Jack Bruce (1943–2014); Another music legend passes

As a child growing up through the late 70s and into the early 80s I was heavily into the music my parents listened to. If you look at the history of popular music I’m part of the first generation that really listed to the same kind of music my parents did. My parents, particularly my mother, were really into The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the “pre-disco” Bee-Gees, and other groups like that. My father was into “edgier” stuff like The Who, Pink Floyd, and Cream. It was through those experiences that I became a huge fan of Jack Bruce.

Like another hero of mine, John Entwistle of The Who, Bruce’s crunching bass line was often more than just keeping time with the drummer but was instead an integral part if the song itself. It’s because of him that when it comes to songs I tend to focus on the “low end” of things going on, and really respect artists that can drive songs using the end of the musical spectrum.

When it comes to the group Bruce is most famous for, Cream (with guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker), it’s the stuff that didn’t get a ton of radio play that I like the best. On of my favorites is Tales of Brave Ulysses off of their second album Disraeli Gears. I believe it was the B-side for Strange Brew, but I’m not certain of that.

Another Cream performance that I love is called Sitting on Top of the World, a cover of an old blues song originally done by Mississippi Sheiks in the early 1930s. It really shows off Bruce’s musical abilities (even in 2005 when this version was recorded) and is one of the songs that brings out the bluesman Bruce was. It appears on Cream’s final studio album, Goodbye.

Bruce had some great solo stuff that I’d bet many have never heard. Unfortunately there aren’t a ton of YouTube videos of concert footage of them, but luckily Bruce did make a couple of TV talk show appearances and played some great stuff. Here he in on the Late Show with David Letterman (with Cream drummer Baker) performing Hey Now Princess off of Bruce’s solo album A Question of Time.

Throughout his career Bruce played with many of the blues guitar legends of his ear. A few years ago I stumbled into the performance with Bruce performing with Buddy Guy in 1969 on YouTube. The bass line in both songs is classic Jack Bruce. Great stuff.

Because it’s Cream Bruce is most famous for, it only seems fitting the last footage I post is of White Room, off of Wheels of Fire. In my opinion it’s one of the best songs ever.

I close out this post with the first verse of a song by The Righteous Brothers, as it unfortunately becomes more fitting as each day passes…
If you believe in forever
Then life is just a one-night stand
If there’s a rock n’ roll heaven
Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band…

Week in review, week ending 10/26/14

For those that are new, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the postings from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s posting.

From me this week there was…
On Monday an Update on what I’m DVRing this fall. I had two more posts ready to go for Wednesday and Friday, and then decided they weren’t very good so I canned them. There will be at least two posts next week, hoping for some time to write a third.

From the folks I follow…
The Stake has an interesting read called Kathleen Hale, bad reviews, and what authors and readers owe each other.
Drunken Dragon Reviews with their take on The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (a book on my ever growing “to read” shelf”).

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Kelly Jensen is Drowning In Books.
Lisen Minetti tells us When Reading Good Books Is A Bad Thing. She disses Dan Brown a little in it. That’s OK, I understand. But she did get the other two series in that section correct in my opinion.
The Fictional Reader has Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch. Another book on my ever growing “to read” shelf”.
I Just Like to Read asks Why would you read the same book again?
And just making the deadline is The Book That… with 10 Tips for Reading More Everyday.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

Update: What I’m DVR’ing this fall 2014

So about a month ago I posted what TV shows I’m DVR’ing this fall, and I thought an update might be in order.

Scorpion, a new show on Monday nights on CBS, has been a little on the weak side but I think the program shows some promise. I had one Facebook friend call it one of the worst series of all time, but I could easily name 100 shows that were worse (that I can do that is somewhat troubling if you think about it). I’ll probably be watching for at least this season unles it somehow falls off a cliff story-wise.

Five minutes into the opening episode of The Blacklist my wife and I were hooked again, and it’s almost always the show we sit down to watch at first opportunity. NCIS:LA is usually the second, so that’s obviously still a keeper.

On Tuesday is old favorite NCIS, and while it hasn’t been great this season so far it does have a history of getting better as the season moves along. I’m hoping that holds true this year also. It’s spinoff, NCIS: New Orleans, had a clunky opening episode with a couple scenes that made no sense, but overall it’s just as strong as it’s two counterparts. It’s another keeper. Opposite of NCIS: New Orleans is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and it’s continued the hot run it had from the second half of last season. It’s another show my wife and I watch as soon as we can.

Elementary still hasn’t debuted yet, but I can’t see how it won’t be as good as it has been in previous years. Another show not aired yet is NBC’s Constantine. More on that after a few weeks of that show. The Mentalist still awaits a CBS cancelation to be inserted into the fall lineup. I haven’t seen any numbers for shows this fall so I have no idea how close that is to happening.

One show that didn’t make the cut is Sunday’s Madam Secretary. It is possible–heck, likely–that my wife and I will give the show a chance over the summer via on-demand or Netflix. But for now, it’s outta here. Heading on the list, and one I forgot to mention in the first posting, is the short-seasoned HBO show The Newsroom.

My wife’s three shows, Revenge (ABC), Scandal (ABC), and Grimm (NBC) are still on her list. I’m not sure if she’s added any.

Week in review, week ending 10/19/14

For those that are new, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the postings from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s posting.

From me this week there was…
On Monday I had some thoughts on Negative book reviews for no good reason, Wednesday I posted a review of Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith, and Friday I asked How do you keep track of your “to be read” list?.

