Weekly news, gossip, reviews and endless opinions on the state of music, entertainment, pop culture and whatever else crosses my filthy little mind. You haven’t heard it until you’ve heard it here!
- Ani DiFranco – Reprieve
- Bob Sinclar –Western Dream
- Christina Aguilera – Back to Basics
- DVD—Strange Fruit—Ariztical Entertainment
- DVD—Born In Flames—First Run Features
- DVD—An Early Frost—Wolfe Video
O&AN will be giving away several copies of all items reviewed in this month’s Now Hear This! In order to enter to win a copy, please send your name, address and phone number to [email protected] with “NHT” in the subject line. Winners will be drawn at random and mailed their prizes. Remember: You Haven’t Heard It, Until You’ve Heard It Here!
For over a decade music lovers everywhere have grown to expect music from Ani DiFranco that is not only entertaining, but engaging and visceral; music that communicates educates and uplifts all in the same forty-plus minutes of play. This time around is no exception. Reprieve on DiFranco’s own Buffalo, NY based Righteous Babe Records is arguably counted amongst some of her most engaging and powerful work yet. The opening track “Hypnotized” is a confessional piece showcasing DiFranco’s honey-sweet vocals and ability to tell a good story while still remaining firmly rooted in the world of the poet. This is the perfect setup to the next track subconscious that is more upbeat but firmly establishes the tone of the album from there on out with DiFranco defiantly purring the anthem “I ain’t in the best shape that I’ve ever been in, but I know where I’m going and it ain’t where I’ve been”. Throughout the rest of the album, DiFranco covers everything from patriarchal overthrow to Hurricane Katrina. Indeed, much of the album was recorded in New Orleans in the days leading up to the disaster with DiFranco being forced to evacuate as the storm hit. Other standout tracks include the satirically metaphorical “Millennium Theatre,” the over-it and ready to move on declarative of “half-assed” and the righteous anger lying beneath the surface in “decree”.
This is Ani DiFranco doing what she does best: putting out solid, personal, and powerful music despite what modern standards of the entertainment industry may dictate. Perhaps that is the truest sign why her following is so intensely devoted and why their numbers swell with every passing masterpiece that she produces.
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of being exposed to Parisian producer and the Holy Father of French House music Bob Sinclar now is your prime opportunity as Tommy Boy Records releases his US debut Western Dream. Sinclar is a master of sound with an uncanny ability to blend a melting pot of musical styles from around the world with modern dance music in a seamless tapestry of positively infectious pop music. On Western Dream Sinclar draws from Reggae, Afro beat, Calypso, Gospel, Britpop and even Country to infuse his powerful dance anthems with depth and scope that is lacking in most of today’s modern dance music. Western Dream is the ultimate in catchy feel-good music that will take the listener on a trip around the world where dreams are real anything seems possible. Now that Sinclar has officially hit the shores of America it’s guaranteed that things will never be the same again.
Paying tribute to the music that inspired her, pop icon Christina Aguilera will release her third studio album, Back to Basics, August 15th on RCA Records. A modern take on vintage jazz, soul and blues from the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, the album is wildly inventive with a throwback style creating a sound that’s gritty and raw. Back to Basics reunites her with producer Linda Perry as well as creating new collaborations with producers such as DJ Premier. Back to Basics utilizes an orchestra, choir, string quartet and jazz horns, as well as techniques that offer a vintage sound and sensibility. “I Got Trouble” incorporates a scratchy blues feel, while “Candy Man” recalls the tight harmonies of all-girl groups from the ‘30s and ‘40s “Save Me From Myself” is an emotionally naked, raw-sounding song dedicated to her husband. “Thank You,” dedicated to her fans, features DJ Premier splicing bits of “Genie in a Bottle” with fan voicemail messages. Also sure to appeal to Aguilera fans is the risqué song “Nasty Naughty Boy” (which has a ‘20s burlesque feel) and the sassy club track “Still Dirrty.”
Set in contemporary rural Louisiana, Strange Fruit is an exploration of the tribulations of William Boyals, a successful New York lawyer and gay African-American who comes home to the life from which he escaped to investigate the lynching of his also-gay childhood friend Kelvin. A story of homophobia fueled intrigue and racist conspiracy unfolds over the next 115 minutes that is well conceived if not well executed. Kent Faulcon as Boyals does as best he can manage with the material he is given and does an adequate job of being true to the character that is admittedly two-dimensional at best. The rest of the cast is about half as convincing as a cat disguised as an elephant. The movie is overlong and has too many sub-plots lingering beneath the surface that make it hard to follow the main storyline and making it further difficult to empathize with anyone. In all, Strange Fruit tries way too hard and doesn’t accomplish near enough from that effort.
For the first time ever on DVD First Run Features presents the provocative comic fantasy of female rebellion Born In Flames by trailblazing independent filmmaker Lizzie Borden. A futuristic tale set ten years after the Second American Revolution the film follows what happens when the founder of the Women’s Army is mysteriously killed causing a seemingly impossible coalition of women crossing all lines of race, class and sexual preference to emerge to blow the system apart. Born in Flames covers a wide range of radical feminists ideas and is a sharp observation of the social realities of the times in which it was originally released (1983) but still holds a poignant message for anyone who believes in feminist ideals today. This classic of feminist cinema is an essential addition to any good independent movie collection.
Another throwback to the wonderful world of the 80’s is Wolfe’s premiere of the groundbreaking 1985 AIDS classic An Early Frost starring a very young Aiden Quinn as a young AIDS patient who is forced to come out to his family as gay and an AIDS victim after he is diagnosed with the illness. Originally presented as a made-for-television feature the film was the very first ever to deal with the AIDS Crisis directly and was the top rated program the evening that it aired beating out even Monday Night Football. The film went on to be nominated for 14 Emmys of which it won four. In addition to Quinn, the film sports standout performances by veterans Gena Rowlands and Ben Garza as well as early performances from Terry O’Quinn from TV’s Lost, John Glover of the WB’s Smallville and Love! Valor! Compassion! and Bill Paxton from Aliens and Titanic. This amazing DVD is an excellent item for educators, and lay people alike who may or may not remember how bad the AIDS Crisis truly was at its peak.