Archive for February, 2011

Knicks 91, Heat 86

Posted: February 28, 2011 in Knicks

After a dumbfounding loss to the Cavaliers Friday night, the Knicks rebounded in a big way tonight with an impressive victory over the Miami Heat.
And the Knicks won with defense, a rarity in the Mike D’Antoni era. Down the stretch, the Knicks played like they wanted it more, hitting huge shots and coming up with big stops.
Chauncey Billups, who was almost an afterthought in the big Carmelo deal, continues to show what a tremendous floor general can do for a team. He’s a leader, and he nailed a huge three to give the Knicks the lead with a minute left.
Amare Stoudemire cemented the win with a huge rejection of LeBron James in the closing seconds, a great play during crunch time.
The Knicks really showed me something tonight, as it looked like they would get blown out early. The Heat raced to a 15-point lead in the second quarter before Billups nailed a three to start a nice Knicks comeback just before halftime. Bill Walker’s three capped a 16-0 run to give the Knicks a 52-51 lead at the break. From there, the game went back and forth until the exciting final minute. A fun game to watch, a win the Knicks hopefully can build from.


Knicks 114, Bucks 108

Posted: February 24, 2011 in Knicks

The Carmelo Anthony era for the Knicks began on a positive note, as Melo scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help New York top Milwaukee tonight at the Garden.
Melo came out a bit tight (as one would expect) and wasn’t that efficient offensively (10-25 shooting) but when the chips were down, he made the big shots. Melo scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, including a few key buckets when Milwaukee had trimmed the Knicks’ lead.
Not to be forgotten in this trade was the addition of Chauncey Billups. The veteran standout had a great Knicks debut, scoring 21 points and dishing out eight assists to go along with six boards. He went 12 for 12 from the foul line. The guy is just money when you need a big shot or key free throws. Amar’e fouled out tonight and also drew another technical. One more tech and he misses a game. He scored 19 points, and it’s going to take some time for he and Melo to get on the same page.
Tonight’s X factor was definitely Toney Douglas, who scored a game-high 23 off the bench on 10 of 12 shooting.
Nice win overall by the Knickerbockers, who travel to Cleveland Friday night to take on the hapless Cavs. The Knicks can’t get caught looking ahead to Sunday’s Heat game, as the Knicks lost the last time they played the Cavs.

Knicks acquire Melo in blockbuster trade

Posted: February 22, 2011 in Knicks

It’s finally over with and in the end, the Knicks got their man. While I have a bit of a problem with how much the Knicks gave up when they likely were bidding against themselves, I’m certainly happy with the end result – perennial All-Star Carmelo Anthony is a Knick.
The Knicks acquired Anthony tonight along with Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Renaldo Balkman and Anthony Carter for Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, a 2014 first-round pick and second-round picks in 2012 and 2013.
The Knicks also sent resident fat-ass Eddy Curry and his equally fat contract along with Anthony Randolph to the Minnesota Timberwolves for guard Corey Brewer. The inclusion of Brewer is a bonus I wasn’t expecting, as he’s a solid defender who will help the bench or be moved in another deal before the deadline.
The only uneasiness I get from the deal was the way the Knicks failed to use their leverage in the deal. Sure, the Nuggets and the media were all floating out the New Jersey Nets as a possible destination for Anthony, but it was pretty evident he was never going to sign the contract extension there. So, the Knicks kept adding pieces and picks. I honestly feel this deal could have been done for Felton, Chandler and one of Gallinari or Mosgov, not both. I believe Knicks owner James Dolan took control of these negotiations and with the help of his apparent love interest Isiah Thomas, took this one away from Knicks veteran GM Donnie Walsh. I hope I’m wrong here, but this deal reeks of Isiah.
Oh well, I’m very excited to see how Melo and Amare play together. Going to be a fun ride. Also glad to stop hearing about the trade rumors, they were hurting my productivity at work!

