Thursday, September 21, 2017

RANDOM SIGHTS + SOUNDS

First up, here are some interesting music videos I like:











After taking some time off to get married and have her first child (it's a girl!) last year, Jessie Ware didn't seem to have wasted anytime getting back to music. The British songstress has just released two new songs. "Midnight" is a haunting uptempo ballad delivering what we love about Ms Ware as it features her sensual vocals and sophisticated songwriting. While "Selfish Love" is another ballad but guitar-driven with a slight bossa-nova beat that presents a completely different vibe from the singer. Look for her upcoming third album, "Glasshouse" in October. In the meantime, check out the music videos for these songs:





I recently just heard one of his songs from back in the day and it made me wonder; what happened to Christopher Cross? This singer, born Christopher Geppert and originally from San Antonio, Texas, released his debut album back in 1979 and it was an immediate success. His collection of soft rock tunes included the hits, "Ride Like The Wind", "Never Be The Same" and the number one single, "Sailing" which helped sell five million copies of the album. Cross would go on to win five Grammy Awards including Best New Artist and Album of The Year. His follow-up album in 1983, "Another Page", continued the hits with "Think of Laura", "All Right" and included "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" from the hit comedy, "Arthur" which would go on to win an Oscar for Best Original Song. But after all this major pop success, the music by Cross soon wasn't having much of an impact on the charts. He's still making music and is getting ready to embark on a tour across the country. Here are a couple of songs that I love from Christopher Cross:

"Ride Like The Wind" - Christopher Cross (1979) mp3

"Sailing" - Christopher Cross (1979) mp3

Sunday, September 10, 2017

STREETS OF FIRE


Did anyone ever see "Street of Fire"? It was a 1984 film by Walter Hill that was a crazy mix of action, comedy, drama and musical and featured a retro-futuristic look. Self-described as "a rock & roll fable",  Michael ParĂ© (a rising star at the time that never really got off the ground) plays as an ex-solider who is called on to save famous rock singer (and former girlfriend), Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) who was kidnapped by a biker gang lead by Willem Dafoe in an early film role. The film also featured Amy Madigan and Rick Moranis.



"Streets of Fire" is a hot mess of a movie but still a thoroughly watchable and entertaining mess. One bright spot is the music soundtrack. The film's title comes from a Bruce Springsteen song from his 1978 album, "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and was supposed to be sung by the Ellen Aim character at the end of the film. However, negotiations broke down and the song was dropped. Jim Steinman, best known for his theatrical rock ballads performed by such artists as Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler, was brought in to provide new material. He wrote "Nowhere Fast", the thrilling opening number and the ballad, "Tonight Is What It Means To be Young" for the finale. Diane Lane did not actually sing so professional vocalists, Laurie Sargent and Holly Shepard performed the songs with their voices blended together and were called Fire, Inc.





The biggest hit from the movie was "I Can Dream About You", written by Dan Hartman. In the film, the song was sung by session singer, Winston Ford and performed by the fictional doo-wop-soul group, The Sorels that featured Mykelti Williamson (recently seen in the film, "Fences") and future director, Robert Townsend ("Hollywood Shuffle", "Eddie Murphy Raw"). Hartman recorded his own version and was released as a single where it reached number six on the pop charts.

Friday, September 8, 2017

THE RETURN OF SAM SMITH


Sam Smith, the British singer who burst on the scene back in 2014 with a debut album, "In The Lonely Hour" which won him four Grammys including Best New Artist, has made his return to music. Today, he just released a new single, "Too Good At Goodbyes" and it's another mournful ballad that Smith does very well. It may be a little safe and predictable but the song is quite moving and I can't wait to hear more. Have a listen for yourself:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

WALTER BECKER (1950 - 2017)


Walter Becker, the inventive guitarist, producer, songwriter and co-founder of the jazz/soul influenced rock group, Steely Dan, passed away on September 3rd. No cause of death has been given at this time but he had missed performances in July as the group was a part of the Classic East and Classic West rock festivals due to an undisclosed illness.

Born in Queens, New York, Becker was quite musical as a child and first learned to play the saxophone before later switching to the guitar. In college, he met Donald Fagen where they formed a a connection through music. They formed several bands together before Becker dropped out of school and they went to Brooklyn to try their hand as a songwriting team.

The duo ended up in Southern California in 1971 and formed Steely Dan, which at the time was a full group which included guitarists Denny Dias, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and drummer Jim Hodder. Becker was mainly the group's bass player and co-songwriter with keyboardist and vocalist, Fagen at the time before eventually becoming the guitarist by their third album, "Pretzel Logic" in 1974. This was the group's breakthrough and featured the hit, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" that peaked at number four on the pop chart. This was the last album with Steely Dan as a band as Becker and Fagen would just rely on studio musicians to fill out their sound on albums and tours which included Michael McDonald who would later join the Doobie Brothers and drummer, Jeff Porcaro who would become a part of Toto.

