Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ezra Axelrod • American Motel

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I must admit, I have been wanting to review Ezra Axelrod's 'American Motel' for some time now. I was a bit late to the party, finding the release in May, since it was first released in February, almost a year ago. But once I heard the title track from the album, I knew I was hooked. I was charmed by Axelrod's melodies, and his great sense of humor. I learned there was much more of the same to be found on the album.

Ezra Axelrod - American Motel

I read a bit about him, and discovered he grew up in rural Oregon, and studies voice in Middlebury, Vermont. He also traveled widely, with trips to Latin America. After college, he moved to London, working with artists in SoHo. Ezra remains based out of London. I also learned Ezra recorded the album in Columbia, with producer Toño Castillo, known for his work with Shakira and Aterciopelados. When I began listening, I was greeted by the title cut, "American Motel", right away. There is a wonderful feel of freedom, from the honesty in the lyrics, to the joyous Pop music. The twelve-song collection followed suit nicely. But first, check out the music video for "American Motel".

After watching that, I will admit I have a slight crush on Ezra, so handsome and kinda flirty. Maybe it is the sensual feel to much of his music, as well as a look at his own sexuality. When "Loud and Brave" started up next, I was a bit surprised at the uptempo feel, and in a great way. The song is effervescent, and the chorus just so damn catchy! There is a strong string section for the opening of "Around Here", a darker tale of lives lived by some. It tells of the confusion felt by a teen thinking of his sexuality and his sex life. From the very start, "Father" has a more personal feel. The search for a father envelops the boy in the song, becoming a quest. When I saw the song called "Southern Way", I will admit to not being sure what to expect. Not surprising, there is a Country feel to this Pop song, or at least a hint thereof. The song shifts gears as it moves from the South to Los Angeles, never resting. "19" is somewhere between saucy Pop and tangy Folk, with a sweet Retro feel to the chorus. Yet it moves smoothly, carrying me every step of the way. Now that we are past the halfway point, it is time for "10 Million Lights". I really love the song, and you can see if you do, too, as I have the video. While the first minute or so we hear "American Motel" being played, "10 Million Lights" soon commands the attention of all.

There was something so beautiful at the beginning, just his voice and a piano. There is just such beauty to the song. That is followed by the Spanish-inspired "Futbol y Mangos". The song has a dark beauty, but I readily admit it is well-beyond my Spanish. When "Strangers" began to play, I was immediately drawn in, feeling as if I was listening to a very personal story. The depth of feeling is certainly made available in Ezra's voice, touching my heart. That is followed by the interesting melody of "Hurricane Season", shifting as it moves along.

Axelrod released "Hurricane Season" as a single, with the money going to help victims of the money going to victims of flooding in Vermont. "Help the hurricane relief effort in Vermont by donating to the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund, and receive free music in return! Any donation, no matter the size, will receive as a thank-you a free MP3 of the track "Hurricane Season"." You can donate here. That song is followed by "Take Me Home", a beautiful choral song, done without instruments other than voice. It is really stunning, and heartfelt. With almost a jolt, "Prayer from a Dressing Room" brings back the instruments, leaving behind the ethereal with a return to the real world, or at least the very real world of a performer about to go on stage.

The album captures so many aspects of life, from the thoughtful and contemplative, to the daily grind of life, to the missteps we all have as we try our hand at dating and relationships. For more about Ezra Axelrod, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, or 'like' him on Facebook. You can purchase 'American Motel' on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.

Matt Zarley • "Perfect" Music Video

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Matt Zarley, the handsome singer/songwriter whose music is starting to command attention everywhere, has released a new single off the album 'Change Begins With Me'. At the recent OUTMusic Awards held in Las Vegan in December, Zarley scored big, winning 'Single of the Year' for "Change Begins With Me" as well as 'Album of the Year', for the album of the same name. With the engine primed for a new single, The time seemed right to get one for the fans. The soulful ballad "Perfect" is just the right ticket, and the new video is cute, nostalgic, and a bit sexy. But then again, it would be tough to shoot a video with Zarley and not have the sexy element, as Matt has an abundance of charm, looks, and enthusiasm to win over even the most jaded soul. But it is his heartfelt performance that really sells the song.

For more about Matt, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter. I am sure he'd love to say "hi" on any of the social media. To purchase the album 'Change Begins With Me', you can find it on iTunes and Amazon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Drake Jensen • When It Hurts Like That

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Country artist Drake Jensen has released the first single and music video from the highly anticipated second album, 'OUTLaw'. The song, written by Matt Ullman and Kyle Morrison Marion, is a a well-balanced combination of classic Country and the New Country sounds. The story is a classic one, with love gone bad and life in the aftermath. After all, is there a greater shared experience that recovering from a broken heart? Jensen, who is Canadian, found support among fans of Country music and became the first out man to hit the Country charts with his popular debut album, 'On My Way To Finding You'. Here is the first video for 'OUTLaw', "When It Hurts Like That".

While I have yet to hear the new album, I expect it will once again capture the fancy of Country music lovers, and be well-requested for radio play. The video was shot in North Carolina, and was directed by Blake Faucette and Justin Reich of All Aces Media. To learn more about Drake Jensen, visit his official website. While there, you can stop in the store, and and either pre-order and autographed copy of 'OUTLaw', or purchase an autographed copy of 'On My Way To Finding You' to be mailed to you. You can also find the debut album on iTunes and Amazon. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter. I am sure Drake would love to hear from people, so tell him how much you enjoy his music! For more about All Aces Media, visit their official website.

