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Staff Reviews - Books, Movies, Music & Online Courses

Music
Little Creatures Advertising Poster
Reviewed by Lou on Monday, May 18
After we posted our essay on The Music of Talking Heads, we were inspired to dig into their genre-jumping catalog and renewed our appreciation of their superb seventh album, Little Creatures, which was released in 1985.   "The important stuff in...
Music
Miles Davis
Reviewed by Lou on Friday, May 15
"I don't look back . . . Never," Miles Davis declared in 1973. "I don't have any place in my head for that stuff I only look ahead." In a career that spanned nearly five decades (with more than 50 studio albums and dozens of live sets and compilations), the brash and irascible trumpeter—who earned the colorful nicknames...
Music
Etta James
Reviewed by Lou on Thursday, April 30
In his 2010 memoir, Life, Keith Richards noted that Etta James had "a voice that could take you to hell or take you to heaven." In Rage To Survive, James' 1995 autobiography (written with David Ritz), it's achingly clear that though her personal life was filled with demons, her innate talent, astounding voice, and...
Music
The Cowsills
Reviewed by Lou on Wednesday, April 22
Let's celebrate a diverse and delightful array of music made by Ocean Staters through the last six decades. Rhody represent! (And we haven't forgotten/ignored Billy Gilman, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, and Throwing Muses – these links are culled from the Hoopla catalog, which doesn't offer albums by those notable homegrown acts.)   The Cowsills:...
Music
Prince
Reviewed by Lou on Tuesday, April 21
Dearly beloved—today, April 21, we are gathered here to honor Prince on the fourth anniversary of his death.   To complement “Prince: Baby, He Was a Star”—our collection of highlights from his enormous catalog and tributes from his peers and prominent fans—we’ve assembled a concise oral history,...
Music
Prince
Reviewed by Lou on Monday, April 20
April 21 is the fourth anniversary of Prince's death, but his music and spirit is still alive. To honor the funky and frisky and ever-innovative artist, take a deep dive into his many-splendored catalog. Hoopla's offerings span his entire career, including these standouts: Purple Rain...
Music
Billie Holiday
Reviewed by Lou on Friday, April 17
Billie Holiday was a true original. Her voice welded the improvisation of jazz and the soul-searching expressiveness of the blues, and her delivery was distinguished by unique phrasing and an idiosyncratic sense of rhythm. Jack Kerouac dubbed her "The Heroine of the Hip Generation"; U2 celebrated her as the "Angel of...
Music
Stevie Wonder
Reviewed by Lou on Tuesday, April 14
Stevie Wonder—a musical giant, genius, innovator, and a genuine superstar. His career has spanned six decades, overflowing with landmark records, highlighted by an astonishingly prolific string of groundbreaking, genre-stretching albums from 1972 to 1976 (details below) and joyful, uplifting performances. Wonder's best...
Music
Elvis Costello
Reviewed by Lou on Monday, April 13
"Oh I just don't know where to begin," Elvis Costello sang at the beginning of "Accidents Will Happen." We feel the same way while attempting to encapsulate his remarkable career and stunningly prodigious output.   Since he emerged in 1977, Costello has released 25 studio albums, plus projects with the Brodsky Quartet,...
Music
Sam Cooke
Reviewed by Lou on Thursday, April 09
Sam Cooke packed a lot of living into his 33 years. The smooth soul singer made the leap from gospel music (including a six-year stint with the Soul Stirrers) to secular music and enjoyed unprecedented crossover success: he was the first black solo artist to top the Billboard pop chart in the rock era, landing 29 Top 40 hits in nine years. Cooke was also a visionary businessman, forming his own...
Music
A Woman Listening to Lots of Music
Reviewed by Lou on Monday, April 06
To maximize your Hoopla borrowing power, we've compiled another list of super-sized musical collections.   This genre-jumping sampler includes career-spanning anthologies and jam-packed greatest hits sets. You can take a deep dive (51 hours of Grateful Dead!) into the catalogs of your favorite artists, or get adventurous and experience some engaging new-to-you sounds (spend some time with...
