Monday, August 27, 2012

'90s Hits You Never Hear Today (Part 2)

Fastball's first charting hit, "The Way," made it to #4 in the US - even though the story has an older couple wandering away from their broken-down car and finding a path paved in gold where they never get old. (OK, they died and went to heaven.) The band's third charting song, "Out of My Head," made it to #20, saving the band from being remembered as one-hit wonders.

That forgotten middle song, only making it to #86, is 1998's "Fire Escape." Shot in (what looks like) one continuous take, the camera follows a woman who has (spoiler alert) killed all three band members and left them laying around the house. And MTV somehow didn't eat that up...

The three original members still tour, mostly near their Texas homebase. Here's "The Way" from 2007.

I never noticed it before, but a YouTube comment on the live cut says "The Way" sounds an awful lot like "Besame Mucho." I do believe that anonymous critic, howling in the electronic wilderness, has a point.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight – Blue Moon Caramel Apple Spiced Ale

Four times a year, Blue Moon Brewing (aka MillerCoors) releases a Brewmaster Sampler Pack, three bottles each of four beers. In advance of the next “blue moon” on August 31, the autumn twelve includes three Belgian Whites (the regular stuff), three Belgian Pale Ales, three Harvest Pumpkin Ales, and three Caramel Apple Spiced Ales.

Throw “Caramel Apple Spiced Ale” on a bottle and folks are going to try it just for giggles, but the good news is that this Blue Moon seasonal is surprisingly restrained. I’m not one for blueberry or cherry or (ugh) banana bread beer, so it’s good news that “caramel” refers to malt, not chewy chunks of Brach’s.

Pouring a clear reddish-brown, there’s a sweetness to the beer, but it's not cloying. Adding cinnamon and nutmeg give that mulling spice essence you expect from all the pumpkin ales out there, but without detouring into mouthwash territory. Actual apple juice brings a brightness to the finish.

Blue Moon Caramel Apple Spiced Ale is going to pleasantly subtle for some and annoyingly confused for others. Either way, it’ll only be around for three months ... or maybe a little more. The seasonal summer Brewmaster Sample Pack is still on the shelves at my local Total Wine.

Since I bought the whole autumn sampler, let me say a little about the Belgian Pale Ale. Don’t expect a hoppy IPA. It’s pleasantly wheaty, maybe even what some call a “session beer” (relatively low alcohol, not heavy, easy to drink multiples). That said, I couldn’t taste the orange peel or hibiscus mentioned on the label. So, don't read the label and you're OK?

'90s Hits You Never Hear Today (Part 1)

The Triplets really were triplets -- Diana, Sylvia, and Vicky Villegas. "You Don't Have to Home Tonight" hit Top 20, they had a few Spanish-language hits, and then ...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Deviant Dale’s IPA

Yep, craft beer in a can. Think about it … no one complains that draft beer comes in that giant aluminum can called a keg. Cans keep out the sunlight, so beer doesn’t skunk. It weighs less than a bottle, so it ships cheaper. No one’s going to start a barfight by swinging an empty can at your forehead. Everyone wins.

Colorado’s Oskar Blues Brewery was the earliest of adopters, canning Dale’s Pale Ale in 2002. The brewery added a newer, faster, canning line earlier this year, one that could also handle 16-ounce tallboy cans. The first beer off the line was Deviant Dale's, a dry-hopped version with 8% alc.

Popping the tab and drinking straight from the can, it’s powerfully piney with a floral vibe at the edges and a flicker of anise at the finish. The malt is more assertive than last Sunday’s review, but with all these bitter hops, you need that sweetness.

Pouring the other half into a pint glass, Deviant Dale’s is a reddish-orange with a good half-inch of white foam. It’s a few degrees warmer now, so the malt and “heat” from the alcohol are more forward. It’s right on the edge of heaviness, but doesn’t cross the line. Powerful, but balanced.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jesus Sings Bacharach

Forty years ago - give or take - Ted Neeley first played and sang the title role in "Jesus Christ Superstar."

Of course, you've got to start somewhere before portraying the son of God. Here's Teddy boy with his combo on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

If "Always Something There to Remind Me" sounds familiar, it was written in the early 1960s by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Dionne Warwick and Lou Johnson recorded versions, and in 1983, British band Naked Eyes took it Top Ten.

These days, Ted Neeley is rumored to have a part in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" and after mixed reviews on the last "Jesus Christ Superstar" tour (he's 68 and Jesus is believed to have died at 33), Ted's moving into country.

One last bit of Ted Neeley trivia, you can spot a marquee for the Ted Neeley Five at about 3:33 in this collection of clips from the Blue Boy episode of "Dragnet." That's the one where one guy on LSD literally buried his head and another licks paintbrushes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Alles Klar, Herr Kommissar?

One song, so many different versions ...

Let's start with the original from Falco, the guy later known as Mr. Rock Me Amadeus.

The song's in German, although Falco is Austrian. My high school Deutsch ist vergessen, but basically, "Der Kommissar" is about a woman who likes cocaine, friends who probably died from using, and getting hassled by the cops. That was 1981. The song hit #72 in the US, even though most AM radio listeners didn't understand anything more than "Check it out, Joe" and "my funky friends." Then came British band, After the Fire.

The lyrics aren't exactly a literal translation, but close enough for rock and roll -- and the story is basically the same. It's 1983 now and this version went Top 5 in the States.

