Wherein I presume to imagine that someone might actually be interested in those items of popular entertainment that I recall with satisfaction.

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Favorite Films

It is not unusual for me to see two or more movies every week of the year.   I seldom see a film that has no redeeming value whatsoever, so some might say that I am easily pleased.  Accordingly, there are a great many films that could be mentioned as "favorites," either because I would be happy to sit down and watch them anytime or because something about them is of special interest or has touched me at a certain time and place.  Anyhow, for what it's worth, here are a few dozen, from among that great many, for which I have special affection.

This site is a mostly commercial-free zone.  But, should you experience an impulsive desire to purchase a book, movie, or recording,  Buy It Now  links to Amazon.com have been included for your convenience.

The All time "Top 10"

  1. Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
    This is the classic Stanley Kubrick/Peter Sellers collaboration that I regard as a near perfect film.  Just as every scene is about to end, I find myself thinking "Ohhh, this next part is good!"  Buy It Now

  2. Song of the South
    This is the part animation, part live-action, Disney movie that features the folk tales of "Uncle Remus."  Seldom reissued and not available on videotape, this film has always held a special attraction for me.  "The tar baby, he don't say nothin' and Br'er Fox, he just lay low."

  3. Larceny, Inc.
    Light "B"-grade comedy starring Edward G. Robinson as an ex-con who makes good in spite of himself.   Edward G. is in top form in a film that I could watch anytime.  An excellent supporting cast led by Broderick Crawford and Edward Brophy.  Watch for the soda jerk being played by the young Jackie Gleason.

  4. The Last Place On Earth
    This made-for-TV film, shown in the U.S. on "Masterpiece Theatre," is just too good to be true.  Powerful tale of adventure and personnel management tells the true story of the 1911 race to the South Pole between the steadfast Norwegian Roald Amundsen and the doomed Englishman Robert Falcon Scott.  Fabulous cast and production values make this one of the finest cinematic achievements of all time.

  5. The Counterfeit Traitor
    Some may regard this overly long film as a run-of-the-mill World War II "potboiler."  But my emotions are relatively easy to manipulate, so I have always thought it was something special.  William Holden and Lilli Palmer star, but Hugh Griffith steals every scene in which he appears.

  6. The Wind in the Willows

    This short feature from the Golden Age of Disney Animation never fails to delight.  Like the fabulous Thaddeus Toad, I occasionally find myself exclaiming: "What have I been missing?"   Buy It Now

  7. Citizen Kane
    The film critics have already said it all, but this really is a great movie, with excellent performances all around.  The young Orson Welles ushered in the era of modern film making and the darn thing can hold its own with anything made since.  Buy It Now

  8. Inherit the Wind
    Spencer Tracy and Fredric March are superb in this adaptation of the so-called "Scopes Monkey Trial."  Even Gene Kelly, grossly miscast as the journalist H.L. Mencken, has a certain appeal.

  9. King Solomon's Mines
    During many years as a youngster, this was my favorite film--having supplanted "Frankenstein" at some point.  I bet I've seen it more than a dozen times.   Possibly the first "filmed-on-location-in-Africa" color feature, it has held up surprisingly well over the years.  The strictly unnecessary remake some years ago is embarrassing by comparison.

  10. Harold and Maude
    A love story.    Buy It Now

From the Classic Era

The Maltese Falcon ... It's A Wonderful Life ... Bride of Frankenstein ... The Return of Frank James ... Twelve Angry Men ... Grapes of Wrath ... Paths of Glory ... The Ox-Bow Incident ... Casablanca ... Laura ... Judgment at Nuremberg ... Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein ... The Thing ... Invasion of the Body Snatchers ... The Blackboard Jungle

From the Mid-Term Era

Mr. Roberts ... 2001: A Space Odyssey ... Charly ... Three Men In a Boat ... Female Trouble ... Curse of the Demon ... Cat On A Hot Tin Roof ... Rebel Without A Cause ... Cabaret ... Easy Rider ... Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ... Dirty Harry ... Beyond the Valley of the Dolls ... The Producers ... The Rocky Horror Picture Show ... Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ... Barry Lyndon ... The Cincinnati Kid ... Cool Hand Luke ... Point of Order ... Stay Hungry

