Friday, December 29, 2006

The 10 Best Things I've Heard All Year

Hey Soul Mates,
it's the end of 2006. Time to review my favorite records of the year. As usual, my choices are not meant to be a compendium of the "best" releases, but the ones that resonated most with me. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by many of the selections. One is flat out biased. I'll freely admit it. A couple may astonish. Several were discovered as a direct result of our trip to the UK (one has seen no U.S. release at all). Anyway, I heartily recommend all of these listening experiences as they all enriched my life this year. May the music reach your ears and satisfy your soul.

This year, due to the lack of outstanding LPs, I mixed it up with singles and entire CDs. In descending order.

#10. Jay-Z - "Kingdom Come." This chopped up single featuring a wicked Rick James sample is the cream of Hova's otherwise o.k. comeback album.

#9.
The Lightyears - Mission Creep and the cyber single "Miles Away." These genial guys played at IPO in Liverpool with us. Mission Creep is technically a 2005 release, but it's my list! As a tight trio (keys, guitar and small drum kit), they put on a fantastic live show filled with fun tunes, wit, synchronized stage moves and uniforms! Their music mingles Supergrass cheek with Coldplay earnestness. Sounding very much the new millennium Britpop on tracks like "We Keep The Beat Alive," "Brother" and "You Are Wrong, " they churn out very memorable songs. "Miles Away" was a new song when I saw them, not included on the CD. The rising, yet melancholy coda played in my head for days after seeing the Lightyears. Tonight, Dec. 30, the band will celebrate its release on their new EP Phoenix.

#8.
Christina Aguilera - "Ain't No Other Man." Several artists tried to do this '30s retro thang in '06. No one succeeded like the former Xtina. This brassy single is mesmerizing, once you realize that she belting that melody with no instrumentation behind her. Also a very fun and eye-catching video.

#7. The Beatles - Love. It's the Beatles, in 5.1 surround. That is all.

#6.
Keane - "Is It Any Wonder?" Yes, to answer a debated question, U2 would be signed in this day and age. And they'd be called Keane. The lead single from Under The Iron Sea is a dizzying pop/rock track featuring one of my favorite couplets of the year: Sometimes I get the feeling that I'm stranded in the wrong time/Where love is just a lyric in a children's rhyme.

#5. The Feeling -
12 Stops and Home. This album was the soundtrack of the month of June for me. It was released in the UK while we were there and I couldn't stop listening to it. The Feeling bring back classic British pop sounds of the '70s (10cc and E.L.O.) with harmony laden songs likes like "Sewn," "Love It When You Call," and the utterly unstoppable piano-stomp of "Fill My Little World." The latter will forever remind me of the finish of our tour. Apparently, this CD will be released here in February. Wow. Behind the times.

#4. Tie: Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds; Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere. Here is where my predicament lies. Two great dance albums on the surface. Each one with a couple of monster hits. Ubiquitous "Summer of '06" jams "SexyBack" and "Crazy" are singles for the ages. I'm not tired of either of them. But the messages are 180 degrees apart.

Justin's FSLS is a paean to dancing the night away, fighting halfway through followed by the make-up sex and more sex. "My Love," "Damn Girl" and the album closer "All Over Again" make it an instant pop classic. Here, Justin aims for Prince as well as Michael. "Until The End of Time" even borrows that sick 1985 drum beat and string arrangement. There's only one misstep, the first-person crackhead lament/stab at King of Pop territory "Losing My Way." But even that has one of the strongest choruses on the album. You can put this CD on and do your best moves and feel sexy; I hope you got the version with the bonus track "Pose" featuring Snoop. Timberlake and main producer Timbaland are as simpatico on this disc as MJ and Quincy Jones in the '80s. And it's a groove.

On the other side of the psyche, Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo put us into the cranium of one Gnarls Barkley as "he" works his way through a long dark tea-time of the soul. St. Elsewhere is a concept album chock full of mental unrest, which can be devastating and uplifting simultaneously. As one who's dealt first-hand with depression and mental health issues, St. Elsewhere is a stark reminder of how quickly one can lose one's mind and where to find solace in the fact that we are all subject to the caprices of our brain's mysterious power (There is a disco-light at the end of this tunnel). Perfect examples are the hyperactive "Transformer" and the duality of "Who Cares?" Although my favorite number on the disc is the brief and concise rap (appropriately) "Feng Shui." Quality lyric: A plant a pet and books on the shelf/And a frame on the wall/where you can picture yourself/And you're welcome to stay but even/Your company must compliment the feng shui. This album is part hip-hop, part gospel, part Spaghetti Western. Entirely original. God, I hope they can follow it up. I hope I can choose!

