Sunday, October 23, 2016
For a few years, Canadian singer songwriter Avril Lavigne was one of the biggest stars in music. Now she's on the comeback trail after health problems. Complicated was her first big hit in 2002 and it really paved the way for her success. She was born Sept. 26, 1984 in Belleville, ON and she grew up in Napanee. Her dad played bass in the local church choir. He saw that Avril had talent so he brought her to sing in church. She performed country music covers at local fairs. In 1999, Avril won a radio contest to appear on stage with Shania Twain in Ottawa. She then worked with local singer Stephen Medd. She was spotted by a local manager and that led to Avril going to New York to audition for Arista Records president LA Reid. He signed her immediately. Then they had to figure out what to do with her. She worked with several different producers and Arista wasn't happy with the results. They brought in Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards and Scott Spock AKA The Matrix. After a modest singing career, Lauren formed The Matrix with ex-husband and session musician Edwards and recording engineer Spock. They had worked with Cristina Aguilera and O-Town. But Avril was their first big project. They wrote and produced six of the songs on Let Go including Complicated. It reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was certified 6XPlatinum. Complicated had the skater punk edge that allowed Arista to sell Avril as the "anti-Britney", the opposite of processed pop music. Of course this was nonsense but music fans bought it at the time. Avril blamed the media for the false impression but Arista was behind it. For her 2004 album Under My Skin, Avril worked with singer songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk and husband Raine Maida from Our Lady Peace. They produced a mature harder sound. Don't Tell Me and Nobody's Home were hits but the album wasn't as successful as Let Go. By the time Avril recorded her 2007 album The Best Damn Thing, she was married to Sum 41 lead singer Deryck Whibley. So his influence was felt. The single Girlfriend was Avril's only number one hit and the album was successful. It took her three years to record her next album. And she also divorced Whibley. So by the time Goodbye Lullaby was released in 2011, fans forgot about Avril. And that's where she's at today. She married Nickelback leader Chad Kroeger and they are now divorcing. Avril suffers from Lyme's Disease but she is recovering. Last year she announced plans to record a Christmas album but there has been no release date set. Sony hasn't released an Avril Lavigne comp but Let Go is available as a budget CD. Here's the video for Complicated by Avril Lavigne.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Song:Sex and Candy
Marcy Playground scored a top ten hit with Sex and Candy in 1997. Their debut CD was certified Platinum. But they never charted again. So Marcy Playground turned out to be a one hit wonder. The leader of Marcy Playground was lead singer, guitarist and songwriter John Wozniak. He grew up in Minneapolis and Marcy Playground is named after his grade school. Wozniak started out recording in his bedroom studio with his girlfriend Sherry Fraser and her brother. The music was good enough that Wozniak decided he needed to move to New York to make it in the music business. So he moved to Long Island with his friend Jared Kotler. They recorded and played New York clubs. Capitol Records was interested in the demos and eventually signed Marcy Playground. But Wozniak found that he didn't get along with Kotler on the road. He brought in Dylan Keefe to play bass. Kotler played drums on Marcy Playground's debut album. But then he was replaced by Dan Rieser. I guess Wozniak didn't want Kotler on tour. But he continued to work with the band. Meanwhile Sex and Candy reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it was a worldwide hit. They released their second album Shapeshifter in 1999. By this time Kotler left Marcy Playground. The album didn't do well and there were no hit singles. So Capitol dropped them. Marcy Playground is available as a budget CD. Wozniak continued Marcy Playground. They toured as recently as 2012. But it looks like the band is defunct. And that means they are officially a one hit wonder. Here's the video for Sex and Candy by Marcy Playground.