Those of Recent Vintage

Pulp Fiction ... Sling Blade ... Delicatessen ... The Commitments ... My Dinner With Andre ... Crumb ... Return of the Living Dead ... Monty Python's Meaning of Life ... Paris is Burning ...Dead Poet's Society ... The Unbearable Lightness of Being ... Reform School Girls ... Out of Africa ... The Cider House Rules ... October Sky ... My Dog Skip ... The Dish ... Amelie

Favorite Recordings

I've got tons of records, so individual evaluation is a tough call.  However, if you've owned an album for nearly 40 years and find that it is still getting regular play it must hold a special place.  The following is the shortest of short lists, divided into two groups--albums that would have to be with me on a desert island and those that serve as exceptional introductions to an entire genre of popular music.

The Desert Island Group

  • Little Girl Blue -- Nina Simone
    After first hearing Nina Simone sing "I Loves You Porgy," around 1960, I bought this album at the first opportunity.  It has remained on my play list ever since.  How could a single human being play these complex passages on a piano and sing so engagingly at the same time?   An impressionable young college boy was blown away.   His remains still are.  Originally on the Bethlehem label, the "Charly" label CD is entitled "My Baby Just Cares For Me."

  • Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing

    "Poinciana" from this disc was on the soda shop juke box at Stetson University when I was there many years ago.  This classic album was one of a very few that served to introduce me to improvisational jazz.  A beautiful introduction to the economical style of this talented artist.  Buy It Now

  • Wild Bill Davis at Birdland
    This was the first long-playing album that I ever bought (more than 40 years ago) and I've played it more than once this year.  A wonderful live recording featuring the exuberant Mr. Davis at the Hammond Organ.  Every cut is great, the highlight being his arrangement of "April in Paris" ("One more time...") later popularized by the Count Basie Band.  Hey, I even bought a like-new replacement copy in an eBay auction a while back!

  • Dave Brubeck Quartet -- Jazz at Oberlin
    "Stardust" from this album was also on that jukebox.  Quite a bargain too, getting more than six minutes of play for a nickle.  The fabulous interplay between Brubeck and Paul Desmond in front of a live audience hooked me on this sort of thing for the rest of my life.  [Available on CD]

  • Edvard Grieg: Lyric Pieces
    A lovely collection of small works mostly based on the indigenous music of Norway.  As with all classical music, these pieces are available by many different performers.  For sheer sensitivity of feeling, the release on Deutsche Grammophon by Russian pianist Emil Gilels is unbeatable.  For extraordinary value, try the far more complete 3-CD set by Brazilian pianist Isabel Mourao on the Vox Box label.

  • The Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn
    These guys are so smooth, they simply never fail to satisfy.  Add guest artist Jimmy Guiffre on clarinet and you have a truly delightful listening experience.

  • Dave Brubeck Quartet -- Dave Digs Disney
    Lovely adaptations of tunes from Disney films ("Alice in Wonderland," "Someday My Prince Will Come," and the like) presented in the inimitable Brubeck and Desmond style.  I'll never tire of spinning this one.  Buy It Now

  • Lem Winchester and the Ramsey Lewis Trio
    A couple of other Ramsey Lewis albums could easily be on this list.  All of his pre-"In Crowd" albums are worthwhile.  But this one, featuring vibraphonist Lem Winchester, has special appeal.  It is a double shame that Winchester died so young and this long out-of-print LP has not been reissued on CD.  Once again, I was able to upgrade my copy to the stereo version by careful monitoring of the eBay auctions.

  • E.C. Ball with Orna Ball
    Take a couple of measures of authentic folk feeling, add remarkable artistry, and you have a performer that is inexplicably little known.  If you have any interest at all in Blue Ridge Mountain-type guitar and gospel-inspired tunes, buy this collection of what the liner notes describe as "some of the sweetest and most beautiful music ever recorded."  You will not be disappointed.  [Available on CD]

  • Danish Jazz Vol. 6 -- Svend Asmussen
    Where else can you hear a jazz violinist playing great novelty numbers like "The Booglie Wooglie Piggie" and "My Old Man"?   I've had this LP for many years and if this were the kind of world that it should be, it would be released on CD as the next order of business.  See much more about this artist on my Svend Asmussen page.

