Monday, December 31, 2012
Photograph by Terry Johnston - Website
Well, it wouldn't be New Year's Eve without someone singing the words written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788, and later set to the tune of a traditional Folk song. This year, I am featuring another artist well-known by those who follow the blog, Michigan-based singer/songwriter Casey Stratton. I truly admire Casey's talent, and love listening to his music.That would include his cover of the great favorite, "Auld Lang Syne".
For more about Casey Stratton, visit his official website. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter. You can find his music in his online store, iTunes, and Amazon.
In this clip, the final Broadway cast of 'Rent' performed an energetic and strong live version of the song "Happy New Year". The cast included Adam Kantor as Mark Cohen, Will Chase as Roger Davis, Renee Elise Goldsberry as Mimi Marquez, Michael McElroy as Tom Collins, Justin Johnston as Angel Schunard, Eden Espinosa as Maureen Johnson and Tracie Thoms as Joanne Jefferson.
Avi Wisnia recently released the video clips of his live songs when he was a part of the 'Art After 5' series, put on in conjunction with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and in fact, filmed at the beautiful landmark. There are 10 videos in all, beautifully shot. It seemed insane not to include the talented Wisnia, whose music is a favorite of mine, in this New Year's Eve celebration.
I will also include another song, the one that first grabbed my attention, making it a favorite now. When I first saw the video for "Rabbit Hole", my insides were warm and smiling. And made me go as fast as I could to find out more, which included buying his album, 'Something New', and falling deeply in love. So enjoy "Rabbit Hole".
Because it just felt so darned right, I thought it was the perfect time for the brilliant Nancy Wilson to sing a song written by the legendary songwriter Frank Loesser. Loesser was know for writing music for Broadway, with 'Guys And Dolls' and 'How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying'. However, he wrote "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" with no show or movie in mind, simply as a great song. And we should all be happy it was recorded by Nancy Wilson, appearing on her album 'Yesterday's Love Songs, Today's Blues'. It made the Billboard Hot 100 Top 25 twice, in 1965 and 1967.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Hope everyone is having a 'smooth' Christmas day. Just thought I would offer up a medley from out and proud Jazz star Dave Koz playing "O Tannenbaum" and "Sleigh Ride" off his wonderful album, 'A Smooth Jazz Christmas'.
You can find 'A Smooth Jazz Christmas" on iTunes and Amazon.
Eric Johnson plays "The First Nowell" off the 1998 album, 'Merry Axemas'. The album featured Christmas songs interpreted by some of the top guitar players in Rock, like the Grammy-winning Johnson. I really love his version of of the song includes the traditional Cornish spelling, as opposed the the more familiar "The First Noel". It is a lovely performance, to be sure.
And with that, please have a Merry Christmas, and a happy new year!
Monday, December 24, 2012
Tonight there is a special post for Dark Monday, the post I dedicate to the Broadway and movie musicals on a night when, in the days of yore, when Broadway took the night off. When they did this, it was the only day of the week the nights were turned off, hence the title 'Dark Monday'. Through the years there have been several Christmas-themed songs from the stage and screen, and I am going to offer up just a couple. I will begin with what might be the most obvious choice of the post. When 'Mame' opened on Broadway in 1966, it certainly had some great talents contributing. The musical was based on the book and Broadway play 'Auntie Mame', which eventually became a movie starring Broadway star Rosalind Russell. The lead character is a charismatic and combustible character,based on novelist's Patrick Dennis' real life aunt. The musical was brought to life with a stellar case, including Angela Lansbury. Here is Angela singing "We Need A Little Christmas" off the original cast album.
Back in 1978, a little-known show opened on Broadway, telling the story of the Chicken Ranch, a legal brothel in Texas. With music and lyrics by Carol Hall, 'Best Little Whorehouse In Texas' was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for Henderson Forsythe and Carlin Glynn, respectively. There is a moment in the show when the house madame sing a beautiful ballad, which went on to be one of the long-lasting impressions from the show. Enjoy this version of "Hard Candy Christmas" sung by the star of the movie version, Dolly Parton.
The next show features Music by Charles Strouse amd Lyrics by Martin Charnin. The musical 'Annie came to the Broadway stage in 1977, telling the story of a young orphan girl at the time of the Great Depression. While it gave us the ultimate Broadway song in "Tomorrow" and one of the most delicious character in Mrs. Hannigan. Here is "A New Deal From Christmas" being performed as part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year.
