Monday, October 31, 2011
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Getting an early start on Halloween, here is the full-length feature version of Michael Jackson's Thriller. From choreography, to great music, to the amazing vocal performance we always expected form the King of Pop, this song does nothing but set the standard so damn high for all the Pop music to come.
While putting together the Friday morning offering, I came across this clip and I just had to share it on this fine Sunday morning. She takes this Gospel spiritual, and just rocks it home.
And there is also the very different Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho. Sure, it is not a rocker, but it is a spiritual, and she is taking it home. I think God liked hearing it too.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Clockwise: Ella Fitzgerald; Barbra Streisand; Carmen McRae; and Judy Garland.
While they might not be as scary as the Halloween season might call for, I thought I would offer up a few supernatural-tinged torch songs to help you burn p your Halloween Saturday night. And I will start with an amazing singer bringing to life the scary childhood tale of 'The Three Little Pigs'. "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" first appeared in the 30s as part of a Disney cartoon. It was written by Frank Churchill with additional lyrics by Ann Ronel. In 1963, it was recorded by Barbra Streisand for her first album.
"Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" first appeared in the the 1940 musical 'Pal Joey', written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. It became an instant standard, and some of the top vocalists of the next several generations were singing it, both men and women alike. In 1956, Ella Fitzgerald recorded an immaculate version of the classic.
Any song that can say the music was written by Harold Arlen and the lyrics by Johnny Mercer is certainly one that needs to be heard. The 1942 song has been sung by most, if not all of, the greats of the music business. Here is a clip of the sultry and talented Carmen McRae singing "That Old Black Magic" in 1986.
The 1947 musical 'Finian's Rainbow' was composed by Burton Lane and had lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. It included the song "How Are Things In Glocca Morra", a memorable song to be sure. If that was the only song in the score, it would be well worth listening. But it wasn't the only song. There was also the iconic "Old Devil Moon", another song that has been covered by some of the greatest voices to ever record. Here, watch Judy Garland sing it on her television show.
Hope the songs didn't scare you too much. Don't worry, I'll have more Halloween music coming up soon...
Lord have mercy. Pardon me while I reach for my fan. I just watched the new video from Nathan Leigh Jones, and I am feeling a tad warm, if you know what I mean. Like the song, and the man himself, the video is imbued with a light romanticism, making Nathan a modern day Shelley. the lyricism of the song also recall the poet, without the drag of the opium addiction. Check it out!
The bideo is just so filled with charm and love, I almost feel like I've been hugged just listening. What do you think? For more about Nathan Leigh Jones, check out his official website here. Beautiful You is off the latest release. You can purchase Sooner Or Later from iTunes here and on Amazon here. Of course, I have an autographed copy that I love.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Clockwise from top: Yazoo; Depeche Mode; Bronski Beat; and the English Beat.
When I think back on when I was young, there are distinctive points in time that never fail to capture my memories, my attention, and my heart. When I think of the early 80s, my heart lifts. Take 1982, for example. It was a time of big changes for me. I was finishing my days in college, and heading to Louisville, Kentucky for an internship at the Actor's Theater of Louisville. I went there knowing no one, but taking my cassettes and my Walkman with me. I had a furnished apartment there, and would often dance around to the music I loved. That included the wonderful band The English Beat on Save It For Later. And man, I thought Ranking Roger and Dave Wakling were so damn hot!
While in Louisville, I was separated from Bill, which was hard. We had been inseparable for some time at this point. And we were planning to move to New York City together - Bill had already gone to school in New York. But when I listened to Yazoo sing Don't Go, I'd think of him. I couldn't stay sad long listening to Alison Moyet's gorgeous voice, and the amazing synth of Vince Clarke.
In 1985, Bronski Beat were experiencing their own transitions. After several years together, lead singer Jimmy Somerville left the band to start a new project with hottie Richard Coles. Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek moved forward, and soon John Foster was on board singing Hit That Perfect Beat Boy. It is just so deliciously gay.
