The highly anticipated and critically acclaimed political drama, HOUSE OF CARDS: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, produced by Media Rights Capital, arrives on DVD June 17 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The series returns with two-time Academy Award® winner Kevin Spacey (American Beauty, Best Actor in a Leading Role, 1999; The Usual Suspects, Best Actor in a Supporting Role; 1995) as the newly appointed Vice President of the United States, along with Robin Wright, this year’s Golden Globe® winner for her role as his wife, Claire Underwood (Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama). This series continues to sizzle with intensity as the ruthless Underwoods stop at nothing to climb the political food chain.
With 1970's Workingman's Dead, the Grateful Dead went through an overnight metamorphosis, turning abruptly from tripped-out free-form rock toward sublime acoustic folk and Americana. Taking notes on vocal harmonies from friends Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Dead used the softer statements of their fourth studio album as a subtle but moving reflection on the turmoil, heaviness, and hope America's youth was facing as the idealistic '60s ended. American Beauty was recorded just a few months after its predecessor, both expanding and improving on the bluegrass, folk, and psychedelic country explorations of Workingman's Dead with some of the band's most brilliant compositions. The songs here have a noticeably more relaxed and joyous feel. Having dived headfirst into this new sound with the previous album, the bandmembers found the summit of their collaborative powers here, with lyricist Robert Hunter penning some of his most poetic work, Jerry Garcia focusing more on gliding pedal steel than his regular electric lead guitar work, and standout lead vocal performances coming from Bob Weir (on the anthem to hippie love "Sugar Magnolia"), Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (on the husky blues of "Operator"), and Phil Lesh (on the near-perfect opening tune, "Box of Rain").
If your Latin jazz collection centers mainly around styles from Cuba and Brazil, pianist Edward Simon would like you to consider expanding your library to include musical influences from a culturally diverse land geographically situated between those two countries – namely Venezuela, where he was born and lived until the age of 12. Simon is an acclaimed post-bop and modern creative jazz pianist in his adopted country of the United States, and while Latin American elements have certainly seasoned his recorded output to date, this 2014 Sunnyside release finds him focusing more intently than ever on the nexus between creative jazz and the folk music of his home country. The album's title is derived from "Venezuelan Suite," whose four parts fill over 28 minutes of the disc's concise 38-minute duration. Simon composed the suite for his Ensemble Venezuela, and the ten-member version of the group heard here – including musicians from the U.S., Venezuela, and Colombia – is wonderfully vibrant, ably fulfilling the pianist's creative intent. Chamber Music America commissioned Simon to write this work, and he rose to the challenge with music that is suitably rich with timbral and textural variety.