Sunday, December 29, 2013

TAKE TWO: BILLY OCEAN


Billy Ocean made his first appearance on the pop charts in 1984 with the international smash, "Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run)". After a number of follow-up hit singles, this popular singer seemed to just vanish from the music scene.

Born Leslie Charles in Trinidad and Tobago in 1950, his family moved to England when he was a young child. As a teenager, Leslie decided to follow in his father's footsteps and become a musician. He took his stage name from the Ocean Estate in London's East End and sang in clubs before getting a recording contract. His self-titled debut was released in 1976 and was a modest success with a single, "Love Really Hurts Without You" reaching number two on the UK Pop Chart. Ocean recorded other albums which received much less attention and wrote songs for a variety of artists.  With the release of his fifth album, "Suddenly" in 1984, this was Ocean's commercial breakthrough with "Caribbean Queen" (recorded as "European Queen" for Europe's release) reaching number one in the U.S.  The singles, "Loverboy" and the title track also made it to the U.S. top five on the pop chart.

The song, "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" was used in the film, "The Jewel of The Nile" in 1985 and became a top five hit across the globe. After his last major hit "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" in 1988, Billy Ocean fell out of favor and failed to receive significant radio play. That certainly hasn't stopped Ocean from making music with "Here You Are", his eleventh studio album, was released last April. He continues to perform and tour across Europe.

Let's go back and listen to two of my favorite songs from Billy Ocean:

"Suddenly" - Billy Ocean (1985)

"Mystery Lady" - Billy Ocean (1985)

Friday, December 20, 2013

BEYONCE'S BIG SURPRISE


I'm quite impressed, especially in this day and age, where a secret was actually kept from the public until it was ready to be revealed. Leave it to Beyonce to be able to pull off this seemingly impossible feat and it's paid off quite nicely for this inventive pop star.

On December 13, Queen B dropped her latest self-titled release exclusively for download on Itunes with no fanfare or advanced warning. Dubbed a "visual album", the record features 14 music tracks and 17 videos with Beyonce wanting to change how her music is presented to the world and how she connects with her fans. And her fans have been waiting for this as the worldwide sales have reached over 800,000 copies in the first three days alone. The traditional CD was released today as well as individual track/video downloads becoming available.

No surprise that Beyonce has managed to get some big name talent to give her a helping hand on this project such as Justin Timberlake, Miguel, Sia, Frank Ocean and her hubby, Jay Z.

Here are the complete vids for the first singles, "XO" and "Drunk In Love" and a few sneak peaks of additional clips:










Sunday, December 15, 2013

56TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARD NOMINATIONS

Proof that Jay Z has had a very good year is that he leads the pack with the most Grammy Award nominations at nine. Fellow hip-hop artists, Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis, Kendrick Lamar, Jay's touring partner, Justin Timberlake and the one to beat in the Producer of The Year category, Pharrell Williams all received seven nominations each.

The 56th Annunal Grammy Awards will presented on January 26, 2014 at the Staples Center in L.A. For the complete list of nominees, please go to: Grammy.com


ALBUM OF THE YEAR 

Sara Bareilles – "The Blessed Unrest"
Daft Punk – "Random Access Memories"
Kendrick Lamar – "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City"
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – "The Heist"
Taylor Swift – "Red"

RECORD OF THE YEAR

Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams – “Get Lucky”
Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive”
Lorde – “Royals”
Bruno Mars – “Locked Out of Heaven”
Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell Williams & T.I. – “Blurred Lines”

SONG OF THE YEAR

Pink featuring Nate Reuss – “Just Give Me a Reason”
Bruno Mars – “Locked Out of Heaven”
Katy Perry – “Roar”
Lorde – “Royals”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert – “Same Love”

BEST NEW ARTIST 

James Blake
Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Kacey Musgraves
Ed Sheeran

BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE

Sara Bareilles – “Brave”
Lorde – “Royals”
Bruno Mars – “When I Was Your Man”
Katy Perry – “Roar”
Justin Timberlake “Mirrors”

BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE 

Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams – “Get Lucky”
Pink featuring Nate Reuss – “Just Give Me a Reason”
Rihanna featuring Mikky Eiko – “Stay”
Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell Williams & T.I. – “Blurred Lines”
Justin Timberlake featuring Jay Z – “Suit & Tie”

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM 

Lana Del Rey – "Paradise"
Lorde – "Pure Heroine"
Bruno Mars – "Unorthodox Jukebox"
Robin Thicke – "Blurred Lines"
Justin Timberlake – "The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience"

BEST TRADITIONAL POP VOCAL ALBUM

Tony Bennett & Various Artists – "Viva Duets"
Michael Buble – "To Be Loved"
Gloria Estefan – "The Standards"
Cee Lo Green – "Cee Lo’s Magic Moment"
Dionne Warwick – "Now"

BEST COUNTRY SOLO PERFORMANCE 

Lee Price – “I Drive Your Truck”
Hunter Hayes – “I Want Crazy”
Miranda Lambert – “Mama’s Broken Heart”
Darius Rucker – “Wagon Wheel”
Blake Shelton – “Mine Would Be You”

BEST COUNTRY DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE

The Civil Wars – "From This Valley"
Kelly Clarkson featuring Vince Gill – “Don’t Rush”
Little Big Town – “Your Side of the Bed”
Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban – “Highway Don’t Care”
Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton – “You Can’t Make Old Friends”

BEST COUNTRY ALBUM

Jason Aldean – "Night Train"
Tim McGraw – "Two Lanes of Freedom"
Kacey Musgraves – "Same Trailer, Different Park"
Blake Shelton – "Based on a True Story"
Taylor Swift – "Red"

BEST DANCE RECORDING 

Duke Dumont featuring AME & MNEK – “Need U”
Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch – “Sweet Nothing”
Kaskade – “Atmosphere”
Armin Van Buuren featuring Trevor Guthrie – “This Is What It Feels Like”
Zedd featuring Foxes – “Clarity”

