Reviews

THE TRUE BELIEVERS AT LIFE@WORK; TABLOID TV ON THE PAGE

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Time begat Newsweek begat U.S. News. People begat Entertainment Weekly begat In Style. Esquire begat GQ begat Maxim begat Stuff.

Throughout magazinedom, there are so few new ideas, which is one of the reasons to thank God for Life@Work, a bimonthly that's been publishing since May 1998. Its subtitle tells it all: "Blending Biblical wisdom with business excellence."


ROMANCING THE STONE TO GET THE BIG ROCK

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Oh, the wonder of spring, when thoughts turn to romance: laughter in the rain, strolling in the park, and scheming to get that clueless commitment-phobe to pop the question.

This is, after all, not just spring, but spring in the '00s, and it's not like we have all day! Thankfully, "proposal pushing" women need not scheme alone: The editors of the May Mademoiselle and Cosmopolitan are looking out for them.


WRITERS' METHODS ARE AS DIFFERENT AS THOSE THEY PROFILE

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Writers hate rules, so when the rule was that we should keep ourselves out of stories because readers aren't interested in us, we started injecting ourselves into the story. Sometimes it worked, but mostly, it led to the Spago story, in which writers substituted their own personalities when they failed to get a subject to offer up his or hers, so that we're left with, "I'm sitting at Spago awaiting Winona Ryder, anxious that she's not going to like me as much as I adore her. . . . "


SPEAK MAGAZINE MAKES A QUIET EXIT

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One of the ugly unfairnesses of life is that the skills needed to excel in a job are often different from the skills needed to get that job. Every day, success becomes even more about hype and self- promotion than about quality.

The latest proof of this condition shouts from the pages of Speak magazine, a pop culture quarterly out of San Francisco that is breathing its last on the few newsstands where you can find it. The 21st, and final, issue is full of cleverness - of thought, photography, design, and conception - but what it lacked, apparently, was good promotion.


WHEN MERCHANT WAS A MANIAC

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It's hard to remember or imagine the time before Natalie Merchant was a solo act, and the new "10,000 Maniacs: Time Capsule" DVD that recalls her former band is only of limited help. That's because, beginning with home movies shot in 1971 by Anthony Merchant, it's more about Natalie than any backing players. Throughout, you see the band in the performance videos, but the music videos that make up maybe half the disc are almost all Merchant-ising.


HONEST ROCK 'N' ROLL

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Someone's in the kitchen with the Tragically Hip. Twice among the 14 songs on "Music @ Work" (the Canadian quintet's ninth album), the band uses the word "caramelized," the process in which heat intensifies a vegetable's natural sugars, creating not only a sweeter flavor but a gorgeous aroma. It is a delicious metaphor, and emblematic of the band's quirky lyrics, which, to the delight of its smallish-but-devoted following, often cover topics outside the rock mainstream and use words you'll practically never hear on the radio or anywhere else.


AN EARLY ENTRANT FOR BEST OF THE YEAR

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Those who've heard the intoxicating wail of Sonny Landreth in concert couldn't be blamed if they were left hungry by his 2000 release "Levee Town," which was true to his Louisiana roots but lacked the thrill they had experienced live. They'll get their fill from "The Road We're On," a bounty of bottleneck slide guitar that is rich with the twang of the National guitar and laced with electricity throughout. Landreth's past includes stints with the zydeco champion Clifton Chenier and blues baron John Mayall, and grit from both those paths bolsters this disc.


LANDRETH'S LIVE ALBUM IS LIKE BEING THERE

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There is very little artifice to Sonny Landreth. Offstage, he's quiet, modest, and real. He's like that onstage too, but what matters to music fans is that he's also one of the superior guitar players of his time. These facts help explain why "Grant Street," the live album he recorded over two nights last April at his hometown club in Lafayette, La., is so successful and enjoyable, even if it isn't remarkable in the extreme.


LOS LOBOS DIGS DEEP, LETS LOOSE AT PARADISE

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They identify themselves with their home in East Los Angeles, but Los Lobos are more like a universe than a neighborhood: They've been around forever, and they're still expanding.

Wednesday night at the Paradise, they took an intense and steamy two-hour-plus tour through better than 15 years of their music and beyond.

Whatever direction they chose to go - old or new, dense or light, smoky or snaky - it was the right one, and even after two encores, the crowd's cry was, "Where to next?"


MANN GETS HELP FROM HER FRIENDS

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For years, Aimee Mann's sweet voice and her dark and brilliant lyrics have obscured the opportunities for strong electric guitar play in her music. On Tuesday night at Avalon, those opportunities fully flowered under the fingers of sideman Julian Coryell.

From a thrilling, reverberating, show-ending solo on "Long Shot" that was not deterred by his breaking a string to the subtle slide atmosphere he created for "Voices Carry," the 'Til Tuesday tune that Mann selected for her second encore, Coryell was the story of the evening.


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