Friday, August 29, 2008

Jacko at 50: Off The Wall

Happy Birthday to the King of Pop!

Billie Jean and I Want You Back rate among the greatest and most important musical moments in our pop cultural history. Time to celebrate the man who gifted us.

Hard to believe that Michael Jackson, who's music is eternally youthful, is turning 50 today. It's another half-century for another one of my favorite artists. Prince hit 50 back in June.

So today, I will be spinning Michael's greatest album on my iPod. That's right: Off The Wall. Over the years, people have come to realize that Thriller is Michael's Sgt. Pepper and OTW is his Revolver. I've spoken to many peers who agree that it is OTW that remains his creative high water mark. Not that Thriller is coasting, but OTW is simply more fun to listen and dance to. Plus, OTW was the first "soundtrack" for a road-trip for me, when my Dad, Nathan and I trekked to Pasadena for the Superbowl in a camper. And that was the 8-Track of Off The Wall, by the way.

My brother called me and said he'd heard Don't Stop Til You Get Enough on a club sound system recently and gushed about the quality of the track. I agree. So if you have a chance to Burn This Disco Out, do it!

You may remember my stories of dancing around the living room to Jackson 5 singles cut from the backs of Alpha-Bits boxes (thanks, Mom). Or shaking Michael's hand at the first concert I ever attended (thanks, Dad)! Regardless of tabloid fodder, I still love Michael Jackson.

Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Photo Fabulous! More CityRock Photographs

Here are 15 favorite shots from last night's performance on the Universal Citywalk.

Some repeat and new thanks are in order. Again, a big hand for the folks running the event (Heidi, Jeff, Silvana, Gene, Marcus; thank you). Also a shout out to Gilbert Cadena who also took some amazing pix posted to his myspace. Thanks to Lupe who runs the Norman Kelsey fan page on MySpace. All photos in this blog were taken by Patty. Brilliant work as usual. There are 49 pix on myspace from the show. These however are higher quality, suitable for printing. Featured are yours truly and my Merry Company (Larry, Bryan and Jennifer). I love y'all. Thanks for bringing your "A" game to the stage. You look mahvelous, too.

Peace & Disco Beats

CityRock Live [Show Recap]

Wow. What a great show last night and a huge turnout on the Universal Citywalk.

It began hot, hot, hot. But as the temps cooled, the stage heated up. Thanks to everyone who made the show happen last night. The folks on CityWalk and 102.7 KIIS-FM are to be applauded for putting on such a grooving event. Special thanks go to all the fans and all of the passersby on CityWalk who gave the band and me such great energy to put on a rollicking show. But the gang I really have to thank are my band: Larry & Bryan. You all have given so much to get the music across in an amazing way... More on that in a moment.

This was one of the larger crowds I've ever played to. There were plenty of people in the courtyard where the stage was set up, and more in the balcony of the food court and the patio of the Hard Rock Cafe (where some folks could enjoy their adult beverages during the set). Our performance was beamed to the Astrovision above the stage, I've seen a few stills, so I got lots of exposure. Looking good 15 feet tall. And the sound was booming. The quieter songs in particular benefited from a wonderful mix.

We kicked off the night with Fall Out, Larry vamping on the beat till the group was ready to blast. That was followed by U Had The $. The audience was down with the funk, for sure. Last night was the first time I had a backing vocalist for a whole show. Jennifer Tafolla did a super job adding the right parts to songs like U Had The $.

Everything My Heart Desires went over very well, as it usually does. And as I mentioned, the quality of the performances and the mix of the ballads made for a dynamic evening. I introduced my songwriting partner Bryan to start Everyone's Ingenue. The fans present and Ms. Tafolla helped sweeten the choruses on that one. Especially at the end of the song with the "I love you, love you, love you's."

We really rocked out I Can't Cry For You and got some of the gang from the studio dancing up front. Then came our first cover: Miss You. This has always been a highlight for me to perform Miss You. But when we got to the breakdown, something magical happened. Bryan channelled Stevie Ray Vaughn and blew us all away with an amazing improvised solo. Get down, Bryan! I was sorry to end the break, but the song had to end. Ha ha. The crowd unfamiliar with my music was with me, but they really got into Miss You and hung out until the end.

Done Lost My Mind became the big sing-a-long that it has in the past. I could hear the girls throwing the lyrics back at me. Nice! Love Someone followed that. We hadn't played Love Someone in months, but we pulled it together, even the four-part harmony at the end. It sure helps to have Larry playing the drums so tastefully and singing, too. Underrated singer, that Larry.

By this point, the audience was ready for A Talent For Loving. Many of the newer fans had checked out the song and the video online. So when we got to the refrain, they were all ready to shout "T.A.L.E.N.T!" Too cool. Bryan, of course, wailed on the solo. I had so much fun singing it, because with Jennifer on-stage, I could concentrate on the lead vox. That was pretty much true of the whole set, however.

We finished up with a number that I dedicated to it's author Isaac Hayes and we tore the roof off the outdoor stage with Hold On, I'm Comin'. Bryan and I clunked guitars at the start of the song and I missed the first line of the song. I had to keep myself from laughing. Last time we played it was in Liverpool at the Cavern Club. Once again, the crowd didn't seem to mind us doing a cover. I heard a couple of people shout out for Isaac, "Isaac, R.I.P.," etc. This was a hip audience.

