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2014/02/23

Frozen

By Jess Fitzi

Disney's Frozen
True love’s kiss--every fairytale ends with just that. Ariel got her voice, Cinderella fit the shoe, Sleeping Beauty awoke. All of these girls were dependent on their true love to grant them the kiss of, well...life. It’s as if they were not complete without a man giving them the chance to live. Now, I don’t want you to think I am not crazy about all of these princesses, because trust me, I most definitely am. The point I am trying to make is that these women who were, throughout the entirety of their story, strong and independent, are unable to save themselves. Things start to go downhill, they encounter a problem, suddenly they need someone else to pick them back up. This is perfectly acceptable, as these stories are classic and clearly adored (with good faith, too). People need help from time to time, but why must it always be from their true love? Princess Anna, from Disney’s Frozen, had a completely different story to tell.

Now, if you have yet to take your little ones (or teenagers; they’ll love it, promise!) to see this masterpiece, it is highly suggested that you do so. The film brilliantly captures the attention of the audience from the very beginning. The very essence of the film draws you in from the first second. Before the magic of Elsa and Anna's adventure even has a chance to unravel, you will be swept away with the coloring and mere stature of the animated characters. In addition to the coloring and realistic figures that glide around the screen, the music they sing is utterly fantastic. The composition mixes with the voices and flows in perfectly with the movement and characterization in such a way that will certainly blow your mind.

Princesses Elsa & Anna
Elsa and Anna's story begins when they are very young. The two sisters enjoy playing with the snow that Elsa (the elder of the two) has the ability to create with her hands. The song "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" centers largely around Elsa's unique power. Anna is highly fascinated by her sister and the ability she possesses. The princesses are very close, and in the beginning, enjoy each other's company.  Because of the incredible animation, it is evident by their facial expressions and physical movements that they feel a great deal of love towards one another. This is, until a terrible accident regarding Elsa's snow creating power puts Anna's life in danger. The young princess is worried for her sister and shuts herself away until both girls have grown. Through the years, Elsa works to better control her power so as not to put her sister, or anyone else, in danger.

The relationship between the two girls is beautifully portrayed and the development flows exactly as it should. As small children, they were close and expected to remain that way. As this did not happen, it is only natural that there be some awkward and uncomfortable tension between the princesses once they finally came together again. This is quite prominent when they do finally interact, after approximately fifteen years with very little (or basically no) communication. They warm up to each other, but not enough to mend their relationship before Elsa's power overcomes her again and she puts Anna, as well as a ballroom full of others, in grave danger. Anna met a man, Hans, that she planned to marry, and Elsa did not agree with her decision, resulting in an argument between the sisters that set off the overpowering of Elsa's ability. The princess flees the city, alone, to live in an isolated castle of ice that she created. Anna, always the adventurer, follows her sister to bring her back.

Princess Anna & Prince Hans
Anna's adventurous personality struck something in me, similar to what I felt while watching Disney's Hercules. The flawless characterization of the character Megara from that film has a certain similarity to Anna. Both girls have an eye for fun and rule breaking, but can also fall in love and lose who they are in a matter of minutes. Meg and Anna both try as hard as possible to solve their own problems, rarely accepting help from others and standing up for themselves and what they believe in. The two quotes in both films that I find most relatable are the most famous Megara line, and one of her first: "I'm a damsel, I'm in distress, I can handle it" in relation to Anna fearlessly standing up to her sister in saying, "What did I ever do to you? Why do you shut me out? Why do you shut the world out? What are you so afraid of?" Both quotes, while wildly different in meaning and deliverance, ultimately have the same message: these women are strong and they want to be treated as such.

