Monthly Archives: December 2010

PLAY FOR TODAY: VIDEO GAMES / AARON BURGESS

 

 

 

Column #16: Best of 2010 – Red Dead
Redemption, Call Of Duty: Black Ops, and more.

 

By
Aaron Burgess

 

Blurt Picks: The 10 Best Videogames of
2010

As your
humble Blurt videogame columnist, I spent literally hundreds of hours
blistering my fingers in the name of gaming this year, with each new title
offering yet more reasons to ignore my real-world duties in a quest to make the
next level. As 2010 draws to a close, however, only a handful of games are
managing to keep my trigger finger going into the New Year. Ten seems like as
good a number as any, so here, dear readers, are my picks for the year’s 10 best
reasons to own a game console. See you in 2011-and if anyone feels like
clobbering me, my handle at pretty much every online gaming service is first2letters. Happy New Year!

 

Red Dead
Redemption

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

The wild,
wild west meets the great wide open in this brain-bendingly rich Old West saga
whose mythic plot twists, nail-biting moral ambiguity and blood-drenched plains
are equal parts Cormac McCarthy, Coen Brothers and Clint Eastwood. And that’s
just when you play the main story. Take a side road into a game of gunslingers’
poker or stop to see a man about a horse, and there’s no telling how irrevocably
deep into hero John Marston’s tense, twisted world you can go.

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

Call
Of Duty: Black Ops

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, DS, PC

As it seems
destined to do with each new installment, Call
Of Duty
title No. 7 raises the bar for all first-person shooters, military
or otherwise. Cripes, even the commercials for Call Of Duty: Black Ops-set to
the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” in a move that reflected both the game’s Cold
War/Vietnam-era storyline and the overall experience of playing it-were genius.
I spent untold hours in Black Ops
solo campaign, but the most merciful COD multiplayer
experience to date made online play just as rewarding

Get it from: Amazon

 

God Of War III

Platform: PlayStation 3
In a year where a remade Clash Of The
Titans
rocked the big screen, there was really only one Titanic clash worth
experiencing. With breathtaking visual design and cutscenes so powerful they
alone could justify a PlayStation 3 purchase, God Of War III delivered Zeus-sized gameplay to match its graphics.
Sure, the storyline hits harder if you’ve played previous God Of War titles, but even without that foothold, you’ll delight
in playing as the merciless Kratos, making your enemies squirm and their gods bow
before you.

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

NBA2K11

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PSP, PC

A new NBA Jam may have triggered players’ nostalgia
meters, but between the presence of Michael Jordan and the overall dedication
to on-court realism, NBA2K11 proved
there was only one NBA game worth honors this year. The graphics alone were so
dialed in that I thought I was watching a TV broadcast; luckily I had the
riveting gameplay to make me more than just a passive observer. As much as it
does to let you build a dynasty, NBA2K11 is so beautifully realized that you’ll be lucky to make it out of practice
without scraping your jaw off the floor.

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

Halo: Reach

Platform: Xbox 360
The gritty, dread-soaked prequel took players back to the dawn of the Halo legend, but in (ahem) reaching back
to Halo‘s salad days for its
storyline, Halo: Reach never asked
the same of players. Even more than its butt-kicking new features (space
combat, anyone?), this entry-level awareness was the game’s strongest selling
point. As much as it proved the trickiest Halo game to master, Reach was also the
easiest of the series’ games to enter-and from its customizable DNA to its
virtually endless multiplayer possibilities, it remains the hardest Halo game to leave.

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Platform: Wii
With its objectives set across multiple wacky 3D planets, this eye-popping
platformer comes off like the logical sequel to 2007’s fun, frivolous adventure
starring everyone’s favorite Italian plumber. (No offense, Luigi.) But it’s the
Zen-like simplicity and childlike sense of wonder that drive Super Mario Galaxy 2 that make the game rule.
Even Nintendo 64-era memories influence the way you experience SMG2; and by the time you finish it,
you’ll have carved a new space in your memory bank for this one.

