Music Review

Joe Walsh's Best Serious Songs

I recently posted a Joe Walsh song on my Facebook wall and the reaction was mixed. One commenter wrote, "Walsh always struck me as the real-life Spicoli, and that was about as seriously as I could take him." This is a common misconception about Walsh.

Walsh has had a music career of over five decades.  There are many, many people who know of him mostly as a member of the Eagles (since 1975) who had a hit in 1978 with a funny song, "Life's Been Good." Yet Walsh was a music biz veteran of eleven years’ standing when Hotel California was released in 1976; he would not have been recruited into the Eagles if he had not already established himself as such a distinctive guitarist that he could instantly give them the rock cred they so desired. Already on his resume were the killer riffs of "Rocky Mountain Way," "Turn to Stone," "Walk Away," and "Funk #49." The latter two came with the James Gang, an Ohio band that gathered an international following after so impressing the Who while opening for them in Pittsburgh that they were invited to open for the Who for a whole tour. Read more »

Video of the Week: Anna Rose - "Start A War"

One of my favorite NYC-based singer/songwriters is up to more master strokes with the release of this thoughtful and moody ballad.-- "Start A War" -- from her six song EP Strays in the Cut (Noble Steed Music). I could not help but think of the Wilson sisters from Heart as being some sort of sideways inspiration. Well played, Ms. Anna Rose, well played.

Song of the Week: Kandace Springs - "Soul Eyes"

Why did I not find this sooner? Kandace Springs is a force of nature. From Nashville, with so much soul and jazz and piano chops in tow, she's a "can't miss" talent. This amazing, evocative single -- "Soul Eyes" -- is from her Capitol debut to be released on Bluenote on July 1st.

May Classical Review Roundup

Hélene Grimaud
Water: Berio: Wasserklavier: Sawhney: Water: Transitions 1-7; Takemitsu: Rain Tree Sketch No. 2; Fauré: Barcarolle No. 5; Ravel: Jeux d'eau; Albéniz: Almeria; Liszt: Les Jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este; Janáček: In the Mist: No. 1; Debussy: La Cathedrale engloutie
(Deutsche Grammophon)
 
Classical purists be warned: almost half the tracks here are not the solo piano recital you might expect from the billing. Instead, Grimaud had composer Nitin Sawhney create electronic bridging miniatures (ranging from 0:56 to 1:41) fitted between the solo piano tracks. This works wonderfully well, changing this album from a traditional presentation into a moody soundscape (though the purist crowd was quick to take offense, witness the extremely snarky review on classicstoday.com). Of course, Grimaud is her usual scintillating self on the solo piano pieces. 

Memorial Music

Memorial Day started spontaneously and independently in several towns and cities in 1866 as a way of honoring soldiers who died in the Civil War by placing flowers on their graves -- thus the holiday's old name, Decoration Day.

At first there was not a specific date, but observation was made more uniform starting in 1868; May 30 was chosen, supposedly because it was not the anniversary of a specific battle and because by then flowers would be in bloom throughout the country.  Read more »

Song of the Week: Breanna Barbara - "Sailin' Sailin'"

"Sailin' Sailin'" is our perfect perfect song of the week from the NYC-based singer-songwriter Breanna Barbara and pulled from her forthcoming album Mirage Dreams (No Roads Records). Her blissed-out blues conjure up the stripped down mojo of PJ Harvey and early Delta blues. It was produced and recorded by Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) at The Bomb Shelter in East Nashville.

Arlene Wolff Does It Again... Over a Half Century Later

"I'm the kind of girl who's tried everything once," Valerine Perrine purrs in Lenny. As Mrs. Bruce in the Bob Fosse film, her claim, let's say, contained slightly off-color elements.

Not so for the chanteuse Arlene Wolff, who can make the same assertion and whose career path followed a similar timeline (the 1960s onward). She, however, always took the high road. Yes, her notable achievements are indisputably aboveboard and even more varied. She opened for Jackie Mason in his early days, toured Europe as a singer of standards, and as Assistant to New York City's Mayor Abraham Beame, Wolff devised the Big Apple's now iconic street fairs. If that were not enough, for you sailor buffs, she organized the arrival of the tall ships in New York Harbor for the Bicentennial. Then because she had some free time on her hands, she married Manhattan's then Chief of Police (Mickey Schwartz) and did a little sheep farming. Read more »

