Music (107)

Executive Producers Gabe Turner and Ben Winston Talk 'Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium'

Exclusively streaming live on Disney+ on Sunday, November 20th, 2022, Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium is a once-in-a-lifetime live, global original concert event that offers fans from around the world a front-row seat to witness the groundbreaking magic of the Rocket Man back at Dodger Stadium. The historic three-hour livestream, from Disney Branded Television and produced by Fulwell 73 Productions and Rocket Entertainment, will showcase Elton John as audiences have never seen him before, paying tribute to the icon and the seminal moment in 1975 that cemented his global success.

AllYourScreen's Rick Ellis recently spoke with executive producers Ben Winston and Gabe Turner, who talked about the importance of the concert, the challenges of putting it together and the role in the planning played by David Furnish in the planning of this event.

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The Five Best Elton John Songs You've Probably Never Heard

Written by 19 November, 2022

Elton John's final U.S. concert performance will be presented live on Disney+ on Sunday, November 20th, 2022 and in honor of the event, here's a look at the five best Elton John songs you've probably never heard:

High Flying Bird (1973)
As much I love albums like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, my favorite Elton John album is probably Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player. It was the last album John released before he became a superstar and while it included hits such as Daniel and Crocodile Rock, I've always had a spot for High Flying Bird, which was the last track on the album. When I interviewed John in the 1980s, he said the song was very much inspired by the sound of Van Morrison. You can hear snatches of that if you listen hard enough. But what the song really sounds like is an Elton John piano-driven ballad delivered at the near-peak of his powers.

It could have easily been a hit single and I suspect it would have been released as one if John wasn't cranking out albums in the 1970s faster than they could fall off the charts. Between May 1972 and June 1974, John released Honky Chateau, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player, the two-album set Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Caribou.

Three-Way Love Affair (1979)
As the 1970s began to wrap up, Elton John was facing a bit of a creativity crisis. His previous album (1976's Blue Moves) was a double album released after John had announced he was retiring from live performances. While the album did include the #1 hit Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, much of the album is sub-par work from John and Taupin and the singer has said in interviews it is one of his least favorite albums.

Following the lackluster response to Blue Moves, John opted to really shake things up and decided his next album would be produced by famed Philadelphia soul producer and songwriter Thom Bell, who had cranked out a series of hit singles with The Spinners, The Delfonics, The Stylistics and many others. 

The plan was for Bell to produce John's album, backed by some of his stable of Philadelphia soul performers. It's not clear what happened during the sessions, but things apparently quickly disintegrated. John has never really discussed the situation and when I interviewed Bell several years later, he just said that John didn't like being told what to do. Regardless of the reasons, the album was shelved halfway through the process. 

John changed directions again and released the album A Single Man in 1978. It was the first album that didn't include a song by long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin and the first since 1970's Empty Sky to not be produced by Gus Dudgeon. And while the album did produce a modest hit with the very-underrated Part-Time Love (which peaked in the U.S. at #21), the album was considered to be another disappointment. 

The following year, John's label released the EP The Thom Bell Sessions, which included three tracks from the discarded 1977 album: Three Way Love Affair, Mama Can't Buy You Love and Are You Ready For Love. All three tracks were written by soul duo Bell & James and they featured background vocals from The Spinners. Mama Can't Buy You Love became a top ten single for John and three additional tracks from the session were included on the 1989 release The Complete Thom Bell Sessions.

One of the things that Bell apparently clashed with John over in the sessions was Bell's belief that John should be singing in a slightly lower register after years of abusing his voice with constant touring. And it appears that if nothing else, John took that advice. Because following these sessions he tended to primarily sing in a lower register. Which is one reason I really love Are You Ready For Love. Aside from the killer vocals from the Spinners, it's a track that really points John in the direction he'll pursue vocally moving forward.

Supercool By Kiki Dee (1973)
If most people know the name of Kiki Dee at all, it's because of her connection with Elton John. At the height of his 1970s fame, John signed Kiki Dee to his newly formed Rocket Records and he tried hard to break her big as a solo artist. Dee had released her first solo single in 1964 and had released a number of well-regarded singles and several albums. But while some of the tunes got airplay in the UK, she never quite had a hit. She bounced from label to label and by 1970 became the first white artist signed to Motown Records.

