TV Review – BERGERAC: SECOND TIME AROUND (1989)

Bergerac Second Time AroundBERGERAC: SECOND TIME AROUND (UK, 1989) ***½
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 23 December 1989; Running Time: 97m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Peter Ellis; Writer: Ian Kennedy Martin; Producer: George Gallaccio; Director of Photography: John Walker; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby; Production Designer: Martin Methven; Costumes: Barrie Sedwell; Make-up: Christine Greenwood; Sound: Malcolm Campbell; Stunt Arranger: Gareth Milne.
      Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Sean Arnold (Crozier), John Telfer (Willy Pettit), David Kershaw (Ben Lomas), David Schofield (David Mason), Jenifer Landor (Elizabeth Dufresne), Donald Sumpter (Harry Tilson), Prentis Hancock (Arthur Medley), Richard Hawley (Michael Fulton), Chris Langham (Devas), Andrew Sachs (Moise Davidson), Rupert Frazer (Ted Grob), Sarah Neville (Sally Collins), Derrick Branche (Damian Shore), Elizabeth Bradley (Mrs. Maurice), Lisa Climie (Wendy), Pavel Douglas (De Lavarre), Clare Byam-Shaw (Dr. Bonham).
      Synopsis: David Mason murders Ted Grob by throwing him into a swimming pool, handcuffed to a patio recliner. Jim returns to duty to solve the murder and is asked by an ex-con who believes he was framed to go back over the details of the robbery of a courier company some years earlier which has a connection with the recent death.
      Comment: The fourth of six feature-length Bergerac specials, this one broadcast at Christmas 1989 ahead of series 8. By this time changes were afoot in the series with Nettles’ Bergerac a much more reflective character following his split with long-time girlfriend Susan Young (an absent Louise Jameson); Sean Arnold’s Crozier has been promoted to Superintendent and is operationg from police HQ, without the services of secretary Peggy Masters and Jim’s ex-family are long gone to London. The stories had become tougher and the new approach is no more evident than in this flashy, violent heist thriller with its explosive finale. It’s well-written and typical of Kennedy Martin’s hard-nosed approach to crime series – he did, after all, create The Sweeney. There’s a strong performances from Schofield – in one of his unhinged bad guy roles – and Landor briefly gives Bergerac hope of a new love interest. Producer Gallaccio may have been trying to move the series away from its cosier approach by giving it the edge of the more action-orientated dramas of the period, but in doing so he had taken something of the character of the series away.  As a result, the series lost some of its charms whilst gaining a bigger budget and slick action set-pieces.

Albums worth revisiting #1 – THE MOODY BLUES: LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER

THE MOODY BLUES
LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER ****
MoodyBluesLongDistanceVoyager.jpgReleased: 15 May 1981
Label: Threshold
Recorded at Threshold Studios and RAK Studios, London, 19 February 1980 – 14 April 1981.
Produced by Pip Williams
Engineered by Greg Jackman
UK Chart: #7; US Chart: #1.
Justin Hayward – lead vocals (1,3,4,5,6) backing vocals, guitars; John Lodge – lead vocals (2,3,6,7), backing vocals, bass guitar; Ray Thomas – lead vocals (6,8,10), backing vocals, flute, harmonica; Graeme Edge – drums; Patrick Moraz – keyboards; Dave Symonds – narrator (9); The New World Philharmonic – string section
Track List:

    1. The Voice (Hayward) – (5:21) **** (US #15)
    2. Talking Out of Turn (Lodge) – (7:18) **** (US #65)
    3. Gemini Dream (Hayward, Lodge) – (4:09) ***** (US #12)
    4. In My World (Hayward) – (7:22) *****
    5. Meanwhile (Hayward) – (4:08) ****
    6. 22,000 Days (Edge) – (5:25) ***
    7. Nervous (Lodge) – (5:45) ****
    8. Painted Smile (Thomas) – (3:18) / Reflective Smile (Thomas) – (0:36) / Veteran Cosmic Rocker (Thomas) – (3:18) ***

