audio review : Cry ( song ) … Michael Jackson

The beginning sounds too much like Stranger In Moscow, but the song gets better from there. Cry, which the title suggests is a counterpart to Scream, is actually the new Man In The Mirror; a fact you might not recognize until the end. “Change the world”, is the final message. Back then it was, “Make that change.”

Aesthetically both philanthropy anthems are about the same, but the message sounded more urgent in 1987. The melodies are well composed and the ad-libs during the final minute near classic Michael Jackson, but, despite backup from a full gospel choir, he sounds less energetic, ironically less Invincible, here.

my rating = 4 of 5

audio review : Invincible ( album ) ... Michael Jackson

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audio review : Bells Of War ( song ) … U-God + Method Man + Rza + Masta Killa + Ghostface Killah

This song should have a different title. There’s a horn sound at the end, but I don’t hear any bells. The beat, a mellow hip-hop groove, is one of Rza’s best though. He also has the best verse. “I stay highs like treble,” he declares, “Those who oppose get plucked like rose pedals.”

Wise decision not adding a hook, which, judging from other Wu-Tang joints, would’ve probably shot the quality down. Not so wise to include a discussion about the latest upsets in pro boxing, which needlessly reminds future listeners they’re listening to a song made in 1997.

my rating = 4 of 5

1997

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video review : Orange Is The New Black [ Season 5 ]

video review : Orange Is The New Black [ Season 5 ]

This fifth season of Orange Is The New Black starts promisingly enough. The first few episodes, which bring back the suspenseful zeal of the first two seasons; the story continues at the cliffhanger from the end of the previous one; are a pleasant surprise. But before long, the show loses its focus and slips back into the piss-bowl of mediocrity it’s been swimming in for a while. Part of the problem is that, in an attempt to stretch a few days of rioting into a whole season, the tension wears thin. By mid season, the soap opera has once again become mundane.

Lolly is gone and that’s a big relief, but it also means more screen time for, thus more annoyance from, Suzanne. At one point, she almost dies. I wish she would’ve. Cruel as that may be, it’s not as cruel as what some of the women (inmates) of Litchfield do to the guards they manage to capture. It’s humiliation and “torture”, but is it justified? Perhaps. This is a show that takes pleasure in breaking your moral compass. Is it entertaining? At least more than the overall plot arc, which focuses on Taystee’s strong-willed efforts to get justice for Poussey.

Remember, Poussey died. She was killed by a guard. This season is the immediate aftermath. It’s supposed to be anarchical drama. Again, the first few episodes get it right. The rest drag. The closest thing to an exception is the finale, in which men in riot gear finally bust in with smoke bombs, electrified shields and (peppered) bullets. Chaos ensues and the level of watchability rises, but loose ends are tied too conveniently. The ending suggests next season will be a lot different, which could be just what the show needs to get back on track.

my rating = 3 of 5

2017

video review : Orange Is The New Black [ Season 1 ]
video review : Orange Is The New Black [ Season 2 ]
video review : Orange Is The New Black [ Season 3 ]
video review : Orange Is The New Black [ Season 4 ]

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audio review : Scribble ( album ) … Esham

audio review : Scribble ( album ) ... Esham

The “S” in the title is stylized with a dollar sign, so the final song makes sense. Too bad its melody is lifted from a Prince song. Esham has never been particularly creative as a music artist and that’s part of the problem here. His bars are decent enough; on rare occasion, even surprisingly profound; but his hooks and overall concepts leave a lot to be desired. At 43 years old, the Detroit native is a lot less mischievous, thus less interesting, than he used to be. The rapper who once portrayed himself as an entity from Hell apparently wants to be a Christian role model.

“I don’t want to live like I used to live,” he says at one point, “I don’t want to be the peson I used to be.” That may be a major disappointment for long-time fans, but they can take solace in the fact that he’s not fully converted as of yet. Black Sheep sounds like vintage Esham. It also features one of the album’s best beats, along with Time Card and Organic. Esham’s music production, as crude as it sounds when it comes to the technical art of mixing and mastering, is still the best thing about him as an artist, though he sometimes sways too far into druggy experimentation.

my rating = 3 of 5

2017

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audio review : Neva Left ( album ) … Snoop Dogg

audio review : Neva Left ( album ) ... Snoop Dogg

The album cover, based on a photo taken way back in 1992, is confusing. It suggests a sort of retrospective compilation, but, while Neva Left is intentionally enveloped in old school vibes; Snoop Dogg makes several references to 1990s rap culture; this is an album of new songs. Conceptual exceptions include a Remix of Vapors that’s even more unnecessary than the original remake and a Remix of Lavender by BadBadNotGood that’s basically just him (Snoop) rapping to the original instrumental. Elsewhere it’s mostly “official gangsta shit”, as Big Tray Deee so eloquently puts it, from the former gangbanger who now has a VH1 cooking show with Martha Stewart.