Her fortunes changed when John signed her to his label and her first Rocket Records single - Amoureuse - became a Top 15 hit in the U.K. The resulting album Loving & Free also included Supercool, written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin. The single didn't chart anywhere, but it's a fabulous song and it is instantly recognizable as a John/Taupin track from that era. In fact, I suspect that if John had released the song himself it would have been a huge hit.

Dee's next album spawned the 1974 Top 15 U.S. hit I've Got The Music In Me, but none of her follow-up singles charted. In 1976 she had her biggest hit when Dusty Springfield was too sick to record the duet Don't Go Breaking My Heart with Elton John. That song went to #1 in more than 20 countries and was John's first #1 in the U.K.

Dee has continued to record in the years since and had several modest U.K. hits. But her biggest chart success in recent years was in 1993, when the track True Love (a duet with Elton John off of his Duets album) went to #2 in the U.K.

Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (1973)
Back in the glory days of 1970s album rock FM stations, disc jockeys loved highlighting songs by popular acts that hadn't been released as a single but still were memorable enough to feel familiar to the listeners. Bonus points if the song lasted longer then ten minutes and this lead-off track from John's iconic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road checked all of those boxes. It clocked in at more than 11 minutes long and even though John doesn't singing until nearly six minutes in after a long and slowly building intro, it eventually kicks into a balls-out performance by John and his band.

Rock Me When He's Gone (1971)
Even though John recorded the track during the sessions for his 1971 album Madman Across The Water, his version wasn't released until the 1992 compilation Rare Masters. The track was written by John and Taupin for Long John Baldry, whom John had briefly worked with in Bluesology in late 1960s. Baldry recorded the track for his 1971 album It Ain't Easy, which was co-produced by John and Rod Stewart. John also played piano on the album and Stewart provided the rest of the band, who had recently backed Stewart on his Every Picture Tells A Story album.

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Paul McCartney Announces Massive 7" Singles Box

Written by 10 November, 2022

One of the most profitable segments of the physical media music industry right now are the massive box sets and reissues - many of them highlighting the music of classic rock, R&B and punk artists. Music fans over 50 are the target market for these sets, in part because that is the segment of the buying public that has the most disposable income and who are most likely to spend hundreds of dollars on music they might already own.

That trend is certainly part of the reason behind an upcoming release from Paul McCartney, which packages 80 single releases personally curated by the former Beatle into a massive box set available for just over $600.

The 7" Singles Box contains 80 discs, 65 will be exact replicas of original 45s, with various international sleeves reproduced along the way; the remaining 15 consist of tracks previously released on 12", picture discs, CD singles & promos, digital downloads, music videos, two previously unheard demos, and a previously unheard 7" single edit.

The box will be limited to 3000 copies worldwide and can be pre-ordered at his official store. Each copy will come with a random test pressing of one of the discs. 

The set is scheduled to be released around December 2nd. No CD release is planned, although the set will also be available digitally.

Here is a rundown of the set's contents:

The 7" Singles Box (MPL/Capitol/UMe, 2022)

