Tuesday, May 31, 2011

THE FIRST TIME: PART ELEVEN

"BELLADONNA"- STEVIE NICKS (1981)


She was born Stephanie Lynn Nicks in Phoenix, Arizona in 1948. Her father, Jess was an executive for a food company, so the family moved frequently while her mother, Barbara was a homemaker who was over protective of their only child. She kept her young daughter in with her and entertained her by reading her fairy tales.

Stephanie's grandfather, Aaron, an aspiring country singer, taught her how to play the guitar and they were soon performing duets when she was four. She was called "Stevie" because as a child, she had difficulty pronouncing her birth name.

At sixteen, Stevie received her first guitar and began writing songs. She joined her first band called The Changing Times during high school while the family lived in Los Angeles. She met Lindsey Buckingham while a senior in high school and he soon became her romantic and musical partner. After graduation, they both attended San Jose State University in 1968 and asked her to join his band, Fritz that he had formed. Fritz became a popular live act in San Francisco, even opening for Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. They both soon dropped out of college to move to Los Angeles so they could pursue their music career full time.

However, Fritz disbanded in 1972, so the two became a musical duo known as "Buckingham/Nicks". The duo received a recording contract with Polydor Records and released their self-titled debut, "Buckingham Nicks" in 1973.  The album did manage to generate some buzz for the group but it was not much of a success and they were dropped from the label.

Mick Fleetwood heard a track of the duo and made an initial offer only for Lindsey Buckingham to join his band, Fleetwood Mac, however he extended it to Stevie Nicks only after Mr. Buckingham stated he would not join without her. Their first album with the group was in 1975 with the self-titled, "Fleetwood Mac", although it was the band's tenth album. This album was a major hit, eventually selling over five million copies with three top-twenty singles including Ms Nicks' contribution, "Rhiannon". Tension grew between Buckingham and Nicks following the success of this album and the couple soon broke-up but both decided to continue with the band. Fleetwood Mac's next album would take the group in to a whole new level.

"Rumours", released in 1977, would become a monster smash album with four top-ten singles that includes the Stevie Nicks' composition, "Dreams" which is the band's only number one single. The album would sell an astounding forty million copies worldwide which made it the ninth highest selling album of all time.

Stevie Nicks had amassed a large collection of songs, some dating back to her days with Buckingham/Nicks, and since she was limited to a small number to be included on a Fleetwood Mac album, she decided to record a solo album. She signed with Modern Records in 1978 and began work on it, while recording Fleetwood Mac's follow-up album, "Tusk" and by 1981, her album was completed. It was titled, "Bella Donna (US Release)" and it would go to number one on the Billboard Album charts and would sell four million copies. There were three top-ten hits including two duets, the first single,"Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" with Tom Petty and the next, "Leather And Lace" that features Don Henley of The Eagles.

Stevie Nicks has remained with Fleetwood Mac over the years while recording solo albums in between.  She has released a total of seven solo projects including the recently released, "In Your Dreams" which was her first in ten years and is enjoying rave reviews and brisk sales.

Ms Nicks has been romantically linked to rock stars, Don Henley, Mick Fleetwood and Joe Walsh but she was only married once to Kim Anderson in 1982. He was the widow of her good friend, Robin who recently had died of leukemia but the couple divorced eight months later as they realized they had come together more because they were grieving than because they were actually in love.

This is Stevie Nicks' first solo single:

"Stop Dragging My Heart Around" - Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers


"DESTINY'S CHILD" - DESTINY'S CHILD (1998)


In Houston, Texas, auditions were held in 1990 looking for young girls to join a singing group. Six girls were selected including eleven year old LaTavia Roberson, and Kelly Rowland and ten year old, Beyonce Knowles. The group was called Girl's Tyme and they sang r&b, hip-hop and gospel with dance routines. They performed all over the Houston area, creating some buzz for the group.

This lead to an opportunity to perform on the television talent show, "Star Search" but Girl's Tyme failed to advance on the program. This disappointment lead to a line-up change with three girls leaving the group and a new singer was added, LeToya Luckett.

