Saturday, December 29, 2012

FONTELLA BASS (1940 - 2012)


Best known for the hit song, "Rescue Me", soul singer, Fontella Bass passed away on December 26th.

Music was in in her blood as her mother was gospel singer, Martha Bass who was a member of The Clara Ward Singers and Fontella accompanied her mother on tour at a very young age. By sixteen, she began performing r&b songs at contests in St. Louis before being discovered by blues legend, Little Morton where Fontella first played piano for his band before receiving the opportunity to sing, eventually given a solo spot in his act.

She moved to Chicago to begin her solo music career where she was quickly signed to Chess Records. Her first hit recording was, "Don't Mess Up A Good Thing", a duet with Bobby McClure that reached the top five on the r&b chart in 1965.

Her biggest hit, "Rescue Me" (which features singer, Minnie Riperton on background vocals and future Earth Wind and Fire founder, Maurice White on drums) reached number one on the U.S. r&b chart for four weeks and made it to number four on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. Although the song is credited to Raynard Miner and Carl Smith, Bass has been said to have co-written the tune and was promised a credit.

Bass was never able to recapture this great success but she continued to perform, only retiring for a number of years to focus on raising her four children. When her version of  "Rescue Me" was used for an American Express commercial in 1993, that generated renewed interest in the singer.

Fontella Bass was a truly gifted talent and her voice will be missed.

"Rescue Me" - Fontella Bass (1965)

Here is a video of Ms Bass performing her very first hit with Bobby McClure:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

HAPPY HOLIDAYS


Wishing everyone out there a safe and happy holiday. Now a little music for your listening pleasure:

"Christmas In Killarney" - Bing Crosby (1951)

"Der Trommelmann" - Marlene Dietrich (1964)

"Someday At Christmas" - Stevie Wonder (1966)

"Thank God It's Christmas" - Queen (1984)

"It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year" - Johnny Mathis (1986) 

"The Christmas Song" - Toni Braxton (2001)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

VH1 DIVAS 2012

VH1 has decided to revive their "Divas" series although the concept has already been stretched thin as they've pretty much covered all of the very few, true divas in existence ( and in some cases, more than once). Part of the inspiration for this revival was the loss this year of two truly important female voices in musical history; Whitney Houston and Donna Summer as the show honors these legends with a tribute and celebration of their legacy.

The problem lies with a large number of the artists rounded-up for this special which features Kelly Rowland, Ciara, Keri Hilson, Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus that adds up to a group of mostly thin-voiced, second-tier singers with none of them having any serious potential as future "Diva" recipients.

The exception were, surprisingly, a couple of pop singers that could actually belt who were selected by election on reality television; "American Idol" winners, Kelly Clarkson and Jordin Sparks who provide vivid musical numbers with Clarkson bringing the mostly female audience to their feet with her latest single, "Catch My Breath" from her first greatest hits collection while Sparks sizzles in a showstopping number accompanied by r&b powerhouses, Melanie Fiona and Ledisi as they performed an energetic Whitney Houston medley.

Another "Idol" alumni , Adam Lambert was the host of the program and honorary "diva" who kicked-off the show with dramatic flair, reworking the 1983 Bowie hit, "Let's Dance". Later, in true diva fashion, during the Donna Summer segment with Rowland and Hilson, Lambert leaves the ladies in his glittery dust as he effortlessly out-sang them both.

The rest of the show fell flat with Ciara doing a brief dance tribute to Michael Jackson before performing a lackluster new song, "Got Me Good", some band called Metric who is supposed to honor Deborah Harry but only offers a truly horrendous version of "Heart of Glass" and wearing punk drag, Ms Cyrus unconvincingly covers Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" that has about much bite as a teething infant. Although she is already a big star in her native Britain, Paloma Faith is trying to repeat her success here but based on her performance of her song, "Picking Up The Pieces", there ain't much chance of that happening.

"VH1 Divas"specials are a great way to look back to single-out female musical greatness but it appears like it will be forced out of existence. Taking a long, hard look at the current musical landscape, there doesn't seem to be too many future divas on the horizon.

Take a look at a few segments from "VH1 Divas 2012":



Monday, December 10, 2012

FOCUS ON: DIANA ROSS


There is probably no singer who had such a major impact on me than Diana Ross. I think she's the perfect pop vocalist who is also a stunningly beautiful, glamorous goddess. Perhaps that might sound a little overboard but it's honestly how I felt ever since the very first time I heard and saw this dynamic entertainer. She is the true definition of an all-around performer who has found great success with everything she has attempted, whether first becoming a member of one of the biggest all-female singing groups of all-time to becoming one of the most successful female solo artists of all-time to earning an Oscar nomination for her first film role to performing a free concert in Central Park with the proceeds going to build a children's playground in New York City. Although Miss Ross has earned a reputation (fairly or not) for being a bit of a "diva" but that certainly does not diminish her great talent. But the real reason for her success is that you can sense her pure joy in sharing her gifts to the world and you can't help to be moved and transformed by the power of  Diana Ross.

Diana Ross was born on March 26, 1944 in Detroit, Michigan. Her parents, Ernestine and Fred actually named her "Diane" but a typo on her birth certificate has her listed as "Diana" but she went by Diane at home and school. In her early teens, Diana"s first love was fashion design and she studied at Cass Tech which was a four year prep-school. However, she soon became distracted by music as her school friend, Mary Wilson invited her to join a female singing group, The Primettes. Milton Jenkins, the manager of the male vocal group, The Primes wanted to put together a type of "sister act" with Florence Ballard and Betty McGlown filling out the quartet.

After The Primettes won a singing contest, the next step was a recording contract and they wanted to sign with the new local music company, Motown. Diana called her neighbor, William "Smokey" Robinson who was writing songs for the label, to help get the group an audition with Berry Gordy, the head of Motown. Although Gordy liked what he heard, he felt the teens were too young and wanted them to come back after they finished high school. Betty McGlown dropped out of the group and was replaced by Barbara Martin but the girls were determined to impress Gordy as they would hang out at the studios everyday after school. Eventually, The Primettes performed background vocals for several acts before Gordy finally agreed to sign the group in 1961 but he insisted they change their name. They were given a list of suggestions with Florence deciding on "The Supremes" although Diana thought it sounded a bit too masculine.

