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Sat, 15 May 2021 08:00:37 +0000
Impulse! Records kicks off its year-long 60th-anniversary festivities, with the arrival of the 4-LP box set, Impulse Records: Music, Message & The Moment, out today.
The collection tells the story of the political, social, and spiritual facets of the artists and music of Impulse! Records and highlights musical conversations about civil rights – echoed in such albums as John Coltrane’s Alabama, Archie Shepp’s Attica Blues, John and Alice Coltrane’s Reverend King, Charlie Haden and the Liberation Orchestra’s We Shall Overcome, and Oliver Nelson’s The Rights Of All. See the box in full detail, in the unboxing below.
For 60 years, the legendary Impulse! Records has been home to some of the greatest jazz artists of all time, including John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Quincy Jones, and more. The orange-and-black imprint known as the House That Trane Built was a cultural beacon of progressive politics, spiritualism, and activism throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Jazz was an integral part of exploring Black identity and pushing cultural and political boundaries and conversations, as outlined in the box set essays by poet and critic A.B. Spellman and critic Greg Tate, both of whom offer vital perspective on the importance of this label, the artists and music that flowed through it, and the cultural backdrop.
Today, the label thrives with a new generation of exciting jazz artists including Shabaka Hutchings, Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, Brandee Younger, Ted Poor, and more.
Along with the curated box set, the historic label has a lot more in store for its anniversary celebrations including a reimagined Alice Coltrane rarity, Turiya Sings, high-fidelity vinyl reissues, curated playlists, exclusive posters, new deep-dive video content, and more to be announced throughout 2021.
Impulse! Records’ Impulse Records: Music, Message & The Moment is out now. View the full tracklisting below.
LP 1: Side 1
1. The John Coltrane Quartet — Africa
LP 1: Side 2
1. Max Roach — Garvey’s Ghost
2. Quincy Jones and his Orchestra — Hard Sock Dance
3. John Coltrane — Up ‘Gainst the Wall
4. Elvin Jones/Jimmy Garrison Sextet — Just Us Blues
LP 2: Side 1
1. John Coltrane — Alabama
2. Charles Mingus — Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul
3. Shirley Scott Trio — Freedom Dance
4. Yusef Lateef — Sister Mamie
LP 2: Side 2
1. Archie Shepp — Malcolm, Malcolm—Semper Malcolm
2. Stanley Turrentine — Good Lookin’ Out
3. Earl Hines — Black and Tan Fantasy
4. Oliver Nelson — The Rights of All
LP 3: Side 1
1. Pharoah Sanders — The Creator Has a Master Plan (edit)
2. John Coltrane & Alice Coltrane — Reverend King
LP 3: Side 2
1. The Ahmad Jamal Trio — The Awakening
2. Albert Ayler — Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe
3. Charlie Haden — We Shall Overcome
LP 4: Side 1
1. Alice Coltrane — Blue Nile
2. Pharoah Sanders — Astral Traveling
3. Archie Shepp — Blues for Brother George Jackson
4. Michael White — Lament (Mankind)
LP 4: Side 2
1. Dewey Redman — Imani
2. Marion Brown — Bismillahi ‘Rrahmani ‘Rrahim
3. John Handy — Hard Work
Fri, 14 May 2021 20:43:03 +0000
The wait is finally over. J. Cole fans across the world are rejoicing as the one-of-a-king MC from North Carolina has released his latest project, The Off-Season.
The new album is 12 tracks long, and features guest verses from 21 Savage, Morray, Bas, and Lil Baby. The songs are uniquely titled, with each letter of each track spaced out. Previously released single “i n t e r l u d e” is the album’s ninth track, and 21 Savage, who appeared during the beginning of J. Cole’s mini-documentary, Applying Pressue: The Off-Season, turns in a sterling verse on “my.life.”
The album features a bevy of top-tier producers, including Timbaland, Boi-1da, DJ Dahi, Jake One, Frank Dukes, Tae Beast, Maneesh, Wu10, Sucuki, Coleman, Tommy Parker, Mario Luciano, T-Minus, and Cole himself.
The album has already been met with strong reviews including Variety who wrote, “Cole’s new record, ‘The Off-Season,’ sits in the midway point of his exit plan, and also reads as a turning point. Stripped down to an at once polished and grimy mixture of soul samples, seizuring trap hi-hats, and boom-bap drums, Cole offers, amid some moments of grave contemplation, a kind of mixtape-energy record of lyrical exercises and bangers.”
Shortly before the release of the album, Cole announced that he would be playing basketball for the Rwandan club team Patriots BBC. Rumor has it he may hit the court as early as this Sunday. Regardless of his skills on the court, fans everywhere are relieved that J. Cole is once again back in action.
Buy or stream J. Cole’s The Off-Season.
The Off-Season Tracklist
1. 9 5 . s o u t h
2. a m a r i
3. m y . l i f e (Ft. 21 Savage & Morray)
4. a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e
5. p u n c h i n ’ . t h e . c l o c k
6. 1 0 0 . m i l ’ (Ft. Bas)
7. p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l (Ft. Lil Baby)
8. l e t . g o . m y . h a n d (Ft. Bas)
9. i n t e r l u d e
10. t h e . c l i m b . b a c k
11. c l o s e
12. h u n g e r . o n . h i l l s i d e (Ft. Bas)
Fri, 14 May 2021 20:01:58 +0000
They Might Be Giants co-founder John Linnell’s acclaimed solo record, State Songs, gets an expanded, digital reissue courtesy of Craft Recordings.
A cult favorite among TMBG fans, this special reissue includes the rarity “Louisiana,” available digitally for the very first time. The jovial track was initially released as a B-side on the 1999 vinyl single of “Montana” – a collectible die-cut record in the shape of the USA.
Linnell has long been known for his surreal lyricism and absurdist alt-rock. The singer-songwriter brought both of these qualities—plus a myriad of melodic styles—to his solo debut, State Songs. First released in 1994 as a five-song EP, Linnell expanded the collection five years later, turning it into a high-spirited, 16-track tour across America.
In the album’s original press materials, Linnell offered a bit of background about State Songs’ theme: “I decided to start writing songs with the name of the states as a way of avoiding having to come up with song titles. I suddenly had fifty song titles and I could write fifty songs based on that.” He added, “One other reason I was interested in writing state anthems is because I like the style they usually employ…Sort of archaic and kind of square.”
The inventive State Songs is anything but square. In tracks like “New Hampshire,” “Utah,” “Mississippi,” and “The Songs of the 50 States,” Linnell employs a spectrum of instrumentation, including a vintage carousel organ, an accordion, an alto saxophone, and even a DustBuster.
In each offbeat anthem, Linnell delivers amusing fictional tales and dubious facts. For instance, did you know that Montana once was a leg and that Iowa is actually a witch? Who knew music could be so informative?
Buy or stream John Linnell’s expanded edition of State Songs.
State Songs Tracklist:
2. The Songs Of The Fifty States
3. West Virginia
4. South Carolina
15. New Hampshire
17. Louisiana (Bonus)
Fri, 14 May 2021 19:31:54 +0000
To celebrate the 110th anniversary of the birth of Bernard Herrmann, one of the most original and distinctive composers to work in film, a 7 CD box set of his complete film score recordings for Decca’s Phase 4 Stereo imprint will be released on 25 June 2021. The Film Scores On Phase 4, a collection of seven original albums recorded between 1968 and 1975, remastered from the original analogue master tapes, provides an overview of Bernard Herrmann’s multifaceted musicodramatic genius and his distinctive style.
Features Bernard Herrmann’s classic scores
The Film Scores On Phase 4 features Bernard Herrmann’s classic scores for the Hitchcock films Psycho, Vertigo, North by Northwest and other thrillers. His scores from great classic films including Citizen Kane, Jane Eyre, the Academy Award-winning The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and the sci-fi and fantasy classics Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts plus his score for the 1975 film Obsession are also included. Two of the albums in this collection, Great Shakespearean Films and Great British Film Music provide a showcase for the innovative programming that characterized Bernard Herrmann’s career as a concert conductor.
Bernard Herrmann (“Benny” to his friends) was born in New York City on 29 June 1911 and grew up in a cultured household steeped in music, literature, and the arts. After studying composition at the Juilliard School and at New York University, Herrmann joined CBS radio in 1934 as a staff composer and conductor. During the 1930s he collaborated with the actor and director Orson Welles on numerous radio shows (including the notorious 1938 The War of the Worlds broadcast) and was the obvious choice to score Welles’ film debut, Citizen Kane, which launched his career in film music.
One of the most original and distinctive film composers
Bernard Herrmann was a prolific film composer who produced some of his most memorable work for Alfred Hitchcock, for whom he wrote nine scores. He remains to this day one of the most original and distinctive composers ever to work in film.
When Bernard Herrmann died of heart failure on Christmas Eve 1975, he had just finished supervising the recording sessions of his score for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Thirty-five years earlier, Herrmann’s career as a film composer had begun with Citizen Kane. Like the protagonists in these two films that bookended Herrmann’s tumultuous career the temperamental composer was haunted by solitude and melancholy.
Torn between his frustrated ambition to become a successful conductor and opera composer and his true calling to film music, Bernard Herrmann externalized his bitterness by becoming, as described by his colleague David Raksin, a “virtuoso of unspecified anger.” However Herrmann was able to sublimate his inner darkness into some of the most effective and psychologically incisive music ever composed for the screen.
Bernard Herrmann left an extraordinary musical legacy and he is possibly the only composer of his generation to remain a direct influence on contemporary film scoring today. “Film music must supply what the actors cannot say,” he observed. “The music can give to an audience their feelings. It must really convey what the word cannot do.”
CD1 Great Movie Thrillers
Psycho (A Narrative for Orchestra)
Marnie – Prelude & Hunting Scene
North By Northwest – Overture
Vertigo – Prelude – The Nightmare – Scène d’amour
A Portrait of ‘Hitch’ (from The Trouble with Harry)
CD2 Great Film Classics
Jane Eyre (selections)
The Snows of Kilimanjaro – Interlude & The Memory Waltz
Citizen Kane – Overture, Variations, Ragtime & Finale
The Devil and Daniel Webster – Sleigh-Ride
Swing Your Partners
CD3 Fantasy Film World
Music from Journey to the Centre of the Earth
The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad
The Day the Earth Stood Still
CD4 Great Shakespearean Films
Shostakovich: Music from the film Hamlet
Walton: Richard III Prelude
Rósza: Julius Caesar – Suite from the Incidental Music
CD5 Mysterious Film World
Mysterious Island – Suite
Music from Jason and the Argonauts
Music from The Three Worlds of Gulliver
CD6 Great British Film Music
Lambert: Anna Karenina – Suite
Bax: Oliver Twist
Benjamin: Hyde Par Galop from An Ideal Husband
Walton: Escape Me Never
Vaughan Williams: The Invaders from 49th Parallel
Bliss: Things to Come – Suite
CD7 Obsession OST
Bernard Herrmann’s The Film Scores On Phase 4 will be released on 25 June 2021 and can be pre-ordered here.
Fri, 14 May 2021 18:46:07 +0000
Peach Music Festival has announced its 2021 return dates. Set to be held in Scranton, Pennsylvania from July 1 through July 4, this year’s festival start date falls on the 50 year anniversary of At Fillmore East, the live album from its founders the Allman Brothers Band. In celebration, Peach Music Fest will be honoring the project with a tribute set.
Released July 1, 1971, At Fillmore East is a 13-track live album that writer John Lynskey said resulted in the Allman Brothers Band establishing “a near-mythical reputation through its incendiary, marathon concerts.”
At Fillmore East was originally a double LP, recorded over both the Friday and Saturday night’s shows, and captured the Allman Brothers at the peak of their powers. It was the band’s third release in three years and immediately proved successful, making No. 13 on the Billboard charts in July of ‘71, staying on the bestsellers list for almost a year.
The Peach Music Festival will be headlined by Oysterhead, made up of Phish’s Trey Anastasio, Les Claypool, and Stewart Copeland. Other performers include The String Cheese Incident, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and Dark Sea Orchestra who will each be befogging two sets. Single set performers include Nicole Atkins, Ida Mae, Umphrey’s McGee, Moe, Oteil & Friends, Twiddle, Blackberry Smoke, and dozens more.
Jamoie, Warren Haynes, and Oteil Burbridge are all billed to perform, as well as Devon Allman and Duane Betts’ Allman Betts Band. Turkauz will also be performing the Talking Heads’ Remain in Light in full alongside Adrian Belew and Jerry Harrison. The night will be wrapped up with a round of fireworks.
The 2021 Peach festival is a four-day music and camping event on Montage Mountain. For tickets and travel packages, visit the festival’s website.
Tickets are on sale now, visit the festival’s official website for details and the full line-up.
Fri, 14 May 2021 18:34:15 +0000
The Beach Boys were probably the last group on earth expected to start a musical revolution. After all, they had built their renown as clean-living all-American kids delivering harmonized hymns that worshipped surfing, girls, and hot rods – the holy trinity of Californian teenagers in the early 60s – over a rocking backbeat that bore a tangible trace of rock and roller Chuck Berry‘s musical DNA. And yet, in May 1966, the Hawthorne-hailing group – consisting of the Wilson brothers Brian, Carl, and Dennis, together with their cousin Mike Love and family friend Al Jardine – unleashed an audacious sonic experiment they called Pet Sounds. It was a collection of songs that would quickly cause a paradigm shift in pop.
Few pop albums – before or since – have enjoyed the notoriety of Pet Sounds, which for decades has been showered with almost every accolade imaginable and continues to be a high achiever in magazine polls ranking the best pop and rock LPs of all time. It is pop music’s equivalent to what Citizen Kane is to the world of cinema; a universally recognized masterpiece that defined a new era while simultaneously redefining the art form it represented.
Despite its fame, Pet Sounds still remains an unexplored country for some, who may have heard of the album but are unaware of its significance. For the uninitiated, then, this article intends to answer some of the fundamental questions about what is undoubtedly the Beach Boys’ – and possibly pop’s – greatest album.
Check out the 50th-anniversary edition of Pet Sounds here.
Why is Pet Sounds so important?
Quite simply, Pet Sounds ushered in a new approach to album making that revolutionized popular music. It was shaped by the musical sensibilities of songwriter/producer Brian Wilson, whose collection of carefully crafted pocket pop symphonies was unlike anything the Beach Boys – or any band for that matter – had done before. It brought about seismic changes to the landscape of pop music with its unusual sonics, novel textures and structural innovations.
Pet Sounds didn’t follow the format of conventional pop albums of the day; It wasn’t merely a collection of disparate songs that combined a couple of hit singles with reheated covers, as was the norm in the mid-’60s; rather. It was conceived as a coherent work of art where every song – even every note – counted. Nothing was inconsequential; even the album’s two instrumental tracks, “Let’s Go Away For A While” and “Pet Sounds,” were integral to the record’s narrative arc.
Where were The Beach Boys in their career at the time?
Pet Sounds was the band’s 12th album in the space of five, hectic, and intensely productive, years. It followed in the wake of Beach Boys Party!, the group’s 1965 album of covers that included their memorable hit version of doo-wop group The Regents’ “Barbara Ann.” That particular record’s sound was minimalist in comparison with the grandiose sonic sculptures of Pet Sounds, which signaled a total musical transformation of a group who previously seemed solely preoccupied with the idea of having “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
What’s the concept behind the album?
“If you take the Pet Sounds album as a collection of art pieces, each designed to stand alone, yet which belong together, you’ll see what I was aiming at,” said Brian Wilson in 2010. Pet Sounds is cited as an example of one of pop/rock’s first bona fide concept albums because of its unity of purpose and mood as well as the way its 13 songs interconnect to form a coherent narrative. Its themes range from the hopeful idealism of young love (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”) and the transient nature of romance (“Here Today”) to alienation (“I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”) and deeper ruminations on life (“I Know There’s An Answer”).
How and when did the album get written?
Brian Wilson began writing the material for the album alongside a new collaborator, lyricist Tony Asher, when the rest of The Beach Boys were performing in Japan and Hawaii in January 1966. (Wilson, a nervous flyer, had quit touring with the band a year earlier). One of the tracks that ended up on the album – “Sloop John B.,” an adaptation of a traditional Bahamian folk song – was already in the can, cut in 1965, but the remaining 12 songs were recorded at three Hollywood studios (United Western Recorders, Gold Star Studios, and Sunset Sound Recorders) between January 18 and April 13, 1966, with Chuck Blitz engineering.
What influences shaped the album?
Producer Phil Spector, famed for his signature “wall of sound” approach to making records, had a profound impact on Brian Wilson’s production style and directly influenced Pet Sounds‘ multi-layered recording technique as well as its cavernous reverb effects. Another, perhaps bigger, influence on Pet Sounds was The Beatles’ groundbreaking Rubber Soul album. Wilson heard it in late 1965, and later described it in his autobiography, I Am Brian Wilson, as “probably the greatest record ever…where everything flows together and everything works.” Ultimately, however, Pet Sounds transcended its influences.
What does Pet Sounds sound like?
Pet Sounds reframed the Beach Boys’ most distinctive musical signature – their complex, layered vocal harmonies – against a widescreen musical backdrop where elements from pop, classical music, folk, psychedelia, easy listening, and jazz intermingled. Its instrumentation was kaleidoscopic; ranging from pounding classical timpani drums and tinkling bicycle bells to baroque harpsichords, growling bass harmonicas, and eerie noises from a theremin-like electronic device. Some commentators dubbed it chamber pop. Brian Wilson once described it as “chapel rock.” Wilson’s unique choice of instrumentation resulted in uncommon textures as well as peculiar sounds; and, like his idol, Phil Spector, he used the recording studio as if it was a musical instrument.
Although Pet Sounds included two upbeat songs “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Sloop John B.” – both released as singles and viewed as quintessential Beach Boys’ songs – the album’s mood was mostly introspective; and that fact was reflected in its mostly somber tone colors, which are especially evident on the melancholy slow ballads “You Still Believe In Me,” “Don’t Talk (Put Your On My Shoulder),” and “Caroline (No).”
Which musicians contributed to Pet Sounds besides The Beach Boys?
In terms of instrumentation, The Beach Boys contributed less to Pet Sounds than any of their previous albums. Although their intricate, soaring vocal harmonies were ever-present, the chugging electric guitars that had defined some of their earlier classics were notably absent. Under Brian Wilson’s direction, the band took a back seat to The Wrecking Crew, an elite cadre of Hollywood-based session musicians who were extremely versatile and had famously been producer Phil Spector’s house band in the early 60s. They included drummers Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon; electric bassist Carol Kaye; guitarists Glen Campbell, Barney Kessell and Billy Strange; and saxophonists Jim Horn and Plas Johnson.
What did the other Beach Boys contribute to Pet Sounds?
Understandably, Brian Wilson has received much of the acclaim over the years because it was his singular artistic vision that brought Pet Sounds to life. That said, the contributions of the rest of the band shouldn’t be overlooked. Besides contributing The Beach Boys’ trademark golden harmonies, some of them also sang lead vocals: Carl Wilson fronted the heavenly “God Only Knows,” the album’s most famous and celebrated song, while Mike Love sang lead on “Here Today” and shared lead vocals with both Brian Wilson (on “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “That’s Not Me”) and Al Jardine (on “I Know There’s An Answer”). Love also received writing credits on three songs: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “I’m Waiting For The Day,” and “I Know There’s An Answer.”
How did the album get its title?
According to Brian Wilson, the group had decided to call the album Pet Sounds before they visited San Diego Zoo for the cover photoshoot. He says the title was inspired by three things; his two dogs, whose barks were recorded and used as effects at the end of “Caroline (No)”; Phil Spector (whose initials were the same as Pet Sounds); and the idea that the music on the album was very personal and featured his “pet” (as in favorite) sounds.
Why was it mixed in mono?
As a youngster, Brian Wilson took a blow to the head from a child wielding a lead pipe. It resulted in 98% deafness in his right ear. As a consequence, Wilson was unable to process sounds in stereo, which accounts for Pet Sounds being mixed and released in a monaural configuration. Also, the album’s monophonic presentation was not deemed unusual when it was released in May 1966. Stereo wasn’t yet the norm in home audio.
How was the album received?
The Beach Boys’ and Capitol Records initially considered the album a commercial disappointment; all but two of the group’s previous eleven LPs had enjoyed higher chart positions than Pet Sounds, which stalled at No. 10 in the US albums rankings.
Critical reactions were mixed. Some rock and pop writers were nonplussed by Pet Sounds while others declared it a masterwork. Contemporary musicians, though, seemed to embrace the album wholeheartedly. The Beatles, in particular, were smitten and inspired by Pet Sounds’ charms. “Lennon and McCartney were blown away,” Brian Wilson later recalled.
In what direction did the Beach Boys’ career go after Pet Sounds?
Though it’s now considered the pinnacle of their work, Pet Sounds heralded the beginning of the band’s commercial decline. Even so, buoyed by the album’s artistic achievement, Brian Wilson had plans for a grandiose follow-up called Smile, which was preceded by a taster single “Good Vibrations” in late 1966. Disagreements, however, between band members combined with legal wrangles with Capitol Records and Wilson’s deteriorating mental health led to the album being shelved. In its stead came a watered-down substitute LP, Smiley Smile, whose deliberate lo-fi production values were the antithesis of Pet Sounds‘ sonic grandeur.
What has the album’s wider impact and legacy been?
Pet Sounds redefined what pop music was and more importantly, showed what it could aspire to be; that there should be no barriers or limits to musical self-expression. As soon as it was released, it fuelled The Beatles’ ambition to reach new creative heights in the recording studio. What resulted was another iconic pop album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But the influence of Brian Wilson’s ambitious song cycle extended far beyond the Fab Four, spanning genres and decades. It sowed the seeds for art-rock, prog-rock and even, some contend, punk. Everyone from David Bowie and Queen to R.E.M., Radiohead and Weezer have all been touched by Pet Sounds‘ innovations.
Why is Pet Sounds still relevant?
Once far ahead of its time, the album’s innovations have since become the norm in pop and rock. Nevertheless, it continues to inspire musicians in the 21st century not just because of its lush beauty, but also because it still shows that pop music doesn’t have to be formulaic or crassly commercial to resonate deeply with millions of people. The fact that it was groundbreaking without sacrificing accessibility means that Pet Sounds remains a musical touchstone for progressive-minded musicians today.
The 50th-anniversary edition of Pet Sounds can be bought here.
Fri, 14 May 2021 17:48:47 +0000
Founded in 1961 by Creed Taylor, Impulse! Records is regarded as one of the most important and iconic record labels in jazz. Its history is rich with pioneering musicians who refused to sit still, pushing musical boundaries and creating a discography that’s the equal of any other major jazz record label.
One man looms large in Impulse! Records’ history: John Coltrane. A musical seeker who played saxophone and flute, and recorded for Prestige, Blue Note, and Atlantic before landing at Impulse! in 1961, Coltrane evolved into a paradigm-busting pathfinder who became not only the label’s talisman but also, both musically and spiritually, its guiding light. Indeed, such was his influence on the company’s mindset and raison d’être that Impulse! Records was often referred to as “the house that Trane built.”
Listen to the Impulse Records: Music, Message and the Moment box set here.
“The New Wave Of Jazz Is On Impulse!”
Certainly, Coltrane, who stayed with Impulse! until his death in 1967, was hugely influential and his presence was a key factor in attracting some of the leading protagonists of jazz’s avant-garde movement (namely Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Michael White, and Alice Coltrane) to join the roster of what was, in essence, a major label. And yet if you examine the Impulse! Records story in finer detail, you’ll find that, despite its forward-looking motto, “The New Wave Of Jazz Is On Impulse!”, it was a record label that also honored the idiom’s old guard.
Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Earl Hines, Benny Carter, and Lionel Hampton all recorded for Impulse! Records, a fact that torpedoes the notion that the label favored only jazz revolutionaries. Despite its seeming inclinations towards the “new thing,” Impulse! wasn’t biased towards any particular style of jazz, but rather sought to bring the young upstarts and old masters together to present their respective talents in the best possible way. Or, as an advertisement the label took out in Billboard, in 1961, stated: “Dedicated To Presenting The Greats In A Showcase Of Sonic Perfection!!”
