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Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—In Memory of Roger Ebert Edition

Roger Ebert was the first Pulitzer Prize winning film critic and the reason for that is no mystery. He was simply a wonderful writer. He just happened to write about film (and later, on his blog, many, many other things), with such an expressive voice. Even before he teamed up with Gene Siskel to co-host the influential At The Movies, Ebert was already showing, on a weekly basis, how to make real film criticism accessible to everyone. Thanks to Ebert and Siskel, more indie films got a shot at success, obscure directors and actors became famous, and moviegoers became more aware of things like product placement and letterboxing versus pan and scan.

Two things really stand out about Ebert to me: 1.He was totally dedicated to elevating film and getting more people into movies, viewing movies as a way to learn about others and educate people about the human condition; and, 2. His writing was so good, that even while he was offering his own opinion, he was able to describe a movie so well that I could make my own decision as to whether I might like the film, even if he didn’t. Very few movie critics (or music critics, for that matter) have ever met that standard.

Moreover, he not only wrote the screenplay for Russ Meyer’s Beyond The Valley of the Dolls, he actually wrote the first screenplay for what was to become the Sex Pistols movie, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle. The screenplay was never used, but Ebert did get to meet Johnny Lydon, just one of the many things remarkable about his life. But no matter how famous and influential he became, he was always in tune with the boy who loved to go to movies at the Virginia Theatre (and others) in Champaign (home of Ebertfest) and have a burger with his dad at the Steak ‘n’ Shake on Green Street, with those burgers and shakes being what he missed the most after cancer took his ability to eat solid food. Chicago has lost one of its true legends. If you get a chance, please share the first 10 songs from your shuffle in honor of the great Roger Ebert.

  1. J. Geils Band -- Sno-Cone (Blow Your Face Out): A Bo Diddley beat, J. Geils lead guitar magic and Magic Dick blowing some mean harp. A nice instrumental, but it’s no “Whammer Jammer”.
  2. Astrid -- What You’re Thinking (Play Dead): Peppy pop from this Scottish band. As far as I know, these guys really didn’t dent the charts in the U.K., even though they play a nice aggressive jangle pop with strong melodies and plenty of hooks.
  3. The Detroit Cobras -- Hey Sailor (Life, Love and Learning): On their second album, the Cobras mastered their mix of R & B and guitar driven garage rock, finding the right amount of rock and of swing. Topped with the honeyed vocals of Rachel Nagy, it is a sound I never get tired of.
  4. The Rolling Stones -- Casino Boogie (Exile On Main Street): I’m not a worshipper of this album, considered by most, it seems, as the best Stones album. While the album certainly has a feel unlike any other album, I don’t think it has enough great songs. This is an example. It’s a nice relaxed blues number, but it’s not exceptional. Good enough to have on the iPod, for sure. I’d rather listen to Sticky Fingers or Some Girls.
  5. The Kinks -- Funny Face (Something Else By The Kinks): And unlike many, this is my favorite Kinks album. I love the pastoral Village Green Preservation Society and epic Arthur, but this album just has the right mix of tunes. This song takes a little blues guitar progression and adds a splendid pop melody. The basic structure of the main part of the song isn’t much different than what The Beatles (or, for that matter, The Easybeats) were doing, but the song detours to this airy, melodic middle eight and makes this nice number something really special.
  6. Robbie Fulks -- Jean Arthur (The Very Best Of Robbie Fulks): Of course, Robbie’s best of is really just a collection of tunes. This is a jangly, twangy country pop tribute to the actress. This could easily be rearranged into a sublime power pop tune in the vein of Fountains of Wayne.
  7. Big Hello -- Clouds Cover The Mountain (The Apple Album): While Big Hello (and subsequently, Brad Elvis and Chloe F. Orwell’s current band, The Handcuffs) specialize(d) in fine new wavey/power poppy rockers, their mid-tempo, mellower offerings are always a treat. This is a great tune that Cheap Trick would be proud of it, with Orwell totally engaged in the tune, showing off how great her voice is (though she’s not actually showing off).
  8. Heaven 17 -- Temptation (How Men Are): This was a really big hit for Heaven 17 in England. It is their usually dramatic synth driven pop, with a bit of R & B, coming through in the soulful female vocals in the chorus. It’s not the smoothest blend, but the chorus works so well, it doesn’t matter.
  9. Mickey -- Scream With Me (Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreamer): Scuzzy glam rock in the vein of New York Dolls and D Generation from here in Chicago. This was a good debut album and I’m guessing we won’t be getting the chance to see how they develop further.
  10. David Bowie -- Plan (The Next Day): The new Bowie album doesn’t break new ground, but it also doesn’t find David grasping for some sort of contemporary relevance. Instead, it’s just Bowie doing things he does well, playing with great musicians. This bonus track from the deluxe edition of the album is a mood piece that kind of comes off as a more guitar oriented variation on his Berlin trilogy work. It’s just a short cut, but it sounds really nice.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, mp3, roger ebert

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