Bob Geldof once asked us, “Where is the filtered excellence!?” It’s right here. Once a week we take a break from comedy to bring you this week’s picks of the best things to watch, the most interesting things to do, great things to try, the best picks to read, our favorite things to listen to and more.
Breslin & Hamill: Deadline Artists. This new HBO documentary co-directed by former Newsweek editor/columnist Jonathan Alter looks back at the careers and friendship between newspaper columnists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill. It examines how two guys from working-class New York City neighborhoods forever changed journalism, despite having no formal training or college degrees. Hamill and actor Michael Rispoli (The Deuce) also read portions of the duo’s seminal pieces on the Kennedy assassinations, the subway shooter Bernhard Goetz; The Son of Sam case; the AIDS crisis, the Crown Heights and Central Park Jogger cases and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The doc also covers how their personal lives intertwined with their work: For Hamill, how his battle with alcoholism became the basis of his book, A Drinking Life. With Breslin, it was his response to the deaths of his first wife and his two daughters.
With appearances from family members, contemporaries (including Tom Wolfe, Gay Talise, Mike Lupica, Garry Trudeau), famous fans (Spike Lee, Colin Quinn) and politicos (Gloria Steinem, Andrew Cuomo), this is a fitting tribute to two literary giants. Breslin & Hamill: Deadline Artists is airing on HBO, HBO Now and HBO Go. You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.
31 Days Of Oscar. Since their inception, Turner Classic Movies has celebrated the Oscars by devoting an entire month to films that have won or was nominated for an Academy Award. This year, each block of films will built around specific themes. It will include ‘The Grittiest Streets of New York’ (The French Connection and Taxi Driver); ‘The Best Battle with the Bottle’ (‘Days Of Wine And Roses and ‘The Lost Weekend); ‘Best Way to Take on Political Corruption’ (All The King’s Men and Mr Smith Goes To Washington); Best True Crime (Bonnie & Clyde, Dog Day Afternoon); Best Race Relations (In The Heat Of The Night, The Defiant Ones); Epics (Julius Caesar, Ben-Hur); Best Coming Of Age (The Graduate, The Last Picture Show) among several other topics. There will also be a slate of films devoted to the films of Ingrid Bergman, Martin Scorsese, John Huston, and much more. It’s another extraordinary series anchored by some of the greatest movies ever made. 31 Days Of Oscar will air February 1st through March 2 on Turner Classic Movies. You can also go to www.31days.tcm.com for a complete schedule.
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Feral Roots by Rival Sons. The 6th album by this Long Beach, California Band continues a white hot streak of greatness that began nearly a decade ago. Produced once again by Dave Cobb, this four quartet deliver another another solid set of blues-based hard rock with flourishes of country, bluegrass and gospel. Vocalist Jay Buchanan is a premier vocalist with a delivery that puts him in the same category with some of rock’s greatest frontmen. Scott Holiday is just as formidable effortlessly moving between blistering leads, explosive power chords, greasy slide, and rich acoustic textures. Every great rock band has a powerful rhythm sedition and Mike Miley (drums) and Dave Beste (bass) are as good as anyone out there. Simply put, this is a good old fashioned, no frills, rock n roll record. It’s also the first great album of 2019. Feral Roots by Rival Sons is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music streaming services. You can also go to www.rivalsons.com for more information.
In Search Of Mona Lisa by Santana. 50 years after their debut album, Santana – led by guitar legend Carlos Santana – is working harder than ever. They are still touring extensively and just released the first of a number of recording projects slated to come out this year. This new EP – their first for Concord Records – draws its inspiration from a recent trip to Paris and finally getting an opportunity to view The Mona Lisa. ‘Do You Remember’ is vintage Santana with Carlos Santana’s blistering fretwork soaring over a slow broiling Latin groove. The title track updates the Bo Diddley beat and features a soulful vocal from Cornell ‘CC’ Carter. ‘Lovers From Another Time’ finds Santana in symphonic territory, with support from bass master Ron Carter and dual drumming from wife Cindy Blackman-Santana and Narada Michael Walden. While the band puts the finishing touches on a full length, Rick Rubin produced album scheduled to come out this summer, this EP is a delightful primer to what lays ahead. In Search of Mona Lisa by Santana is out now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers. You can also go to www.santana.com for tour dates and additional information.
The Birth Of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul and The Guitar Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock n Roll by Ian S. Port. In the late 50s and early 60s, the United States and Russia engaged in a race to be the first to reach the Moon. At the same time, a different kind of tug of war emerged as America’s tastes were shifting from big band jazz to rock n roll. As the music evolved to a more guitar-based sound, it needed the tools for it to be played loud. When Leo Fender saw success with marketing the first solid-body electric guitar, Gibson, the largest guitar manufacturer, turned to Les Paul to leave his mark on a competitive model. It would begin the most heated rivalry in the guitar world: The Gibson Les Paul vs the Fender. This new book from Ian S. Port details how Fender, a quiet, half-blind, self-taught radio repairman and Paul, the outgoing, brilliant pop star, guitarist and inventor, sought to create rock n roll’s ultimate status symbol, launching the genre – and music – into new sonic terrains. It also details how each men sought some of the biggest names in rock – Muddy Waters, Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix – to endorse their gear. It’s an insightful look at a side of the rock story that is rarely discussed. The Birth Of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul and The Guitar Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock n Roll by Ian S. Port is available now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all major book retailers.
New York City. Soul Of A Nation: Art In The Age Of Black Power. As Black History Month kicks off, this exhibit devoted to Black painters, graphic artists, sculptors and photographs whose work reflected the The American Civil Rights Movement will close out at The Brooklyn Museum. It features over 150 works spanning over 20 years and includes the groundbreaking work of Emory Douglas; Jack Whitten’s abstract tribute to Malcolm X; the contorted metal sculptures of Melvin Edwards, painted portraits of every day Black people by Barkley Hendricks and Emma Amos, and much more. In addition, on February 2nd, there will be readings, live music from Toshi Reagan, and a free screening of the film, Mr Soul. This is a rare chance to see these pieces in a group setting about a crucial period in American history, and see the narrative continue on stage. Soul Of A Nation: Art In The Age Of Black Power will be at Brooklyn Museum through February 3. You can also go to www.brooklynmuseum.org for tickets and additional information.