  • The Best of Muddy Waters

    Yet another disc that I've been playing since 1960.  Country Blues becoming Chicago Blues doesn't get any better than this.  "Long Distance Call," "Louisiana Blues," "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Rollin' Stone," accompaniment by Little Walter and Otis Spann, ... it's all here.  A classic, classic collection!

The Genre Introduction Group

  • Souvenir De Paris/The Great French Stars -- Various Artists
    This is a can't-be-beat introduction to the world of the French Music Hall.  Everyone is here--Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, Jean Gabin--20 sides in all.  Here's where I discovered Mireille (you should too) and, of course, my Mistinguett page wouldn't exist if I had never found this disc.  [Available on CD]

  • Tango Fran Argentina -- Various Artists
    A fabulous collection of 18 tunes which serve to introduce the listener to the sound of early Argentinian tango orchestras.  Sweet violinists, inspired bandoneon artists --what could be better than these classic sides (released on the Phontastic label) from the '20s and '30s.

  • The Human Orchestra -- Various Artists
    This is an introduction to a capella jazz vocals of the type popularized by The Mills Brothers.  This wonderful collection on the Clanka Lanka label contains 16 sides by as many different groups, recorded between 1932 and 1940.  Virtually every cut is a gem.  Do not go to your grave without hearing "Moonglow" as interpreted by the "Mississippi Mud Mashers."

  • Okeh Western Swing -- Various Artists
    This 1982 release (on LP) was my primary introduction to "Western Swing."  A truly excellent collection of 28 sides featuring 22 different groups or artists, this double album exists in CD format, but is currently out-of-print.  See my Western Swing page for more about this and similar recordings.

  • The Gospel Sound -- Various Artists
    This double-LP and companion to the Tony Heilbut book of the same name is a perfect introduction to the whole range of black gospel music.  A cappella quartets, congregations, country preachers, and modern gospel artists are all represented.  This one may not be available on CD, in which case you might check out the two volumes called "Jubilation!" on the Rhino label.

  • Hawaiian Steel Guitar Classics -- Various Artists
    This is super,super stuff!  This whole area is generally overlooked when the "roots of Rock and Roll" are discussed, but it shouldn't be.  Certainly the presence of steel guitar in modern country music is directly traceable to the performances found on this album.  Sol Hoopii, Kalama's Quartette, and many other wonderful performers are represented.  A double length version of this LP is available on the Arhoolie/FolkLyric label.

Selections from the "Great Singles Era"

Often a record album consists of a recording of a live concert or a collection of songs intended from the outset to be gathered together for presentation as a group.  Other albums merely gather together what were originally "single" releases into a package of "hits" by an individual artist or group.  Not every recording works well on a long-playing album.  So it is that a collection such as "The Best of Little Richard" may not really lend itself to extended listening all in one sitting.  With this in mind, I submit an unordered list of some of my all-time favorite 45rpm singles.

  • Bo Diddley -- Bo Diddley

    The original, the inimitable, the essential, the (add your own superlatives).  This was the beginning.

  • All Night Long -- Rusty Bryant & the Carolyn Club Band
    This hard-to-find live-audience variation of "Night Train" had something of a cult following in my neighborhood.

  • Roll Over Beethoven -- Chuck Berry
    Mr. Berry at the height of his powers.

  • Shake, Rattle, and Roll -- Joe Turner
    Not the Bill Haley version, not the Elvis version, but THE version.  "I swear to my soul she's the devil in nylon hose!"  See the man himself singing it on my Rhythm & Blues Revues multimedia page.

  • Henry's Got Flat Feet -- The Midnighters
    The "answer" to "Dance With Me Henry," which was the sanitized cover of "The Wallflower" (Roll With Me Henry), which was ..., you get the idea.

  • Baby What You Want Me To Do? -- Jimmy Reed
    Classic example of Reed's whole body of work.  Oh, that screaming harmonica!

  • Searchin' -- The Coasters
    "And just like Bulldog Drummond, I'm gonna track her down someday."  The other side, "Young Blood," is no slouch, either.

  • Susie Q -- Dale Hawkins
    The infectious and irresistible classic performed by a young white man who managed to appeal to those who normally preferred black rhythm and blues artists.

  • Boot 'em Up -- The Du Droppers

    Great pre-rock, good-time stuff from the sort of group that bridged the gap between the Ink Spots and The Coasters.

  • Honey Don't -- Carl Perkins
    This rockabilly flip side of "Blue Suede Shoes" has a following all its own, including your humble scribe.

  • I'm A King Bee -- Slim Harpo
    Fine example of down home double entendre: "I'm a King Bee, buzzin' around your hive.  We could make honey baby.  Let me come inside."  Check my WLAC radio page for more about Excello Records and related stuff.

Favorite Books

I read virtually every day, mostly non-fiction and mostly biography.  I am particularly attracted to books that satisfy a curiosity or lead to a further understanding of reality and fill the open mind.  Herewith a short list of some that have made an impression:

  • Walden -- Henry David Thoreau

    A primary source of inspiration for over 40 years.  Speaking of Thoreau, the Dictionary of American Biography has stated: "One of the best writers, if not the best, of American prose."  For your elucidation, I have included access to a few of the gentleman's more insightful observations.  Still in print.  Buy It Now

  • The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind -- Julian Jaynes
    This book is not for everyone, but I find it to be totally fascinating.  If you are interested in the nature of that mysterious world that exists solely within the mind; if you are open to the suggestion that true human consciousness is a phenomena of relatively recent origin; and if you are interested in considering novel answers to age-old questions-- then, I can recommend it to you without reservation.  Buy It Now

  • Citizen Hearst -- W.A. Swanberg
    This is, hands down, the best biography I have ever read.  Completely fascinating account of larger-than-life William Randolph Hearst, the famous newspaper publisher and eccentric.  This book has recently come back into print (in hardback) at a very agreeable price.  The 1996 edition is published by Galahad Books.  Buy It Now

  • "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!" -- Richard P. Feynman
    Subtitled "Adventures of a Curious Character," this little volume serves as an excellent introduction to the life and wit of the Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman.  As stated in the Newsweek review: "Feynman is legendary among his colleagues for his brilliance and his eccentricity...."  Buy It Now

  • Return of the King -- J.R.R. Tolkien
    This is the third volume in the famous "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.  The triumph of good over evil and the prolonged epilogue in which Frodo, Sam, and the others are swept along, contain many moving and thought-provoking passages--particularly if you are a sentimental old fool.

  • The Discoverers -- Daniel J. Boorstin
    In the words of the dust jacket flap: "The Discoverers is a vivid, sweeping, and original history of man's greatest adventure: his search to discover the world around him...."  A wonderful treatise from the pen of the Pulitzer Prize-winning former Librarian of Congress.  It's a fascinating read and practically a whole college education between two covers.

  • The Fatal Shore -- Robert Hughes
    Absolutely fascinating, if sometimes severely grim, account of the settlement of Australia by the convict class and other outcasts of Britain.

  • Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee -- Dee Brown
    Heartbreaking and riveting account of latter 19th-Century American history, presented from the Native American point of view.  Everyone should be exposed to this perspective.  This one you won't soon forget.

  • The Fifties -- David Halberstam
    It is surprising how much of current American culture originated in the Fifties.  To mention only a few examples: network television, subdivision housing, rock and roll, McDonald's, and the Interstate highway system.  This great book has more than 700 pages ... and it is far too short.  Buy It Now

  • Teach Yourself Web Publishing With HTML 3.2 in a Week -- Laura Lemay
    I'm just a regular guy, not a computer guru.  Yet this book, together with the patient instruction of my son during a series of two-day group courses, has given me the tools to develop everything that you see on my pages.  The more recent version is entitled Sams Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML and XHTML in 21 Days.  Buy It Now

Whew, . . . there you have it, enough unloading of the ego to last the both of us for a while.  Now, go forth and find something better to do with your time.

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This page created and maintained by Jim Lowe
First appearance: August 22, 1997
Last updated: July 12, 2002

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