Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Elena Casagrande
Colorist: Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and  Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 1: Revolutions of Terror 
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2015.
Summary/Review:

The Tenth Doctor comics explores adventures that take place after he tragically mindwipes Donna (I’m still not over that), and reluctantly begins traveling with a new companion, Gabby Gonzalez. And what a wonderful companion she is!  Gabby is a young Mexican-American woman living in Brooklyn and working in her family’s restaurant and laundromat, but dreaming of becoming an artist and going on adventures.  She’s utterly charming and clever, and well characterized for a character original to the comics.

This volume contains two adventures.  The Doctor and Gabby meet when the Pranavores, a psychic lifeform that exists in a symbiotic relationship with intelligent lifeforms and feeds off their positive energy, come under attack.  Their assailants are the Cerabavores, scientifically modified Pranavores who hunt the Pranavores by causing the humans they’re associated with to have horrific visions.  Gabby’s quick wits and cheerful spirit help the Doctor defeat the Cerabavores and he invites her on a one-time trip on the TARDIS.

Because Gabby is an artist, he takes her to see an art gallery on a magnificently strange planet and meet an artist named Zhe who uses her mind to create block transfer sculptures.  Of course, Zhe is in trouble, trapped in stasis while two malevolent apprentices she created attack the Doctor and Gabby.  The story is illustrated with fun house visuals accompanied by Gabby’s sketchbook where she tells the story through sketches and notes to her friend.  It’s a wonderful visual story best suited to the comic book art form.

This is a great start to the Tenth Doctor comics series and of course, Gabby is invited back for further travels so there’s more to look forward to in upcoming comics.

Rating: ****


Author:  Robbie Morrison
Artists: Daniel Indro & Eleonora Carlini
Colorist: Slamet Murjiono & Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 2, The Weeping Angels of Mons
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2015.
Summary/Review:

Gabby & The Doctor land in No Man’s Land in the midst of The Great War in 1916.  There they discover that Scottish infantrymen and their German opponents are both facing a much greater danger – The Weeping Angels!  The battlefield scenes of mud, smoke, and darkness are a perfect fit for the angels and the comic quickly sketches an interesting cast of guest characters.  Gabby continues to be wonderful and is growing into one of my favorite companions rather quickly.  The story builds on the Weeping Angels mythos created in “Blink” but not as well explored in their later tv stories.

<HUGE SPOILER>The brilliant – if obvious in retrospect – twist is that one of the soldiers is sent back in time to a nearby French village, where he marries and settles down as a farmer, waiting to catch up to the First World War and bail out his friends.</HUGE SPOILER>

The only downside to this comic is that the Doctor seems to a sanctimonious ass for much of this comic, which I guess is true to the characterization of the Tenth Doctor, but I still don’t have to enjoy it.  The volume also includes a one-issue story called “Echo” set in contemporary Brooklyn which is highly derivative of the Pranavores plot except these are creature who amplify sound instead of feelings.  The resolution is also derivative of “Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks” so it makes me wonder if the creators of this issue were just in a rush to get something out.

Rating: ****


Author:  Robbie Morrison
Artists: Elena Casagrande, Eleonora Carlini, Rachael Stott, and Leonardo Romero
Colorist:  Hi-Fi and Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and  Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 3: The Fountains of Forever
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2015
Summary/Review:

After a silly, short story about the TARDIS laundry and a golem of sonic screwdriver activated dirt, the Doctor and Gabby return to New York.  Gabby’s friend Cindy is seething with jealousy and the two quarrel, an unfortunately stereotyped depiction of relationships among young women.  The plot moves into a story about ancient artifacts, a cult, and an aged movie star that eventually reveals itself to be a sequel to Pyramid of Mars.  Honestly, I got bored with it and ultimately lost the plot.  This is a disappointing volume after the first two collections were so very good.

