5.24.2016

[Video On Demand™ Classic] Chaka Khan - I Feel For You [Official Video]



I'm certain that I'm not the only one who's still sad about the passing of Prince. I wanted to post one of his videos, but I elected to go another route: the very fitting and fantastic hit cover of "I Feel For You" by his dear friend Chaka Khan, posted here with Prince Rogers Nelson firmly mind. Still so hard to believe he's gone.

4.10.2016

Blade: Blood War I, starring Wesley Snipes, Rihanna and Nicholas Cage...coming soon?


Um, no. #LateAprilFool's #youvebeenpunked #sorry #hahaha

Despite being a big fan of Marvel's Blade films – the first two – (as mentioned here) I was never sure that I'd make an actual Blade piece for my Marvel Blaxploitation series. As inspiration would have it, though, a vague poster concept hit from out the blue yesterday afternoon, and this morning I have a finished piece that I like quite a bit.

Can't wait to see what it looks like on paper.

3.16.2016

Oh, My Godzilla... The cross-cultural fashion sense of Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers in 1984


Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers, one of the stars of the 1984 cult hit Breakin', has never received the recognition he deserves for a great number of things, among them being credit for actually being the man who taught Michael Jackson to moonwalk. In addition to that fairly seismic slight, Chambers also never really got the credit he deserved for being a major style icon for kids across the planet in the 1980s. But his pop art Godzilla muscle shirt, Banzai headband, camouflage khakis, and white Nike high-tops set a trailblazing fashion trend for many others to follow. In addition to his mind-blowing dance moves on screen in Breakin', it was his very unique sense of style, coupled with serious skinny kid swag, that left a deep impression whose echoes still reverberate in the present. And if there's any justice in the world, somebody (me) will attempt to right at least one of the great wrongs of pop culture history, and post to their blog a retrospective tribute to the cross-cultural fashion sense in 1984 of the legendary Boogaloo Shrimp. 



Did this post get you hyped up for more? Well, click here to learn how Boogaloo Shrimp met and mentored MJ, the reasons why he has a ton of fans in Asia, and much more in a very revealing 2008 interview. 

1.29.2016

YKFS ranks the top 10 freshest and flyest and dopest and illest graffiti art record covers

Remarkably, despite its assumed importance in hip-hop culture, not very many record covers from hip-hop's golden age featured graffiti art. Those that did, though, offered fans of this art form living beyond New York's five boroughs some jaw-dropping glimpses into the amazing aerosol and pen & ink art being committed to the pages of black books, and to the surfaces of trains and walls during the early days of hip-hop. Ranked here for your perusing pleasure are 10 of the freshest and flyest and dopest and illest examples of "graff" on record covers.  

10. Sleeping Bag Records' Greatest Mixers Collection (LP)
Cover art by Gnome & Gemini/Gem7, 1985

09. Rock Steady Crew - Uprock (12" Single)
Cover art by Doze, 1984

08. B-Girls Live And Kickin' (LP)
Cover art by Akiem Irish, 1987

07. Rap's New Generation (LP)
Cover art by David Sims (Dawud Anyabwile), 1988

06. Mantronix - Needle to the Groove (12" Single)
Cover art by Gnome & Gemini/Gem7, 1985


05. Just-Ice - Back to the Old School (LP)
Cover art by Gnome & Gemini/Gem7, 1986

04. Kickin' Live Productions - The Brothers (12" Single)
Cover art by Akiem Irish, 1987

03. Jellybean - Wotupski!?! (LP)
Cover art by Seen, 1984

02. Wild Style Original Soundtrack (LP)
Cover art by Zephyr, Revolt & Sharp, 1983

01. Rammellzee vs. K-Rob - Beat Bop (12" Single)
Cover art by Jean Michel Basquiat aka SAMO, 1983


Finding yourself disagreeing with the order of these rankings? Some classical-leaning graffiti heads will probably balk at my pick for the #1 spot. Puh-leeze do feel free, though, to post your thoughts in the comments box and let St. Paco know how you would have ranked these classics. Or feel free to drop a line simply stating that this is really just the illest list ever (because it really, really is). Haha.

