Saturday, June 29, 2013

Here's To The Ladies Who Carry The Torch

Margaret Whiting photo Margaret_Whiting_zps8ca632bf.jpg Dinah Shore photo Dinah_Shore_zps96be2db5.jpg
Rosemary Clooney photo Rosemary_Clooney_zpsc46e7029.jpg Ella Fitzgerald photo Ella_Fitzgerald_zps2a57cc27.jpg
Clockwise from top: Margaret Whiting, Dinah Shore, Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney.

I thought I would come back to this sweet sound with yet another group of talented ladies. It is a collection of classic voices, some with household names, others with a bit of a cult following. The first would fall more into the latter, as Margaret Whiting might not have the cache of some of the ladies who follow, but certainly had a long career, having been raised in the business, as father Richard Whiting was a songwriter, having written classics like "Hooray For Hollywood". After having her heyday in the 40s and 50s, she continued to sing in clubs on both coasts. In 1994, she married gay adult star Jack Wrangler, and they stayed together until his passing in 2009. Margaret passed in January of 2011. In 1945, She had a hit singing "It Might As Well Be Spring" with Paul Weston and his Orchestra.

While she couldn't seem to get a job with a big band the way every other girl singer was doing in the late 30s, she became the first woman singer to take her talent solo, and certainly made a name for herself in the 40s and 50s. Dinah Shore couldn't get the job with Benny Goodman or either Tommy or Jimmy Dorsey, so she followed her own path to fame. In 1944, she appeared in 'Belle of the Yukon', and sung the beautiful song by Jimmy van Heusen, "Like Someone In Love". She later went on to host her own talk show. Despite several marriages and high-profile relationships, Dinah's support of Women's Golf somehow translated into constant rumors of her being a lesbian, which is not really supported by any fact.

Our next singer needs no introduction, especially for me. Ella Fitzgerald is a brilliant singer, with a career spanning seven decades, from the 30s to the 90s. she just had so much talent, be it her ability to scat, to groove on some jazz, or just flat out sing a song. This video is of her singing Cole Porter's great song, "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye". This clip is from 1965, but she originally recorded the song in 1956.

I can't tell you how much I loved the voice of our final singer tonight. My mother played her music, and she was certainly in some of my favorite films I remember watching, including 'White Christmas'. Rosemary Clooney's voice was so lovely, with a depth of tone that could bring you to tears as easily as it could get you dancing. Enjoy her singing her 1954 hit, "Hey There", written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross for their Broadway musical, 'The Pajama Game'.

Have a great time with what remains of your weekend!

Long John Baldry • Make It Easy On Yourself

Long John Baldry photo long-john-baldry_zps36b86fa1.jpg

In keeping with the last weekend of Gay Pride Month, I thought I would bring out a favorite artist singing a great song. Long John Baldry is a favorite of mine, from his early Pop recordings to his later blues music, it all just makes me happy. I learned he was a gay man, and was out while he was getting his career started in England in the 1960s, which couldn't have been easy. In fact, he left England for Canada in 1978, where the laws and people were more accepting of his sexuality. In 1966, Baldry released the album 'Looking at Long John', and it included the cover of a few classic songs, including the great Bacharach/David song, "Make It Easy On Yourself".

His voice is just something special for me. And it just kept getting better. I still cannot get enough of Long John Baldry! Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pride Celebration • Five Decades of Great Dance Music

Sylvester photo Sylvester_zps49363bbe.jpg Pride Musical Notes photo GayNotes_zpse6bafcf1.jpg
Soft Cell photo SoftCell_zpsf2a79c5f.jpg Jimmy Somerville photo jimmy-somerville_zps3a973965.jpg
Sir Ari Gold photo ari-gold_zps02b7d7f7.jpg Jason Walker photo JasonWalker_zpsc49e2cd9.jpg
Clockwise: Sylvester, Musical notes, Jimmy Somerville, Jason Walker, Sir Ari Gold, and Soft Cell.

As we are coming into the final weekend of Gay Pride Month, I thought I would go out with a mini-celebration or retrospective, how ever you'd like to look at it. I am looking to a few out and proud gay artists who managed to make music that was amazing and exhilarating. These are artists that were an inspiration then, and still inspire me whenever I hear their music. I will start with the brilliant and amazing Sylvester. At a time when America was not as accepting of gays and lesbians, this wonderful black man with a big voice started performing, often taking on an androgynous appearance, and using his strong falsetto to deliver songs like "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", and make them a hit. That particular song made it to the Top 40 in 1978, and became Sylvester's second #1 Dance Hit. Celebrate the season with the great Sylvester singing "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)".

Now Sylvester might have owned the 1970s, but the 1980s were really the property of several acts from the UK, many part of the New Wave invasion that brought together parts of Punk, Rock, and Pop, and a great freedom to carve out your own style. Bands like Bronski Beat, Erasure and Culture Club never shied away from standing out, not willing to fall into the preconceived sexual roles. Another of those bands was Soft Cell. The duo were David Ball and Marc Almond, who rich voice gave such depth to every song he sang. They are perhaps best known for their 1981 hit, "Tainted Love". The song was written by Ed Cobb and first recorded by American singer Gloria Jones in 1965. The record didn't chart, but became popular a decade later in British clubs. Soft Cell eventually decided to record it themselves, only to put a new spin on the production. Well, they certainly did, and it became a world-wide hit for them. Check out the music video for Soft Cell's cover of "Tainted Love".