  1. Another Day b/w Oh Woman, Oh Why (Sweden, 1971)
  2. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (Mono) b/w Too Many People (Mono) (U.S. promo, 1971)
  3. UK 3A: The Back Seat of My Car b/w Heart of the Country (U.K., 1971)
  4. Love Is Strange (Single Edit) b/w I Am Your Singer (previously unreleased on 7")
  5. Give Ireland Back to the Irish b/w Give Ireland Back to the Irish (Version) (U.K., 1972)
  6. Mary Had a Little Lamb b/w Little Woman Love (U.K., 1972)
  7. Hi, Hi, Hi b/w C Moon (Belgium, 1972)
  8. My Love b/w The Mess (Live at The Hague) (Israel, 1973)
  9. Live and Let Die b/w I Lie Around (Sweden, 1973)
  10. Helen Wheels b/w Country Dreamer (Spain, 1973)
  11. Jet b/w Let Me Roll It (Germany, 1974)
  12. Band on the Run b/w Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five (The Netherlands, 1974)
  13. Mrs. Vandebilt b/w Bluebird (The Netherlands, 1974)
  14. Junior's Farm b/w Sally G (Belgium, 1974)
  15. Listen to What the Man Said b/w Love in Song (Australia, 1975)
  16. Letting Go b/w You Gave Me the Answer (Germany, 1975)
  17. Venus and Mars/Rock Show b/w Magneto and Titanium Man (Belgium, 1975)
  18. Silly Love Songs b/w Cook of the House (France, 1976)
  19. Let 'Em In b/w Beware My Love (Germany, 1976)
  20. Maybe I'm Amazed (Live) b/w Soily (Live) (Japan, 1977)
  21. Mull of Kintyre b/w Girls' School (U.K., 1977)
  22. With a Little Luck (DJ Edit) b/w Backwards Traveller/Cuff Link (Germany, 1978)
  23. I've Had Enough b/w Deliver Your Children (U.K., 1978)
  24. London Town b/w I'm Carrying (The Netherlands, 1978)
  25. Goodnight Tonight b/w Daytime Nightime Suffering (France, 1978)
  26. Old Siam, Sir b/w Spin It On (U.K., 1979)
  27. Getting Closer b/w Baby's Request (U.K. 1979)
  28. Arrow Through Me b/w Old Siam, Sir (Japan, 1979)
  29. Wonderful Christmastime b/w Rudolph the Red Nosed Reggae (U.K., 1979)
  30. Coming Up b/w Coming Up (Live at Glasgow) / Lunch Box/Odd Sox (U.K., 1980)
  31. Waterfalls b/w Check My Machine (U.K., 1980)
  32. Temporary Secretary b/w Secret Friend (7" Single Edit) (previously unreleased on 7")
  33. Ebony and Ivory b/w Rainclouds (U.K., 1982)
  34. Take It Away b/w I'll Give You a Ring (U.K., 1982)
  35. Tug of War b/w Get It (U.K., 1982)
  36. Say Say Say b/w Ode to a Koala Bear (U.K., 1983)
  37. Pipes of Peace b/w So Bad (U.K., 1983)
  38. No More Lonely Nights (Ballad) b/w No More Lonely Nights (Playout Version) (U.K., 1984)
  39. We All Stand Together b/w We All Stand Together (Humming Version) (U.K., 1984)
  40. Spies Like Us b/w My Carnival (U.S., 1985)
  41. Press (Video Edit) b/w It's Not True (U.S., 1986)
  42. Pretty Little Head (Remix) b/w Write Away (reformatted from U.S. 12" promo, 1986)
  43. Stranglehold b/w Angry (Remix) (U.S., 1986)
  44. Only Love Remains b/w Tough on a Tightrope (U.K., 1986)
  45. Once Upon a Long Ago b/w Back on My Feet (U.K., 1987)
  46. My Brave Face b/w Flying to My Home (U.S., 1989)
  47. This One b/w The First Stone (U.K., 1989)
  48. Figure of Eight (7" Bob Clearmountain Mix) b/w Où Est le Soleil (Australia, 1989)
  49. Party Party b/w artwork etching (U.K., 1989)
  50. Put It There b/w Mama's Little Girl (U.K., 1990)
  51. The Long and Winding Road b/w C Moon (Europe, 1990)
  52. Birthday b/w Good Day Sunshine (U.K., 1990)
  53. All My Trials b/w C Moon (U.K., 1990)
  54. The World You're Coming Into / Tres Conejos b/w Save the Child / The Drinking Song (Let's Find Ourselves a Little Hostelry) (previously unreleased on 7")
  55. Hope of Deliverance b/w Long Leather Coat (Europe, 1992)
  56. C'mon People b/w I Can't Imagine (Germany, 1993)
  57. Young Boy b/w Looking for You (reformatted from 7" picture disc, 1997)
  58. The World Tonight b/w Used to Be Bad (reformatted from 7" picture disc, 1997)
  59. Beautiful Night b/w Love Come Tumbling Down (reformatted from 7" picture disc, 1997)
  60. No Other Baby b/w Brown Eyed Handsome Man / Fabulous (U.K., 1999)
  61. From a Lover to a Friend b/w Riding into Jaipur (Europe, 2001)
  62. Tropic Island Hum / We All Stand Together (Europe, 2004)
  63. Fine Line b/w Growing Up Falling Down (Europe, 2005)
  64. Jenny Wren b/w Summer of '59 (Europe, 2005)
  65. Dance Tonight b/w Dance Tonight (Demo) (previously unreleased on 7")
  66. Nod Your Head b/w 222 (previously unreleased on 7")
  67. Ever Present Past b/w House of Wax (Live) (Europe, 2007)
  68. Sing the Changes b/w Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight (Radio Edit) (previously unreleased on 7")
  69. (I Want to) Come Home b/w (I Want to) Come Home (Demo) (previously unreleased on 7")
  70. My Valentine b/w Get Yourself Another Fool (previously unreleased on 7")
  71. Christmas Kisses: The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) b/w Wonderful Christmastime (U.S., 2012)
  72. New b/w Early Days (previously unreleased on 7")
  73. Queenie Eye b/w Save Us (previously unreleased on 7")
  74. Hope for the Future b/w Hope for the Future (Thrash Mix) (previously unreleased on 7")
  75. In the Blink of an Eye b/w Walking in the Park with Eloise (previously unreleased on 7")
  76. I Don't Know b/w Come On to Me (global, 2018)
  77. Who Cares b/w Fuh You (previously unreleased on 7")
  78. Home Tonight b/w In a Hurry (global, 2019)
  79. Find My Way b/w Winter Bird/When Winter Comes (previously unreleased on 7")
  80. Women and Wives b/w Women and Wives (St. Vincent Remix) (previously unreleased on 7")

