Games & Music

Michael Jackson’s This Is It

Michael Jackson’s THIS IS IT will offer Jackson fans and music lovers worldwide a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the performer as he developed, created and rehearsed for his sold-out concerts that would have taken place beginning this summer in London’s O2 Arena. Chronicling the months from April through June 2009, ..

“This Is It” is likely one of the best concert films ever produced, and that’s saying something considering that the actual concerts never happened, and the limited time available to shape the ample rehearsal footage into a polished final product.

While the film includes interviews with those associated with Michael Jackson’s planned London concerts, many snippets of creative discussions, and other “behind the scenes” activities, director Kenny Ortega wisely focuses on performance in the film. Serving that end, “This Is It” is chockful of energetic, heartfelt songs, meticulously-produced dance numbers, and other incredible elements that would have been included in the concerts, including some wonderful filmed sequences (one “co-starring” Humphrey Bogart and Rita Hayworth).

And when Ortega chooses to include footage of performances that are interrupted (usually by perfectionist Jackson) with creative banter on how this or that song should be tweaked, or how a musician should lengthen or highlight a chord or bar of music, it’s all extremely fascinating. We see from Michael Jackson’s interaction with his musicians and producers that, despite his time away from the limelight, he was still sharp, engaged, and still very much touched by genius in the area of music and performance. Oh, and he also repeatedly came off as a gentle, nice person. And a generous one: a particularly touching scene shows Jackson urging his female back-up guitarist to step up and not be afraid to make the most of a solo moment (“this is your moment to shine!”).

It’s also uplifting (and even a little funny) to see Jackson not being able to resist giving full-fledged, amazing rehearsal performances despite the many times he says, “Now I’m going to hold back a little and save my voice for the shows”. After one such performance (Jackson singing a wonderfully re-imagined “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” with an enthusiastic but pretty outclassed duet partner), Jackson apologizes to the crew for again getting lost in the moment and not holding back. To which Ortega essentially tells him to not worry about it because, after all, how can Michael Jackson not help but be Michael Jackson?

“This Is It” will be a wonderful DVD to own (I’m sure the extra features will be amazing), but I’m glad that I made the trip to see the movie on the big screen. If you can, see it that way first to get all the more impact from this entertaining, illuminating, and bittersweet farewell to Michael Jackson, both the musical icon and, more importantly, the man.

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Hips Don’t Lie (Featuring Wyclef Jean)

Shakira is a truly talented singer and dancer, and this song definitely shows off her lovely voice and the dance rhythms that she is rightly famous for. I don’t really care for the duet aspect of the song – I would have been much happier with more Shakira singing and a lot less Wyclef (nothing against the man, I just prefer her voice to his), but I still love the song and can’t hear it enough. The beat is so compelling and alluring, it’s hard to *not* dance when this comes on. Give it a listen and see for yourself.

Like all Amazon MP3 downloads, this MP3 is DRM-free and plays beautifully, without fuss on my MP3 player.

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I Remember Me

Jennifer Hudson is incapable of giving a vocal performance without something worthwhile resulting. That works in favor of the dozen tunes that rest uneasily together on the vocalist’s second LP “I Remember Me.”

A singer who is not also a songwriter depends on the talent of others to create material prior to the point his or her own work is required. That presents a double-edged sword for Hudson here – the tunes are primarily banal and unmemorable, with sloppy, uninteresting choruses and unimaginative, lifeless production, yet they also make her energy and investment as a singer – that is to say, her raw talent – especially evident.

The material is not world-class, but the singer is.

Hudson skews toward the bombastic, at many times radiating the aura of an over-rehearsed actor, but elsewhere she gifts the songs with pulse, heart and soul, even though they rarely deserve it. She has a voice capable of stripping the varnish off a foot locker and she is unafraid to use it.

She sounds best on the 70s soul/disco mash-up “Everybody Needs Love,” with its syllable-bursting energy and simple, effective chorus. “Angel” is also above average with soldier march beats. It makes great use of Hudson’s range and expressiveness. So do “Why Is It So Hard?” and “Don’t Look Down,” the latter of which bounces along with uncontainable energy and hard-won, rallying optimism. She shines, unsurprisingly, on the seminal “Feeling Good.”

Songs with anti-intellectual, dumbed-down titles such as “No One Gonna Love You” and “Where You At” are named in a way that reflects their earthbound, uninsightful content. They insult the listener in how they pander to what Hudson’s core audiences (supposedly) already know and expect. Those two tunes, as well as “I Got This,” are mildly pleasing in spite of their lack of exciting, interesting choruses and poor lyrics only because of Hudson’s gusto and salesmanship. That applies also to Diane Warren’s “Still Here,” a slice of musical high fructose corn syrup.