Friday, October 21, 2016
Song:Brush Up Your Shakespeare
Album:Kiss Me, Kate: The New Broadway Cast Recording
Brush Up Your Shakespeare is a song from the musical Kiss Me, Kate that is used as comedy relief to set you up for the ending. Character actors not known for singing usually perform it. In the 1953 film, Brush Up Your Shakespeare is performed by Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore. In this 1999 Broadway revival, it's performed by Lee Wilkof and Michael Mulheren. This successful revival won several Tony Awards and Wilkof and Mulheren were among those who got nominations. I would describe them as very versatile character actors. Wilkof was born June 25, 1951 in Canton, OH. His first big role was as Seymour in the 1982 off-Broadway musical Little Shop Of Horrors. Since then he has appeared in all kinds of Broadway revivals like Sweet Charity, Kiss Me, Kate and most recently Breakfast At Tiffany's. He has done film and TV. His best known role was as DA Nixon in the TV series Ally McBeal. Mulheren is from Middletown, NJ. He started out off-Broadway in the 80s in The Fantasticks. He made his Broadway debut in On The Waterfront in 1995. He also appeared in Kiss Me, Kate, The Boy From Oz, La Cage Aux Folles and Spiderman: Turn Out The Dark. Most of his TV work has been guest shots though he is a regular on the WGN America series Salem. Neither guys would normally seek the spotlight. But those are the kind of actors who perform Brush Up Your Shaekespeare. And they got Tony nominations. Now get back to work. Here's Lee Wilkof and Michael Mulheren performing Brush Up Your Shakespeare on the 2000 Tony Awards broadcast.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
|Sara McMann, Alexis Davis|
Song:I Ran (So Far Away)
Album:The Best Of A Flock Of Seagulls
I guess it could be said that the Synth Pop of A Flock Of Seagulls typifies the music of the early 80s. I Ran was their only big hit in the US but a couple of their other songs charted so they aren't a one hit wonder. Don't forget the goofy haircuts. A Flock Of Seagulls were from Liverpool, England. The group leader was lead singer and keyboard player Mike Score. He was a hairdresser which explains their haircuts. He says the name A Flock Of Seagulls comes from The Stranglers song Toiler of the Sea. Other members were Mike's brother Ali Score on drums and Frank Maudsley on bass. Guitarist Willie Woo was soon added and then replaced by Mark Reynolds. They practiced above Score's hair salon. They got a record deal with Cocteau Records owned by Be Bop Deluxe guitarist Bill Nelson and he sold their contract to Jive Records. After a couple of singles, they recorded the 1982 album A Flock Of Seagulls with producer Mike Howlett, bassist for the group Gong. The single I Ran (So Far Away) did OK in England. But it reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was an international hit. This was probably because MTV played it to death which was not unusual in those days. The album A Flock Of Seagulls was certified Gold. Follow up singles Space Age Love Songs and Wishing charted. But they faded after that. You can get their hits on this budget comp. A Flock Of Seagulls recorded four albums. After personnel changes, they decided to move to Philadelphia in 1985. But Maudsley got homesick and the Score brothers were bickering. A Flock Of Seagulls split up in 1986. Mike Score formed a new version of A Flock Of Seagulls in 1989. And they've been around ever since. They last recorded in 1995 but they still tour. Here's the video of I Ran (So Far Away) by A Flock Of Seagulls.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Song:Power Of Soul
Album:Power Of Soul
Drummer Idris Muhammad was known as The King Of Groove. For most of his career, he was a sideman. But in the 70s, he recorded a series of albums for CTI's Kudu label that are greatly admired by hip hop guys. He was born Leo Morris Nov. 13, 1939 in New Orleans. As a teen, he played with Art Neville and Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield. Then he moved to New York and married The Crystals lead singer Dolores Brooks. They converted to Islam and Leo Brooks became Idris Muhammad. In the late 60s, Muhammad was in Leo Donaldson's band and he also played with George Benson and Pharoah Sanders. And he was the drummer for the Broadway musical Hair. Then he signed with Prestige Records and made his recording debut as a leader in 1970. And he recorded with Gene Ammons, Charles Earland, Melvin Sparks, Leon Spencer and Sonny Stitt. Then he moved to CTI Records and he recorded with Grover Washington Jr. and Hank Crawford. He also went on the road with Roberta Flack. The 1974 album Power Of Soul was Muhammad's first album on Kudu. Today his albums for Kudu are considered very influential on funk and Muhammad is frequently sampled by hip hop guys. Musicians on Power Of Soul are Grover Washington Jr. on sax, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Bob James on piano, Joe Beck on guitar, Gary King on bass and Ralph McDonald on percussion. This classic album is available as a budget CD. Muhammad left Kudu in 1978. After a couple of albums for Fantasy, Muhammad rarely recorded as a leader. He recorded with Pharoah Sanders and then he toured and recorded with pianist Ahmad Jamal for many years. Muhammad retired and moved to Florida. He died on July 29, 2014 at age 74. Here's a video for Power Of Soul by Idris Muhammad.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Song:I'm Still Here