In the early 1980s, he was with the Bronski Beat. Later, he became a part of The Communards, another band who never shied away from their sexuality, and at times poked fun of the conventional thoughts of it. By the time the 1990s rolled around, Jimmy Somerville had launched a solo career, using his distinctive voice and style to make music I found irresistible. I still listen to whatever he puts out, and love it. But in 1995, he released the beautiful album 'Dare To Love', the second in his solo career. It included the song "Heartbeat", co-written by the Glaswegian himself. I loved it then, and still love it today. Enjoy "Heartbeat".

The new millennium saw even more LGBT artists making music that was perfect for the clubs. There was a new movement with Dance/Pop artists tarting to release their own music, allowing the different cities to have their own wonderful sound. New York had several really talented artists in the forefront, with SIRPAUL making some great music, as well as Jason Walker, who was working with renown DJ Junior Vasquez. The time also saw the rise of a talented New Yorker by the name of Ari Gold, writing and producing his own brand of ElectroPop that often seemed ready to the clubs. In 2004, he released his second album, the wonderful 'Space Under Sun'. It wasn't long before "Love Will Take Over" was playing everywhere, from radio to the clubs. The music proved a great follow-up to his self-titled debut, and the great song "Wave of You", the song that first stole my heart. And I continue to love his music, proving some artists remain relevant, and can, in fact, get better with age. Check out the music video for "Love Will Take Over".

And, finally, I want to pick something very current, showing that LGBT artists are still going strong. Of course, I have to admit that other than the late Sylvester, all these artists are still making music. SIRPAUL is making great music, and I featured two singles just this morning. But I decided to feature C-Rod featuring Jason Walker and the single "Beat Don't Stop", a song that continues to be near the top of the Dance charts, months after it was released. The song is infectious, and after listening, stays in my head and keeps me smiling. So have fun watching the music video for "Beat Don't Stop", the song by C-Rod and featuring Jason Walker.

All this music is available where ever music is sold, including iTunes and Amazon. The songs are great reminders of the time, but they are also just fantastic performances that I still like listening to now. So over the last few days of Gay Pride Month, enjoy these gay artists, and think about supporting them and others, to ensure their music continues to be made.

Armand Deluxe • One Love featuring SIRPAUL

Armand Deluxe feat SIRPAUL - One Love photo ArmandDeluxefeatSIRPAULOneLoveCOVER_zpsbac784e1.jpg

Could there be a better song for this week, with Gay Pride celebrations all over, and the momentous decisions handed down by the Supreme Court, dismantling the bigoted 'Defense of Marriage Act', and tossing out the Proposition 8 case, returning the lower court decision to toss it out, making way for California to be the 13th state and the District of Columbia to have marriage quality? Well, I don't think you can ever go wrong with SIRPAUL singing on a song with his own words and music by Armand Deluxe. "One Love" is a global celebration of the one thing that unites us all, a desire and drive to find love, and make a family unit so that love can flourish. The song looks to celebrate love, something we should all spend more time doing. Hear the song (and watch a colorful picture) for Armand Deluxe's "One Love", featuring SIRPAUL, a great song for this summer!

If you are in the mood to hit the dance floor, or need some serious music for your workout, or just want a perfect song for an afternoon on the beach, look no further than another collaboration of these talented men. Not too long ago, the released "Touch Me", a song that drives a hard beat, with a sexy sound and flirty lyrics. Before you hit play, I should warn you, you might not be able to keep still. My hips don't lie (still) while this song is playing...

To learn more about Armand Deluxe, visit his official website. You can also find Armand Deluxe on Twitter and Facebook. You can learn more about SIRPAUL on his official website. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter. "One Love" is available on iTunes and Amazon. "Touch Me" is available on iTunes and Amazon.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Darren Ockert • You Don't Know Me

Darren Ockert You Don't Know Me photo DarrenOckertYouDontKnowMeCOVER_zpsa75195be.jpg

Miami-based Indie-ElectroPop artist Darren Ockert has a new single and music video out, and now seems like the right time to share it with you all. The song is brand new, so I am hoping that means a new album might be coming soon. But before that, we certain have this song, with a catchy hook and a music video that is charming and funny, much like what I think Darren might be like should I ever have the opportunity to meet him. I hope you enjoy the music video for "You Don't Know Me" as much as I do.

Wasn't that fun? And weren't you singing along with the chorus by then end? Well, I was! For more about Darren Ockert, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, or 'follow' him on Twitter. You can purchase the single "You Don't Know Me" from iTunes and Amazon.

Reasons Be • Say Goodnight

Reasons Be photo ReasonsBe_SayGoodnight001_zps818f8978.jpg
Scotty Dickert, left, and R.E.L., right.

It is still Gay Pride Month, and there are Pride Celebrations happening all over. So when I heard Reasons Be would be putting out a new song and music video, I thought it might have to wait. But once it came out, and I had a chance to watch it, I had a change of heart. It seems Scotty Dickert and R.E.L. are most definitely straight allies, and their video for "Say Goodnight" fights perfectly with this week. Scotty & R.E.L. show their support for the LGBT Community and Marriage Equality in the video for "Say Goodnight". It features the duo looking handsome and lending a spiritual hand to a very lucky couple. Enjoy Reasons Be in the music video for their latest single, "Say Goodnight".

