I am a big fan of out singer/songwriter Chris Garneau, and thought this holiday would be a perfect chance to post his beautiful "Halloween." The song appears on his 2007 release, 'Music For Tourists.' I love his music, and really hope he releases more soon, since it has been since 2009 when he released 'El Radio.' However, enjoy his haunting song "Halloween."
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Back in 2007, Dangerous Muse covered "(Every Day Is) Halloween," a great song by the Industrial Metal band Ministry. Mike Furey and Tom Napack updated the sound, but kept the Goth textures to deliver their own seasonal classic.
It has become a yearly tradition for me to post songs found on the late Andrew Gold's great holiday album. It seems back in the mid-1990s, Andrew was enjoying his children, and decided to write some seasonal songs for them. He had such a great time doing it, he went into the studio to record them. This gave birth to the album, 'Halloween Howls.' It combined Gold's original material with a few of the existing Halloween favorites. I will start with "It Must Be Halloween."
I love that "Spooky Scary Skeletons" combines humor and scary topics, just warming my heart to the core. Enjoy this wonderful song.
I love "Don't Scream (It Must Be Halloween)," built on a scream and a sexy Latin beat. I don't know if it can get too much more fun than this.
Well, I guess it can get more fun, for I will end with "Gimme A Smile." This is a delightful tale of a pumpkin wanting to make a deal with the carver, so he won't be stuck scaring children for his very short life...
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
There is a new album out from charming singer/songwriter Bobby Jo Valentine. I knew it was coming, but didn't realize it would be this soon. I have been a fan since I started listening, instantly being drawn into his silky combination of Folk, Pop and Rock I consume like cotton candy, just melting over my palate. And the latest, 'Home,' does nothing to deter that from continuing. The album kicks off with the quiet and reflective tone of "Real Love", a bold look at life and love, the nature of both which escape us at particular times in our lives. The subtle opening soon gives way to a strong chorus, alternating in a give and take with the contemplative. There is an earnest sweetness that borders on sexy in "Come Back To Bed." What starts as a sweet coo in my ear grows to a bold declaration. I like that . That is soon replaced with the familiar chords of "A Hand To Hold," one of my favorite tracks off the 'By My Side' EP. Listen for yourself.
By the time the first few bars and the first set of finger snaps were done, I was captivated by "Warm Is The Light." I don't know how Bobby Jo combines it all to make his light pleading be so sweet, but job accomplished. With "Home," Bobby Jo discusses when the balance between being on the road away from home is not well balanced. "Between Those Lines " is a lovely song sung as a duet with Amy Hogan.
The soft Country feel to that duet is replaced with a driving beat more Pop/Rock in feel when Bobby Jo ignites the "Spark." He works hard to get that done, rekindling an old romance. I am happy he also revisited "By My Side," the title cut from the earlier EP. This one is more Pop driven, but still able to touch the same spot in my heart. Soon "Gunshot" fires off, popping with a fresh sound.
Soon, we hear the familiar "Chase Away The Dark" given a new, Pop-driven sound, a step away from the acoustic sound found on the EP. I do love this song, and each new take seems to reveal some new nuance, a deeper meaning. That is followed by "Vernal Falls," referring to a water attraction in Yosemite Park. This is a slightly haunted, but still a love-filled ballad that grows bigger and stronger with each listen. "Til The Clock Strikes Forever" opens with strains of the ukulele, giving the first half of the song a lazy feel that quickly moves in a different direction. lending added pleasure. The album closes with "Save What You Can," another favorite that instantly registered with me. Listen for yourself.
If I was a bit smitten with Bobby Jo before, it has become a full-grown crush now. There is just so much charm to the songs, with such honesty in his voice. I swear the songs grow deeper the more you linger, the more you hit repeat. For more about Bobby Jo Valentine, visit his official website. 'Home' can be purchased on iTunes and Amazon.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Singer/songwriter Tom Goss has released his latest video, featuring the song "Make Believe" off his album 'Turn It Around'. The video stars all of Tom, well just about, anyway. The time out, Tom wears a wry smile and those beautiful baby blues as he appears in the video, his well-toned body the landscape for this video tale. This great and innovative video is a blast to watch, and I have watched is several times, each time catching something new. The only thing I can compare it to was the great video by Peter Gabriel for "Sledgehammer". Enjoy "Make Believe".
To learn more about Tom Goss, visit his official website. You can purchase the single "Make Believe" on iTunes and Amazon. Also, Tom has released a four-song collection of the single and three coll remixes. You can purchase the "Make Believe" Remixes from Amazon and CD Baby. Make sure you share the video with your friends and family. Tell them to watch the video on Youtube here.
With my ongoing highlight of Frankenstorm, aka Hurrican Sandy, invading the East Coast, I offer you all Captain & Tennille singing "Come In From The Rain", something I hope everyone is doing. This was a huge hit in 1977, and was written by Melissa Manchester and Carole Bayer Sager.
Keep dry, my friends!
