The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
In the 1970s and '80s, Americans seemed somewhat hung up on finding warriors as cool as Japanese samurai and ninjas.
But back in the 1950s and '60s, it seems filmmakers knew the American equivalent: Gunslingers.
That, at least, is what we might derive from John Sturges' The Magnificent Seven (1960) and its source material, The Seven Samurai (1954). In both stories, a band of seven elite fighters is enlisted to protect communities besieged by marauders.
Samurai was written and directed by Japanese filmmaking legend Akira Kurosawa and is routinely included on lists of the greatest movies ever made. The Kentucky Theatre shows The Magnificent Seven on its Summer Classics series at 1:30 and 7:15 p.m. today. The theater actually showed the Seven Samurai as part of the Rosa Goddard International Film Festival last September, so if you saw the Kurosawa masterpiece last year, you can do a direct comparison of the big screen classics.
In most circles, Samurai fares better. While Magnificent Seven is seen as a classic western, it doesn't quite carry the ground-breaking, all-time great cachet of its Japanese counterpart. Having not been around when Magnificent debuted, it seems a little odd to have Yul Brynner as the leader of a band of gunslingers including Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn. All of them went on to noteworthy tough-guy careers, and while Brynner's filmography does include a number of Westerns (including the dreadful Return of the Seven in 1966), he is best known as the King of Siam and Pharaoh.
One thing that is undeniably classic about the Magnificent Seven is Elmer Bernstein's iconic, Oscar-nominated score.
I've included the trailers from both films, Magnificent Seven above and Seven Samurai below, if you want to do some trailer comparisons.
As we are lulled into late summer, it feels like the right time to take a look at some recent EPs:
Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken | Ampersand
The ampersand has always been a cute, lo, romantic, way to join parties, particularly those in love. William
Shakespeare may have penned it as Romeo and Juliet, but Romeo & Juliet is always the one that looks right. And Ampersand is an appropriate title for Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken's first duo effort. It is definitely romantic, though rarely cute. D&S are far beyond the puppy love of R&J. Ampersand is a chronicle of a couple that has had a few rough patches and fights, and even found that as ugly as those can be, perseverance over them can serve as confirmation that the bond is strong. This is an adult album, not in the sense that there's any R-rated material, but in the sense that people who are where Webb and McCracken are will most strongly identify with songs such as Watch Your Mouth, that ode to the affirming power of conflict which will have a familiar edge to Webb fans. If you've found Webb's solo material abrasive, this EP softens him, and it's a nice introduction to McCracken, if you haven't heard her before. The couple met when Webb was member of Caedmon's Call and he saw her playing at coffee shop near a recording studio. Ampersand is affirmation that they can make beautiful music together, particularly a cover of Bob Dylan's If Not for You.
Jars of Clay | Closer
This is our introduction to post-Essential Records Jars of Clay, and it's interesting, if not entirely
satisfying. While Jars' recent albums such as their 2006 masterpiece, Good Monsters, and live efforts have been trending toward more rootsy rock and acoustic sounds, this EP is very electronic, starting with the chirpy looping keyboard sounds of the title track. There are also heavily ornamented versions of Flood and Love Song for a Savior. The EP's closing track, Prisoner of Hope, sounds the most like a progression from Good Monsters, both lyrically and stylistically, as opposed to a departure or even return to some early career styles, which is what you hear in most of this disc. This is just a brief offering before Jars' new album, slated for release next year. In many ways, Closer leaves you wondering what to expect from indie Jars of Clay.
Speaking of indies: GRITS, which has carried the banner for Christian hip-hop for nearly a decade, is striking out on its own with its forthcoming album Reiterate. It will be their first disc on their own label, Revolution Art, and away from TobyMac's imprint, Gotee. Lest we think there's any friction there, T-Mac will lend his voice to Reiterate as will Jars of Clay's Dan Haseltine and Third Day's Mac Powell. The album drops Sept. 16.
U2 blast from the past: Many U2 fans' first encounters with the band was the Live Under a Blood Red Sky EP and video from Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheater. The pair are being rereleased Sept. 30 in a package that includes the remastered CD and the concert video on DVD for the first time. The new Live at Red Rocks DVD will feature several new tracks from the 1983 concert including Surrender, Two Hearts Beat as One and Out of Control.
Speaking of U2: St. Michael's Episcopal Church is holding a U2Charist, which is a Eucharist (communion) using the music of U2, at 5 p.m. Aug. 24. All the
funds will go to Espicopal Relief and Development, a member
of ONE, which U2's Bono founded to address poverty
worldwide. U2charists started in a Maryland (see the comments section for a little more info). St. Michael's officials believe this is the first time this has
been done in Lexington.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich