Thursday, November 11, 2010

...And That's Not All!

I apologize for having neglected my blog for the past month. I could say I've been very busy, but it'd be mostly a lie. I was busy for two weeks, and the past two I've been doing a lot of thinking, and that's basically it. Haven't even watched many movies, which is odd for me.

I'm thinking of morphing this blog into also talking about my attempts at writing. Anyway, we'll see how it goes. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Lost Soul's 50 favorite albums #10-1

#10 Welcome To My Nightmare - Alice Cooper (1975)

I first heard this album when I was around ten or so. My dad picked it up on cassette and it scared me. Now that doesn't mean much as I was a scaredy cat as a kid, and I mean big time. However, the song Steven on here is still kinda creepy, but the rest of it is just really fun. The stage show for the concert that followed was unparalleled back then too, with giant spiders, a cyclops, skeletons performing burlesque... This was the start of making Alice family friendly, stageshow wise. All the songs here are great and Vincent Price has a monologue on this a full 7 years before Michael Jackson had the idea!

Best songs: The Black Widow, Steven, and The Department of Youth.

#9. Bat Out of Hell - Meat Loaf (1977)

I think I heard it described by Meat Loaf himself as "the soundtrack to an X-Rated Disney movie." It's not really what I think of when I hear it. I think of it as if Wagner did a Disney movie soundtrack. It's so over the top with different styles presenting themselves through the album, I just can't help but love it. Meat's voice was never better, and it had one of the first successful promo videos, seen below.

Best songs: Bat Out of Hell, For Cryin' Out Loud, and You Took The Words Right Outta My Mouth.

#8. Rising - Rainbow (1977)

Yep, another mid-late 70s album. After guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple, he made Rainbow, which was for the first 3 albums, the architecture for early 80s metal. Sadly it's hard to find material from this album's tour on the internet, and there were no music videos made. It includes probably my favorite swords and sorcery song, Stargazer, which I guess just didn't work right live due to the orchestra and choir originally used on the album. I'd heavily suggest hearing the album though.

Best songs: Tarot Woman, Stargazer, and A Light In The Dark.

#7. Bad Reputation - Thin Lizzy (1977)

The third 1977 album in a row... Musta been the last great year for rock music. Anyways, I consider this the quintessential Thin Lizzy album. It's epic whilst being unpretentious and best of all it's a good starter to the Thin Lizzy sound. From the bombastic opening of Soldier of Fortune to the God-pleading closer of Dear Lord, it's perfect. It includes one of their more popular singles with the title track, of which I included the music video of below.

Best songs: Soldier of Fortune, Southbound, and That Woman's Gonna Break Your Heart.

#6. Somewhere In Time - Iron Maiden (1986)

This was not always my favorite Maiden album. WHen I first heard it, I found the album hard to get into. Why? Because it's not like the albums that came before it. There's guitar synths, it's dark, it's more serious. However, about four years ago, this became my favorite. All the songs are great... not a lesser one in the bunch. It's got the rousing single Wasted Years, the galloping Sea of Madness, and my two favorites... The slow galloping Stranger In A Strange Land (best guitar solo ever), and the epic history lesson of Alexander The Great. I've included the video for Stranger In A Strange Land below.

Best songs: Sea of Madness, Stranger In A Strange Land, and Alexander The Great.

#5. One Way Ticket to Hell... And Back - The Darkness (2005)

I am fully aware that this is probably the odd one out of the top 10. Most people prefer Permission to Land or hate The Darkness period. I love The Darkness. Why do I consider this album superior? It's catchier, it's more Queen-like, and has a much more varied style to it. The first album was great, but this one is more fun with less unnecessary bad language.

Best songs: One Way Ticket, Hazel Eyes, and Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time.

#4. Leftoverture - Kansas (1976)

Yes, this is the one with Carry on Wayward Son on it. That is probably my least favorite song on the album, though it's still great. The album takes you on a philosophical journey as only Kansas (at the time) could. It's amazing the album was so popular as it had no real radio friendly tunes. Sure, the songs are catchy, but the catchier ones are longer than the less catchy ones. My favorite thing about the album is the last two songs. Cheyenne Anthem has this odd keyboard interlude in it that reminds me of the Bobby's World theme. The last song is called Magnum Opus, which is mainly instrumental and weird as hell. Lots of time and direction changes.