Because we cannot seem to escape Hurricane Sandy, or Frankenstorm, I thought I'd give you "Right As Rain" from Adele. The song was written by Adele along with Leon Michels, Jeff Silverman, Nick Movshon, and Clay Holley for Adele's 2008 debut album, '19'.
Hope we are all staying dry!
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Okay, I'll admit I had a scheduling issue this morning, and my Sunday night post - featuring the Nicholas Brothers - went up this morning. So I have another ode to Frankenstorm for you here. This is the Bronski Beat singing "Hard Rain" The song was off the 1985 album 'Hundreds & Thousands', a remix effort featuring songs off the debut 'The Age Of Consent', as well as a couple of new songs. It was put together after singer Jimmy Somerville has left the band to join Richard Coles and Sarah Jane Morris in The Communards.
As Hurricane Sandy moves into the area, I think many people are asking the same question The Thompson Twins asked on their 1984 album, 'Into the Gap'. Here is their great track, "Who Can Stop The Rain". Enjoy.
When I was trying to come up with something clever to post, I was inspired by Hurricane Sandy approaching the East Coast, and wondered how clever I could get. I instantly thought of the great Lena Horne's "Stormy Weather", but knew that was a bit overused. However, I did happen across a scene from the movie 'Stormy Weather', featuring the brilliant dancers, Harold and Fayard Nicholas, better known as the Nicholas Brothers. Despite the overwhelming racism of the times, Harold and Fayard made a name for themselves with their amazing talent in the 1930s. They appeared on Broadway and in films, despite the fact they couldn't eat at the same restaurants, or stay at the same hotels as many of the people enjoying their performances.
The first video clip is from The Black Network, a 1936 short with a fifteen-year-old Harold and twenty-two-year-old Fayard Nicholas performing “Lucky Numbers” by Cliff Hess. How fantastic this was captured and we are given the chance to enjoy it 76 years later.
The next featured routine is from "Down Argentine Way" from the movie of the same name. It was a musical by 20th Century Fox released in 1940, starring Betty Grable, Don Ameche, Carmen Miranda, and the Nicholas Brothers. It was the movie that introduced Carmen Miranda to the American audiences, and also was Grable's first lead role, the start of a long run with Betty Grable's name featured on marquees around the world.
The Nicholas Brothers appeared in the 1943 film starring a stellar cast featuring some of the big names in the African-American community, like Miss Lena Horne, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller and Dooley Wilson. 'Stormy Weather' also showcased the Nicholas Brothers, performing some incredible dances. This included the song, "Jumpin' Jive", written by Cab Calloway, Frank Froeba and Jack Palmer, and includes a great vocal by Callaway It is often said that the great Fred Astaire once called "the greatest dance number ever filmed." It was also the inspiration for this post. Enjoy!
Finally, I love this clip of the Nicholas Brothers performing to "(I've Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo", from 1944 movie "Orchestra Wives." The movie featured the Glen Miller Orchestra with Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton and The Modernaires. The blond singer in the group is Marion, elder sister of another movie great, Betty Hutton. While the film might be seen as a bit on the cheesy side, it also includee early-in-career appearances by Jackie Gleason, Harry Morgan, Cesar Romero, And even Dale Evans! Enjoy this clip, and if you get the chance, check out the movie!
So, while I am not sure when, where, or if Sandy is going to hit my area, I certainly hope you are all safe as well. And I hope taking some time to watch some gave you a chance to escape some of the worries in your day, from hurricanes to endless political campaign commercials.
With my Motown posts earlier in the week, I was reminded of the immense talent of Marvin Gaye, who made great music throughout his career. Gaye's music was a dominant force, both at Motown and in the world. Whether it was songs he had written, or song he was performing, it was a great part of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Either as a solo singer or paired with Tammi Terrell or Mary Wells, Gaye helped define Pop and Soul music during those decades. The depth and quality of his voice, as well as his connection to the music, making most of his recordings memorable. Marvin also enjoyed a variety of music, and would sometimes include the spiritual music with secular on his albums. On his 1971 album, 'What's Going On', Gaye recorded "God Is Love", written by Marvin, Anna Gordy Gaye, James Nyx and Elgie Stover.
On that same album, he recorded "Wholy Holy", the eighth track. It was written by Gaye, Al Cleveland, and Renaldo "Obie" Benson. And while Gaye might have been seen as a sexual icon for the time, in "Wholy Holy" he combines thoughts of love and his faith.
Earlier in his career, Marvin participated in a Motown compilation with a song written in 1905 by lyricist Civilla D. Martin and composer Charles H. Gabriel. In 1968, Marvin offered up "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" to be a track on 'In Loving Memory', dedicated to the memory of Motown founder Berry Gordy's sister, Mrs. Loucye S. Gordy Wakefield.
Enjoy your Sunday!
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Clockwise: Alice Faye; Helen Forrest; Jane Russell; and Kaye Ballard.
It's another Saturday night, the perfect time to sit back and listen to some ladies sing from their heart with an old-fashioned love song,one I'm sure was wrote for you and me... Wow, I just quoted Three Dog Night. I guess I'll let that go and go to the first song. In a movie from 1934, 'She Learned About Sailors', Alice Faye delivered a great performance on a song by the great Richard Whiting. Enjoy as Alice sings "Here's The Key To My Heart".