#3. Prince -
3121. The hottest newest from the Purple Genius featured the years most scintillating single "Black Sweat." A most wonderful return to form and an explosion of preconceptions, this whole album tilts and boogies. The title track is as sonically adventurous as you'd expect Prince to get. "Satisfied" is the best vintage R&B number of the past 30 years. The album keeps pace from start to finish with the rousing James Brown-esque jam "Get On The Boat" rounding out your visit to 3121.

#2. Bob Dylan -
Modern Times. The other Minnesota Genius checked in with the year's best collection of songs. The live show simply confirmed that Dylan is as fly as ever. Modern Times rocks. And it's in turns tough and thoughtful. Spirited blues like "Rollin' And Tumblin'" and "Someday Baby" fit perfectly with the tender Western number "When The Deal Goes Down" and the shuffle of "Beyond The Horizon." And I haven't even mentioned the killer cuts: "Thunder On The Mountain" and "Workingman's Blues #2." Lastly, the ballad "Nettie Moore" ranks as one of the finest compositions by anyone in 2006. The whole album is a clinic on songwriting and the power of understated production. Why oh, why didn't this get nominated for Album of the Year!?

#1.
Rush Hour Soul - "A Talent For Loving." Not officially a commercial single release for 2006, so I expect to be voting for it next year for the Grammy's. Look for it on our forthcoming album (title tba) in May 2007!

Honorable mentions: (singles) Raconteurs - "Steady, As She Goes;" Oakenfold featuring Brittany Murphy - "Faster Kill Pussycat;" George Michael - "An Easier Affair;" John Mayer -"Waiting On The World To Change;" (albums) Orson - Bright Idea, it was released in the UK while we were there, but it made my list last year (and, technically in 2004); Nelly Furtado - Loose.

Happy Listening. Have a great weekend.
Love, Power, Peace

Monday, December 25, 2006

Long Live King James!


Merry Christmas, Soul Mates.
Wow. We here at Rush Hour Soul are severely saddened by the passing of one of the greatest entertainers in Earth's history. This is a rough way to start a day of celebration. It simply means I'll have to put on JB all day long. Starting with his Holiday sides. It's bad enough being sick on Christmas. I'm beyond sad right now. James is one of the Titans of rock and roll. I'm blessed to have seen him perform once. Thanks for all of the music and the positivity, Mr. Brown. You are well-loved by this group.
JAM!

Love, Power, Peace
(which came from the title of a live lp by James Brown)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Night Before The Night Before Christmas

Hey Soul Mates,
I hope that you are all doing well this holiday weekend. I spent my Saturday doing a lot of business and errands around North Hollywood. It gave me time to listen to the two LPs I've boiled it down to in the Album of the Year category. Being a Grammy voter is serious stuff, as I mentioned previously. Both records have their merits and their missteps. Listening to them in the car though really brings out the best in a disc. No decision yet. There are plenty of categories where I'm already certain, but AotY still has me listening keenly. I might tell you in person what they are, but don't ask me to print them.

Other than Grammy nominees, Dylan Thomas' reading of his seasonal opus "A Child's Christmas In Wales," has been in heavy rotation on the iPod. It's a fantastic piece of work. Sometime in the future I'm going to commit A Child's Christmas to memory. So much of the imagery reminds me of Winters on the North Coast. Without the windchill factor. Christmas in Los Angeles is brisk and breezy; thankfully, no snow. At least it feels cool enough to wear a nice wool sweater under the blazer.

Another part of the day was spent posting our e-Ornament to our friends on MySpace. If I haven't gotten to you yet, sorry. And double-apologies if I miss you altogether. It's time-consuming being on MySpace and we have so many friends... Here's what our virtual air-freshener/ornament looks like! Just like 4th grade, I made it myself from pinecones, paste and play-doh.



