Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Song:Theme From Taxi Driver
Album:Taxi Driver: Original Soundtrack Recording
Bernard Herrmann is one of the greatest and most influential film music composers. Along with guys like Max Steiner and Franz Waxman, Herrmann invented sophisticated music for films. It's not something the Hollywood studios put much thought into themselves. Herrmann is best known for his scores for Alfred Hitchcock films of the 50s. But he composed many innovative scores over the years. Taxi Driver was his final film as Herrmann died just as he finished it. He was born June 29, 1911 in New York City. Herrmann suffered from Sydenham's Syndrome, a neurological that affected personality development. It made him very high strung and later in Hollywood difficult to work with. Herrmann learned to play violin and studied music at New York University. In 1934, he started as a conductor for CBS Radio. It was here that he met Orson Welles and composed music for Mercury Theatre radio dramas. When Welles moved to Hollywood to direct Citizen Kane, he brought Herrmann with him. Citizen Kane was Herrmann's first film score. And though Citizen Kane is considered a classic today, back then the studios wanted to burn the negative at the behest of William Randolph Hearst. So Herrman didn't win an Oscar for Citizen Kane. He won an Oscar for William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster. He continued to work for CBS while composing scores. He worked for 20th Century Fox in the late 40s and composed for films like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and The Day The Earth Stood Still with it's innovative use of the electronic instrument the theremin. What is a theremin? Think The Beach Boys' Good Vibrations. Herrmann's films for Hitchcock included The Trouble With Harry, Vertigo and Psycho. Psycho was very influential on how music was written for horror films for decades. Herrmann split with Hitchcock over the score for Torn Curtain. In the 60s, the studios wanted hit songs from film music. Herrmann resisted this trend but agreed to write a pop score for Hitchcock. But he couldn't actually do it so Hitchcock fired him. Herrmann also wrote scores for Ray Harryhausen films like The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad. And he wrote music for Rod Serling's Twilight Zone TV series. Herrmann's career was winding down when he wrote the score for Brian DePalma's 1973 film Sisters. DePalma recommended Herrmann to Martin Scorsese for Taxi Driver. The score is a departure for Herrmann because of the jazz elements in the score. The sax is played by veteran session musician Tom Scott. But the bottom line is the score suits the film perfectly. And that's what made Bernard Herrmann a great composer. Herrmann was finishing production of the score when he died of a heart attack in his sleep on Dec. 24, 1975 at age 64. Herrmann was getting ready to work on his next film which was to be Larry Cohen's God Told Me To. His arranger David Blume finished Taxi Driver and the soundtrack is available as a budget CD. Bernard Herrmann's influence on film music is immeasurable and his music stands up very well without the visuals. Here's Bernard Herrmann's Theme From Taxi Driver as it appeared in the opening credits of the film.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Blues singer and guitarist Jeff Healey had his biggest success with the 1989 top five hit Angel Eyes. It gave him a solid fanbase until his 2008 death The major criticism of Healey is that he wasn't adventurous and should have taken more musical risks. I just don't think he was an adventurous guy. He played the kind of blues rock that he enjoyed listening to. Of course we can't forget the novelty of Healey's blindness and playing guitar in his lap. He was born Mar. 25, 1966 in Toronto and lost his eyes to cancer as a tot. He learned to play guitar in his lap as a child. As a teen, he played local clubs in the band Blue Direction and hosted a blues show on CIUT, the University Of Toronto radio station. He formed The Jeff Healey Band with bassist Joe Rockman and drummer Tom Stephen and got a record deal with Arista when they were spotted playing the Toronto club Albert's Hall by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins. Angel Eyes was the second single from Healey's 1988 debut album See The Light. The song reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1989. it was written by John Hiatt and veteran songwriter Fred Koller. It appears that Hiatt recorded Angel Eyes but hadn't released it. The studio recording appears on the 1998 Capitol comp The Best Of John Hiatt. I guess producer Greg Ladanyi found it somewhere. The Jeff Healey Band appeared as the bar band in the 1989 film Road House. They never had another hit single in the US but the one hit was enough to earn a good fanbase. They were a bigger deal in Canada especially in Toronto. They left Arista in 1995 after recording four albums. This Sony budget comp covers his Arista recordings. In 2000, Healey formed The Jazz Wizards and released CDs on the Canadian label Stony Plain. He started playing trumpet and this band was traditional jazz as opposed to blues. Healey was an avid record collector. He owned 30,000 78rpm vintage jazz recordings. My late father would love him. He also owned the club Healey's at Bathurst & Queen in downtown Toronto and played there frequently. Jeff Healey underwent cancer surgery in Jan. 2007 but died on Mar. 2, 2008 at age 41. He was an international star but never left Toronto. He's a hometown legend. Here's the video for Angel Eyes by The Jeff Healey Band.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Invicta held their second show last night. For the most part, it was better than the first show especially the main event. I have concerns about the broadcast which I will get to later. The main event was Sara McMann vs Shayna Baszler for a shot at an Invicta title in October. Though Sara has the silver medal from the Olympics as her calling card, I haven't been impressed with her fights because she doesn't win convincingly enough against smaller fighters. Shayna was going to be a tough test for her. And she was. I scored the fight 30-29 for Shayna. 30-29? That's right. I scored the first and third rounds as ties and gave round two 10-9 for Shayna. What fans may not know is that judges can score tie rounds. But a lot of judges won't do it even if it is a tie. And that's why we see screwy decisions. And when it comes to striking, many judges confuse quantity with quality. Sara is a wrestler but Shayna is also effective on the ground and a takedown would not guarantee an advantage for Sara. So Sara decided to be a kickboxer. She threw a lot of punches but a lot of them didn't land. Shayna's counterpunching was a lot more accurate. She threw fewer punches but landed more. And she even zonked Sara at the end. I want you to pay special attention to Sara's facial expression in her corner between rounds two and three. Pure panic. There is also this judges assumption that in a clinch against the cage, whichever fighter is back to the cage is at a disadvantage. Not true. A lot of times it's a stalemate and the ref has to break it up. And that's why fighters shouldn't leave a fight to the judges. Judging is supposed to be objective when many times it's subjective. Who knows what they're seeing? A very dopey decision. In the semi main, Alexis Davis won over Hitomi Akano with a rear naked choke in round two. Alexis has recently changed camps. In the past, she has beaten herself with poor strategy. I liked what she did against Hitomi and she won. Will Hitomi retire? Liz Carmouche used her strength and superior ground game to win over Kaitlin Young. Kaitlin is a kickboxer who has never adapted to the ground. Not surprised. One of these two will be Sara's opponent in October. I think Liz has the strength to handle Sara. Ayaka Hamasaki made her US debut with an easy win over Lacey Schuckman by late submission. Ayaka was winning anyway. Raquel Pa'aluhi got the jump on Amanda Nunes. But Amanda turned it around and won with a rear naked choke at 2:24 of round one. Not surprising. Amanda has superior strength and has also recently changed camps. Sarah D'Alelio got a big win over Brazilian veteran Vanessa Porto with an armbar at 3:16 of round one. Barb Honchak won over Bethany Marshall by second round TKO. Barb has improved a lot in the last couple of years. Julia Budd won a mismatch over Swedish fighter Elina Nilsson. And Nilsson looked out of shape. Carla Esparza won a good match over Sarah Schneider by second round TKO. Nicdali Rivera-Calanoc won an easy decision over a very timid Angelica Chavez. After a quick start, Sarah Moras seemed to run out of steam and lost a decision to Raquel Pennington. Jessamyn Duke won by third round TKO over Suzie Monteiro. Late stoppage by the ref in that one. Jocelyn Lybarger used superior striking to beat Cheryl Chan by decision. Jocelyn and her sister are boxers converting to MMA. Liz McCarthy busted Jessica Philippus eye open and the doctor stopped it after round one. Invicta announced a 105lb championship match in October with Jessica Penne vs JEWELS Flyweight Champion Naho "Sugi Rock" Sugiyama. Sugi Rock is very slick on the ground. She trains with Takayo Hashi so we might see her too. I was able to get on the stream on the Invicta website but a lot of folks couldn't for about the first hour. Apparently they blew out their server. The stream was ultimately hosted elsewhere. There's no excuse for this. Of course the ultimate solution is to get a TV deal. Because of my physical limitations, I prefer TV to online streams. I'm not supposed to sit in this chair for five straight hours. I prefer my recliner. The broadcast itself was OK. I don't like three man booths. And like the first show, King Mo didn't add much. Julie Kedzie needs to stop cheerleading and be more objective. And her cage interviews were terrible. This is what happens when you don't hire professional broadcasters. Mauro Ranallo did his best impersonation of a traffic cop and the pre-match videos were good. So it was an OK show marred by tech issues. Here's the video for Sara McMann vs Shayna Baszler. The other match videos should be up on Youtube.
