Saturday, September 23, 2017
Album:Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
The 2003 single Hey Ya was the biggest hit for the rap duo OutKast. They had a long run before that but by 2003 they were drifting apart and the end would come after one more album. OutKast are influential in the Dirty South style of hip hop. Andre "Andre 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton went to high school together in Atlanta. They started doing local shows and that got the attention of the production group Organized Noize. Rico Wade, Ray Murray and Patrick "Sleepy" Brown worked with TLC and Ludicris and I think it's fair to say that Organized Noize was instrumental in the 90s rise of southern rap. Benjamin and Patton called themselves OutKast. They thought they were misfits. OutKast signed with LaFace Records and released the 1994 CD Southernplayalisticadillacmusik. They topped the rap charts with Player's Ball and the CD was certified Platinum. Their first three albums did well but they weren't able to cross over and score a pop hit single. That all changed with the 2000 CD Stankonia. The second single Ms. Jackson topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Stankonia was certified 4XPlatinum. The only problem was Benjamin was getting restless. He moved to Los Angeles to get into acting. He appeared in a couple of things but it wasn't enough and he recorded The Love Below at his home studio. Meanwhile, Patton recorded Speakerboxx in Atlanta. It was decided to release them together as a 2CD OutKast album. Hey Ya was written and performed by Benjamin. The Way You Move was written and performed by Patton. Both songs topped the Billboard Hot 100 and the album was certified Diamond. So it was OutKast's most successful album to date. But they knew they couldn't continue to work like this. They decided to produce the film Idlewild which was released in 2006. It didn't do well. Even the soundtrack didn't do well. OutKast split up. Patton recorded a solo album for DefJam. But they kept delaying the release until it finally escaped in 2010. Patton has recorded four albums with little success. He just released a new CD on Epic. Patton has had success as a producer especially with Janelle Monae. Benjamin returned to acting. His most notable role was as Jimi Hendrix in the 2013 biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side. He returned to music in 2007 mostly doing guest shots on other folks albums. It doesn't look like he is interested in recording his own music anymore. There have certainly been plenty of rumours. OutKast reunited for a few 2014 music festivals. But there are no plans to record new music. Here's the video for Hey Ya by OutKast.
Friday, September 22, 2017
Album:Where Do You Start
Brad Mehldau is one of today's most popular jazz pianists. He has led his trio since 1995 and he also records side projects and experiments with different types of music. But he always goes back to the trio. He was born Aug. 23, 1970 in Jacksonville, FL. His family moved to West Hartford, CT when he was age ten. He took piano lessons as a child but he got serious about it as a teen listening to Oscar Peterson. Mehldau moved to New York in 1988 to study at The New School. One of his teachers was legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb. Mehldau played local clubs in Cobb's band and he recorded and toured with sax player Christopher Holyday. He led a quartet with sax player Perico Sambeat and Mario (bass) and Jorge (drums) Rossy. They recorded a couple of albums. Mehldau's profile was raised when he toured with sax player Joshua Redman. Mehldau was featured on Redman's 1994 album Moodswing and Redman's score for the film Vanya on 42nd Street. Then he signed with Redman's label Warner Bros. Records. Mehldau still records for Warner Music. They moved all jazz artists to Nonesuch. His debut as a leader was Introducing Brad Mehldau in 1995 with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy. Mehldau was critically acclaimed but some critics compared him unfavorably to Bill Evans. His big problem at the time was heroin addiction. Mehldau moved to Los Angeles in 1996 to kick the habit. He continued to record with his trio and Mehldau became a regular on the jazz festival circuit. He also recorded with Chris Potter, Lee Konitz, Willie Nelson and he was featured on the soundtrack of the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. In 2005, Rossy was replaced by Jeff Ballard. And that is Mehldau's trio today. Holland is from the 2011 CD Where Do You Start. Mehldau recorded two albums at the same time. The CD Ode was all original songs. Where Do You Start is all covers. Holland was written by singer songwriter Sufjan Stevens. Mehldau has experimented with electronics in the duo Mehliana with drummer Mark Giuliana. They recorded and toured and John Scofield joined them on tour. Mehldau's latest CD was with mandolinist Chris Thile. It was released Jan. 2017 and they toured to support it. Currently Mehldau is touring solo but he will tour with Thile again in November. Here's Brad Mehldau with Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard performing Holland at the 2008 Berghausen Jazz Festival in Germany.