Phil Collins, A Birthday Appreciation

1339I just wanted to acknowledge the sixty sixth birthday of one of my musical heroes, Phil Collins. His music has been a large part of the soundtrack of my life for a long time. His work as a singer, drummer, songwriter, pianist and producer have brought a great deal of joy to my life.

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My introduction to Phil Collins came in 1981, thanks to MTV and the music video for the Genesis song Abacab. I was immediately hooked and soon discovered other Genesis music videos for the songs No Reply At All, Man On The Corner, Keep It Dark, Misunderstanding and Follow You Follow Me. Also in heavy rotation on MTV were music videos for the songs I Missed Again and In The Air Tonight, from his solo debut Face Value. I have been a huge lover of the music of Genesis and Phil Collins ever since.

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His Birthday is a great opportunity for me to reflect on his music and his career. 2017 promises more live performances from Phil Collins. He has hinted at the possibility of new music in the future. If he never records another note of music in his lifetime I will be satisfied. As a fan I feel that I can not ask for more from this man. He has given up so much for his love of music. He has spent a lifetime creating an impressive back catalog of music. But that work came at a heavy cost to him emotionally and physically. If he does one day decide to create new music I will be ecstatic. If not I will continue to enjoy his lifetime labor of love, his wonderful music. With that, here are my top ten favorite Phil Collins solo songs.

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We Fly So Close
Survivors
I Don’t Care Anymore
If Leaving Me Is Easy
You Know What I Mean
Can’t Find My Way
Against All Odds
In The Air Tonight
Come With Me
The Same Moon

Song Spotlight: Cul-De-Sac By Genesis

Cul-De-Sac is the ninth song on the Genesis album Duke, released in 1980. This very dramatic track could have been right at home on the band’s Wind And Wuthering album, released in 1976. I will forever argue that Duke is a progressive rock album and this great track helps to illustrate that point.

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The song opens quietly with just keyboards and a brief vocal. The band then spend nearly one minute setting the mood of the song instrumentally. The bulk of the music coming from Tony Banks’ lavish keyboard play. When the main vocal begins the bass and drums drive the song musically, with the keyboards complimenting. Mike Rutherford plays some fantastic bass lines that, along with Phil Collins’ drums, really propel the song. Aside from a wonderfully melodic, but brief, guitar solo the guitars really take a back seat.

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At the 2:54 mark the band slows the pace and brings the drama down a notch. They than slowly rebuild the tension and drama. That drama comes to a head as Phil belts out, “No, not even one!” This leads to Mike’s guitar solo and one last chorus before it all ends in a very dramatic instrumental flourish.

I must say that Cul-De-Sac features one of my favorite vocal performances from Phil Collins. It’s a very serious vocal that perfectly compliments the dramatic feel of the music and the lyrics. Phil takes a slightly different approach to the vocals. His delivery is restrained, but strong, controlled but forceful.

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Overall Cul-De-Sac is a great example of three man Genesis. The song is drenched in keyboards, but all five instruments, (keyboards, bass, drums, guitars and vocals) are important to the music. The three band members play for the song, there is not a need for any over the top playing here.

Duke is my favorite album by Genesis. I feel that everything came together for this album. All aspects are top notch, from the songwriting to the production to the energetic performances. For me it is a near perfect album.  Kudos to David Hentschel who co-produced  the album with the band.

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Cul-De-Sac is a song that the band never played live. Unfortunately this great song tends to get overlooked. I feel that it is a very special song that deserves a bit more attention.

Troy T.

Casting An X-Men Movie, My Way

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I am a big fan of the X-Men movie franchise, especially the first two X-Men movies.  They are far from perfect movies, but overall they are quite enjoyable. Director Bryan Singer and his crew did a lot of things right. However, there were a lot of missed opportunities and many questionable decisions across the whole X- Franchise. Although some of the casting was perfect, enough of the choices were suspect.

Take a journey with me across time as I attempt too cast a better X-Men movie.  This  version would feature a slight variation on one of the team’s classic lineups.  It would feature Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus and Sprite. Although he has been overused in the X-Men movie series I would go with Magneto as the villain.

In order to cast this movie properly I would require a time machine. Not only would the casting depend on certain actors.  It would also depend on them at different stages of their careers.

To really do this great comic book franchise justice on the big screen I would bring in The Russo Brothers to direct.  They have proven with their work on the Captain America movies that they are fully capable of handling extreme action sequences as well as serious drama.  I do love a lot of what Bryan Singer did with the franchise. His involvement would add so much to this movie as well. Now, on to the cast.

Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine

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There is no change needed here, Hugh Jackman is the perfect man for the job. To this day I still find it hard to believe that Dougray Scott was originally cast in this role. For this film I would opt for Jackman as he appeared in The Wolverine movie from 2013.  He was at his peak physical condition in this film.

Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier/Professor X

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Patrick Stewart was born to play this character. As great as he was on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Captain Picard, I know many were thinking the same thing that I was. This man absolutely needed to play Professor X one day. Is there a better example of perfect casting?

Iman as Ororo Munroe/Storm

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From the moment that I saw her in Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country, I thought to myself, “That’s Storm”. Many felt that Angela Bassett would have portrayed a great Storm. I am sure she would have done great in the role. But my perfect Storm would be Mrs. David Bowie

Rutger Hauer as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto

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I love Ian Mckellen’s performances as Magneto. He was one of the highlights of the X-Men movies. However, I feel that Rutger Hauer embodies Magneto so much more, especially physically. In the 1980’s watching Hauer in movies like Blade Runner and Ladyhawke I always envisioned him as Magneto. For this film imagine Hauer in his early 60’s, but as fit as he was in Blade Runner.

Brent Spiner as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler

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While watching Spiner portray Data on The Next generation two thoughts always crossed my mind: 1) Data was this Star Trek’s Spock and 2) Spiner would be the perfect Nightcrawler. Picture a leaner, meaner 1980’s Spiner.

Jonathan Frakes as Scott Summers/Cyclops

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I really enjoyed James Marsden’s portrayal of Cyclops. However I do not feel that the character was written properly and he was under utilized. Once again all those years ago, as I watched Jonathan Frakes on The Next Generation I thought, he would be a great Cyclops.  In the X-Men comic books Cyclops led the team with a commanding presence.  This was never really the case in the movies.  I always liked the dynamic on The Next Generation between Captain Picard and Commander Riker.  It reminded me of the dynamic between Professor X and Cyclops, in the comic books.  Picture a lean and mean 1980’s Frakes.

Daniel Cudmore as Piotr Rasputin/Colossus

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The all to brief appearance of Colossus in X2 is one of the highlights of the entire X-Men movie franchise. The fact that he was not utilized more in X2 is criminal. I always found it odd that Colossus was not cast in the X-Men movies from the start.  Cudmore was perfect as he appeared in X2.

Margot Robbie as Jean Grey/ Phoenix

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Of all the characters here, this was the hardest one for me to cast. No actresses really stood out to me as an obvious choice. After much thought I do believe that Margot Robbie would be great for the role. Femke Janssen was a really good Jean Grey and Phoenix, but she lacked a strong physical presence.

Natalie Portman as Kitty Pryde/Sprite

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Obviously I’m going with a very young teenage Sprite, as she appeared when she first joined the X-Men in the comic books. Imagine a very young Natalie Portman from the early 1990’s.

There you have it, my X-Men cast. Thank you for taking the time to indulge my X-Men fantasy.  Overall this is a movie franchise that should be amazing. But in reality the overall results have been mixed. With Hugh Jackman retiring his claws and the lackluster X-Men: Apocalypse the future is not looking very bright.  This is a movie franchise in need of an X-treme makeover.

Troy T.

Bad Sister: Bogart And Bette Davis Together For The First Time

I recently watched the movie Bad Sister and I must say that I really enjoyed this film. At sixty eight minutes it is short and sweet. Released in 1931, it is Humphrey Bogart’s fouth film and Bette Davis’ film debut.

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The film is basically a light drama, with some added touches of comedy. The story revolves around the Madison family and their four children. Sidney Fox, as Marianne Madison, plays the title role. I guess that would make Bette Davis’ Laura Madison the Good Sister. Humphrey Bogart is fantastic as Valentine Corliss, in a supporting role. He arrives into their small town and forever changes their lives.

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For me it was great to see a young Humphrey Bogart, before he was a major star. He was just a young, good looking actor slowly climbing the ladder of success in Hollywood. Here in just his fourth film he is already a polished actor. It interesting that he is given fourth billing, below Bette Davis and Sidney Fox. Both actresses making their film debut. Bette Davis, here in her early 20’s, is solid in her role. One can detect her acting ability. However the shy, passive character that she portrays only allows for a small range of emotions.

