Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Voice Season 4 • Knockout Rounds 2

The Season 4 Knockouts began last night, as Team Adam and Team Shakira brought their numbers down to four each, as Adam picked Amber Carrington, Caroline Glaser, Judith Hill, and Sarah Simmons for the finals, and Shakira picked Garrett Gardner, Kris Thomas, Karina Iglesias, and Sasha Allen. Tonight, Team Blake and Team Usher will be center stage, and their coaches are hoping they will be at their best. By the end of the night, all four teams will be down to four acts each, just right for the finals. It is time, ready or not, for the last of the Knockouts.

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Left to right: Adam Levine, Usher, Blake Shelton, and Shakira.

Team Blake kicks off the night with Savannah Berry and Justin Rivers, two Country performers. Both will be finding their inspiration in Pop music, as Savannah will be singing Justin Bieber's "As Long As You Love Me" and Justin will be taking on Miley Cyrus' big hit, "The Climb". Blake loves him some Savannah in rehearsal, but worries about Justin, wanting him to show his range without adding in too many runs. Should be interesting. Let's hear Justin Bieber with "As Long As You Love Me".

Savannah is the first up, and I am not loving what she is doing. I feel lots of whine in her version of the song, and not much else. It just felt muddled and murky. Justin comes out to sing "The Climb", and is right on with his glory notes, but a tad off otherwise. But honestly, I would most likely go with Justin, although both were a bit underwhelming. I was surprised to hear Usher, Shakira and Adam suggest they would pick Justin, and finally, Blake agreed. Justin is going to the finals, and a teary Savannah is heading home. So it is time for Team Usher to show their stuff, and Usher picks Josiah Hawley and Jess Kellner to be the first Knockout round. Handsome Josiah will be singing "Back To Black" by Amy Winehouse, while Jess will take on James Morrison's "You Give Me Something". Usher wants his acts to show sincerity, and a vulnerability to the audience. Jess really needs to be careful, as she sings the song with her alcoholic mother in mind. But before we begin the competition, here is Amy Winehouse singing "Back To Black".

I am happily surprised for Josiah, for I thought he sounded great, with a wonderful tone to his voice. I really enjoyed that. Jess came out, and I was not real impressed. I thought she had a problem staying on key, and she flailed at times on the song. Now I was pretty surprised to hear both Blake and Adam favored Jess in the round. As Usher was making the decision, it felt like he might be swayed by the other judges, but finally picked Josiah to go to the finals. Josiah is pleased to be moving one, while Jess a bit sad to be heading home. After a commercial break, we learn that Blake will be sending Holly Tucker and Luke Edgemon to the ring. Blake wanted to see how his power vocalists would do one on one. Holly will be singing "Live Like You Were Dying", made famous by Tim McGraw, while Luke changes up Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" to make it his own. In the rehearsals, Blake pushes Holly just to have more confidence, for he thinks she has the talent. At first he is unsure about Justin's song choice, but soon is enjoying it so much. Here is Katy Perry with "Teenage Dreams".

Holly starts off with the Country Pop tune, and she does a nice job, but it exposes her voice as a bit thin, at least for me. I think she could have been helped by relaxing some, for she seemed tense. It also seemed fairly karaoke to me, with little originality in the performance. Luke comes out with a slowed-down take on Katy Perry, and I am loving it his R&B spice. His voice sounds fantastic, and he has owned this song, completely. He easily showed artistic range, and yet Usher didn't like it very much. But Shakira and Adam disagree, and thought Luke was the clear winner. Blake thought it was a tough decision, and finally picked Holly, which confuses the hell out of me. I have yet to be impressed by her, and have been so enjoying Luke. Wow, that was really disappointing, for I thought Luke was the strongest voice on Blake's team. Well, time to move on to Usher, who is putting up Audrey Karrasch and Michelle Chamuel, his two indie artists. Audrey will be singing "How To Love" by Little Wayne, but during rehearsals, it wasn't pretty. She was having trouble, and needed much more work. Michelle will be singing "Raise Your Glass" by Pink, and her only problem during rehearsals was having the air to complete the song. Quickly, she and Usher are doing pushups on the stage! Here is Pink singing "Raise Your Glass".

Audrey is a train wreck from the start, somehow both straining and missing the notes. The only really positive thing I could say is she looked nice. Michelle came out like gangbusters, and stayed on top of the song, and giving it her own twist. She was moving all around the stage, giving an active performance. The coaches all enjoyed Michelle, and thought she won out. It seemed like and easy decision to me, but Blake made it clear there was no clear answer. So I was quite pleased when Usher said Michelle was the winner. Blake comes on to announce the next pairing, as he pits youngsters Danielle Bradbery and Taylor Beckham for this round. Blake thinks they both could use a bit more confidence, and hopes one will really step up. Danielle will be singing "Jesus Take The Wheel" by Carrie Underwood, while Taylor will be singing Rihanna's "Russian Roulette". In rehearsal, he loves Danielle's voice, and just loves her. When Taylor is done, he encourages her to invest more in the song, and really get him to buy the song. Before they perform, here is Carrie Underwood singing "Jesus Take The Wheel".

Danielle is the first to perform, and while she has a lovely voice, it feels like this is weaker than the rehearsal, and the ending has a few rough notes. It just felt to me that she let her nerves get the best of her. To be honest, I was a tad disappointed. Next it was time for Taylor to sing, and the opening bars were a little rough, but she seems to gain confidence, and really comes alive. She struggles with some pith issues along the way, but really sells the song. I kinda favored Taylor. However, Usher felt differently, and thought Danielle stole the show. Shakira and Adam agreed. It was time for Blake to decide, and he picks Danielle to go to the finals, and Taylor heads home. Afterwards, Blake admits it was an easy choice for him, for he didn't like Taylor's song choice, although he really liked her. So on to the next Knockout, as Usher announces he wants to see C. Perkins and VEDO competing, for he only has room for one R&B singer. C. Perkins will be singing "She Ain't You" by Chris Brown while VEDO takes on the Bryan Adams ballad, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You". While C. Perkins seems to struggle a bit in rehearsal, VEDO seems to connect well to his song and deliver the goods for his coach. Give a listen to Bryan Adams on his wonderful song, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You".

Right out of the gate, C. Perkins struggles with pitch, and you can hear how tentative he is in his vocals. This is just not an enjoyable performance for me. I was happy when it was over. VEDO came out ready to go, and since it was dedicated to his late mother, and the emotion showed in a great way. Shakira, Adam, and Blake all thought it was VEDO who took the battle. While I think it was very clear, Usher takes time to consider before announcing that VEDO will be moving on to the finals. After a commercial break, Blake has his final Knockout, as Grace Askew and The Swon Brothers take to the stage. This will be an interesting battle, for they both have a Country sound, big and bold. The Swon Brothers sing "Drift Away", the great song made popular by Dobie Gray, while Grace will be singing "I Can't Stand The Rain", originally sung by Ann Peebles, and later covered by the great Tina Turner. Check out Tina's version of the song.


