Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SAM SPARRO HAS RETURNED



Sam Sparro, the Aussie dance/pop vocalist who released his self-titled debut in 2008 has finally resurfaced with new music. The first official single, "Happiness" is out right now in Australia with the album, "Return To Paradise" due sometime this spring. I'm luvin' the song and I'm really looking forward to hearing more.

"Happiness" - Sam Sparro (2012)

For more info, go to his website:

SAM SPARRO.COM

This is a video is for another song from the forthcoming album. "The Shallow End"  features behind the scenes footage of recording sessions and the whirlwind life of Mr. Sparro:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

FOCUS ON: OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN



When people think of Olivia Newton-John, they tend to think of a pretty, blonde and wholesome vocalist who sang sunny pop songs. While this is certainly a fairly accurate description, you can also see there was much more to her than simply that. Like Sandy, the character she played in film musical, "Grease", Olivia could musically go from sweet and tender to sexy and rough and make it all feel believable. I don't think she is truly appreciated as an artist due to her very good looks and her ability to make it all seem effortless but Olivia Newton-John is an amazing, gifted talent and one of the best pop singers in history.

She was born in Cambridge, England in 1948, the youngest of three children of Brinley and Irene Newton-John. In 1954, the family moved to Melbourne, Australia as her father got a job teaching at the University of Melbourne.

At the age of fourteen, Olivia joined an all-girl singing group, Sol-Four, made up of her fellow classmates. She soon became a regular on "The Happy Show", a local children's program, where she was billed as "Lovely 'Livvy". Later, she joined another program, "The Go Show" and it was here where Olivia met two people who would become very important to her career; Pat Carroll, who became her singing partner and John Farrar who would later become the writer/producer of much of her music.

Olivia entered a singing competition on the TV show, "Sing, Sing, Sing" and won. The prize was a trip to London to record a single and in 1966, she released, "Till You Say You'll Be Mine" on Decca Records. While in England, Olivia became homesick and wanted to return home but decided to stay when her friend, Pat Carroll arrived to start her own music career. The two decided to form an act called Pat & Olivia and they performed across Europe. After Pat's visa expired, she had to return to Australia but Olivia stayed to pursue work.

In 1970, Olivia joined a group, Toomorrow which was formed by American producer, Don Kirshner. He put together a musical film built around the group and released a soundtrack but the project was not much of a success and Toomorrow disbanded.

The following year, Olivia released her first solo album, "If Not For You". The album was country-flavored and the title track, written and originally performed by Bob Dylan, became a top-ten hit for her in Britain and Australia and reached the top-forty in the U.S. The follow-up, "Banks Of Ohio" also reached the top-ten which lead to her being voted "Best Female Vocalist" two years in a row by Record Mirror Magazine. During this time, she made regular appearances on singer Cliff Richard's hit television show, "It's Cliff Richard".

In the United States, Olivia was not nearly as popular. None of her singles or albums after "If Not For You" made any impact until 1973 when her country-pop song, "Let Me Be There" hit the top-ten; number six on the pop charts and number two on the country. The song would win her a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocalist.

After this success, a 1974 U.S. only album, "If You Love Me, Let Me Know" was assembled using two albums unreleased in America; "Olivia", her second album in 1972 and "Long Live Love" in 1974. The two new songs for the album, the title track and "I Honestly Love You" became top-ten hits on the U.S. pop and country charts. The album sold over two million copies and won her two more Grammys for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record Of The Year for "I Honestly Love You".

Although Olivia achieved much success in the U.S. but the country music community did not welcome her with open arms due to the fact that they saw her as a foreigner singing their music although she still managed to win the CMA Award in 1974 for Female Vocalist Of The Year.

Another fellow Aussie, Helen Reddy had become a pop superstar in America and was living here, so Olivia decided to leave England and give the U.S. a try. She soon became a top musical act herself with many more chart-toppers including "Have You Ever Been Mellow", "Please Mr. Please" and "Something Better To Do" but by 1977 the hits had slowed down.

In 1978, Olivia was offered a lead role in the film adaption of the hit Broadway musical, "Grease" which would co-star John Travolta. The film became the biggest box-office hit of 1978 with the soundtrack also becoming a major smash, ultimately selling over twenty-eight million copies world-wide. There were five singles released with her duet with Travolta, "You're The One That I Want" reaching number one in eight countries.

With the help of the film, Olivia's image changed from the sweet girl next door to the sexier chick down the block and she decided to change her musical direction as well to less country and focus more on a pop-rock sound. She released "Totally Hot" later in '78 and it was a major success with the single, "A Little More Love" bringing her back to the U.S. top-ten as a solo artist.

She made a follow-up film, "Xanadu" in 1980 which featured the last screen appearance of film musical legend, Gene Kelly. The movie was a disappointment but the soundtrack still managed to become a huge hit. It featured music from Newton-John and the rock band, ELO and it sold over two million copies with five hit singles including Olivia's number one song, "Magic".