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The whole cast is very enjoyable. Special mention should be given to ZaSu Pitts as Minnie the family maid and child actor David Durand as Hedrick, the youngest Madison sibling. Pitts is quite funny as the crabby, cantankerous maid. Durand, as Hedrick, has some funny moments. But at times his character borders on being one of the most annoying children that I have ever seen in a movie.

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Bad Sister is not a Humphrey Bogart movie, he is clearly a supporting character. He has more screen time  than I expected and he makes the most of every minute. Nor is it a Bette Davis movie. She has decent screen time, but this is really Sidney Fox’s movie. Fox has second billing but she is clearly the star of the movie.

It is very surprising that this film has not been released on DVD or Blu-ray in America. It features two of the biggest stars of old time Hollywood together early in their career. As a fan of both actors this movie did not disappoint. Including Bad Sister, Bogart and Davis appeared in six films together. The other films are Three On A Match (1932), The Petrified Forest (1936), Marked Women (1937), Kid Galahad (1937) and Dark Victory (1939). I do hope that someday soon Bad Sister will get a proper release.

Song Spotlight: My Melancholy Blues By Queen

My Melancholy Blues is the last song on Queen’s outstanding sixth album, News Of The World, released in 1977. One of the amazing attributes of Queen throughout their career was the diversity of musical styles contained within each of their albums. This was especially true of the band in the 1970’s. The News Of The World album was no exception, it contains an operatic piano rocker, punk inspired hard rock, Led Zeppelin like instrumental freak outs, jazz, bluesy rock, an acoustic ballad, piano ballads and hard rock.

My Melancholy Blues is a stripped back, jazz influenced track that features just piano, bass and very light drums. Listening to the song, one could picture Freddie Mercury, John Deacon and Roger Taylor playing it in a dimly lit, smoke filled lounge.

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The song highlights Freddie Mercury’s versatility and subtlety as a vocalist. He delivers a dramatic,  yet mellow, vocal that is understated and over the top at the same time. Absent from the song are any guitar orchestrations, booming bass lines or loud drums.  Also absent are the typically over the top, multi tracked vocals. This is just Freddie’s vocals, pure, simple and brilliant.

The track also displays Freddie Mercury’s overlooked brilliance on the piano. Beginning with just the flourish of jazzy notes and then chords, the onset of the song is just piano and vocals. As much as I love Brian May ‘s guitar playing, he is not missed on this track. Everything that needs to be here is present musically. At three minutes and twenty nine seconds it is not a long song, Freddie says what he needs to and then the band plays to the fade out. I wish that Queen would have recorded more tracks akin to this one.

When the band re-recorded the track for the BBC  Brian May added some very tasty and understated guitar lines that do enhance the slightly faster and louder feel of the new version. Also on this version is a brilliant moment from Freddie. Towards the end of the song instead of finishing the last lyric something apparently made him laugh. That laugh, for me, is one of Freddie’s best moments to be captured on tape. It’s  a spontaneous and magical moment. One might even say that it is a kind of magic.

Troy T.

Iona, A Prog Band Worth Exploring

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Iona are one of my favorite progressive rock bands. But to merely call them progressive rock does not do their music justice. The band skillfully combines the sounds of prog, jazz, new age, Celtic, folk and world music to create their unique take on progressive rock. With a career spanning twenty six years and eleven albums there is a lot of good music to take in. Their entire catalog is worthwhile listening for those looking for music beyond the norm.

Unfortunately Iona recently announced that the group was disbanding. They have left the door open for possible future projects, however Iona as a band is over. They do leave behind a fantastic discography that includes seven studio albums and four incredible live albums.

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I believe that Iona are a progressive rock band worth exploring. Trying to describe their music with words is not an easy thing. I have included a few examples of their music, but these songs only scratch the surface. It is my hope that some will like what they hear from this excellent band and explore their music further.

Troy T.

Dr. Jones, Meet Han Solo

Occasionally I come across artwork or a photograph so good that I just have to share it.  This great illustration featuring Indiana Jones and Han Solo is one that I felt compelled  to share.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back are two of my favorite movies.  Harrison Ford is one of my favorite actors.  I am also a big fan of movies and art so everything about this illustration is a win for me.

There are other images on the internet depicting Indiana Jones and Han Solo together, but this one is by far my favorite.  A great deal of thought went into this concept. There are so many fantastic illustrations available depicting scenes from movies, or portraits of movie characters. I can really appreciate an artist who digs deep into their imagination to create a truly unique image based on beloved movie characters.  This well crafted illustration was created by artist Terry Peppers.

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Troy T.