Different from other jazz labels
From the outset, Impulse! Records was different from other jazz labels. Unlike, say, Blue Note or Prestige, it didn’t evolve gradually over time but emerged fully-formed and ready to run. Its albums, distinguished by a visually striking orange, black, and white color scheme, looked different as well. They were classy, upmarket, and perfectly complimented the music’s impeccable sound quality.
For the label’s founder, Creed Taylor, how the music was packaged and presented was an important component in the art of record-making, as he told this writer in 2008: “The packaging was very distinctive – it was double-fold, laminated jackets. After people heard the music on the radio, it was very easy to identify when they went into the record store because Impulse! had the best-looking covers.”
Within a short space of time, Impulse! became seen as a serious rival to long-established specialist jazz labels such as Blue Note, Prestige, and Riverside. Unlike those companies, however, it was a newly-created division of a well-heeled major label where there were fewer financial constrictions. Even so, from the very beginning, Impulse! Records was driven by an indie label mentality. It could be likened, then, to Blue Note on steroids, though where Alfred Lion’s iconic company had an aura of cool, Impulse! emanated a sense of mystique and – as it progressed – otherworldliness. From its inception in 1961 until it ceased operations in 1977, Impulse! Records was the undisputed standard-bearer for the most cutting-edge sounds in jazz.
Laying the foundations: the early years
Rewinding back to 1961: Impulse! was born when the New York-based company ABC/Paramount – a major record label chiefly known for producing pop acts such as Paul Anka, Danny And The Juniors, and Frankie Avalon in the late 50s – sought to venture more deeply into the jazz market. Creed Taylor joined ABC/Paramount in the company’s inaugural year, 1955, heading up its jazz department, which he aimed to expand. He became renowned for dreaming up original and savvy concepts to help sell jazz to the wider public, finding success in 1957 with the bebop-influenced vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks And Ross, whose groundbreaking album, Sing A Song Of Basie, used layered, multi-tracked voices to recreate vocalese versions of Count Basie tunes. In fact, it was Taylor’s success at generating sales in the jazz field – combined with the label’s accumulated wealth from its chart successes in the pop singles market – that led his bosses at ABC/Paramount to green-light the launch of a separate jazz division in 1961.
Despite the punchy immediacy of the label’s eventual name, Impulse! Records gestated in Taylor’s mind for a year or so before it launched. The idea for creating a label separate from, but affiliated with, ABC/Paramount began to gain more traction when Taylor added designer Fran Scott – then the wife of noted jazz clarinetist Tony Scott – to his team, as well as photographer Pete Turner, whose striking images would adorn ABC/Paramount album covers under the producer’s supervision.
“There would be no backing away”
One album in particular, The Sound Of New York, released in 1959 by composer Kenyon Hopkins, epitomized Creed Taylor’s production values and anticipated what would become standard practice at Impulse! two years later. It boasted a deluxe gatefold sleeve complete with liner notes and Creed Taylor’s signature in bold black ink. It would become his calling card. “I wanted to put my stamp on something that I did, so there would be no backing away,” the producer said in 2008. “Unless I finished something and made it the way I envisioned it from the beginning, I wouldn’t put it out. But if I did put it out, I was going to put my stamp on it. It’s like, why do you put “Coca-Cola” on Coca-Cola bottles? It’s a trademark.”
Though he didn’t know it at that point, The Sound Of New York was a blueprint for the big-budget concepts that Taylor would explore during his tenure with Impulse! He wanted to combine high aesthetic values with quality jazz played by the music’s leading musicians, and, in 1961, he was able to realize that dream when he persuaded ABC/Paramount’s money men to bankroll a new jazz label.
Taylor had already come up with a name for the new enterprise – Impulse! – and its pièce de résistance was the exclamation mark at the end of the word, used to connote spontaneity and impetus. The idea to employ an exclamation mark came from designer Fran Scott, who ingeniously also came up with the label’s orange-and-black color scheme and was behind the glossy, high-quality covers. She also favored using talented photographers for the album covers, such as Pete Turner and Roy DeCarava, but by the time Impulse! Records launched, Scott had left the company to tour with her husband (her place was taken by Margo Guryan, who continued to adhere to the same design concepts).
The birth of Impulse! Records
The birth of Impulse! Records, in the spring of 1961, was accompanied by a clever marketing slogan devised by Taylor – “The New Wave Of Jazz Is On Impulse!” – and the company’s launch coincided with the arrival at ABC/Paramount of R&B maven Ray Charles.
After a fertile stint at Atlantic Records, which had transformed the Georgia-born musician into a big star, Charles was lured to his new recording home in November 1959 by the promise of a big advance and, more importantly, the prospect of artistic independence (which involved having his own label, Tangerine). He recorded three albums for ABC/Paramount in 1960 but his fourth, Genius + Soul = Jazz, for which Creed Taylor put Charles in the studio with arranger Quincy Jones and members of Count Basie’s big band, proudly bore the Impulse! logo. Aided by the chart success of the album’s single “One Mint Julep,” Genius + Soul = Jazz gave Impulse! some serious sales action and helped to establish the record label as a brand as well as furthering its recognition with the wider public.
Genius + Soul = Jazz was the second album in a batch of four titles released to announce the launch of Impulse! Records. The first was The Great Kai And JJ by trombone duo Kai Winding and JJ Johnson, which, for a label that became synonymous with cutting-edge jazz expression in the 60s, was a decidedly conservative, if tasteful, affair. The same can be said of the third offering on Impulse!, a solo project by Winding called The Incredible Kai Winding Trombones. There was, however, a more progressive bent evident on the fourth album released by Impulse!, an orchestral project by arranger/conductor Gil Evans, called Out Of The Cool.
All four projects were recorded in late 1960 at the same facility: Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. It was owned and run by optometrist-turned-recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who was considered a sonic genius and was responsible for recording most of the sessions for the Blue Note and Prestige labels. “He was making the best-sounding records that I could ever dream of at that point,” Taylor said in 2008, reflecting on his reliance on Van Gelder and his equipment.
Modern, cool, and sophisticated
Despite the aural fireworks of Ray Charles’ Genius + Soul = Jazz, Impulse! Records hadn’t really announced itself with all guns blazing, but when Taylor pulled Oliver Nelson’s The Blues And The Abstract Truth out of his hat in the summer of 1961, people were impressed. Nelson was an alto saxophonist, composer, and arranger whom Taylor teamed with a sextet that included rising jazz stars Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard, and Bill Evans. The resulting album – modern, cool, and sophisticated – was stunning, particularly the opening cut, “Stolen Moments.”
Impulse! Records was up and flying, and its sixth album, the final one helmed by Taylor, would raise the label’s profile even higher. It was called Africa/Brass and was the label’s first release by saxophonist John Coltrane, whom Taylor had brought to the label after buying out his Atlantic contract.
By the time Africa/Brass, which showcased Coltrane’s quartet augmented by a larger ensemble, was in the shops in September 1961, Creed Taylor was no longer working for Impulse! He’d been headhunted by Verve, which had begun as an independent label established by Norman Granz in 1956 only to be sold to MGM in 1961.
A “musical mega nova”: the Bob Thiele era
The loss of Taylor was great, but not catastrophic. In his place came Bob Thiele, a different kind of producer who was seven years older than Taylor and had been in the music business for longer. Having owned his own label, Signature, in the 40s, and worked for Decca (he signed Buddy Holly to their Brunswick imprint), Thiele was vastly experienced. He was already working for ABC in 1961, having produced pop acts Frankie Laine and Della Reese; a self-proclaimed “jazz freak,” Thiele couldn’t turn down the chance to run Impulse!
His first project at the helm of Impulse! Records was John Coltrane’s “Live” At The Village Vanguard album. The recording, captured at the historic New York jazz venue, was the saxophonist’s most exploratory album at that point, and Thiele described it as a “musical mega nova”: the jazz equivalent of the big bang.
Though at first unnerved by the intensity of Coltrane’s music, Thiele experienced something akin to an epiphany hearing the saxophonist live and began to understand where Coltrane was coming from. The two became unlikely friends and formed a musical alliance based on trust. Thiele realized Coltrane’s profound importance to jazz – and to Impulse! – and made him the lynchpin of the label as it moved forward in the 60s. He would oversee the saxophonist’s masterpiece, A Love Supreme, recorded in 1964, which remains the label’s biggest-selling album of all time.
Under Bob Thiele’s stewardship, Impulse! Records blossomed from 1962 onwards with a tremendously varied catalogue of releases. The label issued albums by young rising stars such as pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones – who were both important members of Coltrane’s quartet – along with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, but also gave established musicians such as Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Max Roach, Roy Haynes, and Shelly Manne opportunities to make albums. They didn’t leave out jazz’s old guard, either, as albums by Duke Ellington (who collaborated with Coltrane on the album Duke Ellington And John Coltrane), Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Hodges, and Earl Hines all attested. Thiele signed singers to Impulse!, too, exemplified by the presence of Freda Payne (six years before she scored a global pop hit with “Band Of Gold”), Lorez Alexandria, Johnny Hartman, and Jackie Paris.
Free jazz and the rise of the avant-garde
Such was Coltrane’s profound influence on the label that his death, aged 40, from liver cancer, in 1967, might have been a threat to a lesser label, but Impulse! Records had a strong roster of talent willing to follow in the saxophonist’s footsteps and push the boundaries of jazz even further. Among the more radical musicians signed by Thiele was Archie Shepp. The saxophonist initially spent six years with Impulse!, from 1964-1969, during which time he released 11 very varied albums. His music grew more politicized as the decade wore on, blending avant-garde flavors with soul, funk, and African influences (Shepp would return for a second stint at Impulse! in the early 70s).
Another important signing was free jazz maven Albert Ayler, who recorded five albums for Impulse! between 1966 and 1969. Influenced by gospel hymns and marching bands, Ayler’s music was deeply spiritual but not as truly cosmic, perhaps, in its scope as the recordings made for Impulse! by Pharoah Sanders, a former Coltrane sideman, who made his debut for the label with the album, Tauhid, in 1967.
Sanders produced long, meditative soundscapes in which eerie, sometimes screaming and squawking saxophone lines contrasted with bell-laden laidback grooves driven by African percussion. Like Archie Shepp, Sanders created a unique sound that reflected his own life and the turbulent, uncertain times he lived in. Those times were characterized by a revolutionary fervor that could be felt in the very DNA of Impulse!’s recordings as the 70s dawned. It was at that point that the label signed Ornette Coleman and released two live albums (Ornette At 12 and Crisis) by the Texas saxophonist whose music had sounded the death knell for bebop when he released his free jazz manifesto, The Shape Of Jazz To Come, in 1959.
Rise of the avant-garde: Impulse! in the 70s
By then, Impulse! Records – whose parent company, ABC, had moved from New York to Los Angeles – focused more on recording avant-garde music, despite the fact that two new subgenres of jazz, fusion, and jazz-rock, were beginning to have a big commercial impact in the wake of Miles Davis’ 1970 game-changer, Bitches Brew, which plugged jazz into the mains socket. At that point, however, Bob Thiele had left to set up his own label, Flying Dutchman, leaving producer Ed Michel with the responsibility of keeping Impulse! afloat.
Michel had inherited a strong roster of talent. The label’s stalwarts, Shepp and Sanders, continued to record for Impulse! – one of Shepp’s most important records was 1972’s protest album Attica Blues – as did pianist Ahmad Jamal, and they were joined in the early 70s by horn men Gato Barbieri, Marion Brown, and Sam Rivers, plus rising piano star Keith Jarrett. The label also continued to explore a cache of previously unissued Coltrane recordings with regular archival album releases.
But a more significant addition to the label’s roster was John Coltrane’s wife, Alice. Her debut for Impulse!, 1968’s Cosmic Music, combined some of her husband’s recordings (overdubbed with strings) with her own, but thereafter Alice emerged from beneath John’s shadow, creating deeply spiritual music that married jazz with Eastern mysticism. Alice has earlier replaced McCoy Tyner on piano in Coltrane’s quartet, but now she turned to the harp and electric organ as her two main instruments on her solo albums, which ranged from intimate small-group recordings (1968’s A Monastic Trio) to epic, orchestral works (1972’s World Galaxy).
Alice Coltrane’s last release for Impulse! was a double-album compilation, Reflections On Creation & Space: A Five Year View, released in 1973, but the label continued to fly the flag for cutting-edge jazz.
Impulse! Records enters the mainstream
Though the spirit of adventure and devotion to bringing its artists’ musical vision to life was unchanged, by the mid-70s, Impulse! releases were no longer presented in gatefold sleeves. Also, the iconic orange-and-black color scheme had been dispensed with and the Impulse! logo redesigned. In 1975, when ABC’s staff were subject to a complete overhaul in the name of streamlining, Ed Michel left the label. He was replaced by Edmond Edwards, who, ironically, had replaced Creed Taylor at Verve in 1967, and had also helmed John Coltrane’s debut Prestige album ten years before that.
Edwards didn’t have the substantial budgets of Taylor, Thiele, and Michel, and, as a result, Impulse!’s release schedule slowed down. He also began to focus on more mainstream jazz. Edwards signed hard bop trumpeter Blue Mitchell, along with soul-jazz saxophonist John Handy, pianist/singer Les McCann and vocalists Bobby Bland and Gloria Lynne, plus blues legend BB King. In doing so, he created a new identity for the company. When Edwards’ two-year contract expired in 1977, however, ABC was bought by MCA, and Impulse! was mothballed. It was, however, revived in 1986 as an imprint of MCA, resulting in several new albums (by Michael Brecker and Henry Butler) as well as reissues of classic catalogue titles.
Four years later, MCA acquired jazz indie GRP, ostensibly a smooth jazz fusion label founded by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen in 1978, which was given the responsibility for looking after the Impulse! catalogue. By the mid-90s, GRP was not only reissuing classic titles from Impulse!’s discography – he also decided to reactivate the label by signing McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver, and rising jazz star Diana Krall to record new albums which bore the famous orange-and-black designs.
Impulse! in the 21st Century
In 2000, MCA – and by association, its imprints GRP and Impulse! – changed ownership in a corporate merger that saw it assigned to Verve under the umbrella of Universal Music Group. Since then, a host of classic Impulse! albums have been reissued on both CD and vinyl. In addition, there have been several special archival releases, the most remarkable of which was the discovery of a previously unheard Coltrane studio album recorded in 1963 and which was released in 2018 as Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album.
Now Impulse! is a fully active label again, and those on its current roster include Sons Of Kemet and The Comet Is Coming, two very contrasting bands led by acclaimed UK reed man Shabaka Hutchings. Also signed to the label are American pianist Sullivan Fortner, Spanish singer and trumpeter Andrea Motis, and 91-year-old saxophonist Lee Konitz.
Decades after its inception, Impulse! Records is still a force to be reckoned with. It not only has a rich history, but also, if its current talents are anything to go by, there’s a bright future in store. While John Coltrane was undoubtedly a central character in Impulse! Records’ history, he was one of many musicians that have helped to shape the label’s sonic identity and steer its destiny through six decades of change.
In its initial incarnation, Impulse! Records blended an indie-style hipness and cool sense of street cred with substantial major-label investment. It was able to balance the books and please the accountants by refusing to do the obvious and sacrifice artistic expression for commercial gain. Adhering to its core values the label was true to the music and served the artist.
Now, Impulse! Records’ revered and much-loved orange-and-black design scheme has returned – and so has its original logo. Impulse! is definitely back. But then it’s never really been away, has it?
Buy the Impulse Records: Music, Message and the Moment box set here.
Fri, 14 May 2021 17:38:05 +0000
Legend is an overused term in music, and the world in general, but Jack Bruce was a genuine legend.
Jack, christened John, was born on May 14, 1943, in Scotland. He took to music early and won a scholarship to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. While attending the college he played in Jim McHarg’s Scotsville Jazzband and, when the disapproving college found out, they said, “You either stop, or leave college. So I left college,” remembered Jack many years later.
Listen to the best of Jack Bruce on Spotify.
Bruce moved to London and in 1962, he joined Blues Incorporated, led by Alexis Korner, playing the upright bass. The band also included organist Graham Bond, saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith and drummer Ginger Baker. In 1963 Bruce, Baker, and Bond formed the Graham Bond Quartet with guitarist John McLaughlin.
Moving from the upright bass to the electric bass, he continued in the Bond band when Heckstall-Smith joined after McLaughlin left. After two unsuccessful albums, Bruce left to join John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, which featured guitarist Eric Clapton. After this brief stint with Mayall, he joined Manfred Mann in 1966, and played on their No.1 hit, “Pretty Flamingo” as well as playing on The Scaffold’s “Lily the Pink.”
In July 1966 Bruce, Clapton, and Baker formed Cream, with the band going on to become the template for just about every hard rock group that followed in their wake. Their debut album Fresh Cream included “NSU,” written by Bruce and also the B-side of the single with “I Feel Free,” which made No. 11 on the UK charts; it was co-written by Jack and Pete Brown.
Cream’s second album, Disraeli Gears released in 1967 includes “Sunshine of Your Love,” which Bruce co-wrote, while Wheels of Fire opened with the fabulous “White Room,” written and sung by Jack. He did the same on four other tracks on the album. Jack Bruce’s singing gave Cream a distinctive vocal sound, and his undoubted musicality also elevated them from the potential trap of a more strictly blues-based format that would have made them so much less interesting, even with their undoubted individual brilliance as musicians.
When Cream split up in August 1968, Jack secured a solo contract with Polydor Records and his first release was the epic Songs for a Tailor, in September 1969. It featured Heckstall-Smith, George Harrison, and drummer Jon Hiseman and reached No. 6 on the UK album chart. Bruce then joined the jazz fusion group Lifetime, with drummer Tony Williams, guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young, and recorded Turn It Over.
Before Cream split, Bruce recorded an acoustic free jazz album with McLaughlin, Heckstall-Smith, and Hiseman that was issued in 1970 as Jack’s second solo album, Things We Like; it has been sampled by hip-hop artists in more recent years. Jack’s third solo album Harmony Row, which he said was his favorite, was not as commercially successful as Songs for a Tailor, but is full of great music.
In 1972, Jack formed, West, Bruce & Laing, who featured guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing, who had previously been in the band Mountain. West, Bruce & Laing produced two studio albums, Why Dontcha and Whatever Turns You On, and one live set, Live ‘n’ Kickin‘. During this time he played bass on Lou Reed’s Berlin, featuring on all but two tracks.
In 1974, WB&L broke up and Jack released his fourth solo album, Out of the Storm. A 1975 tour featured former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor and jazz keyboard player Carla Bley. In 1977, Bruce formed a new band with drummer Simon Phillips and keyboardist Tony Hymas. Then in 1979, he toured with members of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, reuniting him with John McLaughlin in a line-up that also included drummer Billy Cobham.
As the 1970s came to an end Jack played sessions for, among others, Cozy Powell and Jon Anderson, before forming Jack Bruce & Friends in 1980; the band included Billy Cobham, guitarist ‘Clem’ Clempson and keyboardist/guitarist David Sancious. They released the album I’ve Always Wanted to Do This and Jack also played with Rolling Stones sideman Ian Stewart’s band, Rocket 88. He also recorded with Soft Machine on their Land of Cockayne in 1981, and collaborated with guitarist Robin Trower, releasing two power trio albums, BLT and Truce.
Various other projects through the remainder of the 1980s saw Jack play everything from jazz, rock, and world music, to re-recording “I Feel Free” for a car commercial; it is Jack’s voice that makes the song so distinctive and enduring.
In 1989, he began working with Ginger Baker again and released another solo album, A Question of Time. A few years later Bruce, Baker, and Gary Moore formed the power trio BBM, and released the impressive album, Around the Next Dream, which made No.9 on the UK chart. In 1995, Jack released another solo album, Monkjack, on which he featured on piano and vocals, accompanied by Funkadelic organist Bernie Worrell.
In 1997 Jack toured as a member of Ringo Starr‘s All-Starr Band, which also featured Peter Frampton on guitar. At the gig in Denver, Colorado the band was joined on stage by Baker, and he, Bruce, and Frampton played a short set of Cream classics. Jack stayed with Ringo’s band until 2000 and, the following year, had success with a new band featuring Worrell, Vernon Reid of Living Colour on guitar, and Kip Hanrahan’s three-piece Latin rhythm section. Their album Shadows in the Air included a reunion with Eric Clapton on a version of “Sunshine of Your Love.”
In the summer of 2003, Jack was diagnosed with liver cancer and in September that year, he had a liver transplant that almost proved fatal. In May 2005, he reunited with Clapton and Baker for a series of Cream concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall and New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Jack’s love of jazz and all forms of music also saw him play live with Gary Moore and drummer Gary Husband at the Dick Heckstall-Smith tribute concert in London. In 2007, he made a brief concert appearance, opening a new rehearsal hall named in his honor at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
In July 2008 as part of the Hippiefest Tour, Jack was supported by members of the late Who bassist’s John Entwistle Band and he later headlined a tribute concert to “The Ox.” Later that year, he recorded a concert in England with the BBC Big Band, at which they played big band arrangements of his classic songs. Along with guitarist Vernon Reid, drummer Cindy Blackman and organist John Medeski, Jack played a series of Blue Note Club tribute concerts to the Tony Williams Lifetime in Japan.
In 2009, Bruce performed at the 50th anniversary of Ronnie Scott’s Club and the following year published an autobiography. In 2011, Jack became only the third recipient of the International Bassist Award, a lifetime achievement award for bassists, after Jaco Pastorius and Nathan Watts. Larry Hartke, co-founder of Hartke Systems, manufacturers of bass guitar amplifiers and speaker cabinets, presented the award. “Simply put, Jack Bruce is the reason I became interested in the bass,” he said. “Jack changed the role of bass in music and made playing the instrument look like fun.”
In 2011 the Lifetime Tribute Band, featuring Jack, Vernon Reid, Cindy Blackman, and John Medeski reformed to play ten shows in North America. They renamed themselves Spectrum Road, after a track on 1969’s first Lifetime album Emergency, and recorded a new album.
2012 saw Bruce playing in Cuba, with guitarist Phil Manzanera, supporting the mambo band of Augusto Enriquez. In March 2014 Bruce released a new studio album Silver Rails, his first solo studio album in over a decade. It features contributions from Jack’s longtime lyricist collaborator Pete Brown, Kip Hanrahan, and Jack’s wife Margrit Seyffer, as well as Robin Trower, Cindy Blackman, Phil Manzanera, Uli Jon Roth, John Medeski, and Bernie Marsden. Bruce’s son Malcolm Bruce pre-produced the album and played guitar on several tracks and Bruce’s daughter Aruba Red was featured on “Hidden Cities,” singing backing vocals. Jack’s final studio album, the impressive Silver Rails, was released in 2014.
Jack Bruce’s life was one of ups as well as downs, of fame beyond most of our wildest imagination. But his life was essentially one of playing music that he loved. He cannot be pigeonholed or typecast: such were his musical abilities that he could play just about any style of music he chose, and he chose to play many different styles.
He will be remembered for much, but for many, it will be that haunting voice that sings on the classic Cream recording.
In the white room with black curtains near the station
Blackroof country, no gold pavements, tired starlings
Silver horses ran down moonbeams in your dark eyes
Dawnlight smiles on you leaving, my contentment
I’ll wait in this place where the sun never shines
Play it now, and remember Jack Bruce for the joy that he gave us.
BBC Sessions can be found on a 2LP deluxe vinyl edition.
Fri, 14 May 2021 17:36:41 +0000
Unlike most of the arena-sized metal acts obliterated by grunge, Def Leppard retained their relevance throughout the 90s. Though pieced together while they mourned their fallen comrade, Steve Clarke, 1992’s Adrenalize rewarded them with a third consecutive multi-platinum album, and its 1996 follow-up, Slang, again showed they had the belief and courage required to move with the times.
Listen to Slang right now.
In fairness, Joe Elliott and co would be the first to acknowledge that things had changed since they unleashed their anthemic signature sound in the 80s. When Slang was first issued by Mercury, on May 14, 1996, Oasis’ triumphant two-night stand at Knebworth was only months away in the UK, and Britpop was at its height. In the US, meanwhile, a new breed of alt.rock superstars were releasing landmark titles such as The Smashing Pumpkins’ ambitious Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, Rage Against The Machine’s politically-charged Evil Empire, and Marilyn Manson’s controversial Antichrist Superstar.