Music
The Velvet Underground and Nico
Reviewed by Lou on Friday, April 03
A line from a Robert Christgau review of The Velvet Underground and Nico also summarizes their brief but immeasurable impact on the history of rock music: "It sounds intermittently crude, thin, and pretentious at first, but it never stops getting better."   Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, and Doug Yule recorded four albums between 1967 and 1970, and the repercussions are...
Music
Reviewed by Lou on Thursday, April 02
The coronavirus is taking its toll on the arts world. In the last 10 days, the disease has claimed the lives of jazz trumpeter Walace Roney and pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. (father of Wynton and Bradford), country singer Joe Diffie, playwright Terrence McNally (Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman), and many others. On April 1, my feeds were flooded with tributes to Adam Schlesinger, who died at 52...
Music
Ella Fitzgerald
Reviewed by Lou on Wednesday, April 01
The Great American Songbook is the umbrella term for the most significant—and truly timeless—popular works from the 1920s through the '50s. And a case can be made that Ella Fitzgerald left the most indelible stamp on those classics on her seminal Song Book sessions, which were released on Verve Records between 1956 and 1964.   The eight volumes include 244 songs by the unparalleled craftsmen of...
Music
Talking Heads
Reviewed by Lou on Tuesday, March 31
Art-rockers? Intellectual pop band? New wavers? Experimental funkateers? World-music popularizers? The music of Talking Heads delightfully encompasses those and many other hybrid categorizations.   From their formation in NYC in 1975 to their fractious dissolution in 1991 (three years after the release of their final album, Naked), the band's music was always evolving, bookended by the early...
Music
Patsy Cline
Reviewed by Lou on Monday, March 30
Patsy Cline's star burned brightly for a very few years, but it's a testament to her extraordinarily expressive voice—and a trio of indelible songs—that she is an essential artist 57 years after her death at the age of 30.
   But hers was not an overnight success. After a decade or so working her way up the circuit and a few singles that went nowhere, in 1957 Cline broke through with the...
Music
Beastie Boys
Reviewed by Lou on Friday, March 27
Who knew that a trio with a self-proclaimed knack for rhymin' and stealin' would make a lasting impression on pop culture? The Beastie Boys—Mike D (Michael Diamond), Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz), and MCA (Adam Yauch)—started in New York City in 1981 as a hardcore punk band, but shifted gears after they recorded the hip-hoppy "Cooky Puss" in 1983.   They soon hooked up with producer/Def Jam honcho Rick...
Music
A Woman Listening to Music
Reviewed by Lou on Wednesday, March 25
To maximize your Hoopla borrowing power, we've compiled a list of super-sized musical collections.   This genre-jumping sampler includes career-spanning anthologies and jam-packed greatest hits sets. You can take a deep dive into the catalogs of your favorite artists, or get adventurous and experience some exciting new sounds.   This mountain of music—and hundreds of other high-quality...
Music
Chuck Berry
Reviewed by Lou on Wednesday, March 25
Chuck Berry is as essential as rock and roll itself. Here are some of his monumental contributions to the popular music pantheon: "Roll Over Beethoven." "Sweet Little Sixteen." "Johnny B. Goode." "Memphis." "Back In the U.S.A." "No Particular Place To Go" — and "Rock and Roll Music.”   Berry's songs hot-wired R&B with C&W, bursting with his signature double-string riffs and propulsive...
Music
Joni Mitchell
Reviewed by Lou on Tuesday, March 24
Joni Mitchell has described herself as "a painter who writes songs" and "a woman of heart and mind." Those quotes get to the essence of her artistic expression: imagistic, evocative, passionate, thoughtful.   Joni's early career arc brought her from her native Canada to Michigan to New York; the folky songs she wrote along the way — "Urge For Going," "The Circle Game," "Both Sides Now," "Chelsea...
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