Tag Archives: Russell Crowe

Blast From The Past: The Wildweeds

It wasn’t unusual for bands in the 60s to work their way to the top of the local and regional pile and get an opportunity to take that next big step to stardom. But consider the obstacles – how primitive the communication and public relations tools were, how few venues there were to siphon through as an artist – and it’s not hard to look at the long list of bands who were one-hit wonders*.

Now take that down a notch and think about the bands who just missed that rung – a breakout regional hit whose spark just didn’t catch enough fire – and that list gets exponentially longer. There is so much great music that never got its due, but thanks to the ability to create and promote a label from your desktop, more and more are getting their day in the sun. One such band is The Wildweeds, who were monsters in Connecticut but failed to explode nationally. Their recorded canon labored in obscurity for decades despite having a famous alumni, the great Al Anderson on guitar, who went on to achieve legendary status with NRBQ.

I pulled this record out again after getting an email from Doc Cavalier‘s daughter Darlene which included a link to this great video her Dad spliced together. I didn’t recall having seen the Wildweeds video before – turns out it’s the only video of this lineup – but I did remember Michael Shelley issuing this great CD on his Confidential Recordings label a few years back, so I pulled it out to play it.

No Good To Cry assembles singles and studio tracks from The Wildweeds Cadet era tracks plus ten additional songs; all were remastered by Doc Cavalier and Richard Robinson, and for the most part you can see where the band’s “Soul City” moniker came from. Most tracks sit squarely at the intersection of Philly soul/r&b and garage rock, much like their contemporaries The Young Rascals. There’s a great photo on the back of the booklet where the band is standing in a field of…well…three guesses. With their powder-blue suits and stocky frames, they look about as hip as The Turtles.

Having the ability to morph from jazzy to surf to psychedelic sounds, and with a spirited vocalist like Bob Dudek on many tracks, they were versatile and sophisticated. Vocal arrangements that rivaled harmony groups like The Association; guttural pop blues that emulated Blood Sweat and Tears, and numbers featuring flute and acoustic guitar reminiscent of early Traffic. (And yes, they might toss in a Beethoven riff during the bridge if they felt like it.)

I could go on about the band’s history and demise, but I’d prefer to point you to a couple of experts. Ironically one of the best essays about the band was written by Christine Ohlman, whose album I highlighted two days ago. (Christine, as you would expect, is a passionate writer and music historian in addition to her performing skills). And major kudos to Richard Brukner (co-founder of Confidential Recordings) for his excellent essay in the liner notes, just one part of a fabulous package that was assembled with love and respect.

Forty years after the 60’s ended, Felix Cavaliere is playing with Steve Cropper. Jimmy McCarty and Johnny Badanjek are playing together. Richard X Heyman is enjoying success with his 60s garage band, The Doughboys. Not every trip down memory lane is fueled by money; sometimes it’s just the right thing to do at the time.

Likewise, although I listen to a ton of new music, there’s no reason to turn my back on the past… especially if I’m experiencing some of it for the first time. Please do seek this one out and be rewarded like I was.

*No Good To Cry actually did register as a “one-hit wonder” in a 1990 collection on Rhino Records.

***

And Happy Birthday to Russell Crowe, who has never thrown a telephone at me,  but whose performance as Bud White in 1997’s L.A.Confidential will stand the test of time. Sadly, neither Crowe nor Guy Pearce were even nominated for their roles, which is unbelievable in hindsight, and the film got drowned in the Titanic tsunami, winning only for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress Kim Basinger. More  on one of my favorite films at another time.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Twisted Tales

And we would have gotten away with it too, if you had never seen a Scooby Doo episode before.

"And we would have gotten away with it too, if only you had never seen a Scooby Doo episode before."

One of the biggest problems with film and television is predictability; after watching thousands of hours of sitcoms, dramas and movies I can often see the next plot point coming along like it has beepers and a blinking light. It’s not so much that the plot is redundant – although it often is – but that the brevity of the material (especially commercial television) doesn’t allow for proper story arc and character development.