Another song from 1985 that I just couldn't get enough of was the great Depeche Mode song, Shake The Disease. Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher and Vince Clarke started out together in 1980, although Clarke left in '81 to team up with Alison Moyet in Yazoo. He was replaced by Alan Wilder, who played with the group through 1995. He was certainly there for the 1985 release of The Singles, which included this original song amidst the early hits.
This is certainly music that had me dancing way back when, and hope it did the same for you now!
In an earlier post, I first made mention of Big Maybelle. You can visit that here. I just love her voice, and am saddened that like Miss Amy Winhouse, Maybelle's gift was taken from us far too soon. While many consider Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On to be Jerry Lee Lewis' song, Big Maybelle had recorded it two years before, in 1955. And her version was all kinds of sexy, just give it a listen.
I really enjoy the blues on Gabbin' Blues, a song with plenty of heartache and sass, in equal amounts. It was a hit for Maybelle back in 1953.
Like many of the great singers through the years, Big Maybelle recorded in many different style, from Pop to the Blues to Rock. I love to hear her try her hand at them all, and love her version of Quitting Time.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Photos of Avi Wisnia at The World Cafe at the Queen by me
After months of trying to figure out the who and where I would have the opportunity, I finally had to chance to see Avi Wisnia at the World Cafe Live at The Queen in Wilmington, Delaware! It was my first trip to the establishment, recently opened in conjuncture with the World Cafe in Philadelphia. The space is quite nice, with a roomy feel and nice lighting to make the experience quite nice. Avi was invited by the host of the evening, Rod Kim. The theme of the night was the inspiration of Stevie Wonder, whose jazz-flavored Pop and Soul clearly made an impact on Wisnia. You can definitely hear it in his cover of the great Stevie Wonder song, Lately.
You will also be able to hear it in a song written by Avi for his first album, Something New. It is the title cut from the debut, and is a delicious blend of Pop and a pinch of Jazz rhythms to keep it lively and sounding fresh.
The next song is both a great cover, and was featured on the debut album. Wisnia revisited the music of TLC, and can also list one of Bravo's Real Housewives among the list of writers. Yes, Kandi Burruss is one of the writers of No Scrubs, which went to the top of the charts in 1999. Avi puts his own very special spin on the cool song.
Finally, there is the song that lead me to Avi Wisnia in the beginning. I was cruising around the 'net, listening to music when I came across the video for a song that had one foot in the past, and the other firmly planted in today. I didn't think it was possible, but the live version has even more charm, and I just loved Avi singing his own composition, Rabbit Hole.
To learn more about Avi Wisnia, check out his official website here. While there, you can listen to his music for free, and figure out you need to own your own copy. And you can find Something New on iTunes here, on Amazon here, and an earlier EP on CD Baby here.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Clockwise: Question Mark & the Mysterians; The Association; The Four Tops; Staff Sargent Barry Sadler; and The Righteous Brothers.
The year was 1966, and I was a young lad of 6, living in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, starting elementary school. And while I was finding my way through 1st grade at Delcroft Elementary School, on the other side of the country San Fransiscans were experiencing the first of the Acid Tests, a party structured around the experimentation and use of LSD. President Lyndon B. Johnson was continuing the US presence in Vietnam, despite overwhelming disapproval of the public. The Reverend Martin Luther King is struck by a rock while marching for civil rights in Chicago. Chicago Black Hawk Bobby Hull set a single season scoring records with 51 goals. In June, the final episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show aired. On the other hand, the first episode of Star Trek airs. The National Organization for Women, known as NOW, is founded. Building began on the World Trace Center in New York City. In a press conference in Chicago, John Lennon announces that the Beatles are "more popular than Jesus," sending religious zealots into a tizzy. Soon he meets Yoko Ono at an art gallery, and Beatles fans everywhere start to groan. The Baltimore Orioles win the World Series, the Montreal Canadians win the Stanley Cup, England wins the World Cup, and the Kansas City Chiefs win the American Football League championship, and the Green Bay Packers win the National Football League Championship. The AFL & NFL merge, giving the first Superbowl the following year. And, last but not least, How The Grinch Stole Christmas makes it's broadcast debut on December 18th.
