By Jules E. Beuck & Rose
Wow! 2001 Already! The new millennium. It seems as if we were all just talking about whether the year 2000 was actually the millennium or not (No, it wasn't). We think, all things considered, it was a pretty good year for us. (After all, among other things, DaBelly made its debut.) We hope you can say the same.
The year went out with a bang. As usual, we certainly were not idle, though we did get to slow down long enough to review a couple of CDs this past month. As a matter of fact, why don't we start with those. Alphabetically, we will start with Bare Naked Ladies before working our way to the Eric Clapton/B.B. King album and the latest Dwight Yoakam release.
Our first introduction to Bare Naked Ladies (BNL) was with their last album "Stunt" with which we were very impressed and so were 4 million other people, as the album was certified quadruple platinum. Consequently, when their latest Reprise release, "Maroon," arrived we were very excited and looked forward to listening to it. Well, we finally found the time and, whereas it is far from a bad album, it is no "Stunt."
"Maroon" is somewhat of a departure for BNL in that the lyrics seem to be a bit more serious and dark than in the past, though the music is as bouncy as ever. As producer Don Was put it: "It's stuff you would play at a barbecue, yet lyrically they are dealing with more grownup subject matter."
The release opens up with "Too Little Too Late." The song has everything that would make a good song, clever lyrics and good hooks but somehow something seems to be missing. The band did not seem into it. The next song, "Never Do Anything," we liked better. We liked the way the vocals blended together and it bopped. The lyrics were kind of dark compared to the upbeat rhythms. The single release, "Pinch Me," we thought was interesting, but not up to their standards.
"Go Home" sounds like it was performed by a good garage band; we liked it a lot. "Conventioneers" is an entertaining look at the office romance and how awkward it can become. "Sell, Sell, Sell" is a great send up of the entertainment industry and the pseudo-dramatic vocals go a long way to set up the mood of the song.
"Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel" is a song taken from the perspective of someone who did not survive an automobile accident and is watching all the activity around his car from somewhere up above the action. The lyrics are very clever and the use of a calliope is reminiscent of "Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band."
This is not a bad album; it is just not a great one. Nothing on the album is offensive, but there is nothing on this release that reaches out to grab the listener like "One Week" did on "Stunt." "Maroon" is one stunt that Bare Naked Ladies was not able to pull off.
Riding With The King," the aptly titled collaboration by King and Clapton, was a natural. When Eric Clapton first started making a name for himself as a guitarist with groups like the Yardbirds and Cream, he did so by reworking guitar riffs he learned listening to records by American Blues artists such as B.B. King and he reworked them so well that he was given the nickname "God." B.B. King has long been known as the "King of the Blues." What happens when a deity and a royal collaborate? This gem, "Riding With The King" on Reprise Records is what happens.
The album has twelve cuts consisting of some B.B. King songs, other blues standards, a soul classic and a Big Band classic. When the album was released earlier this year it quickly went platinum as well it should have. This album definitely works.
The CD starts out with the John Hiatt-penned title song which is turned into a tongue-in-cheek tribute to King. Both men play some excellent leads and King talks over the music giving a short history lesson about himself and inviting young women to ride along with him. Some of the B.B. songs performed for this release were "Days Of Old," "Ten Long Years," and "When My Heart Beats Like A Hammer." Each one of these was more enjoyable than the last. The old Isaac Hayes/David Porter tune, "Hold On I'm Coming," (originally a hit for Sam and Dave) is given a blues treatment. We split on this one. Rose liked it, but Jules did not think it converted well to the blues. On the Johnny Mercer standard, "Come Rain Or Come Shine," we were also split. This time Jules liked it, but Rose thought it did not convert well.
All in all, we both really liked this album. We are not surprised in the least that it went platinum. King and Clapton play with energy and style. It sounded like they really had a good time putting this album together and we really had a royal time listening to it as well.