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'The 56th Annual CMA Awards' Red Carpet Arrivals

Written by 09 November, 2022

The 56th Annual CMA Awards, Country Music’s Biggest Night, hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning, aired live from Nashville Wednesday, November 9th, 2022 (8:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. 

(All photos courtesy ABC, 2022)

Carrie Underwood, Mike Fischer

Little Big Town

Old Dominion


Maddie & Tae

Ronnie Brooks & Kix Dunn


Ben & Erin Napier

Elle King

Ashley McBryde

Brothers Osbourne

Miranda Lambert

Reba McEntire

Runaway Jane


The Buckleys

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Review: 'Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me'

Written by 04 November, 2022

"Everything I've ever wished for, I've had. And done all of it. But it has killed me"

One of my oldest friends is someone I've known since we were both standup comics back in the 1980s. We were part of a group of 6-7 people who hung out together, pushing each other to be better, spending late nights drinking coffee at Perkins and dreaming about what we'd do when we were famous. 

A couple of us ended up in the writing side of the business, with one of us a now pretty-well known showrunner. And a couple of other friends in the group have some more tangential show biz connection. But one of us became an actual star. He's very well-known, maybe best described as an "almost A-lister." He has this public persona of being a naturally funny, acerbic and confident guy. Okay, sometimes he comes off as a bit of an asshat (and I honestly say that with love). He's super talented. But he became a star when a couple of very random things broke his way. Things he had no control over and that randomness is something which weighs on him. He is a guy who outwardly appears as if he has it all. But after a couple of decades he's still wracked with self-doubt and fear.

When I heard last year that one of our group had killed himself after suffering a series of personal losses, my phone rang late one night and without looking, I knew who it was. It was my friend, grieving for our loss. But that grief was intertwined with the lamentation that has been part of his psyche since he became famous. "Why me and not X?"

Fame and success always has a cost. Sometimes it's emotional, sometimes it is the things you discard along the way. But celebrity is by its nature an artifice, and it's easy to find yourself living inside this bubble of fame and money that protects you, but also doesn't give you what you need to thrive.

That's especially the case when you're talking about someone who came into fame at an early age. None of us have any clear sense of the person we'll eventually become when we're in our teens. Going through that discovery process in public - while also wrangling with all of the career challenges - is brutal and unforgiving and even the strongest person can falter and sometimes lose their way. Doing some reporting about teen show producer Dan Schneider, I've had the chance to speak to a number of men and women who became stars in their teens. And I can't think of one who didn't battle demons along the way.