Yet another tasty Pop treat from the duo, who seem to be churning out great music together. From the 'Hands Up' EP to this new single, I can tell you they have me hungering for more. To learn more about Reasons Be, visit their official website. You can also 'follow' them on Twitter, or 'like' them on Facebook. You can purchase the "Say Goodnight" single on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Love Wins • Celebrating Moves Toward Equality

Declan Bennett photo Declan_Bennett_zps90cc2709.jpg Tom Goss photo Tom_Goss_zps28c90ae6.jpg
Christopher Dallman photo Christopher_Dallman_zpse4263868.jpg David Raleigh photo David_Raleigh_zps9b3aebf4.jpg
Clockwise: Declan Bennett, Tom Goss, David Raleigh, and Christopher Dallman.

With two big decisions coming from the Supreme Court of the United States concerning the love of gay Americans, first striking down the bigoted Defense of Marriage Act, and then refusing to hear the case about California's Prop 8, which allowed the lower court's decision to throw out the amendment to the California State constitution which stipulated that marriage was only between one man and one woman. The decisions make way for gay marriages recognized as legal in a state must be recognized by the Federal government. The latter decision opened the door for California to be the 12th state in the United States to legalize the committed relationships of loving adults no matter their sexual orientation. And that leads me to the first song of the post, written and performed by the very handsome Declan Bennett. Declan is currently lighting up the Londonstage with his starring role in the West End musical 'Once'. In 2011, the British-born singer/songwriter released an impressive collection of songs on the album 'Record:Breakup'. One of those songs is the beautiful "Love Wins". The song, a hopeful look at a world where love does indeed win, grabs my attention every time I hear it. So please enjoy Declan, the first of four out and proud gay singer/songwriters, as he sings "Love Wins".

You can purchase Declan Bennett's 'Record: Breakup' from iTunes and Amazon. Next up I offer you an artist who is most definitely close to love. Tom Goss often jokes during his live shows about how much of his songbook is devoted to the topic, and from more than one angle. It seems his own marriage to Mike is a real source of inspiration. I had plenty of material from which to choose, and I decided to go with the song that never fails to charm me, no matter how many times I hear it. "Till The End" first appeared on Tom's 2009 release, 'Back To Love'. I hope you enjoy this version I taped at a recent live show, with a freind joining Tom for the song. Please enjoy watching Tom Goss sings "Till The End" with Matt Alber.

You can purchase Tom Goss' 'Back To Love' from iTunes and Amazon. Next up, I have another artist who is happily married. Christopher Dallman is an artist I have long loved to listen to, his music just captivating. Chris is married to Josh, and they seem to be very happy. Josh even co-starred with Christopher in his stunning music video "Over My Head", featured on his first album. But I will treat you to another song, seemingly inspired by his relationship. "Anthem" is a wonderful song, and Chris delivers it perfectly on the single.

You can purchase Christopher Dallman's 'Anthem' single from iTunes and Amazon. And, finally, I offer you a wonderful song from a singer/songwriter who splits his time between New York City and Australia, the lucky devil. "I Do" was the first single off his beautiful album, 'Beginning Again'. It is filled with love and joy, and I just can't help from falling in love every time I see or hear it! So here is the official music video for David Raleigh's "I Do".

You can purchase David Raleigh's 'Beginning Again' from iTunes and Amazon. And celebrate our great nation inching closer to equality all the time!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New Albums from Levi Kreis, Eric Himan, Cheyenne Jackson, & Buffalo Tales Released

Levi Kreis - Imagine Paradise photo LeviKreisImagineParadiseFrontCOVERSM_zps43ded50e.jpg Eric Himan - Gracefully photo EricHimanGracefullyCOVERSM_zps7fa3546f.jpg
Cheyenne Jackson - I'm Blue, Skies photo CheyenneJacksonImBlueSkiesCOVERSM_zpsd309ac75.jpg Buffalo Tales - Roadtrip Confessions photo BuffaloTalesRoadtripConfessionsCOVERSM_zpsd09d2925.jpg

New albums featuring fresh material from Levi Kreis, Eric Himan, Cheyenne Jackson, and Buffalo Tales is now available online for your listening pleasure. I have been long awaiting for all of them to be released, so this is an exciting time, indeed. While I will have reviews of all four coming soon, I thought I would give the everyone the information to preview or buy them for yourself. So below, you will find links to listen and purchase the albums, and I would strongly advise you to do so for all four. From what I have hear so far, both Levi and Eric are producing their best music to date, while Cheyenne makes an impressive solo debut. And Aussie Buffalo Tales offers up some gorgeous guitar-driven music that makes me very happy.

Levi Kreis released 'Imagine Paradise', and it is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.

Eric Himan has released his 10th solo studio album when 'Gracefully' became available on iTunes and should be on Amazon soon!

Cheyenne Jackson shows the Broadway star is also a gifted singer/songwriter with the release of his solo debut 'I'm Blue, Skies', available on iTunes and Amazon.

Australia's Buffalo Tales, which features the talents of Wes Carr, releases their first full album with the beautiful 'Roadtrip Confessions' available on iTunes and Amazon.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dark Monday • Judy Holliday & Dean Martin

Bells Are Ringing 1960 film poster photo bells-are-ringing-movie-poster-1960_zps843c604f.jpg

Dean Martin and Judy Holliday perform "Just In Time" in a scene from the 1960 film 'Bells Are Ringing', directed by the great Vincente Minnelli. Holliday was reviving the role she played on Broadway in 1956, where she earned the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. She plays an answering service operator who breaks the rules, and gets involved in the lives of her clients, causing delightful fun! The Broadway musical was co-staged and co-choreographed by the amazing team of Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, but the movie listed Charles O'Curran as choreographer. I think I see some Fosse in the numbers still, even if he doesn't get any credit. The show had music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Betty Comdem and Adolph Green, and several of the songs became part of the Great American Songbook. One of those songs is "Just In Time", sung here by Judy and Dean.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

With Love, From (Irving) Berlin...