Rating: **


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Eleonora Carlini, Elena Casagrande & Leonardo Romero
Colorist:  Claudia SG Iannicello and Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 4: The Endless Song
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2016
Summary/Review:

The Tenth Doctor and Gabby’s adventures continue, beginning with another conceptual being, the Shan’tee, who are perceived by humans as music, making for a clever albeit somewhat cliched adventure.  Gabby’s notebook returns as Cindy, left behind on Earth, reads it to herself and notices that stories are changing.  Unfortunately, the story devolves into something more boring involving Ebonite, but is redeemed by the appearance of Jack Harkness!  The final story involving early humans and Neandethals is kind of, eh?

Rating: ***


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Eleonora Carlini, Elena Casagrande & Iolanda Zanfardino
Colorist:  Arianna Florean, Rod Fernandes, & Hi-Fi with Azzurra Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 5: Arena of Fear
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2016
Summary/Review:

This volume starts with epic weirdness as the Doctor and Gabby are forced into an epic fight against Captain Jack, Cleo and Cindy.  Everyone’s memories are twisted and the story from the Pleistocene era is incorporated, so it’s just so very strange.  Later they travel to the UK and end up in a spooky story involving a witch in a well. I feel that the characterization of Cindy is improving and that the stories are feeling less contrived, but I do wish there was less emphasis on continuing story arcs.  I just don’t care about Anubis

Rating: ***1/2


Author:  Nick Abadzis
Artists: Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Arianna Florean, Azzurra Florean, Mattia de Lulis and Adele Matera
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 6: Sins of the Father
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2017
Summary/Review:

This volume begins with the Doctor and Gabby enjoying some down time in 1920s New Orleans and Cindy even finding romance (and while it’ll be played as a tragic romance trope, it’s still nice to see new things done with her character).  Music infects this jazz age story and the Nocturnes are back to infect the music, perhaps the best return of an original monster in these comics. And then Anubis and Sutekh return.  Yawn!

Rating: ***


Author:  Nick Abadzis, James Peaty
Artists: Giorgia Sposito, Warren Pleece
Colorist:  Arianna Florean, Azzurra Florean, Mattia de Lulis, Hi-Fi, Adele Matera
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt; Nick Abadzis & Arianna Florean
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor, Vol. 7: War of Gods
Publication Info: Titan Books, 2017
Summary/Review:

This volume pairs the ongoing (and hopefully conclusion) of the yawner of the Sutekh story.  The Revolving Doors story sees Gabby going to London for the first time and dwelling on the Tenth Doctor’s man pain.  These comics have fallen a long way in my estimation since they began.

Rating: *1/2


Author:   Nick Abadzis
Artists: Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor – Facing Fate, Volume 1 – Breakfast at Tyranny’s
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2017)
Summary/Review:

Hooray for new storylines!  Anubis continues in the story but now as an amnesiac going by the name Noobis, and more interesting for doing so (especially when depicted as an actual dog).  The first story sees the TARDIS team stuck in a virtual reality in a New York City department store, that is basically The Matrix with tentacles.  Things get better when they travel to ancient China – with portions of the comic in the style of traditional Chinese art – and liberate a castle full of hundreds of Cindys!

Rating: ***


Author:   Nick Abadzis
Artists: Giorgia Sposito
Colorist:  Arianna Florean
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor – Facing Fate, Volume 2 – Vortex Butterflies
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2018)
Summary/Review:

The Doctor leaves Gabby and Cindy in a house he keeps in London (but not the English house he has in the Virgin New Adventures, alas) where Sarah Jane comes to their aid when Gabby falls ill.  The Doctor meanwhile seeks out what is troubling the TARDIS, and discovers that the Vortex Butterfly is a manifestation of Gabby’s Block Transfer powers.  It’s a nice way to develop an ongoing story going back to the origins of the comics, but it also is resolved a bit too easily.

Rating: **1/2

Advertisements

Music Discoveries: The Beatles Go Solo, part 2


Catch up on Part 1, if you haven’t read it yet.

It’s 1970 in an alternate universe where the Beatles never existed.  Four unknown English musicians  – Ringo Starr (30), George Harrison (27), John Lennon (30), and Paul McCartney (28) – release their first albums in the first three years of the decade.  Do they become famous rock stars or remain obscure?  That is what I’m going to keep in mind as I listen to these earliest post-Beatles recordings.