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Clay Aiken Celebrates 10th Anniversary

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Left: Clay Aiken's first audition; Clay after the first makeover.

Apparently, this past Monday, January 28, 2013, marked the 10th anniversary of the broadcast of Clay Aiken's audition for the second season of American Idol. I do remember the audition, which made me sit up and take notice of that voice. You see, I was on board with Idol from the first season, when I loved Kelly Clarkson, and enjoyed Jim Verraros. This was back in the days when Idol was trying to find their feet, having been so awfully lucky with the first season, and a winner like Kelly, with a true abundance of talent. She had success with "A Moment Like This", her coronation song, and followed it up with "Miss Independent", a song co-written by a favorite of mine, Matt Morris. But we were still a year away from her great triumph, on the release of her second album, and "Since U Been Gone", off the great album "Breakaway". So hopes were high for the second season, with pressure to follow up the success of the first. When this geeky kid from Raleigh, North Carolina, made his way in the room, the show was ready to mock him, you could see it in Simon's eye. But then he sang. Watch as his voice changes minds.

It is very easy to say "the rest is history", but that would be putting a pretty bow on things. Aiken's star would shine all season long, never hitting the bottom three all season long. And while the fans might have been battling, between Clay and Ruben Studdard, both men stayed above the fighting to be friends. Ruben was named the winner, and Clay was in second place. But Clay's first album, 'Measure of a Man' was verified double Platinum, selling just shy of 3 million. When he toured, tickets were hard to come by, and he was a name on Broadway that was selling tickets. He has raised money and awareness for several charities, guest starred on shows like 'America's Next Top Model' to 'Scrubs' to '30 Rock'. He was also the runner up when he appeared on 'The Apprentice', just behind Arsenio Hall. Along the way, he also had a baby with a good friend, which Clay raises. He took time from his busy schedule to post a clip on YouTube to make the occasion.

For more about Clay Aiken, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook. And tonight you can watch American Idol to see how different the show is ten years later as the audition process continues on Fox at 8PM.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Candy Apple Blue • Let's Get Something Started Feat. Alaska

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Candy Apple Blue have released their latest music video, and it features another Pittsburgh resident, and current RuPaul's Drag Race dragtestant Alaska. The song is "Let's Get Something Started", a sweet ElectroPop confection handmade by Candy Apple Blue. I mean, if you could eat audio files, this would be a truly scrumptious petit four. Regular readers will remember that Candy Apple Blue are Carly and Hoyt Emerick, the talented and gorgeous siblings who make beautiful music together. I am a fan of the music they make, and love playing it regularly on iTunes.

I just loved that video, and the song. Both Alaska and Carly were stunning, and I promise you my crush on Hoyt is still in full force! To learn more about Hoyt and Carly, visit their official website. You can also 'follow' them on Twitter, or 'like' them on Facebook! To learn more about Alaska, visit her official website. Congratulations on a Top Three in the first episode, Alaska! You can also 'follow' her on Twitter and 'like' her on Facebook. To get your FREE Download of seven different mixes of "Let's Get Something Started", click HERE. To check out my thoughts on Candy Apple Blue's 'Mistake EP' as well as a link for a FREE Download, click here.

Mister Chase & Collin Marrero • Nobody's Business

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Left to right: Mister Chase and Collin Marrero

Mister Chase has given everyone the opportunity to hear his latest single, a cover of Rihanna's "Nobody's Business". I've been a fan of Mister Chase since I saw found his YouTube channel, and his amazing videos. Chase is hot as blazes, with the talent to back that up. He can dance, he can sing, and is always a pleasure to watch and listen as he does his thing. He teams up with Connecticut-based singer/songwriter Collin Marrero on the new release, a cover of Rihanna's "Nobody's Business". They certainly give it a new sound, so give a listen to "Nobody's Business".

You can download a FREE copy on Mister Chase's SoundCloud page, just clicking on the widget above. You can find out more about Mister Chase on his official website, Facebook, or Twitter. For more about Collin Marrero, visit his official website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Being Human • "The Teens They Are A-Changin'"

Being Human is the SyFy Channel's version of the great series first produced on the BBC. Since the early episodes of the series, the SyFy version, set in Boston, Massachusetts, found a narrative of its own, allowing the ghost, the vampire, and the werewolf to step out of the shadowy constraints of the British original and find a life of their own. I love both series!

The last we saw our intrepid trio, Aidan was fighting with not only his bloodlust, as well as his relationship with his 'son', Henry. He is also trying to figure out his world, with the vampire world and leadership decimated by disease. Josh, who is no longer a werewolf, was looking for his wolf-friend Nora, last seen changing with the father of the twins she ran with last season. And Sally was back to life, but it might have cost one former friend who ran into her, so will there be more?

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Left to right: Sam Huntington as Josh; Kristen Hager as Nora; Sam Witwer as Aidan; and Meaghan Rath as Sally.

The show opens with Nora on a park bench with Mr. McLean, who wants help to find his daughter Brynn, the surviving twin. He wants some answers about what went on, and Nora is at a loss with what to tell him. Aidan goes shopping for lunch, and brings a guy back for himself and Henry, only to have the guy sneeze on Henry, causing panic. They argue once again, with Henry's need for blood getting the best of him. Hey, I'd offer myself to these to hot men, just sayin'... They come to an understanding, and leave together.