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

Assassin’s Creed:
Brotherhood

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
More a dazzling detour than a true follow-up to 2009’s Assassin’s Creed 2, Brotherhood lives up to its title through an epic multiplayer addition and the ability to
recruit fellow assassins in your plight against the Templars. Beyond this basic
advancement, however, it’s the wide-open feel of Brotherhood that’ll hook you from the opening scene. Free to
explore an eye-popping rendition of Renaissance Rome, I truly felt like I was
reshaping history as I played it-even if I had some help from Leonardo along
the way.

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

Mass Effect 2

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
We’ve heard the storyline behind Mass
Effect 2
a million times before: alien race, humanity in peril, one hero to
save us all. Where developer BioWare changes the game, however, is in making
morality a story element. In ME2, characters’
motives and motions are as flawed, emotionally driven and potentially epic as would
be ours if thrust into the same scenario. Though combat drives the action, it’s
the little things that count, and this is one game where the choices you make (including
whatever baggage you bring from the first Mass
Effect
) literally shape the benefits you reap.

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

Rock Band 3

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii
Mechanically speaking, keyboards and a few fake cymbals were the only things Rock Band‘s creators brought to the
stage for installment No. 3. These peripherals, however-to say nothing of the
new “pro” modes for guitar and drums-were mere jumping-off points for the Rock Band experience, which with Rock Band 3 proves the best rock &
roll fantasy available on any console. Not only do you get full compatibility
with all your older Rock Band downloads; you got the ability to rock them all with up to six of your closest
friends. Bohemian Rhapsody, indeed.

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Platform: Xbox 360
Mario wasn’t the only Nintendo character who took us on a nostalgia trip this
year. Packing a slew of gorgeously designed (and impressively tough) levels in
his barrels, Donkey Kong also closed out the year with a 3D, Wii-exclusive
reboot of his own side-scrolling classic. And did I mention that Diddy Kong is
along for the ride? Probably not, because in one of many how-did-I-ever-live-without-that? updates to the classic franchise,
I was too busy making both characters go bananas at once.

Get it from: Amazon

 

 

 

***

 

Our game guru, Aaron
Burgess, lives digitally but dreams in analog down in Round Rock, Texas. Contact him at first2letters@gmail.com  / AIM: First2Letters

 

Report: Pharoah Sanders Live in Oakland

 

The creator brings his pre-Christmas master plan to
a packed (and intimate) Yoshi’s in Oakland,
California, December 22.

 

By Jud Cost

A living legend, Pharoah
Sanders hobbled stiffly up a handful of stairs at the left side of the stage of
Yoshi’s night club in Oakland,
Calif. and began blowing on a
modal original that could have been penned by his onetime mentor, John
Coltrane. Sanders’ sound has evolved over the years to the point where it’s
very similar to Coltrane now. It was thrilling to hear what can only be
described as the mantle being passed from one long-gone tenor sax legend
(Coltrane died in 1967) to another.

 

The last remaining member
of John Coltrane’s final band that also included Alice Coltrane on piano, Jimmy
Garrison on bass and drummer Rashied Ali, Sanders, who just turned 70, has
played solo gigs recently at San Francisco’s immense Grace Cathedral. It’s a
place where the effect of music echoing off the ancient ceiling, hundreds of
feet above the performer, almost becomes a second instrument, itself. The
six-second delay from sound rebounding back down to floor-level somewhat limits
the tempos of the material. 

 

But with a full band
tonight of William Henderson on piano, Nat Reeves on bass and drummer Joe
Farnsworth playing before a packed house in the intimate environs of Yoshi’s,
it seemed more like the last time I saw Coltrane (and the first time I saw
Sanders) at San Francisco’s Jazz Workshop in the spring of 1966. A few patrons
that night, expecting to see Coltrane’s seminal, long-lived (by jazz standards)
quartet, featuring the grimacing, sweating Garrison on bass, the hypnotic,
left-hand-heavy piano of McCoy Tyner and the rolling thunder of drummer Elvin
Jones, were disappointed that the wheel had spun once again in Coltrane’s
musical/spiritual journey. In particular, Alice Coltrane replacing Tyner seemed
to some of the close-minded as serious an offense as the reaction two years
later of longtime fans who would blame Yoko Ono for breaking up the Beatles.