By 1962, Barbara Martin decided to leave group with The Supremes now remaining a trio.They released eight singles with none of them reaching anywhere near the top forty before The Supremes had a minor breakthrough with "When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes" which made it to number twenty-three on the pop chart.

"Where Did Our Love Go" was written by the in-house team of Holland-Dozier-Holland and originally given to The Marvelettes but they passed on it. The Supremes actually didn't like it much better but recorded it anyway as the team had written their previous charting song. It was a good thing they did as it became the group's first number one song in 1964. Their next four singles, "Baby Love", "Come See About Me", "Stop! In The Name of Love" and "Back In My Arms Again" all went to number one and were also written by Holland-Dozier-Holland.

By 1965, The Supremes were a major international female r&b act that brought glamour and polish to pop music. Many other hit songs followed but.previously each member in the group would share lead singing but after their success, Gordy decided that Ross would now be the official lead singer for The Supremes which left the other two less than thrilled, most especially Ballard. She began to drink excessively, gained weight, missed performances and her relationship with Ross deteriorated. Gordy decided to change the name of the group to "Diana Ross & The Supremes" in 1967 which enraged Ballard even further. Soon, Gordy had had enough and fired Florence Ballard later that year and replaced her with Cindy Birdsong, a singer with Patti LaBelle and The Bluebells. Ballard attempted to start a solo career for several years but died in 1976 at the age of thirty-two of heart disease.

Diana Ross & The Supremes continued on but Gordy had plans for Ross to become a solo artist. After the single, "Someday We'll Be Together" became this line-up's twelfth and final number one hit in 1969 and one last concert in Las Vegas, Diana Ross left The Supremes in 1970. Jean Terrell would replace her as lead vocalist of The Supremes.

Ms Ross released her self-titled debut album later in 1970 that featured the now classic "Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)" and the smash remake of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"  that went to number one on the pop and r&b charts. More hits followed including "Remember Me", "Touch me In The Morning", "Love Hangover" and "The Boss".

In 1972, Ross starred in her first film role as jazz vocalist, Billie Holiday in "Lady Sings The Blues". The film was a box-office smash and her performance won her a Golden Globe Award and she was nominated for an Academy Award. She followed this up with "Mahogany" in 1975. The film about a fashion designer who becomes a successful model was another hit and featured the theme song, "Do You Know Where You're Going To" which went to number one on the pop chart and was nominated for an Oscar. Her next part was as Dorothy in the musical, "The Wiz", an African-American version of "The Wizard of Oz" in 1978. Ross was woefully miscast and the film became a costly failure with this putting an unfortunate end to her movie career.

Tension between Ross and Gordy had grown considerably, most especially during the filming of "Mahogany", so after her 1980 album, "Diana" (which was produced by Chic's, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards and became her biggest solo recording success) and "Endless Love" (her world-wide number one hit duet with Lionel Ritchie for the film of the same name), Ross left Motown to go to RCA Records for a twenty million dollar record deal in 1981.

While at the label, Ross had several successful recordings such as her cover of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love", "Swept Away", "Eaten Alive" and "Missing You" but it did not come close to matching her glory days at Motown. In 1988, Ross decided not to renew her contract with RCA and after making amends with Berry Gordy, re-signed with Motown Records although he had recently sold the company. She recorded four albums on the label but sales were disappointing and she left the label in 1999.

In 2006, Ross had two albums released on EMI; the first was the jazz album, "Blue" which was recorded around 1971-72 and was supposed to follow-up her successful "Lady Sings The Blues" soundtrack record but Gordy decided to shelve the project. The next was "I Love You", her first studio album in seven years and her last to date. It features a collection of love song covers including Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" (co-written by Ross's late brother, Arthur).

Diana Ross was inducted in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with The Supremes in 1988, was the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor in 2007, won a long overdue Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award (her only Grammy ever!) earlier this year and has sold well over one hundred million records during her career.

Ms Ross has been married twice. She wed Robert Silberstein, a music executive in 1971 and they had three children, Rhonda, Tracey and Chudney although it was publicly revealed recently that Rhonda was actually the daughter of Berry Gordy. Silberstein and Ross divorced in 1977. She met Arne Naess, Jr., a Norwegian businessman on a trip to the Bahamas in 1985. They married the following year and had two sons, Ross and Evan. The couple separated in 2000 and Naess died in a skiing accident in 2004.


These are just a few of my favorite Diana Ross tunes:

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" - Diana Ross (1970)

"The Boss" - Diana Ross (1979)

"I'm Coming Out" - Diana Ross (1980)

"Swept Away" - Diana Ross (1984)

"Missing You" - Diana Ross (1984)

Here is some early footage of The Supremes performing live "Back In My Arms Again":


This is Miss Ross performing her hit, "Love Hangover" live on The Midnight Special back in '76:



This is a great music video for the 1985 song, "Chain Reaction" (written by The Bee Gees) that revived the classic "Supremes" sound. She looks amazingly just like she does in The Supremes video above and it even seems like Miss Ross is wearing the same wig:














Thursday, December 6, 2012

55TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

The nominees for the 2012 Grammy Awards were announced in Nashville on December 5th at a concert hosted by LL Cool J and Taylor Swift. Hip-hop's, Jay Z and Kanye West, alt-country band, Mumford & Sons, producer, Dan Auerbach, indie-rock band, Fun. and alt-r&b vocalist, Frank Ocean each received six nominations apiece with Ocean and Fun. earning most of their nominations in the prestigious, major categories.

