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A review of two books by bestselling author David Rosenfelt!

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Not So Lucky

Music Review: Benmont Tench – ‘You Should Be So Lucky’ (Blue Note Records)

Tench Debut Works But Only If Expectations Are Reasonable and Realistic.

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“But I’ll know my song well before I start singing.” Bob Dylan (“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”)

Compared to the pop garbage my fitness club inundates me with every morning, longtime Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench’s debut album You Should Be So Lucky might as well be Highway 61 Revisited, Exile on Main Street, Born to Run or even Damn the Torpedoes. But, because I hold a classic rocker who supported one of my main men, Tom Petty, for so long – producing such terrific music – my standard for him is a bit higher. By this measure, his first solo effort falls – fairly or unfairly – a bit short.

For the most part, the album serves as enjoyable background music for a house party. There’s nothing striking, nor is there anything objectionable on the CD; in fact, some of the tunes that emanate from it are rather pleasant. They simply aren’t anything special.

Tench’s delivery is gravelly and reminiscent of a combination of influences, not the least of which is Petty himself (in fact, one of Petty’s biggest hits is “You Got Lucky”). Another influence is Dylan, with whom the Heartbreakers double-billed two major international tours in the late 80s. Tench’s enunciation is reminiscent of Dylan’s (specifically recalling “If You See Her, Say Hello”) on the first track, “Today I Took Your Picture Down.” This is my personal favorite on the album.

As for the second song, “Veronica Said,” I wasn’t sure whether Tench was channeling Lou Reed or Elvis Costello. I heard some of both, as well as a riff that is strangely similar to Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” The album includes two instrumental tracks (“Ecor Rouge” and “Wobbles”), which are not much more than placeholders, and many of the piano solos sound similar to those of Bruce Hornsby. It also includes two placeholder type covers of Dylan songs (“Corrina, Corrina” and “Duquesne Whistle”).

Many musicians have made a career of covering Dylan songs – most notably The Byrds, and it remains the case that Dylan’s originals are generally superior. Here, neither of Tench’s renditions have any distinguishing characteristics that make them worth listening to more than once. This is especially true of one of Dylan’s better recent works, “Duquesne Whistle.” Whereas Dylan’s guitar chords and swing style boogie-woogie the song forward so that it picks up momentum like a train’s steam engine, Tench’s take moves forward like a snail until it finally comes to an end. As for “Corrina, Corrina,” Dylan’s version features powerful vocals (yes, the man can actually sing) that strike an emotional chord in the listener against a pleasing backdrop. Tench merely mouths the words along to his piano accompaniment.

It appears as if Tench, a talented musician, is attempting to find his distinct voice, sound and style by experimenting with and/or playing tribute to his favorite influences. There is nothing wrong with this and, with some refinement, a second solo album could potentially be quite good. This one is just so-so.

Tench might not have quite “known his song,” but sometimes trial and error can lead to great discoveries.

Dave Moyer

Dave Moyer is an educator, sometime musician (he’s on-call to play drums for The Who, The E Street Band or The Rolling Stones), and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel

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A music review! We take another look at You Should Be So Lucky, the solo album by Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers band.

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Worth Waiting For

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Tomorrow and Tomorrow: A Novel by Thomas Sweterlitsch will not be released by G. P. Putnam’s Sons until July 10, 2014. But you might want to put it on your to be read/purchased list now. This is an extraordinarily unique science fiction-like work set in the future. It is a time when each person in the United States has an Adware personal computer system installed, literally, in their brains. And everything that happens in this brave new world is captured on camera – including every transaction at every Starbucks, allowing persons to magically visit the cities and people of the recent past via fully interactive, 3-dimensional hologram-like, digitally stored recreations.

It’s been a full decade since the entire city of Pittsburgh was destroyed in a mysterious explosion, with all of its residents killed. John Dominic Blaxton survived because he was attending a conference in Columbus, Ohio at the time. He lost his wife in the tragedy and his mourning has led him to battle the demons of depression and drug abuse.

