Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the tag “Audiobook”

Audible Review: A Purple Place For Dying

The Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald inspired numerous thriller and mystery writers, so I thought it would be a great idea to check out these books for myself. The audiobooks for the Travis McGee series are exclusive to Audible, and I recently completed the third book: A Purple Place For Dying. Each book includes a color in the title, making for unique and interesting names. As with the previous two entries, this novel was highly enjoyable.

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Backstage Pass by Paul Stanley

Paul Stanley has always been my favorite member of KISS. I’ve had the good fortune of doing a cover story interview with him, taking part in a backstage guitar meet and greet with the Starchild a few years back, meeting Paul numerous times during KISS meet and greets backstage, interviewing his son Evan for his first U.S. cover story, and much more. His music, personality, and sense of style are appealing and admirable. I loved his first book, Face The Music, so I was eager to check out Backstage Pass.

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Audiobook Review: Breathe To Succeed

Breathe To Succeed is focused on the power of mindfulness and owning one’s breath. As someone who does DDP Yoga every day, I fully understand the power of my breath. While this is an important concept to understand and master, it doesn’t warrant an audiobook that is nearly five hours long. The narrator does a fine job with the material, and the author clearly cares about the subject matter. However, I think it would be better suited for a TED Talk or a podcast episode, not a full-length book. Therefore, I can’t recommend it unless you know absolutely nothing about owning your breath and are willing to sit through a nearly-five-hour discussion about it. If that sounds appealing, this is the book for you. If not, you should read a more comprehensive book on mindfulness.

Audible Review: Is Wrestling Fixed? by Bill Apter

I recently listened to the audiobook Is Wrestling Fixed? I Didn’t Know It Was Broken! by Bill Apter. This Audible Original was highly enjoyable for a variety of reasons. First, Bill narrates the book himself, making it infinitely more charming and compelling. Second, I grew up watching professional wrestling (and still do) and I fondly recall buying many of the magazines Bill was affiliated with, including Pro Wrestling Illustrated, The Wrestler, and Inside Wrestling. Prior to the internet, these magazines were the best way to see amazing photos and read articles about my favorite professional wrestlers, and this was during the 1990s when the WWF (now WWE), WCW, and ECW were hotter than ever. It was a magical time to be a fan and this book captures that era, and many others, from Bill’s perspective.

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Audible Review: John Lithgow’s Stories by Heart

I love stories in all forms, from books to movies to TV shows to video games to music. Stories bring us together, move us, and can inspire self-reflection. Several years back, I discovered how audiobooks can make a good story great by having a deft narrator breathe it to life. John Lithgow is one such narrator. His iconic voice has served him well in a variety of roles, including the narrator of his autobiography entitled Drama, which I bought through Audible and thoroughly enjoyed. With this in mind, I was eager to listen to Stories By Heart, an Audible Original that’s part of the Audible Theater collection of audiobooks.

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A Conversation With Janis Ian

Janis Ian

I recently had the opportunity to speak with one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all-time, the two-time Grammy award-winning folk music legend Janis Ian. She will be performing on Saturday, August 16 at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and you can find Janis’ other tour dates on her official website. Below is my interview with Janis. I hope you enjoy it.

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Audiobook Review: Three Jack Reacher Novellas

Three Jack Reacher Novellas by Lee Child_cover

Those who know me well are aware of my love for audiobooks. Like a lot of people, I lead a busy life and being able to listen to a book, as opposed to having to sit down and read it, means I can read a whole lot more. And it means that I can make mundane activities – brushing my teeth, walking to work, getting dressed – more enjoyable and productive. Therefore, the majority of the books I’m going to read this year will be audiobooks.

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Book Review – Face The Music: A Life Exposed by Paul Stanley

Paul Stanley - Face The Music: A Life ExposedWhile traveling last week, I downloaded and listened to the audiobook version of Face The Music: A Life Exposed by KISS frontman Paul Stanley. Paul has always been my favorite member of KISS, so I eagerly awaited the release of this book and having him narrate it felt like getting to know him over a cup of coffee…a more-than-12-hour cup of coffee. Despite its substantial length – it’s the longest KISS autobiography to date, Paul’s honest and unfiltered account of his life and career make this a revealing and inspiring book. And the lively narration helps breath life into the words, which makes for a refreshing and engaging listen. If you’re a KISS fan, or just a fan of great music autobiographies, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Face The Music: A Life Exposed. It may have taken Paul Stanley 40 years to write an autobiography, but it was well worth the wait.

Movie Review – The Great Gatsby

The Great GatsbyNot remembering whether or not I had to read the book in school as a child, I decided to listen to the audiobook version of The Great Gatsby narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal. Like the recent film adaptation, the first two thirds were interesting and the last third was very good. The recently released movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is the fifth cinematic interpretation of the classic novel – the first being in 1926.

