Tinsel and Rot's Ten Best CDs of 2006

1. The Avett Brothers--"Four Thieves Gone: The Robbinsville Sessions"
The leader out of the gate, and it never looked back. When the only bad thing you can think to say about a CD is that it may be a little too long, you know you've got a good one. "Talk On Indolence" also wins Leadoff Track of the Year.
2. Todd Snider--"The Devil You Know"
My favorite Todd Snider album, since, well the one before it. But that last one ("East Nashville Skyline") and this one represent Todd at the peak of his powers.
3. The Yayhoos--"Put the Hammer Down"
The mightiest band around lays down a mighty fine CD. Rock and roll's supposed to be fun, and the Yayhoos sure do seem to be having a lot of fun.
4. Scott Miller and the Commonwealth--"Citation"
Another fine CD from Miller and the Commonwealth that sounds best played loud.
5. Ollabelle--"Riverside Battle Songs"
And here's one that maybe doesn't need to be played so loud. Took me awhile to really get into Ollabelle, but this CD clinched it. I'm sure they're excited about that.
6. Ray Wylie Hubbard--"Snake Farm"
Thanks to Sirius Outlaw Country's incessant playing of the title track, I decided to give Ray Wylie Hubbard another chance. The disc starts to fade toward the end, but the first half's real strong. And the title track can't be stopped.
7. Will Kimbrough--"Americanitis"
A good mix of the political and the personal from Mr. Kimbrough. Strongest top-to-bottom effort yet from one of my favorite guitarists and an all-around swell guy.
8. Trent Summar and the New Row Mob--"Horseshoes and Hand Grenades"
Sometimes I think Trent Summar's a little too corny for me. But then I listen to the songs and they're real damn good.. The cover of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" may have been better served as a concert-only treat (the original intent), but I'm damn happy to have a version to listen to over and over again.
9. Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminals Starvation League--"The Longest Meow"
It's definitely not my favorite of his discs, but the bookends of "The Heart Bionic" and "Stop Crying" overshadow any missteps in between.
10. The Bottle Rockets--"Zoysia"
Best Bottle Rockets CD since "24 Hours A Day." And good late-night, bus/train ride music.

Want a CD with songs from these CDs, plus ten others (and a bonus)? Just ask. Send requests to the name of this blog (no spaces) at gmail(dot)com. (Spammers will not steal that e-mail address here!)


2006: The Year in "Celebrity" Pictures

2006 was a pretty good year for photos of me taken with a hodgepodge of people with varying degrees of fame. And it culminated in what might be my favorite Christmas card photo tandem (for those unfamiliar with the Sigman Holiday Greeting, every year I send a photo of me with a person more famous than me...there are two selections per year, so you can collect and trade 'em). So, as a year-end recap, Tinsel and Rot presents the Top 10 "Celebrity" Photos of 2006:

10. Me, David Ruprecht, and David Walls

Taken after a very trying bus ride and an abbreviated "Price Is Right" show, this photo pairs Mr. Tinsel and Rot with the announcer guy (David Walls) and "Supermarket Sweep" emcee ("next time you're at the checkout counter and you hear that beep [beep, beep], think of the fun you could have on "Supermarket Sweep!") and faux Atlantic City "Price Is Right" host David Ruprecht. Honestly, if I won anything during the show, it would have paled in comparison to having a picture taken with a real live game show host. I went back and he wasn't the host anymore. And the magic was gone. But at least there was that one magical day.

9. Me and Bobby Bare Sr.

Since Bobby Bare Sr. generally stays away from touring, particularly in the Northeast, I'd given up hope that I'd ever seen him in person. But with a new album to promote ("The Moon Was Blue"), he came up east for a show at Joe's Pub. And after the show (and having him sign a bunch of albums), this photo happened. Pretty cool.

8. Me and Pete Weber

Ever since seeing Pete Weber drop a trophy on national television, he's been my favorite bowler. What? You're surprised I have a favorite bowler? Stop reading this blog. It's not for you. Anyway, I finally managed to make my way down to the U.S. Open Pro-Am in East Brunswick to see PDW in action. And I think I'm heading back this year. Photo with Walter Ray Williams this time? Time will tell. Trivia fact: Pete's wife took the photo.

7. Me and Ray "Dr. Hook" Sawyer

The only way to get me to go to Coney Island on a weeknight in the middle of a brutal heat wave is to have Ray "Dr. Hook" Sawyer on a stage singing the hits of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (particularly those written by Shel Silverstein). Dr. Hook was part of Hippiefest, a lineup of musical giants that included Joey Molland from Badfinger, Terry Sylvester from the Hollies, Mitch Ryder, Country Joe McDonald, Mountain, and Rare Earth. I made it to Rare Earth before I bailed. I actually was hesitant to get the picture with Dr. Hook, but, really, you should never pass up the chance to get your picture taken with a guy with an eyepatch.