Now we move over to the country genre. Dwight Yoakam has been one of country music's California connections his entire career. He has received some flak over not living in a country music mecca like Nashville or Memphis, but this has not stopped him from having a successful career and being a Grammy winner. Yoakam's latest release on Reprise Records is titled "Tomorrow's Sound Today."
There are fourteen songs here, some originals, some co-written with Buck Owens and a couple of covers. Some of the highlights include "What Do You Know About Love," "Dreams of Clay," "A World of Blue," and "Free To Go" (this last one dedicated to the Petty family of racing fame in the memory of Adam). The lyrics make this last song, though the band is tight and there is a nice interlude at the end. Cheap Trick's "I Want You To Want Me" is given a country makeover by Yoakam and it works very well.
There are two songs at the end of the CD called "Bonus Bucks." They are called these because Buck Owens and Yoakam perform duets on them. "Alright I'm Wrong" is a Tex-Mex tune that also features Texas Tornado and Norteņo patriarch Flaco Jimenez. Owens and Yoakam harmonize well here and, even though the song is over four minutes long, we wanted to hear more when it ended. Jimenez gets off some great licks on accordion too. The Buck Owens-written "I Was There" is also an excellent tune. In fact, the two numbers featuring Owens may be the best tracks on the album.
On the downside, the opening cut, "Love Caught Up To Me," even with some nice guitar work by Pete Anderson, is a song that sort of hits all the bad stereotypes of country music. The same could be said for "A Promise You Can't Keep," though it does sport some decent steel guitar by Gary Morse. "A Place To Cry" starts out at a nice pace, but at over five minutes long, it tends to become boring. The other five songs on the album fall into the pretty good to good range.
Except for the tunes written with or by Buck Owens and the one Rick Nielsen tune, Yoakam wrote all the songs. The album, like most today, suffers from a consistency problem. "Tomorrow's Sound Today" appears to have enough decent cuts to make it worth adding to your collection.
We didn't just stay in and listen to CDs though-- come on now, you know us better than that. We also went to a couple of concerts, a couple of plays and visited SeaWorld. As a matter of fact, why don't we tell you about them in that order.
The first concert was Sinbad (the comic, not the one of mythological fame). This man is always funny. We have seen him several times now and he never fails to impress. His shows are clean and entertaining, not something which is a given in today's comedy world. This show was at the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in Highland, which set the tone for his performance. He let everyone know that he had some trouble finding San Manuel, "Everyone knows there is a casino out here but no one knows how to find it." In discussing Bingo he noted how many Bingo players smoke, "You play Bingo if you want to die of cancer." He also discussed how some people could play eighteen cards at a time while he has trouble keeping track of one.
In discussing the presidential election (the final results were not yet known), he was not impressed with George Bush's reaction to a recount in Florida: "We're going to recount. Why? Because your brother cheated."
Sinbad is not afraid to let the world know how things are supposed to
work. His main strengths are talking about family relationships and the differences
between men and women. As far as child rearing goes, "You can tell when a child's
He feels that once a man is in a relationship with a woman he no longer has any control of his life, "There are some men here in turmoil because they think that they're in charge of something." Other comments on his take on women included: "Want to see a woman be unhappy? Put some space in a closet." "Women have shoes that don't fit because they (the shoes) are cute and they don't want other women to get them." "If the hairdresser's hair is short and yours is long, get out of the chair!"
Sinbad finished his set by asking the audience if there was anyone who worked directly with the public. From this question, he proceeded to lampoon those who were bus drivers, bank workers, postal employees and next day delivery service workers. Sinbad continues to be one of the most entertaining comedians around today as his show at San Manuel once again proved.
The other concert we attended was also at the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino but this one we attended with a bit of a heavy heart. There will be no shows at San Manuel for the next couple of months as they are going through some renovations. We will miss our outings there, but will keep you posted just as soon as we hear about their resumption of entertainment.