Guy Clark, Master Craftsmen, 1941-2016

The year 2016 continues to take some of our best and brightest stars. We have lost Bowie, Prince, Merle, and a slew of others. I don’t have to go through all of the names. I generally put up a quick, "Well, we lost another great one" post on Facebook. This will not be one of those, because the latest loss -- Guy Clark, who passed away on May 17 at the age of 74 -- hits me hard. Read more »

Song of the Week: Nada Surf - "Rushing"

Damn, they've done it again! From their latest longplayer You Know Who You Are, my favorite NYC-folk-rock band deliver a perfectly executed subway love song called "Rushing". I've been a fan for years and this is one of the best songs they've ever executed. Two decades in and they are still bursting with smart lyrics and gorgeous sing-along melodies! 10 new tracks available on Barsuk Records. Don't delay, buy them all today!

Top 25 Twenty-First Century Jazz Albums

Today being international jazz day, there will be much celebrating of the greatness of its history. I’ve done that in the past; it is a great history. But it is not all back in historical times; jazz lives, and evolves, and continues to be great. Yet how many lists of the greatest jazz albums include anything from the current century? Read more »

R.I.P. Prince Rogers Nelson 1958-2016

Prince didn't give a fuck what anybody thought about him. Read more »

A Prog-Rock Bonanza: Anthony Phillips Reissued

 
Anthony "Ant" Phillips, an original member of Genesis, left after their second album (Trespass, 1970) because of stage fright -- an especially problematic situation, one supposes, for the lead guitarist. He spent the ensuing years studying music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (which is to say classical music), along with occasionally recording demos of new material at home. It would be seven years before his first solo album would appear, but after that he would be fairly prolific. Though he never achieved mainstream success -- which sadly makes sense given that this progressive rock legend didn't issue anything in 1971-76, the peak prog years -- aficionados of the style have long admired his work. Cherry Red's Esoteric imprint is now in its third year of repackaging Phillips's work with his collaboration, and with the recent issuance of 1979's Sides meaning that all of his '70s albums are now available again as box sets, now seems like a good time to review the story so far.

Song of the Week: Gary Lucas & Jann Klose - "Fair Weather"

One may surmise that NYC-based guitar maestro Gary Lucas has the magic touch when it comes to collaborating with profound artists. He has found yet another formidable vocal foil in singer/songwriter Jann Klose. As you may or may not remember, Mr. Lucas was responsible for igniting Jeff Buckley's vocal prowess in their band Gods & Monsters and co-writing the two best tracks on Mr. Buckley's solo debut. It should come as no surprise that Mr. Klose handled vocals in the Buckley bio pic Greetings from Tim Buckley and has appeared at numerous Buckley tributes and multiple stage appearances with Mr. Lucas. "Fair Weather" is from their excellent stripped-down simple Americana-centric album Stereopticon (Cosmic Trigger Records). It's my favorite track from said album. Klose's smooth vocals perfectily compliment Mr. Lucas' acoustic guitar majesty. The video was directed by DeAngela Napier.

Getachew Mekurya R.I.P. (14 March 1935 - 4 April 2016)

Tenor saxophonist Getachew Mekurya, one of the greatest musicians in the long and proud history of Ethiopian music, passed away today. 

Boston-based bandleader Russ Gershon, with whose Either/Orchestra Mekurya played in the 21st century, wrote on Facebook, "By playing Shellella, an Ethiopian vocal war chant, on his tenor sax, he arrived at a sound that had something in common with Albert Ayler independently, half a world away, and several years earlier."

By age fourteen, Mekurya was already a professional musician, playing saxophone and clarinet in the Municipal Band of Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia. At twenty, he was in the house band at the Haile Selassie I Theatre, and at thirty joined the prestigious Police Band. Read more »

Mike McGinnis - Art Lande - Steve Swallow at IBeam (Brooklyn, NY), March 27, 2016

Chances to hear pianist Art Lande in action in New York City are rare; with bassist Steve Swallow, even rarer (they had a band in the Bay Area in the '70s). Fortunately for New Yorkers, clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Mike McGinnis took it upon himself to bring them together for some trio concerts, and though snow in Colorado kept Lande from arriving for the originally scheduled Thursday and Friday shows, IBeam was able to accommodate them for the expected four sets by squeezing in a late set Saturday and then three sets Sunday night; I caught the first two on Sunday. Read more »

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