Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dez Reviews Quantum of Solace

Longtime GNABB readers know that Dez is a Bond aficionado. For Dez’s overview of the entire Bond film series, click HERE and HERE. I am not uncritical of each individual film. To the contrary, I freely admit that there are a number of Bond films that are laughably bad. But they are all a part of the family. It is always an exciting time in a Bond fan’s life when a new actor takes up the mantle. Daniel Craig’s debut in 2006’s Casino Royale was one of the most exciting and refreshing entries in Bond history. Casino Royale ranks up there in the top three or so of all 22 official Bond films (I do not count the rogue Never Say Never Again or the slapstick spoof Casino Royale from the late 1960’s). When I heard that the follow-up, Quantum of Solace, was to pick up where Casino Royale left off (a real sequel vs. a self contained adventure, as all of the previous films had been), I was quite intrigued.

Quantum of Solace ranks somewhere in the middle in the Bond hierarchy. It is buoyed by an electric and intense performance from Daniel Craig, who thank God has signed on for at least two more Bond films. But the actor’s portrayal can be separated from the film itself. (For instance, Pierce Brosnan was generally excellent in his films, but three of the four were pretty bad and stale Bond films, with only Goldeneye being a stand-out from his era. None of that was Brosnan’s fault.)

The plot of QOS is fairly thin. Villain Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) follows in the tradition of the more realistic of Bond villains. (After the down to earth Le Chiffre and Greene, I am ready for a true megalomaniac like Goldfinger or Blofeld in the next one, though). Greene is a sadistic industrialist with the rather humble scheme (for Bond standards) of hording and controlling the water supply of Bolivia. But the real interest for Bond is that Greene seems to be the next link in the chain of the mysterious evil organization known as ‘Quantum,’ which we now know was behind the events in Casino Royale (it appears the producers are setting up this Quantum as the new Spectre from films and Fleming books of old. Could there be an evil mastermind a la Blofeld coming in the next film?)

Judi Dench's 'M' continues to develop into an outstanding supporting character, while the woefully underused Jeffrey Wright as Bond friend/CIA operative Felix Leiter needs to be given more time in future films. Wright's Leiter rivals Jack Lord's depiction of Leiter in Dr. No (in quality and presence, they are obviously very different approaches to the character). Giancarlo Giannini's Rene Mathis makes a welcome return as a Bond ally/father figure. They do not have this type of character very often in Bond films, but it always enhances the depth of Bond's character when he has a mentor like Mathis. (It reminds me of the wonderful Kerim Bey character from the best Bond film ever, From Russia With Love.) The Bond girls are sufficiently hot and interesting this time around. Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton) is his obligatory sexual conquest, while Olga Kurylenko plays the intriguing beauty Camille Montes bent on revenge. Interesting that Bond fails to bed her. His loss, she is very hot. If I were Craig, I would have insisted on a script rewrite rectifying that situation.

ABOVE: Bond gets to sleep with the one on the right, but fails to bed the one on the left

This entry in the Bond series is high on impressive action sequences, but a bit low on the intrigue and style that are the hallmarks of the best of the Bond films. While it is nice to see Bond somewhat haunted by the past (he is driven to avenge the death of Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale more than duty to any current mission), you can see him becoming colder and more bitter as the film progresses. Perhaps this is the direction they want to take the character (definitely preferable to the clown that was Roger Moore or even the irritating detachment that was the later Brosnan Bond), but they risk losing some key elements of the classic Bond character. Remember that while being the ultimate physical threat, Bond is also obsessed with creature comforts and pleasures. Bond style has always been as important as Bond action. That is what Connery balanced so well in the character, and what no actor since has quite been able to balance as well. Craig’s Bond shows some tantalizing hints that he is discovering a taste for the expensive pleasures in life (these two most recent films, to be fair, are supposed to be a “reboot” of the character in his early days, so they are portraying him as a bit rough around the edges on purpose). I just hope that they don’t forget that Bond needs to grow into a sophisticated obsessive in the pursuits of pleasures and excess. That is a key to the character, and what separates Bond from the Bournes of the world.

