Song of the Week: “exodus the north star” by Yaya Bey

Yaya Bey – “exodus the north star”

Brooklyn artists Yaya Bey lays down soulful R&B vocals over a slow jazzy track that picks up a reggae beat when it speeds up.


Songs of the Week for 2023




Beatles Week – “Got to Get You Into My Life”

I was invited by Max at the PowerPop blog to contribute to Beatles Week by writing about my favorite Beatles song.  Now I have many favorite Beatles songs, including some more obscure ones, but one song immediately popped into my head.  It was probably the first song by the Beatles that I ever loved, even before I knew it was by the Beatles.  I copied the post below, but check out the original on the PowerPop blog and leave some comments there should you be so moved.


“Got to Get You Into My Life” is a song by The Beatles that was a top ten hit when I was a small child.  Except that The Beatles broke up more than 3 years before I was even born.  How could this be?  It was a mystery to me for a long time.  I didn’t even know it was a song by The Beatles until I was a teenager in the 1980s.  It puzzled me how I could remember “Got to Get You Into My Life” being in heavy rotation with the songs I heard played on the radio in my dad’s Chevy Nova back in the mid-70s.

I won’t keep you in suspense as long as I was.  It turns out that Capitol Records, The Beatles label in the United States, released “Got to Get You Into My Life” as a single on May 31, 1976.  Despite being a ten-year-old song at that point, it did well on the charts, peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the week of July 24, 1976.  It would be The Beatles last Top Ten hit until “Free As A Bird” in 1995.

The single was released to promote a compilation album that Capitol Records was promoting called Rock ‘n’ Roll Music.  The collection of 28 rockers culled from The Beatles’ previous releases was clearly Capitol looking to make some money off of a beloved band that wasn’t making any new music. It sold well, reaching number 2 on the Billboard album charts, ironically held out of the top spot by Paul McCartney’s Wings at the Speed of Sound.

The album cover for Rock ‘n’ Roll Music was designed to tap into the Fifties nostalgia craze of the 1970s with images of a jukebox, cars with big fins, and Marilyn Monroe.  The Beatles, notably were a Sixties band, but the title track is a cover of a Chuck Berry song from the Fifties, so there’s a tenuous connection. The Fifties nostalgia probably was kicked off by the doo wop cover act Sha Na Na performing at Woodstock in 1969 (the group would get a TV show that started in 1977. I loved Bowser).  The Broadway musical Grease (1972), the movie American Graffiti (1973), and the TV sitcom Happy Days (debuted in 1974), all continued this trend.  Even John Lennon got into the act with his 1974 album Rock ‘N’ Roll,  a collection of  covers of Lennon’s favorite songs from his youth.

But “Got to Get You Into My Life” is not a Fifties song.  It’s a Sixties song that became a hit in the Seventies partly because it really sounds like the soul and funk music that was dominating the charts at the time.  Does it not sound like it totally fits in with the Number One song of week of July 24, 1976, “Kiss and Say Goodbye” by The Manhattans (who despite their name were a New Jersey band who played Philadelphia soul).  Even better evidence that an old Beatles’ album track somehow captured the zeitgeist of Seventies funk and soul is that the Chicago R&B band Earth, Wind, & Fire released a cover of the song in July 1978 (their version peaked at #9 on the Hot 100).

But let’s go back to the Sixties, when the Beatles recorded the song.  The lineup for The Beatles recording the song was Paul McCartney on lead vocal and bass, John Lennon on rhythm guitar,  George Harrison on lead guitar, and Ringo star on drums and tambourine.  Producer George Martin also added organ.  But if you’re going to record an homage to Motown and Memphis soul, you’re going to need horns.  So a quintet of guest artists were brought in.