Beyonce's father, Matthew Knowles, who was already managing his daughter as well as Kelly and LaTavia, took over for the group. Girl's Tyme went through several name changes but were not happy with any of them. Tina Knowles, Beyonce's mother and the group's stylist came upon a page in the Bible with the word, "destiny" catching her eye. Matthew added the word, "child" and Destiny's Child was born.

The next step was getting a record deal and Matthew managed to get the girls signed to Columbia Records in 1997. Their first album, the self-titled, "Destiny's Child" was released the following year and featured production by Jermaine Dupri, Wyclef Jean and Dwayne Wiggins of Tony! Toni! Tone!. The album had a hit single, "No, No, No Part 2 (featuring Wyclef Jean)" that went straight to number one on the r&b charts and number three on the Pop. That single and the album sold over a million copies each.

After this success, Destiny's Child quickly went back in to the studio to complete their second album. "The Writing's On The Wall" came out in 1999 with a new group of hot producers including Rodney Jerkins and Kevin "She'Kspere" Briggs. The album was a massive hit, yielding four top-ten singles; "Bills, Bills, Bills", "Bug A Boo (H-town Screwed Mix)", "Jumpin', Jumpin'" and  "Say My Name". This album would receive six Grammy Award nominations and sell well over sixteen million copies worldwide.

Despite all of this success and acclaim, Destiny's Child was experiencing some internal turmoil. In December 1999,  LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett only wanted to end Matthew Knowles as their manager and had no desire to leave the group but then they saw Beyonce and Kelly on MTV's TRL to introduce the new music video for the song, "Say My Name", announcing that LaTavia and LeToya had left Destiny's Child and saw two other girls,  Farah Franklin and Michelle Williams performing in the video. The ladies took legal action against Matthew Knowles and the other members of the group and the case was eventually settled out of court  After five months, Farah Franklin was asked to leave the group, due to excessive absences and Destiny's Child permanently became a trio.

Destiny's Child released four more successful albums, "Survivor" (2001) and "Destiny Fulfilled" (2004) as well as a remix ("This Is The Remix") and a holiday album ("8 Days Of Christmas"), recorded the hit song for the 2000 film, "Charlie's Angels" ("Independent Woman") and selling over sixty million records before deciding to end the group and go their separate ways in 2006.

Kelly Rowland has released two moderately successful r&b albums but has found major success with dance music, teaming up with French DJ, David Guetta with the 2009 song, "When Love Takes Over" where it became an international smash and earned her a Grammy Award. She is due to release her third album sometime later this year.

Michelle Williams has recorded three solo albums including "Heart to Yours" (2002) which was a top seller on the gospel charts but her claim to fame right now is as an actress, performing in theater on Broadway in the musicals, "Aida", "Chicago", and "The Color Purple"

Beyonce Knowles has been in a few movies and sold some records.

This is the first hit for Destiny's Child:

"No, No, No pt. 2" - Destiny's Child featuring Wyclef Jean

Here is the video for the song, "Bootylicious" which features a sample of the Stevie Nicks' song, "Edge Of Seventeen" (and Stevie even makes a brief appearance):




"THE B-52'S" - THE B-52'S (1979)


In 1977, these five friends, guitarist, Ricky Wilson, his younger sister, Cindy on vocals, Kate Pierson on vocals and organ, Keith Strickland on drums and percussion and Fred Schneider on vocals and the cowbell, first performed together as a musical group at a Valentine's Day party in Athens, GA. They called themselves The B-52's which was a slang term for a beehive hairdo and their quirky sound combined dance, new-wave and surf music and they wore thrift store clothing on stage when they performed.

Their first recording was the song, "Rock Lobster" which was released by the Atlanta based, DB Records in 1978. The song became a local hit and garnered the attention of a major label, Warner Bros. which signed the group in 1979. The group's debut album, "The B-52's" was released later that year and was produced by Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. The album featured a new version of "Rock Lobster" with the song reaching only as high as number fifty-six on the Billboard Hot 100 chart but the album would sell well over a million copies in the US alone.

