Music (70)

Saturday Night Date Movie: 'Pure Country'

Written by 16 September, 2022

It's easy to forget how big of a country music star George Strait was when his first movie Pure Country was released in 1992. He had released 26 Top Ten country radio hits in a row since 1981 - and 22 of them went to number one on the charts.

Given that, a movie that featured Strait playing an exaggerated version of himself should have been box office gold. But it only made $15 million at the box office and was considered a disappointment, even though it only cost $10 million and ended up spawning two direct-to-DVD sequels.

Strait plays Dusty Chandler, a country music superstar who is growing weary of the spotlight. He feels disconnected from the music and overwhelmed by the circus of smoke, lights and hangers-on that comes with being a household name.

When he discovers longtime manager Lula Rogers (Lesley Ann Warren) has convinced him to record a song written by her boyfriend and crew member Buddy Jackson (Kyle Chandler), he loses it and disappears into the heartland of America to escape.

The rest of the film is essentially a reverse Hallmark Channel movie. Successful singer returns to his hometown and rediscovers himself and what he most needs to soothe his soul.

There are all the familiar story beats - the stumbling love affair, the unexpected discovery of betrayal. And I don't think I'm giving anything away to reveal that after a few twists, it all works out in the end.

Maybe it's because he was playing a heightened version of himself, but George Strait does a solid job with the role. He's a old-school country boy to the core and is very believable as the small town boy who is a bit flummoxed by his success.

Isabel Glasser does a really nice job as Strait's small-town love interest Harley Tucker and I am rather shocked she didn't have a bigger career after this film. Chandler oozes the perfect slimy opportunism in his portrayal of the guy who is willing to do anything to become a star.

The rest of the ensemble is equally solid. Rory Calhoun (in his last movie role) is perfectly cast as Harley's protective father Ernest Tucker and Molly McClure plays Dusty's Grandma Ivy Chandler. And a special nod to John Doe, who has a few memorable scenes as Dusty's longtime drummer and friend Earl Blackstock.

The one role I struggled with was Lesley Ann Warren's take on the ambitious manager Lula Rogers. She's brash and hard-edged and I suppose that is a dead-on take of the personality required to push Dusty into stardom. But at least in my eyes, she never quite finds the groove of the character. In some scenes she strikes the perfect tone and in others she chews up the scenery with the frantic movements of a chainsaw threatening to throw a chain. I generally love her work, but this isn't one of my favorite roles of hers.

While the movie wasn't a box office hit, the soundtrack was a smash. "I Cross My Heart" and "Heartland" both went to #1 on the country charts and the third single from the album ("When Did You Stop Loving Me") went to #6. The "Pure Country" soundtrack album went platinum six times and was the first Strait album to be produced by Tony Brown.

Brown went on to produce every Strait album until 2015 "Cold Beer Conversation," and that partnership cranked out 54 more Top Ten country hits.

Strait is a genuine country music star and seeing this movie makes me wish he'd done more serious acting roles. But despite my slight concerns about parts of the movie, "Pure Country" is also pure rom-com and the perfect date night for those couples who don't mind a bit of nineties-era country music in their life.

And watching the film again made me realize I'd love to see a remake of this film with Miranda Lambert in the lead role.

Pure Country can be watched for free on the ad-supported services Pluto and Tubi.

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The Best Linda Ronstadt Recordings You've Never Heard

Written by 06 September, 2022

There was a ten year period between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s when so-called "super groups" were a regular feature on the music scene. Some of them ended up being actual groups that toured and recorded multiple albums (see: Derek and the Dominoes) and some were really nothing more than the result of a couple of nights of random sessions that included some well-known musicians.

Linda Ronstadt's least-known released recordings are part of such a "super group," a two-album set of sessions that included a staggering number of star musicians.

"Music From Free Creek" is a bit mysterious, since I haven't been able to find anything that explains how the sessions came about or who organized them. The original liner notes lay out a scenario that sounds more like a rejected Cheech and Chong bit than the truth. But however it happened, the number of famed musicians appearing on the various tracks is really astounding.

The two-album set was cobbled together from a series of sessions featuring some of the hottest musicians of the day. Three tracks came from a session that included Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Moogy Klingman, Buzzy Linhart, Delaney Bramlett, Erle Doude, Stu Woods and many others. Four tracks came from a session that included Jeff Beck and Todd Rundgren, along with many of the same musicians that played on the Clapton tracks. Some of the same musicians also played on three instrumental tracks featuring Keith Emerson as well as three tracks fronted by the under-rated guitarist Harvey Mandel.

