Monday, August 29, 2016

ROCK HALL - THREE FOR ALL: HEART & JOAN JETT


I caught the Rock Hall - Three-For-All tour on August 23rd at it's L.A. stop at the Forum in Inglewood which features three legendary rock bands of the '70's, Cheap Trick, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and Heart. Due to my late arrival, I didn't catch Cheap Trick (although I must admit I'm not really much of a fan) but two out of three ain't bad.

At fifty-seven, Jett is still in ass-kicking shape, decked out in a leather and sequins body-suit and combat boots, as she tore through a tight set of hard-driving rock & roll. With her long-time producer, Kenny Laguna playing on keyboards and percussion, she delivered the expected hits like "Bad Reputation" and "I Hate Myself for Loving You" along with her popular covers of Gary Glitter's "Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah)" and Tommy James and the Shondells' "Crimson and Clover".

Jett was only just inducted in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame just two years ago which is shameful because she's been an important, long-time crusader of the music. As a teen, she was a part of the first all-female rock group, The Runaways and takes us back with a performance of their biggest single, "Cherry Bomb".

Jett also went back to her starring role in the family drama, "Light of Day", where she played the sister of Michael J. Fox (!) who both play in a local bar band seeking fame. The singer performed the title track, written by Bruce Springsteen, as images from the 1987 film played on the large screen behind the band. I had forgotten that Gena Rowlands was in it playing their mother (!!). The best was saved for last as Jett and The Blackhearts closed out their set with the smash 1982 number one hit, "I Love Rock & Roll" where the audience sang along, loudly confirming that phrase.

Heart was also only recently added to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and I hate to think that Ann and Nancy Wilson's gender played a role in the long delay but there were bands that are less influential and sold far fewer records that were quickly inducted in to the hall.

Anyway, on the road to promote their recently released record, "Beautiful Broken" which is made-up mostly of re-interpretations of music from their earlier albums, Heart blasted on to the stage with "Wild Child", a cut off their 1990 album, "Brigade". They followed that up with a string of some of their classic tunes, "Magic Man", "Even It Up", and "What About Love". Ann, whose gritty voice has lost none of it's power, surprised the audience by giving us a little James Brown and his "Get Up Offa That Thing" before launching in to a funky version of their song, "Straight On".

Taking center stage briefly, Nancy slowed things down by performing two ballads; Heart's number one smash from the '80's, "These Dreams" and one of the new tracks off the current album co-written by Ne-Yo, "Two".

The Wilson sisters have never made it a secret that Led Zeppelin were the inspiration that lead them to pursue music and Heart paid tribute to that iconic band during their encore by performing "Immigrant Song" and the song at the center of a recent lawsuit, "Stairway To Heaven". It was a perfect way to end a perfect evening of electrifying music.

If you missed the show, have a listen to the original recordings of some of my favorite tunes. It's not the same as hearing them performed live but it's the next best thing:

 "Bad Reputation" (1980) - Joan Jett mp3

"Crimson and Clover" (1981) - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts mp3

"Barracuda" (1977) - Heart mp3

"Straight On" (1978) - Heart mp3

Thursday, August 18, 2016

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


Today's tune comes from Stevie Wonder who has reliably given us wonderful music throughout the years. "If You Really Love Me" is such an amazing song with it's unusual arrangement and vibrant vocals. America agreed as this single reached number eight on the pop chart and number four on the r&b chart.

This song came off of Wonder's 1970 album "Where I'm Coming From" which was written by the then twenty-year old singer and his new bride, Syreeta Wright, a songwriter, singer and former secretary at Motown. The album was released with much resistance from Berry Gordy who liked to have complete control over the content of his label's artists. However, Wonder wanted to be able to creatively express himself without interference to explore different musical ideas and write about social issues.

This caused some serious tension between Wonder and Motown. When he turned twenty-one, his recording contract had a clause which allowed Wonder to void it upon becoming legally an adult and refused to resign with the label. During this standoff, Wonder worked on his music independently before finally signing a new contract with Motown in 1972 which allowed him complete creative control and a higher royalty rate.

After all the drama, the singer's most successful and popular period began, leading to the albums, "Innervisions", "Fulfillingness' First Finale" (with each winning Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards) and "Talking Book" (which features the classic songs, "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" and "Superstition").

"If You Really Love Me" - Stevie Wonder (1971) mp3

Friday, August 12, 2016

TAKE TWO: TERENCE TRENT D'ARBY




Terence Trent D'Arby seemed to come out of nowhere and dropped, "Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby" which became a critical and commercial smash selling more than eight million copies worldwide before just as quickly falling off the radar. With his striking good looks, slick dance moves and musical gifts which had him also writing, producing and playing multiple instruments on the record, D'Arby appeared on his way to becoming a major act yet his follow-up work failed to generate much wide appeal.