Snoop can get away with that though. It’s admirable how he’s managed to successfully diversify himself with different people since the days of his rap world debut without giving up his hood persona. Even if you’re just now getting back into his music, it’s true he’s Neva left the game since that aforementioned photo was taken. The quality of his albums is another case. Doggystyle, Last Meal and Blue Carpet Treatment stand as high-lights, but most are just okay; this one included. Let Us Begin is notable, if only because it features a verse by KRS-One, and Trash Bags works as a drunken ode to strippers, but songs like Swivel and Big Mouth are ruined by wack hooks.

my rating = 3 of 5

2017

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audio review : Cold Chill ( song ) … Stevie Wonder

The beat is busy, a little too busy, but it’s a funky groove as Stevie Wonder sings from the perspective of a young casanova who goes to a (dance) club looking for a girl to seduce. He finds her, but she turns the tables on him, thus the title, which stands for romantic heartbreak.

The hook and bridge section could (should) be better; the sparse arrangement of the verses actually sound better than the breaks; but Wonder saves the song with signature flair. The guitar solo also adds a stylish touch and the Cold Chill similes/metaphors at the end are funny.

my rating = 4 of 5

1995

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audio review : The World Is Mind ( album ) … KRS-One

audio review : The World Is Mind ( album ) ... KRS-One

“I wrote and recorded this album in the same week,” KRS-One says. That’s impressive if true; the Teacha is still a better rapper than most of his students; but there’s no excuse for the lack of proper hooks, though the boom bap tries to make up for it. Out For Fame didn’t need a half-assed remake, for instance, but the beat is raw.

The title track is a thought-provoking tale about two patients sharing a hospital room. It reminds fans how much of a compelling storyteller KRS-One can be, but more should’ve been done to reinforce the concept; Ill or Sick in the album title could’ve worked; so that it doesn’t come across so jarringly random where it is at the end.

my rating = 3 of 5

2017

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audio review : Be Myself ( album ) …. Sheryl Crow

audio review : Be Myself ( album ) .... Sheryl Crow

It seems the title is a reminder, but there’s paradoxical irony in having to remind yourself to be yourself. This project has Sheryl Crow taking the Long Way Back to her rock roots after that near-awful country album she released a few years ago, though it is (also) a little bit country. Rest Of Me, which could pass for an old standard, is bouncy and delightful. Most of the others are only about Halfway There.

my rating = 3 of 5

2017

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review : Great Value ice cream : I Love Peanut Butter

review : Great Value ice cream : I Love Peanut Butter

The name is a bit misleading for me. I don’t actually love peanut butter, but I do love peanut butter ice cream; a rare find in the world of treats. The distinction is that most are flawed by the inclusion of chocolate. This, a Walmart exclusive, isn’t. It’s peanut butter and nothing else; even the “ribbon” and cookie dough pieces are peanut butter; which almost automatically makes it one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had the pleasure of melting and devouring.

my rating = 5 of 5

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audio review : Reachin [ A New Refutation Of Time And Space ] ( album ) … Digable Planets

audio review : Reachin [ A New Refutation Of Time And Space ] ( album ) ... Digable Planets

Digable Planets do sound cool. I’ll give them Dat. This album, as ridiculous as its full title may be, has the monotone rappers vibing over an array of hip-hop beats inspired by jazz and funk. Okay, “inspired” is an understatement. Every track, song or otherwise, includes an old sample from a funk or jazz record. That puts the word New in quotation marks and slaps a big question mark on the trio’s perceived talent. Good To Be Here is my jam though.

my rating = 3 of 5

1993

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video review : Frozen

video review : Frozen

You don’t have to be a skier to imagine how scary it would be to get stuck on a lift, in the bitter cold, for almost a week. That’s the dilemma the three protagonists in this Stephen King styled story face. It’s a girlfriend-boyfriend couple, Parker and Dan, along with Dan’s third wheel best friend. Their decision to ride the lift one last time, despite the resort closing early due to an on-coming snow storm, becomes their doom.

You’d think they’d use their hats and hoods to protect their faces from the wind. You’d think the owners of a public ski resort would’ve long ago done something about their killer wolf infestation. Those are two major plausibility faults in a story that’s otherwise terrifically realistic. The tension heads high about a quarter of the way in and only gives way to moments of desolation. The death scene near the middle is especially poignant.

my rating = 5 of 5

2010

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audio review : J Beez Wit The Remedy ( album ) … Jungle Brothers

audio review : J Beez Wit The Remedy ( album ) ... Jungle Brothers

The regular rap songs are decent, if only for their raw hip-hop beats, but they’re not even close to being outstanding enough to justify the experimental rest of this album; abstract bits of seemingly random bullshit. There’s even a track entitled Spittin Wicked Randomness. Lyrically the Jungle Brothers don’t sound much different than they did four years back when they dropped the comparatively classic Forces Of Nature set. What happened to their musical focus between then and now is anybody’s guess.

my rating = 2 of 5

1993

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