Tag Archives: Top Ten

Scott Kempner Rides Again

Scott Kempner is the genuine article.

I’ve already pimped how excited I am that The Del Lords have new music on the way, and I’ve reviewed Scott Kempner’s solo albums when they came out, doing what I could to pass the word. I know some of you got on board a bit too late for Tenement Angels. But now that’s rectified with a reissue, complete with bonus track, released this week.

Scott – or “Top Ten” as many Dictator fans know him – is a man who bleeds rock’n’roll. With influences from early doo-wop (Bronx Soul, he calls it) through the early rock masters, Kempner has been a prime force in Americana and roots rock for a long time. His songs are honest; they penetrate on first listen and then continue to resonate over time.

But rather than rant like a maniac (I’m looking at you, Kathie – you’re even a bigger Scott fan than me), why don’t I let Scott tell you in his own words what his mindset was at the time?

I’ve said this before: I’ve been very fortunate in my career to make music with friends. In the case of both the Dictators and the Del-Lords, there was a family feeling, a brotherhood, and it was a source of not just comfort and companionship, but inspiration, as well. It just makes me wanna do better than my best. The period in which this album was made was a scary time. After eight years together the Del-Lords had called it a day. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was gonna do except that I knew I would keep writing, playing and singing. But, I was still pretty lost.

So, I took an offer from a label to make a record and called Lou Whitney, which set the ball rolling, and within a few months I was down in Springfield, MO with Manny Caiati, and we were making this here record. Not a lot of pre-conception, other than that getting-Donnie-to-play-through-a-Marshall thing, picked a couple of covers, dove into my notebook, and well, here it is. Check it out, as it is a quite rockin’ little affair, and the chances of you diggin’ it, I think, are pretty damn good…

Read the rest of the essay at Scott’s website and check out his other blog posts.

Tenement Angels is available at CD Baby and Amazon and scores of other fine places. And pick up a copy of Saving Grace while you’re at it.

1 Comment

Filed under Music, Reviews

One Week to Oscar; Thumbs Up to Gene Siskel

It only seems appropriate that Gene Siskel was born the month before the Oscar telecast, just in time to measure up the prior year and share his opinions on who would win and who deserved to. Today, twelve years after his death, Siskel remains an indelible mark on the film critic landscape, a trailblazer in the form. Given his absence and Roger Ebert’s health struggles, the Siskel and Ebert shows I treasured for so many years are now a bittersweet memory.

As one who makes top ten lists, I always looked forward to theirs. Click here for a list of Gene’s Top Ten, year by year, from 1969 through 1998. Of course, the Worst Movies of The Year lists were fun as well. I didn’t always agree with him, but I always enjoyed listening to him defend his choices.

I’ll make my Oscar guesses next weekend. Wonder what Gene would pick?

Happy Birthday, Mr. Siskel. It’s just not the same without you.

The official Gene Siskel website

Top 10s from both during the Siskel and Ebert years

The Gene Siskel Film Center

Leave a comment

Filed under Film/TV, Reviews

Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #2, #1

We conclude the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#2) Jim Jefferies: Alcoholocaust

Foul-mouthed, inebriated and a master storyteller, Jefferies will no doubt read enough reviews comparing him to Billy Connolly, at least the early era version. While that’s a worthy compliment, it does him a disservice, for Jefferies has evolved into a ribald storyteller whose annual assaults on Edinburgh draw earned comparisons to George Carlin, Bill Hicks and Richard Pryor. I don’t know what type of Hell he has visited, but he came back with a bag of demons that need to be excised, and the more pints that he consumes, the more he rattles that bag. Clearly a skilled and disciplined writer, he hits the stage with absolutely no inhibitions and a fuck you attitude. He’s going to tell the truth as he sees it, and if afterwards you are left like chum in the water, so be it.

Whether he’s cursing out a heckler, cracking a vulgar joke or spinning a yarn that will have you gasping for breath, Jefferies is consistently gut-busting funny. He’s often crass, sexist and graphic, but he’s relentless. His closing story is about trying to set up his childhood friend with a hooker…a friend who is disabled and terminally ill, by the way. Somehow he blends this hilarious over-the-top yarn with the men’s code of honor so that when you piss yourself laughing, you feel noble while doing it. (Comedy Central UK)

***

#1) Stewart Lee: If You Prefer A Milder Comedian, Please Ask For One

For sheer cerebral comedy entertainment, I don’t think there’s a better comedian on the planet right now than Stewart Lee. Erudite and culturally aware, his shows tend to evolve around a half-dozen thoughts at most, yet he mines them with the efficiency of a master surgeon and gets every scrap of meat off the bone. He’s not going to dumb down for you, and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll still laugh at the surface but totally miss the deeper, better levels. He’s had an amazingly prolific career, and although not as well-known in the States he is (rightfully) a legend in the UK. And as great as his recorded legacy is, this latest show might be his masterwork.

