20 December 2007

25 Days to Christmas

Elusive 25 Days to Christmas Worth the Hunt
By Kristin Battestella

Well, of course I’m late, and the book is no longer in print, but I had to share my thoughts on the surprising 25 Days to Christmas-A Journey to the True Joy and Meaning of Christmas by Randy Hurst.

My nieces enjoy easy reading and devotional type books. I often find them knick knack gift books at thrift stores or second hand shops. Sometimes the books contain personal notes and writings inside. It gives away the used nature of the material, but these marks also add more intrigue to the book. I discovered the unmarked 25 Days to Christmas for a quarter and intended to give it to my nieces-or at least read it aloud with them when they visited. Instead I ended up keeping it for myself.

Although the trends of a secular Christmas or a non religious December make headlines in the media and keep cash registers cha-chinging, Religious observances are making a comeback. The celebration of Advent has become popular in recent years, and I expected 25 Days to be a Chicken Soup type work for the season-personal stories and devotionals with Bible verses showing how one can retune this hectic time of year.

But no. Here’s where the subtitle A Journey to the True Joy and Meaning of Christmas comes to play. The book’s 25 devotions are- for lack of a better phrase- Christ in a nutshell. The First begins with the prophecy of John the Baptist’s birth and the twenty-fifth ends with the ascension of Christ. The days in between are filled with Jesus’ life, teachings, death, and resurrection. From the Beatitudes to the Last Supper, it’s all in 25 Days to Christmas.

I know what you’re thinking. This book is about Christmas isn’t it? Jesus’ birth, right? The Resurrection’s Easter, isn’t it? No, I’m not confused like Martha Stewart- who doesn’t seem to realize purple is the traditional Easter color, unlike red and green for Christmas. Hurst’s book is meant to remind readers of the ‘reason for the season’ Jesus Christ. Without his birth, we wouldn’t have anything to talk about, now would we?

There is something magical about reading on the Resurrection at Christmas. Hurst keeps the passages and verses presented in the American Standard feel-none of that King James Version thee and thou that some can find difficult to understand. The simplistic nature of the writing-and perhaps the understated and subdued nature of Christ himself- leave much food for though after your reading. You want to read more than just the day’s pages.

With each reading, I’ve been amazed at 25 Days’ main notion. When the heart of Christmas is at focus, it’s usually mangers and Silent Night, Bethlehem, and Ave Maria. It’s fascinating to reaffirm what this child would become instead. His gentility, his sacrifices, the salvation he brings. To read of the Crucifixion at Christmas truly brings forth the statement of everlasting light, Alpha and Omega, the beacon of hope at winter’s darkest hour. No beginning, no end. Candles and wreaths can suddenly have much more meaning! 

I left 25 Days to Christmas by the tub, and now it seems to be everyone’s bathroom read. Strange, almost sacrilegious as it is that it seems we only take time out to reflect while in the bathroom, I’m glad this little paperback has been noticed by each member of my family. Never mind where or when or for how little or long the time, 25 Days to Christmas- A Journey to the True Joy and Meaning of Christmas can inspire anyone to the holiday spirit, whatever day you take that gander.

25 Days to Christmas: A Journey to the True Joy and Meaning of ChristmasI’ve researched online, but is seems Hurst’s 1992 release from Acces Publishing is only available from Amazon market place and private sellers. Top listings are under four dollars, compared to the original $6.95 on my edition. My article here today is about 25 Days to Christmas, but also about similar books as well. The season is nearly over now, and this work is elusive, but an attempt for such inspirations should be made year round. Whether you score a copy of 25 Days to Christmas at your local used bookstore or if you have another annual Christmas devotional, I hope you have an inspirational read each December. Bathroom reading not required.

12 December 2007

We're No Angels (1955)

Rediscover We’re No Angels This Christmas
By Kristin Battestella

Robert De’Niro, Sean Penn, Demi Moore. I love the 1989 drama We’re No Angels. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. No, that departure stems from the 1955 classic of the same name. Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, Peter Ustinov. That’s what I’m talking about.

We're No Angels (1955)Maybe you’ve heard the story. Three convicts (Bogart, Ray, Ustinov) escape from a prison on Devil’s Island just before Christmas. They want to steal some money and clothes, then be ship bound and on their way, but they take a liking to Felix Ducotel (Leo G. Carroll) and his general store. Instead of stealing from Felix and his family-wife Amelie (Joan Bennett) and daughter Isabelle (Gloria Talbott) the criminals seek to keep up the family’s Christmas Cheer against the vile Uncle Andre Trouchard (Basil Rathbone)-who’s trying to close the store that’s making no money for him.

