Tuesday, December 30, 2014

REBEL HEART


The arrival of new music from the true Queen of Pop, Madonna has certainly been a crazy situation. First, someone hacked in to her computer and released virtually all of the songs from her forthcoming thirteenth studio album (completed tracks and demos) for all the world to hear. Madonna was quite upset and rightfully so but misguidedly compared the act to being "raped artistically ".

So she decided to take control of this bad situation by pre-releasing her new album, "Rebel Heart" with six songs available now on Itunes. This went on to cause quite a frenzy for her new work which went on to top the Itunes Album charts in over forty countries. There hasn't been this much excitement for a new Madonna record in quite awhile.

What do I think about "Rebel Heart"? Let me begin with my negative thoughts: I absolutely hate the album cover. It's just so . . . ridiculous. As for the songs themselves? It's a vast improvement over her half-baked last release, "MDNA".  This new material offers more thoughts and ideas of a mature woman instead of trying so hard to cater to the tween crowd. So far, Madonna has collaborated with popular EDM producers, Diplo and Avicii in addition to having Kanye West and Nicki Minaj back on board to help deliver a contemporary sound. What I've heard so far I've really enjoyed. These tunes manage to move the artist forward while offering glimmers of the Madonna of yore.

More songs from "Rebel Heart" are planned to be dropped on February 9th before giving the complete album a proper worldwide release on March 10th. Here are three of the songs that I particularly like including the first official single, "Living For Love":



"Living For Love" - Madonna (2014)



"Ghosttown" - Madonna (2014)



"Illuminati" - Madonna (2014)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS

I wish everyone a very safe and happy holiday. I can't think of a better way to express this than with a song and so, here is my favorite new artist, Sam Smith offering an impressive rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas":

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

JOE COCKER (1944 - 2014)


Best known for his gravely voice and looking like he was having a seizure when he sang, the British rock & soul artist, Joe Cocker passed away yesterday after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.

After getting invited on stage as a teenager to sing with his older brother's band, Cocker was hooked. He first began his music career under the stage name Vance Arnold with his band covering Chuck Berry and Ray Charles songs. Cocker started using his own name when he began recording and joined his friend, Chris Stanton to start a new band, The Grease Band in 1966. He worked with this group for a few years before deciding to go solo. Cocker would make a huge impact with his riveting performance at Woodstock in 1969.

Cocker's first hit was a radical re-working of The Beatles song, "With a Little Help From My Friends". This cover reached the top-ten in Britain in 1968 and featured future Led Zeppelin member, Jimmy Page on guitar. Cocker had other hits with his versions of popular tunes including "Feelin' Alright", "Cry Me a River", "The Letter" and "You Are So Beautiful". In 1982, Joe Cocker teamed-up with Jennifer Warnes to perform "Up Where We Belong",  the love theme for the hit film, "An Officer and A Gentleman". This became the singer's only U.S. number-one hit single and earned him a Grammy Award.

Listen to these classic songs from the great Joe Cocker:

"Feelin' Alright" - Joe Cocker (1968)

"Up Where We Belong" - Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes (1982)

Here is Joe Cocker performing his take of "With A Little Help From My Friends" live at Woodstock:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

NEW SOUNDS

BEYONCE


Beyoncé has just released a Platinum Edition of her recent, best-selling self-titled fifth album. In addition to a reissue of the original CD and DVD of music videos, this now includes another CD featuring two new songs, "7/11" and "Ring Off" and four previously-released remixes plus a DVD of live performances from The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. This is probably more for the hardcore fan of the singer as the two new cuts, while pretty good, is not worth investing in if you already own the previous album.

Listen to "Ring Off" which seems to be about her mother, Tina Knowles. The song focuses on the painful end of her marriage while Beyoncé encourages her beautiful mama to remove that wedding ring and move on with her life.