What I love about this show is the way you get the full monty – the brilliant opening with its impeccable timing and sight gags, the deep-seated rants against some celebretards clogging the television, an involved story that keeps going further than you dared think it would and then a burst of actual physical comedy with exasperated fourth-wall pleas and overt call backs. And then as a close, the three worst words in the English language – comedian with guitar – juggles both a transcendent emotional moment and a priceless tangent. Lee gives it to you straight, like a pear cider made from 100 percent pears. Absolutely brilliant. (Comedy Central UK)

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews

Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #4, #3

We continue the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#4) Richard Herring: Hitler Moustache

There are people willing to take chances, and then there is Richard Herring in 2010. Determined to take back the toothbrush moustache from the legacy of Hitler and return it to comedy where it belongs, Herring uses this simple premise (or as he suggests, this terrible idea) as a platform from which to discuss racism, prejudice, hypocrisy and every other foible of human behavior. And, of course, he’s funny as hell in the process.

Available as a two-disc set packed with features, there’s actually a third disc available, albeit only from the distributor. Herring continues to create inventive, daring and unique comedy for those unsatisfied with the ordinary. (Go Faster Stripe)

***

#3) Maria Bamford: Plan B

Maria Bamford doesn’t have her own television show, although she should – she’s the strongest and most versatile comedienne since Tracey Ullman. And like Ullman – and Carol Burnett before her, Bamford has an uncanny ability to inhabit characters so thoroughly that you see the whole array of them in front of you even without makeup or a costume change. Like Sybil, but for your entertainment.

So in this show she performs her own sitcom – or dramedy – centered upon her family as if it’s a therapeutic exercise to excise some demons. It’s a brilliant performance, just Bamford in a t-shirt and jeans with a chair and a couple of lighting cues. It’s occasionally uncomfortable and overtly personal, but it’s riveting. Dozens of additional short offstage clips act as a psychological travelogue, at you at once wonder just how fragile she really is…and why the hell she isn’t a household name. (Stand Up! Records)

***

The countdown concludes tomorrow with #2 and #1

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews

Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #6, #5

We continue the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#6) Glenn Wool: Let Your Hands Go

I’m glad there was both a CD and a DVD in this package, because as hilarious as Glenn Wool is to listen to, he’s that much funnier to watch. The bonus footage has some overlaps with the audio show, but this underrated Canadian comic is an extemporaneous performer and both shows are strong. Looking like Steve Zahn gone to seed, Wool’s scruffy attitude might make one think cracker comedy, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Wool masterfully uses manic facial expressions and voices from a whisper to a scream to hold up ridiculous ideas and gleefully shame them. While he’s expert at taking down deserving targets like financial institutions, gay bashers and exclusionary religions, the more personal bits – like the battle between “Drunken Glenn” and “Sober Glenn” (and their rude friend “Cocaine Glenn”!) – are clear highlights. Wool is kicking ass all over the globe, and with upcoming TV slots on John Oliver’s Stand Up and Green Room with Paul Provenza, hopefully the US will wise up and catch on.  (Stand Up! Records)

***

#5) Paul F. Tompkins: You Should Have Told Me

Last week I mentioned being an equal opportunity cheater by placing Bill Burr’s Let It Go into the Comedy Album list rather as a DVD. The flip side to that decision is that I’m including Paul F. Tompkins’ album Sir, You Have Fooled Me Twice as a companion piece in my recommendation for this DVD, even though they were released separately. I know siblings when I see them.