Maxine Sullivan photo maxine-sullivan_zpsba9ad7da.jpg Rosemary Clooney photo Rosemaryclooney_zpsca6a8082.jpg
Dinah Shore photo DinahShore_zps1dbe3795.jpg Jo Stafford photo jo-stafford_zps68eb7446.jpg
Clockwise: Maxine Sullivan, Rosemary Clooney, Jo Stafford and Dinah Shore.

I decided I wanted to hear some of the music of Irving Berlin tonight, and thought his love songs would be fun. Berlin is best known for his rousing uptempo songs, and his patriotic numbers. But he was no stranger to the ballad, having written some beautiful ones for Broadway and Hollywood musicals. The first song I have on the list is the beautiful "Blue Skies", written in 1926, a last-minute 'fix' for the Rodgers and Hart musical, 'Betsy'. While the show didn't survive, the song definitely did. The song went from a song in a Broadway flop to a great addition to the Great American Songbook, with some great versions sung by many artists. I decided to go with a version by Maxine Sullivan, a wonderful singer who paved the way for the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan. Many considered her the greatest Jazz singer of the 1930s. Here is her version of "Blue Skies", recorded in 1937.

The next song was written as a duet, and comes from a Broadway show that was also a hit movie musical. "You're Just In Love" was written in 1950, and first performed by Ethel Merman and Russell Nype in 'Call Me Madam' on Broadway. Rosemary Clooney and Guy Mitchell recorded the song at the end of 1950, and it became a Top 40 hit. Berlin wrote the song with a charming counterpoint style, with the two parts of the song seemingly at different tempos, yet they blend together beautifully.

"You Keep Coming Back Like A Song" was written by Berlin for the 1946 film 'Blue Skies', and was introduced by Bing Crosby. Like much of Berlin's music, the song went on to be recorded by many, so I had plenty from which to choose. I decided to go with Dinah Shore's lovely version, released in 1946. In the recording, Shore has such lovely tone and control, so please enjoy Dinah singing "You Keep Coming Back Like A Song".

The next song was from the 1949 Broadway production of 'Miss Liberty', a musical written about the wonderful gift from the French, the Statue of Liberty. "(Just One Way To Say) I Love You" is the song that closed the first act, and it is a beautiful one. So lovely, it caught the eye of the talented Jo Stafford, who released it in 1949. The song was a hit, making it to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. Of course, Stafford was a popular singer, being the first woman to have a #1 song on the UK music charts. So please enjoy Jo as she sings "(Just One Way To Say) I Love You".

Have a great weekend!

Sly & The Family Stone • Hot Fun In The Summertime

Sly & the Family Stone photo SlyampTheFamilyStone2_zpsa40c8f1e.jpg

"Hot Fun In The Summertime" was a big hit for Sly & the Family Stone in 1969, making it to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Released on the heels of their Woodstock appearance, which gave the band a greater profile than before, and could have helped propel the song up the charts. The band was no stranger to hits, having already scored #1 with "Everyday People", as well as a Top 10 with "Dance To The Music". It was released on the bands 'Greatest Hits' album, one of three new songs on the collection. The band came out of San Fransisco a multicultural group, made up of men and women, and different races represented. They were making soulful music with a psychedelic edge, befitting any band out of the city known for the musical movement. Here is the band singing "Hot Fun In The Summertime" live on television.

You can find the 'Greatest Hits' album on iTunes and Amazon. Their next single, "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)", would return them to #1 on the charts. That was another of the new songs found on the 'Greatest Hits' album.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Date Night • Mambo Italiano

Mambo Italiano Poster photo MamboItaliano_zps66dc8c9b.jpg

Tonight I have brought you a feature that I truly love, no matter how many times I've seen it. I have the DVD, and if I notice it on television, it is impossible for me to not watch it. 'Mambo Italiano' was written and directed by Émile Gaudreault, a talented Canadian. The story features the son of Italian immigrants, as he struggles to find the best way to come out to his "old world" parents. The film features Luke Kirby as the handsome and acerbic son of Paul Sorvino and Ginette Reno. First he comes to terms with his relationship to long-time friend, played by Peter Miller, before he really learns to take care of himself. The movie runs for about 90 minutes, so get the popcorn and drinks ready, so you can truly enjoy 'Mambo Italiano'.

You can find the DVD on Amazon, so you can watch it on your big screen television! The film also has a great soundtrack, although currently, I couldn't find it available for purchase. Have a great weekend!

Cazwell • Guess What (featuring Luciana)

Cazwell - Guess What photo GuessWhat001_zps1a4d858f.jpg Cazwell - Guess What photo GuessWhat002_zps59a1b32f.jpg
Cazwell & Luciana - Guess What photo GuessWhat004_zps830f158b.jpg Cazwell & Luciana - Guess What photo GuessWhat003_zps35a77345.jpg

As the weekend kicks into gear, it seems almost mandatory to have the latest single from Cazwell to help us get ready for a party. With a new music video, we can all enjoy Cazwell working with Luciana on "Guess What". The collaboration is a good one, allowing Cazwell a chance to go at full tilt on the song, a party boy you can't wait to arrive a little late to the party. The song mixes up the tempos and the intensity levels, keeping us wondering about what might be coming next. It certainly had me bopping around in my chair. Enjoy the music video of "Guess What", featuring Cazwell and Luciana.

