TTT – Top Thirty Wrestlers

Greetings, Glancers! Wrestling is not something I talk about much on my blog – mainly because I can’t be arsed writing about it as keeping up with the 100 hours a week content is a big enough pain, and because there are plenty of bloggers out there who are much more dedicated and knowledgeable than I am. Still, it has been something which has been in and out of my life for as long as I can remember. As I sit here with nothing else to write about in September, I realised that I’m quite far behind on my Wrestling viewing. Summerslam has come and gone yet I’m only just finished watching the Raw and Smackdown after Wrestlemania. And I’m at least 7 weeks behind on Impact. Avoiding spoilers is one thing; catching up is another. So I thought I’d make a little Wrestling list.

In Primary School in the late 80s and early 90s – the early years of the explosion of the WWE (then WWF) thanks to main events like Wrestlemania and Royal Rumble, many of my friends were wrestling fans and those who weren’t still got swept along by the marketing and associated toys. If I had a dubious blue style plastic ring complete with announce table and Heavyweight Belt, another friend had an even more souped up model with walkway or Titantron. Actually – here’s the one I had (I still have it):

acf3b8d6c8ac105f05c2576ee3dbc8ec.jpg
I also have three of the four wrestlers pictured

I went away from it for a while, coming back as the Attitude era was picking up and going toe to toe with WCW. This was my second golden era as a new batch of characters reflecting the writing and tone of the time and yet they were still fighting alongside and against many of the household names from my childhood. Those large than life, yet real-life superheroes were performing entertaining feats of strength and agility that had long since been removed from much of the action movies I had also grown up on, and while the storylines rarely changed, they remained silly and pantomime enough for me to shout at the TV like a yahoo.

Wrestling has always worked in peaks and troughs. A few years after WCW collapsed and most of their talent joined Vince and Co, the Wresting world began to recess from my view – many of the new stars didn’t interest me, plots and gimmicks became too stale, and a lot of the humour and violence was lost. Now in my twenties, I had my own life to live, but as nature and life can sometimes be cyclical it wasn’t long before I started watching again, first with TNA and then back to WWE. A new and enthusiastic batch of younger, fitter, more self-aware and savvy performers had burst onto the scene and my wife (a fan from the 80s too) and kids started watching too. The speed was often increased, there was a focus on Woman’s Wrestling (particularly outside of WWE), and there was more content than every before, including Mexico and Japan’s offerings, Ring Of Honor, and now AEW and Shine/Shimmer.  It was not surprise to me that many of the surviving heroes from my younger days were still hanging around, that plenty of the Attitude Era guys were getting major airtime, and that it was as fun and over the top as ever. There’s simply something comforting knowing that these people are still out there selling it every night, and with each generation a new set of heroes is born and drawn to those bright lights and four corners.

And so, in a momentary spin-off from my usual Movie and Music based lists I present my, in no way exhaustive, list of favourite Wrestlers of all time. These are my personal picks based on a mixture of character, performance, ability, and just what they’ve meant to me over the years. It is not supposed to be a best-of, and indeed many of those listed will not be the usual picks. Most though will hardly be surprising to the hardcore. I’ve tried to limit this – believe me there are many many others I would love to mention, but hardly anyone will read this anyway and those who do will likely be bored by the time they reach this sentence. I’m doing this off the top of my head too, so I guarantee that within five minutes of publishing it I’ll remember one of my absolute favourites that I’ve somehow missed. So lets just get on with it. In alphabetical order:

APA

Made of of Faarooq and Bradshaw, also known as The Acolytes, The APA were a no nonsense, tough as nails tag team who would just as quickly take your money in a game of poker as beat you in the ring. Faarooq (Ron Simmons) had been a successful solo wrestler, winning the WCW Heavyweight Championship, but it wasn’t until he paired with Bradshaw as part of The Undertaker’s Acolytes group that both men’s career’s took off. After splitting off from The Dead Man, they continued as the APA – a shady, money focused business racket and would go on to win their third Tag Team Championship, in between acting as bodyguards for whoever needed (could pay for) them.

AJ Styles

AJ Styles was known for his hybrid style wrestling during his tenure with TNA and became one of their most valuable assets. As the Company’s fortunes began to sour, he jumped ship like many others. His final piece of characterization on TNA hinted heavily that the real AJ was not happy – growing his hair, beard, and becoming a loose cannon biker type. There was still some interesting stuff as he refused to get involved in the Aces & Eights war (for my money the most interesting stable of the last decade) and then suffering through a dubious title split thanks to Dixie Carter. After losing his match against Magnus to ‘reunify’ the two heavyweight title (don’t ask), AJ left the Company.

AJ’s earliest matches in TNA in the various X Division battles are the stuff of legend – pitted against similar high-flyers like Christopher Daniels, Petey Williams, and Chris Sabin, as well as great feuds with Kurt Angle, Abyss, and Samoa Joe, AJ was one of the most consistent and successful names on the books. That success has only grown since moving to WWE as he quickly became Smackdown Champion and held the title for a year. Recently he has been drifting between characters to see what sticks, currently as some sort of heel after a decent feud with Randy Orton. AJ has one of the most varied move sets in WWE at the moment and consistently looks fresh when viewed alongside many of the other big hitters with a much more limited series of moves, and is equally comfortable on the mat and in the air.

Austin Aries

Austin Aries is arguably my favourite wrestler of my own third generation of viewing (generations based on my intro post). His gimmicks have changed over the years and he remains a highly divisive figure among fans and promotions. Nevertheless, the one thing which both fans and detractors call out year upon year is his ego – no matter whether good guy, bad guy, or somewhere in between, it’s his ego which stands out. From The Belt Collector to The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, A Double has provided many of my favourite moments in Wrestling in the last ten years, not least his creation of ‘Option Three’, beating Bobby Roode, and his stint fighting Aces & Eights. A six time X Division Champion, Aries – likes Styles – has a varied collection of moves and ways to antagonize his opponent which never fail to get a laugh out of me.

Aries moved to WWE with a hefty amount of heat behind him, but it always seemed like NXT and WWE didn’t really know what to do with him. I’m not sure of what happened behind the scenes but the two never seemed to click even though on the surface he’s exactly the sort of character – Heel or Face – that the company desperately needs. A promising start led to an injury which pushed him into commentary for a while, before an unsuccessful run at the Cruiserweight 205 Live belt seemed to sour things. Aries returned to Impact again, destroying Eli Drake in what I hoped signalled a return to success for the Company. While the Company’s fortunes seem to be turning, slowly, Aries didn’t last long and left after losing his Heavyweight title in the now infamous Bound For Glory headliner. That particular feud was one of the strangest I’ve ever witnessed with multiple reports conflating and conflicting what was real or planned or scripted and where lines blurred. In any case, Aries is no longer part of Impact or WWE, and the wrestling world is poorer for it, though he’s still lurking in the Indies and MLW. Any chance AEW? (Note, Aries has since given his turn of events in a recent interview with Killer Kross which makes for great reading).

Beer Money

Tag Teams can be hit and miss for me, usually built on some silly gimmick which instantly annoys me or sours quickly. Beer Money was one of the exceptions – an extension of what the APA stood for and acting like a couple of Stone Colds – beer drinking, hard hitting badasses who consistently got the job done. Made up of Bobby Roode and James Storm, the long-haired coupling who had worked against each other before in Team Canada (with Petey Williams and Eric Young) and America’s Most Wanted (with Gail Kim and Chris Harris). The pairing always felt natural and a combination sass and power, with the no fucks given attitude of Austin. Feuds with the Motor City Machine Guns, Team 3D, and the Main Event Mafia consolidated their prowess and influence but it was with Ric Flair’s revamped Four Horsemen – Fortune, that the group took off for me.

From there the group turned Heel to Face and then began branching out as dedicated solo performers. This in turn led to one of my favorite sequences in TNA as both Roode and Storm competed in Bound For Glory for the Heavyweight Championship. Roode was cheated out of victory by Kurt Angle, but Storm was then given a shot and won the title. Being best mates, Storm gave Roode a title shot only for Roode to turn heel and smash a beer bottle over Storm to win the championship. That was essentially the end. Both competitors went one to become personal favourites on their own, with Roode moving to WWE to glorious success and Storm remaining at Impact for a while, selling the likes of EC3 before moving to the newly reformed NWA.

The Boogeyman

What’s not to love about The Boogeyman? A horrendous and misguided misrepresentation of Lord knows what, he was the latest in a long line of GABBO-esque viral advertising, built up with creepy surprise promos for weeks until he was finally unleashed. And he was… what? Some Baron Samedi-looking ogre with a penchant for live worms and alien voodoo, yet for all the hype and shrieking he never truly amounted to anything or achieved much. He has hyped as the next super-freak, and then faded away to randomly appear in Raw Reunions for larfs. Imagine of Bray Wayatt’s latest incarnation had had a single match after all of those Sesame Street skits we saw, then was never seen again – that’s kind of like what happened to The Boogeyman. What a waste.