While it took decades before the Broadway musical to be made inspired from the Paramount Pictures holiday classic, White Christmas. That 1954 film was, in fact, inspire by the 1942 Paramount musical, 'Holiday Inn'. Both films featured the music of the great Irving Berlin, and much of the scores were included in the 2004 Broadway version running for the holiday season. But in this clip, we see Bing Crosby sing the song, which I think appeared in the 1942 film. Nonetheless, enjoy "White Christmas"!
Enjoy your Christmas!
Clockwise: Gayla Peevey; Jimmy Boyd; Spike Jones; and Eartha Kitt.
Sometimes you come across songs that just by mentioning their name, a smile comes to your lips. Quite often they are considered novelty songs, which might cause some to scoff. I am not one of them, however. Some of these songs just capture something special, whether it is the particular mood of a time, or something real for a person. The next song is the former, at least for me. Back in 1953, ten-year-old Gayla Peevey sang "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas", the song by John Rox. There is something so child-like about the song, it just stirs the soul with a wonderful warm feeling.
By comparison, Jimmy Boyd was a mature performer in 1952 when recorded "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" at the ripe age of thirteen. The song zoomed up the charts, and soon was the #1 song on the Billboard Pop charts. The song was written by Tommie Connor, originally commissioned by Sax Fifth Avenue for their Christmas card, once Jimmy laid down the recording, it quickly became more than just a commercial.
With a song written by Joan Javits (who is the daughter of New York Senator Jacob Javits) and Philip Springer, Eartha Kitt had quite the hit in 1953. That is when she was coy and flirty, singing "Santa Baby". The song was a big hit, proving Kitt to be quite marketable in her first year as a recording artist. It went on to be covered by many, but it is hard to believe anyone can own it as well as Eartha.
And sometimes, there is a perfect combination between music and comedy. When I think about the 1948 single from Spike Jones & his City Slickers, that is exactly what we have. Jones has this delightful whistling performance, as he sings "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth". The song was written in 1944 by Donald Yetter Gardner, a public school teacher noting many in his classes were missing a front tooth, effecting their speech patterns. But once Jones got hold of the song, he infused it with the the right amount of comedy and toddler realness. Enjoy the song!
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Time is a funny thing. It might be hard to believe, but forty-nine years ago, music producer Phil Spector released his Christmas album, 'A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector'. The songs were all classic holiday songs, only done with a striking twist. Arranged by Spector for his favorite acts, he utilized his trademark 'wall of sound' to give the songs a new feel. This was, of course, decades before Spector would be arrested and found guilty of murder. But forty years before his legal troubles, you could count The Ronettes among his favorites. The lead singer was Phil's wife, Ronnie Spector. It wasn't until much later that we learned of Spector's harsh and often brutal treatment of his talented wife, who left him after six unhappy years. But when Ronnie was lead singer for The Ronettes, they made magic. Listen to The Ronettes recording of "Sleigh Ride".
The Crystals were a big act for Spector, making waves on the charts in the early 1960s. One of the early girl groups, they lead the way for many who were to come. Interestingly enough, their first #1 song, "He's A Rebel", was not really recorded by the group. Lore has it The Crystals were working in New York and impatient Spector wanted to record the song quickly in Los Angeles, so he brought in another group, Darlene Love & the Blossoms to lay down the vocals. While some reports vary as to when the real Crystals managed to make it back to the studio, they certainly were on hand for the holiday record. Enjoy their recording of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town".
Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans were also featured on the album. The group was made up by Bobby Sheen, who took the stage name Bob B. Soxx, and vocalists Darlene Love and Fanita James. The Christmas album was, in fact, the last time the group recorded together, so enjoy their recording of "The Bells of St. Mary's".
Now, from just reading the above, it is easy to tell just how important the amazing Darlene Love was to the career of Phil Spector. I think it was partially because she had the perfect voice to go with the wall of sound. Hell, she has a voice that coupld go with just about anything. And of all the songs on this recording, it was Darlene's version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" that had real, long-lasting impact. It remains one of my favorites, and I am glad to share it with you. Love sings the song every year on David Letterman's talk show since 1986, and still sounds spectacular. This is her appearance in 2008, when she was 67 years of age. And still sounding like a 20-year-old.
