Thursday, March 31, 2011

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


There has been a lot of fuss over the outrageous antics of Lady Gaga with all of the crazy costumes and her image but long before her was Miss Grace Jones.

Outlandish, fearless and definitely dancing to the beat of her own drum, Grace Jones cleverly used her androgynous looks to provoke people's narrow ideas of beauty, gender and sexuality. I saw her at the Hollywood Bowl in 2009 while she was promoting her latest album, "Hurricane" and at the age of sixty, she was still rocking it and knows how to put on a stage show.

The music of Grace Jones is not as easily digestible as Gaga and is certainly more of an acquired taste but I love her unusual, slightly masculine sound. She successfully remade some great rock songs such as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers', "Breakdown", Roxy Music's, "Love Is The Drug", The Pretenders' "Private Life" and The Police's "Demolition Man" and made them all sound fresh, original and distinctly Grace Jones.

"My Jamaican Guy", a song that she wrote, is one of my favorites songs:

"My Jamaican Guy" - Grace Jones (1983)

And as a bonus, here is Miss Jones in action, from her 1982 music documentary, "One Man Show" that is part concert and part music video which was directed by her one time lover, artist Jean-Paul Goude:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

HOT AND FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN

"OH LAND" - OH LAND


I first became aware of Nanna Oland Fabricius or as she is known professionally, Oh Land by seeing the music video of her single, "Sun Of A Gun" on the NewNowNext Music channel and I loved her sunny pop sound.

This Danish musician began as a ballet dancer but an injury put an end to her career and she turned to music. Oh Land has just released her second recording, the self titled, "Oh Land" and her first here in the U.S.

Here is my favorite song from the CD:

"We Turn It Up" -  Oh Land

Enjoy the quirky video for "Sun Of A Gun" where Oh Land got to utilize her dancing abilities:



"ALL YOU NEED IS NOW" - DURAN DURAN


Duran Duran has returned to the music scene with four out of the five original members along with their thirteenth album, "All You Need Is Now".

The record was produced by Grammy Award-winner, Mark Ronson and he has stated that he wanted to bring the band back to their more avant-garde style of their first couple of albums. He has done that but also brought Duran Duran right in to the present.

This is a great track from the new release:

"Girl Panic!" - Duran Duran

"LATE NIGHTS & EARLY MORNINGS" - MARSHA AMBROSIUS


Marsha Ambrosius began her music career as one half of the British r&b/hip-hop duo, Floetry along with Natalie Stewart. After releasing two successful albums, "Floetic" (2002) and "Flo'Ology" (2005), the group separated. Ms Ambrosius was briefly signed to Dr. Dre's label, Aftermath Entertainment but left in 2009.  She worked as a singer and songwriter with a variety of r&b and hip-hop artists, including Alicia Keys, The Game and Jamie Foxx  before signing with Clive Davis and his, J Records.

Her first solo project, "Late Nights & Early Mornings" has just been released and it has not only topped the R&B charts but it debuted at number two on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart. I really enjoyed her work with Floetry but I'm not at all impressed with her new album. It's too ballad-heavy with a collection of fairly standard r&b songs that I had difficulty telling apart.

This is the first single from the album:

"Hope She Cheats On You (With A Basketball Player)" - Marsha Ambrosius

"WOUNDED RHYMES" - LYKKE LI


"Wounded Rhymes"  marks the second  collection of music by the Swedish songstress, Lykke Li. The album was written and recorded while she lived in Echo Park (my neighborhood), outside of Los Angeles.

Although, Lykke Li was surrounded by California sunshine, the record still maintains a dark and moody feel that is occasionally colored by classic pop styling. She continues to expand her musical sound while sticking to the themes of the sadness, pain and anger that can come from sex and love. While not everything worked for me on the album but, I find Lykke Li to be one of the most compelling and fascinating artists making music today.

This is one of the tracks that I liked from the new album:

"Love Out Of Lust" - Lykke Li

I love this video for the first single, "Get Some":



"LIGHTS" - ELLIE GOULDING


This twenty-four year old British singer/songwriter released her first album, "Lights" in 2010 in her home country where it debuted at number one and sold almost over 40,000 copies in it's first week. The record had four hit singles and by the end of the year, the album was re-released as "Bright Lights" with six new tracks including her version of the Elton John classic, "Your Song" which went to number two on the UK pop charts.

Finally, the U.S. edition of "Lights" has just came out that includes songs from both of the previous albums. This version is full of some great pop songs but she might get lost in the shuffle with this recent wave of British female vocalists invading these shores.

"Starry Eyed" is a fun track from the album::

"Starry Eyed" - Ellie Goulding

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


I was out doing my weekly grocery shopping at Trader Joe's, when this song came on in the background that made me stop in my tracks. It took me way back to when I was a young kid. I really loved this song, I hadn't heard it in many years and I had to have it.

There was one slight problem, though. . .

I had no idea who sang it, let alone, what the actual name of the song was. So, I went to Itunes and started plugging in possible song titles in the "search "engine in the hope that I would be successful.

After less than five whole minutes, I finally found it.

The song, "Don't Pull Your Love", recorded by the oddly named act, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds,  reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1971. The group would chart again one last time with the number one hit, "Fallin' In Love" in 1975 (I need to get this song too).