What was notable this year was that no one artist dominated the nominations and most of the nominees were relatively young,  new voices in music with veteran performers basically shut out for the most part. It's a good sign that The Grammys are finally adapting to the times and open to looking outside the usual box.

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards will be televised on February 10th, 2013 on CBS. Below is a partial list of the nominees. For the complete listing of the nominations, please go to:
Grammy.com


Record Of The Year

"Lonely Boy" - The Black Keys
"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" - Kelly Clarkson
"We Are Young" - Fun. Featuring Janelle Monáe
"Somebody That I Used To Know" - Gotye Featuring Kimbra
"Thinkin Bout You" - Frank Ocean
"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" - Taylor Swift

Album Of The Year

"El Camino" - The Black Keys
"Some Nights" - Fun.
"Babel" - Mumford & Sons
"Channel Orange" - Frank Ocean
"Blunderbuss" - Jack White

Song Of The Year

"The A Team" - Ed Sheeran
"Adorn" - Miguel
"Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen
"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" - Kelly Clarkson
"We Are Young" - Fun. Featuring Janelle Monáe

Best New Artist

Alabama Shakes
Fun.
Hunter Hayes
The Lumineers
Frank Ocean

Best Pop Solo Performance

"Set Fire To The Rain (Live)" - Adele
"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" - Kelly Clarkson
"Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen
"Wide Awake" - Katy Perry
"Where Have You Been" - Rihanna

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

"Shake It Out" - Florence & The Machine
"We Are Young" - Fun. Featuring Janelle Monáe
"Somebody That I Used To Know" - Gotye Featuring Kimbra
"Sexy And I Know It" - LMFAO
"Payphone" - Maroon 5 & Wiz Khalifa

Best Pop Vocal Album

"Stronger" - Kelly Clarkson
"Ceremonials" - Florence & The Machine
"Some Nights" - Fun.
"Overexposed" - Maroon 5
"The Truth About Love" - Pink

Best Rock Performance

"Hold On" - Alabama Shakes
"Lonely Boy" - The Black Keys
"Charlie Brown" - Coldplay
"I Will Wait" - Mumford & Sons
"We Take Care Of Our Own" - Bruce Springsteen

Best Rock Album

"El Camino" - The Black Keys
"Mylo Xyloto" - Coldplay
"The 2nd Law" - Muse
"Wrecking Ball" - Bruce Springsteen
"Blunderbuss" - Jack White

Best Alternative Music Album

"The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do" - Fiona Apple
"Biophilia" - Björk
"Making Mirrors" - Gotye
"Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" - M83
"Bad As Me" - Tom Waits

Best R&B Performance

"Thank You" - Estelle
"Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)" - Robert Glasper Experiment Featuring Ledisi
"I Want You" - Luke James
"Adorn" - Miguel
"Climax" - Usher

Best R&B Album

"Black Radio" - Robert Glasper Experiment
"Back To Love" - Anthony Hamilton
"Write Me Back" - R. Kelly
"Beautiful Surprise" - Tamia
"Open Invitation" - Tyrese

Best Rap Performance

"HYFR (Hell Ya F***ing Right)" - Drake Featuring Lil Wayne
"N****s In Paris" - Jay-Z & Kanye West
"Daughters" - Nas
"Mercy" - Kanye West Featuring Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz
"I Do" - Young Jeezy Featuring Jay-Z & André 3000

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

"Wild Ones" - Flo Rida Featuring Sia
"No Church In The Wild" - Jay-Z & Kanye West Featuring Frank Ocean & The-Dream
"Tonight (Best You Ever Had)" - John Legend Featuring Ludacris
"Cherry Wine" - Nas Featuring Amy Winehouse
"Talk That Talk" - Rihanna Feautring Jay-Z

Best Rap Album

"Take Care" - Drake
"Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1" - Lupe Fiasco
"Life Is Good" - Nas
"Undun" - The Roots
"God Forgives, I Don't" - Rick Ross
"Based On A T.R.U. Story" - 2 Chainz

Best Country Solo Performance

"Home" - Dierks Bentley
"Springsteen" - Eric Church
"Cost Of Livin'" - Ronnie Dunn
"Wanted" - Hunter Hayes
"Over" - Blake Shelton
"Blown Away" - Carrie Underwood

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

"Even If It Breaks Your Heart" - Eli Young Band
"Pontoon" - Little Big Town
"Safe & Sound" - Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars
"On The Outskirts Of Town" - The Time Jumpers
"I Just Come Here For The Music" - Don Williams Featuring Alison Krauss

Best Country Album

"Uncaged" - Zac Brown Band
"Hunter Hayes" - Hunter Hayes
"Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran" - Jamey Johnson
"Four The Record" - Miranda Lambert
"The Time Jumpers" - The Time Jumpers



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

WOMAN'S WORLD


Guess who tried to quietly leak new music?

On Thanksgiving, Cher put a link on her website to listen to her first new material in twelve years and is now surprised that it is all over the web. Apparently, she wanted to complete the music video before officially releasing the track but now the song, "Woman's World" is being put out earlier than planned. This throbbing dance tune (co-written by Paul Oakenfold) is the title cut from the album due out in January.

Unfortunately, I can't say I'm really feeling Cher's new song as it's much too generic for my taste but I remain optimistic as rumor has it that both Lady Gaga and Pink have contributed songs for the forthcoming album.

Have a listen:

"Woman's World" - Cher

Sunday, November 11, 2012

MAJOR HARRIS (1947 - 2012)


The music world has lost another great talent, as Major Harris, the former vocalist with the r&b band, The Delfonics passed away on November 9th.

Harris joined the soul group, (best known for the hit songs, "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" and "La-La (Means I Love You)") in 1971 to replace singer Randy Cain but the group's glory days were behind them. Major Harris struck out on his own in 1975 and had a smash hit with "Love Won't Let me Wait". The song hit number five on the pop chart and went to number one on the r&b chart with the single selling over a half million copies.

After his solo career waned, Harris returned to The Delfonics and toured with the group for many years.