BEST DANCE ALBUM 

Daft Punk – "Random Access Memories"
Disclosure – "Settle"
Calvin Harris – "18 Months"
Kaskade – "Atmosphere"
Pretty Lights – "A Color Map of the Sun"

BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE

Alabama Shakes – “Always Alright”
David Bowie – “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”
Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive”
Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir”
Queens of the Stone Age – “My God is the Sun”
Jack White – “I’m Shakin’”

BEST ROCK ALBUM 

Black Sabbath – "13"
David Bowie – "The Next Day"
Kings of Leon – "Mechanical Bull"
Led Zeppelin – "Celebration Day"
Queens of the Stone Age – "…Like Clockwork"
Neil Young With Crazy Horse – "Psychedelic Pill"

BEST R&B PERFORMANCE

Tamar Braxton – “Love and War”
Anthony Hamilton – “Best of Me”
Hiatus Kaiyote featuring Q-Tip – “Nakamarra”
Miguel featuring Kendrick Lamar – “How Many Drinks?”
Snark Puppy with Lalah Hathaway – “Something”

BEST URBAN CONTEMPORARY ALBUM

Tamar Braxton – "Love and War"
Fantasia – "Side Effects of You"
Salaam Remi – "One: In the Chamber"
Rihanna – "Unapologetic"
Mack Wilds – "New York: A Love Story"

BEST R&B ALBUM

Faith Evans – "R&B Divas"
Alicia Keys – "Girl on Fire"
John Legend – "Love in the Future"
Chrisette Michele – "Better"
TGT – "Three Kings"

BEST RAP PERFORMANCE

Drake – “Started From the Bottom”
Eminem – “Berzerk”
Jay Z – “Tom Ford”
Kendrick Lamar – “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz – “Thrift Shop”

BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION

J. Cole featuring Miguel – “Power Trip”
Jay Z featuring Beyonce – “Part II (On the Run)”
Jay Z featuring Justin Timberlake – “Holy Grail”
Kendrick Lamar featuring Mary J. Blige – “Now or Never”
Wiz Khalifa featuring The Weeknd – “Remember You”

BEST RAP ALBUM

Drake – "Nothing Was the Same"
Jay Z – "Magna Carta… Holy Grail"
Kendrick Lamar – "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City"
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – "The Heist"
Kanye West – "Yeezus"

Sunday, December 8, 2013

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


Due to a sad and unfortunate circumstance, I am now in Michigan and to me, it's just too cold. Although I grew-up here, I have lived in Los Angeles for over twenty-five years and have managed to avoid the bitter winter season. The song that keeps popping in my head is that classic, "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and The Papas. This is probably the first time in my life that the lyrics actually connect to me.

Written by group members, John Phillips and his then-wife, Michelle shortly before getting signed to a recording contract by Lou Adler with Denny Doherty and "Mama" Cass Elliot. This song was first recorded by Barry McGuire which they provided background vocals. The Mamas and The Papas later recorded their own version using the original backing track with additional instrumentation. Their take of "California Dreamin'" didn't exactly get much attention initially but after a Boston radio station started spinning the record, the song broke through nationally. The record became their first major hit with it peaking at number four on the Billboard pop chart. This song has continued to endure in popularity with it being recorded by many different artists.

"California Dreamin'" - The Mamas & The Papas (1965)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

NEW SOUNDS

VALERIE JUNE


The fact is that the number of African-Americans who have professionally performed country music can be easily counted on one hand. Although Valerie June may not necessarily be considered a country artist but there is a certain amount of twang to her sound.

The music that first inspired this Tennessee native was gospel and soul music as a child. She moved to Memphis as a teenager where she was exposed to bluegrass and folk. During this time, Valerie June learned to play many instruments including the banjo and ukulele. She began performing with her husband, Michael Joyner as Bella Sun and they recorded an album, "No Crystal Stair" in 2004.

After later separating from Joyner, Valerie June began to work as a solo artist where she first stared to combine country and the blues to her music. The artist recorded three self-released albums that brought her plenty of buzz and the attention of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. The musician co-wrote and produced her first album on a major label, "Pushin' Against A Stone". Valerie June is an amazing, unique artist who offers music that defies categories.  Have a listen to one of my favorite songs:

"Wanna Be On Your Mind" - Valerie June

FEFE DOBSON


Fefe Dobson has never wanted to follow any preconceived ideas of what type of music she should perform simply because of her race. This artist's style is more rock and punk and she's determined to follow what inspired her.

Born Felicia Dobson outside of Toronto in 1985, she began actively pursuing a professional music career at the age of eleven. At thirteen, Dobson learned piano and wrote songs which lead to serious interest from record labels. However, the labels only wanted to mold her in to a pop or r&b artist and Dobson wanted to rock. She rejected the offers and sought out the help of Chris Smith, the manager of fellow Canadian musician, Nelly Furtado. He managed to get her signed to a recording contract on her terms. The self-titled debut was released in 2003 and was a modest success with the single, "Everything" receiving the most attention.

Dobson has recently dropped a new single, "Legacy" that should be a part of her fourth album due sometime next year. Here is a great video that has been made for the tune:



JANELLE MONAE


Much like her musical idol, Prince, Janelle Monáe adds elements of rock and eccentricity to her funky sound. Originally from Kansas City, Monáe knew what she wanted to do since she was a child. She attended performing arts schools in New York and Philadelphia before heading out to Atlanta. While there, Monáe meet Big Boi of the hip-hop outfit, Outkast and formed the Wonderland Arts Society which was a safe haven for unconventional artists. She self-released an EP, "The Audition" in 2003 and although it didn't sell much, it did properly announce a fresh new voice in music. With her towering pompadour, skinny suits and ties, Janelle Monáe offers a unique look that is the polar opposite of the more common scantily clad female performers these days as well as delivering a refreshing prospective to r&b and pop.