Song:Hip To Be Square
Huey Lewis & The News were one of the most popular bands of the 80s. They had a total of 13 top ten hits and three number one hits. Hip To Be Square reached #3 in 1986. The band was a merger of two 70s San Francisco bands. Clover had recorded albums since 1967 without much success. They were led by lead singer and guitarist Alex Call. They are best known for backing up Elvis Costello on his 1977 album My Aim Is True while they were living in England. Harmonica player Huey Lewis and keyboard player Sean Hopper were members of Clover before they split up in 1978. Soundhole was another San Francisco band best known for backing up Van Morrison. When Huey Lewis got a record contract with the British label Phonogram, he asked drummer Bill Gibson, guitarist Johnny Colla and bassist Mario Cipollina of Soundhole to join him. At first the band was called Huey Lewis & The American Express. They released one unsuccessful single. When the credit card company objected to the band name, it was changed to Huey Lewis & The News. In 1979, they added guitarist Chris Hayes and signed with Chrysalis Records. Their 1980 debut album went nowhere. But they started to get going with the 1982 album Picture This with the top ten hit Do You Believe In Love. But they really made it with the 1983 album Sports which was certified 7XPlatinum. Among the top ten hits were Heart and Soul, I Want A New Drug, The Heart Of Rock & Roll and If This Is It. The band got a real boost when The Power Of Love appeared in the 1985 film Back To The Future. That song was their first number one hit That led to the huge success of the 1986 album Fore!. Stuck With You and Jacob's Ladder topped the charts and Hip To Be Square reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was written by Lewis, Gibson and Hopper. The song is about when hippies become yuppies. Huey Lewis & The News started to decline. The 1988 album Small World didn't sell as well as the previous two albums. Then they took a break and left Chrysalis for EMI in 1991. You can get all their Chrysalis hits on this budget comp. Huey Lewis & The News have also recorded for Elektra, Silvertone, Rhino and their latest CD Soulsville on their own W.O.W. label released in 2010. They added a horn section and still tour. But I guess Huey Lewis & The News is mostly a nostalgia act today. Here's the video for Hip To Be Square by Huey Lewis & The News.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Song:The Door Is Always Open
The vocal trio Dave & Sugar had a good run on the country charts in the late 70s. The Door Is Always Open was the first of their three number one hits in 1976. Dave Rowland was the group leader and the two girls in Sugar changed a couple of times. Rowland was born Jan. 26, 1942 in Los Angeles. He started out singing in a dance band. While in the service in the mid-60s, he formed a band and played trumpet. In 1970 he attended The Stamps School in Texas and then joined The Stamps Quartet. In 1974, he joined Charley Pride's backup singers Four Guys. Then he had a country rock group called Wild Oates and was a singing waiter. When he learned that Pride was looking for backup singers, he formed Sugar with Jackie Frantz and Vickie Hackeman. The audition went so well that Pride signed them to RCA Records. Dave & Sugar's first single Queen of the Silver Dollar was a top 30 country hit. The Door Is Always Open was the second single and it topped the Country Singles chart. The 1976 album Dave & Sugar reached #3 on the Country Album chart. This kind of country pop was very popular at the time. The Door Is Always Open was written by Dickey Lee and Bob McDill. Lee is best known for the 1962 hit single Patches. At the time, he was recording for RCA but he had more success as a songwriter. McDill has written 30 number one hits and is one of the greatest songwriters in Nashville history. The Door Is Always Open was first recorded by Tennessee Pulleybone in 1973 and Waylon Jennings and then Lois Johnson covered it. The Dave & Sugar recording is the best known version. Dave & Sugar had a string of top ten hits. Tear Time and Golden Tears were their other number one hits in 1978. Jackie Frantz didn't like touring and was replaced by Sue Powell in 1977. Vicki Hackeman was replaced by Melissa Dean in 1979. You can get this comp of their RCA hits as a digital download. When they left RCA for Elektra in 1981, the group name was changed to Dave Rowland & Sugar. They had a top ten country hit with Fool By Your Side in 1981. But then Rowland recorded the solo album Sugar Free in 1982 and that's the last we heard from Dave & Sugar. Rowland still leads a version of Sugar today. Sue Powell recorded two unsuccessful singles and hosted the TV show Nashville on the Road. Here's Dave & Sugar performing The Door Is Always Open on Pop Goes The Country 1976.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Song:Funkin' For Jamaica
Album:Funkin' For Jamaica
Jazz trumpeter Tom Browne had success in the R & B market in the 80s. Funkin' For Jamaica was his biggest hit in 1980. Today it's a funk classic frequently sampled by hip hop guys. In recent years Browne has returned to more typical jazz recordings. He was born Oct. 30, 1954 in Queens, NY. He studied piano and took up the trumpet while attending New York's High School of Music and Art. Then he got interested in jazz. Freddie Hubbard was a big influence. His first professional gig was with pianist Weldon Irvine in 1975 and he played with Sonny Fortune and Lonnie Smith. Guitarist Earl Klugh introduced Browne to pianist Dave Grusin. At the time, Grusin was starting GRP Records with partner Larry Rosen with Arista Records distribution. Grusin is best known for his film and TV music like the TV show St. Elsewhere but he is a jazz guy. Browne's 1979 debut album Browne Sugar was straight jazz and did well on the jazz chart. With his second album Love Approach, Browne decided to go away from jazz and towards R & B. Jazz critics lambasted him for this. Funkin' For Jamaica topped the R & B Singles chart in 1980. Browne wrote the song with singer Tonni Smith. When Browne is talking about Jamaica, he is talking about Jamaica, Queens, NY where he grew up. Tonni Smith is a New York session singer who was a one time member of The Crystals. Her work with Browne is her main claim to fame. She also appears on Thighs High, another top five R & B hit for Browne. Among the musicians who played on Funkin' For Jamaica were pianists Dave Grusin and Bernard Wright, guitarist Bobby Broom, bassist Francisco Centeno and drummer Omar Hakim. Browne continued to have success on the R & B charts until he left GRP in 1985. This budget comp covers the GRP recordings. After a 1988 album for Malaco, Browne left the music business to become a commercial pilot. In 1994, he returned with Hip Bop Records. His latest CD S'up was released on his own label in 2010 and Browne still tours. Funkin' For Jamaica has been frequently sampled by hip hop guys, most significantly by Mariah Carey on (Don't Stop) Funkin' 4 Jamaica in the 2001 film Glitter. Here's a video for the funk classic Funkin' For Jamaica by Tom Browne featuring Tonni Smith.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Song:He Will Break Your Heart
Album:The Sweetest Soul
