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Showing posts from 2014

Top 10 Albums and Records of 2014

Happy Boxing Day! Time for my Top 10s for 2014. Album of the Year and Record of the Year. What's the difference? I follow the guidelines of the good folks at the Grammy Awards. Albums are full artistic statements; Records are those singles or defining tracks that made the most impact on my playlists. These titles were enjoyed on my iPod, CD player and turntable. The Sonic Arts were alive and well this year. All of these releases came out in 2014 or made their greatest impact this calendar year (so Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire are absent). However, I like to wait until December to put out my lists because sometimes a record unleashes in the days before Christmas (ahem, D'Angelo & Mark Ronson) or late discoveries and re-evaluations (St. Vincent). Top Ten Albums: 1. Prince - Art Official Age . Yep, Prince crept up on me with this one. Not since "Sign 'O' The Times" has Prince put out what I would call my Album of the Year." Don't call it a

Remembering Jack Bruce

Ruminating on the passing of Cream bassist Jack Bruce this past Saturday. Cream was the short-lived supergroup that also featured Eric Clapton (guitar) and Ginger Baker (drums). I do not own any music by Cream on vinyl or otherwise. I do not own any music that features Jack Bruce playing on it. Sure, I have heard it, but there isn't even any Cream on my iPod. So, why is Jack Bruce a critical cog in my musical career? Back in high school, my best friends and band mates, Mark & Mike were fans and brought Cream to the table. Mark went so far as to insist on naming our band the Flaming Yogurt in tribute to Cream. "Get it?" He would ask. The second number we ever performed in public was their signature hit, "Sunshine of Your Love." Probably because of the heavy bass lick Mark got to groove on. "White Room" wound up in our repertoire, too. This was a classic case of learning songs by repetition in the garage and listening to the records on Mark&#

The Beatles in Mono: Revolver

The vagaries of jet lag. So some musings on the Beatles in Mono. Glorious monophonic sound. Tonight, I bought two of the Beatles' albums on LP in Mono, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. I am saving Sgt. Pepper for after work (later today), but I listened to Revolver when I got the record home. Rather than blaring it out loud on the turntable, I put on my noise canceling headphones to absorb it. The album is such a fine piece of work. Most of you are familiar with the major songs on it; but in case, here are the evergreens from Revolver: "Got To Get You In To My Life" "Eleanor Rigby" "Taxman" "Here, There & Everywhere" "Yellow Submarine" "Good Day Sunshine" None of those are John's songs. His contributions are amazing, one in particular was game changing ("Tomorrow Never Knows"). However they are not well known to the casual listener. One of his songs, "And Your Bird Can Sing," did become th

Wayne Shorter: An Appreciation

Miles Davis is a gateway drug. For my birthday, my man Mikey gave me the Miles Mono box. Boss. Now if you dig Miles, it's not too long before you get back to Trane. Then Herbie. Down the jazz rabbit hole. I have never been proficient at playing jazz, trust me I tried. I don't speak jazz very well; although I did take a course in college where I did audio projects on Charlie Christian and Theloniou s Monk (who remains an icon to me on a multitude of levels, and whose music I revisit regularly). But no, the hook that Miles has put into me is a mood elevator named Wayne Shorter . Yesterday was Wayne's 81st Birthday. So first off, Happy Birthday, Mr. Shorter. I had planned on penning this yesterday but with our Emmy adventure, I felt it better to wait. Second, the addiction reference is real. You all know how I am about music. Prior to being exposed to Mr. Shorter via Miles' 1960s Quintet (which featured Herbie Hancock), I only knew him as the cat that wailed on Steely Dan&

Commotion Session

This past weekend on August 3 & 4, I was back in the studio (Karma Frog in Reseda, CA) to cut my contribution to an upcoming Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute album. My task was to cover the compilation's title track, "Commotion." The song was originally recorded by CCR in 1969 for their smash LP, Green River , which features their iconic "Bad Moon Rising." My usual producer, Adam Marsland was at the helm and he played the majority of the instruments as well, including some amazing organ parts. I took up my trusty American Fender Jazz for the funky bass. The session was a brisk two days. Musicians teleported from 1969 would have been pleased by the brevity of the time it took to record the side. None of this 21st Century month to record and tweak a track. We had a blast. After the rhythm tracks were put down, Adam asked do you want to put down a guide vocal or try a lead? Well, I went for it, and it was full-tilt chooglin' boogaloo after that. Our

