Wednesday, November 26, 2014

IT'S THE GIRLS


Bette Midler is back with new music and for her twenty-fifth studio album, "It's The Girls", she pays tribute to girl groups. After popular albums featuring the music of Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee, Midler has taken on the songs of some of her favorite all-female performers. Some of these range from classic tunes made famous by The Ronettes ("Be My Baby"), The Chiffons ("One Fine Day"), The Supremes ("You Can't Hurry Love"), Martha & The Vandellas ("Come And Get These Memories") and most surprisingly, TLC with her version of their hit, "Waterfalls". While none of these recordings will make you forget the originals, Midler injects each of these songs with her signature style and sass.

Bette Midler plans on touring next year to support the album and I've already got my tickets for her L.A. stop. Here's a clip that previews some of the songs off the album:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

LORDE OVERSEES "HUNGER GAMES"


While the world has to anxiously await the third installment of the "Hunger Games" franchise until tomorrow, you can hear some of the music from the film right now. The eighteen year-old New Zealand artist, Lorde was approached to once again contribute a song but this time she wanted to have a bigger role in creating the soundtrack. She was given the reins to curate the music for "Mockingjay, Part One" and assembled an impressive list of artists to participate.

Lorde brought together veteran cutting-edge musicians (Chemical Brothers, Bat For Lashes, CHVRCH╬×S) and offbeat rising stars (Charli XCX, Tinashe, Tove Lo) to create a moody, hard-hitting collection that will enhance and work perfectly with the dark themes of the film. There are also some inventive musical pairings including EDM outfit, Major Lazer with Ariana Grande, Simon LeBon of Duran Duran joins Charli XCX on "Kingdom" and Lorde herself with a crazy team featuring rap artists, Q-Tip and Pusha T and the rock group, Haim on Belgian hip-hop artist, Stromae's song, "Meltdown".

She even got Kanye West involved to remix her track, "Yellow Flicker Beat" and re-titled the tune as "Flicker". My favorite part of this whole enterprise is the inclusion of the legendary Grace Jones with the song, "Original Beast". The idea that Lorde was aware who she is, let alone, wise enough to have this incredible performer a part of this project makes me love her even more.

Listen to a few of the tracks from the soundtrack:



"All My Love" - Major Lazer featuring Ariana Grande (2014)



"The Leap" - Tinashe (2014)



"Flicker (Kanye West Re-work)" - Lorde (2014)



"Meltdown" - Stromae featuring Q-Tip, Pusha T, Haim and Lorde (2014)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

JIMMY RUFFIN (1936 - 2014)


Jimmy Ruffin, the legendary soul vocalist on the Motown label, passed away today at the age of seventy-eight. The older brother of David Ruffin (who died in 1991), the lead singer of The Temptations, is best known for the top-ten hit, "What Becomes of The Brokenhearted" in 1966 but he achieved other hits including "I've Passed This Way Before" and "Gonna Give Her All the Love I've Got".

Born in Collinsville, Mississippi, Jimmy began his musical career as a young child with his brother in the gospel group, The Dixie Nightingales. Ruffin joined Motown as a session singer in 1961 but left after being drafted in the army. He later returned to the label and was offered a position in the Temptations but after hearing his brother, David, Berry Gordy hired him instead. Ruffin stayed with Motown as a solo performer but didn't have much success until "Brokenhearted" charted. His last hit single was the disco tune, "Hold On (To My Love)" (co-written by the late Robin Gibb) in 1980 peaking at number ten on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.

"What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted" - Jimmy Ruffin (1966)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


Here's a song that I love that takes me back to my childhood. "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" by Paul McCartney and featuring his wife, Linda is a tune that mashes up some wacky sound effects and nonsensical lyrics to create one of the strangest pop songs ever. I didn't have any clue what this song was actually about as a nine year old and now being much older, I still couldn't tell you.

Apparently, McCartney pieced together fragments of several different songs he had been working on to build this one and he did actually have a beloved uncle named Albert. Rumor has it that this song was a veiled attack on his former band mates, particularly John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono but who really knows?