Blaxton, who investigated mysterious deaths for State Farm Insurance, comes to lose his job and enters a court-ordered rehabilitation program. He eventually gets the chance to become a respectable citizen again, but only if he can find the missing daughter of a very rich, successful and powerful figure. Unfortunately, someone has been working very hard to delete all evidence of this young woman’s existence. Can Blaxton find her and save her, in the process saving himself?

Joseph Arellano

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Better Days

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Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs by Yukari Iwatani Kane (Harper Business, $27.99, 371 pages)

“Tim Cook was a master of spreadsheets not innovation. Since Cook had taken charge, legions of young MBAs had been hired to help feed the new CEO’s love of data crunching… Managers like Cook tended to overly focus on profits, the one thing that (Steve) Jobs downplayed.”

Since the death of its iconic leader, Steve Jobs, Apple Computer has been floundering; suffering from a dearth of innovations and dogged by competition from Samsung. This is the premise behind Haunted Empire by Yukari Iwatani Kane, a former technology reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Kane, who lives in San Francisco, presents Jobs as a legendary visionary (“…brilliant and unforgettable”) and Apple’s current leader, Tim Cook, as a bland manager who specialized in inventory control.

Steve Jobs

It will be up to each reader to determine the accuracy of Kane’s story. I found it to be highly credible. Mr. Cook is well aware of the book and has angrily labeled it as “nonsense.” However, Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson raves that, “Kane brings us inside Apple at this critical moment with great insight and unparalleled reporting.”

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What Kane does extremely well is present a highly disturbing picture of the Asian workforce that builds Apple’s products. The young workers in China who assemble an average of 180,000 iPhones each day cannot buy them with the slave wages they earn. It’s tragic and the company’s insensitive practices may have unleashed a type of negative karma that has come home to roost.

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This is a fascinating, troubling account of an American business.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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A review of Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs by Yukari Iwatani Kane.

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Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)

A beer review: A look at two India Pale Ales.

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Rubicon India Pale Ale from Sacramento is a High Quality Product.

India Pale Ales (IPAs) originated when English explorers had to transport hearty hops to the West Indies that could survive the journey, thus providing a flavor distinct from traditional pale ales. The West Coast of the U.S.A. has long been the forerunner in the craft beer craze, and Rubicon Brewing Company of Sacramento, CA, has brewed a fine IPA.

This reviewer’s journey through craft beers has consistently led him to settle on IPAs as far and away the favorite. Usually, the hoppier the better. However, Rubicon’s IPA is neither excessively hoppy nor overly fruity. At 6.5% alcohol-by-volume (ABV), it is instead instantly refreshing. That is the initial impression on the taste buds.

I am told that Rubicon will now be releasing this beer in six-packs. I first sampled it in the traditional 22-ounce bottle. As a Chicago customer, I am not sure if it will be available in the region, but if one can get this on draught at a bar or restaurant, it is highly recommended. I am speculating, based on the regional pricing, that the beer would go for about $9.99 to $10.99 for a six-pack if available.

The ever reliable Beer Advocate website rates Rubicon IPA as an 83 on a 100 point scale.

Sam Adams Rebel IPA

By virtue of comparison, Boston Beer Company has recently released Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, it’s version of a West Coast IPA. Rebel is also 6.5% ABV. Upon release, my local store sold it for $13.99 per 12-pack – a steal and well worth the price. Now that consumers have had a chance to taste it, the price has risen and a six-pack of bottles goes for $8.99 (a fairly typical price for decent beer in this area). Beer Advocate ranks this beer as an 82.

Given a choice between the two, Rubicon is slightly better, though Rebel is no slouch. For a slightly higher price, Rubicon’s distinctive IPA is probably worth it, assuming you can find it. If not, Sam Adams’ latest effort – which is well recommended – will easily do the trick.

Dave Moyer

Dave Moyer is an education administrator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.

Note: The ugly, garish label on the Sam Adams Rebel IPA should cost it at least a few ratings points on Beer Advocate and elsewhere. (Joseph)

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