Artist: Ringo Starr
AlbumBeaucoups of Blues
Release Date: 25 September 1970
Favorite Tracks: Beaucoups of Blues, Fastest Growing Heartache in the West, Nashville Jam
Thoughts:

Ringo switches gears from standards to Country & Western on his second solo album of 1970.  His voice is suited to country and the songs have a nice Hank Williams vibe, although I’m not sure many would want to listen to this if they could listen to original country legends instead.  There are some nice songs, especially early on, but there are also some songs that overly silly and/or lazy and kind of embarrassing for poor Ringo.


Artist: George Harrison
AlbumAll Things Must Pass
Release Date: 27 November 1970
Favorite Tracks: I’d Have You Anytime, Wah-Wah, What is Life, Awaiting on You All, All Things Must Pass, Plug Me In, Thanks for the Pepperoni
Thoughts:

George Harrison must’ve bottled up a lot of songs in his last years with the Beatles, and unleashes them on this three-disc album.  Arguably, with previous efforts being experiments in music and/or hasty personal recordings made public, this is also the first “real” album by a solo Beatle. I really like the big-band sound and slide guitar Harrison adopts for this album.  And after all these years, I still don’t think “My Sweet Lord” sounds all that much like “He’s So Fine.”  Despite being a triple-album, nothing here is filler – although I also think “What is Life” is the only standout song – but the whole thing flows in a cohesive whole.  The large stable of guest musicians is also a plus, especially on the Apple Jam tracks.


Artist: John Lennon
AlbumJohn Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Release Date: 11 December 1970
Favorite Tracks: Mother, Working Class Hero, Remember, Well Well Well
Thoughts:

John works through some issues and explores his feelings in his first true post-Beatles recordings.  Powerful vocals, thoughtful lyrics, and good instrumentation predominate on the album.  The songs on this album are often referred to by rock critics/biographers but are less familiar to me because they’re never played on the radio, even the Classic Rock radio.  Granted, there are some f-bombs, but it’s still a shame that Lennon’s legacy as a solo artist is built on some of his lesser works.


Artist: Paul and Linda McCartney
Album: Ram
Release Date: 17 May 1971
Favorite Tracks: Too Many People
Thoughts:

McCartney improves upon his solo debut with better production values, instrumentation, and some great harmonies on his sophomore effort.  Unfortunately, the songs are lyrically frothy and empty for the most part.  It’s so odd after hearing Ringo sing sad country songs, George’s spiritual exploration, and John’s primal scream that Paul is just so damn chipper! Ironically, the only stand out track is “Too Many People” where Paul wallows in nastiness long enough to to take a swipe at John and Yoko.  There’s one song on this album I’m familiar with – overly so – and that’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” which is overplayed on the radio despite fact that it’s terrible. Even in the context of Ram, this is the absolute worst song.


Artist: John Lennon
AlbumImagine
Release Date: 9 September 1971
Favorite Tracks: Imagine, Crippled Inside, It’s So Hard,  I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama
Thoughts:

Speaking of overplayed songs, this album’s title track is more worthy of that treatment, a true classic and more politically radical than it’s given credit for.  On the other end of the spectrum is “Jealous Guy,” overplayed, but it just creeps me out as it’s basically domestic abuser apologetics.  The rest of side 1 is a good set of blues-based rock, that I really like.  Side 2 is mostly softer songs – a bit overproduced – but not too bad.


Artist: Paul McCartney & Wings
AlbumWild Life
Release Date: 7 December 1971
Favorite Tracks: Mumbo
Thoughts:

Wings takes flight with an album deliberately recorded in a rush with minimal takes for a desired “raw sound.”  The songs rock more than on the similarly unfinished McCartney, but Paul & Co. apparently didn’t have much time for lyrics as the album features a lot of nonsense words on the first few songs.  I do appreciate the effort to make peace with John on “Dear Friend” though.


