ELTON’S WONDEFUL CRAZY NIGHT – After a seriously heartfelt beginning of 2016, we’ve just been given a great gift: Elton John’s 33rd album Wonderful Crazy Night which is a total delight from start to finish. Late-last year, Elton began teasing us with tales of this next album; how he recorded it quickly and that it was going to an an upbeat affair. True Elton-acolytes, myself included, were in intrigued, yet guardedly suspicious of the results. The results are in and in listening to the terrific ten-song set, I can honestly relay that this is indeed EJ’s finest effort (along with wordsmith Bernie Taupin) since 2001’s Songs From The West Coast. Again produced by the terrific T Bone Burnett, the album just bristles along with a terrific temperament and some terrific songs. The album is also surprisingly guitar-driven, with Davey Johnstone never sounding better. Davy’s always been a consummate musician (his work on EJ’s “All The Girls Love Alice” just astounding), but his work here (with some shades of his great work of EJ’s Peachtree Road album) is nuanced, yet powerful. Our fave so far is “In The Name Of You,” which if you don’t immediately reference Tumbleweed Connection and Honky Chateau (two of John’s finest works), than you’re definitely in vinyl denial.
“Claw Hammer” and “Blue Wonderful” are standout tracks too. After his last album The Diving Board (with one of my favorite John-songs ever, “Home Again”), which was somewhat downcast, this is an exemplary effort. No question, the Rocket Man has delivered a classy, wonderful effort for sure. Check out the video for “Blue Wonderful” –
J. RE-DEUX—It was heralded as the trial of the century more than 20 years ago, and now it has become the first significant TV-event of 2016. Debuting onFX last week, The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, is a powerful piece of TV that seeks to pierce through the veil of race, class and celebrity both then and now. Based on Jeffrey Toobin’s bestselling 1996 book The Run Of His Life: The People V. O.J. Simpson and created by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the 10-episode season takes you deep inside the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman and that infamous white Broncoride of June 17, 1994. The first episode eerily re-creates the events of that night of the murder: including introducing Marcia Clark (Sara Paulson) as the somewhat no-bs harried prosecutor, as well as Courtney Vance as Johnnie Cochran; David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian,and, the some-what deer-caught-in-the-headlights friend of O. J.’s. Kardashian was the one character who always somehow didn’t fit in the O. J.-coterie. Remember when the verdict was rendered? The look of his face spoke volumes.
For the record: On that verdict-day, I was in the bar at the long-gone and much-missed Mayflower Hotel in NYC; the room was packed but totally silent when it was read. And, it stayed silent for a good two minutes. Everyone totally stunned!
We’ve only seen the first-episode (directed by Murphy) and though it was very well-done, we couldn’t help but think in disbelief that this is the guy who created Glee! Actually, the whole production is more American Horror Story-ish. Murphy’s the hot-ticket right now in Hollywood (we actually loved hisThe Normal Heart-epic); and, he can do anything he wants and he’s made some interesting and compelling choices for sure.
Even now, the widely watched case and it’s not guilty verdict still elicit passionate reactions – which is one reason why ESPN debuted its sprawling and excellent O.J.: Made In America documentary series at the Sundance Film Festival this year ahead of its June premiere. We also loved Cuba Gooding Jr as O.J. And, we must remark on John Travolta’s performance as lead-attorney Robert Shapiro. Several pundits have posited that he’s the one weak link, but his performance is rather terrific and though Shapiro may not come off as the quick-thinking one he’d prefer, you can’t take your eyes off him. Episode one ended with the famous Bronco-chase just beginning. I found it extremely well-done and well-acted.
SHORT TAKES — Just in: The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story is off to a record-setting start, as it’s become FX’s most-watched premiere ever. The initial airing of averaged 8.3 million total viewers, including 4.2 million adults 18-49 (a 3.3 national rating). Among all FX premieres over the years in adults 18-49, last week’s premiere beat the series premiere of No. 2-ranked The Shield (3.0 million) by 40% and No. 3-ranked American Horror Story (2.8 million) by 50%. And in total viewers, the 8.3 million easily topped the series premieres of The Shield and Justified, both of which opened to 4.8 million viewers. Impressive for sure. Critic Brian Lowry of Variety praised the drama’s “illuminating touches and stranger-than-fiction moments” and called the performances of the marquee names in the cast “almost uniformly superb” … Bright Star, the Steve Martin/Edie Brickell play begins previews on February 25. Should be HUGE … Ingersol, who we’ve touted again and again is prepping a live streaming event, hopefully for March. Again her debut, self-titled album, was one of the bright spots of last year. Stay tuned for more details … Marty Scorsese’s Vinyl (with Mick Jagger) begins this weekend. It has received just positive across-the-board reviews so far. Can’t wait for this one. Score another hit for HBO … and, finally, Jim Kerr’s interview with Phil Collins, earlier this week, on Q104.3 was terrifically impressive. One of best DJs ever … Jim rules!
Till next time… Don’t forget to tell us what you think! Leave your comments below!