Sound Check: Different shows for different folks

By Ricky Flake

This week's April Fool's column kicks off with two DVDS: one about the career of hard-working East Coast rockers Twisted Sister, the other about the solo album that made Michael Jackson a star apart from his famous brothers.

'We Are Twisted ... Sister!' Andrew Horn (Eagle Rock Entertainment, HHHH 1/2)

This film began theatrical showings in mid-February (not around here). The DVD (film on one, bonus stuff on two)/Blu-Ray/VOD/digital release date was Feb. 23.

The band charged out with a combo of guts and glitter, establishing them (Jay Jay French, Dee Snider, Eddie Ojeda, Mark "The Animal" Mendoza and the late A.J. Pero) as one of the staples of glam rock, metal and hard rock with anthems like "We're Not Gonna Take It."

However, they weren't an overnight success. They toiled with various personnel in Long Island suburban bars for 10 years before hitting it big. Director Andrew Horn uses interviews with the band, fans, managers and more to tell the story. The days of platinum records had passed by 1987, but they're still a tremendous live band playing festivals around the world. Fans and curious folks need this package.

'Off The Wall,' Michael Jackson (Epic/Legacy, HHHHH)

This Feb. 26 CD/DVD release features a documentary by Spike Lee that purports to show MJ's journey from Motown to "Off The Wall." The accompanying music shows why he was able to change labels and move beyond the hits composed by others to this sophisticated palette helmed by producer Quincy Jones in the days prior to ProTools and computer-assisted recording. Some of my favorite songs were co-produced by Jackson ("Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Working Day And Night") along with "Rock With You," which doesn't rock in the traditional sense, but uses real musicians. MJ's oft-parodied vocal tics began here, and this is where he began to come into his own as a songwriter, though he wrote only three on the album.

The film follows Jackson through the Motown years (the brothers left because they wanted self-production or choice of producers), the Epic years with two successful Jacksons albums and onward. Lots of good, old footage of the Jackson 5, "Ben," "The Wiz," meeting Jones and a track-by-track examination of the album that established MJ as a solo artist are the centerpiece of this package. His hard work, dedication, observation and determination was always at the forefront from beginning to end.

Next week

The upcoming column will feature my reviews of producer Glyn Johns' autobiography and a documentary about Louisiana music.

Ricky Flake, music fan and former punk rocker, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at flakericky@gmail.com.