The story is heartwarming enough for a tune in. Scrooges dethawing, crooks doing right, a family trying to keep things together at Christmas. Written Ranald MacDougall from a play by Albert Husson and Directed by Michael Curtiz, We’re No Angels is sold by its cast and its cast alone. Casual fans know Bogie for his dramatic turns in Casablanca (Also directed by Curtiz) or The Desperate Hours or his Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon- or many others, of course. Here-in color no less- Bogart shows a wry, underutilized comedy note that delivers just as many quotable lines as Casablanca. Together with Ray (Battle Cry) and Ustinov (Spartacus), talents also known more for drama, the trio creates a witty, intellectual comedy. There isn’t much side splitting laughter in We’re No Angels-simply quirky puns, funny mannerisms, and quick, but light physical comedy. It’s not The Three Stooges. It’s better.

Of course, humor isn’t funny unless there’s a straight man. Hitchcock alum Leo Carroll’s Felix is wonderful as the kindly, but financially troubled storekeeper who can’t see the crooks for what they really are. He’s blissfully innocent and trusting, as is Joan Bennett as Amelie. Strange on my part that I recognized her voice from Dark Shadows, but the hint of chemistry between Bennett and Bogart is delightful. Likewise Aldo Ray’s liking of church-going daughter Isabelle adds another dimension to the film. She also, is innocent and accepting-not seeing the criminals as such, but rather as angels.

Even the notion of their pet snake Adolf could be handled very poorly in today’s cinema, cgi and all the hijinks. Bogart, Ray, and Ustinov, however, do most of the work regarding the snake simply by looking into its basket. Some dismiss comedy as easy, or of a lesser value, but the cast here proves that humor is not done lightly. On the contrary, one false move, and the entire illusion falls apart. Everyone in We’re No Angels is on his or her mark. A case for each as the star could be made. The script is tight, quick, all the storylines and misunderstandings weave into a fine conclusion.

Traditional villain Basil Rathbone (The Mark of Zorro, alas a hero as Sherlock Holmes) also serves perfectly as snooty rich Uncle Trouchard. His uppity attitude versus the average joe crooks makes it easy for the audience. We want the crooks to be our good guys. Even Bogart says you meet better people in prison. I can’t spoil the ending, but as unbelievable as the starting premise may be, the conclusion has you believing that angelic peoples do in fact walk among us.
Young folks may find We’re No Angels slow, as there are several segments of silence that require complete attention to catch the onscreen hijinks-probably lingering from its transition from stage to screen. The coloration on my VHS is odd, too, and the younger set might also chuckle at such signs of the times-both in the onscreen turn of the century style and the fifties film making look and techniques. By contrast, also check out the aforementioned 1989 remake. It’s serious, heavy, and dark. Still good, but not as charming. We’re No Angels is kind of like those weird big old fashioned outdoor lights on your grandparents house. They are still ticking, after all these years, aren’t they?

Fans of classics no doubt already know and love We’re No Angels. Upgrade to DVD and share this one with anyone who’s willing to view this Christmas season.

The Three Tenors Christmas

Three Tenors Christmas A Sound to Behold
By Kristin Battestella
Not all Italians like opera, despite the stereotypical belief. Any fan of opera, however, must like The Three Tenors. Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, and the late Luciano Pavarotti were an event to behold at their height in the nineties. The trio even earned a jest on Seinfeld (‘Pavarotti, Domingo, and….the other guy.’) Among all their enchanting special performances, The Three Tenors Christmas is the perfect blend of star power, incredible voices, and holiday spirit.

Released as a CD and a DVD from a performance at the Konzerthaus in Vienna in 1999, The Three Tenors are a staple on PBS telethons year round. Recently I convinced my husband (not Italian, by the way) to just let the Three Tenors Christmas play on the TV while we worked on the computer. After two viewings, he had to admit not only weren’t they bad, but they were pretty good.

Known of course for their opera, it is a bit strange to here Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras sing in English while backed by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Occasionally they flub a few lines or words on carols like O Come All Ye Faithful-which wasn’t as powerful as I expected it to be. Let It Snow and White Christmas are also unusual tunes for booming voices such as these, but support from the ?choir brings a childlike family feeling to the event. The verses sung in Latin and Italian, are however, not for the short winded folks.

The Three Tenors earn their keep here with the Christmas staple O Holy Night. Not many can top the song’s bellowing high notes-Kate Smith and Sandi Patti are the few women I can think of, but they are also trained opera singers. Pavarotti channels his idol Mario Lanza as he, Domingo, and Carreras bring the meaning of Christmas into your home. The harmony, each solo verse, English, Italian. Even when you don’t know the language they are singing, the voices, the melody, and knowing the words in English are enough to bring the audience to tears.