Princess Anna, Christoph & his reindeer
As an avid Disney lover, I must say it was entirely refreshing to see a film such as this. While I’ve always loved the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the like, I have always had a soft spot for the more strong-willed and independent women in the Disney universe. Anna and Elsa have been added to my collection of favorites, right next to Mulan, Meg, and Jasmine (Aladdin). I see these two as the more independent types for two main reasons: the first being their ability to make it through the entire movie without needing a man to fix their major problem. The second, tying into the fact that Elsa has no love interest at all. While Anna has a bit of confused-eighteen-year-old-girl syndrome throughout the movie and encounters two love interests, Elsa actually performs a number ("Let it Go") expressing her ability to live her life perfectly fine, alone and independent. In the case of Anna's love interests, both Hans and Kristoff, her friend (and partner in finding and saving Elsa), are seen as simply that; a love interest. Neither of these men were put into the movie as a hero or savior of these girls. Elsa and Anna work better and can overcome seemingly everything with each other, more so than any other character in that film. This says so much for how far Disney and the film industry in general, has come, from showing the female characters as needing to be saved, now to portraying them as being their own Prince Charming.

Queen Elsa
In the end, it purely came down to the strength of the relationship that Elsa and Anna had with each other. The bond between sisters is always there, whether you want to admit or embrace it. These two sisters did nothing if not embrace and strengthen their relationship throughout their journey. As it came down to Anna and Elsa's lives both being on the line, what these princesses did out of simple and true love for each other is much more than can be said for any true love's kiss. 

This movie made no effort to put a male character as the main hero, but left it up to the two women, and I daresay they succeeded beautifully. This is a whole new kind of magic that Disney brought into their films. Frozen allows these two sisters to take control of their lives, the unfortunate situation around them, and definitely the hearts of the audience.


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2014/02/16

The Replacements

by Dave Gourdoux


In the late 70s, one of the great cultural explosions shook rock and roll at its very foundation and changed it forever.  The emergence of punk rock was a true revolution. Bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and the Clash made raw and angry and uncompromising music that was a direct response and declaration of war against "slick" superstars like The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.  Even though the movement lasted only about three years, it changed the musical landscape forever. Through the punks, rock and roll rediscovered the rebellion that it lost in the bloated and narcissistic days and glittering nights of the me-decade.

Out of the rubble of this war, in the unlikely middle of the country, far removed from the coastal epicenters of the exploding culture, four unexceptional teenage boys, self described “dirt bags,” were finding each other at the same time they were discovering the joys of drugs and alcohol.  The Replacements were born.

Self-described "dirt bags," the original lineup
Starting out as just another unassuming garage band getting local gigs playing covers of Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, and Yes, the Replacements quickly discovered punk, and added covers of songs by the Clash and The Jam to their act.  Soon they signed a contract with a small record label, with guitarist and lead singer Paul Westerberg emerging as a talented songwriter with a knack for catchy hooks and melodies.

Their first album, “Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash” was well received, if not broadly distributed.  What critical attention it did receive praised Westerberg’s songwriting and the band’s distinctive sound.  An EP titled “Stink” shortly followed.  They were beginning to gain a following that stretched beyond the borders of their hometown Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and establishing themselves as either the greatest or the worst live act ever, depending on how much alcohol they’d consumed on any given night.

“Hootenanny” followed, showing a more mature sound and further growth in Westerberg’s songwriting.  In 1984, they released “Let it Be,” which, in my humble opinion, is their masterpiece; musically a Midwest American equivalent of the Rolling Stones “Exile on Main Street,” while lyrically and thematically the best and most profound articulation of what it means to be an adolescent male ever recorded.  It showcases "the mats," as they referred to themselves, outgrowing the limited emotional range of their punk influences, while staying true to the punk aesthetics of raw honesty.

Westerberg’s songwriting range had almost exponentially expanded overnight.  Musically, the songs on “Let it Be” cover an extraordinary range, and with his razor sharp lyrics and his voice that cracked at all the right moments, he demonstrates a confidence in his own gifts that was previously shaky, at best.  The band sounds great on “Let it Be,” tight and loud on the rockers, and emotive and feeling on the ballads, but always with an edge.

The album opens with “I Will Dare,” a jaunty Westerberg composition featuring a guest shot from Peter Buck of R.E.M. on guitar.  It begins with the lyric “How young are you / how old am I / let’s count the rings behind my eyes” introducing a theme that would dominate the album, the confusing and tormenting passage from adolescence to adulthood.  Next is a tight rocker called “My Favorite Thing” that includes a great bass line from Tommy Stinson, followed by the raucous rocker “We’re Coming Out,” its furious pace suddenly shifting tempo as Westerberg sings, “One more chance to get it all wrong,” as the song gradually builds back to its frenetic finish.  Next up is another rocker, “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out,” another fast paced but ultimately forgettable rocker.