Big Boi brought Monáe to the attention of Sean ("Puffy", "P. Diddy", whatever) Combs and quickly signed her to his label, Bad Boy Records. The album, "Metropolis" was the first part or "suite" of a series of seven concept records. The second suite, "The ArchAndroid" was released in 2010 and now the third and fourth, "The Electric Lady" is now out. This project is the most ambitious to date as it incorporates assistance from a wide range of fellow iconoclastic musicians such as Miguel, Solange, Esperanza Spalding, Erykah Badu and making a rare appearance, "the Purple One", Prince.

Here is a sample with the title track:

"The Electric Lady" - Janelle Monáe featuring Solange

Monday, November 18, 2013

60 GREAT ALBUMS YOU PROBABLY HAVEN'T HEARD


New York Magazine has compiled a list of sixty albums starting from the 1950's to today that many people haven't heard but should. To be honest, I don't know much about most of these artists here which explains why they are little heard but I always love to discover new interesting music.

Click below to see the complete list:

60 Great Albums You Probably Haven’t Heard

Monday, November 11, 2013

TAKE TWO: KENNY LOGGINS


Kenny Loggins was a very popular and prolific artist in his day as he went from rock stardom throughout the seventies as part of a group and solo act to becoming known as "The King of The Movie Soundtrack" in the eighties.

Loggins first began his music career as part of a soft-rock duo with Jim Messina who had played with the bands, Poco and Buffalo Springfield. The team came together by accident as Messina had originally come on board to just produce the first album by the newly-signed Kenny Loggins on Columbia Records but he had contributed so much more with co-writing and vocals that the album was released as "Kenny Loggins With Jim Messina Sittin' In" in 1972. Although not a big commercial hit but the two received plenty of buzz while hitting the road touring college campuses. Due to this potential opportunity, Clive Davis (president of the label at the time) talked them in to becoming an act together.

Loggins & Messina would go on to record a total of six albums together which would sell a total of sixteen million copies as well as write songs for other artists, most notably for Anne Murray who reached the top ten on the pop chart in 1973 with their song, "Danny's Song". By 1976, Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina mutually agreed to end their musical partnership and pursue solo careers.

The official first solo album by Kenny Loggins was "Celebrate Me Home" in 1977. The album was not a major success and the title track didn't burn up the charts however the song would later become a popular holiday classic (and one of my favorite songs). The follow-up release, "Nightwatch" in 1978 would be Loggins' breakthrough as a solo artist. The first single, "Whenever I Call You Friend", a duet with Stevie Nicks (who was just at the beginning of mega-stardom as part of Fleetwood Mac) reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album is also noted for the first recording of "What A Fool Believes" which was co-written with Michael McDonald who would later make it a top-ten smash with his band, The Doobie Brothers. Many more hits followed for Loggins, particularly with songs he provided for motion pictures such as "I'm Alright" ("Caddyshack"), "Danger Zone" ("Top Gun") and the title track from the hit film, "Footloose".

By the 1990's Kenny Loggins wasn't getting as much radio play but he has remained quite actively involved in music. He has just recently became a member of a country band, Blue Sky Riders and they have released their debut album, "Finally Home" earlier this year.

It was hard to just pick two of my favorites but these are the songs that are timeless and can still be heard today:

"Whenever I Call You Friend" - Kenny Loggins featuring Stevie Nicks (1978)

"This Is It" - Kenny Loggins (1979)

As a bonus, here is Loggins & Messina performing live on "The Midnight Special" one of their biggest hits, "Your Mama Don't Dance":

Sunday, October 27, 2013

TLC: 20


TLC was a hip-hop pop group that ruled the charts in the '90's. This trio of young women who blazed a trail with songs of bold sexuality and female empowerment are now back in the news. The VH1 biopic, "Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story" just recently aired and became the top rated television film premiere of the year.

The surviving members of the band, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins (Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes passed away in 2002) have just reappeared on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time in ten years as TLC provided the hook for J. Cole's track, "Crooked Smile". The group has just signed with Sony Music and are in the process of recording a new studio album.

In the meantime, another hits collection has just been released entitled, "20" which features all the songs you loved by TLC plus a new track, "Meant To Be", a ballad written by Ne-Yo. Let's celebrate the group's return to the music scene with a look back at their past. Enjoy a couple of my favorite songs by TLC:

"Diggin' On You" - TLC (1995)

"No Scrubs" - TLC (1999)

Here is the video for "Waterfalls" which won the MTV award for Video of The Year back in 1995:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NEW SOUNDS

LAURYN HILL


After serving a three month jail sentence for tax evasion,  Lauryn Hill has decided the time was right to release some music. Over the years there has been new material dropped sporadically (including an ill-fated reunion with The Fugees) since the mega-success of her 1998 solo debut, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" but it now seems like she could possibly be ready to seriously refocus on her career although it still might only be financially motivated.

"Consumerism" is the title of her latest and Ms Hill spits out rapid fire verses about her views of the current state of the world. This edgy tune is far from catchy or memorable but still serves as a reminder of her great talent. Hopefully, this is just a taste to whet our appetite for something bigger and better to come.

 "Consumerism" - Ms Lauryn Hill (2013)

JENNIFER HUDSON


Oscar-winner, Jennifer Hudson has been spending most of her time making films and showing off her new figure but has now put some of that energy back in to music. She has teamed up with the hot producer of the moment, Pharrell Williams and together have created a sizzling new track, "I Can't Describe (The Way I Feel).  I'm not sure if this is for her upcoming new album or some other project but no matter. What I do know is that I'm really loving this funky jam.