Artist: John Lennon & Yoko Ono and Elephant’s Memory
Album: Some Time in New York City
Release Date: June 12, 1972
Favorite Tracks:Sisters O Sisters, New York City, John Sinclair, We’re All Water
Thoughts:

This album begins with the biggest “what were they thinking?” as far as trying to make a commendable political statement in the worst possible way.  The cheerful, 60s girl-band style “Sisters O Sisters” with Yoko on lead vocals is a much, much better feminist anthem. This album features some of Ono’s best work to date. The political protest songs keep coming with songs about the Attica State prison uprising and brutal suppression, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and imprisonment of activists John Sinclair and Angela Davis.  There’s a lot of intense energy and immediacy in these songs but they also suffer from short shelf-life, more news report than art. The autobiographical rocker “New York City” may be the standout song on this album for being a personal reflection, albeit the personal is political in Lennon’s immigration troubles. The Live Jam portion makes me think that going to see Lennon, Ono, and company in concert could’ve been pretty fun.


In two short years, the Beatles had broken up, and new bands had coalesced – Wings, Elephant’s Memory, the collective of artists jamming with George, and Ringo’s all-star support crew.  None of these bands would ever be real bands in the way the Beatles were (no, not even Wings), but they were proof that the former Beatles could not work alone.

To answer the counterfactual I proposed in the opening paragraph, if four artists who’d never been the Beatles made they’re debut in 1970, would they have been successful by 1972?  Surprisingly, I think Harrison is the most likely to succeed, although he wouldn’t have gotten away with releasing a triple-album for his debut.  Lennon, too, would see some success, although people would be confused about these “Beatles” he doesn’t believe in.  Starr may have found himself a drummer in a band somewhere, but definitely not crooning country tunes.  And, McCartney … well, his early solo material was poorly received at the time, so his Beatles’ fame is really the only thing that let him continue to make more dreck, so I think alternate universe McCartney would be a flop.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson


AuthorBrandon Sanderson 
Title:Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
Narrator: Ramon De Ocampo
Publication Info: Recorded Books (2012)
Previously Read By the Same Author:  Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones, and Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia
Summary/Review:

The Alcatraz series continues with the great humor and cleverness of the previous books, including a great running gag on chapter numbering.  The book focuses in on the history and meaning of the Smedry Talents bringing alight some fascinating details.  The story also finds Alcatraz and his friends in the middle of war, with all the loss and sacrifice that entails.  While humorous and never comes to a point that death seems possible, the book does exposit on the frightening reality of children in war.  Finally, Alcatraz makes an unexpected alliance.  Another great book in this series, and I look forward to the next and final volume.

Rating: ****

Movie Review: Ant-Man and Wasp (2018)


TitleAnt-Man and Wasp
Release Date: July 6, 2018
Director: Peyton Reed
Production Company: Marvel Studios
Summary/Review:

The second Ant-Man film and part 20 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe sees Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) making the best of his house arrest with much improved relations with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), as well as his ex-wife and her new husband.  With three days left until his release, Lang is pulled into a plot by Hank Pym (Michael Douglass) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly with a better haircut) to help rescue Janet van Dyne (the original Wasp, played by Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm.  In a madcap series of adventures the trio find their plans foiled by a series of foes including mobster Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), another of Pym’s former colleagues Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), a woman who can phase through objects called Ghost (aka Ava Starr, played by Hannah John-Karmen), and FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park).  Any one of these antagonists would’ve been boring and cliched in a typical MCU film, but rotating through them so that our heroes are constantly on their toes is done very effectively.

The ending is foreshadowed well enough in advance to not be a surprise (spoiler: they rescue Janet and Janet heals Ghost), so the fun is seeing how they get to that point in a series of hijinks and chase scenes, using the Pym particle devices.  I’m reminded of visiting San Francisco with my father as a child and him telling me that they like to film car chases there because of the hills, used effectively in the movie.  But the key to Ant-Man and Wasp is the humor which is laugh out loud funny.  The MVP here is Michael Peña as Luis, Scott’s friend and business partner who brings the laughs and save everyone’s butts.