Let's celebrate the memory of this artist with his classic tune:

"Love Won't Let Me Wait" - Major Harris (1975)

Friday, November 9, 2012

TAKE TWO: ROBERT PALMER




British artist, Robert Palmer never came across much of a rock & roller as he was quite dapper, usually performing wearing a suit and the occasional tie but he was more than capable of tearing the roof off with his rich, powerful voice.

Heavily influenced by the American blues and r&b he heard as a kid, Palmer began his music career performing in several rock and jazz-fusion bands before going solo and achieving his first taste of commercial success with the 1978 song, "Every Kinda People" off of his fourth album, "Double Fun". The single reached number sixteen on the U.S. pop chart while the lead single off his next album, "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)" going slightly higher, peaking at number fourteen on the Billboard Hot 100 the following year.

Robert Palmer was invited to join Duran Duran members, John Taylor and Andy Taylor along with Chic drummer, Tony Thompson to form a super-group, The Power Station in 1985. Their self-titled album featured two U.S. top-ten smashes, "Some Like It Hot" and a remake of T. Rex's "Bang A Gong (Get It On)".

Around the time of the recording of The Power Station album, Palmer was working on his next solo album with assistance by his fellow bandmates and the record was produced by Bernard Edwards of Chic. "Riptide" was released later in '85 and featured Palmer's only number one song, "Addicted To Love". The song was also made memorable due to the music video which was inspired by the work of artist, Patrick Nagel. A cover of r&b vocalist, Cherrelle's 1984 hit, "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On" also made the top five with the album becoming his biggest seller with over two million copies sold and winning the singer a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

Although the world lost Robert Palmer in 2003, his legacy lives on with a vibrant collection of music that still feels very fresh and exciting.

Enjoy two of my favorite songs by Mr. Palmer:

"Every Kinda People" - Robert Palmer (1978)

"You Are In My System" - Robert Palmer (1983)

 As a bonus, I couldn't resist showing the simple but quite clever sexy video for "Addicted To Love":

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

ELECTION DAY


I think it's safe to say that most people are severely fatigued due to this long Presidential campaign with all of debating, promises, spinning, fact distortions and the endless television commercials trying to sway your opinion.

The day is finally here and a decision will be made. I'm about to get on my soapbox and strongly urge everyone to please get out and VOTE!  This is important and every, single vote counts.

Make your voice heard!

"Election Day" - Arcadia (1985)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

HOT AND FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN

"THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE" - PINK



Despite Pink recently becoming a mother, don't think for a moment she's about to become soft and start singing lullabies. On her sixth CD, "The Truth About Love", Pink displays that she's still quite able and willing to rock out with the best of them. The singer co-wrote the entire album with Greg Kurstin (the Grammy nominated producer is also one half of the pop duo, The Bird and the Bee) who also produced a large part of the record.

Her clever first single, "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" has reached the top five on the pop charts and there seems to be plenty of other potential hits to come with artists Lily Rose Cooper (the Brit pop artist formerly known as Lily Allen) and Eminem contributing to some tracks.

"Here Comes The Weekend" - Pink featuring Eminem

Here is the sexy music video for the second single, "Try" with Pink performing some impressive interpretive dance moves:



"PUSH AND SHOVE" - NO DOUBT



No Doubt, the Anaheim-based rock band decided to take some time off after their 2004 tour to pursue solo projects with the most visible being lead vocalist, Gwen Stefani's two highly-successful solo albums. The band, which also features Tony Kanal on bass, Tom Dumont on guitar and drummer, Adrian Young, have reunited for their sixth studio album, "Push and Shove".  With this new record, it feels like time has almost stood still as their sound is still heavily SKA punk influenced. Although there are some contemporary touches throughout however not enough to feel truly fresh.

Here is the new single from the album, "Looking Hot":



"RED" - TAYLOR SWIFT


Although the twenty-two year old, Taylor Swift has become a country music superstar in a very short period of time, she has no interest in resting on this success. With her latest CD, "Red", the singer/songwriter has decided to challenge herself by moving slightly out of her comfort zone and collaborating with talent not usually associated with her musical genre. This appears to have been a smart move as the first single (co-written and produced by pop hit-makers, Max Martin and Shellback), "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" has become her first number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

I have to admit I've never been much of a fan as I found her a little too precious but she has grown as an artist and I like much of her new work.

"State of Grace" - Taylor Swift

"TWO ELEVEN" - BRANDY


Brandy is finally back with new music after a four year absence with a new label on RCA Records. The title of her sixth album, "Two Eleven" represents the singer's birthday as well as the date of the tragic death of her good friend and idol, Whitney Houston.

This collection has returned to the feel of the classic Brandy sound much like her hit recordings as a teenager but now comes from the prospective of a mature woman. Passionate and sensual, these songs are cutting-edge r&b with production assistance by Rico Love, Bangladesh and Frank Ocean.

"Wildest Dreams" - Brandy

"FREE DIMENSIONAL" - DIAMOND RINGS


Canadian vocalist, John O'Regan who is better know by his moniker, Diamond Rings first came to attention with his first single, "All Yr Songs" in 2009 that he had written, produced and self-distributed. His debut album, "Special Affections" came out the following year and eventually released on a major label, Astralwerks Records. This lead to him opening for the Swedish pop star, Robyn on her "Body Talk" tour.

The out and proud twenty-seven year old has now returned with his exciting new release, "Free Dimensional" that is heavily inspired by the electro-pop music of the 1980's when he was just an infant. It's a really fun record and it's one of my favorites of the year

"All The Time" - Diamond Rings

"RELEASE ME" - BARBRA STREISAND


One of the most popular and successful recording artists in history, Barbra Streisand has released her latest album appropriately entitled, "Release Me". It features a collection of songs she had recorded throughout her almost fifty years in music but just didn't quite make the cut to be included on any album. Now this material is finally seeing the light of day with songs ranging from Alan & Marilyn Bergman, Jimmy Webb and Randy Newman as well as tunes from Broadway shows including "Finian's Rainbow" and "The Wiz".