1.17.2016

Is a then-16-year-old J-pop star the long lost answer to a 13-year-old anime soundtrack mystery?



Beats Me

By Paco D. Taylor

It's pretty astounding to think that the violent, sexy, and sexually violent Parasite Dolls OVA (original video anime) was released way back in 2003. What's astounding about it? Well, for 13 astounding years now, fans of Kazushi Miyakoda's electronica-powered soundtrack for this anime have been left pretty much in the dark regarding the identity of the vocalist whose  soulful, high-octane soprano is heard on "Get On the Beat," the anime's pulsating opening  theme, and "Off," its brooding closing song.

That's right, for 13 astounding years.

But then, we should factor in the big, fat, relevant fact that J-pop recording artist Crystal Kay (born 1986) was just a sweet, 16-year-old girl when the very mature-themed Parasite Dolls was released. Easy logic suggests that it was for a calculated reason – possibly a scandal  dodging one – that the then-high school student's name was withheld from the anime's closing  credits and substituted with a curiosity sparking question mark.

The same pseudo-pseudonym was also used in place of a vocalist credit on the liner notes and packaging for the Parasite Dolls soundtrack, as well as on the CD single release for "Get On  the Beat." And because of that, from the time of their release in 2003 up to the present, fans of  the two tracks that boast Kay's quite distinctive vocal talents have somehow remained pretty clueless.

Another factor in the confusion, though, is the name Michaelson that appears in the closing credits after the perplexing question mark. One of the main characters in the three-episode  anime is Sergeant Reiko Michaelson, a tough as nails detective on the A.D. Police force. But hers is not really the name of the singer featured on "Get On the Beat" and "Off." Nonetheless, on Last.FM, YouTube and other streaming media outposts, the two-dimensional cartoon character still gets credit for vocal performances by the living and breathing Crystal Kay.



When Parasite Dolls was released in 2003, the R&B and J-pop singer had two moderately  successful albums notched on her belt. Both were released by Kay’s longtime label Epic Records, the very label that licensed "Get On the Beat" and "Off" to the Parasite Dolls soundtrack. That same year in Japan, Kay charted her first hit album with Almost Seventeen, but it would still be a few more years before her chart topping reach extended to the eardrums of J-pop fans outside Japan. Perhaps another factor that contributed to the astounding lack of recognition of  her vocals on the Parasite Dolls soundtrack.

As was apparent at the time, the OVA that inspired Kazushi Miyakoda's compositions, including those with Kay, were not intended for the 'Fullmetal Alchemist' generation. But today, seeing as how this very mature J-pop star is now 'Almost Thirty', it's time to clue in the CK fans about these hidden gems in Crystal Kay's discography. J-pop music bloggers may also want to consider including the "Get On the Beat/Off" CD single as a soundtrack-related addendum to their CK music lists. But maybe after treating themselves to repeat listens first.


1.08.2016

'Godzilla vs. Pooter: A Tribute to American International Pictures' in G-Fan #110 (Nov 2015)


My Cooley High/blaxploitation-infused article "Godzilla vs. Pooter: A Tribute to American International Pictures" was featured in issue #110 of G-Fan magazine (which boasts a gorgeous cover painting by artist Bob Eggleton). If you're lucky, you may still be able to snag a minty fresh copy from your local comic book shop. If not, the ever reliable Oldies.com still has 'em in stock. Updated: You can also order your copy direct from the publisher who, amazingly, offers cheaper shipping rates than Oldies.com–even with it comin' from Canada.

11.07.2015

[Be Kind, Rewind™] The Anchor Bay Godzilla Movie Collection (Anchor Bay Ent., 1997)


Historically speaking, the Toho Master Collection DVD series (blogged about here) wasn't the first time that the Godzilla films of Japan's Toho Studios were given the serious home video treatment in America. A decade earlier, a shelf stomping collection of six Godzilla films was unleashed upon an unsuspecting marketplace by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 1997. 

