Wednesday, May 23, 2018

REVAMP AND RESTORATION


While audiences have long enjoyed his theatrical costumes and energetic showmanship, it's been the music of Elton John that people have responded to for over fifty years. With his co-songwriter, Bernie Taupin (who John has worked with throughout most of his career), they have created songs that have appealed to everyone due to their eclectic mix of genres.

In celebration of their longtime creative partnership, two albums were assembled with the help of many performers who have gladly come together to interpret the team's musical history. With "Revamp", John enlisted contemporary pop artists to create new versions of his songs. These musicians include Coldplay, Sam Smith, Alessia Cara, Ed Sheeran, The Killers and Lady Gaga.

Mr. Taupin, a big country fan, oversaw "Restoration" which features several artists that range from legendary (Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson) to modern (Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves) that rework the duo's classic and more obscure songs in a mellow country vein.

Miley Cyrus is the only artist that appears on both albums. But her take of "Don't Let The Sun Come Down On Me" on "Revamp" and particularly "The Bitch Is Back" on the country album come across painfully like karaoke versions of these songs.

Now at seventy-one, Elton John has decided to slow down and will be embarking on a three-year long farewell world tour which will begin in September. To be honest, I doubt he will never be on stage again after this tour but just in case, make sure you take this opportunity to check him out live.

For now, listen to a few of my favorite songs from both albums that I think truly honors the extraordinary work of Elton John and Bernie Taupin:












Wednesday, May 9, 2018

RANDOM SIGHTS + SOUNDS

Sugababes have had six number one singles, eighteen top-ten hits and have sold over seven million copies. I'm sure many of you that are American might be asking, "Who are Sugababes?" Well, they were a very popular British female pop act formed in 1998 who not only had this incredible success in their native country but also throughout much of the rest of the world with the notable exception of the U.S. where they never charted. There have been singers that have come and gone in this trio but the most popular line-up included Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Heidi Range. With all of the founding members gone by 2011, Sugababes eventually faded away and ended. For American ears, enjoy a brief sample of the best of Sugababes:







Here are a few new songs I'm enjoying right now:









If this new song by Céline Dion called "Ashes" makes you think of her classic love ballad from the movie, "Titanic", well, it's actually intentional. David Leitch, the director of the upcoming sequel to the smash, comedic super-hero movie, "Deadpool", explains that they wanted a highly melodramatic song for the film and approached the singer to perform the track. And she delivers some remarkably beautiful vocals, taking this ballad to incredible heights. It will be interesting to see how this will be used in the movie but I'm sure it will be both moving and hilarious. Leitch also directed the music video which features an interpretive dancing Deadpool. Be sure to check out the very funny ending of this clip:



Finally, one band from the past I've been thinking about recently are Fine Young Cannibals, a British group, lead by the distinctive vocals of Roland Gift, who had worldwide success throughout much of the '80's and had such hits as "She Drives Me Crazy" and "Good Thing" which both reached the top of the U.S. pop chart. Taking their name from a little-seen 1960 Natalie Wood movie, bassist, David Steele and guitarist, Andy Cox had left the ska band, The Beat (The English Beat in the U.S.) and came together with Gift who had departed his ska outfit, Akrlykz in 1984.  The trio released their self-titled debut the following year and found international success with the singles, "Johnny Come Home" and a cover of Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" . The glaring exception was in America where the group only achieved a cult following. But that all changed with their next album. "The Raw and Cooked" that brought Fine Young Cannibals to everyone's attention in 1989 and the album went on to sell over three million copies worldwide. But by 1992, the group had disbanded and each moved on to other less high-profile musical directions. Let's take a look back to the sounds of Fine Young Cannibals:



Friday, May 4, 2018

CHRISTINA AGUILERA RETURNS TO “ACCELERATE “


When Christina Aguilera made a surprise appearance on the season opener of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, one of the first things the queens asked her was when was she coming out with some new music. The thirty-seven year old singer played coy with a vague answer of “soon”. Well, the wait is finally over and after six years, Aguilera has returned with a new song called “Accelerate”. With assistance from a large tribe of writers and producers (including Kanye West), this track is a departure for the singer. Leaving behind the r&b-flavored pop that first brought her fame, Aguilera dives into trap music with Ty Dolla Sign and 2 Chainz providing additional vocals.  I have to say I think this song is really hot and can’t wait to hear more. Xtina also announced that her sixth studio album is called “ Liberation” and will be out in June.

With the music video for "Accelerate", Aguilera delivers trippy and hyper-sexual imagery with her licking milk out of a bowl, being doused with some sort of shiny liquid and appearing topless with her nips covered with masking tape. The whole look of the clip feels like vintage hip-hop Miley Cyrus which I'm not sure is good or bad. Anyway, check it out for yourself:

Friday, April 20, 2018

AVICII (1989 - 2018)


Avicii, the Swedish-born DJ, musician and producer who successfully crossed over from the dance floor to the pop charts, has tragically passed away today at the age of only twenty-eight. No cause of death as been given at this time but the artist born as Tim Bergling had health issues over the past few years after being diagnosed with acute pancreatitis due to excessive alcohol use. He had his gallbladder and appendix removed in 2014 and had stopped performing live to help with his recovery.

