May 2014 Archives

Hit Parade: Iggy Azalea featuring Charlie XCX - "Fancy"

The fun summer jam potential is slightly limited by Iggy declaring that she's still in the murder bidness...
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Talk of the "song of the summer" is beginning, and it wasn't likely that the smooth, soulful tones of John Legend were going to be ruling the day at barbeques and pool parties and box socials and whatever the kids are up to these days. Now, there is a new song atop the charts, "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea featuring Charlie XCX. Now, if you have read Hit Parade with any regularity, you know how things go with me and the pop music. Generally, I have little, if any, knowledge or experience with these artists. I'm too busy making knowing references

CD Review: Dirt Diamond - Styles For About A Mile

Styles For About a Mile is electronic music at its very best.
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The nostalgia cycle is a funny thing. A couple of weeks ago I spotted a piece in Rolling Stone about the top 20 albums of 1994, which they called "The year Alternative music peaked." There was another type of music that "peaked" in 1994 as well, and it is as difficult to describe today as it was then. Whatever you wish to call it though, the new album by Dirt Diamond (a.k.a. Will Green), Styles For About A Mile nails it.The common term back then was "ambient techno," although "chill out" and IDM (intelligent dance music) were also used. There

DVD Review: The Pink Floyd & Syd Barrett Story

A look at the early years of Pink Floyd and its original leader, Syd Barrett
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In 1967, the psychedelic movement was in full swing. The acid scene radically altered the sound and look of rock and roll with bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones releasing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Their Satanic Majesties Request respectively. One group, which became one of the biggest bands in the world in their own right during the 1970s (albeit in a radically different state), released one of the crowning achievements of this era. The band was Pink Floyd and its leader at the time was Syd Barrett. Barrett's star rose as quickly as it

CD Review: Hank WIlliams - The Garden Spot Programs, 1950

Recently unearthed radio shows offer a treasure trove of live material for Hank Williams fans.
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In 1950, country radio was entering a transitional phase from live music to DJ shows. Stations looking to fill airtime would often do so by adding transcribed shows to the mix. These were 15-minute shows purchased by sponsors, pressed to disc and shipped off to radio stations. A good number of these recordings are sadly lost to the annals of radio history. These shows are also how Hank Williams made his way to KISB radio. Williams recorded several shows for Naughton Farms, a large nursery at the time, based on Waxahachie, Texas. Williams made the recordings in Nashville, but the

DeepSoul Salutes Smokey Robinson: "Ooh Baby Baby"

What do Smokey Robinson and Shakespeare have in common? Both communicate universal experiences and emotion, as this ballad shows.
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Few songs are as romantic and melancholy as "Ooh Baby Baby," the classic ballad off Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' 1965 album Going to a Go-Go. While the title track emits energy and youth, "Ooh Baby Baby" conjures images of 1950s doo wop yet updates the sound for 1960s audiences. The single reached the top 20 on Billboard's Hot 100 and R&B charts upon its 1965 release. Co-written by Robinson and Miracles bandmate Pete Moore (also credited as Warren Moore), the song's anguish and sensuality has resonated for generations, inspiring an excellent 1978 cover by Linda Ronstadt. Robinson's words and

CD Review: Dio - Live In London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993

This classic Dio show from 1993 sees its first-ever release in 2014.
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1993 was a pivotal year for Ronnie James Dio. Having crashed and burned with Black Sabbath for the second time, he decided to reform Dio. This new lineup featured Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice along with Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson and guitarist Tracy G. The band recorded Strange Highways, which marked a harder-edged stylistic shift musically. A concert at London's legendary Hammersmith Apollo was recorded and is being released for the first time as Dio - Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993. Not wanting to simply rest on his laurels, Dio featured several tracks from Strange Highways in the set list,

Blu-ray Review: Dio - Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993

21 years later, this Strange Highways-era Dio concert is finally seeing the light of day.
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In 1993, Ronnie James Dio's second stint with Black Sabbath was over and the veteran singer was, once again, finding himself as a solo artist. He decided to reform Dio, taking Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice with him in the process while recruiting former Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson and guitarist Tracy G to round out his new lineup. The band recorded Strange Highways, which marked a harder-edged stylistic shift musically. A concert at London's legendary Hammersmith Apollo was professionally filmed and is just now being released for the first time as Dio - Live in London: Hammersmith Apollo 1993. The show

Hit Parade: John Legend - "All of Me"

a pretty sounding song about love that isn't too mawkish or clunky or inane. I can live with that...
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Man, people loved Pharrell Williams' "Happy." Truly, it was the song of spring. For a whopping 10 weeks, it was the number one song in America. I did not like it, but lots of people did, and I am not one to rain on parades, or wedding days for that matter. Now, a new song emerges atop the Billboard Hot 100. John Legend's "All of Me." I have some knowledge of Legend, because he appeared on Stephen Colbert's Christmas special many years ago. He sang a love jam about nutmeg. So, I figure he is some sort of soul/R&B ballad

I Saved Latin! A Tribute to Wes Anderson is the Pick of the Week

Wes Anderson tribute, new Black Keys records top New Music Tuesday...
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Wes Anderson is a quirky, smart, hilarious and sometimes oddly moving film director. Or rather I should say his films are all of those things (I've never met him so he might be a total jerk.) His films have a very distinctive style - from the color palette to his perfect, symmetrical framing to his themes of troubled families. And then there's the music. Anderson fills his films with classic (and obscure) pop songs from the 60s and early 70s. But its not just him filling up the soundtrack with his favorite songs or trying to be the cool hipster