Knicks owner James Dolan is a moron

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Knicks

As talks between the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks have heated up regarding Carmelo Anthony, a sad truth has re-emerged for Knicks fans – owner James Dolan is a buffoon who still seems to listen to the idiot to beat all idiots, Isiah Thomas.
Dolan has seemingly assumed control of the negotiations with the Nuggets, undermining GM Donnie Walsh, who isn’t extended beyond this season. Walsh had been skillfully holding his cards, waiting for the perfect deal and biding his time, knowing full well that Carmelo Anthony wants no part of the Nets (who the Nuggets seem to be using to jack up the Knicks’ asking price).
The Knicks’ latest offer of Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and a first-round pick is more than fair, but now the Nuggets seem to want promising young center Timofey Mozgov as well. I would tell the Nuggets to go F themselves, because if there was a deal to be made with the Nets, they already would have done it, since it seemed to be better (including four first-round picks). Dolan undoubtedly will swoop in and add Mozgov to the package.
While I’m a fan of Anthony, I’m also a bit leery of him. Guy doesn’t play much defense and jacks up a ton of shots to put up his points. He is however, a good closer, and would take a lot of pressure off Amar’e Stoudemire. But at what cost? The Knicks can’t gut their roster and get rid of all their promising young players, especially since the Nets are a paper threat and nothing else. I could be wrong on this, but I really believe the Nets and Nuggets would have made this trade already if Anthony had given assurances he’d sign an extension there. He hasn’t, so the Nets aren’t really in the picture. Then again, this situation seems to change daily and Carmelo wants his money.
Either way, I hope it’s over. But if the end result of this is the resignation of Walsh and the return of Isiah Thomas, this deal is a loss, Melo or no Melo.

As a lifelong Beatles fan, I’m interested in any Beatle-related project. Recently (and I’ve reviewed several of the releases here), I’ve purchased several great releases from the Beatles’ Apple label. Many of these albums had direct involvement from individual Beatles (and in some cases, multiple Beatles).
The latest album up for discussion is one of the two recorded for Apple by funk and soul master/piano ace Billy Preston.
That’s the Way God Planned It was released in 1969 and was produced by George Harrison. George also plays guitar throughout the record along with buddy Eric Clapton. If that wasn’t enough for star power, Keith Richards turns up on bass and Cream’s Ginger Baker pounds the skins. A classic rock supergroup indeed, as Preston’s piano/keyboard/organ work is legendary, as he was one of the few people who could say they were prominent contributors on Beatles and Rolling Stones records. Preston also forged a solid solo career in the 1970s with hits like “Will it Go Round in Circles,” “Nothin from Nothin” and “Outta Space.”
Those hits came after his Apple days, which saw his first vocal efforts after years of instrumental-only releases. Preston acquits himself quite nicely as a singer, with a soulful style to go along with his masterful keyboard work.
That’s the Way God Planned It showcases his skills nicely, whether its on rock pieces like “Do What You Want,” gospel on the title track or soulful R&B ballads like “Morning Star.”
It’s a record well worth seeking out if you enjoy kick-ass piano playing, funk, gospel or rock. He covers all the bases here and does it well. And the follow-up Encouraging Words is said to be even better. Haven’t gotten that one yet, but I will certainly be picking it up in the future.

Sod rating: ****

Knicks 102, Hawks 90

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Knicks

For the first time in 10 years, the Knicks head into the All-Star break with a winning record.
Amar’e Stoudemire scored 23 points to help the Knicks beat the Atlanta Hawks for the first time in three tries this season, a convincing 102-90 win at Madison Square Garden.
Danilo Gallinari, who may have played in his final game as a Knick, contributed 17 points and nine rebounds. Raymond Felton added 13 points and 11 assists for New York.
Gallinari and possibly Felton could be involved in a blockbuster trade for Denver superstar Carmelo Anthony and veteran point guard Chauncey Billups.
At 28-26, the Knicks are just one win away from matching last year’s season total. The team has clearly improved, but likely needs another superstar like Anthony to team up with Amar’e Stoudemire and lead the Knicks to greatness down the road. I’ve grown attached to Gallinari, but would certainly part with him in a trade for Melo. Would prefer the Knicks hold on to guys like Landry Fields and Timofey Mozgov. If Denver takes a trade of Felton, Gallo, Eddy Curry’s expiring contract and a first round pick/or Anthony Randolph, that would be great. Can’t completely wipe away the team’s depth though. Will be an interesting week, that’s for sure.

