Friday, May 12, 2023

The View On Pop Culture: The Reverend's Last-Minute Gift Guide (2001)

John Hiatt's The Tiki Bar Is Open


If you’re reading this you’ve got a week – maybe just a few days if you’re late picking up the VIEW – before Christmas hits you square between the eyes. If you’re having trouble figuring out exactly which pop culture relics to give as gifts to those special people in your life, have no fear. The good Reverend of Rock ‘n’ Roll is here to provide you with the 4-1-1 on your last-minute gift buying. Of course, each and every CD/DVD/book reviewed in this column during the past few months would make a magnificent gift, but with this being the season of giving, I’m going to be a little more specific in my recommendations. When the recipient of your holiday cheer beams with appreciation at the gift you’ve just given them, just remember that you read it in the VIEW

If you’ve listened to pop music at all during the past twenty years, chances are that you’ve heard John Hiatt’s influence, whether you knew it or not. A superb songwriter and storyteller, Hiatt has enjoyed hit records of his songs by Bonnie Raitt, Roseanne Cash and Eric Clapton and B.B. King. As an artist, Hiatt has consistently delivered some of the most interesting and original music being made today. The Tiki Bar Is Open (Vanguard Records) is Hiatt’s latest, an eleven-song collection of finely crafted songs that are intelligent, literary and passionate. Hiatt’s soulful vocals are matched by the sharp-edged instrumentation provided by guitarist Sonny Landreth and sympathetic production from Jay Joyce, a gifted musician in his own right. If your wife laments the loss of the modern-day troubadour, this is the gift for her.

FOR YOUR SON, THE METALHEAD: Sure, you have no idea what these nu-metal bands like Staid, Drowning Pool, or Mushroomhead are singing about, but your 15-year old son does. Surprise him this year with some classic heavy metal from one of the genre’s graybeards, Ozzie Osbourne. Ozzie’s slammin’ Down To Earth (Epic Records) reunites the metal godfather with slash-n-burn guitarist Zakk Wylde for a collection of songs that would warm the cockles of even the most hard-core metalhead’s heart. Ozzie’s involvement and influence on the current crop of nu-metal crusaders through his annual “Ozzfest” tour has reinvigorated the future Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall-of-Famer. Down To Earth is the most interesting and energetic work that the Oz has done in years and Wylde’s six-string has never screamed louder. After your teen spins this disc a couple of times, he’ll be asking to borrow your old Black Sabbath records.

Swag's Catch-All
Last year she discovered and embraced the Beatles with the same fervor that teenage girls did thirty-five years ago. There’s a world of pop/rock out there for her to experience, bands like Swag thankfully weaning her away from the Backstreet Boys. This ersatz “supergroup” was created by members of such country-leaning outfits as the Mavericks and Wilco as well as pop chart-toppers like Sixpence None The Richer and Cheap Trick. The resulting collaboration, titled Catch-All (Yep Roc Records), is a delightful blend of sixties-influenced, British invasion-styled rock with Beatlesque harmonies and top-notch songwriting courtesy of talents like Jerry Dale McFadden, Robert Reynolds, and Doug Powell and guests like Bill Lloyd. Think the Who, the Zombies, Badfinger, and the Beatles and you’re in the right artistic ballpark. If you’re lucky you might still score an original print of this CD, sure to become a collector’s item. Due to a legal misunderstanding, three cuts on Catch-All with Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson will be replaced with Swag songs featuring Todd Rundgren, certainly no slouch in the pop/rock department himself.  

FOR YOUR DAD, THE WISE GUY: Although not a “made man” himself – he’s an accountant by trade – your dad is nevertheless obsessed with the mob. As such, you have just one choice for a “gift your father can’t refuse.” The four-DVD box set The Sopranos: The Complete Second Season (HBO Home Video) presents all thirteen episodes from the second season of this award-winning drama along with select audio commentary from episode directors and a couple of featurettes. With this DVD set, your pappy can enjoy the company of Tony Soprano, Uncle Junie, Paulie Walnuts, and their mob pals all year long.

FOR YOUR BROTHER, THE BEATLES FAN: He’s got all their albums, on both vinyl and CD, all of the memorabilia, the tell-all books, even the bobbing-head dolls – so what do you get for the number one Fab Four fan? Might I suggest springing for Beatles Gear (Backbeat Books), a hefty tome that is sure to send any Beatles’ aficionado into spasms of delight? Written by noted Beatles authority Andy Babiuk and based on interviews with band members, studio engineers, producers and anybody else who ever came in contact with John, Paul, George and Ringo, Beatles Gear provides a chronological accounting of the band through its instruments. This 250+ page coffee table book presents a fascinating history of the band, beginning with its early roots as the Quarrymen in the fifties through their 1970 break-up. It includes dozens of color and B&W photos of the band on stage and in the studio as well as photos of the guitars, drums, amplifiers and other gear that were used to make the music that still sounds as magical today as it did 30+ years ago. (The View On Pop Culture, December 2001)

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