Grace is up first, and seemed eager to show her Memphis Blues, but have to say that was her weakest vocals to date, at least for me. I was so looking forward to hearing her, and I was disappointed. The Swon Brothers were right on form, picking a great song, and bringing the audience with them. I thought they were the clear winners of the battle. Usher loved the Swon Brothers, while Shakira and Adam thought it could go either way. After some contemplation, Blake picks The Swon Brothers to go to the finals. And that leads us to the final Knockout Battle of the night, and the last of the season, as next week they all move on to the live finals. Team Usher closes out the evening when Ryan Innes and Cáthia are called to the stage. Usher is looking forward to hearing the two emotional singers going head-to-head. Cáthia will be singing "Mr Know It All" by Kelly Clarkson, and in rehearsal, Usher helps her with the stage moves, getting her more comfortable. Ryan will be taking on Gavin DeGraw's big hit, "I Don't Want To Be". Here is Gavin's original version.

Cáthia is up first, and I am confused by the tempo of the song, as her phrasing seems to be fighting it. She gains control in the chorus, but it seems to come and go a bit. I found this vocal to be sloppy, more about the vocal tricks than communication. Ryan comes out and shocks me, as the soulful singer turns in a shouty, soulless performance that seemed more angry than musical, with some rough notes to be sure. So very disappointing. Adam and Shakira both mentioned being disappointed with Ryan's performance, and Blake preferred Cáthia as well. When it came time to pick the winner, Usher went with Cáthia, who was better on the night. But it is a shame that the better performer was not given the coaching he needed to have a better showing. But the teams have been picked, and Team Blake turned out to be all Country singers, with Justin Rivers, Holly Tucker, Danielle Bradbery, and The Swon Brothers flying his banner. Team Usher will be Josiah Hawley, Michelle Chamuel, VEDO, and Cáthia, all eager to take their place in the spotlight. They will join Team Adam's talented Amber Carrington, Caroline Glaser, Judith Hill, and Sarah Simmons, and Team Shakira's bold competitors Garrett Gardner, Kris Thomas, Karina Iglesias, and Sasha Allen.

Derek Bishop • PreOder For New Album

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I was first introduced to the music of Derek Bishop by another musician I respect greatly, Brett Gleason. When I get a recommendation like that, I certainly make sure I give it a good listen. I am glad to say that I wasn't disappointed, for Derek's "Resistance Is Beautiful' was a charming listen, one I fully enjoyed. And when he recently put out word that he was back working on a new album, and you could make a pre-order now, no one had to tell me twice. You see, I still had such great feelings about his first album, I was eager for more. In case you didn't get the chance to listen, here is a great music video for the wonderful song "Why Hold On" from his debut album.

The album is filled with songs that have strength not only in the influences, but in the strong essence behind them. Bishop writes his songs, and they are obviously all close to his heart. The album appealed to me right away, and has held me since. That would include a track I was particularly fond of, and the music video only made me love it more. "Take Him Away" featured a guest starring role for Brett Gleason, a piano man who plays through some high party drama, while Derek takes things into his own hands...

Now that I have had that walk down memory lane, you can see why I was so excited about hearing new music from Derek Bishop. In case you might be interested as well, I guess I should let Derek tell you more about it himself. Give a listen, and just be careful the handsome devil doesn't steal your heart.

To place your pre-order, or to learn more about the new music, visit Derek on his Kickstarter page. You can also read my review of 'Resistance Is Beautiful' here.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Voice Season 4 • Knockout Rounds 1

So far in Season 4, we have seen the blind auditions, and judges Shakira, Usher, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton spin their chair to fill out their teams. Next came the Battle Rounds, which brought the number from 12 to 8 on each team. Now it is time for the next step, the Knockouts, with two hours of performances tonight and tomorrow night. This will leave each team with 4 acts, and ready to begin the finals next week with live shows. This is the last chance for Adam, Blake, Usher and Shakira to tweak their teams to pick what they believe will be the best lineup they can put out in the finals, and see how the home audience will react with their vote. This is when each team will pit one act against another to cut the numbers in half, in a sudden death playoff situation. The artists will pick out their own songs, and see who will survive. So ready or not, here come the Knockouts.

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Left to right: Adam Levine, Usher, Blake Shelton, and Shakira.

Tonight, we will see both Team Adam and Team Shakira on the stage, and in fact it is Team Adam who is first up. He has chosen to pit Amber Carrington against Midas Whale, a battle of opposites in many ways. Amber is the big voiced Country singer, while Midas Whale is the quirky Folk duo with as much charm as talent. Amber is up first, and she sings Avril Lavigne song "I'm With You". Her voice is big and bold, not straying from pitch for a moment. There seemed to be no nerves, and she just sang the song the best she could. Midas Whale has the daunting task of singing next, and they choose to take on "Higher Ground" by Stevie Wonder.

They give it a makeover, with an amped-up frenetic pace making it tough to really hear their harmonies. Pretty much it is a no-brainer, and Adam picks Amber to move on to the finals. So it is time for Team Shakira to make an appearance, and the Latin beauty calls on Garrett Gardner and Tawnya Reynolds to be her first Knockout. Garrett decides to sing Alex Clare's "Too Close". The rocker with the gritty voice and good looks got some help from his mentor during rehearsals and seems ready. Tawnya is singing "Hell On Heels" by Pistol Annies, another Country effort. But it was Garrett who was first up singing "Too Close".

He did a nice job, and I was a bit impressed. He kinda swallowed the title line, but really loved the rest of the song. I thought Tawnya did a nice job, but was a bit too reserved, lacking some originality. Blake, Adam and Usher were all supportive of both singers, and finally Shakira decided to bring Garrett to the finals, and send Tawnya home. It seems Shakira sees star power in Garrett, and Blake agrees. Back to Team Adam, and he will put Amy Whitcomb and Caroline Glaser. Amy is the big voiced singer who comes from the world of choral groups, while Caroline is the quirky alternative singer more at home in the coffeehouse. Amy will be singing "House of the Rising Sun", the traditional Folk song best known for the version by The Animals in 1964. Caroline will be singing "Little Talks", by the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men. Here are the Animals with "House of the Rising Sun".