To their credit, Leppard wholeheartedly braved the winds of change. Eschewing their tried and tested production team of Mutt Lange and Mike Shipley, the Yorkshire stalwarts hooked up with a new producer, Peter Woodroffe, and decamped to Spanish resort Marbella where they undertook intensive, sun-soaked rehearsals and vowed to make a more stripped-back, organic-sounding record.
“We knew we couldn’t make a typical Def Leppard album in the mid-90s,” guitarist Vivian Campbell later told Classic Rock. “Grunge was very much happening and our stuff was anathema at the time… [With Slang] we thought, Let’s keep it raw… It gave us the chance to grow up a little.”
Accordingly, Leppard experimented with new sounds and textures, while Rick Allen swapped his electronic drums for an acoustic kit for the first time since his pre-Hysteria accident. The band then duly rehearsed and recorded their new songs as a unit in the studio instead of piecing their parts together individually, as they had done when making Hysteria and Adrenalize.
Entitled Slang, the record Leppard emerged with arguably remains the most adventurous in their canon. Seemingly acknowledging this on the edgy “Work It Out,” Joe Elliott sings, “We show the world a brand new face/It’s taken us all this time,” while his troops fervently explored diverse new territory on songs ranging from “Turns To Dust”’s loops, beats, and pungent Eastern promise, to the title track’s skinny, sweaty Chili Peppers-esque funk.
Elsewhere, however, the band returned to more familiar ground. The crunching opening song, “Truth?,” and the incendiary “Gift Of Flesh” were both vintage rockers, while the tender’n’bruised “Breathe A Sigh” and yearning “Blood Runs Cold” proved Leppard were still master craftsmen when it came to the creation of heart-melting, radio-friendly ballads.
Q magazine weighed in with a rave, four-star review and later included the album among their Top 10 of 1996, accurately declaring it to be “the work of a huge band who have embraced the new breed with élan.” The group’s transatlantic fanbase also enthusiastically endorsed their heroes’ new direction, and when Slang peaked inside the UK Top 5 and at No.11 on the Billboard 200, it proved that these indefatigable Yorkshire terriers had pulled off an exhilarating creative coup.
The Def Leppard Volume Two 7CD and 7LP box set can be bought here.
Fri, 14 May 2021 17:25:01 +0000
With live music events making their return, Chicago music festival Riot Fest is unveiling the entirety of its 2021 line-up following an announcement of half of the attending artists last June. The festival will be held at Douglass Park from September 17 through September 19.
Nine Inch Nails will be headlining the festival alongside The Smashing Pumpkins and Run The Jewels. While the majority of the line-up has been revealed, the event plans to welcome more acts in the lead-up to the festival.
In the meantime, the stacked collection of artists include Vic Mensa, Devo, Faith No More, Taking Back Sunday, Sublime with Rome, Lupe Fiasco, Dirty Heads, New Found Glory, State Champs, Mayday Parade, Pop, Big Freedia, Joywave, KennyHoopla, Meet Me @ The Altar, Just Friends and many more.
Along with the announcement of the 2021 lineup, Riot Fest has announced that My Chemical Romance will headline the 2022 festival. Tickets for both years of Riot Fest are available now on the festival’s official website. At the moment, fans can purchase three-day passes for either year. Single-day tickets will be made available next week alongside the announcement of more performers. Riot Fest tickets are available in four tiers: general admission, VIP, deluxe and ultimate.
The event is said to be taking precautions as they relate to COVID-19 safety measures by monitoring the changing conditions and requirements from public safety officials. Those who cannot attend the new Riot Fest dates have the option to receive a refund or to transfer their pre-purchased 2021 tickets to 2022. Fans who keep their 2021 tickets are to be provided access to 2022 passes at a discounted rate.
In a statement, Riot Mike shared: “There’s one thing I’ve truly missed more than anything. And that’s seeing generations of people in one location, traversing from stage to stage, shouting lyrics back at the bands they respect and adore knowing that moment is special and worth remembering … We miss you all, but we’ll see each other soon.”
Riot Fest tickets are on sale now, visit the festival’s official website for details.
Fri, 14 May 2021 17:11:25 +0000
Reckon jazz is just for connoisseurs and is merely a niche genre these days? Then think again, for if it wasn’t for jazz, we wouldn’t have the blues or the myriad of different styles of music that have rocked our world ever since. Finding its feet during the early part of the 20th century, jazz has continued to evolve and mutate to the present day. Whether it’s swing, hot, cool, bebop, modal, free, or fusion, uDiscover has something for everyone in this list of the best jazz songs ever.
Check out some of the greatest jazz albums on vinyl here.
Miles Davis – So What
The opening track on legendary trumpeter Miles Davis’ landmark 1959 album Kind Of Blue is one of the best-known examples of modal jazz. That term’s too technical to explain in a soundbite, but the track is simply sublime. – Sam Armstrong
Frank Sinatra – Fly Me To The Moon
Originally penned by Bart Howard in 1954 and also recorded by Nat “King” Cole, Peggy Lee and more. The definitive version, though, is surely Frank Sinatra’s 1964 recording. – Sam Armstrong
Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra – Mood Indigo
According to Duke’s biographer, ‘Mood Indigo’ is “an imperishable classic” and who are we to disagree? With lrving Mills having added the lyric, this remarkable 1930 standard has since been covered by artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Joe Jackson, and Kelly Hogan. – Sam Armstrong
Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five
This jazz song written by the band’s saxophonist Paul Desmond first appeared on Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1959 album Time Out and it reportedly remains the biggest selling single of all time. – Sam Armstrong
Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – The Girl From Ipanema
Featuring a timeless vocal from Astrud Gilberto, this sultry 1964 bossa nova is widely believed to be the second-most recorded pop song in history, after The Beatles’ “Yesterday.” – Sam Armstrong
Cab Calloway – Minnie The Moocher
Riddled with veiled drug references and famous for its nonsensical, ad-libbed “scat” lyrics, this 1931 standard sold over a million copies. In 1980, Calloway famously performed his signature tune in the smash hit movie The Blues Brothers. – Sam Armstrong
Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World
Seemingly part of the very human fabric, Bob Thiele and George David Weiss’ wonderful standard was first (and arguably definitively) recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1967 when it also topped the UK Top 40. – Sam Armstrong
Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit
One of the greatest protest songs in any given genre, the chilling “Strange Fruit” was first recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939. Her version was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1978 and it’s since been covered by the likes of Robert Wyatt, UB40, and Annie Lennox. – Sam Armstrong
Ray Charles – Georgia On My Mind
Though penned by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell in 1930, most people associate this sublime jazz song with Ray Charles’ transcendent 1960 recording which topped the US Billboard 100. – Sam Armstrong
Nina Simone – My Baby Just Cares For Me
Originally released in 1961, a British perfume commercial using this stellar tune in 1987 afforded Nina’s remarkable career a much-deserved renaissance. – Sam Armstrong
Thelonious Monk – Round Midnight
Believed to be the most recorded standard recorded by a jazz musician, the perennial “Round Midnight” was the work of inspirational American pianist Thelonious Monk. – Sam Armstrong
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Summertime
There are, reputedly, around 25,000 known recorded versions of George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s standard “Summertime.” From Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong’ Porgy & Bess (1958), this is one of the best. – Sam Armstrong
John Coltrane – Giant Steps
Most fans would agree John Coltrane’s classic LP is 1964’s suite-like A Love Supreme. His fifth album Giant Steps (1960), however, was his first to feature all self-composed material and it remains a must-have record for all serious jazz fans. – Sam Armstrong
Norah Jones – The Nearness Of You
The concluding song from jazz/pop fusionist Norah Jones’ multi-million-selling 2002 debut Come Away With Me, this Hoagy Carmichael standard was first recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1940. – Sam Armstrong
Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse – Body & Soul
Released to celebrate the legendary crooner’s 85th birthday, Tony Bennett’s Duets II gave him his first Billboard 200 chart topped. From it is this transcendent, Amy Winehouse-enhanced version of the 1930 standard, also covered by legends such as Sarah Vaughan, Frank Sinatra, and Etta James. – Sam Armstrong
Dizzy Gillespie – A Night in Tunisia
A minor key number, “A Night In Tunisia” was first recorded by its composer, the puff-cheeked bebop trumpeter Gillespie, in 1942, and quickly became regarded as a jazz standard. Those who’ve covered the song range from Miles Davis to Chaka Khan. – Charles Waring
Chet Baker – My Funny Valentine
Over 1,000 recorded versions exist of Rodgers & Hart’s evergreen 1930s romantic ballad but one of the most memorable was cut by Chet Baker, the poster boy of west coast cool jazz, on his 1954 album Chet Baker Sings.– Charles Waring
Weather Report – Birdland
Led by Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, Weather Report were one of the biggest jazz fusion bands of the 70s and 80s. Taken from their classic 1978 LP, Heavy Weather, “Birdland” with its catchy chorus, was their most famous tune and was later taken into the US singles chart by the American vocal group Manhattan Transfer. – Charles Waring
Hoagy Carmichael – Stardust
An actor and attorney as well as being one of America’s greatest songwriters, Hoagland “Hoagie” Carmichael wrote and recorded his famous ballad “Stardust” in 1927 after splitting up with his then-girlfriend. Though Nat King Cole and Sinatra later recorded the tune, the biggest hit version was by R&B act Billy Ward & His Dominoes in 1957. – Charles Waring
Duke Ellington – Take the A Train
Written by Billy Strayhorn in 1940, who was inspired to compose the song after he wrote down directions of how to get to Harlem using New York’s subway system, “Take The A Train” was one of Duke Ellington’s biggest hits and also became his signature tune. – Charles Waring
Miles Davis – Blue in Green
An introspective ballad from Davis’ classic 1959 album, Kind Of Blue, this tune was written by the trumpeter with noted pianist, Bill Evans. It captures Davis – blowing a muted horn – at his lyrical best. – Charles Waring
Coleman Hawkins – Body and Soul
Tenor saxophone titan Coleman Hawkins invented the extended improvised solo on his 1939 instrumental recording of a ballad that was written for British actress Gertrude Lawrence in 1930. Hawkins’ innovative melodic embroidery laid the groundwork for the improvisatory approach of bebop. – Charles Waring
Charles Mingus – Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
This beautiful ballad – now a jazz standard – was bassist/composer Charles Mingus‘ elegy for tenor saxophonist Lester Young, who always wore a narrow-brimmed “pork pie” hat. Written to mark Young’s death in 1959, Mingus later re-recorded the song as “Theme For Lester Young.” – Charles Waring
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Moanin’
The signature number of drummer Art Blakey’s long-running but ever-changing “Hard Bop Academy,” 1958’s “Moanin’” was written by the band’s then pianist Bobby Timmons and with its gospel cadences was an early example of what came to be known as soul jazz. – Charles Waring
Johnny Mathis – Misty
With his lush velvet croon, Mathis became a world-conquering pop idol in the late 1950s. One of his biggest jazz songs was the romantic interpretation he gave to pianist Erroll Garner’s evergreen ballad “Misty” in 1959, which reached No. 12 in the US charts. – Charles Waring
Cannonball Adderley Quintet – Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
Written by Adderley’s pianist, Joe Zawinul, who would go to form Weather Report, this gospel-inflected song produced by David Axelrod was a surprise US hit in 1966 for the Florida-born alto saxophonist. – Charles Waring
Benny Goodman – Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)
This Louis Prima tune was transformed into a stomping, intoxicating big band extravaganza by the clarinet-playing bandleader Benny Goodman, whose version was recorded in the first-ever jazz concert at Carnegie Hall in 1938. It’s a performance that confirms that Goodman lived up to his nickname, the “King of Swing.” – Charles Waring
Bill Evans – Waltz For Debby
A pianist who worked almost exclusively in a trio format, Bill Evans recorded this, his signature tune – which was named after his niece – in 1956 on the album New Jazz Conceptions. Later, in the 70s, he recorded a vocal version with singer Tony Bennett.
Charlie Parker – All The Things You Are
One of bebop’s prime architects, Kansas City-born Charlie Parker was famed for his lightning-fast alto saxophone solos but showed a more restrained side on this Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein tune he performed with Dizzy Gillespie in 1945. – Charles Waring
Herbie Hancock – Cantaloupe Island
This was one of the Chicago pianist’s most popular tunes; a jaunty soul jazz piece taken from the 1964 album, Empyrean Isles. Herbie Hancock gave the same tune a jazz-funk makeover in the 70s and in 1991, his 60s original version was sampled by UK rap group Us3 for their hit single “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia).” – Charles Waring
Sonny Rollins – God Bless The Child
Though written by and associated with iconic singer Billie Holiday, the tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins served up an indelible reading of the ballad in his 1962 album The Bridge, which showcased his peerless improv skills alongside that of guitarist Jim Hall. – Charles Waring
Wayne Shorter – Infant Eyes
Saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter marked the birth of his daughter Miyako by composing this haunting, ethereal ballad for his 1966 LP Speak No Evil. The song went on to be a jazz standard, spawning over 70 cover versions. – Charles Waring
John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman – My One and Only Love
Noted for his resonant baritone voice, Louisiana-born Hartman joined forces with saxophone legend John Coltrane for the 1963 album John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, which yielded arguably the definitive version of this much-covered 1950s ballad. The album marked the only time Coltrane recorded with a vocalist. – Charles Waring
Django Reinhardt – Minor Swing
Released on a 78 rpm single in 1937, this song – co-written by guitar genius Reinhardt with French violinist Stephane Grappelli – epitomized the stomping gypsy jazz style that set Europe alight in the 1930s. The musical synergy generated by both musicians is undeniable. – Charles Waring
Roger Williams – Autumn Leaves
This Nebraska ivory tickler had the distinction of being the only musician to take a piano-led instrumental to the summit of Billboard’s pop charts with his grandiose rendition of the French song “Autumn Leaves” in 1955. – Charles Waring
Count Basie and his Orchestra – One O’clock Jump
This was the big band hit that launched Count Basie‘s career in 1937; a piano-driven stomp garnished with jabbing horn riffs. The song became Basie’s theme tune and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1979. – Charles Waring
Peggy Lee – Fever
In 1958, Minnesota chanteuse Peggy Lee took R&B singer’s Little Willie John’s R&B chart-topper from two years earlier, added some new verses and transformed it into a smoldering jazz groove that hit the Top 10 of America’s pop rankings. The song is notable for its minimal instrumentation; bass, occasional drum flourishes, and finger snaps. – Charles Waring
Julie London – Cry Me A River
Over 500 renditions of this classic Arthur Hamilton-penned ballad exist, which all followed in the wake of torch song specialist Julie London’s original version recorded in 1955. The song gained wider exposure after London was featured singing it in the 1956 hit movie, The Girl Can’t Help It. – Charles Waring
Ahmad Jamal – Poinciana
A pianist with a delicate touch from Pittsburgh, Jamal’s name is synonymous with “Poinciana,” an obscure 1930s pop song that became both a hit single and the cornerstone of his 1958 million-selling LP, At The Pershing: But Not For Me. – Charles Waring
Modern Jazz Quartet – Django
Distinguished by Milt Jackson’s crystalline vibes sound, the Modern Jazz Quartet’s elegant chamber jazz style is epitomized by this haunting 1954 instrumental, written by the band’s pianist John Lewis as a homage to his friend, jazz guitar great Django Reinhardt, who had died the previous year. – Charles Waring
Jimmy Smith – Organ Grinder Swing
Hammond organ hero Smith broke into the US Hot 100 in 1965 when he teamed up with guitarist Kenny Burrell and drummer Grady Tate to record this punchy, blues-infused instrumental. It’s the musical equivalent to soul food. – Charles Waring
Horace Silver – Song For My Father
Built on a loping bass line that was lifted by rock group Steely Dan for the intro of their 1974 tune “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” this classic jazz song by pianist Horace Silver was recorded ten years earlier and features a tremendous tenor saxophone solo from Joe Henderson. – Charles Waring
George Shearing – Lullaby of Birdland
Blind from birth, London-born pianist George Shearing reaped acclaim in America in the late 1940s and early 50s with his mix of swing and bebop; it was a unique sound crystallized by “Lullaby of Birdland,” a jazz song originally written in 1952 to advertise the famous New York club with the same name. – Charles Waring
Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
Inspired by the nickname of a gun-slinging bad guy in a western series called The Rifleman, trumpeter Lee Morgan came up with the catchy melody to this classic 1965 funk groove in a recording studio bathroom. The jazz song broke into the US pop charts, reaching No. 25. – Charles Waring
Thelonious Monk – Well You Needn’t
With its quirky chromatic melody, the much-covered “Well You Needn’t” was written by the pianist/composer dubbed the “High Priest of Bebop,” who first recorded the tune in 1947 and re-recorded it at regular intervals throughout his career. – Charles Waring
Build your jazz vinyl collection with classic titles and under-the-radar favorites.
Fri, 14 May 2021 16:56:59 +0000
Last night, Griselda MC Conway The Machine performed “Scatterbrain” with Ludacris & J.I.D. on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
The song comes from Conway’s recently released project, La Maquina. Solidifying his reputation as a rapper everyone wants to collaborate with, the project features Benny The Butcher, Westside Gunn, 2 Chainz, Ludacris, J.I.D., Alchemist, Daringer, Murda Beatz, Jae Skeese, 7xvethegenius & Don Cannon.
The project was released on April 16 to unanimous critical and commercial acclaim, with Pitchfork saying, “La Maquina is Conway’s best project since 2015’s Reject 2, with an eclectic mix of beats and bars that tie everything together like twine around a turkey.”
Regarding “Scatterbrain,” the piece’s author, Dylan Green wrote, “‘Scatter Brain’ places rattling hi-hats and snares over ominous vocal samples. Conway relishes the challenge, claiming he could pull a muscle handling all his money and inviting haters to watch ‘this Rolls I parked.’”
Conway is a co-founder of Griselda Records, alongside his brother, Westside Gunn, and cousin, Benny the Butcher. The label, an imprint of Shady Records, has quickly emerged as a go-to force in hip-hop’s Golden Age renaissance. The trio is equally prolific, releasing solo and collaborative albums at a rapid pace. La Maquina is Conway’s latest project after releasing If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed with Big Ghost Ltd in February.
Even though he has these two albums from the first few months of 2021, Conway is still hustling. He’s been teasing a number of projects, including God Don’t Make Mistakes, which he’s been hinting at for over a year. The Machine has also been toying with fans by suggesting that a collaboration with Eminem and The Alchemist is on the way.
The Griselda rapper said he was “just here for the comments” when he was asked why he had retweeted the rumor from his own account. No official confirmation of a collaboration has been given, though fans are eagerly anticipating whatever Conway The Machine cooks up next.
Buy or stream Conway The Machine La Maquina.
Fri, 14 May 2021 16:29:53 +0000
Nicki Minaj has undoubtedly cemented her legacy as one of hip-hop’s most important artists. As the leading female artist with the most charting entries on Billboard’s Hot 100 – surpassing even Aretha Franklin – she has been an endlessly creative force in hip-hop throughout the 2010s. Along with her greatness, she boasts a controversial streak that keeps grabbing headlines, but the best Nicki Minaj songs are what her reputation will rest on. As she continues to build on what came before – a multitude of brand endorsements and a record-shattering radio show are the most recent additions to her empire – she consistently lives up to the claim she made with her first group, The Hood$tars, back in 2004: “I ain’t the lady to mess with.” Here are 20 essential tracks that prove why.
Think we’ve missed one of your best Nicki Minaj songs? Let us know in the comments, below.
Listen to the best of Nicki Minaj on Apple Music and Spotify , and scroll down to read our best Nicki Minaj songs.
Best Nicki Minaj Songs: 20 Essential Tracks From The Queen Of Hip-Hop
20: ‘5 Star Remix’ (Yo Gotti, featuring Gucci Mane, Trina, and Nicki Minaj)
“I just had an epiphany, I need to go to Tiffany’s,” is the way that Minaj starts her all-star appearance on the remix of Yo Gotti’s 2009 single. On this track, Minaj is the rookie, but she undoubtedly holds her own alongside Gotti, Gucci Mane, and her veteran inspiration, Trina. With the last verse, Minaj steals the show, alluding to her Fendi prints, the sex toys that she would eventually bring on stage during tour appearances, and her love for Harajuku girls. At this moment, a star was born. Years later, her guest spot on Gotti’s “Rack It Up” would prove how far she’d come.
19: ‘Win Again’
If Minaj needed a topic for her senior thesis, this bonus track from 2014’s The Pinkprint would provide it. With an unapologetic swagger about her dominant reign, the rapper compares herself to the 21-times nominated and three-time Academy Award-winner Meryl Streep, and forewarns, “I’m gonna s__t on my critics some more”. This anthemic single best summarizes her success and is crucial to understanding Minaj’s gameplay.
18: ‘Catch Me’
“Catch Me” later appeared as a bonus track at the end of her debut album, Pink Friday, and would lay the pinkprint for Minaj’s futuristic sound. A long-time fan favorite, it captures both sides of Minaj’s persona: she comes in all-guns-blazing, but by the time the chorus kicks in, she’s gone into a full R&B diva croon. Produced by Swizz Beatz, the track features a hard-hitting tribal bass and space-age synths – a slick hybrid sound that would come to dominate the best Nicki Minaj songs.
A novelty track by Minaj’s own admission, “Anaconda” still slaps to this day, thanks to Minaj’s full-throttle commitment to the “size-matters” ethos of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1992 track “Baby Got Back.” Even if the song doesn’t have the same staying power as the rest of Nicki’s catalog, the video broke the internet when it first premiered and continues to rack up views thanks to Minaj’s homage to perfect posteriors.
16: ‘Here I Am’
As a standout deep cut, “Here I Am,” is a rare case where Minaj lays out her insecurities for all to see. The tenth track from Pink Friday asks, “Why is it that you can only see the worst in me?” before acknowledging, “But to keep it all real it’s kind of hurting me!” Originally titled “Letter To The Media,” the message works on both counts, with Minaj addressing her critics in music and her relationships. “Here I Am” reflects Pink Friday’s conflicting aggressive and more vulnerable sensibilities, as Minaj is both wounded and unapologetic. She even quotes Helen Reddy’s famous anthem “I Am Woman.”
After laying low for a year following 2017’s “Regret In Your Tears,” Minaj re-emerged in April 2018 with two back-to-back singles, “Chun-Li” and “Barbie Tingz,” giving a taste of her forthcoming album Queen. She wasn’t just taking shots at anonymous aggressors here; it was clear Minaj was coming for the hip-hop crown in the face of imitators who “copy every word, every inch”. A clear throwback to the kind of mid-90s swagger she grew up on, Minaj introduces another alter-ego , Chun-Li, into her arsenal, named for the ass-kicking Street Fighter video game character. Over a hypnotic saxophone line and head-nodding beat, Minaj delivers one of her most-quotable singles yet, “They need rappers like me/So they can get on their f__king keyboards and make me the bad guy, Chun-Li,” she declares, landing in the Billboard Top 10 while doing so.
14: ‘Hello Good Morning (Remix)’ (Diddy – Dirty Money, featuring Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj)
During the lead-up to Pink Friday, Minaj’s knack for providing show-stealing guest verses resulted in smash hits for some of the biggest names in the game including, P. Diddy and his Dirty Money trio’s “Hello Good Morning (Remix),” featuring Rick Ross. Minaj sets the track ablaze, her rapid-fire pace offsetting Ross’ more mellow flow. “I just came up in it, a little bit self-centered/But did I kill a queen?” Minaj spits, even claiming she’s eclipsed the former “Queen Bee”, Lil’ Kim.
13: ‘FEFE’ (6ix9ine, featuring Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz)
Controversy was definitely the name of the game when Nicki Minaj linked up with controversial rapper 6ix9ine for “FEFE.” Though the union sparked some outrage in the summer of 2018, it was also clear that “FEFE” was an inescapable hit. It also proved that Minaj had her finger on the pulse of the hip-hop’s SoundCloud generation, and could still provide a track’s most memorable verse.