It was in wide-reaching association with home video license holders StarMaker Video, R&G Video, Golden Books and New World Video that Anchor Bay released its very handsomely packaged Godzilla film collection on VHS cassette. The films included in the series were Son of Godzilla (1967), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster (1964), Godzilla 1985 (aka The Return of Godzilla, 1984), Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). 

At the tail end of the 1980s, several releases of the aforementioned films had already been made for the home video rental and retail markets by various distributors, including StarMaker. These regularly appeared on shelves at Blockbuster Video and in home entertainment specialty shops like Suncoast. But the presentment quality there often varied greatly. While some of the films came packaged in slipcases that were expertly designed using images lifted from the original Japanese promotional posters or production stills, others boasted amateurishly illustrated images that, while maybe having a kind of "shlock cinema" charm, only poured petrol on the pyre of associations made by people who equated Godzilla films with low quality Japanese movies made for children...and adults of dubious intellect.


The graphic treatment of Godzilla films in the Anchor Bay VHS releases, however, raised the bar to suggest that these imaginative and richly detailed sci-fi films made in Japan––yes, that featured actors in rubber suits, romping around on miniature landscapes––should be taken a bit more seriously. Perhaps to the point of simply seeing Godzilla films for what they were: an enduring global pop culture phenomenon and the longest running film franchise in history.

But there was a sizable profit incentive for Anchor Bay in making this series too. The release of this VHS tape collection hit the domestic marketplace the year before a new Godzilla film by New Line Cinema was scheduled for release in the summer of 1998. Anchor Bay's set was timed perfectly to coincide with the rekindled interest amongst old school Godzilla movie lovers, and the newly sparked interest in the next generation of "Big G" fans. 

In light of this timing, the Anchor Bay Godzilla film collection wasn't planned to be anything in the way of a definitive or chronologically sequenced set. But what the collection offered was a thoughtful, although somewhat random sampler, showcasing six of the fourteen Godzilla films made in Japan over a twenty-year span. The period in question streched from 1964––the middle of the Showa era of Godzilla films, which began in 1954––to 1984, the beginning of the Heisei era. And the effort put into this set by Anchor Bay made for an appealing collection that grabbed both the eyes and the retail dollars of home video shoppers. 


The fronts of the slipcases in Anchor Bay's Godzilla film collection boasted across the top portions of each "Gojira's" Americanized name, rendered in a style suggestive of the beautiful forms of Japanese brush writing. In the background appeared a recurring motif, comprised of a faded composite of Godzilla's head and torso and snippets of a Tokyo skyline culled from The Return of Godzilla production stills. Superimposed over the composite image on two of the six slipcases were two different images of Godzilla in the foreground, one of which also included Minilla (aka Son of Godzilla) for the film in which this character appeared. And superimposed over the composite on the covers of the other four releases were images of rival monsters Ghidorah, Megalon, Gigan, and Mechagodzilla.


Another motif worth focusing on in the slipcase design was the possibly overlooked phalanx of orange and red flames coming from the open mouth of the Godzilla figure on the cover of the Godzilla 1985 release. The flames were cleverly made to extend outwardly in east and west directions, along the bottoms of all six boxes, binding them together graphically with yet one more unifying design element. Appearing in a white typewriter font at the bottom of each slipcase was the title of each film. 

As is standard in slipcase design, the left side of the box prominently featured the title of each respective film. But the right side of the slipcase was reserved for something special. The right side of each box featured a de facto puzzle piece that, when lined up front to back with the other VHS tapes in the series, combined to form an impressive Godzilla 1985 poster-related display. 


With the advances in home entertainment since the late 1990s, when the Anchor Bay Godzilla movie collection was made, these films have since been released again in DVD format, all variously issued by different film license holders. But only one of the films included in the Anchor Bay collection, Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster, was also featured in Sony's 2008 Toho Master Collection DVD series. The overall absence of duplication by Sony benefited the owners the older Anchor Bay collection that may prefer still having at least some of their Godzilla flicks in analog format. Especially when, on the shelf to this day, they still make a rather smashing display.