Jerry Butler has one of the greatest singing voices in popular music history. He is a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The 1960 hit He Will Break Your Heart is one of his three top ten pop hits. He was born Dec. 8, 1939 in Sunflower, MS and grew up in the Cabrini Green projects in Chicago. He met Curtis Mayfield while both were singing in a church choir. In 1956, they formed The Roosters with Arthur and Richard Brooks and Sam Gooden. Then the group name was changed to The Impressions. Butler sang lead on The Impressions 1958 hit For Your Precious Love. He also wrote the song. Butler left The Impressions for a solo career and signed with Vee-Jay Records. He Will Break Your Heart reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the R & B Singles chart. Butler and Mayfield wrote the song. A cover of He Will Break Your Heart titled He Don't Love You by Tony Orlando & Dawn topped the charts in 1975. Butler's second top ten pop hit was a duet with Betty Everett Let It Be Me in 1964. When Vee-Jay closed, Butler signed with Mercury Records and worked with legendary producers Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff. Only The Strong Survive was his third top ten pop hit in 1969. In the 70s, Butler recorded for Philadelphia International and Motown. He had some minor hits but nothing as big as his 60s recordings. You can get his Vee-Jay recordings on this comp from the British reissue label RPM. Beware of off label releases of alternate takes and re-recordings of his Vee-Jay recordings. The Mercury and Philadelphia International recordings are available elsewhere. Jerry Butler was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1991. He is chairman of the non profit Rhythm & Blues Foundation. And he has been a Cook County Commissioner and Chicago Alderman since 1985. He still tours and you may have seen him on PBS oldies music specials. This performance of He Will Break Your Heart is from one of those PBS shows. He still sounds great.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Percussionist and vibraphonist Louie Ramirez started out in the 50s as a sideman and started leading his own band in the 60s. He had his biggest success with a band he led with vocalist Ray de la Paz. Ramirez died in 1993. He was born Feb. 24, 1938 in New York City. In 1956, he joined Joe Loco's band on vibraphone. In the 60s, he was in Joe Cuba's band and also worked with Charlie Palmieri. And he recorded a few albums as a leader. In the 70s, he joined Fania Records as a house producer. So he produced and arranged for other artists. He also recorded as a leader and was a member of the Fania All Stars. In the early 80s, he left Fania for their main competition RMM Records and started a new band with singer Ray de la Paz. He started out with La Sonora Poncena and also sang with Tito Puente and Ray Barretto before getting together with Ramirez. This arrangement of the traditional song Todavia is from the 1985 album Alegres y Romanticos. RMM is out of business so getting some of the recordings can be difficult. Cobo Records has released the comp Exitos as a digital download only. Louie Ramirez was on his way to the recording studio when he suffered a heart attack and died on June 7, 1993 at age 55. Ray de la Paz is a member of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and worked with Paul Simon on Capeman. This band is recommended to Latin music fans. Here's Louie Ramirez y Ray de la Paz y su Orquestra performing Todavia 1985.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Africando is a unique mix of Afro Cuban and African music. The musicians are veterans of the New York Latin Jazz scene featuring some of Africa's best singers. The two guys behind Africando are veteran producer Ibrahima Sylba and Mali born sax player Boncana Maiga. Sylba is also producer of Orchestra Baobab. Senegalese singer Medoune Diallo is lead singer of Orchestra Baobab. At first they were called Africando All Stars and then it was shortened to Africando. They first recorded in 1993. Pape Seck was the other singer. He died in 1995 and was replaced by Gnonnas Pedro. A lot of the musicians like Ronnie Baro, Mario Rivera and Oscar Hernandez have been around the New York Latin Jazz scene since the 70s. Mandali was released in 2000. Diallo sings the title song which was first recorded by the Gambian group Super Eagles. So if you like Latin rhythms with a twist, you might like this. Other guest singers include Lokua Kanza from Zaire, Salif Keita from Mali, Koffi Olomide from Zaire, Thione Seck from Senegal, Amadou Balake from the popular group Mariam & Amadou and Sekouna Bambino from Mali. Africando last CD was released in 2006. Gnonnas Pedro died in 2005 and it looks like they may have split up at that point. Their music is not for everyone. But if you're looking for something different, check out Africando. Here's the video for Mandali by Africando featuring Medoune Diallo.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Song:How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye
Album:The Definitive Collection
Dionne Warwick was one of the most reliable hitmakers of the 60s usually working with the songwriting and production team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. But things came to a screeching halt in 1972 when she left Scepter Records for Warner Bros. She was supposed to continue working with Bacharach and David. But after their musical remake of The Lost Horizon failed miserably, they split up. Dionne still had to record for Warners. She sued them and got an out of court settlement. Things did not go well at Warners except when producer Thom Bell paired Dionne with The Spinners. Then Came You topped the charts in 1974. Dionne signed with Arista Records in 1979. She had success right off the top with the 1979 hit I'll Never Love This Way Again produced by Barry Manilow. In 1982, she had a hit duet with Johnny Mathis Friends In Love. And her 1982 album Heartbreakers was produced by Andy Gibb and the title song duet was a hit. Then she recorded How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye in 1983. The album was produced by R & B crooner Luther Vandross and they sang together on the title song. It was a top twenty pop hit and reached the top ten on the R & B and Adult Contemporary chart. The song was written by recording engineer Steve Goldman. You can get it on this Dionne Warwick comp and it is also on some Luther Vandross comps. Dionne's success continued with the 1985 hit That's What Friends Are For and the 1987 hit Love Power, a duet with Jeffrey Osborne. Dionne faded in the early 90s and left Arista in 1994. She's still around but based on conventional wisdom, she shouldn't have been successful in the 80s. So credit to her and Arista owner Clive Davis for that. Here's the video for How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye by Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Song:I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Album:The Best Of 1980-1990
It might surprise fans that in over 30 years, U2 have only had two number one hit singles and both were from the 1987 album The Joshua Tree including I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. I prefer their 80s music so what I'm going to talk about is how they got to be superstars in the late 80s. U2 is from Dublin, Ireland. Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. posted a note looking for musicians on the school bulletin board. Among those to respond were lead singer Paul "Bono"Hewson, guitarist David "The Edge" Evans and his older brother Rik Evans and bassist Adam Clayton. They played gigs as Feedback and then The Hype. At the time, they were a punk influenced cover band. Dik Evans left to concentrate on university in Mar. 1977 and the band's name was changed to U2. They won a local talent show in Mar. 1978 and auditioned for CBS Ireland. A couple of unsuccessful singles were released in Ireland. The Stranglers manager Paul McGuiness became U2's manager and he got them a contract with Island Records in 1980. Since their early days, U2 has been known for mixing punk influences and religious imagery. They are probably the most successful contemporary christian band in history. Bobo and The Edge even quit U2 in 1981 because of internal conflict over spirituality. But they worked things out. Sunday Bloody Sunday was a hit and they signed a new contract with Island in 1984. With the 1985 album The Unforgettable Fire, U2 started working with Canadian producer Daniel Lanois. The band was aware that their music was too preachy so this album was more accessible and a big success. They also got a lot of attention for their performance at Live Aid. With The Joshua Tree, U2 decided to make an album that would get them a number one hit single. They got two, With Or Without You and I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. They also won two Grammys. U2 were now superstars. But they followed this up with the critically reviled Rattle and Hum. And that has been the pattern since the 80s. They will release one or two great albums and then follow it with something really bad. In the 90s, they got into tape looping, electronica and industrial dance rhythms. Their 1999 album Pop was criticized so harshly, they decided to return to the drawing board with the 2000 CD All That You Can't Leave Behind. Since then their music has been uneven and new music is scheduled for 2013. When they are good, U2 is very good. When they are bad, they are awful. So I recommend their 80s music only and this comp is a good intro for beginners. Here's the video for I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by U2.