Best songs: The Wall, Cheyenne Anthem, and Magnum Opus.

#3. Tales of Mystery and Imagination - The Alan Parsons Project (1975)

Wow, I think I first heard this album when I was 4 or 5. My dad had the record of it, which like Welcome To My Nightmare scared me. I have no idea why really. The artwork wasn't that great. The music can be creepy though, even when not comprehending the words to the songs, which are based on Edgar Allan Poe stories. This was the first Alan Parsons album, and the first use of the vocoder on a record. The album was re-released in the 80s with added guitar solos and spoken word intros by Orson Welles which were originally set to be included in the original release. Sadly, no music videos were made for this album.

Best songs: The Tell-Tale Heart, (The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, and The Fall of The House of Usher.

#2. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Some more 1977 for ya. This is usually considered one of, if not the best, pop albums of all time. I'm inclined to agree. Every song on this album is played on the radio today, if you listen for it. An album written whilst the band was going through personal turmoils. (When all the band is having love affairs with each other, what do you expect?) These issues planted themselves in the lyrics of the songs like The Chain, You Make Loving Fun and I Don't Wanna Know... But really all I can think as I look at this video is "who ever thought afros looked good on white men?!"

Best songs: The Chain, I Don't Wanna Know and Gold Dust Woman.

#1. Running on Empty - Jackson Browne (1977)

Yep, it's official, 1977 was the best year for pop rock. Another album I've liked for a good long while. Written whilst on the road, literally recording part of the album on the tour bus and in hotel rooms, it's the best road album ever made most likely. It's soulful and warm, but also dark and full of longing (and all that pretentious crap). Every song on here is equally as great as the song before it.

Best songs: All of em.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An update... finally!

Sorry folks. I'm aware I have not been blogging as much as I promised. I've been pretty busy lately watching TV shows with my sister. I've been introducing her to Pushing Daisies and Weeds whilst she is catching me up on Fringe. All 3 are of course brilliant shows that I recommend to everyone.

I've been thinking of doing reviews of the TV shows I watch this season starting next week. (House, The Event, Supernatural, and now Fringe) I'll at least start doing that and we'll see how it goes from there. It may just last a few weeks or it may last the whole season. Who knows.

Anyway, I haven't been to the movie theater lately to give you any reviews on that front really. I saw The Last Exorcism, which was pretty good until the last five minutes or so turned it to complete crap. I'd say stay away from that one. 2 stars out of 5. I guess go see it if you want to see how 5 minutes can utterly destroy an otherwise okay movie.

On the book front, I did recently finish reading a collection of Kurt Vonnegut short stories entitled Welcome To The Monkey House. This was my first brush with Vonnegut and I think I'll be reading an actual novel of his sometime soon... Perhaps Breakfast of Champions or Cat's Cradle. If his novels are as good as his short stories, I'm in for a treat. Sure, as with all short story collections, there were a few that were weaker, but most were very good, especially for being written in the 1950s! I think my favorite had to do with a human chess match using survivors of a wartime plane crash. The stories were varied in their genre from science fiction to drama to musings on war. I do recommend people read at least some of the stories from this collection.

The book I am reading now is Stephen King's memoir/how-to book On Writing.

I will be blogging again this weekend, as I'll have the house mostly to myself with my sister and dad gone all weekend. I will finish up the top 50 favorite albums and write some other stuff.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Lost Soul's 50 favorite albums #20-11

#20. Defenders of The Faith - Judas Priest (1984)

Most people will pick Painkiller, Screaming For Vengeance or British Steel over this one, but whilst all of those are great albums, this one is the most consistent for me. It's the heaviest album that Priest had done at this time and it was the last good album of the 1980s for them as well. I also like the extra mean-ness and gothicism.

Best songs: The Sentinel, Love Bites, and Night Comes Down.

#19. Queen II - Queen (1974)

This was one of the first complete Queen albums I ever heard, probably back when I was 8 or 9. It doesn't really have any hits on it, but then again my favorite Queen songs tend to be album cuts. Why is this better than most other Queen albums? It has a flow to it, which is one of Queen's biggest problems. The songs usually just don't fit together well. On this, the songs flow together so well that it's like there's only 2 songs on the whole album!

Best songs: Father To Son, White Queen (As It Began), and The March of The Black Queen.

#18. Led Zeppelin III - Led Zeppelin (1970)

Yes, Led Zeppelin finally makes the list. I'm one of the few that loves the different sound of III as opposed to other Zeppelin albums. It's more jam based and acoustic. Not that the other albums aren't great, but for once there seems to be actual feeling in a Zeppelin album here.

Best songs: Immigrant Song, Tangerine, and Bron-Y-Aur Stomp.

#17. The Yes Album - Yes (1971)

This is the album where Yes really got their sound. Perhaps it's due to Steve Howe joining. Some folks point to the follow up album, Fragile, as the quintessential Yes album. That has some filler in my opinion, whereas this whole album is well thought out. Still missing Rick Wakeman though...

Best songs: Starship Trooper, I've Seen All Good People, and Perpetual Change.

#16. Jailbreak - Thin Lizzy (1976)

Another recent addition to my ears, I first heard this album about four years ago for the first time. Since then, I probably listen to this in it's entirety at least once a month. It's very short, but it's got nothing I'd want to skip. It also includes their biggest hit, The Boys Are Back In Town.

Best songs: Romeo and The Lonely Girl, Cowboy Song, and Emerald.

#15. Hemispheres - Rush (1978)

This is the album that got me into Rush. Before this one, I didn't really like them. Oddly enough, this is the hardest album to get into for most people. It's their most progressive album, and even the band themselves think they may have gone to far in that direction. I mean, it only has 4 songs on it, one of them being about 20 minutes, and that one happens to be my favorite song on the album! Go figure!

Best songs: As there are only 4... all of them.

#14. Boston - Boston (1976)

You all knew that this would be on here. It's regularly considered one of the best rock albums of all time. It's short, it's catchy, and very very accessible. It's also one of the best produced albums of all time. I mean the guitar solos are multitracked to heaven, complete with a holy gloss. First heard it when I was about 9, and still one of my favorites.

Best songs: More Than A Feeling, Peace of Mind, Smokin'.

#13. Misplaced Childhood - Marillion (1985)

I had not even heard of Marillion until 2007. I came across a music video for one of the songs on this album, and I quickly got it. The album sounds like if Pink Floyd had gotten Peter Gabriel for their lead singer. It's odd, but it works. It's a very bipolar album though, going from sad to happy sometimes 2 or 3 times per song. It's also the reason we have so many girls born in '85-'86 named Kaleigh.

Best songs: Lavender, Heart of Lothian, and Blind Curve.

#12. Abbey Road - The Beatles (1969)

Yeah, I had to go with another obvious choice. Everyone loves Abbey Road. I mean it's sort of the last Beatles album, especially if you consider the fact that the Let It Be album was actually recorded first, even if it was released afterwards. My favorite George Harrison song, Here Comes The Sun is on here, and I do have a soft spot for Carry That Weight. It was also my first Beatles album I owned.

Best songs: I Want You (She's So Heavy), Here Comes The Sun, and Something.

#11. Revolver - The Beatles (1966)

Another gimmie. This was the cut-off point for the Beatles being interesting for me back when I started collecting when I was fourteen. Back then I liked from Revolver up to their end of career stuff. I gotta say, I'm still not a fan of Yellow Submarine though. The only negative to a great album. George Harrison's contributions, (Taxman, Love You To, and I Want To Tell You), are especially good.

Best songs: I'm Only Sleeping, I Want To Tell You, and Tomorrow Never Knows.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Weekly Media Report: August 2- 9

Books read...

Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief - After watching the movie, I decided that I should read the book to see what all the hate towards the movie was about. Yes, the book is better, but it doesn't matter as the journey in the movie is very different from the book. The goal is the same, but the challenges are fewer and different than in the book... and Percy is older in the movie as well. I still like the movie okay as just entertainment, even if it is pretty dumb, but the book is just okay too. It's a Harry Potter clone right down to the bone, but at an even lower reading level. I will continue to read the series, just so I can say I have. Besides, maybe the books will get better as they go along.

Movies watched...

Millions (2004) - I'm still not sure what I think of this one. It was my first time watching it, I knew what to expect, and it still felt odd. It include the Danny Boyle patented 3rd act left turn, and that was my favorite part I think. It's a feel good Christmas movie at heart, but it's also a heist film, a tearjerker, a family movie, and a religious film. It was entertaining, but I couldn't tell if I really enjoyed it or not. Like most Boyle films, I'll have to give it a few more tries.