Rating: ***1/2

Previous MCU Films:

Photopost: White Mountain Weekend


My wonderful family gifted me a weekend at a cabin in the White Mountains near Jackson, New Hampshire to celebrate my 45th birthday.  In addition to some cozy time in a cabin by a stream in a wintry wonderland, we went to Jackson Cross Country to do some snowshoeing (with our lovely guide, Rob) and rode the Santaland Express on the Conway Scenic Railroad.  It was absolutely sunny and gorgeous on Saturday for snowshoeing and rainy and miserable for our rail trip, which is ideal compared to the opposite.

Here are some of my scenic photos:

 

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 8


On the Media :: Whose Streets?

An expose on news media coverage that biases the priority of the automobile and questions the “heartwarming” stories of people walking long ways to work and transit inequality.

BackStory :: Forgotten Flu

100 years ago, a deadly influenza tore through the United States killing people in their peak of health.

Code Switch :: The Story of Mine Mill

The history of a radical leftist union that organized miners and millworkers in Birminham, Alabama, bringing together Black and white workers at the height of Jim Crow in the 1930s-1960s.

The Memory Palace :: Revolutions

A tribute to the humble – and noisy – washing machine.

99% Invisible :: Oñate’s Foot

The controversy over how Albuquerque would commemorate the conquistador who some see as New Mexico’s founding father and others see as a mass murderer

Nobody’s Home :: “Brown in a Different Way:” The Gentrification Dilemma

Nobody’s Home is a miniseries focusing on the problem of vacant housing in the United States.  It’s strange to listen to in Boston where the shortage of housing is the big problem.  But this episode on gentrification and the long history of inequality in housing ties both issues together well.

Book Review: The Princess Bride by William Goldman


Author: William Goldman
TitleThe Princess Bride
Narrator: Rob Reiner
Publication Info: Phoenix Books (1999) [Original published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1973)]
Other books read by the same author: The Silent Gondoliers (as S. Morgenstern)
Summary/Review:

“Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.”

The recent death of William Goldman prompted me to seek out one of my all-time favorite books, The Princess Bride.  If you’re familiar with the classic 1987 film adaptation, Goldman’s book is even more funny, more clever, and more sweetly satirical. The book is written with a framing device in which he discovers that a beloved adventure book read to him by his father when he was sick as a child, was actually a long political satire that bored his own son.  So Goldman decides to publish an abridged version with only the good parts.  All of this framing device is fictional, as Goldman invented both the story of The Princess Bride and a fictional wife and son.

The audio book version I found to listen too is disappointingly an abridged version, ironic since The Princess Bride is already supposed to be an abridged book. Many of the scenes that don’t correspond directly to the movie are left out of the audiobook, including the majority of Goldman’s framing device interrupting the narrative.  The audiobook doesn’t even have the Reunion Scene.  As a bonus, the book is read by Rob Reiner – director of the film – in his wonderful Bronx accent.

It’s definitely worth putting this on to play to your kids if you’re not up for reading the book out loud yourself.

Recommended booksThe Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, and The Once and Future King by T. H. White
Rating: ****1/2

An even dozen


Hokey smokes, I completely forgot to commemorate by 12th anniversary of this blog’s first on December 4, 2006!  It seems amazing to do anything for 12 years, much less spend hundreds of hours writing something no one reads. (j/k)

Here are some thoughts on being twelve:

  • This is the 3,049th post I’ve published.
  • In the past year I’ve quit Facebook and Tumblr, so I’m trying to rely on this blog to connect with people even more.
  • Nevertheless, I still maintain an accounts on Instagram, Pocket, and two Twitter accounts: @Othemts for general tweets and @ArchivaLiam for archives & library issues.
  • I also moved my Doctor Who sideblog from Tumblr to WordPress.
  • I’m curious about what other social media alternatives may be out there.  Mastodon? MeWe? Vero?  Where’s the next bold internet venture where all the good people are hanging out?
  • This year I debuted the following new features;
    • Monthly Mixtape – the best new songs from every month.
    • City Stories – my personal reflections on experiences in the world’s great cities
  • I created new pages as indexes to help you find some of my best back posts:
  • I enjoyed participating in the following blogging projects:
    • AdventWord – reflections and photographs for each day in Advent.  I should be doing this again right now but I’m not so organized this year.
    • Blogging A to Z Challenge – in which I watched and reviewed documentary films
    • 30 Day Song Challenge – 30 of my favorite songs and stories that go with them.