I wasn't sure what to make of Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me before I saw it. I knew that she was doing the documentary willingly, and that it was a six year project between the performer and Truth Or Dare director Alek Keshishian. He filmed the 2015 music video for Gomez's "Hands To Myself and is coincidentally her manager's brother. Based on that personal relationship and the fact Apple TV+ would provide a screener of the documentary only for purposes of a feature story and not a review made me suspect this would be another one of those tightly-controlled films that is much a brand exercise as it is look behind the curtain.

But I was so, so wrong.

Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me is a staggeringly intimate look at someone who is the middle of a physical and mental collapse. It begins in the midst of rehearsals for her 2016 Revival tour, which she canceled midway through due to a mental health crisis. Over the next several years, Gomez spends time in a mental health facility, deals with a flare-up of Lupus that ends up requiring her to get a kidney transplant, and on top of all of that, she's diagnosed with a bipolar-disorder diagnosis. 

When the cameras return, Gomez is battling anxiety and stage fright. She frankly seems more than a little lost and given what she's going through, I would likely feel the same way.

But as the documentary progresses, you can see Gomez slowly find her equilibrium. She travels to Kenya and volunteers at a local school. Focusing on other people, lost in the moment, you can see her soul just smile and for all of the joy in that moment, it's also so sad. Because it's clear that sometimes there just are not enough of those moments.

There is one sequence that as a journalist just made me squirm in near agony. My nightmare is asking someone a question or series of questions that are painfully uninformed or just odd and awkward. So watching a press tour journalist ask Gomez: "One DJ, one word: Marshmello," made me embarrassed for my entire profession.

Keshishian does a masterful job of stripping the glitz and celebrity from every scene Gomez is in. She trusts him enough to let the camera see her at some of the worst, rawest moments anyone can imagine. And it's even more jarring because Gomez's public persona is being someone who is cool to the point of almost being distant. She is always perfectly presented and watching her walk through a room, it's impossible to imagine her having a bad hair day much less battling demons that would crush most of us. 

In fact, that image is one of the reasons why she is so good in Hulu Only Murders In The Building. In the series, she plays someone who seems cool and detached from the world. But as the show plays out, you begin to see all of the things she hides from others and from herself. It's a character that fits the world's image of Gomez, whether or not it's truly accurate.

That dichotomy plays out on a larger scale on Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me. She wants to connect in ways that are difficult for her to manage. Especially someone who is a star of her stature. She sees herself through other people's eyes and as they see her  - this strong, talented, together woman  - and that doesn't match the way she often feels inside. There are scenes where you see her yearning for peace and happiness in a visceral way that almost physically hurts to watch. And yet, for whatever reason she decided to bare herself for the world. And it feels like the process of making the film helped solidify some things in her life.

I don't want to talk too much about specific moments that take place later in the documentary or how it wraps up. But it appears that Gomez is a better place now and on a human level, I am happy for her. 

Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me is an incredibly intimate and brave film. I suspect seeing Gomez in such an unfiltered way might help some other young women battling similar self-doubts. I also suspect that might be part of the reason why Gomez decided to do the documentary. And that decision might tell you the most important thing you need to know about Selena Gomez.

Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me
premiered Friday, November 4th, 2022 on Apple TV+

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Rita Ora, Taika Waititi To Host 2022 MTV EMA's

Written by 25 October, 2022

MTV announced on Tuesday that award-winning global superstar Rita Ora and Academy Award-winning and Grammy Award-winning writer, director, and actor Taika Waititi will host the MTV EMAs 2022, broadcasting live from Düsseldorf, Germany on Sunday, November 13th.

"We’re excited to host this year’s MTV EMAs and celebrate the best musicians and performances from around the world," said Rita Ora and Taika Waititi in a statement. "We look forward to sharing the evening with all of these talented artists."

"I’m thrilled to be back hosting, and sharing the stage with Taika makes it all the more special," added Ora, who had previously hosted the EMA's in 2017. "We’ve got it all at this year's EMAs, fun surprises, fantastic fashion, comedy, and above all amazing music! We can’t wait for audiences to share these moments with us."