  • Eddie Thornton – trumpet. The Jamaican-born Thornton, known by the nickname Tan Tan, is likely the first Black guest musician on a Beatles recording since The Beatles didn’t have many guest artists prior to recording Revolver.
  • Ian Hamer – trumpet.  Hamer was a jazz artists who had a long career as a Liverpool big band leader.
  • Les Condon – trumpet.  The London-born Condon was a modern jazz pioneer who played with many of the top UK and American jazz acts.
  • Alan Branscombe – tenor saxophone.  Merseyside-born Branscombe was a sideman to numerous jazz band leaders over a four decade career.
  • Peter Coe – tenor saxophone. Coe was more of a pop musician and had previously played with the British R&B band Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, contributing a sax solo to their UK #1 hit “Yeh Yeh.”

Having discussed many aspects of the song, let us finish with the lyrics.  It is a love song, of course.  Right? Well, according to McCartney “It’s actually an ode to pot.”  Legendarily, the Beatles were introduced to marijuana by Bob Dylan when they met in 1964, and the band grew to incorporate the drug into their creative process leading to this love song to pot.  Personally, I’m going to forget that I learned that because while I’ve never used marijuana, I have been in love.  The lyrics of this song so perfectly capture that feeling of meeting an intoxicating person (or plant) and connecting with them so fully that you just want to spend every moment you can with them.  Surely this is what Paul McCartney would feel when he met Linda Eastman in 1967.  In fact, they are famous for spending “every single day” of their lives together until Linda’s death in 1998. You can read the full lyrics and decide for yourself if this is a love song, a drug song, or (most likely) both.


90 Movies in 90 Days: Arracht (2019)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Arracht (English title: Monster)
Release Date: 29 November 2019
Director: Tomás Ó Súilleabháin
Production Company: Macalla Teoranta

After enjoying The Quiet Girl, I wanted to find another film in the Irish language for St. Patrick’s Day.  This one fit the bill, and as an added bonus the director/writer has the same name as my father.

Set in Connemara, on the west coast of Ireland, the film begins in 1845 as the potato blight is spreading across the land.  Colmán Sharkey (Dónall Ó Héalaí) is a fisherman and farmer as well as a community leader.  When the English landlord raises rents, he believes he can appeal to his charity to reduce the rents.  He’s accompanied by his newly-hired farmhand, a Navy deserter named Patsy (Dara Devaney), who sabotages everything.

Two years later, the Great Hunger has decimated Ireland.  Colmán has lost everything including his will to live.  But when he finds a sick orphan girl in his farmhouse named Kitty (Saise Ní Chuinn), he nurses her to health and begins acting as a surrogate parent.  Unfortunately, incidents in the past that tie them together come back to haunt them.

This a tense drama that really seems to capture the horrors of the Great Hunger.  But more than a survival movie it is also a story of how kindness and love can persevere in the hardest of times.

Rating: ****

Note: The movie is currently streaming on Prime Video, but I had to search for it by the English title Monster to find it.

#FridayFictioneers – Pocket Universe

PHOTO PROMPT © Rowena Curtin

The scent of patchouli drew them in. Eddy never noticed the small alley. The facades were bright pastels and warm sunlight filled the alley, a stark contrast to the gray, overcast city behind them.

Eddy took a few steps in, stopping when they heard a voice.

“You made it in!” They turned to see an elder with curly hair and a warm smile. “You’re safe.”

Eddy returned their attention to the alley and watched as it gradually filled with joyous people. They didn’t enter so much as Eddy hadn’t been able to seem them before

“I’m safe here,” Eddy thought.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly photo prompt flash fiction challenge on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Addicted to Purple blog.  See additional stories by other writers here!

90 Movies in 90 Days: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, most of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Release Date: December 21, 2022
Director: Joel Crawford
Production Company: DreamWorks Animation

I was surprised by the popular acclaim of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish since it came out, because sequels of spinoffs of animated franchises generally aren’t all that good. I only became aware of the character Puss in Boots recently when I watched Shrek 2 for the first time.  My linear mind felt I would need to watch the rest of the Shrek sequels and the original Puss in Boots first, but I overcame that inclination.

