Film Review: Zappa (Magnolia Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

Many a year ago, I was minding my own business and listening to music at a friend’s house, when suddenly his dad emerged into the room and proclaimed, “you need to hear this!” He quickly removed whatever punk record we were listening to at the time, swiftly replacing it with a Frank Zappa album. Of course my instant reaction was “what in the world is this?!” before realizing I was already in love (thanks Andrew). So it’s a thrill seeing the late Zappa’s life and work finally compiled into cinematic form.

Directed by Alex Winter (of Bill & Ted fame), Zappa uses archive footage and interviews to tell the story of one of the most brilliantly inventive and diverse musicians in our lifetimes, but does so in a way that still feels fresh and new. A host of various family members, producers, and numerous celebrities/musicians that range from The Beatles, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and Alice Cooper, all help move the story along in the right direction.

It’s obvious Winter is a fan himself, and has treated the material here with the utmost respect and dignity. It’s a fitting tribute to a deserving icon that even the most casual of fans should view for themselves.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Paul McCartney – McCartney III (Capitol Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

For just the third time in his career (and first time since 1980’s McCartney II), legendary Beatles singer/bassist/songwritter Paul McCartney has written and recorded an album full of compositions penned and performed entirely by him. And for someone pushing eighty years old, he’s still got it.

The album starts off with a near-jam piece in the form of “Long Tailed Winter Bird,” by far one of the strongest tracks found here. Unfortunately, it’s followed by a number of mediocre tunes before finally picking back up again. Luckily, things are redeemed by the edition of “Lavatory Lil” and “Slidin’,” which sound as though they would’ve both been able to fit in the White Album-era Beatles catolog.

Even if you were drawn more towards Lennon’s work in The Beatles (as I personally was), there’s no denying McCartney’s influence in the rock and pop worlds. We should all be thankful he’s still here and producing new, positive music at a time when the world truly needs it the most.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

In Memoriam: John Lennon (1940-1980)

By: Jesse Striewski

December 8, 1980; former Beatle John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono, were returning to their New York City apartment at the Dakota after a long day at the recording studio, approximately 10:50 p.m. Obsessed fan Mark David Chapman, who had even met Lennon earlier that afternoon when he approached him for an autograph, pulled out a .38 special revolver, and struck Lennon at close range with four out of five of the shots he fired. After being rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:00 p.m., and the world was never the same again.

These events transpired just three months before I ever even entered this world, but they still strike a nerve each and every time I think about them.

Lennon’s mark changed the face of music forever, first as a member of The Beatles in the 1960’s, where he and bassist Paul McCartney penned some of the greatest songs ever written. Then in the ’70s, where his fights and contributions to societal change were just as great as his solo work. By 1980, with the release of the Double Fantasy album, Lennon was on the verge of a comeback that we will never know just how far it could have taken him.

I grew up in a world that was both without John Lennon, while at the same time, completely influenced by him. Along with the likes of Elvis Presely and The Beach Boys, the music of The Beatles, like so many others, was one of my first introductions to music ever, and made the biggest impression on me more than any of the other previously mentioned acts. Even at a young age, I gravitated naturally to John, who was always the “rebel” of the group. And now, being nearly the same age as him at the time of his death, and a father, I relate to him now more than ever.

Forty years after his senseless death, John Lennon remains as influential and vital as ever. They say true legends never die, and Lennon was no exception to this. Every time an aspiring young musician picks up a guitar for the first time and plays that first chord, Lennon’s presence is still there. No matter how much time may pass, John will always be with us.