Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nhojj • Wade In The Water


Nhojj just rereleased the song "Wade In The Water," off his 2001 album I've Been Waiting For You. The song, much like the rest of the album, is a tranquil and beautiful song, with a serene soul. There is just something so soothing, both inside and out. Check it out.

There is just so much to recommend about the album, but have to admit I have a bit strapped for time, this being a very busy weekend for me. So I would advise you to buy the album, and let Nhojj lay his magic on you. You can find out more about Nhojj on his official website. You can purchase I've Been Waiting For You or the song "Wade In The Water" from iTunes, Amazon, and Bandcamp.

Nhojj I've Been Waiting For You cover

George Michael • Faith

George Michael
George Michael George Michael

On the heels of his incredible success as half of the power-Pop duo of Wham!, George Michael went out on his own as a solo act, and was proven to be unstoppable. At no time was that more evident than in 1987, when he released his first solo album. Wham! had last smoked the US charts in 1986, when "The Edge of Heaven" made it to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1985, "I'm Your Man" made it to #3. But in 1987, Faith took off in ways no one expected, and made the quirky guy in Wham! a household name, and the object of lust of many girls and boys across the globe. This was quite the departure for Michael, who was last seen as a member of Wham!, cute but somewhat sexless with his bandmate/friend, Andrew Ridgeley. Embarking on a solo career, his good looks were put front and center, from shots of his denim-encased butt to shots of him playing the guitar wearing a leather jacket. Take, for instance, the first single & video off the Faith album, "I Want Your Sex." George had his permastubble established, singing directly to the camera, or romping with a supermodel.

You see, George was still firmly in the closet at this point. Remember, Elton John had come out about this time, after coming out as bisexual in 1976, but marrying a woman in 1984. So Michael maintained a faux-patina of heterosexuality in his videos, and fairly elusive when asked about it. Later, it was reported he feared coming out might damage his career, something we will never really know. But we were very sure that the second single off the album showed George to be a hot man. Here he is with the first single off the album to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, "Faith."

The third single off the album was a dreamy song with a sexy Gospel flair. The video featured George as a New Wave cabdriver, with scenes of him smoking and driving through Freudian tunnels while a model strips down. But I have to admit, the single itself is a sexy one, with Michael singing with plenty of growl and purr. "Father Figure" was released on January 2, 1988, and hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 by the end of February. It was atop the charts for two weeks.

After three very successful singles, George changed things up a bit and made a beautiful ballad to be the next release. On "One More Try," he slowed it down, and sang the bejesus out of the song, giving it a strong soulful flavor. It should come as no surprise the song was George's third consecutive #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The hazy air in front of stained glass windows lent a feeling of a church confessional for the video, with George baring his soul. His voice is an incredible instrument, and he often used it as well or better than expected. Here, it is amazing. Check out "One More Try" again.

That was followed up by another sexy uptempo song filled with innuendo, "Monkey." That was the fourth #1 single in a row, but one of my favorites off the album the the sixth release that only reached #5, the underachiever of the group. "Kissing a Fool" was a mid-tempo ballad that had the flavor or a retro song, and the unmistakable depth of George's vocals to make it a favorite. Here is George Michael's "Kissing A Fool."

When all was said and done, George had done pretty well with his solo debut. With six singles, there were four #1s, a #2, and a #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Also, Faith had over 10 million sales, achieving Diamond status. But after all the promotional tours and such for the album, George was left exhausted and lonely. After being a bit playful about his relationships for many years, he began to speak out more openly and honestly about being gay after being arrested in a Beverly Hills public rest room in the Spring of 1998. Of course, this really left him little choice but to embrace his sexuality and what effect it might have on his career, but he did. However, that was just the first of several arrests for public lewdness/public sex and some drug possession charges both in the US and in the UK. George spoke out about the issues of drugs use and his enjoyment of anonymous sex in interviews and, more recently, on his Twitter account. Which kind of moved full circle to the first single of this post, doesn't it? You can purchase Faith on iTunes and Amazon. You can learn more about George Michael on his official website, and can follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Brian Hyland • Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini

Brian Hyland

With Memorial Day a thing of the past, it is time to admit that Summer is here. What better way to acknowledge it than to give a listen to "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini," a huge hit for Brian Hyland in 1960.

Brian Hyland was a few months shy of his 17th birthday when the single went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, so he could be thought of as one of the early teen idols. "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini" was the first of several hits for the young man, 52 years ago.

Brian Hyland album cover

B.Slade™ • Deep Purple • Available Now

B.Slade Deep Purple cover

The amazing B.Slade™ has released more music available, and Deep Purple is another example of his outstanding work, offering up the very best of R&B and Hip-Hop seasoned with just the right amount of sauciness. The out and proud musician offers this 14-track album that delivers over an hour of music, starting with "Mama Jaila's Intro." The music had me ready to move, first while in my chair. It wasn't long before I was out of the chair, dancing around the room. Check out the second cut off Deep Purple, "PHONy PONy," featuring Jaila Simms, Trevon James & DDM.

The music is just amazing, sporting a delicious sheen, just waiting for me to lick it like frothy whipped cream. It was a perfect listen over the holiday weekend, from the smoothness of "TwerK" to the yumminess of the title cut, which recalled the best of Janet Jackson's musical spirit. Give a listen to the sixth cut off Deep Purple, "2 Get 2."

I swear that B.Slade sows seeds of great music to make such strong new music. Listening to the album is like planning an exquisite meal for someone you love. With each cut, you feel it can't top what you have already heard, but quickly you feel the salivary glands kicking in, and you just want to take in some more. I find myself standing up, my hips moving and my fingers running through the hair. I open my eyes to discover I've been moving around the room, turned around from where I started. Take "Never Love This Way," another great cut. It sends me out once again, ready to dance with the rest of the world.

Yeah, that one recalled some of the greatest pop ballads of the 80s, without ever feeling dated or nostalgic. Deep Purple is filled with just joy, such heart, you can help but be touched by it, from beginning to end. B.Slade is in top form, making amazing music I find impossible to resist. Give a listen, and I don't think you will be able to resist, either. For more about B.Slade, visit his official website. You can purchase Deep Purple on iTunes and Amazon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Janis Ian • Between The Lines

Janis Ian
Janis Ian Janis Ian Photo by Peter Cunningham, With Bruce Springsteen & Billy Joel
Top & bottom left: Janis Ian. Bottom right: Janis with Bruce Springsteen & Billy Joel. Photo by Peter Cunningham.

With a voice so beautiful, with such depth, it is hard not to recognize the voice of Janis Eddy Fink. Her parents, Victor and Pearl Fink, run a summer camp for kids in upstate New York. When not at camp, Victor was a music teacher. This means Ian was exposed to a lot of music, including female pioneers like Odetta and Joan Baez. By the time Janis was thirteen, she had written a song that would be her first release, "Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)." The topic of the song was quite advanced for the time, for it dealt with the societal struggle of an interracial relationship. While it was first released in 1965, it as a new released in 1967 that saw the song go to #14 on the Billboard single chart. This put her in the company of some pretty impressive artists, at a very young age. For some time Ian was labeled a one-hit-wonder, as the songs that followed failed to catch on with the public. With the release of a new album in 1975, that all changed. Between The Lines began with the release of the first single, "When The Party's Over."

The song was a minor hit, going to #20 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. It certainly showcased the grown-up Ian, now a woman, not a young teen. There was a depth to her voice that was unmistakable, and an international feel to the music. However, it was the second single off the album that would forever banish the thought of one-hit-wonder. After a debut that had a teenager singing about topics beyond her, "At Seventeen" showed a gown-up taking a look back at the teen years with a different focus. Give a listen to the icon "At Seventeen."

In the song, Ian combines her folk mentality with the simplicity of Pop, and just a touch of Jazz to create a song that was hard to forget. Of course, the honesty of the lyric, with a view of the years when most felt the odd-man-out, the ugly kid being bullied by others. While not a single off the album, I remember thinking "Tea & Sympathy" had a beauty that was hard to ignore. And there was such an honesty in her delivery, the aching in her voice while talking about love lost was palpable.

And while the third single off the album did not match the success of "At Seventeen," it scored well on the Adult Contemporary chart. It is surprising, since "In The Winter" had a brooding, dark feel. But I have to tell you, I remember hearing this song and really loving it. This is "In The Winter."

In 1983, Ian divorced her husband of five years, a relationship that was both physically and emotionally abusive. A few years later, Ian met the real love of her live, and in 1993, came out publicly as an out and proud lesbian, in a strong relationship with Patricia Snyder. For many, this added a new layer of understanding of her huge hit, "At Seventeen." For more about Janis Ian, visit her official website. You can purchase Between The Lines as a download on iTunes or order the physical CD on Amazon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy DADT-Free Memorial Day

Diesel Jeans Ad
Navy Lesbian Kiss Navy

Now that Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a thing of the past, I felt it only fitting that I also celebrate the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members of the armed forces are celebrated as well. No, not just Alexander the Great, although he was a great one. I am talking about all the LGBT folks in the armed services who can return from a tour of duty and be greeted like they should. As part of this celebration, I will bring you a couple of clips of the San Fransisco Gay Men's Chorus, performing USS Metaphor, a new-age (and tongue-in-cheek) look at Gilbert & Sullivan's 'HMS Pinafore'. Here they are performing "We Sail The Ocean Blue".

Gay Men's Choruses can be found in most major Metropolitan areas, and have earned our support. They have not only made some good music and great entertainment, they have also helped pave the way toward equality for us all. Check out another song from 'USS Metaphor', "The Navy Knows".

For more about the San Fransisco Gay Men's Chorus, visit their official website. You can support them buy purchasing some great music in their online store. Supporting LGBT musicians, be it the Choruses or great indie musicians, is always a good thing. It is through the visibility of these out and proud artists and others in the arts and public life, as well as the drag queens, from Stonewall to RuPaul, that have helped scenes like this come to be...