Chad Gable

This is going to be the most surprising inclusion in my list, but I genuinely think Chad Gable is the best all round athlete on WWE at the moment. While they persist in pushing gimmick based tag teams (New Day/Viking Raiders), completely bland tag teams (The Revival), and the more showy high fliers (Ricochet/Aleister Black), Chad Gable seems to be consistently sidelined. They haven’t quite figured out what to do with him – to me he’s the next natural Kurt Angle and just needs that one-liner or character change to truly break out. He had a decent run alongside Bobby Roode but they weren’t given any interesting storylines or teams to feud with – the same can be said for his stint with Jason Jordan (remember him?) Gable’s skills can’t be argued against – he is a former Olympian and is one of only two people to hold the NXT, Smackdown, and Raw Tag belts. He has seen a recent upturn by almost going all the way in the revamped King Of The Ring tournament (apparently – I still haven’t caught up to that point yet at time of writing). I’m not sure the whole Shorty G thing is going to work – it’s about time he got taken seriously as a hero figure instead of the constant drifting between Roman and Seth. He does need extra skills on the mike, but that only comes with extra time in the spotlight.

Diamond Dallas Page

A hero and inspiration to many, DDP’s exploits are far reaching and famous. Already clearly a good guy and well thought of within the business, his work with helping to rehabilitate wrestlers, athletes, soldiers, and anyone else was highlighted in the excellent Jake The Snake movie. In the ring, he was one of the major draws in the latter days of WCW, only starting to wrestle at the ripe old age of 35. It was a few years after he started that he began to make waves on television, feuding with Eddie Guerrero, NWO, and the Macho Man before truly ‘making it’. After winning several titles he made the move to WWE where he won another two championships. His Diamond Cutter probably remains my favourite cutter in the business.

DJZ

Where Gable is my pick for ‘should be much bigger than he is’, DJZ was my pick a few years ago for the next big thing. Along with a number of newer high-fliers from Impact such as Andrew Everett, DJZ has all the tools to be huge. A series of injuries has hit him, almost killed him, but he keeps coming back. A clear risk taker, he pulls out moves you’ve never seen before and does the classics with style, as well as being great on the mike. He has the pretty boy snarl to be a popular heel, and has the comic chops to be a cult face. He has had numerous successful runs on Impact, from his early days as Zima Ion eventually picking up the X Division Belt then a funny turn as part of the Bro Mans with Jessie Godderz, Robbie E, and Robbie T when he adopted the DJZ persona. If you’ve never seen an Ultimate X match, or an X division match in general with DJZ, you don’t know what you’re missing. Since leaving Impact, he has moved to NXT and will hopefully make a push onto one of the main brands – they need more interesting heels than Corbin.

The Dudleys

Out of all the tag-teams borne out of the Attitude Era, there were really only two who mattered to me – The Hardyz and these guys. They feuded on and off for years, along with Edge and Christian, in their infamous tables, ladders, and chairs matches – the very matches which really sucked me in during my second phase of viewing. Happy to be ‘the bad guys’ up against the pretty and heroic Hardy Brothers, Devon and Bubba were bruisers, adorned in snow camo-trousers, and always ready to smash you through a table or headbutt you in the groin. The team also transitioned over to TNA but it was Bubba (who became Bully Ray) who had the most single competitor success. He would be one of the front running heels for a few years in TNA – his story with Aces & Eights, Brooke Hogan, and Dixie Carter reaching melodramatic, can’t miss Soap Opera issues. As a team they were very fluid – they never looked like high fliers but would frequently be seen hanging off a ladder or leaping off the top rope just like their biggest rivals, and they had the shoot snark to go along with their in ring talents.

Eddie Guerrero

It’s difficult to think of a more popular villain in all of wrestling – maybe Triple H? Ric Flair of course? Guerrero transcended the Heel role, becoming more of a scoundrel or loveable rogue through his ‘lying, cheating, and stealing’ and finally becoming an outright icon for good. When in WCW, along with Benoit, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko as The Radicalz they took their long standing relationships and became a successful stable. The group left WCW shortly before the company collapsed and all four men went on to varying degrees of success with Vince and Co. It was Eddie who stood out as the pantomime character – his Lucha Libre stylings were mostly unique in the company and he had a knack for pre-memes, thanks to ‘mamacita’, ‘Latino Heat’, and other terms which caught on. It was rare that he ever got a clean win, forcing numerous disqualifications by tricking the officials and becoming romantically involved with the likes of Chyna and Vicky. His womanizing persona won over the crowd, leading to multiple titles, but his physical ability earned his respect, with many fans and fellow wrestlers calling him one of the best of all time. With at least 10 WWE championships, two from WCW, and multiple from other promotions, it’s difficult to argue against that fact.

Chris Benoit

As mentioned in some of my other entries, Benoit was one of the most successful performers to transition between WCW and WWE, his Air Canada and Crippler Crossface particularly devastating, and his alignment with Perry, Dean, and Eddie a long-lasting winning partnership. Of course every wrestling fan knows that it all ended in tragedy and horror, and I get the impression that there is a lot more about this story and the general physical and mental strain which the Business can cause that will come out in the future. When he was alive, Benoit was one of the best in-ring performers in the world. He may not have been the most electrifying on the mic but his dedication and skills always paid off, leading to one of the most emotional WWE World Heavyweight wins I’ve ever seen. In his time in the two main promotions, he was a two time WCW tag champion, 1 time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, 3 time TV champ, 2 time US Champ, 4 time WWE Tag champ, 4 time Intercontinental champ, 3 time WWE US Champ, and 1 time Royal Rumble Winner.

Eli Drake

Eli Drake came to the forefront just as TNA/Impact was on ‘the turn’. It was losing money, viewers, and performers left, right, and centre and Eli Drake quickly bcame noticed as the best mike performer thanks to his early Dummy button gimmick. His catchphrases quickly caught on with the crowd and he became a fan favourite. In many ways I would say Drake is the best mike man since The Rock, someone who has clearly influenced his persona and energy. Drake is not always the most elegant in the ring, but his connection to the crowd and series of devasting moves ensured his matches are always entertaining. He was certainly a major part of keeping the promotion alive during a number of transitory periods, earning several championships and teaming with a variety of stars from Drew Galloway, Scott Steiner, and Jessie Godderz and feuding with Grado, The Broken Hardeyz, and El Patron. Just as he was struggling to find a new outlet and form in his final months in Impact, he parted ways during some controversy surrounding his feelings about intergender wrestling, with Sami Callahan picking up the mantle. Drake is now with NWA, but would be another great fit for AEW or WWE thanks to his hilarious skills in front of the camera. I get the feeling, like EC3 and many others, that WWE wouldn’t know what to do with him.

f447621bcde61462-600x338

Gail Kim

For my money, Gail is the greatest female wrestler of all time. At the very least she is my favourite. Great on the mat, in the air, on the mike, and with a flexible move-set, she was part of the first true explosion in woman’s wrestling. Always creative in her matches, her long-running feuds with the likes of Awesome Kong, The Beautiful People, and Taryn Terrell remain some of the most electrifying matches you’ll ever see. Even though she won the Woman’s Championship in her first match in WWE, her time with them was not the most fruitful with Kim accusing the company of not knowing what to do with female talent, and specifically Asian talent. Equally alluring a performer as Heel or Hero, Kim relished both positions but as time went on the crowd were less convinced to see her as a bad guy, such was the respect they had for her. She bowed out of competition this year as a seven time TNA Knockouts Champion, selling Tess Blanchard as the next generation. It’s unfortunate now given how Women’s Wrestling has gone from strength to strength that so few wrestling fans, blinded by the glitz of WWE, know who Gail Kim is and that so few of today’s performers would be where they are without he accomplishments. Gail now works backstage on Impact, popping up every so often in front of the camera.

Goldberg

There were a couple of major draws for me when WCW came to Channel 5 in the UK in the late 90s. I knew the big names who had been around the block for the company and of course those convinced to join from the WWE. Goldberg I knew nothing about, until I saw him on Channel 5, learned about the undefeated strike, and watched him in action myself. The guy was simply unstoppable. A powerhouse who would regularly shred opponents to pieces thanks to his Jackhammer and the best Spear in the game. Unfortunately this was around the time he kept being hit by injuries, and within a couple of years the company folded. Goldberg would eventually move over to WWE, the 1 wrestler I most wanted to see make the move, and he continued from where he left off, feuding with the best and going on another streak. His most ntoable feud was against Triple H and pals as he successfully won the World Heavyweight Championship and defended it against all manner of usual HHH shenanigans. I’m still bitter Kane didn’t win the title, but HHH gets what HHH wants. After losing the belt, Goldberg had a brief feud with Brock Lesnar before leaving the company – a feud which would be picked up again years later. There have been few performers as explosive as Goldberg – it’s a shame injuries prevented him from making a longer-lasting impact.

The Hardy Boyz

The Attitude Era was all about 90s cool, but it wasn’t always the easiest task making the ‘roided up, beefcakes of the 80s seem all that appealing to the post-grunge, post-meta 90s landscape. Enter The Hardy Boyz, sleeve tats, punk ethos, dyed hair, piercings, and they didn’t look like superheroes. They almost looked like, with a little bit of training, you or I could match up to them. Crucially, they brought a rarely before seen high-flying, daredevil style to wrestling which took the business to a new level; it wasn’t just muscle bound freaks you could lift a limo with one hand while choking out a rhino with the other. It was guys like you or me who could run, climb, flip, and dive of twenty foot ladders through cunningly placed tables like no-one’s business. I credit WWE’s continued success at the tale end of the century and into the next, to these guys and The Rock, for changing the game like no others. You knew every match was going to be an event, a spectacle, and you knew you were going to see violence the likes of which was usually reserved for Hong Kong movies. Matt and Jeff would continue across multiple promotions, both as a team and as solo competitors, trying new personas such as Jeff’s Willow and Matt’s Broken Hardy, culminating in such madness as lawnmower jaunts in the grounds of the Hardy complex, and sentient drones.

Hulk Hogan

He’s still the most famous of them all, right? Even though his fame has been tinted by a lot of awful personal stuff and stories which have come to light, nobody quite embodies the unique pantomime/gladiator lore as Hulk Hogan.

Jake The Snake

If Hulk was generally known for standing up for all that was good, right, and American, then Jake The Snake was known for, well, having a giant ass snake in a sack. Jake never was able to translate one of the most unique gimmicks into Championship success, but he remained one of the most popular and visible stars of wrestling throughout the 80s and into a less decisive 90s. He was the first WWE figure I wanted to buy – in those days that particular toy range each had a special move – a button to make them kick or slam etc. Jake’s was a fist you could pull back on a spring and release. I chipped my tooth thanks to this fist, within days of purchase. His Resurrection documentary is a great watch, a fantastic insight into the man and the business, and his appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast is a must listen for any Wrestling fan.

035Kane

Kane

My all time favourite Wrestler. People love The Undertaker – I love The Undertake, but The Dead Man’s brother appealed to the adolescent underling in me and ticked all the right boxes. He was a towering behemoth, a horror movie villain, a mute and seemingly indestructible powerhouse with a move-set which mimicked his brother’s, with a few twists of its own. Plus he could conjure fire. I don’t think The Company ever gave Kane his due, and still don’t. At minimum they should be wheeling him out each Royal Rumble as an opportunity for him to eliminate a few people and act as an opportunity for one of the up and comers to take him out and make a name for themselves. Too often, Kane has been used specifically to sell someone the company wanted to push and too often has he been used purely to make someone else look good, without allowing him to shine himself. No, his ten plus tag team championships and two time Heavyweight belts aren’t enough. He still holds PPV appearance and Royal Rumble Elimination records, but like a certain Austrian bodybuilder before him, a life in politics has taken him away from his true calling – beating the shit out of people for my entertainment. He still has a couple of good runs in him.

Lita

As The Hardy Boys made waves for their high-flying antics in and out of the ring, a young woman by the name of Lita came to prominence by helping out Essa Rios, a new Lucha fighter. He was okay, but she caught the eye thanks to her gritty punk style, good looks, and her top rope moonsault. It seemed inevitable that she would become the anti-poster girl for WWE, feuding with the more traditional upstarts like Torrie Wilson and Trish Stratus. Lita and Trish’s bouts were the first authentic female matches the brand had, and while they still had their fair share of underwear related matches (no complaints from me at the time), it was clear than Lita was spearheading a new movement and proving women could be just as good, and just as much of a legitimate draw, as the men.

The Undertaker

I mentioned Kane as my all time favourite, but it’s Undertaker who understandably gets the headlines. He’s been seemingly around forever, he changed the game when it comes to entrances, gimmicks, back story, and he managed to evolve with the business numerous times to remain one of the biggest draws in the business. A character of effortless cool, who doesn’t get a chill down their spine when that bell first tolls, or when you wait in anticipation for the dead man to rise, sit up after being hit with a finisher only to deliver a hellish chokeslam and tombstone of his own? Sure he’s retired about 12 times now, and is last few one off matches haven’t exactly inspired confidence, but when all is said and done he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest of all time.

Sting

Speaking of all time greats, Sting was the man who kept both WCW and TNA afloat for decades, the one man WWE wanted but couldn’t get. From his bleach blond roots to his conversion to his Crow persona he was a mainstay on ‘the other wrestling promotion’ and a source of respect to everyone in the business. It should have been big news when Sting finally made the jump to WWE, except he suffered a career ending injury in basically his first match, and that was that. When I watched WCW in the early 90s, Sting was to WCW what Hogan was to WWE – bigger than life, heroic, and with a series of moves which been adopted by others while keeping the name he gave them – The Stinger Splash, the Scorpion Death Lock etc. His move to The Crow look, and the related storylines, is one of the best character changes in Wrestling history. Whether as part of NWO, as a heroic face, or in his TNA days, Sting was number one and picked up 6 WCW Heavyweight Belts, 3 WCW tag titles, 2 WCW USA championships, 5 TNA World Titles, and become a two time Hall Of Famer.

The Ultimate Warrior

If I’m honest, I was always more partial to The Ultimate Warrior than Hulk when I was younger. He looks ridiculous in retrospect, but in the 80s and early 90s, The Ultimate Warrior was essentially a real life He-Man. How could anyone have that much manic energy and have so many muscles? The combination of colour and ability made him an obvious stand-out performer. Since his death, a whole lot of rumours and stories and true accounts have come out about the man behind the war paint which have certainly soured his legacy, but as in in-ring performer and a major foil for Hulkamania, there have been few better.

Mike Foley

One of the first images I ever remember seeing on a Wrestling Magazine was of Foley, as Cactus Jack, face bloodied and head wrapped in barbed wire. As an already devout action movie and horror fan, I needed this in my life. I already knew Cactus Jack, but only through the heavily censored footage I had seen – they were the matches that were ‘too violent for TV’ or they ‘used REAL violence’ as opposed to what I already knew was fake in the industry. It wasn’t until Foley moved to WWE, initially as Mankind,that I got to see his brutal matches without cut always or censorship. Chair shots, trashcan lids, staples, bats, and everything else were employed in the early days as Mankind started pissing off The Undertaker, kick-starting one of the all-time great feuds. That of course culminated with Paul Bearer dropping Taker, a number of first-time matches (Buried Alive, Boiler Room) and of course the infamous Hell In A Cell encounter – frequently highlighted as the greatest match of all time. No matter what persona Foley adopted, his characters were always quirky and filled with repeatable one-liners. There have been few equal to Foley’s mic skills and knack for getting the crowd on board, and there aren’t many true innovators of violence more influential than him.

The Rock

We go from one of the best mic-talkers, to the best there has ever been. You go back and watch old promos from the best in the business, to the 80s, and they are almost all ridiculous. Cheesy, hammed up, and amusing, charming, and dated in their ways. You shake your head and wonder how you enjoyed the stuff at the time. Then you watch The Rock and he just continues to blow everyone else away. His lightning fast speeches, his hilarious interruptions, his timeless one-liners and whip-smart humour – he single-handedly destroyed the old guard promos and challenged every other wrestler on the planet to just bring it with even half the skill and style he did. No-one has met the challenge yet. Of course, that would be nowt without in-ring ability.

Stone Cold Steve Austin

As much as I love Kane’s booming intro, there are two pieces of music/sounds which sit at the top of the pile as perfect heralds for incoming mayham. The Undertaker’s doom coloured death knell chime, and the explosion of glass which signals Stone Cold’s manic march to the ring. These two pieces are as perfect as you can get – both symbolizing the character, both instantly recognizable. In this day and age of symbols and memes and endless sharing, the impact that a single sound can have around the planet has never been higher and even now, years after Stone Cold has retired, that crash sends audiences into a frenzy as he heads down to burst open a few cold ones and stun whichever poor sod happens to be in the ring at the time. An all round bad-ass, a good talker, and with one of the most sudden and devastating finishers in the business, while Austin was injured and forced out before his time, he still notched up 14 championships in WWE as well as three Royal Rumble wins and is of course a Hall Of Famer – he picked up a few in WCW too.

Too Cool

As far as, for lack of a more respectful term, joke teams go Too Cool dropped at the right team. While the Attitude era has a little more saucy, a little more hardcore, there was also a lot of room for fun and nonsense. Too Cool exemplified this, with their wide-eyed gazes, dances, Rikishi love, and worms. Everybody enjoyed mimicking their moves and they were popular enough to win the tag championship twice. Today’s most popular teams such as The New Day have a lot to thank Too Cool for.

nWo

Maybe the greatest of all factions – New World Order went through various incarnations and saw the likes of Sting, The Big Show, The Million Dollar Man, Bischoff, The Macho Man, Konan, Jeff Jarrett, Bret Hart and many others involved, but it was the mainstays and instigators – Hogan, Hall, and Nash – who created and solidified their legacy. Coming in like a group of thugs, seeing Hogan turning Heel and wanting to take over the business. They were the team, and the main reason, most people tuned in to Nitro over Raw in the 90s and remain one of the most influential groups in Wrestling history.

Samoa Joe

One of the first ‘big men’ who was a complete all rounder – grappler, bruiser, high-flyer, as adapt off the ropes as he was lethal with submissions, Joe was one of TNA’s finest villains. Since moving to WWE he hasn’t managed the same level of impact, usually reduced to more heel plots where he tends to ‘get personal’ with friends and family members but is still clearly a fan favourite in the company. His feuds with Angle, AJ, Magnus, and a good guy turn versus Aces & Eights saw him as one of TNA’s most respected and successful performers, picking up nine championships before earning another four in WWE.

Mr Anderson/Kennedy

A man whose entire character seemed to be based on a single gimmick – a ridiculous one – somehow manager to build on that to become one of the most entertaining talkers in both WWE and Impact. That gimmick? Quite simply, he would announce himself when he had a match, hurling out his name (similar to ‘Best In The World Shane McMahon’), then pause for a couple of seconds, then repeat his surname. That’s it – Mr Kennedy….. Kennedy. It was nonsense, but somehow it worked. I used to head out to bars on a Saturday night – metal bars mostly – and after a drink too many I would mimic his shout. Without fail, some other drunken loon would repeat ‘Kennedy’ before I could. He’s infamously the only person to lose the Money In The Bank briefcase before cashing in, but he did become USA Champ and Two Time Heavyweight Champ in TNA.