You can find "Guess What" on iTunes. To learn more about Cazwell, visit his official website. You can keep up on the latest news, including where you might catch up with Cazwell if you 'like' him on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter. Trust me, it is never boring to have Cazwell in your Twitterfeed...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Music Courtesy of Gable Music

Jeremy Hebbel photo GableThe6_001_zps049f4612.jpg Lauren Kuhne photo GableThe6_002_zpsadbba6f4.jpg
Elephants Gerald photo GableThe6_005_zps53e17d66.jpg
Stewart Lewis photo GableThe6_003_zps2ff27beb.jpg Joy Ike photo GableThe6_004_zps20ea4980.jpg
Michael Natrin photo GableThe6_007_zps481d559f.jpg Sol Knopf photo GableThe6_006_zpsbe64d09c.jpg
Row 1, from top: Jeremy Hebbel of Gable Music and Lauren Kuhne. Row 2: the band Elephants Gerald. Row 3: Stewart Lewis and Joy Ike; Row 4: Michael Natrin and Sol Knopf. Photos by Howard Stump.

At the start of last winter, I went to a great event in Wilmington, Delaware, having been invited by the talented Stewart Lewis. He himself had been invited to play by Gable Music, a local group that supports and promotes local music events. I was thrilled to go, and went with my sister, Kathy. The basis for the event was that Gable Music invited six singer/songwriters, and each are given their time to perform the music they loved to play. Having known only Stewart's music at the start of the evening, I was looking forward to hearing a whole bunch that was new! So we made out way to the Chris White Gallery in Wilmington, and found a space buzzing with activity, and walls lined with beautiful art. Gayle Dillman and Jeremy Hebbel of Gable Music took on the duties of introducing the artists for the evening, starting with Delawarean Lauren Kuhne. Enjoy as you listen to Lauren singing "Lady Music".

To learn more about Lauren Kuhne, visit her on ReverbNation. For me, Stewart Lewis is an artist who needs no introduction. I've seen him a couple of times, and he has always impressed me. I also have his CDs and EPs in my collection, and listen to his music all the time. Once again, Stewart was amazing, and I was glad I was there. I hope you enjoy the video of Lewis performing "Shine", off his album 'In Formation'.

To learn more about Stewart Lewis, visit his official website. You can also find his music on iTunes and Amazon. Before showing up and seeing her name on the poster, I didn't really have a clue who Joy Ike, or anything about her music. Joy drove in from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but her voice certainly showed no signs of being tired. I thought her voice was captivating, and her songs well-written. Enjoy the clip of Joy Ike singing "Happy".

To learn more about Joy Ike, visit her official website. You can find Joy Ike's music on iTunes and Amazon. The next up was the group from Baltimore going by the name of Elephants Gerald. The artfully combine Folk, Rock, Pop & Americana influences to craft a sound that is both exciting and organic. Check out the clip of Elephants Gerald singing "Ticker Tape Parade".

To learn more about Elephants Gerald, visit the official website. You can find Elephants Gerald's music on iTunes and Amazon. Next up, Sol Knopf took the stage. Sol makes a home for his family in Delaware, in the town where I grew up! While he regularly performs, Sol would truly consider himself a songwriter, having won a recent songwriting contest, and having his music heard by some of the top artists in Nashville. In this clip, Knopf sings one of his beautiful songs, "Is It Real?".

To learn more about Sol Knopf, visit his official website. You can find Sol Knopf's music on iTunes, Amazon, as well as his online store. The final artist on the bill was Michael Natrin, who was one of my Twitter friends I knew online, but had never met, so I was very pleased to have the chance to hear him play live. Natrin is one half of the duo 'The Honeybadgers', along with Erin Magnin. Their music is a combination of folk and Americana, in the style of the great Pete Seeger. In the following clip, you can hear Michael singing with Erin on The Honeybadgers song, "South of the Border".

To learn more about Michael Natrin, visit his official website. You can find Michael's work as part of The Honeybadgers on Bandcamp. If you'd like to find out more about Gable Music, visit their official website, or 'follow' them on Twitter.

Carole Bayer Sager • ...Too

Carole Bayer Sager photo CaroleBayerSager_zpsed5555d0.jpg

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about the first album from one of my early fascinations, Carole Bayer Sager. I first became acquainted with her through her collaborations with Melissa Manchester in the late 1970s. I was a fan of Manchester, and figured out I loved the music of Bayer-Sager as well. And when I went a little deeper, I found out I have been a fan of her songs much longer than I had know. One of her first hits was written with Toni Wine, and released in 1965. The group The Mindbenders went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "A Groovy Kind of Love" in 1965. Phil Collins topped that when he took the song to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988. She collaborated with many different artists over the years, including boyfriend Marvin Hamlisch, and her second husband, Burt Bacharach. Her work has been recorded by some of the greatest names in music, with Manchester as well as Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, Carly Simon, Rita Coolidge, Bernadette Peters, and Liza Minnelli, to name just a few.