In celebration of her spectacular career, the veteran songstress is even on the road with a rare concert tour to promote the album throughout North America.

"Home (From "The Wiz")" - Barbra Streisand

Beyonce's younger sister, Solange is back with some new music. "Losing You" is a funky song with a great video shot in South Africa:



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

TAKE TWO: KARYN WHITE


Los Angeles native, Karyn White first became noticed when she provided vocals for jazz artist, Jeff Lorber's single, "The Facts of Love" in 1986. This lead to her being signed to Warner Bros. Records and releasing her first self-titled album in 1988 that featured four highly successful singles; "The Way You Love Me", "Superwoman" and "Love Saw It" (a duet with Babyface) each reached number one on the r&b chart with "Secret Rendezvous" making the top ten on both the pop and r&b charts. The album went on to sell over a million copies and White received two Grammy Award nominations for her work.

The follow-up, "The Ritual of Love" was released in 1991 with hit-makers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis producing several tracks. Not only did their collaboration on the lead single, "Romantic" top the pop and r&b charts but during the recording of the album, White and Lewis became romantically involved. The couple married the following year and had a daughter, Ashley. White's next album, "Make Him Do Right" in 1994 was not a great success and soon decided to take some time off to focus on her family.

Now that her daughter is in college, Karyn White has finally decided to return to music and has released her fourth studio album, "Carpe Diem- Seize The Day" after seventeen long years. It is now available on ITunes and her website, Karyn's World

Enjoy two of my favorite classic Karyn White songs:

"The Way You Love Me" - Karyn White (1988)

"The Way I Feel About You" - Karyn White (1991)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

R. B. GREAVES (1943 - 2012)


I was out of town when I heard that singer, R.B. Greaves past away on September 27th at the age of sixty-eight but I wanted to still pay tribute. He only managed to record one self-titled album and had only one hit song during his entire career but whenever I hear "Take A Letter, Maria", it brings a warm feeling, taking me back to my childhood. I just thought it was a fun song but clearly I didn't really understand the lyrics which is about a man dictating to his secretary to write his wife, informing her that he's leaving after discovering she had cheated. It's a pretty odd thing to do as well as a strange subject matter for a pop song but regardless, I still think it's really a great tune

Ronald Bertram Greaves (a cousin of r&b artist, Sam Cooke) began his career performing with the group, The TNTs before going solo. He had to be convinced by his label to record this song he had written as his first single because two big artists, Tom Jones and Stevie Wonder, had already previously performed it. However, his version (which had a bit of a Latin flavor and was produced by Atlantic Records president, Ahmet Ertegun) was the only one that became a smash. "Take A Letter, Maria" just missed topping the U.S. pop chart in 1969 but it remained on the chart for fifteen weeks and went on to sell over a million copies.

Let's have a listen to his classic song:

 "Take A Letter Maria" - R.B. Greaves (1969)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ADELE MEETS BOND


It doesn't appear that Adele, one of the biggest (and most unlikely) pop stars currently on the planet will be releasing a new CD anytime soon but there is a new song just out to help ease the wait.

"Skyfall", is title of the latest 007 movie (due out in the U.S.on November 9th) and Adele has been given the honor of performing the theme song of the same name for this movie. The tune (written by Adele and her producer, Paul Epworth) fits perfectly in the tradition of the previous James Bond theme songs yet still feels quite fresh and modern. Let's be honest - most of these songs tend to land more on the cheesy side but I think this is one of the better tracks created for this long-running series which is celebrating it's fiftieth year since the release of the first film, "Dr. No".

Have a listen:

"Skyfall" - Adele (2012)

Here are a few of some other classic Bond theme songs that I luv:

"Live and Let Die" - Paul McCartney & Wings (1973)

"Nobody Does It Better" (From "The Spy Who Loved Me") - Carly Simon (1977)

"For Your Eyes Only" - Sheena Easton (1981)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


I just heard that Annie Lennox was recently married (for the third time but who's counting?) and just heard one of my favorite songs from this amazing artist today.

"No More I Love You's"  was the first single from her 1995 album, "Medusa" which was a collection of cover songs with this tune being the least known on the record. The song was first recored by the British new-wave band, The Lovers Speaks in 1986 and Lennox delivers a bubbly, eccentric take with her charming version.

Annie hasn't put out any new music since her Christmas album in 2010, so let's hope we will get something very soon. In the meantime, have a listen to this classic by Ms Lennox:

"No More I Love You's"  -  Annie Lennox (1995)

This is the video of an incredible duet featuring Annie Lennox and David Bowie performing "Under Pressure" with Queen during a Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

FOCUS ON: DAVID BOWIE


There have been many musical artists referred to as a "chameleon" but there has really been only one individual that that term can truly be applied to and that is David Bowie. Rock & roll has always involved theatrics but Bowie took it to whole other level as he literally became a completely different persona while recording and performing live on stage. He created several characters during his time but the one that made a major cultural impact was his first; Ziggy Stardust. This gender-bending, larger-than-life alien was inspiring, mind-blowing and (at the time) a little frightening. Ziggy would certainly be considered tame by today's standards but that's because Bowie paved the way to challenge convention and open minds.

Throughout his long career, he not only reinvented himself visually but musically. Bowie greatly appreciated the sounds of the past but was always looking forward, which allowed him to create innovative and exciting moments in rock. I think one of the main reasons why Bowie has had such a profound and powerful impact was that he made anyone who felt or looked different feel that it was okay to embrace that and should be celebrated.

