Sunday, April 14, 2013

Shane Victorino Helps Red Sox Win First Extra Inning Game of 2013

On a nationally televised game on FOX Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park, the American East-leading Boston Red Sox (6-4) won a low-scoring nail-biter against the Tampa Bay Rays (4-6), by a score of 2-1 in 10 innings.

Sox ace Jon Lester went seven strong innings, allowing only 1 earned run while striking out 5, walking 1 and surrendering just 5 hits on 100 pitches. New manager (and former Sox pitching coach) John Farrell then turned to the bullpen (the purported major strength of this year's team), which did not allow a single hit the rest of the game.

Boston's first run came in the fifth when catcher David Ross hit a solo shot off of Rays starter David Price with 2 outs to tie the score 1-1 – Rays first baseman Sean Rodriguez had kicked off the scoring for the game and the Rays in the 3rd inning with a double off of Lester that center fielder Desmond Jennings scored on. But after the 5th inning, the bats for both sides were silenced for much of the rest of the game, until the 9th when they each squandered opportunities to break the tie.

The game went into extras (it being the first such game for both teams this season) and finally, in the bottom of the 10th, the Sox offense came alive. With 1 out, Sox star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury singled to center off Rays reliever Brandon Gomes, and used his aggressiveness and speed on the bases to steal second. Rays catcher Jose Lobaton make a big error trying to throw him out, thus allowing Ellsbury to take third base. Then, Boston's new right fielder, the veteran Shane Victorino, drove in the game-winning infield single that easily allowed Ellsbury to score. The players were both then mobbed by their excited teammates and cheered on by the 33,000+ fanatics in attendance.

Speaking of fandom, the longest sellout streak in pro sports history came to an end on Wednesday night, with the Red Sox's consecutive games played in front of a full house at Fenway ending at 820. It bested the previous record of 814 set by the Portland Trailblazers from 1977-1995, according to the Huffington Post. Thus, you can find great Boston Red Sox tickets easier these days, with the seasonally cold (and sometimes rainy) April weather upon us. Through it all, the Sox plan to keep up its rather hot start to the season, with Clay Buchholz going against Alex Cobb on Sunday afternoon.

Photo credit: MLB (via Amazon.com)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Judas Priest to Celebrate 40th Anniversary with Release of Epitaph Live Blu-ray/DVD

Judas Priest, one of England's most iconic and enduring heavy metal pioneers, is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a May 28 release of Epitaph (via Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment), a live Blu-ray disc and DVD featuring 23 classic tracks recorded almost one year ago (May 26, 2012) on the final night of its final world tour ever (which was 50 weeks long). Recorded at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, this truly special release features at least one song from each of JP's 14 studio albums it recorded with legendary singer Rob Halford, from 1974's Rocka Rolla through 2008's concept album, Nostradamus. It is their most truly comprehensive live set to date.

Though Judas Priest initially started out in late 1970 with a different singer (Al Atkins) and had a more blues rock-based direction, 1973 marked the year Halford, one of the most gifted male singers in rock history, joined the band (which had also begun by then to take on a more hard rock/metal direction). Thus, Judas Priest is in essence celebrating the 40th anniversary of the start of the Halford era.

The upcoming release features the expected classic metal tracks and fan favorites from their '70s output, including epic cuts like "Victim of Changes," from 1976's Sad Wings of Destiny, along with "Hell Bent for Leather" and (their popular Fleetwood Mac cover) "The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)," both of which are from the 1979 HBFL album. There are even more cuts from their '80s catalog (their most commercially successful period), including four from British Steel (hits "Living After Midnight," "Breaking the Law," along with the influential early speed metal classic "Rapid Fire" and "Metal Gods"), as well as more rarely played songs like "Blood Red Skies" (from 1988's Ram It Down).

The lineup for this one-of-a-kind show consisted of Halford, longtime guitarist Glenn Tipton, longtime bassist and band co-founder Ian Hill, drummer Scott Travis, and guitarist Richie Faulkner, who took over for retired six-stringer and band co-founder K.K. Downing in 2011.

The full tracklist of Epitaph, complete with an album index for all selections, can be viewed here. Fans will also be pleased to know that Judas Priest plans to follow this release up with a new studio album it is currently working on.

