Way Back 2017

February 5, 2017 - Temptations, Simone, Steppenwolf, Piaf, Zombies and Welk Invade TV Ads

Classic '60s hits in Super Bowl LI commercials have reached a new level of brevity. A ten second spot for Amazon Echo (the artificial intelligence gadget with the voice of "Alexa") ends with two seconds from the instantly-recognizable intro of "My Girl" by The Temptations. The latest "Go Further" short from Ford Motors (will the cat ever get his head out of the tissue box?) plays like a lighthearted public service announcement set to Nina Simone's 1967 recording of "I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)." Mercedes-AMG's Super Bowl entry stars acting award-winners Peter Fonda and Dale Dickey; the biker bar's jukebox is stocked with multiple copies of "Born to Be Wild" by Steppenwolf and Easy Rider star Fonda has apparently traded in his Harley motorcycle for a sporty Mercedes convertible.

Other TV ads in recent weeks include songs by French songbird Edith Piaf ("Non Je Ne Regrette Rien" for Dove Chocolates), The Zombies ("She's Not There" for Kohler's "Composed Faucet Collection") and "Champagne Music" man Lawrence Welk ("Calcutta," his number one hit from exactly 56 years ago, is now apparently millennial-cool enough for Facebook Live).

January 17, 2017 - Hidden Figures Rocks the Rhythm, Bye Bye Man Slashes It

The number one movie in American theaters is Hidden Figures...and that means classic rhythm and blues has returned to the top of the charts! The award-nominated film starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe about the contributions of African-American women to the space race offers an intriguing selection of recordings from the '50s and early '60s. Ruth Brown's "Have a Good Time" from 1952, "Don't Take My Whiskey Away From Me" by Wynonie Harris from '54 and "You Say You Love Me," an obscure 1957 single by The Hearts, are the more unusual choices; Miles Davis's "So What," the lead track from his career-peak 1959 album Kind of Blue and two soulful early '60s hits, "Sticks and Stones" by Ray Charles and "Mighty Good Lovin'" by Motown's Miracles, round out the soundtrack.

Last week, heavily-panned horror flick The Bye Bye Man went into a wide release that will likely narrow considerably next week. One rocking '60s smash, "Psychotic Reaction," has been dragged into its abyss, but unlike the film and its doomed teenage victims, Count Five will survive.

January 3, 2017 - Manchester, Jackie, Fences, Passengers, Why Him? and Sing Bring Classic Tunes to the Cineplex

Moviemakers have dipped into the vaults to close out '16 with a diverse variety of vintage recordings designed to enhance our theatergoing outings in the New Year. That's a mouthful, and so is this list! Manchester by the Sea gives the impression '50s R&B is big in northeastern Massachusetts; the Oscar-bound drama starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Wlliams features two gems from that era, "Let the Good Times Roll" by Shirley and Lee and "At My Front Door" by The El Dorados. Jackie, which focuses on the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination, points out his fondness for the Broadway musical Camelot (Alan Jay Lerner, who adapted the show's script, was friends with JFK while attending Harvard years earlier). First lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) likened the president's image to King Arthur's Camelot...cue the title track by Richard Burton!

Denzel Washington's award-worthy director-actor turn in Fences places two superior jazz-pop performances on its soundtrack: "You Don't Know What Love Is" by Dinah Washington, from 1955, and Jimmy Scott's 1969 recording of "Day By Day." Meanwhile, hibernation pods malfunction in Passengers! The playlist of the future still detects mid-20th-century 0s and 1s: Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," "Call Me Irresponsible" by Bobby Darin, the 2002 JXL remix of Elvis Presley's 1968 hit "A Little Less Conversation" and delectable April Stevens' 1960 album cut "Do it Again."

Inanity overcomes the cast of Why Him? while "Down on the Corner" by Creedence Clearwater Revival plays in the background. Animated songfest Sing features the original version of "Gimme Some Lovin'," the 1967 hit by The Spencer Davis Group; among the film's earliest current-star-performed selections, "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight" (from The Beatles' Abbey Road) is impressively rendered by Jennifer Hudson, The Shocking Blue's "Venus" gets a karaoke-Bananarama-style sendup by Reese Witherspoon (with Nick Kroll) and Paul Anka's "My Way" is warbled by Seth MacFarlane...but didn't we all have more fun watching Sal Valentinetti's audition of the song on America's Got Talent this past summer?

My Girl She's Not There Psychotic Reaction Let the Good Times Roll