Alright, I'm off to see my friend Micah perform in the perennial Hollywood cavalcade "The Fruitcake Follies." Time to look sharp.

Next blog: the 10 Best Things I've Heard All Year. I promise. Just in case: Merry Christmas (and Happy Hanukkah)!
Love, Power, Peace On Earth

Sunday, December 17, 2006

And When You Smile For The Camera

Hey Soul Mates,
I've finished posting the pictures from our
Wednesday/Holiday show at the Gig. Our photographer Patty got some spectacular shots. You'll really see the smoke and sweat, you'll also dig the vibrant colors of our outfits and rich textures of the stage. We looked sharp, I tell you. But don't take my word for it. See for yourself.

Don't forget to watch the
webcast of the set while you can!

Plug: This afternoon, I helped on a "dog-walk" with the folks (
Friends For Pets) from whom I got my pooch. She was a great Wiemaraner named Cheyenne. It was almost a North Coast afternoon: rolling hills, leaves changing colors, rain clouds and a beautiful dog. Cheyenne was a little skittish, but enjoyed our time outdoors and was good at staying by my side on the walk. If you are looking for a new best friend, this no-kill rescue organization is tops at placing love canines with good humans.

Happy Holidays.
Love, Power, Peace

Friday, December 15, 2006

Great Responsibility

Hey Soul Mates,
I got something very exciting in the mail yesterday: my first Grammy Ballot. That's correct, yours truly is voting! But with this power comes great responsibility. Having watched the Grammy telecast for years and knowing "what I like," I figured it would be easy to vote for what I thought was the best of the best. But having read the criteria and the cover letter that came with the ballot, I feel I need to seek out and at least listen to, once, each of the nominated songs (whole albums, not so much) to make an informed choice.

NARAS takes all of this very seriously and as someone who's single vote might now determine the fate of an artist, I shall too. As a result, I've discovered some great songs nominated in individual fields that didn't get a lot of radio play or otherwise. I've also heard some things that are lackluster and surprise me that they were tabbed for the shortlist. There is no "write-in" choice on the ballot, so them's the breaks.

The deadline for turning in the ballot is in about 3 weeks, so I've got to get cracking. I'm also hoping to attend the show at Staples on Feb. 11. Should be fun, lots of nominees I'd like to see perform: Justin Timberlake, Prince, Mary J. Blige, Gnarls Barkley, RHCP. And of course, I'll be there rooting for my selections. No, it's not Decision 2008, but finally voting is getting to be a fun experience again.

Be sure to watch the
Rush Hour Soul Live at the Gig webcast!
Happy Friday, all.
Love, Power, Peace

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hollywood Holiday [Show Recap]

Hey Soul Mates,
yes, it was a fantastic show. We played our hearts out and wowed the crowd with two new songs. That we only rehearsed in full last night. The band looked really sharp, too. I had on my layers of berry and my vintage vest from the Netherlands. Doug rocked the purple and black. Bryan sporting shades had on his trademark Cavern black, including skinny tie. We're very excited because not only will you get to see the whole concert on the Gig's website, but we had the show shot by a pro videographer in HD (Christo, you're going to love it). Action!



Here's the set from tonight's show:
U Had The $
Everyone's Ingenue
Sucka
I Can't Cry For You
Everything My Heart Desires
Down By Love
Roosevelt's Revue (debut)
Fall Out
Raspberry Beret (cover)

A Talent For Loving

That being said. It was also a dismal failure tonight. We would like to thank everyone who came out to our show...

Jen T.
Kristee L.
Patty T.
Gabe G.
Blake Mc.
Garner K.

Oh, and
Mari B.
Jana M.
who arrived in time for our finale.

Yep. That's it. That's everyone who came to see us tonight. Oh, but it gets worse. There was one other person there to see us. The Vice President of a real record label. I'm sure we impressed with our turnout. Ha ha. We certainly hope that our performance was impressive. In fact, I'm pretty sure that was our swansong at the Gig. Many thanks to the owners and management of the Gig for supporting us and our Quixotic quest for the last couple of years.

We know that there are hundreds of fans who want to see us in the U.K. We hope that we'll get back to entertain them again next year. But at this rate, it's slow going. The band's expenditures for this show topped $400 (Doug of course is doing the 8 hour drive back home as I write). We certainly did not get paid to appear at the Gig. But before we do any sign-off sermonettes, we've got one more chance to show and prove at the
Good Hurt on Jan. 12, 2007. Be there. Please. In the meantime, power up your browser and head to the Gig and be amazed!

