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Dramatic Film: Nowhere Boy

This interesting slice of a biopic shows the teenaged John Lennon torn between his absent mother, Julia, and the aunt, Mimi, who raised him as he begins his career as a rock’n’roller and meets Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Based on a remembrance by his half-sister, it certainly captures the atmosphere of growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s.

I question how much it ties Lennon’s passion for rock’n’roll to his mother, and suspect it overplays how his family situation and raising formed his character and dysfunctions. Nonetheless, this is a strong film that’s a must for Beatles fans.

Documentary Film: Who Is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?)

A sadly neglected pop music talent best known for “Everybody’s Talkin’” — the theme song for Midnight Cowboy that he didn’t write — Nilsson was admired and befriended by The Beatles, and rightly so.

His gratifying rise and sad personal descent (which did at least include finding true love in his later years) may follow the all too common thread in musical life stories. But it’s a tale interestingly told here, and there’s enough of Nilsson’s poetic and emotionally rich pop songs here to remind why he and his life story matter.

CD: A Nod To Bob 2: An Artists’ Tribute To Bob Dylan On His 70th Birthday:

Dylan songs are a golden gift to singers. Hard to screw one up, and true talents can make the most of them.

This salute from artists on the leading contemporary folk label Red House Records is a mixed but largely worthy bag of interpretations even if some are a bit too mannered.

Though John Gorka gives a rather faithful reading of “Just Like A Woman” that still shines thanks to his rich voice, and The Pines (“What Good Am I?”) and Storyhill (“Lay Down Your Weary Tune) bring out a harmonic richness in their takes, it’s the artists who take the Dylan songs past their originals that shine here.

Pieta Brown makes the lesser-known “Dirt Road Blues” into a haunting meditation, and I’m proud to report that the best versions here are by two artists who live as I do in Austin, Texas: Ray Bonneville, who transforms “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” into a delightfully rugged Delta country-blues, and Eliza Gilkyson, who slows the pace one of my favorite ‘80s Dylan jeremiads, “Jokerman,” to powerfully draw out its message and wordplay and score best of show on this collection.

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2011


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