"I Can't Describe (The Way I Feel)" - Jennifer Hudson (2013)

HAIM


Born and raised in the Southern California valley, the Haim sisters, Este, Danielle and Alana have been performing music together professionally since they were little girls along with their parents in a classic rock band.  Since leaving the family nest, the sisters (now in their 20's) are a band known by their surname, Haim and have been creating some serious buzz by opening for such acts as Rihanna and Mumford & Sons as well as making a splash at some of the top music festivals.

Haim have recently released their debut album, "Days Are Gone" which features a solid collection of songs that are a clever mash-up of the type of music they listened to on L.A. radio in their youth; soft rock, r&b grooves and '80's pop.

"Forever" - Haim (2013)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


When I first heard the top-ten hit,"They Don't Know" by Tracey Ullman back in 1983, I just thought she was simply some new British singer. She would later quickly become much more than that.

After her short-lived singing career, Ullman turned her attention to acting, particularly comedy and found great success on several English skit shows. The next time I heard about Tracey Ullman, she was premiering an American variety program, "The Tracey Ullman Show" that hit the airwaves in 1987.  It became a popular show, winning several Emmys and introduced the animated characters, "The Simpsons" to the world (which spun-off to their own show in 1989 and now celebrating twenty-five years on the air). The talented Ullman would move on to films and HBO comedy specials and never looked back on her brief moment in music.

Today's tune was actually a cover of a song written and performed by Kirsty MacColl. Her version was also a hit, reaching number two on the U.K pop chart in 1979. There isn't a major difference between the two songs although Ullman's take has a more fun, poppy feel. MacColl passed away in 2000 during a freak boating accident in Mexico.

"They Don't Know" - Tracey Ullman (1983)

Here is a bonus of Kirsty MacColl's performance of the same tune:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

HOT AND FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN

"THIS IS. . ." - ICONA POP


Icona Pop burst on to the scene in 2012 with their worldwide smash, "I Love It" , although the song didn't reach these shores until this year. This tasty bit of Europop has the duo sing-shouting together that makes them sound like this generation's version of Bananarama.  The group, made-up of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, released their self-titled debut in their native Sweden two years ago and have just delivered their official international first album, "This Is . . .".  The album includes three tracks form the "Icona Pop" debut while the rest consists of new material that features production from fellow hit-making Scandinavians, Stargate and Shellback. If you love big electrobeats and wild, party-anthems, this is a record you should definitely check out.

"All Night" - Icona Pop (2013)

"NOTHING WAS THE SAME"  - DRAKE


With his third full-length album, "Nothing Was The Same", Drake has made a thrilling work of bold artistic achievement. The twenty-six year old Canadian performer has confidently merged hip-hop and classic r&b to create a slick production that offers sounds that are richly textured and musically adventurous. Lyrically, Drake has even made some advancements as he has touched more on personal views in addition to the usual self-aggrandizing found in rap.

"For Time" - Drake featuring Jhene Aiko (2013)

 "YOURS TRULY" - ARIANA GRANDE


Ariana Grande first achieved fame as a child star on the Nickelodeon television series, "Victorious" and the now twenty-year old has found recent success as a singer. Her first album, "Yours Truly" has been released and debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 200 Chart, thanks to her first two singles, "Baby I" and the top-ten hit, "The Way".  Ms Grande has stated that her musical influences included such artists as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, so it's no surprise that you hear that on this record. While the young vocalist is not exactly in the same league as her idols, she shows great potential and delivers a strong set of songs.

"You'll Never Know" - Ariana Grande (2013)

"PURE HEROINE" - LORDE


A sixteen year old singer from New Zealand has come out of nowhere and made the most unlikely pop hit of the year. Ella Yelich-O'Connor or as she is known professionally, Lorde has taken the world by storm with her dark and moody tune, "Royals". What makes the song stand out is the minimalist sound, quirky, poetic lyrics and Lorde's mature vocals. "Pure Heroine" is the title of her first album and features a captivating collection written by Lorde and her producer, Joel Little. This is an impressive debut and one of the best records of the year.

"Ribs" - Lorde (2013)

Here is the U.S. version of the music video for "Royals" with the major difference between this and the original is that we see much more of the singer:



"THE DIVING BOARD" - ELTON JOHN


Elton John has returned to making the spare, reflective music that first made audiences stop and take notice of his amazing talent over forty years ago. He has re-teamed with producer, T-Bone Burnett and his long-time writing partner, Bernie Taupin and together have made "The Diving Board", his thirty-first (!) studio album. Mr. John has got nothing more to prove and has made a refreshing record that moves and inspires him with no interest in catering to the current trends in pop music.

"Take This Dirty Water" - Elton John (2013)

While we're still waiting for the release of her first full-length CD, Sky Ferreira has dropped another hot single. "You're Not The One" is a guitar-driven, electro-tune that has a sexy music video to enhance this great song:



The thing that amazes me the most about the career of Britney Spears is that she's managed to achieve so much by offering so little. There's no need to add any more to that statement and just present the video for "Work Bitch" the first single from her next musical endeavour due out in December. This is around the time Ms Spears will begin her residency at Planet Hollywood in Vegas:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


"OOGA CHAKA.  OOGA OOGA OOGA CHAKA"

This nonsensical chant is what opens "Hooked on a Feeling", the number one pop hit from 1974. The Swedish band, Blue Swede took the easy listening tune originally done by B.J. Thomas (reaching the top-five in 1968) and added their own odd but memorable way to kick off this love song. I remember hearing this as a kid and having no idea what these weird sounds were supposed to mean in regards to the song. Now, being a little bit older, it's still kinda lost on me but it works.