ABOVE: There is no shortage of action in the new Bond. Bond has evidently gotten top notch training in jumping from building to building, as well as vehicular chases (he engages in two car chases, a motorcycle chase, boat chase and airplane chase in Quantum of Solace)

I can appreciate the producers’ need to keep up with the Bournes and Transporters in the action department (and they have, admirably), but they should not forget that they have some advantages with this Bond character that the new and improved Daniel Craig-era Bond has yet to fully exploit. But I am somewhat nit-picking here. The fact is that this is an extremely exciting era for Bond fans. Daniel Craig is the best shot of adrenaline for Bond since the days of Connery. I would categorize Quantum of Solace as a letdown from the peaks of Casino Royale, but I am already looking forward to Bond 23 and have the utmost confidence that this current Bond team can fix the glitches that surfaced in Quantum of Solace.

Bond fans should keep watch for a wonderful little homage to Goldfinger in QOS.

*** out of *****

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chinese Democracy Is Here. Where’s My Dr. Pepper?

Recall awhile back I posted about Axl Rose’s epic struggle to complete Guns ‘n Roses’ follow-up to their most recent release (as in, the mid-1990’s). CD’s imminent release has been reported since then, with countless release dates come and gone with nothing. Also recall that Dr. Pepper haughtily offered to give every American a free Dr. Pepper (except Slash) if Axl finished and released the record this calendar year. Well, Dr. Pepper, it is time to pay up, because Axl has finally unleashed Chinese Democracy on the world.

How do you review an album like this? How do you judge “the most anticipated release. Ever.” (according to the marketing team of Best Buy, who has an exclusive distribution deal on CD. And it may be the most anticipated release, but not in a good way. Most anticipated as in ‘will Axl actually ever finish it? How long can he drag this thing out?’) How do you listen to the record without also getting caught up in the carnival of fools surrounding the recording of CD?

The only thing to do is toss the history aside, listen to the record itself and judge it on its own merits. So what has Axl given us? Undoubtedly it is a record of huge ambition. He makes no apologies for trying to create a BIG rock record with all the pretentious trimmings. This isn’t a bad thing; perhaps rock needs this kind of ambition again. The results are mixed. As with most projects that are labored over and revised long after they should have been left alone, things are overproduced and somewhat sterile. From the wall of guitars, the choirs, the strings and melodramatic keyboards to the samples and Axl’s attempts at singing in different voices…it is too much. Reading through the record’s credits, one is (sadly) not surprised to see 13 different studios listed. On the musician credits for each song, there is an average of 4-5 guitarists listed on each song. There are some absolutely killer guitar solos here, but good luck figuring out who played what. While listening, I found myself longing for the streamlined vicious attack of Appetite For Destruction or G’n R Lies.

The title track is a success, showing great pretention while also rocking really hard. Tunes like “Better,” “There Was a Time” and “I.R.S.” are top notch hard rock full of melody and hooks. Axl scores big with those tracks, while the brooding “Sorry” reveals real emotions and insight into Axl’s state of mind over the past couple of decades. But the highlights and real distinct songs end there. The rest sounds like Axl was trying to best the overblown “November Rain” from days of yore. Any bets on how long the next one will take? And where do I pick up my Dr. Pepper?

**1/2 out of *****

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's the Singer, Not the Song

Another issue, another list. Rolling Stone magazine’s latest issue features their picks of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. I usually cut RS some slack on their lists, but this one is ridiculous even to a listmaniac such as myself. Boldly announcing that they are not restricting themselves to just rock or pop music, the list supposedly represents all genres “from the rock era.” (I just read that phrase in quotes in the fine print. So my initial question of “where the f*ck is Frank Sinatra?” was answered there. I feel a little better.) 70 some odd musicians and industry types were polled about their favorite singers. (Funny side note: they showed a picture of Keith Richards' ballot in the issue, and he listed himself on his ballot, but not Mick. Needless to say, Keith's genial growl didn't make the actual list.)

The full list is HERE. First of all, what is the criteria? Obviously this is not just about technique and vocal prowess. I mean, Bob Dylan came in at #7 and Lou Reed at #62. I can accept that. A great singer, to me, is about character and unique expression. Not whether they can hit all of the high notes. So I’m cool with Dylan being so high since he has influenced so many people as a singer. (And more than just along the “if he can do it…” lines). But beyond that, what is the criteria? They don’t really specify.

