Sunday, August 30, 2015

RANDOM SIGHTS + SOUNDS

Hailee Steinfeld first came on the radar as an actress with her moving performance in the Coen brothers remake of "True Grit" that earned the then thirteen year old an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 2010. She introduced her singing voice this summer in the hit sequel to "Pitch Perfect" which lead to Steinfeld signing a record deal with Republic Records. Her debut single, "Love Myself" is now out and it's pop perfection.

"Love Myself" - Hailee Steinfeld (2015) mp3









This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of "Jagged Little Pill", Alanis Morissette's emotionally raw, alt-rock album that connected with millions of listeners. She first found fame as a teen dance-pop singer in her native Canada with her self-titled debut album before being dropped by her label after a disastrous second. At a crossroads, Morissette picked up and moved to Toronto to start over. A chance introduction to songwriter/producer, Glen Ballard lead to them working together and shifting her musical direction. Only one label, Madonna's Maverick Records, was interested in releasing the edgy finished product and the rest is history. "Pill" won four Grammy Awards including Album of The Year and has sold thirty-three million copies worldwide to date. These are my favorite tracks off the album:

"You Outta Know" - Alanis Morissette (1995) mp3

"Ironic" - Alanis Morissette (1995) mp3

"Hand In My Pocket" - Alanis Morissette (1995) mp3

After finding great success with their live televised musical productions of "The Sound of Music" and "Peter Pan", NBC is preparing their latest (and one that I'm really looking forward to), "The Wiz". An interesting cast has been assembled with David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion, Ne-Yo as the Tin Man, Elijah Kelley (who was in the musical film version of "Hairspray") is the Scarecrow, Mary J. Blige plays Evillene, the Wicked Witch and Queen Latifah is The Wiz. And as for this show's Dorothy? A nationwide, open casting-call lead Shanice Williams, an eighteen-year old theater performer from New Jersey, to make her television debut. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who produced the previous live telecasts, return to executive produce and it's set to air on December 3rd. In honor of the upcoming show, listen to Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, from the 1978 movie version, performing the classic, "Ease On Down The Road":

"Ease On Down The Road" - Diana Ross & Michael Jackson (1978) mp3

I was hoping Miss Ross might have made an appearance here, maybe as Glinda, the Good Witch?  I am thrilled that Stephanie Mills, who played Dorothy in the original Broadway show back in 1974, will appear as Aunt Em. Enjoy this music video of Mills performing "Home", the moving, closing number from the musical she re-recorded in 1989:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


Today's tune is "Girl You Know It's True" by Milli Vanilli. As you may recall, this euro-pop group, made up of Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, hit the top of the charts across the globe with this first single back in 1988. Other hit songs followed with Milli Vanilli selling millions of records and would go on to take the Grammy for Best New Artist.

Their success would come to a shocking end after it was revealed that Morvan and Pilatus had not actually sang any of the lead vocals on their debut album. Unimpressed with their singing abilities but admiring their look, producer Frank Farian decided to provide the voice of Milli Vanilli while the two attractive men would simply be the face of the group. The outrage of this deception was fast and furious with their record label dropping them and pulling their music out of circulation, multiple lawsuits and the Grammys revoking the duo's prize.

After their fall from grace, producer Farian released another Milli Vanilli album in 1990 that featured the real singers on the cover and Rob & Fab actually sang on their own self-titled album in 1992 but by this time, the public was no longer interested.

As for the song itself, it still holds up well despite all of the drama behind it. Milli Vanilli may now represent a shameful time in pop music but "Girl You Know It's True" was one of the early songs that helped usher in the new jack city sound of the early '90's.

"Girl You Know It's True" - Milli Vanilli (1988) mp3

Here is Rob and Fab in action from the music video for another hit, "Baby Don't Forget My Number":

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

WHAT HAPPENED MISS SIMONE


This year has put a long overdue spotlight on one of the most distinctive and influential musicians in pop music history. Nina Simone is the subject of a new Netflix documentary, "What Happened, Miss Simone?" which is directed by award-winning film maker, Liz Garbus with the singer's daughter, Lisa Simone serving as an executive producer. The film uses concert footage and interviews, some never seen or heard previously, to explore the passionate, difficult and complicated life of the North Carolina native. Simone was an extraordinary gifted but moody performer who actively defied musical categories. She mesmerized audiences with the sheer force of her talent, using her voice to not only entertain but inspire and stir protest.



In celebration of this film, a new album, "Nina Revisited: A Tribute To Nina Simone" features the songs made famous by Ms Simone recorded by several contemporary artists. Some of the musicians involved include Mary J. Blige, Usher, Common with Lalah Hathaway and Lisa Simone but the highlight is the very welcome return of Ms Lauryn Hill. She is on six of the thirteen tracks with Hill impressively breathing fresh new life in to some of Simone's signature tunes such as "Wild Is The Wind", "Ne Me Quitte Pas" and "Feeling Good". This collection perfectly honors the legacy of this quite special and unique performer.

Listen to rising jazz artist, Gregory Porter (who was heard early this year on a dance track for the upcoming Disclosure album) doing a radical but fascinating re-working of the Nina Simone classic, "Sinnerman":

"Sinnerman" - Gregory Porter (2015) mp3

Enjoy this electric performance of "Feeling Good" by Ms Lauryn Hill:

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...