Friday, June 27, 2014

Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack, who died today at age 70, was inducted into the Rock Hall in 2009.  He joined an elite group of artists inducted their first time nominated.  At the time I was surprised he got in right away.  I certainly didn't predict it.  But looking back, I should have known better.  By 2008, Womack had put together a long R&B career.  His songs have been covered by the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin.  He was a constant chart presence, at least on the R&B one in the 70's and mid-80's.  In other words, he had longevity and just enough presence with Rock and Rollers to get him inducted right away.

Given that, I still don't feel like he ever got mentioned with the R&B greats of his era.  Some, like a Teddy Pendergrass, aren't even in the Rock Hall.  Womack's name is never listed in a Greatest R&B singers of all time poll.  So, it was gratifying to see him get inducted.  He was a true Soul Survivor.

Playlist for 6/27

Royksopp & Robyn - Do It Again
Bee Gees - Warner Bros. Years 
Dave & Phil Alvin - Common Ground 
Lee Bains - Dereconstructed 
Jack White - Lazareto
Mary Gauthier -Trouble & Love

Purple Rain

Anniversaries are everywhere in the music biz nowadays.  This week marked one that didn't get as much attention, but is worth your time.  30 years ago Purple Rain was released.  This Prince's Thriller, his biggest selling album that he would never top commercially again, and only once (Sign "O' The Times) topped artistically.  Things were building up for Prince by the time it dropped.  The previous album, 1999, spawned 3 Top 15 singles.
The first time I heard "When Doves Cry" was on my way home from work on my local Top 40 station. It sounded different than anything on the radio at that time.  I also knew it would be a big hit.  The rest of the album is equally great.  And there was a movie, too.  Surprisingly, it was good.  Morris Day of the Time stole the movie, but Prince held his own.

Anyway, the legend of Purple Rain is secure.  It made Prince the 2nd or 3rd biggest Pop star in the world (behind Michael Jackson and Madonna).  The fact that he never sold as many copies of his other albums is nothing to get upset about.  He still made some great records.  But most artists only get one of these in their lifetime.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Michael Jackson-5 Years On

Death.  The ultimate money maker.  Ask the estates of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean.  Michael Jackson was a cultural icon like them.  And he was piling on debt at the time of his debt.  The ill-fated 2009 concert tour that he was to embark on was the best way to get cash quick.  What we know about Jackson in his last years was that he loved to buy stuff, but usually bought it on credit.  When he died those creditors lined up wanting their money.

Five years after his death Michael Jackson is richer than he's ever been.  He's also more musically respected than he was at the time of his death.  The albums that have come out after he died aren't great, but not bad.  The 2014 Xscape tries its best to replicate what Michael had going through his head while recording those demos.  The estate promises more of this type of stuff.  The Elvis Presley estate is still releasing alternate takes, live cuts to this day.

Jackson's impact on music remains huge.  It was there before he died, but we now see more newer artists citing him as an influence.  Even if his records don't sell as much, the Michael Jackson brand will find a way to stay in the public mind.  The family and MJ management will make sure of it.

Death can do that to an idol.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

R&B Artists In The Rock Hall (Updated 2014)

 I first published this list back in March 2010, and since then only Donna Summer has been inducted.

The fate of the artists below remains a big question.  Hopefully, new NomCom members will get some of these nominated.  But I remain skeptical about that.

Below is an updated list for 2014. Of these, Chuck Willis, Chantels, Mary Wells, Chic, Chaka Khan, War, "5" Royales, Meters, Joe Tex, Marvelettes, Spinners and Billy Ward & the Dominoes have been nominated.

Names in no particular order:

Barry White
Kool & The Gang
"5" Royales
Dionne Warwick
Commodores/Lionel Richie
Meters/Neville Brothers
Teddy Pendergrass/Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
Luther Vandross
Rick James
Joe Tex
Lou Rawls
Whitney Houston
Ohio Players
Gap Band
Patti LaBelle
Janet Jackson
Mary Wells
Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Billy Ward & the Dominoes
Chuck Willis
Bill Withers
Wynonie Harris
Chaka Khan

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Playlist for 6/22

Miranda Lambert - Platinum
Jason  Eady - Daylight & Dark
John Fullbright - Songs
Amy LaVere - Runaway's Diary
Kitty Wells - Dust on the Bible

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fave TV Shows Update (Summer 2014)

Time for a Summer update on shows I watch:  

Boardwalk Empire
Walking Dead
Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown
True Blood
Little Couple
Game of Thrones
Parks and Recreation
Saturday Night Live
Falling Skies
Orange Is The New Black
House of Cards
House of Lies
New Girl
Raising Hope
American Idol
The Voice
So You Think You Can Dance
Amazing Race
American Pickers
Little Couple
Silicon Valley
In The Flesh
Strike Back
Hell on Wheels
Life & Times of Tim
Real Time with Bill Maher
Mad Men
Moone Boy
The Fall
Orange Is The New Black
Ray Donovan
Masters of Sex
30 for 30
Key & Peele
Silicon Valley
Sleepy Hollow
Dan Rather Reports
Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel
Ripper Street
Orphan Black
New Girl
Mindy Project
Da Vinci's Demons
Red Sails
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
Late Show with David Letterman
60 Minutes Sports on Showtime
Red Road

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gerry Goffin

Okay, maybe I'm overreaching here, but it seems like we used to revere songwriters more than we do now.  Gerry Goffin certainly was an ace one.  His lyrics matched with Carole King's melodies, and others, put both of them near the top of 60's songwriters.  But there were others from that era.  Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Burt Bacharach/Hal David, Bert Berns and don't forget Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman, who began charting hits in the 50's.   What I'm talking about are writers who didn't have hit records (outside of Carole King).  And whose catalog holds up years later, and continues to be covered. Goffin, along with many of the names above was part of the Brill Building stable of writers.  Do we have that type anymore?