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Aidan & Henry

Nora comes home, and tells Josh about Mr. McLean. Sally is eating on the sofa, complaining about her insatiable hunger. She ate two chickens last night, and it neither adds weight nor ends the hunger. Which sounds like a dream come true to me! She talks about her fascination with her dead friend, Trent, then leaves as Aidan comes in, asking Josh to direct patients who are sick to him, causing Josh consternation. He tells Aidan no, but we see him at the desk, setting a file aside. Meanwhile Sally goes to the funeral home, and chats with Trent (the Ghost), only to be tossed out so the body can be readied for the viewing. Trent figures out Sally's resurrection prematurely killed him, and is interested in coming back himself. Back at the hospital, Josh talks to a young girl who complains, among other things, about being scratched by a big dag, or maybe a wolf. He sees the scratch, and recognizes the scar. He brings Nora with him to see the girl, but Nora wants to wiat a day before telling her she is now a werewolf.

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Josh & Nora

Aidan vein-blocks Henry, who was about to take a victim. Again, here's my neck, guys... Aidan tries to talk Henry down, but the hunger in him builds. Back at the hospital, Nora and Josh walk into see the young girl, who is hours away from turning in the next full moon. Nora wants to take her home, and be with her for her first transition. Josh is weary, but goes with it. They have yet to tell the girl... Sally returns to the funeral home to see Trent, and they talk about the door he needs to pass through. He knows he needs to sort a few things, like when he was making out with Sally rather than being at home with his fiancee.

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Sally & Friends

Henry goes in to talk to Josh, to make him feel guilty for not offering a blood-slave up for Henry and Aidan to drink from. While Josh talks a big game, he falls for it, and meets Aidan outside the hospital. While Aidan tries to apologize, Josh gives him the name of a cable installer who has clean blood. And he asks the vampire not to make him feel sorry he gave the address of a blood source to him. Right, Josh. Back at the house, Josh and Nora are trying to talk to the young werewolf, who isn't buying their weird tales. That is, until Josh shows a video of him turning, which catches her attention. Of course, I think it was the naked shots of Sammy Huntington that left her speechless, but that could be what would make me stop short. She figures out that the whole werewolf thing might be real, and she is freaked. Out on some random street, Aidan is searching for the cable guy, and suddenly Henry attacks a guy, ready to chow down. Aidan stops him and sets the guy free, but notices discoloration on Henry's neck. Sally shows up at Trent's funeral, and talks to his girlfriend. Sally tells her he was unfaithful, and she was relieved, for she was cheating over the last year. Trent wasn't aware, and is quite hurt. Aidan and Henry are talking, for it is obvious Henry is about to succumb to the virus. Henry is resigned to dying, but Aidan remains upbeat. He thinks they can beat the virus, but Henry points out all the vampires around him die, and he knows it is now his turn. Then a really cool commercial came on.

Back to the story, Henry is coughing away, and his face is discoloring, graying. Aidan tries to help him, but Henry wants to move on, to live rather than to wait for death. He wants to go out as he lived, a feeding vampire to the end. At the funeral home, Trent is not happy, and tells Sally to stay away from him as he ghosts away. The funeral director, Max, tells Sally how he appreciates how she helped the girlfriend feel better, he appreciates what she did. Then he sees her out. Nora and Josh are helping the girl turn for the first time, with a raw roast to mark the territory, and a blanket and toothpaste. Nora is with her, but the girl changes first, and scares Nora. She attacks Josh's car, and he pulls out his gun. After a commercial break, we are back at the car, and once again, Nora protects Josh, going all Alphadog on the youngster, making her obey. Back on the street, Aidan sits with his son, who tells him Aidan needs to accept he is a vampire, and will not be human ever again. And he walks away, leaving Aidan deep in thought. Back at the funeral home, Trent is sitting while Max loads the flowers. His door appears, and he walks through it. Only instead of moving on, he enters the soup kitchen of the witch. She shreds him with a butcher knife, obliterating the ghost. Then she starts eating the shredded remains, which is kinda gross. Bring back the hot vampires. Oh, right, one is dying of a blood-borne plague of Aidan's kind. Yeah, it sounds familiar. Wanna know what is coming next week? Check out the preview!

Be sure to watch 'Being Human' on Monday nights at 9PM on the SyFy Channel. To learn more about Being Human, check out the official website. You can also follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dark Monday • All That Jazz

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Above: The magnificent Bernadette Peters.

In tonight's taste of Broadway experience, I thought I would return to the electrifying Bernadette Peters to bring some magic. So I set off to explore the world of Bernadette on Youtube, and discovered a 1975 appearance on the 'Carol Burnett Show'. One the show, she sang "All That Jazz" from the recently opened 'Chicago', with lyrics by Fred Ebb and music by John Kander. And while I don't remember her ever appearing in a production of the musical, I think she did a stellar job in making the song her own. I wonder why no producers were clever enough to get her somewhere they could sell tickets playing either Velma or Roxy. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Songs

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Sinead O'Connor Am I Not Your Girl? photo SineadOconnorAmINotYourGirl_zpsaa4a308b.jpg Billy Porter At The Corner of Broadway and Soul photo BillyPorterCornerofBwayampSoul_zps134fc2f7.jpg
Album covers from featured artists, clockwise: Blondie; Morrissey; Billy Porter; and Sinéad O'Connor.

In picking the songs which feature the work "Sunday" in the title, I simply went to my iTunes, typed in 'sunday' and wondered what would come up. To my surprise, 48 entries appeared, so some thought needed to get put into it. I decided to go with four songs, each from different decades. And while I was tempted to toss in Etta James' "Sunday Kind of Love" or Julie London's "Sunday Blues", I opted to go with other songs from other times. And I will start with the earliest selection, a favorite of mine. In 1978, a bunch of amazing things happened. I graduated from Smyrna High School, and went off to college in Reading, PA. And a Punk band released an album that changed the way some heard music, and what people thought about women rockers. It was, of course, Blondie, who released their breakthrough album, 'Parallel Lines'. The album was still churning out hits in 1979, like "Heart of Glass" and "One Way Or Another". Sandwiched in between those two singles was the delicate and beautiful "Sunday Girl".