It wouldn't be Christmas around here unless I was able to play a bit of Anthony Callea. Since his appearance on Australian Idol, I have been an unabashed fan, always ready to listen to his music and that amazing voice. Since this is a Sunday morning just a couple of days before Christmas, I thought I would give the 'Gospel' slot over to some spiritual Christmas hymns, something Anthony sings particularly well. I will begin with his stunning performance of "Ave Maria". Anthony was joined by The National Boys' Choir of Australia to sing what I believe is the Schubert version of the song.
Next, I offer you Anthony singing "O Holy Night", with music by composer Adolphe Adam in 1847, set to the French poem "Minuit, chrétiens" (Midnight, Christians) by Placide Cappeau. As with every performance I have ever heard of his, Anthony is in exceptional voice, and makes me question if he is a human, or really an angel sent down to earth to enchant us all. Either way, I'm so damn glad I have his music in my iTunes. Enjoy!
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Clockwise: Ella Fitzgerald; Lena Horne; Peggy Lee; Judy Garland; and Pearl Bailey.
With Christmas only days away, I thought I'd pick up that theme with some of the great ladies from days gone by. I came across an old collection called 'Christmas Belles' and found that to be a great source of wonderful music. These are five of the first six cuts, as I could not find one on Youtube. So we can start with the always delightful Ella Fitzgerald as she sings the classic "Sleigh Ride".
I am not sure you can have a collection of greats without putting Judy Garland on it. And it is only natural to sing the song she introduced in the 1944 MGM musical 'Mett Me In St. Louis". It was directed by Vincent Minnelli, and featured a cameo by daughter Liza. But it also had Judy singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas".
Lena Horne was a woman of abundant talent, and singing was included. She had scuh style and flair, as well as an amazing tone. You can hear it when she sings "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"
And when you speak of someone who had great style, it is had to miss the brillaint Pearl Bailey. I remember seeing her appear on the variety shows, like the Mike Douglas Show, and sing all kinds of songs. I don't remember seeing her sing "Jingle Bells Cha-Cha-Cha", but I sure wish I did.
Finally, this is a gorgeous song filled with sweet images. Somewhere along the way, a fan made a video, and it is a nice one. Of course, it is tough to go wrong when you are starting with the talents of Peggy Lee, and when she sings a wonderful song like "Christmas Carousel".
Found this clip and found it irresistible to post, even if there are some small issues with the sound. Someone very smart had Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby get together to sing a medley of Christmas songs, including "Santa Clause Is Coming To Town", "The Christmas Song" and "White Christmas". Enjoy, for I sure as hell did!
Friday, December 21, 2012
I truly enjoy the music of The Young Professionals, but that should come as no surprise, since I love the music of Ivri Lider, one half of the group. I've also proposed to him several times in my dreams. Ivri is joined in this endeavor by Yonathan Goldshtein, and together they are making something special. Their latest comes from a YouTube upload, as the Israeli duo offer a cover of "Last Christmas", written and recorded 28 years ago, in 1984. Enjoy the Young Professionals take on "Last Christmas".
For more about The Young Professionals, visit their official website. You can find their music on iTunes, Amazon and other places where fine music is sold.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Somehow, I managed to miss posting this when it was first released, but now figure it would make a great Christmas present - Drake Jensen could stuff my stocking any day. It seems that only recently, Country singer Drake Jensen recorded "Stand By Your Man" with a very special guest. No, it wasn't with Tammy Wynette, who co-wrote the song with Billy Sherrill and had a megahit in 1968. Instead, drake had a duet with Willam Belli, the sassy contestant on the fourth season of 'RuPaul's Drage Race'. Together, they make beautiful music, as well as an extremely entertaining music video.