Gay Army Kiss

Red Nichols & his Five Pennies • Battle Hymn of the Republic

Red Nichols & his Five Pennies

Throughout his career, Red Nichols and His Five Pennies were one of the most popular jazz bands playing New York City. Nichols, a cornettist, began playing with bands in the 1920s, and had a strong career going until the Great Depression, when he gave up music to work in the shipyards. It would not last, as soon music called him, and he once again picked up his career. He continued to play until his death. Here is a recording of Red and his band performing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," by writer Julia Ward Howe using the music from the song "John Brown's Body," a spiritual by John Steffe. The lyrics were originally written in 1861, a strident message against slavery that was dividing the nation. Later, it has become a song of patriotism, and in fact is no also known as the Marine Hymn.

Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Musicals

On The Town Follow the Fleet
Oh What A Lovely War - Maggie Smith This Is The Army- Joan Leslie-Ronald Reagan
Clockwise: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra & Jules Munshin from On The Town; Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers in Follow The Fleet; Ronald Reagan & Joan Leslie in This Is The Army; and Dame Maggie Smith in Oh, What A Lovely War!

This holiday was originally known as Decoration Day, a federal holiday set aside to remember those soldiers lost in the American Civil War. It was first celebrated for the freed slaves to recognize the soldiers who had given their lives to abolish slavery. The former slaves and their families would go to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of the soldiers with flowers and landscaping. Soon, the country had other wars and soldiers to commemorate, and the last weekend in May was picked to have an official day to remember all the brave members of the armed forces who has lost their lives in defense of the American ideals of freedom and democracy. So we have Memorial Day, a federal holiday so that we may remember and give thanks to those who have fought for the rights and freedoms of all. In order to recognize Memorial Day on the blog, I have come up with clips from movie musicals that have featured members of the armed forces. To start, I will offer up a song made famous by the incredible cast who gave it voice. Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin plays sailors who sing the iconic song "New York, New York" from the movie, 'On The Town'. The music was written by Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

If one was looking for music that was patriotic and uplifting, one never need to look further than the great Irving Berlin, who had countless songs that celebrated life in the United States of America. So I could not help but love when Fred Astaire sings "We Saw The Sea" from the movie 'Follow The Fleet'.

In 1943, Warner Brothers released a movie recreating a bit Broadway hit of 1942. It was another one from Irving Berlin. Berlin had so many successes at this time, both in Hollywood and on Broadway. Stars were lining up to participate, even before they were written. The movie 'This Is The Army' featured an stellar cast, including future President Ronald Reagan. While the big hit from the movie was Kate Smith belting out "God Bless America," but rather show the clip of Robert Shanley and the chorus sing "This Time."

And finally, I would like to share with everyone a show that began life as a radio entertainment, but was brought to the stage by the incredible Joan Littlewood and Theatre Workshop in 1963. The music of 'Oh, What A Lovely War!' was music that was sung turn of the century, especially around World War I. Many saw the original production as being very anti-war, and labeled it as treasonous. Some, of course, celebrated that view. Others saw it as patriotic, and affirming older worlds during the turbulent 1960s. I worked on a production of the musical in college, and the satire was biting and the performances saucy. And speaking of saucy, this is Dame Maggie Smith singing "I'll Make A Man of You" from Oh, What A Lovely War!.

Hope your Memorial Day weekend was great!

Sunday Morning with Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline

It is once again Sunday morning, and I decided to go with a real favorite of mine, Miss Patsy Cline. Patsy was so transcendent, and had such an impact on Country music, and really all music. At a time when "girl" singers were looked at as support for the men, she stepped up to be a star. And she did this is a short time, as she died just six years after her first hit song. She did it by showcasing her amazing voice, so deep and full of emotion. She also stayed so very grounded, and you can hear it when she sings inspirational music, like the classic "Just A Closer Walk With Thee."

The next song showcases the earthiness and grounded nature of Cline. "Dear Lord" was written by V.F. "Pappy" Stewart and sung to perfection by Patsy, who seem to know a lot about sinning and repenting...

The final song was written by Charles Davis Tillman, one of the top Gospel writers around. Interestingly enough, he began with the words of Mormon poet Eliza Snow, and also used the a sermon by Baptist preacher M. E. Abbey to create the iconic Gospel song, "Life's Railway to Heaven."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Torch For The Boys...

Ruth Etting US World War II Soldiers Anne Shelton
Mary Healy WW I Soldiers Vera Lynn Nora Bayes
Clockwise: Ruth Etting; World War II Soldiers; Anne Shelton; Nora Bayes; Vera Lynn; World War I Soldiers; and Mary Healy.

When thinking about what to do for this Saturday night post, I thought about it being Memorial Day, a time to give thanks for all the men and women who have served this country through the years. And it occurred to me there was a great deal of music from World War I and World War II that was truly wonderful, and worth hearing once again. I will start with a beautiful song written in 1928. The strongest success for the song came in the early 1940s, when recorded by the Ink Spots and by Bing Crosby. But here I will bring you a recording by the lovely Ruth Etting, who was known as American's Sweetheart of Song. Listen to her lovely version of "I'll Get By."