He was born David Jones on January 8, 1947 in Brixton, London. As a young child, David was interested in art, dance and music, most especially early American rock & roll introduced to him by his father. By fifteen, he learned to play the sax and formed his first band, The Komrads, where they played at school functions and weddings. David soon became frustrated by his band-mates lack of ambition and joined another group, The King Bees. In 1964, Jones recorded his first single, "Liza Jane" under "Davie Jones and the King Bees" although it didn't achieve much success. David quickly moved on to perform with a succession of other blues-rock bands such as The Manish Boys, The Lower ThirdThe Buzz and The Riot Squad. Although he managed to record a single with each of these groups but none of them were a hit so David soon decided to go forward as a solo artist.

Unhappy with his surname and not wanting to be confused with Davy Jones of The Monkees, he renamed himself  "Bowie" which was the name of a nineteenth-century fighting knife. David Bowie released his first self-titled studio album in 1967 which was written mostly by him and featured a collection influenced by folk, music hall and psychedelic pop. This record was another commercial failure and Bowie took some time off before attempting to record a follow-up album.

By 1969, he released his next album which was originally also self-titled but would later be renamed "Space Oddity" after the success of this single. This song reached number five on the U.K. charts and was the first to feature his astronaut character, "Major Tom", inspired by the film, "2001: A Space Odyssey". Bowie met American model/actress, Angela Barnett in April of that year and he would marry her a year later. Angela would become a major influence to Bowie's music and style.

The release of Bowie's third album, "The Man Who Sold The World" in 1970 played up his androgynous looks and featured him wearing a dress on the original U.K. cover which he would wear during interviews while doing publicity in the U.S. The record's sound was heavy rock which was an extreme departure from his previous work and was the beginning of what would later be described as "glam-rock".

Following the 1971 album, "Hunky Dory" (which featured the classic song, "Changes" although it was never a big commercial success), came the album which completely altered the course of his career; "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars" was released in 1972 and introduced the world to this character, Ziggy Stardust who was an alien in the human form of an excessive rock & roller who came with a message of peace and love. Inspired by British rocker, Vince Taylor, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, Ziggy Stardust was a fashion-forward creation with many costumes designed by designer, Kansai Yamamoto. The music on the album fused heavy metal with the lighter pop sounds of his earlier work combined with a highly successful elaborate stage show that featured his band, The Spiders From Mars helped turn Bowie in to a major music star, most especially in Brittan. A documentary was filmed by D.A. Pennebaker which showcased the final concert of the tour in 1973 at the Hammersmith Odeon with Bowie announcing that he was retiring Ziggy Stardust.

In 1974, Bowie moved to the United States; first to New York before settling in Los Angeles. "Diamond Dogs" was released that year which was a concept album inspired by George Orwell's novel, "1984" combined with elements of the glam-rock of Ziggy Stardust and soul music. The single, "Rebel Rebel" became a U.K. top five hit.

"Young Americans" was recorded in Philadelphia and was heavily influenced by American r&b. The title track was released first as a single and briefly became his highest charting in the U.S.at number twenty-eight before the next, "Fame" (co-written with John Lennon) would become Bowie's first number one pop song in 1975. The song even made it on the r&b charts, peaking at number twenty-one. In fact, Bowie would be one of the few white artists to perform on "Soul Train" where he did this song and "Golden Years", the first single off of the follow-up album, "Station To Station" which reached the top five in the U.S and U.K. in 1976. During this time he was the lead in his first major film, "The Man Who Fell To Earth", created another character, "The Thin White Duke" to perform during his tour and became heavily dependent on drugs, specifically cocaine.

With his health deteriorating, Bowie left L.A.and eventually ended up in Berlin. After he finally went in to recovery, he was ready to return to music and teamed-up with musician, Brian Eno, a fellow Brit, to work on a series of avant-garde albums that would be referred to as "The Berlin trilogy". The first album was "Low" in 1977, followed by "Heroes" released later that same year and "Lodger" in 1979. Influenced by the emerging electronic music scene happening in Germany, these critically acclaimed and somewhat, commercially successful records contained experimental sounds and abstract lyrics which touched on his struggles with addiction and recovery.

Bowie entered the 1980's newly energized with the album, "Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)" which featured "Ashes To Ashes" that placed him back at number one on the British pop charts. Bowie returned to acting and appeared on Broadway in "The Elephant Man" in 1980 and he teamed up with Queen to record a single, "Under Pressure" which became a world-wide smash the following year.

In 1983, Bowie changed directions again and teamed with Nile Rodgers, the musician and producer of the disco group, Chic to work on a dance heavy album, "Let's Dance". The title track went to number one in eight countries and with the help of the successful follow-up singles, "Modern Love" and "China Girl", the album would become the biggest commercial hit of his career, selling ten million copies worldwide.

After this achievement, Bowie continued to record, although with more modest results, mostly in Europe. He decided to form another rock band in 1989 and Tin Machine was born. The group recorded two albums and toured extensively but the project was never a big success. Bowie's last solo album to date is "Reality", released in 2003 which was followed by his last tour to support this record that ended in 2004.

David Bowie has recorded twenty-three studio albums, he was inducted in to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and has sold one hundred and forty million records over his career.

Bowie has been married twice; He was married to Angela Bowie for ten years before separating in 1980. They had a son they named Zowie in 1971 but he now goes by Duncan Jones and is a film director. Bowie married super-model, Iman in 1992 and they have a daughter, Alexandria, born in 2000.

Enjoy just a few of my favorite Bowie tracks:

"Changes" - David Bowie (1972)

"Rebel Rebel" - David Bowie (1974)

"Golden Years" - David Bowie (1975)

"Fashion" - David Bowie (1980)

"Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" - David Bowie (1982)

Bowie was one of the first artists to use the music video not only for promotion but also as a creative visual extension of the song. Here is an early video for "Life On Mars" with Bowie looking very glam:



I love the song, "Ashes To Ashes" and I really love the music video:



Finally, this video for "Boys Keep Swinging" as I've always been a sucker for a man in a dress:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

SWEET NOTHING


One of the hottest producers working today is Calvin Harris. After putting out four highly successful singles world wide,  the Scottish DJ has finally announced the release of his third studio album, "18 Months" which is due in the U.S. on October 30th.