"Ring Off" - Beyoncé (2014)

This video for the other new track, "7/11" is crazy but I love it:



IGGY AZALEA



This year, Iggy Azalea has become one of the biggest names in hip-hop pop thanks to her worldwide hits, "Fancy" and "Black Widow". A reissue of her debut, "The New Classic" is now out and called "Reclassified". It features six tracks from the first album and five new songs. The Australian rapper has gotten assistance on some of the tunes from Ellie Goulding ("Heavy Crown"), Danish electro-pop artist, MØ (the first single, "Beg For It") and Jennifer Hudson ("Trouble"). While it took me some time to warm up to Azalea and appreciate her music, I still don't see her as a great talent with a long career ahead of her.

Anyway, listen to my favorite track from "Reclassified":

"Trouble" - Iggy Azalea featuring Jennifer Hudson (2014)

Gwen Stefani disappointed with the lackluster first new music from her upcoming CD but has turned things around with the follow-up release. "Spark The Fire", co-written and produced by her fellow "Voice" judge, Pharrell Williams, is the type of high-energy track that we expect from the singer although it may be just a bit too similar to "Hollaback Girl" for it's own good. Check out the colorful video for the song that is on emoji overdrive:



I loved the new song "Uptown Funk" from Brit producer Mark Ronson as soon as I first heard it. With sizzling, funky horns, a touch of 1980's era Prince and Bruno Mars serving some James Brown inspired vocals, this jam is a modern classic. Here's the music video for this tune:



Finally, here is the video for the next single from my new fav, Sam Smith. "Like I Can" is a slick, black & white clip of Smith and his buddies roaming New York, looking sharp in tuxedos. Simple but effective:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

57TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARD NOMINATIONS


December 5th was Grammy Friday as all throughout the day, the nominations for the 57th Grammy Awards were announced. It all culminated with a holiday-themed televised concert, "A Very Grammy Christmas" which presented the Album of The Year nominees. I'm thrilled that the amazing Sam Smith tied with Beyoncé and Pharrell Williams with the most nominations with six. The British singer received a nod in all of the four major categories as well as Best New Artist.

Beyoncé set a Grammy record by becoming the female artist with the most nominations. At fifty-two, she moved past Dolly Parton, who she was tied with at forty-six before the announcement and now is tied with Kanye West as the sixth artist with the most overall nominations.

The awards will be handed out once again at the Staples Center in L.A. on February 8th. Here is a partial list of this year's Grammy nominations. For the complete list in all categories, please click below:

Grammy.com

Album of The Year:

"Morning Phase" - Beck
"Beyoncé" - Beyoncé
"X"- Ed Sheeran
"In The Lonely Hour" - Sam Smith
"Girl" - Pharrell Williams

Record of the Year

"All About That Bass" - Meghan Trainor
"Fancy" - Iggy Azalea Featuring Charli XCX
"Chandelier" - Sia
"Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)" - Sam Smith
"Shake It Off" - Taylor Swift

Song of the Year

"All About That Bass" - Meghan Trainor
"Chandelier" - Sia
"Shake It Off" - Taylor Swift
"Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)" - Sam Smith
"Take Me to Church" - Hozier

Best New Artist

Iggy Azalea
Bastille
Brandy Clarke
Haim
Sam Smith

Best Pop Solo Performance

"All of Me" - John Legend
"Chandelier" - Sia
"Stay With Me" - Sam Smith
"Shake It Off" - Taylor Swift
"Happy" - Pharrell Williams

Best Pop Duo/Performance

"Fancy" - Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX
"A Sky Full of Stars" - Coldplay
"Say Something" - A Great Big World with Christina Aguilera
"Bang Bang" - Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj
"Dark Horse" - Katy Perry featuring Juicy J

Best Pop Vocal Album

"Ghost Stories" - Coldplay
"Bangerz" - Miley Cyrus
"My Everything" - Ariana Grande
'Prism" - Katy Perry
"X" - Ed Sheeran
"In the Lonely Hour" - Sam Smith