1983 was also the year that Laura Branigan released her second LP, simply Branigan 2. Laura's first big hit had been a cover of an Italian hit by Umberto Tozzi. (Hang with me. I'm headed somewhere.)

So for Branigan 2, it made sense to look for another foreign-language hit to adapt.  Track 2, "Deep in the Dark," wasn't released as a single, the lyrics are completely different, but the melody should be familiar by now.

Lots of kitchy "Der Kommissar" covers have come out since the 1980s. Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons did a version that sounds a lot like Dale Bozzio singing along with the radio. Chicago punk band The Squids took it on too. Here's Brazilian band Comunidade Ninjitsu with "Rap do Trago" ("I Bring the Rap").  If my Google Fu is strong, it's about a guy who has to get drunk before he can talk to girls.

Let's close this out with a live performance by the guy who brought German rap (and that's really what it is) to the world.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

Usually, I write about new beers (to me, at least). This week, I’m pulling out a favorite for the last year or so.  I discovered Bell's Two Hearted Ale on tap during a trivia night at Copper Rocket Pub in Maitland, FL and soon went looking for it in bottles. The name and the trout on the label reference a river in Michigan, popular for fishing and name-checked in a Hemmingway short story.

Two Hearted Ale is a full-on India Pale Ale - packed with hops, but not just a blast of pine that strips the enamel off your teeth. It pours with a thin head, a slightly-cloudy dark amber. At first sip, you get a lemony citrus. Then, that apricot/Christmas tree flavor in most IPAs. Finally, a surprising essence of roses. (No joke.) The malt doesn’t really assert itself, just adding the right sweetness to keep all those Centennial hops from turning peppery or bitter.

Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is a beer for both the hopheads and the casual adventurers. It’s full of strong flavors, but never harsh -- substantial, but not heavy. Just drink it already. 7%ABV

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hader Gets the Giggles

Sure, Bill Hader always breaks during his Stefon segments on SNL's Weekend Update, but seeing him lose it during the dress rehearsal of "The Californians"  -- and taking Kristen Wiig and Fred Armisen with him -- just makes me giggle.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Stretchy Ketchup

I saw this on a few sites and decided to give it a try.

Yep, it works. You can unfold those fast food ketchup cups (aka souffle cups), letting you drag your french fries through the Heinz instead of dipping. All those wasted years!

Since I just brought up fast food, here's something from about a year ago in Manhattan. It's the Burger King New York Pizza Burger.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

You Mean That Wasn't (Part II) ...

OK, I'll confess ... when I was a wee lad, I thought this was Paul McCartney.

That said, I'm still amazed that some folks thought this was Rod Stewart.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Watch out for the Cookie Crook

In case you hadn't noticed, Oreos now have this pulltab. Instead of ripping into the end with your teeth like the good old days, you peel back the cover, grab a cookie, and stick it shut again.

Seems someone helped themselves to a few of my cookies before I even bought them. To be fair, there are tiny little allegedly-visible strips that break away when you (or a damned Oreo thief) open the pack. They jump right out at you in that top picture, right? I didn't spot it and neither did the cashier. Bleach has more obvious tamper-resistant packaging.

Sure, it'll be easy to take these defiled Oreos back for a new bag -- just something to watch for on your next cookie spree. By the way, the new limited edition Oreo flavor is Creamsicle. I tried one from a friend's bag. With the yellow cookie and the orange-vanilla filling, it's kinda like the old St. Joseph Children's Aspirin and animal crackers ... in a good way.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Beer Spotlight: Newcastle Werewolf

Praise be to the Sweet Sweet Goddess of Love and Beer that seasonal autumn brews can be more than pumpkin-spiced bottles of fizzy cinnamon. Newcastle Brown Ale is now nationally distributing its Newcastle Werewolf. It’s an Irish-style red ale (even though Newcastle’s brewery is in Scotland these days). Think along the general lines of Smithwick’s.

Here’s a PR quote from Newcastle Brown Ale Brand Director Charles van Es. “Unlike the mythical wolf-like creature said to roam the bleak moorland surrounding Newcastle, England, this Werewolf is real. Everyone loves a good urban legend, so we’re hoping to take advantage of the werewolf story to sell more beer this fall.” Hey, at least he’s honest. If only he’d added, “Twilight, Skyrim, True Blood … gotta get some of that wolfman wampum.”

The label promises “blood red,” but Newcastle Werewolf is really more a coppery tan. That color comes from the roasted rye malts that hit you on first sip - eventually letting a crisper, almost fruity flavor come through. Werewolf is lightly carbonated, but you can still feel a light bite on the tongue. The original Newcastle Brown Ale is too sweet for my taste, but Werewolf is drier.

I imagine we’ll be seeing bar specials on Werewolf as we get closer to Halloween. It’s not a beer you’ll hunger for after it rotates out and Newcastle Winter IPA rotates in, but at least Newcastle Werewolf is an alternative when someone tries to hand you a candy corn shooter.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

You Mean That Wasn't ...

You knew this wasn't Neil Diamond, right?

I was surprised to find out some people thought "Stuck in the Middle with You" was Bob Dylan ... and not Stealers Wheel making fun of Bob Dylan.

I'll admit that what surprised me was what the singer and co-writer of that song, Gerry Rafferty, ended up doing after that.

Gerry died just a few days into 2011, but here's a damn fine cover of "Right Down the Line" from Bonnie Raitt later that year.