"Hooked On A Feeling" - Blue Swede (1974)

Monday, September 9, 2013

A TRIBUTE TO LINDA RONSTADT


During the height of Linda Ronstadt's fame, recorded music was still pressed on vinyl and a singer was actually required to be able to carry a tune but she has managed to endure as one of the most dynamic and gifted vocalists in the world who could do it all: pop, rock, country, folk, Broadway, big band, jazz, opera and Mariachi. Unfortunately, her glorious voice is now silenced due to recently revealing that she is suffering from Parkinson's disease. Ms Ronstadt was a passionate vocalist who sang simply and clearly from the heart. In this era where many of today's artists are simply manufactured in the recording studio, this is a great loss for music lovers.

Here is a brief collection of some of the diverse sounds from Linda Ronstadt:

"When Will I be Loved" - Linda Ronstadt (1975)

"Falling In Love Again" - Linda Ronstadt (1984)




Finally, here is some vintage footage of Ms Ronstadt performing with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

NEW SOUNDS

Although it wasn't really planned (I swear!) but this one is all about the ladies. I offer a few samples from an eclectic mix of female musicians who will warm up the upcoming chilly season with some exciting new music:

Tamar Braxton - "The One" (2013)

Yuna - "Falling" (2013)

Amel Larrieux - "Afraid" (2013)


Celine Dion has returned to recorded music with a new song, "Loved Me Back To Life". It's been six years since her last English-language album and this will also be the title of the forthcoming release due in November. This tune feels very contemporary and fits perfectly in the current pop landscape :

"Loved Me Back To Life" - Celine Dion (2013)

"Wild" - Jessie J (2013)

"Strange Warnings" - Rose Elinor Dougall (2013)

Here is a remix by Chromeo & Oliver of one of my all-time favorite songs by Donna Summer. "Love Is In Control" has been worked over and given a modern spin while maintaining the spirit of the original (which is what all good remixes should do). There has even been a new music video made which incorporates clips of the video created for the original version featuring the Queen of Disco, which I had never seen before:



Cher's comeback single, "Woman's World" now has a music video. While I'm still not much of a fan of the tune but I am really digging this vid which is wild, wacky and typically Cher. This ageless performer has shown these younger girls (Hello, Miley) how to be outrageous and a little out there without having to try so hard:

Sunday, August 25, 2013

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


Today's tune comes courtesy of my Ipod after the sultry version of "Reach Out I'll Be There" by Diana Ross popped up on shuffle. I hadn't heard it in a while and decided to share.

After successfully remaking the Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell classic, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" in 1970 (and became her first number one single as a solo artist), Miss Ross later took on another popular Motown song and completely reworked it. Originally a number one smash for The Four Tops in 1966, the uptempo "Reach Out" is almost unrecognizable now as a sexy ballad. Although this wasn't much of a hit when released as a single but I really love this take of the song. If you have never heard this, I think you're in for a treat:

"Reach Out I'll Be There" - Diana Ross (1971)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

NEW SOUNDS

I grow more and more skeptical of new music by anticipated artists somehow mysteriously being leaked online before the official release date and how outraged these musicians claim to be about the issue. That happens to be the case for pop superstars Lady Gaga and Katy Perry who both have their latest singles make it out to the world before they said so. I'm sure it's some kind of a game but whatever. They are now actually released, so here are the songs in question:

LADY GAGA


"Applause" is the title of the first song from Gaga's upcoming album, "ARTPOP" that is due this November. The singer's vocal styling here makes me think of 80's new wave songstress, Lene Lovich (and yes, you need to be of a certain age to know who the hell she is) which she actually has a lot in common with.. This electro-beat heavy song is what you would expect and certainly seems accurate as she sings about how she "lives for the applause" as we know the Lady gives her entire body and soul to make sure her little monsters happy and satisfied.

"Applause" - Lady Gaga (2013)

For those who don't know, here is Lene Lovich on the UK show, "Top of The Pops" performing her song, "New Toy":



KATY PERRY


This is no longer the bubble-gum soft Katy Perry of "Teenage Dream" as she has grown-up, toughen-up and ready to "Roar".  That is the name of the first release from her forthcoming third album, "Prism" scheduled to come out in October. This is another catchy, self-empowering tune that she is well-known for and while it offers no surprises it also doesn't disappoint.

"Roar" - Katy Perry (2013)

JAY Z

Inspired by performance artist, Marina Abramović, Jay Z has created a short film for his new single, "Picasso Baby" . With director Mark Romanek on board, Jay has documented the creation of this fascinating art piece as well as shown highlights of the six-hour experience. Although they are given a credit at the end, see how many famous faces you recognize in this clip from the art and film worlds:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

BABY. . .

After listening to Ariana Grande's latest single, "Baby I", it made realize how that term of endearment is probably the most overused word in music. It's really amazing how many songs where "baby" has been applied over and over to easily capture in simple shorthand the deep affection one has for another.

So, this post is dedicated to songs heavily using this favored word throughout pop music history. This will hardly cover all of the many, many tunes but these are just a few of my favorites:

"Be My Baby" - The Ronettes (1963)

"Don't Worry, Baby" - The Beach Boys (1964)

"Baby, I Need Your Loving" - The Four Tops (1964)

"Ooh Baby, Baby" - The Miracles (1965)

"B-A-B-Y" - Carla Thomas (1966)

"Baby I'm-A Want You" - Bread (1971)

"Baby Come Back" - Player (1977)

"Baby, What a Big Surprise" - Chicago (1977)

"Baby I'm Burning" - Dolly Parton (1978)

"Somebody's Baby" - Jackson Browne (1982)

"Baby, I'm Scared Of You" - Womack & Womack (1984)



"Baby Baby Baby" - TLC (1992)



"Baby" - Brandy (1995)

"Baby I" - Ariana Grande (2013)

Monday, July 29, 2013

HOT AND FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN

"CIARA" - CIARA


To be honest, I never paid much attention to Crunk&B goddess, Ciara as I thought her music was just too generic for my taste. With the release of her self-titled fifth album, this artist has now gotten my full attention. I was already loving the sexy single, "Body Party" and Ciara has delivered a beat-heavy collection that is from the heart.