Note: This article was first published at Blogcritics Magazine

Monday, April 04, 2011

Music Review: Pearl Jam - Vs. & Vitalogy 3 CD Deluxe Edition

About this time two years ago, Seattle grunge champions Pearl Jam remastered and put out an excellent deluxe edition of its first album, Ten, complete with a DVD featuring the band's immensely popular MTV Unplugged set.

As of this week, as part of the ongoing celebration of Pearl Jam's 20th anniversary, Epic Records and Legacy Recordings are putting out remastered editions of the quintet's second and third records (Vs. and Vitalogy, respectively) as part of one package, each with three bonus tracks to round them out. There are two other ways to get this package, including a limited edition box set that includes remastered vinyl (5 LPs), among other valuables, available exclusively at pearljam.com.

This review covers the Vs. & Vitalogy 3 CD Deluxe Edition, the third disc being a real treat in the form of a live show from my hometown of Boston on April 12, 1994.

Vs.:

As far as albums go, it's hard to top a perfect debut album with another perfect record following it. But Pearl Jam jammed out two completely classic albums in a row, with Ten in 1991 and Vs. in 1993. The difference between the two is not just found in the songwriting, but in attitude. Where the first record mixed some dark themes with a little Doors and Led Zeppelin/Kiss-influenced guitar rock, its sophomore effort absolutely slammed your speakers with the most angry and aggressive album it would ever record.

Tracks like the screamin' hard rock of "Blood," the headbanging heaviness of hit single "Animal," and the urgent and (tuning-wise) heaviest track of all, lead-off track "Go" are just some examples of Pearl Jam's laudable loud tunes.

Of course, some of the band's most celebrated soft songs are represented here as well, with the child abuse-themed "Daughter" and the folk hit "Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town."

Perhaps the remastered edition could have done without bonus track "Hold On," since it was already available on a previous compilation (Lost Dogs). However, ending it with a rockin' instrumental, "Creedy Stomp," and hit Victoria Williams cover "Crazy Mary (w/Williams)" (originally from the Sweet Relief compilation) was a smooth move on PJ's part.

Vitalogy:

Classic as this (1994-released) record is, it still confounds me to this day. The last time I listened to it was on vinyl form and as a teenager in the mid-'90s who was just learning to appreciate the warm, full sound of records. That's how long it's been! So it's good to get another chance at the whole darn thing, this time in CD form, remastered and with a few outtakes.

First track "Last Exit" has some meaty chords and a rapid, ringing guitar riff in the breakdown section that still sounds a bit Edge-y (as in U2). The band's furious, punk energy blasts out of your speakers on "Spin The Black Circle," a pro-vinyl song written well before it became cool again to buy vinyl records. Those tracks, along with (radio hit) "Not For You," "Satan's Bed" and "Tremor Christ" showed the band had not lost its ability to rock hard with authority.

The personal "Better Man," which was written by Vedder well before his time in Pearl Jam but made complete with church organ runs and great production and "Corduroy" were hits and remained staples in Pearl Jam sets over the years. "Immortality" is also very much a timeless staple in the Pearl Jam catalog, especially with Mike McCready's bluesy solo at its apex.

The downers on Vitalogy then are still downers now, with the silly, accordion-led "Bugs," the strange "Aya Davanita" and final track "Hey Foxy..." being examples of filler material/interludes that interrupt and sort of ruin an otherwise near-perfect third album.

Note: This review was first published and can be read in FULL at Blogcritics Magazine

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Boston Celtics Look To Heat & Heal Up Before The Break

For the most part this season, every other time the Boston Celtics had its depth tested (due to injuries), someone has stepped up and shined. Sixth man of the year Glen Davis in particular stands out. In Sunday's 85-82 win over the Miami Heat, it was his 16 points, along with Von Wafer's 10 points and energy that proved huge in a game that saw a sick and sore Paul Pierce register just one point. Of course, Rajon Rondo's league-leading third triple-double was the biggest key to that win, which put Boston 3-0 against LeBron James' new squad for the year.

Tonight against the New Jersey Nets, another key player off the bench is due back from the injured list, Delonte West. But after getting hit in the hand during practice yesterday, that is in question now. Still, it's a good sign that Boston has been able to be near or stay atop the Eastern Conference Standings despite a depleted roster, one still without both O'Neals (Jermaine and Shaquille), Semih Erden and Marquis Daniels.