6. Me and Robbie "Cousin Oliver" Rist

Winner of this year's Completely Random Celebrity Encounter. Seeing the Avett Brothers and the Yayhoos on the same bill would've been plenty good for me, but when I realized that the guitarist in the opening band who looked familiar was Cousin Oliver, it became a Night for the Ages. This photo was taken mere moments after Robbie chugged a pitcher of beer, and seconds after he took a picture with me on his camera. I can only hope I made his blog.

5. Me and Miranda Lambert

Miranda narrowly beats out Frances "Paulie Walnuts's Mom/Aunt" Esemplare for Hottest Celebrity I Had a Picture Taken With in 2006. Sometimes, I think about the fact that I joined Miranda Lambert's fan club just for the opportunity to have this picture taken and I become slightly embarrassed. Then I think about the other odd things I've done in my life, and that seems to fall logically in line.

4. Me, Chris "Peter Brady" Knight, and Adrianne Curry

It's only because this was taken so early in 2006 that this didn't make it on to the 2006 Sigman Holiday Greeting. I kinda forgot about it until after the decision was made. But, really, do people still know who Adrianne Curry is? Has her absence from VH-1's Celebreality for, oh, several months, erased her from the public's memory? Maybe so. In any case, I do like this photo. I would almost like it better without Adrianne Curry, but I will refrain from completely admitting that is true lest you question my heterosexuality.

3. Me and Little Jimmy Dickens

Clearly, if more than two people in my circle of friends knew who Little Jimmy Dickens was, this would've been a lock for the Sigman Holiday Greeting. Much like the Bobby Bare Sr. situation, the possibility of ever seeing Little Jimmy Dickens seemed slight. But thanks to the magic of the yearly American Music Theatre Country Legends show (see you in March), a true dream was fulfilled. I don't think I've ever been more excited to take a picture than this one.

2. Me and Todd "Willis" Bridges

Sigman Holiday Greeting #1. "Diff'rent Strokes" was probably the first show to lay claim to the title of "My Favorite Show." And, so, the opportunity to be photographed next to Willis Jackson at the Fall Chiller Theatre show was quite welcome indeed. I suppose Gary Coleman would be cooler, but, based on his general orneriness, that seems unlikely. And Todd Bridges seemed like a good guy, though that was perhaps hastened by my willingness to give him money. Whatever it takes. Trivia fact: That's Lou Ferrigno's arm on my right.

1. Me and Toby Keith

Sigman Holiday Greeting #2. Only a picture of me and Garth Brooks would be more entertaining. And I've tried and failed to get that on numerous occasions. So, with Country Music Mortal Enemy #2 due to make an appearance on "The Colbert Report," I headed down to the studio to see what I could do. I brought a recent issue of "Country Weekly" with Mr. Red, White, and Blue on the cover, so I wouldn't have to go up to him and just ask him for a photo. After an excruciating wait with some righteously annoying autograph collectors, Toby emerged from the stage door with a few other guys and commenced signing their soon-to-be-on-Ebay crap. I got my CW signed (if anyone wants it, just ask...it's yours) and asked for a photo. My camera refused to cooperate initially, but the magic finally happened, just as a car ran over a plastic bottle and created a loud pop. That partially explains the sideways glance on Toby's face. Or maybe he just wanted to get away from me. Hard to say.

In any case, I thanked Toby for stopping, and, rather than put a boot in his ass (which is, after all, the American way), I think I actually patted him on the back. Now, yes, you could argue that any attempt on my part to insert a boot anywhere near Toby Keith's hindquarters would've resulted in him beating the holy hell out of me, but I choose to look at it a different way. I was so overwhelmed at the thought of a stellar Christmas card that I was able to momentarily overlook my blind hatred of the man for one shining moment and give him a well-deserved pat on the back. And if that's not the holiday spirit, I don't know what is.


The last known survivor

So, I saw a preview screening of "Rocky Balboa" (a/k/a "Rocky VI: Please Forget About Tommy Gunn") last week. and, as most critics around the world seem to agree, it really wasn't all that bad. Sure, there were a lot of clunky, "dramatic" speeches from Rocky and the climactic fight is both clumsily presented and not that engaging, but all the flaws are erased by the return of Sylvester Stallone's major contribution to the cinematic world: the training montage.

The training montage, or at least the Rocky training montage, was absent from the much-maligned (but still highly quotable, according to Tinsel and Rot) "Rocky V." In its stead was the Rocky/Tommy Gunn kinda-training montage, which didn't quite do the trick. Still, it built up to the glorious ending, where Tommy Morrison shows off his acting chops, which were just about as good as his professional boxing chops. And in case you didn't follow Tommy Morrison's boxing career, that was not a compliment.

(As an aside, part of the reason why Antonio Tarver doesn't suck as Mason "The Line" Dixon [worst opponent name ever] in "Rocky Balboa" is because he isn't allowed to talk much. So, see, something was learned from "Rocky V.")