What struck me when the movie started was the almost overwhelming amount of fast cutting used by the Director, Baz Luhrmann. The constant change in direction and dramatic zooms, not to mention the overdone computer-generated imagery, made the beginning of The Great Gatsby feel more like a music video than a film. It was as if Luhrmann felt the audience would lose interest without all this dramatic flair.

And let’s talk about the music. The Great Gatsby is supposed to be set in the 1920s. I understand that the producers wanted it to appeal to the younger generations, but including music by Jay-Z and Beyonce didn’t mesh well with the subject matter. The score itself was good, and the song “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Ray was gorgeous. But when I think about the botched soundtrack, one scene in particular comes to mind: At one point in the film Gatsby and Nick Carraway are driving over a bridge and to their right is what can be best described as a pimp and a gaggle of scantily-clad “women.” Rap music is blasting from the pimp-mobile and there are countless bottles of champagne strewn about the car. Not only did this disrupt the entire scene, it was superfluous. Great composers like Michael Giacchino understand that a soundtrack isn’t supposed to overpower a scene, it’s meant to enhance it. Unfortunately, The Great Gatsby’s soundtrack served as a jarring distraction.

The acting was very good across the board. Toby Maguire turned in a solid performance, as did the rest of the supporting cast. But the star was clearly Leonardo DiCaprio, who did a terrific job of inhabiting a mysterious man of wealth. And for those who read the book, you’ll be glad to hear that the phrase “old sport” was as overused in the movie as it was in the novel. By the last third of the film the lousy music and chaotic cinematography was cast aside and the story was the focal point. This was when The Great Gatsby was at its best. I don’t want to spoil the plot for those unfamiliar with the story, but you can rest assured that the movie’s epic conclusion will leave you satisfied.

So, should you go see The Great Gatsby? Sure, just don’t expect it to be the film of the year. It’s a slightly misguided interpretation of a classic novel  that showcases one of the best leading men in the business. And if it gets you to read or re-read the book upon which its based, then that’s an even better reason to see it.

Below is an interview with Leonardo DiCaprio about the film from 60 Minutes and the music video for “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Ray.


When I Met Janis Ian

Me and Janis IanLast week I attended a Janis Ian concert at World Cafe Live in Wilmington, Delaware. The venue, a renovated vaudeville theater, was beautiful. There was a bar on the far end of the vast room, and in between it and the stage were tables of six to eight people. This communal atmosphere made for a great, conversational environment. Within minutes of arriving, I got to know my neighbors and what brought them to the show. Some had seen Janis many times, while others, like myself, were newbies.

World Cafe Live at The QueenPrior to the music starting, the attentive and polite wait staff took drink and food orders. Just as my salad arrived, Diana Jones, the opening act, took the stage. With a guitar in hand, she told us how grateful she was to be touring with Janis and the story behind her first song, which escapes me. What struck me was her unique voice and interesting lyrics. If you’re into folk/country music, she’s worth checking out.

As Dina’s set came to a close, she introduced Janis Ian and provided backup vocals on her opening song. After striking the final chord, Janis welcomed the crowd and launched into “From Me to You,” a track off her best-known album, Between the Lines. This fiery number was deftly sung by Janis, who brought the song’s complex vocal arrangement to life with her still-magnificent voice.

World Cafe Live at The Queen - InsideJanis weaved in humorous and insightful stories in between the songs that kept the crowd’s rapt attention. She talked and sung about her autobiography, for which she recently won her second Grammy, and her displeasure with the United States dragging its feet when it comes to granting equal marriages rights to homosexuals. Janis married her long-time partner, Pat, in 2003 and wrote the song “Married in London” to talk about this sensitive issue. One of the lyrics that set the crowd into a fit of laughter was, ” We wed in Toronto, the judge said ‘Amen,’ and when we got home we were single again.”

As expected, Janis performed her biggest hits, including “At Seventeen” and “Society’s Child.” She also brought Diana Jones back onstage to perform a wonderful, new song, “I’m Still Standing Here.” For your enjoyment, I’ve included a video of this performance. Janis ended the show by sitting on a stool with her guitar and singing, without a microphone, “Jesse.” Her voice was in rare form as it effortlessly bent notes and conveyed the raw emotion contained within the song’s poignant lyrics. As her final guitar chords reverberated throughout the silent theater, the crowd rose to its feet and met her with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Autographed Janis Ian AlbumAfter the show, Janis took the time to meet a long line of fans and sign memorabilia. When I approached her, I told Janis how I recently discovered her music and that “Take Me Walking in the Rain” was my favorite song of hers. We also spoke about me being a writer and the novel I’m working on. After taking a photo with her, Janis said to me, “Send me your first novel when it’s done.” I beamed as I walked out the door, realizing what a grateful and positive person she is. Despite the great fame and success she’s achieved, Janis values her fans and gives them her all. After meeting her, I have more respect for what she does and who she is. Like the songs she’s sung, Janis Ian’s not done. This train still runs.

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