Up to this point, it’s been a good, unassuming rock and roll record, with some good guitar riffs and amusing lyrics.  It’s the next song , “Androgynous,” that takes “Let it Be” to the stratosphere.  Nothing in the mats' catalog to this point hinted that they were capable of such sophistication and sensitivity and brilliance.


The song opens with Westerberg on piano playing (or trying to play - part of the charm of the song are the frequent mistakes he makes) an infectious little melody.  Then his voice sings the lines:

                                 Here comes Dick, he's wearing a skirt
                                 Here comes Jane, she's sporting a chain

At this point, you’re thinking, Westerberg is setting us up for another of his caustically funny songs. That’s when he takes a sudden and surprising turn, getting to the chorus:

                                  And they love each other so
                                  Androgynous
                                  Closer than you know, love each other so
                                  Androgynous

It’s a love song!  Westerberg sees, in his cross dressing couple, real love, and shows sincere empathy for the pain and suffering they must endure:

                                  Don’t get him wrong and don’t get him mad
                                  He might be a father but he sure ain’t a dad
                                  And she don’t need advice that’ll center her
                                  She’s happy with the way she looks
                                  She's happy with her gender

I can’t think of a more succinct and powerful way to articulate the anguish that must be felt and the ridicule that has to be tolerated as the couple struggles to forge an identity.
The song continues, building to an emotional peak:

                                Now something meets Boy, and something meets Girl
                                They both look the same
                                They're overjoyed in this world
                                Same hair, revolution
                                Unisex, evolution
                                Tomorrow who's gonna fuss
                                And tomorrow Dick is wearing pants
                                And tomorrow Janie's wearing a dress
                                Future outcasts and they don't last
                                And today, the people dress the way that they please
                                The way they tried to do in the last centuries

There is so much going on in this verse, it's hard to believe it's all part of a three minute song on a Replacements album.  With the lyric "tomorrow who's gonna fuss," Westerberg is hinting of a future with greater tolerance of sexual identity.   But then he says "tomorrow Dick is wearing pants" and "Janie's wearing  a dress," hinting that they'll resign to their traditional roles.  Yet you never get the impression that this is just a phase Dick and Jane are going through; it's defeat, it's resignation.

Westerberg's piano playing, the flawed playing of a guy who is a guitar player first, is as rough and raw as his voice, and both are perfect for the song.  Listen to the song and compare it to one of the Boston songs; "More Than a Feeling," for example.  While the Boston song is perfectly played and sung, "Androgynous" is as raw as an open wound.  Where Boston puts a wall of sound between the listener and the song, "Androgynous" is intimate and personal.  Boston puts you in the stadium at one of their concerts, while Westerberg puts the listener in the same room with him.   It sounds like he is discovering the song at the same time the listener is.  It's this intimacy and immediacy that separates The Replacements from not only Boston, but all but a handful of other acts.
Paul Westerberg
This is followed by another unlikely track, the mats’ cover of the Kiss song, “Black Diamond”.  It's quite a contrast to "Androgynous", and serves its purpose of reestablishing the hard rock feel of most of the album. It’s high energy and tightly played, but also forgettable, a bit of a throw away.

Next up is the achingly emotional "Unsatisfied."  It begins with acoustic 12 string guitar and then soars with Westerberg’s voice, crackling and popping more frequently than a bowl of Rice Krispies.  The song is about dissatisfaction in general, about growing older and realizing dreams and desires yet remaining unsatisfied. The lyrics are simple and uncomplicated, but Westerberg's voice as he sings "I’m so, I’m so , I’m so unsatisfied" contains such emotional depth that you can feel the emptiness he is experiencing.  It's one of  the greatest vocal performances by one of the all time great rock and roll voices.