Moving as O Holy Night is, The Three Tenors Christmas keeps a light hearted note with a rendition of Feliz Navidad. (I just have to say, Word doesn’t recognize Feliz Navidad without a spelling error, but the program knows Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras. Interesting.) We’re used to the pop, quick, swinging version, but here the multi-lingual tenors slow the tune just a tad and add a serious punch. Truly, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the Three Tenors so upbeat. Even O Sole Mio has a slower, easy going melody. Here, Feliz Navidad has such presence, fun, and joy-isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

The biggest surprise in The Three Tenors Christmas is without a doubt Amazing Grace. The trio’s stirring rendition blends solos from each tenor, harmony, orchestra booms, and silence. The opening and closing notes by Domingo are delivered a capella. You could here the proverbial pin drop while the quieted choir, orchestra, and audience listen. Not only is it unusual to here Amazing Grace at Christmas-even though it is a standard hymn throughout the year-Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras divide the song perfectly. Well, every song they sing has just the right arrangement for each to showcase his voice, yet there’s room for harmony and language change outs. The Three Tenors can make any song that’s meant for one sound incomplete after they’ve sung it their way. Amazing Grace is an exceptional spiritual song in its own right. To hear it as part of The Three Tenors Christmas is simply to die for.

These knock ‘em dead songs I’ve mentioned are only a handful of the songs performed in The Three Tenors Christmas. Any one of these stirring, traditional carols could have concluded the evening with satisfaction. The Three Tenors, however, again surprise with the unusual close out of Happy Christmas/The War is Over. Again, this Lennon composition is re-crafted for Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras’ range. While it might not be the men’s choice song to show their vocal range, the idea of ending on a charitable note is something each of The Three Tenors is about. The choir backs the Tenors, reminding all of us that Christmas is not a happy spirited time for millions around the world. After a glorious evening in cocert, The Three Tenors Christmas sends its audience home with appreciation and the true meaning of Christmas.
The Three Tenors ChristmasThe Three Tenors Christmas is available on a CD for listening pleasure or a DVD concert special for the entire atmosphere. This is one of the trio’s last performances, and copies of their material can be a bit pricey. Look for television airings on your PBS station. During their telethons, exclusive discs, and materials are often offered as member gifts. Search online for other Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras recordings-either together or individually- online. Everyone ought to hear The Three Tenors at least once, why not at Christmas?

11 December 2007

Black Beauty

Black Beauty for Young and Old

By Kristin Battestella

Whether by choice or requirement, every school kid has probably read Black Beauty. The 1877 novel by Anna Sewell shed light on the mistreatment of horses, and the 1994 film adaptation written and directed by Caroline Thompson renews this heartwarming story for all.

I bypassed Black Beauty when I was working at a video store and again when it worked its way into the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. There have been countless films, cartoons, and series taking the name (14 at imdb!) -horse movies themselves are a dime a dozen, and my favorite has always been The Man From Snowy River. This December, however, I chanced upon a second hand copy of Black Beauty. $2, Sean Bean’s in it, and hey, my nieces would like it.

Well, I should not have waited on my purchase. Alan Cumming voices Beauty, a lovely black stallion who enjoys his early life with Farmer Grey (Sean Bean) and subsequent move to Birtwick Park. There he frolics with fellow horses Ginger and Merry Legs and kindly stable hands John Manly (Joe Carter, Dinotopia) and Joe (Andrew Knott). Unfortunately, hardships and injury force Beauty’s move to a cruel Lord and Lady, hostile liveries, a kind but hard working cabbie named Jerry (David Thewlis), and finally backbreaking labor before his return to idyllic pastures with Joe. It’s a story that’s been tread more than once, but this faithful film includes all the good, bad, and tear jerking of Beauty’s life.

Although he’s top billed, Sean Bean’s role as Farmer Grey is rather small-especially considering that in 1994 he was perhaps at his height: Sharpe, Patriot Games, Goldeneye. Nevertheless, Bean gives us a touch of how good he can be as a good guy-it’s a rarity in American films and a pleasant surprise. Also often cast as a villian, David Thewlis (Harry Potter, Kingdom of Heaven) also surprises as poor, but kind Jerry. Darling as the actors are in Black Beauty, the star is without a doubt the horse- Docs Keepin Time (The Horse Whisper, Busch Commericials, too.). Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, The Secret Garden, Corpse Bride) smartly makes people are secondary in the film, even though they are the positive or negative influence in Beauty’s life.