So often what happens is either the director/writer cheats, or the information is presented in such an obvious manner that you’re almost being told “hey, this is a clue!”. Of course people have the attention span of a gnat these days, so maybe I’m overworking the issue. But here are two key rules you can usually count on:

  1. If an odd fact is introduced – like a character being left-handed or a man just quit smoking – pay attention. It’s probably a critical piece of information and not just padded dialogue.
  2. If within the first five or ten minutes a character looks to have opportunity and motive, that character probably didn’t do it.

Few writers/directors would be crass enough to have the killer or key plot fact come sailing in out of left field at the eleventh hour, that’s just not fair. But a well-played twist requires what I’d call  sleight-of-mind…laying everything out there but being clever enough to not point at it with a floodlight.

An example of a well-presented twist is The Sixth Sense. (SPOILER ALERT…) At the end of the movie, when it was revealed that a key character was dead, I immediately recalled a scene where he was at dinner with his wife, had a conversation and even touched hands. But when I replayed the scene, I noticed that they in fact did not touch – their hands passed within a second of each other – and there was no eye contact. And then there was the revelation about the use of the color red. Then finally, the most obvious clue of all – “I see dead people“. Well played, M. Night Shyamalanit was all right there in front of me and I missed it. Too bad you have been unable to hit the mark since then.

So for this Friday’s exercise, ten recommended movies that I think did the job well. Some will be very familiar, a couple are stone cold classics, but I’ve avoided the real obvious ones like Psycho, Vertigo, Fight Club and The Shawshank Redemption. These aren’t my ten favorite movies, but I’d watch any one of them again in a heartbeat, and if you haven’t seen them I suggest you immediately add the omissions to your shopping list or Netflix queue.

In alphabetical order:

no idiots

Angel Heart:  Probably a little more obvious than most (Robert DeNiro’s character’s name) and a little overwhelming with visual pizazz, but the end(ing) justifies the means. One of Mickey Rourke‘s better performances.

A Beautiful Mind:  Having two dynamic actors like Russell Crowe and the great Ed Harris was huge; they could not have sold this premise with pedestrian performances.

Donnie Darko:  So was it a horror flick, a religious allegory, a knock on conservatism, a time travel epic, a fable or a study of hallucinatory madness? Yes.

The GameDavid Fincher is more famous for the brilliant Fight Club but this tense and clever story keeps you wondering what and who you can believe. Michael Douglas, Sean Penn and a large supporting cast do the script justice.

House of GamesDavid Mamet, a master of words and misdirection, at his peak. Joe Mantegna and Lindsay Crouse deep in the world of con men and grifters where not everything is what it seems to be.

MementoChristopher Nolan directed and wrote the screenplay based on his brother’s short story, and Guy Pearce provides a brazen and brilliant performance alongside Joe Pantoliano. Told backwards, like Nolan’s prior film Following.

Once Upon A Time In America:  Maybe my favorite gangster movie of all time, and considering how perfect a movie Goodfellas is, that’s saying something. Sergio Leone directs a star-studded cast but you have to pay close attention.

Primal Fear:  I’m normally not a Richard Gere fan but he’s great in this one as his arrogance is his downfall. This film launched Edward Norton’s career (an Oscar nod in his first real role) and made me fall in love with Laura Linney.

Session 9:  One of the truly atmospheric horror movies of recent times, far from the gorefests that are passed along as horror movies today. This is creepy and unnerving, and even David Caruso is good in it. Director Brad Anderson now works on Fringe.

The Spanish PrisonerMamet again. Everytime you think you know what’s going on, you really don’t. It’s like watching a magician show you the trick but then repeatedly doing it again. The final scene makes me wonder if Mamet didn’t intend the entire movie as a con, but I change my opinion every viewing.

fingers crossed

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