You can purchase a copy for just 99 cents at iTunes and Amazon. And let me know when Drake might be looking for a new man to stand by... To learn more about Willam, visit his official website. You can also 'like' Willam on Facebook, or 'follow' him on Twitter. For more information about Drake, visit his official website. You can also 'like' Drake on Facebook, or 'follow' him on Twitter.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
I was lucky enough to attend Dudley's Saunders live show in Washington, DC, on October 12, 2012. Dudley played at Potter's House, a veritable landmark in DC, an established book store coffee house that caters to artists and their patrons for much of the last century. Dudley was planning to play many of the songs off his new album, 'Monsters'. As I hadn't seen Dudley before, I was so very excited at the prospect, and as time drew closer, I got more excited. I was thrilled to attend the show with another talented artist, Tom Goss, along with his handsome husband, Michael. I of course, brought my still camera and video camera, and both Tom and Mike lent a hand in recording some of the songs, and took a few still pictures. So I will bring you the sights and sounds of the show, taken by all there of us that night.
Tom helped Dudley get ready for the show, and they discovered the sound equipment was not working, and Dudley decided to go on with the show, without amplification. This added level of intimacy was an added bonus, perfect for Dudley's music. Dudley began the show with "We Were Right" off the 'Monsters' album.
Dudley also performed the brilliant "What Rats Are We", another song off 'Monsters'. I kept much of Dudley's chat before the song, for I really felt it added to the experience and understanding of the song.
While most of the songs Dudley performed were off the latest release, he also played some songs featured on previous albums. This is a video of his "Jesus Didn't Love Us Enough" off the album 'Emergency Lane'. I was so touched the first time I heard the song, and have to admit hearing it live brought a tear to my eye.
The next song was the final track on 'Monsters'. "Coal Tattoo" is a bracing and beautiful Gospel-fueled song that brought me to my feet. It was during this song I thought tom myself the only was to explain this man would be to believe he was the bastard son of Ronnie Gilbert and Levon Helm, a gorgeous voice matched with such a deep and giving soul. Enjoy "Coal Tattoo".
I've said it before and I'll say it again, Dudley Saunders has such a distinctive voice, both vocally and in his writing, I find it hard to think of anyone not appreciating his gift. 'Monsters' is such a wonderful album, one of my favorites released this year. IIf you appreciate great music, it should be in your collection. You can purchase 'Monsters' on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, and CD Baby. To learn more about Dudley, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, or 'follow' him on Twitter.
Below Clockwise: Tom & Michael; me and Dudley, and a shot thought the window at Potter's House.
Left to right: Matt McHan, Jimmy Dean Adams, Beau Tyler, Kris Stone, Jocelyn Hughes, Dain Samuelson.
When I first met We The Ghost, they were a trio getting set to release their debut, 'My Mixtape Summer.' Soon they were following that up with a live release, and the numbers doubled, as Beau Tyler, Dain Samuelson & Jimmy Adams were joined by Jocelyn Hughes, Matt McHan, and Kris Stone. Now they have stepped up with their second release of new material, when 'White Noise' hit the stands last week. The band has a sound that fuses the sounds of Pop, Rock, R&B, and Reggae, and continues on that vein to establish their signature, creating excitement.
'White Noise' starts with "Let Me Know", a heartfelt song of love and devotion. There is a joyous feel, a real exhilaration. The next cut features another Tulsa, Oklahoma musician, Ben Kilgore. "Notice Me" takes on the sound closer to the indie rock sound, a melancholic self-examination, a desire to find a way to stand out. "Wash These Sins Away" features yet another Tulsa rocker, Rockwell Ripperger of the band Stephen Speaks. With words of conflagration and purification, the song looks for forgiveness, starting with themselves. Next up, "Drama Scene" cuts through with a harder edge, a bold guitar paired with the brusque percussive sound that drives the beat of the song. The song is a discussion of the relative simplicity versus the over-complicated sides of life. Finally, 'White Noise' come to an end with "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang". The sound has a more tradition rock groove, more power mid-tempo ballad than stadium energizer. The subject seems timely, with an examination of the brutal world in which we live. While there have been no videos made year, the band did post a quick compilation of 'White Noise' so you can enjoy a quick sample.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Cheyenne Jackson has released another single off the album scheduled for release in 2013. "Don't Wanna Know" is a Poptacular song, with an amazing video that showcases all that makes Cheyenne Jackson a star worth watching. He sings, he dances, and he looks smoking hot! He also shows a wonderful sense of humor, taking on infidelity with a smile and a wink. I have been a fan of Cheyenne for some time, and think he is such an amazing talent, and a great representative of the out and proud artists making music.
