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":

Sunday, April 8, 2018

NEW SOUNDS

TONI BRAXTON


After spending much of her time involved with her family on reality television and coping with her own complicated health issues, Toni Braxton returned to music with a well received concept album with Babyface called “Love, Marriage and Divorce” back in 2014. That won the duo a Grammy for Best R&B Album and now she is back out on her own with “Sex & Cigarettes”, the fifty year old singer’s first solo record in eight years. For her eighth studio album, Braxton had a hand on the writing and production on this project and uses that smoky voice to deliver her brand of sensual soul ballads. While the record doesn’t break any new ground, Braxton makes a welcome return by adding some much need old-school spice to contemporary r&b. Have a listen to the second single from the album, “Long As I Live”, a classic tune about heartbreak that the singer does so well:



JACK WHITE


Known for keeping the spirit of pure rock & roll alive and well, Jack White offers a few unexpected surprises with his latest album, "Boarding House Reach".  The Detroit rocker has shaken up his routine and in the mood to be more experimental with his sound. Inspired by how Michael Jackson created his records by working them out in his head instead of writing ideas down, White attempted to recreate that method. And what he ended up with produced some interesting results with electronic beats, heavy metal, jazz piano and rap all scattered together throughout the record. The latest single, "Over and Over And Over" is one that White had been trying to complete since his days with The White Stripes and at one point was supposed to be recorded by Jay-Z. But White finally had a breakthrough and finished the song to his satisfaction which you can check out here:



DAVID BYRNE


David Byrne has always been a unique visionary in pop music since the early days with his art-rock band, Talking Heads. After leaving the group, the Scotland-born, American-raised sixty-five year old performer went on to further merge art and music as a solo artist. With "American Utopia", Byrne's first album on his own in fourteen years, this recording serves two purposes; one as a quirky musical statement with the esteemed Brian Eno on board to help co-write and produce. And the other is as a soundtrack for his multimedia project called "Reason to be Cheerful" which expresses some reasons to be happy and optimistic in spite of the political strife and environmental problems facing the world. Listen to the first single, "Everybody's Coming To My House" in a great video presentation:


Sunday, March 25, 2018

TAKE TWO: SALT-N-PEPA


Back in the early days of hip-hop and rap, it was dominated by male artists who regularly used ugly, sexist lyrics in their songs and commonly objectified women in their their music videos. But Salt-N-Pepa came along to combat that with positive messages in their music involving female empowerment and sexual liberation to become one of the first commercially successful all-female hip-hop acts.

While they were both attending nursing school in Queens, New York, Cheryl James and Sandra Denton met and became fast friends. They later met Hurby "Luv Bug” Azor who was studying music production and asked them to provide vocals for a class project. Calling themselves, “Super Nature” along with DJ Latoya Hanson, the track was called “The Showstopper”, an answer song to Doug E. Fresh’s 1985 single, “The Show”.  The record received enthusiastic response after some airplay at a local New York rap station and an indie record label, Pop Art Records released the song with it becoming a modest national hit.

This lead to the group being signed to Next Plateau Records and was renamed “Salt” (James) and “Pepa” (Denton). Hanson decided to leave the act and was replaced by Deidra Roper aka “DJ Spinderella” and the trio released their debut album, “Hot, Cool & Vicious” in 1986. With production by Azor who was now the group’s manager and dating James, the record had a few minor hits on the r&b chart but after some DJs in San Francisco remixed the B-side of the single, “Tramp”, “Push It” (featuring lyrics that were considered very risque at the time) became a smash hit reaching the top-ten around the globe with the exception of U.S. where it only reached number nineteen on the pop chart.  Salt-N-Pepa continued to have chart success with the singles, “Shake Your Thang”, “Expression” , “Do You Want Me” and “Let’s Talk About Sex” but it would be their fourth studio album that would take them to the next level.

For the first time, the ladies worked along with Azor to write and produce "Very Necessary" in 1993 and it paid off with three major hits; "Shoop", "Whatta Man" (which featured vocals by En Vogue) and "None of Your Business". The album went on to sell over seven million copies worldwide and the group won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance.

However, by the time of their follow-up release, "Brand New" in 1997,  James had ended her relationship with Azor and the group completely severed ties with him due to them feeling cheated out of royalty payments. The trio worked with other writers and produced the album largely by themselves yet it failed to generate much attention. Feeling burned out by the music business, "Salt" decided to leave the act in 2002 which seemed to bring an end to Salt-N-Pepa.

But some things weren't meant to last and after coming together to perform on VH-1’s Hip Hop Honors program in 2006, Salt-N-Pepa have officially reunited. Although they still have not recorded any new music, the trio have appeared on their own reality show in 2007 and continue to perform in several concerts and tours including being a part of a current world tour called “I Love The 90’s”.

Let’s see this legendary hip-hop act in action with some videos featuring two of my favorite tunes by Salt-N-Pepa:





Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2018 NATIONAL RECORDING REGISTRY

"My Girl", the classic Motown love song by the Temptations, has surprisingly just been added to the National Recording Registry this year. This number one tune, written by Smokey Robinson and his Miracles bandmate, Ronald White back in 1964, is just one of twenty-five important recordings that will be preserved by the Library of Congress. A few other surprise additions that I thought would have already occurred are the beloved soundtrack to the 1965 Best Picture Oscar winner, "The Sound of Music";  the recording of a song most associated with singer, Tony Bennett, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and "Rumours", one of the biggest selling albums of all-time by the rock band, Fleetwood Mac.

Since 2002, the Library of Congress have selected sound recordings that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important that informs or reflect life in the United States. The selections will feature a wide range of music, commentaries, radio programs, comedy albums and speeches. To date, there are now 500 recordings placed in the National Recording Registry.

Here is the complete list of the twenty-five recordings being inducted in the 2018 National Recording Registry:

Dream Melody Intermezzo: Naughty Marietta” (single) - Victor Herbert and his Orchestra (1911)

Standing Rock Preservation Recordings - George Herzog and Members of the Yanktoni Tribe (1928)

Lamento Borincano” (single) - Canario y Su Grupo (1930)

Sitting on Top of the World” (single) - Mississippi Sheiks (1930)



"The Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas" (album) - Artur Schnabel (1932-1935)

If I Didn’t Care” (single) - The Ink Spots (1939)



Proceedings of the United Nations Conference on International Organization - (4/25/45-6/26/45)

Folk Songs of the Hills” (album) - Merle Travis (1946)

How I Got Over” (single) - Clara Ward and the Ward Singers (1950)



“(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” (single) - Bill Haley and His Comets (1954)



Calypso” (album) - Harry Belafonte (1956)

I Left My Heart in San Francisco” (single) - Tony Bennett (1962)



King Biscuit Time” (radio) - Sonny Boy Williamson II and others (1965)

My Girl” (single) - The Temptations (1964)

The Sound of Music” (soundtrack) - Various Artists (1965)



Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” (single) - Arlo Guthrie (1967)

New Sounds in Electronic Music” (album) - Steve Reich, Richard Maxfield & Pauline Oliveros (1967)

An Evening with Groucho” (album) - Groucho Marx (1972)

Rumours” (album) - Fleetwood Mac (1977)

The Gambler” (single) - Kenny Rogers (1978)



Le Freak” (single) - Chic (1978)



Footloose” (single) - Kenny Loggins (1984)

Raising Hell” (album) - Run-DMC (1986)

Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” (single) - Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine (1987)



Yo-Yo Ma Premieres: Concertos for Violoncello and Orchestra” (album) - Various artists (1996)

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 ...