatever the rice is combined with (neta). Added to that can be the condiments such as wasabi, soy, ginger etc. The neta can be cooked egg or other things, but is most often raw fish that has been carefully selected and sliced, then presented with the rice by a highly trained and skilled chef who knows how to prepare it so as to avoid any illness that can be had by eating the raw fish.

There are many variations of sushi, such as the common ones here in the US: the rolled sushi which is calledmakizushi, and the nigirizushi which is the classic small mound of rice shaped by a chef’s hand with the slice of fish placed atop the rice. So sushi always has the rice, while sashimi, also often served in a Japanese restaurant, would be the slices of raw fish alone, either on a dish or over a bowl of rice.

Here at Mystery Box H.Q. all of the above, sushi, sashimi, etc. (along with the many other variations and other dishes that are usually served in a Japanese restaurant like miso soup, actual ramen noodle soup, oyakodon, and tempera, just to name a small few) are among our all time favorite culinary delights.

So it was with a much anticipated long time wait we were finally able to experience the documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi (2011) by director David Gelb.

 

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DR. JOHN’S LOCKED DOWN: Gumbo Songs In The Key of Black

This piece was originally published April 23rd, 2012.

Dr. John Post TemplateMalcolm John “Mac” Rebennack Jr. is better known to the world by his stage name, Dr. John.

Indeed, his aptly named persona (taken from a 19th century voodoo doctor) has always seemed to conjure up that of a sort of medicine show salesman, a traveling dealer in advice and pharmacological remedies—and not necessarily those of the snake oil variety—but more of the real kind of remedien that you can actually use.

 



Like a mythical figure that has arisen from the swampy bayous of New Orleans, with all the influences that may entail, his actual life has so often crisscrossed with his fictitious personalities that a haziness seems to permeate his musical career.

However, finding your way through the mist is as rewarding a musical adventure as you’ll likely ever have.
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Will Ferrell’s Casa de Mi Padre: Muy Divertido Multiplicado Por Diez!

This piece was originally published April 9th, 2012.

Casa de mi Padre Post TemplateIn his earlier Saturday Night Live days, Will Ferrell was among my more disliked cast members.

I can recall those of us watching referring to him as “that annoying guy.”

The dreaded Spartan Cheerleaders sketches he used to do with Cheri Oteri, another cast member I was never too fond of, were overly long and never that funny. For myself, the continuing antics of “Craig and Arianna” brought the show to a stand-still, despite some great guest hosts (Robert Downey Jr., Jim Carrey) appearing in the sketches.

 

Ron Burgundy 

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Funny how my thinking about Will turned around about the time his bare naked ass was running down the street in a brilliant performance in Old School (2003). With Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (2004), Ferrell’s status as a comedy force was complete.
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RETURN OF GRINGO!: PRINCE FATTY MEETS THE MUTANT HIFI = BULLSEYE!

This piece was originally published February 27th, 2012.

The Mustant Hi-Fi Post TemplateThe soundtrack to Return Of Gringo has indeed become one of the finest recent releases garnering heavy rotation here at Mystery Box HQ. 

However, an album this steeped in the complexities of Jamaican musical styles, needs some background info beforehand…

In the 1960’s, throughout the low income areas of Kingstown, Jamaica, the Rude Boy culture first emerged.

 

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HOWARD DEVOTO AND MAGAZINE: BACK ON THE STANDS!

This piece was originally published December 5th, 2011.

Magazine Post TemplateAs if thirty years had never even happened.

Howard Devoto and his band Magazine, reformed for live shows in 2009, and have just released their first new material since their last album in 1981.

Picking right up where things left off, Magazine have always been a band that sounded fresh, smart, relevant, and illustriously special.

Now with their new album No Thyself, the band has the ability to reinsert themselves into the current musical climate, which will hopefully garner them a new audience, new accolades, and acknowledgement that they are truly one of the great groups to come out of the U.K.

Magazine’s origins begin with the background of the legendary and starkly original vocalist/songwriter Howard Devoto.

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