For Ronstadt, this period was the time between the release of her first and second solo albums. 1969's "Hand Sown...Home Grown" was a critical success and has been called the first alternative country album recorded by a female artist. But it was also a commercial disappointment. While preparing to record her second album, 1970's "Silk Purse," Ronstadt kept herself busy by recording some TV commercials (including a very bizarre one with Frank Zappa for Remington Razors). She also contributed vocals to two tracks on the "Free Creek" project.

There isn't a lot of documentation in general for "Free Creek" recordings, so it's not clear how Ronstadt got involved. But she sang Bernie Leadon and Gene Clark's "He Darked The Sun" and Maxwell & Crutchfield's "Living Like A Fool" with a band that included Bernie Leadon on guitar and musicians who would ultimately team up with Michael Nesmith on his first post-Monkees recordings. Like all the "Free Creek" recordings, the tracks were recorded at New York City's famed Record Plant sometime in June, July or August of 1969. A different version of "He Darked The Sun" ended up on Ronstadt's "Silk Purse" album. But although she seems to have played "Living Like A Fool" regularly in concert, Ronstadt doesn't seem to have ever officially released the track.

Both tracks by Ronstadt are notable because they show off a singer that is part-powerhouse, part-bar singer. She sounds amazing and listening to the performances, you get a sense of why she seemed destined to be a star. The tracks are also notable because-unlike the other musicians-she just went in and recorded two songs she was very familiar with backed by her then backing band members. That's a real difference from the rest of the tracks, that tend to nothing much more than organized jams.

"Music From Free Creek" wasn't released in the U.S. until 1973 and the various contractual issues kept Charisma Records from mentioning some of the performers. For instance, Jeff Beck was identified as "A.N. Other." The set was re-released on CD in 2004, but it's now back out of print and it's become merely a forgotten footnote in the annals of 1970s country rock. Which is too bad, because some of the performances on the set are very memorable.

LP 1, side A (stated running time 17:52)

  • Cissy Strut
  • Freedom Jazz Dance
  • Sympathy for the Devil
  • Mother Nature's Son
  • Road Song

LP1, side B (stated running time 15:50)

  • Lay Lady Lay
  • Hey Jude
  • He Darked the Sun
  • Earl's Shuffle

LP2, side A (stated running time 17:21)

  • Getting Back to Molly
  • Cherrypicker
  • Kilpatrick's Defeat
  • Girl from Ipanema
  • No One Knows

LP2, side B (stated running time 15:42)

  • Living Like a Fool
  • Working in a Coalmine
  • Big City Woman
  • On the Rebound

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Listen: A 1980s-Era 'American Top 40' With All New Music

Written by 16 August, 2022

Think they don't make songs anymore like the ones you listened to on Casey Kasem's "American Top 40?" You couldn't be more mistaken.

This classic pop Top 40 playlist includes new music from a lot of your old favorites along with some new music that fits into the vibe. As well as a couple of unexpected tracks that make this feel as if you're listening to a modern take on those classic "American Top 40" broadcasts.

It's updated at least once a week and it's perfect for the person who loves the old hits, but also wants to hear something unexpected and new.

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Fans Of Bruce Springsteen Are Calling Him A Lot Of Names This Week. 'The Boss' Isn't One Of Them

Written by 21 July, 2022

I've interviewed and spent time around enough well-known people that I can't say I'm a super fan of anyone. The one exception to that might be my relationship with Bruce Springsteen, which goes back to my wayward teen years.

When I was a high schooler in Southern Indiana I ran away from home and headed to Chicago for reasons that now seem pretty stupid. But through a series of events worthy of a John Hughes movie, I found myself sneaking into a club called the Quiet Knight in hopes of seeing a group called The Persuasions. But I also got my first glimpse of Bruce Springsteen, a performer I had seen mentioned in Creem Magazine, but had never bothered to listen to.

His show was miles away from what you could see even a year or two later, but it was enough to make me a lifelong fan. When I was going to college in Southern California a few years later, I was dating a woman who worked for Columbia Records and she got us into one of the later Roxy shows as well as a concert at Winterland. I'm not the level of fan who books plane tickets to catch a show in Spain or the U.K., but I've seen him and his variation incarnations of bands a number of times over the years. Some shows were more entertaining than others (I'm glad the Woody Guthrie phase is behind him), but I've always admired his talent and his determination to stay musically relevant to himself and his fans.

Now I'm a father who a son who has autism and he's learned to love some of Springsteen's music because it gives us another connection. He's never attended a real rock and roll concert and even though neither one of was quite sure how he'd tolerate the sound levels, he has been looking forward to seeing The Boss live when he came to St. Paul, Minnesota.