An band form Michigan broke all kinds of boundaries when Question Mark & the Mysterians had a #1 hit on the Billboard chart with 96 Tears, written by lead sing Rudy Martinez, aka "Question Mark". The garage band sound was harkening to a new era in music, and the band was one of the first to be labelled at punk rockers. The are also one of the first Latino rock bands to claim the top spot on the charts. They were also one of the first #1 acts to claim they were from Mars, and to have arrived here via time travel. Check them out...
With lead singer Levi Stubbs on the vocals, it was hard to beat any record put out by The Four Tops. The Motown band topped the Billboard charts with another hit written by the producing team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Edward Holland with the exciting Reach Out I'll Be There. The song was later covered by the great Diana Ross. But it all started with the Four Tops...
The Los Angelos-based The Righteous Brothers were spreading their blue-eyed sould all across the country during the 60s, and this year was no different. Bill Medley and the late Bobby Hatfield, not actual brothers, scored a #1 hit with (You're My) Soul And Inspiration, written by the amazing songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
Yet another California-based group was spending time atop the charts in 1966, as The Association wowed the public with their harmozing love song, Cherish. The song was written by Terry Kirkman, a member of the band. The song was on top of the charts for three consecutive weeks.
But the #1 song for the year was from an actual soldier, a real member of the famed Green Beret. Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler. He was wounded in action while fighting in South Vietnam. While recovering from the injury, he made a promise that he would give away the rights to a song he had written if he would recover. He did recover, and went on to record The Ballad of the Green Beret. It took the airwaves by storm, and was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks. It was also his only hit song.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
In the 1960s, there was a boy named Billy Joe singing in a band in Houston, Texas. The Triumphs garnered some local success, and even released an album. That was not going to last, however, for soon local fame made it to the national scene when Billy Joe, now called B. J. Thomas, went solo, and showcased an amazing voice combined with a laid-back vocal styling took American airwaves by storm, starting in 1966 when he released a cover of the great song by Hank Williams, I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. It made it to #8 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Of course, his rugged good looks didn't hurt things, but it was really the strength of his voice that made B. J. stand out. His next hit came in 1968, showcased the quality of his vocals, it's strength and the clarity of tone. Hooked On A Feeling was written by Mark James, a boyhood friend from Houston. James wrote songs for Thomas and others, including Elvis Presley. In fact, he wrote Suspicious Minds for Elvis. But in '68, it was all about B. J. and Hooked On A Feeling, which made it to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Thomas' next hit was in 1969, and boy was it a big one. Written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, and the theme to one of the biggest movies of that decade, Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head soared to the top of the charts, sitting at #1 for four consecutive weeks. The song was filled with charm and romance, delivered perfectly by Thomas.
Currently, B. J. Thomas is still playing dates around the world. As he approaches 70, his voice still sounds great, and his fans still adore him. For more about B. J. Thomas, check out his official website here. You can also purchase one of his many 'Greatest Hits' collections on iTunes here, or on Amazon here.
Undercover are Joe Thompson (left) & Greg Scarnici (right).
Together, Greg Scarnici and Joe Thompson have formed a new group, Undercover. The Brooklyn-based duo have a new single out, You're Turning Me On. The track is hot, something I am so glad I was able to discover.
They have not released an album yet, but there is a preview just for you. Give it a listen!
Undercover-Previews II by Undercover Music
Both men are talented, which can't be denied. Over the past few years, Greg Scarnici has been making music and videos, including this fantastic parody Lady GaGa's Born This Way. You can't miss this, although if you are at work, you might want to turn down the volume....