The next song, "I'll Be Seeing You," was written on the brink of the start of World War II. With music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Irving Kahal, the haunting and beautiful song spoke to the hearts of the ladies left behind when war breaks out. Here is British songstress Anne Shelton, best known for her songs of inspiration for the troops.

"Kiss The Boys Goodbye" was written by Victor Schertzinger and Frank Loesser for the 1941 movie of the same name. Here is a 1941 "Soundie," a precursor of the music video, featuring Mary Healy & The Four Debonairs.

English actress and singer Vera Lynn was incredibly popular during and after World War II. Her lovely voice was just perfect for the songs of inspiration she often sung. Check out this 1942 recording of "When The Lights Go On Again (All Over The World)," written by Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus and Eddie Seiler, a song longing for the end of the war, which was still a few years away.

In 1917, "Over There" was written by George M. Cohan, the king of the patriotic songs of World War I. The song was a warning to all the enemies that the American Troops are on their way. Give a listen to this stirring rendition by Nora Bayes, an American actress and singer of the early 20th Century.

Have you hugged a soldier today?

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Holliday Dance

Jennifer Holliday

One of the great things to come out of this week's American Idol finale was the performance of the great Jennifer Holliday, who sounded as spectacular as ever. So when I was going to put together the post for the first night of the holiday weekend, of course she came to mind. Since I worked in the Village in the mid 1980s, I can certainly remember dancing in some of the clubs to the amazing "And I'm Telling You," which made it on the R&B and the Dance chart 1982, 2001, and 2007. It was a single off the Dreamgirls Original Broadway Recording, with many remixes of the song. It is a gift that keeps on giving.

In 1984, Jennifer proved to be more than an ordinary Broadway belter. With the release of the album Say You Love Me, the single "Hard Time For Lovers" went to #17 on the R&B chart, and #26 on the Dance chart.

With the strength of her voice, it is no surprise that was not her only hit. In 1985 and 1996, Holliday had the #1 on the Dance chart with "No Frills Love," certainly a memorable song. It was on the Say You Love Me album, as well a greatest hits collection, The Best of Jennifer Holliday.

Now, if there was a song that was written to eventually appear on RuPaul's Drag Race as a lip-sync-for-your-life song, it would be the hit off the album Breaking Through, "A Woman's Got The Power." Released in 2000, the song went to #7 on the Billboard Dance chart.

You can find the 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection - The Best Of Jennifer Holliday on iTunes and Amazon. Crank up the volume and have a great "Holliday" weekend!

Patti LaBelle & Cyndi Lauper Make Sweet Music

Cyndi Lauper & Patti LaBelle

It is tough for me to think of a more unlikely duo than the soulful Patti LaBelle and the quirky Cyndi Lauper. But as soon as they give voice to the song, you realize you have sold both far too short. Patti uses her remarkable instrument in ways few can. Cyndi might have that odd sound to her voice, but when she lifts it up, she creates a breath-taking music. Here they are appearing on a show Patti had back in 1985. Enjoy as they sing Patti's great hit, "Lady Marmalade."

It seems that turnabout is fair play, and soon the duo is tackling an early hit by Lauper, "Time After Time." I think it is rather brilliant the way they play off one another, and create an interesting jazz-infused version of the Pop classic. Give a fresh listen to "Time After Time."

Hope you are looking forward to the long weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

American Idol Season 11 - The Winner Is...

The performances are finished, the voting complete. The only thing left to do is to announce the winner. Well, and to have an 105 minutes to put on an entertainment show that will sell plenty of advertising. Oh, there will be many performers on to fill in the time. Earlier today, producer Nigel Lythgoe announced there was more votes than ever last night, more than 132 million. This morning, the ratings were released, and it had the lowest ratings in the 11 years of the show. Well, that is quite the interesting fact, don't you think? Well, I will try to give the highlights of the evening, with the videos of the original performers, as always.

American Idol Season 11 Top 2

After the familiar opening to the show, Jeremy Rosado, Shannon Magrane, Erika Van Pelt, Heejun Han, DeAndre Brackensick, Colton Dixon, Elise Testone, Skylar Laine, Hollie Cavanagh, and Joshua Ledet came out singing in white to sing the first group song of the night, "Runaway Baby" by Bruno Mars.

Introduce the judges, Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopes, and Steven Tyler, followed quickly by Crusty. He brings out Phillip and Jessica, and we find out Jessica was so excited she didn't get much sleep. Phillip, on the other hand, got 9.5 hours of sleep, and was feeling pretty good. After a commercial break, we learn that in the first spotlight of the night, Phillip comes out to sing with John Fogerty. Together they perform "Who'll Stop The Rain." This was a huge hit song written by Fogerty for his band, Creedence Clearwater Revival. They follow that up with "Bad Moon Rising," the iconic song written by Fogerty at the height of his CCR days.

Soon, Crusty is introducing the next performance. Joshua Ledet is going to take on Elton John's classic song, "Take Me To The Pilot." He is joined on stage by his idol, Fantasia Barrino.