The Top 10 were: 1. Aretha, 2. Ray Charles, 3. Elvis, 4. Sam Cooke, 5. Lennon, 6. Marvin Gaye, 7. Dylan, 8. Otis Redding, 9. Stevie Wonder and 10. James Brown. Not many surprises there.

ABOVE: Rolling Stone makes the bold assertion that Aretha Franklin is the greatest singer of the rock era

Additional thoughts on the list: Roy Orbison at #13 is ridiculous. He should be in the Top 10 easy. I was glad to see Jagger relatively high (#16). He is a great vocalist who can slide into many characters and styles. Underrated as a singer (vs. just a performer). Van Morrison at #24? Also ridiculous. He’s a Top 10 guy. I was especially pleased to see Howlin’ Wolf so high (#31) considering his comparative obscurity when compared to others on the list. To my ears, Wolf had the scariest, most visceral and powerful blues voice ever. As Sun Records producer Sam Phillips said of Wolf, “this is where the soul of man never dies.” Gregg Allman at #70 is way too low. Nice to see Levon Helm of The Band (#91), but bandmates Richard Manual and Rick Danko also need to be there. Nice to see Steve Winwood (#33). Go Steve Perry! (#76).

ABOVE: Rolling Stone agrees with me that Chester Burnett (aka Howlin’ Wolf) was the greatest blues singer of the rock era

So dear readers, what do you think makes a great singer? Is it purely technical skills, or something a bit more intangible? Who are some of your favorites? Thoughts on RS's list? Two of my favorite rock singers not to make this list are Peter Gabriel and Colin Hay. For whatever reason, those two voices hit me like no others do.

Where is Pavarotti? If they are covering all genres and the “rock era,” and Pavarotti was a “rock era” singer (chronologically), then shouldn't he be there? Come to think of it, Frank was still great and relevant in the rock era too. We're talkin' 50's and 60's, and Frank was still doing his stuff.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


First I'd like to congratulate my wife for completing her first Half Marathon this weekend at the San Antonio Rock and Roll Marathon. She and a little over 30,000 others ran the Half or Full Marathon through our streets. So called "Rock and Roll" because they have bands set up every mile, so you more or less have continuous tunes along your route. The big prize at the finish? A show at the Alamodome headlined by The Cult. Woo. Anyway, my wife says the bands sucked. In her words, "there was no 'Rocky' music." Note for next year: they can save money on bands if they just play "Eye of the Tiger" on a loop along the route.

What did I do on Sunday? Woke up, drove her down to the SBC Center so she could get on a shuttle to the starting line, slept in my car for an hour and a half, then boarded a shuttle to the finish line, ate two hot dogs and some chips, staked out a place near the finish line, watched an hour and a half worth of runners sputter by, and took two photos of my wife as she made it to the finish line. Who feels better today? I do. (As of today, she is convinced that was her last Half-Marathon).

There were some colorful costumes. The one guy dressed in full Santa Claus regalia? I am impressed that he ran a Half Marathon like that.

A word on the Kenyans. Near the finish where I was waiting, they had the street separated down the middle. On one side was the Marathon, on the other side there was the Half-Marathon. I got to see the Marathon finish as well, and the Kenyans, as expected, kicked ass. Kenyan, Kenyan, Kenyan...what seems like two hours...then the other people. The crowd along the route even had Kenyan signs to encourage their loved ones: 'Run like a Kenyan!', 'Today we are all Kenyans!' The Kenyans continue to dominate.

It is an interesting culture that has developed around these Half and Full Marathons. You are expected to cheer virtually every runner that passes you by if you are a spectator. All 32,000 of them. I was surrounded by hours of encouraging shouts and cheers. I gave a few "You can do it!" in my best Bela Karoly, but eventually I got tired of cheering and just watched the mass of humanity pass me by.

ABOVE: Texas governor Rick Perry runs in the San Antonio Rock and Roll (Half) Marathon

Thursday, November 13, 2008

RIP Mitch Mitchell, 1947-2008

Of all of the fortunate musicians who played with Jimi Hendrix, none were as integral to Jimi's sound as Mitchell. The last surviving member of the legendary Jimi Hendrix Experience trio died earlier this week. Mitchell was not only a member of the Experience, but he stayed with Jimi after the Experience disbanded, and was working with Hendrix on exciting new musical directions at the time of Hendrix's death.

