Friday, February 24, 2023

The View On Pop Culture: Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music, Lucinda Williams, "Too Much Coffee Man" & "Unbreakable" (2001)

Roxy Music's The Best of Roxy Music

A stylish and charismatic performer, Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music is rock’s equivalent to the suave pop crooners of the 1940s. Although the creative lifespan of Roxy Music was brief by pop/rock standards, stretching across a mere ten years, the influence that the band had on eighties new wave bands and modern British pop is priceless. There have been previous compilations of Roxy Music’s hits, but The Best of Roxy Music (Virgin Records) may well be the most complete. Starting with hits like “Avalon” and “More Than This” from Roxy’s 1982 swan song, Avalon, the collection works its way backwards chronologically, featuring well-known tracks like “Dance Away” and “Love Is the Drug” alongside non-album singles like the 1981 Lennon tribute “Jealous Guy” and the band’s early hit “Virginia Plain”.

Roxy Music’s core talents of Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera and saxman Andy MacKay never failed to deliver music that was rich and multi-hued, a tapestry of style and sound that is classy and timeless. Although the band’s stateside fortunes were limited to a mere handful of hit singles, they consistently placed in the top ten on the British charts and, even more admirably, they knew when to call it quits and rest on their considerable laurels. The Best of Roxy Music serves as a wonderful introduction to the band for the uninitiated but also provides long-time fans with some of the best that Roxy had to offer on one CD.

Not the most prolific of artists, Lucinda Williams is nonetheless one of music’s more interesting talents. A perfectionist, Williams crafts each recording like a diamond cutter shaves a gem. Williams’ sixth album, Essence (Lost Highway/Universal), is no different, its eleven songs carefully detailed and performed with great skill and consideration. Although the somber songs on Essence veer in a different direction from those on Williams’ last album, longtime followers will see Essence as an inevitable evolutionary step.

An album about self-reflection and discovery, Essence is a poetic sojourn, its songs speaking of the search for love, for acceptance, for faith in a world growing ever harsher and impersonal. The songs here feature sparse musical accompaniment behind Williams’ throaty, uniquely beautiful vocals, producer and musician Charlie Sexton deftly juggling the demands of the studio with those of each individual song. Sexton and folk artist Bo Ramsey add subtle and mesmerizing guitar lines to create a structure on which Williams builds her lyrical creations. With Essence, Williams and friends have delivered an enchanting and thoughtful set of songs.

First there was Too Much Coffee Man the comic book, a reckless and joyful celebration of all things caffeine sketched out in crude black & white comic strips. After spending ten years at the drawing board, TMCM creator Shannon Wheeler has opted to change the format of his comic books to that of a full-featured magazine. The inaugural issue has hit a newsstand near you and it’s well worth checking out. The ‘zine includes expected reviews of stuff like coffee ice cream and “be-bop” biscotti but also offers up the unexpected, like pieces on crime and punishment in America, identity theft and cartoonist Kieron Dwyer’s account of his legal struggles with Starbucks as well as several comic strips, including TMCM. Entertaining and intelligent, Too Much Coffee Man the magazine is the Rev’s “must read” for the month (

Proving that the cinematic excellence and storytelling skills that he showed audiences with The Sixth Sense were no fluke, writer and filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan followed up that surprise blockbuster with the equally impressive Unbreakable (Touchstone Home Video). Although it was not the smash hit of his first film, Unbreakable is an admirable work in its own right. Bruce Willis stars as David Dunn, the lone survivor of a deadly train wreck. The accident proves to be a sort of watershed for the character when he meets up with the enigmatic stranger Elijah, played perfectly by Samuel L. Jackson.

The story twists and turns in unexpected directions, as the mysterious Elijah leads Dunn to discover his true nature. Shyamalan is an original and insightful director, using interesting framing and camera angles to drive this unique and thrilling tale. As with his previous film, Shyamalan provides viewers with a surprise ending. The DVD release includes a second disc with a “behind the scenes” feature and one discussing comic books and superheroes (a major theme in the film). Unbreakable is a remarkable film that will keep you thinking for days after watching it. (View From The Hill, June 2001)

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