Friday, January 20, 2017

Miguel Ferrer (1955-2017)

My first encounters with Mr. Ferrer on film were Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (he wasn’t a known actor at that point; he played an unnamed bridge officer aboard the U.S.S. Excelsior) and Robocop.

Since then, he had become quite the familiar face in movies and television, racking up an impressive list of credits, the most recent being a long-running role on the hit TV series NCIS: Los Angeles.

One of the many progeny of Oscar- and Tony-winning actor Jose Ferrer and singer Rosemary Clooney (and thus a cousin of George Clooney), Miguel Ferrer was a fine, accomplished, and versatile actor.

Rest well, good man.

--Raj Manoharan

Cowboy Classics Sampler (2016), by Patrick Stewart

CD Fan Review

For a Royal Shakespearean actor from England who has trekked to the stars, fought magnetic mutants, and talked bluntly, Patrick Stewart makes quite the convincing country crooner.

Unlike his equally musically inclined intergalactic predecessor, Stewart actually sings these cowboy classics (with the exception of “Ringo,” and to great effect). And he does a pretty fine job of it.

It certainly helps that Stewart is backed by a top-notch band of musicians, including Ethan Eubanks (drums/percussion/vocals), Andrew Sherman (piano/accordion/vocals), Jim Campilongo (guitars), Jon Graboff (pedal steel/guitars/vocals), and Jeff Hill (bass).

But Stewart really goes for it and gets into the character of these Western ditties, giving it his all as he belts out his unique brand of British country twang in pitches I wasn’t previously aware that he was capable of. In fact, if I didn’t know beforehand that this was Patrick Stewart, I wouldn’t have recognized his voice for the most part (he does sound somewhat like himself on his gleefully giddy interpretation of “Here Comes Santa Claus.”)

If you like country (and Christmas) music and Patrick Stewart, you’re in for a real treat. What could have easily been an exercise in pure hokeyness (not altogether a bad thing in itself) manages to be both kitschy and classy thanks to Stewart’s talents and penchant for having a grand old time.

I do reckon there’s a future for Patrick Stewart in them there musical hills.

--Raj Manoharan

The Way It Is – Live (2016), by Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers

Music Download Fan Review

Thirty years after the release of his debut album The Way It Is (with The Range), Bruce Hornsby and his current band The Noisemakers revisit that seminal moment with live performances of the entire record. The concert, which comprises two dates, is available as a free download on www.brucehornsbylive.com.

In addition to demonstrating the timelessness of those 1986 songs, the new versions prove that, vocally, the 62-year-old Hornsby is nearly indistinguishable from his 32-year-old self.

Hornsby is also still at the top of his game instrumentally, maintaining his edge as a keyboard impresario on piano, accordion, and synthesizers. The Noisemakers aren’t too shabby, either. Consisting of JV Collier on bass, Gibb Droll on guitar, Ross Holmes on fiddle and mandolin, JT Thomas on organ, and Sonny Emory on drums, this band is as tight as they come.

While the songs remain essentially the same, some spirited improvisational detours ensure that they live on with a new vigor and vitality.

And that's The Way It Is.

--Raj Manoharan