The Celtics success at the top will be short-lived though if it continues to have so many bodies dressed in street clothes come game time. Yes, they've proven they can beat just about anybody at least once (and they're 18-0 at home versus the Eastern Conference so far in 2010-2011 and have been the likes of the Lakers and Spurs) but the chances of Doc Rivers being able to coach a full complement of players this year is not looking good right now. And the longer that is the case, the more that will be be reflected in the Eastern Conference Standings.

Hopefully the Celtics will hit the All-Star break on a two-game winning streak with a win against the Nets. But this game isn't that important and if getting healthy means limiting Pierce's minutes and holding off on bringing West back until the second half, so be it.

Sure, that could mean losing the game, but Rivers and the Celtics proved last year that rest (or at least limiting Kevin Garnett and company's minutes in the season's second half) is best and that they didn't need to be the top seed in the playoffs to make the NBA Finals against the Lakers. It could very well be a formula worth testing out again this year.

NOTE: This article was first published at Blogcritics Magazine earlier today

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Pats Spank Jets 45-3 On Monday Night Football

Hyped as the Super Bowl of the regular season, Monday night's matchup of the best two teams in the AFC turned into a landslide victory for the home team New England Patriots over the visiting New York Jets, 45-3. The shellacking evened the season series at 1-1, kept New England undefeated at home (6-0) and more importantly, earned itself first place outright in the AFC East with a 10-2 record, with the Jets in second at 9-3.

Tom Brady

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady followed up a perfect 158 QB Rating on Turkey Day against the Lions with a nearly perfect 148 QB Rating against the Jets. And for only the second time in his career, he accomplished the feat of throwing four touchdowns for the second game in a row.

If there was any question before, there is none now that New England is the best team in football, and that if the vote was held today, Brady would be named MVP of the NFL this year. Not even Rex Ryan would quarrel with that now. With 27 TDs and only 4 INTs thrown, there isn't a hotter QB in the league right now (as Michael Vick has cooled off a bit).

As the team leader of the youngest team in the NFL, Brady needs to be on top of his game and pretty much has been for most of the year. In 12 games, he's only thrown INTs in two of them (against the Jets in week two and against Baltimore some weeks later). And in three of the last four games, he's thrown for over 300 yards and thrown 13 TDs with no INTs in those last four games. That's outstanding.

Defense Dominates

Having allowed over 150 yards rushing, it may look like Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and the Pats defense didn't exactly "stuff" the run but they did when it mattered and didn't allow many big gains—the longest was a rush of 14 yards by LaDainian Tomlinson.

As predicted though, the Pats defense made the Jets a one dimensional offense due to the secondary tightly covering Mark Sanchez's receivers (Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes) in the short and long field pretty much all game long. The Jets defense, by contrast, missing Jim Leonhard, could do nothing to stop Brady.

Having gotten down 17-0 early, Mark Sanchez and company had to throw the ball more than they'd have liked to, and eventually, a Bill Belichick defense seized on that as it has so often in the past, picking off three Sanchez passes.

This article was first published and can be read in full at Blogcritics Magazine

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Patriots Aim For Revenge Against Big Mouth Rex & Jets

Never has an NFL head coach who has accomplished so little run his mouth so much like Rex Ryan of the New York Jets has in the past year or so. And all you can do is just chuckle.

From proclaiming he wouldn't kiss AFC East rival Bill Belichick's rings, to saying his team should be favorites to win last season's Super Bowl (which the Jets didn't appear in), and that all the "experts" say the Patriots are the NFL's best team, "except me," Ryan is full of the type of tough talk and bravado that is more fun than disrespectful of the opposition.

He could brag that he owns a career 2-1 record against Belichick (including a 28-14 win at the New Meadowlands in Week 2 this year that the Pats are looking to avenge come Monday) and that the Jets, going back to the Eric Mangini era have beaten the Pats three of the last four times. Ryan, however, still has the utmost respect for them and therefore won't provide too much bulletin board material for the Pats to use against him.

New England hosts the Jets on the December 6, 2010, edition of Monday Night Football for what is going to be the biggest regular season matchup of the season with a lot riding on it. The winner not only claims first place in the AFC East outright (as both teams sit atop at 9-2), but could be in good position for a first round bye in the playoffs and possibly host two home games.