After the set, my merch girls (Lisa, Stephanie & Megan) did a great job of getting CDs into the hands of the crowd. Signed lots of discs and posters. God has truly blessed me. This is my last show for a while. Don't worry I'll keep busy musically. I want to write some new material. Maybe record. I'm keeping fingers crossed for some song placements in film & TV. The Grammy nomination process has started, so I'm concentrating on that, too. The holidays are looming; I'll be singing at church. So I'm probably off the stage until 2009. Of course, you can always put on your CD of A Talent For Loving and relive the moments!

OK, there are lots and I mean lots of pictures. So this is going to take a few entries to get them posted. But here are the first few. I'll get a flood of them up this evening. And be sure to check myspace, too! Thanks to Patty for the action photos.

Peace & Disco Beats

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lost Boy Going For Gold

Like many of you, I'm following the Olympics. 3 channels of HD sports I wouldn't otherwise watch. Including gymnastics. But I'm right there with our team, cheering for all of them. Here's one that I'll be rooting for especially. Heard about Lopez Lomong? He's one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan." As a youth he escaped a prison camp and lived in a Kenyan refugee camp for 10 years. Now he's an American citizen and running the 1500m. That's incredible, to coin a phrase. Check out Lopez's story on the official Olympic site.


Step Into Africa

Last night, we had the opportunity to visit Holman United Methodist Church in South Central to check out World Vision's exhibit "Step Into Africa." It was an incredibly moving experience. World Vision has authentically recreated the home lives of 4 children living in AIDS affected villages and towns in Africa.

You walk through the exhibit and, with the help of an iPod, hear narration and the child's voice telling their story. My guide was Mathabo, an 11 year old girl from Lesotho. The display is interactive, with sets, props and lots of photographs of the kids. By the time I got through Mathabo's story, I was in tears. It's alternately heartbreaking and inspiring. One set is a small chapel and inside were dozens of pictures of the children that World Vision is reaching out to in their mission. All of them were angelic. Of course, I had to choose one to sponsor. His name is Stewart. He is 7 and lives in Uganda. His birthday is the day after mine, it was the only way I could select just one.

If you live in the L.A. area (or anywhere the exhibit is touring), I urge you to take 30 minutes to check it out. Or at least visit the website and get more info. You might be moved. I know the spirit sure moved me. Step Into Africa will be at Holman UMC through Monday, August 18. Another neat part of the experience was meeting all of the ladies from Holman who were volunteering for the event. We shared our impressions of the exhibit and the mission. The majority of visitors have the same reaction, they told me. The plight of the continent of Africa particularly is a global responsibility for those of us who "have."

Say a prayer and lift up the children who are orphaned by disease and overwhelmed by poverty and hunger. There are plenty of opportunities in life to take action and help someone incredibly less fortunate, but equally loved in God's eyes.

Peace and Love

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Met The Walrus And New Music

Check out this Oscar nominated short I Met The Walrus. It's the voices young interviewer and Beatle John in Toronto during the famous bed-in melded with some outta sight animation. Be sure to "watch in higher quality." (Thanks for the link, Bry)

What have I been listening to lately? Last night, I picked up a copy of the new CD by Blind Boys of Alabama Down in New Orleans. A fantastic gospel record made in the Big Easy with the help of Allen Toussaint and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. My dad took me to see the PHJB in Louisiana back in '81. Mom took me to see them around the same time in my hometown of Columbus at the time. I've always loved their performances and they are the perfect complement to the Blind Boys harmonies. The Blind Boys last few albums were actually a bit too adventurous at times. This one's that good old-time religion. Down By The Riverside is a favorite and the cd's finale I'll Fly Away is rousing.

Oh, for you, hip to the Internet, check out DJ Girl Talk. I'm sure I shouldn't like what he's doing on principal from a publishing stand point, but his record Feed The Animals is where we would be if the continuum from Paul's Boutique to today allowed for heavy sampling. I'm not partial to the harder raps that Girl Talk used, but the bed of over 300 (non-cleared) samples is mind-bending. Like playing name that tune with the past 40 years of pop music. Examples: Ride The Train mashed up with In A Big Country or Body Movin', Dancin' Machine and Back To Life spliced together. You can buy Girl Talk on his website for whatever you want to pay.

Also, I've still got Springsteen's Magic in heavy rotation. Buy that one ASAP.

Back to the Olympics. Time for Michael Phelps to do his thing... again!

Peace & Disco Beats

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fais Photo

Here are some choice snapshots from my performance at Fais Do-Do on 8.8.08.
All taken by Patty Tokahuta. See more pictures from the show at
Peace & New Wave Beats

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Shut Your Mouth! I'm Just Talking 'Bout Isaac

Sad news in the music world, Isaac Hayes passed this afternoon.