The next year, Olivia released the album, "Physical" that would become the most successful studio album of her career, selling over two million copies. The title track became one of her biggest hits, with it staying at the top of the pop charts for ten weeks and it was so popular that the song even managed to land on the r&b chart. The song did have some controversy as "Physical" contained some provocative lyrics (at that time) and was even banned on some radio stations but to counter this, a humorous, work-out themed music video was created.

She re-teamed with John Travolta to make the film, "Two of A Kind" in 1983. This was nowhere near the success of their last cinematic pairing but the soundtrack did very well with the single,"Twist Of Fate" being her last top-ten hit to date, reaching number five. Also that year, Newton-John and Pat Carroll opened a retail store called Koala Blue. It intially sold Australian imports but later became a chain of women's clothing. The company closed in 1992.

Olivia has released several albums over the following years, even recording another country album, "Back With A Heart" in 1998 but none of them reached the heights she acheived during her peak years. Overall, she has recorded twenty-seven studio albums, had five number one singles, a total of fifteen top-ten pop hits and has sold well over one hundred million albums across the globe. Olivia still makes occasional live performances as well as taking on film and television roles including a recent turn on the hit show, "Glee".

Olivia Newton-John married Matt Lattanzi, a dancer she met on the set of the film, "Xanadu" in 1984 and they had a daughter, Chloe in 1986. The couple divorced in 1995. She married John Easterling, the founder of the Amazon Herb Company in 2008.

Here are just a few of my favorites tunes from Ms. Newton-John:

"I Honestly Love You" - Olivia Newton-John (1974)

 "A Little More Love" - Olivia Newton-John (1978)

 "Totally Hot" - Olivia Newton-John (1978)

 "Suddenly" - Olivia Newton-John & Cliff Richard (1980)

 "Xanadu" - Olivia Newton-John & ELO (1980)

This is Olivia performing her first big hit single on an Australian Television program:

 

Finally, here is the infamous music video for "Physical":

 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

THE 54TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS


The shocking death of Whitney Houston the day before this year's Grammy Awards cast a somber shadow over the ceremony but host, LL Cool J addressed it from the start with a prayer for the singer. It has been seven years since there had been an actual host for the program and he had a difficult job but LL did great by returning the focus on to the music and keeping the show moving in the right direction.

The show kicked off with Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band performing a rousing rendition of their latest single, "We Take Care Of Our Own"  from his forthcoming album. Although this was supposed to be a celebration of the music of the previous year but some artists took this as an opportunity to present recent material such as Katy Perry, Paul McCartney and most notably, Nicki Minaj who seemed to be desperately courting controversy while performing her latest song, "Roman Holiday" with a bizarre set that involved demonic possession, a priest, and an exorcism.

There were many highlights which included a great duet by Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt that paid tribute to the late Etta James with her classic, "A Sunday Kind Of Love" before presenting the first award of the evening, Bruno Mars and his band in matching gold tuxes, channeling a James Brown vibe with his energetic tune, "Runaway Baby", The Foo Fighters rocking out to an appreciative crowd outside of the Staples Center, the terrific two minutes of a song by country act, The Civil Wars before they introduced Taylor Swift who actually impressed me with her song, "Mean" (and I'm not really much of a fan) and a very moving performance by Jennifer Hudson of "I Will Always Love You" to honor Ms Houston.

There were other musical tributes: one for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Beach Boys that featured Maroon 5 and Foster The People and the other for Glen Campbell which lined up country stars, The Band Perry and Blake Sheldon. None of these acts could even come close to the originals and that became more apparent when a reunited Beach Boys and Mr Campbell (who is on his final tour due to being recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's) took the stage.

Rihanna performed a high-energy version of "We Found Love" with an army of sexy dancers and Coldplay did a great version of "Paradise" but when the two acts came together to do an acoustic version of "Princess Of China", a song off of Coldplay's album, it was underwhelming to say the least.

Dance music was finally acknowledged on the program that featured David Guetta (with Chris Brown and Lil' Wayne), Deadmau5 and, for some unclear reason, The Foo Fighters who are not the first band to come to mind when it comes to this music.

The only low point was the performance of Chris Brown of his new single, "Turn Up The Music". I am not a fan at all, most especially after the whole Rihanna incident but I have to admit I like the song and he put on a good show although it was more about his dance moves than about actually singing. I am very surprised he won the Grammy for Best R&B Album. Now, I guess it's about the work and not the person's behavior yet you still have to wonder what message it's saying to people.


The most anticipated moment of the evening was from the ultimate big winner, Adele who won all six of the Grammys she was nominated for. Newly blond and looking quite glamorous, Adele sang "Rolling In The Deep" for the first time since undergoing vocal surgery last year. While she sounded slightly tentative at times and didn't push her voice too much but it was still a dazzling moment with her receiving a long, standing ovation.

Overall, it was a very emotional but highly entertaining evening filled with some amazing performances, although the awards themselves seem to become more of an afterthought every year.

