Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ryan Amador • Stained (Music Video)

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I was a bit shocked when I realized that I first came across the music of Ryan Amador almost two years ago. That is when I first heard his duet with Jo Lampert, "Define Me", and was deeply moved. I find his music has a wonderful rawness to it, exposing his emotional core like few can. He recently released the EP '4S', which I quickly added to my collection. The five-song collection includes four songs starting with the letter 's', and the fifth song titled "4", hence the name. The first single is "Stained", a song that reminds me a bit of Alanis Morissette, as he funnels his anger into his music as a way to cleanse himself with a rocked-out shout. There is a wonderful nakedness to the video, starting with a close-up almost painfully tight, the pain etched on his face. This is the official music video for "Stained".

"Stained" can be purchased as a single from Bandcamp. It is the first single track off his last release. The EP '4S' can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and Bandcamp. To learn more about Ryan Amador, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Aiden James • Snapshot (Music Video)

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I was very excited to hear Aiden James was working on another music video, and even more so when it was up on YouTube. That means I needed to head out and watch "Snapshot", found on his 2012 album, 'Trouble With This'. I must say, at first I was surprised to not see Aiden, but instead a video featuring the very handsome Marco Sousa, who I believe was also featured in the music video for Aiden's "Hurry Hurry". He brings an inherent sweetness to the video, which already has the wonderful song the capture your heart. I hope you enjoy the music video for "Snapshot".

See, it is impossible to not love the song, and not fall for Marco and the music video. You can find "Snapshot" on 'Trouble With This", which can be purchased from iTunes and Amazon. While you are at it, you can also find his latest single, "Last Reminder" on iTunes and Amazon, too. If you haven't heard it yet, you can give a listen with this audio version posted by Aiden. This is "Last Reminder".

I must say, I have been a huge fan since I first heard Aiden singing live at the World Cafe Live several years ago. I had to buy his first album, and have been eager for all his music since. To learn more about Aiden James, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

22 Years Ago • Music of My 1993

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Photo of me from 1993.

Every year about this time, I always find myself revisiting a time that was not a highpoint in my life. It has been 22 years since I was in the hospital. While just typing that in makes it seem like a very long time ago, I must admit, I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was January of 1993, a time of change for me. I was in my thirties, and had become disenchanted with much of the music playing on the radio. I was listening less to radio, and more to my own music collection, which was rich in the music of the 1970s and 1980s, and music I picked up along the way. Much of it was music that didn't really make it to the top of the charts, but did make it high enough I heard it and fell in love. While I've posted about this before, I thought I'd revisit it, only using different music to punctuate the soundtrack to my days.

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Clockwise: UB40, Janet Jackson, Soul Asylum, and Gin Blossoms.

When I think of UB40, the British reggae band best known for their cover of "Red Red Wine", they pretty much fell into this category. They weren't controlling the charts, but they were making Pop music more interesting than it was. I was listening to their cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love with You", off the album 'Promises and Lies'. This was a remake of the song written by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, and George David Weiss, and made famous by Elvis Presley in 1961. But they did, in fact, top the Billboard Hot 100 with their version of "Can't Help Falling in Love with You".

Well, back to my own tale. In the fall of 1992, I had moved back to Delaware from New York City, having packed up my apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, after a 10 year run in the big city. About a month or so after getting home, I started feeling unwell, like a constant rolling in my stomach. I went to see the doctor, who scheduled a series of test, along with prescribing some medication to give me some comfort. Just when I thought I had about every test imaginable for my gastrointestinal system, the doctor scheduled another for the new year. However, between Christmas and New Years, I started my prep, which included going off the medication I was on. I was not prepared for what was about to happen.

But let I shall talk about a bit more music. I first became a fan of Janet, or Miss Jackson if you're nasty, in 1986 with the release of her album 'Control'. I was among those who could not wait to purchase her amazing next album, 'Rhythm Nation 1814'. I continued to enjoy her music in the coming years, into the 1990s. I loved the sexy and sweet song she released in 1993, and listened to it more than I might normally care to admit. This is Janet Jackson with her music video for "That's The Way Love Goes".