12: ‘Beez In The Trap’ (featuring 2 Chainz)
Not many people realize how integral Minaj was to the trap music scene of the 2010s. After all, she is the female protégée of the genre’s biggest champion, Lil Wayne. As with her turn on “5 Star Remix,” “Beez In The Trap” proved that she could switch up her New York flow with southern cadences. Alongside 2 Chainz, Minaj also gives a shout-out to various regions, cities, and states, ensuring everyone was represented on terrestrial radio.
11: ‘Roman’s Revenge’ (featuring Eminem)
A noted diss track during her ongoing feud with the original queen bee, Lil’ Kim, “Roman’s Revenge” unleashes Minaj’s signature alter ego, Roman. Here, her persona faces off against another alter ego, Slim Shady, as the two battle in verse. The lyrics are grimy enough to match Eminem’s rage while also exposing Roman’s violent nature. The two MCs brought out the best in each other: as Minaj sent Em a verse, he would come back with something even harder. Featuring a seizure-inducing Swizz Beats production, “Roman’s Revenge” is chaotic, and one of the wildest Nicki Minaj songs. Roman would be a constant character in Minaj’s discography, including on her Pink Friday follow-up, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.
With the EDM explosion taking over mainstream pop in the early 2010s, Minaj joined in as an enforcer of the sound, going head-to-head with the pop stars of the era. “Starships” had been a drastic and somewhat unexpected turn for a hip-hop star to make – it even upset some of her core fans and hip-hop personalities, among them Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg, who publicly called the song “bulls__t”. Once the controversy died down, it became clear that Minaj had carved out another lane for hip-hop. The song propelled to No.5 on the Hot 100, becoming an international smash in 2012 and setting the tone for more EDM-fueled Nicki Minaj songs.
9: ‘High School’ (featuring Lil Wayne)
One aspect of Minaj’s brilliance is her ability to repackage her albums into deluxe editions and re-ups. “High School” comes from Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, and fused dancehall with hip-hop. Minaj had found earlier dancehall success with a guest spot on Sean Kingston’s “Letting Go (Dutty Love),” in 2010, but “High School” took it a step further with her mentor, Lil Wayne. Midway through the track she breaks down the riddim, tapping into her Trinidadian roots. She would return to this sound on Queen’s “Coco Chanel.”
8: ‘Truffle Butter’ (featuring Drake and Lil Wayne)
Look at any hip-hop DJ set and the jittery house beat of “Truffle Butter” will likely find its way into the mix. Known as the “Big Three” of the Young Money roster, Lil Wayne, Drake, and Minaj all provide thrilling and equally enticing verses to this track. As all three start their respective parts with “Thinkin’ out loud,” the unity on this bonus track from The Pinkprint would go unmatched, as each MC discusses the rather crude sexual term the song is named after.
7: ‘Feeling Myself’ (featuring Beyoncé)
A collab that seemed to be a long time in the making, The Pinkprint’s “Feeling Myself” connected two queens. Following the impactful surprise release of her self-titled album, Beyoncé makes a splash alongside Minaj, whose punchlines are equally boisterous, witty, and rightfully cocky. In the music video, which was filmed during Coachella, both ladies bask in a friendship that saw two strong women in music come together. The duo would rekindle the chemistry on a remix of Queen Bey’s “***Flawless,” from her self-titled album.
6: ‘Your Love’
Though her actual debut single, 2010’s “Massive Attack,” didn’t see the kind of commercial success she hoped for, Minaj quickly followed it up by releasing “Your Love.” Originally included as a quick cut on her mixtape Barbie World, the song ended up being leaked to radio stations, and DJs immediately took a liking it. What powers “Your Love” is Minaj’s flirtatious rapping and singing over a sample of Annie Lennox’s 1995 gem “No More I Love You’s.” With a few lyrical changes, “Your Love” confirmed that Minaj had the ability to become a mainstream solo star. It peaked at No.14 on the Hot 100 and became the first song by a female artist to top the Hot Rap Songs chart since Lil’ Kim’s “Magic Stick” in 2003.
5: ‘Monster’ (Kanye West, featuring Jay Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver)
“Pull up in that monster automobile gangsta…” The rest does not need repeating, because it’s probably being recited in your head as you read along. This is Nicki Minaj’s most iconic verse and her finest guest appearance, solidifying her spot among her peers, both female and male. Set up for her to emerge as the victorious “Monster” MC on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, fans and critics unanimously agree that Minaj defeated West himself, alongside the track’s other guests. Go to any party, have this song come on, and the crowd will all join in unison, just waiting for Minaj’s verse to obliterate the others.
4: ‘Moment 4 Life’ (featuring Drake)
Nicki Minaj’s rise is a fairytale narrative, especially when looking back at her Pink Friday start. Featuring Drake, “Moment 4 Life” finds Minaj comfortably spitting bar after bar in her celebratory ode to the new acclaim she’s found. Both MCs work as perfect opposites, with Drake taking his chance to “propose” during his verse. Becoming a mainstay on radio, the song would peak at No.13 on the Hot 100, while earning Minaj her second No.1 on the Rap Songs chart.
3: ‘Super Bass’
Already a fixture in hip-hop, Minaj needed a track that would ensure she’d become a pop crossover sensation. This energetic and glowing bonus track from Pink Friday would become that go-to number, making her a household name around the world. With an addictive pre-chorus and hook, “Super Bass” got audiences familiar with the colorful nature of Minaj’s rapping and singing, ultimately paving the way for the dance-pop direction she would later embark on.
2: ‘Lookin’ Ass’
Sometimes rappers have one song that goes for the jugular and doesn’t let up. That song often lays everything out and, by the end, there’s nothing that can be debated or picked apart. In 2014, while leading up to The Pinkprint, it seemed as if Minaj was going through an image change. Tired of her pink wigs and the colorful numbers that made up Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, Minaj’s new direction focused on bars that annihilated her critics. “Lookin’ Ass” catches Minaj in her rawest form, calling out misogyny and providing girl code at the same time. It’s hip-hop’s answer to TLC’s “No Scrubs.” but harsher. Undeniably one of her strongest rap performances, it more than earns its place among the best Nicki Minaj songs.
1: ‘Itty Bitty Piggy’
When people discuss the best Nicki Minaj songs, they always go back to her mixtape days. Before there was a “Super Bass.” before there was a collab with Beyoncé, before the Lil Wayne and Drake link-ups, before her show-stealing turn on “Monster”… there was 2009’s “Itty Bitty Piggy,” from her 2009 mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty. Over the reworked DJ Holiday beat of Soulja Boy’s “Donk,” Minaj drop multiple sets of 16 bars that showcase her dexterity in flow, rhyming, and punchlining. She slyly references Whitley from the sitcom A Different World, the Little Red Riding Hood folklore, Oscar Mayer wieners, and the Muslim salutation “As-salāmu ʿalaykum” in less than four minutes. This song’s lyrical ability put Minaj on the map. It sees her at her most confident and conquering, and features all the aspects that make her the star that she is today. Simply put, “Itty Bitty Piggy” is Nicki Minaj in her purest form.
Looking for more? Discover Nicki Minaj’s best guest spots.
Fri, 14 May 2021 16:22:06 +0000
Marvin Gaye’s 11th studio album, What’s Going On, is a poignant meditation on the myriad injustices plaguing the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Released in May of 1971, Gaye synthesized his love of gospel, reflections on a tense political climate, and his rhythm and blues core into a masterpiece.
The album performed extremely well, to the surprise of skeptical Motown executives, topping the R&B charts for several weeks and reaching #2 on the pop charts. But perhaps the greatest testament to the album’s success has been the impact it has had in the decades since its release. It has influenced countless artists and in 2020, another year marked by turmoil and unrest, the album topped Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
But how much do you know about this record? Check out the quiz below and find out!
Fri, 14 May 2021 15:33:49 +0000
Migos have returned with “Straightenin,” their first standalone single of 2021. The hypnotic song is lifted from the hip-hop trio’s hotly-anticipated Culture III LP. “Straightenin” arrived at midnight with an official music video, directed by Keemotion. The track finds Migos―the group of Takeoff, Offset, and Quavo―back in their collective pocket, crafting an anthemic and effortlessly catchy rap hit.
The Quality Control rap squad’s effortless blend of clever lyrics and otherworldly adlibs is on full display here, with bars like Offset’s “We were trappin’ out the spot, out the basement/Tasmanian Devil, we spin on your block.” Each member’s unique personality is on full display throughout “Straightenin,” with Quavo providing the radiant personality, Takeoff bringing the clever bars, and Offset providing an unimpeachable cool.
While this is the first we’ve heard from the united group in 2021, each member of Migos had a very active 2020. Quavo was recruited by Justin Bieber for the singer’s hit single, “Intentions.” The track, from Bieber’s album Changes, reached No.5 on the charts and has gone 3x platinum. The rapper was also recruited for the last DaBaby album, Blame It On Baby, with the two trading bars on “Pick Up.”
Offset played a crucial role in YBN Nahmir’s “2 Seater,” alongside G-Eazy. Offset, alongside Quavo, also popped up on Travis Scott’s JackBoys compilation at the end of 2019. All the while, Takeoff, the third member of Migos, spent 2020 dropping singles, like “All Time High” with YRN Lingo. He also joined forces with Quavo and Rich the Kid on “Too Blessed.”
Migos announced the completion of Culture III back in January. Recorded in the group’s Los Angeles “compound” and an Atlanta recording studio, Quavo explained that the making of Culture III was a chance for the trio to merge once again after each member’s solo career has afforded them different opportunities since their last group full release, apart from their stand-alone singles. Though the release of “Straightenin” came without any news of a Culture III release date, a new single from the group is bound to be followed by something big.
Buy or stream Migos’“Straightenin.”
Fri, 14 May 2021 15:29:01 +0000
Download Festival have teamed up with Sky Arts for a new free-to-air TV event this June, titled ‘Reloaded.’
The two-night ‘Reloaded’ show will feature tracks from “the best Download headliner performances from the past 10 years” including Iron Maiden, Slipknot, Rammstein, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Linkin Park and more, and will air on June 5 – 6 (which is the weekend that should have marked Download 2021).
The event’s official website issued the following statement: “We’re taking you back to the hallowed grounds of Donington on the weekend that should have marked Download 2021. Tune into Sky Arts Freeview Channel 11 at 9pm on Saturday and Sunday for two awesome shows packed with performances. It’s guaranteed to get you reliving those epic Download memories!
“Joining Download 2022 headliners KISS, Iron Maiden and Biffy Clyro, the ‘Reloaded’ programs will also feature tracks from historic headline performances from Guns N’ Roses, Rammstein, Metallica, Slipknot, Linkin Park, Def Leppard, Halestorm, System of a Down, Muse, Parkway Drive, Slayer, Black Stone Cherry, Limp Bizkit, Enter Shikari, Avenged Sevenfold, The Prodigy and Aerosmith.”
“The past two years without Download Festival have been tough for us all, so we’re delighted to be able to bring some of the biggest and best Download performances to your living rooms this year,” says festival organizer Andy Copping.
“We hope you’ll get involved and set up a tent in your backyards to really enjoy a taste of Download from home. We are all working hard behind the scenes to make sure Download 2022 will be one for the history books. We can’t wait to be reunited with the Download family next June – and perhaps a few of you even earlier than that – to celebrate the festival we all know and love.”
Download Festival 2022 will take place at Donington Park on June 10 – 12, 2022. Last month, the festival made a major announcement, after they added over 70 new arists to the line-up, with those bands including Deftones, Korn, Megadeth, Steel Panther, The Ghost Inside, Funeral For A Friend, Descendents, Electric Wizard, Sepultura.
Fri, 14 May 2021 14:21:58 +0000
Motown/UMe has announced the start of its year-long celebration of the 60th anniversary of Grammy-winning “Emperors of Soul” The Temptations. A wide variety of multi-media events and releases is planned to honor the profound legacy and ever-increasing influence of the trailblazing Motown luminaries.
The announcement marks the fact that the group signed their first contract with Motown on May 15, 1961, in the line-up of Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Melvin Franklin and Elbridge “Al” Bryant.
The 60th Anniversary campaign will run until June 2022, and will feature national and international concert tours by the modern-day Temptations line-up, as ever featuring surviving co-founder Otis Williams. Plans also include an upcoming anniversary album, a new video series, and a variety of other celebratory events. October 16 will mark the reopening of the Broadway musical, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, in time for Otis’ 80th birthday on October 30.
Says Williams: “I’ve been blessed to take this journey with Shelly Berger, my manager and dear brother, and with all my brothers – the Temptations. Now, to be the last one standing from the classic lineups can be hard sometimes, but I know God left me here for a reason, and that was to continue to share with new generations of fans, the great music that we started back in that two-story house in Detroit, known as Hitsville USA.
“Music is a universal language,” he continues, “and I know our music throughout the years has brought people joy, comfort and sometimes even hope. I truly hope that was our greater purpose on earth. Some of the greatest moments in my life have been watching countless fans, from different walks of life worldwide, come together around any one of our songs.
“Reaching this milestone in my career hasn’t always been easy but it’s gratifying to know that our fans have always been there, every step of the way. I am truly grateful to each and every one of them. We plan to go back on tour later this summer and, me and my brothers, Ron Tyson and Terry Weeks, Temptations for the past 38 years and 24 years respectively, along with Willie Greene, Jr., and Mario Corbino look forward to sharing this special anniversary with all of you.”
Bruce Resnikoff, president & CEO of UMe, adds: “The Temptations’ evolution during the 20th and 21st centuries is one of the greatest American music stories of our generation. They are among the most legendary artists in the business, and their meteoric rise to superstardom exceeded all expectations and changed the course of music history, here and around the world.
“It is a tremendous honor to recognize not only the group’s legacy, artistry and distinguished catalog of music, but also the sole-surviving member of the classic group, Otis Williams, who continues to carry the torch forward for fans today.”
Longtime Temptations manager Shelly Berger notes: “This is a landmark moment. We wish to thank the venerable Bruce Resnikoff for taking this journey with us and for years of unwavering support. This trailblazing experience with the Temptations, and Otis in particular, is still exhilarating and rewarding sixty years later.
“To work with a group as gifted as the Temptations,” says Berger, “I quickly realized early on that I was at the epicenter of music entertainment globally. Our journey together, throughout the group’s evolution, has been and continues to be a treasure trove of memorable experiences. The Temptations’ music is timeless, and Otis’ tenacity, genius and vision has been the glue that has remained at the heart of the group since the very beginning.”
Listen to the best of the Temptations on Apple Music and Spotify.
Fri, 14 May 2021 13:43:19 +0000
Allison Russell, the singer-songwriter, poet and co-founder of Our Native Daughters and Birds of Chicago, has today shared the track “The Runner” as another taste of her first solo album Outside Child, which follows on May 21 on Fantasy Records.
The new song features acclaimed British singer Yola, described by Russell as “my beloved chosen sister.” She says the song “is about music saving my life and setting me on the path to healing and freedom.” It follows the release earlier this month of “Montreal,” inspired by Russell’s home town, and the earlier “Persephone” and “Nightflyer.”
They’re all from the full-length, which is produced by Dan Knobler and has contributions from many members of the creative family she has found both in Montreal and her adopted home of Nashville. As well as Knobler and Yola, they include Erin Rae, Jamie Dick, Joe Pisapia, the McCrary Sisters, Ruth Moody, and Russell’s partner JT Nero.
“It was just about making these songs live and breathe in the most honest way,” she says. “We were laughing, we were crying. And the communion between musicians, I hope people can hear that on the record. It felt like magic. Outside Child is about resilience, survival, transcendence, the redemptive power of art, community, connection, and chosen family.”
Poet and songwriter Joe Henry says that the album “draws water from the dark well of a violent past. The songs themselves – though iron-hard in their concerns – are exultant: exercising haunted dream-like clean bedsheets snapped and hung out into broad daylight, and with the romantic poet’s lust for living and audacity of endurance.”
Russell has also announced a livestream concert on album release day, May 21, via Bandcamp. It will feature the artist and her band playing songs from the new record live for the first time, and will take place at 9pm ET/8pm CT. Tickets are on sale via Bandcamp, and proceeds will benefit the National Bail Out #FreeBlackMamas initiative.
This Black-led collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists is building a community-based movement to end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.
Allison Russell’s Outside Child is released on May 21. Pre-order it here.
Fri, 14 May 2021 12:46:55 +0000
Paul Weller’s new album, Fat Pop (Volume 1), is out now on Polydor Records. It’s already attracting widespread acclaim, with the NME review declaring, “The album is a delight: a generous collection of expertly crafted pop tracks, delivered with both the finesse of an artist of five decades’ experience and the lightness of touch that only comes when you’re having a blast. Never has the Modfather sounded quite so at ease.”
Fat Pop sprang from ideas Weller held onto during previous recording sessions — “not because they weren’t any good but because they didn’t quite fit the mood of what we were working on at the time,” he says — and snippets on his phone that then he circulated to his band, who added their parts virtually before coming together for finishing-touch sessions last summer, it’s already been noted that it’s an album of would-be singles. In fact, if this were the late-’60s, ’70s, or even the ’80s, one could imagine any of Fat Pop’s 12 tracks topping the charts.
For someone as prolific as Weller, the fact that he had a substantial chunk of time off the road really for the first time in his adult life was the unlikely key to Fat Pop coming together so quickly.
“Just the fact that I didn’t have anything else on really helped,” Weller said in an interview with Inside Hook. “At first it was really just to keep my mind focused on something. I thought I’d try and get out as much music as I possibly could. But pretty soon I realized it also allowed me to take my time a bit, and come back to the songs every few weeks. Plus, I was doing a track at a time — not necessarily finishing them entirely, but nevertheless focusing my concentration on one song — whereas normally, when we have done sessions, we’re kind of working on half a dozen at a time. So, yes, quite a lot of thought and care put into this album and all the parts.”
Fat Pop (Volume 1) arrives hot on the heels of Weller’s widely-acclaimed UK chart-topping LP, On Sunset which was released last July.
In a previous press statement, Weller said of the record: “It’s a celebration of music and what it’s given us all. No matter what situation you are in, and we’re in one now, music doesn’t let you down, does it?”
Fat Pop (Volume 1) features the singles “Cosmic Fringes”, “Shades Of Blue”. It also features the ballad “Still Glides The Stream,” co-written with Steve Cradock; “Moving Canvas”(a tribute to Iggy Pop), and ”dramatic, immediate pop symphonies” such as “Failed” and “True,”. Other guests include Liverpudlian singer Lia Metcalfe of the Mysterines, who also co-wrote “True” and British pop-rock veteran Andy Fairweather Low, who adds distinctive vocals to “Testify.” Hannah Peel returns with string scores for “Cobweb Connections” and “Still Glides The Stream.”
Fat Pop (Volume 1) is out now and can be bought here.
Fri, 14 May 2021 12:00:07 +0000
Steve Miller has released his album of an epic live show from 1977. The new full-length concert recording, Steve Miller Band Live! Breaking Ground: August 3, 1977, arrives via Sailor/Capitol/UMe in a variety of formats, including digital, CD, and 2xLP black vinyl. “The full concert video will also stream via The Coda Collection on Amazon Prime from today.
Says Miller: “This show from August of 1977 at the Cap Center in Landover, Maryland, captures the band right at the peak after “The Joker”, and in the middle of Fly Like an Eagle and Book of Dreams, a stream of hits…We decided to call it Breaking Ground because that’s exactly what we were doing.”
Steve Miller Band Live! Breaking Ground: August 3, 1977 includes original liner notes by music journalist David Fricke who says – “Breaking Ground captures the Steve Miller Band on stage in one of their biggest years, 1977. They were at a perfect crossroads of psychedelic zeal and progressive, popcraft while staying true to Miller’s first love, the blues.”
The recording captures Miller’s legendary 1977 lineup at the beginning of the band’s turn from playing ballrooms and theatres to arenas and football stadiums. Recorded at the Capital Centre in Landover, MD on multi-track tape and newly mixed and mastered by Miller and his veteran audio engineer Kent Hertz.
Steve Miller is also launching the release of Breaking Ground with an exclusive listening party which takes place on Friday, May 14 at 11am PDT/2pm EDT/7pm BST.
The Steve Miller Band Greatest Hits 74-78 album is in the top 40 of the best-selling albums of all time according to the RIAA. Recent releases for SMB include the 9LP 180-gram vinyl box set, Complete Albums Volume 2 (1977-2011), as well as the 3CD + DVD archival box set, Welcome To The Vault, both available via uDiscover.
Steve Miller Band Live! Breaking Ground: August 3, 1977 is out now. Scroll down to read the full tracklist and buy it here.
Steve Miller Band Live! Breaking Ground: August 3, 1977:
“Living In The U.S.A.”
“Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma”
“Come On In My Kitchen”
“Wild Mountain Honey”
“The Window/Winter Time”
“Take The Money And Run”
“Fly Like An Eagle”
“So Long Blues”
Fri, 14 May 2021 11:43:49 +0000
British glam rockers The Struts release “We Will Rock You,” a scorching version of the classic hit by Queen, today via Interscope Records. Produced by Scott Stevens, “We Will Rock You” is available now at all digital retailers and you can check it out below.
The Struts’ version of “We Will Rock You” will be featured in home appliance leader LG Electronics’ newest U.S. marketing campaign titled “We Will Knock You,” which serves as an ode to the brand’s iconic ‘knock twice’ to see inside InstaView technology available only on LG refrigerators and ranges. The campaign features a national television commercial aimed at inspiring people to rock every occasion with innovative, stylish LG kitchen appliances. Together, LG and The Struts serve up a new anthem for preparing delicious meals with the energy and style that only an LG InstaView kitchen can deliver.
Elsewhere, The Struts are gearing up to head back out on the road performing at the already announced Reading & Leads Festival this summer and Bonnaroo in September.
The release of “We Will Rock You” follows The Struts’ recent collaboration with Paris Jackson on “Low Key In Love“ which was released last month along with a video directed by Bryson Roatch.
The Struts’ most recent album Strange Days includes a stellar line-up of guest musicians. Released last October, the band’s third full-length offers up tracks like “Another Hit of Showmanship,” a poignant powerhouse featuring the blazing guitar work of Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes.
Meanwhile, “Strange Days” serves up the unforgettable vocals of pop legend Robbie Williams. An explosive collaboration with Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and Joe Elliott, “I Hate How Much I Want You” finds Spiller trading throat-shredding vocals with Elliott to magnificent effect. And on “Wild Child,” Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello joins Spiller, guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott, and drummer Gethin Davies for a fierce and filthy anthem that arguably marks their heaviest track yet.
Formed in Derby, England, in 2012, The Struts have found themselves massively embraced by some of the greatest icons in rock-and-roll history. Along with opening for Foo Fighters, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Guns N’ Roses, the UK-bred four-piece band was handpicked by Mötley Crüe to serve as the supporting act for their last-ever performances.
Releasing their debut album Everybody Wants in 2016 and sophomore album YOUNG & DANGEROUS in 2018, they’ve toured incessantly since their formation, including worldwide headline shows and major festivals like Lollapalooza, Governors Ball, and Isle of Wight. When COVID-19 brought touring to a halt, The Struts created their third album Strange Days over the course of a charmed and frenzied burst of creativity last spring. After getting tested for COVID-19, the band moved into the L.A. home of producer Jon Levine and, within just ten days, laid down nine original tracks alongside their masterful cover of a KISS B-side.
Listen to the best of The Struts here.
Fri, 14 May 2021 11:05:17 +0000
Queen have shared the ninth episode in their on-going ‘The Greatest’ video series. The latest instalment celebrates what is undoubtedly one of Queen’s greatest classic hits, the gospel-inspired masterpiece, “Somebody To Love”. You can check the episode out below.
Having set such a high benchmark with their A Night At The Opera album, all eyes were on Queen to see what they would come up with next. As ever, the band refused to stand still and were intent on exploring new musical paths. For “Somebody To Love” Freddie found inspiration in one the world’s finest singers to create this Queen classic.
Brian May: “Freddie wanted to be Aretha Franklin, you have to bear this in mind, and that explains everything. He loved Aretha. And, this was his Gospel epic. It kind of followed in the steps of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the sense that we were building up these multiple vocal parts, but this time we were being a Gospel choir, instead of being an English choir.”
Freddie Mercury “And there’s me going on about Aretha Franklin, sort of made them go a bit mad…I just wanted to write something in that kind of thing. I was sort of incentivized by the gospel approach that she had on her albums, the earlier albums.”