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Song:Everybody's Somebody's Fool
Album:20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best Of Connie Francis
Connie Francis was one of the biggest stars of the late 50s-early 60s. She is also adept at singing in foreign languages so she has a huge international following. Everybody's Somebody's Fool was her first number one hit in 1960. She was born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero Dec. 12, 1938 in Newark, NJ. Her father George Franconero Sr. encouraged her to perform as a child. She sang and played accordion. While rehearsing for her appearance on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, Godfrey suggested the name change to Connie Francis and he told her to get rid of the accordion. Soon after, Connie became a demo singer. She even dubbed Tuesday Weld's singing voice in the 1956 film Rock, Rock, Rock. She was under contract to MGM Records but they didn't like her much. She had one recording left on her MGM contract and Connie planned to accept a scholarship to study medicine at New York University. Her father insisted she record the chestnut Who's Sorry Now. Connie hated the song and argued with him. But she did record it and Dick Clark played it on American Bandstand. The song reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958 and MGM renewed her contract. After follow up singles stiffed, MGM had Connie sit down with Brill Building songwriters Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield to find her a hit. Stupid Cupid was the final song played for her and it reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. She had more top ten hits like My Happiness, Among My Souvenirs and Lipstick On Your Collar. In 1959, she recorded Connie Francis Sings Italian Favorites and it was a big international hit. She recorded in German, Yiddish and other languages. This was a huge part of Connie's success over the years. She says she saw potential in breaking the language barrier and it paid off for her. After some more hits, she finally had her first number one hit with Everybody's Somebody's Fool in 1960. Howard Greenfield wrote the song with another Brill Building veteran Jack Keller. Connie had German lyrics written and Everybody's Somebody's Fool was a big hit in Germany. She was also starring in films like Where The Boys Are. Her other number one hits were My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own and Don't Break The Heart That Loves You. Of course she faded when the British Invasion came but she continued to be a good live and international draw. She semi-retired when her MGM contract ran out in 1969. But she started performing again in 1974. While appearing at the Westbury Music Fair on Nov. 8, 1974, she was raped in her hotel room. She sued Howard Johnson's and won a $2.5M judgement. The rapist was never found. Connie Francis returned in 1978 and though she has recorded occasionally, she still tours regularly. She wrote her autobiography Who's Sorry Now in 1984. Her plans to produce a biopic with Gloria Estefan did not work out when the two clashed over the script. There is currently a growing movement to induct Connie Francis into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. She should be there. Connie Francis was a big star and has had a long career. This budget comp is a good intro to her music. Beware of off label comps that are not remastered or have re-recordings or alternate takes. Here's Connie Francis performing Everybody's Somebody's Fool.
Friday, July 20, 2012
Sing:Is Something I Don't Understand Yet
Album:Long To Be Loose
Guitarist Wayne Krantz started out as a sideman in the 80s and has recorded and toured as a leader since 1990. He was born July 26, 1956 in Corvallis, OR. His big break came when he was spotted by Steely Dan leaders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen and they took him on tour. Krantz also played with Billy Cobham, Michael Brecker and has had a long association with German guitarist Leni Stern. She is married to guitarist Mike Stern. Krantz signed with the German label Enja Records in 1990. Long To Be Loose was his second album in 1993. Musicians are Lincoln Goines on bass and Zach Danziger on drums. This band toured extensively and recorded a live album in 1995. Jazz fusion fans should check it out. Krantz left Enja and has recorded on his own label ever since. He recently signed a distribution deal with Abstract Logix. He has also recorded and toured with Donald Fagan, Leni Stern and Chris Potter. Krantz is married to Argentine jazz singer Gabriela Anders and plays on her CDs. His latest CD Howie 61 was released in April. Here's Wayne Krantz with Lincoln Goines and Zach Danziger performing Is Something I Don't Understand Yet in Germany 1993.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
|MIO, Erika Kamimura, Takeshi Caesar, RENA, Ai Takahashi|
Song:Hey There Delilah
Album:All That We Needed
The power pop group Plain White T's were around for a decade before becoming an overnight sensation with the 2007 chart topper Hey There Delilah. A couple other songs have charted but I don't expect them to have a hit that big again. The band is from the Chicago suburb of Villa Park, IL. Lead singer and main songwriter Tom Higgenson and bassist Ken Fletcher were in the band Father's Daughter. When the band split up, the two decided to start Plain White T's with drummer Dave Tirio and lead guitarist Steve Mast. They started playing gigs around Chicago. Higgenson was seriously injured in a 1999 car crash. He worked on his songwriting during his recovery. In 2000, they released the CD Come On Over independently. It got the attention of producer Loren Israel and he got them a deal with indie label Fearless Records. Israel is known for developing and producing new talent. The album Stop was released in 2002 and All That We Needed was released in 2005. Fletcher left in 2002 and Mast left in 2005. Mike Retondo replaced Fletcher and Tim G. Lopez replaced Mast. Tirio was moved to rhythm guitar and De'Mar Hamilton was the new drummer. In 2006, Plain White T's toured with Motion City Soundtrack. This led to a contract with Hollywood Records. While waiting for the next album, Hollywood released a sampler EP and a video for Hey There Delilah. It caught on and topped the Billboard Hot 100. The CD Every Second Counts was released in 2006. After Hey There Delilah was a hit, it was added as a bonus track to Every Second Counts. Both CDs are available as budget releases. Hey There Delilah got them two Grammy nominations. They have released two CDs since then. Neither were as successful as Every Second Counts. According to their website, they don't seem to be touring right now. So maybe Plain White T's is working on a new album. Well, at least they had one big hit. Here's the video for Hey There Delilah by Plain White T's.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Song:U Know What's Up
Album:Where I Wanna Be