The performance is energetic and filled with the spirit. They are spewing to the left, and spewing to the right. I will admit, Fantasia's hair, uhm, okay, her extensions, are confusing me. This whole performance seems to confuse people at the end, with Joshua and Fantasia wandering around, the cameras unsure how to follow. This is live television, people! The ladies of the Top 12 are up next, singing a Chaka Khan medley, and are joined by the magnificent Chaka herself to sing "I'm Every Woman."

Crusty helps Phillip and Jessica spotlight their musical mentors, who are seated in the audience. As a surprise, they are given keys to a new For of their choosing by their appreciative pupils. Then Crusty surprises the kids with keys to cars of their own. Rihanna is up next, with "Where Have You Been."

She sounds pretty good, I have to say. Usually, those words don't occur to me when Rihanna is on stage. Time for more excitement, and Crusty introduces Skylar, who will be singing Reba McEntire's "Turn On The Radio." It quickly turns into a duet, as Reba joins Skylar on stage.

Reba is wonderful, and Skylar is up to the task of singing with her. Quite nice. I loved it, actually. After a ridiculous waste of time about Steven Tyler's dressing room filled with Playboy bunnies (on this "family" show), Crusty brings out Jessica to sing "I Will Always Love You," a highlight of the season. Once again, she does a beautiful job. Then it is time for the men of the Top 12, and they sing Neil Diamond's "America." After singing Diamond's "Crackling Rosie," we get "I'm A Believer." Soon, Colton introduces the man himself, Mr. Neil Diamond, who performs "Sweet Caroline," with a strong assist from the boys.

Neil is looking great for a 71-year-old man, and is about to head back out on the road. Way to go, Neil! I bet the next skit, mocking Randy by having the kids actually sing the phone book, was much funnier when they thought of it. That is followed by Jennifer Lopez singing two songs of her own, "Going In" and "Follow The Leader." Well, that dragged on a bit too long. It is followed by Ace Young asking Diana DeGarmo to marry him on the stage of the Idol finals. The first Idol couple makes the first Idol proposal. Ace looked nervous, and in need of a trim. Diana was looking good. Wonder if she got to say hi to Fantasia... That is followed by Holly coming out to sing "You'll Never Walk Alone," only to be joined by the gorgeous Season 6 winner, Jordin Sparks.

Jordin sang the song for Idol Gives Back in her season. Crusty brings out the guys of the Top 12 to sing songs from the BeeGees songbook, in a tribute to the late Robin Gibb. We quickly move by this, for it does not sound good. Crusty introduces the duet many have been waiting for, as Jessica takes the stage with Jennifer Holliday on "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going."

I don't care how old you have to be, I vote Jennifer Holliday to be my American Idol this year, and every year. She is the most glorious thing to happen on the show this season. Now it is finally time for what we've all been waiting for... Oh, wait, here comes Aerosmith. I guess if J-Lo had stage time, Steven needs it too. And Joe Perry does still look great. For the second song, they sing the iconic "Walk This Way."

I sit here and notice there are only minutes left for the show, and we've spent very little time with the two finalists. They both had two songs, jammed in between guests that populate the roster of record labels. But as I say that, they are back on for a duet, singing "Love Lifts Us Up," originally sung by Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker for the movie, An Officer And A Gentleman.

With that, it is finally time for the results. They confirm that there were 132 million votes cast, and Crusty ask them to dim the lights. The winner of American Idol Season 11 is Phillip Phillips. How shocking. Really, who didn't see this coming weeks ago? As he plays off the winning single, he is unable to sing through the tears. He walks off the stage to hug his family, blowing off the cameras and the other contestants. Once again, I have to question why any female with talent will audition for this show any longer.

Phillip Phillips

So, until they begin the journey to crown the next white boy with a marginal voice and a guitar, stay safe, and support independent music!

A Million Thank Yous

Soundtrack to my Day

I wanted to take a moment to thank you all the readers of Soundtrack to my Day, as we hit a new milestone this morning. S2MD has passed 1 Million hits, all because of you. Each and every one of you. To say I couldn't do it without you would be the understatement of the year. Between the readers and the amazing artists I get to write about, I couldn't imagine a greater support base for myself and the blog. Just know that your support is deeply and truly appreciated. I will try to show my thanks in the only way I know how, and that is with a song. So here is out singer/songwriter Janis Ian with "Thanksyous," off her 1974 album Stars.

Thank you. A million times "thank you."

GLEE Redux • Goodbye

McKinley High School completes another school year, only this time, it is a little different. The New Directions are National Champions. Coach Sue is with child, and helped Mr. Schue lead the show choir to the win. Mr. Schue and Miss Pillsbury are not only engaged, but they put some issues aside, and share a deeper intimacy than ever before. Quinn is out of the wheelchair, and planning on taking the Ivy League by storm. Rachel and Finn are still in love, and plan to start this new part of their life together. That includes them moving to New York City, with Kurt. But this does leave Blaine alone in Ohio, taking on his senior year without the reason he transferred to McKinley. Will they all be leaving Puck behind, or can he pass the test? All these questions we hope to be answered in the final episode of season 3, Goodbye.