This is Springsteen's first U.S. tour since 2016 and given the age and health of everyone involved, this tour is likely the last one with what is left of the E-Street Band. I knew going into the ticket-buying process it was going to be difficult and likely expensive. Based on other tours I've seen come through here lately, I assumed I might be able to grab a couple of nosebleed seats in a far corner for $150 or $200 apiece. It's a lor of money, but it would be a once-in-a-lifetime father and son experience.

But as I saw people in other locations trying to buy tickets earlier this week, I started getting nervous. It wasn't just the high prices, it was the gaming of the system that seems to be part of the Ticketmaster "flex demand" pricing.

My wife and I both signed up for the Ticketmaster Preferred program, which allowed fans to register and then in theory have a better chance of scoring tickets. Accounts were tied to a phone number and limited to the purchase of four tickets, all of which should have made the ticket buying process somewhat fair.

But when our time in the que was over and we were able to purchase tickets, my wife and I had the same experience I've seen numerous fans complain about on social media. Tickets would be available at some reasonable-ish price (say $150), then when you went in to purchase, the system tells you someone else has grabbed them. Those seats (or ones just next to them) then reappear as "available," but at a higher price. You try to get those tickets and go through the same dance again. Eventually, a few tickets are available for purchase. But now the price is $200+ for an obstructed view ticket behind the stage or $450 for a nosebleed seat as far away from the stage as possible. Add on the $50-$75 ticket Ticketmaster and facility charges and suddenly a pair of tickets as far away from the stage as is humanly possible with end up costing nearly a thousand dollars.

These prices aren't a reflection of increased overall ticket prices in the marketplace or an unusual surge in demand. Ticketmaster used to technology to squeeze every possible cent out of fans. And if they couldn't bring themselves to buy tickets today, well, Ticketmaster is more than happy to see fans tickets on its official secondary marketplace. In fact, the secondary marketplace is a win-win for Ticketmaster, which ends up getting paid a fee for both the original purchase as well as the sale on its secondary market.

I expect Ticketmaster to be as greedy as is legally possible. It's harder to see the thought process from Team Springsteen. Given the goodwill he has with fans and that this will probably be a memorable last tour with the full band, wouldn't have been better to have left fans with fond memories instead of feeling as if the Boss had scraped every possible cent out of their pockets. This is the type of strictly transactional move I would expect to see from Gene Simmons as he hawks yet another "limited edition" KI$$ bobblehead. 

Every musician deserves to make whatever money they can from fans. But there are times when the costs to your reputation aren't worth whatever "surge pricing" bucks might come your way.

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Today's 70s Song You Should Know: 'Stay In Time' By Off Broadway

Written by 18 July, 2022

If you are a fan of power pop music, there has never been a better place to live than Chicago from the late 1970s through 1990 or so. In an alternative universe, this music scene would have exploded in the same way Seattle's grunge scene did in the 1990s. 

The depth of talent that was in local clubs back then was insane, and while a number of bands ended up with major label deals, Cheap Trick was the only act to break big nationally. And let's be honest, even Cheap Trick struggled to get their first hit.

One of the bands that fell into the category of "how did these guys not get a big hit?" is Off Broadway, whose 1979 debut album On is near-perfect mash-up of Beatlesque harmonies and crunchy Move-like guitars. 

On sold a respectable 200,000 or so copies, but the lead single "Stay In Time" only reached #51 on the Billboard Top 100 charts. Follow-up singles failed to chart at all and the band rushed out a follow-up album which was good, but not crammed with as much ear candy as their debut.

But a string of tough breaks is what eventually broke up the band in 1983, ranging from management and label issues to addiction problems and an unfortunate decision to book Off Broadway as an opening act for various metal bands, which ground down the will of the group.

Four members of the original band got back together in the late 1990s under the name "Black On Blond," but the following year they changed the name back to Off Broadway and released Fallin In, their first new album in 17 years. A live album soon followed, but while the band remained popular with longtime fans, it never received the attention it deserved.

Lead singer Cliff Johnson passed away a few days ago and it felt like a good time to remember this stellar example of Midwestern Power Pop.

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Elton John's 'Madman Across the Water' Gets Deluxe Edition

Written by 10 June, 2022

When Elton John released the album Madman Across The Water in 1971, it came out at a pivotal time in his career. 1970's Tumbleweed Connection was John's second album and while the record label didn't even release a single, it went to the #2 position on the UK album chart and #5 in the U.S. 1971 brought the release of the soundtrack for the movie Friends, followed by the live album 17-11-70, which was taken from a live radio broadcast and only released because it was so widely bootlegged.