Brian May: “Freddie came in very well prepared with a lot of vocal parts and we just worked our way through it. There was a very good feeling. I always remember thinking ‘yeah, this is going to be something great.’”
For many “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the greatest song Freddie ever wrote, but according to the man himself, he didn’t necessarily agree…
Freddie Mercury: “People will, obviously, no matter how hard you try, will think in terms of your past hits. I really thought… Ok, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a big hit, but as far as my writing ability is concerned I think I can write better. And I just looked at it from that point of view. For my estimation, I think a song like “Somebody To Love”…from the writing aspect…(is) a better song.”
“Somebody To Love” just narrowly missed out on the top spot in the UK charts, peaking at number 2. But the song quickly became a powerhouse on stage, as witnessed by the band’s performance at the Milton Keynes Bowl in 1982 featured in this episode.
Ten years later, at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, the song had its place firmly cemented in Queen history thanks to the unforgettable performance by Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, the London Gospel Choir and, of course, George Michael.
The song’s subsequent inclusion on the ‘Five Live’ EP featuring performances from the Tribute Concert by Queen, George Michael and Lisa Stansfield saw it finally top the UK charts in 1993.
Watch every episode of ‘The Greatest’ on Queen’s official YouTube Channel.
Fri, 14 May 2021 10:54:20 +0000
Billy Gibbons has released the third preview single and video for his upcoming third solo album release Hardware. The track is the typically robust rocker “My Lucky Card,” which follows the recent appearances of “Desert High” and before that “West Coast Junkie.”
Hardware is set for June 4 release by Concord Records as the follow-up to Gibbons’ 2018 set The Big Bad Blues, which was honored with the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Award.
The new video was filmed in and around Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. The famous cantina/honky-tonk was built as part of the western movie set on which the popular US TV series The Cisco Kid and The Gene Autry Show were filmed, both from 1950 to 1956. It was also the setting for the 1953 film noir Jeopardy, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan, and 1972’s The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.
“We thought Pappy’s would be a great place for us to do the video since it reflects the rough and tumble high desert vibe that was the inspiration for the album,” says Gibbons. He adds that the stage performance of the song in the video is the first and only take. “I play a slide guitar in this one but neglected to bring a proper slide along for the shoot.
“Necessity being a mother, we improvised and used a beer bottle. We went through a case or more looking for just the right bottle neck and, at last, found one on a classic Mexican brew. That was some thirst-quenching research to be sure.”
The clip was directed, like its two predecessors on the new album, by Harry Reese, a filmmaker from Shiner, TX who also shot three videos for The Big Bad Blues. “It was a one-man shoot – me – with no crew and using available light, flying by the seat of our pants,” says Reese. “Billy, Matt [Sorum] and Austin [Hanks] got up there, did it once and Billy said, ‘We got it!’ and that was that.”
Robyn Celia and Linda Krantz, the owners of Pappy & Harriet for the past 15 years, recently sold the cantina, so the video will stand as a salute to its history. Gibbons and the entire band and crew have paid tribute to the couple for giving them the run of Pappy’s for an entire day.
The video also features two members of staff who were pressed into service as a card dealer and a resident drunk. The bartender was played by Mike Florentino, one of the co-producers of Hardware. It ends with high desert “pop provacateur” Jesika Von Rabbit, pulling an ace from the deck.
“Matt’s wife is Ace Harper,” says Gibbons, “and she is, no doubt, his ’lucky card’ so this is something of a tribute to her in light of the fact that she’s expecting their first child shortly. In some unexpected and quite spontaneous way, this all ties together.”
Hardware is released on June 4. Pre-order it here.
Fri, 14 May 2021 10:26:29 +0000
In anticipation of her debut album, Man Made, Greentea Peng has shared an intoxicating slice from the record, “Dingaling”, a nod to classic Channel U favourite Blak Twang and the cult legend 2Face. Produced by long-time collaborator Earbuds and accompanied by her band The Seng Seng Family, Peng has created a thrilling, ethereal atmosphere. “Dingaling” is accompanied by a video directed by ABOVEGROUND and is an ideal visual companion piece, as we journey around low-key London haunts with Greentea as our guide.
Set against the backdrop of one of the most turbulent years in recent memory, Greentea and The Seng Seng Family retreated to the country last summer where the alchemy of Man Made took place. With the record, Greentea opened up from the ritual of inward endeavors to contemplating the world at large, and our collective place in it.
Peng has always considered her music to be medicinal, but the ramped-up demand for its curing qualities now has generated a new supply of something more raw and unapologetic. As a further extension of this she chose to record the record in 432 Hz frequency, a pitch that falls a semitone below music industry standard, which is thought to vibrate healing energy.
Peng’s sound is a hybrid, touching on pop, trip-hop, R&B, soul, folk, and more. Her versatility allows for the work to explore new territories without ever veering too far from Peng’s core mission. The channels her friendly and relaxed yet direct and honest character into breathtaking, expansive songs. Greentea Peng continues her one-of-a-kind journey approach to a border-free form of music making.
Greentea Peng’s Man Made is out June 4 and is available for pre-order.
Man Made Tracklist:
Free My People (featuring Simmy and Kid Cruise)
Nah It Ain’t The Same
Poor Man Skit
Fri, 14 May 2021 10:26:24 +0000
Songs Of Freedom: The Island Years is out now and can be bought here.
Fri, 14 May 2021 10:24:14 +0000
10cc had been in their element as one of the most darkly humorous and wickedly inventive British pop-rock bands for some five years, when they unveiled their fifth studio album. Deceptive Bends was well up to their usual standard, and continued the group’s admirable track record despite the fact that, as the press were delighted to point out, they were now “5cc,” with Kevin Godley and Lol Crème having left after the group’s previous album How Dare You.
Listen to Deceptive Bends.
Undaunted, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman continued under the group name, assisted by multi-instrumentalist Paul Burgess. The new record was previewed around Christmas 1976 by their engagingly catchy composition “The Things We Do For Love.” After that hit No.6 and became a Top 5 smash in the US, where it was certified gold, the much-awaited album made its first UK chart appearance on May 14, 1977.
Recorded as usual at their own Strawberry Studios, the album had another in 10cc’s series of striking album covers, designed by Hipgnosis. Eschewing some of the conceptual feel and episodic structures of previous albums, Bends was a more direct affair. That was underlined again when another of their intelligent but catchy singles, “Good Morning Judge” went one place higher than its predecessor at No.5.
Deceptive Bends debuted on the UK chart at No.15 before climbing the next week to No.3. It achieved that peak again two weeks later, during a 21-week run. The album offered up another single in the ballad “People In Love,” which didn’t chart in the UK but reached the Top 40 in America. Bends became a gold album in the UK and in Canada, and just six months after its release the band were back in the shops with Live And Let Live, recorded at 10cc’s shows in London and Manchester in 1977.
Deceptive Bends can be bought here.
Follow uDiscover Music’s 10cc Best Of playlist.
Fri, 14 May 2021 09:50:55 +0000
World leading choral ensemble VOCES8 will release their new album Infinity on 27 August 2021. This new collection of meditative choral recordings transcends genres and features six new compositions interspersed with eight newly arranged covers from renowned film, electronic, and alternative contemporary classical music composers.
The first single from Infinity is a reworking of Scene Suspended by classically trained electronic artist and producer Jon Hopkins who has produced and contributed to albums by artists including Brian Eno, Coldplay, Imogen Heap. The single, released today, has been arranged for wordless voices and harp by composer and orchestrator Geoff Lawson, whose credits include Maleficent, Black Panther, and Thor Ragnarok.
Features new compositions and new choral arrangements
VOCES8’s new album Infinity features eight diverse new choral arrangements with highlights including Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson’s composition Heyr Himna Smiður, a contemporary setting of a popular 13th-century Icelandic hymn, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s A Pile of Dust, which features in the original soundtrack for the 2017 biopic The Mercy, and a new version of multi-award-winning composer, producer and cellist Hildur Gudnadóttir’s Ascent from her 2009 album Without Sinking. Gudnadóttir’s compositions include her Grammy Award-winning scores for Chernobyl and The Joker.
Infinity also includes six new compositions including The Universe Within You, by celebrated composer Stephen Barton, whose credits include original video game soundtracks for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered; There is a Solitude, by composer and pianist Luke Howard with words by Emily Dickinson; and My Mind Is Still, by award-winning composer Nainita Desai whose soundtracks include The Reason I Jump, For Sama, American Murder: The Family Next Door.
The Arts Desk noted, “VOCES8 are the Rolls-Royce of British a cappella ensembles,” and The Independent described their music as, “A perfect blend of calm contentment and soaring spirit.”
VOCES8, comprised of eight exceptional voices, is one of the world’s leading vocal ensembles. Touring globally, the group performs an extensive repertory both in its a cappella concerts and in collaborations with leading orchestras, conductors and soloists. Versatility and a celebration of diverse musical expression are central to the ensemble’s performance and education ethos. They are champions of new music and have premiered commissions from a wide range of contemporary composers including the group’s Composer-in-Residence Roxanna Panufnik and Arranger-in-Residence Jim Clements.
VOCES8 will release their new album Infinity on 27 August 2021. Scroll down to read the full tracklisting and pre-order the album here.
The full tracklisting for Infinity is:
1. By Night (Sophie Hutchings)
2. Helium Life Jacket (Slow Meadow)
3. Scene Suspended (Jon Hopkins)
4. Heyr Himna Smiður (Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson)
5. A Pile of Dust (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
6. Find Our Way (Kelly Lee Owens & Sebastian Plano) **
7. momentary (Ólafur Arnalds)
8. Infinity (Anne Lovett) **
9. In the Shining Blackness (Benjamin Rimmer) **
10. Still (Ola Gjeilo)
11. The Universe Within You (Stephen Barton) **
12. My Mind is Still (Nainita Desai) **
13. Ascent (Hildur Guðnadóttir)
14. Atomos XI (A Winged Victory for the Sullen)
15. There is a Solitude (Luke Howard) **
** new compositions
(1-3, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14 arr. Geoff Lawson, 5 arr. Benjamin Rimmer, 13 arr. Robert Ames, 6 arr. Jim Clements)
Do you want to be the first to hear the latest news from the classical world? Follow uDiscover Classical on Facebook and Twitter.
Fri, 14 May 2021 09:36:30 +0000
Pokémon’s 25th-anniversary celebration continues with today’s release of iconic recording artist Katy Perry’s new single and video, “Electric.”
Perry, whose love for all things Pokémon dates back to childhood, when she played the original video games on her Game Boy, created the track especially for Pokémon 25: The Album, which will be released this fall by Capitol Records.
“There’s no reason that this life can’t be electric,” sings Perry in the anthemic track, which celebrates the joy inherent in pursuing a dream, buoyed by the love and support of friends. Her collaborators on the song include The Monsters & Strangerz and Jon Bellion – who teamed up with her on “Daisies,” a song from her new album, Smile – and Bruce Weigner.
The official video for “Electric” – helmed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, who directed the Disney feature film Raya and the Last Dragon – received a YouTube Premiere with a fan watch party earlier today.
The clip follows Katy and Pikachu as they take time out to enjoy nature and reflect on how they have evolved over the years. After a day of exploring, the pair stop at a lighthouse to meditate. Falling into a reverie, they’re taken back in time to the earliest days of Perry’s career. Thanks to encouragement from her friend Pichu, Katy goes from busking at a farmer’s market to her first club performance. The “Electric” video was shot in Hawaii and you can check it out below.
“When I visited the Pokémon Café while touring Japan, I got so nostalgic. It took me back to my junior high years. So when I got the call to be a part of the 25th anniversary celebration alongside Post Malone and J Balvin, I was elated,” says Katy Perry. “The song’s themes – resilience, igniting your inner light – have guided my life and also parallel Pokémon’s story and characters. Pikachu is the evolved form of Pichu, so in the video, you see the younger version of me with Pichu and myself in the present day with Pikachu. We both evolve, yet retain a sense of playfulness.”
“Katy Perry has created a vibrant anthem to help us celebrate 25 years of Pokémon with “Electric,” an amazing song about recognizing one’s own journeys and evolving,” said Colin Palmer, vice president of marketing, The Pokémon Company International. “We also hope fans around the world enjoy seeing Pikachu team up with Katy in the music video for ‘Electric,’ which is a wonderful visual accompaniment to the inspirational song.”
A playful “Electric”-themed merchandise collection was also unveiled today. It’s all part of P25 Music, a massive, yearlong music campaign from The Pokémon Company International in partnership with Universal Music Group. Fans can keep up with the latest news for P25 Music and more celebrations across the franchise on Pokémon’s 25th anniversary website.
Pre-order the upcoming P25 Music compilation here.
Fri, 14 May 2021 08:54:14 +0000
When Karen and Richard Carpenter had such phenomenal success with their Close to You album in 1970 – it made No.2 on the US charts, No.1 in Canada and the UK Top 30 – there were those that thought it all may have been something of a fluke. Just nine months later, on May 14, 1971, they released their self-titled follow-up, Carpenters. Not long afterwards, it first entered the Billboard 200 chart on June 5 at No.15, quickly moving its way up to No.2 on the Billboard bestsellers and No.12 in the UK.
Listen to Carpenters.
The duo’s self-titled third album is a superb piece of work, with hand-picked covers and originals from Richard and John Bettis along with a couple from Roger Nichols and Paul Williams. They include one of their best-loved songs, “Rainy Days and Mondays,” the album’s opening track.
Another Nichols/Williams tune is “Let Me Be The One,” a song that despite never being a single, has long been a favorite with fans everywhere. A further standout is “For All We Know,” written for the film, Lovers and Other Strangers. It was composed by Robb Royer and James Griffin, two members of the band Bread, but they did so under pseudonyms.
The opening track on Side 2 is “Superstar,” written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell in 1969. This was a song that had a good deal of history even before Richard and Karen recorded their version in early 1971. Delaney & Bonnie had recorded the first reading of the song in late 1969, with Eric Clapton adding subtle guitar detail. It was released as the B-side of their single “Comin’ Home,” which peaked at No.84 in the US but reached No.16 in the UK, credited to Delaney & Bonnie and Friends featuring Eric Clapton. At that time, the Bramlett/Russell song was called “Groupie (Superstar).”
In 1970, when Joe Cocker embarked on his famous Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, Russell was his bandleader, and Rita Coolidge was given the vocal spotlight to interpret the song that by now was known as “Superstar.” When the Carpenters made it their own, it was with the help of Earl Dumler’s plaintive oboe, Joe Osborn on bass and the prolific session drummer Hal Blaine.
Richard Carpenter wasn’t aware of the Delaney & Bonnie or Mad Dogs versions, but was attracted to “Superstar” when he heard Bette Midler performing it on The Tonight Show, on American television, before she had ever charted, then included it on her debut album The Divine Miss M. It is one of the outstanding highlights on Carpenters.
Richard was a big fan of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s songwriting and the duo’s tribute medley breathes fresh life into their much-loved songs such as “Make It Easy On Yourself” and “Walk On By.” The album closes with a song written by Felice and Henry Mancini, the sumptuous “Sometimes,” one of the lesser-known gems of the Carpenters catalog.
Some may still dismiss Carpenters as “easy listening,” but that is clearly missing the point. The brilliance of the arrangements, the beauty of Karen’s voice and the skill with which Richard puts all of that together makes this a timeless record.
Carpenters can be bought here.
Listen to the best of the Carpenters on Apple Music and Spotify.
Fri, 14 May 2021 07:28:04 +0000
Jackie Wilson’s dazzling record of 54 US Hot 100 and 49 R&B singles chart entries was not, generally, well reflected in the UK. By the last year of the 1960s, a dozen years of success in America had yielded only one British Top 10 45, and that with his debut hit “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want To Meet)” in 1957.
Between 1958 and 1960, the great showman managed three further entries, none of which made the Top 20. He then spent almost the whole decade undeservedly absent from the UK bestsellers. But at least the 1960s ended on a high note.
In the summer of 1967, Wilson scored his biggest US success for some years with the irresistible, uplifting Gary Jackson and Carl Smith composition “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” The Brunswick single became the last of his six R&B No.1s and the last of six Top 10 entries, peaking at No.6.
“Higher and Higher” wasn’t a UK hit at the time, but in the spring of 1969, MCA’s reissue gave it the transatlantic recognition it deserved. On May 14 that year, it entered the chart at No.39 and went on to a No.11 peak in mid-June.
What’s more, the song, now regarded as one of the undoubted soul anthems of Jackie’s unmatched career, kept on proving itself with his UK fans. It hit No.25 as one side of a 1975 reissue with “I Get The Sweetest Feeling” and then emerged yet again in 1987, when another re-release took it to No.15. On that occasion, the new popularity followed a further re-release for “Sweetest Feeling,” which spent three weeks at No.3. The great entertainer had sadly passed away in 1984, but he was enjoying another popular renaissance, and his songs ring out to this day.
Follow the Greatest Soul 45s playlist, starring Ray Charles, Mary Wells, Edwin Starr and many more.
Fri, 14 May 2021 07:00:32 +0000
After dazzling fans with her thrilling new record, “Rider” last Friday, rising polymath musician Mereba has announced her highly anticipated forthcoming EP, Azeb.
Titled after her middle name―which means where the Sun rises―AZEB represents light, according to the artist, and will help provide refuge for those looking to move away from the darkness in their lives.
“This year has shown us that there is actually more to us than many people thought,” says the singer. “I want to remind people of love, too. The very thing we deserve the right to do, and to be.” On her latest record, “Rider,” Mereba aims to find true happiness by pursuing love in a pure and ideal form. The record currently sits at No. 5 on the SoundCloud Top 50: R&B & Soul chart.
Last month, Interview Mag featured the songstress in their latest issue. Mereba also took part in an enlightening interview/performance for Klipsch Audio’s newest series, Out Loud. There, she performed a unique medley and incorporated her standout record, “Planet U.”
Mereba got her start with a series of folk-soul hybrid releases, including her self-released EP Room for Living, an alternately spaced-out and rustic set accompanied by her own guitar playing and production.
In 2018, Mereba released her first singles through Interscope. A 9th Wonder collaboration titled “Black Truck” marked her official debut that February and was followed by the release of “Planet U,” which she produced herself with co-production from Ayo Olatunji and Sam Hoffman.
Both tracks were included on her groundbreaking debut album The Jungle Is the Only Way Out, which arrived in February 2019 and featured appearances from 6LACK and J.I.D. The acclaimed project earned praise from Vogue, Pitchfork, Billboard, Earmilk, Hypebeast, and Ones to Watch, who noted that “Mereba has pushed the boundaries of R&B and established herself as a voice of the future.”
Mereba’s AZEB is out May 26 and is available for pre-order.
Fri, 14 May 2021 06:59:22 +0000
The Small Faces’ followers were ready for their debut album. The diminutive Londoners had emerged in the UK singles chart in September 1965 with the Top 20 hit “Whatcha Gonna Do About It.” They followed that in February of the new year with the major Top 3 success “Sha La La La Lee,” In the spring of 1966, they were on the radio with their new single “Hey Girl” when Small Faces hit the streets.
Listen to Small Faces.
After the LP made its chart debut on the chart of May 14, that single quickly made its way into the Top 10. The summer brought even greater glory when “All Or Nothing” gave the group their one chart-topping single in their own country. Both of their first two hits were included on the album, which contained largely their own material. Nevertheless, it opened with a version of “Shake,” written by the ever-influential Sam Cooke.
Comedian, entertainer and 1960s hitmaker Kenny Lynch was one of the LP’s producers, and much more. He co-wrote “Sha La La La Lee” and “You Better Believe It,” wrote “Sorry She’s Mine” solo and sang backing vocals on all three. The album also includes a barely disguised cover of Muddy Waters’ “You Need Love,” very slightly altered to “You Need Loving.” Give it a listen and then ask yourself where Led Zeppelin got the idea for “Whole Lotta Love,” three years later.
Small Faces entered the UK chart at No.28, quickly jumping to No.10. In June and July, the record spent no fewer than five consecutive weeks at No.3. During that run, the nation’s favorite album was, firstly, the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath and then, incongruously, the apparently indestructible soundtrack to The Sound Of Music, which had been going strong since April 1965.
In 2012, Universal released a deluxe two-disc edition of the Small Faces album, containing the original 12 tracks and no fewer than 18 bonus cuts, including alternate and stereo versions and non-album singles.
Small Faces can be bought here.
Follow the 60s playlist, featuring a host of classics from the decade.
Fri, 14 May 2021 04:15:02 +0000
With only a week to go before her highly-anticipated debut album arrives, blazing pop force Olivia Rodrigo has shared the third single from Sour, the scathing, punk-flavored “Good 4 U.”
The track’s release comes alongside a music video from director Petra Collins that calls back to cult classics in the horror and dark comedy films of the late 90s and early 2000s.
Floating on a plucky baseline and punching guitars, Rodrigo soaks in envy throughout “Good 4 U,” crying out on the chorus: “Well, good for you / You look happy and healthy, not me / If you ever cared to ask / Good for you / You’re doing great out there without me, baby / God, I wish that I could do that.”
In the visual, Rodrigo progresses through increasingly volatile behaviors. What starts with a shoulder shove to a fellow cheerleader quickly escalates to a convenient mart run for a bag of chips and a gallon of gasoline for the singer’s later exploration of arson. By the end of the video, a red-eyed Rodrigo descends into a dark lake, though the hue of her eyes leans more towards possession than the aftermath of a crying session.
The emotion-driven pop punk sound of “Good 4 U” is reminiscent of early records from the Hayley Williams-fronted band Paramore and fits perfectly into the budding pop punk revival currently seeping into pop music.
As exhibited by her first two singles, “Drivers License” and “Deja Vu,” Rodrigo is a master of crafting pristine bridges. On the hushed bridge of “Good 4 U,” the singer questions whether she may be too emotional, drawing up the conclusion as the only possible explanation for why she’s so torn apart by a breakup while her former partner seems to be moving on just fine. This theme appears throughout Sour, though Rodrigo’s passionate expressions of heartbreak and its many stages keep it from ever feeling stagnant.
In a recent interview with Billboard, Rodrigo discussed writing Sour, saying: “I’m a songwriter who writes from a place of authenticity and truth. And truthfully, love and happiness and everything weren’t feelings that I was feeling at the time. And what’s the point of putting out a record if it isn’t something that you feel is important to say to people?”
With only three proper songs released to the world, Rodrigo has formed a consistent, trusting bond with her audience through this honest display of emotion. When she embraced the melodramatic pain of first heartbreak on “Drivers License,” listeners responded by streaming the song into history-making streaming record territory. In just a few months, the singer’s debut single has been rectified triple-platinum by the RIAA, spent 8 weeks at No.1, and became the first song released in 2021 to surpass one billion global streams.
On “Deja Vu,” Rodrigo draws similarities between the memories of her past relationship and the ones her former partner has been forming with his new girlfriend––calling him out for not even switching up the jokes she’d told to him first. The single debuted in the top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100, making Rodrigo the first artist in the chart’s history to have her first two proper singles do so.
With three sonically diverse singles thread together by raw, not yet jaded songwriting, Sour is shaping up to be a standout, historical moment in pop music. This Saturday, Rodrigo will be making her Saturday Night Live debut and has teased a performance of “Good 4 U” for the occasion.
Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour arrives via Geffen Records on May 21 and can be pre-ordered now.
Fri, 14 May 2021 04:03:45 +0000
After teasing fans all week about something new coming out of Barbieworld, Nicki Minaj has unveiled that her seminal third mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty, is finally available on all digital streaming platforms.
Her breakthrough project introduced Minaj to the world, highlighting her effortless blend of brilliant bars and iconic choruses. The project was the stuff of legend upon its release.
The mixtape was initially recorded after Lil Wayne noticed her now-legendary appearance on The Come Up DVD series. The project, originally released in April of 2009 by DJ Holiday and the Trapaholics, now includes 23 tracks and features guest verses from Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes, Gucci Mane, Drake, and more while reworking popular tracks from Soulja Boy Tellem (“Donk”), DJ Khaled & T-Pain (“Go Hard”), and V.I.C. (“Get Silly”).