Amy was the first out of the gate, and while she has a nice voice, she just really trampled all over the song, favoring power notes and contrived growls over substance or emotion. I was just waiting for her to step it back a bit and appreciate the lyrics just a little, but instead got form over function. Next up, we had Caroline singing "Little Talks", a perfect song for her. I liked her take on the song, and it just sounded like she had a perfect delivery. Blake would pick Caroline for the round, while Usher picked Amy. So it is up to Adam, who admits both were better in rehearsal, and that worries him a bit. But he picks Caroline, and sends Amy home. Backstage, Amy said she will be cheering for Caroline for the win, and was proud of her performance. After a commercial break, it is time for Shakira to put the next two artists up for possible elimination. She announces that Kris Thomas will be taking on Mary Miranda, an interesting battle indeed. Kris will be singing Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World". In rehearsals, Shakira wants him to show control, and enhance the sweetness in his voice, instead of trying to manufacture power. She is dead on with that. Mary will be singing "Every Breath You Take" by The Police, which sounds like an odd choice in rehearsals. Here is the classic from The Police.

Kris is up first, and he freshens up the older song with his R&B take on the song, and he added a great touch with the song. He took Shakira's notes, and put out a beautiful performance. Then Mary came out and delivered an interesting twist on the Police song, really giving it a Spanish flavor, and I was pleasantly surprised. Adam would give the nod to Mary, while Blake wouldn't be able to decide, he enjoyed them both. And while Usher's thoughts seem to favor Kris, he doesn't really endorse either officially. So it is up to Shakria, and she picks Kris to move on to the finals, and sends Mary home. After another break, Team Adam returns to the stage. The Maroon 5 frontman sends Judith Hill and Orlando Dixon to the stage. Judith will be singing "Always On My Mind" by Willie Nelson, and in rehearsal she sounds amazing. Orlando will be singing "All My Life" by K-Ci & JoJo. His rehearsal shows the need for a little work. This is the song as performed by K-Ci & JoJo.

Judith is up first, and her voice is gorgeous, and she delivers a beautiful version of the song that sounded fresh and new. That was a standout performance. Orlando is up next, and he starts off nicely, but the chorus gets busy and congested, and just so muddled. Blake is up first, and he would pick Judith. Usher thought Orlando was good, but the nod must go to Judith. Shakira thought the round went to Judith, and it was time for Adam to make the decision. It is no surprise, he picks Judith. Orlando will be going home. We are just over the midway point of tonight's episode, with three Knockouts remaining. Shakria picks out her next match up, and it is Karina Iglesias singing opposite Monique Abbadie. Karina will be taking on a great rock song, "Are You Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz. Meanwhile, Monique will be singing "The Power of Love" by Jennifer Rush, but made popular by Celine Dion. But first, here is Lenny Kravitz doing his thing.

Karina was up first, and from the start, I thought her performance lacked a little juice, a little energy. Rather than taking control of the song, she let the band have the lead. She sounded on key, just a bit underwhelming. When Monique begins, I will admit to thinking this song is sung way too often on reality television, and seldom does it work. But I must admit, she added a few nice touches to the opening lines, and remained on key throughout, which is often the downfall. This round is surprisingly tight, although not very impressive for either, and not sure who I'd pick. Adam thought he would side with Karina, while Blake would side with Monique. No one really thought the song choices were great this round. After much consternation, Shakira goes with Karina, due to her show of confidence. After another break, it is time for the last battle for Team Adam, as Sarah Simmons and Warren Stone will be taking to the stage for a chance in the finals. Warren will be singing "(I Just) Died In Your Arms" by Cutting Crew, taking the Rock song and making it Country. Sarah will be taking on "Wild Horses", the song made famous by The Rolling Stone. But first, here is The Cutting Crew on their great song, "(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight".

Warren is up first, and he really changed up the song, and did a great job with it. He brings a real Country/Rock vibe to it, and allowed his voice to soar when needed. I wasn't sure he could actually do this well. But his battle is definitely in the hands of Sarah, whose angelic voice has an amazing ethereal quality. Wow, I am a little confused. I was really expecting this to be better than it is - she allowed the song to get mired down, and kinda lost me. I was disappointed. Blake, Usher, and Shakira all praised Warren, but gave the round to Sarah. I figured that is the way it would go, but not sure that is the call I would make. In fact, I would have picked Warren, who really delivered tonight. But Adam makes the expected pick by going with Sarah, and completes his all-girl team. And in the final Knockout of the night, Shakira sends Shawna P and Sasha Allen to the stage. Sasha will be singing "At Last", the song made great by Etta James. Shawna will be taking on "Maybe I"m Amazed", the great song by Paul McCartney. But first, let's listen to Paul singing his classic song.

Sasha came out and sang the crap out of the song, and gave a truly wonderful performance. That was different from the original, with her own special flair. Shawna came out, and delivered a good, but not great performance. She was a bit affected, and really needs to take a step back and get a fresh look at her style. Her voice has some power. Adam, Blake and Usher all offer their support to Sasha, and Shakira makes it official, and Sasha moves on to the finals. This finishes out Shakira's team, with two boys and two girls. Tomorrow night, The Voice comes back for two more hours as Team Blake and Team Usher figure out who will be competing in the finals.

Dark Monday • Blow Gabriel Blow

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The magnificent Patti LuPone starred as Reno Sweeney in the 1987 revival of Cole Porter's sassy 'Anything Goes'. The show featured many of Cole Porter's iconic songs that LuPone sang eight nights a week in the Vivian Beaumont Theater. The revival opted to go in a slightly new direction, employing a swing band to sound more like Benny Goodman than Broadway musical. And it is impossible to go wrong with Patti LuPone in the lead, allowing her to put her own special twist on some classic songs. One of those was the glorious "Blow, Gabriel, Glow", which brought down the house in the second act each and every night. Enjoy this clip of Patti singing it at a 1988 performance at the White House, with the U.S. Marine Band.

But to give you a chance to see Patti dressed as Reno Sweeney and putting down a great performance, here is a clip of her singing "Anything Goes" at the 1988 Tony Awards ceremony, the song that brings down the first Act with a bang!

You can purchase the 1987 Broadway Revival Cast album on iTunes and Amazon.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Torch Just Keeps On Coming

Torch Singers
Clockwise from Top Left: Edith Piaf, Patsy Cline, Judy Garland, Dame Shirley Bassey, and Sarah Vaughan

We are back in that smokey club, listening to the ladies sing the blues about love and loss, and matters of the heart. They stand in a simple spotlight, where you can see the smoke wafting through the air. In the background, you hear the tinkling of glasses being raised, drunk from, and collected by the wait staff. There is a whisper that stays steady in the room. But when the really good torch singer comes out, a hush will fall over the room. She will dictate the feeling of the room, be it sadness, hurt, or desire. That never changes. A clear example of the power of the lady in charge is Sarah Vaughan. With her legendary jazz styling, she delivers a light sweetness to Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington's "The Nearness of You". There is just a hint of longing, just enough to keep it interesting.