Album:Side by Side by Sondheim:Original London Cast Recording
Millicent Martin is a very versatile performer equally adept in stage musicals, TV sitcoms and films. She has spent most of her career in England. But she scored a Tony nomination for her performance in the 1977 Broadway musical Side by Side by Sondheim. She was born June 8, 1934 in Romford, Essex, England. She started out on the stage and she made her first Broadway appearance in the 1954 musical The Boy Friend with Julie Andrews. She returned to England and appeared in shows like Expresso Bongo and The Crooked Mile. But what really got Millicent noticed was as a regular on the 1962 BBC weekly comedy show That Was The Week That Was. This led to her own series Mainly Millicent for three years in the 60s. Millicent also appeared in films like Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, Stop The World-I Want To Get Off and Alfie. In 1975, singer Cleo Laine and husband John Dankworth asked actor David Kernan to put together a revue for a benefit show. He decided to do a Stephen Sondheim revue and he invited some of his friends to perform including Millicent Martin. When producer Cameron Mackintosh saw the show, he decided to bring it to London's West End and then Broadway. It was a huge success and Millicent, Kernan, Ned Sherrin and Julia McKenzie all scored Tony nominations. The show contains songs from various Sondheim shows. I'm Still Here is from Follies. The original cast album is from the London show but the cast was the same on Broadway. It is not available on CD but you can get it on mp3. Millicent also got a Tony nomination for the 1978 show King Of Hearts. She returned to England and appeared a lot on British TV in the 80s. She continues to do that and she also appears on US TV. Fans of Frasier with recognize her as the recurring character Gertrude Moon (Daphne's mother). Recently she has appeared on Modern Family, Hot In Cleveland and 2 Broke Girls. So Millicent Martin is still in demand at age 82. That's pretty good. Here's Millicent Martin performing I'm Still Here on the 1977 Tony Awards broadcast.
Monday, October 17, 2016
Song:Sometimes When We Touch
Album:Love Of My Life: The Best Of Dan Hill
Canadian singer songwriter Dan Hill scored his biggest hit with the unabashed weeper Sometimes When We Touch. He had some other hits but this is his most memorable song. He was born June 3, 1954 in Toronto. His father Daniel Hill was the first commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. His brother and sister are writers. Hill dropped out of high school at age 17 to work for RCA Canada as a songwriter. In 1975, he signed with GRT Records in Canada and 20th Century in the US. GRT was a US audio tape manufacturer who had success in Canada as a record label in the 70s. Hill had success in Canada with the 1975 single You Make Me Want To Be. Hill had written Sometimes When We Touch for an unattainable girlfriend. He took it to legendary songwriter Barry Mann who reconfigured the song. Hill recorded it for his 1977 album Longer Fuse in Toronto with producer Matthew McCauley. The musicians who are in the video below include Don Potter and Bob Mann on guitar, Bobby Ogdin on piano, Tom Szczesniak on bass, Larrie Londin on drums and Fred Mollin on percussion. Sometimes When We Touch topped the Canadian charts and reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's one of those songs that still gets played despite being thought of as one of the worst records of all time. Even Hill got tired of hearing it but it sure made him a lot of money. Soon after, GRT and 20th Century both closed and Hill signed with Columbia. His second big hit came in 1987 with the top ten hit Can't We Try, a duet with Vonda Shepherd. The song was used in the daytime soap Santa Barbara. Hill wrote that song with his wife. You can get both hits on this comp. Dan Hill last recorded in 2010 so he's still around. But most of his recent success has been as a songwriter, most significantly the 1999 hit I Do (Cherish You) by 98 Degrees. So yeah, he still writes weepy songs. Here's the video for Sometimes When We Touch by Dan Hill.