Many names line the production credits yet the sound is largely singular throughout – icy, calculated and absolutely devoid of warmth and passion. The sounds are fresh out of a toolbox, with hardly a musician in sight. Hudson cannot help but be disadvantaged by this. She would have been more at home in the era when Luther Vandross was recording his most important records.

“I Remember Me” is a flawed album. It is not unenjoyable, and it serves as a nice affirmation of Hudson’s vocal prowess, but it will not leave a lasting impression on the popular culture or individual listener.

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Games for everybody [Paperback]

This book contains short, simple, and to the point instructions for games that can be played by children, adults and to mark special occasions. There are 58 games for children. Most are very easy to follow, such as guessing how many pedals are on a rose. The 58 include well-known games, such as Hide and Seek, Simon Says, and Musical Chairs, as well as new ones, such as The serpent’s Tail and Shoe Hunt.

There are also 106 games that adults can play and enjoy an evening rather than sitting around and gossiping or drinking or watching TV. Again, there are games that are well-known, some of which can even be played by children, such as Geography, Telegram, and Who Am I? There are also newer games, such as Proverbs, What Time is It? Famous Numbers, Magic Answers, and What is My Next Door Neighbor?

Thirty-nine of the games can be saved and used for special days. These include Jack Frost, Valentine Puzzle, April First, and Easter Egg.

While readers may think that to play games is silly, they may be surprized that their guests will warm up to the idea and have fun and want to come again.

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Antologia de cuentos con musica (Spanish Edition) [Hardcover]

Bringing together music and reading, this charming picture book is made up of seven original stories and comes with two audio CDs with corresponding songs. Stories include “The Song of the Rhinoceros,” “The Incredible Story of Mary Lou the Sheep,” and “A Lion at the Supermarket.” Whimsical illustrations accompany each story to create a sensory experience.

Reuniendo la música y la lectura, este libro ilustrado precioso tiene siete cuentos inéditos y viene con dos CDs de audio con canciones relacionadas. Algunos de los cuentos son “La canción del rinoceronte,” “La increíble historia de la oveja Marilú” y “Un león en el supermercado.” Ilustraciones caprichosas acompañan cada historia para crear una experiencia sensorial.
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The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Concerts (3 DVD) (2010)

I still have The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Concert on my DVR from when it originally aired on HBO at the end of 2009, and I still often find myself viewing many of the standout performances pretty regularly to this day. I have vowed not to erase it until it is released on Blu Ray and DVD, and finally owning this will be a welcome treat!

If you’re wondering why the Blu Ray version of the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert is available at Amazon 30 days after the DVD release date, it’s because the Blu Ray version of the package is available only at Best Buy for the first 30 days. Man, I hate that. But I’ve waited now for a year for this release, so waiting an extra 30 days is no sweat I guess. Anyway….

If you were at The 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concerts or you saw it when it aired on HBO you already know how awesome these performances were that occurred over the course of two nights in late October 2009. If you haven’t seen this and you like music, even just a little, you’re in for a great experience. This collection is worth its weight in gold.

The great news is that the DVD and Blu Ray releases include a ton of bonus stuff that wasn’t aired on HBO, so it’ll be great fun again for me to give this entire release a fresh look.

According to Time Life, following is what’s going to be on the release, and I’ve marked the standout performances with this mark: ***** Rest assured that almost every performance stands out; it’s all a matter of musical preference. I like all kinds of music with a preference for hard rock, but some of these performances truly converted me into a fan of acts that I never liked or really paid little attention to prior to seeing this:

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The Eagles – Farewell 1 Tour – Live From Melbourne

I was fortunate enough to see this concert when they came to Philadelphia and I can easly say it was one of the all time best concerts i had ever been to – easily in my top 5. The songs and the performances were outstanding–should you expect anything less from such a legendary group of musicians….Hearing them perform these classics live brought chills to ones spine and the occaisonal tear to the eye….a rarety in concerts these days. I am so greatful that they decided to record one of these magical nights for all to see and the set list is impressive…If you are lucky enough to have them heading to your area in the next few months you have to see them-do NOT miss this oppertunity….this is one concert you will get your moneys worth and then some…

.But for those who cant make it and for the ones who have expreienced the Eagles Live this is going to be great to relieve those memories and classic songs all over again. If you are a music lover this is a MUST HAVE for your collection. Be prepared to be blown away by one of the best bands EVER. The Eagles. ’nuff said.

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