 

Dressed in a thigh-length
bright blue tunic and sporting an angular snow-white beard worthy of a ruler of
ancient Egypt,
Sanders (renamed “Pharoah” from his given name of Farrell, so the
legend goes, by none other than Intergalactic Arkestra leader Sun Ra) was in
fine form tonight. He dramatically punctuated certain passages with his
trademark, high-pitched, harmonic squeal that sounded like a hayloft full of
terrified rodents in a barn fire, then later swooped down to the bottom of his
horn’s register for a window-rattling honk or two, something like the thing
another Coltrane associate, Eric Dolphy, used to do on bass clarinet. For
anyone who’s never heard Coltrane and Dolphy (who died in 1964) play together,
their Olé (Atlantic)
longplayer is the perfect place to start.

 

At times, Sanders would
angle the neck of his horn upward, bend down and place it carefully on the
floor while retrieving a vintage rhythm instrument to accompany a solo by one
of the others. He sparingly used an industrial-strength tambourine-like shaker
and a well-worn, yuletide-friendly strand of sleigh bells. A large brass bowl
played with an oversized mallet, whose sound was so delicate that even the
standup bass canceled it out, was employed only after a lengthy coda had been
resolved.

 

High point of the evening may have been Sanders’ warm reading
of jazz standard “Body And Soul,” best known from Coleman Hawkins’
epic 1939 recording.

 

Like the recent appearance
of New Thing survivor Archie Shepp at San
Francisco’s Herbst Theatre, Sanders includes a vocal
turn in his current set. With the well-traveled pipes of a Delta bluesman,
Sanders belted out a few choruses of “I got the blues” to a wildly
appreciative house before winding things up much the way he’d started. Another
Coltrane-style modal blues, with Henderson
alternating Tyner’s chordal approach with some striking single-note runs,
wrapped up a perfect early Christmas present for any devotee of these
sanctified sounds.

 

Ornette Coleman once
hailed Sanders as “probably the best tenor sax player in the world.”
After playing with Coleman at Coltrane’s funeral service in 1967, another tenor
sax legend, Albert Ayler (who would also die prematurely in 1970) declared that
Coltrane was the father, Pharoah was the son and he was the Holy Ghost.
Tonight, Sanders assumed the complex role of all three.

 

 

 

 

Flaming Lips to “Freakout” on NY Eve

 

You can freakout
yourself a couple days early simply by watching the video clip below!

 

By Blurt Staff

 

Aside from doing 1999’s The
Soft Bulletin
from start to finish on New Year’s Eve, the Flaming Lips are
forecasting an “over the top experience” for concertgoers at their annual
year-end bash at Oklahoma City’s Cox Convention Center.

 

Frontman Wayne Coyne is being quoted as saying there will be
“20 times more balloons and confetti” than usual, and that things will be “out
of control.” He’s also got a little video testimony in case you doubt his sincerity…

 

 

 

Justin Earle Wins Blurt Readers’ Poll

 

Earle, Arcade Fire and Deerhunter are the top vote-getters.

 

By Fred Mills

 

The die is cast, the votes are in, the fates have been
sealed, the furies have been roused: in the latest BLURT online poll, Justin Townes Earle and his album Harlem River Blues tops the readers’
picks for best album of 2010. Which doesn’t come as a huge surprise; Earle
tipped the scales in our annual Top 50
Albums
ranking for the year, just behind our #1 pick, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. (You can view the entire
BLURT list here.)

 

Earle took a solid 20% of the votes, with Arcade Fire nabbing 13%. As you can see from the poll results below, no one came even
close, with Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest getting 8% to be #3 (it was #3 on the BLURT list too) and Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me at #4 (7%). After that it’s
really to close to call, with most of the other entries taking between three
and six percent).

 

See ya next year, and thanks for voting. Check out our
newest poll in the left column of the homepage: what is your New Year’s
resolution? Meanwhile, congrats to Earle – check out our recent (post-rehab) interview
with him elsewhere on the BLURT site.

 

Blurt’s Video Game Guide #16

 

Announcing the latest installment in our
“Play For Today” series of video game reviews. This time out: The Best of 2010
– Red Dead Redemption, Call Of Duty: Black Ops, and more.