 

My most popular posts from the past year according to WordPress stats:

  1. VOTE on September 4th! Massachusetts Primary Elections
  2. Major League Baseball Expansion: A 32 Team Option
  3. Concert Review: Janelle Monáe
  4. Movie Review: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012) #atozchallenge
  5. Album Review: The Beatles “White Album” Super Deluxe Edition

Here are five of my personal favorite posts that I think more people should read and comment on:

But most of all, I really, REALLY want people to give some attention to my City Stories.  I plan to write more of these in 2019 and it would be great to get some feedback.

  1. Brooklyn
  2. Derry
  3. London
  4. Chicago
  5. Venice

And now onto a Lucky 13th year!

Previously:

Music Discoveries: The Beatles Go Solo, part 1


I’ve been a Beatles fan for as long as I remember, but I’ve never spent much time with the individual works outside of their Beatles contribution. Sure, I’ve enjoyed songs by John Lennon, George Harrison, and even Ringo Starr – and been disappointed by Paul McCartney’s solo mediocrity – but there’s a lot out there I’ve never listened to. So I’m going to spend the next month listening to all the albums John, Paul, George, & Ringo produced – on their own and with new collaborators – from the first solo release in 1968 to 1980. I chose that cutoff, because Lennon’s December 8, 1980 death meant that there would be no new releases from all of the Beatles after that date. Also, that way I don’t have to listen to any of McCartney’s truly awful music from the 1980s.

So let’s hop back in the time machine to 1968, when the Beatles were squabbling, nearing divorce, and decided to some experimentation on their own.

Artist: George Harrison
Album: Wonderwall Music
Released: 1 November 1968
Favorite Tracks: Drilling a Home, Party Seacombe, and Glass Box
Thoughts:

The first Beatle to venture into solo territory is not surprisingly George Harrison, whose musical interests began to diverge early on and was never able to make a dent in the Lennon/McCartney songwriting powerhouse.  Wonderwall Music is considered curiosity for being the first solo Beatle album and the inspiration for the title of an Oasis hit.  I hadn’t realized that it was the soundtrack to a psychedelic move called Wonderwall, or that Harrison worked with a number of classical Indian musicians to record it.  More surprising, I came to like it.  The mix of Indian tracks with rock, country, and ragtime was interesting and may have made a bigger impression in, say, the 1980s, when Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon were making hit records with this type of world music fusion. Harrison was ahead of his time


Artist: John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Album: Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins
Released: 29 November 1968
Thoughts:

With Wonderwall Music, the “White Album,” and this, the Beatles managed to release 4 LPs worth of music in the month of November 1968. Of course, Lennon and Ono didn’t likely spend a ton of time working on this one. The collection of tape loops, piano, and vocal eccentricities is a boutique recording documenting the couple’s intense attraction more than anything else.


Artist: John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Album: Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions
Released: 9 May 1969
Thoughts:

Kind of and odd duck of a collection. Like there’s a serious attempt to express the anguish of losing a baby to miscarriage but there’s also switching around of radio stations for a long time. Still basically the audio journal of John & Yoko, rather than an album.


Artist: George Harrison
Album: Electronic Sound
Released: 9 May 1969
Thoughts:

Harrison trades in Indian instruments for a Moog synthesizer and creates two extended pieces of instrumental electronic music.  I have a soft spot for atmospheric music like this, although I don’t have the critical skills to evaluate if Harrison was a good Moog-er for his time.  Still, a worthy experiment.


Artist: John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Album: Wedding Album
Released: 7 November 1969
Thoughts:

This might be the most pretentious John & Yoko album yet if they a) didn’t have reporters constantly asking them about themselves and b) expected anyone would want to buy this album.