During the time of their success, Becker had become seriously addicted to drugs and along with that came other problems. In 1978, Becker's girlfriend, Karen Stanley died from an overdose in his apartment and was later sued by her family for wrongful death. Shortly after that, Becker was hit by a cab in New York. After the stressful recording sessions for Steely Dan's 1980 album, "Gaucho", Becker decided to end his musical partnership with Donald Fagen.

Becker moved to Maui where he sobered up and eventually found his way back to music. He produced for several acts including Ricki Lee Jones' 1987 album, "Flying Cowboys".  He first worked again with Fagen in 1986 as they both played on model/singer, Rosie Vela's debut album, "Zazu". The duo officially came back together in 1993 as they went on tour as Steely Dan for the first in nineteen years. They didn't record an album until 2000 with "Two Against Nature" which went on to win four Grammy Awards including Album of The Year. Becker released two solo albums during his career with "11 Tracks of Whack" in 1994 (which Fagen co-produced) and "Circus Money" in 2008. The musician is survived by his wife, Elinor and they have two children.

In tribute to Walter Becker, here is a song he created with Donald Fagen as Steely Dan:

"Deacon Blues" - Steely Dan (1978) mp3

Monday, August 28, 2017

TAYLOR SWIFT'S LATEST DISS TRACK


After the incredible success of her 2014 album, "1989" and the following world tour which was the highest-grossing of 2015 that placed her into global superstar status, Taylor Swift decided to lay low for a while. During this time, she made a couple of musical collaborations (most notably with a One Direction member she didn't date) but her most news-worthy events were spent fighting for artist's rights against Apple Music and Spotify and winning a legal battle against a grabby DJ.

At the stroke of midnight on August 25th, Swift has reemerged with new music. She has been known to use her music as a way to express her unpleasant experiences with people she has known while paying them back for perceived or actual slights. Yet with her newest single, "Look What You Made Me Do", the singer seems to have taken an even darker turn.

Co-written and produced by the busy Jack Antonoff (who also produced tracks on "1989"), the song uses elements from an unlikely source of Right Said Fred's 1991 hit, "I'm Too Sexy" while Swift goes on a rampage about someone who has wronged her. It also ignites plenty of speculation on who she may be referring to as her recent bouts include Katy Perry and Kanye West along with his wife. This intriguing bit of dance-pop presents Swift in a different light. Gone is the sweet and good-natured singer and now we have an edgy and angry persona. But is this the new Taylor Swift? For in the middle of this record, she boldly announces that the old Taylor Swift is dead. From the tone of this song, I'm not quite sure I really like this new version of the singer.

Taylor Swift's sixth album is called "Reputation" and will out on November 10th.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN


People have been in a wild frenzy over the solar eclipse happening on August 21st, beginning around 8:46 AM Pacific time. For those who may not know, this occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partially obscuring the image of the sun from view. The last total eclipse which was visible across the U.S. happened almost one hundred years ago on June 18, 1918.

If you plan to watch, remember you can seriously damage your eyes if you look directly at this eclipse. Make sure you get special protective glasses (regular sunglasses will not do) if you plan on watching.

So in tribute, here is a musical offering in celebration of this once-in-a-lifetime event:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK


I can't believe it but it's been forty years since "Best of My Love" by The Emotions landed at number one on the pop chart during this week. This enduring classic, written by Maurice White and Al McKay of Earth, Wind & Fire, spent five weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, won the group a Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group and the single would sell over a million copies.

The Emotions, made up of the Hutchinson sisters, Jeanette, Sheila and Wanda, hail from Chicago and began singing together professionally in 1962 as teens. Their first taste of success came when their single, "So I Can Love You" reached the soul chart in 1969. After their record label, Volt folded in 1975, the trio met Maurice White and he took an interest in the group. He got them signed to his label, Columbia and began work on an album. Their first project together, "Flowers" was released in 1976 and the singles, "I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love" and the title track, became big hits on the soul chart. But it was the follow-up album, "Rejoice" that gave the Emotions' the biggest smash of their careers. Their last major chart appearance would be providing backing vocals on Earth, Wind & Fire's 1979 top-ten hit, "Boogie Wonderland".

The Emotions still occasionally perform together, with younger sister, Pamela filling in for Jeanette. Enjoy this rare live appearance of the group performing their hit on "The Midnight Special" show back in 1977:

RANDOM SIGHTS + SOUNDS

First up, here are some interesting music videos I like: After taking some time off to get married and have her first child...