 

 By Blurt Staff

 

Head over to
BLURT blogger Aaron Burgess’ “Play For Today” blog – he’s just posted an
action-packed (term used relatively and literally) roundup of his favorite
games published this past year. Included are trailers for each one.

Teena Marie 1956-2010 R.I.P.

An early Rick James protégé,
she had sizable hits for both Motown and Epic during the ‘80s.

 

By Fred Mills

 

Teena Marie (Mary Christine Brockert), the fiery, diminutive
pop/soul singer and Rick James protégé who racked numerous hits for both
Motown-distributed Gordy Records and Epic during the ‘80s, passed away yesterday
at the age of 54. The cause of death has not yet been disclosed. Her manager, Mike
Gardner indicated that she had apparently died in her sleep at her home in California and was found
by her daughter.

 

Her publicist, Lynn Jeter, told CNN.com that a month ago
Marie had suffered a grand mal seizure and was hospitalized, but more recently
she’d recovered and was “excited” about an upcoming show in Atlanta.

 

The little girl with the room-filling voice (who was also an
accomplished guitarist) first appeared on the scene in 1979 with Wild and Peaceful, which featured heavy
contributions from James, and in many corners record buyers were initially
unaware that she was a white singer; her photo did not appear on the album
sleeve, and the fact that she was on a mostly black label added to that
impression. Later she made news for a precedent-setting lawsuit against Gordy/Motown
to be released from her contract.

 

Among her hits over the years: “I’m A Sucker For Your Love,”
“Lovergirl,” “Need Your Lovin’,” “Behind the Groove” and
“Ooh La La La.”
In the past decade she also recorded a pair of albums for the Cash Money label.

 

 

 

Kimya Dawson, Aesop Rock w/Free Album

 

And don’t forget to
donate to Stonewall
Youth Center,
too.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

Meet Geniusis: Kimya Dawson, Aesop
Rock, Johnny Druelinger (Tin Tree Factory),
Jason Carmer & Quinn Tuffinuff. Over the
weekend they released a free Christmas-themed album titled, appropriately, Holiday Rampage. And while it’s a free download, it’s also for a good cause. So please take the time to consider
making a donation to the Stonewall
Youth Center,
a non-profit organization hand selected by the Geniusis.

 

Go to Important Records’ Geniusis page to nab the tunes;
tracklisting is below.

 

A donation link can be found on the first page of the
Stonewall Youth website:
http://stonewallyouth.org/ Stonewall Youth’s mission statement: “Stonewall Youth is an organization of
youth, activists, and allies that empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans,
queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQQIA) youth to speak for
themselves, educate their communities, and support each other.”

 

 

1. Santa Claus is coming to town
2. Deck The Halls
3.Winter Wonderland
4.Little Drummer Boy
5. Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire
6.Silent Night
7.Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
8. Here Comes Santa Claus
9. Feliz Navidad
10. Silver Bells
11. Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
12. marshmallow banter
13.Mela Kiniki Maka
14.Let It Snow
15 Frosty
16.Joy To The World
17. What Child is This?
18. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
19 Merry Xmas Assholes
20. O Holy Night
21. Away In a Manger
22. Hark The Angels
23. End

 

Yeasayer w/Name-Your-Price Live Album

 

Concert recorded in Brussels this past
October.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

A timely message from
Yeasayer:

 

Hello Everyone!

We hope this message finds you well and that 2010 has brought you it’s best.
 It has been an amazing year for us and we owe a lot to you, our fans and
supporters, for all the successes and the ability to do what we love.  

In thanks, we have decided to release a live show that was recorded at Ancienne
Belgique in Brussels
on October 28th, 2010.  We didn’t want to put a value on the live album,
so it’s up to you to decide what works best for you.  This is being
offered to you first before any viral spread, so please go here to download:
 http://yeasayer.net/xmas/


Again, this doesn’t happen without you and we are forever grateful.
 Thank you for allowing us to move forward to 2011 with more ideas and
tunes to share.

Peace and Happy Holidays.