At first an adult may scoff at the idea of a film narrated by a horse, but Alan Cumming (X-2, Tin Man) sells the animal’s innocent and loving nature. Just like the book is narrated by Beauty, I found myself waiting for the horse’s commentary in the film’s quiet moments. At some point during the viewing you are without a doubt on the animals’ side. It leads to much food for thought. Yes, why don’t those pesky humans listen to Beauty? Why are humans cruel to animals to begin with? Why do we fail to notice when a horse is in pain or has instincts that we fail to comprehend?

Underlying the charming work onscreen is the lovely score by Danny Elfman (The Simpsons, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory) When words or visuals won’t get you, music will. Cumming’s vocals and the music timing fit the horse’s work perfectly. I applaud Thompson and her production team for its work-which I’m sure wasn’t easy even with the best trained acting horses. The beautiful English locales and majestic looks of the horses practically sell themselves. Again, with such scenery it’s easy to be on the horse’s side. Nods to the 19th century are also enchanting. The nobility’s clothes versus the poor, Dickensian streets of London, carriages and coaches bring us back to a time we often imagine as lofty and ideal. In fact, Beauty’s telling shows us how low and ignorant those times often were.

Naturally, all the visuals mean diddly if you haven’t got a story. Black Beauty could have been done with claymation ala Gumby and it would still turn the heart of anyone. My nieces are young and can be touchy-so I put on the DVD for a solo viewing-besides, I could get some lovely screen captures. It’s been many years since my horse phase (does every kid have a horse phase?) I haven’t read books like The Saddle Club or King of The Wind in years. I dare say its been twenty years since I’ve read Black Beauty. Even so, when my nieces borrow books from me, Sewell’s classic is the one I always suggest. Unfortunately, my nieces saw a cartoon version and said it was too sad. Black Beauty is very sad, down right upsetting in some parts, yet it’s the story my father and I always discuss when we pick up the kids at school. It’s as if this kind of emotion is necessary for youth. Books and film like Old Yeller, Where The Red Fern Grows, Shane. Children ought to learn about the extremes of the human-or horse-condition. Learning how to cry can do us all a bit of good.

Thompson smartly frames Black Beauty with happy opening and closing scenes. Just in case you aren’t familiar with the story, you need to know it has positive outcome. There were moments in my viewing I expected, and others I had forgotten-but each brought a tear to my eye or a choke in my throat. I don’t recall the reception this film received upon its release in 94, but Black Beauty is kind of like Les Miserables or The Ten Commandments. Sometimes a story is too good to mess up-too good for critics and box offices numbers to matter.

Any age, animal lovers or not, Black Beauty can be enjoyed by anyone, and such family friendly entertainment is tough to find at such an affordable price. Black Beauty is available at most retailers under $10, cheaper if you know where to shop. As much as I whole heartily endorse Black Beauty, parents should be careful with those under ten or any extra-sensitive kids. The film is rated G, but a pre-viewing without the kids is a safe way to determine when your child is ready for this heartwarming, but tough story. Be on the look out for some sad goodbye sequences and animal abuse. One upsetting horse death might want to be skipped by parents all together.

Naturally, the film comes with the standard warnings about animals on set, although the DVD is devoid of behind the scenes or interactive featurettes that might help kids separate fact from fiction. It’s wise to remind younger audiences that the story does have a happy ending, and it’s a purely fiction film-although it brought about social changes on the mistreatment of horses. Depending on the younger folks’ reactions, parents could consider directing young readers to the book or the story of invalid author Anna Sewell. The wealth of material and emotion experience around Black Beauty is worth the tug at any and all heart strings. Share Black Beauty with the young and old.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

By Kristin Battestella

One small review of one small book. 87 pages I’ve taken time out of my busy holiday schedule for every year since 2000: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This year has been the same. People say, “Oh, you’re reading that? Again?! Sometimes I myself begin reading with a sigh. Such a silly tradition I’ve placed upon myself! Sometimes I rush to finish on Christmas Day, other times I’ve read through in a few cold December days. Regardless of my mood when I start, I’m hooked once I read a sentence. I read faster, wanting to get to my favorite lines and scenes. Even though I know what’s coming on each page, I also know exactly where my lip’s going to tremble, too.

Call me many things, but never predictable. Despite all the excellent film portrayals- Bill Murray’s Scrooged included- one has not truly experienced Scrooge, Marley, Tiny Tim, and the ominous Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come until you have read the book. Alistair Sim, Kelsey Grammar, and Patrick Stewart just won’t do.

Even if you are not a Dickens fan or don’t have the Department 56 Dickens’ Village light up houses like I do, Carol defines everything the holidays are about. After Thanksgiving I begin disassembling our year round Village display. I clean each house-Scrooge and Marley’s Counting House, the Flat of Nephew Fred; every figurine-Fezziwig and the graveyard with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. I put them all up again with fluffy snowscapes and cobblestone roadways. The Flat of Ebenezor Scrooge is meant to look shabby, ugly, unkempt. Yet the house representing the residence of Charles Dickens, Gad’s Hill Place, is three stories of all the bells and whistles.