So as I went off my medication in late December of 1992, I started to feel discomfort, and more. This was much worse than I felt before, and I wasn't sure why. I quickly deteriorated, and I found myself unable to sleep, and by morning, I was in the bathroom, vomiting. I started getting scared, for there was some blood visible. It was not long before my family woke up, and I was taken to the emergency room. I had no idea what was wrong, but I knew nothing was right, either. I spent hours in the emergency room, curled up on a hospital bed surrounded by a curtain. It was freeing cold, and I just wanted it all to stop.

Finally, after was felt like forever, I was checked in and taken to a room. They wanted things to get a bit under control, and then schedule surgery, more exploratory than defined. Soon New Years Eve passed, and I was still in the hospital unsure of what my body was doing. A doctor told me he suspected Crohn's Disease, but would know better after surgery. A nurse was kind enough to give me some information to read about Crohn's, which sounded a lot like what I had. After a few more days, I went into surgery, a bit frightened but hopeful.

I must admit, before the next song came out, I didn't really know much about the group Soul Asylum. But with the release of this single, I was intrigued, like many other people out there. "Runaway Train" was a single off their 1992 album, 'Grave Dancers Union'. In fact, the success of the single helped propel the album to double Platinum status. The song was so touching, and the music video helped bring attention to the fact there were children in need in the country. This is the music video for Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train".

Back in the hospital, I was recovering from the surgery when I heard from the surgeon. It wasn't Crohn's Disease, I discovered. It was cancer. Apparently, I had a tumor the size of a grapefruit that was removed, as well as about 18 inches of intestine. I was a bit in shock, not expecting the news at all. Despite the advancement in medicine, I has to admit being scared hearing the world 'cancer'. In some part of my mind, I heard 'death' instead. I gave myself a little bit of time with that, and then made the decision I couldn't let that take up space in my thoughts. I needed to move forward, and adopt a brighter attitude, to stay positive. I couldn't allow myself time away from the light to let doubt and fear shade the playing field. I vowed to stay positive, no matter what. That was no mean feat, to say the least.

It didn't get any easier when I was finally released from the hospital a couple of weeks later, already set up with an appointment for an oncologist. After meeting with the doctor, it was decided I would undergo a new form of chemotherapy, where I would go to the doctor once a week and get injections in 50 of the next 52 weeks. The dosage would be less than a traditional 'course' of chemo, but with that schedule, it was intense enough for me. I as being given a drug known as 5FU, or Fluorouracil. Trust me, after the first few weeks, the drug with an 'eff-you' in the name was not lost on me. I was also taking a weekly does of Levamisole, which I later learned was originally used as a sheep wormer. I know, this stuff just got more and more weird, right? And I was getting weekly blood tests, as well as the chemo injections. This lead to feeling more and more like a pin-cushion with each passing week. Soon I was getting injections on the top of my hand, for it was easier to find the blood vessels.

I have to admit, I was feeling pretty poorly over that year, so my music was an important escape for me. I could put on my headphones, hit play on the Sony Walkman or my Sony Discman (I did have both, but I'll be damned if I can tell you what happened to either), and get out of the life controlled by disease, doctors, and medicine, and revel in being alive and able to listen to some great music. In the summer of 1993, Gin Blossoms released a great major label debut, 'New Miserable Experience', and I was all over it. They had a hit with the second single "Hey Jealousy", a frantic yet introspective song. You better believe that was playing often, usually at a loud volume. In truth, I'd play the whole CD, for I couldn't get enough of it. This is the original music video for "Hey Jealousy".

So I spent much of 1993, and the early part of 1994 sick from the chemotherapy, It changed everything in my life, from giving everything an odd metallic taste, to my sense of smell, which made me nauseous from odd things, like the smell from a dishwasher. I felt like I wasn't eating well, always feeling sick. The oncologist wanted to weigh me every week, to make sure the chemo wasn't exacting too high a toll on me. But somehow, I not only managed to maintain my weight, but I gained over 70 pounds during the year. Also, while I was going through the chemotherapy, the Delaware State News asked if I would be interviewed for an article on chemo. I agreed. Here is a picture while I was getting chemotherapy.