Ray Charles was the other show we saw. Charles has been leaving his mark on music for many years. He has been called the "Genius" and has been awarded three honorary doctoral degrees and fifteen Grammy Awards and he has the credentials and the hits to back up his title of "Genius." Just ask Quincy Jones, Billy Joel or any other of the myriad of artists he has influenced over the years.
When Charles took the stage the near-capacity crowd gave him a standing ovation. This is not something we often see at San Manuel. Charles performed a one hour set that included his hits and songs that others have had hits with. Some of his hits he performed were "Busted," "Georgia," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "What I Say." Suprisingly, "Hit The Road Jack" was not included in the song list.
Charles was in good voice though not necessarily in a good mood. He kept audience interaction to a bare minimum and would move from song to song without saying anything to the crowd. His well-known smile was in evidence but not as much as usual. However, Charles was into the music. He would spontaneously jump up during faster songs or turn to the side and kick out his leg.
On this night, Charles chose an electric keyboard over a grand piano. He liked to use the effects on the keyboard such as making it sound like a xylophone or a guitar.
A staple of any Ray Charles show is his four female back-up singers the "Raylets." They did not come out until his set had gone about forty-five minutes and then, they performed Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady" and helped Charles out on "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "What I Say." When the singers were on stage was about the only time Charles tried to interact with the audience until his set was over. He explained that the band kept asking for the girls so he was bringing them out to keep the band from getting upset.
After an hour Charles turned to the audience and thanked them for being kind to him, then he left the stage. It was an enjoyable show which ended too quickly.
The first play caught this month was "Gumboots." This was presented by Broadway L.A. at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills. "Gumboots" can best be described as a performance of South African song and dance. It tells the story of the black men who worked as miners in the diamond mines in South Africa dating from the late 19th century. In order to keep workers from moving from employer to employer and driving up wages, laws were passed to limit their mobility. Often the miners were sent into the mines with no artificial lights and chained to each other. The mines were often flooded, as drainage was either poor or non-existent. Rather than drain the mines, the mine owners just provided the miners with Wellington or "Gumboot" boots. The rest of their "uniform" consisted of blue jeans and bandanas (the bandanas were to wipe the sweat out of their eyes while in the depths of the stifling mines).
The miners were forbidden to talk to each other while working the mines so they devised a communication system all their own. They would rattle their chains and slap their boots in a unique code. These slaps and movements evolved into a dance that the miners used to entertain each other during their free time.
The Gumboot dance has remained a part of the local culture. The current production's cast consists of twelve men from South Africa, many of whom performed Gumboot dancing as buskers on the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa. The touring show has grown in that a full band has been added and number of dancers increased from the original five.
The show expands upon the traditional Gumboot steps with contemporary movement, as well as music and song. There are a total of nineteen songs, many of which are performed acapella. The acapella numbers were superb. The stage performers have a lot of energy and personality. There is much audience interaction throughout the emotional show. Some parts were very sad and others very funny. It was a fine production which seemed to impress most of the audience; consider us two of those people.
"Phantom" was the other play we enjoyed this month. This production was at the beautiful California Theatre in San Bernardino and presented by Theatrical Arts International. This version was not the (perhaps most well known) one popularized by Andrew Lloyd Weber but the "other" popular one by Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston. Though based on the same novel, theyare completely different on stage.
This "Phantom of the Opera" tells the story of the love between
an aspiring diva and the disfigured man who lives in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera
House. It also has a number of sub-plots, which work to complicate the lives of the
Maria Couch played the young diva Christine Daee. She had an excellent voice and brought the right amount of feeling to the role. Kara Powers was also very good as new opera house owner Carlotta Cholet who fancies herself a diva but has trouble carrying a tune. She brought just the right amount of comic pomposity to the role. Gerard Carriere, the fired manager of the Opera Company (and the Phantom's father) was played by Peak Kwinarian. Kwinarian was a wonderful baritone and a fine actor to boot.
The role of the Phantom was handled by Michael Butler Minarik. He has a decent tenor, but was not convincing in the role. This is the second production of this show which we have seen and each time the lead role did not seem to be presented convincingly; the role must be more demanding than it appears.
