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Def Leppard / Diamond Star Halos
The sixteen-year-old in me wants Diamond Star Halos to be chock-full of songs as good as Foolin’ and Photograph. The grown-up me, who is actually writing this review, knows just how unfair that this. This is one of the few bands out there, from their original scene, still recording new material and playing stadium shows.
The opener, Take What You Want, is a real pile-driver, and vocalist Joe Elliot sounds strong. Followed by Kick, which almost sounds like a lost Slade track, it’s not hard to get sucked into this record. While harmonies and rhythm guitars are stacked thick, this release is nowhere near the over-produced sound that broke the band in the 80’s.
Goodbye For You, maybe my favorite track here, is a lush ballad adding piano and strings to the mix, as well as a matured choice in chord selection. I especially like the classical guitar solo, which provides a tasty contrast to the big wall of electric guitars that supports the rest of the record. Really great songwriting this time around, in fact, several of these songs bounced around in my noggin for a few days after hearing them. More of this, lads. Please!
Pop Co-Op / Suspension
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that, not only am I already a fan of this band, but I plunk down my own hard-earned dinero to buy their CD’s. These men deserve my patronage, no free promo copies for me, wouldn’t even ask. If you somehow missed their previous releases, 2020’s Factory Settings and 2017’s Four State Solution, they’re your homework assignment.
The airy Suspension opens the disc on an optimistic note, complimenting the ethereal cover art perfectly. Beatles-by-way-of-XTC might sound like an overused compliment, but there you have it. This is smart, lushly-produced music that was created with care. A headphone listen of these tracks is a definite must.
Steve Stoeckel’s bouncy Hofner bass and Stacey Carson’s pumped-up drumming are the jet engine that propels the irritable I Just Love To Watch Her Dance, Run and Hide and Unquestionably I-95. Bruce Gordon’s masterful vocal arrangements are layered with perfection, and are both powerful and gorgeous (Again, break out those headphones, kids). Joel Tinnel’s adept guitars morph accordingly from track to track, providing just what is needed, from chorusy cleans to dirty aggression.
Suspension will undoubtedly land on many a year-end-best list, as it should. CD’s are still available through the mighty Futureman Records, but you can expect that situation to change in the coming months. Get behind these lads!
Claudia Robin Gunn
Every once in awhile, we music critics get a breath of fresh air. We savor it, slowly filling our lungs before a relaxed exhale. We look up to a brilliant blue sky, and wonder why the cottony cloud billows have been gone for so long. Claudia Robin Gunn’s Sing For The Sea – Little Wild Ocean Friends, is that.
Gunn’s latest project is a celebration of the oceans and its inhabitants, which instantly put me in a serene, tropical state of mind. These tunes are expertly under-produced, leaving voice and acoustic guitar to paint brief vignettes that leave the listener wanting more. Baby Blue Whale is immediately memorable, and has been in my head since first listen.
It’s impossible to pick a favorite out of the twenty-four included tracks, though I particularly like Eagle Ray, Inky The Octopus and Sea Sponge Land. For ecology-minded parents, Sing For The Sea is a great way to introduce the wee ones to thinking more globally, while enjoying to first-rate family music that comes from a place of kindness and inclusion. Very well done.
By Dan Pavelich
Last year, I posted a list of TV series that I’ve seen in their entirety, every episode. This is an update of that list, still missing a number of shows my memory won’t surrender, but adding some recent completions.
Since that original list and its first update, I’ve fallen under the thrall of the wonderful NBC series This Is Us. Brenda and I binged the show’s first five seasons last year, and we were fully on-board for its final season in 2022. I now regard This Is Us as one of my all-time favorite TV series. Now that it’s completed its run (and while we’re still wiping the sting out of our teary eyes–oh, the feels!), it’s time for another update to the master list. Let’s get to that list, with its original introduction intact, and its later paragraphs given a fresh coat o’ varnish.
I like TV shows. This is an attempt to list every TV series I’ve ever watched in its entirety, from Season 1 Episode 1 through the blowout finale. It includes mini-series, broadcast series, cable series, and streaming series without discrimination. And it includes some series I saw piecemeal, as long as I’m sure I saw all of the episodes in whatever sequence I got to them. Some I saw on first run, others I watched after the fact. It is a woefully incomplete list–because, y’know, memory–but it’s a start. I may come back here to add more series as I remember them.
