While I’m at it …

Finally found a use for that Batman and Robin thing, barely a scant few years after it was fashionable …

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I know, right?

I’m not sure whether or not to carry on with this blog. In the meantime, here’s to Burt Reynolds.

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood: Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel (2017)

I don’t know why, but over the past year or two I’ve taken to listening to music that can get a bit mellow and which can lean towards the uplifting. Not like me at all. The Tesdeschi Trucks Band is one fine example. There’s even some ’70s Clapton in there. Who knew? The most recent addition to my go-to list of not-as-dark-as-you’d-expect tune merchants is The Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Formed on the demise of The Black Crowes, vocals aside The CRB is a very different entity. Chris Robinson has clearly taken a divergent approach to his ex-Crowes bandmates, brother Rich and Mark Ford, whose Magpie Salute is pretty much The Black Crowes with a new, albeit soundalike, singer. Here, the general sonic template – essentially early ’70s sounds and vibes – are in place but less rocky, less Stones/Zeppelin and more Grateful Dead/Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac. They’re as prolific as a 1970’s act as well, with five studio albums and one double live set released so far since 2012.

I had some birthday cash to spend last month and happened upon a complete set of CRB CDs going for affordable on eBay.  I bought the lot. (Dig that clever play on words. Rest assured, there’s no more where that came from.)  I’ll be working my way through these for quite a while but I’m currently stuck on Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel. Terrific album.

Narcissus Soaking Wet is the first CRB track I heard, via a live studio session on YouTube – on account of my being all modern and down with the digitals – and it makes for a funky opener here. In fact a lot of the tunes here carry a big funk element, with the abundance of vintage synths and the occasional burst of harmonica recalling prime time (Talking Book/Innervisions) Stevie Wonder. There are obvious nods to Bob Dylan (Forever as the Moon), a whole lot of southern rock and even mid-’70s Queen (Oak Apple Day). Sometimes, for these ears, the lead guitar stylings of Neal Casal are perhaps a tad too polite and those synths can sound a little incongruous but somehow it all works.

Nice packaging on this as well (true of all of these CRB CDs), a card gate-fold with with a decent booklet of throwback line art. This type of sleeve has come along nicely in recent years – just in time for the decline of the format, of course. Still, said decline might yet prove survivable, particularly if this is how discs are being packaged. Regardless, I’m pretty sure this and the rest of CRB catalogue is available on vinyl for those of you with deeper pockets.  Dig in.

CRB

 

Favourite Books on a Kindle #2

Another interlude in which I take photographs of some of my favourite actual books ironically perched (the books, not me) atop my Kindle.

This time round, it’s W.G. Grace’s Last Case, William Rushton’s 1984 sequel to H.G.Wells’ The War of the Worlds in which the titular cricketer teams up with Dr. Watson to solve a murder, encountering the likes of Raffles, Buffalo Bill, Queen Victoria, Toulouse-Lautrec, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde along the way. Very funny book, wildly inventive and a precursor to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

McQ (1974)

From the back of the box: “After his best friend, Sgt. Stan Boyle, is shotgunned to death, Lt. Lon McQ finds himself in trouble with his superiors when he beats up the man he believes was responsible, Manny Santiago.”

“Shotgunned to death.” What a turn of phrase. Is being “slightly shotgunned” a thing? “Shotgunned a bit.” Also, come to think of it, is McQ even a name?

Legend has it that John Wayne turned down the role of Harry Callahan because he didn’t want to play an anti-hero. That did not, however, stop him from dipping his toes in the “gritty urban crime thriller” pool. McQ was the first of two excellent entries in the genre he starred in, the other being the following year’s somewhat lighter Brannigan.

Despite it’s Dirty Harry-style underpinnings, McQ is at its core a film noir, with all the double crosses and troubled dames you could hope for. There are nods to The Maltese Falcon and Farewell My Lovely and that classic noir trope the McGuffin is present, if in the very ’70s shape of a truckload of drugs. It starts as a cop thriller but McQ soon hands in his badge to become the most noir of protagonists, a private eye. However, he is neither the standard pulp-era hard-boiled cynic nor the amoral ’70s anti hero. Nearing retirement, he’s seen it all and though, as is the way in these films, he’s willing to play hard and fast with the small matter of suspects’ rights, he is at heart an old-fashioned good guy. When Wayne delivers a very of-its-day line about “women’s lib”, he does it with a cheerfully rueful acceptance, Lawrence Roman’s script hinting at the changing times without overplaying its hand.