So Madman Across The Water found John with a growing reputation, but still unable to follow through with another hit single following 1970s' top ten hit "Your Song." That changed with the release of this album, which included the singles Levon (#24 on the U.S. chart) and the now-iconic Tiny Dancer (#41 on the Top 40 chart). Produced by Gus Dudgeon, Madman was recorded just as John had put together the arguably definitive line-up of his touring band, with guitarist Davey Johnstone joining Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums. While Dudgeon barely allowed them to play on the album, their sound helped form the songs and that vision would explode on the follow-up album, 1972's Honky Chateau. Neither single was a massive hit, but they hinted at what was to come.

Madman fared poorly in the U.K., topping at #41 on the album charts. But it hit #8 on the U.S. album chart and looking back, it's a very underrated album from an artist on the brink of superstardom.

Now it's being re-released today in a 50th anniversary edition that will be available in three different formats, incuding a 3CD/Blu-ray collection that'll offer the original album (remastered by Bob Ludwig in 2016), five rare bonus tracks, a dozen solo piano demos, an unreleased full version of outtake "Rock Me When He's Gone," John's live set from BBC's Sounds of Saturday performing nearly the entire album, surround mixes and more. The packaging features a 104-page book featuring rare photos, memorabilia, liner notes and essays, plus a reproduced concert poster from 1971. (The audio on the three CDs will also be available on four LPs, and a 2CD edition - without the Blu-ray or Sounds of Saturday audio - are also available. 

Below is a track listing of the complete set:

CD 1: Original album (2016 Bob Ludwig remaster) and bonus tracks

  1. Tiny Dancer
  2. Levon
  3. Razor Face
  4. Madman Across the Water
  5. Indian Sunset
  6. Holiday Inn
  7. Rotten Peaches
  8. All the Nasties
  9. Goodbye
  10. Indian Sunset (Live Radio Broadcast)
  11. Madman Across the Water (Original Version feat. Mick Ronson)
  12. Rock Me When He's Gone
  13. Levon (Mono Single Version)
  14. Razor Face (Extended Version)

Tracks 1-9 released as DJM Records (U.K.) DJLPH.420/UNI Records (U.S.) 93120, 1971
Tracks 11-12 released on Rare Masters - DJM/Chronicles (U.K.) 514 305-2/Polydor/Chronicles (U.S.) 314 514 138-2, 1992
Track 13 released on UNI U.S. single 55314, 1971
Track 14 released (in surround) on Madman Across the Water SACD - Island/Rocket B0003610-36, 2004

CD 2: Demos (previously unreleased except *)

  1. Madman Across the Water (1970 Piano Demo)
  2. Tiny Dancer (Piano Demo)
  3. Levon (Piano Demo)
  4. Razor Face (Piano Demo) *
  5. Madman Across the Water (1971 Piano Demo) *
  6. Indian Sunset (Piano Demo)
  7. Holiday Inn (Piano Demo) *
  8. Rotten Peaches (Piano Demo)
  9. All the Nasties (Piano Demo) *
  10. Goodbye (Piano Demo)
  11. Rock Me When He's Gone (Piano Demo)
  12. Rock Me When He's Gone (Full Version)

Tracks 4-5, 7 and 9 released on Jewel Box - Rocket/EMI/UMC (U.K.) 071 590-8, 2020

CD 3: BBC's Sounds for Saturday - rec. 11/11/1971, transmitted 4/29/1972 (previously unreleased)

  1. Tiny Dancer
  2. Rotten Peaches
  3. Razor Face
  4. Holiday Inn
  5. Indian Sunset
  6. Levon
  7. Madman Across the Water
  8. Goodbye


  • Greg Penny 5.1 surround mix of original album and "Madman Across the Water" (Original Version feat. Mick Ronson)
  • Sounds for Saturday video footage
  • Tiny Dancer/All the Nasties (The Old Grey Whistle Test - 11/17/1971

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Danny Boyle Talks 'Pistol'

Written by 30 May, 2022

FX’s Pistol is a six-episode limited series about a rock and roll revolution, available exclusively on Hulu. The furious, raging storm at the center of this revolution are the Sex Pistols - and at the center of this series is Sex Pistols’ founding member and guitarist, Steve Jones. Jones’ hilarious, emotional and at times heart-breaking journey guides us through a kaleidoscopic telling of three of the most epic, chaotic and mucus-spattered years in the history of music.

Based on Jones’ memoir Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol, this is the story of a band of spotty, noisy, working-class kids with "no future," who shook the boring, corrupt Establishment to its core, threatened to bring down the government and changed music and culture forever.