The follow-up album, "Wild Planet" was released in 1980 and included the song, "Private Idaho (Album Version)" which made it to only number seventy-four on the pop charts but reached number five on US Hot Dance Play charts. The B-52's also made their US television debut with a memorable appearance on "Saturday Night Live" later that year.

In July of 1985, during the recording of The B-52's fifth studio album, "Bouncing Off The Satellites", no one was aware that Ricky Wilson was suffering from AIDS related health issues. He did not tell his band mates because he did not want them to worry or fuss over him. On October 12, Ricky died from complications of the disease at the age of thirty-two. Everyone was devastated and did not think they could continue on as a band. The album was released the following year but they did not tour to promote the project although the album did have two single reach the top ten on the dance charts, "Summer Of Love [Summer Party Mix]" and "Girl From Ipanema Goes to Greenland".

During the hiatus, Keith Strickland switched from drums to guitar and began writing music. The other three members decided to come together with him and see what they might be able to do musically. "Cosmic Thing", produced by Don Was and Nile Rodgers, was completed and released in 1989 and would become their biggest commerical success. The first single, "Channel Z" would go to number one on the US Hot Modern Rock Tracks charts but the next song would become a world wide hit. "Love Shack" peaked at number three on the US pop charts while the group's next single, "Roam" would also reach that same position. The album made it to top five and sold over four million copies in the US.

The B-52's have completed eight albums with  "Funplex [+Digital Booklet]" being released in 2008, sixteen years after their last album, "Good Stuff" (1992) which was done without Cindy Wilson who had decided to take a break.

This is the single that started it all for the band:

"Rock Lobster" - The B-52's




Monday, May 23, 2011

LADY GAGA: BORN THIS WAY


Lady Gaga has returned with her long awaited new album, "Born This Way" and what I've heard, I have really liked,.however, after seeing her HBO special, "The Monster Ball Tour", it made it even more clear that I much more enjoy just listening to her music as I'm far less enamored of watching any of her theatrical antics on display on stage. I really appreciate that she is giving every ounce of her being to all of her "little monsters" but one overly elaborate, overly choreographed  production number after another, it all grew tiresome and just came across as clunky and amateurish.

As much as Gaga likes to think of her self as an "artist", much of her show felt artless. In fact, the only part I truly enjoyed was during the end credits when she was backstage singing a passionate a Capella version of "Born This Way" with her background singers. It was beautiful in it's simplicity and I would really love to have a recorded version of this but the rest of the show was fine musically but whatever message she is trying to convey tends to get muddled by all of the random and meaningless visual noise.

I think her insistence of being Lady Gaga 24/7 is ultimately going to be detrimental to her to health with all of the pressures of fame combined with the short attention span of her fans and the inevitable critical backlash, I'm afraid to say that she is a nervous breakdown waiting to happen.

As for her new music,  this is a strong collection that makes the songs are on debut, "The Fame" seem subtle as Gaga feels more comfortable to push her quirky Eurodisco sound even more aggressively forward with echoes of eighties rock as well as shamelessly following the lead of the Material Girl.when she courted controversy by using religious images in her music.

Have a listen to a few of my favorite tracks from the new album:

"Marry The Night" - Lady Gaga

"Government Hooker" - Lady Gaga

"Schibe" - Lady Gaga

This is the video for the second single off the album,"Judas" in all of it's excessive glory:




And as a bonus, here is Beyonce's new video for "Run The World (Girls)", a song I don't care for but I LUV the video. You can clearly see how she has been influenced by Gaga's eccentric imagery:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


The story goes that when Jocelyn Stoker, a British ten year old in 1997, saw a commercial for Aretha Franklin's greatest hits, she later asked her mother for it for Christmas. She received the gift and it changed her life in more ways than one. She responded to the music and learned to sing in the style of the great r&b singers.

By the time she was thirteen, she won singing contests, received a recording contract and became professionally known as Joss Stone.

Her first album, "The Soul Sessions" was released in 2003 and featured a collection of classic r&b songs. Like Teena Marie before her, her face was not featured on the album because she was white and the label wanted people to just listen to her voice and not be distracted by her race.