And I was just fine, because Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is an excellent standalone feature and if referenced anything in earlier movies I didn’t feel like I was missing out.  Oh, and the hype is real.  This is a funny, creative, visually-imaginative, and heartfelt film which has something for the whole family (except maybe the youngest children).

The adventurer Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has lost 8 of his 9 lives and begins to fear his mortality with Death, in the form of a Wolf (Wagner Moura), literally tailing him.  He learns of a map that leads to a magical wishing star and determines to steal the map and use the wish to gain more lives.  His companions on the journey are fellow adventurer (and on-again/off-again romantic interest) Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault) and Perrito (Harvey Guillén), a kindhearted but dim Chihuahua.  They are chased by the crime family of Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Olivia Coleman, Ray Winstone, and Samson Kayo) who are in turn pursued by the psychotic pastry chef “Big” Jack Horner (John Mulaney).

A simple summary of the movies plot would be “the real treasure is the friends we made along the way” but that would undervalue the high quality of the characterization and storytelling.  The movie is very funny and I particularly like how Puss can code switch between being a Spanish adventurer and the behavior of real life cats.  Similarly, all of the characters have moments that reference their fairy tale/nursery rhyme origins in clever ways. The animation style is stunning and changes to enhance action and fantasy sequences.  It feels like a bold choice for the filmmakers to break from just using the same style they’ve used throughout the Shrek franchise.

So, this movie probably has no right to be as good as it is.  But it is good, and I tip my hat to everyone involved for putting their best into it.

Rating: ****

50 Years, 50 Albums (1994): dubnobasswithmyheadman by Underworld

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to listen to and review one album from each year of my life, 1973 to 2022.  The only qualification is that it has to be an album I’ve not reviewed previously. 


Top Grossing Albums of 1994:

  1. Cracked Rear View – Hootie and the Blowfish
  2. Dookie – Green Day
  3. Cross Road – Bon Jovi
  4. Merry Christmas – Mariah Carey
  5. The Lion King – soundtrack

Grammy Award for Album of the Year of 1994:

  • MTV Unplugged – Tony Bennett
  • The Three Tenors in Concert 1994 – José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, Zubin Mehta
  • Seal – Seal
  • Longing in Their Hearts – Bonnie Raitt
  • From the Cradle – Eric Clapton

Other Albums I’ve Reviewed from 1994:

Album: dubnobasswithmyheadman
Artist: Underworld
Release Date: 24 January 1994
Label: Junior Boy’s Own
Favorite Tracks:

  • Dark & Long
  • Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You
  • Dirty Epic
  • Cowgirl


I became acquainted with Underworld through “Born Slippy .NUXX,” featured on the Trainspotting soundtrack. While I’ve listened to various Underworld tracks over the years I’d never listened to an entire album.  dubnobasswithmyheadman is the group’s third album, but the first after breaking up and reforming as an electronic dance music group, or “techno” as we called them at the time (more specifically, acid house and dub).  The beats and grooves are great on this album.  But what sets Underworld apart are the lyrics which often have a poetic beauty with an impressionistic painting of a central theme of the song.

Rating: ****

90 Movies in 90 Days: The Breadwinner (2017)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: The Breadwinnner
Release Date: November 17, 2017
Director: Nora Twomey
Production Company: Cartoon Saloon | Aircraft Pictures | Guru Studio | Jolie Pas | Melusine Productions

Cartoon Salon and director Nora Twomey (The Secret of Kells, My Father’s Dragon) bring the unique visual style used in films based on Irish folklore to a story about recent history in Afghanistan.  Set in 2001, under the rule of the Taliban, 11-year-old Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is the middle child in a poor family living in Kabul.  When her father is imprisoned the family faces starvation due to the laws that require women and girls to be escorted by a male relative any time they are in public.