There is an interesting collection of guest vocalists featured on the album including Rihanna, Kelis, Ellie Goulding, Tinie Tempah, Ne-Yo and Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine who performs on the newly released fifth single, "Sweet Nothing". This is another superb track that perfectly utilizes the dramatic sweep of Ms Welch's voice combined with the pulsing electro beats provided by Mr. Harris.

Have a listen:

"Sweet Nothing" - Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch (2012)

Here is the music video for the last hit song by Calvin Hariis, "Let's Go" which became his highest charting in the U.S. to date and features r&b singer, Ne-Yo:



For more info on the artist, check out his website:

CALVIN HARRIS

Sunday, September 2, 2012

HAL DAVID (1921 - 2012)


Along with his long-time musical partner, Burt Bacharach, Hal David wrote some of the world's most beloved pop songs, most during the 1960's, that are still being performed to this day. Mr. David passed away yesterday at the age of 91

David and Bacharach met while they were part of a large team of writers working at the Brill Building who wrote pop songs to sell to publishers. Their first big hit recording together was in 1957 with "Magic Moments" performed by Perry Como.

In 1959, they were introduced to a young singer named Dionne Warwick and the team was quite impressed with the range of her voice and how easy she could handle their complicated melodies. The trio had their first success with "Don't Make Me Over" in 1962 which was followed by a long string of hit songs for them. David and Bacharach created hits for other notable performers including Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, B.J. Thomas and The Carpenters.

This successful duo broke-up after the difficult work on the disastrous musical remake of "Lost Horizon" in 1973. Shortly thereafter, David and Bacharach sued each other and Warwick sued them both for breach of contract. The cases were eventually settled out of court in 1979 but this dynamic trio eventually made up and came back together in 1992 to record one final song, "Sunny Weather Lover".

Here are just a few of the notable songs by Hal David and Burt Bacharach:

"Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" - B.J. Thomas (1969)

"What the World Needs Now Is Love" - Jackie DeShannon (1965)

"One Less Bell to Answer" - The Fifth Dimension (1969)

"Wishin' & Hopin"" - Dusty Springfield (1964)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

TAKE TWO: SHEENA EASTON


The beautiful, Scottish pop vocalist, Sheena Easton was actually one of the first reality stars after she auditioned for a BBC program called "The Big Time". The documentary followed the then twenty year old aspiring singer as she attempted to achieve a music career. A year after the first episode aired in 1980, Easton was offered a contract with EMI Records while the camera crews continued to follow her as she recorded her first single.

The first single, "Modern Girl" had been released before the show aired but didn't have much impact but after her follow-up single, "9 To 5" (renamed "Morning Train (Nine to Five)" here in the U.S. so not to be confused with Dolly Parton's recent hit featuring the same title) hit the U.K. top ten, the song was re-released and also reached the top ten. This officially launched the new artist as an international music star with a string of hit songs including singing the theme for the 1981 James Bond film, "For Your Eyes Only".

Easton moved away from the sweet girl-next-door image to a much sexier one after she recorded the notorious Prince song, "Sugar Walls" as well as a duet with the artist on, "U Got The Look". Her last major hit was the r&b tune,  "The Lover In Me" (written and produced by Babyface and L.A. Reid) released in 1988.

Sheena Easton has recorded sixteen studio albums, had fifteen U.S. top-forty hits and won two Grammy Awards. She currently lives in Las Vegas while she continues to act and perform.

Here are two of my favorite songs by Sheena Easton:

"Almost Over You" - Sheena Easton (1983)

"The Lover In Me" - Sheena Easton (1988)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

SCOTT MCKENZIE (1939 - 2012)



Scott McKenzie's hit single captured the spirit of the 60's flower-power movement and inspired a generation.

"San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)" - Scott McKenzie (1967)

Monday, August 20, 2012

FIFTY YEARS OF THE ROLLING STONES


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the British musical group who are known as "The World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band", The Rolling Stones.

Childhood friends, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards both shared a deep love for the blues and r&b and decided to form a band. On July 12, 1962, they first performed with Jagger providing vocals and Richards, guitar along with guitarist, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart on piano and Tony Chapman on drums, as "The Rollin' Stones" at the Marquee Club in London. The band started off playing mostly blues covers but were encouraged by their management to write their own material with Jagger and Richards teaming up to become the group's main songwriters.

The Rolling Stones had their first U.K.top-ten recording with a cover of Buddy Holly's classic, "Not Fade Away" in February 1964 but reached the U.S. pop charts later that year with the song, "Time Is On My Side", peaking at number six. After the song, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" became the band's first international number one smash in 1965 (also the first big hit written by Jagger and Richards), this began a long string of hit records and world tours for The Rolling Stones.

Bill Wyman joined the group later in 1962 to play bass and Charlie Watts replaced Chapman to become the band's drummer in 1963. Also that year, Ian Stewart was removed from the group as their manager felt he didn't fit properly with their image of a "rock & roller" but he would remain as The Stones' road manager and occasionally play piano on recordings until his death in 1985. After developing a serious drug problem causing his inability to properly contribute to the group, it was decided that Brian Jones should leave The Stones in June 1969 but less than a month later, Jones drowned at home in his swimming pool. Mick Taylor joined The Stones as a guitarist shortly after Jones had been released from the band and stayed with the group until 1974. Ron Wood, who was the guitarist for The Faces, toured and recorded with The Rolling Stones in 1975 but didn't decide to officially join The Stones until the following year when his band broke-up. Bill Wyman retired from the group after "The Steel Wheels" Tour in 1992. He later formed a blues-rock band, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings in 1997 and continues to perform with them.

This highly successful band has recorded twenty-nine studio albums to date, seventeen live albums and released over one hundred singles to wind up selling over two hundred million records worldwide. They were inducted in to The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1989.

There are rumors that The Rolling Stones are planning a tour to commemorate their anniversary, possibly to begin later this year or 2013 but no exact details have been revealed yet.