Joss Stone has achieved  much success, releasing four albums and selling over eleven million records worldwide to date.

This tune is from her third album, "Introducing Joss Stone" and the song barely made the Hot 100 charts in 2007 which is too bad because it's a great song.

Enjoy:

"Tell Me 'Bout It" - Joss Stone (2007)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

HOT AND FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN

"STONE ROLLIN'" -  RAPHAEL SAADIQ


Raphael Saadiq is a one man neo-soul movement and the world is a better place for it.

This former member of Tony! Toni! Tone! is continuing the old school r&b sound that he used on his terrific last album, "The Way I See It"  but this time he is incorporating a bit of rock & roll to the mix. Mr. Saadiq is an underrated talent and "Stone Rollin'" is the perfect blend of rock and soul and I hope people discover this.

The only downside to this project is the awful album cover but I can overlook it.

I love this song from the album:

"Good Man" - Raphael Saadiq

"LOVE?" -  JENNIFER LOPEZ


Actress and "American Idol" judge, Jennifer Lopez has returned to music with her first album since 2007's "Brave".  "Love?" is her seventh CD and  has production assistance from some of the hottest producers working today such as Tricky Stewart, Red-One and The Dream.

While the first single, "On The Floor" is a somewhat, surprising top-ten hit but I don't think there is anything else on this record that is going to get her much radio play as the songs all feel like rejects from any one of the current female pop singers out now using these same producers and have basically the same sound.

Ms Lopez has never been known as a great singer but there is an unusual lack of any inspired vocals. "Love?" comes across as a desperate attempt by Ms Lopez to try and keep up with what is hot right now instead of making a move  forward in dance music.

This is the title track which is the only other song that I kinda like:

"(What Is) Love?" - Jennifer Lopez

"WHO YOU ARE" - JESSIE J


Jessica Cornish's initial claim to fame was as a songwriter and she co-wrote the only song that I will admit that I like of Miley Cyrus: "Party In The U.S.A.".

The twenty-three year old Brit, who is now known professionally as Jessie J, has released her debut album, "Who You Are [Explicit]", where she is now singing the songs that she wrote. Already a smash in her homeland since February, with the album reaching number two on the charts and selling over a million copies, it has finally hit stateside.

It is a collection of hip-hop flavored pop that is in vogue now which is actually part of the problem. She is an interesting artist but isn't offering much that feels particularly fresh or innovative. Jessie J is probably going to have some difficulty breaking through the pack of all of the other female pop vocalists doing the same exact sound.

I do like this track from the album:

"Abracadabra" - Jessie J

This is the music video for the song, "Price Tag" which features B.o.B:




"IN YOUR DREAMS" - STEVIE NICKS


"In Your Dreams" is the first album of new music from Stevie Nicks in ten years and it's well worth the wait. With production assistance from Glen Ballard (Alanis Morrisette) and The Eurythmics', Dave Stewart, Ms Nicks enchants us with her mystical soft rock sounds.

If you are a fan, you will not be disappointed by her latest collection of songs that sticks closely to her particular (and slightly peculiar) thoughts on love

This is the first single off of the album:

"Secret Love" - Stevie Nicks

"THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION" - SADE


"The Ultimate Collection" is all of the musical highlights of Sade's amazing body of work, starting from 1984's. "Diamond Life" to her latest, "Soldier of Love". All of the songs have been remastered as well as featuring three new songs including a remake of the Thin Lizzy song, "Still In Love With You" and two remixes.

Be sure to catch Sade on the North American leg of their world tour, hopefully stopping in a town near you.



Here is one of the remixes, "The Moon And The Sky (Remix)" that features an appearance from Jay Z which is a surprise because Sade has never collaborated  much with other artists:

"The Moon & The Sky (remix featuring Jay Z)" - Sade

PINK ASKS "WHAT ABOUT US?"

The last time we heard from Pink it was with her musical contribution to Disney 's 2016 " Alice in Wonderland " sequel, &...