On the 7th Day of Christmas… “Silent Nightclub” — Richard Cheese (album review)

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Richard Cheese may not be a household name, though after this review you’ll likely plow through his entire discography quicker than a one horse open sleigh. A comedic singer, he performs lounge and swing style takes on top 40 hits. Hitting play sucks you into a portal, transporting listeners into a Vegas cocktail bar complete with martini and halfway unbuttoned silk shirt.

Amid Cheese’s extensive catalog is an aptly titled Silent Nightclub. As the name suggests, the album is an amalgamation of “holiday” hits. A quick glance at the tracklist and the brow furrows in confusion. Only five of the 15 total songs are traditional Christmas tunes. The other 10 are mainly pop hits which slightly relate to the holidays. And most of the time the connection is more of a stretch than the Grinch shimmying down a narrow brick chimney. Cheese opens with Dead Kennedys’ punk anthem “Holiday in Cambodia,” presumably because it contains the word holiday. He does however, use jingle bells and a Christmas melody to provide a festive ambiance.

Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” follows up “Holiday in Cambodia,” a hilarious reference to the Virgin Mary. Conservative religious folks may be offended, but one listen to the disc and it’s obvious Cheese isn’t meant to be taken seriously. Cleverly, he includes “Like a Virgin” and unless you’re quick to ponder the non-commercial aspects of Christmas, the reason for inclusion may pass you by like Santa skipping the naughty kid on your block. Cheese also includes “Ice, Ice Baby,” “Imagine,” “Naughty Girl,” “The Trees,” “I Melt With You,” and finishes on an appropriate note with “Holidae Inn.” His choices are undeniably unique for a Christmas CD, and you’ll be gnawing the candy cane in your martini in no time.

Amusingly, though predictably, even the holiday tracks aren’t exactly straightforward. The version of “Jingle Bells” on Silent Nightclub features animal noises rather than the actual lyrics. This album by no means seeks to replace the original versions of your holiday favorites. “Last Xmas” is actually only 18 seconds long, and Cheese explains the shortened Wham cover by proclaiming “…that song sucks.” Sorry Wham fans. Take your problem up with Richie. As the sole original track “Christmas In Las Vegas” paints an entertaining portrait of Vegas with a twist. Rudolph bets on red and the Wise Men roll sevens. Cheese exploits both Christmas and Las Vegas clichés, stuffing both into a witty stocking.

Silent Nightclub serves up a hearty, creative dose of mildly, though carefully and astutely selected tracks. Additionally, Cheese’s mock-serious, sleazy delivery packs a ramshackle sled of laughs. Try not to keep from bursting into fits of giggles while the artist woof-woof-woofs in tune to “Jingle Bells,” double-times through “Christmastime is Here,” or jollily bounces down John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Just like spiking eggnog spices up the holiday merriment, Richard Cheese’s Silent Nightclub is sure to get the Christmas party popping.

Freelancing

Hello faithful Pophiss followers! Thank you very much for your loyal readership. I’ve recently begun writing freelance movie reviews over at Examiner.com. Check out my profile and articles below. Don’t forget to subscribe and follow me on Twitter. Thanks again, and stay tuned for another Pophiss review soon!

 

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@mitchellclong

Various Artists: Jackie Brown Soundtrack

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There are a few constants about Quentin Tarantino: his movies are violent and convoluted, he likes to work with Sam Jack, and his soundtracks tend to be pretty fantastic.

Most of you have seen Tarantino’s classic film “Pulp Fiction.” If you haven’t drop what you are doing, go watch it, and then finish reading this post. Another Samuel L. Jackson-Tarantino combination, “Jackie Brown” is equally, if not more, amazing. I won’t provide any spoilers, I’ll just say it is a solid, convincing throwback to 70’s Blaxploitation films. Besides a fantastic performance by Jackson, “Jackie Brown” features a star-studded cast of Pam Grier, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker, and Bridget Fonda.

Released in 1997, Tarantino pays homage to 70’s Blaxploitation films with the plot as well as the music. There was no accompanying score to the film, only a soundtrack which featured songs played throughout the movie. Like the film, the soundtrack opens with “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack. The track was actually taken from a Blaxploitation film of the same name, a movie for which Womack originally composed the song. An upbeat, soulful song, it describes street crime and the hardships of life. “Across 110th Street” acts as the theme song, playing both during the film’s open and close.

Another track prominently featured in the movie is “Strawberry Letter 23” by Brothers Johnson. Again, this is a funky track which induces head-bobbing and finger-snapping. The Delfonics make frequent appearances when Max Cherry, a bail bondsman, purchases one of their tapes at a local music store. Tarantino accordingly plays “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time” several times. Fitting with the mood of the album, it is a crooning 70’s ballad. Unlike many of the other tracks it is a little slower and more pensive than the poppy Bobby Womack and Brothers Johnson tunes.

While most of the songs are funk and soul-infused pieces, there is an appearance by Johnny Cash. His song “Tennessee Stud” crops up in usual Cash fashion. A twangy ballad, Cash delivers a story over minimalist instrumentation: his acoustic guitar.

Music aside, there are a few bits of dialogue mixed in. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand them. If you haven’t, or if you don’t remember the film, never fear: the movie samples don’t reveal any key plot elements. Besides, you can just skip them. The album is available on iTunes, Amazon, and free streaming on Grooveshark. This is one of my favorite movie soundtracks, and a worthy inclusion in any music collection. And the film is pretty darn good too.