Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Rick Springfield: Rock of Life

Vintage Album Review:  Rick Springfield, Rock of Life (1988)

On Rock of Life, Rick Springfield is caught in the midstream of his constantly evolving musical style and career.  If we may make superstar comparisons, he seems to be moving out of Springsteen's guitar-rock shadow and into a more sophisticated mainstream level of appeal--more along the lines of Phil Collins or Elton John, but with guitar instead of piano.  However, stretching into this new transition brings pain, and the result is a good fan-satisfying album, but not anything A-list.  Springfield's career, in fact, could be seen as having been a constant search to reach that A-list of rock stars but never quite shaking the soap-star teen-idol label.  Here he falls just a bit short of pulling off that career transition--as he has before.  The music here is too obviously the result of hard work.  It tries too hard to be more than it is.  Springfield approaches the lyrics and vocals dramatically, like the actor he is.  However, the arrangements are overdone and the themes drag on too long.  Each individual track is decent, but Springfield must demand more than decent if he wants to move to a new and more serious career phase.  He's obviously learning some lessons with the songs on this album, so let's hope he applies them next time.

Springfield on the Web:  rickspringfield.com and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rick_Springfield
This album has its own Wikipedia entry:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_of_Life

Friday, August 9, 2013

Interview: Adam Ant 1985

Vive Le Ant: 1985 Adam Ant Interview  

In 1985 an editor at Pulse! (remember that Tower Records magazine?) told me to send him about 400 words, two or three paragraphs, on Adam Ant’s new record.  I was pitching an interview, maybe he thought I was pitching a record review.  He may have thought, too, that I’d never get an interview and he’d never hear from me again.  I talked to Adam for an hour at the Epic office (he liked talking to me so much, he interrupted my interview for another and then returned to mine) but I somehow edited what he said to fit the assignment.  The resulting article was dutifully turned in but never published.  Neither did any publication ever ask me to interview any star other than Adam Ant.  (I interviewed him three times over a few years.)  Our first conversation finally sees publication for the first time in any format below:

Perhaps Vive Le Rock, Adam Ant’s brand-new Epic release, will get people listening and not just looking. Although the business side of music tends to categorize him as just another pretty face, many normal adult women appreciate his unique mix of musical influences and British-Gypsy looks, while men often appreciate his unique mix of musical influences and heroic-glam attitude. Vive Le Rock (“Long Live Rock” in French) is rock for anyone—and I ask him about it while pondering while his eyes are sky-blue, not the washed-out tone that tends to occur in his photos.

“It’s quite action-packed and it’s quite aggressive,” he says with his quietly super British ‘tude. Then he adds, cheekily, “It’s a kick-ass record.”

He continues, “I wanted to do something that had a band feel, a bit nitty-gritty and songs that could be produced live very easily with a very small line-up, four guys.” (Those four guys are Adam, Marco Pirroni on guitar, Chris “De Niro” Constantinou on bass guitar, and Bogdan “Count” Wiczling on drums.)

Also along on Vive is Tony Viscounti, who produced some of David Bowie’s and T. Rex’s most acclaimed works. About Viscounti, Adam says, “He’s a great guitar producer… [I] wanted a guitar sound. Everybody’s messin’ around with synthesizers!”

To what he wants to accomplish with this album, his sixth, he gives an answer he’s given about previous products, reflecting a singularity of purpose, “You’re going to create something that’s going to captivate people’s attention—the way Kings of the Wild Frontier [his first American album and first British best-seller] did.” Then he adds, “The idea is that you can still have hunger, you can still want to produce work that’s hard-edged and still has some kind of style.”

What was the first record to capture his attention? “Magical Mystery Tour—the first one I actually went out and bought with my own money. It was an EP with a wonderful jacket and I didn’t understand any of it.” That was about 1968 when he was about 13. However, he’s not that big a Beatle fan. “Bein’ in England in the sixties, everybody, whether they admit it or not, bought those records,” he explains.

He admits his appreciation for singers that rockers often snicker about. He remembers how his mother played records by Perry Como, “hours of Nat King Cole,” and Frank Sinatra, while his stepfather was a country music nut. Some rock besides the Beatles infiltrated his childhood, of course. His mother took in a teenage boarder and “she’d bring Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley in.”

Currently the Ant flat in London is aurally decorated with almost every style of music, as he names, “Beltan Fire… Hank Williams, Brian Ferry’s new album… Mozart… Miles Davis…Frank Sinatra.” Explaining such an uncommon variety, he tells me, “Years later, it’s all sifting through. And when I’m asked what my favorite records are, I [h]ave to put them down…[They’re] the first records and therefore a part of a very…pure approach to music. Just what you hear before you’ve developed opinions about things. Because being a musician—asking a musician about other people’s records is like asking a prizefighter about the guy they’re gonna fight next week.”