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Drummer Harvey Mason is a legendary session musician and sideman who has played with just about everyone. He occasionally records as a leader. This 2014 album is a tribute to Mason's 70s stint with Herbie Hancock and The Headhunters. He was born Feb. 22, 1947 in Atlantic City, NJ. He attended Berklee and he graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music. After stints with Eroll Garner and George Shearing, Mason moved to Los Angeles and became a session musician. Most notably he was in Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and he co-wrote and played on the original recording of Chameleon. He played on recordings by Donald Byrd, George Benson (Breezin'), Grover Washington Jr. (Mister Magic), Bob James and The Brothers Johnson. In 1975, Mason signed with Arista Records and had success on the dance charts for the next few years. When that ended in 1981, he returned to session work. And he still does that today. The 2014 album Chameleon on Concord Jazz is a tribute to his 70s stint with The Headhunters. Mason wrote Chameleon with fellow Headhunters Bennie Maupin, Herbie Hancock and Paul Jackson. The arrangement was written by Ben Wendel of Kneebody. The guest star on Chameleon is Headhunters percussionist Bill Summers. Other musicians are Kamasi Washington on tenor sax, pianist Mark de Clive-Lowe who arranged most of the album, John Beasley on piano, Matthew Stevens on guitar and Jimmy Haslip on bass. Mason did tour with this band. Mason is also a member of Fourplay and he continues to record and tour with them. And of course he continues as a studio musician. Here's Harvey Mason performing Chameleon in the recording studio. This video was produced by Vic Firth drumsticks to promote a contest they were running in 2015.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Song:The Rum Tum Tugger
Album:Cats: Complete Original Broadway Cast Recording
One of the interesting things about the 1982 Broadway show Cats is that Geffen Records tried to sell the original cast album like a pop record. And that included doing a music video. The music video was for The Rum Tum Tugger starring Terrence Mann. He is identified only in the end credits of the video. Cats was Mann's first big show and he's been on Broadway ever since. He was born July 1, 1951 in Ashland, KY. His mom was a concert pianist. He grew up in Largo, FL and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts. Mann's first Broadway show was Barnum in 1980 and then he was hired for Cats. He met his wife Charlotte d'Amboise while doing Cats. Normally Broadway musical cast albums are sold as an adjunct of the show. Geffen Records tried to go beyond that and did a music video for The Rum Tum Tugger. It worked because it got played on MTV. Of course Mann plays Rum Tum Tugger and that's him without makeup playing the janitor at the beginning of the video. None of the actors are named. So though the video didn't make Mann famous, he's been in plenty of musicals including Les Miserables (Tony nominated), The Beast in Beauty and the Beast, The Addams Family and most recently Tuck Everlasting which had a short run last year. Probably his best known film role was as Ug in the Critters movies. He is a regular on the Netflix series Sense8 which was recently cancelled and will end in 2018. Also he's a professor at Western Carolina University. Here's the video of The Rum Tum Tugger by Terrence Mann.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Song:A Boy Named Sue
Album:Johnny Cash at San Quentin
For everything that Johnny Cash recorded over the years, I bet most would be surprised that A Boy Named Sue was his only top five pop hit. Cash performed the song on Johnny Cash in San Quentin. I'm sure no one was more surprised than Cash that the song was a hit. The big thing about it is that it led to his TV variety show. The Johnny Cash Show has held up very well over the years. Cash had performed in prisons for years and he wanted to record a live album in a prison for a long time. When Columbia assigned Bob Dylan's producer Bob Johnston to Cash, he gave the green light to record in Folsom Prison. The album was so successful they decided to do a sequel at San Quentin. It was recorded Feb. 24, 1969 and filmed by British TV network Granada TV. This is available on DVD. Not surprisingly, the album was a hit. But the big surprise was when A Boy Named Sue became a hit single. It topped the country charts and reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. A Boy Named Sue was written by humorist Shel Silverstein, probably best known for the Doctor Hook hit Sylvia's Mother. Silverstein said A Boy Named Sue was a tribute to legendary humorist Jean Shepherd (A Christmas Story). I guess Jean is perceived as a girl's name. Silverstein gave the song to Cash at a Guitar Pull where they pass a guitar around and perform songs. His wife June Carter encouraged Cash to perform the song. San Quentin was the first performance of A Boy Named Sue. Cash didn't even know the words. You can see him in the video looking at a piece of paper on the music stand. The success of A Boy Named Sue led to ABC offering Cash his own TV show. The Johnny Cash Show was very successful. Johnny Cash at San Quentin is available as a budget CD. Here's Johnny Cash performing A Boy Named Sue in San Quentin Feb. 24, 1969. This video is not on Youtube.