You can purchase 'Parallel Lines' from iTunes and Amazon.

To leap into the next decade, it feels like I have little choice but to go with a song that the 'Mo' in Emo, the always blue Morrissey. Through his time with the Smith's and on to his solo career, Morrissey cornered the market on teenage angst, and put it into so many great songs. Here he sings "Every Day Is Like Sunday" from the 1988 album 'Viva Hate'.

You can purchase 'Viva Hate' from iTunes and Amazon.

Is there anyone out that who doesn't love Sinéad O'Connor? I mean, come on, really? Her voice is just so very special, and she has an amazing way to communicate the common struggle we all face. And wow, that voice. In 1992, Sinéad released the album 'Am I Not Your Girl?", with some great songs. Here she sings "Gloomy Sunday" off that album.

You can purchase 'Am I Not Your Girl?' from iTunes and Amazon.

I have had a wonderful crush on Billy Porter for a while now. And when I was trying to decide on the entries for this post and saw his name, I knew I would regret not including him. His voice is brilliant - soaring and glorious, carrying so much depth as it does. For the last entry, here is Billy Porter singing "Sunday" from Stephen Sondheim's great 'Sunday In The Park With George'. It is off Porter's 2005 album 'At The Corner of Broadway & Soul'.

You can purchase 'The Corner of Broadway & Soul' from iTunes and Amazon.

Hope your week is special!

Another Sunday with Elvis Presley

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It has been just over a year since we last spent Sunday Morning with the late and great Elvis Presley, so I thought we could visit him once again. Many thought Elvis did his best work when singing Gospel music, and it is easy to hear he had a great connection to it. While he might not have been a saint, this sinner sure knew how to repent. You can hear it in his voice when you listen to his recording of "Take My Hand, Precious Lord". The song had lyrics written by Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey, during the period of grieving after the death of his wife, who passed during childbirth in 1932. The melody was written by George Nelson Allen, as the melody for the song 'Maitland' was the melody Dorsey used when writing the lyrics. The song can be foudn on the 1957 release, 'Elvis' Christmas Album'.

Elvis also sang "Where Could I Go But To The Lord", written by James B. Coats in the first half of the last century. The song was off the 1967 release of Gospel songs, 'How Great Thou Art'. This is a video of Elvis performing the song in 1968.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Anyone Care To Jitterbug?

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The Puppini Sister photo ThePuppiniSisters_zpsb8b0eac9.jpg Judy Garland photo JudyGarland_zps6e1ced1f.jpg
Clockwise: Betty Hutton; Bette Midler; Judy Garland; and The Puppini Sisters.

While Saturday nights are often reserved for my favorite torch singers allowing the candle to burn bright, I thought tonight might be a great time to fight off the cold and snow in the Northeast with some excitement, a chance to create great energy. So I decided I would find some great songs that would drive you from your seats, wanting to hit the floor and do the jitterbug. Or at least some variation on that theme. And I will being with the song that really inspired me to plan this post, Betty Hutton singing "Old Man Mose". In 1939, Hutton recorded the song with Vincent Lopez Orchestra. The song was written by the legendary Louis Armstrong and Zilner Randolph.

Well, if I didn't include the Divine Miss M in this collection of jitterbugs, but I have to admit I wasn't sure which one to choose, so after googling "the top jitterbug songs", I had to go with the one making the list first. That would be written by Joe Garland, Glenn Miller, and Andy Razaf, first released in 1939 by the Glenn Miller Orchestra. I love the recording by Bette, off her 1973 second album, 'Bette Midler', making that recording 40 years old! Please enjoy as Midler sings "In The Mood".

I first have to say that The Puppini Sisters are neither sisters nor Puppinis, just they make exquisite harmonies that sound as if they've been singing together for a lifetime. Okay, so there is one Puppini among the trio. The groups is made up of Marcella Puppini, Stephanie O'Brien and Kate Mullins, who took the name as a tribute to the great Andrews Sisters, an inspiration for them and the music. The song was written by Don Raye and Hughie Prince, and first released by the Andrews Sisters in 1941.

The Puppini Sisters sing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy"

Judy Garland sing "Stompin' At The Savoy", a 1934 jazz standard composed by Edgar Sampson. After being a hit instrumental, lyrics were written by Andy Razaf, and soon the song was being sung by some of the best. On this 1936 recording, Judy sang with the Bob Crosby Orchestra.

Tony Hadley • Passing Strangers

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Many of "a certain age" will read the name Tony Hadley and feel an instant warmth come over them, like they heard great news of an old friend. That same feeling will come to others when I mention he was the voice behind Spandau Ballet, one of the great Pop bands of the 1980s. The band was part of the New Romantics movement, a musical subset of the New Wave movement coming out of the UK. The band was best know for their huge 1983 hit, "True". But like many bands of the tie, they had a tough time following up their early success, and by 1989, they broke up.

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Spandau Ballet

Hadley went on to a solo career, releasing albums in the 1990s and 2000s. One of those was a nostalgic look back to the Jazz/Swings classics. 'Passing Strangers' was a perfect match for Hadley's crisp vocals, showing off his pitch-perfect style with a depth that enriched the songs. Check out the title track from the album, written by Rita Mann and Mel Mitchell. On the album, Hadley was joined by the Paul Moran Big Band.