Despite his future success, Dickens often wrote about life in debtors prison and his 1843 portrayal is spot on in relation to today’s over zealous commercial shopping season and bottom line obsessions. Scrooge is like today’s store managers, keeping the heat down and demanding clerks arrive early the day after. I thought of Scrooge, upset for his ‘ill use’ of paying a day’s wages on an unworked Christmas when I saw 4 a.m. Black Friday sales. Scrooge will never become cliché, no matter how many performances glorify him or send him up. Why? Because at some point, everyone has had a little bit of Ebenezer in them, regretted the fact, and redeemed themselves. You say you will donate here, volunteer there. Sometimes you do, sometimes you genuinely are busy or forget. Other times you simply skip doing good because you just don’t feel like it. The word Scrooge has become part of our vocabulary.

We all know the story of Ebenezor’s ghostly visitors who show him the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, A Christmas Carol was name one of the Top 100 horror stories of all time. Carol’s past memories of happy childhoods gone by from the elderly but childlike Ghost of Christmas Past and the bittersweet memories of those enjoying life around you courtesy of a trip with the robust Ghost of Christmas Present are sappy enough to make even Scrooge warm, but the gothic and frightening images of Ignorance, Want, and silent The Future Yet Undetermined can indeed scare anyone back to goodness. Dickens himself spent time in a Debtor’s Prison, and the reveal of the boy Ignorance and the girl Want hidden under the aging Christmas Present’s robe gets me every time. Skin and bones and claws for hands that could have been prevented by Scrooge’s donations. His own evil words are turned back on him. How often do we quell ourselves into not doing good by saying that someone else will? You need only go to a school for a day and spot the coatless, scrawny, un-brushed hair among the classrooms for inspiration. Amazing all the advancement’s we’ve made since Dickens’ time and some things unfortunately do not change.

This is scary, upsetting stuff in A Christmas Carol, yet I still recommend this story as a family read this holiday season. As deep and mature as Dickens’ Tale is for us older working folks, picture your children gathered around the fire each reading a stave. It might be the best gift you give them this season. Showing them how to recognize the needs of others before they grow up in the commercial Christmas rush. Potter reading children will take the good versus evil story at its basic, core values. Poor Bob Cratchit and ill Tiny Tim had no material things of value to begin with-less than that in the Future’s horrible vision, yet the family is grateful. They have hope, love, belief. Maybe poor Nephew Fred has no heat in his flat, but the packed party and jubilant laughter is enough to keep his company warm. Both these families toast to Scrooge-not because he deserves it, but because it’s the right thing to do. These warm wishes juxtaposed against the notion of the clothes being taken right off Scrooge’s dead body at his end mirror his contrary, inconsiderate nature. Which would you choose? A Christmas Carol reminds us that one is never too old for a lesson in gratitude, redemption, and awareness of the world around you.

Reading A Christmas Carol this holiday will remind you and yours of all the good things about the Season. Why the good things are good, and why they should be treasured and spread. Not exuberant gifts like those Zales and Lexus commercials. A Christmas Carol gives us the things that can’t be bought-or even seen.

You can read A Christmas Carol and more about Charles Dickens online at http://www.literature.org/authors/dickens-charles

Portions of this articled appeared in The Reminder Newspaper. For a sample of that article, visit http://jsnouff.com/Kristin/essays05.php.

Merry Christmas!

10 December 2007

Quizzes: Movies

I'm having trouble posting all my quizzes for visitors to enjoy! I've tried to put them in separate categories for more fun. If you know of any fun quizzes please feel free to comment or post your results!


You Are Trinity

"Touch me and that hand will never touch anything again."

You Are Cyclops

Dedicated and responsible, you will always remain loyal to your cause.
You are a commanding leader - after all, you can kill someone just by looking at them.

Power: force beams from your eyes

Your Movie Buff Quotient: 72%

You are a total movie buff. Classics, blockbusters, indie favorites... you've seen most of them.
Your friends know to come to you whenever they need a few good DVD rental suggestions.

Your Love Life is Like The Princess Bride

"Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind."

For you, love is like a fairy tale - albeit a fairly twisted one.
You believe romance is all about loyalty, fate, and a good big of goofy fun.

Your love style: Idealistic yet quirky

Your Hollywood Ending Will Be: Perfectly romantic

Your Famous Movie Kiss is from Gone With The Wind

"Great balls of fire. Don't bother me anymore, and don't call me sugar."