While many might know Kay Ballard fro her work on television shows like 'The Mothers-In-Law', she also had a long career as a singer, working with big bands, and later on Broadway. This is a clip of Kaye singing "In Other Words", a popular standard song written by Bart Howard in 1954. It later became known when sung by a man named Frank Sinatra, and the song went by another name, "Fly Me To The Moon".
Helen Fogel was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She had dreams of being a singing star, and soon was in New York City and Washington, DC, singing at clubs and on radio programs. It was in DC that she was 'discovered' by Artie Shaw, who was looking for a girl vocalist to replace the departing Billie Holiday. Only by that time, Helen had changed her name from Fogel to Forrest. Forrest went on to sing with some of the biggest names in the business, and also appear in some movies. Check out this clip, where Helen sings "I Had The Craziest Dream" from the 1942 movie, "Springtime in the Rockies", written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon.
When she first was cast by Howard Hughes in his film 'The Outlaws', the actress was a brunette bombshell, admired for her great beauty and glorious curves. But she was more than a pretty girl with a good rack, she was a wonderful entertainer. Russell went on to star in many films, dramas and comedies, as well as some great musicals. While she will long be remembered as Marilyn Monroe's partner-in-crime in the great 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes', it was not her only foray into musicals. In this clip, Jane sings with Hoagy Carmichael on "My Resistance Is Low", with music by Hoagy and lyrics by Harold Adamson, from the 1952 movie, 'The Las Vegas Story'.
Enjoy your weekend!
Well, I thought I would kick off our Saturday morning with a light and breezy song written by the great Irving Berlin in 1932. As part of the recent Barbra Streisand tour, La Streisand sings "How Deep Is The Ocean" as a duet with a surprise guest, her son, Jason Gould. And the real surprise is that Jason has a nice voice, as you can tell in this video.
I mean, who would have thought that the son of Barbra Streisand and Elliott Gould would be 45 years old before the world knew he got some talent from his mother? What, we gonna find out at some point he is also a great actor? The other surprising part is that Jason is really hot. Like I think I'd wanna date him, even if he didn't have Barbra as a mother. But until then, I'll have this video to enjoy.
Friday, October 26, 2012
When I was trying to figure out what I was going to post for this wonderful Friday, I thought back to a couple of discussions I had some Dance artists who swore Kristine W was one of the best Dance artists ever, definitely an artist on top of their game. From 1994 until this year, she had 16 songs go to #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart, and another 2 n the Top 5. That is an incredible streak for Kristine Weitz, born in Washington state. In fact, in 1981 she was named Miss Washington State, and won college scholarships in the 1982 Miss America pageant.
By the late 1980s she was working in Las Vegas with her band, Kristine W and the Sting. They were playing the top clubs and casinos, gaining fans. It was there she was 'discovered', and brought into the studio. By 1994 Kristine had released her second single, and her first #1, "Feel What You Want".
By 1997, she was working on her fourth single, and her third #1 song, "Land of the Living". That is an envious streak, but just the start of something amazing. By this time, the best in the country, DJs like Junior Vasquez, Rollo, and Sister Bliss were offering up their own remixes of her music, getting more and more play in the clubs. In fact, they were beginning to remix songs not officially released, distributing them to select DJs, giving her regional hits that were represented in the national charts. Enjoy "Land of the Living".
In 2000, Kristine released "Stronger", written by Kristine, Jud J. Friedman and Allan Rich. The song appeared on an album of the same name. Once again, it topped the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart, keeping her reputation in place.
"Fly Again"was written by Kristine and Jesse Houk, the title cut off the 2003 album of the same name. Once again it topped the Hot Dance Club Songs chart, her seventh #1 song in a row.
Since I mentioned my new British boyfriend on Wednesday, I was of course reminded me of my Israeli boyfriend, the gorgeous and talented Ivri Lider. I have been a huge fan of Ivri since I first heard his brilliant theme song to 'Yossi & Jagger', a wonderful movie by Israeli director Eytan Fox. It wasn't until I checked out his music that I realized Ivri was such a hot man, and due to be a future husband. And he happens to be the biggest male star in Israel for the last decade or so. And he is also an out and proud gay man. What's not to love?
Well, Ivri has made a bunch of music over the years, including some fun covers. One was a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", only his was, of course, "Boys Just Wanna Have Fun". There is certainly that certain something added by Ivri, and in the video below, there is a fun group known as the Bee-Boy Dancer Crew, shaking their groove thing who made this video. Enjoy.
Get ready to start your weekend!
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Today we celebrate the birthday of Country singer Chely Wright. Chely was a thriving star in the Country world, both as a performer and a songwriter. In fact, her songs have been recorded by Brad Paisley, Richard Marx, Indigo Girls, Mindy Smith and Clay Walker, among others. But it was her announcement in 2010 that she is a lesbian that garnered her the attention of many, from the people who embraced the talented singer/songwriter, to those small-minded bigots who felt the need to spew anger and fear to cover their own insecurities. It was during this time Chely met Lauren Blitzer, and last summer, the couple married.