The Adventures Of Superman
Bionic Woman [2007 series]
Birds Of Prey
The Bob Newhart Show
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
The Crazy Ones
The Defenders[Marvel Comics series]
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Falcon And The Winter Soldier
The Flash [1990-1991 series]
Flashforward [2009-2010 series]
Freaks And Geeks
The Good Place
The Green Hornet
Marvel’s Agent Carter
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Middle Man
No Ordinary Family
The Queen’s Gambit
*The Steven Banks Show
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
This Is Us
V [2009-2011 series]
We’ll Get By
The West Wing
The Wonder Years
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
If I forgot any series you think I must have seen from start to finish, I welcome attempts to jog my stubborn memory.
There are two series cited with an asterisk: NBC’s 2017 DC Comics sitcom Powerless and the 1994 PBS comedy series The Steven Banks Show. In both cases, I saw all of the broadcast episodes, but each had additional episodes that were completed but never aired. Haven’t seen those, so…asterisk.
This list arbitrarily excludes animated shows, only because I didn’t want to rack my brain to identify which cartoon series qualified; the cartoon list would include things like The Flintstones, Batman: The Animated Series (and the subsequent related Superman and Justice League series that were part of that B:TAS universe), and Avatar: The Last Airbender. Among live-action shows, Arrested Development andTwin Peaks would have been listed on the basis of their original network TV runs, but both have since been revived, and I haven’t seen any of the latter-day episodes. (On the other hand, I have seen the continuations of Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, and approve of both.)
Current series that will probably make this list some day include Firefly Lane, The Flash (The CW‘s version, which is distinct from the ’90s series), Loki, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Stargirl, and the simply swell Superman and Lois. I bailed on Batwoman before its cancellation in 2022. Having seen the first season of Dollhouse, I may go back to see its second and final season.
I own home video copies of just a handful of complete TV series. I have The Monkees on DVD and on Blu-ray, Batman on Blu-ray, Shindig! on an unauthorized set of DVD-Rs (and I really need to go back and finish watching those), homemade VHS copies of The Green Hornet, and Police Squad!, and, if we count non-physical media, the 2011-2012 series Pan Am on iTunes. I may write about Pan Am some day; the timing of its original network run coincided with some emotional turmoil in my life, and the idea of jetting off to Europe seemed mighty appealing to me. The pilot episode of Pan Am would serve as part of the climax in the first chapter of a long-gestating memoir I call Spain, a piece which, frankly, I doubt I’ll ever getting around to writing.
There are still a lot of older TV series that should probably be on this list. It’s likely that I’ve seen every episode of Get Smart, The Beverly Hillbillies, F Troop, The Odd Couple, The Andy Griffith Show, WKRP In Cincinnati, Hec Ramsey, Switch, When Things Were Rotten, and a big ol’ bunch of others, but my reasonable doubt is sufficient for me to omit them from this list. There are some other older shows–The Guns Of Will Sonnett, the 1960s Tarzan, Disney’s Zorro–I’d like the opportunity to re-visit, but for now, I don’t think I’ve seen all of those episodes.
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I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl
I’ve written quite a bit about my life in Buffalo, 1982-1987, most notably in my extended narrative “The Road To Goldmine.” Today, we’ll look back at some opening acts I saw during my time in the Queen City.
The Lumens were a Buffalo band playing bars in the early to mid ’80s. I saw them a few times, though I don’t remember if I ever saw them when they weren’t opening for somebody else. I don’t mean to imply they weren’t memorable, because I liked ’em just fine at the time. The Lumens opened for The Ramones at least once, at a South Buffalo bar called The Rooftop; The Rooftop actually DBA’d under a few different names during my time in Buffalo, but The Rooftop is the only name I remember. I’m pretty sure The Rooftop was the only place where I ever saw The Lumens. I really remember only four other things about the group: they had a puerile original song called “KY,” they covered “Rockaway Beach” (though, of course, they didn’t do that one when they shared a bill with the actual Ramones), and the group’s members shared the “Lumen” stage surname. The fourth thing? Well, the drum solo, of course! The group would announce that the drummer–let’s call him Chris Lumen for convenience–was about to do his solo. Chris would light a cigarette, take a drag, then nonchalantly tap each component of his kit once or twice, maybe do a lackluster roll, and hit the cymbal to conclude his solo. CHRIS LUMEN!, the leader would cry, as if we’d just seen the second coming of Keith Moon. That, my friends, is rock ‘n’ roll.