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley, if she wasn't one of the great torch singers of all time, then she would have been the perfect source of material for many a song. From her struggle in the music business because she didn't fit the standard of feminine beauty in the day, to dying in a tragic plane crash at the age of 30, Patsy Cline used her gorgeous voice to garner the success and respect due her talent. Her "Walking After Midnight" added just the right amount of strength to temper the plaintiff quality a lesser singer might fall victim to that trap.

The French knew here as "The Sparrow," or, en Francais, "Piaf." She was born Édith Giovanna Gassion in Paris. She has long been regarded as France's greatest popular singer of all time. One reason was the sheer emotion she would bring to the songs, especially the ballads. Take, for instance, "Je Ne Regrette Rien" can be translated as "No, I'm not sorry for anything." The song is sung in French, composed by Charles Dumont, with lyrics by Michel Vaucaire. It is most famously sung by the one and only Sparrow, Édith Piaf.

In 1964, Dame Shirley Bassey sang a song by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, from the musical 'The Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd'. She was the first to record "Who Can I Turn To?", although it would later be a hit in the US by Tony Bennett. She also performed the Hugh Martin and Timothy Gray song, "You'd Better Love Me".

When it comes to torch singers, it is tough to deny Judy Garland is up there with the best of them. When she was just 14, she filmed her first song for the movies, "You Made Me Love You". She didn't stop singing until she passed away 33 years later. Many of her great songs were about love - either looking for it, or having just lost it. She added her own touch of melancholia to Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" here.

Bartender, I'll have another round.

Crosby,Stills, Nash and Young • Teach Your Children

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Left to right: Neil Young, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Stephen Stills.

Just thought it would be nice to start off your Saturday with this gorgeous song written by Graham Nash and performed to perfection by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released in 1970, off their brilliant album 'Déja Vu'.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Matt Gold • Void

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Singer/songwriter Matt Gold has released his third music video, and proves once again to have a team that is loving the medium of video, and figured out how to make it love you back. After the videos for "Ordinary" and "Oh Joe", it should come as no surprise the video is visually interesting, and a natural complement to the song. "Void", like the songs from the previous two videos, can be found on Gold's debut album, 'Drown Before You Swim'. I loved the song, for it has such an aching quality, simply perfect for talking about the emptiness you feel immediately after love is lost, and a relationship ends. Shot in a lush Black & White format, the camera captures the most interesting aspects of Gold, and makes you see just how hurt he is, and just how handsome he is as well. Enjoy "Void".

I watch the video, and am moved each and every time, like it is telling my own life story. I bet if you shared it with your friends, they would say the same thing. You can find Matt Gold's album 'Drown Before You Swim' on iTunes and Amazon. To read the post featuring his music video for "Ordinary", click here. For the post about "Oh Joe", click here. If you would like to learn more about Matt Gold, visit his official website. He can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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Derek Nicoletto • San Simeon

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I just loved Derek Nicoletto's recent release, 'Just Panic and Get it Over With', so I couldn't help but be excited when I saw Derek had released his first music video in conjuncture with the EP. I eagerly hit play for the "San Simeon" video, and was happy I did. The song is wonderful, as you can read in my original review. The video only looks to enhance that beauty, and it worked for me. Check out the beautiful imagery from "San Simeon".

If the use of paints and art weren't enough, Derek's handsome and smiling face would make any day brighter. Of course, the song already got that job done, so everything else is bonus points. You can purchase 'Just Panic And Get It Over With' from iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about Derek Nicoletto, check out his official website. You can also follow him on Twitter or "like" him on Facebook.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

American Idol 12 • Top 4 Sing One Hit Wonders & More

The Top 4 of American Idol Season 12 take to the stage tonight, the first time since Season 3 that the remaining four are all women. Heck, that is the only time in the history of the show one sex has dominated the top 4 positions. But in season 3, the producers stacked the deck, as the Top 12 was made up of 4 men and 8 ladies, as opposed to the 5-5 split this season. But that was also back in the day when the contestants needed to adhere to the themes of the shows, unlike this year, when the announced themes seem more like loose generalizations, "as long as we can praise Amber." This week, the fans voted what musical theme they wanted to see/hear, and they picked One-Hit Wonders. But after seeing the list of spoilers, I seriously am confused about the concept of what exactly makes a One-Hit Wonder. Procol Harum had three songs in the Top 40, and yet their biggest hit, "A Whiter Shade of Pale", makes the list here. "McArthur Park" was a one-hit wonder for Richard Harris, although he did appear in the film version of Camelot playing the lead on a fairly successful soundtrack album. Of course, most people will remember the version by the late, great Donna Summer, which is more like the version we shall hear. The second theme of the night, Contestant Free Choice, is perhaps the best of the season, as we finally get to hear music that is hopefully more current so we can judge how the young ladies sound in a contemporary setting, rather than a karaoke contest. Oh, let's just get this thing started.

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Left to right: Candice Glover, Angie Miller, Kree Harrison, and Amber Holcomb.

The show begins giving us a look of the Top 4 during their auditions, to give us a thought toward how far they've all come. Thankfully Angie reminds us that we have a really tough choice to make, and then we are introduced to the judges and Crusty, who comes down the steps to the delighted screams of the audience. He reminds us there are only a matter of a few weeks left, and Amber, Angie, Candice and Kree all want to be in the final. He introduces them, and the audience goes crazy. Crusty sends them back to get ready for the show, and tells us about the ladies going to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles. First up, we hear Amber's thought on her trip, and hear her singing a song by Celine Dion. She will be singing "The Power Of Love", originally sung by Jennifer Rush, and then popularized by Celine Dion.

As she begins to sing the song, I hear she is doing nothing really new with the song, and her voice lacks the volume and power of Dion. She does bring the song to a soft landing, easing off the volume. In truth, that is where her vocal strays a bit, sounding strained. I have yet to hear her really bring anything new to a song, save maybe costuming. Keith loved it, and thought it was a perfect choice for her. Nicki loved it as well, and thought the song was made for her. Randy thinks she has come the furthest this season, starting a girl, but now a woman. Mariah also loved her range and tone, and gave her the "hashtag POW" critique. I guess I remain "hashtag HUH?" Jimmy gets a chance to talk, and also heard the strain as well. But he still thinks the song will be tough to beat. Candice is up next, and she will be singing a song by Drake, who she had met a year ago and liked him. But first she tells us how moved she was by the kids at the hospital, who she saw as being so strong and brave. She will be singing Drake's "Find Your Love".