Carole Bayer Sager - ...Too photo CaroleBayerSager-TooCOVER_zpsfd54542a.jpg

Well, in 1978 Bayer Sager released her second album, the aptly titled '...Too'. Her self-titled debut was released the year before, and had spawned the international hit, "You're Moving out Today", written with Bette Midler and Bruce Roberts. I will admit upfront that I quickly added both to my young collection, and made room for her third that was released a few years later. The music was beautiful, and her own quirky voice was just off kilter enough to hold my interest still, to this day. The album kicked off with a song Bayer Sager wrote with Melissa Manchester, "To Make You Smile Again". There is a sweetness to the song, I find it impossible to resist.

While I just love the way Carole can inject so much emotion into the ballads, I wasn't sure what would happen when she would take on a song with a higher octane. And on the second track of '...Too', that was answered. "It's The Falling In Love", written by Bayer Sager and David Foster, she delivered the goods on this wonderful up-tempo song, keeping up with the delicious background vocals supplied by the amazing Michael McDonald. I just love everything about this track! Enjoy "It's The Falling In Love".

Part of the reason this album intrigues me so is that I have heard some of the songs already performed by other artists. I first heard "Peace In My Heart" on the album by Mellisa Manchester, who also co-wrote the song. There is a very different feel to both versions, and I like that. I have to say, I really didn't see the next collaboration coming. "Shadows" has such inherent innocence and charm, it is impossible for me to listen to it only once. It was written by Bayer Sager, as well as Alice Cooper and Bruce Roberts. Yes, Carole worked with Roberts often, but who'd of thought about Alice Cooper? There is something about it that talks to my inner child, and reminds me I am not as grown up as I think I should be. You can hear for yourself, as Bayer Sager sings "Shadows".

That is followed by "You're Interesting", a song written with the late, great Peter Allen. It is a wonderful, flirty Pop song. There is a wonderful drama in "There's Something About You", which should not come as a surprise for it was written with Marvin Hamlisch. "It Doesn't Add Up", written with Johnny Vastano, is just dripping with charm, and just too damned cute. In another collaboration with David Foster, Bayer Sager once again picks up the tempo on "I Don't Wanna Dance No More", with some playful 1970s dance moves. The next song, written with Bruce Roberts, is my favorite from the album, and one of my favorites of all time. "One Star Shining" is a song that I have played many a time after a break up, for it talks to my soul. Give a listen and see if "One Star Shining" speaks to you.

The album ends with "I'm Coming Home Again", written with Melissa Manchester. Again, I had heard an earlier version by Manchester, but this one truly touched my heart. This whole album is pretty special, and more than 30 years later, I am still listening to it. That means I am still a huge fan of this very talented lady. For more about Carole Bayer Sager, visit her official website. You can also 'follow' her on Twitter, or 'like' her on Facebook. You can purchase a collection all all three of her albums 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, you will love trio of albums. I know I do! There are many nights when Bayer Sager sings me to sleep.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Andrew Abaria • We Are The Underdogs

Andrew Abaria photo Andrew_Abaria_sm_zps2e1f5056.jpg

Looking back, I am very glad I got an email from Andrew Abaria not that long ago. I hadn't run across his music before, but due to a tip from JD Doyle of Queer Music Heritage, Andrew remedied that situation. Along the way, I discovered Andrew is a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter. As the photo above can attest, he is also a handsome man, whose thoughtful portraits might belie the frothy music he makes. He is also an out and proud performer, joining the racks of many other talented artists featured on this blog. And he has just released an EP, 'We Are The Underdogs'.

Andrew Abaria We Are The Underdogs EP photo AndrewAbariaWeAreTheUnderdogsCOVER_zps4b08f91a.jpg

When I hit play, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. There is a certain excitement about discovering new music. You can never be sure of the quality, the content, or the genre at a simple glance at the cover. There is, for me, a hope I am about to hear a voice that will speak to me. Often, it comes true, but there are also those moments when I wish the song had remained unplayed. However, if that were the case, I am not sure the same excitement could be retained, if not for the uncertainly of the experience. That said, it was not long in the first track on 'We Are The Underdogs' that I knew I'd found something I enjoyed. From the simple chords of the piano, to the addition of his voice, "Boulevard of Broken Heart" captured my attention, a bold Pop song that allowed Abaria's vocals to form a connection with me, to my heart. I could see this being sung by a true Diva, offering a bit of Whitney Realness. While the orchestration remains somewhat simple, there is a grandiosity to the song, bringing the emotions to the forefront. Rather than my silly prattling, check it out for yourself.

The tone for "Can't Stand the Fall" tilts more toward melancholia, a real hurt that is practically palpable in Andrew's voice. We can feel the loss, and identify with the pain we have all felt following an important breakup. Abaria connects with that so well, we are brought along with him. The mood certainly moved from the beginning of "Kiss Me Till They Find Us", an unadulterated joyful Pop song, shining a light on the joy a love. If this chorus doesn't make you smile, it is time to defrost that heart. By the end of the song, I was singing along, and clapping with the rhythm. That delivered us to the title track, "We Are The Underdogs". Quickly, there is a bombastic feel, more Freddie Mercury that Meat Loaf. Just when you think the song has brought you to a new height, Andrew manages to soar a bit higher. Give it a listen, and you'll undoubtedly agree.