Of course, the montage may have just needed some time off after the montage to end all montages that was Rocky training in the frigid Russian winter in "Rocky IV." Actually, there were two: one with the synthesizerrific stylings of Vince DiCola and this one, the true classic, buttressed by "Hearts on Fire" from the legendary John Cafferty (sans Beaver Brown Band):

I'm so glad Rocky beat that Russian piece of garbage.

Anyway, back to "Rocky Balboa." With this final installment (and, really, I think this is it), Burt Young solidifies his status as the unsung hero of the "Rocky" series. For proof, view the clip from "Rocky Balboa" below, which includes another in the long line of great Paulie quotes:

"Ice is stupid. People standing on ice are more stupid." Brilliant. Really. I'm not being ironic.

So, to sum up: "Rocky Balboa" gets the Tinsel and Rot Seal of Approval. Of course, you've read my other likes in life, so maybe that Seal of Approval aint all it's cracked up to be. I report, you decide.


Rethinking the Songs of My Youth: Jermaine Stewart Edition

As I am now 30, I have decided that the time has finally come to embrace nostalgia. The mockery of the music of the 1980s has now been solidly replaced with a strong desire to hear Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" much more frequently. It's not that I ever really bashed the music of the '80s (see Lewis, Huey, love of), but I just didn't see the need for the constant barrage of '80s music or the swingin' good time of gatherings like the '80s Dance Party at the Haunt in Ithaca during my college years. "Fellow students," I recall thinking (and I started most of my thoughts from 1994 to 1998 with "Fellow students," because it sounded awfully collegiate), "the '80s only ended a few years ago. Can't we give it some time to go away before we re-embrace it?"

Well, fellow jobholders, that time has now come. Or at least it has come for me. And that is why sometimes I turn on the '80s channel on Sirius (makes a nice gift for the holidays...Howard Stern wanted me to mention that to you) and take a stumble down memory lane with whatever old MTV VJ is playing songs at the moment. Sometimes the memories are pleasant (the aforementioned "Electric Avenue," which I can remember hearing on the boardwalk at Atlantic City on a family vacation), and sometimes important realizations are made (Genesis's "Land of Confusion" is a really bad song if you're not watching the video).

Generally, it's fun to hear the songs I used sing along to when they came on the radio in the family car. Like, hey, "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" by Jermaine Stewart. I liked that one when it came out that summer. Lemme check those lyrics out:

Not a word, from your lips
You just took for granted that I want to skinny dip.
A quick hit, that's your game.
But I'm not a piece of meat, still you like my brain.

Night is young, so are we.
Let's get to know each other better, slow and easily.
Take my hand, let's hit the floor.
Shake our bodies to the music.
Maybe then you'll score.

So come on baby, won't you show some class
Why you want to move so fast.
We don't have to take our clothes off
To have a good time
Oh no
We could dance and party all night
And drink some cherry wine
Uh huh
We don't have to take our clothes off
To have a good time
Oh no
We could dance and party all night (all night)
And drink some cherry wine
Uh huh
Na na na na na na na . . . .

Just slow down if you want me
A man wants to be approached cool and romantically
I've got needs
Just like you
If the conversation's good
Vibrations through and through

So come on baby, won't you show some class
Why you want to move so fast
We don't have to take our clothes off
To have a good time
Oh no
We could dance and party all night (all night)
And drink some cherry wine
Uh huh
Na na na na na na . . .

Repeat until fade.

Dear Lord. I really hope I never sang that out loud. Maybe if I dance and party all night (all night) and drink some cherry wine (uh huh), I'll forget ever liking this song. I mean, I actually liked a song with lines like "You just took for granted I want to skinny dip" and "A man wants to be approached cool and romantically"? Really? I blame it on the "na na na na na na na na na"s. Or too much Catholic school. Or, I don't know, something. Anything. Help me. I feel cold and ashamed.

So, I am now having second thoughts about nostalgia. Maybe I should have waited 'til 40.


Because I haven't talked about game shows in awhile

GSN, which has recently been banished deep into the Jersey City Comcast lineup, will be airing a special about one of Tinsel and Rot's heroes, the brilliant Chuck Barris, this Sunday, December 10, at 8 p.m. And there will be a three-hour block of Barris game shows ("The Gong Show," "The Dating Game," "The Newlywed Game") on Saturday night, from 8 to 11 p.m. Joy.

This is the second in GSN's ongoing documentaries about classic game shows (following last month's "Behind The Blanks" about "Match Game"). And it gives me hope that GSN will not degenerate into endless blocks of "Lingo," "Dog Eat Dog," and "Playmania." Respect your elders, GSN.

So, anyway, don't go out this weekend. It's too cold anyway. Revel in the simple genius of Chuck Barris instead, and accentuate your revelry by dancing like Gene Gene the Dancing Machine.