Sly Stone, Sandman, scintillating TV
1. ”In Time,” from Sly and the Family Stone’s Fresh
Not even by a long shot the best song on the staggering seven-album Sly and the Family Stone: The Collection boxed set (which includes Fresh). But in 1973, this composition was still a measure of Sly’s seemingly effortless and, as it turned out, probably agonizing mastery of time, cadence, wit, and sensuousness. The tight little James Brown-style horn bursts; the slurred words and yelps that Prince would later emulate; the unique expression of simultaneous joy and anguish — ”In Time” was the first song on the first album Sly had released since his impossibly despairing, soul-bursting There’s a Riot Goin’ On two years earlier. Riot was a masterpiece of dread, paranoia, and suppressed rage brought to the surface; to follow it with something as jaunty and witty as ”In Time” only makes his achievement all the more stunning, his subsequent slow, steady dropping-out from the music industry more of a tragedy.
2. Thomas Haden Church in Spider-Man 3
In a movie that’s too long and has too many villains (not that James Franco and Topher Grace give bad performances), Church’s brooding, anguished take on his Sandman character — combined with F/X that make him the rare comic-book character with a swirling rhythm to his movements that’s almost poetic — gives the movie its soul. An underrated dramatic actor, Church is really on director Sam Raimi’s wavelength, honing in on the quiet desperation that can motivate, and doom, even larger-than-life characters.
3. ”When Kids Get Life” on Frontline
(PBS, Tuesday, check local listings)
Yes, it’s both heart-wrenching and appalling to hear these stories of underage law-breakers who, when convicted for the charge of ”felony murder,” are — under a grievous quirk in Colorado state law — sentenced to life without parole. Thus we have, for example, Trevor Jones, who accidentally shot and killed a classmate he was trying to sell the gun to. A jury determined that what Jones committed was closer to ”reckless manslaughter,” a far less severe crime, but that wasn’t the jury’s option under the charges Jones faced. So this young man, who was 17 at the time, is now interviewed 10 years later, a broken human being. The invaluable director Ofra Bikel is incapable of making a soft-headed or -hearted documentary, and she offers four profiles of punishments that did not fit the crimes. There’s as much sympathy for the victims as for the convicted, but it’s infuriating tragedy all around.
4. Lady Heather returns to CSI
(CBS, Thursday at 9 p.m.)
Now that The O.C. is canceled, Melinda Clarke is presumably free to make more frequent appearances as Lady Heather, primetime’s smartest dominatrix this side of Simon Cowell. As usual with the canny way this show uses Heather’s chaste interactions with William Petersen’s Gil Grissom, it’s less kinkiness than human weakness that interests them both. And as far as the crime involved is concerned, I hope you’ll pardon the cliché when I say, this time, it’s personal.
5. ”I Like Being Left Alone” on Robbie Fulks’ Revenge!
(Yep Roc CD)
For quite a few years now, the mass public has been leaving neo-trad country singer Robbie Fulks alone quite nicely, without him asking. But that’s part of his sly-fox appeal — that, and the fact that this is an excellent novelty song whose wit is in the jingly-jangly melody and the list of people he’d wish would leave him alone, which includes ”sales reps,” ”children,” and ”you.” Therefore, you might consider getting the CD just to annoy him.