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Well, needless to say, I survived it all. It was 22 years ago that I had surgery, and 19 years since I completed chemotherapy. I remember when it was just one month, six months, and then the first anniversary. I also remember when I past a big landmark, five years. I was told that was a big one, if you can go longer than five years without a recurrence, I would be in good shape. I remember fighting with the insurance company, who seemed to adhere to a policy of saying no to paying everything, until I would fight back, making a rough time that much more stressful. I remember how it was another 12 to 18 months to feel like myself again, no longer feeling the effects of the chemotherapy. And how, even to this day, I shy away from taking anything, even aspirin, unless needed. But more than anything else, I can tell you I am damn glad to still be here, still listening to music, and loving every note of it.

Friday, January 9, 2015

4 Hot Guys • 4 Hot Songs

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Clockwise: Angelo, Guy B, Sir Ari Gold, and SIRPAUL.

I thought about it, and couldn't figure out a better way to kick off the weekend than to feature four very hot men with some great songs. They are all handsome enough to get me to post pictures even if they weren't making music, but all four have music I love, and remains in my music collection. I will kick it off with a great music video from Angelo, the first of three artists based in New York City. I couldn't wait to see this video, the first from his full-length CD debut. I love the sexy 2012 release, and still play it. This is Angelo with "Narcissus Drowned", the title track from the 2012 CD.

For more about Angelo, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and become a fan on ReverbNation. You can purchase "Narcissus Drowned" from iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon. for the second video, I offer you the amazing Guy B singing the title cut from his 2007 album. When I first heard the song, I immediately went out and purchased the album, and have been a big fan ever since. Guy is the lone non-New Yorker here, being based in Los Angeles. I recently heard he was heading back to the studio, and I was practically giddy. This is Guy B with music video for "Within Me".

For more about Guy B, visit his official ReverbNation page. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook. You can purchase "Within Me" from iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon. SIRPAUL is another of my New York artists I simply cannot resist. From the first time I heard his music, I've been a slave to SIRPAUL, and I still gladly serve at his feet. I love all his music, but today call up a song from his 2009 album, 'Objectified'. That album was all kinds of sexy, as you can hear in this track. This is SIRPAUL with the official music video for "Do U".

For more about SIRPAUL, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook. You can purchase "Do U" from iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon. I close out this post with another yummy New Yorker, the delectable Sir Ari Gold. I've been a fan since his first album, and have eagerly purchased every one since. His music makes me a happier man, and I couldn't recommend it any higher. While there is plenty of excellent music to choose from, I reached back to one of my favorite tracks from the 2007 release, 'Transport Systems'. This is Sir Ari Gold with the official music video for "Where The Music Takes Me".

For more about Sir Ari Gold, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook. You can purchase 'Transport Systems' on iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon. I hope this helped start your weekend with energy and fun!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Dark Monday • Raul Esparza & Lin-Manuel Miranda

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When I first discovered this clip, I giggled like a tween girl finding her first One Direction music video. After all, Lin-Manuel Miranda is adorable, and so very talented. He was the man behind 'In The Heights', writing the music and lyrics. And Raul Esparza is my future husband, he just doesn't know it yet. He is talented, gorgeous, and has a wonderful smile. Together, they are just Papi realness, and I can't resist it. They take on "A Boy Like That"/"I Have A Love" from 'West Side Story', the amazing musical with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

I must say, I wasn't sure how well their voices would sound together, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. I love it, and keep hitting play again and again. This was taped as part of 'Miscast 2014', produced by the Manhattan Class Company, a group founded in 1986. The event allows Broadway performers to take on songs they wanted to sing, but had no chance of ever being cast without it. After watching this, I don't see why Lin-Manuel and Raul are not cast as Anita and Maria!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Matt Morris • "Love" & Other Songs

