Sunday, September 28, 2008

Citywalk AstroVision And You

Quick heads-up:

My video for A Talent For Loving has been added to the rotation of the videos playing on the Astrovision on Universal CityWalk. It was very exciting to get a call from a friend who was at the food court last night. When was the last time that happened?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

So Long, Butch Cassidy

Sad news today from Hollywoodland. Paul Newman passed away. He was born in Cleveland, like myself and was the first celebrity that I understood was from my hometown. Newman's Sporting Goods was still open when I was very little. He attended the same high school as my mother (albeit a generation or 2 ahead) and I always thought that was a big deal. My favorite movie of his is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In fact, I'd reckon it's one of the 20 best films of all time.



How cool was Butch? Way cool. I'm not well versed in Newman's classic films (pre-1968), but I'd like to give a shout to his performances in Hudsucker Proxy, Road To Perdition and especially the greatest movie ever about hockey, Slap Shot. Can I get a witness? But go back to Butch Cassidy and he and Redford make the prototypical action-movie buddy team, complete with witty banter and sterling chemistry.

I can remember the earliest occasions of seeing Newman's Own salad dressing at the grocery store and asking my mom about his charitable work. It was his popcorn though that was the big no-brainer, although in later years, his cookies and pretzels remained hits in my household.

Here's to those blue eyes. Maybe I'll find time to watch Butch Cassidy this week.


Peace

Thursday, September 25, 2008

LOVE and Fleet Foxes

Hey y'all. I had a double dose of super-quality entertainment this week.

On Monday night, I went to see Cirque Du Soleil's LOVE, featuring the music of the Beatles. It was spectacular. I had the soundtrack, but it was simply listening to remixes without the mind-bending visuals that the Cirque's performers provide. The whole event was a highlight, from the instrumentals played as an overture with which my friend Mikey and I sang along. Within the show, though, I thought they hit their stride with the pieces that accompanied Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite/I Want You (She's So Heavy), Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and Come Together. I don't think it's a coincidence that those are some of John's most visually stimulating compositions. Mr. Kite/I Want You featured the most terrifying, gravity defying high stage trick I've ever seen and samples of Helter Skelter's vocals. Lucy featured some awesome aerial ballet to go along with a bit of sensory deprivation. And Come Together had great choreography that had the dancers reappearing on stage as lights went out and came up. Frankly, I cannot do the show any justice with the typewriter. Go to Vegas and witness it.

On Tuesday night, I saw and met the present and future of music. Fleet Foxes brought down the El Rey with their new brand of Americana. I've been touting their records to anyone who will listen, but their live show is actually more monumental than their CD and EP. Fleet Foxes are led by 22 year-old Robin Pecknold, an unassuming and utterly charming young man. His band mates added rich harmonies, spirited playing and lots of playful banter about Michael Phelps, the economy and "baby smooches." They started with an a cappella piece, Sun Giant, and threw down the gauntlet. Very daring in this day and age of auto-tuned and bland vocals. Songs from the records like He Doesn't Know Why, White Winter Hymnal and (my favorite) English House benefited enormously from the organic live setting and the additional harmony parts. It was Robin's vocals and lyricism, however, that had the audience in throes, especially on the handful of occasions where he took solo acoustic spotlights.



To say that the night was a spiritual experience would be accurate. There were moments when the performances were moving to the core. Oliver James felt like we were hearing the next big thing. Tender and intimate, Mr. Pecknold nailed these showcase pieces as if his life depended on delivering the goods.

To see this group hitting its stride in such a small venue was a real treat. Patty and I discussed how Fleet Foxes are an important band. So few artists are trying to be this melodic, let alone harmonious. I've been spoiled and want to see them again. Now! They added Ragged Wood to their encore along with Blue Ridge Mountain. These numbers are complex pop suites. Neil Young meets the Beach Boys meet Aaron Copeland. It's deep like that.



I had a chance to speak briefly with Robin. I'm always amazed to meet artists that young who have a solid artistic vision; a sophistication beyond their years. Don't let the shocked look on his face fool you, he was very warm in our conversation, the flash just went off twice. He's going to be a household name soon. If Fleet Foxes don't wind up with multiple Grammy nods, a spot on SNL and a place in your music collection, something is wrong with the world. God bless Fleet Foxes.

I know my reviews have not come close to how I feel about both experiences. Suffice it to say, I got my money's worth.

Happy Birthday to Mikey and Patty. Congrats to Mikey and Amanda. Thanks for the excuse to meet you in Vegas and go with you to LOVE. Love is all you need.