Donell Jones had most of his success on the R & B charts. But he cracked the pop top ten with the 1999 hit U Know What's Up. He was born May 22, 1973 in Chicago. His father is Minister Roy Jones. Jones grew up singing in church but he became a member of the gang Gangster Disciples. After a brush with death, he left the gang and formed the group Porscha. His big break came when Edward "DJ Eddie F" Farrell of Heavy D & The Boyz and his company Untouchables Entertainment joined LaFace Records and Jones was hired as a writer producer. After Jones wrote and produced hits for Usher and the girl group 702, LaFace co-owner Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds agreed to let him record his own album. Jones had a top 20 R & B hit in 1996 with his cover of Stevie Wonder's Knocks Me Off My Feet. But he really hit it big with the first single from the 1999 CD Where I Wanna Be. U Know What's Up topped the R & B Singles chart and reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Though Jones writes a lot of his own songs, U Know What's Up was written by Farrell, producer Darren Lighty and R & B singer songwriter Anthony Hamilton. There are so many remixes of this song it would make your head spin. This remix featuring TLC rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes is the one you want. Lisa had left TLC and was starting a solo career and wanted to project a more mature image. Unfortunately, Arista Records hated Lopes' solo album Supernova and cancelled it. She was preparing to record a new album for Death Row Records when she died in a 2002 car accident. Sony released a Donell Jones comp in 2007. But it doesn't have the remix of U Know What's Up. Where I Wanna Be does have the remix and is available as a budget CD. Donell Jones left LaFace in 2006 and started his own Candyman label with distribution by E1 (formerly Koch). His 2010 CD Lyrics reached #9 on the R & B Album chart. I expect we'll see more music from Jones in the future but pop success is unlikely. Here's the video for U Know What's Up by Donell Jones featuring Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Song:I Want To Be Happy
Album:Bassics: The Best Of The Ray Brown Trio 1977-2000
Though not as flashy as some of his peers, bassist Ray Brown was a very important figure in the early development of bebop. He is best known as a sideman with Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson and his own bands in the 70s and 80s. He was born Oct. 13, 1926 in Pittsburgh. He took piano lessons because his father wanted him to play like Fats Waller. Brown took up the bass in high school and his idol was Duke Ellington bassist Jimmy Blanton. After playing in local bands, Brown moved to New York in 1945. Hank Jones introduced him to Dizzy Gillespie and Brown was hired on the spot. He was in Gillespie's band from 1946-51. He married Ella Fitzgerald in 1947 and toured as her musical director. They divorced in 1952. It was while performing in the Jazz At The Philharmonic concert series that Brown first met Oscar Peterson. He was in Peterson's band from 1951-66. Brown moved to Los Angeles in 1966 to play sessions. He played on all of Frank Sinatra's TV specials. When Concord Jazz started in 1975, Brown was one of the first to record for them as part of The LA Four with Laurindo Almeida, Bud Shank and Shelly Manne. He also formed a trio with his old buddy from the Peterson band guitarist Herb Ellis and pianist Monty Alexander. I Want To Be Happy is from their 1980 album Trio. I Want To Be Happy was written by Vincent Yeomans and Irving Caesar for the 1925 musical No, No Nanette. The song has been covered by many jazz artists. Brown also recorded I Want To Be Happy on the 2002 CD Some Of My Best Friends Are...Guitarists. He left Concord for Telarc in 1993. This 2CD comp covers his Concord and Telarc recordings. Ray Brown is credited with discovering Diana Krall in the early 80s and got her a job with The Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra. Brown continued to tour and record until his death on July 2, 2002 at age 75. He played a round of golf before a show in Indianapolis. He died in his sleep during a nap before the show. Jazz fans should not overlook the legendary Ray Brown. Here's Ray Brown with Monty Alexander and Herb Ellis performing I Want To Be Happy at Jazzland in Vien, Austria Apr. 24, 1988.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Song:Long Shot Kick De Bucket
Album:Give and Take: The best of The Pioneers
Though The Pioneers started out in the early 60s, they had most of their success in the late 60s with songs like Long Shot Kick De Bucket. They were a big influence on the late 70s Ska revival. The Pioneers were first formed in 1962 by brothers Sydney and Derrick Crooks and Winston Hewitt. They recorded a handful of singles at Leslie Kong's Treasure Island studio and released them on Caltone. Hewitt moved to Canada in 1966 and was replaced by Glen Adams. The Pioneers split up in 1967 when Derrick Crooks took a job with Alcoa. But Sydney Crooks planned to form a new version of The Pioneers. He was working at Joe Gibbs records shop and met Jackie Robinson. They started recording together as The Pioneers and had success with the single Long Shot. They left Gibbs and returned to Kong. Crooks was looking for a third member and added George Agard after an audition. He is Desmond Dekker's half brother. Apparently the horse in Long Shot died. Kong wanted a sequel and Long Shot Kick De Bucket was a big hit in 1969. The song did so well in England that The Pioneers moved there in 1970. They also had a hit with Let Your Yeah Be Yeah in 1971. The Pioneers split up in the late 70s but they reformed when the Ska revival began in 1979. Since then The Pioneers have continued to perform and and still tour today. This comp is a good intro to their music. The Pioneers are highly regarded by Ska fans and are worth checking out. Here's a video for Long Shot Kick De Bucket by The Pioneers.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Song:Ca! C'est Paris
Album:Mistinguette La Vedette
The French cabaret performer Mistinguett was the highest paid female performer in the world in the early 1900s. She performed in all the big Paris shows and was in plenty of silent films. But by the late 20s, she was superceded by the more risque image of Josephine Baker. Mistinguett faded into the background until her 1956 death. She was born Jeanne Bourgeois Apr. 5, 1875 in the Paris suburb Enghien-les-Bains, France and grew up in the nearby town Soucy-sous-Montmorency. Her parents were mattress makers. Jeanne wanted to be an entertainer at an early age and took theatre and singing lessons. While on a train to Paris for a violin lesson, she met Casino de Paris director Saint-Marcel. He hired her first as a stage hand and then she performed under different names before settling on Mistinguett. She debuted at Casino de Paris in 1895 and also appeared at Follies Bergere and Moulin Rouge. Though she doesn't have a great singing voice, Mistinguett was viewed at the time as the voice of the streets of Paris. Her risque dancing made her the most popular entertainer in France. In 1919, her legs were insured for 500,000 Francs. She was also in a lot of silent films. Ca! C'est Paris (That's Paris) was one of her most popular songs. She never married but she had a ten year relationship with Maurice Chevalier. By the late 20s, Josephine Baker had arrived in Paris Mistinguett simply could not compete with Josephine's sex appeal. Mistinguett performed occasionally but her stardom was over until she died on Jan. 5, 1956 at age 80. You can get her recordings on this budget CD on Arkadia Chanson. You might think Arkadia is a European label but they are based in upstate New York. The primarily release jazz CDs but Arkadia Chanson is a series of classic French music CDs. Here's a video for Ca! C'est Paris by Mistinguett.