"Seen Your Video” is next, largely an instrumental with some great guitar riffs playing off of each other.  The Replacements were famous for their hatred of videos, this in the heyday of MTV.  The only lyrics are:                              
               All day, all night, all music video
               Seen your video, the phony rock 'n' roll
               We don't want to know, seen your video
               Your phony rock 'n' roll
               We don't want to know

The next song, “Gary’s Got a Boner,” serves as testimony that the Replacements could still be as crude and immature as ever.  All I can say about this one is that it rocks and that the band makes a good noise.
Westerberg’s sensitive side reappears on the next track.  “Sixteen Blue” is about another misfit, this one a sixteen year old boy who doesn't understand any of the sexuality swirling about around and within him, and his fear in admitting he’s not getting it:

             Drive yourself right up the wall
             No one hears and no one calls
             It's a boring state
             It's a useless wait, I know

             
Brag about things you don't understand
             A girl and a woman, a boy and a man
             Everything is sexually vague
             Now you're wondering to yourself
             If you might be gay

            Your age is the hardest age
            Everything drags and drags
            One day, baby, maybe help you through
            Sixteen blue
            Sixteen blue
            Drive your ma to the bank
            Tell your pa you got a date
            You're lying, now you're lying on your back

            Try to figure out, they wonder what next you'll pull
            You don't understand anything sexual
            I don't understand
            Tell my friends I'm doing fine

            Your age is the hardest age
            Everything drags and drags
            You're looking funny
            You ain't laughing, are you?
            Sixteen blue
            Sixteen blue

A song for sixteen year old boys that expresses doubt and confusion about sex and identity?  Just listen to a few Kiss songs to see how radical a concept this was.  It serves as testimony to a musical integrity that the Replacements held on to beneath their drunken, hard rocking dirt bag exterior.  When it came to their music, they remained relentlessly and surprisingly true and honest, and while they may have been willing to compromise the quality of their live performances with alcohol and drugs, their recordings reveal a different perspective.

“Answering Machine” closes the album out, and again it’s just Westerberg’s electric guitar and tormented vocals, with some answering machine tapes thrown in for good measure.  Westerberg’s guitar playing is as extraordinary and emotive as his voice, as he asks, “How do you say I miss you to an answering machine?” and “How do you say good night to an answering machine?”  and “How do you say I’m lonely to an answering machine?”  “Answering Machine” is another example of Westerberg willing to lay himself bare.   His lyrics and his voice reveal a vulnerability that the punk rock sensibility was incapable of expressing and that the big acts were unwilling to admit.   At a time when everyone else seemed more interested in perpetuating their own mythology, Westerberg and the Replacements were just regular jerks like you and I, trying to make some sense of the world and our own insecurities and anxieties.



With “Let It Be,” the Replacements found their place in the world.  It was in their fans' mirrors, looking back at the confused and lonely Midwestern boys who stared in at them. 

By expanding the emotional range of punk, the Replacements are considered to be one of the first and most important of the “alternative” bands that would become so big in the late 80s and 90s.  It could also be argued that they were the first “grunge” band, pre-dating Nirvana by approximately a decade.

The Replacments released a lot more great music in the 80s, but “Let it Be” is not only the best, it’s the last with the original lineup of Westerberg, Bob and Tommy Stinson, and Chris Mars.  After gong through several lineup changes, the Replacements famously split up during a concert broadcast by WXRT in Chicago on July 4th, 1991, one by one handing their instruments to roadies who took their place, until the Replacements were replaced by their replacements. 

Westerberg has gone on to a mildly successful solo career, never achieving the popularity his brilliance as a songwriter and performer always promised.  Tommy Stinson went on to become the bass player for the post-Slash lineup of Guns N’ Roses.  Bob Stinson died in 1995 at the age of 34 years old after years of drug and alcohol abuse.

The Replacements have reformed from time to time, in various lineups, recording two new songs in 2006 for a greatest hits collection, and playing a few gigs in 2013.  Rumors about a new studio album persist.  

Stinson’s death is an important reminder of the role drugs and alcohol played in the legend of the Replacements.  Their exploits while under the influence are a part of rock and roll mythology, and there is no doubt that most of the legends are true.  Without the abuse of chemicals, the Replacements wouldn't have been the Replacements.

Westerberg quit drinking around the time the mats were breaking up.  His entire solo career has seen him as a recovering alcoholic, and there is much speculation amongst critics if this is the reason his solo work hasn't been as successful as expected. The theory is that by giving up the bottle he lost his edge.  In fact, one critic, while panning one of his solo albums, went so far as to write that he wished Westerberg would fall off the wagon.

This strikes me as irresponsible and lazy thinking.   While it may be true that Westerberg's solo work hasn't been as edgy as his work with the mats, there's no denying that he's continued to produce some great songs ("Runaway Wind," "Love Untold," and "Lush and Green" immediately come to mind as favorites).  If Westerberg's solo work doesn't have the same impact, there are several other explanations.  For starters, the role the other band members played in creating the distinctive sound and the magic of The Replacements cannot be underestimated.  One needs to look no further than the solo careers of the Beatles as a comparison. Finally, Westerberg and the Replacements burned bright for a short time, a time when they were all young men singing about things that mattered to young men.  It's to his credit that in his solo work, Westerberg has tried to move on and not attempt to recreate what he isn't anymore.

We all seem to love recounting the legends of wild behavior and excess that defines the relationship between rock and roll and chemical abuse.  But anyone who has experienced addiction, or been put through the anguish of having a friend or family member afflicted, knows the truth; that while the stories of drunken excess may on the surface seem amusing and iconoclastic, the reality is the pain and agony addiction inflicts is hideous and destructive to everyone within its reach.  Perpetuators of the rock and roll mythology need to remember this, that while Keith Moon of the Who may have once driven a car into an empty Holiday Inn swimming pool, that same Keith Moon, just like Bob Stinson of the Replacements, and Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and an insanely long list of others, is dead now.  The world is a lesser place without their gifts.  “It’s better to burn out than to fade away” Neil Young famously wrote, but those aren't the only two options available.  It’s better to recover and continue to burn bright.

For more information, visit the Replacements' official web site:  http://thereplacementsofficial.com/pages/home

2014/02/09

The Tudors

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless


I was just reading something in a magazine about the phenomenon of “binge watching” TV series on Netflix, Hulu, or other sites.  Binge watching TV shows has become a sometimes weekly habit for me, and one of the very first series that I indulged in was The Tudors.  I remember seeing the show advertised when it first came out and thinking it looked interesting, but not having cable TV or satellite, I missed out.  Then, while browsing through Netflix one day, I found it, and promptly watched four or five shows in a row.

The series revolves around King Henry the Eighth and his kingdom, including all of his infamous marriages to a slew of ill-fated queens.  Beginning when Henry is a young man, it follows him until the time of his death (Henry died in 1547 at the age of 55).  Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Henry, and although I have to admit that I haven’t seen him act in many other projects, one of the things that struck me about his portrayal here was the subtle physicality of his acting.  So much about the character of Henry is told by the expressions on Rhys Meyers’ face, or other slight mannerisms and gestures, especially as  an injury to his leg worsens and becomes more painful over the years.  As the King grows older on the show, he even changes the pitch and tone of his voice to reflect Henry’s aging.

In the US, The Tudors appeared on Showtime, and that website warns that the series has “nudity, violence, (and) adult content”.  And indeed it does; not much is left to the imagination when they show Henry’s trysts with the women who are constantly being summoned to his private chambers, or any of the other steamy love scenes between other characters, so children and sensitive viewers, take heed.

Yet, if there’s anything about Henry’s reign that has fascinated--any possibly horrified--people over the centuries, it’s probably those very same trysts and his succession of wives and their fates, and The Tudors doesn’t skimp when it comes to that subject.  One of the most interesting things to watch were the dynamics between Henry and each queen, and how different some of them were from each other.  I don’t know exactly how much is creative license and how much is historical, but from the bit of research that I’ve done, I know that there are at least some accuracies.  Henry’s relationship with his first wife, Queen Catherine (his brother’s widow, played by Maria Doyle Kennedy), is followed throughout the show, and while their marriage was declared invalid so that he could marry a mistress, Anne Boleyn, The Tudors depicts Henry as maintaining a level of respect, and even fondness, for Catherine.  Like Rhys Meyers’ portrayal of Henry, Doyle Kennedy’s acting is top notch, and I found myself sympathizing with Catherine, and understanding why Henry would sustain his respect for her, even after all of the turmoil attached to their marriage and separation.  When the King moves on to his second marriage, Natalie Dormer’s fine acting did mostly the opposite, and made me cringe at the character of Anne Boleyn and her calculated manipulation.  Still, as much as I couldn’t bring myself to like her, it’s made clear that, while she had ambitions to become Queen by any means necessary, she was still a pawn in a powerful game of status and politics.

Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and his unfortunate second queen, Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer)
As the series continues, Henry marries Jane Seymour (Annabelle Wallis), a kind and gentle-natured woman who produces the male heir, Prince Edward VI, that he so desperately wants.  After she dies from complications of childbirth, the King is paired with Anne of Cleves (played by British singer Joss Stone). Here too, the dynamic between Henry and this wife is interesting, because while he starts out raving to those closest to him that he can’t stand her, the relationship between them evolves after their marriage is ended. The King marries again and (again) has a Queen executed (this time, Katherine Howard, played by Tamzin Merchant).  But as the series starts to draw to a close, it’s the only Queen to survive Henry, Catherine Parr (Joely Richardson), who seems to command a similar level of respect that the first Queen, Catherine, did.

Not stopping at the relationships the King had with his spouses, the show delves into the relationships that he had with his children, and they with each other.  Not always a warm and involved father, I had to stop myself during certain scenes and remember that it wasn’t necessarily a complete reflection of who Henry was as a person, but that the customs of that time would’ve had an impact too.  Showing this side of the King’s life gives the audience bits of foreshadowing too, since his son and both of his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, would have turns as the reigning monarch after his death. 

Henry's daughters, Elizabeth (Laoise Murray) and Mary (Sarah Bolger) 
It may be time to stop here for a second and mention a couple of the other things that I loved about this series: the scenery and the costumes.  Shot in Ireland, the natural locations and the sets are beautiful, and add just one more layer to the feel of authenticity.  Then there's the exquisite wardrobe of the royals, their court, and anyone of social standing.  Down to the most minute detail, the costumes, jewelry, and accessories are dazzlingly rich and opulent.  Costume designer Joan Bergin and her crew won "Outstanding Costumes for a Series" Emmy Awards in 2007, 2008, and 2010 for their work.

Under all of those lavish costumes, maybe the biggest achievement of The Tudors and Jonathan Rhys Meyers in his role is the ability of getting the audience to empathize with Henry, but then just as we start to almost like him, he does something disgraceful that starts to make us reconsider. Even as we’re appalled though, we can often see the pressures and expectations placed upon him, and how sometimes it sways his judgment or forces his hand.  Then we’re right back on the rollercoaster of emotion, not sure of how we feel about him.  In doing this, the series and Rhys Meyers made me pause and consider what I knew about Henry VIII, and how I might have just bought into the image of him that’s been created throughout history. Whether or not the TV show has any of the nuances right, it made me view Henry in a new light, and how even as ruling monarch, there were pressures and protocols that may have limited him or even forced in his hand in some situations.

To get back to the subject of the many great actors in this series--and trust me, there are a lot--Henry Cavill appears in every episode as Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, and one of Henry’s closest and most trusted friends.  There’s almost constant, subtle tension, watching how Cavill’s character has to walk the fine line between friendship and still being careful not to overstep his bounds and duty to his king.  The most dramatic example of this is when the Duke falls in love with Henry's sister, Princess Margaret (played by Gabrielle Anwar), and marries her in secret.  (The show takes some liberties with history here.  In reality, Henry had two younger sisters, and the series' story line is partially made up, though one sister did marry the Duke of Suffolk in secret.)

Charles Brandon (Henry Cavill) and King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers)

Those politics (and a hefty dose of betrayal and revenge) heighten the drama of the show.  Again though, we have to remember that parts of it are historically true, so it’s not entirely a gimmick to boost viewership.

Sure, The Tudors can't be relied on as a completely accurate historical work; it's a TV series, and of course they're in the business of bringing in viewers and boosting ratings.  I challenge anyone who has an interest in history not to get caught up in the series though.  From the first episode, it drew me in, and started me on a path of binge-watching that I've repeated with other shows, but not many with the same fervor of The Tudors.  I burned through the seasons in no time flat, and enjoyed every single episode.