Kurt Angle

Frequently called out as the best all round Wrestler of all time, it wasn’t always plain sailing for Angle. He had a rough time in his early days in WWE, not coming across well to fans, but thanks to feuds with Eddie Guerrero and honing in on his comedy skills, he eventually won the universe over, then allowing his obvious in ring talent to shine. For someone who won an Olympic Gold Medal with a broken freaking neck, his success was inevitable. In many ways his most thrilling matches were with TNA, where he decided to go for more daredevil moves and being part of some of the best solo and group feuds in the company’s history. He has of course returned to, and retired from WWE due to many legitimate neck injuries, but he leaves behind a career which saw him pick up 6 TNA Heavyweight Championships, 1 X Division Title, 2 TNA Tag Titles, 2 WCW belts, two Hall Of Fame medals, and for WWE – 5 Heavyweight, 1 Tag Title, 1 Euro Champ belt, 1 Hardcore Belt, and 1 Intercontinental Champ. Presumably he’ll pick up the 24/7 belt at some point.

There you go – my favourite wrestlers ever, from the top of my head. I know I’ve missed some of the most famous and plenty of the current stars – but let me know in the comments who would be on your list!

 

 

Ranking The Manics – Rewind The Film

220px-Manic_Street_Preachers_-_Rewind_the_Film.jpg

If there’s one thing in common with the three albums which the band has made since Postcards, it’s the lack of good extra songs and the difficulty I have in ranking the album tracks. While each album is unique in their own way, I just don’t feel the same way about them as I do their first 10 albums. Maybe it’s their age, maybe it’s mine, but I find myself increasingly drawn to everything else than these. These three albums still have many high moments, but I struggle to differentiate between them and if someone on the street asked my to hum a random song from one of them, I’d struggle. Whereas if the same random weirdo asked me to hum something from their first 10 albums and assorted rarities, I’d be able to recreate each note from each instrument, every word, glitch, and vocal inflection flawlessly. In other words, I just don’t know these ones as well. Here’s my ranking for the first of those three:

  1. Show Me The Wonder
  2. This Sullen Welsh Heart
  3. 30 Year War
  4. I Miss The Tokyo Skyline
  5. Three Ways To See Despair
  6. Anthem For A Lost Cause
  7. Running Out Of Fantasy
  8. 4 Lonely Roads
  9. As Holy As The Soil That Buries Your Skin
  10. Builder Of Routines
  11. Rewind The Film
  12. Manorbier

There isn’t a lot to choose from with the B-Sides – they’re all as equally average to me as much of what appears on the album, with a few sprinkled gems. Regardless, here’s my alternative tracklist:

  1. This Sullen Welsh Heart
  2. Show Me The Wonder
  3. TE Lawrence On A Bike
  4. 4 Lonely Roads
  5. Melancholyme
  6. I Miss The Tokyo Skyline
  7. Anthem For A Lost Cause
  8. As Holy As The Soil
  9. 3 Ways To See Despair
  10. Running Out Of Fantasy
  11. Whatever Happened To The Blue Generation
  12. 30 Year War

Let us know your ranking and alternatives in the comments!

Nightman Reacts To The Greatest Artists Of All Time (According To Rolling Stone)! Top 20

Beatles-Help-competition-770

Part Four of my reaction to Rolling Stone’s Greatest 100 Musical Acts Of All Time. Click here for part one, part two, and part third. Otherwise….

20. Bo Diddly

Aside from having a hilarious name, Diddly remains one of the great Blues voices and guitarists. Another man whose influence on others outshone his own work, his own work is still out there to discover – and it’s great.

19. Velvet Underground

I’m middling on The Velvet Underground. Influential, all sorts of fucked up, poetic and mischievous, their name has too long been synonymous with a certain culture rather than the music. That’s when you knew you’ve succeeded as an artist but failed as a musician. That’s what society has forced upon the group, not something the group necessarily did themselves, though they certainly set the groundwork. Their music isn’t the sort of thing I listen to often, and in truth I find their songs more enjoyable when covered by others.  Still, they did their thing and did it better than most.

18. Marvin Gaye

Great voice, could write a tune, could deliver a message which was more than simply promoting dancing or fucking. Yet those same songs invariably made you want to dance, fuck, and maybe change the world. I’m not the biggest fan as I do find much of his stuff quite samey, but when he’s good, he’s good.

17. Muddy Waters

Muddy, BB, Bo, all these guys played the same sort of music with their own unique spin, and each one would influence the entirety of Sixties and Seventies rock. Muddy was maybe the first, and the things he did with his voice, guitar, and presence, and the songs he wrote or played would be torn apart, abused, and reconfigured by the likes of Led Zep, The Stones, Hendrix, and anybody else who picked up a guitar in those decades.

16. Sam Cooke

You see a lot of crossover with R’n’B, soul, Gospel, in these rock lists. Sometimes it’s not entirely accurate, sometimes it’s like the publication is trying to lump these other genres in with rock to make them more appealing to people who don’t listen to rock. Listening to Sam Cooke, the musical comparisons to rock aren’t obvious. He was always more of a pop vocalist, too smooth and calming and not raw enough. to truly fall into the rock category. But then, many rock singers don’t have a growl or yell or roughness, but the attitude or the writing. Cooke had sex appeal and some decent tunes, but rock?

15. Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder I’ll give you – a voice of unyielding soul, the energy of his most funk-driven numbers is enough to carry him into rock spheres. Of course he has worked with some of Rock’s finest and has written plenty a rockin’ song himself. He’s going to pop up more on my other series as most of the songs I know by him are the big hitting singles.

14. Led Zeppelin

Maybe the prime example of what a rock band could or should be. Maybe the prime example of taking what had come before and transforming into something else, or taking it to the next level. The Stones, for me, always kept things simple – they took an old school Blues song and played it straight, maybe with a little more venom. Zep would take an old school Blues song, turn it inside out, chew it, swallow it, and vomit it back up along with whatever else they had been absorbing at the time. They were the perfect four piece – one of the great vocalists of all time, maybe the greatest guitarist, probably the best drummer, and easily one of the most talented multi-musicians ever. They good write some of the sexiest, heaviest music on the planet, they could be as soft as a fawning hippy, and they had all of the best stories and legends swirling around them. You’re not a music fan if you don’t get the Led out.

13. Buddy Holly

One of the first white boys of rock, merging his Country and Gospel upbringing with  R’n’B sounds, he cemented rock’s beginnings. With a sizable number of songs and hits before he died at the ridiculously young age of 22, it’s not clear what he could have gone on to achieve or create. It’s true that he was only getting started before he was stopped.

12. The Beach Boys

Well of course. From glossy Beach pop/rock to the more experimental stuff I haven’t heard yet, they have enough hits to make any such list.

11. Bob Marley

I’m not a huge fan of Reggae. I always assumed I would be, and Marley was one of those icons that younger me looked forward to being able to hear when I was young. I find his music, and the whole genre’s very samey. Some stand-out songs. When your the only guy famous for the genre, of course you get a spot on the list.

10. Ray Charles

The other blind dude with a piano.

9. Aretha Franklin

Beast mode vocals activated. You’d be hard pressed to find a more powerful voice anywhere, one capable of stopping you in your tracks thanks to its authority and sensuality. She wrote the odd songs too, and her biggest hits are timeless.

8. Little Richard

I always say ‘Fuck Elvis’ when I hear people saying he did everything first. Little Richard did it better, faster, and sexier than Elvis before there was an Elvis. I don’t know much about the guy but his songs are just ballistic. Reading this self-penned piece is pretty depressing, how he never made any money from his music. The guy did it all, and while I’m sure he has plenty to show for it, it’s true that everyone who came after him took his work and his spotlight, even if they did take his groundwork and build upon it.

7. James Brown

The sweaty sex machine himself. Brown is that rare example of taking Gospel music and heritage and making something good out of it, of making R’n’B music which genuinely rocks. A sublime and tireless performer with vocals to match. I know his biggest and best and each one of those makes you want to jump around just as much as any metal song you can name.

6. Jimi Hendrix

Everyone’s favourite guitarist, he did things no-one else had or could. A showman and a player and a writer, the Hendrix songs sometimes work for me, other times they don’t. Maybe it’s the vocals which keep me from being a full blown fan or maybe it’s that many of the songs have a similar melodic style. The songs aren’t samey, but they can feel that way. I take the handle of songs I love and ignore the rest.

5. Chuck Berry

There’s a line zig-zagging through the 1950s which touches upon a number of artists who had a small number of hits and then circles around the big names – that line probably circles around Chuck Berry several times before shooting off in a thousand directions. There isn’t a single recording person in rock today that the line doesn’t connect to from Chuck. Tracing that line back, those early hits – and quite a few later ones -still rock, that youthful expression crossing every generational gap.

4. The Rolling Stones

As you’ll have seen if you read my other posts – I listened to a bunch of Stones Albums many years ago and dismissed them. I’m listening to them all again now to see if i feel any differently. It’s up in the air, but it looks like they’re more of a ‘I like 1-2 songs from each album band’ for me, though obviously millions of people have adored them and been influenced by them through time.

3. Elvis Presley

I have difficulty really loving someone if they don’t write their own material. They need something special if they don’t – a unique voice or talent elsewhere. Elvis had a unique voice and presence and stardom and aura around him. He could play, he could sing, but out of the massive number of songs he recorded, I only enjoy a relatively small number. Still, it’s Elvis.

