Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ásgeir • Was There Nothing

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I first discovered the music of Ásgeir via Noise Trade. It was there I was able to get a free download of some acoustic session recordings, and I was immediately intrigued. I did a bit of research, and found out the handsome singer/songwriter was a native of Iceland, where he was a big star, following the success of his debut album. His sound was so interesting to me, with the rich textures, light harmonies, and layered orchestration offered a vivid musical tapestry to enjoy.

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In my research, I also learned Ásgeir was working in the studio, recording an English-language album that would introduce him to the rest of the world. He was working with out American artist John Grant, who was living in Iceland at the time. Grant was offering up translations of Ásgeir's songs, and the result was the album 'In the Silence'. The translated lyrics shine a light on the poetic side of the music, adding yet another layer to the acoustic landscape. I just discovered the music video for "Was There Nothing?", and knew I wanted to share it with you. I love the was the camera glides over his body, and along his guitar, allowing us in closer to the artist, and to be washed with the sound and visuals of his performance. This is Ásgeir with the music video for "Was There Nothing?".

I must admit, when I first heard the album, this song was an early favorite. There is something about the dreamy quality that spoke to me. "Was There Nothing?" can be found on the album 'In the Silence'. You can purchase it on iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about Ásgeir, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter.

Drake Jensen • Everytime I See Your Picture

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It seems like while I thought handsome Canadian Country crooner Drake Jensen was relaxing between releases, he was hard at work. I know that because he has released his first music video from his upcoming album, 'Retro'. This will be his third studio album, and if "Everytime I See Your Picture" is any indication of the quality, I can't wait to hear it. The song is a cover of the 1983 hit by Canadian performer Luba. I heard from Drake that it was a favorite, and now I can understand why. The bombastic power ballad was written by Luba Kowalchyk and Pierre Marchand, and her recording was her first song to make it to the Canadian Pop charts, well in to the Top 40 at #26.

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It seems when Drake went back to the studio, he had the good sense to once again with work music producer Jonathan Edwards of Corvidae Music, who also mixed and mastered the track. And, while he was at it, Edwards also directed this music video. Together, the two have given the song a seamless transition from Pop/Rock to Country. The song seems like a perfect choice for Drake, who delivers a great performance, managing both the vocal and emotional range of the song. I hope you enjoy Drake Jensen with "Everytime I See Your Picture".

"Everytime I See Your Picture" is the first single off the upcoming album , 'Retro'. While it isn't available to purchase as a single or as part of a pre-order, you can still pick up music from this talented artist. If I could, I'd pre-order this album, just to get this wonderful song. You can purchase Drake's latest release, 'Outlaw', from iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby. For more information about Drake, visit his official website. You can also 'like' Drake on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

All-4-One • I Swear

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In July of 1994, the song "I Swear" made the second appearance on the Billboard Hot 100, but this time it sounded very different. Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers wrote a ballad that was first released by singer John Michael Montgomery, whose version of the song went to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, and #44 on the Hot 100. But a few months later, the group All-4-One released their R&B version of the song, and soon it was the sound of the summer. You see, this time, the song made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, not for one week, but for eleven consecutive weeks. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the songs final week on top of the charts, but securing that Jamie Jones, Delious Kennedy, Alfred Nevarez, and Tony Borowiak defined the sound of the summer. This is "I Swear" by All-4-One.

Brings back memories, at least for me...

The Paisley Fields • Not Gonna Be Friends

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I have been meaning to catch up with The Paisley Fields here on the blog, but due to being a bit of a scatter-brain for the year-to-date, it has slipped by. Never one to totally give up, I am taking the opportunity now to share with you their latest music video, one I live very much. But first, I would introduce you to the band, and the members plying their trade. The Paisley Fields is, at its heart, a Country band, but with some special trimming. Their inspiration comes from Dolly Parton, Elton John, Tom Waits and Elvis Presley, proving to have a Country core with Pop sensibilities. But truly at the core are James Wilson, on vocals and keyboards, Jessica Kimple and Cassie Naaktgeboren on vocals, Joe Kimple on guitar, Rob Knopper on drums, and Ryan Pearson on bass. I enjoy the music they make, and am in love with their latest single, "Not Gonna Be Friends". Lucky for us all, it is also the latest music video from the band.

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Not only do I love the title, but I am also crazy about the song. "Not Gonna Be Friends" was written by James Wilson, who has already been names a two-time ASCAP songwriters’ award winner. It tackles a feeling most of us know just a bit too well. You know, when the relationship is over, and he wants to be friends, but at that moment, you have absolutely no desire to see him with anyone else. Time might make it easier, and often does. But while it is still fresh, the feelings are just a bit too raw. This is the music video for "Not Gonna Be Friends", featuring the band, and some hot boys 'living' the story.