The loser of this game could fall one game behind with four games left, and depending on how it does the rest of the way, end up on the road for three playoff games in its march to the Super Bowl. The Jets have Chicago and Pittsburgh as tough opponents on the road in the last quarter of the season, while the Pats have Chicago and Green Bay to battle in that stretch. So they are obviously battling for more than just to to establish who the best team in football is (with the 9-2 Atlanta Falcons begging for consideration as well).

This article was first published and can be read in full at Blogcritics Magazine

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Red Sox Lose Victor Martinez to the Detroit Tigers

Last offseason, the Red Sox front office lost Jason Bay to free agency largely due to phantom health concerns. This year's free agency period is still young but today, according to a few media outlets, they lost free agent Victor Martinez to the Detroit Tigers. Needless to say, this is a major loss for Boston.

I was hoping this was not going to happen but saw it coming a long time ago, which is why I felt the Sox needed to get a longterm deal done with him prior to the start of last season. Still, I didn't expect the team with the second-highest payroll in baseball ($170 million payroll in 2010) to get outbid by any team (not named the New York Yankees) for V-Mart, let alone an average club like the Tigers.

This is a Red Sox team that is, after all, overpaying Daisuke Matsuzaka as well as the best DH in the game, David Ortiz, the latter by about $6 million. If you have to overpay for V-Mart, so what? Dice-K and Ortiz likely won't be around a few years into a new V-Mart contract anyway. And, owner John W. Henry just bought an international soccer team (Liverpool F.C.).

Therefore, money should not be the issue here, but that and apparently longevity was, since Detroit reportedly offered V-Mart $50 million over four years, while the Red Sox gave him a choice of $36 million over three years, or $42 million over four years. If these figures are true, Epstein has some explaining to do, as this makes the Sox organization look cheap.

He was willing to overrate J.D. ("DL") Drew and give him $70 million over five years ($15 million per year) at the age of 31. Yet V-Mart, at this same age and with much more durability (despite his thumb injury in 2010 that kept him out of 22 games), flexibility on the field and leadership skills, gets no more than three or four years? This doesn't make any sense.

This article was first published earlier today and can be read in full at Blogcritics Magazine

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Colin Campbell Owes Marc Savard A Big Time Apology

Former NHL defenseman, head coach, and for the past 12 years, Director of Hockey Operations and chief NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell is in hot water this week. Former NHL official Dean Warren has filed a complaint against his termination to the Ontario Labour Relations Board, and he believes Campbell had a lot to do with it.

Angry emails by Campbell to other NHL executives are starting to be released online. The other day, Yahoo Sports, via a blogger named Tyler Dellow, analyzed some of them, saying they "reveal the candid, petty assessments by an NHL executive on the league's on-ice officials' performances." More than that, they pose possible conflict of interest issues and bias against certain players.

Dellow narrowed down some of the scrubbed out player names from Campbell emails dating back to 2006 and for Boston Bruins fans, the most alarming email allegedly involves a (Florida) Panthers-Bruins game from February 24, 2007, when three minor penalties were called on one player.

The opposing player who drew one of them was called "that little fake artist." The penalized player was his own son Gregory Campbell, and the "fake artist" was Bruins center Marc Savard. Warren, who called the penalty on the "biggest faker going," was said by Campbell to have fallen for Savard's act and as a result needed to go, or at least not allowed to referee any more of the (redacted) "club's" games.

Three years later, on March 7, 2010, Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins cold-clocked Savard. Having a reputation as a head hunter didn't apparently matter to Campbell. He could find no NHL rule violations by Cooke and therefore did not suspend or even fine him, to the shock of the hockey world.

This article was first published and can be read in full at Blogcritics Magazine

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tom Brady and Patriots Beat Up Steelers, 39-26

You are lying to yourself if you call yourself a Patriots fan and seriously saw this one coming. Yes, Tom Brady is now 6-1 in his last seven games against the Steelers (playoffs included). But after the previous week's pathetic performance against Eric Mangini's Cleveland Browns, a 39-26 New England blowout win against one of the best AFC teams is hardly what anyone expected.

