This week’s reviews: Big Star, Mariachi El Bronx, Bette Midler

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Big Star – Live in Memphis (2014)

Big Star‘s Live in Memphis is billed as the “only professional filmed performance by Big Star.” It was recorded on October 29, 1994 as part of their reunion tour (without Chris Bell, however, who died in 1978). It has many of their “biggest hits” and most well-known songs like “In the Street” (which became the theme song for That’s 70’s Show), “September Gurls,” “When My Baby’s Beside Me,” and “Battle of El Goodo.” There are carefree moments, like in a cover of “The Girl from Ipamena” and “Patty Girl.”

It is almost impossible not to recognize the influence of this band.  And this live recording serves as a snap-shot of that songwriting and rock ‘n roll prowess.

Many bands are awarded posthumous second chances. Alex Chilton died in 2010 after an era of Big Star activity with Jody Stephens and a crew of other musicians. With the release of a the live album and DVD Live in Memphis and 2012’s documentary and soundtrack entitled “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me,” a whole new generation is posed to experience the genius of Big Star.

Recommended Tracks: “Thank You Friends,” “I Am The Cosmos,” “Slut”


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Mariachi El Bronx III (2014)

The Bronx are a Los Angeles-based hardcore punk band. In the past couple of years, they’ve steered off the beaten path and embraced Mexico’s folk music in their Mariachi El Bronx series. Since 2009, the band released 2 albums (in 2009 and 2011) under this moniker. And this week, they released a third.

As a concept, its quite an interesting record. They pair punk sensibilities with traditional horns and violins. The songs contain themes of believing in one’s self, taking chances, and  hope. While many bands do weird for the sake of being weird, The Bronx remains sincere in this endeavor.  This album, along with the other two under Mariachi El Bronx, are examples of how to successfully embark into unexpected territory.  They honor the roots of Mexican music while infusing their propensity towards West Coast Punk. Its unmatched and worth a listen.

Recommended Tracks: “New Beat” “High Tide”.


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Bette Midler – It’s The Girls!

Ok I’ll admit it. I love Bette Midler. I loved “Beaches.” I am also quite fond of “The Understudy,” a Seinfeld episode where the main story arcs are Jerry’s romance with Midler’s understudy in “Rochelle, Rochelle: The Musical” and Kramer’s admiration of Midler.  I was also exposed to a lot of oldies growing up.  So it is no wonder I was drawn to her latest album, It’s the Girls!

The target audience of this album is not 20-somethings.  Most of the songs are old standards from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Midler takes on classics like “One Fine Day,” “Tell Him,” “Can’t Hurry Love,” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” But then, something changes. There is detour into modern music with a delightful piano-driven of TLC’s “Waterfalls.” Its a triumph. It proves that while the sound of TLC may be sort of dated, the themes expressed in their biggest hits are everlasting. The part of me that not-so-secretly loves Midler and TLC is quite delighted.

Now if only Neil Diamond would cover Backstreet Boys…

Recommended Tracks: “Waterfalls”

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