By the way, Doug and Bryan agree and sanctioned the tone and content of this e-mail.
Love, Power, Peace

Today's News: We Have A Show Tonight!

Hey Soul Mates,
I've been narrowing down my selections for my favorite albums of the year. I will post them this coming week, just in time for the holidays.

I'm very excited because we have our last show of the year tonight. Rehearsal (our first in a month) last night went into the wee hours and the new material sounds interesting to say the least. Our new original Roosevelt's Revue is gelling. It's a brisk number less than 3 minutes, just the way I like them.

As usual, here are the lyrics (reprinted with my permission and subject to change, ha ha.)

Roosevelt's Revue
I know exactly what you’re thinking.
The Revue’s a legend, only myth.
But I promise you my friends
That the party never ends
And I’m giving all of you a lift.

My cousin called me from the dance floor
Said the Revue was blowing up the chart
Got to get your groove along
Cause they’ll play your favorite song
If the music is in your heart

Everybody’s dancing
Everybody’s dancing
Up at Roosevelt’s Revue
Everybody’s dancing
Everybody’s dancing
Up at Roosevelt’s Revue

So grab your moment in the spotlight
With sophisticated steps or not
The song is really simple
When love sets the tempo
The Revue is so cool it’s hot

Everybody’s dancing
Everybody's dancing
Up at Roosevelt’s Revue
Everybody’s dancing
Everybody’s dancing
Up at Roosevelt's Revue
###

Our selection for this show's cover song has everything to do with someone who's been in the music news a lot this week. Check this piece of comedy out for a hint:
Comedy. I can't wait for February. Anyway, we expect everyone to sing a long with the cover. We certainly need a loud chorus, especially from the ladies. Along with these two songs, we're playing a number of tunes we haven't done in months.

Time to get the day on track. See you at the Gig.
Love, Power, Peace

Rush Hour Soul performs at the Gig Hollywood, 7302 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles.
Showtime is 8:30 pm. Cover is $7 or $5 if you
e-mail me with your name before 7 pm. 21 and up.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Imagine Again



Hey Soul Mates,
December 8 is always a day of thoughtfulness for me. A day of remembrance, melancholy and celebration all in one. It's the day the world lost John Winston Ono Lennon. I have a vivid memory of waking up to Strawberry Fields Forever on the radio the following morning in 1980.

After being in Liverpool this year and seeing where John spent his youth and young manhood, my connection to his spirit and music is tighter than ever. Playing at the Cavern and strolling the streets he would have was an inspiring and awesome time for me. It was an honor to be in his city and perform The Word. The day we went to his Woolton home in Menlove Ave. I stood on his driveway, Imagining and crying.



It's no surprise that I'm going to name the Beatles' Love one of my top 5 discs of the year. No matter how you slice it, genius is genius and that would be the Beatles.

Love, Power, Peace. Really.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

B4MD

Hey Soul Mates,
Check out the trailer to a new film called Before The Music Dies. Now, I've only seen the preview, but it's a subject close to our hearts. The general public needs to see that American Music needs to be saved (and not just archived). This film delves into why or at least sheds some light on what's wrong with the state of popular musical arts in the good old U.S. and A. And why it's so hard for acts to attain that any stature, let alone critical mass. And why others are mind-bogglingly successful.

Holler.
Love, Power, Peace

Everybody's Dancing At Roosevelt's Revue

Hey Soul Mates,
we had a really productive rehearsal last night. Bryan and I fleshed out the new cover tune that will be the show's finale. It's a real sing-a-long. So wear a scarf to keep those vocal chords warm. Baby, it's cold outside. No, were not doing a holiday song. That was our original intent, but we couldn't pick one to do justice, that would also fit in with our set. But I'm certain that everyone will enjoy what we've selected.

Following that, we caressed and finessed our hottest, newest into shape. I've mentioned it numerous times in passing in the blog. It's called Roosevelt's Revue.