Your Christmas is Most Like: The Muppet Christmas Carol

You tend to reflect on Christmas past, present, and future...
And you also do a little singing.

The Movie Of Your Life Is A Black Comedy

In your life, things are so twisted that you just have to laugh.
You may end up insane, but you'll have fun on the way to the asylum.

Your best movie matches: Being John Malkovich, The Royal Tenenbaums, American Psycho

Which John Carpenter Movie Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as The Fog

Your John Carpenter Movie is The Fog. Stay away from the coastline. You've been warned...

The Fog




Escape from New York




You are Bettie Page

Girl next door with a wild streak
You're a famous beauty - with unique look
And the people like you are cultish about it

Check out the fun pages at my website for more quizzes, links, and games! http://jsnouff.com/kristin

05 December 2007

Bee Gees: Best of Volume 2

Best of Volume 2 is so Mellow, It’s cool.
by Kristin Battestella

Okay, I know there really isn’t much point in reviewing compilations, but sometimes they actually get it right in representing the artist. Best of Volume 2, while having a hideous cover, superbly collects the best of the Bee Gees mellow sound. 1973 was a down year for the Brothers. United, but almost artistically bankrupt, BV2 stretches back to 1968 for material. (Ironically Best of Volume 1 was released when the brothers were a house divided.) However, never has there been better material for the technology of the record!
Wouldn’t I Be Someone leads off Side One and was the proposed single from the unreleased A Kick In The Head Is Worth Eight In The Pants. Indeed this is probably the best of that bunch, with Barry and Robin alternating this moody tune. And imagine when I discovered the lyrics inside this sleeve! Alone these sounds are so great to cry to, but when you also have the words to actually read along, everything takes on a whole poetic feel. The interlude sung by Robin ‘Midnight stars are shining on my shoeshine...’ almost sounds like a child contemplating his sad fate. This combined with the instrumental arrangement is ingenious.

IOIO is the complete opposite of Someone (Also see our review of Cucumber Castle here.) It’s such an upbeat reggae style song, yet they lyrics are actually very sad. You can be happy and sing along or be sad and sing along and nobody around would know the difference. My World was a previously unreleased cut that found its way here. Despite this odd mix of old and rare, there are several gems here. This is one of them. It’s lyrics are plain and simple-mine, yours, ours, what else is there? Yet the three-part harmony is so smart and complex. Great juxtaposition.

Instead of sweeping their prior split under the rug, The Bee Gees embraced it. Saved By The Bell and Don’t Forget To Remember are added here to represent Robin, then Barry and Maurice, respectively ;0). With Bell, Robin almost sounds like a bell. The rhyme scheme and orchestral mix showed he could hold his own. Again hearing this on record just sounds so 1970 it’s cool. Don’t Forget To Remember also has some great lines from Barry and Maurice that just belong on record. (Again please see our Castle review.) There isn’t much Maurice on this compilation, which I would normally For Shame! However, the tone here is the one of crying alone in the dark, which who is better for that than Quaver Robin or Breathy Barry?

My word if ever a song was meant for the record player and the record player alone it has to be And The Sun Will Shine! The slight pops and hisses and slight flat tone of the record just put the mellow sound over the top. Never mind those lyrics of trees, skies, love, and life! The song starts off slow, almost with no music. It’s almost as if Robin were right here whispering in your ear. Then you look at the vinyl spinning and it sends chills up your spine. (We’ve also praised this one in our Horizontal review here.)

Oh Run To Me is just darling. (Please see our new To Whom It May Concern review here.) The guitar and vocal work here is marvelous. The lyric of ’Run to me, whenever you’re lonely’ is just so fitting. You’re feeling down and out, put on The Bee Gees to console you. I love the scene in The Virgin Suicides where the boys play this record over the phone for the whacky girls who are locked up by their parents. It’s the only part of the movie I understand. I think. I hadn’t heard Man For All Seasons before my first listen here. In fact, I need to look up what album it originally came from, but it’s pretty good darn good. Again harmony and rhyme, can anybody do it better?

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart leads off Side Two with its monster self. Barry and Robin poured the feelings about their rift into this song and came out with one of life’s two biggest questions. (The other being How Deep Is Your Love? 80)=) ) The Boys can’t give you the answers, but they make the questions a bit easier to deal with. Like How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, Don’t Want To Live Inside Myself is also from Trafalgar. Where Heart is more reflective and questioning, Don’t Want To Live Inside Myself is almost dark, edgy, angry, yet soft somehow. You almost feel sorry for it, but love it at the same time. Barry’s soul delivery and the rock hard music parallel this feeling.