The critically-acclaimed mixtape is cannon amongst the Barbz and produced the hit “I Get Crazy” featuring Lil Wayne, which charted at #20 and No.37 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The re-release arrives with standalone tracks “Boss Ass Bitch (Remix)” and “Chi-Raq (Feat. G Herbo),” plus three previously unannounced brand new tracks: “Seeing Green (with Drake & Lil Wayne),” “Fractions,” and “Crocodile Teeth (Remix Feat. Skillibeng).”
The thrilling re-release comes during a celebratory time for Nicki, whose “Anaconda” joined the billion views club on YouTube back in April. Always one to break new ground, the honor qualified Minaj as the first solo female rapper to join the elite club.
Buy or stream Nicki Minaj’s Beam Me Up Scotty.
Beam Me Up Scotty Tracklist
1. Seeing Green (with Drake & Lil Wayne)
3. Crocodile Teeth (Remix) (with Skillibeng)
4. Chi-Raq (with G Herbo)
5. Boss Ass Bitch (Remix) (with PTAF)
7. Itty Bitty Piggy
8. I Get Crazy (feat. Lil Wayne)
9. Kill Da DJ
10. Nicki Minaj Speaks
11. Slumber Party (feat. Gucci Mane)
12. Shopaholic (feat. Gucci Mane, Bobby V, & F1Jo)
13. Gotta Go Hard (feat. Lil Wayne)
14. Nicki Minaj Speaks #2
15. Best I Ever Had (Remix)
16. Keys Under Palm Trees
18. Easy (feat. Gucci Mane & Rocko)
19. Nicki Minaj Speaks #3
21. Can Anybody Hear Me?
22. Still I Rise
23. Beam Me Up Scotty
Thu, 13 May 2021 22:12:18 +0000
Dutch DJ Martin Garrix has teamed up with U2’s Bono and the Edge for the official UEFA EURO 2020 song “We Are The People.” After more than a year of anticipation and having to keep this a secret, the track is out now.
With the track in the making for three years, Garrix had felt from the early stages of the creative process that Bono’s vocals would make the perfect fit for “We Are The People.” His vision came to life when both Bono and his U2 bandmate The Edge agreed to feature on the song. The collaboration evolved further with Bono writing the lyrics and creating melodies and The Edge adding the leading guitar riffs, resulting in a perfect blend of the signature sounds of all artists.
Says Garrix: “Creating the music for one of the biggest sports events in the world together with Bono and The Edge has been an incredible experience. I’m very proud of what we did together and excited to finally share it with the world!”
“The long wait is almost over and we are delighted to officially unveil the official song for UEFA EURO 2020 ‘We Are The People’, which features some of the world’s most celebrated artists in Martin Garrix, Bono, and The Edge,” said UEFA marketing director Guy-Laurent Epstein.
“Football and music have the power of bringing people together. They are vectors of passion and emotion and combining them will extend further the fan celebration of the tournament, as well as reaching out to new audiences. With the star-studded line-up we have pulled together to create the tournament’s official music, we are confident of doing just this.”
UEFA EURO 2020 is being held across the continent for the first time in the competition’s history, with 11 host cities in all. Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome, Saint Petersburg and Seville will all host matches this summer with the first match kicking off at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on 11 June 2021 with Turkey facing Italy. The final will take place at Wembley Stadium, London on 11 July 2021.
Buy or stream Martin Garrix’s “We Are The People” with Bono and The Edge .
Thu, 13 May 2021 20:00:12 +0000
Glass Animals has shared the trippy, Max Siedentop-directed music video for “Space Ghost Coast To Coast.” Frontman Dave Bayley stars in the visual, recorded from afar and capturing him from various positions throughout a residential area in London.
Throughout the visual, Bayley begins to be distorted in different ways––his head expands like a helium balloon and eight copies of himself play basketball with his own head. Later on, dozens of naked avatars descend from the sky to dance in a field as their bodies twist and turn.
Speaking of the song and visual, Bayley said: ‘Space Ghost’ is about someone I knew growing up in Texas…we drifted apart when I moved away at 13, but I found out a few years later he did something truly awful. The lyrics of the track are just wondering what makes someone change so much from being an innocent kid to someone who can even consider doing what he did.”
“It talks about how in the 2000s, violent video games and lyrics were blamed by the media for that type of misbehavior in teenagers…but really I think there were much bigger societal problems at play. The video is a twist on those video games,” he continued.
“Every video we have made in the last year has been made in peak lockdown…we had to get creative. In this case, Max came up with the idea that he could film me dancing in the park while sitting in his apartment. He was giving me direction the whole time via phone in my earbuds. It starts there and gets more and more surreal ha.”
“Space Ghost Coast To Coast” appears on Glass Animals’ third studio album Dreamland released in 2020. The album features the hit single “Heat Waves,” which recently spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Alternative Radio Chart.
The band recently announced dates for the forthcoming Dreamland tour kicking off on August 30 and spanning through June of 2022.
Glass Animals’ Dreamland can be bought here.
Thu, 13 May 2021 18:31:27 +0000
Def Jam Recordings and iHeartMedia have launched the narrative podcast Here Comes The Break produced by Double Elvis and hosted by Asante Blackk, who portrays the fictional protagonist Ruben. The series is made up of interviews with Def Jam signees and combines conversation with music discovery as tracks from the featured artists are amplified in each episode.
Here Comes The Break arrives today with two introductory episodes. The first features artist Nevaeh Jolie whose song “Sorry” is featured in the episode in which the primary conflict is that Ruben, having had a panic attack, mistakenly mixes up his anxiety medication prior to an important artist interview. Masio Gunz is the featured artist of the series’ second episode. His song “Slide” is given a platform as Ruben works on landing his next interview as soon as possible.
My whole life I’ve had a passion for acting, music, and helping people be their best selves. Here Comes The Break is the perfect opportunity to blend all three, and I can’t wait to share it with everybody,” Asante Blackk says. The show brings together music and media in a way that’s new and exciting, while also sparking positive conversations around mental health and self-expression through art. Here Comes The Break tackles those crazy, sad, stagnant, and beautiful moments we all have growing up as teens and young adults. I hope you’ll tune in and hop on for a wild ride.”
As Here Comes The Break continues, it will follow Ruben as his anonymously launched podcast series becomes an essential platform for rising hip-hop artists on Def Jam.
“I’m storyteller by craft, and I’m fascinated by the art of storytelling, in whatever form it takes,” said Grammy Award-winning writer and artist Bobby Sessions who will be featured on the series later in the season.
“I love that ‘Here Comes The Break’ is a narrative with such timely, relatable themes and weaves music into the story so seamlessly. Podcasts are now part of our everyday lives, and can be a great platform for listeners to discover their next favorite new artist. I’m excited to be part of it. The possibilities are endless.”
Other artists who have provided interviews to the series include Saint Bodhi, Nasty C, Bino Rideaux, and more.
“The convergence of podcasting and the music business is opening up new avenues of exposure for artists, and innovations for creators,” said Brady Sadler, co-founder of Double Elvis.
“Music is at the core of all our content and partnering with iHeartRadio and Def Jam on this series allows us to introduce our audience of music fans to an emerging generation of new talent and explore opportunities for music discovery and promotion, all while chronicling important topics like mental health and self-expression through storytelling.”
Listen to Here Comes The Break on Apple Music and Spotify.
Thu, 13 May 2021 18:13:21 +0000
The Offspring have shared a new visual for their recent single “We Never Have Sex Anymore,” with a special cameo from John Stamos acting alongside two chimpanzees recruited to portray the song’s lyrics in the most literal, humorous way possible.
“We Never Have Sex Anymore” is off of their new album, Let The Bad Times Roll, released on April 16.
In the Scott Schafer-directed visual, the two animals experience the same marital disconnection detailed in the song’s lyrics. Later on, the businessman-like chimpanzee meets up with Stamos for drinks at a strip club before taking the stage himself.
The video’s comedic edge is classic The Offspring humor. In their previously released visual, for the title track “Let The Bad Times Roll,” the band performs as teenagers that are attacked by their electronic devices and an animated virus.
Let The Bad Times Roll marks the tenth studio album from The Offspring and the band’s first in almost a decade.
“This is a special record. When you’ve done a bunch of records, you’re trying to figure out how not to repeat yourself, and on our last couple of records – Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace and Days Go By – we felt it was time to expand our horizons. For this one, it felt like it was time to get back to more of a punk record,” frontman Dexter Holland told NME.
The Offspring plans to take Let The Bad Times Roll on the road later this year on a UK and Ireland arena tour kicking off in November. “After nearly two years of not playing for our fans, the idea of getting in front of the UK crowds is beyond exciting,” the band shared in a statement.
With The Hives on board as support, they will be performing in Dublin, Cardiff, Birmingham, London, Glasgow, Manchester and Leeds.
Buy or stream Let The Bad Times Roll.
Thu, 13 May 2021 18:01:28 +0000
Sparks have shared a new trailer for their new documentary, The Sparks Brothers, directed by Edgar Wright. The trailer for the project includes commentary from Beck, Jason Schwartzmann, Jack Antonoff, Todd Rundgren, Giorgio Moroder, Flea, the Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin, and more. Watch The Sparks Brothers’ trailer, and find its poster, below.
Following its premiere at Sundance earlier this year, The Sparks Brothers is getting a wide release on June 18. The film is the first music documentary from Wright, whose other credits include Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Baby Driver. The band’s most recent album—their 24th—was last year’s A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip.
Last week it was announced that the Sundance Film Festival: London will open with the UK premiere of The Sparks Brothers: a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers Ron and Russell Mael. In partnership with Universal, consecutive screenings of the film will take place in multiple cinemas across the UK with a filmmaker Q+A simultaneously broadcast from Picturehouse Central on July 29, 2021.
Says Sundance Film Festival Director Tabitha Jackson: “We’re thrilled to return to London and expand across the UK with an exciting program of films that tell fresh, independent stories — stories which are essential as we endeavour to understand our past while we reimagine our present and future.”
Clare Binns, Joint Managing Director Picturehouse Cinemas added: “It’s great to be back working with all of our friends at the Sundance Film Festival. We’re so excited to bring back inspiring independent films to the big screen – during this year’s Sundance London we will come together to watch, discuss, and immerse ourselves in an art form which has since been lost to us for over a year.”
Director Edgar Wright said, “I was just 5 years old when I was hypnotized by Ron & Russell Mael (collectively Sparks) staring at me from the telly on a 1979 episode of Top Of The Pops. Over the next four decades, their music has been a riddle turned full on obsession.”
Listen to the best of Sparks here.
Thu, 13 May 2021 17:36:35 +0000
In a recent interview at the 2021 BRIT Awards, Boy George delved into some details about his forthcoming biopic Karma Chameleon, which has been in the works for a number of years.
Though the casting, release date, and other concrete details of the film have yet to be confirmed and revealed, the Culture Club member shared his hopes and expectations for how his life and journey into stardom will be documented.
“The truth is the most interesting thing, I don’t think there’s any need to fabricate,” George told NME on the BRIT Awards red carpet. “It’s just whether whoever plays me gets me, and doesn’t think they have to play a caricature.”
Karma Chameleon will detail Boy George as he goes from small-town life in England to the fame and stardom brought about by his time in Culture Club with Jon Moss, Roy Hay, and Mikey Craig in the 80s. The film is named after the group’s second No. 1 UK single which appeared on their 1983 album Colour by Numbers.
“I don’t really have a fixed idea about who that person is anyway, because I’m not that person anymore. I probably wasn’t that person at the time,” he explained of film branching decades into the past. “I’m not saying I was a bank robber or something, but all my stuff is out there. I’ve never really been a person who has had secrets. I’ve never had a press agent to stop these things coming out, so it’s all out there.”
The film will be shot by Millennium Media with Sacha Gervasi as its director and Kevin King Templeton and Paul Kemsley as its producers. Boy George will executive produce the film alongside Jessica de Rothschild while Kate Ringsell boards as casting director.
“Now with Millennium Media coming on board, all of the elements are in place and I look forward to finding a dynamic lead,” Templeton told Deadline. “Having spent time with George over the last four years developing the film, it is important to me that his story gets told in a way that honors him.”
George’s desired takeaway from the film is simple: “I want it to be brilliant obviously. I want it to be brilliant, truthful, I want it to make people cry, I want it to be very heartfelt and honest.”
Listen to the best of Culture Club.
Thu, 13 May 2021 17:14:28 +0000
Maren Morris and Miranda Lambert lead the way in the newly-announced nominations for the 2021 CMT Music Awards. Little Big Town and Mickey Guyton, with her first nods, are also among those prominently recognized in the fan-voted awards.
The show, which will run for two and a half hours, will air on Wednesday, June 9 at 8pm ET/7pm CT on CMT. There will be a five-channel simulcast across MTV, MTV2, Logo, Paramount Network, and TV Land.
Morris and Lambert have four nominations each for the awards, to be hosted by Kelsea Ballerini and Kane Brown, each of whom have three, as do Little Big Town and Guyton. The full list includes no fewer than 13 artists who are CMT Music Awards nominees for the first time. As well as Guyton, they are Dylan Scott, Hailey Whitters, HARDY, Lainey Wilson, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff, Niko Moon, Noah Cyrus, Parmalee, Ryan Hurd, Tyler Hubbard, and Willie Jones.
There are 14 nominees for the highly-prized Video of the Year award, including Carrie Underwood, shortlisted this time for her duet performance with John Legend, “Hallelujah.” Underwood holds the record for the most wins in the awards, with a current total of 22. The show will also highlight Breakthrough Video of the Year nominees Dylan Scott, Hailey Whitters (featuring Little Big Town), HARDY, Lainey Wilson, Niko Moon, and Guyton.
The 2021 CMT Music Awards nominees are:
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Best video of the year; awarded to the artist (male, female, group/duo or collaboration). Top 5 nominees, from the first round of voting, will be announced on June 1. Top 3 nominees, from the second round of voting, will be announced on June 8. Final voting will be determined via social media and announced as the final category during the live show.
Carrie Underwood with John Legend – “Hallelujah”
Dierks Bentley – “Gone”
Elle King and Miranda Lambert – “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)”
Ingrid Andress – “Lady Like”
Kane Brown – “Worldwide Beautiful”
Keith Urban with P!nk – “One Too Many”
Kelsea Ballerini – “hole in the bottle”
Kenny Chesney – “Knowing You”
Maren Morris – “Better Than We Found It”
Mickey Guyton – “Heaven Down Here”
Miranda Lambert – “Settling Down”
Ryan Hurd with Maren Morris – “Chasing After You”
Sam Hunt – “Breaking Up Was Easy In The 90’s”
Willie Jones – “American Dream”
FEMALE VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Best video by a female artist; awarded to the artist
Carly Pearce – “Next Girl”
Gabby Barrett – “The Good Ones”
Kelsea Ballerini – “hole in the bottle”
Maren Morris – “To Hell & Back”
Mickey Guyton – “Heaven Down Here”
Miranda Lambert – “Settling Down”
MALE VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Best video by a male artist; awarded to the artist
Chris Stapleton – “Starting Over”
Darius Rucker – “Beers and Sunshine”
Kane Brown – “Worship You”
Luke Bryan – “Down To One”
Luke Combs – “Lovin’ On You”
Thomas Rhett – “What’s Your Country Song”
DUO/GROUP VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Best video by a duo or group; awarded to the artists
Brothers Osborne – “All Night”
Lady A – “Like A Lady”
Little Big Town – “Wine, Beer, Whiskey”
Old Dominion – “Never Be Sorry”
Parmalee and Blanco Brown – “Just The Way”
Runaway June – “We Were Rich”
BREAKTHROUGH VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Best video from an artist’s major breakthrough album; awarded to the artist (male, female or group/duo)
Dylan Scott – “Nobody”
Hailey Whitters feat. Little Big Town – “Fillin’ My Cup”
HARDY – “Give Heaven Some Hell”
Lainey Wilson – “Things a Man Oughta Know”
Mickey Guyton – “Black Like Me”
Niko Moon – “GOOD TIME (Ride Along Video)”
COLLABORATIVE VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Best video from a collaboration; awarded to the artists
Carrie Underwood with John Legend – “Hallelujah”
Chris Young and Kane Brown – “Famous Friends”
Elle King and Miranda Lambert – “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)”
Keith Urban with P!nk – “One Too Many”
Ryan Hurd with Maren Morris – “Chasing After You”
Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard – “Undivided”
CMT PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Musical performance on a television show, series or variety special on CMT; awarded to the artist (individual, group or duo)
From the 2020 CMT Music Awards – Brooks & Dunn and Luke Combs “1, 2 Many”
From the 2020 CMT Music Awards – Dan + Shay “I Should Probably Go To Bed”
From the 2020 CMT Music Awards – Jimmie Allen and Noah Cyrus “This Is Us”
From the 2020 CMT Music Awards – Kelsea Ballerini and Halsey “The Other Girl”
From the 2020 CMT Music Awards – Little Big Town “Wine, Beer, Whiskey”
From CMT Crossroads – Nathaniel Rateliff and Margo Price “Twinkle Twinkle”
Thu, 13 May 2021 15:16:25 +0000
Crowded House have revealed their new single “Playing With Fire”, the latest release from the band’s forthcoming seventh-studio album, Dreamers Are Waiting, out on June 4 via EMI Music Australia. The song comes accompanied by a music video directed by Simon Mark-Brown, which features a full-band performance set within a dream-like sequence and you can check it out below.
In the “Playing With Fire” clip, Crowded House give a Vegas-style performance in a theater for an audience of one. The band members all rock bright stage attire, and they bring along a choir, a horn section, and a pair of go-go dancers. Eventually, the sole audience member joins the show in a surprising way.
“This song was formed out of a Crowded House jam, live in the studio but then evolved its character through many twists and turns during quarantine in 2020,” shares Neil Finn.
“Playing With Fire” carries within it the contradiction I often feel on joyous occasions, the presence of hope together with an impending sense of doom.”
Since having just completed a hugely successful tour of New Zealand earlier this year, Crowded House has continued to usher in a series of new music, including their recent single “To The Island,” along with two remixed versions of the track – Both the Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra remixes are set to appear on an upcoming 7’’ vinyl via the band’s online store.
Dreamers Are Waiting is the long-awaited follow-up to the band’s 2010 album Intriguer.
Finn adds of the album, “We were fortunate to be recording in the studio right before lockdown and so began this album with band tracks recorded live in a room, all brimming with character and energy. We then spent our strangest year, 2020, at distance from each other but connecting daily, swapping files and making those tracks complete. We’re so excited and grateful to be back in one room together now, rehearsing, first to play live in front of audiences in NZ and soon we hope for the rest of the world.”
Dreamers Are Waiting is out on June 4 and can be pre-ordered here.
Thu, 13 May 2021 13:59:54 +0000
Thu, 13 May 2021 13:18:00 +0000
US residents and fans of The Who have the chance to win one of four highly desirable prizes including a stay at a Caribbean hotel, while raising money for Teen Cancer America, the charity founded by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend.
The 2021 Uncorked With Broadway raffle is open to US residents only, with tickets available now at $25 each. The grand prize is a six-night stay in a Caribbean hotel, chosen by the winner from options in Cancun, Punta Cana, Costa Rica, and Riviera Maya. Flights, transportation, and meals are not included, but there is an option to update to an all-inclusive getaway at an additional cost.
Also on offer in the raffle is a bottle of Charles Orban Cuvee Roger Daltrey, the singer’s signature champagne, and two limited edition champagne flutes; a set of Townshend’s guitar strings and pick, plus a past concert badge; and Daltrey’s solo album As Long As I Have You on CD, signed by the frontman, plus a limited edition Tommy shot glass.
The raffle closes on May 25 at 12am PST. On May 21, fans are invited to join professional sommeliers and representatives of Teen Cancer America and Wine Insiders for a virtual wine tasting. Wine packs are available to buy, discounted for UnCorked with Broadway, with proceeds going directly to Teen Cancer America. Wine must be ordered by May 18 at 1pm PST to be received in time for the event.
Joining the tasting with special messages or songs will be major stars of Broadway and musical theater such as Alfie Boe, Laura Benanti, Michael Cerveris, Christian Hoff, Laura Dreyfuss, Megan Hilty, Danny Burstein, Constantine Maroulis, Elaine Paige, Mandy Gonzalez, Bryan Terrell Clark, Erich Bergen, Megan Hilty, Gabrielle McClinton, Donnie Kehr (from The Who’s Tommy), and Telly Leung.
The Super Deluxe Edition of The Who Sell Out can be bought here.
Listen to the best of The Who on Apple Music and Spotify.
Thu, 13 May 2021 12:41:51 +0000
No one, not even Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits themselves, could have anticipated what happened when they released their new album on May 12, 1985. It went on to top the US chart for nine weeks, became a global No.1, a double Grammy-winner and has sold an estimated 30 million copies worldwide. After the preview of the single “So Far Away,” May 25 was the date that year that Brothers In Arms made its debut on the UK listings.
Listen to Brothers In Arms.
In America, the album also gave Dire Straits a residency on pop radio and on MTV, as ‘Money For Nothing’ hit No.1 on the Hot 100. Brothers also became the first million-selling compact disc, and generated a tour that ran to a total of 248 gigs in 117 cities. In the week that it entered the US chart at No.54, it fell to No.3 after its first two weeks at No.1 in the UK (there would be 12 more, later) but continued at the summit in Australia.
Now happy to be touring in a more manageable way in his own name and with his current, stellar band, Knopfler has come to realise that the enormous scale of that mid-1980s tour couldn’t be sustained. “I always want to go everywhere but you can’t, you have to cut it down a bit,” he said some years ago.
“We used to do all these enormous tours but I think I was sort of running away, and you can’t really run away. These tours end and you have to come back, But now I don’t want to run away, I just want to do a reasonable length of tour and then come home again.”
Nevertheless, he knows that the songs on that 1985 record-breaker found a place in people’s hearts that they will occupy forever. “I don’t sit at home and play my stuff, I think that would be an unbelievably sad thing to do,” he says. “But when I’m on the road I see all these people that want to hear you play some of these songs, and I think that’s just fine. I get into them when I’m doing them.
“There’s always a lot of you that wants to move forward, I’ll always be like that, but I don’t think that should stop you from playing a song. These songs, some of them are milestones in people’s lives, they’re really important to them.”
Brothers In Arms can be bought here.
Follow uDiscover Music’s Dire Straits Best Of playlist.
Thu, 13 May 2021 12:00:31 +0000
Gaspard Augé, best known as one half of Justice, has announced his debut solo album, Escapades, alongside the release of the project’s first single, “Hey!” Escapades is set for a June 25th digital and physical release.
“Hey!” is paired with a Filip Nilsson-directed visual filmed in Turkey, featuring the stunt of a person performing the song’s violin part while riding full-clip on horseback. “This is the first thing that came to my mind while recording the track,” states Augé, “a Mongolian horse rider playing the violin in the steppe, an epic ride with a far east feel. Filip Nilsson and the amazing rider Metin Yılmaz made that dream come true.”
The last time Augé surfaced publicly was when he and Justice’s Xavier De Rosnay won a 2019 Grammy for their album Woman Worldwide, a triumphant rework of songs from across the band’s first decade. But while Justice is consistently working on new music, Augé felt it was time to figure out his musical identity outside of the duo. He knew he wanted to make something instrumental and to experiment freely “without overthinking it.”
To bring his bold vision to life, Augé teamed up with French composer Victor le Masne (known for his work with Chilly Gonzales and Metronomy’s Joseph Mount)―and the pair worked across two Paris studios. If Augé has any mission statement for the new work, it’s that he ignores narrow definitions of “good taste or bad taste” and wants to capture the innocence of enjoying music in your youth, where you’re guided first and foremost by feeling. “I’ve always been obsessed with making larger-than-life music,” he says. “Mostly because it’s more fun.”
Escapades is out on June 25 and available for pre-order.
2. Force Majeure
Thu, 13 May 2021 11:37:35 +0000
Gregory Porter has shared the first episode of his new cooking show, ‘The PorterHouse With Gregory Porter’, which you can check out below.
Episode 1, which is centered around Porter’s beef borsch recipe—a dish he enjoyed on his first tours of Russia that incorporates elements of his wife Victoria’s family recipe. New episodes of ‘The PorterHouse’ will premiere at 9a PDT / 12p EDT / 5p BST / 6pm CEST each Wednesday on The Infatuation and Zagat’s YouTube channels, each with its own theme, special song inspiration, or life experience behind it. Listen to The PorterHouse Playlist featuring tracks from the show and other favorites from across Porter’s catalog.
