Winners & Losers Of 2007 (Part Five)

 
Winner:  Eddie Murphy
 
His critically acclaimed performance in the hit musical, Dreamgirls, earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.  He once again provided the voice of Donkey in the hugely popular Shrek The Third.  His February comedy, Norbit, earned 95 million dollars during its theatrical run.  And he became a father again.
 
Loser:  Eddie Murphy
 
He lost the Oscar, which he was favoured to win, to Alan Arkin.  Shrek The Third was not beloved by critics who preferred the earlier installments.  Norbit got terrible reviews.  And publicly, he denied paternity of ex-girlfriend Melanie Brown’s baby.
 
Winner:  Rock Band Reunions
 
Nostalgia has always been a potent marketing strategy for the music business as 2007 once again proved.  This year, there was a plethora of old bands coming together again for either a full-scale tour, a new album or both.  Some of these second comings (or third or fourth, depending on who we’re talking about) were welcome while others were not (did we really miss The Spice Girls that much?).  Regardless, it was a rare bright spot for an industry struggling to understand the stunning decline of CD and concert sales.  Here are the four reformations that mattered the most.
 
After nearly 30 years as a solo artist, Iggy Pop was ready to entertain the idea of a proper Stooges reunion, the band that has served as a useful prototype for all the cutting edge, hard rock acts that have followed their path of death-defying masochistic sex-drenched depravity.  After recording a number of tracks for his last solo album, 2003’s Skull Ring, Iggy was ready to make the first proper Stooges album since 1973’s seminal Raw Power.  Old bandmates, Ron and Scott Asheton, along with new recruit, bassist Mike Watt and even saxophonist Steve McKay (who previously appeared on the 1970 album, Fun House), worked up a batch of new material for a new CD.  The Weirdness is the result.  Produced by Steve Albini (who recorded Nirvana’s In Utero among other notable albums from the ’90s), it’s a tight, energetic offering with no filler.  Iggy keeps the crooning to a minimum while mostly ranting about people he can’t stand and hot babes that turn him on.  Although reviews were mixed and sales were typically sluggish (they’ve always been an acquired taste), The Weirdness is a very strong offering from a band few ever thought would get back together.
 
Crowded House was another surprise reunion.  Some time after the suicide of founding drummer Paul Hester, according to Wikipedia, Neil Finn was preparing to make his next solo album.  He asked former bandmate Nick Seymour to participate.  At some point during the sessions, it was agreed that the new record should be a Crowded House album, rather than a solo offering.  Mark Hart, who joined the band in the early ’90s, soon came onboard and the band formally announced their plans in January.  Former Beck drummer Matt Sherrod was asked to replace Hester after the band held auditions for three weeks the following month.
 
In the summer, the band released their first proper studio album in 13 years.  (It’s sweetly dedicated to Hester.  The back cover features pictures of the surviving bandmates plus an empty chair representing his absence.  A touching tribute.)  Time On Earth, produced by Steve Lillywhite, presents one moving arrangement after another.  One song, Silent House, was co-written with The Dixie Chicks.  Other standouts include Even A Child, Say That Again and People Are Like Suns.  The critically acclaimed CD has inspired the band to create more music.  And if that weren’t enough, there’s a box set of rarities coming, as well.
 
Billy Corgan never could find happiness creatively after the demise of The Smashing Pumpkins.  He fronted the short-lived Zwan (which made exactly one album) and released a solo record that wasn’t nearly as respected as Siamese Dream or Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness.  In 2005, the Chicago native took out an ad in The Chicago Tribune announcing he was bringing his old band back.  Unfortunately, guitarist James Iha and bassist D’Arcy Wretzky weren’t returning.  But drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, who was also part of Zwan, was definitely onboard.
 
It turns out half a reunion is better than no reunion at all.  Chamberlain and Corgan went into the studio and created Zeitgeist, a surprisingly good album that spawned the memorable radio hit, Tarantula.  Along with a couple of hired guns, the new Pumpkins played a killer set at Live Earth.  And, if that weren’t enough, just like Crowded House, more music is on the way.
 
But, without question, the biggest reunion of the year involved The Police.  In celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Fall Out, their first single, Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland announced a full-scale tour.  Yet another greatest hits package, this one a self-titled double disc, surfaced.  They opened the telecast of this year’s Grammy Awards with a trippy, slightly reworked version of their late-70s classic, Roxanne.  They closed Live Earth with a strong set.  And they went on to generate the most revenue of any live act this year.  While Andy Summers has alluded to the possibility of the greatest rock trio in history making new music together, don’t hold your breath.  These guys are notorious for infighting.  To be safe, let’s take a wait-and-see-approach on that, shall we?
 
Loser:  The Republican Party
 
What happened to The GOP?  Their elected members were supposed to be fiscally responsible and socially libertarian.  Not any longer.  They were once stewards of the environment and a lot more sensible on foreign policy.  Not any longer.
 
Hypocrisy, endless pandering to extremists, double lives, wasteful spending, hateful rhetoric, chronic dishonesty, stubbornness, immaturity, paranoia, xenophobia, incompetence, criminality.  That’s the state of America’s scandalous political right wing in the new century. 
 
Among this year’s lowlights:  Disgraced then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ absurdly faulty memory regarding the suspicious firings of a large number of government lawyers; Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s creepy bathroom antics; “Scooter” Libby’s conviction in the Valerie Plame case; President Bush’s moronic commuting of his sentence; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s belated revelation of infidelity at the time of the Clinton Impeachment fiasco; Senator David Vitter’s daliances with the DC Madam’s call girls; the FBI investigating Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens’ shady business dealings; Iraq War architect Paul Wolfowitz caught giving his then-girlfriend a job at the World Bank; those shredded White House email messages; the ongoing torture of terrorist suspects; The President and his supporters getting caught overhyping the supposed Iran threat; the ongoing misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan; all those missing billions in Iraq; the shameful treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed; Mike Huckabee’s idiotic remarks about AIDS & homosexuality as well as his highly questionable push to release a dangerous offender because one of his victims was a relative of Bill Clinton (the offender ended up committing more crimes, as a result); Rudy Guiliani’s deceptive 9/11 rhetoric and his continued association with numerous shady characters; Mitt Romney and John McCain’s transparent pandering to religious extremists, thanks to calculated flip-flopping; the continuing fallout from the Jack Abramoff scandal; Blackwater’s malfeasance; the vetos of numerous bills Americans support like SCHIP; Republican obstruction of Democratic proposals and on and on.  (That last link features scandals from before 2007, as well.)
 
Is it any wonder why so many members of this party are resigning and why many traditionally conservative voters are seriously looking at supporting The Democrats next year?  Can you blame them?
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 16, 2007
11:05 p.m.
 
CORRECTION:  A commenter correctly points out that The Police’s first single was actually Fall Out, not Roxanne.  The error I made has been replaced with this necessary correction.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, December 17, 2007
2:15 p.m.
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Published in: on December 16, 2007 at 11:07 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. The Police’s first single was actually a driving punk tune called Fall Out.  The tour was indeed to mark the 30th anniversary of its release.


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