Here are a few of my favorite tunes by The Rolling Stones:

"Get Off Of My Cloud" - The Rolling Stones (1965)

"Gimme Shelter" - The Rolling Stones (1969)

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" - The Rolling Stones (1973)

"Beast Of Burden" - The Rolling Stones (1978)

"Shattered" - The Rolling Stones (1978)

"Start Me Up " - The Rolling Stones (1981)


Here is a live appearance by The Stones on "The TAMI Show" concert performing their first U.S. hit, "Tine Is On My Side":


The Stones perform live another hit song, "Angie":



This great video for "Love Is Strong" from The Rolling Stones' 1994 album, "Voodoo Lounge" was directed by film director, David Fincher:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

ELLIE GOULDING'S NEW RELEASE


British artist, Ellie Goulding's hit song, "Lights" finally sits in the U.S. top five although it was released here as a single in May 2011. "Lights" is the title track from her highly successful debut album which came out in the U.K. in 2010.

The follow-up album, "Halcyon" is due out in October with the first single, "Anything Could Happen" just out now.

Here is the music video for slow moving hit song, "Lights":

Sunday, August 12, 2012

HOT AND FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN

"CONFESS" - TWIN SHADOW


New York based musician, George Lewis, Jr. , who is better known as Twin Shadow, has written and produced his new album, "Confess", the follow-up to his 2010 release,  "Forget".  His sound combines elements of 1980's new-wave with breezy dance pop but his music stands out because of his elegantly poetic lyrics.

"Five Seconds" - Twin Shadow

"ELECTRA HEART" - MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS


Marina and the Diamonds is not actually a band but merely consists of twenty-six year old, Welsh singer-songwriter, Marina Diamandis. She came up with the stage moniker with the help of her last name as Diamandis means "Diamonds" in Greek.

Marina's 2010 debut album, "The Family Jewels" was a critical success in the U.K.and with the release of the second, "Electra Heart", it features more of her offbeat but very catchy pop songs. This time she has production assistance from some of pop music's usual suspects; Dr. Luke, Diplo, Stargate and Guy Sigsworth, so perhaps this solid album will hopefully broaden her U.S. audience.

"How To Be a Heartbreaker" - Marina and the Diamonds

"LOOKING 4 MYSELF" - USHER


Usher has returned with his seventh studio album, "Looking 4 Myself" which features what he describes as "revolutionary pop" that combines r&b, hip-hop, electronic and europop. With the assistance of some of today's top producers such as will i am, Danja, Salaam Remi, Diplo and Swedish House Mafia, Usher creates some risky and innovative songs. While not all of them work but the album is an admirable attempt to broaden his sound and the genre.

"Numb" - Usher

"CHANNEL ORANGE" - FRANK OCEAN


Although r&b/hip-hop artist, Frank Ocean has been in the news recently due to his personal revelations but he has been creating music for a while now. He has worked with the hip-hop group, Odd Future, written material for such diverse talent as Beyonce, Justin Bieber, Kanye West and John Legend and he recorded a solo mixtape last year.

After two songs, "Novacane" and "Swim Good" created some buzz for the artist but his label, Def-Jam delayed the release of the complete work, so a frustrated Ocean decided to offer, "Nostalgia, Ultra" as a free download to great acclaim. Now, the twenty-four year old, New Orleans native has his first official release, "Channel Orange" out now and it's a raw and honest collection  that at once feel fresh yet familiar. He evokes the sounds of Prince and Marvin Gaye but manages to create music in his own clear, distinctive voice.

"Lost" - Frank Ocean

"THE IDLER WHEEL . . . " -  FIONA APPLE


Fiona Apple has never followed any musical trends and has only created music whenever she was truly inspired which makes her an unusual presence in today's pop music scene. It's been seven years since her last release but Apple is finally back with her fourth CD which features the lengthy title "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do".

The thirty-four year old artist has crafted another collection of her signature eccentric songs that are spare, thoughtful and introspective, as she shares with us her emotional journey during the time she's been away.

"Valentine" - Fiona Apple

The latest female MC receiving plenty of media attention these days is twenty-one year old, Azealia Banks from New York. She just dropped an EP, "1991" with her debut album due out later this fall. I love this video for the song, "Liquorice" which brings her urban fabulousity to the wild west:



This is the wild new music video by Florence and the Machine for "Spectrum", one of my favorite song off their latest album :



Finally, here is the video for Mika's latest single, "Celebrate" from his forthcoming album, "The Origin of Love". I think this is a really great pop song that should become a big hit for him:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

MARIAH CAREY IS "TRIUMPHANT"


The newly appointed "American Idol" judge, Mariah Carey has just dropped a new track entitled, "Triumphant (Get'Em)".

The tune is produced by Jermaine Dupri and features raps by Rick Ross and Mick Mill but I'm not sure why this is considered a new song for Ms Carey as she seems to be only simply providing the hook. This song isn't particularly memorable and not a good sign for her upcoming album.

Have a listen:

"Triumphant (Get'Em)" - Mariah Carey (2012)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

SING IT, LADIES

It is no secret that I love female vocalists, so this post is in honor of the ladies who gathered to form a group and brought their voices together to create some sweet, wonderful and timeless music. Here are just a few of my favorite all-girl groups:

THE SUPREMES













"Up The Ladder To The Roof" - The Supremes (1970)

MARTHA AND THE VANDELLAS













"Quicksand" - Martha and The Vandellas (1963)

THE EMOTIONS









"Blind Alley" - The Emotions (1971)

THE GO-GO'S













"Vacation" - The Go-Go's (1982)

THE POINTER SISTERS













"Yes We Can Can" - The Pointer Sisters (1973)

THE SPICE GIRLS













"Spice Up Your Life" - Spice Girls (1997)

EN VOGUE











"Don't Let Go (Love)" - En Vogue (1996)

BROWNSTONE













"If You Love Me" - Brownstone (1995)

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. ...