Series director Danny Boyle recently spoke with AllYourScreen founder Rick Ellis about the limited series and his efforts to bring to the screen the chaos that surrounded the Sex Pistols.

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'The Masked Singer' National Tour 2022 Opens In St. Louis (Photo Gallery)

Written by 29 May, 2022

The Masked Singer National Tour 2022 kicked off at the Stifel Theatre in St. Louis on Saturday, May 28th, 2022.  Special guest celebrity and St. Louis native, Drew Lachey was unmasked.

The Masked Singer National Tour 2022 
will travel to 50 cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Austin, Portland and Los Angeles. Fans can expect to see their favorite characters brought to life on stage in a can’t-miss spectacular live show for audiences of all ages, as well as surprise celebrity guests and amazing new performances.

Natasha Bedingfield will host and perform  on the tour, in addition to her costume, “Pepper,” the fan-favorite characters from past seasons of The Masked Singer going on tour include “Queen of Hearts,” “Taco,” “Alien,” “Robot,” “Baby” and “Monster,” plus Season Seven’s “Thingamabob.” The live show will feature one local celebrity at every stop who will perform in a top-secret disguise. The audience will attempt to decipher the clues to guess the identity until the local celebrity is unmasked at the end of the night.

All photos courtesy Reema Shah.

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Today's 70s Song You Should Know: 'I Don't Like Mondays' By The Boomtown Rats

Written by 25 May, 2022

While The Boomtown Rats were nothing much more than a footnote in the U.S., the band had a string of nine Top Ten hits in the U.K. in the late 70s. Late by Bob Geldolf, the band's new-wavish sound combined with socially conscious lyrics hit quite hard in England, where Geldolf had famously written their first hit single while waiting at the unemployment office.

The band's lone appearance on the U.S. singles chart was "I Don't Like Mondays," which only reached #79, although it went to #1 in about a dozen countries. The song was co-written by Geldolf and fellow bandmate Johnny Fingers, after hearing about the shooting spree of 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer. She shot up a San Diego area elementary school, killing two adults and injuring eight children and one police officer. The January 29th, 1979 shooting was the first killing spree in the world conducted by a teen at a school and after she was arrested she famously told a reporter that she did it because "I Don't Like Mondays."

This might seem like the wrong day to highlight this song. But given the fact that we are still dealing with school shootings more than 40 years later, it's worth being reminded just how long this has been going on.

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Today's 70s Song You Should Know: 'Avenging Annie' By Andy Pratt

Written by 17 May, 2022

The 1970s was the decade of the pop singer-songwriter. Carole King, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Jim Croce and a hundred other musicians who cranked out thoughtful pieces of ear candy that are still being sung more than fifty years later. But that explosion of talent also inspired a generation of singer-songwriters who attempted to upend the traditional pop sound of the genre and create something new. And of all of those musicians, few are as musically interesting as Andy Pratt.

Pratt had released a solo album on Polydor to very little attention in 1969, but his self-titled 1973 debut on Columbia Records garnered rave reviews from the rock press, especially for the track "Avenging Annie." The tune was loosely about Annie Oakley and Pretty Boy Floyd the Outlaw and if there is a singer-songwriter equivalent to "Bohemian Rhapsody," it's this spectacularly complex tune. It begins with hoof beats, two gun shots and a soaring piano that propels the rest of the tune. The lyrics tell the story of Annie's devotional love to a man who was cruel and violent to her:

He treat me worse than I ever imagined,
He even say he don't want me around.
Kept it up so long I couldn't be strong,
He run me right into the ground for five long years,
He picked me up and then he slapped me down.

Pratt's voice flows around the lyrics and his rollicking piano, creating a song that is distinctively unlike anything else you're ever heard.  "Avenging Annie" wasn't a hit - an edited version of the song only made it to #78 on the Billboard Top 100 Chart. But the album track was a staple on FM Rock radio. It was also covered by Roger Daltry on a solo album, although to be honest, it's a pretty lifeless version.

Pratt signed with Atlantic's Nemperor Records and released "Resolution" in 1976. Helmed by Bee Gees producer Arif Mardin, the album was an attempt at a more commercial sound and indeed was Pratt's best-selling album (it reached #104 on the Billboard album charts). It also earned rave review including this one from Rolling Stone:

"By reviving the dream of rock as an art and then re-inventing it, Pratt has forever changed the face of rock."

Unfortunately, the album didn't break Pratt wide open and neither two other criminally under-appreciated albums he released later in the 1970s. In the early 80s, Pratt converted to Christianity and has continued to release albums of a more spiritual nature. 

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