Monday, February 20, 2017

I'M IN "LOVE" WITH LANA DEL REY


After a few years out of the spotlight, Lana Del Rey is back on the music scene and has dropped "Love" in to the world. With writing and production assistance from Rick Nowels and Benny Blanco, the thirty-one year old vocalist has returned to the ethereal glam-pop styling that initially caught our attention back in 2011.

"Love" was at first teased to the public on February 17th but was rushed out after leaked versions hit the web. The lyrics might travel down familiar territory about the difficulties of being young and desperately in love but Del Rey elevates the tune with her girlish yet highly emotive vocals. I'm really digging this dramatic song, which sounds like nothing else happening right now in pop music, and expect this will make a big impact on radio. I can't wait to hear more with Del Rey's fifth studio album due out sometime later this year.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

AL JARREAU (1940 - 2017)


Al Jarreau, the smooth jazz vocalist who also dabbled in pop and soul music, sadly passed away on February 12th at the age of seventy-six. He had just announced his retirement from live performing just two days before his death due to declining health.

Born in Milwaukee, WI , Jarreau found his love of music in the Church. His father was a minister and his mother was the pianist while he and his siblings performed during services. After earning a master's degree in vocational rehabilitation, Jarreau worked as a counselor in San Francisco while occasionally singing with a jazz trio after hours. He latter teamed with guitarist Julio Martinez and they became a popular act in the Bay Area. It was at this point Jarreau decided to pursue music full time.

Jarreau soon headed to the Southland where he made a name performing at nightclubs and on television variety shows. He was signed to Warner Bros. Records and released his debut album, "We Got By" in 1975 to rave reviews. Jarreau would win the first of his seven career Grammy Awards for his first live album, "Look At The Rainbow" in 1977.

In 1981, Jarreau released "Breakin' Away" which would help the singer crossover to the pop and soul worlds and became his biggest selling album at over a million copies sold. The single, "We're In This Love Together" reached the top-twenty on the pop chart, the top-ten on the r&b chart and would win Jarreau the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. He would also win Best Male Jazz Vocal Performance for "(Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo à la Turk" from that album as well.

Other career highlights include performing the theme song for the popular late '80's television romantic comedy-drama, "Moonlighting" which reached the top-thirty on the pop charts and he was one of the participating pop singers who lent their voices on the charity single for African famine relief, "We Are The World" in 1985.

But Jarreau was admired most as an outstanding live performer and since the beginning of his musical journey he would tour extensively in countless concerts and jazz festivals, dazzling audiences around the world in the process. The singer even appeared in the role of Teen Angel in "Grease" on Broadway in 1996. He was a great talent who will truly be missed. Enjoy a small sample of the amazing music of Al Jarreau:

"We're In This Love Together" - Al Jarreau (1981) mp3

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

THE 59TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS


I knew there was no way we were going to get through over three hours during one of music's biggest nights without politics somehow making it's way on to the stage of the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. And of course it did, subtlety with an image of the Constitution being projected at the end of Katy Perry's performance of her new song, "Chained To The Rhythm" and quite aggressively during A Tribe Called Quest's number where they, along with Anderson Paak, Busta Rhymes and Consequence, referred to "President Agent Orange" and urged the audience to continue resisting his outrageously divisive policies. There were also inspiring messages of tolerance and moving words on the importance of the arts in speeches from Beyoncé during her acceptance of the Best Urban Contemporary Album award and from the Recording Academy President, Neil Portnow.

James Cordon, the host of CBS' "The Late Late Show", took over the hosting duties of the Grammys this year and brought a much-needed new energy to the show. No offense to LL Cool J but the comedian kept the show light and breezy (and just in time considering the political climate) with his infectious enthusiasm and cheerful good humor. But he could still be cheeky with a funny bit involving his parents and their "cheat dates". Cordon is a true music lover which is evident from his very popular "Carpool Karaoke" segment (which he couldn't resist squeezing in to the show by doing an all-star version of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" but it would really seem unavoidable with so many of the top music people in the audience)  and appeared to be just as thrilled to be hosting as he was watching the performers.