L.A. Reid (who first signed her to his own label, LaFace back in 2004) is now the president of Epic Records and brought Ciara on to the label and executive produced this new project. The singer co-wrote and produced much of this adventurous record along with production assistance from Rodney Jerkins, The Underdogs, Mike Will Made It and rap vocals provided by 2 Chainz, Future and Nikki Minaj, who is featured on the second single, "I'm Out".

Have a listen to the track:

"I'm Out" - Ciara featuring Nikki Minaj 

"ELECTRIC" - PET SHOP BOYS


Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have been performing together as Pet Shop Boys for an incredible thirty years and have just put out their twelfth studio recording, "Electric". This is their first album to be released on their own label, x2 and the duo have enlisted Grammy-winner, Stuart Price to handle production duties on this dance-heavy record.

The album reliably delivers everything you love about Pet Shop Boys but the boys have always offered something a little unexpected and this new release is no exception. They have included rap for the first time to their electro sound with Example providing his vocals to the track, "Thursday" and have taken on rock-god, Bruce Springsteen with their own spin of his song, "The Last To Die".

Enjoy the first single from the new album:

"Vocal" - Pet Shop Boys

Take a look at the trippy video for the follow-up single, "Axis":




"WHERE DOES THIS DOOR GO" - MAYER HAWTHORNE



With the release of his third album, Mayer Hawthorne has decided to shift directions and expectations on "Where Does This Door Go".  He first made his name as a retro soul artist so, now he's ready to show the world what else he's got to offer.  While classic r&b is quite present on this record but there is also 70's style rock, hip-hop beats and more modern soul sounds. The hot producer of the moment, Pharrell Williams contributed his skillz to a few tracks but his presence doesn't overwhelm this record. The end results remains a impressive collection that is still pure Hawthorne.

This track features one of my favorite singers of the moment, Jessie Ware:

"Her Favorite Song" - Mayer Hawthorne featuring Jessie Ware

"YEEZUS" - KANYE WEST


Kanye West has made it clear that he's now no longer interested in following any musical trends, winning awards or even if the public buys his new music. With this proclamation coming from the man with the biggest ego on the planet, you would have every reason to be highly skeptical. However, the controversial title of Mr. West's latest disc and his insistence that there be no traditional promotion indicates that his self-destructive tendencies are working on overdrive. Sales began briskly but soon dropped off just as quickly with the album becoming his lowest selling ever of his career.

"Yeezus" is the name of his sixth studio release and presented without album art. Mr. West has assembled an impressive list of producers and musicians including Daft Punk, Mike Dean and Rick Rubin who came on board as an executive producer just fifteen days before the release date of the album. Frank Ocean, Bon Iver, Kid Cudi and Charlie Wilson (formerly of The Gap Band) lend their voices to a few tracks. As for the music, it is just barely over forty minutes of stripped-down, wildly experimental sounds and noises. The lyrics of these songs are clearly meant to provoke as they are filled with rage, aggression and an abrasive sexuality that will most certainly be off-putting to some listeners. I greatly appreciate his willingness to take chances, begin conversations and shake up pop music but most of the tracks are just too out there for my taste.

Here is one tune that I really like, "Bound 2" which features Charlie Wilson:

"Bound 2" - Kanye West Featuring Charlie Wilson

This is the dark and eerie music video for another song I like, "Black Skinhead" or as it's also known, "BLKK SKKN HEAD". This is really fantastic clip that features a computer generated version of Kanye (with a body he wishes he actual had):



It appears that Disney pop princess, Miley Cyrus has officially and completely shaken her good-girl image. In the video for her latest single "We Can't Stop", the heavily tatted Miley is now a hardcore party chick as she "twerks" and makes out with a female mannequin. I don't know how accurate all this bad girl behavior is to the real-life Cyrus as it comes across as she's trying just a little too hard but it's still a great vid:



Finally, here is the powerful clip for "Same Love", the latest single by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The song already touched me deeply but this music video just enhances it even more. I'm so glad that radio is beginning to play this important tune about love and tolerance:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

TAKE TWO: JOURNEY


Journey first began as a back-up band before eventually evolving in to one of the most globally successful American rock bands in music history. Recent interest in the band has grown ever since the brilliant use of their song, "Don't Stop Believin'" during the final moments of the last episode of the television series, "The Sopranos".

The band was formed in San Francisco in 1973 and first called The Golden Gate Rhythm Section with their original goal was to support local musicians. Former members of Santana and The Tubes made up the group including keyboardist and vocalist, Greg Rollie and guitarist Neal Schon (who is the only original member still performing with the band). After a roadie came up with the name, "Journey", they moved to a jazz-fusion sound and signed with Columbia Records in 1974. Their first three albums didn't garner much attention and soon the label wanted Journey to change their musical direction to focus more on a pop/rock sound and to find another lead vocalist. They decided to try this approach and hired Robert Fleischman to perform vocal duties. He only lasted a year before Steve Perry was brought in as the new lead singer in 1977.

Journey's fourth album, "Infinity" was released in 1978 and became a definite step in the right direction. The singles, "Lights" and "Wheel In The Sky" both hit the charts and the album would be their first million seller. More hit albums followed with Journey's biggest commercial success was "Escape" in 1981. Four singles reached the top twenty on the Billboard Hot 100 with the highest charting was "Open Arms" peaking at number two. "Escape" reached number one on the album chart and went on to sell over nine million copies in the U.S. alone.

After the tour to support their "Frontiers" album, bassist, Ross Valory and drummer, Steve Smith were fired from Journey in 1986.  Session players filled in during the recording of their follow-up, "Raised On Radio" (including future "American Idol" panelist, Randy Jackson) and went on the world tour with the band. The album was another multi-platinum seller and Journey was in the middle of their tour when Steve Perry had to take extended time off due to a family illness. The band came back together (including Valory and Smith) to record "Trial By Fire" in 1996 but Perry soon developed his own health issues and decided he needed to leave Journey for good by 1998.