She slows it down a bit, taking it in the jazzy ballad route. She is in great voice, and this is a fantastic performance. She owned the song, and could not have sounded better. It was radio-ready, and I would buy it myself. Nicki starts off the critique, and wishes she hadn't changed it up so much, and thought it sounded too old-fashioned. Randy thought she over-worked the song, and needs to get out of church sometimes. Mariah disagrees, and thinks she takes chances, and takes her on the journey with her. Keith agrees with Mariah, and thinks she brings so much with her music. I am stunned, for I didn't see that critique coming, and just don't know what they are thinking. We don't get to see Jimmy this time, and go right to Kree and her time in the hospital. She seems very sweet and tender with the kids. She is going to be singing "It Hurt So Bad", a bluesy song by Susan Tedeschi.

I love the song, and think Kree delivers it so well. She added just the right amount of grit to her gorgeous voice, letting her star shine bright. I thought that was beautiful. Randy came on to basically feel the performance was alright, but nothing special. Randy is confused by it. Mariah loved it, and thought she delivered, and also connected to the audience. Keith thought she lacked the emotional connection to the song, and Nicki thought it was just not good enough. Wow, I am at a loss. After the stellar critique of the mediocre karaoke performance, and the beating down of two singers trying to give some artistry. Jimmy returns, and not only downs Kree's performance, he also disrespects the song. Sweet. Angie seemed to come alive with the kids, all smiles as she remembers the kids. She will be singing "Who You Are" by Jessie J.

Angie is back at the piano, where the judges love her. I am not sure this is the right key, for her voice sounds a little shrill on the high end, and a little "pageanty" on the wordy parts. This just seems over-wrought to me, a big mess of sound that gives me nothing but a bit of a headache. She is met with a standing ovation by the judges. Heavy sigh. Mariah loved it, but wants her to deliver more original material, for that can deliver her a career. Keith loved it, but pointed out how it takes a while to get her into the performance that wasn't stilted. Nicki loved it, and thought it was amazing. Randy, of course, thought it was better than the original, and the best of the night. I am so damned lost by this panel, cause that isn't what I am hearing on my television. Crusty brings Angie's grandmother up on stage for a quiet moment, and it was sweet, but really, I am getting annoyed. Before a commercial break, Crusty tells us we are getting the first duet of the night, as Amber and Kree will be singing an Adele song. Well, isn't that original. Le sigh. Jimmy spares a few seconds to say he is thrilled Angie had control of her instrument, and has Amber and Angie neck and neck. Then back to Crusty, and her discover Kree and Amber will be singing "Rumour Has It". This is a great, but over-done song. Kree is in great voice, and there is such a depth to it. For me, Amber's voice pales next to it. Keith enjoyed the performance, but was looking for them to cut loose. Nicki thought Amber had a command of the stage, and that Kree lacked personality. Wow, I was watching another show altogether. They don't give Randy or Mariah a say this time. After the break, out second and final duet will be Angie & Candice, who sing Rihanna's "Stay", which also features Mikky Ekko. During the performance, both ladies struggle a little bit at times, and that surprised me with Candice. The performance got all messy for me, with lost notes and squandered lyrics. Of course, the judges gave them a standing ovation, and loved it, saying that is how a duet should be done. WTF. Moving on, like I am passing by an accident on the highway. The AT&T Theme contest named One-Hit Wonders as the theme, and the first one to take it on is Amber as she sings “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris, later covered by the late, great Donna Summer.

This is not good, showing a lack of a bottom end of the voice, and some rough notes on the top end. And once again, it is a cover of the Donna Summer version, with nothing new or interesting added. I was a bit bored. Donna Summer added such fullness and depth to the song, not easy with those silly lyrics. Now, of course, Keith thought it was great, and Nicki thought she is ready for marketing. Randy is ready to sign her, and complimented the high notes that I thought she missed. Mariah loved the great low notes, which I also heard differently. Obviously, I have the judges for American Idol, but the singers for American's Got Talent on my television, cause what I am hearing ain't lining up with the judges. Jimmy gets a few moments, and disagreed with the judges, thinking the song was terrible, and not even Amber could save it. Nor those bad notes, Mr. Iovine. Next up, we have Candice singing “Emotion”, the song written by The Bee Gees and sung by Samantha Sang.

Candice was singing really well, and sounding great. The backup singers were not on, however. I thought she took the song and massaged it well. Nicki loved it, and thought she was back on her game. She also bitched about Jimmy calling out the judges, and Randy joined in. He also loved Candice. Mariah loved it, and mentioned she had a cold, and Keith mentioned he wished the ladies would sing something more current. Talk to your producers, babe. Then Crusty dragged out Jimmy, and stupidity reigned supreme, and poor Candice was lost in the shuffle as the judges and Jimmy whined at one another, refusing to leave the topic of Amber. But Jimmy did say loud and clear that Candice was better than Amber this round. Go figure, he got one right. After the break, it is time for Kree to return to the stage, and she will be singing “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” by Procol Harum, alhtough it was also covered by Annie Lennox more recently.

She walks to the microphone with some attitude, which seems to be what the judges are looking for. She is once again on top of the song, pitch perfect as she tells the story. She goes big on the notes, hitting the high end with ease and grace. That was a lovely performance, one I would surely download. Randy loved it, and thought she really redeemed herself. Mariah loved it, and looks forward to download it for her phone. Keith didn't love it, and thought it was a middle-of-the-road song, nothing special. Nicki loves her, loves the voice, but fears she will be in the bottom, and maybe going home tomorrow night. Now, that would be truly disappointing, for not only do I think she was far from the weakest performer, I also seriously doubt anyone is going home - there are three weeks remaining, and only two singers to eliminate. So, in my opinion, this week is all about drama with no conclusion. But I could be wrong. And after a long break, it is time to close the show out with Angie, who is singing “Cry Me A River”, originally a hit by Julie London.

Well, Angie is singing the song, and it sounds very dated, and very beauty pageant. She also lost some notes on the shouty section, veering off to the sharp end, with no sense of current at all. Of course, the judges all love it, and in fact, Randy calls her the best of the night. How Keith could call that celestial, but not point out the out-of-date aspect is beyond me. So I will move past the critique, and get to the recap. Hearing it back, I am reminded that inherently speaking, we have two singers in the competition, and Angie and Amber, too. Candice and Kree have so much more to their voices, and a greater knowledge of music, and I fear how this season will come to a conclusion. At the end, Ryan mentions a surprise twist tomorrow night, and I have to guess they will combine the votes from tonight with next week, to get back on schedule. But if I had to rank them on tonight's performances, I would say Candice took the evening, followed by Kree. For me, Amber's wan performances puts her at the bottom, while Angie was just above her. But we won't know until tomorrow night, so turn in to your Fox station at 8PM to get the twist. Who knows, maybe they are bringing Lazaro back!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Voice Season 4 • Battle Rounds 4

In the fourth season of 'The Voice', this is the last evening of Battle Rounds this year. We know Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher, and Shakira have an easy rapport, with the banter between them being sweet and supportive, not antagonistic. After the auditions, the teams were 12 strong, and after the Battle Rounds, they will be down to eight each. Once again, the coaches have great support, as Adam goes into the rehearsals with Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, while Blake has Sheryl Crow, Shakira has Joel Madden, lead singer of Good Charlotte and coach on The Voice Australia, and Usher has Pharrell Williams. Usher is the only coach with a steal remaining, and it will be needed sometime this evening. After all, this is the last of the Battle Rounds, so let's get to the action!