Monday, September 18, 2017
Song:Sucker For Pain
Album:Suicide Squad: The Album
These days movie producers are looking for a hit soundtrack to go with the movie. This is especially true of a comic book movie like Suicide Squad. What they normally try to do is compile an all star cast for the soundtrack. Steven Price composed the score and you can get that on a separate CD. Atlantic Records had their A&R department compile Suicide Squad: The Album. You'll notice they don't call it a soundtrack. That's because some of the songs on the album aren't in the movie. And some of the songs that are in the movie aren't on the soundtrack album. There is mostly new songs on the album. An album like this has a built in fanbase. But Atlantic and everyone else involved wants to have a hit single. Sucker For Pain was the second single from the album. It reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album topped the Billboard Hot 200 and it was certified Platinum. Mission accomplished. From what I could tell, Sucker For Pain was written by Imagine Dragons and producer Alexander "Alex Da Kid" Grant. They worked together before. At the time Imagine Dragons were taking a break but I guess they couldn't resist a big movie. Lil Wayne is the main rapper on this song so I do recommend it to his fans. And maybe to Wiz Khalifa fans. The other artists contribute very little. Were they necessary? Does it matter? As for the credits, recently I was reading an article on The Guardian about the negotiations that determine credits. It's a little too screwy for me. It can get very complicated. Among others who appear on this CD are Skillrex, Rick Ross, Action Bronson, Eminem and Panic! At the Disco. It's not my cup of tea but obviously plenty of folks bought this CD. Here's the video for Sucker For Pain by Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and Imagine Dragons with Logic, Ty Dolla Sign featuring X Ambassadors.
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Song:One Song Glory
Album:The Best Of Rent: Highlights From The Original Cast Album
Though Adam Pascal is a veteran Broadway performer, he is best known for his very first show and that was Rent in 1996. He appeared on Broadway and London, the film version of Rent and the touring cast. He was born Feb. 25, 1970 in The Bronx, NY and he grew up in Woodbury in Long Island. Pascal wanted to be a rock singer and he was in several bands. He's a big Queensryche fan and he does a tribute to them in concert. It was suggested that he should audition for Rent and he won the role of HIV positive musician Roger Davis. One Song Glory is Pascal's big number early in the show and he still performs it in his concerts. Rent was very successful. Pascal went on to appear in the London production, the national touring production and the film. This highlights CD from the Broadway show is available as a budget CD. Pascal has appeared in other Broadway shows like Aida in 2000 as Radames, as The Emcee in the 2003 revival of Cabaret and as Huey Calhoun in the 2011 show Memphis. Most recently he appeared as William Shakespeare in the musical Something Rotten! which was on Broadway but is currently on a national tour. He has been less successful in films and as a recording artist though he has been successful doing concert tours. I think that no matter what he does Adam Pascal will always be known for Rent. Here's Adam Pascal performing One Song Glory at the Huntington Theater in Boston Sept. 2008.