Journey have brought in several singers to fill in for Perry over the years with Amel Pineda currently in the role of lead vocalist. Their last release to date was "Eclipse" in 2011 and the band is still a very popular touring act.

Listen to two of my favorite songs by Journey:

"Wheel In The Sky" - Journey (1978)

"Anyway You Want It" - Journey (1980)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM

"20 Feet From Stardom" is a dazzling new documentary about the unsung heroes of the music business; the back-up singer. This film by Morgan Neville brings long overdue attention to these (mostly) female vocalists who use their gifts to not only enhance the lead but help deliver some unforgettable musical moments. Sometimes their contributions can even be the most memorable component about a song. Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Bette Midler are just a few of the very well-known performers who appear to sing the praises of these under appreciated  musicians.

The film interviews long-time background singers such as Tata Vega, Gloria Jones, Janice Pendarvis, Cindy Mizelle, Claudia Lennear and The Waters family. Some of these names may not be familiar to you but you'll most certainly recognize their voices. The spotlight in this feature is placed on a few notable singers, Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer and Judith Hill. The twenty-nine year old Hill is the youngest here and you may remember her as a contestant on the fourth season of "The Voice". Although she didn't win the competition, Ms Hill is still out there, struggling to make it as solo performer. But in the meantime, she will still occasionally take a few gigs as a back-up vocalist in order to make ends meet.

"20 Feet From Stardom" is slowly rolling out across the country, so be sure to check it out when it hits your area.



Now I'm going to put my own spotlight on the other three veteran performers:

DARLENE LOVE

Darlene Wright grew up in Los Angeles and developed her singing in her local church as a child. While still in high school, she joined an all-girl group, The Blossoms. The trio caught the attention of music producer Phil Spector and began using them to provide vocals on his records in 1962. They soon became very sought after background vocalists and can be heard on many hit records of the early sixties. Darlene was renamed "Love" by Spector and he used her to sing the leads on the songs, "He's A Rebel' and "He's Sure The Boy I Love" but gave the credit to his girl group, The Crystals. After difficulty with Spector and never being able to achieve great success as a solo performer, Love walked away from the business. By the 1980's Darlene Love returned to music but also displayed her talents in films (the "Lethal Weapon" movies) and the stage ("Leader of The Pack"). Love recorded a holiday song, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" for a Phil Spector Christmas album in 1963 that has become her signature tune and  has sung this classic on David Letterman's show every year since 1986. Darlene Love was finally inducted in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011

Here is Darlene Love's first major hit but it's credited to The Crystals:

"He's A Rebel" - The Crystals (1962)

MERRY CLAYTON

Best known as the powerful female voice behind the 1969 Rolling Stones song, "Gimme Shelter", Merry Clayton made her first recording at thirteen with "Who Can I Count On (When I Can't Count On You)",  a duet with pop star, Bobby Darin in 1962. She was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and Clayton's first big break came when she became one of The Raelettes, Ray Charles's background singers. She went on to work with a variety of musicians such as Neil Young, Tom Jones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker and Carole King. Clayton has recorded six albums as a solo performer over the years but none of them would become a major breakthrough for this talented singer. She also turned to acting and has appeared in the 1987 film, "Maid To Order' and television shows such as "Cagney & Lacey.

This is Merry's stirring solo version of "Gimme Shelter" that appeared on her debut album in 1969:

"Gimme Shelter" - Merry Clayton (1969)

LISA FISCHER

Brooklyn born and bred, Lisa Fischer first started her music career out under the name "Xēna" and performed dance music. She later went on to do background work for some of her idols; Chaka Khan, Teddy Pendergrass, Roberta Flack and most notably, Luther Vandross. Fischer had the opportunity to record a solo album, "So Intense" in 1991 and it was highly successful with the single, "How Can I Ease The Pain" reaching number one on the r&b chart and earning the singer a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. However, when it came time for a follow-up, Fischer had second thoughts about being in the spotlight and realized she preferred life in the background. Lisa Fischer continued as a much sought-after session singer and touring vocalist. She performed background for Vandross on tour for twenty-two years up until his death as well as being part of every Rolling Stones tour (including their current one) since 1989.

This is one of my favorite tracks off of Ms Fischer's only album. Her beautiful remake of "Wildflower" was produced by Luther Vandross and he even provides his legendary voice on background as well:

"Wildflower" - Lisa Fischer (1991)

Here is the music video for the award-winning song, "How Can I Ease The Pain":



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ALISON MOYET: THE MINUTES




Long before Adele was even out of diapers, there was another British singer who captivated audiences with her impressively big and soulful voice. Although Alison Moyet never achieved the massive world-wide pop success that she certainly deserved but she still never failed to deliver some strong, memorable music over the years.

The singer has been silent for a little while but she is finally back with new music. "The Minutes" is a collection of new songs co-written by Moyet and producer, Guy Sigsworth that harks back to her early sound with elements of rock, soul and electropop. The album is off to a fine start as it's become Moyet's highest charting in Britain since 1987.

Moyet first came to attention as the powerful voice behind the short-lived but highly influential electronic band, Yazoo (or known in the U.S. as "Yaz" due to legal reasons) way back in 1982. Formed with Vince Clarke (who was first part of the original line-up of Depeche Mode), Yazoo released two popular albums, "Upstairs At Eric's" and "You and Me Both" which contained the hits, "Don't Go", "Situation" and "Nobody's Diary" but by 1983, the duo had disbanded.