Most younger people know him as the voice of Chef on the infamous cartoon South Park. But he was an Oscar and Grammy winning performer who brought us the Theme From "Shaft" and a song I perform with some regularity, Hold On, I'm Comin'. Many folks don't know that he and his songwriting partner Dave Porter were responsible for many hits on Stax records in the '60s, including Soul Man and I Thank You for Sam & Dave. This was a seriously talented dude, who was also an inductee in the Rock Hall. Mr. Hayes was only 65.

Today was an exciting day for me. This morning, I was invited to perform the lectern duties (including the invocation and offertory) at church. It was kind of nerve-wracking, but thankfully, God got me through it with minimal missteps. It's wonderful and humbling to be involved and to serve that way. I hope that I'll be blessed with the opportunity again. Anyway, I hope that your Sunday is good and that the heat doesn't get to you!


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Do Si Fais Do-Do [Show Recap]

It was a wild night down at the Fais Do-Do. My first show in L.A. proper. My first solo performance in L.A. or the States, for that matter. And it was fantastic from my point of view.

Thanks to everyone who made the trip on a Friday night with high gas prices and a cover at the door. Sunshine funk makes good counter-programming for those who can wait to see the Olympics on their DVR. Ha ha. A special thanks to everyone who bought my CD at the show. Hope you are bopping to it now.

It was great to see a lot of familiar faces (Jen Tafolla, Paul Brown, Amee Brown) and some I hadn't seen in a year (Gabe Gianola, Lisa Golden, Bart Gold, TV's Star Hansen). Decades almost in some cases (Craig Hall). Many of you brought new people to see the show. You rock.

Like Homecoming, this year's International Pop Overthrow was chock full of friends: the Piper Downs played last night; Lisa Mychols from Nushu was in the house; Theresa Cowles, who sang on my album, was representing the Chaos Band; hadn't seen the guys from Adam's Attic or Checkpoint Charley in a few. In fact, Larry and I played the very first IPO in LA back in 1998 and many of the alums didn't know he was doing his thing with my solo act.

We went on at 8:30 and promptly blasted through our funkiest material, kicking off with Fall Out. The audience packed the dance floor in front of the riser. Cool. We jumped into Sucka and Bryan (aka Sterke Gitarrifs on guitar) and Larry (Astro on drums) brought their "heaviest" to it. This was the earliest I've ever played A Talent For Loving in the set, but it really worked. Bryan and I joked, because he threw up a prayer that he had started the song in the right key. The three of us hadn't been together to play or practice since we were in Liverpool. Take that! We hit our stride with U Had The $. That number continues to bring down the house. I really love playing it. Most of my old friends/fans hadn't heard the newer material and it was encouraging to hear raves for that song particularly.

Everything My Heart Desires followed. What can I say? Dedicated to the lovely Patty and all the ladies in the house. EMHD is a joy to perform. I gotta give a lot of props to my producer Adam Marsland for crafting such a listenable track. It's gotten dozens of plays on my iPod. How about yours?

We ended the set on a disco-note. Thirty years ago this week, the number 1 song in America was the Rolling Stones' Miss You. Many of you know this is absolutely a crucial cut for me. I can barely describe what the song touches in my soul. As threatened a few weeks ago, we played the heck out of it. Made it superslinky and I let Bry and Larry take turns burning that grease during the break down before "walking Central Park." People who had never seen me before were floored and the fans, well, the ladies loved it.

I will get some pictures posted from the show by the end of the weekend.

Of course, ours was the most slamming set. Although I really dug Armchair Oracles from Norway (nice trumpet solos) and Grove Hill from L.A. Groovy and grooving. The Piper Downs, who had themselves slyly introduced as Robert Bognar (Bobby, you may be getting your own TV show on the History channel and you may own, but you can't keep up with me) rocked the house. Their new song "Handsome" is destined to stick in my head like the rest of their songs.

Overall, a wonderful night. Kudos to David Bash for putting on the best IPO night in L.A. ever. Yeah, I said it. Don't forget, in two weeks, I'll be headlining on the Universal Citywalk (Monday Aug. 25) to end their Summer concert series presented by KIIS-FM. I'm hoping to have a few surprises for you.

The other highlight in my life this week was meeting Martin Fry backstage at the ABC concert at the Gibson Amp. He was is great form for the show. I was really pleased that he played several cuts from his new disc Traffic. Told him so, too. He's a very charming guy and actually taller than me!

The whole of that concert was fun. The lineup included Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go's and the Human League. That's right it was Sheffield's finest 80's pop bands. It was a thrill to hear the Human League play (Keep Feelin') Fascination, a 45 that I practically wore out back in the summer of '83. Whew... 25 years ago!?

On a serious note, I will miss Bernie Mac and his wall-eyed, full-tilt humor. His performance in the Original Kings Of Comedy makes me laugh just thinking about it. God bless you.

Peace & Disco Beats

Saturday, August 02, 2008

In One Week

Hey all, it's almost time for my American solo debut. The show is at Cafe Fais Do-Do in Los Angeles (W. Adams & La Brea). The set is presented by International Pop Overthrow. Fans aged 18 and up are welcome to attend. Since this is also my CD premiere party, the first 30 fans who buy my CD will receive a FREE A TALENT FOR LOVING poster!
Hope to see you there. It's gonna be a beautiful night!