From the folks I follow…
BlondeWriteMore asks How would you classify your blog post?.
The Credible Hulk shares with us his Top 5 Bad Seasons of Great Shows.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Welcome to Trixieland has some thoughts on her bad reviews entitled Homewrecker, Whore, Slut: My bad reviews. I freely admit the reason I clicked on the posting was the word “slut” and the cartoony girl pictured with a gun. It turned into sort of a proof of my blog posting on negative reviews.
Blue Fezzes with a nice first posting simply called Books.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

How do you keep track of your “to be read” list?

Not a very long post on this Friday, but one I hope I can gather some information on. Because I’m in the middle of changing how I do it I’m wondering how do other folks keep track of the books the have/want to read.

What I currently have now is a spread sheet that’s three pages. The first page is the books I’ve read, the second page is the books I own and are on my actual “to read” list, and the third page is books I’m either looking for or might be interested in checking out when they’re released. As you may have guessed, switching from page to page on my phone while looking at shelves of books in stores is cumbersome at best, and immensely frustrating. What I’m working on is combining all three pages into one HUGE page, with books I’ve read, own, and looking for all in different font colors. That way I’m only looking and scrolling through one list. But as I work on making one last one question haunts me…

….is that the best way?

So folks, I ask you: is a single excel spreadsheet page using different colors the best way or do you have one better?

Random Review: Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith

This review contains no spoilers.

Book Name: Agent 6
Author: Tom Rob Smith
Series: 3rd in an apparent trilogy
Publisher(s): Grand Central Publishing
Format(s): Hardcover/Trade paperback/eBook/AudioBook
Genre(s): Historical fiction/Thriller
Release Date: January 5, 2012

Rating: 8/10

For those that missed it, I’ve also reviewed the second book of the trilogy, The Secret Speech. It gives some insights on how I came across this series.

Agent 6 picks up soon after the events of The Secret Speech take place, but unlike the first two books Tom Rob Smith writes a story that covers nearly 30 years and deals with the Cold War between the USSR and the USA (often referred to in the historically correct term of “The Main Adversary” in Agent 6) and then into the Soviet Union’s ill fated invasion of Afghanistan. If you were looking for a “feel good” story, let me tell you, Agent 6 isn’t it.

Like the two books before it Agent 6 is really about the redemption of main character Leo Demidov, forced to deal with the emotional and intellectual trauma of his past actions with the MGB (the Soviet’s Ministry for State Security) and later the KGB. Unfortunately, those issues come right to the forefront again when during a trip to the United Nations for a concert performed by American and Soviet school children tragedy strikes Demidov’s family. When Demidov is refused permission to travel to the US to investigate the circumstances of the issue, deep depression takes over his life and eventually results in him being “exiled” to Afghanistan.

While it is incredibly well written, once what is going to happen becomes apparent it becomes a difficult book to read because the reader knows where the story has to end. Smith handles every scene well and sets the stage for what is undoubtedly the toughest thing that Demidov ever had to face, and then knowing the true facts of the tragedy what Demidov had to do to complete his redemption. The obvious ending, which is not written but only implied by Smith, is both uplifting and gut wrenchingly sad.

Smith is most certainly headed to the top of the list of great thriller writers. Folks should get on board by reading his trilogy about Leo Demidov, and they do need to be read in order to get the maximum out of them. I whole heartedly recommend Agent 6, after you read Child 44 and The Secret Speech, of course.

Negative book reviews for no good reason

I generally don’t read reviews of books on Amazon and Goodreads until after I’ve read the book and written my own review. I used to not read them just because I hate when people don’t tag their reviews that contain spoilers, but now I have the added reason of not wanting what someone else thinks to influence my writing of a review. It’s not an issue in any case because after I read the book it’s not like I generally care what the other reviews are.

A few days ago while writing a review of Karen Miller’s Empress I couldn’t remember the spelling of a character name, and with the book in a box down in the basement I took the lazy way out and scanned some reviews on Amazon to see if someone mentioned him. What I read amazed me. It’s OK to not like a book, but if you truly hate a book as much as some of those people did perhaps reading some of the positive reviews might help so you can see what you’ve missed.

As I mentioned in my review, the entire premise of Empress is at the end you’re supposed to hate just about everyone in it. It’s the whole key to the series, and the number of people that didn’t understand that was shocking. Even if you didn’t read the other two books if you were going to spend the time to review the book and you hated it, spend some additional time to figure out what others saw that you didn’t. The number of people saying they hated the characters or couldn’t connect with them was fairly high, and yet because they didn’t know that’s how they were supposed to feel they rated the book low.

Another one I love is when a thriller by someone like Vince Flynn or Brad Thor gets reviews saying things like “there’s too much violence in the book” or “it seems like all (main character) does is kill people”. Well, umm, yeah. That’s the idea behind those books. They’re like movies, only written as novels. These are larger than life heroes that go after terrorists and crime kingpins, of course there’s going to be lots of killing. If you couldn’t tell that from the blurb on the back you’re probably not qualified to write the review in the first place.

One other thing I’ve seen, especially on Amazon, are people rating the book based on damaged received in the shipping process. Really? I mean, REALLY? What the heck does the author have to do with your book arriving at your house damaged? Go review Amazon for that and judge the book based on what the author wrote. Oh, and another one I loved that was sent to me recently about a book there was no chance I was going to read: a reviewer gave a low review based on the typeface the book was printed in. I’m guessing most authors have no control over that, so who in their right mind thinks that’s a legitimate reason for giving a bad review?

You don’t like a book, that’s fine. There are many books I didn’t like even after looking at what I may have missed in reading it. Books where I thought the writer just went off in the wrong direction, or were inconsistent in what their characters were doing. If asked about the book (or I’m writing a review), I’m specific about the plot points I disliked and why I disliked them. I don’t see an opinion of “I didn’t get it” as a good reason to write a bad review unless you take a few minutes to see what others got that you didn’t.