Reluctantly, Moyet became a solo artist and released her debut, "Alf" in 1984. The album went to number one in Britain and spawned three hit singles, "Love Resurrection", "Invisible" and "All Cried Out" as well as a non-album song, "That Ole Devil Called Love" (first recorded by Billie Holliday) that peaked at number two on the U.K. singles chart. The singer released seven more popular albums with her last release was "The Turn" in 2007.

I'm glad she's back and loving the new material. Let's hope it will bring Alison Moyet some love here in the U.S.

Here is a tune from "The Minutes":

"Changeling" - Alison Moyet (2013)

This video features Moyet with Vince Clarke together as Yazoo performing live, "Don't Go":


This is the music video for the song, "Invisible" from "Alf". It was written by Motown legend, Lamont Dozier for Moyet and was the only song that managed to crack the top forty in the U.S.

Monday, June 17, 2013

TAKE TWO: DOLLY PARTON


I had recently mentioned in a previous post that I hadn't put much rap on here. Well, it seems that I've put even less country music on this blog. Although country is far from my favorite genre but there have always been a few songs over the years that I have enjoyed. One performer I think is great is the very talented, Dolly Parton and who doesn't love Dolly? With her over-the top stage costumes, larger than life personality and even bigger "assets", Dolly Parton is most certainly a lot of woman but you can tell that deep down she's just a sweet, simple gal with a gentle, kind heart. 

Born in the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, Dolly was one of twelve children living in a one room cabin on a tobacco farm. The family didn't have much but music played an important part in their lives. Dolly began writing and singing music as a young child and would perform on local television and radio programs. By thirteen, she recorded her first single, "Puppy Love" in 1959. While this song wasn't much of a hit but it still gave her confidence to try a move to Nashville. In 1967, Dolly recorded her debut album, "Hello, I'm Dolly" that would move it's way to number one on the country chart. She caught the attention of country superstar, Porter Wagoner and Parton would be asked to join his band and eventually be his co-host on his weekly television show. Wagoner and Parton became a popular duo and recorded twelve highly successful albums. They remained a professional team until 1974 when she went on to concentrate on her own solo career.

While Dolly enjoyed major country music success throughout the rest of the 1970's but soon decided she wanted her music to appeal to a more mainstream crowd. "Here You Come Again" was released in 1977 and the title track became her first major pop hit, peaking at number three on the chart. Parton remained a highly popular act in country but now her music became even more well-known to rest of the world. Dolly soon took on acting and starred in the movie, "9 to 5" in 1980. She wrote the theme song to that smash hit film which would go to to top both the pop and country charts as well as earn the singer an Academy Award nomination.

Dolly Parton is not only one of the most accomplished and highly honored artists in country music with a total world-wide sales of over one hundred million records sold but has also managed to find great success in film, television and the stage.

Listen to two songs by Dolly Parton that I'm particularly fond of:

"I Will Always Love You" - Dolly Parton (1974)

"Two Doors Down" - Dolly Parton (1978)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

DISCLOSURE


Disclosure is the latest electronic band which mixes funky, deep house with a synthpop sound that is taking the world by storm. This British duo is made up of twenty-two year old, Guy Lawrence and his nineteen year old brother, Howard. In 2010, they first started out remixing songs of other musicians before branching out to create their own music.

Disclosure first hit the UK pop chart in 2012 with "Latch" that featured vocals by rising British artist, Sam Smith. That song reached number eleven and was soon followed by two more singles, "White Noise" (featuring AlunaGeorge) and "You & I" (with Eliza Doolittle) that both made it to the top-ten on the British chart this year. After releasing an EP earlier in 2013 that featured these three songs plus a remix, Disclosure has just put out their impressive first full-length album, "Settle". In addition to their hit songs, the record wisely features contributions from other new artists getting plenty of buzz including London Grammar, Jamie Woon and my current fav, Jessie Ware. With this excellent release, there is very little doubt that the Lawrence brothers will not only be ruling the dance floors but also the airwaves all summer long.

Have a listen to Disclosure in action:

"You & Me' - Disclosure featuring Eliza Doolittle (2013)

"White Noise" - Disclosure featuring AlunaGeorge (2013)

"Voices" - Disclosure featuring Sasha Keable (2013)

Check out this sexy video for the first major single from Disclosure, "Latch":

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

HIP HOP HURRAY

I've noticed that I haven't put too much rap or hip-hop on this blog to date. It's not like I don't care for it but to be perfectly honest, it's just not what gets me going. Perhaps it's the superficial, homophobic or misogynistic messages in a lot of the music or maybe it's just my age. But what I have always responded to is beautiful voices singing and get less excited over hearing someone rhyming quickly over a beat. When it first hit the airwaves, many thought it was nothing more than a passing fad (myself included) but that became very far from the case. The influence of rap/hip-hop over music today is quite unexpected and very impressive.

Now, having saying all that, there have been plenty of rap/hip-hop tunes that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years, so this post is in honor of some of the early pioneers of the art form known as rap. Here is just a small selection of my favorite tunes. (sure, some of these might be considered sexist and just plain ridiculous but that doesn't mean they aren't fun or clever):

SUGARHILL GANG













"Rapper's Delight" - Sugarhill Gang (1979)

KURTIS BLOW














"The Breaks" - Kurtis Blow (1980)

ROCK MASTER SCOTT & THE DYNAMIC THREE








"The Roof is On Fire" - Rock Master Scott & The Dynamic Three (1984)

RUN DMC













"You Talk Too Much" - Run DMC (1985)

JJ FAD










"Supersonic" - JJ Fad (1988)

2 LIVE CREW













"Me So Horny" - 2 Live Crew (1989)

YOUNG MC













"Bust A Move" - Young MC (1989)

PUBLIC ENEMY












"Fight The Power" - Public Enemy (1990)


ABSENT FACES IN POP MUSIC

I had read a interesting article recently in the Los Angeles Times about the difficulties of a new generation of Black female singers being...