I’m going to be in tears doing this review! Everyone needs a good cry! Melody Fair again moves you by reflecting its lyrics in the music. When Melody sees the rain, the music sounds like raindrops. Maurice’s harmonizing here is awesome. It seems to also reflect the story of Melody and the issues she’s hiding under the surface. %^&*$% good! (We've also reviewed Melody Fair on Odessa.)

Although they had to stretch for material, 1968’s Let There Be Love fits the track list here. The musical and vocal arrangement is very orchestral. When Barry’s vocal crescendo comes, you wonder how he can possibly top it, but
Robin joins in and the song rises to a whole nother level. Yes why can’t there be love? Let there be love!
Now, ahem, the one rocking testament on Best of Volume 2 is Lonely Days. Written on the same day as How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, the Boys speak of their wives being their only saving graces during the band’s split. It’s so raw and real, human nature at its high and low described perfectly in song.

Next is In The Morning, or rather as it’s entitled here Morning of My Life. This seems to be the version used for the Melody soundtrack. I personally like the original version on the 63-66 compilations better, but the slower rhythm here is ubermellow. Where the original version is more quirky, here however, it feels just like you’ve stayed up all night. The sunrise and rainbow you see are so beautiful, but somehow bittersweet. Now, anybody who’s ever done that and felt that way, did you ever think there would be a song to describe that feeling? I know The Bee Gees rock!

Alive (also on To Whom it May Concern here.) starts out bittersweet like In The Morning, but it quickly picks up with its affirming beat and lyrics. As crazy as this album can make you, Alive turns everything around and tastefully flips the bird at the mellow sound. It’s so what! lyrics almost prep the Brothers Gibb for the kick-ass that was to come.
The early seventies were a very slow and mellow period for the Bee Gees, almost too mellow. However, mellow can serve its purpose, and Best Of Volume 2 is indeed a collection of the best. Try and find it on record, then save it for a rainy day. My Mom calls it ‘tin-e’, whatever that means.


I am just compelled to review Magnet, naturally.
by Kristin Battestella

Now that I finally broke down and traded for this one! (Living Eyes is a powerful thing, right Brian? ;0) ) Robin’s 2003 solo album still isn’t available in the United States. And after hearing it, I don’t understand why. Then again, I am also a bit mystified by this album. All my reviews up until now have been relatively positive, but Magnet begs the question: Where’s Robin?
Although his intentions were to collaborate with new, young up and coming talent, Magnet sounds more like ‘Everyone else featuring Robin Gibb’. Don’t get me wrong, the modern sounding soulful r and b surprised me, and I liked it. However, anyone expecting all out Robin Gibb should stick to Robin’s Reign.

Please was rightfully the first single released, and I liked it right off just by hearing the sample on the ecard. Robin’s vocals are the strongest here. It makes me wonder why the rest of the album sets him up as some old man who can’t sing and needs a lot of background singers. Amazingly not written by a Gibb (I probably should go and look up who really did write it, but anyway) Please also seems a bit eerie if you listen with the passing of Maurice in mind. Although made before Mo’s death, Magnet had the misfortune of being released shortly thereafter.

Wait Forever helps get you out of the teary rut Please can sometimes create. It’s quite catchy, and the part that’s catchiest for me isn’t even sung by Robin! Wish You Were Here is Robin’s spin on The Bee Gees 1989 tribute to Andy. (Please see our review on One.) Ironic enough, Robin added a verse to make the song about parted lovers. Instead you get an almost in tears Robin singing about another passed brother, or so it definitely seems now. The almost acoustic feel here also isn’t as good as the original’s arrangement.

No Doubt returns to the modern soul glow feel. Robin variates his voice here, and his style fits all the nasty modern lingo. Surprisingly again Robin didn’t write this one. Special is how I would define slow jam. You start off with Robin singing some really cool lyrics, then these other people cut in. I think to myself, ‘That sounds cool, but Hey! I was enjoying listening to Robin.’ The interlude in Special shows the most hints here of Robin’s powerhouse voice.
Inseparable is the only new song on Magnet penned by Robin, credited with Decon Smith. Honestly, it may be the song I like the least. After all his oh yeahs and slow baby babys Robin talkingreallyfastlikethis sounds, well... crappy. Again like a real old timer who either speeds up or slows down because he can no longer carry the tune. I beg to differ!