About the same time she was coming out, Chely released a new album, 'Lifted Off The Ground'. It is a beautiful 12-song collection that is still in rotation on my iTunes. So, in celebration of her birthday, I thought we could listen to a couple of the songs from the album. I will start with the sixth cut on the album, "Like Me".
I also love the song steeped in memories, "Snow Globe". It has a haunting beauty, a sweetness and innocence that can touch my soul in a delicate way.
I also love the complex and delicious "Heavenly Days". The song was co-written by Nashville legend Rodney Crowell, who also played on the song. Not long after coming out, Chely was joined by Rodney on the stage at the 21st GLAAD Media Awards.
Chely also participated in a documentary about the process of coming out in Country music. 'Wish Me Away' has been a strong presence on the Festival circuit. Check out the trailer for the film.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Okay, I can perhaps tell you about my new British boyfriend, Simon Amstell. Simon is a funny, smart, cute, comedian I just discovered thanks to the brilliant folks at BBC America who televised his special, 'Do Nothing Live'. Apparently, he had a stand-up tour called 'Do Nothing' that was taped and broadcast, as well as available for purchase. I now have a big crush on him, despite the fact he is so damn young. Here is a promotion clip for 'Do Nothing'.
And I might have forgotten to mention that Simon is also an out and proud man. Well, as proud as he will allow himself to be. Check out this clip, as he tells up a little more about his relationship with his cat.
Of course, I find him adorable, but I really find people who make me laugh to be sexy. I found a copy of a series he starred in in the UK, 'Grandma's House'. Once again, I found it so funny, I was sitting there by myself laughing hysterically. Here, I'll let you watch the close of the 'Do Nothing' show.
At the moment, 'Do Nothing Live' is not available on Amazon, but you never know, if you check in again. If you'd like to watch the entire show, I found it online. It is just over an hour long, so be ready for plenty of laughter!
For more about Simon Amstell, visit him official website. And try not to hit on my boyfriend, okay?
I already mentioned that Berry Gordy, Jr., founded Motown Record Company in 1959, after discovering that writing hit songs will not guarantee making a living in music. So Motown was born, in a nod to his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, known as the Motor City for the auto industry that was at the core of the area. Gordy was making music with a strong stable of writers and talent, with the Motown label, as well as the other companies under the umbrella, like the Tamla label.
So I happened across a list of the top-selling Motown hits, and I decided to feature the songs released from 1959 to 1975, a period I consider the 'classic' years of the record company. The list is from Billboard magazine, and is an amazing collection of talent. The #5 song on the list was written by The Corporation, made up of Berry Gordy, Jr., Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell and Deke Richards. It was also the second single for a young family group, as well as their second #1 song. Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Randy and Michael were first discovered by Gladys Knight, who recommended Gordy sign them, but Gordy was hesitant to sign young boys. Later, when Gordy saw a videotape of the boys performing, he decided to sign them, and it wasn't long before he was grooming the Jackson 5 to be the next big thing from Motown. The second single from the family act is the #5 best-selling single for Motown, "ABC", as it was debuted on 'American Bandstand' in 1970.
In the #4 position, we have the last entry from the ladies many consider the most successful 'girl group' of all time. In 1968, Diana Ross & the Supremes had a huge hit with "Love Child". But it wasn't the Supremes everyone knew. While it was still Diana Ross and Mary Wilson, in 1967 Florence Ballard was let go, and Cindy Birdsong was brought on. (Many see this rift as the core for the Broadway musical 'Dreamgirls') by Diana Ross & the Supremes in 1968. But right after the change, the sales fell off. So Gordy got together with the team called The Clan; R. Dean Taylor, Frank Wilson, Pam Sawyer, Deke Richards, and Henry Cosby. Out of this came "Love Child, which spent two weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968.
It is hard for me to imagine a song that is more sultry, and more suggestive than the #3 entry on the list. In a song written by performer Marvin Gaye and Ed Townsend, "Let's Get It On" went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks, and #1 on the Billboard Soul chart for an amazing 8 weeks. Marvin certainly put the finishing touches on his reputation for being a sexual icon with the 1973 song released on the Tamla label.
For the #2 song on the list, we will have to return to the boys from Gary, Indiana. The Jackson 5 were already on a roll, having the first three singles top the Pop charts. But with "I'll Be There", they changed things up by offering a beautiful ballad instead of the frothy bubblegum Pop they had previously offered. The song, written by Berry Gordy, Bob West, Willie Hutch, and Hal Davis, went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for five weeks. This made the Jackson 5 the first group of African American males to have four consecutive #1 Pop hits. The lead vocals were shared by Michael and his brother Jermaine.