James Brown: Ow! An Appreciation

"Norman, how you gonna narrow down James Brown to your 10 favorite sides?" "Bobby, I don't know. But whatsoever I choose, they got to be funky." At Georgetown, I became obsessed with James Brown. I blame The Soul Brother #1 hisself. In "The Payback," James sang "I don't know karate, but I know karazy." Truer words were never sung. He was in prison, I was perpetually running for student government. Every year, lobbying for his freedom was part of my platform. In part, it was a joke. In part, it was wanting people to understand the power of his records and my own musical passions. It was the early days of CDs and I coveted the few JB discs I could find. In show programs, I dedicated my college theatrical performances to family and James Brown. I read every scrap I could find about him along with his autobiography, "Godfather of Soul." Trying to understand him. I never did. I've never been able to do the splits, never wil

Huckleberry Finn Turns One

Happy Birthday, Huckleberry Finn! My music video for "Huckleberry Finn" turns one today! It's an antebellum slice of my life at this point.  Since I didn't get to promote it properly the first time around, (one show and out) set yourself down a spell by the virtual riverside and cool your h eels with me and enjoy it all over again. Perhaps it will hit 5K views. It's still an amazingly produced track (thanks, Adam Marsland) and a fun video to watch (thanks, Andrew Shuford). And I see the good-lookin' kid in the video and say: I remember him. Sip some sweet tea and dig "Huckleberry Finn."

The Jacksons' Victory Tour Memories

30 years ago tonight, my mother took some friends and me to see the King of Pop, Michael Jackson and the Jacksons at the Gator Bowl. It was the second (and final) time that I saw him perform with his brothers in person. The first time being the very first concert I ever attended at the Front Row in Cleveland back in the Iron Age. The Victory tour was an Event. It could have been called the Thriller tour; but Mike was being charitable. The brothers were more than capable, but everyone was there to see "Billie Jean" performed live. Period. Even as Thriller fever was about to be Purple Eclipsed and Borne out of the USA, MJ was still turning everything to gold with "P.Y.T.," "Say, Say, Say," "State of Shock" & "We Are The World" which made the globe mental the next year. Michael did not disappoint even though he looked tiny from our seats. This wasn't my first stadium concert. I had already seen the Beach Boys at old Cleveland

Purple Rain at 30

30 years ago today Prince and the Revolution unleashed the soundtrack album 4 a movie called Purple Rain. My (musical) life changed 4ever. The whole world of high school, MTV and beyond became paisley, purple gospel, girls and fuzzed out gu itars in 1984. Move over Michael Jackson. It inaugurated the Purple Reign of Prince. Purple Rain is rightly considered a masterpiece. I have my original vinyl, poster intact. I made several cassette copies of Purple Rain that I wore out. So many highlights on that record, the album opener, Let's Go Crazy; Baby I'm a Star; I Would Die 4 U; The Beautiful Ones; When Doves Cry and Purple Rain. And it's an Oscar winner. That's right! People forget that Prince and the Revolution took home the Academy Award for best Song Score. All from the LP that ultimately resulted in the parental advisory sticker. Purple Rain has lost none of its power in 30 years. It is melodic, heavy, groovy, melancholy and uplifting. Dig Prince and his new band 3rdEy

The Barry Gibb Rock Show

The following mini-blogs were posted on my facebook page before and after attending Barry Gibb: Mythology the Tour at the Hollywood Bowl. The show was amazing. Barry was on a short list of living performers/heroes I had yet to experience in concert. The list is now narrowed down to one David Bowie. But now, the man of the hour is the biggest single influence the second half of my musical career, Barry Gibb... Dispatch 1, From June 3rd: Tonight, I have been listening to maximum BeeGees because tomorrow night, it's Barry F'n Gibb at the Hollywood Bowl! No, I am not mad about the Barry Gibb Talk Show. It's where Fallon finally won me over on SNL. But tomorrow it's Barry's Mythology Show, his own tribute to his brothers and his own fabulous musical catalog of hits. "Night Fever" is one of my 5 favorite records of all time. Main Cou rse & Saturday Night Fever are among my 25 favorite LPs of all time, with Idea, Spirits Having Flown, Children of the World

