Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Review- GEORGE ROMERO'S EMPIRE OF THE DEAD: ACT ONE


GEORGE ROMERO'S EMPIRE OF THE DEAD: ACT ONE (Marvel, 2014; Softcover)
Collects George Romero's Empire Of The Dead: Act One Nos. 1-5 (cover dates January- August, 2014)
Writer: George A. Romero
Artist: Alex Maleev
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth

Zombies are all the rage these days, what with the ongoing success of The Walking Dead and all. Younger fans might have overlooked the guy whom Robert Kirkman stood on the shoulders of, Mr. George Romero. If you do not know who he is, use that thar Google button on yore Internet machine and get on right back to me, y'hear?

Done? Okay, good. This takes place 30 years after Dawn Of The Dead. Humanity has been sequestered into Protected Zones, where military and SWAT teams keep the undead out and people live a somewhat normal life within the confines of Manhattan. Of course there is another kind of undead now, the original undead...vampires. Couple that with the emergence of the self-aware, almost thinking zombie and you have a fresh spin on a stinking, rotting idea. Leave it to Romero to once again save us all.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

http://www.instocktrades.com/TP/Marvel/GEORGE-ROMEROS-EMPIRE-OF-DEAD-TP-ACT-ONE/APR140769

The OCD zone- Marvel has a tendency to triple dip, so I am going to hold off on buying any and all future arcs until we get an Omnibus or an Ultimate Collection trade paperback. I am tired of endless upgrades or being dissatisfied because a superior format is released down the road. I have more than enough unread books to last me until such collection happens.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: Introduction by Stan Lee. (1 page)
#1 variant by Frank Cho. (2 pages)
#2 variant by Greg Horn (1 page)
#1-5 variants by Arthur Suydam. (5 pages)
Paper stock: Good weight semi-glossy coated stock.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Glossy lamination. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review- Queen/ Live At The Rainbow '74

Queen/ Live At The Rainbow '74 (Hollywood, 2014)

This is the holy grail, two soundboard recordings from 40 years ago. I bought the standard consumer edition 2 CD set, although there are a number of other configurations available (single CD, 4 LP set, Blu-Ray, DVD, etc.) Disc One is taken from the Queen II tour stop at the Rainbow in London, England in March of 1974. The band was on fire, with everything played punchier and rocking much harder than the recorded versions of those songs. While Queen thrived with studio magic they could cut the mustard live and go toe to toe with any heavyweight band of the era, even Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath.

The track Guitar Solo would come to be known as part of Brighton Rock, as it is the guitar break from that song. It was already nearly fully formed here and would be recorded for the Sheer Heart Attack album later that summer. Why they broke up Son And Daughter into three separate tracks makes no sense. This solo fits neatly into the middle, but I guess if you really hate two and a half minute guitar solos you could hit skip and go right back into the song. They did the same thing with the song Drum Solo, splitting Keep Yourself Alive into three tracks. That one is even more asinine, as the drum part is merely a more fleshed out version of the fill toward the end of the recorded version and clocks in at around 30 seconds. This is repeated for both of these songs on Disc Two.

There are some non-album songs here, the encore Jailhouse Rock/ Stupid Cupid/ Be Bop A Lula medley and the B-side/1991 Queen II reissue bonus track See What A Fool I've Been. While the solos and reprises are given individual track numbers there are in reality only 12 songs here not counting recorded intro Procession. The set is split neatly with five songs off of each of their albums, the cover medley, and a B-side.

I have never seen Queen live and would have killed to be at this show, or any Queen show for that matter. Freddie Mercury was brilliantly playful with the way that he worked the crowd, all wink and no machismo like so many bands of the era. Roger Taylor kills it on drums and is criminally underrated. His and Brain May's backing vocals rule. This is an absolutely brilliant performance.