Hadley also included a song written in 1956 as part of the score for the Broadway musical Mr. Wonderful starring Sammy Davis, Jr. It was also a hit single by the wonderful Eydie Gormé, Yes, the wonderful song "Too Close For Comfort" is a perfect addition to the album.

Another of the great songs included was from the 1940 Rodgers and Hart musical 'Pal Joey'. It wuickly was ssung by some of the greatest names in music, becoming a strong entry in the Great American Songbook. He does a beautiful job with "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered".

'Passing Strangers' can be found on Amazon. You can order the physical CD here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Madonna • The Virgin Tour • 1985

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Back when it was all just starting out, a new artist released a DVD from her first tour/ 'The Virgin Tour' was recorded and released in 1985, featuring a very young Madonna and much of the music off her second album, 'Like A Virgin'. When I found this on YouTube, I knew I had to share it, and it seemed like a perfect was to start the weekend.

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The songs included are 1. "Dress You Up"; 2. "Holiday"; 3. "Into the Groove"; 4. "Everybody"; 5. "Gambler"; 6. "Lucky Star"; 7. "Crazy for You"; 8. "Over and Over"; 9. "Like a Virgin"; and 10. "Material Girl". I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

You can purchase her iconic album 'Like A Virgin' from iTunes and Amazon.

TaQuita Thorns • "Believe" Music Video

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TaQuita Thorns came to my attention following her performance at the recent OUTMusic Awards in Las Vegas. Thorns is a great straight ally for the LGBT community, always willing to offer her support to the cause. Many might know TaQuita from her time on MTV, both in the Sean "P.Diddy" Combs series 'Making The Band III', as well as a later participation reality television show 'The TaQuita & Kaui Show', which aired in 2007.

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Thorns has been hard at work making music in Los Angeles, both in the studio and in live shows. While she was working on her debut album, Thorns released a new single in time for the holiday season. "Believe (Power of Love)" has a bold sound, with the electric guitar leading the way with the driving beat.

There is so much to 'Believe' in with the single, TaQuita and her people have put together a contest to award prizes for great remixes of the song. The prizes include the chance to have the remix released to fans on major digital distribution platforms (such as iTunes,, Spotify and YouTube), a share 50% of all net royalties earned from the release of the remix with a payout of up to $1,000,000, to receive a signed CD of 'Rough & Fancy' following its release this year, and to have the remix promoted on all of TaQuita’s social media sites. But that is not all - the next-best five will receive a signed CD of “Rough & Fancy” following its release this year as well as a major shout out on all of TaQuita’s social media sites. For more information, as well as tracks to work with, check out the official contest page.

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Even though she have been in the studio putting final touches on her upcoming album, 'Rough & Fancy', TaQuita did take time to attend the recent OUTMusic Awards, and headline the Afterpary in spectacular fashion. Here is a video of Thorns performing "Shotgun", the great song made famous by Junior Walker & the All-Stars. That bold performance by Walker brought them to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and TaQuita does justice to the song.

To learn more about TaQuita Thorns, visit her official website. You can also find TaQuita on Facebook and on Twitter. You can purchase the single "Believe (Power of Love)" on iTunes and Amazon.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Carole Bayer Sager • Carole Bayer Sager

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Sometimes I can be quick to think there was a moment, or an artist that began my infatuation with the singer/songwriter I now hold so dear. To be honest, I am not sure when that switch was flipped, and I discovered the honesty of a performance that comes deep from within when the songwriter delivers their own music. I know I have long listened to people who fall under that umbrella, and still am proud to say do. But one thing I do know for sure is that, at some point while in college, I discovered the music of Carole Bayer Sager. I found it first when discovering her name on the songwriting credits for the music of Melissa Manchester. In fact, she had credits on some of my favorites sung by Manchester, including "Midnight Blue", "Come In From The Rain" and "Home To Myself". So it is no surprise I purchased her first self-titled album, released in 1977.

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I have to be honest and say I wasn't on the album right away, but a couple of years later. I was so into that album, I quickly went out to purchase her second album, the adorably titled 'Too...', but before her third and final album, the 1981 release 'Sometimes Late At Night'. But back to the first album. I had no idea what to expect, but purchased it on the basis of her songwriting. I was certainly not disappointed. Beginning with the first track, written by Bayer Sager and Melissa Manchester, "Come In From The Rain" opened the collection with a heartwarming moment. The song was sung by Manchester as well as the Captain and Tennille.

While I love all ten songs on the album, I had to pick out just a few so share with you, and least in this post. One of the things I decided to go with is to pick four songs, each with different co-writers that I really respect. That is most certainly the case with the next song, "Aces". I fell in love with this song from the very first time I listened, and felt it touch me. "Aces" was written by Carole and Bruce Roberts, another amazing writer. In fact, on the strength of some of his songs with Carole, I went out and purchased his eponymous debut, another one I love. Please enjoy "Aces".

I knew I had to include at least one of Bayer Sager's collaborations with the late, great Peter Allen, but wasn't sure which I would choose. For those who might not know of Allen, he was the flamboyant Australian singer/songwriter/performer who was discovered by Judy Garland, who added him to her tour. It is then he met Liza Minnelli, and subsequently was married to her for seven years. After they divorce, Allen came to terms with his own homosexuality, and became known on his own. But when I sat down and gave another listen, I decided to go with the beautiful "I'd Rather Leave While I'm In Love". I have always been touched by this song and performance.