2. Bob Dylan

Although I’ve probably heard more, I only feel like I’ve heard less than 10 Bob Dylan originals – his original versions of his own songs. He’s another artist I’ve known my whole life, but more due to other bands and singers covering his stuff. At some point I’m going to have to go through his albums one by one, but I already know I don’t like his vocals – what I’ve heard of them. The nasal quality and the delivery. I do love lyrics though, and almost everyone would rate Dylan as one of the best lyricists in the game. I’m not surprised he’s here – it’s the same with every list, but I don’t know enough to give my personal judgement.

  1. The Beatles

The obvious number one. They did it all, they reinvented themselves and reshaped the musical world numerous times, and left behind maybe the largest body of great songs than any other band has. Never trust anyone who doesn’t like The Beatles or at the very least acknowledge their importance.

Let me know what you think of this Top Twenty, of Rolling Stone’s list as a whole, and of the bands and artists, involved!

 

Ranking The Manics Songs – Postcards From A Young Man

Golden Postcards

Ten albums – not many bands make it that far these days, and certainly not with the same level of consistent success and quality. And this album is now ten years old and the band is still going. That’s one of the many reasons to love them. This album, described as their ‘last shot at mass communication’, has many moments of pop goodness and embraces some choice and unusual influences (Gospel and Motown) while not relinquishing their central roots. Sadly, this was one of the main instances of the band simply picking the wrong songs to be singles – but luckily there were still three and therefore a bunch of alternatives to ponder over. Here is my ranking:

  1. I Think I’ve Found It
  2. All We Make Is Entertainment
  3. Golden Platitudes
  4. Don’t Be Evil
  5. A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun
  6. Hazelton Avenue
  7. It’s Not War
  8. The Descent
  9. Auto-Intoxication
  10. The Future Has Been Here 4Ever
  11. Postcards From A Young Man
  12. Some Kind Of Nothingness

My main issue with a lot of the B-Sides around this time and till today, is the reliance on uninspired instrumentals and Nicky vocals. I managed to replace one song with a B-Side for my fantasy tracklist:

  1. It’s Not War
  2. Postcards From A Young Man
  3. Broken Up Again
  4. The Descent
  5. Hazelton Avenue
  6. Auto-Intoxication
  7. Golden Platitudes
  8. I Think I’ve Found It
  9. A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun
  10. All We Make Is Entertainment
  11. The Future Has Been Here 4Ever
  12. Don’t Be Evil

I toyed with adding I’m Leaving You For Solitude or Midnight Sun, but they don’t really fit the grandiose nature of the album. This seems like a respectable album. Let us know what your ranking would be!

Nightman Reacts To The Greatest Artists Of All Time (According To Rolling Stone)! 40-21

download (1)

Part Two of my reaction to Rolling Stone’s Greatest 100 Musical Acts Of All Time. Click here for part one and part two Otherwise….

40. Simon And Garfunkel

As mentioned in post one, I haven’t discussed the ordering of this thing at all. I’ve no idea what their ordering criteria is but at the moment it doesn’t seem like there is one at all. Until we get to the top five of course and see Elvis, The Stones, and The Beatles. I always assumed I would like Simon And Garfunkel. Then I listened and posted about one album – the first of theirs I’d heard – and it wasn’t great. I’ve since listened to another album which was better. The jury’s still out on how I feel about them, but I know most people are fans.

39. David Bowie

Speaking of the Jury still being out… I understand and appreciate how much Bowie brought to music and how many artists he inspired and how he did his own thing for decades. I’m annoyed I don’t like him more – the glam stuff does nothing but irritate me and I’m generally not moved by his vocals. There are plenty of songs I love and plenty I like, but maybe the time for me to truly love him has passed.

38. John Lennon

His work with The Beatles would be enough to top any list. Then he did ten years of solo work, most of which I haven’t heard. It’s probably not as good as The Beatles, but probably not far behind.

37. Roy Orbison

When I was young I took one look at Orbison and said ‘naw’. But then you hear him sing, and you hear him play, and you get it. He wasn’t some knock off Elvis, he was his own thing and I much prefer his voice to The King’s. His songs have lasted too.

36. Madonna

Bitch, she’s Madonna. Mad as a bottle of snakes and might just pour them over you, but show me another artist who’s had her longevity and success and hits. You can’t. You can tear apart her vocals or her politics or certain creative or musical choices, but when you look at the best hits of her vast body of work, you can’t help but be in awe.

35. Michael Jackson

Probably the greatest voice in all of music, probably the greatest entertainer of all time. In the beginning it was all about his voice and style – how cute he looked, how he danced, how he sang. Then he branched out from his brothers and more success. Then he branched out on his own and became the biggest thing in the world. All through that time he was writing his own stuff and honing his perfectionist style. There has never been anyone like Michael, and there likely never will be again.

34. Neil Young

I’m still waiting for that thing to make me like Neil Young music. It must be there.

33. Everly Brothers

Fair enough.

32. Smokey Robinson And The Miracles

Smokey is such an underrated writer, but with The Miracles he was able to get his best work across. I still find it amazing that Smokey was around before Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and The Beatles, and he’s still going.

31. Johnny Cash

Everybody loves Johnny Cash. Me? Not so much. It’s another example of appreciation rather than enjoying the music. It may be dark, on occasion, but it’s still Country. And Gospel too, which is worse. A unique figure though.

30. Nirvana

Everything I wanted and needed in a band when I was young; everything the music industry needs now. Nirvana wasn’t just grunge, rock, metal, punk, pop, whatever – it was a rare concoction of fury, intelligence, wit, integrity – you listen to any interview with them at the time, you watch any performance – no matter how fucked up they were they played with more intensity and feeling and passion than anyone else. I don’t care if you were Metallica or The Beatles or Yngwie Malmsteen or Pavarotti, Nirvana were going to blow you off the stage and make you look like amateurs. Then they’d destroy the stage and fuck off. A complete nobody came from nothing and changed the lives of millions. There have been few greater losses to the musical world than when Kurt ended his life.

29. The Who

On stage in their prime there was nobody like The Who. Complete maniacs. Off stage too. Luckily they had the chops and prowess to pull it off. They had the balls to make shit like Tommy and Quadrophenia, grand sweeping stories which had great songs in the mix. And they would throw out amazing anthems like My Generation and Baba O’Reilly too.

28. The Clash

One of the first punk bands I got into, but my relationship with punk has almost always been surface – I’ll dip in and out when I need quick blast on how powerful music can be. It’s not just about the notes, it’s about the raw passion, the need to express yourself, or tell a story, or connect with an audience. The Clash could connect while also writing simple, catchy songs. They went and experimented with a tonne of other styles – most of which was not to my taste – but all the while they remained true to their vision of self.

27. Prince

I get he’s a good writer and a multi-talented musician. The music does little to nothing for me. I don’t find it sexy, it doesn’t make me want to dance, it doesn’t inspire me to listen or create or procreate. Hands up once more – I still haven’t heard much from him outside of some of his hits. He apparently has a million songs. Some of them are bound to pop up in my other series.

26. The Ramones

I’ve always found The Ramones to be on the silly side of punk. That’s not to say they’re not authentic, just that it’s hard to take a lot of their stuff seriously. They still play with fury but more often than not it’s the fury of a kitten trying to attack my hand – charming, fun, entertaining to be part of, but ultimately harmless.

25. Fats Domino

I mean, it’s Fats Domino. He was good, influential, but there’s a cultural and historic divide which will likely never be bridged to make me truly align with most of his stuff. I’ll listen, but I won’t think about it much.

24. Jerry Lee Lewis 

I’ll take him over Elton any day.

23. Bruce Springsteen

The nicest man in rock, or maybe the most genuine (assuming Dave Grohl went out for a walk). Again outside of the Born In The USA album and a few songs, I’m not too knowledgeable about his actual songs but there are so many singers who have come after him who try to mimic or embody his spirit – the voice, the style, the workmanship, and the message.

22. U2

Chris Martin in the article, opening his mouth and embarrassing himself as always, says some of the most stupid things. I get he’s trying to compliment the band, but when he says U2 is the only band whose entire back catalogue he knows by heart, what I take from that is that Chris Martin is not a music fan and should be kept far away from any recording studio. God, he then goes on to say ‘they may be the only good anthemic rock band ever’. Why is Chris Martin a thing? Can anyone explain it? Does he realise by simply existing in the same time and space as U2, he’s making them look worse? He then closes his love-fest with a sermon, of course, where he unironically states (when mentioning musician’s abilities to discuss a wider political or cultural issue) ‘every time I try, I feel like an idiot’ Yeah, mate, that’s because you are. I like U2 – some of their songs. I’m not some superfan. Bono’s a bit of a twat and they stopped making decent music about fifty years ago, but for a while they were good. Coldplay though – I liked that ‘beautiful world’ song, for five minutes before self-exorcising.

21. Otis Redding

Another great story with a tragic ending. Redding had his hits and his fame and likely would have had more. It wasn’t to be, yet most of his stuff feels as good today as I imagine it did in the 60s.