8 Year UK Tour Anniversary

Eight years ago today, my band Rush Hour Soul embarked on its first tour of the United Kingdom. It was an exhilarating time. Not only did we perform a slate of shows, we had a recording date at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales and a music video to shoot for A Talent For Loving in London. We played all over the North of England (oop North) in towns like Sheffield, Huddersfield, Barnsley and York. I did the driving on the "other" side of the road. Talk about adventures. The highlight was a series of shows in Liverpool, including the historic Cavern Club, as a part of the International Pop Overthrow Festival. As a Beatles fanatic, it was incredibly meaningful and moving to play their hometown, trod their streets and to visit their childhood homes. So many indelible moments that I shared with Bryan and Doug; and Patty and Molly, our touring party. Even as time, space and life has separated the group, that magical season is ours forever. I am thankful for them and I still lov

Songs For National Train Day

All 'BOARD! In honor of National Train Day next Saturday, I thought I would rattle off 14 of my favorite tracks about riding the rail. Mystery Train - Junior Parker or Elvis Presley Last of the Steam Powered Trains - The Kinks One After 909 - The Beatles Subway - Bee Gees Night Train - James Brown Ghost Train - Gorillaz Love Train - O'Jays It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry - Bob Dylan Midnight Train to Georgia - Gladys Knight and the Pips The Day We Caught The Train - Ocean Colour Scene The Loco-Motion - Grand Funk Railroad The Last Train To Clarksville - The Monkees Downtown Train - Tom Waits I've Been Working on the Railroad - Pete Seeger Mystery Train is hands down the best; and you can flip a coin for which version. What Am I Doin' Hangin' Round? by the Monkees is another one I love, but the train is in the lyric not the title. Train in Vain by the Clash is a heavy favorite, but the lyric is not about trains. And Grand

Rise of the Britpop Empire: blur's Parklife turns 20

I really gravitated to Britpop from '94-'97. It was my thing; an antidote to hair metal and grunge. Alt-indie bands like Jellyfish and Weezer piqued my curiosity, but nothing grabbed me at the time like this 3rd British Invasion. This wave was more indebted to Paul Weller and The Kinks than the Beatles or the New Romantics. Here they came with thicker accents than ever. So, salute to blur's landmark album Parklife which turns 20 today (April 25). Most of you may only know blur - yes, small "b" - for Girls & Boys (see video via link) which was the first and only stateside hit from Parklife . And then, you may only know the band from their brisk rocker Song 2, which my old band Bat Country used to cover at the turn of the century. I can remember seeing the Girls & Boys video for the first time back when MTV still aired them, thinking, "My God, what is this? This is ridiculous. Please play this again." I found the CD in the used bins at a loc

Causing A Commotion - Creedence Style

Hold onto your Creedence 8-Tracks and fish your buffalo plaids out the swamp. I am returning to the studio. I am thrilled that Pop Garden Records is curating a CCR tribute due in early 2015. And yes, I am going to be recording not just any track, but the title track, "Commotion." I have been CCR fan since childhood. They had one of the earliest TV spots for their 15 Greatest Hits on 2 LPs or 8-Tracks! I knew the hooks to a dozen CCR songs by the time I was 10. Can't say I knew the whole songs, but John Fogerty was always about the hook in 2:30 or less. My best friends and earliest bandmates in high school and I constantly sang "Proud Mary," "Down on the Corner" and "Bad Moon Rising." This will be my first solo foray into the studio post-stroke. Perhaps you managed to get my secret Bee Gees tracks with Adam Marsland's Chaos Band on his SuperHits of the '70s comp. Yes, I will be teaming up again with my producer Adam Marsland to b

New York City and the Beatles 50th Anniversary

      Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I am back from my journey to Manhattan. Spent a week with the Missus visiting friends and family. We co-produced an off-off Broadway show starring our good friend Micah McCain (of " Bonjour, Girl " fame) at the Duplex in the Village. The performance was hilarious and fantastic; and I am very proud of what Micah is accomplishing in NYC. You may remember him from my Huckleberry Finn video - he is part of the "We Are Weightless" sequence.      On Sunday, February 9th, we managed to hit a grip of Beatle-related locations in honor of the 50th Anniversary of their American debut on the Ed Sullivan show. We started with a visit to the Ed Sullivan Theater, currently the home of the Late Show with David Letterman. It was just a short walk from our hotel and I was quite surprised that other than a quartet of European tourists no one else was taking photos of the cool commemoration there. The clever folks at CBS had wrapped the current marquee with a