Now after having three beautiful ballads, I had to offer an up-tempo song, right? And there might not be a better one that "You're Moving Out Today", written by Carole, with her friends Bruce Roberts and Bette Midler. In fact, it was also recorded by Midler, and after listening, you will know why. This song is just a complete delight, from start to finish. Enjoy "You're Moving Out Today".

Through the years, Bayer Sager was known to have relationships with a few of her collaborators. One of her more high-profile relationships was with songwriter extraordinaire Burt Bacharach. The duo were married for much of the 1980s, and even adopted a son together. In the 1970s, she had a relationship with the late Marvin Hamlisch. In fact, she not only wrote songs with Marvin, they also wrote the Broadway musical 'They're Playing Our Song' based on their own relationship. For more about Carole Bayer Sager, visit her official website. You can purchase her hard to find debut album on Amazon. That is to purchase of a physical CD, for I don't find her music on any of the digital download systems. But if you enjoyed the music from this post, it would be well-worth the purchase!

Stewart Lewis • Live In Wilmington

Stewart Lewis in Wilmingon, Delaware photo T6_StewartLewis003_zps81578108.jpg Stewart Lewis in Wilmingon, Delaware photo T6_StewartLewis004_zpseef3cbe8.jpg
Stewart Lewis in Wilmingon, Delaware photo T6_StewartLewis001_zps67b53f1e.jpg

I was lucky enough to be in the audience on November 17, 2012, where six singer/songwriters performed sing songs each as part of 'The Six' at the Chris White Art Gallery in Wilmington, Delaware. The acts were introduced by Gayle Dillman and Jeremy Hebbel of Gable Music, who put together the event. The reason I was there, along with my sister Kathy, was an invite from the magnificent Stewart Lewis, a favorite of mine since I was lucky enough to catch a show with him, Tom Goss and Jake Walden. Yes, the talent and handsome numbers were off the chart that night! Interestingly enough, a couple of years later, and Stewart hasn't lost any edge, still looking quite handsome, and just a gifted live performer. I was happy to have my camera and videocam with me, and you can see the pictures in this post. The videos will let you see the performer, his beautiful and layered performance of "Shine", a song off the album 'In Formation'.

Stewart's most recent release is a gorgeous collection of folk songs, 'Stumbling For Truth'. One of the very beautiful songs found on it is "Four Lanes To Pittsburgh", and I was so excited when he starting playing it. And another thing I love about live performances is when you learn a little bit about the song, like you will in this clip.

Another thing I love is when you are able to catch the artist singing a song that you can find on any of their recordings. That is the case when Stewart played "Where You Been", a song written by Reed Foehl, Stewart's brother. It is a lovely song, and it is so unusual for Stewart to be playing a full song he had not written. Enjoy "Where You Been".

Now, I mentioned 'full songs' above, because I have seen Stewart performing a version of his "Fifteen Song Medley" in previous shows. It is an ingenious medley of songs from your radio to Stewart's show. There are so many of the songs you will immediately recognize, and a couple that might sneak up on you. I just love this.

For more about Stewart Lewis, you can visit his official website. You can also find him on Facebook. You can purchase 'Stumbling For Truth' from iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon. You can purchase 'In Formation' from iTunes or buy the physical CD from Amazon or CD Baby. Go to his website and check his tour schedule, and if he is playing near you, I say get your butt to see him!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sean Kagalis • Songs From The New Depression

Sean Kagalis - Songs From The New Depression

I am beginning to think I owe a decent part of my music collection to J.D. Doyle, his Queer Music Heritage site. This post is no exception, as I first heard about Sean Kagalis from J. D., which made me go looking. I quickly discovered the handsome out and proud singer/songwriter has a new EP out that I posted about a while back, but I wanted to investigate his prior release, 'Songs From The New Depression', out in April of 2011. I am very glad I did, for the album is chock full of joy, I needed to share it with you all.

Sean Kagalis

"All Belongs" starts off the album with a bold sound combining a Country feel with bold Folk-style lyrics, talking straight from the heart, reminding us no matter what happens on your journey, it all belongs to the great human mosaic. Next we are hit with a sound reminding me of early-80s New Wave, stripped to the acoustic guitar. On the third cut, "Down The Drain", Sean turns to a bit of Power Folk Rock, a big sound like Bruce Springsteen to tell a folk tale about life in this country in this broken day and age, the powers that be who have allowed the country to go down the drain. With "Okay", Kagalis again points at politicians who just want the people to ignore the problems and issues, and take their word that it will be okay. Next, Sean puts a bit of polish on the Punk sound with "There". While there might not be a shared feeling, Kagalis addresses the shared experience we are having these days in "Going Through". While the journey might be similar, how we handle it sure can vary. Here is a live performance of the first track, "All Belongs."

The vivid & lush Pop feel for "Same" is impressive, and speaks to how we all have problems and issues to face. For "Where To Go", Sean takes a soulful take on a Pop anthem. He asks how we handle life in this difficult time. "Jacked" opens with a ethereal feel that soon shifts into drive with a bold acoustic guitar. The song talks about trusting in yourself. We need to stop putting our power out for the taking. Kagalis offers up "Proof" that no matter how discouraged you might feel, you need to know that it does get better. Just hear the voices of people like Sean (and other LGBT performers) for the proof we can't let the opinions of others hold you down. When the piano starts in on "Cremating Care", I will admit is was a change from the guitar-driven sound. The piano lends a nice weight behind the lyrics, asking everyone to offer love and care to one another, even if some of those in power want to take caring and love out of life. We must remember to look to those who walked before us, not those standing still to form a wall. The piano on "The House" adds a sweeter, warmer tone to the song. Kagalis reminds us that while some might be struggling in this hard economic time, losing property does not mean losing love. Sometimes, the facade must crumble in order to see what is really the frame that holds us up. Our heart, and those we share it with is what makes a house our home. The cacophony that makes up the world around us is at the core of "The Loudness War". No matter the din around us, we must continue to listen to the voice inside. The album closes with "At All", which begins with an elegant piano. The song has an expansive feel as he reminds us that while we all hit jams on our journey, in the big scheme of things, those problems aren't so big at all.