Artist: Ringo Starr
Album: Sentimental Journey
Favorite Tracks: I’m a Fool to Care, Dream
Released: 27 March 1970
Thoughts:

God bless Ringo Starr! While George and John & Yoko are being all experimental and avant-garde, Ringo records an album of standards his mother loved. This is why Ringo was the heart of The Beatles.


Artist: Paul McCartney
Album: McCartney
Favorite Tracks: That Would Be Something, Every Night, Maybe I’m Amazed
Released: 17 April 1970
Thoughts:

McCartney finally joins the soloist club, working in secret at a home studio to create his first album largely on his own. The songs have either a stripped-down quality or McCartney rushed to release unfinished demos, depending on one’s perspective. Pairing the release with the announcement of the Beatles breaking up probably made this album more harshly reviewed than the other Beatles side projects, but there are some good songs amid the dithering about. “Maybe I’m Amazed” is my favorite McCartney song and that makes me wonder if it’s all downhill from here.


And the Beatles are officially broken up. Next week, a virtual deluge of new music from four individuals with their own distinct visions as well as some wives and other collaborators, and some continued infighting.

Book Review: Greed and Glory by Sean Deveney


Author:  Sean Deveney
TitleGreed and Glory: The Rise and Fall of Doc Gooden, Lawrence Taylor, Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump, and the Mafia in 1980s New York
Publication Info: Skyhorse Publishing (2018)
Summary/Review:

Sean Deveney follows up his book about New York City in the 1960s through the lens of local politics and sports, Fun City, with this book about New York City in the 1980s through the lens of local politics and sports.  Fun City focused on two figures, Mayor John Lindsay and Jets quarterback Joe Namath, both handsome, young men who rose to prominence alongside the 60s youth culture and offered the promise of a great future (for themselves and the city) but also had hubris that lead to colossal failures.  Greed and Glory, as evident by the extraordinarily long subtitle is not so focused.  Greed and Glory cuts from storyline to storyline with no clear theme, and often is not even arranged chronologically.

The sports angle is covered by the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets and 1987 Super Bowl champion New York Giants.  Star players Dwight Gooden for the Mets and Lawrence Taylor for the Giants each struggle with their celebrity in New York and each end up with cocaine addictions that mar their careers.  But Deveney just can’t seem to focus on these two players and what they mean to the larger story of New York in the 1980s, and instead spends a lot of time describing the experiences of other Mets and other Giants and play-by-plays of important games in their championship seasons.  And while this kind of narrative can be interesting, there are whole other books dedicated to these teams’ champion seasons, whereas this one promises and fails to tell a more relevant story of Gooden and Taylor in 1980s New York.

The other storylines focus on New York mayor Ed Koch as his third term is rocked by scandals among the Democratic party leaders throughout the city.  Future mayor Rudy Giuliani makes his mark as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York by aggressively pursuing cases against the Mafia as well as the political corruption in the Koch administration.  And Donald Trump carries out a convoluted plot to get a NFL team and a domed stadium in Queens (paid for with other peoples’ money, naturally) by suing the NFL on behalf of the USFL.  The plan fails, but he somehow redeems himself by restoring the Wollman skating rink in Central Park.  Pretty much every sketchy detail of his character (and lack thereof) was evident in the 1980s, but for some reason people still decided to make him famous and then elect him President.  Ugh!

These storylines – if the Mets/Giants stories were excised – could almost make a good book, but there’s still too much and it just comes out messy. Granted, the 1980s in New York were a mess and it’s still difficult to make any sense of it.  Deveney doesn’t make a dent in that mess, but I will give him credit for at least making it a pageturner of a read, if ultimately too fluffy for its own good.

Recommended books:

  • The Bad Guys Won! A Season of Brawling, Boozing, Bimbo-chasing, and Championship Baseball with Straw, Doc, Mookie, Nails, The Kid, and the Rest of the 1986 Mets, the Rowdiest Team Ever to Put on a New York Uniform–and Maybe the Best by Jeff Pearlman
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler
  • Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
  • New York Calling : From Blackout to Bloomberg edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.

Rating: **1/2