There was a time I fell into the naive segment of Beatles fandom who believed John Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono was a big factor in dissolving the band.
I also was pretty dismissive of Yoko’s merits as an artist, particularly as a musician, without ever really listening to her music and investigating what it was John found so groundbreaking about her work. I used to think it was just John’s blind love for Yoko which made him be such a staunch advocate of her work, but as the old Beatles song goes, I should have known better.
And while the chances of Yoko reading this are almost as likely as me winning the lottery tomorrow, I’d still like to issue a public apology for the ignorance of my youth.
As I’ve delved into Yoko’s work, I’ve found much to like. I’m fast becoming a big fan, actually.
Yoko’s first real foray into rock came with the 1970 release of Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. She and John had released a few avant garde sound experiments in the previous two years, but here Yoko fronts what amounts to a kick-ass garage band: John on guitar, Ringo Starr on drums and longtime Beatle friend Klaus Voormann on bass.
An advance warning to anyone seeking out this release: it’s a far cry from anything the Beatles ever did, yet it’s unbelievably interesting all the same.
The band often times plays with ferocious intensity, particularly on the opening track ‘Why.’
Yoko, who would eventually write more conventional rock songs on later releases, really gives her voice a workout on this album. It’s not so much singing as screaming, but her voice conveys such raw emotion even though there aren’t really lyrics per se. On ‘Why,’ Yoko basically screams ‘Why’ in many different ways, holding it out longer and also saying it in shorter bursts. It was during this era that John and Yoko had taken ‘primal scream’ therapy, a sort of psychological exorcism in a way where one expresses deep-down emotions by ‘screaming it out.’ I’m probably over-simplifying the therapy, but that’s the basic gist of it. On John’s companion album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, he employs some intense screaming of his own on tracks like ‘Mother’ and ‘Well Well Well.’
While John called that album his ‘primal scream album’, Yoko’s is even more true to that feel.
On ‘Why,’ you almost feel a part of her primal scream therapy, as her searing vocals seem to convey her releasing emotions about something bad that has happened to her. You feel anger, sadness, frustration all at once, and the music backing it is appropriate. John really gets the guitar going at full blast, the backing track almost sounds grungeish, predating the genre by 20 years. The next track ‘Why Not’ is the flipside to ‘Why’. It’s a nearly 10-minute slow-burning blues track, and Yoko’s vocals are certainly toned down. If ‘Why’ is the realization and vocalization of something gone terribly wrong in one’s life, ‘Why Not’ is the coming to terms and dealing with the problem.
The next track is my favorite, the spacey, trance-like “Greenfield Morning I Pushed An Empty Baby Carriage All Over the City.” It’s definitely got an Eastern feel going in the beginning, before the band settles into a steady groove. Yoko’s vocals are mesmerizing here, seeming to portray a sense of loss (maybe from the recent miscarriages she and John went through). It’s powerful stuff and proof you don’t need a lot of lyrics in a song to bring real feelings through.
‘AOS’ is the only track done here not including Lennon, Starr and Voormann, as it was recorded two years earlier with the Ornette Coleman Jazz Quartet. It’s interesting, but a bit long for my taste and I find myself missing the band. They return on the album’s final two tracks, “Touch Me” and “Paper Shoes.” The final track, “Paper Shoes” is another favorite of mine. It starts out with nearly two minutes of sound effects, basically of a train chugging along the tracks from a distance. Ringo’s manic bass drum eventually takes over for the train sound, with Yoko’s vocals soaring over top of the menacing beat. “Touch Me” stops and starts and stops again, speeding up and slowing down at will. The bonus tracks on the cd version are pretty good as well, especially an early version of “Open Your Box.” It’s pretty funky and fits well with the rest of the album. The 16-minute “The South Wind” gets old after awhile, but still is worthwhile to hear John and Yoko basically coming up with something on the spot. John noodles around with his acoustic guitar to produce some strange sounds while Yoko vocalizes.
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band was heavily panned upon its release in 1970. It appears the music establishment wasn’t ready for something so abrasive, so bold. Also, there was a great deal of people still pissed off about the Beatles’ breakup and a good many of those placing the blame squarely on Yoko. But as time has gone on, many punk musicians and prominent female rockers cited Yoko’s early work as an influence. The Allmusic album guide gave it 4 1/2 stars and praised its cutting-edge aesthetic. It’s no easy listening, that’s for sure. And the screaming can be a little offputting at first for the uninitiated. But once you really get into the record, you find yourself listening to it again and again, as there really aren’t too many (if any) like it. And Beatles fans should find it interesting to hear John really let loose on the guitar and Ringo pound on the skins like a man on a mission. I’m very glad I gave this album a chance. Open your mind, and you’ll find the same.