This a partial list of  the 2011 Grammy Awards winners:

Album Of The Year:
"21"  — Adele

Record Of The Year:
"Rolling In The Deep" — Adele

Best New Artist:
Bon Iver

Song Of The Year:
"Rolling In The Deep" — Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele)

Best Pop Solo Performance:
"Someone Like You" — Adele

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:
"Body And Soul"  — Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse

Best Dance Recording:
"Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites" — Skrillex

Best Dance/Electronica Album:
"Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites"  — Skrillex

Best Rock Performance:
"Walk"  — Foo Fighters

Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance::
"White Limo"  — Foo Fighters

Best Rock Album:
"Wasting Light"  — Foo Fighters

Best Alternative Music Album:
"Bon Iver"  — Bon Iver

Best Traditional R&B Performance:
"Fool For You"  — Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona

Best R&B Album:
"F.A.M.E." — Chris Brown

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration:
"All Of The Lights"  — Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie

Best Rap Performance:
"Otis"  — Jay-Z & Kanye West

Best Rap Album:
"My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"  — Kanye West

Best Country Solo Performance:
"Mean"  — Taylor Swift

Best Country Song:
"Mean"  — Taylor Swift, songwriter (Taylor Swift)

Best Americana Album:
"Ramble At The Ryman"  — Levon Helm

Best Blues Album:
"Revelator"  — Tedeschi Trucks Band

Best Folk Album:
"Barton Hollow"  — The Civil Wars

Best Country Album:
"Own the Night"  — Lady Antebellum

For complete list of the winners, please go to:
Grammy.com

Saturday, February 11, 2012

WHITNEY HOUSTON (1963 - 2012)


I am so very, very sad to report that the legendary pop/r&b singer, Whitney Houston has passed away today. I am so distraught right now because she was one of my all-time favorite singers and she seemed to be doing so much better. It feels like I lost a member of my family.

Although the cause of death is unknown at this time but it is fair to speculate that it may have been substance- abuse related. Regardless, it doesn't take away from the fact that she was one of the world's best vocalist in pop music and there is no one out there that can truly compare to what she could do with a song. Her style, her grace and her timeless beauty will never be forgotten.

My condolences go out to her family and may she rest in peace.

These are a few of my favorite Whitney Houston songs:

"Saving All My Love For You" - Whitney Houston (1985)

"All At Once" - Whitney Houston (1985)

"Fine" - Whitney Houston (2000)

Here are some videos that showcase the talent and the beauty of Ms Houston:





Monday, February 6, 2012

MADONNA'S BACK IN THE GAME


Unless you have just recently come out of a coma, then you should be aware that Madonna is back in the spotlight.

Madonna doesn't do anything small and she has come back in a big way; not only has the second feature film that she co-wrote and directed , "W.E." been officially released, her long awaited 12th studio album, "MDNA" is due on March 26th but she was the half-time show for this year's Super Bowl.

I have to say I'm extremely disappointed in the lead single, "Give Me All Your Luving". From the lame opening chant (Y-O-U you wanna, L-U-V Madonna) to the uninspired lyrics and too familiar melody to the complete-waste-of-their-talent cameos by Nicki Minaj and M.I.A, this song is a complete lackluster affair and it's not even good enough to be campy. And I'm going to say it; she is just way to old to be singing a pop song more appropriate for a fifteen year old.

As for her Super Bowl appearance,  Madonna has certainly packed a lot of entertainment in twelve minutes. As she is wheeled out to the stage on a chariot dragged by oiled and muscle-bound gladiators, Madonna first launches in to "Vogue" dressed as a gold and leather clad Cleopatra, followed by "Music" which features an appearance by current hit makers, LMFAO that is merged with their songs "Party Rock Anthem" and "Sexy and I Know It". Her latest song is performed with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A in attendance, then Cee-Lo Green and a marching band arrives to do a snippet of "Open Your Heart" before closing with "Like A Prayer" along with Cee-Lo and the world's largest choir. By the end of the song, Madonna disappears behind a cloud of smoke with a lit up message on the stage proclaiming "World Peace". It was a good show and Madonna looked great with all of her trademark moves on display despite some injuries that occurred during rehearsals. It was an over-the-top spectacle but why should it have been anything less and yes, Elton - she did lip-sync really well.

This is the music video for Madonna's new single and the video's not much better than the song:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

DON CORNELIUS (1936-2012)


I was very sad to hear that Don Cornelius, the creator and host of the television show, "Soul Train" had passed away today.

As a child, I remember always looking forward on Saturdays to first watching "American Bandstand" and then turning on "Soul Train". The show was very important to my musical development and brought me so much joy and excitement that I just couldn't wait until next Saturday.

Mr Cornelius was instrumental in bringing r&b in to the households of not only America but to the rest of the world. "Soul Train" gave exposure to established performers but also introduced many new artists on the program when they didn't have many other venues available at that time. Don Cornelius was a true visionary and his contributions to music was just as important as the musical artists themselves.

I wish him eternal peace, love and soul.

In tribute, here are a few examples of my favorite part of "Soul Train" - The line dance. It was the perfect opportunity for people to get some extra-special face time on the show, present some fabulous fashions and show off the latest dance moves:





And who could forget the "Soul Train" scramble:

NEW SOUNDS

WHITNEY HOUSTON Words cannot express how much I miss the glorious voice of Whitney Houston . It's been five years since her passing...