With no man in the family, Parvana cuts her hair and wears the clothes of her deceased older brother Sulayman in order to make money and bring home food for the family.  Adopting the name Aatish, she meets another girl Shauzia disguised as a boy named Deliwar (Soma Bhatia) who shows her the ropes on finding jobs.  The movie has a storytelling element as well as Parvana tells an ongoing story of a boy on a quest to save his village from an evil Elephant King.  The stories are vividly animated in a style that stands apart from the more lifelike depiction of contemporary Kabul.

It’s a beautiful film that depicts a grim side of humanity but with the inspiration of Parvana’s perseverance.

Rating: ****

Book Review: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle

Author: Eric Idle
Title: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography
Narrator: Eric Idle
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2018

Eric Idle makes it clear that the purpose of a celebrity memoir is to drop the names of all the famous people one ever knew and the trouble one got into with them. At least he tells it in an entertaining way, especially since he narrates the audiobook.

Recommended books:

  • So, Anyway… by John Cleese
  • The First 20 Years of Monty Python by Kim “Howard” Johnson
  • The Life of Python : And Now for Something Completely Different by George Perry
  • Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years by Michael Palin
  • Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

Rating: **1/2

50 Years, 50 Movies (2022): The Quiet Girl

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to watch and review one movie from each year of my life.  The only qualification is that it has to be a movie I’ve not reviewed previously. 


Top Grossing Movies in 2022:

Best Picture Oscar Nominees and Winners in 2022:

Other Movies I’ve Reviewed from 2022:

Title:  An Cailín Ciúin
Release Date: 12 May 2022
Director: Colm Bairéad
Production Company: Inscéal  | Fís Éireann / Screen Ireland | TG4 | Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Many’s the person missed the opportunity to say nothing and lost much because of it.

The title of The Quiet Girl echoes that of The Quiet Man, the quintessential Hollywood fabrication of Ireland.  Unlike the John Wayne movie, The Quiet Girl is made in Ireland and the dialogue is primarily in the Irish language (Gaeilge). One of the interesting aspects of the movie is the code-switching the characters do between their native tongue and the English forced upon the country through imperialism.

Set in 1981, the movie tells the story of Cáit (Catherine Clinch), a nine-year-old in a large family in rural Ireland.  Cáit’s father (Michael Patric) is an alcoholic and a layabout while her mother (Kate Nic Chonaonaigh) is overextended with caring for the children, including a toddler, and expecting another baby soon. Neglected by her parents and teased by her older siblings as “the weird one,” Cáit has no outlet but to run away and hide.

Cáit’s parents decide that until the baby is born, that she should live with her mother’s distant cousins on a farm three hours away in County Waterford.  They are strangers to Cáit, but Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) warmly welcomes her into their household with more affection than we’ve ever seen from her parents. Seán (Andrew Bennet) is reserved at first, but eventually he and Cáit form a strong bond working on the farm together.  It’s clear that Cáit is blossoming from being loved for the first time, and that Eibhlín and Seán are finding something they were missing as well.

This is a beautiful and gentle story and it uses the language of film to portray the perspective of a child, with all the wonders and horrors that entails.  I actually felt so angry early on because the way Cáit’s family treats is atrocious and inexcusable. But I felt even more emotional at the acts of kindness and love when Cáit finds her true family with Eibhlín and Seán.

Rating: ****1/2


90 Movies in 90 Days: Requiem for the American Dream (2015)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Requiem for the American Dream
Release Date: April 18, 2015
Director: Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks,  and Jared P. Scott
Production Company: PF Pictures | Naked City Films

Noam Chomsky, a professor of linguistics at MIT, is better known for being one of the more outspoken intellectuals on the left.  This documentary is built on interviews with Chomsky where he discusses the great increase of income inequality in the United States since the early 1970s.  The film is based on Chomsky’s book of the same name and in it he breaks down “The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.”  The interview sections are broken up with archival footage and animation based on the dollar bill. While I was already familiar with much of what Chomsky discusses in this film, I found his synthesis is well done and the movie serves as a good introduction to how we got to where we are now.

Rating: ****