Raoul & The Big Time - Hollywood Blvd

Toronto's Raoul Bhaneja keeps heady company indeed
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Raoul Bhaneja is a busy man indeed. An accomplished actor who's toured his own one-man Hamlet in addition to amassing numerous television credits, he also fronts The Big Time, a tight and agile combo of Canadian veterans able to switch with unerring ease from upbeat swing to down-in-the-alley grinders. Bhaneja has somehow also found time to write songs and absolutely master the harmonica, both the growly, honking diatonic and the richly chorded chromatic, as evidenced throughout the aptly-titled Hollywood Blvd. There's also the matter of the guest list. Bhaneja, a harmonicist of dazzling facility, has made a few friends on

Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne - Rollin' With The Blues Boss

Wayne returns with another breezy and bouncy romp through the blues
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Don't look to Kenny 'Blues Boss' Wayne for low-down lonesome blues. There's trouble and hardship, to be sure, but Wayne, a sprightly and optimistic veteran who's been at it since the early 1960's , is too much the happy-go-lucky guy to stay down for long. Wayne also isn't given to tired retreads of the classics. He wrote all of Rollin' With The Blues Boss' eleven tracks, and while he's known as a rollicking pianist, he isn't afraid to toss in some of his own electric piano, Rhodes, and clavinet, as well as banjo, harmonica and horns - not to mention

Blu-ray Review: Toto - Live In Poland: 35th Anniversary Tour

Veteran band delivers a hit-filled set.
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Through the years, the members of Toto have been better known for their session work than for Toto itself. Artists as diverse as diverse as Michael Jackson, Judas Priest, Paul McCartney, Miles Davis and Boz Scaggs, among others, have had recordings graced with one or more members of Toto. Still, the band has managed to carve out a successful career for itself with many hits. In 2013, the group reunited with vocalist Joseph Williams and keyboardists David Paich and Steve Porcaro to celebrate its 35th anniversary. A June show from Poland was filmed and makes up the new Blu-ray Toto

Jaco Pastorius - Modern American Music...Period! The Criteria Sessions CD Review

The playing of the great Jaco Pastorius is already fully-formed in this release of his 1974 demo sessions at the Criteria studios.
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Bass players get no respect. Well, very little at least. The bass is just not an instrument that gets much attention. Sir Paul McCartney's playing is justly celebrated, and the late John Entwistle's rock-solid performance held the manic music of The Who together. In jazz, there was Charles Mingus of course, but not too many other household names. While there are a zillion superstar guitarists, or keyboard players for that matter, virtuoso bass players are a rare breed. Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987) was certainly one of them. Adrian Belew called him "arguably the most important and ground-breaking electric bassist in history."

DeepSoul Salutes Smokey Robinson: "The Tears of A Clown"

Who knew that a song referencing an Italian opera could become a number one hit?
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How many top ten records reference the Italian opera Pagliacci? Smokey Robinson's talent for combining literary lyrics with accessible pop and soul continued in 1970, when the uptempo "The Tears of A Clown" was released. The single topped the UK and US pop and R&B charts, becoming Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' only number one hit. Interestingly, Robinson had planned to retire from the Miracles, but the undeniable success of "The Tears of A Clown" persuaded him to stay with the group for two more years. The melody originated from Motown labelmate Stevie Wonder, who had recorded the instrumental track

Natalie Merchant by Natalie Merchant is the Pick of the Week

New Music Tuesday - May 6, 2014
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From the department of making you feel old comes this little factoid: Natalie Merchant has been making music for 33 years, and has been a solo artist for the last 20. That blows me away. I didn't become a fan until Our Time in Eden and I have very fond memories of listening to Tigerlily in college which seems like yesterday but was in fact two decades ago. Pardon me while I go put on some old man pants.Truth be told I kind of stopped paying that much attention to her sometimes in the early 00s, but found her again

CD Review: Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Boy Named Charlie Brown

This classic soundtrack album gets the remastered treatment for its 50th anniversary.
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The 1960s Peanuts animated specials are among the most iconic television shows ever. Beloved specials such as It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Christmas have become holiday staples, viewed year after year by new generations of fans. While Peanuts characters such as Charlie Brown and Snoopy have become legendary, equally legendary is the music accompanying their onscreen exploits. The late jazz pianist, Vince Guaraldi's, compositions have become synonymous with the series. There is one exception, however, where this wasn't the case. In 1963, a documentary about Willie Mays titled A Man Named Mays was released. The

Harpdog Brown - What It Is ...

A contemporary classic from the Dog
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The structure and delivery may be as basic as it gets, but the blues is essentially storytelling music. Whether it's hard times and bad luck or an exuberant expression of joy, there has to be a narrative, and a reason. Posing and posturing just won't cut it. Harpdog Brown is a bluesman in the classic style. He understands that the music is about communication, about connecting. He wrote the bulk of the material on What It Is..., most with assistance from drummer and long-time cohort John Hunter. They're solid, well-crafted tunes that sound right at home next to the handful