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Left to right: Shakira, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher, and Carson Daly.

The first battle of the night will be from Team Shakira, as Brandon Roush and Shawna P take to the ring. The two rockers will be singing the iconic "Piece of My Heart" from Janis Joplin. This seems right up Shawna's alley, as she and Joplin have a similar tone. Brandon has a bombastic voice, but can he bring the control that is needed do the song justice?

They come to the stage, and both want to win. Honestly, I am surprised they are as strong as they are on this song. Both voices held strong, and delivered a great version that was more than just a karaoke performance. This was a close battle, but I'd have to give the edge to Brandon, for I thought he held his ground in what was really Shawana's turf. Adam loved them both, and thought Brandon raised his game for the song. Usher agreed, and thought they both showed great talent. Shakira was so pleased with both of her singers, and she thought long and hard, and gave the win to Shawna. Team Adam is up next, and Duncan Kamakana and Sarah Simmons will be singing for a spot in the finals. Adam brings in Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum to help him to groom the singers. They will be singing one of her songs, "Want You More", which could be a little intimidating. Lady Antebellum is known for their tight and perfect harmonies, and that is something the duo struggles with from the start. Even once they return for another rehearsal with Adam, he sends them away with the assignment to practice much more together. From what we see in rehearsals, it will be a tall order for Duncan to compete with Sarah's amazing voice. Can he do it?

Duncan starts off the song, sounding nice, although a bit contrived. When Sarah comes in, her voice immediately starts to soar. When we go back to Duncan, his voice now seems kind of thin, a little hollow. For me, Sarah took command, and there was not doubt in my mind. Blake loves Sarah, and thinks she has a great voice. He would pick her. Usher thinks Duncan has a strength and confidence on the stage, but Sarah soared away with her voice. It is Sarah who is going on in the competition, and Duncan returning home. With the shortened program tonight, we get a few results on the fly, like a short order cook. Usher sent Michelle Chamuel and Chelsea M. into battle, singing "Titanium" by David Guetta featuring Sia.

After the song, Usher chose to keep Michelle on the team, and sent Chelsea home. Next up, Team Adam had Amy Whitcomb and Agina Alvarez in the boxing ring, singing Pat Benatar's great song, "Heartbreaker". This should be a tough one to take on, as Benatar has an outrageous voice, and the song showcased it.

Adam chose to keep Amy around, and Agina returned home. Now it is time for Blake to put up his final Battle of the season. He offers up Justin Rivers and The Morgan Twins, and interesting duo to say the least. They will be singing "Easy", a song by Rascal Flatts featuring Natasha Bedingfield. At least I think so, as it was on screen for such a short time.

Blake surprises everyone by picking Justin Rivers, and sending The Morgan Twins home. Mary Miranda and Cáthia of Team Shakira will be singing a song by their mentor, and it throws Mary off, since she tries to learn the song in front of her. Cáthia, on the other hand, nails her performance in from of Shakira. For the second rehearsal, Mary is right on the money, but Cáthia falters, not as good as she was the first one. They will be performing Shakira's gorgeous ballad, "Antes De Las Seis".

Adam loved it, but he would have picked Mary for the win. Blake also loved it, but would pick Cáthia. Usher at first questioned the choice for them to sing Shakira's song, and she slapped him down a bit. But he recovers, and tells them they were wonderful. So it is up to Shakira to make the last decision of the Battle Rounds, and one has to believe that Usher will be stealing whomever she doesn't pick, so he can complete his team, too. After much struggle, Shakira picks Mary, leaving Cáthia to give her thanks to Shakira and all of the judges. She moves to exit and Usher hits his button in the last moment to save her. He has a great respect for her voice and talent, and she is thrilled. And that completes the teams, and next week we can begin with the Knock-Out. In two nights, trimming the teams of eight back to teams of four, ready to start the finals.

Ryan Amador • Define Me (featuring Jo Lampert)

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I just wanted to share this beautiful, thought-provoking, and moving music video with you all. The song features Ryan Amador, a talented young gay singer/songwriter, and also features Jo Lampert, a talented lesbian singer. They come together on this song, "Define Me", written by Amador. The video, with stunning and strong visuals, was directed by Tom Gustafson, who also directed the award-winning films 'Were the World Mine' & 'Mariachi Gringo', and the founder of SPEAKproductions. It is just so great to see these three artists come together to raise their voices in support of the LGBT brothers and sisters, and giving everyone else the opportunity to help as well. Bur more on that later. First, enjoy this really lovely song.

The single is available on Ryan Amador's Bandcamp page. You can name your price for the single, and 100% of the revenue from "Define Me" will be donated to an organization that actively promotes social equality for LGBT citizens. You can find out more about Ryan Amador on his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, or 'follow' him on Twitter. I noticed that he is also working on his first full album, which is scheduled for later this year. I look forward to that! Jo Lampert is a member of the Pop group Avan Lava. You can find out more on their official website.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Voice Season 4 • Battle Rounds 3

As the fourth season of 'The Voice' continues, we see how well the two new judges meld with the two old judges. Both Shakira and Usher have been exuberant in their roles so far, with Shakira scooping up her two steals already, and Usher offering the first bitchslap of the season to a couple of contestants he felt needed to realize the opportunity they had in front of them. Returning judges Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, winners in three finals between them, seem to be hungry to win again. The auditions are over, and 48 acts have found mentors in the coaches, each of whom will bring 12 members of their teams into the battle rounds. We are halfway there, and between tonight and tomorrow night, the team will be set. And as he has for all three previous seasons, Carson Daly will be handling the duties of host, keeping things moving between the singers and the judges. At the top of the show, Usher tells us his teams will blow our mind... Each coach has great support, as Adam brings in Hillary Scott, lead singer of Lady Antebellum, while Blake has Sheryl Crow, Shakira has Joel Madden, lead singer of Good Charlotte and coach on 'The Voice Australia', and Usher has Pharrell Williams. They will all be on hand to help get the contestants ready to prove they deserve a shot at the finals once the Battle Rounds are complete.

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Left to right: Shakira, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Usher, and Carson Daly.