Next time, we complete our rundown with the Top 20! Let us know in the comments how you feel about any of the artists above and their position within the list!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Journal For Plague Lovers

Journal For Plague Lovers

Maybe it was the simple act of using Richey’s lyrics again, but the music of Journal For Plague Lovers is fucking glorious. It isn’t simply a matter of the fury, the feeling, and the riffs returning but something about embracing those past ghosts and genius entirely revitalized every aspect of their outlook and output. The result is one of their best albums, and arguably the best album of 2009. If I have any real criticism, it’s that too many of the songs end in an abrupt way – a sudden or stilted stop instead of a more thought out conclusion. That’s just me though. More than any of their albums, almost every track is on an even level so my ranking is more pointless than usual. Here it is:

  1. Virginia State Epileptic Colony
  2. Peeled Apples
  3. Jackie Collins Existential Question Time
  4. All Is Vanity
  5. Me And Stephen Hawking
  6. Doors Closing Slowly
  7. This Joke Sport Severed
  8. Facing Page: Top Left
  9. She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach
  10. Marlon JD
  11. Bag Lady
  12. Pretension Repulsion
  13. William’s Last Words

No bad songs here at all, and Number 13 could just as easily be in the top five. No ideal version here – most of the bonus tracks released around this time are instrumental or not exciting – no singles were released for the album so there isn’t the usual collection of B-Sides to rip through. Let us know your ranking in the comments!

TTT – Top Ten Stephen King Movies

king

Greetings, Glancers! As you’ve no doubt witnessed over the last few years, uber-author and all round good guy Stephen King has been in the midst of a cinematic resurgence. While not the extended universe I was hoping for, we have been treated to a tonne of movies and series based on novels, shorts, and napkin scribbles by the master of horror. Since the release of Carrie in the late 70s, there has been roughly, roughly, fifty eight billion adaptations of his work and neither he, nor those who wish to put his work on the screen, are showing signs of slowing down. Which is terrific for me because he has been my favourite writer for most of my life, great for you because you get to read my lists on the subject, and wonderful for everyone because we are treated to some fun and frightening viewing experiences.

I’ll be writing two posts on King adaptations – this one is purely for movies, and the next one will be for TV shows and mini-series. Within minutes of me posting them, they will probably be out of date as another 10 adaptations will have been made. Here we go then – my favourite Stephen King movies – released on the big screen, straight to video, or through streaming services. I’m going with alphabetical order because I can’t be arsed ranking these. Get busy readin’, or get busy dyin’!

Apt Pupil

I was originally going to include thirteen movies here – with The Dead Zone and The Green Mile making up the numbers. I cut those two, which left me with Eleven. I decided to cut Carrie over Apt Pupil, because everyone picks Carrie. I love Carrie, as well as the other two I cut, but I feel like Apt Pupil deserves more recognition. The film should have been a hit at release, considering it was Bryan Singer’s follow-up to Who Is Keyser Soze The Movie, but it didn’t land. Now, when it should be getting re-evaluated, the accusations against Bryan Singer have ensured that most people are keeping at a distance from the film. It’s that rare King adaptation which doesn’t feature any supernatural activity. What it does have, is an interest in the heart of evil as young Brad Renfro becomes obsessed with the brutality of World War II and strikes up a relationship with an elderly man in his neighbourhood who he believes to be a Nazi. The short is one of King’s darkest, most riveting reads and the film feeds off this malevolent energy thanks to Singer’s sure hand and two superlative, committed performances from Ian McKellen and the late, great Brad Renfro. Like the best of Horror, it’s an uncomfortable watch.

Creepshow

I covered Creepshow recently in my TTT George Romero movies, so go check that out. Great movie, great anthology.

It

One of my favourite books, and with the 90s mini-series being a firm favourite, the hype for a big screen It was real. The movie went through a few incarnations before Muschetti came on and finished Chapter One. I’m including Chapters One and Two together as it really is two halves of the same story. Both films are similar enough that you could watch the whole thing in one numb-arsed sitting, even though most fans and critics seem to prefer the first chapter. I’m old enough to remember the same arguments going one when the mini-series first came out – that the kids section was better. In all honesty love them both and would happily have watched four more hours. Sure the de-aging effects are dicey, the CG is at times a let down, Mike is reduced to a quivering weirdo as an adult, and it does feel somewhat repetitive, but I found the charm and banter between the adults just as endearing as the kids. In essence, it’s a scary and efficient horror story featuring a near perfect villain which preys on kids and which adults can’t see. Skarsgard is a great Pennywise – the performances all around are excellent – but it gets the most important pieces of the source material correct – the tone and that sense of binding, unbreakable friendship.

Misery

The only King adaptation to win an Oscar – not overly strange if you consider his shlock, but very strange when you consider his ‘more literary’ pieces. When a talented director and cast takes a King text and treats it with reverence, it will strike gold. Misery is a prime example of this and it could so easily have become just another crazy white woman movie. With Rob Reiner on an incredible run, he takes two seasoned performers and allows the film to be almost entirely by their command. The game of wits becomes a game of cat and mouse until the tables are eventually flipped. Bates and Caan have rarely been better and Reiner doesn’t shy away from some good old fashioned, ankle-snapping violence. It has no business being as good as this.

Pet Sematary

Hands down King’s most devastating and horrifying work, thanks to personal experience it’s not one I would recommend reading while pregnant or with a young child. We all know ‘dead is better’ and we know the film does have a certain reliance on gore and grisly effects, but there are numerous chilling moments and an honestly unnerving performance from young Miko Hughes. What could be worse than losing a child? Pet Sematary delves deep into this question and poses several horrible answers.

Stand By Me

Reiner’s first effort is many fans’ personal favourite. Like It, it features that Band Of Outsiders vibe which is always appealing and a nostalgic quality which reminds us of our own youthful adventures, loves, fears, and mistakes, and how time has a way of glossing over the cracks yet leaving a bittersweet taste of regret. We get older, we change, and we sometimes forget, but once in a while something makes us remember a time we can’t quite return to. It’s so much more than the tale of four friends on a trek to see a dead body – while The Body is not exactly a Maguffin – it’s more about the journey, the relationships, and what the discovery of that body represents to each of them. It’s about growing up, losing innocence, remembering, and it all plays through the eyes of a great cast – Corey Feldman, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss, Jerry O’Connell, Will Wheaton, River Phoenix, John Cusack.

The Mist

Another ensemble, this time dealing with a more direct and present horror. The Mist is one horror, the creatures of varying sizes and types in the mist are another, and the opposing voices in the store they hold up in is another. Another successful film based on a short, the film follows primarily a father and son shopping after a storm when a sudden all encompassing Mist swarms over their town. The store is packed with workers and other townsfolk, and eventually the military, and once the monsters show up and begin attacking and killing, it seems to some that the end is nigh. And when push comes to shove, it turns out they’re right. It’s a great ensemble piece at times let down by the effects, but in terms of efficiently telling a story about society’s breakdown against a horrific backdrop, and an ending which has gone in film lore, it’s one of the best.

The Running Man

They’ve been trying to get a remake of The Running Man up and, ahem, running for decades now. I say remake, but in most cases it sounds like they want to make a film more akin to the source material. Because make no mistake, The Running Man is more of an Arnie movie than a Stephen King movie. Still, he wrote the original and however loose of an adaptation this is, it still is. You can call it silly or smart, it certainly ticks boxes in both categories, but in the end it’s one the better end of the scale of Arnie mowing down bad guys and quipping. There are some bizarre casting choices and some legit great performances – I only wish we could send a few celebs onto this show for real.

The Shawshank Redemption

What else needs to be said about The Shawshank Redemption? It’s already frequently named as one of the best films ever, and it’s one of those rare instances where almost everyone agrees that it’s great. It is.

The Shining

You know it, I know it. Say what you like about the differences between book and movie – we all know King’s comments on Kubrick’s work over the years. I look at them as the separate things they are – both men are legends and both deserve to do whatever the hell they like when creating. It’s one of my favourite King books, it’s one of my favourite King movies, and both are classics in their respective mediums. I remember the first time I saw this, I was babysitting for some kids a few houses down the road. Free fridge, free house, the dark, and The Shining, and a creepy walk home around Midnight as I pondered over what I’d just seen and what might be creeping up behind me.

Let us know in the comments what your favourite Stephen King movies are, and stay tuned for my favourite Stephen King TV and Mini-Series adaptations!

 

Nightman Reacts To The Greatest Artists Of All Time (According To Rolling Stone)! 70-41

Part Two of my reaction to Rolling Stone’s Greatest 100 Musical Acts Of All Time. Click here for part one. Otherwise….

70. The Police

This entry is quite amusing – written by Brandon Flowers of ‘that shitty band’ fame, hardly the most ringing endorsement, and written without a trace of irony, try to say The Police was a deceptively clever band because they wrote songs which sounded like they were about one thing, but were actually about something else. Yes, that’s a great trick when you can pull it off. Unfortunately, what sort of moron misinterprets Every Breath You Take or Roxanne? They’re as blatantly obvious as Flowers is oblivious. In any case, Roxanne is awful, Every Breath You Take is superb, and most of the rest of the songs I’ve heard fall on a sliding scale starting from ‘meh’ and ending up at ‘aborted baboon feces’.

69. Jackie Wilson

A sorry tale of talent gone to ruin and vultures picking over the scraps, Wilson was undoubtedly a great performer. His voice was ludicrous, reaching peaks his contemporaries couldn’t dream of while being smooth when required.

68. The Temptations

Everything you could want in a male vocal group, the voices, the poise, the presence, and the songs to go with them.

67. Cream

I don’t give them the credit they deserve, mostly because I feel their individual songs aren’t great often enough, but there’s no doubting their influence. They played with immense technical skill, and they played loud while retaining melody.

66. Al Green

Yeah, don’t know much about him, only know a couple of songs.

65. The Kinks

One of the finest English rock bands, it’s a shame they came out at the same time as The Beatles, The Stones, The Who. They were fantastic, challenging, they wanted to challenge themselves, and Davies remains one of the all time great songwriters.