I have to say, this song is part of my summer playlist, and just love when it comes on. You can purchase "Not Gonna Be Friends" from iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about The Paisley Fields, visit their official website. You can also 'like' them on Facebook, and 'follow' them on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sam Dickinson to Release Deluxe Edition

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I was first introduced to the music of Sam Dickinson by J.D. Doyle of Queer Music Heritage, and I happily thanked him shortly thereafter. Dickinson's music is bold, bright, and contagious, in all the best ways. I swear, I was singing along from the start! And as Sam is about to release his "The Stories That Occurred Deluxe Edition', a 37-track reissue of his debut album, I also had the opportunity to ask a few questions, to gain a bit more insight into this talented young man from England. I was thrilled to get this chance, for he had me with the chorus of "How It Used To Be". To show you just how easy that was, here is "How It Used To Be (Music F Funk Remix)", soon to be available on the 'The Stories That Occurred Deluxe Edition'.

I thought the best way to start was to go to the beginning. I had to ask him if music was an important part of his family when Sam was growing up? "It was important to listen to it," Sam replied, "music has always been a part of my life. I am however, the only performer in my family."

So what was some of the early music Sam listened to? "M People, Lighthouse Family, Gabrielle, Texas," he told me. "Basically the 90’s soul revival was huge for me, I grew up listening to it, learning about it and loving it. Thank God it’s making a comeback now!"

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As a longtime fan of music, including a preoccupation with British music, I knew that Newcastle Upon Tyne has given the world some impressive music, from The Animals to Bryan Ferry (of Roxy Music fame) to Dire Straits. Add Prefab Sprout and a couple of other artists, like Sting, Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys, Cheryl Cole of Girls Aloud, and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran, which is quite an impressive collection. So I was dying to know, has Newcastle affected him musically? "I wouldn’t say it’s affected me hugely musically. Newcastle isn’t known for its soul music unlike cities such as Manchester and London. I’ve always been a bit of an outcast on the local music scene and I’m quite happy for it to stay that way too, I’m doing something a little different and long may that last! Obviously, it’s great to see so many amazing artists come from the region because it brings attention to the place."

I had to ask whose music inspires him now? "Exactly the same people who inspired me when growing up," he answered. (You can see the list just above the pictures of the handsome singer, two paragraphs up.) "I still listen to them all regularly."

I know how I would do it, but I was interested in knowing how Sam would describe his music. After all, I've described it in a couple of posts featuring his music! "Quirky, soulful pop," he answered quickly. "It’s not heavy to listen to and pays homage to the soul of years gone by. It’s nice easy listening." I had also asked what song he'd include with this interview, and he volunteered "Away From Me", the second track on 'The Stories That Occurred'. I hope you enjoy "Away From Me (Acoustic)".

I love to find out more about an artist, so I asked if he could duet with anyone, who would it be? And if you could write a song with anyone, who would it be? "I always say Mary J Blige or Anastacia, simply because I think the voices would blend together," he answered quickly. "Anastacia always seems to write with great writers so any of her team. Ben Hartman also writes amazing songs, I’d love one of his!"

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Since the impetus for the interview was the new release, I had to ask what excites Sam most about the new of 'The Stories That Occurred Deluxe Edition'? "The fact I get to relaunch this album in all its glory," he replied honestly, "I can put the lessons I learnt last year to the test to try and improve on it. I fully believe in this album, and honestly think it’s a great album! The more people who can hear that the better as far as I am concerned. I gave up a house for this album! It also gives people the chance to hear the songs in different ways whether it be acoustic, remixes and instrumentals. You have your Saturday night pre-party build up and your Sunday chill out, that’s what I’m excited about."

Since the 'Deluxe Edition' includes several remixes, I was interested in knowing if there are any DJs he'd like to remix your music that haven't yet? "I’m not sure anyone specific but I always encourage DJ’s remixing my music," he told me spiritedly. "I love to hear the different feels they can all bring to one track. There are some great remixes on this album that I’m very excited for people to hear. Some are outright dance and others are a slight hint of where I am going musically with my next album." And when it comes to great remixes on the new released, I was very excited about the inclusion of one of my personal faves, with a spicy new feel. This is "I've Gone, I've Quit (EIGHTminusEIGHT Remix)".

Let's face it, we all have music on our iPods that might surprise some of our friends. Mine would be the greatest hits collection of Westlife, the Irish boy band who made me happy for over a decade. I had to ask him, what is the guilty pleasure people might find on Sam's iPod? "I have a love for all things Spice Girls," he said with a smile, "either solo or band stuff, so most likely that!"