Cast of Glee
Beyoncé Bruce Springsteen Madonna Guys And Dolls - Marlon Brando
New Radicals Room For Two The Beatles Rod Stewart
Top: The New Directions. Clockwise: Beyoncé; Bruce Springsteen; Madonna; Guys And Dolls; Rod Stewart; The Beatles; Room For Two; and New Radicals.

As Mr. Schue is walking down the hallway, he hears the kids singing in the chorus room. Artie, Tina, Kurt, Mercedes and Rachel playfully sing "Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat," part of the score for Guys And Dolls.

He watches them a bit, but then takes a deep breath, and walks in. He reminds them there is nothing left to prepare for, well save the last assignment. He'd like them to prepare a song to say goodbye. The underclassmen will say goodbye to the seniors, and the seniors will say goodbye to everyone. Mr. Schue dons the guitar to kick it off with a stripped down acoustic version of "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart.

Next we see Kurt walking down the hallway, remarking on how far he has come since he was a timid freshmen at McKinley High. He is reminded how his actions has made it possible for other young gays to wear nice frocks to school. He walks into the auditorium, and finds his father there, on stage. Mr. Hummel is telling Kurt how proud he is of his son, and what they accomplished together. He reminds Kurt when they started getting honest. He found Kurt in a unitard, dancing with Brittany and Tina. They were dancing to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)."

Kurt can't help but laugh as his father does the number, still applauding as Mr. Hummel leaves, blowing kisses. Kurt couldn't imagine a better graduation present. Blaine reminds him of the monogrammed towels he bought for Kurt, and then mentions they need to talk. Blaine reminds him Kurt is graduating, but Blaine has another year to go. Can their love survive the distance between Lima, Ohio, and New York City? Kurt thinks they can make it work, for he has no intention of saying goodbye to Blaine, his high school sweetheart. But how will he say goodbye to everyone else? Well, he'll sing a Madonna song, of course. He dedicates "I'll Remember" to everyone, but especially the boys who never cared that he was gay.

In the hallway by Kurt's locker, Rachel comes up to Kurt and Finn to get them to agree they must open the letters from their prospective schools together, and in the chorus room. They agree. In another part of the hallway, Santana fights through a forest of balloons to find Sam and Mercedes, with Sam eager to talk about Mercedes record contract in L.A. Well, an indie label wanting her to sing backup, anyway. But Sam is so proud of his girlfriend. Santana congratulates Mercedes, and learns that Mike is getting a scholarship to dance with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. Santana gives him a hug, and Tina mentions Santana's plan to go to the University of Louisville. As she walks away, Santana thinks about what she wants to do, and how she is every bit as talented as Mercedes, Mike, Rachel or Kurt, so why can't she chase her dream, too? Cut to dinner, with Santana and her mother, played by the beautiful Gloria Estefan, and Brittany. She tells her mother that she wants to skip college, and head to New York. While trying to be supportive, her Mama Lopez urges her to go to school. New York will still be there when she has a degree, something Mama never got the chance to accomplish. That is when Brittany explains she is not graduating, having failed everything, and hopes to do better on her second time as a senior. If Brittany stays in Lima, maybe Santana will stay with her... Back in the chorus room the next morning, the seniors get together to sing to the underclassmen. They perform "You Get What You Give" by The New Radicals.

There were plenty of hugs and knowing glances shared, but soon we are with Finn and Rachel, talking about chairs for the reception. Finn is worried that Rachel is settling for him as her husband, but she assures him that is the one thing she is definite about. Cut to Finn walking down the hallway, thinking how his career was a success, having won a State Championship in football, and a National Championship in glee club. There is only one thing that scared him - the future. But not anymore. He's marrying his great girlfriend, and moving to New York with her and his gay step-brother. Every straight boy's dream, right? Finn thinks he nailed his audition with James Lipton. He stops by to see Mr. Schue, who was signing his yearbook. He asks Finn to sit down, and apologizes about having blackmailed him to make him join glee club. Finn mocks him, and leaves. At home, Finn is spending time with his mother and a picture of his Dad. He regrets he wasn't able to get his Dad an honorable discharge, and thinks he should have tried harder. How can he redeem his father's name if he runs to New York to be an actor? His life seems to be coming together, but not this aspect. The next morning in the chorus room, the underclassmen have a chance to say their goodbyes to the seniors. First, they have a special dedication to Finn, who as the starting quarterback on the football team, had the most to lose by joining show chorus, and treat the members with respect. They perform "In My Life," by The Beatles and written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

