Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Audio Book Review: JLA - Exterminators By Christopher Golden, Based On The Series From DC Comics

By T. Michael Testi (Blogcritics.org , PhotographyToday, ATAEE)

JLA: Exterminators, which was first released in book form in 2004, starts in the early days of the Justice League when a strange metallic-tasting rain fell on the United Kingdom. A race of aliens appeared to be attacking Great Briton and the JLA did not really understand why, but after a time they were defeated — all except one whose head was kept on ice by British intelligence.

We then fast forward to the present when a surge of metahuman creatures begins to appear. What is triggering their appearance is not readily apparent, but soon we understand that it has something to do with that invasion of ten years ago.

Once again, I was treated to a Graphic Audio performance that really brings you into the story. The combination of sound effects and artistic vocal performances creates what Graphic Audio calls a "Movie in your Mind," and that is truly what JLA: Exterminators is.

At the time of that early rainstorm, when the newly formed Justice League was fighting the group of invading giants from outer space, their actions stopped the invading hoard, but did they do the right thing? Did they save the world, or just delayed the inevitable?

Now Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, The Flash, The Green Lantern, and the rest of the Justice League of America must figure out what is going on with this new generation of metahumans — some good and some evil — and how to stop the destruction.

The questions to be answered are what caused this outbreak? How to stop it? And can they figure out what went wrong ten years ago? You will have to get the Graphic Audio program to find out!

One of the things that makes JLA: Exterminators work is the fact that while most of the DC comics are American-centric, this takes place in England — which gives it a refreshing edge. Also, the characters have some depth and emotion and as such, come across as three-dimensional. Finally, there is a character, Ian Partington, an ordinary Brit who develops super powers and then becomes friends with everyone in the JLA. The character development along this thread is just great and really makes this story work on many levels.

The quality of the story and performance is the reason that I will be coming back to Graphic Audio products. You can also check out some of their other series as well. If you want, you can listen to a sample, or purchase the Graphic Audio Book from their on-line Store. The story comes three ways: standard CD (the version I reviewed), MP3 CD and downloadable WMA with digital rights management.

Music Review: Grayson Capps - Rott 'N' Roll

By T. Michael Testi (Blogcritics.org , PhotographyToday, ATAEE)

Born of the prostitutes, alcoholics, vagrants, and drifters that inhabit the music of Grayson Capps and the Stumpknockers, the term Rott 'N' Roll; as well as the title of his latest album, is a reflection of the style of music they create. The Southern soul, mixed with back-country stomp, and spiced with road-house blues, brings out a down home American appeal.

Grayson Capps first discovered music in Alabama where he was born and raised. His father and friends would sit around getting drunk, telling stories, and playing acoustic guitars to the songs of Hank Williams, Tom T. Hall, Woody Guthrie, and others. While on scholarship at Tulane University, he took up playing music. He formed two bands that had moderate success and even opened shows for the likes of Keith Richards and Crowded House.

After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005, Capps moved to Franklin Tennessee. With the need to produce a new album, he recorded Wail & Ride. While this album included his band the Stumpknockers, it also included other musicians and had a more studio sound and quality to it.

Rott 'N' Roll on the other hand, is more about capturing the real sound of Grayson Capps and The Stumpknockers. The album was made at his home studio in Franklin and many of the songs were done in single takes. The band features Tommy MacLuckie on Lead, Josh Kerin on Bass, and John Milham on Drums. The album was produced by Trina Shoemaker.

Rott 'N' Roll has a definite different feel to its predecessor Wail & Ride, yet it retains all of the quality of writing and musicianship. There is a certain feel that a group of musicians have when they have spent a lot of time on the road playing together night after night. Grayson Capps and the Stumpknockers have that sound.

The songwriting is as good as ever ranging from the simplistic "Sock Monkey;" which by the way was written by the lead guitarist Tommy MacLuckie, and is pure punk country fun, to the incredibly deep lyrics of the songs "Ike," "Arrowhead," "Guitar," and "The Waltz."

There are the songs that are there just for the fun of it such as "Grand Maw Maw" and "Big Ol' Woman;" both of which include a drunken chorus of rednecks whom it was said found their way to the sessions. There is also an insightful and very well done poem "Fear Fruit Bearing Tree" which goes to show what an articulate writer can do when making a biting political point.

Finally, there are the songs in which it really is the music that drives the them such as in the driving "Big Black Buzzard," the stomping "Sun Don't Shine on Willy," and the equally driving instrumental "Bacon."

What struck me most though, was that each piece had its own identity; its own personality and place on this album. Some grabbed you by the collar and made you take notice like "Back to the Country" with its complex lyrics and great tune. While others sneak up from behind like "Psychic Channel Blues" which builds and has some subtle, yet biting lead guitar licks and really worked for me.

What I like about Grayson Capps and The Stumpknockers is that it is not a manufactured sound. It comes across as genuine and edgy and totally unique. The songs paint pictures that leave indelible images in your mind. Of the thirteen tracks on Rott 'N' Roll, there was not one that I did not find a reason to enjoy for one reason or another. If you want some great down home southern blues with a bit of Rott 'N' Roll, then you need to give this album a spin.

Song list for Rott 'N' Roll

Back To The Country
Gran Maw Maw
Psychic Cannel Blues
The Waltz
Big Black Buzzard
Sun Don't Shine on Willy
Big Ole Woman
Fear Fruit Bearing Tree
Sock Monkey