Music Review: ((Un)) – Dan Black

Hey there…

Who is Dan Black? Apparently he is a master of mixing musical elements and styles from multiple sources to create something unique. It’s as though the world of music provides an infinite variety of sounds for him to choose from and he simply arranges them to suit his needs for a particular composition. I’ve heard other electronica acts, but nothing quite like his. ((UN)) is “one” in French to signify his debut album, but the title provides a variety of other meanings according to Black starting with the fact that he wanted the album to be “un-rock, un-hip hop, un-everything…” I think he’s succeeded.

Black managed to write, play, program, and produce every note of every track on the album. Add to that the fact that he handled his own artwork and videos and you have one heck of an artistic and productive individual. These are not your average pop, rock, or hip hop songs. But they certainly hold together nicely. The blend of styles and influences is seamless across the board.

From the opening strains of “Symphonies” to the last notes of “Let Go,” he’s managed to collect, capture, and synthesize his own world in these tracks. It’s taken two years of writing, tinkering, and adjusting but he’s created a heck of a masterpiece for his first release.

Though the whole album is rich with rhythm, harmony, and lyrics, I found myself drawn to three songs in particular.

The maddeningly addictive baseline of “Alone” was immediately stuck in my mind bouncing around. And like the lyrics of the song, it “would not leave me alone.” This isn’t the pop music of today and hearkens back to almost a disco feel while staying current.

Then you’re hit with the insane guitar and percussion of “Yours” which again rattled around my braincase and wouldn’t fall out. In some ways, this one reminded me of classic Duran Duran from the 1980s.

Lastly for me, there’s something about the industrial beats and keyboards of “I Love Life” which continues the hypnotic effect of the album. More hip hop than I usually finding myself like, there’s something about the rhythms that wouldn’t let me go.

Perhaps Dan Black’s name rings a bell for you? It might be because it was shouted from the rooftops by folks such as Zane Lowe and Perez Hilton raving about “HYPNTZ,” the Notorious BIG cover which put Black in the limelight in 2008 before he was signed by A&M. It was the success of the “HYPNTZ” experiment on MySpace that spawned the songs of ((UN)).

Black has done an amazing job pulling together a fantastic array of music I’d expect to hear on any number of different stations. It’s the synthesis of rock, pop, hip hop, with a bit of fusion jazz thrown in for good measure. If you are tired of the humdrum, homogeneous pop/rock album, be sure to give Dan Black’s ((UN)) a listen.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this album at Amazon below!

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Comedy Review: Jon Reep: Metro Jethro

Hi there!

In 2007, a relatively unknown comic by the name of Jon Reep was thrust into the spotlight during the fifth season of Last Comic Standing. He’d been in a few television commercials for Dodge trucks as the guy who’d pull up with his friend in an old beat up car, look up at the truck beside them, and say “Hey! That thing got a Hemi?”

While on Last Comic Standing, my wife and I found his sense of humor to be hilarious. Not only does he have great stories about growing up in the small town of Hickory, North Carolina, but the “fish out of water” moments he has had while living in Los Angeles for the last 10 years.

Well, now he has another big-time comedy special to share his unique point of the view with the world. Recorded live at the McGlohon Theater in Charlotte, NC, Jon Reep: Metro Jethro provides examples of how he’s adapted to living in the big city while staying in touch with his small town roots.

So what exactly is a “Metro Jethro”? According to Reep, a “Metro Jethro” takes the good parts of small town life and adapts them to big city living. As you might imagine, things from the deep south don’t always jive with big city sensibilities.

Reep shares many tales of growing up in “Hick-r-y” as a child, including some great stories about his dad David Reep. One that stuck with me was when his dad tried to clean the pool by strapping on some heavy weights and trying to breathe through a garden hose. You can guess how that worked out.

He also shares tales from his marriage, including one involving a wedding dress, a hanger, and a sprinkler head in their hotel room in Hawaii. With everything soaked, Reep on the balcony enjoying a cocktail, and his wife-to-be screaming inside, it was definitely a memorable moment in their relationship!

The Bonus DVD includes a video of the entire special as well as some great extras with Reep’s parents sharing their own perspectives on some of the experiences he shares during his show.

If you like comedy, it’s tough not to laugh at Reep’s Metro Jethro. Be sure to check it out at your favorite retailer and laugh your way to some moonshine martinis!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up Jon Reep’s comedy catalog at Amazon below!

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Music Review: Frank Caliendo – Un-Leashed

Hey all!

For those of you who don’t know Frank Caliendo, he’s become quite a star in the stand-up world with his television show Frank TV and his very popular stand-up routine where he does amazing impressions. If you’ve never seen or heard him do his John Madden impression, you’re missing something. He’s spot on. And he bounces between Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Chris Rock, and others like it’s nothing. He has to be one of the best impressionist comic I’ve ever heard or seen on TV.

On Frank Caliendo – Un-Leashed, Caliendo headlines and MC’s at the National Lampoon Comedy Club in Santa Monica, California. The CD includes performances from Caliendo, Rob Cantrell (a runner-up on Last Comic Standing (LCS), Alonzo Bodden (a winner of LCS), Bonnie McFarlane (another contestant on LCS, and Gary Gulman (yet another contestant on LCS).

Though Caliendo’s set is great, for the most part it’s bits and pieces of things I’d heard him do elsewhere. Where it gets really interesting is when he mixes in Al Pacino, Don Pardo, and John Madden together… That’s entertainment.

The other comics are a bit hit and miss, as they were for me on episodes of LCS.

Rob Cantrell really pushes the envelope of foul language in the set he does here. And if he was really close to winning LCS the first season the show was on, I’m glad I missed it.

Alonzo Bodden is a very very funny man. He does a skit about going into a Bed, Bath, and Beyond to buy $50 worth of sheets and coming out with $1500 of bedding. What bed needs that much protection? He continues to be a very funny comedian even after his LCS experience.

Bonnie McFarlane and Gary Gulman however weren’t stellar on this CD. Neither one really made me laugh during their time on LCS and their routines didn’t surprise me here either. Gulman is stuck on cookies and McFarlane is stuck on pretending to be dumb.

If you’re looking for some great material from Caliendo or Bodden, this is a great collection. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a wash. And if you ever have a chance to see Caliendo or Bodden live, get out and see them. They’re worth it.

Check out Frank Caliendo – Un-Leashed at your local music store or online! Just keep it away from the ears of children… it’s a bit blue in spots.

–Fitz

p.s. Check this one out at Amazon:

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