YEASAYER Family

 

Live at Ancienne Belgique tracklisting:

 

01 Madder Red
02 Rome
03 Wait for the Summer
04 Tightrope
05 Red Cave
06 Grizelda
07 Sunrise
08 Mondegreen
09 Strange Reunions
10 O.N.E.
11 Ambling Alp
12 The Children
13 2080

 

 

Sights Issue Limited Edition Live 10”

Detroit rockers do it Live At Leeds style with St. Louis’ Euclid
Records in-store session for super-limited platter.

 

By Fred Mills

 

St. Louis-New Orleans
record emporium Euclid Records has just debuted a new 10″ EP as part of their “The
Euclid Sessions” series of singles, in-store band performances recorded live.
The first one up: Detroit garage kings The
Sights, who appeared at the St. Louis
location last May.

 

The Sights Live at
Euclid Records
features “Happy” (from their 2005 self-titled album) plus
“Hello to Everybody” and “Take and Take” (both from their recent release, Most of What Follows is True; it’s
reviewed HERE at Blurt). The EP is also the only place to get a recording of
their version of Nolan Strong’s “My Heart Will Always Belong To You.”

 

According to the label, “The art department here at Euclid had a field day.
Taking their cue from the Who’s “Live at
Leeds”
original package, The Sights Live
at Euclid
contains a nice collection of inserts, including a beautiful 20″
poster, an all access pass facsimile, a band payment sheet from a gig in
London, the lyric sheet for performing ‘My Heart Will Always Belong To You,’ a
(lack of) royalty statement from their first album, a review clip from a
newspaper, and a Canadian immigration form.”

 

Euclid Sessions titles are limited to 300 copies, and $1 for
each one pressed is donated to the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund (NOMRF) to
benefit musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina. Euclid Sessions website: www.euclidsessions.com.

 

More details on how to obtain the Sights record at the two Euclid websites (www.euclidrecords.com, and www.euclidnola.com).

 

The Doors: “F**k You, Florida!”

We don’t
feel Jim needs to be pardoned for anything”: Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore
respond to outgoing Florida
governor Charlie Crist’s posthumous pardon of the Lizard King.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

A message, from The Doors
(go here for our previous coverage of the pardon):

 

In 1969 the Doors played an infamous concert in Miami, Florida.
Accounts vary as to what actually happened on stage that night.

 

Whatever took place that night ended with The Doors sharing beers and
laughter in the dressing room with the Miami
police, who acted as security at the venue that evening. No arrests were made.
The next day we flew off to Jamaica
for a few days’ vacation before our planned 20-city tour of America.

 

That tour never materialized. Four days later, warrants were issued in Miami for the arrest of
Morrison on trumped-up charges of indecency, public obscenity, and general
rock-and-roll revelry. Every city The Doors were booked into canceled their
engagement.

 

A circus of fire-and-brimstone “decency” rallies, grand jury
investigations and apocalyptic editorials followed – not to mention allegations
ranging from the unsubstantiated (he exposed himself) to the fantastic (the
Doors were “inciting a riot” but also “hypnotizing” the crowd).

 

In August, Jim Morrison went on trial in Miami. He was acquitted on all but two
misdemeanor charges and sentenced to six months’ hard labor in Raiford
Penitentiary. He was appealing this conviction when he died in Paris on July 3, 1971. Four decades after the
fact, with Jim an icon for multiple generations – and those who railed against
him now a laughingstock – Florida
has seen fit to issue a pardon.

 

We don’t feel Jim needs to be pardoned for anything.

 

His performance in Miami
that night was certainly provocative, and entirely in the insurrectionary
spirit of The Doors’ music and message. The charges against him were largely an
opportunity for grandstanding by ambitious politicians – not to mention an
affront to free speech and a massive waste of time and taxpayer dollars. As Ann
Woolner of the Albany
Times-Union wrote recently, “Morrison’s case bore all the signs of a
political prosecution, a rebuke from the cultural right to punish a symbol of
Dionysian rebellion.”

 

If the State of Florida and the City of Miami want to make amends
for the travesty of Jim Morrison’s arrest and prosecution forty years after the
fact, an apology would be more appropriate – and expunging the whole sorry
matter from the record. And how about a promise to stop letting culture-war
hysteria trump our First Amendment rights? Freedom of Speech must be held
sacred, especially in these reactionary times.

 

Love,

 The Doors

The Morrison Family