In fact, I expected the Steelers to win a close, low-scoring game. Had I been made aware beforehand that the Pats under Bill Belichick were 22-2 in games following a loss since 2003, I might have thought differently.

In the end, I'm glad I was (and am sure plenty of other New England fans were) wrong.
The score and final stats were hardly indicative of how the Pats dominated most of this game Sunday night, especially up front on both sides of the ball. Guard Stephen Neal was out but with Logan Mankins back for his second game (after sitting out the first seven), Tom Brady had all the protection he needed as he threw for 350 yards (spread out to eight different players), three TDs and emphatically ran one into the end zone himself for one more.

It was the first 300-yard game of the season for Brady but more noticeably, his most emotional game in years. Maybe he didn't like the way Steelers players were hitting him under the pile, or maybe their cheap shots over the years (Lee Flowers) were still sealed in his mind. Or perhaps he just wanted perfection, meaning no dropping easy throws (Wes Welker) or poor blocking on unsuccessful third-and-short situations. Whatever it was, he extra furious at his teammates when things went wrong, and all smiles when success went his team's way.

Photo credit: thirtysecondsurvey.com

This article was first published in full earlier today at Blogcritics Magazine.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Music Review: Idlewild - Post Electric Blues

Far removed from its early days of prime R.E.M. and Pavement-like melodicism mixed with loud, Nirvana and Fugazi-inspired rock, Scotland’s Idlewild is a band in transition.

For most of its 15 years, it was on a record label—Parlophone/EMI for a majority of them—and released five albums, including its 2000 breakout (second full-length) release, 100 Broken Windows, which SPIN called the “number one album you didn’t hear” that year (and which is being re-issued this week).

In 2007, after releasing fifth album Make Another World on Sequel/Sanctuary, the quintet went ahead without a label and decided to try something different in having fans pre-order the next album so they can have the sufficient funds to record it.

After raising a substantial amount of funds and giving its thousands of loyal fans who ordered it some web-exclusive access to the recording sessions, Idlewild released its sixth album last year, entitled Post Electric Blues, first to its fans and later through the UK independent Cooking Vinyl label. Last month, it finally became available stateside and in digital form through Nice Music Group.

This is an excerpt of an article first published earlier today at Blogcritics Magazine

Monday, November 01, 2010

Brett Favre: Texts Dicks, Throws Picks & Exits As Pats Beat His Vikings, 28-18

There was no shortage of hoopla surrounding yesterday's much anticipated New England Patriots-Minnesota Vikings game at Gillette Stadium. It was supposed to be focused on Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss coming back to the team he was traded from just a few weeks ago. Instead, it was all about the notorious Brett Favre.

Given the 40-year-old's mounting injuries, will he play against the Patriots on Sunday? Will the NFL suspend Favre for sexual harassment stemming from the alleged lewd photos, voicemails and text messages sent to former Jets reporter Jenn Sterger that the headline of this article (humorously) refers to?

The latter situation hasn't been resolved yet, but by kickoff yesterday afternoon at around 4:15 pm ET, everyone inside and outside the stadium knew Favre was going to start at quarterback that day, for an NFL-record 292nd straight time. What they didn't know was how long he would last out there or how effective he would be.

In the first half, both Pats quarterback Tom Brady and Favre didn't take many chances deep. The result was a 7-7 tie at the half, with Danny Woodhead doing his best Kevin Faulk impression with his second quarter three-yard TD run and later 45 yards receiving on five catches.

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson got his team's only score by barely getting the nose of the football to the goal line at the start of the second (after, ironically, he appeared to have run it into the end zone at the end of the first quarter but was considered just short of it by the refs).

In the second half, play opened up for the Pats, as youngster wide-out Brandon Tate caught the longest pass by Brady of the season for a 65-yard TD to put the Pats ahead for good at 14-10 nearly midway through the third quarter.

Favre, meanwhile, had a pass thrown to Percy Harvin go off his hands into young Pats cornerback Devin McCourty's, who ran it back to the Vikings 37. So the all-time NFL leader in interceptions can't be entirely blamed for that one. BenJarvis Green-Ellis then quickly ran it into the end zone during the ensuing Pats drive, and after the extra point, the score was 21-10.

