Tag Archives: Michael Penn

Blast From The Past: I Am Sam

Beatle Weekend, Part One.

Also known as How To Sell A Beatles Tribute Album With A Movie Tie-In. The premise of the relationship between this collection of Beatles covers (more specifically, Lennon-McCartney covers) and the Sean Penn film is Penn’s character’s affinity for Beatles music.

Fine by me. I imagine the reason that not too many of the artists strayed from the formula had more to do with “keeping it real” for the imagination of the Sam character (mentally challenged) than the participant’s unwillingness to experiment with established classics. Regardless, great songs are great songs, and several of the almost spot-on performances (Aimee Mann and Michael Penn on “Two Of Us” and Sheryl Crow’s “Mother Nature’s Son“) are enjoyable versions that could have been bonus tracks on those respective artists’ albums.

Video: “Two of Us“, “Blackbird“, “I’m Looking Through You

Some veer slightly off the path, like The Vines with “I’m Only Sleeping” (great finish), Stereophonics‘ soulful “Don’t Let Me Down” and Howie Day’s desperate reading of “Help“. I would have preferred that The Black Crowes tackle something raucous like “Birthday“, as their restrained performance of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” is missing a spark. The original “Across The Universe” succeeded largely because of the vocal; Rufus Wainwright’s interpretation grows tired very quickly. Paul Westerberg disappoints with a dull “Nowhere Man” but Ben Harper surprised me with his solid take on “Strawberry Fields Forever“.

Oddest moments: Not hearing “The Weight” immediately after “Golden Slumbers” (Ben Folds, natty) and Eddie Vedder making “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” sound like a suicide note. Then again, most things Vedder sings could fit that description.

(This 2002 review originally ran in Yeah Yeah Yeah, Issue #21.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

T.G.I.F. – Ten From Arthur Penn

Arthur Penn died earlier this week. Although he wasn’t a prolific film director, his batting average was incredible, and his films were an accurate reflection of the mores and zeitgeist of their times. His most famous epic, Bonnie and Clyde, was not only a cultural phenomenon in the 70s, but the critical and popular success of its tone and style opened the doors for other landmark films that would revolutionize the film industry.

Penn got his start in television, directing live dramas for shows like Playhouse 90, and was also a very successful Broadway director, winning Tony Awards three times in a four-year span. His work included dynamic shows like Clifford Odetts’ Golden Boy and the original productions of Wait Until Dark and The Miracle Worker.

But although he received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, he never took home the statuette for his film work. No matter – his impact was huge. Despite a short filmography, he worked with all of the greatest actors of his time – Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty – and was adept at extracting eclectic performances from them. Ironically, he hated method acting, although he worked often with some of its biggest practicioners.

Arthur was often mistakenly identified as the father of the successful Penn brothers – actors Sean and Christopher and musician Michael; their father Leo was also in the industry but no relation.

So in tribute to Arthur , I give you Ten From Arthur Penn. These are his ten best films – also his first ten films – and I suggest those you haven’t seen go on your “must see” list. And if the independent film era of the 60s and 70s  interests you, I highly suggest you grab a copy of the fascinating documentary Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.

01. The Left Handed Gun (1958) – Newman as Billy The Kid, an underrated Western with some great performances.

02. The Miracle Worker (1962) – Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in the award-winning smash

03. Mickey One (1965) – An underknown classic with Beatty as a nightclub comic fleeing the mob. Sadly not on DVD yet.

04. The Chase (1966) – An amazing cast in an oddball combination of a Southern melodrama and an action film, scripted by Horton Foote and Lillian Hellman.Trainwreck great.

05. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) – One of the best films ever made, period.

06. Alice’s Restaurant (1969) – Arlo Guthrie’s song took up an album side and Penn made it into a counterculture classic.

07. Little Big Man (1970) – The oddest history lesson ever and a great anti-Western; Forrest Gump stole the concept.

08. Night Moves (1975) – One of the dozens of reasons that Gene Hackman might just be the best of his generation.

09. The Missouri Breaks (1976) – At this point directors let Brando do what he wanted just to get him in the film; he was rarely odder than this one.

10. Four Friends (1981) – Craig Wasson leads a lesser known cast in one of the better films made about growing up in the turbulent 60s. Written by Steve Tesich, who gave us another coming-of-age classic in Breaking Away.

Leave a comment

Filed under Film/TV, Reviews

Emitt Rhodes Documentary – it’s here!

Finally!

After having a premiere at the Rome International Film Festival in Italy last October, the Emitt Rhodes documentary,  The One Man Beatles, is going to make its US debut Thursday July 8 at the Don’t Knock The Rock film festival in Hollywood. The film features interviews with The Bangles, Keith Olsen, Ray Paul, Michael Penn, Allison Anders, and of course, Emitt Rhodes.

Trailer

From the Italian film festival publicity blurb: “A young director crosses the ocean to find Emitt Rhodes, the mysterious forgotten American pop star from the 1960s/70s, once dubbed as the secret alter ego of Paul McCartney. But these theories are refuted by Emitt himself, flushed out and placed in front of a video camera after many years spent holed up in his house full of old guitars and vintage amplifiers. His words reveal a past filled with regrets. His voice and his music proving his pure talent.”