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Song:I Think I Love You
Album:The Definitive Collection
With the success of The Monkees, Columbia Pictures TV division Screen Gems decided to do another sitcom based on rock music. The result was The Partridge Family. It was a big hit and I Think I Love You topped the charts in 1970. The Partridge Family was created by Canadian Bernard Slade who also created The Flying Nun. The Partridge Family was very loosely based on the real family band The Cowsills. The original plan was to hire the Cowsills children but none of them were actors so that was dropped. Shirley Jones was hired to play the mother in The Partridge Family. After auditions, Jones stepson David Cassidy was hired to play lead singer Keith Partridge. The other children in The Partridge Family were played by actors. Cassidy sang the lead vocals but the music was performed by studio musicians supervised by Columbia owned Bell Records producer Wes Farrell. He had success producing acts like Jay & The Americans. I Think I Love You was the first single and topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970 and turned Cassidy into a star. And the sitcom was very successful. I Think I Love You was written by Farrell staff songwriter Tony Romeo. He also wrote the Lou Christie hit I'm Gonna Make You Mine. The musicians used were veteran Los Angeles session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew led by drummer Hal Blaine along with guys like Tommy Tedesco, Larry Knechtel, Louie Shelton and Joe Osborne. The background vocals were by Ron Hicklin and his singers. You may recall Hicklin anonymously recorded the theme from MASH Suicide Is Painless. Hicklin still does session work today. The Partridge Family had two other top ten hits. You can get them on this budget comp. But by 1972, Cassidy had become a problem. He said he was tired of the show and wanted to leave. He was allowed to record a solo album which did very well. But this discontent led to The Partridge Family cancellation in 1973. Here's The Partridge Family performing I Think I Love You on the sitcom The Partridge Family 1970.
Friday, July 13, 2012
The last time we saw JEWELS fighter Saori Ishioka, she submitted WINDY Tomomi at WINDY's retirement match on the Mar. 11 PANCRASE show. Ishioka announced today that she is getting married tomorrow and will give birth to her first child in the spring of 2013. Ishioka was born Sept. 13, 1987 in Hiroshima. She trains at Zendokai in Koganei and her specialty is karate. She made her MMA debut losing to Kyoko Takabayashi on the Mar. 11, 2007 SMACKGIRL show. When SMACKGIRL became JEWELS in 2008, Ishioka was sold as a future star. Her record is 12-7 but losses in important matches and mediocre performances have relegated her to the midcard. In other words, she's a good fighter but not a great fighter. Things came to a head when Ishioka lost to Sakura Nomura in the first round of the JEWELS Lightweight Championship tournament on July 31, 2010. Ishioka said on her blog that she was taking time off and was considering retirement. She returned in October but has had a 3-2 record since then. She met her future husband at Zendokai and he is much older than her. The wedding is tomorrow. Ishioka said she was very happy to get that last fight in a few months ago. She says she plans to return to MMA and hopes to be ready for the July 2013 JEWELS show. Because her husband trains too, he wants her to return. That's not always the case in Japan. Plenty of female fighters retire when they get married. Congratulations to Saori Ishioka on her marriage and pregnancy and all fans look forward to seeing you return to JEWELS next year.
Song:Somebody That I Used To Know
This monster hit is a good reason why record companies should be eager to have songs by unknown artists covered on TV shows like Glee and American Idol. Viewers of those shows will seek out the original version. Aussie singer songwriter Gotye had been around for a decade with little fanfare until Somebody That I Used To Know made him a star. He was born Wouter "Wally" de Backer May 21, 1980 in Bruges, Belgium and grew up in Melbourne, Australia. He led the band Downstares as a teen. When the band split up, he started experimenting in his bedroom. He released a homemade CD in 2001 as Gotye. Gaultier is French for Walter and his French teacher mother called him Gaultier when he was a child. Then he met Kris Schroeder at a party and formed The Basics. They released four albums and disbanded in 2010. Gotye released the CD Like Drawing Blood in 2006. Making Mirrors was released July 2011. When Somebody That I Used To Know topped the Australian charts and then charted in Europe, Universal picked up Making Mirrors for US distribution and released it Jan. 2012. Gotye performed Somebody That I Used To Know on Jimmy Kimmel Live in Feb. Then the the song topped the British charts. Then things went crazy the second week of April. Darren Criss and Matthew Bomer performed the song on Glee and then Phillip Phillips and Elise Testone performed it on American Idol. And Gotye performed it himself on Saturday Night Live. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and has sold five million copies worldwide. A lot of folks think Gotye sounds like Sting. It's a decent song but I can't tell you why it's such a big hit. Somebody That I Used To Know is based on a sample of the 1967 song Seville by Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfa. Apparently Gotye had lined up a high profile female singer to record the song with him. But when that fell through, recording engineer Francois Tetaz recommended New Zealand born singer Kimbra Lee Johnson. She released her debut CD in 2011 with some success in Australia. Gotye will begin his world tour next month in Korea. He should ride the success while it lasts. I don't think he will ever have another hit like this but I wouldn't have thought this song would have been a hit in the first place. That's what TV exposure can do for an unknown artist. Here's the video for Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye featuring Kimbra.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Album:Back To Bedlam
British singer songwriter James Blunt burst upon the music scene with the 2005 worldwide chart topper You're Beautiful. I don't think he'll have another hit like that but he probably doesn't need it. Also, he's a much bigger deal in England than here. He was born James Hillier Blount Feb. 22, 1974 in Tidworth, Wiltshire, England. He took the stage name James Blunt in 2002 so folks would pronounce his name properly. His dad was a colonel in the British Army. Blunt earned a degree in sociology at the University Of Bristol. His schooling was paid for by the Army so he spent six years there and was a captain. So he could have had a career there just like his dad. But he wanted to pursue a career in music and left the Army in 2002. He signed a publishing deal with EMI but had trouble getting a record deal. Some record companies thought he sounded too upper crust British. 4 Non Blondes leader Linda Perry was starting her label Custard and heard Blunt's demo. She saw him perform at South By Southwest and immediately signed him. Custard is distributed by Atlantic Records. She sent Blunt to producer Tom Rothrock in Los Angeles. Rothrock produced Elliott Smith's recordings and Blunt was thought to be similar to Smith. Back To Bedlam was released in Oct. 2004. It didn't do much at first. The first two singles charted in England but not in the US. But You're Beautiful was Blunt's first number one single in England. It then took over Europe and was first played in the US by New York radio station WPLJ. Blunt was the first British artist to top the US Singles chart since Elton John in 1996. The album sold eleven million copies worldwide. Supposedly, Blunt wrote You're Beautiful for an ex-girlfriend but he has never confirmed or denied that. Blunt has recorded two albums since then and though neither album had a hit single or sold as well as Back To Bedlam, I don't think that should be expected. His singles still chart in England. His fanbase is big enough now that he shouldn't need another hit like You're Beautiful. He has a long career ahead of him. Here's the video for You're Beautiful by James Blunt.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Song:Hey, The Blues Is All Right