Find out more about Undercover on the official website here. You can purchase the song on iTunes here and on Amazon here.
Monday, October 24, 2011
The film Different From The Others was released in 1919. This groundbreaking film was made 92 years ago, yet still remarkably relevant today. A gay musician finds love, but is also being blackmailed. He struggles with his sexuality, and how society reacts to his love. The music in the film is Jules Massenet's Méditation de Thaïs played by violinist Joshua Bell.
This is not the complete movie, but a good shortened version. I've seen the complete film, and it is rather remarkable. If you can, see it!
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Sexy. Sultry. Seductive. Those are just a few of the terms that could be used for the glamorous singer Julie London. Before she became known as an actress, she was quite the jazz singer, often with her husband, jazz musician Bobby Troup. In 1963 she recorded Fly Me To The Moon, a great song by songwriter Bart Howard, sung most famously by Frank Sinatra. However, it was first recorded by singer/actress Kaye Ballard. It was also first known as In Other Words, but the title officially changed because most people called it Fly Me To The Moon! While it was often sung more as a ballad, Julie gave it a bit of octane, just perfect for her smokey stylings.
She also recorded Bye Bye Blackbird, written in 1926 by composer Ray Henderson and lyricist Mort Dixon. It was first recorded by Gene Austin in 1926, although she took it is a much more jazzy, soulful place.
My Baby Just Cares For Me is a jazz standard written by Walter Donaldson with lyrics by Gus Kahn. It was written for the 1930 film version of the 1928 Ziegfeld musical comedy Whoopee! It is known as the signature tune of singer and pianist Nina Simone. Here, Julie performs it with her trademark style, with plenty of heartache and a bit of flirting as well.
And, finally, You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To was written by the brilliant Noel Coward for the 1943 movie musical, Something To Shout About. She takes it uptempo, and simply shines on the song.
Julie London left us in the year 2000, about a year and a half after the death of Troup. But she sure did leave a wonderful legacy of music, and a delicious catalog at that.
Tonight I am going to Washington, DC, to attend Tom Goss' Video Release Party, so I thought I would start the day with a post of his first video, for the song Rise. I will always have a soft spot for the video, as it is just so charming, and I love the song so very much. Check it out.
For more about Tom, check out his official website here. You can find the song on the Rise EP, which is on iTunes here, and on Amazon here. You can also order the physical CD on CD Baby here. You can buy the mp3 files directly from Tom here, or order the CDs here.
Friday, October 21, 2011
It is Friday night, and time to kick off the weekend. And I couldn't think of a better way than to crank up the volume, put some old school Gloria Gaynor on, and get ready to dance. And we will start out one of the first of Ms. Gaynor's hit songs. In 1974, Gloria made it to the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, and and to #1 on the Billboard Dance chart with a song first recorded by the Jackson Five, and written by Clifton Davis. Here is Never Can Say Goodbye.
In 1978, Gloria delivered on the be most iconic performances in the Disco era. Written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris, I Will Survive has been covered by many, yet few could come close to touching the original.
And finally, Gaynor returned to the spotlight with a song pulled from a Broadway cast album. Written by Jerry Herman for La Cage Aux Folles, I Am What I Am quickly became yet another iconic song, and a steady part of Pride Celebrations throughout the world. Enjoy.
Sixty years ago, Tony Bennett was in the middle of quite a role. This week in 1951, Bennett was on the third of eight consecutive #1 weeks atop the Billboard Sales chart with the beautiful song, Because Of You. The song was written by Arthur Hammerstein and Dudley Wilkinson, and first appeared in the movie I Was An American Spy. It was Bennett's first #1 song, the start of a long and storied career as a singer. The following clip shows you Tony Bennett singing Because of You on a television special in 1966, and he follows it up with Taking A Chance On Love, written by John Latouche and Ted Fetter for the 1940 Broadway musical, Cabin In The Sky. That production was noteworthy for it was the first time a production was mounted on Broadway with an all-minority cast. A few years later, it was recorded and released by Benny Goodman.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
For the LGBT Youth out there struggling with bullying, indifference, and heartache. People care. People how have been there. Like you are now. Like I was. Like Eric was. Like Tom was. Like Aiden was. Like Joe was. Like Ingrid was. Like Namoli was. Like Liz was. Like Brianna was. You are not alone, there are so many who have gone before you that felt that way. And there are so many who feel the same as you do now. Hold on, and have courage. It really does get better.