Sean Kagalis

I can tell you for sure that the journey Kagalis took me on with this album was a wonderful one, and I would highly recommend you take it, too. You can find 'Songs For The New Depression' on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby. For more about Sean Kagalis, visit his official website. You can also like him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. To read my review of his latest collection, 'Legalize It', click here.

Get Stupid With Brendan Maclean

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Australian singer/songwriter Brendan Maclean has begun work on this latest recording, and has asked for a bit of help with that. And an independent musician, he has no corporate backing for the project, and so he looks to his fans and the people who believe in his talent to join him in his journey. One way to do that is to become a part of his Pozible campaign. Pozible is a fundraising site, much like Kickstater, Indie-Go-Go, or PledgeMusic. But before I go there, how about a little reminder about Brendan?

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It is almost hard for me to believe, but I first mentioned Brendan on this blog almost two years ago, when I posted his hilarious cover of Rebecca Black's "Friday". That was brought to my attention by another gifted musician, David Raleigh. And once I saw his first video for the song "Practically Wasted", I was truly hooked.

So I purchased his EP, 'White Canvas', and have been eagerly awaiting new music from this fantastic out and proud musician. Along the way, I've been able to enjoy some thoughtful yet whimsical cover songs he's made available on YouTube, as well as a few singles. One of those singles was "OnlyOnly", letting Brendan release his inner rocker for this fantastic music video.

But back to the point at hand. Brendan is working on a new album, and is putting the finishing touches on his first single, "Stupid". Of course, he'd like everyone to get stupid with him, But I should allow him to explain it all to you.

If you are interested in joining the campaign to make the new record "Pozible", there are many ways to participate. For just $2, you can get an electronic copy of "Stupid" when it becomes available. For $5, you can get a signed copy of the physical single. For $13, you can get a download link for the new record once it is completed this April/May. Well, you get the idea. There are many choices, some of which include recordings made just for you, personal messages from Brendan, and many others. Check out the choices at the Pozible website. It is easy to sign up for an account, and if you decide to join in the fun, you can use a credit or debit card, on a secure link, or use your PayPal account. I believe in supporting musicians making music you enjoy. If you want to hear more from Brendan Maclean, this is a perfect opportunity to step up and make sure great music continues to be made. I know I did!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fontaine James • The Odd Fellows Hall

Fontaine James -  The Odd Fellows Hall

Sometimes I love having this blog so very much. Most of the time, it is when I happen upon new music, something I didn't even know existed. I have to admit I experienced that feeling when I first hit play on a new CD I got from Fontaine James, a New Yorker with a style that is hard to categorize. But I got a Facebook message from James, mentioning out singer/songwriter Jeffery Straker, so my interest was piqued. He asked for my address, and soon I had a physical CD in my hands, eager to be heard. So I obliged.

Fontaine James

Before I get to the music, I must mention the packaging for 'The Odd Fellows Hall' is pretty stunning. It has the vintage carny feel, but with a current tone. It is beautifully styled, without a hint of schtick. The art direction is amazing, making me even more interested in putting the disc in and hitting play. And when I did, I heard the muffled sounds of an audience in the big top as the band begins to play. There is a nostalgic bent, both in the sound of the music, and the lyrical content. "Heading to the Moon" captures a story, much like a film short, fleshed out with lyrics that both capture a tone as well as communicate the tale. And once the second track beings, we learn each song is more a short story, an F. Scott Fitzgerald vignette, with layers of story, and lots of flavors. "Cigarette" gives a nod to a period, but maintains a current sound and feel. The lyrics are prose-like, beautiful and evocative at once. There is a female voice at the top of "Shelly Okay", one that is soon left behind by the brisk pace of the song. He returns to school to illuminate the story of his time with a substitute teacher. That is followed by "Barely There", a charm-drenched tale of a couple with more style than substance. Next up is "Mellow", which you can hear if you hit play...

Next up, "Don't Waste A Smile" leads with a percussive opening, somewhere between Pop and Tribal. The song takes on honesty in relationships, in a fresh way. "Kaleidoscope" begins with a strong feeling of the 1960s, of 'Valley of the Dolls', with a winsome instrumentation, and delicious harmonies in the chorus. "Dada" starts with a European feel, something that would fit well with a lovely glass of Merlot. There is something quite alluring about "Rat-Ta-Tat-Ta-Tat", with the guitar-driven verse, and a rather spectacularly retro chorus. What do you think?

"Love Test" is another moody song, feeling a little Beatlesque, in a hallucinogenic kind of way. It captures some aspects of love so damn well. That is followed by the bistro-flavored "Am I Dreaming", feeling very Parisian. I swear I smell the cigarettes and fresh bread mixed with the scent of the Seine. That leaves us with "Everyone I've Ever Met", feeling a bit like a closing soliloquy to the five-act play we've been attending. Like the rest of the album, it has a charm and honesty that seems to be the cornerstone of Fontaine's music. In fact, the album on the whole is like a collection of short stories, rich in character and deep in narrative. And all that is tied together with a wonderful melodic bow, adding to the rich texture of the collection.

