My review of The Criterion Collection's new UHD/Blu-ray review of Martin Scorsese's "RAGING BULL" is up at Cinema Retro.
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
Monday, June 6, 2022
My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of Joachim Trier's "THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD" is up at Cinema Retro.
Sunday, May 15, 2022
My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray edition of Billy Wilder's "DOUBLE INDEMNITY" is up at Cinema Retro.
Monday, April 25, 2022
My reviews of Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray releases of W. C. Fields movies "YOU'RE TELLING ME!" and "MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE" are up at Cinema Retro.
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
My review of Flicker Alley's new Blu-ray release of Lloyd Bridges in "THE WHISTLE AT EATON FALLS" is up at Cinema Retro.
Monday, April 18, 2022
My review of Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray release of Bob Hope in "THE GHOST BREAKERS" is up at Cinema Retro.
Friday, April 8, 2022
2022 UPDATE: THE "PROGRESSIVE CLASSICAL MUSIC" OF WIM MERTENS
By Raymond Benson
With the April 2022 release of Heroides by Flemish contemporary classical composer and musician, Wim Mertens, I decided to update a piece that appeared here on my blog in 2015, which, in turn, was a revisit of an article originally published in Progression Magazine in 1998.
It is still astonishing to me that such a prolific composer (over 70 releases on CD to date) is not so well known in the United States... I facetiously joke that I am "America's biggest Wim Mertens fan," for I never miss a new work by this wonderful artist. I was honored that Wim asked me to pen an essay for the booklet that was enclosed in his 2019 4-CD boxed set retrospective, Inescapable, which marked Wim's forty years of work.
The update appears below, beneath this reprinted original 2015 piece. --RB
(Originally posted in 2015, adapted from a 1998 article in Progression Magazine)
THE "PROGRESSIVE CLASSICAL MUSIC" OF WIM MERTENS
Wim Mertens and me in 1998.
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
My review of Kino Lorber's new 4K Ultra/Blu-ray of David Cronenberg's "EASTERN PROMISES" is up at Cinema Retro.
Tuesday, April 5, 2022
My review of Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray release of W. C. Fields in "YOU CAN'T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN" is up at Cinema Retro.
Sunday, March 27, 2022
My review of Paramount Presents' new Blu-ray release of Robert Redford's "ORDINARY PEOPLE" is up at Cinema Retro.
Friday, March 25, 2022
My review of Warner Archive's new Blu-ray release of William A. Wellman's 1937 "A STAR IS BORN" is up at Cinema Retro.
Thursday, March 24, 2022
My review of Cohen Media Group's new Blu-ray release of Joan Micklin Silver's "HESTER STREET" is up at Cinema Retro.
Saturday, March 12, 2022
My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray/4K Ultra release of Martin Scorsese's THE LAST WALTZ is up at Cinema Retro.
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
ALL HAIL THE… STAR PEOPLE
(Links to FREE MUSIC are at the end of this piece)
On November 8, 2000, I attended a concert at famed music club Martyr’s in Chicago, Illinois, to see the headliner, the fabulous OZRIC TENTACLES. While I loved the OZRIC set and I still today cite them as one of my favorite bands, I walked away that night more impressed with—and in possession of purchased CDs by—the opening act, a band I’d never heard of from the New York area.
They were called STAR PEOPLE.
I don’t normally wax poetic about music on my blog, but with the release of a long “lost” third album by the band online, plus new material recorded in recent years, I decided to pay a little tribute here to STAR PEOPLE, because I’m sure most folks have also never heard of them. They deserve a greater legacy than they received, and I’d like to turn you on to this talented entity.