Mitchell was a fantastic and complex drummer. Influenced by the great jazz drummers like Max Roach and Elvin Jones, Mitchell brought that complexity to the rock trio format. He was one of the first rock drummers to view the drums as more than just a keeper of beats and rhythms. Mitchell played the drums often as a "lead" instrument, playing off of and complementing Hendrix. Hendrix and Mitchell had a magical communication. Listen to the groovy interplay between Mitchell's drumming and Hendrix's rhythmic guitar playing in classic tunes like "Manic Depression," "Fire" or "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)." It is no exaggeration to say that Mitchell helped to make Hendrix as great as he was.

RIP Mitch Mitchell.

ABOVE: Here's Jimi, Mitch and bassist Noel Redding tearing it up at the Monterey Pop Festival

Monday, November 10, 2008

Revisiting the Worst Show on TV

Recall one of my most entertaining posts was my link to "The Best of Horatio Cain" from "CSI: Miami" here. Watch it again. It is that funny. I must have watched this clip 10 times in a row. If you missed that post, click the link above NOW. I command you in the name of all that is funny.

My wife (an unrepentent "CSI: Miami" fan) just sent me a link to this great commentary on the odd draw that "CSI: Miami" has on its viewers. The article is appropriately titled 'CSI: Miami is Watchable, Yet Horrible.' The full article can be found here. Returning to the mesmerizingly bad David Caruso as Horatio Cain, critic Andy Dehnart says:

Caine repeats other character's names multiple times in one sentence for no reason, and always stands at bizarre angles where he's never quite looking at whoever he's talking to. He's constantly removing or putting on his sunglasses, and he makes profound-sounding declarations that are actually trite and trivial. He talks to everyone as if they're children, and although he experiences emotion, doesn't express it verbally or non-verbally. Caine also walks away in the middle of conversations, and appears just as unexpectedly. On one episode, he appeared in the middle of a street that was just shown to be empty in a wide shot, as if he was some kind of magician.

But Dehnart goes on to point out that 'CSI: Miami's biggest draw may be the visuals. He says:

What may be most notable about the series is how it places its visual aesthetic above all else...In high-definition, it's intoxicating, with bright colors that scream for attention. It's HDTV porn, and high-definition television manufacturers should require big-box electronic stores to tune their sets to A&E, which repeats the show with ridiculous frequency. Nothing looks quite like "CSI: Miami" does, nor does any other show make Miami look so stunning and flawless...

All of this may be true. But the only reason I still watch occasionally with my wife is because David Caruso has turned bad acting into a stunning artform.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dez's Rock & Roll Cage Match, vol. 1: The Greatest Jam Band of Them All?

As you can tell, I love ranking and comparing things. For the sake of full disclosure, I got this idea from a book I saw in the book store the other day. In Rock and Roll Cage Match, different writers each take a chapter and put two rock artists or things head to head to see who comes out on top. Van Halen vs. Van Hagar, Britney vs. Christina, Smiths vs. Cure, Devo vs. Kraftwerk, the album vs. the single (in graphic novel form), etc. Fun concept, and as you might expect, the quality of the chapters vary based on the skill and take (and writing style) of each writer. So, I figured I'd throw a few of my own out there from time to time.

I've always been a big Allman Brothers Band fan, but recently (and I have no idea why), I've been listening to a shitload of the Grateful Dead. I mean, exculsively, for weeks. Entire shows from the Dick's Picks vaults, as well as their admittedly spotty studio records. Which got me thinking, who is the ultimate jam band out of the two grand daddy rock jam bands of all time?

The Grateful Dead vs. The Allman Brothers Band


1. Roots
Both bands pull from a wealth of American musical traditions for their inspiration. Jerry Garcia was an accomplished bluegrass player before The Dead even formed, while Duane Allman played guitar as a studio musician on records for Aretha Franklin and many other soul luminaries before the Brothers got together. Listening to The Grateful Dead throughout their career, they pull liberally from bluegrass, country, 50's rock, blues, psychedelia, and avante-garde noise (listen to live sets from the late 60's, especially, and you will find they were much more experimental than you might think). The Allmans pull from three main sources. Blues (and soul), country and jazz (Duane Allman stated that he listened to John Coltrane's music religiously, and it clearly influenced his guitar flights of fancy). The Dead seem to pull from a wider range of musical styles to create their musical stew.

2. Beginnings
The Dead were The Warlocks early on. The Allmans were called The Allman Joys. While I do not have any recordings of the Warlock days, I do have some Allman Joy recordings, and they kicked ass even then. Plus, love the name.

3. Studio recordings
This is tough. Both have some acknowledged classics, underrated gems, and truly terrible records. The Dead have two real masterpieces in Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, while Mars Hotel is underrated, and they have some scattered great songs throughout mediocre to bad records. The Dead made no secret about hating the studio. The Allman's first two records, Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South, are greatness. The studio half of Eat a Peach is brilliant, and Brothers and Sisters is solid to great. Everything else is spotty, with great songs scattered amongst filler.

4. Vocals
The Dead are charming with their ramshackle vocal styles. You really get used to Garcia's warm and inviting singing, while Bob Weir and Phil Lesh show every American that given the right circumstances, anyone can do this. On the Allman side of things, Dickey Betts is an excellent singer on their country-influenced material. Gregg Allman is one of the most soulful and powerful white singers we've ever had in rock. This one is easy.

5. Guitars
As with most jam bands, these two really lean on their guitarists. Whereas the Dead have clear roles of lead (Garcia) and rhythm (Weir), the Allmans have always used a double lead attack. Weir is serviceable, but Garcia was truly great and eclectic in his playing. One of the more underrated guitar heroes out there, Jerry Garcia had an identifiable style (a beautiful combination of speed, grace and fluidity), and he could throw that style comfortably in bluegrass chestnuts or 30 minute psychedelic ramblings. It was always identifiable as Garcia, yet he could be flexible enough to play many genres. As good as Garica was, Duane Allman was one of three of the greatest rock guitarists who ever lived (with Hendrix and Jeff Beck). An improviser on par with Coltrane or Miles Davis. Dickey Betts would be worshipped a lot more than he is if he did not have to play in Duane's shadow. He is brilliant as well. After Duane's death, the ABB were always careful to pair Betts with only top-notch co-lead players, like Warren Haynes and wunderkind Derek Trucks. They recently booted Betts (a ridiculous and offensive thing to do), but do have a formiddable line-up of Haynes and Trucks on guitar now. (Funny that Haynes also fills Garcia's shoes when the Dead get together for shows now).

ABOVE: Jerry Garcia is an underrated guitar great, but he's no Duane Allman.

6. The Bottom (bass)
The Dead's Phil Lesh is really underrated. Lesh is essentially a second lead improviser with Garcia on many Dead jams, and he is crucial to their jam magic. Original Allman bassist Berry Oakley was muscular and fluid, laying down a complex rhythmic bottom for Allman and Betts to stay tethered to as they soloed. After Oakley's death, the Allmans hired talented but unremarkable bassists.

7. Other musicians
Both bands use interesting two drummer set-ups. None remarkably talented, though. If I had to pick the best out of the Dead's two drummers and the Allman's two stickmen, I guess I go with The Dead's Bill Kreutzmann. On the keys, neither really hired people that blow you away. Allman's organ playing is there to basically give Gregg something to do while the others solo for 45 minutes at a time. The Dead's Pigpen, Godcheaux, Mydland...all those guys were good but not stellar.

8. Live records
This is where the jams are captured. The Dead have released a wealth of live shows for consumption. There are probably over 70 Grateful Dead live shows (from the late 60's to the late 80's) available for purchase. Naturally, they vary widely in quality. The Dead were the first band to welcome bootleggers to their shows (even reserving a special seating section for them to get the best sound recordings). The Allmans have released a decent number of live records, one of which, At the Fillmore East, may be the greatest live rock record ever released. I've got to give this to The Dead (barely) for creating such a unique live culture.

9. Fans
While the Allmans do have incredibly loyal fans, nothing in rock history compares to the subculture, extended family developed by The Deadheads. This is easy.