Tompkins, always a great comic, has really taken his game up a notch over the past two years. Freak Wharf was a mindblower, and he came right back a year later with this one-two punch. Not everyone can get that personal and that confessional and still walk the tightrope, but he’s proven he can captivate and mesmerize an audience with a deep, personal exploration as sharply as he can with surreal storytelling. (Yet he can still be silly enough to include a non-interactive menu on a DVD.) I don’t think there’s anything that Tompkins can’t do, and it’s exciting to watch him push himself to new heights. (A Special Thing Records)

***

The countdown continues tomorrow with #4 and #3

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews

Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #8, #7

We continue the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#8) Darren Frost: Dead Inside

If there’s anyone else out there plowing the road Darren Frost is on, there’s no way they’re doing it anywhere near as well. Funny, sick, twisted and absolutely for an adult audience not afraid to step out on the ledge with him, Frost holds nothing and no one sacred, including himself. Don’t confuse him with a vaudevillian pervert like John Valby; Frost is a solid writer who sees the same dark thoughts that you and I do, except that he doesn’t filter anything to avoid an uncomfortable moment between strangers. Nope, if you board this ride, you committed, and he’s not letting you dismount. How’s this for a credo?“I do every fucking show like I’m never fucking coming back…”

This is Frost’s third release, and every one of them is packed to the gills with hours of outtakes, commentary, video clips, failed experiments, high-wire acts and heckler mania. Unlike many, Frost gives it to you warts and all, as if he’s his own documentarian. It’s certainly not for everybody, but as he likes to say, “you saw the sign on the door before you came in“. This is daring, gutsy comedy and we are lucky that we have a man brave and honest enough to plunge in and do it, taboos and repercussions be damned. (Comedy Whore)

***

#7) David Cross: Bigger and Blackerer

In an unusual bit of cross-pollination, Sub Pop issued this title separately on CD and DVD, but the material is wildly different. Unlike previous simultaneous Cross releases, where the different titles confirmed different content, it wasn’t until people started comparing reviews that they realized what they were missing between these. So if you know anyone pissed off at this marketing campaign, please don’t remind them that Cross wrote a book, also. Find out when their birthday is and get them a three-pack of DC.

But format aside, Cross has made a strong and welcome return to recorded stand up. Equally intolerant of social, religious and political buffoons, yet willing to point the barrel of the gun inwards as well, his stage work is a combination of logical rants and surreal thoughts. Sure, it’s snarky and offensive, and on occasions he might tread in areas that make even the most open-mided comedy fan cringe. But sacred cows are there for the tipping, and Cross remains a master.  (Sub Pop)

***

The countdown continues tomorrow with #6 and #5

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews

Best Comedy DVDs of 2010: #10, #9

Today starts the countdown of the ten best comedy DVDs of 2010…

#10) Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening

Aziz Ansari’s high-energy performance largely centers around him being famous, and you…well, not so much. But we like his self-centered Tom Haverford character on Parks and Recreation because under all that obnoxious pretense, he truly does have a big heart. In the same way, Ansari’s stage persona just comes off like the friend of yours who lucked into something good, but is still cool enough to hang with you anyway.

The best comedy comes from reality, and while Aziz might embellish a few bits about Kanye West or R. Kelly, they’re that much funnier because they’re totally believable coming from a guy whose career has just blown up. Ditto the best parts of his set when he’s riffing about his nephew Darwish and cousin Harris; while the anecdotes are pretty hilarious, this is probably a normal day in the real life of a young comic who is famous. Ansari sounds pretty grounded, unlike Raaaaaaaandy (his shock comic character from Funny People) who hopefully will not become the more famous of the two. (Comedy Central Records)

***

#9) Orny Adams: Takes The Third

Like the bastard love child of Jerry Seinfeld (physical appearance and joke structure) and Denis Leary (intolerant raging at incompetence), Orny Adams is just plain fed up. Technology, fat kids, bad drivers, marriage, customer service…it’s all a conspiracy to drive us crazy. Like Path Of Most Resistance, his prior DVD, his topics are ordinary but his take on them is very funny. He’s outraged, but self-deprecating, like a slightly saner Lewis Black; and despite the title, it is social outrage, not political.

Impressively, the entire program is cut from one performance. Besides the hour-long set, the DVD includes a few minutes of additional onstage and backstage footage, largely a mutual love letter to and from his fans. Adams might not be a huge name but he’s got a solid routine and charm to burn. And if this flames out and, as he fears, he’s selling cars this time next year, at least those who saw him as his own worst enemy in the film Comedian will know that he finally figured it out. (Image Entertainment)

***

The countdown continues tomorrow with #8 and #7

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Film/TV, Reviews