Today, Max Martin is the first name I thought of whose work will be remembered.  From the 80's and late 70's there was the overlooked Rod Temperton (a member of Heatwave). Both are songwriters who didn't sing. Nostalgia plays a big part in all of this.  But the death of someone like Gerry Goffin will make us all sentimental for a bygone era.

Take a look at Gerry Goffin's songwriting credits (inducted into the Rock Hall in 1990):

List of Gerry Goffin Songs

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Playlist for 6/15

Sun Ra - Space is the Place
Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
Roots - And Then You Shoot
Conor Oberst - Upside Down Mountain
Coldplay - Ghost Stories
Strypes - Snapshot

Casey Kasem

The first memory I have of listening to American Top 40 was when I lived in Germany.  The first time I can remember hearing the countdown was in 1973 on Armed Forces Radio.  There weren't many channel choices back then.  Not on Military radio.  At least from what I could tell.  My sister controlled the car and house radio.  I just tuned in to what was being played.

But I remembered AT 40.  It always came on Saturday & Sunday.
I remember it mostly because of the types of songs heard:  novelty records and Country songs.  Things my sister never listened to on her radio. And I was fascinated how songs went up and down the countdown.  And the chart facts!  Unless you were a Billboard subscriber, you never knew any of that stuff. While those Long distance dedications were often ridiculed, I have to admit to always waiting for them.

When we moved to California in 1975, I began to seek out the countdown.  But I couldn't find it.  The local AM Top 40 stations didn't run it.  So, one Saturday I scanned the AM dial looking for it, and eventually finding it.  The reception was very good, but I heard it and tuned in when I could.

And bonus point for a legendary life because he was the voice of Shaggy in Scooby-Doo.  Another thing I didn't learn about him until much later.

Thanks to AT 40, I subscribed to Billboard magazine.  I was all of 13 when I first got a subscription.
There was no turning back from there.  At 40 + Billboard meant I had to know what was happening on the charts.  I became infatuated with the weekly debuts on the countdown.

By the late 80's, Casey's countdown began to lose steam.  Times had changed, because radio formats changed.  There were very little AT 40 channels around.  Radio became a corporate jungle, branching off into genre only channels.

The Internet and satellite radio brought me back to Casey.  There was a time when I couldn't find it anymore.  Thanks to Sirius' 70's channel, which rebroadcasts his old shows, and Internet streaming of his shows, I fell in love with the countdown all over again.  You don't have to go far today to listen to him. Inside the  iHeart radio app is a channel that replays some of those shows.  Called Classic American Top 40, and I would listen now while it's still active.  But a google search of stations will get you to others streaming AT40.

Casey, along with Wolfman Jack, belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The Hall needs to start inducting pioneering DJ's.

Casey Kasem's voice was a reassuring part of my life for a long time.  AT 40 helped change how we listened to music.  I hope it did for you what it did for me:  made me appreciate a wide variety of genres. It ruled when AM Top 40 ruled.

We should all tip our hat to Kasem.  Long distance dedications, highest debut of the week, and good old chart trivia.  It was all there for a few hours every weekend.  Sometimes nostalgia was very good indeed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Idol Fatigue

The reason American Idol had its lowest ratings ever has more to do than fatigue with the musical reality show competition.  A big reason is the show no longer has a buzz about it.  The water cooler moments are gone.  This began to occur when it shifted from spotlighting the contestants to bringing in high paid judges.  Mariah Carey, Nikki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler is what the show was about. Introducing the judges at the beginning of each episode and having them walk from stage to their seats only enforces the point. Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban fall short of superstar status.  But the surprising thing about the 2014 show was that the judge, with Lopez,  were better.  Sadly, the singers weren't.

The Voice also had lower ratings, once it stopped its blind auditions, which are the only good part of the show.  Once this show was about finding a real star, now it's about finding career's for the contestants.  But it too is all about the judges.  They perform on the show, are showcased more and the contestants are treated as second class.

But it's too early to say the end is near.  Idol is coming back in 2015, and even though it's getting less air time, it will still be a weekly fixture.  The Voice could become more troubling.  After the blind auditions there's no need to watch it anymore.  It's basically a normal singing contest.  And while the judges chairs are always shifting, I wonder how much more Blake Shelton and Adam Levine the public can take.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Playlist for 6/7

Michael Jackson - Xscape
Nikki Lane - All or Nothin'
Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds
Neil Young - Letter From Home
John Prine -Storm Windows
Cat Stevens - Izitso

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Roots & Rhythm

Maybe you know it best as Down Home Music.  It was the catalog of choice if you didn't live near a Tower Records or even had a local record shop in your town.  What Down Home specialized in was ordering imports and from indie labels that wouldn't get stocked anywhere else.  The catalog itself was a thing of beauty:  reviews, honest and opinionated on the latest releases.  This was where I found out that there was life outside of Nashville Top 40, and that Blues had a deeper history than just the titans I knew about.

Sometime in the late 90's Down Home Music changed their name to Roots & Rhythm, but the quality of the catalogs was the same.  Yet things changed once the Internet took off.  You no longer needed a mail-order catalog to get the hard-to-find stuff.  Somehow they kept going.

But now things are coming to an end.  It's hard to keep a mail order business going nowadays.  And to be honest, most people reading their catalogs probably found the items cheaper online.

But I'll miss that bi-monthly catalog, which always showed up like an old friend.  Sorry to see it go and sorry that things always have to change.  Hats off to 'em.

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