It would seem obvious to compare him to Prince, who had just entered superstar status around this time, but D'Arby is a performer with a grittier edge, closer in style to James Brown than the purple one. The album, celebrating it's thirtieth birthday next year, is frenzied collection of glossy soul that still holds up very well today.

He was born in New York and his family moved frequently around the country before settling in Florida. As a teen, he had some success as a lightweight boxer but decided to go to college. After dropping out of school, D'Arby joined the army but was dishonorably discharged for desertion while stationed near Frankfurt, West Germany. He decided to stay in Europe and joined a band called The Touch and recorded an album in 1984.

D'Arby soon traveled to London and based on the strength of his demos, he was signed to Columbia Records. His debut album was released in 1987 and became an instant number one hit in the UK with the first single, "If You Let Me Stay" reaching number seven on the pop chart there. His home country was slower to pick up on the artist, with the first single not even cracking the top forty, but the next single, "Wishing Well" would hit number one on the U.S. pop and r&b charts.  With additional singles, "Dance Little Sister" and "Sign Your Name" reaching the charts, D'Arby had one of the biggest albums of the year.

However during this time of his new found fame, D'Arby's behavior became erratic and difficult. Long before Kanye West made arrogance an art form,  he boldly announced that "Hardline" "was the most important album since the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper". The relationship between the singer with his record label and management team also became seriously strained by his antics. His next three albums, which were far less commercial in sound than his first, did not impress the buying public or critics and by 2000, he left behind his record company and the name "Terence Trent D'Arby".

He legally changed his name to "Sananda Maitreya" in 2001, moved to Milan, Italy and started his own independent record label, Treehouse Pub. His music moved in a far more striped-down direction with elements of rock, funk and experimental sounds. Maitreya's latest studio album, "The Rise Of The Zugebrian Time Lords" was released last year.

Have a listen to two of my favorite songs by the artist formerly known as "Terence Trent D'Arby":

"Dance Little Sister" - Terence Trent D'Arby (1987) mp3

"Let's Go Forward" - Terence Trent D'Arby (1987) mp3

If you are unfamiliar with the former Mr. D'Arby, then you probably should have a visual introduction as well. Here is a bonus of the video for one of his biggest hits, "Wishing Well":

Sunday, July 24, 2016

MISS SHARON JONES!


For over twenty years with the funky, horn-driven back-up band, The Dap-Kings by her side, Sharon Jones has been a driving force at keeping the spirit of good old-fashioned soul music alive and well.

Back in 2013, Jones was in the process of releasing another record and going out on tour to promote it when the singer was diagnosed with cancer. After postponing the album, she had surgery on her liver and underwent chemotherapy. In "Miss Sharon Jones!", Oscar-winning film maker, Barbara Kopple examines her struggle to recover from the disease while Jones' long-time band mates, who are all very close and supportive, have growing concerns about money and the future of their careers since they are far from household names. As pressure mounts and the situation looks very bleak at times, Jones' deep faith and infectious optimism keeps her steady on a positive path.

The documentary made it's premiere at last year's Toronto Film Festival where it was rapturously received. "Miss Sharon Jones!" will open in New York on July 29th before hitting the rest of the country throughout August. Be sure to check this out.



And that postponed album, "Give the People What They Want" was released a year after her recovery with Jones and the band making it back on the road. The record received plenty of critical acclaim and would earn the band their very first Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album. Now, it you are unfamiliar with Miss Jones and the Dap-Kings, here's a little sampler of exactly what they do:



Saturday, July 16, 2016

HOT TRACKS


First up, we have Britney Spears who has just dropped a new song, "Make Me" which is the first release from her upcoming ninth studio album. With an obligatory guest appearance by a rapper (here we have G-Easy), this beat-heavy, sexy ballad has Spears cooing seductively about having her man make her do whatever he'd like. I think this just might be the hit that will bring her back to the top of the charts.




With the 2016 Rio Olympics just a few weeks away, it's time to hear an inspirational anthem to help get everyone pumped up for the event. Katy Perry has been assigned that job and "Rise" is the song. This Max Martin produced ballad is intended to lift up and inspire and does so with Perry's robust vocals and lyrics with an encouraging positive message. The music video drives it all home with powerful images from past Olympics.




Finally, we have Tinashe with "Superlove", an '90's inspired, throw-back jam. The track is a part of "Joyride", her highly anticipated follow-up to her 2014 studio debut, "Aquarius" that featured the million-selling smash, "2 On". This hypnotic song, produced by The Dream and Tricky Stewart, may feature a familiar vibe that will certainly remind you of the great Aaliyah yet Tinashe manages to make "Superlove" stand out as a modern classic.