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It is hard for me to believe that it has been about 4 and a half years since Matt Morris released his amazing album, 'When Everything Breaks Open'. Morris was the first person signed to Tennman Productions, the new label founded by Justin Timberlake. The two had been friends for a long time, since they were on the 'New Mickey Mouse Club' with Brittney Spears, Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, Tony Lucca, Keri Russell, and Ryan Gosling, among others. I must admit, I didn't watch the show, and discovered his music much later. I must also admit I not only had Matt in my music collection, for I also had music by his father, Country Music and Broadway star Gary Morris, making them the first father/son acts so represented.

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I loved the album immediately, and still find it to be a great listen. So much so, I was truly expecting there to be some music following up. I waited quite patiently, but so far, none has been released. So instead of playing the waiting game any longer, I have opted to take a look back at the album, via some live performances of some great songs. The song "Love" was a particular favorite of mine, and still remains so entrenched. It was written by Morris, and it fits his voice to a 't'. This is the third track on the album, "Love", as it was performed live on 'Lopez Tonight', the talk show starring George Lopez.

The second track off 'When Everything Breaks Open' is a sexy, bluesy song which never fail to get me moving whenever I hear it. There is so much truth to the song, so much honesty to be found in the lyrics, I think it needs to be played a helluva lot more than it is played now. Matt played the song on the 2009 Chabad "To Life" Telethon, a joyful celebration of life and a reminder of the power of good deed. I know when Matt sings "Money", there is joy to be had.

The final track of the CD makes the third song in this post that was written by Morris. "Eternity" is a great song to end with, showing a great depth and strength of 'When Everything Breaks Open'. There are elements of history, spirituality, love, and life in the track. I find those attributes well-represented in this acoustic music video released by Morris in 2010. This is "Eternity" by Matt Morris.

As I mentioned earlier, while the album was released in July of 2010, it still has a place in my collection, and a relevance for life today. Matt does not create light Pop tunes, easily forgotten the next season. He makes music that is to be heard, felt, and, in doing so, nourish the soul. For more about Matt Morris, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook. You can purchase 'When Everything Breaks Open' from iTunes and Amazon.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Philadelphia Mummer String Band 2014 Results

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As a boy who grew up the son of a mother from South Philadelphia and a father from the suburbs, I found myself watching the Philadelphia Mummer's Day Parade every New Years Day, until I moved to New York City, and it wasn't available to me. It was then I realized how much the men in makeup, feathers and sequins had been ingrained in my life. And this was especially true of the string band, which should come as no surprise, as I love music so much. There is something about the spectacle of it all that makes it so much fun to watch. To share it with you, I am pleased to share the top four placing bands from the 2014 parade. This is the fourth place band, Woodland String Band, as they perform 'Legend of the Lamp'.

For more about the Woodland String Band, visit their official website. You can also 'like' them on Facebook. I really enjoyed the group that finished in third place, South Philadelphia String Band. Here they are performing 'Invasion of Piracy'.

For more about the South Philadelphia String Band, visit their official website. You can also 'like' them on Facebook. In second place, Hegeman String Band were so damned good, it was hard to resist them. Watch the video of them performing 'Hegeman's Household Havoc'. This also features the winner of 1st Place in the Captain competition, John Baron.

For more about the Hegeman String Band, visit their official website. You can also 'like' them on Facebook, and 'follow' them on Twitter. Finally, the big winner of the 2014 parade was a group that was bright, colorful, and so exceptional to see and hear. This is Quaker City String Band, who took home the first place award with their performance of 'California Here We MUM!'

For more about the Quaker City String Band, visit their official website. You can also 'like' them on Facebook, and 'follow' them on Twitter. Happy New Year, Philadelphia style! To learn more about the Philadelphia Mummers Near Years Day Parade, visit their official website. There you can find a link to a live feed, if you live outside the viewing area. You can also 'like' them on Facebook, and 'follow' them on Twitter.


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