And finally, after a long wait, we find out what was the best-selling song of the Motown classic years. It only seems right we return to one of the great talents already on the list. In his second appearance on the list, and his second in the top 3, we have Marvin Gaye and the amazing "I Heard It Through The Grapevine". The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong in 1966 for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, but was rejected by Berry Gordy, Jr., who thought it wasn't strong enough. Whitfield and Strong worked on it more, and had Gaye record it in 1967, only to have Gordy once again veto the release. With a few more touches, it was recorded by Gladys Knight & the Pips, and went to #2 on the Billboard Pop chart. So Whitfield returned to the studio with Marvin, and produced the song that became the biggest selling single for Motown Record Company between 1959 and 1975. This was released the year following Gladys' version, and was on top of the charts for seven straight weeks, from December 1968 to January 1969. This is Marvin Gaye singing his best-selling hit on the Tamla label, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine".
So there you have it, folks. Hope you enjoyed visiting all these great songs!
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I wanted to take the opportunity to remind everyone you can still pre-order the upcoming release from the Eric Himan Band, 'semi-Formal'. If Eric is playing somewhere, I wanna have my butt in a seat to enjoy. If Eric is back in the studio recording, I wanna put that on my 'must buy' list. He is just one of those artists for me, making music that always touches my heart, that speaks to me personally.
Now I have many videos on YouTube at this point, the vast majority from shows I have attended over the last few years. In fact, there are over 200 videos, which even shocks me! So I will take this opportunity to share the most viewed video of the 212, which is Eric singing at the MilkBoy Coffee, a show he played with the wonderful Namoli Brennet. He tackles the great song made famous by Janis Joplin, "Get It While You Can."
As many of you who visit the blog often already know, when there is an artist making incredible music, we need to support them. Especially indie artists. Singers with label support, like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Jason Mraz, and Justin Bieber, they all have plenty of corporate support behind them, promoting everything they do. That is not true for the indie artist, who need to rely on fans showing up to shows, and telling their friends about the great new music happening. Another way to support is to pre-purchase a download of 'Formal' once it is available. But that is not the only way. You can purchase the download, a t-shirt, and autographed CD, some time to chat with Eric, or even the actual guitar Eric played while writing his album 'Dark Horse'. Much like the upcoming elections, this is your chance to speak up and be heard. Unless you are supporting indie artists like Eric or others, you can't complain about the awful state of the music business. But when you purchase the album, you are allowing your voice to be heard, kinda like showing up to vote. So step up and participate in the discussion, with a pre-purchase of some kind or another, and tell the world that all kinds of music can and will be heard. Check out Eric's PledgeMusic site now.
Motown Record Corporation was founded in 1959 by Berry Gordy, Jr., in Detroit, Michigan. The name was, in fact, a nod the Detroit, known as the Motor City. At the time, Gordy was a songwriter of note, writing for stars like Jackie Wilson. Gordy felt like he was making little money writing songs, and the real money was in running a label. The first songs were put out on the Tamla label, in 1959. The first act signed by the fledgling company was a group called the Matadors. They changed their name to the Miracles, and the lead singer was William 'Smokey' Robinson.
With that bit of history written, I thought it would be interesting to look at what the top-selling singles for Motown Record Corporation, and it's subsidiaries, from 1959 until 1975, what I would call the heyday of the label. Of course, I was surprised when I discovered the top five-selling singles for the label didn't come from that period, but from the 1990s and one from the 1980s. However, I will take the top ten from the era I picked out, and unveil them today and tomorrow. To kick off this trip down memory lane, I will being with the #10-#6 songs according to Billboard. The #10 selling single is a group who had three songs in the top 10, and one more from the lead singer after she went solo. I am of course referring the great Supremes, with lead singer Diana Ross. In 1964, the group had the utterly charming "Baby Love", written by the brilliant team of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian Holland and Edward Holland, Jr. It was said Gordy suggested the writers to give Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson a song similar to their last hit, "Where Did Our Love Go?" The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks in the fall of 1964, just what Gordy was looking for.
In 1956, The Aims were signed by Chess Records to record, having been 'discovered' while performing in and around Detroit. Only they had to change their name, for fear they might be confused with the Ames Brothers. So Levi Stubbs, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson, and Lawrence Payton called themselves The Four Tops. Their time at Chess, as well as a few other record companies, didn't work out, and in 1963, Gordy signed them for Motown. With the brilliant Levi Stubbs on lead vocals, the group were a great success for Motown, including on their great single, "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)". It was the #9 song on this list, once again written by the songwriting team of Holland - Dozier - Holland. The son was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in 1965, so enjoy this clip of the Four Tops singing it live.
The ever-brilliant Miss Diana Ross has the #8 song on the list with what was only her second solo single, and her first solo #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" was written by another incredible team of writers in the Motown stable, the husband/wife team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. They wrote it as a duet for the first release, featuring the ample talents of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. It was a big hit for them in 1967, but was also a great hit for Ross in 1970, making it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Watch as 'The Boss' performs "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", a song that quickly became one of her signature songs.
While we are at it, the #7 entry on the list is another great song from The Supremes. In fact, it was the song that inspired the previous entry. "Where Did Our Love Go" was also the first Billboard #1 for Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson. It was also the first of five singles in a row by the ladies to make it to the top of the charts. Again, it was written by Holland - Dozier - Holland, men who definitely put their stamp on the music world. Here is the great 1964 hit, "Where Did Our Love Go?"
Now it is time to visit with the #6 song on the list. It was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. Strong was the first member of the Motown roster to have a radio hit, with "Money (That's What I Want)", in 1959. He remained with the label, writing and performing. Teaming up with the bold vocals of Edwin Starr, "War" went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was not only a popular song, it was also one of the most popular protest songs of all time. Oddly, after the attacks of 9-11, media powerhouse Clear Channel put this song on a list of inappropriate songs. This is still a great song, so enjoy Edwin Starr on "War".
Look for the Top 5 tomorrow!
Monday, October 22, 2012
Now I have to admit something right off the start here. I have a big crush on Billy Porter, and when he sings, it gets even worse. Many will remember him as the singer for "Love Is On The Way", the theme to 'The First Wives Club', starring Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, and Bette Midler. But he is also a star in the theater, having been featured in some of the great musicals of our time. He's been featured in show such as 'Grease!', 'Ghetto Superstar (That Man That I Am)', 'Topdog/Underdog', 'Jesus Christ Superstar', 'Dreamgirls' and 'Angels In America'. He is currently working on the production of 'Kinky Boots', the musical with music and lyrics by the fabulous Cyndi Lauper and a book by the great Harvey Fierstein, due on Broadway in 2013. He will, of course, be playing the role of Lola, the drag queen who saves the day for a shoe factory that has lost it's way. While I do regret never having the chance to see him perform live so far, it hasn't stopped me from adding the music he has released so far to my collection.
Sadly, his performance of the great song written by John Kander and Fred Ebb for Liza Minnelli, "And The World Goes 'Round", has yet to be recorded, but thankfully, it was caught on video from a performance at Joe's Pub in New York City. The song was written for the Soundtrack to the 1977 film musical, 'New York New York', starring Minnelli and Robert De Niro, and directed by Martin Scorsese. The movie centered on the troubled relationship of Big Band singer Francine Evans and musician Jimmy Doyle as they explored love and lost their way. One of Francine's hit songs was "And The World Goes 'Round". Here is Billy Porter giving his own take on the song.
When I listen to his brilliant 'At The Corner of Broadway and Soul', an amazing live recording that soars, I swear I hear the angels singing background for him. He sings many of the great songs by some of the great composers of musical theater, including one of my favorites. He does and incredible version of "Sunday" from the musical 'Sunday In The Park With George' by the great Stephen Sondheim. While the following clip is not from the performance captured on the live album, it is a performances with the Broadway Dreams Foundation, performing arts training program. With a faculty made up of talented Broadway stars, casting directors, choreographers and agents dedicated to giving back to the theatrical community, to provide invaluable training to anyone who aspires to a career in musical theater.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
In January of 1975, a little-known singer/songwriter released a new album. Melissa Manchester was discovered singing in clubs in Manhattan by Barry Manilow and Bette Midler, becoming one of Midler's Harlettes on tour. Manchester was a New Yorker, raised in the Bronx, her father a bassoonist with the New York Metropolitan Opera, and her mother a fashion designer. Manchester had her hand in writing eight of the ten songs, co-writing four with Carole Bayer Sager. It was one of those four that captured the attention of many, when the sultry "Midnight Blue" went to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart for two weeks.
After that first hit, Arista followed it up with "Just Too Many People", an uplifting song co-written with Producer Vini Poncia. The soulful uptempo song was a tribute to brighter days to come, even if somebody told Melissa "there are just too many people in this world who are undecided" - seemingly perfect for this political season. The song did well, going to #30 on the Billboard Hot 100.
While some might have thought Manchester might be a one-hit-wonder, there was no cause for worry. Not only would she have two more songs make it into the Top 10, her biggest hit was yet to come. In fact, she had seven songs make it into the Billboard Top 40. But more about those some other time. You can purchase 'Melissa' album from iTunes and Amazon. For more about what Melissa Manchester is up to these days, visit her official website.
William Johnson was born in Brenham, Texas, on January 22, 1897. It was said his mother died when he was still quite young, and his father quickly remarried. The legend says when Willie was just seven years old, his father caught his step-mother going out with other men, and a fight erupted. It is said the step-mother threw lye into Willie's face, blinding him. From that time forward, he would be known as Blind Willie Johnson. From an early age, Willie wanted to be a preacher, and learned to play the guitar to promote his preaching. His approach was an interesting one, playing Blues on the guitar while singing religious songs, lifting his voice to his Lord as only Willie could. As far as anyone could figure, he lived in Texas all his life. He was married at least twice. On the recordings below, it is thought to be his first wife, Willie B. (Harris) Johnson, who is singing with him. This first song is "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine", recorded in 1927. It was in the tradition of much Gospel music, a warning that if one get's too entwined with the earthly world, while forgetting about God and the heavenly plane, it is not God nor his angels that are to blame.