Have a listen to this:
"Don't Pull Your Love" - Hamilton Joe Frank & Reynolds (1971)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

FOCUS ON: QUEEN


Queen was a great rock band, no doubt about that but what made them great was how they added a little something extra that made their music much more exciting, powerful and memorable than your average rock song. The band, made up of Brian May on keyboards/guitar/vocals, Roger Taylor on drums/vocals, bassist, John Deacon and lead vocalist, Freddie Mercury, were open to using any form of music, combined with traditional rock guitar and layered vocals to help make their own fresh and distinctive sound. Queen never worried about following any rules and would wind up paving the way for other artists to feel free to open up the idea of what rock music could potentially be.

Brian May and Roger Taylor first performed together along with Tim Staffel as singer and bassist in the blues-rock band, Smile in 1968. Staffel attended art college with Freddie Mercury, who was then known by his real name, Farokh Bulsara and he became a fan of the group. Smile toured throughout London before signing with Mercury Records where the band recorded several singles.

Tim Staffel decided to leave Smile in 1970 to join another group and Bulsara soon joined the band as lead vocalist. They changed the name of the group to Queen and Bulsara, now known professionally as Freddie Mercury, helped encourage the band to move away from traditional blues-rock and to be more experimental with their sound. While performing on stage, they used different bass players before settling on John Deacon in 1971 to join the group before the recording of their first album.

After several delays, Queen finally released their self-titled debut, "Queen" in 1973. While it received some critical acclaim, the album sold poorly. The group's second album, "Queen II" in 1974 fared much better, reaching the top five in the UK and the lead single, "Seven Seas Of Rhye" went to number ten on the pop charts.

By the release of their third album, "Sheer Heart Attack" later in 1974, Queen moved more towards a traditional rock sound and finally found success outside of England. The first single, "Killer Queen" went to number twelve in the US on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts as well as the album reaching that same position.

With their new found fame, Queen toured the world to sold-out shows that included elaborate costumes and a dramatic stage show filled with lights and visual effects.

In 1975, Queen released, "A Night At The Opera", an expensive production that features diverse musical styling and experimentation. One of the highlights of the album was the song, "Bohemian Rhapsody" written by Mercury that was very unusual because of it's incorporation of a ballad opening, an operatic middle section and a hard rock guitar closer. The main resistance to having this song as a single was it's length. It was over five minutes long which was unheard of at the time but Mercury refused to have it edited down. The song was leaked to a radio station in it's complete form, ultimately becoming a smash hit, with it going to number one in several countries and it is one of Queen's most popular songs.

Throughout the rest of their career, the band continued to experiment by mixing together a wide variety of musical genres such as ragtime, gospel, world, folk and funk with their rock sound to make very distinct Queen records. Queen would have many more hit songs that have become rock anthems including, "We Will Rock You", 'We Are The Champions", "Another One Bites The Dust" and "Under Pressure", a duet with David Bowie. They also created the music for the soundtrack of the 1980 film, "Flash Gordon".

By 1988, many people were alarmed by the gaunt appearance of Freddie Mercury. There were rumours going around that he had AIDS but he denied this, claiming that he was simply just overworked. He continued to work with his band on two more albums, "The Miracle (1989)" and "Innuendo (1991) when on November 23, 1991, a statement was released that confirmed that Freddie Mercury did have AIDS. He died the next day due to complications from the disease. A tribute concert was held in his honor in April of 1992 at London's Wembley Stadium. It was attended by 72,000 fans and raised over twenty million dollars that went to several AIDS charities.

The surviving members of Queen continued to perform together either by sharing vocals or using guest singers. In 2004, Brian May and Roger Taylor teamed up with Paul Rodgers, lead singer for the rock bands, Free and Bad Company, to form a group called Queen + Paul Rodgers. John Deacon decided to retire and did not participate on the project. The group toured for a year and released an album, "The Cosmos Rocks (Amazon Exclusive)" in 2008 before splitting up amicably.

A rock musical was produced using the music of Queen titled, "We Will Rock You" opening in London's West End in 2002. The show became very successful and has been staged in many cities around the world. A feature film is in the works, to begin possibly later this year, about the forming of the band and may star comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury.

Queen recorded fourteen studio albums, had eighteen number one singles and sold over one hundred and fifty million albums across the globe. They were inducted in to The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Here are a few of my favorite Queen songs:

Killer Queen - Queen (1974)

Somebody To Love - Queen (1976)

Bicycle Race - Queen (1978)

Don't Stop Me Now - Queen (1979)

Another One Bites The Dust - Queen (1980)

Queen decided to make a video of  "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 1975 to help promote the song and it is considered to be one of the first "true" music videos:



This is an odd little video for the song, "I Want To Break Free", which features all of the band members in drag. Why? Well, why not?:

Friday, March 4, 2011

MEET CLARE MAGUIRE

Who exactly is Clare Maquire?


She is a twenty-three year old British singer that I have been really digging lately.  I find her such a breath of fresh air in these days of  pop singers whose voices are so manipulated that they barely sound human. I love her dark, moody and soulful vocals that takes me way back to the eighties, when Annie Lennox ruled the charts.

Ms Maguire has released her first song last year in the UK, "Ain't Nobody". with the latest single, "The Last Dance" in which Maguire was inspired to write the day after the death of Michael Jackson, and her debut album, "Light After Dark" both being released at the end of February there.

While both songs are currently available in the US on Itunes, there is no word on an exact release date on the album stateside but hopefully we won't have to wait too long. I really can't wait to hear it. I think Clare Maguire is a great artist and I really hope she becomes a great success worldwide.

Here is the music video for her the song, "The Last Dance" which shows that's she's got just as much style as substance:




And as a bonus, have a listen to her first single, "Ain't Nobody":

ICONA POP ARE "GIRLS GIRLS"

Those Swedish musical party-girls, Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, otherwise known as  Icona Pop are back with a new club-banging anthem. ...