Bergling, born in Stockholm to Klas Bergling and actress Anki Lidén, had gotten attention early as a musician with "Seek Bromance", an EDM song he wrote and produced under the name "Tim/Berg" in 2010. The vocal version of this track reached the top 20 in several countries including the UK where it peaked at number two. The following year as Avicii, he released the dance single, "Levels" (which samples Etta James' classic "Something's Got A Hold On Me") that became a worldwide smash hit and has remained one of his best-known songs. This lead to this young artist becoming a highly sought-after writer, producer and re-mixer.

In 2013, Avicii released his debut album, "True" and the lead single, "Wake Me Up" became an even bigger hit. With Aloe Blacc providing vocals and recorded with live instruments, the track blends elements of EDM, soul and country music and reached number one in over twenty countries. Avicii released a successful follow-up album, "Stories" in 2015 and an EP, "Avīci (01)" in 2017. He also participated last year in a documentary, "Avicii: True Stories" by Levan Tsikurishvili that explored his immediate success, health complications and the intensity of fame.

To pay tribute to this gifted artist we have lost way too soon, here are a few notable tracks by Avicii:







Thursday, April 19, 2018

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK


The number one song on the U.S. pop chart twenty years ago this week was "Too Close" by Next. This sexy crossover hit, which spent five nonconsecutive weeks on top, also reached this position on the r&b chart.

The group is made-up of Robert "R.L." Huggar and brothers, Terry "T-Low" and Raphael "Tweet" Brown who came together in Minneapolis in 1992. They were first known as "Straightforward" before coming up with "Next" after Naughty By Nature member,  Kay Gee helped them get signed to his label with Arista Records.

After the release of their debut album, "Rated Next", the first single, "Butta Love" became a top-five hit on the r&b chart but their follow-up was the trio's breakthrough. "Too Close" is simple enough; a grooving jam abut a couple having a good time, dancing very close together until all that friction causes an inopportune "rise" in the gentleman. The song would become Next's biggest chart success with the single selling over two million copies in America alone. Although they would reach the top-ten again in 2000 with "Wifey" (and land at number-one on the r&b chart), Next would break-up after the release of their third album, "The Next Episode" in 2002 due to internal conflicts.

But Next reunited in 2011 and began work on new music. However, the completed album was never released. The group has finally made an official comeback with a new single, "Want It" that was dropped just last month.  For now, let's go back and listen to this classic from Next:

Monday, April 16, 2018

2018 RECORD STORE DAY


April 21st will be Record Store Day, a day when a wide range of musical artists release new and vintage music on vinyl. For 2018, which is the eleventh year of this event, there will be up to 500 albums and singles that will be available in this classic format. Some of the artists participating range from AC/DC, Chuck Berry, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, Elvis Presley, U2 and Wu-Tang Clan to name just a very small number.

For the complete list of the recordings to be released in the U.S., click  below:

2018 Record Store Day Releases

And I'm sure it might be difficult for some to track down an actual record store but here is a list of all the participating outlets worldwide. Click below for this and additional information:

2018 Record Store Day Locations

Finally, one highlight will be a new song available on vinyl from the long-missed Florence + the Machine. "Sky Full of Song" is a lush ballad this British alt-rock band is well known for and Ms Welch's soaring vocals lift this song to another level. It's a very welcome return and hopefully more is soon to come.

Monday, April 9, 2018

AZEALIA BANKS SERVES “ANNA WINTOUR”


I’m not sure whether Azealia Banks has serious anger management issues or just batshit crazy but whatever it is; this lady has got some problems. After spending the last few years involved with many social media spats, engaged in physical altercations with a number of people including actor, Russell Crowe (??) and standing before several judges, the troubled twenty-six year old has returned to what she really does best; music.

Banks has just dropped her latest single from the upcoming follow-up to her 2014 debut, “Broke With Expensive Taste” entitled “Fantasea II: The Second Wave”. “Anna Wintour” pays indirect homage to the long-time editor of the American edition of the fashion bible, Vogue magazine but this throbbing club track is actually about finally finding love. Banks has stated she chose to name this track (co-written and produced by New Jersey DJ, Junior Sanchez) after Wintour because it’s about self-empowerment and that’s what she represents as a strong, powerful yet feminine woman. I have been been a fan of Banks and love the song so I hope this is a turning point for her and she will put all her energy into a positive creative space. Check out the tune with this lyric video that pays homage to that classic cartoon series, "Josie & The Pussycats":

REVAMP AND RESTORATION

While audiences have long enjoyed his theatrical costumes and energetic showmanship, it's been the music of Elton John that people h...