Zombieland (2009) - This is my most watched blu-ray. This time I showed the movie to my sister. Unsurprisingly, she apparently liked it, as her and I have essentially the same taste in movies. I tend to rate Zombieland higher than Shaun of the Dead in terms of entertainment, though it's definitely not as smart or as poignant. Still, it stays funny and it's a really fun ride.

Queen Rock Montreal/Live Aid (1981/1985) - This was probably the last real Queen concert. After the 1981 tour, they added so many synths to the shows, it wasn't really Queen anymore. The show they put on here is phenomenal, with a fantastic light show. I was always more of a 70s Queen fan than an 80s one anyway, so the setlist on this is near optimal... (even though I'm growing to despise Crazy Little Thing Called Love) The Live Aid performance is pretty good too. Only a few songs long, but it includes my favorite Queen song, Hammer To Fall, even though the song was never great live. Live Aid has no light show, but the audience makes up for it. It's still considered one of the best live performances ever for a reason.

Meet Bill (2007) - I am convinced that Aaron Eckhart is one of the best actors out there. He makes some questionable decisions (The Core), but even in those, he still entertains me. This movie is, I believe, an independent film. It also stars Jessica Alba, Elizabeth Banks, and Logan Lerman, who now plays Percy Jackson. The movie is about Aaron Eckhart's character confronting his mid-life crisis and realizing he's accomplished nothing on his own, his wife has her own issues, and on top of that, he's really wanting a donut franchise. Enter youthful Logan Lerman, who helps him loosen up and get on with life. Pretty simple independent film premise, but it works for me. At least it isn't pseudo-intellectual drivel.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weekly Media Report : July 25- August 1

So I originally started this blog to review every single movie I watch, book I read, etc, and I feel that now's the time to start it. This is for the week of July 25-August 1.

Movies Watched
...In Theaters...

Inception (2nd viewing) - I still think this is better than The Dark Knight. Maybe because it's not an adaptation of some sort. The visuals of course I fantastic, but I very much liked the plot. It's not totally original or new, but it's done in such a grand and intriguing way that I didn't really care. Oddly enough, viewing it this second time, I noticed a few similarities to the other DiCaprio movie of 2010, Shutter Island.

...From My Collection...

Dead Like Me: Season 2 (2004) - This is a great series, but some of the episodes towards the end of season 1 weren't as good. Season 2 made up for that. There really weren't any uninteresting ones, and it expanded on the mythology only a little bit. I feel a bit let down that I'm done with the series, but in actuality there's not much more they could have done with it. At least there's the TV movie still left, but I've heard mixed things about it.

Rear Window (1954) - It's been one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite Hitchcock film for years, and I finally watched my remastered copy. One of the best suspense movies of all time and pretty funny to boot. Staged almost as a play would be, as I think it was one at one point, and that works to it's advantage. Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Raymond Burr. Fantastic stuff.

Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage (2010) - Yes, I'm a Rush fan. This documentary spans their whole career, which is good, as they've changed a lot musically over the years. It does skimp on the post-70s stuff though, which is sad. I've seen this 3 times over the past 3 weeks or so, and it stays interesting and funny. All the members of the band are hilarious. It was sad to find out that my 3 favorite albums (Hemispheres, Power Windows, and Hold Your Fire) are the ones where they thought they'd gone too far in one direction and reversed course on the next ones though. Pity.

Styx: Caught In The Act (1983) - This is a live concert from the year that Styx ended up breaking up for the first time. And it was this tour that caused it. It's based on the Kilroy Was Here album, which had this concept of some Moral Majority type group banning rock music and a resistance fighting back. Yeah, it's not that great. The lead songwriter/singer, Dennis DeYoung made this a theatrical type thing with everyone in the band in their respective roles. The tour failed and the rest of the band hated it. The songs are performed well, but it's heavy-handed and the stage play portions fail miserably.

Army of Darkness (1993) - This is my least favorite Evil Dead film, but I still love it. It was my first time seeing the American cut in years, as I had only owned the Director's Cut DVD until now. I gotta say, this version is better. The ending for the director's cut did fit thematically for the series, but this ending (the one in S-Mart) fits the movie better. I was amazed at how quotable this movie was as well. I'd forgotten that and how short the movie is... It's like an hour and fifteen minutes!