This is an excerpt from an article that was first published earlier this evening at Blogcritics Magazine

Friday, October 29, 2010

Music Review: The Vampire Diaries: Original Television Soundtrack

It was only a matter of time before one of the most popular shows on the CW Television Network got its own soundtrack. Much like other teen-centered TV dramas of the past, like Fox's The O.C. and other vampire-minded hit shows like HBO's True Blood, Vampire Diaries (which airs Thursday nights on CW) is trying to capitalize on its hit show with a hit soundtrack. And it was a bloody good decision.

Based on the L.J. Smith novels of the same name, the second-year TV series revolves around two brothers (Stefan and his elder, Damon) who obsess over the same gorgeous girl (Elena) and fight to control the fate of a whole (fictional) town (Mystic Falls, Virginia).

Viewers have long commented on the beautiful and fitting music that accompanied key episodes in season one (2009) and now season two, which began in early September. As of October 12, they have a chance to hear 16 tracks that span nearly 65 minutes on The Vampire Diaries: Original Television Soundtrack. It not only features some familiar names from the alternative music realm, but one of the hottest album covers of the year (featuring the aforementioned main stars of the show). Then there's the music itself.

Composer Michael Suby's "Stefan's Theme" clip and rock vets Placebo's Kate Bush cover "Running Up That Hill" set the tone right for a dark opening to the album. The deep bass and contrasting light, tremolo-aided electronics and guitars of the former track, and the thumping, downtempo beats and cut-up vocals of the latter make for an excellent one-two punch.

Track three kicks up the volume some, as alternative rockers Silversun Pickups, led by the always youthful-sounding Brian Aubert contribute the excellent, urgent rock of "Currency of Love," which was previously only available as an iTunes-only bonus track on second album, Swoon (2009).

The "Darktimes" remix of Bat For Lashes' "Sleep Alone" thoroughly turns the groove inside out and adds a lower register vocal to Natasha Khan's. It's very well done, but the original would have fit here better, with its decidedly more ghoulish background vocals and overall darker mood.

If vampires like to dance, there's a few choice cuts here. Howls' "Hammock," which sings about "howling at the moon" is a fine, low-key dance rock track. There is also the decent retro synth pop of Goldfrapp's "We Radiate," and rising 18-year-old dance pop star Sky Ferreira's "Obsession." The latter, at least lyrically, fits the show more so than the former, and has the potential to be a club hit in the vein of Katy Perry, who happens to be a fan of her work (and had a controversial way of showing it several months back).


This article was first published in full earlier today at Blogcritics Magazine.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Music Review: Jimmy Eat World - Invented

Arizona's alternative rock/power pop legends Jimmy Eat World do not make throwaway albums. They are one of those bands who always records more repeat-worthy songs than not, but who set a new standard in rock that is so high, any future records will be judged by it for as long as they keep making them.

1999's Clarity is the group's masterpiece and always will be, as songs like "Crush" and "Ten" set the stage for the commercial emo movement (i.e. Fall Out Boy) in the decade that followed. But other, more pop punk groups (i.e. The Ataris) also followed in the footsteps of the band's near perfect power pop/post-punk follow-up, 2001's Bleed American, which featured hits "The Middle" and "Sweetness," among others. Those two records were the peak of Jimmy Eat World's creative powers.

And what they, along with its notably more aggressive, emocore-based major label debut Static Prevails (1996) have in common with its recently released seventh LP Invented is producer Mark Trombino (who also drummed for Drive Like Jehu). Can he help bring back the magic of any of those early records (not including the band's out-of-print self-titled 1994 debut record)?

There are indeed shades of J.E.W.'s 1999 masterpiece throughout the new record, for starters. For example, closer "Mixtape" has a cappella parts somewhat reminiscent of Clarity's closer "Goodbye Sky Harbor." But as singable as its chorus is, the slow-moving tune doesn't come close to the powerful and intense "Dizzy" (from its previous and sixth album, 2007's Chase This Light), which has to go down as the best album closer in the Jimmy Eat World catalog since the aforementioned "Goodbye Sky Harbor."