It was also great to see Broadway's Nick Adams in the video. He was most recently seen on Broadway in the musical 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'. He was the hot guy on the scaffolding. Need more? The hot guy in blue plaid. Check him out, I'm sure you remember him from the video.
Singer/songwriter Tom Goss has been the poster boy for holiday spirit lately, with his first holiday gift being a message to his fans just before Thanksgiving, "It's You I Give Thanks For (To The Best Fans Ever)", available for download on his ReverbNation page. If you missed that, check it out here.
Now Tom has another holiday song for everyone to enjoy. "Dear Santa, Imma Make You Dance" is a fun season song, written as only Tom could write. The ElectroPop carol has a light feel, but still remains heartfelt. Tom manages to weave Michael Jackson's dance songs, fucking tube socks, Macklemore, and a holiday memory into a perfect Christmas song. You can purchase "Dear Santa, Imma Make You Dance" on iTunes, Amazon, or CD Baby. Be ready to smile.
Singer/songwriter Christopher Dallman posted a video performance of the new song her wrote, and it is another beauty. "Christmas On My Own" is Chris' personal story of growing up and making his own life. I think it is fantastic. Enjoy.
Monday, December 17, 2012
The Denver Gay Men's Chorus performed the "Christmas On Broadway" medley, a delightful selection of songs that could be found in the score of any Broadway show. Well, in fact from several different Broadway shows. The song list includes "God Bless Us Everyone" from the 1994 musical version of 'A Christmas Carol', "My Favorite Things" from 'Sound of Music', "It's Beginning To Look Like Christmas" was cut from the score of Meredith Willson's 'Here's Love', "Pine Cones And Holly Berries" from 'Here's Love', "We Need A Little Christmas" from 'Mame', "Toyland" from 'Babes In Toyland' and "March Of The Toys", also from 'Babes In Toyland'. Enjoy!
Sunday, December 16, 2012
This past July, music lost a great when Kitty Wells passed away at the age of 92. This was 60 years after Kitty made history with her recording of "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" when it topped the Country charts in 1952, making Wells the first ever female artist to have that honor. She continued to have songs on the charts through the 1960s, inspiring those great women to come, like Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and so many others. During her career, Wells also recorded and performed many spiritual songs, including Don Ferguson's iconic "On The Wings of a Dove", made popular in the 1960s when sung by several artists. Among those was the late Kitty Wells.
She also recorded many other great songs, including one with lyrics by S. Fillmore Bennett and music by Joseph P. Webster. In what I can only call an incredible duet, Wells & Loretta Lynn sing "In the Sweet By-and-By". What a wonderful recording this is.
Enjoy your Sunday!
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Clockwise: Fanny Brice; Nina Simone; Diahann Carroll; and Diana Krall.
Many might remember the next song as part of the soundtrack for the film 'Funny Girl', and sung by Barbra Streisand. Being an ardent fan of Streisand, I of course knew the song, but just assumed for a long time that it was written for the show by Jule Styne. However, I went on to learn the song was written by Billy Rose and Fred Fisher, and sung by Fanny Brice. I learned it wasn't in the Broadway production (I bought the album to learn there were several different songs), but added to the film version to add some authenticity from the Brice catalog. Please enjoy as Fanny Brice sings "I'd Rather Be Blue Over You (Than Happy with Somebody Else)".
While she might have been inspired by a song sung by the legendary Bessie Smith, Nina Simone was never one to take the simple route. So she wrote her own version of "I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl", and while it might not have been quite as suggestive as Bessie's, it certainly doesn't shy away either. Nina recorded it on her 1967 album 'Nina Simone Sings The Blues'.
In 1964, Dionne Warwick released one of many songs written by the dynamic duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David. While it might not be known as Jazz standard, I think this clip of the gorgeous Diana Krall singing "Walk On By" certainly makes a case it should at least be considered.
Diahann Carroll sings "Goody Goody". The 1936 popular song was composed by Matty Malneck and Johnny Mercer, and first recorded by Benny Goodman and his orchestra, and made popular by Bob Crosby, a singer and bandleader known for his band, the Bob-Cats. He was also the youngest brother of Bing Crosby, but I digress. Here we have the always amazing Diahann Carroll singing the song on an appearance she made on The Judy Garland Show.