As we begin tonight, we know Shakira has used both steals available to her, while Adam and Blake have used one a piece. Usher has both to use, having lost in his two attempts to Shakira and Adam. In fact, Usher is putting together the first Battle tonight, when he puts Jessica Childress and Vedo into the ring. They are talented singers, and Usher asks them to sing Bruno Mars' "Locked Out Of Heaven". Jessica isn't sure the song is the right key for her, but Pharrell tells her it is perfect. Vedo shines in the first rehearsal, but it is Jessica who sounded great in the last rehearsal. Who will Usher pick?

This is a wonderful duet, as both have strong voices with amazing rangers, just right for Pop music. Shakira thought it was a 'feel good performance', and Adam agreed, thinking they were both wonderful. Blake feels bad for Usher, for he feels they lit up the room. Usher is very proud, as both did exactly what he asked of them. They make the decision hard, but he has to give the answer. He picks Vedo, which leaves Jessica up for a steal, although no one picked her up. After the Battle, Vedo wishes his mother, who is in the hospital with Stage 4 cancer, was there to experience his success. Usher comes back stage to give him a hug. Next up, Team Shakira is going to the ring with Luke Edgemon and Monique Abbadie. With their first meeting, Monique admits coach Joel Madden was on her book covers in Middle School. Both Shakira and Joel were impressed with Luke's vocals, and the honesty he delivered. Monique, on the other hand, felt less real. Can Luke deliver in front of the audience, or can Monique connect to the song when it matters the most?

Both look nervous as they prep to enter the ring. Carson calls them to the ring, and Luke leads them off with a strong vocal. Monique starts with an affected line reading, but soon relaxes into the song. At the end of the day for me, Luke totally took over that performance. Adam agreed with me, thinking Luke was a revelation. Blake loved Luke as well, and Usher thought they were great together. Shakira decided to make a strategic decision, and picks Monique, assuming Luke will be picked via steal. As soon as he is available, Blake hits his button to steal, followed by Usher. Luke is a bit overwhelmed, and they take a commercial break so he can decide. Will Usher get his first steal, or will he lose out again? Luke surprises by picking Blake, leaving Usher with both his steals to use. Then it is time for Team Blake to take their turn in the ring. This Battle features Jacqui Sandell and Savannah Berry, singing Little Big Town's "Little White Church". At the first rehearsal, Sheryl Crow gives notes to both girls, and they have homework to do. For the final rehearsal with Blake, he is pleased with the progress made by Jacqui, but pushes Savannah to stay on tempo. Will Jacqui continue to grow under Blake's direction, or will Savannah finally nail the song?

Before the performance begins, I am interested in what will happen here. Savannah has a rich and gorgeous voice, but Jacqui can deliver the quirk that Blake seems to love. Carson calls them to the ring, and the battle begins. Savannah sings first, and she is in great voice. When Jacqui begins, her voice sounds a bit thin, like nerves are kicking in. Savannah stays on tempo, and in fact, a couple of times Jacqui fell behind a beat. I think Savannah really took the gold this time out. Adam thought they were both adorable. Usher thought they were wonderful, and couldn't decide. Shakira loved them too, and thinks it was Savannah by a nose. But it is time for Blake to make up his mind, and he picks Savannah. Jacqui thanks Blake for having such a strong influence on her as a singer. There is no steal, and it is time for Jacqui to go home. It is time for Team Shakria to take to the ring, with Kris Thomas and C.Perkins battling. They will be singing Bruno Mars' "It Will Rain". C.Perkins seems to have a problem with staying in tune. Kris sounds great, relaxed and feeling the song.

Kris leads off the song, and is just right on the vocals. C. joins him, and by comparison, his voice sounds a little thin. They duet on the song, and the song was a bit odd for me, didn't really give them a chance to show their best. I would pick Kris, but who knows? Adam thinks they were both something, and Blake enjoyed it, but thinks they were holding back a bit. Usher wished he could have coached them. But it is Shakira's choice, and she picks Kris as the winner. C.Perkins thanks Shakria for all he learned from her, but didn't get the Steal, well, until C. was giving a hug goodbye, so he will now be on Team Usher. Now it is time for Team Adam as he pits Midas Whale against Patrick Dodd on "Burning Love" by Elvis Presley. There is a tightness to the Midas Whale, with former American Idol finalist Jon Peter Lewis. Patrick has a strong voice, and it has a rich rasp. Both know they have to be at the top of their game to win the battle. Who will Adam choose?

Patrick kicks off with that raspy voice, and Midas Whale chimes in sounding great. With the Bluegrass feel, the song travels more places than the original lite radio feel, for I kinda expected more from this Battle. Patrick came off kinda one note, milking that rasp for all it was worth, and showing no real range. Midas Whale had the character choked out of them with the speed of the song, not allowed to have their harmonies shine. The other coaches loved them, but offered on help to Adam. He agonizes over a decision, saying this was his toughest on the show yet. I'd pick Midas Whale, but that is more of the negative of the performance making the choice. I think both are better than they showed. Apparently, it was better live, but finally, Adam picks Midas Whale. Patrick thanks Adam for the support he has offered, and leaves, with Usher not using his final steal. And soon it was his team to battle. Usher and Pharrell try to talk to Orlando Dixon and Ryan Innes as they rehearse with Bill Withers "Ain't No Sunshine". Pharrell tells Ryan he is doing it right, just be sure to be clean with his notes. Usher and Pharrell pull Orlando aside, and tell him to connect to the song, and not hide behind his voice, to let it tell the story. At the final rehearsal, Usher is pleased with both, and fears it will be a tough decision come show time. Who will make it to the finals?

Carson calls Orlando and Ryan to the ring, the final battle of the night. Ryan starts off the quiet arrangement, his voice in fine form. Orlando's performance tries to combine the Soul inherent in the song with modern R&B. Ryan has a richer, fuller-bodied voice, while Orlando has a greater range with beautiful control. Both were in great voice. Shakira loved them, but couldn't decide. Adam had no problem picking Orlando, while Blake loved Ryan. Usher struggles with a choice. Finally, he picks Ryan, the big man with the deep voice. Finally, it is time for Orlando to thank his coach, and Adam takes the opportunity to use his last steal. Tomorrow night is the final Battle Round, with all the teams needing more singers. Usher is the only coach left with a steal, and we promise it will be used wisely...

Dark Monday • Clay Aiken in Spamalot

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In January of 2008, Clay Aiken joined the cast of the Broadway hit 'Spamalot' at the Shubert Theatre in New York, just under three years after the show had opened. It was planned to be a limited run of about four months, and by all accounts, it was a highly successful run, with increased ticket sales as well as delighted fans. In fact, Aiken was brought back in September of that year, and went through January 2010, when the show closed. It seemed like Clay's fans, as well as fans of the show, ate up what Clay had to offer. Take, for instance, the musical number "Not Dead Yet" from the first act of the show. Enjoy this whimsical number, one only the men of Monty Python could have put together.