The two-time Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and Blue Note recording artist began his career in New York as a chef before he got discovered as a musician. Porter puts as much soul into his cooking as he does his music—both rich with family traditions, imbued by real-life experience, and inspired by a global sense of community. Now Porter invites you into his family kitchen in Bakersfield, California to share his favorite recipes and the stories behind them as the host of ‘The PorterHouse with Gregory Porter’, Presented by Citi, a new six-episode cooking series that launched today.
“Music and food, two things in life I truly love, have always been connected,” says Porter. “The kitchen was actually my home before I ever stepped on stage. Food is not just food, it’s tradition, it’s family, it’s roots, and that’s what music is. When I make a beautiful dish, something that makes people feel good and it brightens their face and lightens their mood, this is the way I think about music. Writing songs and creating dishes have always inspired me.”
Presented by Citi, ‘The PorterHouse’ features Porter sharing recipes inspired by his local community, experiences from touring the globe and family traditions from growing up in Bakersfield with his mother and seven siblings. The sixth episode will showcase the importance of giving back amid record levels of food insecurity in the United States, with a food donation at a local ministry and soup kitchen operated by Porter’s brother Dionne. As part of its support of The PorterHouse, Citi has pledged an additional donation to longtime partner No Kid Hungry to provide up to 100,000 meals for U.S. families in need.
“We are always looking for exciting ways to give Citi clients access to exclusive talent and experiences,” said Carla Hassan, Citi’s Chief Marketing Officer. “The PorterHouse with Gregory Porter allows us to do that while also supporting No Kid Hungry in their fight against childhood hunger, an area Citi is committed to driving progress in.”
Select episodes will feature entrees paired with wines from Halleck Vineyard, an award-winning family winery based in Sebastopol, California. Halleck Vineyard has been judged among the finest wines in the world for years running. Located in Sonoma County, California, the winery partners with worthy causes across the country to build and sustain community.
After the first season’s sixth episode airs June 16, Citi will present an exclusive finale event for cardmembers on Thursday June 17. The hour long virtual event will feature an intimate Q&A with Porter, followed by a full-band, multi-song concert performance — Porter’s first in over a year. The first 100 cardmembers to sign up will have the opportunity to participate in a virtual Halleck Vineyard tasting that will kick off the Q&A and performance from Porter, and receive a shipment of Halleck wines to sip along at home.
Listen to The PorterHouse Playlist featuring tracks from the show and other favorites from across Gregory Porter’s catalog.
Thu, 13 May 2021 11:36:37 +0000
The Beach Boys’ 11th studio album, Pet Sounds, changed the face of pop music. It didn’t happen overnight though – the brainchild of a then 23-year old Brian Wilson initially baffled the group’s record company and just barely cracked the Top Ten when it first appeared. But as the trusty adage goes: time will tell. In the years since its release, in May of 1966, the groundbreaking album has consistently been cited as one of the greatest pop albums ever created. The record signalled a dramatic break from the band’s previous work as Wilson abandoned the sunny, carefree hits that had catapulted the group to popstar status for introspection and heartbreak. To explore these themes Wilson experimented heavily production-wise, bringing in new harmonic patterns, innovative instruments and complex arrangements. But how much do you know about this record? Check out the quiz below and find out!
And, while you’re playing, listen to The Beach Boys’ best of playlist on Apple Music and Spotify.
Thu, 13 May 2021 09:40:32 +0000
Steven Wilson has streamed brand new song “Anyone But Me”, which you can listen to below.
“Anyone But Me” was recorded during sessions for Wilson’s Top 5 album The Future Bites, but didn’t make the final cut of the album. A demo of “Anyone But Me” was actually included on the cassette – sorry, obsolete media – in the limited edition deluxe box set of The Future Bites, but this is the first time the full studio cut has been made available.
“This song was a casualty of COVID-19,” Wilson explains. “It was originally the closing song on The Future Bites, the album was even mastered and cut with it in place, but the delay in releasing the album gave me the chance to re-evaluate and I decided to replace it with the more laid back and atmospheric Count Of Unease.
“I still love this song though. Lyrically it’s about how it’s now possible to present to the world a version of yourself via social media that may have no bearing on reality – photos of yourself in places you’ve never been, hanging out with friends you’ve never met. It’s becoming more important to create the illusion of a desirable life on social media than it is to actually live it.”
In March, Wilson announced that he had been forced to cancel his ‘The Future Bites’ tour, already rescheduled for this coming September. Citing continued COVID-related disruption in Europe, Wilson states that he will now concentrate on upcoming music projects, working on two albums that are planned for 2022 and 2023 respectively.
In a statement, Wilson said: “Sadly for the second time I am forced to postpone my ‘Future Bites’ tour – the rescheduled dates were due to begin in September. While recent developments made me at least optimistic that the UK shows might have been able to go ahead (though no guarantee), the same is not true of much of the rest of Europe.
Wilson is currently finishing writing his first book, due for publication by Little Brown later this year and working on two new albums for release in 2022 and 2023.
The Future Bites can be bought here.
Thu, 13 May 2021 08:58:54 +0000
“We might feel that our lives are determined, but as long as we hope, we will always believe in a better tomorrow,” says Niu Niu, speaking about the inspiration behind his new album Fate & Hope. The recording includes Liszt’s extraordinary solo piano transcription of Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony as well as his debut composition Hope. Niu Niu explains, “As a young musician more than 200 years after Beethoven, I am trying to convey the idea that his energy, his legacy and his spirit always will live in us. It is really paying a tribute to Beethoven, just as I felt Liszt wrote his transcription of the Fifth Symphony as a tribute to Beethoven.”
Listen to Niu Niu’s album Fate & Hope on Apple Music and Spotify and scroll down to discover the story behind the recording.
Discover Niu Niu’s album Fate & Hope
Composers have long admired bird song. Handel copied their melodies in an organ concerto, dubbed The Cuckoo and the Nightingale. Respighi represented several feathered friends in The Birds, while Messiaen chronicled the calls he heard in his native France. Zoomusicologists – musicologists who specialise in animal music – have persuasively made a case that bird song is an art form in itself. In fact, it’s likely that the one of the most famous motifs in musical history was inspired by the percussive call of the Yellowhammer.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
The four-note ‘dadadadaaaaaaaa’ that opens Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 corresponds with the cry of the brightly coloured bird the composer heard as he walked through Vienna’s park. The iconic phrase, transcribed as three quavers followed by a paused minim, has been quoted ever since – including in some unlikely places, such as Saturday Night Fever (‘A Fifth of Beethoven’). There are many different versions of the original symphony, including transcriptions for piano.
“I have to be the orchestra and the soloist at the same time”
“I have to be the orchestra and the soloist at the same time,” says Chinese pianist Niu Niu, who has included Liszt’s transcription on his new solo album Fate & Hope. “Everyone knows the opening to Beethoven’s Fifth – it was really important to get that bit right.”
Piano transcriptions were a popular medium in the 19th and early 20th century. They were used to recreate music before commercial recordings were widely available and when more people played the piano at home. As the technical capabilities of the instrument itself improved, so did those of the pianists – transcriptions became increasingly complex. Liszt – one the first celebrity pianists – was particularly brilliant at the art of transcription, reworking dozens of songs, operas and symphonies. The Beethoven-Liszt Op. 67 is not merely an arrangement; Liszt has integrated all the elements in the original orchestration and transferred them into a work for piano that is a piece in its own right. There’s a reason this transcription isn’t heard very often: it’s extremely difficult to play.
“Liszt really squeezed the potential of the piano,” agrees Niu Niu. “It’s intimate but also powerful. This is a very technically complex piece, but I hope that people don’t hear that and can fully immerse themselves in the music.”
“I started writing Hope at the beginning of the pandemic”
Legend has it that the ‘dadadadaaaaaaaa’ emblem represents fate knocking on the door – a tantalising tale, given the personal tragedy surrounding Beethoven’s life. Niu Niu’s album, Fate & Hope, takes half its title from this story; the other half refers to a piece written by the 23-year-old himself. “I started writing Hope at the beginning of the pandemic,” he explains, “It took several months, and in time I learned that eliminating was as important as elaborating.” Carving away the excess left a compact, five-minute impromptu. “I feel more free playing my own music – although Hope is carefully composed and there is an emotional flow, there is an improvised quality to it. That is something I like to emphasise and I admire that quality in Liszt and Chopin.”
Niu Niu was a prodigy
Niu Niu was born in 1997 in the Chinese city of Xiamen, near Taiwan. His parents gave him the nickname ‘Niu’ to shorten his given name, Zhang Shengliang. (‘Niu’ is the phonetic spelling of the Chinese word for ox; 1997 was the year of the ox.) It became obvious from an early stage that Niu Niu was a prodigy, although he says that his parents always protected him from that label. He enrolled into the Shanghai Conservatory of Music aged eight, the youngest student to have ever joined the prestigious institution, and later studied at the New England Conservatory and The Juilliard School.
Fate & Hope is Niu Niu’s second album for Decca, following a recital of Liszt, Chopin, Schubert and Mendelssohn (2018). But the pianist is no stranger to the recording process, having signed to EMI Classics when he was just nine. This is his first Beethoven collection, a composer from whom Niu Niu learned the idea of discipline: “I don’t mean rules to follow, but the control we should have. That plays a really important role in my practice and playing.”
Two Beethoven sonatas are sandwiched between the symphony and Hope. The Pathétique (No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13) is one of the earlier sonatas, written when Beethoven was just a few years older than Niu Niu. It’s packed with beautiful melodies, earning the nickname Pathétique – ‘moving’. The Moonlight (No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2) is so-called after a critic compared the rippling themes in the first movement to a moon-lit Lake Lucerne. In fact, the sonata was probably inspired by Beethoven’s relationship with his student, 16-year-old Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, to whom the work is dedicated.
Fate and hope: two opposing, powerful ideals. “We might feel that our lives are determined,” says Niu Niu, “but as long as we hope, we will always believe in a better tomorrow.”
Niu Niu’s album Fate & Hope can be bought here.
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Thu, 13 May 2021 08:42:29 +0000
When Queen entered the UK singles chart on May 13, 1989 with “I Want It All,” they’d been absent from the countdown for more than two and a half years. But that debut fired the starting pistol for a purple patch that saw the British quartet post five hit singles in their own country in just seven months.
All five came from the band’s 13th studio album The Miracle, unveiled three weeks after its bombastic, quintessentially Queen lead single. “I Want It All” was written by Brian May and inspired by something his future second wife, actress Anita Dobson, would say. “The actual title was a favorite phrase of Anita’s, a very ambitious girl.” said May. ““I want it all, and I want it now.’
“We were never able to perform this song live. It would have become something of the staple core of the Queen show, I’m sure, very participatory. It was designed for the audience to sing along to, very anthemic.”
Indeed, it’s strange to think that when “I Want It All” did make its live debut, the lead vocal was sung not by Freddie Mercury, but by Roger Daltrey. Mercury had given what proved to be his last live performances with Queen on the Magic Tour of 1986, and after his sad passing from AIDS in late 1991, The Who frontman stepped up to sing it with May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor at the Mercury Memorial Concert in April 1992.
In a UK chart featuring the pure pop of Kylie Minogue, the Bangles, the rock of Midnight Oil and Transvision Vamp and the soul of Natalie Cole and Chaka Khan, ‘I Want It All’ made a bold debut at No.3. It was swiftly followed into the Top 10 by “Breakthru,’” before “The Invisible Man” reached No.12 and the album’s “Scandal” and “The Miracle” became Top 30 hits.
“I Want It All” is on The Miracle, which can be bought here.
Listen to the best of Queen on Apple Music and Spotify.
Thu, 13 May 2021 08:37:17 +0000
Thu, 13 May 2021 00:20:20 +0000
After 21 million album sales in America alone as the lead singer with Hootie and the Blowfish — 16 million of them for their 1994 phenomenon Cracked Rear View alone — Darius Rucker could have been forgiven for taking it easy. After all, the charms of his home town, Charleston, South Carolina, had never left him. He still lives there, and with pleasingly mutual appreciation, they named a street after him, and he titled an album after the town.
In May 2019, Rucker and Hootie return to full-time road work for the extensive Group Therapy tour. It was followed by the Imperfect Circle album, which the band discussed with us. But back in 2008, the achievements of his erstwhile group in the field of album rock were never going to be enough.
Early that year, frontman Rucker signed to Capitol Nashville to begin the unique new adventure in country music that continues to this day. Following his fifth album for the label, When Was The Last Time, we’re looking back on his Grammy-winning, chart-topping story so far, to present the ten Darius Rucker songs you must hear.
We begin with that Capitol Nashville debut set of 2008, Learn To Live, and its first single “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” It not only went gold, but achieved something of even greater cultural significance. Written by the singer with Clay Mills, it hit No.1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for two weeks that October. That made Rucker the first Afro-American to top that countdown since Charley Pride in 1983. Better still, in 2014 the song passed the one million mark in digital sales.
Follow that, said the doubters who thought Rucker might just be playing with the country format — so he did follow it. He co-wrote “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” with Chris DuBois and Ashley Gorley. Inspired by the three writers’ respective experiences as young parents, the song took a scenic, four-and-a-half-month rise up the country chart. It reached the summit, again for two weeks, in March 2009, again going gold.
When it came time for single three from Learn To Live, Rucker’s momentum didn’t decrease, it just got greater. “Alright,” which he co-wrote with its producer, fellow South Carolina native Frank Rogers, gave him the perfect three-for-three, hitting No.1 on Hot Country Songs. Thus he matched another chart record: no one had done that with their first three solo singles since Wynonna Judd, in 1992. By 2013, sales were at 1.2 million copies; as for the parent album, it was gold within five months of release and platinum inside 11.
In October 2010, Rucker released his sophomore set for Capitol Nashville, and just as Radney Foster had done with Del Rio, TX 1959, he named it after his birthplace and year of birth. Charleston, SC 1966 became another gold-certified No.1 album and yielded two country airplay chart-toppers. The first was “Come Back Song,” written with Casey Beathard and a relatively unknown Chris Stapleton. It was around the time that Stapleton was leaving the Steeldrivers, years before his platinum-selling Traveller fame and fortune.
The second album’s follow-up single was, once again, right in the groove of country radio. Rucker composed “This” with Frank Rogers and multi-talented writer-producer Kara DioGuardi. By April 2011, it was giving Darius another No.1 airplay single.
Charleston, SC 1966 went gold, and so did its 2013 successor, True Believers, for which Rucker co-wrote all but two of the 12 songs. Brandy Clark and Shane McNally contributed “Love Without You,” which featured a guest appearance by Sheryl Crow. But the first single “Wagon Wheel,” with Lady Antebellum, was a number for which Bob Dylan had written the chorus as far back as 1973. Old Crow Medicine Show added verses for their 2004 version, which went platinum. But Rucker’s recording won triple platinum status, as it became the biggest song of his solo career.
Luke Laird and Ashley Gorley were his collaborators on the follow-up from the True Believers album, “Radio.” Described by tasteofcountry.com as the “perfect song for summer” and an “uptempo tribute to young love, open roads and, of course, the radio,” it made the Top 5 of the country chart.
Less than two years after True Believers, Darius Rucker was back with Southern Style, with Rogers again serving as chief producer and the singer co-writing every track. It became his fourth straight No.1 country album, and its lead single “Homegrown Honey,” written with Charles Kelley of the aforementioned Lady Antebellum and Nathan Chapman, was a No.2 airplay hit.
So to Rucker’s fifth Capitol Nashville set, When Was The Last Time, which he saw as the perfect follow-up to the mood he captured on Southern Style. “Country music really came together for me on that record,” he told Rolling Stone. “I thought that was the one where we got it. I know what I want to do in country music right now and this is another step there.” The first single, “If I Told You,” became yet another country airplay No.1.
The second single from When Was The Last Time was the jaunty, swaying “For The First Time.” It completed the lyrical concept of the album title (“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”). “It’s a lively album, lots of upbeat stuff,” said Rucker. “My fans will be really happy and I hope to make some new fans too, because it’s a country record.”
When Was The Last Time can be bought here.
Thu, 13 May 2021 00:13:34 +0000
Born on May 13, 1950, Stevie Wonder arrived in the public consciousness as a precociously talented, blind pre-teen with a remarkable facility on an array of musical instruments. In the mid-60s he became a major Motown hitmaker; by the start of the 70s he was ready to shake off the company’s star system and create some of the greatest albums soul and rock had ever seen, among them Songs In The Key Of Life, Talking Book, and Fulfillingness’ First Finale. Along the way he wrote, produced, and played on records by dozens of other artists, drawing awestruck admiration from the likes of Minnie Riperton, Paul McCartney, and Elton John. The owner of a brilliant, wide-ranging imagination, when Stevie spoke about anything, he was listened to, and in the political arena, his influence was crucial in bringing about the US national holiday of Martin Luther King Jr Day.
These 20 Stevie Wonder quotes offer a small sample of his beautiful mind, revealing his outlook on being Stevie Wonder, his wit, sensitivity, and love and concern for his fellow human beings.
Listen to the best of Stevie Wonder on Apple Music and Spotify, and scroll down for our 20 Stevie Wonder quotes.
Stevie Wonder Quotes: The Soul Legend In His Own Words
“It bothered me that my mother was crying all the time. She thought God might be punishing her for something… So I just told her I was happy to be blind and I think she felt better after that.”
“At 13 years old, you know you’re a big star. OK, fine, but I want to go and watch Huckleberry Hound.”
“Everyone that was over 13 was my parent. Diana [Ross] was my momma. The Marvelettes were all my parents, The Contours… ‘You can’t have a candy bar now, you gotta study now, do this now.’”
“Soul is being able to make a person so involved in a particular thing that they can cry about it or smile about it. It can be any kind of song, as long as you’re for real about it.”
“I got a call from Smokey [Robinson] and he said, ʻI didn’t like your choice of material. I think it’s really ridiculous.’ I said, ʻI don’t give a uh what you think, or what anyone thinks!”
“I never thought of being blind as a disadvantage, and I never thought of being Black as a disadvantage.”
“As we are the United States, we must be the united people of the United States.”
“Voting for Trump is like asking me to drive a car.”
“I’ve flown a plane before. A Cessna or something, from Chicago to New York. Scared the hell out of everybody.”
“I love gettin’ into just as much weird s__t as possible.”
“My mind must be polygamous and my spirit married to many and my love belongs to all.”
“When you realize nothing really belongs to you, you begin to appreciate having an understanding of just where your head is at, and you feel so much better.”
“I’m not a normal man. Never have been.”
“I get a certain feeling in my head when a person says red or blue, green, black, white, yellow, orange, purple. Purple is a crazy color to me.”
“The Moog is a way to directly express what comes from your mind.”
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s teaching and works have led me and the world to give peace a chance.”
“We must reassure the future of our youth, so they will never again have to experience the ugliness of racism, bigotry, or prejudice of any kind.”
“I wish the women of the world would say, ʻListen, until you get out of your spirit of war and destruction, you can’t get no love.’”
“It is always great when we don’t allow fear to put our dreams to sleep.”
“You know, people are gonna have to wake up!”
Looking for more? Discover the best Stevie Wonder songs.
Wed, 12 May 2021 23:55:38 +0000
Who was the first female soul superstar? Who supplied glamour – indeed, pushed the envelope for style for her era – and stunning, undeniable beauty long before “Black is beautiful” became a slogan? Who sang like a bird, and escaped the cage that both kept her captive and made her the hero that she was – only to find that independence came at a price? Who gave Marvin Gaye an outlet that satisfied commercial needs, leaving him able to make the records he really wanted to? None other than Mary Wells, that’s who.
Listen to the best of Mary Wells on Apple Music and Spotify.
Motown’s first true icon
Soul music’s first superstar, Mary Wells led where Gaye and Stevie Wonder would eventually follow in the fight for the freedom to express themselves.
Today, Mary Wells is known almost exclusively for “My Guy,” the timeless, sophisticated finger-snapper that took her to the top of the US chart in 1964. But during the first half of the 60s, Wells had many hits. She rapidly rose from struggling songwriter to become Motown’s first true icon, and it looked like her celebrity status was here to stay. She had a uniquely warm voice, an easy-going public persona, and an elegant, sometimes sassy look that made her marketable. But her career-high point of “My Guy” also marked the moment when the singer knew she had to break free. Mary Wells was no puppet; she was an artist with a yearning to do her own thing. Her dream came true but, as the cliché claims, it is wise to be careful what you wish for…
Mary Wells was born in Detroit, on May 13, 1943. Raised by her mother, she grew up poor and suffered from spinal meningitis and tuberculosis as a child. But being a poor girl in the big city meant that when she was well, she had to help her mother at her cleaning job. In her early teens, Mary sang in nightclubs, having honed her voice at church, and she often sang while working. Mary left school at 17 but had done her homework: obsessed by local hero Jackie Wilson, she set her sights on writing songs for him, and saw an opportunity in 1960 when she was introduced to Berry Gordy at a Detroit nightclub. Wells knew Gordy had written hits for Wilson, and asked if he might get one of her songs to the “Reet Petite” hitmaker.
Gordy put this precocious young lady to the test and asked her to sing her song right there and then. Wells had the chutzpah to do so – and landed herself a contract at Gordy’s Motown label, where the song she’d intended to give to Wilson became her first hit. “Bye Bye Baby” made the pop Top 50, but this by no means presented the finished Mary Wells. The vocal refinement she became famed for was not in evidence, and she sang in a tough, hoarse rasp, as if she had not quite got the idea of Jackie Wilson singing the song out of her head.
Her next single, 1961’s “I Don’t Want To Take A Chance,” made her the first female Motown solo artist to hit the US Top 40, but her third, ʻStrange Love’, failed to build on her promise. Mary had lost control of her material, with Mickey Stevenson supplying her songs.
Becoming a star
After the disappointment of “Strange Love,” Motown asked another writer with a rising reputation to compose for the talented teenager: Smokey Robinson. He struck gold right away with “The One Who Really Loves You” – not just because the single went Top 10 in 1962, but because his light touch as a producer brought out the gentler side of Mary’s voice for the first time. The follow-up, “You Beat Me To The Punch,” was another Top 10 hit, and it topped the R&B chart and gained a Grammy nomination – Motown’s first. “Two Lovers” completed Wells’ 1962 in similar fashion, being a beautifully elegant performance that charted heavily.
Things went off the boil a little for her next two singles, which were followed by two bigger hits, “What’s Easy For Two Is Hard For One” and “You Lost The Sweetest Boy.” If Mary had looked over her shoulder, she might have seen soul’s future, threatening to overtake her: among the backing singers on “Sweetest Boy” was The Supremes, a trio on a steep learning curve in 1963, and the record was written and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, Motown’s fast-rising writing and production mainstays. Then in March 1964, another beautifully judged Smokey production became Mary’s calling card: “My Guy.”
“My Guy” is a record that needs no introduction – though that would mean losing the keening horn line that calls you into this eternal smash. It was a No.1 in the US, reached No.5 in the UK, and became a hit in many other territories. But Mary wanted more, and so did her husband, Herman Griffin, who urged her to leave Motown. Wells longed to write her own material and felt that the money her success was making for the company was being spent on developing other acts that would eventually only provide competition to one Mary Wells. With her string of hits, Mary was Motown’s biggest star, but she was only 20 and perhaps did not have the experience to make her opinion count in a company full of ambitious young males. Mary wanted out.
Duets with Marvin Gaye
She had one further part to play at Motown, however. The company teamed her with Marvin Gaye and the two young vocalists cut a glorious album, Together, which included the alluring “Once Upon A Time” and “What’s The Matter With You Baby,” hit songs placed back to back on one single in the US. At the age of 21, Mary quit Motown, after a lawsuit that ruled that a contract she had signed as a minor no longer applied. Motown lost the first superstar it had.