Once Upon A Time In The West (1968) - Sergio Leone's operatic western. Some call it slow and boring, I call it a feast for the senses. It's beautiful in every way shape and form. Sure, it's light on action, but the story makes up for it. There's a feeling of melancholy throughout, even with the humorous bits. I don't think a western can ever eclipse this. It really was the last great American western. (And this one was even filmed there!)

Jaws (1975) - I watch this one every summer, and it never gets old. I always notice a line that I missed or some detail in the background. The Kintner death still really affects me every time, mainly because you can't really tell what's happening from that angle. It's like documentary footage, as it's Brody's POV. The shark may look sort of fake today, but it scares me more than any CGI creature I've seen. It may be mechanical, but it could still kill ya. I also have to give props to Dreyfuss and Shaw. The banter between those two really makes the movie. One of Spielberg's best.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) - I saw this in theaters, and while it's still not my favorite Gilliam film, I liked it better this viewing. They really made Heath Ledger's death a non-issue with the reshoots with Depp, Law, and Farrell. The movie is definitely not for everyone, but that's true of most Gilliam films. I'm still confused by the last fifteen minutes of the film.

Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010) - Yet another I saw originally in theaters. I am one of the few that likes this better than Columbus's two Harry Potter films. This one strays from the book widely. The main characters are about 5 years older than they are in the book, and the plot is trimmed down so much that we have no idea why it's a big deal that the Lightning Bolt is stolen. Sounds like a bad adaptation, but in the movie it doesn't matter. It's not following the book to a T. It's good for a younger audience, but it's only good for light entertainment, and nothing more.

Jaws 2 (1978) - This is often unfairly lumped in with the rest of the Jaws sequels as being a horrible movie. It's not. It's still got good acting, Scheider is back as well as most of the town, and it's still suspenseful. It's not as expertly crafted, but it's a good monster movie. I'd say it's like a well acted slasher film with the shark as the killer. It's actually a pretty worthy sequel.

Tomorrow I will post a review of the book I just finished reading, John Irving's Last Night In Twister River.

The Lost Soul's 50 favorite albums #25-21

#25. Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good - Megadeth (1985)

Megadeth's first album is probably their heaviest, and it has a meanness and bite to it that none of the albums after it have. The songs seemingly flow into each other. The production used to be horrible, but it was remastered about 5 years ago, and sounds great now. The only bad thing is that the cover of "These Boots" was bleeped out almost the whole way through.

Best songs: Last Rites/Loved To Death, Rattlehead, and Mechanix.

#24. American Idiot - Green Day (2004)

Yes, I know it's unfashionable to like this album. I don't care. It's a great concept album, and the songs are catchy... even the 8 minute ones. Sure, it may anger some older Green Day fans, but I never was one. It encapsulates the mid-2000s mindset very well. Alas, they tried to catch fire twice with 21st Century Breakdown, which was just OK. This, however, is great.

Best songs: Jesus of Suburbia, Holiday, and Homecoming.

#23. Aqualung - Jethro Tull (1971)

Probably Jethro Tull's most accessible and well-known album. It's sort of two concept albums on one disc. The first 6 songs are about a homeless guy called Aqualung, and the rest of the songs are about how Religion is ungodly. I tend towards the second half of the album, but both are amazing.

Best songs: Aqualung, Hymn 43, and Wind Up.

#22. The Blizzard of Ozz - Ozzy Osbourne (1981)

I didn't actually hear this album until a few years ago, and even then, it took a few listens to grow on me. I usually despise Ozzy, personally. I'll credit the album to the others in the band, as Ozzy wrote nothing on it. The guitar playing is out of this world, and the songs a mix of beautiful, fun, and eerie.

Best songs: Goodbye To Romance, Mr. Crowley, and Revelation (Mother Earth).

#21. Animals - Pink Floyd (1977)

Probably the least accessible of their classic albums, but I love the droning pomposity of it all. The song only has 3 real songs on it, with 2 small bookends, and every second of it counts. Roger Waters may be a prick, but he can write some beautiful, eerie stuff. Pigs is a perfect example.

Best songs: The whole thing... only has 3 real songs...