STAR PEOPLE was a short-lived outfit that began around 1997 and broke up in 2001. They released two CDs and toured (over 100 gigs), usually opening for OZRIC TENTACLES or DREAM THEATER. They had a unique and unusual stage show attached to their music—it was part Las Vegas Rat Pack Martini-Swilling Tuxedo-Clad schmaltz, and part science fiction psychedelic progressive rock. The conceit was that the members of the band were from outer space, certainly not the first rock group to make the claim (MAGMA comes to mind). But the six men in the band wore tuxedos, and the one woman wore a red nightclub dress, and they might have appeared to be a lounge act in your Vegas hotel. But the music took one on an “experience” of tongue-in-cheek, wink-wink, funky riffs in which front man Bill “The Teacher” Olland spoke words of wisdom and pseudo-cosmic profundities… to beautiful ballads sung by either the gorgeous violinist, Lorenza “Star Girl” Ponce, or velvety-voice crooner Paul “Golden Boy” Gifford… to flat-out virtuoso instrumental prog rock that rivaled some of the big names in the genre (Yes, Gentle Giant, ELP, Genesis, King Crimson, Dream Theater). A STAR PEOPLE show made you laugh, dance, and drop your jaw with admiration.
The band was mostly the brainchild of bassist/harmonica player Randy “The Ambassador” Pratt, however his mates from previous bands and school years certainly contributed to the conception—not only Olland and Gifford, but Robert “The Captain” Dean (guitar), Scott “The Doctor” Treiblitz (keyboards), and Phil “The Helmsman” Weiss (drums). (Yes, they all had those nicknames as their stage personas.)
It was Ponce, originally a guest musician on the band’s first album before becoming a full member on the second, who suggested that they learn some “dance moves” to make the set more of a stage extravaganza—and they did. Ponce is perhaps best known for her work as a violinist and vocalist with Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, John Tesh, and her own solo projects. Pratt has played with everyone, it seems, most recently with the reformed CACTUS. Every member, though, brought experience and ability to the lineup.
As evidenced by my own response to their show, STAR PEOPLE could bring down the house and upstage the headliner. Pratt says that Ponce, an already experienced road warrior, stated after a set: “I’ve never seen an opening act get a response like this!”
The first album, Star People…Are Coming, was released in 1998, and the second, Genius, in 2000. And then it was over.
Pratt blames the demise of the band on “unscrupulous management, personal tragedies, and career choices.” It’s a shame, because there was a third album, Black Tie and Tales, in the works that remained in the vault… until now.
Via his own Hyperspace Records label and website, Pratt has made available for streaming FOR FREE the first two albums (in case you weren’t lucky enough to purchase the physical CDs back in the day), the brand new third album (recorded 2001), and new bonus material recorded by most of the original band members plus guest stars (dated 2021).
FREE MUSIC LINKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Do yourself a favor and check them out at Hyperspace Records. Explore the site for links to the three albums (see “Releases” on the menu at the top). There’s a comic book (The Legend of Star People) that is a sci-fi “history” of the band (also see “Releases” or “Blog”), and for a sense of their stage shows, be sure to see all three vintage videos (see “Videos”).
Hats off to STAR PEOPLE. This fan thanks you for your short visit to our planet. See you in the next world.
Monday, February 14, 2022
My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of the Coen brothers' "MILLER'S CROSSING" is up at Cinema Retro.
Monday, February 7, 2022
My review of Imprint's new Blu-ray release of George Seaton's "THE COUNTRY GIRL" is up at Cinema Retro.
Saturday, February 5, 2022
My review of Warner Archive's new Blu-ray release of Alfred Hitchcock's "STAGE FRIGHT" is up at Cinema Retro.
Thursday, February 3, 2022
My review of Kino Lorber & Code Red DVD's new Blu-ray release of Donald Driver's "THE NAKED APE" is up at Cinema Retro.
Saturday, January 15, 2022
My review of Kino Lorber's new Blu-ray release of Bob Hope in "MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE" is up at Cinema Retro.
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
My review of Warner Archive's new Blu-ray release of Michael Curtiz's "ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES" is up at Cinema Retro.
Monday, January 10, 2022
My review of The Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of Jane Campion's "THE PIANO" is up at Cinema Retro.