64. Phil Spector

It seems a little cheeky including him on the list given that he’s a Producer. His influence over the music he was producing undoubtedly turned the songs into something better. Famed for his Wall Of Sound, he’s easily one of the greatest Producers of all time, but he doesn’t need to be on this list.

63. Tina Turner

The singer every mother in law seems to love, Turner had her own brand of ferocity when she performed and that carried her beyond Ike to a vast number of personal hits. With one of the more unique voices in female pop, Turner makes music anyone can enjoy.

62. Joni Mitchell

You probably know my feelings about Joni – she’s one of the greats. One of the great true artists in music, constantly doing something different and doing it differently, a wonderfully talented musician, songwriter, lyricist, vocalist – she has it all, and does it all with grace and wisdom. I of course prefer her folk to her jazz, but it’s all worthwhile. In the pantheon of great female artists – she’s at the top.

61. Metallica

The band that brought Metal to the mainstream, the band that changed the metal game forever. Love or hate them, take a listen once more to any of their first four albums and try not to be blown away by the creativity, ambition, skill, and energy. Then slap on The Black album and see how they could channel all of that into something which the masses could swallow. They’re more of a touring band now – I wish they didn’t have such huge gaps between albums as that usually means artists are resting on their laurels or don’t have much to say. Each time they come back though (beyond a few hiccups in the late 90s) it’s something approaching heartwarming for every metal fan. They still have a knack for making the outsider feel like part of something, and make you want to smash the place up and release all of that pent up anger and excitement.

60. The Sex Pistols

Of course. The be all and end all when it comes to Punk, they ignited a movement. I’m not talking about their politics or punk as a whole, I’m talking about inspiring kids to get up and fucking do something. Start a band, start a riot, pick up an instrument and go conquer the world. Their few songs were pretty alright too.

59. Aerosmith

Taking the Blues rock back from the Brits, Aerosmith saw the fame of Zeppelin and The Stones and decided they could have a slice of that pie, while glamming it up and making it all American. With Tyler they had a voice to rival any wailing English man, and with Perry a guitarist who brought some of the first doses of sleaze to rock. They are one of the few bands to have successive, successful returns – sounding different each time, yet the same. They were sleazy blues in the Seventies, everybody’s mates in 80s, serious hit makers in the 90s, and have kept on plugging into the new millennium. They’re the biggest selling American rock band of all time – keep that in mind.

58. Parliament and Funkadelic

I need to give them a chance. Anything I’ve heard I usually dismiss as either silly or not to my taste.

57. The Grateful Dead

More of the same – never been a fan, haven’t heard enough, need to give them a chance

56. Dr Dre

Well, duh. Dre is a great producer and has discovered some of the best and many of the worst RnB artists out there. But his work as a rapper remains some of the best, most seminal in the game with both his solo stuff and work with NWA influencing essentially everything which came afterwards. Almost nothing has come close to topping it.

55. Eric Clapton

We all know he’s a great guitarist. Bit of an asshole, but he can play. Like most great guitarists, their ideas rarely translate into good solo songs and they tend to work best when they can influence or be influenced by a like-minded group. In essence he was a beast and did some great stuff, then he calmed down and didn’t.

54. Howlin’ Wolf

Every so often an artist will have a name which tells you all you need to know – Megadeth… umm… Ed Sheeran? Howlin’ Wolf is exactly that – bloodthirsty, exotic, eccentric, and ear-piercing. One of the true greats of the early rock era.

53. The Allman Brothers

Wouldn’t you know, it’s more Southern Rock. And wouldn’t you know, I don’t know a hell of a lot about it.

52. Queen

Probably the rock band with the most widespread popularity outside of The Beatles. Everyone loves Queen it seems, from middle aged women usually terrified of guitars to snobs, hipsters, chavs, metal-heads, critics, musicians. Maybe it’s that they just have so many hits or that so many of those hits have an anthemic quality. Maybe it’s that their songs have so far transcended time and still sound fresh now. I’ve never considered myself a huge Queen fan, beyond mostly liking all of the singles that I’ve heard. I’ve only listened to one full album, and enjoyed it, so I guess I am a Queen fan.

51. Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd cover so many genres, yet always retain that something special which makes them them. They have covered prog, punk, psychedelic, dance, mellow, and have made some of the best concept albums ever. That four album run which covers Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall, may be the best run in musical history. Each on is unique, each one flawless. Before that run the had the experimental insanity of Syd and the patchwork miscellany his shadow uncovered, and afterwards the politics of Roger and soothing six string of Gilmour to keep them going. That four album run though, with Mason and Wright keeping the music both tight and flexible, is rock perfection.

50. The Band

Can’t say I know much about them.

49. Elton John

I’ve never been a fan, but then piano led rock comes off as cheesy to me and almost never makes me feel anything but the need to turn it off. I love the piano as an instrument, but so few artists use it to my tastes. Obviously he’s a superstar and I’m in the minority. I don’t mind the writing, I like a couple of songs, and I haven’t heard any complete albums, but his vocals and presence and songs in general aren’t my bag.

48. Run DMC

The original pioneers of rap, pretty much any of the Run DMC songs I’ve heard I’ve liked. But that’s a very small number, so I’ll have to change that.

47. Patti Smith

Those friends I mentioned earlier whose musical tastes are similar to mine? Some swear by Patti Smith. I’ve only heard a handful of songs so she is another artist I need to explore.

46. Janis Joplin

Jeebus, that voice. Have you ever heard or felt anything like it when Janis lets rip? I’ve no idea what she could have gone on to become – it was always a shame to me that the actual songs she performed weren’t overly interesting to me. She had the voice and the expression and the performance – just needed the songs to pull it together.

45. The Byrds

Another band whose singles I know, and that’s about it. I know they’ll be coming up plenty in my other long-running series, so I’ll get to them.

44. Public Enemy

Yeeeah Boyee! For my money, Chuck D is the greatest rapper of them all. The combination of his smooth yet aggressive vocals, his sharp observations stabbed into some of the best lyrics of the last thirty years, and his inviting, eloquent delivery is everything which is missing from the rap I hear these days (not that I’m paying much attention). Throw in the madcap exhalations and ramblings by Flavor Flav and their ability to take metal riffs, disjointed samples and effects from reports, movies, past hits, and you have a group capable of establishing a meaningful uprising and cross musical borders.

43. Sly And The Family Stone

Again, a blank spot in my musical knowledge outside of a few obvious songs.

42. Van Morrison

A fellow Northern Irish man, that’s enough reason to dislike him. I’m not sure at the point of writing this whether or not I’ll have posted something else I’ve also written about Van. In summary – sometimes I like his voice, other times I hate it – he comes across as a complete knob, and I know little outside of his big hits.

41. The Doors

They’re the band all disenfranchised kids and teens get into at some point, or should do. I go back and forth on The Doors – Morrison as a frontman – there’s fewer more charismatic, he brought a lot of intelligence and poetry to lyrics although many of them are hit and miss. The keyboard also comes across in that hit or miss way – sometimes it’s perfect, other times it’s cheesy as fuck and sounds like a bad pub band. The playing is always great though and I love many of their songs. Krieger had some great licks.

Check back soon for Part Three!

TTT – Top Ten Walter Hill Movies!


2016 Toronto Film Festival - Portraits
Walter Hill of ‘(Re)Assignment’ poses for a portrait at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival Getty Images Portrait Studio at the Intercontinental Hotel on September 13, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.

Greetings, Glancers! This one was suggested a long time ago by fellow movie blogger and connoisseur John over at Cinematic Coffee. Check out his site for detailed reviews, discussions, and myriad director lists. John is a Walter Hill fan, as we all should be given his output and influence, and he wanted to hear my favourite Hill films.

Starting out as a writer, Hill’s early directorial voice is clear from the films he scripted or helped on – gritty, masculine, hard-hitting, and one of the fore-running of the buddy-cop/mismatched partnership/clashing of backgrounds which would come to define his best work. The Getaway, The Drowning Pool and others would set him on the path to becoming a director, though he would consistently remain a creative writing and producing force through his career. In 1975, he opened his Director’s Chair account and since then he has directed twenty six movies and TV Shows.

For me, Hill’s best work was from the tail end of the 1970s to the late 80s, a period when he enjoyed commercial and critical success. Since then, both have largely avoided him but his impact on both action and thriller genres should not be underestimated and his films are always challenging on multiples levels and a great tool for upcoming creators to learn from.

10. Trespass

It was either going to be this or Streets Of Fire. While I like Streets Of Fire for its ambition, it doesn’t always work and to me comes off as just another curio of 80s macho action. Curio is a good word to describe much of Hill’s work – he never exactly goes against the grain but takes what is popular at the time and adds a unique, left wing twist on things. Trespass is a post Reservoir Dogs, pre Pulp Fiction crime movie with a script from over a decade earlier but which feels like it was released two years too early. Bill Paxton and William Sadler play firemen who meet an unusual old man moments before he dies who leads them on a quest for stolen riches. They end up becoming embroiled in a gang war involving Ice Cube AND Ice T and a fight over the gold. It’s basically a Pirate movie set in modern day Illinois. It’s a film of its time but one which deserves to find an audience now – it was released around the time of the LA riots and due to some of the subject matter the studios didn’t give it the attention it warranted

9. The Long Riders

A Western which meets the curio quota – first, not many Westerns were being made in the 80s, and second it makes great use of Hollywood’s history of nepotism by casting some of the most famous Hollywood families as its stars. We have three Carradines, two Keaches, two Quaids, and two Guests – it’s a cool idea and not one many directors have tried over the years. The film takes its inspiration from the antics of Jessie James and the groups he ran with and against, and the men tasked with bringing them down. It’s more violent than many of the Westerns which came in the middle of the 70s and doesn’t paint the favourite American heroes in a heroic light. Like Hill’s best work though, it shows ‘hard times’ with a deft hand and engaging photography.