I like Don’t Rush, but again Robin unnecessarily shares the vocals with these people. This song is also tough to categorize. Is it a dance song or a slow jam? Sometimes I want Don’t Rush to rush though. I don’t like these other people enough to listen to them regularly like I do The Bee Gees.
Watching You again has its catchiest moments without Robin. This song would be a hit here I know it! You go to the club and you here the same thing. And believe me, no one could stigma this song over its Gibb attachment. You hardly hear Robin on this one.
Earth Angel is a lot like Special with less Robin. I honestly think there is more Decon Smith on this album. Entire choruses and verses on this album are sung by other people. Does that confuse anyone else? The other singers do sound good though. Robin certainly picked talented lyricists.

Lonely Night In New York is the update of Robin’s own Another Lonely Night In New York from How Old Are You (Please see our Hoay! review here ) It has some very cool sound effects added, but I can’t tell if it’s the same vocal track reused or not. The dark and edgy techno update sounds very cool, and frankly I wonder what the rest of How Old Are You would sound like if the eightes twang was replaced. As annoying as it is to have so many other people’s material on this album, Love Hurts concludes Magnet fittingly. This rendition by Robin has the Nazareth feel, yet Robin’s tone harkens back to the original Everly Brothers sound. It bookends well with Please, especially since Robin’s quaver voice comes through-you can feel his hurt.

Listening to Magnet on its own it’s a great contemporary album with several gems. Listening to it with The Gibb feel in mind? I can definately recommend better. Still, I’ve got a few hip teeny bopper friends I just had to copy this for, and they loved it! Magnet is a great ‘gateway’ to attracting new fans who wouldn’t expect a Bee Gee to be up for this kind of material. And it still hasn’t been released in the US!

Flowing Rivers

Flowing Rivers!
by Kristin Battestella

My first Andy Gibb review, of his first album, from a record, of which this is my first review! Did that make sense? 1977’s Flowing Rivers is my favorite Andy album, and in my opinion his best. He looks the hottest on this cover, too! Unfortunately, in hindsight we can see Andy started at the top, and for awhile he kept it up, but eventually the high life brought him down.
Flowing Rivers begins with the smash hit I Just Want To Be Your Everything. How can anybody not like I Just Want To Be Your Everything? I liked Everything even as a kid. My Dad couldn’t understand how I liked Andy Gibb but not The Bee Gees. “They’re the same thing!” Honestly now, we must admit the vocals on Everything are a bit ‘Barryfied‘, but that’s why it sounds so good.

To me the rest of the album is much more true to Andy himself. Unlike his later work, which became more and more Barry, with Andy writing less of the material. Andy by himself wrote eight of the ten songs presented here. Words and Music starts off slow, and actually sounds rather weak early, but it picks up steam with each turn of the lovelorn lyrics. Andy also adlibs with a touch of falsetto at the end. His falsetto-not the Barry imitation-is very sweet and true.

Dance To The Light Of The Morning is a cute country song that would get the gang at the pub up for a dance. Andy’s vocal arrangements are perfectly placed and have a sing a long-ability. Maybe this is the tweaking of producers Barry, Albhy Galuten, and Karl Richardson, but it sounds dang cool.
Too Many Looks In Your Eyes and Starlight are the first slow tunes presented. Andy’s songs have such a sweet romantic flare. It can seem idealistic at times, but it also has a feel of innocence or ‘young love’. Side One ends with you totally relaxed and feeling those special feelings.

The B-side of the record begins with the second Barry orchestrated hit Love is Thicker Than Water. Written by Barry and Andy, Andy’s voice seems more breathy natural here-less like the Barry imitation on I Just Want To Be Your Everything. I love the humming and instrumental breather at the end. (Actually this song sounds kind of scratchy on my record. I guess the previous owner played this song a lot.) The title song Flowing Rivers returns to Andy’s country feel. This one plays more like a page of a road trip journal, chronicling the highs and lows of life, fame, and the road. It’s up and down rhythm parallels this perfectly. It’s quite catchy.

Come Home For The Winter is even more country. The country styles themselves are completely different, however, and I am left to ponder what would have happened had Andy explored these country singer songwriter poetic styles further. Andy’s later duets with Olivia Newton-John are nice, but seemed forced somehow. These are easy tunes you’d expect to hear at someone’s barbecue. I like Andy this way.

Let it Be Me sounds like that Everly Brothers title. Forget that! Andy’s song here is like a cross between country and disco. No lie, square dances and disco balls do go together! And this song is good. Fittingly, In The End slows the album to a close. Andy’s lyrics of saying he tried his best are fitting but eerie. Flowing Rivers opens and closes with very strong songs from Andy, begging the question: What could be next?

Those who think of Andy Gibb as nothing more than a Bee Gee imitator will be pleasantly surprised at this listen. The similarities are evident, but these songs are worthy of the Gibb Catalog in their own right. Flowing Rivers is a very poetic and honest country album that proves Andy had the Gibby Talent to do whatever he wanted to do.