And music was the real focus of the evening and there were plenty of outstanding performances to witness. Adele kicked off the show with a flawless rendition of "Hello" but ran in to some trouble during a tribute to George Michael with a reworking of "Fast Love" (an odd choice out of all of his songs). She was so unhappy with her performance that she insisted on stopping in the middle and starting over. Adele triumphed in the end but was still quite visibly upset despite the enthusiastic response. Other highlights include Bruno Mars who also did double duty with a slick, old-school funk performance of his own song "That's What I Like" before showing off impressive guitar skills on a cover of "Let's Go Crazy" during the tribute to Prince. Ed Sheeran astonished as a one-man band as he did his new single, "Shape of You", Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood brought some fiery soul to country with "The Fighter" and the duet of John Legend and "Color Purple" star, Cynthia Erivo performing the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" during the in-memoriam segment was absolutely breathtaking. Get them to a recording studio ASAP!

I wasn't particularly impressed with the teaming of Metallica and Lady Gaga which was just loud and inaudible with the technical difficulties not helping and while I was thrilled with the celebration of the Bee Gees and the fortieth anniversary of their "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack, the performers involved (which included Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly and Little Big Town) underwhelmed.

But it was Beyoncé, hardly surprising, who left a spectacularly memorable impression. Merging bold religious imagery with a hallucinogenic flower-child vibe, the singer, resplendent in a revealing, golden gown and the glow of impending motherhood, took over the show for nine minutes with a amazing production of two songs from "Lemonade", "Love Drought" and "Sandcastles" that featured video projection, the usual army of female dancers and dazzling visual effects that made a statement in more ways than one.

There was much made of the Adele vs Beyoncé showdown but it was the British singer who ultimately was the big winner taking all five of the Grammys she was nominated for including Album of The Year while the expectant mother received only two from her nine nominations. Now while I think "25" is a good, solid album but I completely agree with Adele 100% that "Lemonade" should have taken that top prize for it's innovation and craftsmanship. It was a slight to an album that will long endure as a groundbreaking work. But I couldn't help being moved just as much as Beyoncé by Adele's graciousness, honesty and genuine affection for the singer. Adele proved to me she was a winner just by being endearing, humble and a class act.

Here is the complete list of winners from the 2017 Grammy Awards:


Album of the Year: “25”, Adele
Record of the Year: “Hello”, Adele
Song of the Year: “Hello”, Written by Adele Adkins & Greg Kurstin (Adele, artist)
Best New Artist: Chance the Rapper
Best Pop Vocal Album: “25”, Adele
Best Pop Solo Performance: “Hello”, Adele
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: “Stressed Out”, Twenty One Pilots
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: “Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin”, Willie Nelson
Best Urban Contemporary Album: “Lemonade”, Beyoncé
Best R&B Album: “Lalah Hathaway Live”, Lalah Hathaway
Best R&B Performance: “Cranes in the Sky”, Solange
Best Traditional R&B Performance: “Angel", Lalah Hathaway
Best R&B Song: “Lake By the Ocean”, Written by Hod David & Musze, (Maxwell, Artist)
 