That said, there are quite a few hummable, memorable and rockin' tracks on Invented.  "Heart Is Hard To Find" opens the sound barriers up with heavy acoustics and a warm touch that makes one think the song would fit right in with the Bleed American record. (End of review excerpt)
This article was first published IN FULL earlier this evening at Blogcritics Magazine.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New England's OT Win vs. Ravens Could Come with a Price

It was an improbable 23-20 victory for the Patriots last Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. The defense of the home team was supposed to be inferior to Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens big defense. After all, this was the same Baltimore team that convincingly eliminated them from last year's playoffs in a blowout in this very stadium, which had previously never happened in the Tom Brady era.

Yet, coming into the game, the Patriots were 5-0 against the Ravens in the regular season. So how did the Patriots eek this one out? Big time defensive play, led by Jerod Mayo's astonishing and team-leading 18 tackles, and clutch catches by a new but familiar face, wide receiver Deion Branch. He caught a 5-yard Brady pass early in the fourth quarter for a touchdown to get the Pats within three points at 20-17, followed by about six more key receptions near the end of regulation and overtime combined to set up kicker Stephen Gostkowski's game-tying late fourth quarter field goal and game-winning one with 1:51 left in OT.

But nearly halfway through the second quarter came the only inexcusable negative play in the game. Ravens veteran tight end Todd Heap took a vicious hit from young Pats safety Brandon Meriweather, and consequently took a while to get up from it. He would leave the game.

Even Pats fans like me said, "That's a no-no" after watching the replay. NFL players aren't supposed to leave their feet or "launch" into opposing players, especially with helmets. It was labeled helmet-to-helmet contact by the referee, and I wouldn't have been shocked if he was kicked out of the game in addition to being penalized for it.

Starting this weekend, NFL players will definitely be suspended for clearly flagrant hits to the head, instead of (or in addition to) the usual light fine. Meriweather will indeed get a fine or be suspended for New England's next game against San Diego, even though the new policy wasn't in effect when the hit to Heap happened and that the Pats player has no prior history of such flagrant hits. And though a suspension would be detrimental to the team, I would have no problem with it.

Patriots fan or not, you can't excuse and not suspend or at least heavily fine ($50,000 or more) anyone who uses any part of their body as a weapon, be it Meriweather, Pittsburgh's James Harrison, Atlanta's Dunta Robinson (who gave himself and victim DeSean Jackson concussions on Sunday) or others, since NFL rules rightly prohibit such play.

There's a big difference between playing "aggressive," as Meriweather said he was doing when he hit his "friend" Heap, and (illegally) going up high on a defenseless receiver who didn't even have the ball in his hands, as was the case with Heap. It was just stupid, and even Pats coach Bill Belichick had the "Give me a break" look on his face when Meriweather went to the sideline to explain himself.

Can the Pats still win without Meriweather? Yes, but they'll need to fight against being timid and weak at the safety position should Meriweather be unavailable, and remember to just tackle the way they were taught, not to look for the kill. Being carelessly aggressive could end someone's season and even career, as players past and present are well aware.


This article was first published at Blogcritics Magazine

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Red Sox End Disappointing 2010 Season on High & Classy Note

For only the second time in Sox general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona's tenures, there will be no playoff baseball in Boston this year. Like 2006, they finish the season in third place in the AL East, and for similar reasons to that fateful season can blame it largely on a rash of injuries to key players, along with a mostly lousy bullpen (that Epstein did nothing significant to help before and during the season) and disappointing starters (Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Tim Wakefield).

But the 89-73 Red Sox had one, make it two last victories to celebrate last weekend: they won the last two games of the season against the Yankees to tie the season series at 9-9, and more importantly, prevented their arch rivals from winning the AL East division in the process, making Tampa Bay the champs and for a change, the Yankees the AL Wild Card representative in the 2010 postseason that starts on Wednesday.

Mike Lowell Day

But the real celebration that occurred this weekend was the Red Sox's tribute to retiring hero, cancer survivor and longtime third baseman Mike Lowell a half hour before the first game of a Sox-Yankees double header at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon.

Mike Lowell, 8-3-10
With the whole Red Sox and (equally classy) Yankees teams looking on and applauding the festivities at the top of their respective dugout steps, they watched as Lowell's wife Bertha, their two kids and good friends Mike Redmond and (former respected Sox utility man) Alex Cora made surprise appearances to help out with the presentation of gifts. It was a warming, memorable moment for both fans and the participants on the field.

This article was first published in full at Blogcritics Magazine