Album:That's When I Know
Back in the 60s, guitarist Eddie C. Campbell was one of Chicago's top sidemen. For several years, he was musical director for the legendary Jimmy Reed. When Reed died in 1976, Campbell moved to Europe and established himself as a leader on the festival circuit. He moved back to Chicago in the 90s and continues to tour and record today. He was born May 6, 1939 in Duncan, MS and moved to Chicago with his family. His mom gave him his first guitar at age eight and he started hanging around clubs in the west side of Chicago. Muddy Waters told him if he learned to play the guitar, he could sit in with the band. As a teen, he hung around with pals like Luther Allison and Magic Sam. He was also an amateur boxer and won 16 bouts by KO. He had a red guitar and rode around on a purple motorcycle. So he was a very colourful guy. By the late 50s, he was backing up Percy Mayfield, Lowell Fulsom, Tyrone Davis, Little Johnny Taylor, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Otis Rush, Mighty Joe Young and his best friend Magic Sam. In 1963, he became musical director for Jimmy Reed and remained until Reed's death in 1976. Campbell worked with Koko Taylor and she recommended him to Willie Dixon and Campbell played with Dixon for four years. Meanwhile, Campbell recorded his solo debut King Of The Jungle in 1977. After touring Europe, Campbell and his wife Barbara moved there in 1984 mostly living in Amsterdam but also in England and Germany. He recorded three albums while in Europe. In 1992, he moved back to Chicago so his son would be born in the US. That's When I Know was released in 1994 by Blind Pig Records. For the most part, Campbell writes his own songs. Hey, The Blues Is All Right was covered by Taj Mahal. His best known song is probably the Yuletide classic Santa's Been Messin' With The Kid which was covered by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Eddie C. Campbell currently records for Delmark Records and his latest CD Spider Eating Preacher was released in Feb. 2012. His wife Barbara plays bass and Campbell's godson Lurrie Bell is featured on a couple of songs. Blues fans should check out Eddie C. Campbell. Here's Eddie C. Campbell with The Rockin' Johnny Band performing Hey, The Blues Is All Right at JT's Porch in Rockford, IL Mar. 12, 2011.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Album:The Essential Heart
After success in the late 70s, Heart faded due to personnel changes but a label switch and a new producer reinvigorated them in the late 80s. Alone was one of their two number one hits. Heart is led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson. They grew up in California while their dad was in the Marine Corps. The family moved to Seattle when he retired. Meanwhile guitarist Roger Fisher and bassist Steve Fossen had a band in Seattle known as White Heart in 1970. When Ann Wilson joined in 1972, they were called Hocus Pocus. Roger's brother Mike Fisher moved to Vancouver, BC to avoid the draft. Ann had fallen in love with him and went with him. The rest of the band followed and they changed their name to Heart. Nancy Wilson joined in 1974 and fell in love with Roger Fisher. Other members were John Hannah on keyboards and Brian Johnstone on drums. After playing around Vancouver, Hannah left and was replaced by Howard Leese. A demo got Heart a record deal with the small Canadian label Mushroom. Their 1977 debut album Dreamboat Annie did well in Canada with the hit singles Crazy On You and Magic Man. At the time, Heart was considered to be Canadian content though none of them were Canadian citizens. Heart left Mushroom for the Columbia label Portrait. Mushroom sued them but it doesn't look like anything came from that. They also returned to the US. They had a big hit with Barracuda in 1977. Then the Wilson sisters split up with the Fisher brothers in 1979. So by the early 80s, Heart were in trouble and Portrait dropped them. They regrouped and brought in former Spirit bassist Mark Andes and Montrose drummer Danny Carmassi. They signed with Capitol and Ron Nevison was brought in to produce. Nevison is a recording engineer who in the 80s was known for reviving dying bands. He did that for Starship, Chicago and he also did it for Heart. Heart had four top ten hits from their 1985 Capitol debut album. These Dreams was their first number one hit. The 1987 album Bad Animals was just as successful. Alone topped the Billboard Hot 100. The song was written by the team of Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg who wrote several hits together including True Colors for Cyndi Lauper and So Emotional for Whitney Houston. They recorded alone as i-Ten in 1983 and then John Stamos performed it in the 1984 sitcom Dreams. Heart continued to have success through the 80s. But they were burned out in the early 90s and the Wilson sisters formed the side project The Lovemongers. Heart didn't do much in the 90s. Nancy took a break to raise her family and compose music for the films of her husband Cameron Crowe. Heart toured without her in the late 90s. The group has returned in recent years and the 2010 CD Red Velvet Car did very well on the Billboard Hot 200. This 2CD Sony comp covers Heart's Mushroom, Portrait and Capitol recordings. Sony just released an elaborate box set and Heart is on tour to promote it. They have been nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and they should get in next year or the year after. The Wilson sisters have earned that honour. Here's the video for Alone by Heart.
Monday, July 09, 2012
Album:Let Me Love You: The Greatest Hits
The pioneering hip hop group Force MD's were regulars on the R & B and Dance charts in the 80s. But they had their only top ten pop hit with the Quiet Storm classic Tender Love. Their music was a mix of hip hop and doo wop. The group was from Staten Island, NY and were originally called The L.D.'s in 1981. In the tradition of doo wop, they sang on the streetcorners of New York City. The group had three brothers, Antoine "TCD" Lundy, "Stevie D" Lundy and Rodney "Khalil" Lundy along with their uncle Jesse Lee Daniels and Trisco Pearson and Charles "Mercury" Nelson. When Roger "DJ Dr. Rock" Daniels joined, they were called Dr. Rock & The Force MC's. The group name was changed to Force MD's. MD=Musical Diversity. Force MD's mix of doo wop harmonies and hip hop elements got them some buzz which led to a contract with Tommy Boy Records in 1984. By the time their debut album Love Letters was released, Force MD's were more of an R & B group with a nod to hip hop. They had their biggest hit when Tender Love was used on the soundtrack of the 1985 film Krush Groove. It reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who were a pretty hot production team at the time. Force MD's had their only number one R & B hit with Love Is A House in 1987. Some of their other songs charted but they faded in the late 80s. You can get all their hits on this Rhino comp. Mercury and Trisco left in 1990 and Force MD's left Tommy Boy but the group continued and recorded an album in 1994. The 1998 death of Antoine Lundy should have killed them but Force MD's reunited in 2000 and again in 2008. But there's no question that Tender Love is a Quiet Storm classic. Here's the video for Tender Love by Force MD's.