Taken from his second solo release, "Ram","Uncle Albert" was McCartney's first U.S. number one hit since he left The Beatles and before he went on to form his new band, Wings later in 1971.



"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" - Paul & Linda McCartney (1971)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

HOT AND FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN

TAYLOR SWIFT - "1989"


Country superstar, Taylor Swift has made a risky move by making her fifth album, "1989" a pure pop record. This could potentially be career suicide as country music fans are notoriously unforgiving when a beloved artist abandons their loving arms. I don't think Ms Swift has much to fear as the album looks poised to becoming one of the biggest sellers of the year.

For her official foray in to pop music, Swift has wisely decided against relying on current trends and looks back to the sounds of the 1980's for inspiration. The title of this record comes from the year of her birth and with production assistance from pop-hit makers, Max Martin, Ryan Tedder and Shellback as well as Jack Antonoff of the indie band, Fun and alt-rocker, Imogen Heap, she has crafted a collection that evokes a feeling of the past but remains quite modern. And considering she hasn't done much living at only twenty-four, Swift also shows great maturity as a songwriter.

"Blank Space", the latest single from the album looks sure to be another smash:

"Blank Space" - Taylor Swift (2014)

STEVIE NICKS - "24 KARAT GOLD: SONGS FROM THE VAULT"


One of Taylor Swift's idols, Stevie Nicks has also looked to the past for her latest release, "24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault". Nicks had a large collection of unrecorded songs she had written that went as far back as when she was dating Lindsey Buckingham before they joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975. They are now seeing the light of day as Nicks went to Nashville with producers, Waddy Wachtel and Dave Stewart (formerly of The Eurythmics) to record these lost treasures. The majority of the songs are by the singer but there are a few covers including "Carousel" by Vanessa Carlton which was one of her mother's favorites.

This is one of the tracks I really like:

"Starshine" - Stevie Nicks (2014)

PRINCE - "ART OFFICIAL AGE"


After being musically silent for far too long, the iconic Prince has returned with not one but two new releases. "Plectrumelectrum" and "Art Official Age" are being released by his former label, Warner Bros Records which he claimed at one time that they treated him like nothing more than a slave but clearly time has healed those old wounds. The former CD is an avant-garde, hard-edged rock album with his all-female backing band, 3rdeyegirl but I'm going to focus on the later which delivers more of the funky sound that I love. Prince seems to be in a more playful, sensual mood these days which is reflected in this new music. Along with the expected idiosyncratic touches scattered throughout, this is one of his most accessible albums in years.

"Clouds" - Prince (2014)

ANNIE LENNOX - "NOSTALGIA"


As is the trend these days for record labels to have veteran artists travel down a musical memory lane, Annie Lennox has just released her version with the appropriately titled, "Nostalgia". Ms Lennox had previously recorded a covers album of pop songs that inspired her back in 1995 with "Medusa" but this time the dynamic vocalist has gone back even further. This collection features songs from the Great American Songbook and some jazz tunes. She has taken on such classics ranging from Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child" and "Strange Fruit", "Summertime" from Gershwin and "Georgia On My Mind" made famous by Ray Charles. Ms Lennox convincingly performs each song with warmth, style and class. "Nostalgia" has even made it to the top of the Billboard jazz chart.

Here is a clip of the singer performing "Summertime":


TINASHE - "AQUARIUS"


One of my favorite songs of the year is "2 On" by the twenty-one year old Tinashe and after releasing several popular mixtapes, her debut, "Aquarius" is now out. Although this singer/actress brings to mind the late Aaliyah, the Zimbabwe born, L.A. raised artist moves further out of the realm of traditional r&b or hip-hop. Tinashe had a hand on the writing of most of the songs along with top producers DJ Mustard, Mike Will Made-It and Stargate to help expand her sound and together they created a work that is sexy, experimental and highly innovative.

Enjoy this sample of the sounds of Tinashe:

"Cold Sweat" - Tinashe (2014)

Dawn Richard, a former member of the female pop singing group formed by Sean "P.Diddy" Combs, Danity Kane, has dropped the music video for her new single, "Blow". Richard is part of the alt-r&b movement and this pulsating clip is equally offbeat:

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...