That song, like most Blind Willie preformed, was a traditional spiritual song given a different twist with Johnson playing the Blues guitar. The same could be said for "God Don't Never Change", recorded in 1929. Once again, Blind Willie is lifting his voice to praise God, and to remind everyone that while you may leave God, the reverse will never be said.
He also recorded the song "Let Your Light Shine On Me" in 1929. It so reminds me of the classic songs "This Little Light of Mine", written about 1920. Both songs encourage everyone to share the light that God has brought into their lives.
In the 1940s, Johnson was thought to have had his own House of Prayer in Beaumont, Texas. It is said to have burnt down in the early summer of 1945, but Willie continued to live there, despite there being no walls to spare him from the elements. He got very sick and died on September 18, 1945. It is said his widow brought him to a hospital, but he was refused service, either because he was blind, or because of his race. According to his death certificate, the cause of death was listed as malarial fever, with syphilis and blindness as contributing factors. He was thought to be buried in an unmarked grave in Blanchette Cemetery. His music has been covered by countless musicians, including Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Bruce Springsteen. You can find all these songs and more on 'Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed', available on iTunes and Amazon.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Maxine Sullivan came into the public eye in the 1930s, singing some of the great music that was being written. She was born in Homestead, Pennsylvania, in 1911. She was raised in a musical family, and soon she was singing in her uncle's band, The Red Hot Peppers. With them, she toured around Pennsylvania, singing and occasionally playing both the flugelhorn and the valve trombone. But in the mid-1930s, she was discovered, and was soon in a recording studio.
From the 1930s to the 1970s, Maxine continued to work steadily as a singer, including taking an occasional turn on the Broadway stage. In fact, in 1979, at the age of 68, she was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her work in 'My Old Friends'. She played and recorded with the top talents of her time, from Louis Armstrong to Fats Waller. Maxine was perhaps best known for her recording of "Loch Lomond", the traditional Scottish Folk song from the 17th or 18th century. Her recording injected new life into the song with the great Swing arrangement. Here is Maxine Sullivan singing "Loch Lomond".
The next song is a standard from 1946. This was written by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Arthur Freed. "This Heart of Mine" was written for the 1946 film 'Ziegfield Follies', with Fred Astaire singing and dancing as only he could. The song was recorded and sung beautifully by Sullivan in 1948.
"Skylark" was written in 1941, by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael. It is said that Mercer's lyrics were written to express his longing for Judy Garland, after the two had an affair. It quickly became a Popular standard, and sung by some of the greatest voices around. In 1947, Sullivan recorded her version, which certainly offered up a sweet yet aching feeling, perfectly capturing the emotion for the song.
The next song was written in 1928 by the great Fats Waller, with lyrics by Andy Razaf. Waller's recording in 1934 was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. In 1956, Maxine recorded an album to celebrate the lyrics of Razaf, 'A Tribute to Andy Razaf'. The album also featured the wonderful music of Waller. Here is one of the songs from that collection, "Honeysuckle Rose".
David Hernandez first became known to me with a brief stint on American Idol, and has continued to make some great music to keep my interest. He's also been very smart, working as much as he can, including in touring shows like 'Ballroom With A Twist', working as a featured vocalist across the country. This not only keeps him making a living in music, it also help to fund new music. After all, i was very fond of his first release, the EP 'I Am Who I Am'. And it makes clips like this possible, too. Here is David in an appearance in Los Angeles earlier this year, singing the classic "Feeling Good", written by English singer-songwriters Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the 1965 musical 'The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd'.
Friday, October 19, 2012
Clockwise: Aiden Leslie; Naommon; Sean Ensign; and Angelo.
It is Friday, and time to get the party started! Don't you agree? I hope you do, because I am ready to shake my groove thing with some great out and proud musicians I really hope you enjoy them as much as I do. You might have noticed in the pictures above, these boys are just gorgeous, but don't let their great looks miss the fact they are also talented! I will lead off one of a couple of newcomers to the blog, Aiden Leslie. He brings us "Diamond Dreams", with lyrics written by him, describing his drive and goals when he was fresh out of high school and moving to New York City to pursue his dreams in music. Enjoy the music video from Aiden Leslie for "Diamond Dreams".
You can purchase the single "Diamond Dreams" from iTunes and Amazon. For more about Aiden, visit his official website.
Our next artist is a French-born singer currently making his home in London. Naommon has a great voice that he loves to use to tackle many different genres, utilizing his influences that are as varied as can be. "Shake To The Earthquake" combines his love for great Pop with his time spent dancing in the clubs to make for a wonderful song.
You can find the single "Shake To The Earthquake" on 'Love Is Struggling', which can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. For more about Naommon, visit his official website.
I make no bones about the fact I am a big fan of New York-based Angelo, who has been spending some time traveling to the UK and Europe in support of his latest release, 'Narcissus Drowned'. I hope you listen to one of the tracks off the album, "Go'head! (Luv & Jeeve Remix)".
"Go 'Head" is a track off the album 'Narcissus Drowned' and you can purchase it from iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about Angelo visit his official website.
With the final entry in tonight's post, I will offer you one of the favorite songs of my friend, Ricky Morgan. He is the first one to get me turned on to the music of Sean Ensign, and it was the single "Boyfriend" that did it! It is saucy and smart, two things I love in music.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
There is something about when two iconic artists get together to perform live that is beyond electric, and even beyond explanation. On their own, both Tina Turner and Mick Jagger have more than enough talent to excite a football stadium full of fans. Couple that with their unending charisma, and their unstoppable energy, and you have what seems like a living example of what a star should be.
"State of Shock" was written by Michael Jackson and guitarist Randy Hansen, originally intended for Michael to sing with Freddie Mercury. Due to the demanding schedules of both stars, it never came to be. Instead, Jackson invited Mick to join him in the studio. Come time for the Rolling Stones to perform at Live Aid, Mick invited the immaculate Tina Turner to join him on stage to perform the song in a mash-up with a great Stone's song. So join me in watching and loving this performances form Live Aid in 1985 of "State of Shock" & "It's Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It)".
While still at the 1989 Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, it would have been wrong had the Rolling Stones not reached into their bag of tricks to pull out a delicious nugget from days gone by. So when they not only performed a huge hit from their 1969 of hits, 'Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2)'. And it was a surprise for no one that "Honky Tonk Woman" went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. So when you already have a great song sung by a hall of fame group, can it get any better than that? Only one way it can - add some Tina Turner!
In the mid-1980s, Tina began to include a cover of the great Robert Palmer song, "Addicted To Love", in her live shows. It didn't make it to a record until the end of the decade, on 'Tina Live In Europe'. So it seemed only natural that at some point, Tina would duet on the song with Mick.
Hope you enjoyed it!
Recently, I was on Facebook minding my own business, when I happened across a mention of the latest artist on the blog, Holcombe Waller. Singer/songwriter Andy Moore mentioned him, and as much as I love her music, I knew I'd have to check Holcombe out. Now that I have, I just gotta say, if Andy recommends something, check it out. Don't ask questions, don't dawdle. Look them up, and get ready to buy it. I am mad about Holcombe's music, and, by extension, about Holcombe. He makes his home in Portland, Oregon, I am not exactly sure how to describe Holcombe, or categorize his music. There is a Folk feel that I can't resist, but he blends it with a bit of Roots music, a dash of World music, and the layered construction of Classical music. And all the while, allows the songs and music to speak for itself, never trying to throw a stick of dynamite when a birthday candle is called for. And while 'Into The Dark Unknown' was released about a year ago, I will take a look at it, as it is brand new to me.
'Into The Dark Unknown' was released in November 2011, a beautiful twelve song collection. The smart "Atlas" kicks it off with a light and airy opening that turns to a slight melancholia with the addition of the expressive cello. The song in moody, slipping in and surrounding you like a fog descending on the field. The second track is "Risk Of Change", a hint of Country barely hidden under the Folk veneer. It highlights the scare we all undertake when thinking about trying something new in our lives. Track three, "The Unicorn", offers up a lazy opening with a moody piano and a shimmering vocal, reminding me of some of the Celtic sound from the early 1990s, with groups like Clannad. But somewhere in the middle of the song, a shift in gears happens, and Holcombe takes a bigger bite of the listener. "Baby Blue" opens with a sweet acoustic guitar taking the focus, each note a separate brush stock to paint the mood. The fifth track begins with some Electronica that belies what is going to come. Check out the official video for "Hardliners".
I just love that song, with the build that takes you places you never saw coming, to the emotional climax. That is followed by an interesting choice, to be sure. Waller takes on Buffy Sainte-Marie with "Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan", originally recorded in 1976 by the Canadian Cree to celebrate her birthplace and heritage. Waller's voice becomes another instrument, not only holding a cadence, but also adding texture to the song. That is followed by another song with a mystical feel, with depth not only in the lyrics, but in the very essence of the music. See for yourself with "Shallow".
We finally roll into the title cut off the album. "Into The Dark Unknown" has an earnest honesty, with a slice-of-life realness of a Steinbeck novel. There is a sweetness in telling this story, a true warmth in Holcombe's live performance. "About Time" is a song driven by the cadence of the chorus, Waller's voice punctuating the song, allowing a build to offer a crescendo, and a natural ebb and flow. When the opening bars of "Bored of Memory" kick off, there is a return to a more languid feel, the harp and piano blending with a beautiful harmony, a lovely counterpoint to Waller's vocals. There is something about "Down & Cried" that makes me think of traditional Folk music, something unearthed from 2 centuries ago, without feeling the age, a beautiful blend of the old with a new twist, a shot of a spiced rum. And that leads us the the final offering, "I Can Feel It". There is something so bright, so uplifting about this song. It seems the perfect way to complete this album, to draw to a close this emotional journey with Holcombe Waller.
I'm telling you, Waller is one of my new favorites. His music has this regenerative quality for me, replenishing my soul. He manages to splice together a variety of sounds that might seem very different, and weave them into a wonderful tapestry. You can purchase 'Into The Dark Unknown' on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD Baby, and Amazon. For more about Holcombe Waller, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter.