Monday, February 24, 2014

Ace Frehley: No Regrets

Subtitled, "A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir"; and that it is. Look,. if you are looking for some kind of brilliance or magic or historical relevance, let me recommend the Benjamin Franklin bio by Walter Isaacson. If you are a fan of Kiss, this book is for you. If you are a fan of Ace Frehley, this book is for you.

Unlike say, the Warren Zevon book I read (and reviewed) recently, I think the reach for this book is far more selective. Any stories related in any way to the band Kiss are a little suspect. Here, you have a founding member who over the years and through two terms of service with the band has had much public controversy on the words of others. In No Regrets, at least there is the opportunity to hear Ace speak his peace, provide his take, tell his story.

Of course, we also get the whole story, from birth to current, it's an autobiography, and that's the point and thankfully, we get some pictures! I hate when there are no pictures!

The quality of writing is not brilliant here folks. This is not a masterpiece, it simply is what it is. A simple telling of the story of a man who just happened to find his way into one of the biggest rock and roll bands of all time and still had to live a life and find his way through battling his own demons. It's a quick read and worth the time if you like this sort of thing and/or you are a fan.

Friday, February 21, 2014

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

When Warren Zevon's "Excitable Boy" album was released, I was not yet 14, but from the moment I heard the music on that record I was hooked (I had not yet been familiar with the two previous albums he released but knew that some of his songs were recorded by other artists such as Linda Ronstadt).

Hard to meet anyone who doesn't know what is probably his most popular song, "Werewolves of London" from Excitable Boy but the Title Track has an equally catchy hook and so many of the other songs just resonate with what makes music appealing (at least to me); I became a fan as soon as I heard this record (I'm certain that Dan O'Connor was responsible).

In the early 1980's, David Letterman had Zevon on and they became fast friends (I wasn't aware how close they became until I read the book) and Zevon had many appearances over the following two decades. After reading the book, I went back and viewed many of them on YouTube and while I recall some of them from seeing them when they aired, they all took on so much more meaning after reading this book.

This isn't any ordinary biography, it was written, more appropriately, compiled, by his ex wife and lifelong friend and mother of his children. The book takes us through a chronology of Zevon's life through the commentary of the people who interacted with Zevon, his friends, his confidantes, his family, his lovers, his colleagues and of course, Crystal Zevon. Throughout the book, all of the commentary is cleverly laced with entries from Zevon's personal journal - it really gives a full set of perspectives and really tells his story in all of it's detail - the good, the bad, the ugly and the very ugly. In fact, one of Warren's wishes left to Crystal was that she tell the story, "even the awful, ugly parts".

Reading this book brought me on a journey not just through the life of one man, but all of those that were along for the ride, no matter how far they traveled. I got to take that ride with them from the outside looking in, only I now got to hear what what happened on the inside. It wasn't always pretty but it was a human journey and shows that despite the glory of fame or the quest for it, we are all human and we make decisions, we must accept the consequences of those decisions, we ache, we love, we err, we want, we live and we die.

This is easily one of my favorite biographical books that I've ever read. In the weeks ahead I will dig back into the catalog of Zevon and listen to that music again knowing that I will hear it like I've never heard it before.

If you want to check out some Good Warren Zevon footage, check at "Warren Zevon Addict's" page on you tube, CLICK HERE to get there.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

You've Been Warned

The warning should be, skip over this book, it kinda sucks and I have plenty of others for you to read. I guess when you release as many books a James Patterson, there are bound to be clunkers every once in a while. Released in 2007, this was his 47th book, one of 6 released that year. I've read the 46 books that were released before this one and going on memory, this is the worst of the batch - only one I can recall not worth reading.

The book is billed as "psychological suspense" but never came off as anything but a story that might work for a cheesy Lifetime movie. None of the characters are strong, none of the devices are used effectively and absolutely nothing is believable about anything in this book.

I think the only redeeming quality of this book is that it is written the way that Patterson writes, so it reads quickly; at least you won't feel like you wasted too much time reading it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Crash and Burn

I happen to be an Artie Lange fan, I listened to just about all of his run on the Howard Stern Show, I've seen just about all of the movies he's made, seen his stand-up specials, read both of his books...I'm a fan. I think the mistake so many people might make as they pass this book in  the store or overlook it in any way is to think it can only be appreciated by a fan, by someone who knows who Artie Lange is; this couldn't be further from the truth.

I should warn you, this is a very dark book. One of the most amazing things about the quality of the writing is how you will find yourself laughing out loud, at times, busting a gut and while doing so, a brief moment of guilt might pass over you realizing that you are laughing at a book so filled with darkness. the guilt will only last a second before you recall this book was written by a comedian. Another thing this book will do is make you cry, that is, if you are a human being and have a soul.

More than anything else, Crash and Burn is a text book about addiction. this book will make you feel and it won't always be comfortable. I really believe everyone should read this, there is so much that can be learned.

I've always felt one of Artie's great gifts is his ability to tell a story and he does not disappoint in this book. I think the only part of the book I didn't like is that it is a true story. I so greatly wish that Lange did not have to wrestle with these demons but I am so happy to see that for now, he has them at bay and I hope more than anything, that he can do that for the long haul.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

One Summer: America, 1927

I am a Bryson fan, I loved so many of his previous books, especially "A Walk in the Woods", which is just hysterical and brilliant.

In his "A Short History of Nearly Everything", Bryson offers what I heard others refer to as a "compendium of science for adults." It was a pretty exhaustive alternative to a textbook that I found educational, interesting and presented in a style that after reading many of his other writings, can only be attributed to him - which turned out to be what made it so wonderful.

When I heard that Bryson wrote a book about America in the 1920's, I was immediately drawn to the idea of reading it partly because I have had a fascination with that period in American history since taking a class called "The Jazz Age" in high school (props to my teacher at the time, Mr. Slow) and partly because I am a Bill Bryson fan and hadn't read him in a few years.

There is a lot of ground covered in this book as it focuses on the summer of 1927 but of course covers the surrounding years as they relate to the stories and people he speaks of.

This book was filled with a lot of interesting stuff and there were some wonderful moments of Bryson being Bryson, but it was long, the type face was smaller than I would have liked and as much as It pains me to say it, was just not as captivating overall as the other books I have read by him.

Among the covered are Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Al Capone, Al Jolson, the advent of Television and Film, the beginning of the stock market crash and more. It's not always an easy read but I don't regret reading it and would even encourage it if any of these subjects or the time period in general are of any interest to you.