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After I have listened to this album time and time again, I am still excited as I listen. This album is a great addition to my music collection. The music manages to do something rare, which is to be hard to categorize, yet remain truly memorable. You can purchase 'The Odd Fellows Hall' on iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon. To learn more about Fontaine James, visit his official website.

SyFy's Being Human • "(Dead) Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"

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Left to right: Sam Huntington as Josh; Kristen Hager as Nora; Sam Witwer as Aidan; and Meaghan Rath as Sally.

Being Human is the SyFy Channel's version of the great series first produced on the BBC. Since the early episodes of the series, the SyFy version, set in Boston, Massachusetts, found a narrative of its own, allowing the ghost, the vampire, and the werewolf to step out of the shadowy constraints of the British original and find a life of their own. I love both series!

When last we saw our supernatural trio, Josh was no longer a werewolf, but still delving in the occult. He and his girlfriend, Nora, were working with a priestess, who was bringing former roommate and ghost Sally back to life. A barely coherent (and alive) Sally communicates to Josh that she might have brought a couple of ghostly buddies along with her, giving him more to think about. By the way, while Josh might be human, he is still dating Nora, who is still a werewolf. And vampire roomy Aidan, who spent the last 18 months entombed in a grave, was having hallucinations and flashbacks, was lying next to a crashed van, hoping to survive. He had recently learned much of the vampire population was destroyed by a blood-borne disease. To find out what is next for the group, we'll have to watch the second episode of season 3, '(Dead) Girls Just Wanna Have Fun'!

This episode opens with an angry father taking on the undead Amish, staking them once he sees the mounted head of a werewolf on the wall. That is quite a different Amish community than I grew up around in Delaware, to be sure. He threatens vengeance and what not, against whomever slaughtered his son. But we quickly cut to the home of the supernatural trio, only to learn two of the trio are just human. Sally is back among the living, along with her two ghostly buddies in limbo. As the two friends are shipped off, vowing never to see anyone who knew them when alive. The phone rings, and they rush to pick up Aidan, who was barely 'alive', at least in a vampiric way, yet fully bearded. They mention to Aidan that Sally is now human, and that Josh doesn't smell like a dog, but Nora does. You know, just your average reunion chat. Later, Aidan shows up clean shaven, learning that Sally is planning a party, to celebrate life once again. She borrows some club clothes from Nora, who will be transforming in a storage unit instead.

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Before Nora goes the the unit, she mentions she is aware he stands guard when she turns, and she'd like it to end. He needs to stop living like a werewolf, and hit the town with Sally. He agrees. Aidan goes to find clean blood, fearful of infection. He hears of a guy, and must find him. Sally and Josh are out at a bar, discussing the fact they are both human. And that Josh wants to marry a werewolf...

In a darkened alley, Aidan tries to buy some clean blood, only to be trapped by vampire bashers. He tries to run, but they catch up with him. They punch and kick, apparently living with anger management issues that need to be looked at. I mean, what does punching a vampire really accomplish? But just before they stake him, who should show up but handsome Henry, Aidan's son. He kills the attackers and brings 'Dad' home to meet the new girlfriend.

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Sally is recognized, and after a momentary panic, she comes up with an odd story of faked death, FBI-level relocation and the like. The idiot buys her story, and she is intrigued by tales of her funeral. And pomegranate martinis. Even as Josh tries to take her away. Back with Henry and Aidan, we learn silly vampire was fooled by the untainted blood scam. Henry has stayed healthy by snacking on his girlfriend, and just for tonight, Aidan can have an appetizer. Meanwhile, Nora is about to turn, when the angry father stops in to see her. Seems he is the father of the twins, a werewolf himself. He wants to find Brynn, which is making Nora nervous. Then he insists they change together, which scares her very much. Back in the bar, Sally informs Josh she will be taking home this boy, to have sex. This freaks Josh out, especially when she asks about condoms. Aidan is about to snack, when he gets that uncomfortable feeling that his lunch might be a blood slave, held captive by Henry to keep her blood clean. She starts to panic, and Henry comes in to convince her to calm down, and listen to what he says. Aidan seems less than impressed. But still hungry.

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Aidan is upset, and takes off, without snacking. He is weak, it has been 18 months since he last ate. He is 'jonesing' for some blood, people. On the porch of the house, Sally is making out with her brother's friend, who turns down sex but would like a date the next night. Josh is killing time walking the streets, when he feels the relief of not being a werewolf. On the couch, Sally is telling Aidan about her night, and her liking life on the edge. they flirt coyly, and not in a good way. She mocks his deadly parlor, calling it heroin chic. Both seem bent on causing Josh pain, thinking only of themselves and their own thrill ride. The next morning, Sally is chatting with Josh, trying to convince him not to propose to Nora while letting her out of the storage unit, when they hear sirens. They go outside, and see Sally's date is being collected by the coroner. Did he die because he saw her? Is that part of her reanimated curse?

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After a commercial break, Aidan happens upon Henry, having just set his blood source free. He talks to Henry about surviving this blood-borne epidemic, getting free of the blood addiction. Henry isn't buying his bull, and storms off. Josh goes to pick up Nora, only to find the door broken and smeared with blood. He calls out, but she doesn't howl back. What has that man done to Nora? How will Josh find her? Guess we'll have to tune in next Monday at 9PM on the SyFy Channel, to see "The Teens, They Are A-Changin'" on 'Being Human'. For a preview, check this out!


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