To find out more, visit the series' page on IMDb, or visit The Tudors' page on the Showtime website.



2014/02/02

Boston: Air Guitarists Unite!

by Jav Rivera

Air guitarists come in many forms. Mostly, they're teenage boys who love rocking out to their favorite guitar heroes. Some, embarrassingly, are adult men who still dream about being on stage in front of screaming fans. Playing air guitar is an art form that usually takes place in a bedroom with the door locked. And for many, (real) guitarist Tom Scholz gave them reason to start air guitar-ing. Scholz not only has a distinct sound to his guitar, but is also known for his vigorous solos. He's meticulous, calculated, and most importantly, energetic. He and his band, Boston, made music perfectly suited for stadiums - and of course locked bedrooms.


The band Boston was formed in the early 1970s. The original lineup included Barry Goudreau (guitars), Tom Scholz (guitars and multiple instruments), Sib Hashian (drums), Brad Delp (vocals and guitar), and Fran Sheehan (bass), but writing and production credit for their self-titled debut album goes almost entirely to Scholz. The majority of the tracks were recorded in his basement with Scholz playing most of the instruments.

L-R: Barry Goudreau, Tom Scholz, Sib Hashian, Brad Delp, and Fran Sheehan
The album was released in the late summer of 1976 and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, certifying it Platinum status by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It ranks as the best-selling debut album in U.S. history. The track listing for the album is as follows:

"More Than a Feeling"
"Peace of Mind"
"Foreplay/Long Time"
"Rock & Roll Band"
"Smokin'" 
"Hitch a Ride"
"Something About You"
"Let Me Take You Home Tonight"

Album Cover designed by Roger Huyssen
The album has no errors and each track could have easily been released as a single, though the official singles were "Peace of Mind," "Long Time," and their most popular tune "More than a Feeling". The album, and Boston's sound, is known for the mixture of acoustic guitars and Scholz's fuzzy electric guitars. During their heyday, Brad Delp's powerfully strong yet sensitive voice gave Boston a distinctive presence. Delp could belt out a ballad just as well as he could a good ole rock jam, which worked perfectly with their music's blend of acoustic and electric guitars.

Brad Delp
And though early on there was an effort to de-emphasize Tom Scholz as the total mastermind, it was Scholz that ultimately created Boston's sound, direction, and style. Delp, of course, added to that with his incredible vocal skills.

Tom Scholz
For an album this good it's tough to find one track to focus on. So many of the tracks keep your toes tapping and head bopping. The music was crafted in such a masterful manner that even an organ can sound cool. Listen to "Foreplay/Long Time" and think of the skill it took to play an organ solo like that. And, you have to give credit to the drums that help emphasize the track's veracity.

"Rock & Roll Band" and "Smokin'" have a standard rock sound with great riffs and Delp vocal range all over the map. "More Than a Feeling" is, of course, one the greatest classic rock songs of all time. Beginning with acoustic guitar, the song comes alive once those electric guitars come bursting out.

But for me, the ultimate track has to be "Hitch a Ride". Once again, Scholz begins a song with an acoustic guitar accompanied by Delp's beautiful, pitch perfect vocals. Slowly the electric guitars arrive with rolling drums. After the second verse the organ kicks in and a hint of a guitar solo makes its way into the track. But Scholz waits until one last acoustic moment to bring in his full on solo, ending a track so gorgeously written that it makes it on my top five all time favorite songs.



Decades after first discovering Boston, it's tough not to pull out the old air guitar out of its case. With just a little imaginary tuning and raising of the levels on the amp, I'll wave to the crowd with a modest smirk before blowing them away with "my" solo on "Hitch a Ride". And of course when I sing along, I sound exactly like Brad Delp.

For more information, visit Boston's official website: www.bandboston.com

TRIVIA: Tom Scholz's guitar sound was made available to all guitarists in 1982 when he developed a guitar amp simulator named "Rockman".  The story of this device can be found here: http://www.rockman.fr/