The Riddlers opened for The Bangles at The Continental in…’84? ’85? The Bangles were touring in support of their debut full-length album All Over The Place, a record which I just adored (and still do). They were still something of an underground group at the time, which is why they played at the punk/new wave/new music/nom du joir bar The Continental rather than a higher-profile venue. Like The Lumens, The Riddlers were another local bar band, albeit perhaps a bit more pop-centric in approach. I recall one fab original song called “Coke Bottle Glasses,” and I regret that I never got around to seeing them again.
Is it possible for something to be exceedingly generic? No? I don’t care. The description applies to Sheriff, a Toronto group that looked and sounded like every other arena wannabe in the ’80s. Boring. Sheriff opened for The Kinks at The Aud circa 1984, and I couldn’t stand them. It was also the least-interesting of the three Kinks shows I witnessed, though even in a soulless hockey auditorium they were still, y’know, THE KINKS!! Sheriff may have been the second-worst opening act I’ve ever endured. Who was the worst? Well, that would be:
THE FORGOTTEN REBELS
Poseurs. I swear it’s a coincidence that the two lamest opening acts I ever saw both came from Canada. Why couldn’t I have seen Teenage Head instead, or The Diodes, or The Pointed Sticks? Or, like, The ‘B’ Girls, who were good-looking and sounded great. But no, I was stuck with friggin’ Sheriff and then The Forgotten Rebels, who opened for an almost-as-lame incarnation of The Clash at the University Of Buffalo stop on the latter’s Mick Jones-free Cut The Crap tour. The Clash weren’t quite The Clash without Jones, but at least I got to see Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon; there was no upside to the empty clang and false swagger of The Forgotten Rebels.
I feel so fortunate to have been able to see Prince & the Revolution on their Purple Rain tour in 1984. Unfortunately, our seats at The Aud for this one were awful, afflicted by limited visibility and muffled acoustics. Still awesome nonetheless. Sheila E opened, and she was cute, sexy, and in absolute control. I don’t remember whether or not she also joined the Revolution during Prince’s set, though my hunch is that she did. Many years later, Sheila E was in Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band when I attended Ringo’s press conference in Rama, Ontario in 2003. She was still cute, sexy, and in control. That’s the value of a glamorous life.
I once read a description of The Reducers as “Connecticut’s answer to The Ramones.” The tag isn’t accurate, but they were such a cool group, and The Reducers’ rock ‘n’ roll travelogue “Let’s Go” just might be The Greatest Record Ever Made. Don’t know it?! Well, we need to remedy that:Green Jello
The Reducers opened for The Ramones at an outdoor show at Buffalo State around ’85. Opening for The Ramones is a thankless task, but The Reducers stood their ground and surrendered not an inch. The very notion of an outdoor Ramones show seems an anomaly, a crime against science, a mutant aberration. Great night, though. And anomaly or not, there were two outdoor Ramones shows at Buff State, separated by about a year. The opening act for the other show?
GREEN JELLÖ/THE KENMORE DOLLS
One could likely make a case that I should consider the willfully inept Green Jellö alongside Sheriff and The Forgotten Rebels in my Opening Act Hall O’ Shame. Wrong!! I wasn’t generally a fan, but the lads in Green Jellö sure looked like they were having a good ol’ time when they opened for The Ramones at Buff State, and especially when they opened for the legendary Johnny Thunders at The Continental in 1986. For the latter show, Green Jellö changed its name for one night only to The Kenmore Dolls, mixing their suburban stomping grounds in Kenmore with our Johnny’s old group The New York Dolls. They were terrible by any technical consideration, but entertaining as hell. I think they covered the Dolls’ “Personality Crisis,” and may have even completed the song without inflicting any serious damage. They tried to pull off another Dolls cover–probably “Vietnamese Baby”–but gave up on it almost immediately because they didn’t know how the song was supposed to go. I mean, not just forgotten lyrics, but no clue to the song’s structure other than its distinctive opening guitar riff. And they tried it anyway, on stage! Balls, man. Gotta give it to The Kenmore Dolls for that. The joke had worn thin ‘n’ threadbare by the time a later edition–re-named Green Jellÿ because lawsuits–hit MTV with the grating alt-hit “Three Little Pigs.”
That concludes this Buffalo edition of Virtual Ticket Stub Gallery Snapshots. We’ll return to the subject eventually to re-live opening sets from Velvet Elvis, Wang Chung, Exile, “Weird” Al Yankovic, The Replacements, Ray Paul, and Mary Lou Lord.
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