Best Urban Contemporary Album

"Sail Out" - Jhene Aiko
"Beyoncé" - Beyoncé
"X" - Chris Brown
"Mali Is ..." - Mali Music
"Girl" - Pharrell Williams

Best Rap Album

"Because the Internet" - Childish Gambino
"The New Classic" - Iggy Azalea
"Nobody's Smiling" - Common
"Marshall Mathers LP 2" - Eminem
"Oxymoron" - ScHoolboy Q
"Blacc Hollywood" - Wiz Khalifa

Best Country Album

"Riser" - Dierks Bentley
"The Outsiders" - Eric Church
"12 Stories" - Brandy Clark
"Platinum" - Miranda Lambert
"The Way I'm Livin'" - Lee Ann Womack

Best Alternative Music Album

"This Is All Yours" - Alt J
"Reflector" - Arcade Fire
"Melophobia" - Cage the Elephant
"St. Vincent" - St. Vincent
"Lazaretto" - Jack White

Best Dance Recording

"Never Say Never" - Basement Jaxx
"Rather Be" - Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne
"F for You" - Disclosure featuring Mary J. Blige
"I Got U" - Duke Dumont featuring Jax Jones
"Faded" - Zhu

Monday, December 1, 2014

TAKE TWO: KIM CARNES



With sunny, California girl looks but a singing voice like sandpaper, Kim Carnes didn't come across how you would expect. Her music career didn't travel down an obvious path either. Carnes first became noticed as a songwriter and wrote music in all genres that brought her great acclaim. When she achieved fame as a singer, it was with an unusual, new-wave sounding song about a deceptive woman with eyes like a movie star.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kim Carnes wrote songs and performed locally as a teen before eventually deciding to get in to music professionally. In the early 1970's, Carnes, along with her musician husband, Dave Ellingson, got her first break with teen heartthrob, David Cassidy, star of the hit television show, "The Partridge Family". In addition to writing songs for his albums, Carnes and Ellingson opened for Cassidy during his world tour. This exposure lead to Carnes getting her own record deal and releasing her debut album, "Rest On Me" in 1972.

Although Carnes didn't have much initial success as a recording artist, her work as a songwriter continued to open doors for the fledgling musician. Some of her compositions won a few prizes which lead to them being recorded by none other than Barbra Streisand. "Love Comes from Unexpected Places" was on "Streisand Superman" in 1977 and "Stay Away" appeared on "Songbird" the following year. In 1980, country music star, Kenny Rogers had Carnes and Ellingson write a concept record for him. That album, "Gideon" featured "Don't Fall In Love With a Dreamer", a duet with Kim, that reached the top ten on the pop and country charts. Also that year, Carnes released a remake of the Smokey Robinson and The Miracles classic, "More Love" from her album, "Romance Dance". This became her first solo top ten pop hit.

For her next album, "Mistaken Identity", Carnes's first single was a cover of an obscure song co-written by 60's pop singer, Jackie DeShannon ("What The World Needs Now"). "Bette Davis Eyes" became a massive smash, spending nine weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song went on to win two Grammy Awards for Song of The Year and Record of The Year and became the biggest single of 1981.

Kim Carnes never reached these heights again but continued to make music with varied success. She released her last studio album, "Chasin' Wild Trains" in 2004. Carnes is still married to Dave Ellingson and have been together for forty-seven years. They have two sons, Collin and Ry who have followed in the family business as musicians.

These are two of my favorite tunes from Kim Carnes:



"Don't Fall In Love With a Dreamer" Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes (1980)



"More Love" - Kim Carnes (1980)

As a bonus, here is the very 1980's music video for "Bette Davis Eyes". This eerie clip is notable for being directed by future filmmaker, Russell Mulcahy, best known for "Highlander" and currently directing episodes of the MTV series, "Teen Wolf":

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