Finally, I couldn't resist asking about the future. Has Sam started working on new music? "Yes," he exclaimed proudly! "It’s so exciting, I am loving writing again. I premiered a new song called ‘Hold on High’ during my last tour and it got a standing ovation at EVERY show, that’s a first! I mean, this was the first time people have heard that song and it brought them to do that. I’ve also had some great music to work too and had songs submitted from the people behind Conchita Wurst’s "Rise like a Phoenix". It’s all very exciting to try new songs out; the album will take a much more modern soul approach but still be Sam through and through. I’m not abandoning my soul."

That is great news, for I am not going to abandon my soul man, either. You can pre-order your copy of 'The Stories That Occurred Deluxe Edition' from iTunes. To learn more about Sam Dickinson, visit his official website. You can also 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Dark Monday • Too Darn Hot

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In 1949, the very first Tony Awards were given, and the big winner that year was 'Kiss Me Kate', the great show with music by Cole Porter, was named Best Musical, as well as winning Best Author (Musical) for Samuel and Bella Spewack, and Best Original Score for Porter. The show was a look at the lives of an acting troupe performing in a musical production of Shakespeare's 'The Taming of the Shrew', and the hijinks and drama that goes on. The original production was Porter's most successful and longest running musical. Fifty years later, the show was back on Broadway, and once again was a Tony favorite, being named Best Revival of a Musical, and saw Brian Stokes Mitchell winning Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, and Best Director for Michael Blakemore.In 2001, the revival opened on London's West End, also directed by Blakemore. This production was also taped and released for PBS, and later released to DVD. This is the long version of the hit song "Too Darn Hot", featuring Nolan Frederick and the West End cast.

You can purchase the DVD for the West End Revival of 'Kiss Me Kate' from Amazon. You can find the 2000 Broadway Revival Cast album on iTunes. You can also find the 1949 Original Broadway Cast Recording on iTunes.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Torch From Berlin

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Clockwise: Diana Krall; Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald; Judy Garland; and Billie Holiday.

After last week's foray into the Blues, I return once again to Jazz for our Saturday night entertainment. Inspired by the Johnny Mathis song from this morning, I once again returned to the well that has kept my Saturday nights in great music, with my muse for the evening, Irving Berlin. As a composer, Berlin has written great songs for some of the greatest characters of the 20th Century, and some of the greatest singers of the time. Tonight I will begin with a song made famous by the amazing Fred Astaire, and danced to by Fred and his partner, Ginger Rogers. The song was written for the 1936 film 'Follow The Fleet', starring Fred and Ginger. Sixty-three years later, "Let's Face The Music And Dance" was recorded by Diana Krall in 1999, for the album 'When I Look In Your Eyes'. Krall has a wonderful sultry style, which is truly on display on this recording. This is the official music video of Diana Krall singing 'Let's Face The Music And Dance'.

While Berlin wrote for many of the great stars of the 1930s and 40s, once again I go back to the quintessential stars of the period, Astaire and Rogers, from the 1935 film, 'Top Hat'. While few could deliver "Cheek to Cheek" with the suave style that is so easy for Fred Astaire, when I heard the recording used here, I got really excited. Whenever you combine the talents of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, how could you go wrong? You can't. Please enjoy Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong singing Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek", recorded in 1956.

"Always" was written in 1925, meant to be a wedding gift to his wife, Ellin. The two were married in 1926, and they were together until her death in 1988. Berlin had assigned the rights to this song and others to his new wife, ensuring that if something happened to him, she would still get money from his income stream of songs. In 1958, the song was recorded by the great Billie Holiday, and it is really very special. While many took it slow, Holiday made it a mid-tempo song, putting a bit of swing into the ballad. This is Billie Holiday singing "Always".

The final song of the evening is another that was introduced to the public in a Broadway score, before going on to a life of its own. "What'll I Do", written in 1923 and appeared in the show 'The Music Box Review' of the same year, as well as in the show for the 1924. It was a hit with the audience, and proved to have staying power when it was sung by the great voices in music for decades to come. In fact, it was sung by the great Judy Garland on her television show in 1964. Yes, forty years later,the song was still entertaining audiences. This is Judy Garland singing "What'll I Do" on 'The Judy Garland Show'.

Hope your weekend is allowing you to soar!

Johnny Mathis • The Summer Knows

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I must admit, I've had a crush on Johnny Mathis for the longest time. When I was still a kid, I remember my mother listening to his music, especially around the holidays. The tone of his voice is just magnificent, and his control is outrageous. And, lest I forget to mention, he is a handsome man, which is never a bad thing. I still have his music in iTunes, and listen to him. And every time, he makes me sigh and smile.