8. Extreme Prejudice

After some interludes into musicals and comedies, Hill returned to what he did best – tough guys dealing with no-win situations. The great cast includes Hill favourites Nick Nolte and Powers Boothe, along with Michael Ironside, Rip Torn, Clancy Brown, and Maria Conchita Alonso. Nolte is a stoic border town Sheriff going up against his ex best friend Boothe who turned to the dark side and became a drug runner. There’s this personal war between two old pals who took opposing paths despite coming from the same place, and there’s the B plot which eventually merges with the main story about a covert group of soldiers – cold and ruthless killers who are sent in to do the dirty jobs no-one else is capable of. With a story from John Milius you can expect more violence, great one-liners, and as the title suggests, politics and viewpoints and resolutions from the more extreme right of centre.

7. Southern Comfort

Scaling down some of the larger ideas and set pieces of his previous work, Southern Comfort is nevertheless an ambitious and deep project. Again dealing with opposing forces of men, opposing individuals, and people from different backgrounds forced into working together to defeat a common foe, it draws inevitable comparisons with Deliverance thanks to its setting and survivalist tone. It follows a group of Natural Guard guys out on some routine training in Louisiana. The group is a mixture of yahoos, yokels, and incompetent wannabee soldiers. Powers Boothe stars as the newbie to the group, transferred in from Texas and pissed off by how uncivilized and unskilled the group is. Carradine is the easy-going Private who tries to defend his group as men just having a good time. Inevitably getting lost, they encounter a group of Cajun locals deep in the bayou and one of the group stupidly begins firing at them with his blank rounds. Naturally the locals fight back – except they are trained and skilled hunters and fighters with deep knowledge of the terrain. It’s like Rambo in reverse. It’s a film I loved more in my youth because I remembered it having more action than it actually has. Now seen through older eyes, it feels more like a film about a bunch of idiots encroaching on territory which doens’t belong to them, and having to face the consequences. It’s well acted by the main players but not enough of the surrounding cast have long enough to have their characters fleshed out – a smaller group with more time dedicated to their flaws would have resulted in a more devastating film, but it’s still one which grips and entertains.

6. Geronimo

Like any number of Walter Hill movies, Geronimo never received the audience or credit it deserves. Hill gets to make the full blown Western he always wanted to and with a superb lead performance from Wes Studi it’s another Hill film which should be revisited. American audiences aren’t known for watching films where the lead is not a white guy they can relate to, yet the story of Geronimo is both fascinating and prescient. It follows the real life story of the Apache Indian forced to live on a US Reservation and deal with the associated humiliation. Refusing to cope with his forefather’s land being stolen and living according to the whim of the white man, Geronimo leads a splinter group who start to cause trouble for the Government and the military. Enter Jason Patrick who is tasked with capturing Geronimo and bringing his revolt to an end. Over the course of the film the two men are shown to be fighting for their beliefs and coming to respect each other. Still, as it’s Hill there’s a fair amount of action and violence in there. Aside from the main two performers, Gene Hackman, Matt Damon, and Robert Duvall all show up. It’s a film which always seemed to be on during my Summer Holidays at the Caravan/Camping park we went to every year, meaning that the next day me and my mates would be charging about the beaches and forests pretending to scalp people. PRETENDING.

fullwidth.0fe63ce8

5. Another 48 Hours

An unfortunate side effect of always making whatever you want to or hitting those curios or niche markets is that you rarely have a hit. A sequel to one of his biggest hits seemed like a sure-fire win for Hill, and bringing together Nolte and Murphy once more basically guaranteed the film would print money. The buddy formula was reaching its end but the chemistry between the two leads and Hill’s comfort dealing with the action and humour meant that the film is more of the same – it’s not as good as the first one but it will still make you laugh and it has plenty of bullet holes as Reggie and Jack reluctantly team up once again.

4. Brewster’s Millions

The story had already been filmed numerous times before Hill decided to do his version, and what better backdrop to make the film than in the bloodthirsty, Republican led, every man for himself era of 1980s New York? I don’t know what it is about Richard Pryor’s 80s movies, but to me they’re all hilarious – just watered down enough to be palatable to families, but just madcap enough that we got to see what a true talent he was. If you’re not familiar with the story, it concerns an everyday Joe being informed that an old relative has died leaving him $300 million, as long as he can complete several tasks. First, he must decide to either walk away with $3 million – no questions asked, or if he can spend $30 million in 30 days he will get the full $300 million. Of course he goes for the second option, and of course there are caveats which the comedy spins off from – he can’t simply give it all to charity, he cannot tell anyone what he’s doing etc. Pryor is the ideal person to play Brewster – those expressive eyes conveying desperation, exasperation, and hilarity better than anyone. Add in John Candy as his best mate and a bunch of hangers on, money man, and legal types, and we have a fast moving, family comedy the likes of which you rarely see anymore. It’s a very unusual film for Hill to helm, but he handles it perfectly.

3. The Warriors

My top three picks are mostly interchangeable. The Warriors is one of those movies that everybody seems to love, but nobody seems to talk about outside of cult movie circles. I don’t think I’ve ever shown it to anyone who didn’t love it. I love the premise of trying to get across a city while besieged by all sides, and I love that it uses gang warfare rather than say zombies or some other supernatural event. A student of Ancient Greek and Roman literature and mythology, I also love that it’s loosely based around Anabasis – which tells of an army’s voyage home through enemy territory. At a push, it goes back to The Odyssey as a voyage home, my favourite of any sub-sub-genre. The film follows the titular Warriors – one of nine gangs in NYC who have come together to agree upon a truce which would allow the gangs to essentially rule the city. The dude with the plan is murdered, the blame is placed upon The Warriors, and a hit is put on their heads meaning every gang in the city is after them.

It’s a simple idea but Hill is in total command of the material – stylish, violent, and with a potent and convincing cast it paints NYC as a cold and unforgiving arena where territorial skirmishes are an hourly occurrence and you’re not safe unless you’re with your own kind on your own turf. Beck, Remar, and Kelly are each great and it’s maybe Hill’s most visually impressive film.

2. 48 Hours.

If there’s one thing these top three/four films have in common for me it’s that they are so rewatchable. They’re junk with substance – delicious yet rewarding. 48 Hours is probably the most universally rewatchable thanks to the smart and funny script led by Eddie Murphy at his best and Nick Nolte as the robust, perpetually pissed off foil. Barely a minute passes without something funny being said or seen, and if all else fails there’s plenty of violent 80s action to fall back on. For my money it’s the best buddy cop movie ever made, and it rarely puts a foot wrong.

  1. The Driver.

For the longest time I would rave to anyone and everyone about how good The Driver was. Then that movie with Ryan Gosling came about, and then Baby Driver, and a few more people suddenly claimed they loved this one too. The Driver contains some of the best car chases you’ll ever see and a bare bones hard boiled plot which exists just to remind us how cool Ryan O’Neal could be and how Bruce Dern could go full Nicholson before Nicholson ever did. The film was ripped to shreds upon release, but I loved it the first time I saw it. The main characters are unnamed, a deliberate choice and throwback to noir ideals, and the story is lean, leaving only sporadic dialogue, threats, and chases. For any fans of Drive and Baby Driver, or car-centric action movies in general, go back to the source – this is the source.

Let us know in the comments what you think of my picks and share your favourite Walter Hill Movies!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Send Away The Tigers

Manic_Street_Preachers_-_Send_Away_the_Tigers

After the mainly piano-based and electronic antics of Lifeblood, the band headed once more back to their guitar roots with the straightforward angular rock of Send Away The Tigers. Generally well received at the time, it’s an album which is mostly forgotten now beyond its major single. The band itself has once again been critical of certain songs but also credited it as getting them back on track and helping them to fall in love with making music again. Here’s my ranking of the ten tracks and the one hidden song:

  1. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
  2. Autumn Song
  3. Send Away The Tigers
  4. Winterlovers
  5. Imperial Bodybags
  6. Underdogs
  7. Rendition
  8. I’m Just A Patsy
  9. Indian Summer
  10. The Second Great Depression
  11. Working Class Hero

Essentially everything above is a few steps below Your Love Alone Is Not Enough in terms of quality, with at least 7 of the lower ranked songs being interchangeable for me. No bad songs at all, just high average or thereabouts. It’s a short album but still garnered four singles, so that means we have plenty of B-Sides and alternatives to add in for my ideal version of the album:

  1. Send Away The Tigers
  2. Underdogs
  3. Your Love Alone Is Not Enough
  4. Anorexic Rodin
  5. Fearless Punk Ballad
  6. Rendition
  7. Morning Comrades
  8. Autumn Song
  9. Leviathan
  10. Boxes And Lists
  11. Imperial Bodybags
  12. Little Girl Lost
  13. Winterlovers
  14. Umbrella
  15. Ghosts Of Christmas

Both of those last two would be hidden tracks, naturally. That’s actually a pretty great album right there. I’m sure the order could be switched around to flow better. Let us know your ranking and picks in the comments!