This is lovely, but I keep getting surprised Sam is not a senior. Now we travel down the hallway with Quinn, who remarks how she has gone full circle in her McKinley journey, from popular cheerleader captain, to troubled unwed mother, back to Cheerios captain again. She is so grateful and impressed with her friends, although she still worries about one - Puck. She sees Coach Beiste quizzing him, helping he prepare for the make-up exam he needs to pass. Quinn wants to give back in her last week of high school, and starts with a Metro Pass for her friend Rachel, so they can visit when Quinn is at Yale and Rachel in New York City. She also tries to help Puck study, and when he is about to quit, she tells him she loves him. They've been through too much together, and she won't let him give up. She kisses him, hoping Rachel was right - when she and Puck were together, she brought out the best in him. Cut to Puck walking down the hallway, well, really strutting. He has his swagger back, thanks to Quinn. He is ready to ace that exam. Roz, who is back to coaching the synchronized swim team, comes to see Coach Sue. But she would like to join forces with Sue to take out Principal Figgins. On her way out, she passes Quinn, who is coming to see Coach Sue. Sue tells her she first thought she was just like a younger version of herself, but now sees that isn't true. Quinn is not evil, and Sue admires that about Quinn. She provokes Quinn to tears, and a spontaneous hug. There are tears and honest love there. Cut to the hallway outside of the civics classroom, where all the kids are with Puck, waiting to get the results of the exam. He get's a C-, or, as he says, "a Puckerman A+!" He will graduate with the others. Puck is suddenly in his graduation getup, carrying his electric guitar as he sings "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen.

This is sung by Puck and Finn as the seniors we know and love accept their diplomas in their red cap and gowns. After the ceremony, Finn, Kurt and Rachel meet in the chorus room, ready to find out about their future. Finn opens his first, and finds out he did not get into the Actor's Studio. Kurt opens his letter, and tells them he didn't get accepted to NYADA. That leaves Rachel, and she slowly opens up the envelope, and learns she was accepted to NYADA. We cut to Rachel clearing out her locker, getting ready to leave school. All her dreams had come true; she was Prom Queen, National Show Choir Champion, and marrying the quarterback. Yet she can't be happy, worrying about her fiancee, Finn, and her good friend Kurt. She will defer school for a year, and make sure they both will be with her in New York. Santana is clearing out her locker, and her mama comes to get her for her party. She also gives Santana an envelope, her graduation present. Santana is shocked at the amount, but gives it back. She doesn't need the money - she is not going to college. Mama tells her to take the money, and move to New York, she believes in Santana and her dreams. Feel the love! Finn picks up Rachel, just as they planned for a post-graduation wedding. But Finn heads to the train station, and he tells Rachel he loves her so much, he is calling off the wedding. He won't let her put off her future because of him. She can't stay with him, he is joining the army. So he wants her to get on the train and be the star she is meant to be. Rachel is a teary mess, and they kiss goodbye. Finn walks her to the train, and all the kids are there to see her off. She sings "Roots Before Branches" by Room For Two.

The song starts in Ohio, and ends in New York, with Rachel with her mod outfit walking by Broadway theaters. I halfway expected her to be spinning around and tossing her hat in the air, a la Mary Tyler Moore. Rachel is moving to New York, and Mercedes is moving to L.A., and Mike will be in Chicago. I guess Santana is New York-bound. Quinn will be in New Haven, Connecticut, and Finn in the Army. What will Kurt do? And Puck? Guess we won't know until season four starts in the fall.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

American Idol Season 11 • Final 2

Tonight is the night thousands were hoping would be part of their lives, and not just sitting in the audience smiling and applauding while Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez steal the focus, and sing to be named the next American Idol. But it is not to be, and the audience will listen intently before they decide who will take the crown. Will Phillip be another in a line of WGWG, i.e. White Guys With Guitars, who will charm the voters? Or will Jessica steal the hearts of the viewers, the little girl with the big voice? Only time and Crusty will be able to give us the answer. For tonight is about them both, taking the stage and looking to be the last one standing, ready to go into the studio and see if they can be the next Kelly Clarkson, the next Carrie Underwood, the next Scotty McCreery, the next winner to make a Platinum selling album. Who is your American Idol?

American Idol Season 11 Top 2

The show opens with the finalists talking about their hopes and fears. Soon, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson are introduced, followed by Crusty. He welcomes the more than 7,000 fans who came to see the finals in the Nokia Theater. Phillip and Jessica will sing a song of their own, Producer Simon Fuller's choice, and the song that would be their winning single. Phillip won the coin toss, and opted to go second, so Jessica leads the show with the Producer's choice, Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing."

I thought the song choice was somewhat predictable, but it is better than some prior picks by the Producers. She does a lovely job with the song, making some subtle changes to the song, but the song is so identified with Houston, it is had to stray too far. I say that was a solid to good performance. After a commercial break, we hear Phillip is going to sing the Ben E. King classic, "Stand By Me."

This is another lackluster song choice, and Phillip delivers exactly what we thought he would do, bastardizing the melody, putting it through the processor. I love they are now calling him a singer/songwriter, as if he is performing original material on the show. For me, his vocals lack depth and expression, and when the song loses melody and depth, there is little remaining. In between rounds, Crusty goes to the judges to gossip, and Jennifer spends an extraordinary amount of time saying nothing. Randy gives the first round to Jessica. After another commercial, Jennifer finally had a chance to digest it all, and agrees with Randy. Steven remains quiet. They bring out Jason DeRulo to debut his new song for Coke, "Undefeated."