That leaves me with the final cut on the EP, "Silent Tonight". This really is a song that allows Abaria to reach down deep, and explore his own hurt, to expose his nerve. We've all had those moments, when we are with a loved one, looking for those soothing touches, the warm embrace, or just the right words to set our heart at ease, but instead, we are greeted by that moment of silence. That completes the album, and after several listens, I am not sure I can find a weak spot on it. Arbaria takes us with him on this emotional journey, experiencing the high and low points of love and life. We might be seen as underdogs as we find our way, but it is our resilience that increase the odds for finding happiness. And that is what makes 'We Are The Underdogs' a must have for your music collection. To learn more about Andrew Abaria, visit his official website. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter. You can find 'We Are The Underdogs' on iTunes and Amazon.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Voice Season 4 • The Finals

This evening, the Top 3 acts from Season 4 are looking to secure your vote to be named the winner of 'The Voice' on Tuesday night's results show. Last week, Team Adam and Team Shakira were eliminated, when Amber Carrington and Sasha Allen, respectively, were sent home. Both are very talented ladies, and may have paid the price for some questionable song choices, as has often been the case this strong and very entertaining season. From all reports, it sounds as though both Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green will be returning in the fall for Season 5, so Usher and Shakira might be done for at least the time being. I must say, I think they have done a good job, and was hoping to see what might happen if they were to return with a season of learning under their belt. My hat's off to all the judges for doing such a strong job, without becoming the focus of each and every episode.

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

The Final 3 are made up with members of Team Usher, Michelle Chamuel, and Team Blake, Danielle Bradbery and The Swon Brothers. Can Usher come through with a win in his rookie season as a judge? Can his Electro-Pop starlet command the votes to unseat the Country acts? Or will Blake take the title for the third consecutive season, and earn the first victory with a budding Country star? Can 16-year-old Danielle garner the votes to be the youngest winner so far, or will The Swon Brothers become the first group to take home the title. After all, Zach and Colton bucked the odds all season long, being the first duo or group to make it to the semifinal performances, and now the finals. Will the Country vote be split between the two strong acts, leaving room for Michelle to take the title in a season dominated by Country influences? Only time and Carson Daly can tell...

The Voice Season 4 Top 3 photo TheVoice_final3acts_zps503d1c92.jpg

Carson Daly comes out to the screaming audience to remind us that this is the final chance to impress the voters, and all three acts want to win it, and get the recording contract with Universal. It seems like they will be singing three songs each, with one new song, the song considered their 'breakthrough moment, and a duet with their coach. Touching base with the coaches as the show begins, Blake has faith either of his acts could take the title, and Usher has designs to win it all with Michelle. The first performance tonight is from the judges, who take on "With A Little Help From My Friends", the iconic song from the Lennon-McCartney songbook. Here is how the Beatles got the job done "With A Little Help From My Friends".

After a break, it is time for The Swon Brothers to give their first of the night. We see a recap of their journey on The Voice, and how far they have come over the past few months. They are singing "I Can't Tell You Why" by The Eagles. The chorus for this song is sung in falsetto, with a real sweetness to it. Right away, we hear that Zach is in great voice, taking it to the song. They hit the falsetto in the chorus and are so on, it is scary. I am loving this performance. The Swon Brothers came to take the title back to Oklahoma. Usher was somewhat cool with his critique, but Shakira loved it, and had nothing but wonderful things to say. Adam thought it was incredible, just so right on. Blake is so proud of the boys, and how they have continued to evolve as artists, never resting on safe choices. After a break, Usher talks about how proud he is of Michelle, and to mark what he thinks is her breakthrough moment, Michelle will be singing Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble".

She sound pretty damn good, but I find it is often so hard to catch lightning in a bottle a second time. She sang it beautifully, and delivered it with a real Pop/Rock feeling. Shakira tells her she is extraordinary as an artist, and that is what music needs right now. Adam just loves her energy, and what she does live. Blake agrees with Adam, and thinks she is a Rock Star. Usher calls her the winner, and is just so very proud of his pupil. After the break, Blake meets with Danielle Bradbery and her family, talking about her journey with them. Then they step on stage for a duet, and they sing "Timber, I'm Falling In Love", the great song from Patti Loveless. Blake is so sweet, taking the high harmonies, letting Danielle shine. After the break, Blake is back on the screen, this time to talk about the Swon Brothers. They are reviving the Loggins & Messina song "Danny's Song", which they first sang just last week. Their harmonies are so tight, it is hard to find fault. But once again, it is hard to spark the magic of the first performance. Solid, strong, and a delight. Usher thinks they were incredible, and made the competition disappear for a few moments. Adam agreed with Usher, and thought they did such a great song. Blake loved how they reinvented this classic, making it their own. Michelle Chamuel is up again, and will be singing "Why", the great song Annie Lennox. That is an incredible song, but Annie is a tough act to follow.

She sings the first part of the song into a mirror/video screen, with her back to the audience. That doesn't really work for me, I like it best when she has a direct connection to us. This is good, but not great. It is so hard to follow up the great Annie Lennox, who sings everything with such conviction and honesty. Michelle seemed to really connect with the final minute of the performance, which was so nice. Shakira loved it, and thought it proved her value as an artist, showing likability and capability. Blake loved the production, and thought it was wise to offer a softer performance, a different side of Michelle. Usher is just so proud of all she has done, and looks forward to hear what she will offer as an artist in the future. Blake meets with Mama & Papa Swon, before they do their duet with him. They will be singing "Celebrity", the big hit by Brad Paisley.