The rest of the cast acquitted themselves well. The acting was good and the harmonies were wonderful. The scenery was done very cleverly. A tower doubled as a backstage observation post or the staircase to the catacombs below the opera house depending on how it was turned. The sound was very good also, as all voices were heard well (even if some lyrics were swallowed due to poor enunciation).
Though not produced by them, "Phantom Of The Opera" is another triumph for Theatrical Arts International. Their next production will not be until May of 2001 (thanks to Lloyd Webber pulling the touring company of "Cats" off the road). The production will be John Steinbeck's "Of Mice And Men." Catch it if you can.
Rather than telling you about SeaWorld this time around, we will hang on to that until next month. Instead, we will fill you in on some upcoming events from here and there and all around. We will try to do this as chronologically as we can. First up are a couple of shows being presented by Broadway L.A. The first, "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," is being presented even as we sit here. This show is the longest running comedy on or off-Broadway, and the second longest running show in off-Broadway history. It is an interactive Italian wedding experience featuring all of the wackiest friends and relatives that come with all events of this type. This "wedding" takes place at the Henry Fonda Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard through Jan. 28. Performances are Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets are $75 (which includes a meal) and can be purchased by calling 1-800-660-TINA (8462).
The Shubert Theatre will be the home of "Riverdance" Jan. 16 through Feb. 4. "Riverdance - The Show," is a celebration of Irish music, song and dance which focuses on the evolution of Irish dance and its similarities with, and influences on, other cultures. This work draws on Irish traditions and combines the richness of the music with the magic and sensuality of the dance. "Riverdance - The Show" will be performed Tuesdays through Sundays with eight performances a week. Tickets range in price from $40 to $70 and can be purchased at the Shubert Theatre Box Office or on-line at www.telecharge.com or by telephone at 1-800-447-7400.
The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts (and you can guess where that is located) will be a busy place this month. That show "Phantom" which we were just talking about? Well, if you missed it in San Bernardino or just want to see it again head on over to Cerritos. It will be presented Jan. 3-5 with tickets ranging from $35 to $50. The Dance Theatre Of Harlem will pirouette into the Cerritos Center for performance on Jan. 19 and 20. Tickets $40-$55.
Two other shows in Cerritos are Hal Holbrook in "Mark Twain Tonight" on Jan. 19 and 20, and the Chieftains giving two performances on Jan. 21. Both of these shows look to be quite enjoyable. Tickets for them start at a modest $27 for Hal Holbrook (it is well worth it. We caught this show about a year ago.) up to $50. Tickets for all of the Cerritos Center shows can be purchased by phone at (800) 300-4345 or (562) 916-8500.
The Fairplex in Pomona hosts the yearly Los Angeles County Fair, but if you thought that that was all that happens there - boy are you mistaken. There are events going on there more often than not. We have decided to pick three of January's events out to tell you about. The 6th will see the Easyriders Bike Tour 2001 in Pomona, while auto parts, custom cars and classics will be in abundance at the West Coast's Largest Antique Auto, Corvette, Porsche, Street Rod and VW Car Show and Swap Meet in the Fairplex main parking lot on Jan. 14. The Computer Fair makes regular stops at the Fairplex in Pomona. One of these stops will take place the weekend of Jan. 20-21. All of these shows, as well as quite a few others, can be checked out on-line at www.fairplex.com.
We'll wind up this month by telling you about one of our favorite places - the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre. Their 2001 season kicks off on Jan. 26 with the fairytale musical "Into The Woods." This show can be purchased as an individual offering or as part of the complete season package; we recommend the seasons tickets. Some of the other shows included in the package are "Evita," "Kismet," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," and "Little Shop of Horrors." To buy tickets or for more information, call (909) 626-1254.
As you can see, we will continue to keep ourselves very busy. We hope to see you at some of these events. Whatever you do - make the most out of 2001!
Val Pollard and Sam Stubbs contributed to this month's column.