Saturday, October 25, 2014

MY TUNE OF THE DAY



Sarah Dash, Nona Hendryx, Sundray Tucker and Patricia Holt were Philly high-school teens who came together to form the singing group, The Ordettes in 1959. Tucker had to drop out due to failing grades and was replaced by Cindy Birdsong. The group was renamed The Blue Belles and became a popular live act but were unable to find the same success as recording artists.

Due to a pending lawsuit over the name "The Blue Belles", their management decided to have lead singer, Holt change her name to "Patti LaBelle" and the group was now known as Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles. The ladies stood out from the other girl-groups of the era as their sound was grittier and more gospel-based although that still didn't help them sell many records.

After Birdsong left to replace Florence Ballard in The Supremes in 1967, things went downhill for this struggling act. The Blue Belles were dropped from their record label, then from their management and soon had difficulties finding work.

The fortunes of this now-trio was about to change thanks to their new manager, Vicki Wickham. First, she had the ladies spend some time in London to immerse themselves in the rock scene there and encouraged them to incorporated these songs into their performance. Wickham also wanted them to wear flashy, glam-rock inspired stage costumes and change their name to simply "LaBelle". They were reluctant, fearful of alienating their fans but decided to take a chance. LaBelle started to get noticed; they recorded and toured with Laura Nyro and opened for the Rolling Stones during part of their U.S. tour but still could not get a hit record.

"Nightbirds" was their fourth album on their third record label as LaBelle and they were teamed-up with New Orleans musician, Allen Toussaint to produce. This proved to be a magical collaboration as the first single, "Lady Marmalade" was a major global smash. This racy song, about a New Orleans prostitute, topped the U.S. pop chart in 1974 and would later be inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.

My tune is the follow-up single, "What Can I Do For You?". While this wasn't nearly as popular as the lead, I think its an amazing song. This plea for love and tolerance is elevated by the soaring harmonious voices of these exquisite singers.

LaBelle went their separate ways in 1977 and each pursued a solo career with varied success. Then, thirty-one years later, Patti LaBelle, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx reunited as LaBelle and released an album, "Back To Now" in 2008.

Listen and enjoy my tune of the day:



"What Can I Do For You?" - LaBelle (1974)

As a bonus, here is LaBelle performing "Lady Marmalade" live on Soul Train:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

GWEN STEFANI IS BACK


After laying low for a number of years, Gwen Stefani has finally reemerged. First, she became a judge on the popular music competition show, "The Voice" and now she has dropped some new music.

"Baby Don't Lie" is the first single from her upcoming third solo release and co-written with hot producers, Benny Blanco, Ryan Tedder and Noel Zancannella. Despite all this star-power, the song is surprisingly generic and uninspired. It's not necessarily bad but if her name wasn't attached, I doubt any one would pay any attention to this run-of-the -mill track. However, I haven't lost faith in Ms Stefani and I'm sure she will provide far more interesting music down the road. Listen and judge for yourself:



"Baby Don't Lie" - Gwen Stefani (2014)

Friday, October 17, 2014

RANDOM SIGHTS + SOUNDS

Here are some hot new tracks that I've got on repeat:



"Supernatural" - AlunaGeorge (2014)



"I'm Callin" - Tennis (2014)



"Chasing Time" - Azealia Banks (2014)



"Froot" - Marina & The Diamonds (2014)

Mary J. Blige has embraced EDM in a big way. The soul diva flew out to the U.K. to work with some of the top producers in the field for her next release simply entitled, "The London Sessions". Blige has previously worked with Disclosure and Sam Smith and they are on board this project along with Naughty Boy and Emeli Sandé. It appears she's ready to bring some big emotions to dance music.

See what you think of this highlight track that was put together by Disclosure and new superstar, Sam Smith:



"Right Now" - Mary J. Blige (2014)


It seems I may be the only person on the planet that doesn't care for "All About The Bass", that inescapable hit by Meghan Trainor. I appreciate the message about embracing your curves but the song itself is, to me, like the continuous sound of nails on a chalkboard.

The twenty-year old vocalist has just released her follow-up single, "Lips Are Movin'" and I find it much more appealing. Trainor plays it safe because musically, the tune is nothing more than a slight variation of her first single which should help it climb way up the charts:



"Lips Are Movin'" - Meghan Trainor (2014)

I am not easily shocked nor a prude but when I saw this music video for Jennifer Lopez's new song, "Booty" featuring Iggy Azalea, my jaw just hit the floor. The song is typically nothing special (and has the misfortune of following Nicki Minaj's recent ode to the backside) but this clip, directed by Hype Williams, is really just too much. While these ladies are covered (and just barely), the endless shots of their oil-covered asses grinding and shaking in close-up is gratuitous and completely inappropriate. Sure, I get it. Sex sells but what's wrong with trying to be a little clever with a song about big booties instead of being so literal. Even Minaj's video made some effort. Take a look and judge for yourself:



I was never a fan of The Jonas Brothers and couldn't identify one of their songs if my life depended upon it. Taking a page from Justin Timberlake after he left his boy band, NSYNC, Nick Jonas has repackaged himself by bringing a little funk to his pop sound. I am surprised to admit that I actually like his current single, "Jealous" from the Jonas boy's second self-titled solo album due in November. Here is the video for the song:



Finally, here are a couple of my favorite disco tunes that I remember dancing the night away to:



"Your Love" - Lime (1981)



"Native Love (Step By Step)" - Divine (1982)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

THE 28 BEST MUSIC VIDEOS BY DAVID FINCHER


David Fincher is the man of the moment due to his critically acclaimed, box-office hit, "Gone Girl". What people may not realize (or remember) is that Mr. Fincher began his career directing commericals and most notably, music videos. To date, he's made over fifty clips with his most recent being Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie" which won Fincher a Grammy Award last year for Best Music Video.

New York Magazine has complied a list ranking the Oscar-nominated director's best work in music videos. Click below to read:

28 David Fincher Music Videos, Ranked

Here are a few of my personal favorites from the director:









Wednesday, October 8, 2014

TAKE TWO: ERASURE


The electronic-dance music craze dominating the scene right now would probably not be happening without Erasure, one of the pioneering bands responsible for successfully merging electronic beats with pop sensibilities, The duo, made of up Vince Clarke and the out-and-fabulous vocalist, Andy Bell, first came together in 1985 and are still making music. Their sixteenth studio album, "The Violet Flame" was released last month and is moving it's way up the charts.

When Erasure first appeared, however, nobody really expected too much from the band. Their debut, "Wonderland" failed to generate much interest initially and Bell was dismissed as simply imitating Clarke's former musical partner, Alison Moyet from Yazoo ("Yaz" in America). Today, this innovative album is considered a classic with the singles "Who Needs Love Like That", "Heavenly Action" and "Oh L'amour" now quite popular.

With the release of their third album, "The Innocents",  the world had taken noticed of Erasure. This record began a long string of hit singles in their native England with twenty-four consecutively reaching the top forty. Erasure also made their first appearance on the U.S. pop chart with "Chains of Love" and "A Little Respect".

Erasure is a major fan of ABBA and paid tribute with an EP entitled, "Abba-esque" in 1992 which covered several of their songs. This collection was a major success, particularly in Europe and is said to have helped spark the renewed interest in this super-pop outfit.

There are so many songs that I love from this band but I've narrowed down my two favorites from Erasure:

"Oh L'amour" - Erasure (1986)

"A Little Respect" - Erasure (1988)

Here are the boys camping it up as the ladies from ABBA in the video for their version of "Take A Chance on Me":

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

NEW SOUNDS

LADY GAGA & TONY BENNETT


After Lady Gaga recorded a song with Tony Bennett for the sequel to his popular "Duets" album in 2011, this unlikely duo got along so well that they wanted to do an entire album together. That has finally worked out with "Cheek To Cheek", a collection of jazz standards. Their wish is that this record will get younger listeners interested in these classic songs by such composers as George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Duke Ellington. Recorded the old-fashioned way, live with an orchestra, Gaga and Bennett seem to inspire each other and had a lot of fun together.

Here is their swinging version of the Irving Berlin song, "Let's Face The Music and Dance":

"Let's Face The Music and Dance" -Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett (2014)

Take a look at the music video for "Anything Goes" for an example of how much these two enjoy each other:



BARBRA STREISAND


"Partners", the thirty-fourth studio album from Barbra Streisand is another duets release from the legendary performer but this time, most of the songs are re-recordings of her previous hits. Produced by Walter Afanasieff and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds (who is also one of her duet partners on "Evergreen"), the CD features some of the best vocalists in music history. The line-up includes Lionel Ritchie ("The Way We Were"), Billy Joel ("New York State of Mind"), John Legend ("What Kind of Fool"), Josh Groban ("Somewhere"), Stevie Wonder ("People") and most surprisingly, the late Elvis Presley on his classic, "Love Me Tender".  Some of the match-ups are more effective than others but overall, "Partners" is still worth a listen. It's interesting to note that there were no other female singers used on this project. Perhaps no one was available? Anyway, the album is off to a great start as it has reached the top-ten in several countries and debuted at number one in the U.S.

Here is the virtual musical pairing of Streisand with the "King", who actually came very close to co-starring with her in the 1976 remake of "A Star Is Born":

"Love Me Tender" - Barbra Streisand & Elvis Presley (2014)

SMOKEY ROBINSON


On his first CD in four years and on his new label, Verve, Smokey Robinson has also decided to go the duets route on the appropriately entitled, "Smokey & Friends". Like the Streisand record, Robinson has rounded up some of his musical buddies (such as James Taylor, Elton John, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow and John Legend) to rework the songs he wrote and made famous. Sadly, there really isn't much here that's inspired or particularly memorable.

One of the more interesting tracks is with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith who together do an adequate blues-rock version of "You Really Got a Hold On Me". Have a listen:

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK

I can't believe it but it's been forty years since " Best of My Love " by The Emotions landed at number one on the pop...