Media Shelf

New Bay Area Music & Books


San Francisco Bay Shoreline Guide, Second Edition, A State Coastal Conservancy Book, (University of California Press, 2012, 248 pp., $29.95)
     The California Coastal Conservancy and the University of California Press have active nature lovers covered with this second edition of the 1995 original guide. This one travels and explores the shoreline Bay Trail that encircles San Francisco and San Pablo bays. The chapters are organized counterclockwise from San Francisco, covering the nine-county area with oodles of info on excursions galore from walking, biking, hiking and strolling to boating, fishing, windsurfing and kite flying, and then some. Great maps, beautiful photography, lovely drawings of wildlife and fauna as well as reference sections with need-to-know info on transit and related attractions and Bay-friendly organizations make this a treasured addition to any naturalist’s library.

The Sky's The LimitThe Sky’s the Limit: People V. Newton, The REAL Trial of the 20th Century by Lise Pearlman (Regent Press, 2012, 806 pp., $29.95)
     The Black Panther Party is synonymous with Oakland. This hefty tome by legal scholar Pearlman makes the case that the murder trial of Panther Party’s Minster of Defense, Huey P. Newton, should be recognized as the trial of the last century, a court case even more pivotal than other precedent-setting court decisions of the time such as the Scopes Trial. The author, an Oaklander, is a retired judge who was at Yale when Bobby Seale, Panther Party chairman, was on trial for murder in New Haven and was in law school at Cal when Newton was tried. Pearlman makes her case in three parts that are chockfull of summaries of other legal-case thrillers throughout the century, including parallels, differences and asides. In the end, whether her argument succeeds doesn’t really matter, because the fact is, it was indeed one hell of a trial.         

Eye from the EdgeEye from the Edge, A Memoir of West Oakland, California by Ruben Llamas.(Earthpatch Press, 2012, 179 pp., $29.95)
     One-time shoeshine boy, first-generation American and now-Carmichael, Calif., PayLess Drug Store retired exec Ruben Llamas spins a detail-rich memoir of his post–World War II life growing up in West Oakland. The son of Mexican immigrants, Llamas lived at Seventh and Castro in a three-story 1800s Victorian that housed his family’s bustling music store, barbershop and jewelry repair shop businesses. When Llamas later in life found scant history about his old stomping grounds from the ’20s to the ’40s, he decided to dive in himself and surfaces with a concise depiction of the lively melting pot that was (and still is) Oakland. He starts with a self-effacing account of his own life and then sketches the memorable sports and music scenes of the era from boxing to the Grandiosa Tardeada at Sweets Ballroom and concludes with genealogical details about his ancestors. Photographs — especially the high school prom image of Llamas and sweetheart and life partner Anita — add an endearing quality and earnest tone.

Beaches and ParksExperience the California Coast, Beaches and Parks From San Francisco to Monterey, California Coastal Commission, (University of California Press, 320 pp., $29.95)
      This is one classy guidebook on the beaches and parks of Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, and it is for explorers interested in the grandeur, ecology and attractions of the California shoreline. This guide just may prove indispensable, thanks to easy-to-read maps and charts, visually stunning photography and fact-filled observations on natural phenomena such as oysters, mosses, fungi, lichen, beach sand and submarine canyons, for example, and a few man-made ones like the Monterey Aquarium and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The written descriptions are decidedly telegraphic but give readers the basics they need. An added bonus: the ample and gorgeous Tom Killion woodcut prints interspersed throughout.

Howlin Rain, The Russian Wilds
(American Recordings)
     It took four years for Oakland guitarist and singer Ethan Miller to put together and release the follow-up to Howlin Rain’s well-received Magnificent Fiend. Much of that time was dedicated to collaborating with producer-engineer Tim Green in pursuit of the recording’s close-to-perfect sound. But Miller spent many hours further steeping himself in classic melodic hard rock from the late 1960s and the ’70s.
     Anyone who lived through that era will listen to The Russian Wilds wearing a permanent grin and recognizing the parallels and evocations: Spirit, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Humble Pie, Queen, Wishbone Ash, Lee Michaels, Supertramp and so much more. Miller and Isaiah Mitchell forge a dazzling twin-guitar attack that nails countless expressions of blues-rock, prog and acid-rock vernaculars; Joel Robinow provides mysterious keyboard counterpoints and great swells of organ; and the massively chorused male and female harmonies pump even more majesty behind Miller’s sweetly raspy, borderline hysterical lead vocals.
     Miller has cited Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, Steely Dan’s Gaucho and Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town as inspirations for The Russian Wilds. To his and the band’s credit, you can eventually leave all the references behind and get totally lost in the CD’s (or LP’s) guilty pleasures.

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