Perhaps one of Clay's best numbers from the show was "You Won't Succeed On Broadway", heard nightly in the second act. Again, it was pure Monty Python, for the show was inspired by their iconic movie, 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'. The book and lyrics were written by Eric Idle, and the music by John Du Prez, Eric Idle, and Neil Innes. The show was a delightful but irreverent parody of the legend of King Arthur and his Round Table, with the tongue in cheek requisite for Monty Python. Enjoy as Sir Robin, played by Clay, explains to the other Knights why "You Won't Succeed On Broadway".

You can purchase the 'Spamalot' Original Cast Album from iTunes and Amazon, although I will point out it does not include Clay. The original Broadway cast included Tim Curry as King Arthur, Michael McGrath as Patsy, David Hyde Pierce as Sir Robin, Hank Azaria as Sir Lancelot and other roles, Christopher Sieber as Sir Galahad and other roles, and Sara Ramirez as the Lady of the Lake. It also included Christian Borle as Prince Herbert and other roles, Steve Rosen as Sir Bedevere and other roles and John Cleese as the recorded Voice of God. For more about Clay Aiken, visit his official website. You can also follow him on Twitter, or like him on Facebook.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Steampacket • Lord Remember Me

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Left to right: Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger.

In case you don't know who The Steampacket are, they were thought to be one of the UK's first Supergroup. The band was made up by Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart, and Julie Driscoll on vocals, and Brian Auger on Organ, Vic Briggs on guitar, Ricky Fenson on bass guitar, and Micky Waller on drums. Long John Baldry was an amazing Blues singer, an inspiration for young rockers like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. He also worked with a young Reginald Dwight, who later changed his name to Elton John, adopting his surname from Long John, as the Blues singer helped Elton come to terms with being gay. Here Long John takes the lead on "Lord Remember Me", a great performance.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Night with Dinah Washington

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Miss Dinah Washington was one of the top vocalist of the 1950s, and the was the greatest selling black female recording artist of that period. Her big hit was not just big, but megahuge. "What A Difference A Day Makes" had such a strength and depth to it, it is damn close to irresistible. And like many singers, she first found music in her church, singing in the choir. By the time she was 15 years old, Dinah was playing in clubs around Chicago, making a name for herself. By the time she was 19, she had attracted the attention of many people, including Lionel Hampton, who signed her up to sing with his band. After two years with Hampton, Dinah went solo, and started with singing the music of the great Fats Waller. She also recorded this great song co-written by Louis Jordan and Billy Austin in 1944. Here is Dinah Washington singing "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby".

Next up, Dinah sings "I Don't Hurt Anymore", written by Don Robertson and Jack Rollins. As a single, Dinah had a big hit in 1954, and it is easy to hear why. This Bluesy song is just wonderful, and she sings it perfectly. This is a clip of her singing it live in 1956. You can just eat this up with a spoon, it is so yummy.

In 1955, Washinngton recorded a great song written by Cole Porter, originally featured in the 1934 Broadway musical 'Anything Goes'. Dinah Washington recorded "I Get A Kick Out Of You" for the album 'For Those In Love', and it is easy to see she loves the song. You can hear it in the recording. Another thing you hear on the record is the early work of a young Quincy Jones, who did most of the arrangements for the album.

Dinah sings "Drinking Again", a 1962 torch song, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by Doris Tauber. Dinah recorded the song that same year, on an album of the same name. This time out, the songs were arranged by the great Don Costa, best known for his work with Frank Sinatra, both as a producer and arranger.

Unfortunately, Washington was not to be with us that much longer. While she was around, she certainly lived life to the fullest. She was married seven times, and had two children. She made music in four decades, from her choir music in the 1030s, to the high-quality recordings of the 1960s. Early on the morning of December 14, 1963, Washington's seventh husband Dick "Night Train" Lane went to sleep with his wife, and awoke later to find her slumped over and not responsive. A doctor pronounced her dead on the scene. An autopsy later showed a lethal combination of secobarbital and amobarbital, which contributed to her death at the age of 39.

James Taylor • Up On The Roof

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I don't know about you, but after a relentless barrage of news footage and reports, I just wanted to step away from the 24-hour news programs that invaded my sleep cycle and just breath a little. It just felt like the world was getting too much for me. So when I thought about what song I would pick for Saturday morning, the opening lines of "Up On The Roof" came to mind. "When this old world starts getting me down, and people are just too much for me to face — I climb way up to the top of the stairs and all my cares just drift right into space..." The song was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and first recorded by The Drifters in 1962. But it was the the version from 1979, recorded by the great singer/songwriter James Taylor that really came to my mind, and that is what you will be enjoying here. The original J.T. put his own spin on it, taking the Do-wop out, and making it sound so right with the acoustic guitar. Enjoy "Up On The Roof".

You can find James' original recording of "Up On The Roof" on his 1979 album 'Flag', which you can purchase on iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about James Taylor, visit his official website. You can also like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Date Night • Aaron...Albeit A Sex Hero

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Just so you can enjoy your Friday night, I thought I would offer up one of my favorite films from writer/director Paul Bright. Since he has made it available online, I wanted to share 'Aaron...Albeit A Sex Hero' with you all. For me, this film is steamy, sexy, and exciting, everything I look for in a movie! The cast is yummy eye candy, something I find hard to resist.

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The movie stars Matthew Burnett as the sexy Aaron, and Rafiel Soto as Jesse, a guy whose path crosses with Aaron in an amazing way. So get your Orville Redenbacher all popped, your glass filled, and enjoy 'Aaron...Albeit A Sex Hero'.

The DVD comes with extras, like the trailer, a scene by scene go-to feature, and a behind the scenes mini-film hosted mainly by Mr. Bright. You can purchase 'Aaron...Albeit A Sex Hero' or any other of Bright's films by going to the Silly Bunny Pictures site here, using a PayPal account. It is just so easy, so give it a try!

Colton Ford • Let Me Live Again Single & Video

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Singer/songwriter/performer Colton Ford has released a new video for his latest single, "Let Me Live Again". The Black & White video seems to be an homage to the work of Tom of Finland, best known for his highly stylized art featuring gay men for much of the latter half of the 20th Century. In fact, I bet he would find inspiration in Colton Ford, if Tom were still alive. The dance track has a great feel to it, the urgent drive of the percussion, while Ford's vocals are controlled and light as air, allowing the single to elevate. And of course, anytime you have Colton's body on display, that has to be a good time. So enjoy the music video for "Let Me Live Again".

You can find "Let Me Live Again" on iTunes and Amazon. For more about Colton Ford, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook or 'follow' him on Twitter.


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