Roosevelt's Revue is about a place in time; a moment in your heart and mind when everything is joyful. It's an transistor radio childhood reverie brought to the 5.1 surround sound era. The lyric doesn't come close to expressing everything I wanted to say, but it's pretty jubilant nonetheless. The music is a triptych of my favorite noises, a journey spanning decades in under three minutes.

My own recollections feeding into this song go back to when I was in the single digits. The attempts that my friends and I made to pretend to be a band, performing on tennis rackets and upside down buckets. The biggest stars in Cleveland Heights. Whirling dervishes in the living room, or the backyard when we were too loud elsewhere. The incredible entertainment we were staging for my best friend's little sister. That's what I want to capture.

There were tunes that I'd hear as a kid, maybe in school in a music class or on the neighbor's stereo, that resonated. I honestly think they don't make 'em like that anymore. They weren't always children's songs as they were sung by (sometimes drug-addled) adults, but they had that appeal to them. Ageless. And to this day, when you hear them, you're soothed.

As a songwriter, you can't always know what you've achieved, especially in the vacuum Rush Hour Soul inhabits. But that's what I'm striving for in this one. If it makes you feel 20 years (or 40 years) younger, we've nailed it. If it makes you dance, I'll be ecstatic. You might be, too.

Who's the cat in the song? Roosevelt was extraordinarily popular when I was younger. And the Revue is the most incredible experience you ever could have. It's something I've always aspired to join. A party I can't afford to miss. All you beautiful folks are there: Dancing up at Roosevelt's Revue.

So what does this mean to you, gentle readers? I hope I haven't given away the farm. I believe there should be some mystique to a song and how it germinates. You've got to bring your own psyche as a listener, can't impose mine. ;) But, it means that RHS will be showing off two things you've never heard us play before when we hit the stage next Wednesday at the
Gig Hollywood. You've got to be there. It's our holiday gift to you. A new song and a fun cover. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Also in RHS news, our video for "A Talent For Loving" is posted on a new beta video portal called
Music Nation. It's just gone live, but check it out. It's a fairly uncluttered place to watch music videos. They are going to have a contest with the voting in the next few weeks. So bookmark it, fans.

That's a lot to digest, but I'll leave you with the usual...
Love, Power, Peace

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Happy Birthday To The Reason There's Rock And Roll

Hey Soul Mates,
on this day, every year, I give thanks for the birth of Rock and Roll and specifically to the Originator, the Emancipator, the Architect, the Georgia Peach:
Little Richard. Mr. Penniman is 71 or 74 today. Either way, it's been nearly 50 years since he made his initial global impact. So Happy Whoooooooooooooo! Birthday, Little Richard!! In your honor, I'm going to blast some Tutti Frutti and Long Tall Sally riiiight now.

Richard is still at the top of my "I want to meet" list. Wherever he's celebrating, I'm sure it's a party and a half. Maybe next year, I'll get an invite. Want to read last year's tribute to Little Richard? Check out
The Originator at 73.

OK, gotta hunker down and practice. Yes. Practice. Our show is in a week and we definitely have at least one addition to the set list.
Love, Power, Peace

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bringing SharpBack

Hey Soul Mates,
How's the weekend treating you? Yesterday was Christmas tree day. Got a beautiful 6 foot noble pine. I think. Lots of the houses in the neighborhood have their halls decked!

It was also a fitting day for my newly altered suit. My tailor, Armen, who also did my shirts for our tour of the UK is reconstructing my suits so they actually fit. Let me tell you, it makes a huge difference. You can't walk around this town in a big gray box. Lookin' like a wall of fabric.
David Byrne in his big suit, you know? It's a Ted Baker, though (and I dig Ted's stuff), so it didn't need too much work. Anyway, the sleeves need a gentle touch and then it's off to the races. To go with the suit, I acquired a new gray snap brim hat. Who's bringing sexy back? Don't care, I'm bringing sharp back. Been bringing it! I'll post pictures next weekend.

Which reminds me, we are going to be working on two new songs at our next few rehearsals. One is an original, the other another surprise cover song for our show on Dec. 13. Should be fun. The RHS original has a history, which I want to blog, in fact, I should turn into a short story.

OK, I have to get serious. Today, we have another
A3M bone marrow match drive up at Wat Thai for our girl, Soontaree. We love you, Soontaree. Your match is on its way!

Love, Power, Peace