10. The Jams
This is what it's all really about, right? How do the actual jams compare? The Dead's quality varies widely, from sloppy or boring noodling to sublime and mesmerizing communication between the musicians. The Allmans can be boring at times, but never bad. And the mesmerizing communication is there at the best of times as well. I keep going back to what The Allmans do with Donovan's "There is a Mountain." This was a silly 3 minute pop tune, and the Allmans take the song and turn it into a 30 minute bohemoth jam with strength and intricate twists and turns ("Mountain Jam" on Eat a Peach.) So, I've got to take both bands at their peaks and compare there. The Allmans peaks are higher.

Winner: It is 5 to 5 (I did not plan it that way, I swear). The tiebreaker has to go with the Jams, since that is what this is all about. The Allman Brothers Band are the greatest jam band ever, but barely.

ABOVE: The greatest line-up of the greatest jam band ever, The Allman Brothers Band

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Si se puede

Congrats to Obama for winning the presidency. Judging from the euphoria in this country and around the world at his victory, I'd say he's got some huge expectations to live up to. (For instance, on talk radio yesterday, they were replaying over and over some interview with a lady in line to vote yesterday who said something to the effect of: "I won't have anything to worry about. I won't lose my house, I won't have to pay high gas prices. If I help him he's gonna take care of me." I'm not exaggerating that at all. That is what she said.) Suffice it to say, people will expect impossible things from our new messiah...I mean, president.

That aside, it was hard not to get swept up in the excitement. Although, I have to say I chuckled at the shot of Jesse Jackson weeping like a baby. Was it because he was so happy at this historic step forward in civil rights, or was it that he was wondering "why isn't that me up there?!" (You have to wonder considering his earlier statements that Obama was "too white.")

But hell, I voted for Obama, so I truly wish him the best. It looks like the Dems did not get the dreaded 60 seats in the Senate, which is good. Obama will be forced to work with the other side on some things. I am excited about the potential. Obama will go a long way to repair our reputation abroad. He is a thoughtful and reflective man, such a wonderful contrast to the reactionary dullard who "hates to read" we've had for the last 8 years.

A note on McCain: what a gracious speech he gave last night. A classy and heartfelt speech; McCain will still be relevant. Maybe he can go back to doing what he does best, being the real McCain again in the Senate. He was so much better than so many in his party. And, unfortunately, Palin is not going away.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Read This

I have often linked to my good friend (and frequent commentator here at GNABB) JMW's wonderful blog, A Special Way of Being Afraid. He and I have had many disagreements and debates, but I have always greatly respected his opinions (even when he is wrong). JMW is also a writer by trade, and he just posted one of the best political editorials I've ever read. The perfect food for thought on the eve of this historic election. So check it out ("A Final Word," posted today) here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I Voted

Recall in an earlier post, I vowed not to vote this year because: 1. I could not vote for Obama due to policy disageeements; 2. I could not vote for McCain because of Palin; and 3. I could not vote for a 3rd Party candidate because they are jokes (Barr, Nader). Well, I decided that it was my civic duty (and the fact that I teach Government to a bunch of high schoolers) to vote. So I did early voting yesterday.

I stared at the screen for what seemed like an eternity, going over the entire last year of the campaign in my head. With many, many serious reservations I voted for...Obama. As a big John McCain fan since 2000, that was extremely difficult for me to do. I gave money to McCain in 2000, the only campaign that I have ever sent money. In many respects, he is still an admirable man. But he is not (deep down) alligned with his own party. It was a marriage of convenience that McCain was picked as the Republican candidate this year. Simply put, he was the only Republican with a chance, because he was the most un-Republican of the candidates running for his party's nomination. But it has been painful to watch McCain go back on his prior positions on issue after issue in order to make the Republican base comfortable. And then there is Palin.

Obama, while I still say he is dead wrong on Iraq and I am concerned with his prior associations (yes, there is something to the fact that he associated with Ayers, Wright, crazy catholic priest guy, and the rest), is a thoughtful and reflective man. What a nice contrast to the last eight years. I am hoping that once in office, he will have to move closer to the center, as is what usually happens (except for Bush in 2000, but 9/11 changed everything). I am gravely concerned with giving Obama a majority in the Senate and House.

For repentence, I then voted straight Republican or Libertarian the rest of the way to balance it out. If Obama is elected, he needs as much opposition as possible to put the brakes on some of his more extreme Leftist tendencies.