Disc Two was from their triumphant homecoming show at the same venue some eight months later. The band seemed more cocksure and seemed to put slightly less effort into impressing the audience, with their place in their hearts seemingly assured by this point. Tempos were slowed a pinch, being closer to the albums, while the then-new material off of Sheer Heart Attack was so different from the first two albums that the set didn't seem to flow quite as well. If I had to pick one show of the two I would go with the one on Disc One. Having said that, I would have been thrilled to witness the show captured live on Disc Two (Sides 5-8 for you vinyl people following at home). This era was the beginning of the shift that would turn Queen into a worldwide household name. One can only hope that this is the beginning of more archival live sets. I know that I would buy them all.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.


The OCD zone- For those of you who just walked in, this is the part where I dissect the packaging of a product. Those who buy mp3s and eBooks may be scratching their heads and thinking who cares, but to those of us who still value physical media this has some merit. The digipak has a trifold with a full hub for each disc. The booklet slides into the middle. This is a really nice package at this price point. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review- Sloan/ Commonwealth


Sloan/ Commonwealth (Murder/Yep Roc, 2014)

Commonwealth is Sloan's most consistently satisfying album since 2006's Never Hear The End Of It. Like that album, this is a double album, at least on vinyl. It fits on one compact disc, for the two to three dozen of us that still prefer to buy our albums in the CD format. Like Between The Bridges, this album is split democratically between all four members. Sloan is one of the few bands out there where all four members take turns singing lead vocals and all four members consistently write songs, with Action Pact being the only exception to that. While Between The Bridges saw each member get three songs, this album sees each member get an entire side to themselves.

While Sloan has evolved over the course of their 22-year recording career, their progress has been in small increments, with each album containing a few new facets of sound. One Sloan album to the next might not sound too different, but if you listen to every third Sloan album you will detect differences in arrangements and styles. I prefer this sort of organic progression to bands who seem to chuck the whole thing with each album and sound like some other band.

Each member is portrayed on the cover as a king for each of the playing card suits (spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs), with each side being assigned one symbol. Side One is Jay Ferguson, the King of Diamonds. Side Two is Chris Murphy, the King of Hearts. Side Three is Patrick Pentland, the King of Clubs. The most interesting of his songs this time out is also the most uncharacteristic for him, What's Inside. It is drenched in feedback and sounds almost industrial, at least as far as Sloan is concerned. Last but certainly not least is Andrew Scott, the King of Spades. His whole side is one song, Forty-Eight Portraits, clocking in at just under 18 minutes. The first few minutes come off like Pink Floyd but the song builds and changes, echoing Delivering Maybes for a minute. I honestly did not like this song on the first few spins, a real disappointment since Andrew's songs usually steal the show for me. With a few more listens it has grown on me but remains my least favorite side.

Commonwealth falls somewhere in the middle of the Sloan catalog for me, highly enjoyable and sure to be my Sloan go-to album until the next one comes around in a few years. Sloan has been so consistent and so drama free that people tend to take them for granted, which is a shame.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.

The OCD zone- For those of you who just walked in, this is the part where I dissect the packaging of a book or CD. Those who buy mp3s and eBooks may be scratching their heads and thinking who cares, but to those of us who still value physical media this has some merit.

The case is a cardboard digipak with a glued on plastic hub, which pleases me. Those LP-style cardboard sleeves that a lot of CDs use nowadays suck if the inside is uncoated or if there is no additional sleeve provided. None of that here. Handled by the edges and placed directly in it's case immediately after play, my copy of Commonwealth with provide me with a lifetime of PURE LISTENING ENJOYMENT. Hipsters bag on us CD buyers, but I am not behind the times, I am ahead of them. The retro CD movement of 2024 will vindicate me! I will save you all a seat at the CD party, kids.


The booklet contains pictures and lyrics. There is also an insert with a download code for the entire album, which is a must since Andrew's song seems to have some kind of lame DRM on it that prevented my computer from ripping it. I am not sure, though, since I didn't walk down to my basement and fire up my prehistoric computer to see if it could rip it, nor did I journey upstairs to see on my wife's computer. Let me know if anyone has been able to successfully burn a copy of the CD with track 15 for their car and maybe I will walk over to either of those computers and try it. As is stands I burned the downloaded version for the car.