While the boys do their thing on the chorus, adding sweet, tight harmonies. However, the rest of the song proves to be a bit of a weak song for them. It just didn't feel like the type of song they would be singing on their own, lacking the musicality they have in abundance. After a break, it is time for Danielle to come out with her breakthrough moment. Blake believes she has had many such moments, but decided on "Maybe It Was Memphis" by Pam Tillis. Danielle performed it for the Top 16 round, which seems so long ago now. She did a lovely job, but I did feel she fell a bit flat at the end. I don't know what it was, but I thought she struggled a bit. Shakira donned a cowboy hat and tells Danielle she has such star power. Adam loves her, and announces he thinks she has won the whole competition, even thought it pains him that Blake would win again. After a break, Christina Milan reminds me why I think most of her onscreen interviews are a waste of time. Then Carson introduces Danielle, Michelle, and The Swon Brothers, who are there to sing "Home", a song from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

I like the song, and it is fun. Then the rest of the Top 16 join them on stage. I think this is a really nice song, but the group arrangement comes off a little too 'Up With People', a bit dry and soulless. Which, by the way, I blame on the show, not the Top 3. After the break, it is time for Michelle Chamuel to duet with Usher. They will be singing "One", the great song by U2, covered exceptionally by Mary J. Blige.

Usher opens the song, with some of the best vocals I've heard from him this season. When Michelle joins him, they sound great together. By the end, Michelle is out-singing Usher, catching fire just as her coach was running out of gas. As we go to the final break, Carson reminds us that we still have a performance from Danielle Bradbery. Once again, we are reminded of her journey, and hear Blake using his superlatives again, and we get it. She is going to win. She will sing "Born To Fly" by Sara Evans.

It is really the first uptempo song we've heard from her. The song is a cute Country song, but somewhat generic to me. It lacked a bit of zip that might have allowed it to take off, but I am not sure Danielle is prepared to zip yet. I find her to be pitch perfect, but a bit vacuous, most likely because she is still so young. I wish I could get more excited about her, but it just isn't happening for me. Usher tells her she is special, and did well. Adam doesn't know what to say, since he already declared her the winner. Blake reminds us he thinks she is the most important artist to come through 'The Voice', and how important she will be to Country music. Yep, I get it, folks. I understand who you think will be announced as the winner tomorrow night. But honestly, I thought The Swon Brothers were the strongest on all three songs, followed by Michelle. My reaction all season long has been the same for Danielle, a bit tepid. But it is time for the votes to be cast, for America to pick their favorite. Speaking of votes, to learn how you can place your vote, visit the official website. In brief, you can vote via a toll-free phone number, online at, with the special NBC App, or Facebook. Unlike some shows, The Voice limits the amount of votes people can place per method. You can vote 10 times per phone, or 10 times via Facebook, or 10 times via NBC App between now and 10AM Tuesday morning. The phone number is (877)553-37XX, filling in the 'XX' with the artist number. Those numbers would be The Swon Brothers 01, Michelle Chamuel 02, and Danielle Bradbery 03. Don't forget, your iTunes purchase also counts as a vote, if you are so inclined. There is a link to all the songs on the iTunes front page.

Dark Monday • Gwen Verdon in 'Sweet Charity'

Gwen Verdon in Sweet Charity photo GwenVerdonSweetCharity_zps32dc6d06.jpg

When you think about Broadway royalty, when you find a show with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and a book by Neil Simon, that is a damn good start. Add in that the direction and choreography would be by Bob Fosse, and the leading lady played by Gwen Verdon, and I don't think you could go wrong. Well, that was the lineup for the 1966 Broadway production of 'Sweet Charity'. The production, which ran for over 600 performances, was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, winning one for Fosse's choreography. Here is a wonderful clip of the delicious Gwen Verdon singing "If My Friends Could See Me Now" on the Ed Sullivan show.

You can find the Sweet Charity Original Broadway Cast Album on both iTunes and Amazon.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Their Heart Belongs To Daddy...

Lena Horne photo lena-horne_zps9fbccf44.jpg Ruth Wallis photo ruth_wallis_zps64c302bf.jpg
Etta James photo etta-james_zps36bc4dbf.jpg Julie London photo JulieLondon_zpsb9bebf3a.jpg
Clockwise: Lena Horne, Ruth Wallis, Julie London, and Etta James.

In my own way of wishing a very happy Father's Day to all those who are helping to raise children, I thought I would offer up a delectable plate of yummy treats. I will start with the song best known for it's saucy approach, written by the king a flirtation, Cole Porter, for the 1938 musical 'Leave It to Me!' This time, I thought it would be fun to include the gorgeous Lena Horne singng "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" to kick off the celebration.

In the 1950s, Ruth Wallis was known for her sexy, funny, and at times bawdy songs that were never light on the double-entendre. She never minded taking a little heat for her music, much of which she wrote herself. She often toyed with her audience, taking on taboos such as infidelity and homosexuality, long before it was acceptable. Enjoy Wallis as she sings her rather risqué song, "Long Playing Daddy".

Etta James is among the great Blues singers we have known, having made some great music during her career. Her recording of "At Last" quickly became a classic, as well as great Blues classics like "I'd Rather Go Blind". Here is her wonderful recording of "Good Rockin' Daddy", written by Richard Berry and Joe Josea which she released in the late 1950s.

There was just something so very sexy and sultry about Julie London, but she still appealed to women. I know my mother loved her, and had her records I would hear when I was young. So it was a no brainer for me to include her flirty version of "Daddy", a song written by her musical collaborator and husband Bobby Troupe.

Happy Father's Day to all!


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