The Moody Blues are best known today for their 1967 mega-ballad “Nights in White Satin”, although they had a UK #1 with their second single “Go Now” back in 1964. By 1981, in the post-punk/new wave era, the band had come to be viewed as something of an anachronism with its penchant for gentle acoustic and orchestral arrangements at odds with the more simplistic and electric approach being championed by the days’ top bands. Indeed, the Moodies had only released one new studio album since 1972, that being 1978’s OCTAVE, which had been largely undistinguished, despite hitting #5 in the UK album chart. This made LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER, released three years later, all the more surprising for its consistently high quality of songwriting and updated sound. The album heralded the arrival of former Yes-man Patrick Moraz on keyboards to replace founder member Mike Pinder. The result was a more modern approach, whilst still retaining the trademarks of gorgeous acoustic guitar arrangements and sympathetic orchestration. The most impressive aspect though was the quality of the songs.

The album opener, “The Voice”, begins with an atmospheric synth refrain from Moraz before launching into an up-tempo acoustic guitar-driven song typical of Hayward. The listener can lose themselves in the lilting harmonies and melodies of “Talking Out of Turn” and the wonderfully glowing ballad “In My World” – possibly Hayward’s best since “Nights in White Satin”. These two songs have extended sections that may seem a little self-indulgent but are not unwelcome because they transport you into their world with a warm glow in your heart. “Gemini Dream” channels Jeff Lynne and ELO extremely effectively with its bouncing synth lines and melodic hook make it the catchiest tune on the album.  “Meanwhile” is another winner of a ballad, more up-tempo this time with a prodding bass line. “22,00 Days” opens like a Pink Floyd mid-tempo rocker with its pounding rhythm and has a big chorus. “Nervous” is another strong melodic mid-tempo tune with slide guitar and heavy orchestration that again echoes ELO. The album’s three-part closer is perhaps the only misstep with its eccentric mix of music hall, eastern melodies and bombastic rock at odds with the more graceful music that precedes it. This was no doubt the intention and on a good day, Thomas’ quirky mini-opera of court jesters and backstage antics can raise a smile through its sheer impudence.

LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER was to be The Moody Blues’ last top 10 album in the UK. It may sound a little dated today production-wise, but so does much of the music from the 1980s and here it is the songs that shine through with a warming glow.

Don’t just take my word for it:

 “Progressive rock bands stumbled into the ’80s, some with the crutch of commercial concessions under one arm, which makes the Moody Blues’ elegant entrance via LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER all the more impressive.” – Dave Connolly, All Music Guide

“LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER is one of the most seamlessly embroidered records I’ve ever heard. The Moody Blues’ musical canon doesn’t always go boom, but it’s dignified, eloquent and, like good sherry, should warm the hearts of their veteran cosmic fans–and any others who choose to listen with fresh ears.” – Parke Puerbaugh, Rolling Stone

Film Review – CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954)

Image result for creature from the black lagoonCREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (USA, 1954) ***½
     Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 12 February 1954 (USA), 9 December 1954 (UK); Filming Dates: 13 October 1953 – 15 November 1953; Running Time: 79m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Universal 3-D (dual-strip 3-D); Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
     Director: Jack Arnold; Writer: Harry Essex, Arthur A. Ross (based on a story by Maurice Zimm); Producer: William Alland; Director of Photography: William E. Snyder; Music Composer: Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, Herman Stein (all uncredited); Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Ted J. Kent; Art Director: Hilyard M. Brown, Bernard Herzbrun; Set Decorator: Russell A. Gausman, Ray Jeffers; Costumes: Rosemary Odell (wardrobe for Miss Adams); Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Leslie I. Carey, Joe Lapis.
     Cast: Richard Carlson (David Reed), Julie Adams (Kay Lawrence), Richard Denning (Mark Williams), Antonio Moreno (Carl Maia), Nestor Paiva (Lucas), Whit Bissell (Dr. Thompson), Bernie Gozier (Zee), Henry A. Escalante (Chico). Uncredited: Ricou Browning (The Gill Man (in water)), Ben Chapman (The Gill Man (on land)), Art Gilmore (Narrator (voice)), Perry Lopez (Tomas), Sydney Mason (Dr. Matos), Rodd Redwing (Louis – Expedition Foreman).
     Synopsis: A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study.
     Comment: Late contender in the classic Universal monster series has a basic plot and variable performances from its cast. These deficiencies are countered by the excellent creature design and some effective and tense underwater footage. Adams also makes for a strong heroine, with whom the creature has become fixated (echoes of “Beauty and the Beast”). The music score was compiled from work by three different uncredited composers as well as stock material, but the memorable (if oversued) creature theme was written by Stein.
     Notes: Underwater sequences were directed by James Curtis Havens and the creature was designed by Milicent Patrick. Originally produced in 3-D. Followed by REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955) and THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956).