Sunday, July 08, 2012
Song:Un-break My Heart
Album:Ultimate Toni Braxton
Toni Braxton was one of the most popular female singers of the 90s especially in R & B. Un-break My Heart topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eleven weeks in 1996. Recently she has gone in a more dance pop direction and stars in the reality show Braxton Family Values. She was born Oct. 7, 1967 in the Baltimore suburb of Severn, MD and grew up in Atlanta. Her dad was a part time preacher and her mom was a part time opera singer. So Toni and her four sisters were encouraged to sing but only in church. And they weren't allowed to listen to secular music. The sisters sang as a group and were signed by Arista Records in 1989 after Toni was spotted singing to herself at a gas station by songwriter Bill Pettaway. The Braxtons released one single and were dropped. But Toni got the attention of LaFace Records owners Antonio "LA" Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. They thought she sounded like Anita Baker. Her 1993 debut album Toni Braxton sold eight million copies and singles like Another Sad Love Song and Breathe Again were top five hits in pop and R & B. Toni also won the Best New Artist Grammy. Her 1995 second album Secrets did just as well. The first single You're Makin' Me High was her first number one pop hit. And Un-Break My Heart topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eleven weeks. The song is the second biggest selling single by a female artist in Billboard history behind Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You. If you look at the credits of Ultimate Toni Braxton, you'll see that Babyface wrote and produced nine of the seventeen songs. Un-break My Heart was written by veteran songwriter Diane Warren and produced by David Foster. Warren brought the song to Arista president Clive Davis. He thought it would be perfect for Toni. She turned it down but Davis can be very persuasive. Toni later told Diane that she just didn't want to do another breakup song at the time. Obviously with Foster producing instead of Babyface, the production was more pop than R & B. But Toni really gives a great vocal on the record. The guitar solo is by veteran session musician Dean Parks. So Toni Braxton should be on top of the world, right? But she shocks fans in late 1997 when she sued LaFace and then files for bankruptcy. Usually when unknown artists sign record deals, they get minimal money. When she blew up, Toni was still getting minimal money. So she just wanted to renegotiate her contract and that's what LaFace did. On her 2000 CD The Heat, Toni presented a sexier image with He Wasn't Man Enough and it reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Heat didn't sell as well as the previous CDs but three million copies is nothing to sneeze at. Toni was pregnant when her 2002 CD More Than A Woman was released. She wanted Arista to delay the release until she could properly promote it. They refused and the CD didn't do well. This led to Toni leaving Arista for Blackground Records owned by her then manager Barry Hankerson. The 2005 CD Libra did not do well and she sued Hankerson. While that was going on, she did the show Toni Braxton Revealed at the Flamingo in Las Vegas for two years. When the suit was settled mostly in Hankerson's favour, she appeared on Dancing With The Stars. Then she signed with Atlantic Records and released Pulse. At this point, her music is more dance pop than R & B. And her latest single I Heart You follows that trend. She'll do OK in the dance market but I think her days of pop stardom could be over. This budget comp covers her LaFace hits. I would be remiss if I didn't mention her WE tv reality show Braxton Family Values. The show's third season will premier next month. Here's the video for Un-break My Heart by Toni Braxton. The guy in the video is model Tyson Beckford.
Saturday, July 07, 2012
Album:Popular Songs: The Best Of Wynton Marsalis
Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis deserves a lot credit for creating new interest in jazz in the early 80s when it looked like it was dying. But he is also a polarizing figure among jazz critics and other jazz musicians who believe he is overrated. I think part of the problem is he records a lot and it's hard to sift through some of his lessor works to get to the good stuff. He was born Oct. 18, 1961 in New Orleans. His dad Ellis Marsalis is a pianist and a renowned music teacher. His brothers are all musicians. Al Hirt gave Wynton his first trumpet when he was six years old. As a teen, he played with various orchestras and jazz bands in New Orleans. In 1979, he moved to New York to attend Juilliard and he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1980. That's where I first heard him. Not long after, he signed with Columbia Records and his 1982 debut album became a big hit. Since then, Marsalis has recorded jazz and classical albums and all kinds of other things. Some critics believe he is out of his depth in jazz and should stick to classical. I think he's at his best when he is interpreting standards as he is here with Cherokee. It's from his 1986 album Marsalis Standard Time Vol. 1 with Marcus Roberts on piano, Robert Leslie Hurst III on bass and Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums. You can get it on this comp which is a decent intro for newcomers. It's just a taste because Marsalis has recorded so much. Marsalis was a consultant on the Ken Burns 2001 documentary Jazz. He hurt the film by imposing his own opinions and convincing Burns there hasn't been any decent jazz since 1970...except Wynton Marsalis. He likes to present himself as a jazz purist but recently he has recorded albums with Willie Nelson and Eric Clapton. So Wynton Marsalis is a good musician but he sends mixed messages. Here's Wynton Marsalis performing Cherokee at the 1993 Bern Jazz Festival.
Friday, July 06, 2012
Song:The Most Beautiful Girl
Album:16 Biggest Hits
Charlie Rich was a very versatile singer who had his biggest success in the 70s working with legendary producer Billy Sherrill at Epic Records. Rich had nine number one country hits but The Most Beautiful Girl was his only number one pop hit in 1973. He was born Dec. 14, 1932 in Colt, AR and grew up in Benton, AR. He got into music when he was in the US Air Force with the jazz group The Velvetones. When he was discharged, he hung around Memphis which inevitably led to Sun Records. Sun owner Sam Phillips didn't think Rich's demos were commercial enough. So he played sessions while trying to figure out how to make it himself. In the 60s, Rich recorded for Sun, RCA, Smash and Hi Records. Though some of his recordings are well regarded today,they were unsuccessful at the time. Rich signed with Epic in 1967 on the recommendation of house producer Billy Sherrill. Sherrill was best known for producing Tammy Wynette. He usually mixed country with pop. At the time it was called Countrypolitan. Rich was perfect for that sound. The single Behind Closed Doors was Rich's first number one country single in 1973 and it reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Most Beautiful Girl did even better and topped the Country Singles chart and the Billboard Hot 100. The album Behind Closed Doors was also a hit and was certified 4XPlatinum. The Most Beautiful Girl was written by veteran songwriters Norro Wilson and Rory Bourke. Wilson recorded himself in the late 60s and Bourke was managing him. Bourke came up with the title Hey, Have You Ever Seen The Most Beautiful Girl In The World and Wilson wrote the song in ten minutes. They took the song to Sherrill who got a songwriting credit for shortening the title. Wilson and Bourke are both in the Country Music Songwriters Hall Of Fame. Rich's continued success in the country market was affected by his heavy drinking. He was presenting a 1975 CMA award to John Denver while intoxicated. Instead of reading the contents of the envelope, he set it on fire because he didn't think Denver was a country artist. Nashville did not approve. Rich went into a slump. And though he had some success recording for Epic, United Artists and Elektra, he went into semi-retirement in 1981. After recording a jazz record for Sire Records in 1992, Charlie Rich died on July 25, 1995 at age 62. This budget comp is a good intro to his Epic recordings. Here's Charlie Rich performing The Most Beautiful Girl on In Concert 1975.
Thursday, July 05, 2012
Song:Somewhere Only We Know
Album:Hopes and Fears
Keane is one of those bands that is always compared to other bands. That probably drives them nuts. They are a much bigger deal in their native England than here. Somewhere Only We Know is their best known song. The four original members were school chums in Sussex, England. Pianist Tim Rice-Oxley and lead singer Tom Chaplin became friends with guitarist Domenic Scott and drummer Richard Hughes. While attending University College London in 1993, Rice-Oxley formed Lotus Eaters with Scott and Hughes. They were a cover band. In 1997, Chris Martin invited Rice-Oxley to join Coldplay. Rice-Oxley declined and Chaplin joined Lotus Eaters and the band was named Cherry Keane after a friend of Chaplin's mother. Then the name was shortened to Keane. By 1999, Keane released their first single and were after a record deal. Scott left in 2001 to return to school. He didn't think Keane would make it. But they did sign with Island Records in 2003. Hopes and Fears was their 2004 debut CD and Somewhere Only We Know reached #3 on the British Singles chart. The song charted in the US after it was used in an episode of the TV series Grey's Anatomy. Bassist Jesse Quin was added in 2008. Keane continues to be successful in England but most US fans may only know the one song. Here's the video for Somewhere Only We Know by Keane.
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
|Syuri, Ayako Hamada|