His lost the bedazzled neck brace, and is quite athletic in his dancing. On the next break, there is a commercial featuring the song, and it is already starting to annoy. Back on the show, Jessica brings out a favorite of her prior performances, choosing to sing "The Prayer."

I think she is wise to avoid singing yet another Whitney song, and changing it up. She does a lovely job with it, for it is a lovely song, well-performed. Another commercial passes, and it is time for Phillip. He reprises "Moving Out (Anthony's Song)," in much the same style as before.

I wasn't a fan the first time, not really liking it better the second time through. I hear anger, and not much else. Well, other than the spam-like melody of the song. Crusty goes to Steven first, who thinks Jessica took the second round, while Randy calls it a draw. Jennifer glances at the script, and announces that Phillip won the second round for her, making it dead even. She felt we'd heard Jessica sing that before, while that was "authentic Phillip." Uhm, Jennifer, we'd heard that performance before too. In fact, a couple of weeks after "The Prayer." If you're gonna say things, try adding a dash of logic, okay? After a break, Jessica sings "Change Nothing," which would be her release should she win. As ballads goes, the song is somewhat generic. The judges complain about the song, saying it is all wrong, lacking the R&B feel. Uhm, how much of a pick did she have? Jennifer goes on and on about it, and I can't help by roll my eyes. It is time for Phillip to sing, and he performs the song "Home." It is a quiet, sweet acoustic track, until the drum corps some out. And some rather unfortunate vocal embellishments. Truly reminds me of Coldplay. Once done, the judges leap to their feet, calling it moving and genius. Jennifer loves it, like no other artists she can think of, yet both Randy and Steven make ample comparisons to Mumford & sons, and Paul Simon. After giving them a chance to say nice things to one another, Crusty introduces reigning champion Scotty McCreery, who delivers a live version of this single, "Please Remember Me."

Crusty bids you all goodnight, and reminds all to vote for their favorites. Will it be Jessica, or will Phillip take the title back to Georgia? Tune in tomorrow night at 8PM on your local Fox station for the two-hour results show, which will be chock-full of stars, and about 12 minutes of results...

Rolling Stones • 1963 - 1964

Rolling stones
Rolling stones England's Newest Hit Makers Rolling stones Come On single Rolling stones 12 x 5 cover
Left to right: Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, and Charlie Watts.

Fifty years ago in 1962, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts were inspired by American Soul, Blues, and Rhythm & Blues artists,as they got together to form a band. In fact, they pulled the name for the newly formed band from a song by Muddy Waters, "Rollin' Stone." In 1963, Stewart came out of the lineup of the band, to become the tour manager for the Rolling Stones. The very first single released by the Rolling Stones was "Come On," a 1963 cover of the Chuck Berry song, originally released by Berry in 1961. It went to #21 on the UK charts.

The third single released by the Rolling Stones was "Not Fade Away," written by Charles Hardin (better known by his stage name, Buddy Holly) and Norman Petty. The song was originally recorded by Buddy Holly & the Crickets in 1957. This also served as the first single released by the Rolling Stones in the US. It was released in February of 1964, more than 48 years ago. It made it to #3 on the UK charts, and #48 on the US Billboard Hot 100, a great first effort.

"Time Is On My Side" was written by Jazz musician Norman Meade, and covered by The Stones in October of 1963. It was the first single off the album, 12 x 5. The song marked a first for the boys, as it made it to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100, their first Top 10 single in the US. Of course, that was the first of 23 songs to take a coveted position on the Billboard Pop chart.

"It's All Over Now" was written by American artists Bobby Womack and Shirley Womack and sung by the group The Valentinos, featuring Bobby Womack. The Stones first released it in the UK, where it became their first ever #1 song. A month later, in July of 1964, the version by the Stones was released in the US, and made it to #26 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also off 12 x 5.

This was just the beginning of the very long story of one of the most legendary rock bands, the Rolling Stones. It would be another year before the band would have their first #1 song on the US Billboard Pop chart. Last month, fifty years after the formation of the band, they released the live album, L.A. Friday, recorded live in 1975. In 2005, they released their last studio album, A Bigger Bang. In between coming together and today, they've had nine #1 albums on the US Billboard chart, and nine #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. They were perhaps the most dominant Rock band in the latter half of the 20th century, with outstanding sales, and tours that sold out so quickly. So there is plenty more to come from the Rolling Stones.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Dark Monday • Renée Fleming & Josh Groban

Josh Groban and Renee Fleming
Josh Groban and Renee Fleming Josh Groban and Renee Fleming

On a recent episode of Live at Lincoln Center on PBS, American soprano Renée Fleming was joined by Josh Groban to perform a medley from the musical Brigadoon, with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. They begin with Heather on the Hill, and move on to Almost like Being in Love.

You can find the 1957 Broadway Cast Album featuring Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy on iTunes and Amazon.


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