If you need to reach out, there are many who would be willing to help. If you are someone who is having these issues, or know someone who is dealing with this please contact The Trevor Project here or call 866-488-7386.
If you need to reach out, there are many who would be willing to help. If you are someone who is having these issues, or know someone who is dealing with this please contact The Trevor Project here or call 866-488-7386.
Today is Spirit Day, but I'd like to think we are willing to support out LGBT Youth, and all Youth who are victims of bullying, every day. Bullying takes a tremendous toll on us all, and hurts us as a whole. Whenever we allow systematically hurt a segment of society, we become a land of thugs. We are far stronger people when we are holding one another up than when we are allowing people to be torn down.
So if you know someone who is being bullied, tell them it will get better. If you know someone who is being a bully, remind them that it can get better if they learn to live with tolerance and love, rather than bile and hatred. For more about Linq, check out her official website here. To purchase this single, visit iTunes here, or Amazon here.
Not only can it be said that Rod Stewart had the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 40 years ago this week, you can say he had it for the entire month of October. In fact, Maggie May, with the hit B-side Reason To Believe, held the top spot for 5 consecutive weeks. I remember all the str8 boys at school thinking it was the coolest song, cause it meant a guy was getting sex from a more mature woman, which intrigued them all. Here he is, singing Maggie May.
Twenty years ago this week, the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 was a fresh-faced Mariah Carey singing Emotions. It was not Carey's first of the year. In fact, it was her third #1. What is remarkable is that Carey had released her first album the year before, and had scored two #1's in 1990. This song, the first off her second album, made it five in a row for the talented singer. But 20 years ago this week, Mariah Carey was on top of the Billboard singles chart with Emotions.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Top: Shane, Kian, Mark and Nicky.
You must excuse me if, over the course of the next few days, I am found weeping uncontrollably. Or slumped over in my chair, following each heavy sigh with another. But I just heard the news, following the December release of a greatest hits collection, and a subsequent tour, Westlife will be ending their collaboration. It seems Mark Feehily, Shane Filan, Kian Egan and Nicky Byrne have decided that 14 years together was enough for them. While it might be popular to make fun of the Irish boyband, I have never been anything but out of the closet in my love for them. So, in the thought of asking the question "How am I supposed to live without you," I offer the video for When You're Looking Like That.
That was a live performance, for I have to now believe that my dream of seeing the lads performing live is now dashed. For years I have wanted Westlife to come to the US, so I could hear them with my own ears, to see them with my own eyes. Alas, I sincerely doubt that the US will be included in their final tour, so I must let that dream go. But I can't help but think that I have wanted to see them since the first time I heard Swear It Again back in 2000. I have been a fan since.
Yes, I stood by them when Brian left, and cheered when my favorite, Mark, came out as a proud gay man. I bought the CDs, and I purchased the DVDs. And while I might have watched every live clip I could, I never got the chance to see them myself. Oh, how I would have loved to see them sing World Of Our Own.
I love it when Mark takes his part of the song and really owns it, like he did in the clip above. And most certainly he did it again in the final clip, with another of the trademark songs for the band. In this particular live performance, the lads were strapped in and flying above the audience in Dublin, Ireland. They sing a beautiful version of Flying Without Wings.
However, I suppose I should be grateful that another tour will mean tons more clips on YouTube, and possibly a new DVD. And many more years with the music they have made.