Best Rap Album: “Coloring Book”, Chance the Rapper
Best Rap Performance: “No Problem”, Chance the Rapper Featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
Best Rap/Sung Performance: “Hotline Bling”, Drake
Best Rap Song: “Hotline Bling”, Written by Aubrey Graham & Paul Jefferies, (Drake, artist)
Best Country Album: "A Sailor’s Guide to Earth", Sturgill Simpson
Best Country Solo Performance: “My Church”, Maren Morris
Best Country Duo/Group Performance: “Jolene", Pentatonix featuring Dolly Parton
Best Country Song: “Humble and Kind”, Written by Lori McKenna (Tim McGraw, artist)
Best Rock Album: “Tell Me I’m Pretty”, Cage the Elephant
Best Rock Performance: “Blackstar”, David Bowie
Best Rock Song: “Blackstar”, David Bowie
Best Alternative Music Album: “Blackstar,” David Bowie
Best Metal Performance: “Dystopia”, Megadeth
Best Dance/Electronic Album: “Skin”, Flume
Best Dance Recording: “Don’t Let Me Down”, The Chainsmokers Featuring Daya
Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: “Culcha Vulcha”, Snarky Puppy
Best New Age Album: "White Sun II", White Sun
Best Gospel Album: "Losing My Religion", Kirk Franklin
Best Roots Gospel Album: "Hymns", Joey + Rory
Best Contemporary Christian Music Album: "Love Remains", Hillary Scott & The Scott Family
Best Gospel Performance/Song: “God Provides”, Tamela Mann
Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song: “Thy Will”, Hillary Scott & The Scott Family
Best Latin Pop Album: "Un Besito Mas", Jesse & Joy
Best World Music Album: "Sing Me Home", Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble
Best Children’s Album: "Infinity Plus One", Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Best Spoken Word Album: "In Such Good Company: Eleven Years Of Laughter, Mayhem and Fun in the Sandbox", Carol Burnett
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: "Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom", Ted Nash Big Band
Best Jazz Instrumental Album: "Country for Old Men", John Scofield
Best Jazz Vocal Album: "Take Me to the Alley", Gregory Porter
Best Improvised Jazz Solo: “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, John Scofield
Best Musical Theater Album: "The Color Purple"
Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media: "Miles Ahead"
Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", John Williams
Best Song Written for Visual Media: “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”, Justin Timberlake
Best Instrumental Composition: “Spoken at Midnight”, Ted Nash
Best Arrangement, (Instrumental or A Cappella): “You and I”, Jacob Collier
Best Arrangement, (Instruments and Vocals): “Flintstones”, Jacob Collier
Best Recording Package: "Blackstar", David Bowie
Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package: "Edith Piaf 1915-2015", Edith Piaf
Best Album Notes: "Sissle and Blake Sing Shuffle Along", Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle
Best Historical Album: "The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series, Vol.12 (Collector’s Edition)", Bob Dylan
Best Engineered Album, (Non-Classical): "Blackstar", David Bowie
Best Remixed Recording: “Tearing Me Up (RAC Remix)", Bob Moses
Producer of the Year, (Non-Classical): Greg Kurstin
Best Surround Sound Album: "Dutilleux: Sur Le Même Accord; Les Citations; Mystère De L’instant & Timbres, Espace, Mouvement", Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony
Best Engineered Album, (Classical): "Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles", Mark Donahue and Fred Vogler
Producer of the Year, (Classical): David Frost
Best Orchestral Performance: “Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow - Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9”, Boston Symphony Orchestra
Best Music Video: “Formation”, Beyoncé
Best Music Film: "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week the Touring Years"

Sunday, February 12, 2017

CHAINED TO THE RHYTHM


Katy Perry has just dropped some new music. After a promotion to find disco balls hidden across the globe and share their findings, the dance-flavored track, "Chained To The Rhythm" was released on February 10th.

The thirty-two year old singer (currently revealing her natural blonde hair) co-wrote the song with Sia and producer, Max Martin and features Bob Marley's grandson, Skip who provides vocals. While the tune is catchy and features lyrics questioning our complacency while there is trouble brewing in society over a dancehall beat, it still feels a bit lightweight and predictable. Perry had indicated last year she was ready to explore new, challenging musical horizons with her upcoming album but so far her output to date, including the 2016 Olympic anthem, "Rise", has been pretty safe.

Perry will be making an appearance on tonight's Grammy Awards and will perform "Chained To The Rhythm" live on the show.

The lyric music video is a bit odd but clever. It involves a hamster and food being prepared with miniature furnishings. See if you can make the connection:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

2017 OSCAR NOMINEES FOR BEST ORIGINAL SONG

With the show just a few weeks away, the Oscars have announced who will be performing the nominees for Best Original Song during the telecast. This year, all the songs will be represented on the program with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer of "How Far I'll Go" from the Disney animated film, "Moana", performing the song along with the voice of the title character, Auli'i Cravalho. "The Empty Chair" from the documentary, "Jim: The James Foley Story" will be sung by writer, Sting. Justin Timberlake will do his inescapable pop hit, "Can't Stop The Feeling" he co-wrote for the animated film,"Trolls". And Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling will be spared embarrassing themselves in front of their peers by trying to sing live in front of them. Oscar-winner John Legend, who actually makes his living as a singer but made an acting appearance in the film, will perform the two songs nominated from the musical "La La Land", " "City of Stars" and "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)".

And who do I think will take the prize? Well, if it's a "La La Land" sweep as predicted, then " City of Stars" would be the best bet. If not, then perhaps Justin's feel-good "Trolls" song might sneak in there for the win. My personal choice would actually be "City of Stars" as it's a lovely, well-written, Hollywood-styled ballad that will stand the test of time.

But I guess we will have to tune in on February 26th to see who really wins during the 89th Annual Academy Awards.  Here are the five nominees for your listening pleasure:

"Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" from "La La Land", Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul



"Can’t Stop the Feeling" from "Trolls", Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster



"City of Stars" from"La La Land", Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul


"The Empty Chair" from "Jim: The James Foley Story", Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting



"How Far I'll Go" from "Moana", Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

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...