"Rita Ora is a long-time MTV/EMA favorite and together with the multi-talented Taika Waititi, we’re absolutely certain this powerhouse duo will set the stage for one electrifying night of global music celebration," said Bruce Gillmer, President of Music, Music Talent, Programming and Events at Paramount, and Chief Content Officer of Music for Paramount+.

The 2022 MTV EMAs will broadcast live on MTV in more than 170 countries and on Pluto TV in select territories across the US, Latin America and Europe and Comedy Central in Germany on November 13th. It will be available on Paramount+ and Pluto TV globally beginning November 14th.

Fans can vote for their favorites across 17 gender-neutral categories, including "Best Song," "Best Artist," "Best Collaboration," and two all-new categories "Best Longform Video" and "Best Metaverse Performance," at until November 9th, at 11:59pm CET.

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Tegan And Sara Quin Talk Freevee's New Series 'High School'

Written by 14 October, 2022

Based on musicians Tegan and Sara Quin's best-selling memoir, High School is a story about finding your own identity—a journey made even more complicated when you have a twin whose own struggle and self-discovery so closely mimics your own. Told through a backdrop of ‘90s grunge and rave culture, the series weaves between parallel and discordant memories of sisters growing up down the hall from one another.

AllYourScreens Managing Editor Rick Ellis recently spoke with Tegan and Sara about the series and how they ensured the show would accurately reflect the book and their experience.

The text version of the interview has been lightly edited for clarity.


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Review: The Cowsills - 'Rhythm Of The World'

Written by 01 October, 2022

You have to be in a certain age group to remember The Cowsills, a family band from Rhode Island which had a string of hits in the 1960s and among other things, apparently inspired the idea for the TV band/series The Partridge Family.

The group began as brothers Bob and Bill Cowsill in the mid-1960s, but gradually added other members of the family until The Cowsills included brothers Bob, Bill, Barry, John, sister Susan and mother Barbara. The group's big break was when a producer for The Today Show spotted them playing in a Newport, Rhode Island basement and invited them on the show. That led to being signed for a singles deal by Phillips Records and after none of those charted, they moved to MGM Records.

That move turned out to be a great deal for the both the label and The Cowsills. Their first MGM single - "The Rain, The Park & Other Things" - went to #1 on the U.S. Top 40 chart. Over the next three years, the group charted a number of singles, including three that hit the Top 40: "We Can Fly" (#22), "Indian Lake" (#10), and "Hair" (#2). But by 1970, they had switched labels and in 1972 arguments between various family members ended the group's career.

Bob, Paul, John, and Susan again regrouped as The Cowsills in 1990 and recorded the album "Global," which wasn't released until 1998. The 2008 album "Cocaine Dream" was actually recorded in 1978, so the news that there was an entirely new Cowsills album was a bit of a surprise.

"Rhythm Of The World" features original members Bob, Paul, and Susan plus Bob's son Ryan and Paul's son Brendan, as well as Susan's husband Russ Broussard and her bandmate Mary Lasseigne. It's the group's first new album in nearly 30 years and it highlights eleven original songs written by the band.

And overall the album is....not bad? The singing is solid, with a sound that veers between classic Cowsills harmonies and a sort of 1990s alt pop. There aren't any clunkers on the album and several of the tracks border on the edge of being ear candy. I'm especially fond of "Every Little Secret," which a great swirly pop sound that feels very timeless. "Largo Nights" is another highlight, sounding like the type of tracks The Byrds would have been making if they had stayed a band into the 1990s.

I've listened to the album a lot over the past few days in the background and that's probably where it feels most comfortable. "Rhythm Of The World" has a lot of songs that are very good, but not quite great. It's the kind of album where I can imagine a record label A&R guy listening to it and saying "I like it a lot, but I don't hear a hit." Which is fine, given that there isn't a radio station format still surviving that plays this type of music. But as impressed as I am with the songwriting and arrangements on the album, I suspect that having an outside influence on the tracks might have helped a bit. There are times when an arrangement is a bit clunky or a vocal feels out of place and it's the type of miscalculation that damages the overall presentation.

Still. "Rhythm Of The World" is a solidly fun return from a band who by all rights should be long retired. I hope we hear more from them in the future, because I am a sucker for a good pop song.

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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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