In conjunction with the release of the film, Permanent Press is releasing a single by Ray Paul that was intended to be on the Emitt Rhodes tribute album Rhodes Of Perfection (currently put on hold by Brewery Records). Ray’s cover version of the Emitt Rhodes composition ‘Til The Day After” has just been sent to radio and will appear on the August 2010 radio industry trade CD Sampler A Taste Of Triple-A.

Rhodes and Paul have a long history; they performed together in concert in February 1997 in Santa Monica, California and some footage of that show is included in the film. A collaborative single, “Some Sing, Some Dance“, released in May 2000, received airplay on 55 Hot A/C  and A/C stations.

Listen to “Til The Day After

Listen to clips from Emitt’s discography

Emitt Rhodes website

Ray Paul website

2 Comments

Filed under Film/TV, Music, Reviews

Emitt Rhodes, At Last

This will need a revision

I guess this will need a revision soon...

Funny how things circle around and back again. I bought and liked Emitt Rhodes‘ debut album when it first came out, but somehow I didn’t catch the insatiable bug for his music that so many other power pop lovers seem to have caught. Besides, I’m in New York City and I’m being bombarded with all kinds of sounds as the music of the 60s come crashing to a halt and FM radio finally cuts the umbilical cord to AM radio. Rock stars were dying, The Beatles were defunct, psych and garage and prog and glam and metal and a hundred other things were coming at me at warp speed. Can’t blame me for not following every single tangent. And by the time this one hit the wall, I didn’t even notice.

Several years later, I’m working in a Syracuse record store (which used to be a prestigious job. Hell, I had to audition!) and Ray Paul‘s 45 comes across the desk. Looks interesting, so I play it. Sounds great, so I buy it. Ray is from Rochester, just an hour or so up the road, but that’s a million miles at the time. And those other singles are telling me things like “God Save The Queen” and “So It Goes” , so a momentary pleasure is enjoyed and the single gets added to the collection.

Maybe two decades later, I finally meet Ray Paul in California at Poptopia. It’s ironic; he now lives in Los Angeles while I’m in his former hometown of Rochester.  I tell him the story about the single; he tells me about his friendship with Emitt Rhodes. (I don’t remember if we met Emitt that night – Ray and I  tipped more than a few pints that evening along with a couple of magazine editors). Within another year or two, he and Emitt release a new single on Ray’s Permanent Press label. I catch the bug.

And today, a decade after that meeting, Ray – now a friend as well as a musician I enjoy – emailed me with great news. The Emitt Rhodes film documentary, “The One Man Beatles“, will premiere  at the Rome International Film Festival on October 21st & 22nd. Ray was interviewed extensively for the film, along with Keith Olsen, Michael Penn, The Bangles, Joel Larson, Allison Anders, Janice Fortier, Dan Mayer and Jim Rolfe“The film, which is in the running for best documentary in  the festival, includes several songs which will be on the forthcoming  CD performed live in the studio by the new Emitt Rhodes Band. English narration is currently being put together for the release in the USA.”

The film announcement is exciting enough, but a new Emitt Rhodes album?? Wow!! Now that Ray lives in Rochester again, I guess it’s time to celebrate with a few pints on this coast.

A link to the film festival website.

Don’t know Emitt Rhodes? Here’s a link that will fill you in while you await the new film and album (and – hopefully – some live performances?)

Emitt wiki page

Ray Paul‘s MySpace page.

Permanent Press Records

Ray Paul Charles Beat

2 Comments

Filed under Features and Interviews, Film/TV, Music

Under The Radar: Monkeeman

 

Hop aboard. Not the last train from Clarksville.

Hop aboard - it's not the last train from Clarksville.

My first dip into Monkeemanmania was with the album Jumping on the Monkey Train (review below) and if you dig this, you need to seek out Burn To Shine amd Life in the Backseat as well. Monkeeman? Yep. More proof that great music is everywhere if you have the patience to seek it out.

Monkeeman_DEF.indd

Usually when a European band has this much 12-string jangle and 60s Britpop DNA, the smart money is on Sweden (Merrymakers, anyone?). But Monkeeman…well, Monkee-men, technically…is a German quartet so well versed in pop song craft that they could be from Missouri. Reportedly, at one point Ralf Luebke alone was Monkeeman, but the entire band deserves credit for this project – bassist Thomy Jordi, drummer Achim Farber and Zoran Grujovski on guitars and keyboards (the latter two co wrote the songs with Lubke). “Moving in Circles” is a killer leadoff track utilizing chiming pop guitars, soaring vocals and a strong chorus that will have you singing along before you even figure out the words. While that’s the high point of the album, what follows is well-crafted buoyant pop music that is well worth the journey.

Lubke’s voice is often eerily reminiscent of Michael Penn, without the depressing angst and baggage, of course. “No Kicks” and “Glad That You Love Me” mine the Penn trail so well they could fool Aimee Mann. Power pop aficionados will find that comparisons to Andy Bopp (“Painkiller”) and Michael Carpenter (“The Man In My Head”) are not out of line, either. The stellar “About a Boy”, all stops, starts and Lennonisms, is another that demands repeat play. There no rut here – good variety of tempos, some humor (“Crazy Ann”, as well as the requisite bonus track) and plenty of memorable hooks. Go get this!

Here are some links to newer Monkeeman music…

Monkeeman MySpace page – many streaming songs.

Monkeeman videos for “Lonely Guy” (<- amazing!),  “Universe” and “Glad That You Love Me

Monkeeman main website.

***

1 Comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Music