Sod rating: **** 1/2

Clippers 116, Knicks 108

Posted: February 10, 2011 in Knicks

As been the case for much of the new year, the Knicks put up a disappointing performance. This time, they laid an egg against an inferior opponent at home, falling 116-108 to the L.A. Clippers tonight. Although super rookie Blake Griffin had a nice game, the Knicks were burned late in this one by first-round bust Randy Foye, who hit three after three in the fourth quarter to cut off a nice Knicks run.
After a solid start (Knicks led by 1 after 1), the Knicks fell into a lull for much of the second and third quarters, eventually falling behind by 17 late in the third. This is becoming an alarming trend with this team, and although they usually come back to make a game of things in the fourth, ultimately they don’t play enough defense to make the comeback complete.
Tonight, I place a good deal of the blame on coach Mike D’Antoni. Young 7-footer Timofey Mozgov had 18 points and six boards through three quarters, yet didn’t even sniff the floor in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Knicks had to double-team Griffin because Wilson Chandler couldn’t guard him, leaving Foye wide open time and again. A bigger lineup would have allowed the Knicks to play Griffin man-up, but D’Antoni just doesn’t seem to get it. He loves to play small ball, and so the Knicks get killed on the offensive glass and leave guys on the perimeter open because they’re forced to double-team people.
It’s getting old, and now they face the Lakers Friday night. That’s a sure loss, which will drop the Knicks to 26-26, which is about right. They need to make that trade for Carmelo Anthony soon. This team is playing like a Dead Team Walking since all the trade rumors started, it would be nice to have the move done and proceed with the rest of the season. Although knowing the Knicks, they’ll probably whiff on Melo like they did with LeCon, further exasperating a fan base already weary from a decade of losing. Get this trade done, Donnie Walsh!

Mavericks 114, Knicks 97

Posted: February 3, 2011 in Knicks

So, tonight’s Knicks game pretty much sucked. When this team isn’t hitting 3-pointers, they’re as bad as any squad in the league, save maybe the Cavaliers. The Knicks sprinted out to a 34-27 lead after a quarter, then pretty much crapped the bed the rest of the way, especially in the third quarter.
Down 56-52 at half, the Mavs started the third quarter with a 28-6 run to take the Knicks out of the game. Amar’e Stoudemire disappeared after a strong start, and the Knicks clanked three after three off the rim, and that was basically it. It was so bad, guys like Andy Rautins and Anthony Randolph actually got off the bench late in the game.
Don’t look now, but the Sixers are just three games back of the Knicks for the No. 6 spot in the East. The Knicks have two games this week against Philly, so we’ll see how they respond.
Bottom line, this team doesn’t have the depth to do much in the playoffs. They also don’t have any margin for error. Most of the games they win are close and when they don’t have it, they get blown out. That’s what happens when you rely on the three and don’t play much defense. Mike D’Antoni ball at its finest.

Badfinger’s self-titled 1974 release was supposed to make the band superstars, as it was the first record of a lucrative three-year, six-album deal with Warner Brothers Records. Following a fruitful but somewhat acromonius departure from the Beatles’ Apple Records, Badfinger hit the ground running with an album that should have been a hit.
However, as seemed to be the case late in their career, the stars just weren’t aligned for the band. Badfinger’s final release for Apple, Ass, was delayed and hit the market after the first single from Badfinger — “Love Is Easy” was out. The album itself arrived on shelves three months after Ass, therefore flooding the market with Badfinger product and confusing the public.
Both albums were commercial stiffs, with Badfinger barely even cracking the top 200 albums chart. It’s a shame, because it’s a better album than Ass, mainly because Pete Ham broke out of his brief bout with writers’ block to write four songs and co-write another.
Ham’s in peak form, particularly on the lovely lament “Song for A Lost Friend” and the tearjerker ballad “Lonely You”. He teams with Tom Evans for the wonderful country-based rocker “Shine On” and delivers one of the album’s left-field delights with “Matted Spam,” a funky horns-inflected R&B number. It sounds like nothing else in the band’s catalogue, but that’s not a bad thing.
Guitarist Joey Molland continued to crank out quality rockers, and although he doesn’t dominate the album like he did on Ass, he certainly makes his presence felt on the Fleetwood Mac-ish “Love is Easy,” the heavy “Give It Up” and the almost punk-like closer “Andy Norris.”
In addition to co-writing “Shine On”, Evans contributes the sunny “Why Don’t We Talk?” and the steel-drum island flavor of “Where Do We Go From Here?” Drummer Mike Gibbons chimes in with the folksy “My Heart Goes Out.”
There’s not a bad track among the 12 included on this lost classic, but since it failed to make an impact, the band was under intense pressure to deliver a hit for their follow-up. They returned to the studio immediately and cut Wish You Were Here, their best overall album. That arrived in late 1974 to fantastic reviews but didn’t have a chance in the marketplace, as it was pulled after a month due to legal problems involving the band’s crooked manager Stan Polley. Badfinger eventually cut a third album for Warners, Head First, but it was rejected by the label and a few months later, Ham committed suicide.
Badfinger’s late-period albums aren’t as known as their earlier work with Apple, but they are worth tracking down. The self-titled release has some real gems, songs that easily could have been hits with the proper promotion.

Sod rating: ****
Key tracks: Shine On, Song for A Lost Friend, Give it Up, Andy Norris, Why Don’t We Talk?, Love is Easy