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In 1972, some 42 years ago, Johnny released an album, 'The First Time Ever (I Saw Your Face)', a collection of 11 cover songs that were popular at the time. Among the song was the amazing "The Summer Knows", also know as the "Theme from Summer of '42". The album mad it to Billboard magazine's Top LP's & Tapes chart, and remained there for 15 weeks. The film, released in 1971, had music written by the great Michel Legrand. While it was recorded both as an instrumental and a Pop song, it did have lyrics are by Marilyn and Alan Bergman. The song sounds perfectly suited to Johnny's voice, but then again, what song doesn't? I hope you enjoy Johnny Mathis singing "The Summer Knows".

Enjoy your summer!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Double Feature • Anna & Birthday

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About a year and a half ago, I had the idea about bringing 'Date Night' to the blog. After all, many seem to think Friday night is date night, either going out to find love, or just to satisfy more physical needs. The first short film I posted was 'You Can't Curry Love', and I can honestly tell you I just watched it again the other day, and still enjoyed it! I've offered up short films, and a few full length feature films. Either way, I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I has. I love helping people to find some of the great talent found in the LGBT community, and to get to hear the stories they are telling. Tonight I am bringing in a double feature with an international flavor, and I hope you will find both interesting.

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First up, I have a film from Hungary, written by Anikó Astarte and directed by Petra Palotai. 'Anna' is a lovely story of finding yourself, no matter how you do it. Some might need depp reflection, while others might need a great prop, like a magical timepiece. The film stars Timi, Nóra, and Figura, and runs just under three and a half minutes. This is 'Anna'.

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The second film tonight is from India, written and directed by Suresh Shelar. 'Birthday' runs about twelve and a half minutes, but says so much in that time. The film tells the story of Abhay, a handsome young man with a penchant for remembering birthdays. On this particular day, he go to visit his friend, Alex, to help him celebrate. It turns into something more, but not the same thing for Abhar and Alex. Shelar obviously helped his actors, as he got excellent performances from Sunil Kumar as Abhay and Bobby Vats as Alex. Please enjoy 'Birthday'.

Have a great weekend!

Mika • Boum Boum Boum

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I have been a fan of Mika's music since first hearing his first album, the 2007 release 'Life in Cartoon Motion', which also featured the wonderful hit, "Grace Kelly". It is hard to believe it has been seven years since that album was out! But right away, I had to learn more about the artist. It seems Mika was born in Beirut, the son of a Lebanese mother and an American father. While still an infant, his family moved to Paris, France, to escape the war-torn Lebanon, and soon relocated again, this time to London, England. Both in schools and privately, Mika studied music since he was young, and wrote his first song at age seven. He has spoken about his experience as a bullied child, and how that effected him. His music was free and joyous, and soon grabbed the attention of record labels. By the age of twenty-four, Mika released his first album.

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Fast-forward seven years, and Mika has had much success, and began his first season as a coach on 'The Voice: la plus belle voix', spinning in a chair as part of 'The Voice' team in France. Perhaps that is at least part of what inspired his latest single. "Boum Boum Boum" was written by Mika and Doriand and produced by Mika, Klas Åhlund and Greg Wells. The song takes a look at love, life, and sex, in a humorous and flirty way. Or it might just seem flirty because he is singing in French. There is also a music video, which has the Pop star looking seriously handsome, if I do say so myself. Is seems inspired by some old movies, from film noire to spaghetti westerns, from 'Dangerous Liaisons' to 'James Bond' to 'Lawrence of Arabia', we see the singer in costumes from a variety of periods, mimicking the storylines of the original films. And he is looking darned hot doing it. This is the music video for Mika's "Boum Boum Boum".

I really like the song, and was happy to make it part of my Summer playlist. If you'd like to do the same, "Boum Boum Boum" is available for purchase from iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about Mika, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ritual • Breathe

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Ritual is more than a musical group. It is a collaboration between Cassidy Haley and Jillian Ann, who together make music, fashion, and imagery that is as unique as the people making it. You've seen and heard Haley on this blog before, as I am a big fan. This music video, directed by Jean Renard, is an example of that, for it features an original song, as well as original fashion by Cassidy and Jillian. Both are strong and bold, capturing a youthful essence that is fresh. And both are named "Breathe", and share a wonderful layered and textured feel. This is the official music video for "Breathe".

You can find the song on Bandcamp, where you can name your own price. You can also purchase it on iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about Ritual, visit the official website. For those interested in teh social media, you can 'like' them on Facebook, and 'follow' them on Twitter. For more about the individual members, you can find Jillian Ann at her official website, and Cassidy Haley at his official Bandcamp site.

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