Peace & Rustic Beats

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pride

My fellow Americans, I've been around the world and I've met wonderful people everywhere. I've seen amazing and eye-popping sights. Experienced an array of cultures. Tasted exotic foods and sampled delicious delicacies. But, I'm still proud to be an American. I present exhibit A:



Peace and Fife and Drums

p.s. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sugary Beverage, Mr. Bond?

Here it is a snippet of Jack White's kick-butt theme song for Quantum of Solace. It appeared yesterday in the new ad for Coke Zero. That mean guitar and the horns mesh nicely. This may make two Bonds and two theme songs in a row worthy of the title.

I can't wait. Casino Royale was brilliant, as was Chris Cornell's You Know My Name.

Peace & Disco Beats. Shaken, not stirred.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another Voice From The Retro Club

Artists are clearly tapping into tried and true styles from yesteryear. I raved about Fleet Foxes in my previous blog. Well, now I offer up a new exhibit: Nicole Atkins. If Mama Cass and Roy Orbison had a love child, she's it. Imagine that genetic combo backed by the Pretenders. The songs on her record Neptune City are all over the place, but she's got an operatic vocal quality that is as every bit mesmerizing as Amy Winehouse's blues snarl. Difference? Seems like Nicole's having fun with her noir-ish tunes. Plus it's nice to hear an American voice singing with gusto, not burpling like a vocodered teen queen (my own word, burpling).

Check out Ms. Atkins on le video:
Maybe Tonight
Neptune City (original version)

I expect her to make a decent run at Best New Artist (along with Fleet Foxes) at the Grammys. Hope her label makes the push. Her record came out last October, making it eligible for this year's awards. It's quickly joining my favorites of the past 12 months. I mean, on first listen (and I'm still listening) I know this is a record to be reckoned with.

Hope all my kith and kin in the South are weathering the storms. Fall has mercifully arrived here in L.A. Nice walks at night to the church with the family; Callie likes to run in the parking lot.

Peace & Disco Beats

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Music For The New School Year/Reasonable Challenges

This is a two part blog. It contains today's thoughts and a blog I didn't finish from a week ago. Let's start with the present.

I've been discovering lots of music the past few days. After discussing the track All Summer Long with my brother Nate, I picked up the new Kid Rock. I'm still wary of his raps (a little coarse for my taste, now), but his rock & roll moments are super. Then there's Jimmy Needham's Not Without Love. Jimmy is a Christian artist who reminds me of Elliot Yamin and Orson, for those who can dig that. I'm still listening to Bruce's Magic in heavy rotation, along with the recent Blind Boys of Alabama release. In "catalog," I found Elton John's Honky Chateau, featuring Honky Cat and Rocket Man. It is a really solid set of songs.

As for the most amazing thing I've heard this week? I've discovered the joys of Fleet Foxes. Their self-titled debut is a pastoral, choral masterwork. It evokes memories and provokes feelings of times-gone-by that never really happened. That's not an easy task. The whole album reminds me of autumns at Georgetown, without the homework. It takes me to leaf-crunching walks along red brick sidewalks and panoramic vistas out of the windows of New South onto the Potomac and Northern Virginia's changing colors. To me this record is the sound of a new millennium Crosby, Stills & Nash recording the Beach Boys' Smile. The lyrics deal heavily with forests, fauna and the seasons; life and death. Even when the words are dire, the performances are ethereal and uplifting.

I'm challenging myself. I've come up with 10 song titles. I'm going to write 10 songs. My goal is to write a cohesive album of tunes. Starting with the titles, I'll go on to lyrics and then the melodies. I've even got an album title and thus a title track. God willing, if the usual suspects are available in 2009, I should have a new record out by this time of year.

As for A Talent For Loving, it continues to chug along. Several songs/performances/tracks were submitted for the first round in the process that produces Grammy winners. Keep in mind there are several cycles of voting, etc. and typically signed acts make up the vast majority of nominees you hear announced on TV. Let alone the winners. Again, if God wills it, perhaps some of my work will show up on the preliminary ballot. What categories could feature yours truly?

Best New Artist
Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance (Everything My Heart Desires)
Best R&B Male Solo Vocal Performance (Everything My Heart Desires)
Best R&B Song (Everything My Heart Desires)
Best R&B Album (A Talent For Loving)
Best Urban/Alternative Performance (A Talent For Loving)
Best Pop Male Vocal Performance (Everyone's Ingenue)

Hopefully, I don't disqualify myself by posting this info on my blog. Ha ha. At least the works were entered. That's further than any other of my efforts have gotten.

Today marks the 7th anniversary of 9/11.
God bless us and God bless America.