TV Review – BERGERAC: RETIREMENT PLAN (1988)

Image result for bergerac retirement planBERGERAC: RETIREMENT PLAN (UK, 1988) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 27 December 1988; Running Time: 94m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Edward Bennett; Writer: Edmund Ward; Producer: George Gallaccio; Director of Photography: John Walker; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby; Production Designer: Phil Roberson; Costumes: Barrie Sedwell; Make-up: Benita Barrell; Sound: Malcolm Campbell; Stunt Arranger: Gareth Milne.
      Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Louise Jameson (Susan Young), Nicholas Ball (Gravel Beresford), James Laurenson (Raoul Fuegas), Sylvester Morand (Harry Lubeck), Constantine Gregory (Diego Ferrera), Sean Arnold (Crozier), Barrie Houghton (Reno), Danny Webb (Joe Grantham), Micha Bergese (Costello), Sue Lloyd (Eva Southurst), Carmen Du Sautoy (Marie Chantel), Anthony Calf (Simon Lorrilard), Matyelok Gibbs (Alice Thorwell), Bill Stewart (Gully), Paul Angelis (Jack Thorwell), John Telfer (Willy Pettit), David Kershaw (Ben Lomas), Nancy Mansfield (Peggy Masters), Hilary Mason (Miss Amberton), Robert McBain (George Beck), Dave Atkins (Wesley), Jonathan Oliver (Pathologist), Catherine Livesey (Woman House Buyer).
      Synopsis: Jim is summoned from Jersey to spend Christmas on the Costa Del Sol where a pair of small-time British crooks have tried to muscle in on Charlie’s latest business venture. When Jim gets involved he finds himself in the middle of a local gang war whilst back on Jersey a group of French thieves are causing havoc and Susan’s life is put in danger.
      Comment: The third of six feature-length Bergerac specials, this one broadcast at Christmas 1988 ahead of series 7. Series 6 had seen a new producer on board in George Gallaccio, who added a harder edge and more complex plots to the series. His desired style is fully evident in this episode which includes two separate plot threads. However, there is no connection between them, which gives the impression the special has been cobbled together from two distinct stories with characters disappearing without an explanation. The end result is a disjointed affair, despite the excellent supporting cast – notably Houghton’s piano-playing assassin and Du Sautoy’s high class thief – and the use of exotic Spanish locations.

Title agreed for my forthcoming Genesis book

I have had confirmation from my publisher, McFarland & Co., that the suggestion of title for my forthcoming Genesis book has been agreed and is The Songs of Genesis: A Complete Guide to the Studio Recordings.  I’ll post further updates as the book progresses toward publication.

Image result for genesis 1975
Genesis in February 1975. L to R: Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. Photo by Chris Walter.

Sticking it to the Man publication date and launch event

Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre’s collection of essays and articles on how pulp fiction mirrored the changing politics and culture of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, is published on 15 November. I have contributed one of two pieces on Shaft, with Michael A. Gonzales contributing the other. The book is a follow-up to their 2017 publication Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980.

The full list of contributors is: Gary Phillips, Woody Haut, Emory Holmes II, Michael Bronski, David Whish-Wilson, Susie Thomas, Bill Osgerby, Kinohi Nishikawa, Jenny Pausacker, Linda S. Watts, Scott Adlerberg, Maitland McDonagh, Devin McKinney, Andrew Nette, Danae Bosler, Michael A. Gonzales, Iain McIntyre, Nicolas Tredell, Brian Coffey, Molly Grattan, Brian Greene, Eric Beaumont, Bill Mohr, J. Kingston Pierce, Steve Aldous, David Image result for The Old Bar, 74- 76 Johnston St, Fitzroy,James Foster, and Alley Hector.

There will be a launch event held at The Old Bar, 74- 76 Johnson St, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on 3 December at 6.30 p.m. where they’ll be joined by literary historian and pulp fiction fan Stuart Kellis.