The capable supporting cast includes a raft of industry stalwarts of the day (several of whom had appeared in then-recent Wayne vehicles) – Eddie Albert, David Huddleston, Clu Gulager and William Bryant as well as future TV regulars Diana Muldaur, Julian Christopher and Roger E.Mosley. Not forgetting of course Al Lettieri as Santiago in full “slimy bad guy” mode.

The most memorable performance in the film is Colleen Dewhurst’s note perfect informant, Myra. In a layered, sympathetically played scene recalling Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely (and a likely influence on the 1975 film adaptation), McQ visits her to get information. He pays her in cocaine and ends up sleeping with her. A less typically “John Wayne” scenario is difficult to imagine.

Of course, there’s plenty of action here. Directed by genre giant John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock, The Magnificent Seven), McQ uses its Seattle locations to great effect, with fast cars and shootouts galore. There are memorable set pieces (McQ in his Trans Am being crushed between two trucks, a climactic beach front car chase) aided in no small measure by some terrific music. Really, apart from Wayne, the star of this film might just be Elmer Bernstein’s score, one of his best. The bold, brassy main theme fits Wayne to a ‘T’.

The urban thrillers of the 1970s produced many memorable movies from Dirty Harry to Death Wish and Get Carter. If McQ doesn’t quite sit at the top of that list, it certainly has its place alongside some of the lesser known gems of the era like Shamus, Sitting Target and Night Moves.

I watched this on VHS, a pre-cert rental copy that I picked up a few years ago for not cheap. This was due to there never having been a UK DVD release, though a glance at eBay shows me that US versions are now available at a reasonable price. There’s also recently been a reportedly very decent Blu Ray release, again USA only. These have to be worth checking out as the VHS print suffers noticeably from being panned and scanned.

McQ

Favourite Books on a Kindle #1

First in an occasional series “My Favourite Books on a Kindle”, a kind of literary interlude in which I take photographs of some of my favourite actual books ironically perched (the books, not me) atop my Kindle. That’s how bored I am. Anyway, books are the original physical media, right?

The first picture here shows my reading copy (since I was about ten years old) of The Thirty-Nine Steps. The second is the “new” one I bought as a replacement twenty or so years ago, after the spine fell off of the first.

There’s a copy of The Thirty-Nine Steps “in” the Kindle as well, come to think of it. What can I say? It’s a book I like.

More music and movie stuff on its way soon.

Masters and Hauers

The joy of the movie art tagline. Sometimes just lame and/or perfunctory, other times an art form to itself. Here are some of the gems I have on hand.

The Master:

1 – He hears the silence. He sees the darkness.

2 – The king of martial arts faces a bionic killing machine!

3 – The most feared person of all is a person without fear!

4 – One’s tough – one’s smart

Later Chuck releases often didn’t bother with a tagline. “Chuck Norris” was tagline enough.

Jeff vs. Jeff:

1 (a) – Just try him. (b) No gun. No knife. No equal.

2 – He’s the perfect weapon

Imagine the confusion amongst young cinephiles the world over. They’re not even the same Jeff.

Mind, if I had a time machine, I’d use it to go back and make the tagline for The Perfect Weapon “He’s the Karate Cop”. And, you know, kill Hitler.

Hot Hauer Action:

As if if Rutger with a sword wasn’t enough to secure the rental.

So stupid it’s clever:

Now, that’s just lazy:

Death Wish 6 – “The vigilante is back for vengeance again with a vengeance ..!” Ah, what might have been.

You thought that was lazy:

While the tagline hasn’t completely died, “from the director/writer/caterer of Taken” doesn’t quite cut it.

Keeping the flame burning:

1 – Seven colleagues. One weekend away. It’s time to get slaughtered.

2 – They’re close mates, but not that close.

3 – Part mystery. Part thriller. Parts missing.

These are all on that new fangled DVD format which is all the rage. Not bad.

Top 3

3.

The Stath! Points deducted, mind, for being intentionally funny.

2.

This is genius. The tag is near as big as the title, and downright weird. What is he, radioactive?

1.

Simple, economic and to the point – a thing of beauty.