"Superlove" - Tinashe (2016) mp3

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

NEW SOUNDS

MAXWELL



It's quite clear that Maxwell likes to take his time, After an eight-year gap between his 2001 release "Now" and 2009's "BLACKsummers'night", the neo-soul vocalist has finally returned with a follow-up. This sequel, "blackSUMMERS'night" arrives seven years later and is certainly worth the wait. With his reliably smooth voice,  Maxwell delivers more lovely ballads and inspirational songs on love and relationships. Despite the still quite striking forty-three year old artist calling this new collection "progressive soul" which is a merging of gospel, disco, rock and a touch of psychedelic pop, the album doesn't offer any real surprises or major shifts in sound, just his sensual, old-school, funk-driven vibe that made him a major player back in the '90's.

The first single, "Lake By The Ocean" has been riding high on top of the adult r&b chart and I'm sure there will be more to come.



BLOOD ORANGE


Dev Hynes, or as he's better known, Blood Orange, has been devoting much of his time of late working on music for several pop artists. Solange Knowles, Sky Ferreira, FKA Twigs, Florence and the Machine, Carly Rae Jepsen and Kylie Minogue are just a few of the artists that have benefited from the dynamic writing and producing talent of this thirty-year-old Brit. Now, he's ready to focus on himself with a third Blood Orange CD, "Freetown Sound". Far removed from the lightweight fizz of hit-making pop, this record explores the racial, sexual and political tensions happening in the world today. Adding to the quirky rhythms and hook-less tunes are a collection of eclectic guest performers ranging from the expected (Jepsen and Debbie Harry) and the unexpected (author, Ta-Nehisi Coates and slam poet, Ashlee Haze).

I love that a track now on this record, "Hadron Collider" (that features a long-absent, Nelly Furtado) was first released only as a promotional cassette tape last December and sold during his shows at the Apollo Theater. Have a listen:

"Hadron Collider" - Blood Orange & Nelly Furtado (2016) mp3

Fergie is once again back with some new music. Much like what happen with Gwen Stefani, Fergie dropped a song, "L.A. Love (La La)" way back in 2014 after a long absence from the scene but nobody was feeling much love for the tune.

After regrouping, the forty-one-year-old singer is giving it another try with a sexy little ditty called "M.I.L.F.$" (pronounced "MILF Money"). If you don't know what a M.I.L.F. is, well, let's just say it means someone that would enjoy an intimate encounter with a mature woman with children. To be perfectly honest, I'm not really feeling this song but I do love the music video. The colorful, hyper-sexual clip, directed by Colin Tilley, is littered with hot fashion models like Alessandra Ambrósio, Chrissy Teigen, Amber Valletta, Devon Aoki, Angela Lindvall as well musician, Ciara and the notorious, Kim Kardashian who all happen to be mothers. And model, Jon Kortajarena plays the milkman lusting after all these women. You must check this out:



Finally, here is that infamous video by Kanye West for his latest single, "Famous". Inspired by the painting, "Sleep" by Vincent Desiderio, the clip features notable figures like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bill Cosby, Taylor Swift, Rihanna (who provides vocals on the track), West, former girlfriend, Amber Rose and his wife, Kim Kardashian, all sleeping nude in a bed together (with the help of synthetic look-alike bodies). Personally I think all the outrage and shock about this video is much ado about nothing but take a look and see for yourself.  BE WARNED: NUDITY MAKES THIS NSFW:

Thursday, June 30, 2016

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK


This week's number one flashback goes back forty years with "Silly Love Songs" by Wings. This group was formed shortly after Paul McCartney left one of the world's most famous rock bands, the Beatles in 1971. The original Wings line-up included Denny Laine on guitar and bass, Denny Seiwell on drums and McCartney's wife, Linda on keyboards. Over the years, musicians would come and go and at the time of their fifth studio album, "Wings At The Speed of Sound", the band featured the McCartneys, Laine, Jimmy McCullouch on guitar and Joe English on drums.

This classic came about after McCartney, who had been accused for years about writing nothing but songs about love, wanted to give a witty and direct response to critics about his music. Sir Paul certainly had the last laugh with "Silly Love Songs" as it has remained one of the singer's most enduring and popular tunes.

"Silly Love Songs" became the band's fourth U.S. number one single and a year after their sixth and final chart-topper in 1980, "Coming Up", Paul McCartney and Wings parted ways after the former Beatle had re-teamed with producer George Martin to work on a new record and mutually decided to use other musicians.

As a treat, take a look at the original music video for the song. It's the perfect time capsule of the wild, chaotic and seemingly a lot of fun life on the road for Paul, Linda and the band: