Archive for the ‘Mr. Mister’ Category

Glee blog review Episode 9 Special Education: Better late than never

December 6, 2010

Santana gets a spotlight for 'Valerie.'

To regular readers, sorry about last week’s lapse. I was out of the country on vacation. But as they say, better late than never, and that goes, too, for Glee’s strong string of potent episodes after a faltering start to season two.

Special Education had such potency, in part because the storyline was so solid. Just as Ryan Murphy uses the real nature of his cast to define their characters, he referenced his own series’ fixation on a star in its ensemble, Lea Michele, by having Emma lecture a soon-enlightened Will about spreading the wealth in solos for Sectionals competition. That meant no show-stopper for Lea’s Rachel, but lots of team-spirited standouts for New Directions in general.

Of course, Rachel was still central, and even still got to sing a solo — of sorts — with Evita show-stopper Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, showing Kurt how to audition for a Warblers solo in a big way. (Loved her ironic balcony shot.) Like last season’s Defying Gravity, Rachel and Kurt’s performances of the same song were artfully intercut, and it even made sense at the end that Kurt didn’t win the spotlight with the Warblers, since his moving Don’t Cry wasn’t about bolstering that group, but simply standing out on his own independently of them.

Sure, Blaine gets a big Warblers spotlight, but Blaine does so while performing in elaborate group numbers as part of Dalton’s show choir. Kurt, like Rachel, was taking the “me, me, me” approach of hogging all the glory in a pensive yet powerful song that did not invite group interaction. So Kurt lost the audition.

I was also glad to see New Directions and the Warblers tie at Sectionals, so they’ll both move on to Regionals, maintaining a rich rivalry and giving us more chances to enjoy the Warblers along the way. Of course, in true interscholastic competition, there’d be no “tie” at this stage, or else Regionals would be crammed with too many participants. But it’s an artistic license I’ll readily allow, given that New Directions had to advance, and the Warblers were too good to leave behind in this season.

I also enjoyed seeing new spotlights shining on Quinn and Sam for (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, on Mercedes and Tina for Dog Days are Over and on Santana for Valerie. This episode offered great music all around. But for me, the best was the Warblers with Hey Soul Sister. (And for Mr. Mister fans who enjoy that song’s lyrical reference to the group, check here for a review of Mr. Mister’s “new” album.)

But I was dismayed about one thing: that Rachel, after showing flashes of team spirit and compassion (calling Kurt her chief competition was a nice touch), again dropped the ball clumsily by showing callous spite toward Finn for an indiscretion that occurred while the two weren’t even dating. Ryan, Rachel is a diva and must forever be one — I get it.  But she’s got to be made more human, and fast. We want to cheer for her, not endure her.

Of course, even bigger news than Rachel and Finn’s apparent breakup was Emma and Carl’s sudden Vegas marriage. So that’s it for Will and his neurotic potential paramour? I guess so. That’s also two weddings in two weeks — two major developments in Glee Land. Things are moving, not stalling, and I like it.

Now we await a holiday episode marking a farewell until Glee’s February return. But hey, at least two Glee-free months isn’t like last season’s four-month gap while awaiting an April comeback.

So as we brace for a break from Glee, let’s give the show some post-Thanksgiving thanks. With three additional episodes this season, and 16 yet to air, there’s plenty more Glee for season two, and the fall stanza has wound up being much better than suggested by its stunt-driven early episodes.

Like Quinn and Sam, I’m having the time of my life — at least in terms of TV entertainment. So thanks, Glee. You’ve done yourself proud.

Now keep ’em coming.

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Music review, Mr. Mister ‘Pull’: Mended wings

November 24, 2010

 

I love ’80s music, and have only realized how much in retrospect. That means I’m cool with this week’s debut of Pull, the fourth album by Mr. Mister, which was shelved after the band recorded it for a label which wound up rejecting it for not being commercial enough.

I suspect the label was right, but that doesn’t mean Pull isn’t worth hearing. Now, finally, the band is selling it on CD via its own website. Though that doesn’t beat a major label, it does beat oblivion. And speaking of majors, RCA/Legacy, a division of Sony Music, is issuing the album  in digital form.

Mr. Mister, in short, is back.

Is Pull worth the 20-year wait since its recording? In a sense, no. It’s not as tuneful and hook-heavy as the band’s earlier efforts, and it has a tough act to follow in Go On, the band’s third disc, which failed to spark big hits but was nonetheless its most fully realized and meaningful music.

But beyond the progressive rock, jazz fusion and reggae lilts of this synth-laced and vocal-driven ’80s music (recorded in 1990, but close enough), some of the 11 songs may grow on you, including the haunting yet urgent We Belong to No One and by far the album’s best track, the passionate and powerful No Words to Say.

In No Words to Say, singer/composer Richard Page rails against the segregation of Montgomery, AL, where he grew up in the late ’50s. No words? Actually, Page, Steve George and Pat Mastelotto had plenty to say, as the band’s underrated lyrics often attest. (Pull does not feature departed guitarist Steve Farris.)

No, there’s no Broken Wings or Kyrie, but there is solid, professional music from these former L.A. session players, though some tracks do tend to blur. And for Mr. Mister completists, the group’s earlier incarnation as Pages is yielding digital reissues of its two Epic albums from the late ’70s, Pages and Future Street.

Also, the out-of-print Mr. Mister albums Go On and debut disc I Wear the Face are being released digitally this week. Already available digitally is the band’s second album, Welcome to the Real World, with the #1 hits Kyrie and Broken Wings.

As for Pull, “it best represents what our band was all about,” says Page, “stretching the boundaries of pop music, not conforming to the conventional wisdom that you have to write within accepted perimeters, allowing ourselves the freedom to express the musicianship and writing skills we encouraged in each other.”

It’s certainly a worthy addition to Mr. Mister’s brief but impressive catalog. And as they say, better late than never. I’ll take it.