Superstar? Certainly. Mary Wells scored 10 pop hits in three and a half years, and when she left Motown, she had just had her biggest yet. She had never sold out, and was an even bigger star on the R&B – for which, read African-American – chart. Her look, adorned in blonde wigs and stunning stage gowns, was ahead of its time, and she was a sex symbol for many young fans. Her loss hit Motown hard, which is why they fought to keep her. But Mary lost out too: the agreement that freed her from Motown not only cost her the label’s production and promotional muscle, it deprived her of royalties from sales of her old material.
Life after Motown
Onwards and… not quite upwards. Mary landed a $200,000 deal with 20th Century Fox. Their first release together was a single coupling “Ain’t It The Truth” and the rather pointed “Stop Takin’ Me For Granted,” the latter written by Mary under the pseudonym LR Peques. There wasn’t a lot of difference between Mary’s new sound and her Motown classics, but the record fell disappointingly short in terms of sales, even though it went Top 10 on the R&B chart.
“Use Your Head,” co-written by Motown songwriting legend Barrett Strong, did better – but it was her last Top 40 pop hit. An album of Lennon–McCartney covers, Love Songs To The Beatles, was a plausible marketing proposition in 1965: Mary was someone The Beatles idolized and she had toured the UK with them in 1964, striking up a warm relationship with John Lennon in particular.
Mary’s pop career was effectively done and dusted by 1965, with just two records making the Top 60, “Never, Never Leave Me” and “Dear Lover,” the latter her debut single for Atlantic’s Atco subsidiary and packed with Chicago soul goodness. From this point on, Mary’s releases were either tiny hits or flops, though their quality level was still high, and they’d eventually find a loyal listenership on the UK’s Northern soul scene.
Mary’s voice remained beautiful. She worked with top-quality producers and arrangers, such as Sonny Sanders and Carl Davis, responsible for some of Jackie Wilson’s best mid-60s songs. Towards the end of her Atco tenure, she had control over her material, and the same applied at Jubilee, the label she joined in 1968.
Mary divorced Griffin and married Cecil Womack, brother of the more famous Bobby, in 1967. Mary and Cecil wrote and produced her Jubilee material, which fared reasonably on the R&B chart. Mary continued to record intermittently for Reprise and Epic. She divorced Cecil in 1977 and married his brother Curtis, and when Cecil formed Womack And Womack with Sam Cooke’s daughter Linda, Mary sang back-up on their fine Love Wars album.
Illness and death
Mary succumbed to laryngeal cancer in 1992, a cruel fate for a fabulous singer. She had been diagnosed after her voice failed while recording for the retro-soul label Nightmare. She had battled addiction in the 70s, and bouts of depression, and just as she should have been thriving in 1965, she suffered a relapse from her childhood TB, which put her out of action for weeks. Mary was spectacularly unlucky.
Though her time at her absolute peak was short, Mary Wells’ career had been glorious. While her bid to free herself and find artistic freedom had not worked out for her in the way it later did for Marvin and Stevie, her voice and talent remained intact. Her work as a duettist with Marvin Gaye had set a template he used to ward off commercial pressure with his work with Kim Weston, Tammi Terrell, and Diana Ross. Her luscious looks proved that soul could be sold as sexy to white people, which her former backing singers The Supremes exploited in a cutesy way. And while you could argue that there were female soul superstars before Mary Wells, such as Dinah Washington and Etta James, they were both known in other fields first, such as R&B, rock, and jazz.
Mary Wells was soul from first to last, the pioneering and everlasting legend of this remarkable black American music. She was nothing short of amazing. Don’t take her for granted.
Listen to the best of Motown on Apple Music and Spotify.
Wed, 12 May 2021 23:48:19 +0000
Gil Evans was one of jazz’s most important arrangers, and it was apparent from early on that Evans would pursue a career in music. Born on May 13, 1912, as a teenager, Evans was preoccupied with music, playing in a band as well as transcribing records, writing down songs and arrangements. Evans was turned onto jazz by a friend’s father who played him Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Fletcher Henderson records. Seeing an Ellington concert in 1927 set Gil on course for a career in music.
Gil Evans’ first band
He played tea-time piano in the Grand Hotel, Stockton and the first record he bought was Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines’ No One Else But You. Evans’ first band was formed in 1933 and they played the arrangements he had transcribed of songs by Don Redman, Ellington, and Henderson. In 1935, they had made enough progress to be on the same bill at the Palomar Ballroom as Benny Goodman.
Evans became good friends with arranger Claude Thornhill and after he returned to New York, Gil soon followed. With the coming of World War II, Evans was posted to various army bands, mainly play bass drum. It was during this time that he became acquainted with bebop.
After the war, Evans returned to New York to arrange for Thornhill’s reformed orchestra, and moved into a small furnished basement at 14 West 55th Street. The spot became a drop-in place for fellow musicians, composers, and theorists to hang out and swap ideas, “I rented the place for two years. I never knew who was going to be there when I got home and I didn’t care.” Regulars calling by were Gerry Mulligan, who ended up moving in permanently, Lee Konitz, George Russell, and John Lewis. Charlie Parker mostly came to sleep, often accompanied by Miles Davis.
Birth Of The Cool
Davis and Evans formed a nonet in 1948, consisting of French horn, trombone, tuba, trumpet, alto and baritone sax, and rhythm section, to play the arrangements based on Gil’s “fast and light and no vibrato” blueprint. The band played at the Royal Roost on 47th Street, which featured on three radio broadcasts that are now included on The Complete Birth Of The Cool remastered and reissued on Blue Note, along with the original dozen studio sides that they cut in 1949 and 1950 for Capitol.
Following his marriage, Evans worked briefly with Charlie Parker in 1953, but it wasn’t until 1956 that he got another big break when he arranged Helen Merrill’s album, Dream of You for EmArcy, and then got a call from Davis that would lead to a succession of brilliant albums like Miles Ahead (1957), Porgy and Bess (1958), Sketches of Spain (1960), and Quiet Nights (1962).
The second and only other time Evans and Davis performed live was at Carnegie Hall in 1961, with Hank Mobley, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb, and the Gil Evans Orchestra. Their concert included Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez from Sketches of Spain, Ahmad Jamal’s “New Rhumba” from Miles Ahead, and Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo.”
Evans was feted as a genius, which in turn afforded him the opportunity to record his own albums. These included Gil Evans And Ten (1957), New Bottle, Old Wine (1958) with Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, its follow-up Great Jazz Standards (1959), Out Of The Cool (1960), and The Individualism Of Gil Evans (1964). Other albums he arranged during this period included Guitar Forms (1964) with Kenny Burrell, and Look To The Rainbow (1966) with Astrud Gilberto.
After remarrying, Evans slipped from the scene but by the 1970s he was planning on collaborating with Jimi Hendrix. This intriguing idea sadly didn’t come to pass, as Hendrix passed away before they could properly work together. Evans did release The Gil Evans Orchestra Plays the Music of Jimi Hendrix (1975), an instrumental album of his songs that brilliantly integrates rock and jazz elements, with guitarists John Abercrombie and Ryo Kawasaki.
Touring with legends
Turning away from the studio, Evans took a touring orchestra of up to fifteen musicians on the road, often performing at least one Hendrix song in each concert. On occasions, a concert would be built around a guest soloist, for example, John McLaughlin at Ravenna in 1986, and Sting at Perugia in 1987.
From 1984 until his death on March 20, 1988, Evans and his Monday Night Orchestra played weekly at the Sweet Basil club in New York, and the atmosphere at their performances can be relived via Live At Sweet Basil, Vol. 1 & 2 (1984), and Bud And Bird (1986), the latter winning his one-and-only Grammy Award, for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band. He also scored the soundtracks for Absolute Beginners and The Color Of Money.
Henry Lowther, a trumpeter in Evans’ band during his later years, said, “Gil was an absolutely lovely man. He was modest and unassuming, but he was terribly disorganized and a chaotic bandleader…[nonetheless] there’s no doubt in my mind that Gil was the most important writer in jazz history after Duke Ellington.”
Listen to the best of Gil Evans on Apple Music and Spotify.
Wed, 12 May 2021 23:21:47 +0000
Margo Price has officially released a new single called “Long Live the King,” which she’s been performing live for quite some time. The song pays tribute to Elvis Presley, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, and will be available through Price’s new mail-order record club.
“‘Long Live the King’ is a song about three extraordinary men who changed the course of history for the better,” Price said ina statement. “But no one is without flaw and they each had a duality in their personalities. This song is also about not idolizing celebrities or putting people up on a pedestal because we are all human and we all make mistakes.”
Price’s new singles club is called A Series of Rumors. Fans can sign up for exclusive B-Sides, covers, collaborations, and three monthly shipments. Members will also receive a limited edition, an autographed box of 7” vinyl records featuring the music of Price’s 2020 LP, That’s How Rumors Get Started, backed with exclusive B-sides, lost recordings, and more.
The first installment of A Series of Rumors features the tracks “Long Live the King,” “Hey Child,” “Twinkle Twinkle,” Price’s take on Bobbie Gentry’s “He Made a Woman Out of Me,” “Letting Me Down,” and “I’d Die For You.”
Aside from the single’s club, Price is getting back on the road. At the end of April, Railbird Festival announced its return to Kentucky in August for its second event, a two-day experience featuring Margo Price atop its line-up. She’ll be joining other notables like Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Midland, Dave Matthews Band, Sarah Jarosz, Tanya Tucker, and local heroes My Morning Jacket.
In March, Price offered up some new music, having a ton of fun covering some of her favorite artists. She presented a “Takeover Time” show for satellite broadcaster Sirius on which she played tracks by favorites such as Bonnie Raitt, Black Cat Bone, and Amythyst Kiah.
Buy or stream Margo Price’s “Long Live the King.”
Wed, 12 May 2021 22:30:46 +0000
Pervis Staples, a co-founding member of the soul and gospel group the Staple Singers, died on May 6 at his home in Dolton, Illinois. He was 85.
Staples’ death was confirmed by Adam Ayers, a member of Mavis Staples’ management team, and no cause of death was given. Funeral services are scheduled for May 17 in Chicago. Pervis’ sister and fellow group member Mavis Staples shared a statement about her beloved brother.
“Pervis was one of a kind – comical and downright fly. He would want to be remembered as an upright man, always willing to help and encourage others. He was one of the good guys and will live on as a true Chicago legend.”
Pervis Staples was born in 1935 in Drew, Mississippi, and the family later relocated to Chicago. Pervis and his three siblings Mavis, Cleotha, Yvonne all grew up on gospel music, under the tutelage of their father, Roebuck “Pop” Staples.
Early in 1953, the Staple Singers made their recording debut, recording a 78 on Roebuck Staples’ own label, Royal. The two sides, “These They Are” and “Faith And Grace,” were recorded on a two-track tape machine.
The group would record several gospel-folk style singles for various labels, first with United Records, followed by Vee-Jay Records (including their hits “Uncloudy Day” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”), Checker Records, Riverside Records, and then Epic Records in 1965.
Pervis sang tenor in the group, backing up Pop alongside Mavis and Cleotha, but it was Mavis who was hitting all those low notes.
“We’d trick ‘em,” Pervis recalled in journalist Greg Kot’s 2014 book about Mavis and the Staple Singers.
“The audience would be looking for me to come up with the low part – this was for the people who heard the record but had never seen us before, I’d come up to the mike and switch over at the last second where Cleotha was, then Mavis would step up. That messed them up, but it woke up the crowd.”
As the decade saw hit after hit for R&B singers, Pervis convinced his father to let the group sing more secular music, resulting in Pervis and Mavis’ cover duet of Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.”
The Staples were an original influence on Dylan, especially “Uncloudy Day,” who called it “the most mysterious thing I’d ever heard.” Pervis and the folk hero had formed a friendship while on the festival circuit in the 60s, and the two would influence each other throughout their careers.
“They put muscle into their music, and when the Staples broke into the pop mainstream in the ‘0s with their Bible-based soul music, no one could honestly call them hypocrites.” wrote Bill Carpenter in his feature on the group in Goldmine magazine.
“Unlike many gospel artists who sing about their Savior but don’t apply his social activism to their lives, the Staples have lived what they have sung.”
Pervis would eventually leave the group after they released their first album for Stax, 1968’s Soul Folks in Action.
“Pervis left because he didn’t want to listen to Pops all the time, he wanted to do his own thing.” Mavis shared in Kot’s book. “He had been in the army, and he was standing up for himself as a man. Pervis just got tired of only being thought of as Daddy’s son.”
Pervis started managing Chicago act, the Hutchinson Sunbeams, who later became the Emotions, and secured them a contract with Stax Records. He only expected to leave the Staples for a short period while he got the Emotions established, but they soon became so big that he left the group permanently. Pervis also ended up penning their early hits for Stax.
Pervis was later inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with the Staple Singers in 1998, while the group received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
He is survived by Mavis, as well as his six children, seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
Wed, 12 May 2021 20:47:26 +0000
The Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma―a museum dedicated to artifacts from the singer’s massive archive―will open to the public on May 10th, 2022. The announcement of the Bob Dylan Center comes five years after the secret Bob Dylan Archive first arrived at Tulsa’s Center for American Research at the Gilcrease Museum.
The archive―purchased by the George Kaiser Family Foundation―features over 100,000 items, including handwritten lyrics, never-before-seen concert performances and live footage, rare photographs, and unreleased recordings; one of those recordings, the earliest-known version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” that Dylan recorded at his friends’ apartment in the autumn of 1962, is available to download courtesy of the Bob Dylan Center.
Among the exhibits at the Center is an ever-evolving curated display of items from the archives, a multimedia timeline that tracks Dylan’s life and career from his Minnesota youth to the present day, a Columbia Records Gallery that gives an in-depth look at his legendary LPs, and a screening room showcasing Dylan-related scripted films, documentaries, concert performances, and never-before-seen material.
The three-story museum―located near the city’s Woody Guthrie Center and facing downtown Tulsa’s Guthrie Green public space―features a rare 1965 photograph of Dylan, captured by Jerry Schatzberg, on the building’s facade. The museum was designed by architectural firm Olson Kundig, led by Alan Maskin.
“I would like to see the Dylan center be an active, lively magnet for Dylan fans and music fans from all over the world,” Ken Levit, Executive Director of the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Rolling Stone. “I’d like this to be an active place of scholarship and I hope it infuses our community with more artists and songwriters and helps it be a gift that keeps on giving.” Visit the official Bob Dylan Center website for more information.
Shop classic Bob Dylan albums on vinyl.
Wed, 12 May 2021 19:59:47 +0000
Seven-time GRAMMY Award winner and three-time ACM Entertainer of the Year Carrie Underwood announces her first-ever residency, Reflection: The Las Vegas Residency, at The Theatre at Resorts World Las Vegas, which will begin December 1.
Underwood joins global music stars Celine Dion, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan as the founding headliners at the Strip’s highly-anticipated new 3,500-room luxury destination opening June 24, who will also call The Theatre at Resorts World Las Vegas their performing home. The 5,000-seat-capacity theatre will open its doors in November 2021 and is exclusively programmed and operated by Concerts West / AEG Presents.
Tickets, plus a limited number of VIP Premium Ticket Packages will go on sale to the public starting Monday, May 24 at 10 a.m. PT at axs.com. Official Carrie Underwood Fan Club Members will get first access to tickets beginning Monday, May 17 at 10 a.m. PT. For more info on memberships visit carrieunderwood.fm.
The performances will begin with Celine Dion’s return to Las Vegas with a brand-new show and a special opening night performance to benefit COVID-19 relief on Friday, November 5. Following Dion, Underwood’s first six shows are scheduled for December 1, 3, 4, 8, 10, and 11. Perry will take the stage on Wednesday, Dec. 29, and Bryan kicks off his six-show engagement beginning on Friday, Feb. 11.
Of her first residency, Underwood says, “Touring is one of my favorite things I get to do as a performer and we’ve all really been missing that. I love being on the road and coming to the fans where they live but it will also be fun to get to do multiple shows in one place where people will be able to come to get that concert experience and have some fun in Las Vegas at the same time. It’s such a special honor to be one of the first artists to get to perform in a brand new, beautiful, state-of-the-art theatre at such an exciting new destination as Resorts World Las Vegas.”
Underwood has arranged for a donation of $1 from each ticket sold for Reflection: The Las Vegas Residency to be contributed to Make-A-Wish Foundation of America, which grants life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. Underwood has been involved with the organization for more than 15 years, granting wishes since the beginning of her recording career.
Listen to the best of Carrie Underwood on Apple Music and Spotify.
Wed, 12 May 2021 19:26:50 +0000
easy life return today with a brand new track, “have a great day.” The new track is another preview of their highly-anticipated debut album life’s a beach, which will be released 0n May 28.
“have a great day” is a delightful slice of easy life, from their genre-less sound to frontman Murray Matravers’ signature, deft lyricism. Summoning both a 60s Hawaiian lounge and a much needed seaside break after the world has been turned upside down for the past year-and-a-half, “have a great day” encapsulates not just the title of life’s a beach but the optimism and tenderness at the heart of easy life’s appeal.
The song, according to Murray, “stems from my need / desire to always see the positives in every possible situation. There is always a silver lining. The song fantasizes over a romantic weekend getaway and concludes joyfully that I had a great time. There’s a hint of sadness behind the song as it feels, like all good things, the story will be short lived and fleeting. nonetheless, for the time being at least, we are at the beach sipping our favorite drink and everything else doesn’t matter one little bit.”
Other album highlights include current single “skeletons” which the band played during their US television debut on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! and the powerful opening track, “a message to myself” (produced by Kendrick Lamar collaborator BEKON). “skeletons’ plays with the idea of a slightly mysterious and potentially terrifying past,” says Murray, in an introduction to the track.
“Everyone has baggage and everyone has skeletons. Falling head over heels with somebody who may be bad news, we’ve all been there.” In addition to “have a great day,” “skeletons” and “a message to myself,” life’s a beach features standout singles “daydreams” and “nightmares,” both of which collectively help further solidify easy life’s thrilling appeal.
easy life’s life’s a beach is out May 28 and available for pre-order.
Wed, 12 May 2021 18:10:20 +0000
Wed, 12 May 2021 18:06:29 +0000
For this special fifth anniversary, the Love Rocks NYC 2021 all-star line-up, led by Music Director and Band Leader Will Lee (The CBS Orchestra), will feature Sara Bareilles, Jon Bon Jovi, Joe Bonamassa, Gary Clark Jr., Billy F Gibbons, Warren Haynes, Emily King, Ledisi, Pedrito Martinez, Tash Neal, Fantastic Negrito, Ivan Neville, Robert Randolph, Nathaniel Rateliff, Jimmy Vivino, Yola and more to be added.
This year’s event will be shown as a livestream event courtesy of streaming platform Fans.Live from the historic Beacon Theatre in NYC on Thursday, June 3. Fans anywhere can experience this memorable night of music by signing up at Love Rocks NYC’s website to receive a free livestream link, and also help support the organization through the special $20 = 2 Meals suggested donation option on the website.
The past four Love Rocks NYC benefit concerts have delivered a staggering array of music stars from legendary headliners such as Keith Richards, Dave Matthews, Mavis Staples, Robert Plant, Warren Haynes, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Guy, Andra Day, Ziggy Marley, Ann Wilson and Sheryl Crow to rising stars such as Leon Bridges, Marcus King, Allen Stone, Larkin Poe, Hozier and The War and Treaty, and 2021 will keep the momentum going!
The stellar house band will include Steve Gadd (James Taylor, Eric Clapton), Shawn Pelton (Saturday Night Live), Eric Krasno (Soulive, Phil Lesh & Friends), Larry Campbell (Levon Helm, Bob Dylan), Jeff Young (Jackson Browne, Sting, Donald Fagen) and Ricky Peterson (Fleetwood Mac, David Sanborn, Prince, George Benson). Ken Dashow of Q104.3 Radio will also serve as the evening’s “voice of god.”
Since launching in 2017, the annual Love Rocks NYC concerts have brought together an astonishing line-up of musical talent and have helped raise more than $13 million dollars to date and have helped to fund more than 1.3 million meals to New Yorkers in need. The benefit concert highlights the charity’s continued success of providing life-sustaining meals and nutrition counseling for people in the New York Metropolitan area living with severe illness.
This year’s concert event will also pay tribute to the NYC Frontline workers who have played a critical role in supporting the city during the pandemic. God’s Love We Deliver, which was founded during the AIDS pandemic in 1985, has been an essential services provider during COVID-19, and its staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to continue to cook and home-deliver medically tailored meals to its clients living with severe illness, meeting the ever-growing demand for its services.
Wed, 12 May 2021 17:23:40 +0000
When the rock’n’roll phenomenon, spearheaded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, and Chuck Berry, exploded like the musical equivalent of an atom bomb in the mid-50s, it was greeted with both alarm and suspicion by some of the music business’s established artists, Frank Sinatra among them.
The Chairman Of The Board invited The King Of Rock’n’Roll to be a special guest on the last of four hour-long TV shows sponsored by watchmakers Timex and broadcast in the US by ABC. The famous photograph capturing Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley side by side was taken at Miami’s Fontainebleau Hotel, on March 26, 1960, when the two men appeared in The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis, which brought America’s two most famous singing superstars together in public for the first time. The show aired on May 12, 1960, and was devised as a homecoming celebration, marking Presley’s return to the US after a two-year stint in Germany serving with the US military.
Bridging the generation gap
Sinatra’s change of heart with regards to rock’n’roll, in general, was a savvy move that not only bridged the generation gap but also witnessed the ratings for his TV show shoot through the roof. (Sinatra’s invitation also provided an ambitious step up for Elvis, who was looking for an endorsement from Ol’ Blue Eyes in order to help widen his audience; he would eventually become a frequent performer at Sinatra’s stomping ground, Las Vegas.)
For Elvis, appearing alongside a bonafide legend such as Sinatra meant that he had finally achieved mainstream acceptance; the fact that he, like his host, was dressed formally in a black evening suit indicated that he was stepping into Sinatra’s world. Elvis even refrained from doing his signature wild hip-gyrations which, only a few years earlier, had caused offense and led to him being filmed on TV from the waist up. Indeed, the Memphis singer’s whole demeanor seemed more mature than before. Despite looking a tad awkward in his tuxedo, Elvis presented a picture of stylish sophistication. Even so, the toned-down nature of his performance – where humorous shoulder-hunches were his only body movement – still elicited wild screams from some female fans in the audience.
“We’re working in the same way, only in different areas”
Elvis sang “Stuck On You,” his first chart-topper on leaving the army, but also duetted with Sinatra on an ingenious swing-time medley in which the show’s host intoned the chorus from “Love Me Tender” and was answered by Presley crooning lines from Sinatra’s 1957 hit “Witchcraft” (Sinatra had already performed the latter song himself at the beginning of the show). “We’re working the same way, only in different areas,” quipped Sinatra during the song, and, certainly, both performers seemed relaxed, enjoying each others’ company.
Despite their 20-year age difference, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley became good friends. On hearing of Presley’s death, in 1977, Sinatra was genuinely saddened and effusive in his praise of the man they called The King. “There have been many accolades uttered about Elvis’ talent and performances through the years, all of which I agree with wholeheartedly,” he said. “I shall miss him dearly as a friend. He was a warm, considerate, and generous man.”
The Welcome Home Elvis special is on The Timex Shows Vol.2, which can be bought here.
Wed, 12 May 2021 17:20:18 +0000
To the uninitiated, spiritual jazz, AKA astral jazz, can raise eyebrows even to self-professed jazz fans. With album covers bearing ancient Egyptian iconography and planetary scenes, it seemed destined for its own roped-off section at the record store.
Lying somewhere on the spectrum between avant-garde jazz and free jazz, astral jazz represented one of the most experimental periods in jazz’s history. Emerging from the chaotic upheaval of the 60s, spiritual jazz continued to push the boundaries of the form, incorporating new instrumentation, Eastern influences, and delving into more abstract expressionism.
From John Coltrane’s Love Supreme to the advent of Impulse! records and his musical disciples who carried the creative torch after his passing, we examine the place spiritual jazz occupies in the world of jazz and avant-garde music at large and the music markers who broadened hearts and minds while making it.
As the mid-60s sparked seismic change in the culture, jazz was also experiencing great upheaval and being pulled in different directions. You had the free jazz movement led by artists like Ornette Coleman, while others looked to the rhythms of rock and roll for inspiration that led to jazz fusion and (among many other milestones) Miles Davis’ trailblazing album Bitches Brew.
Amid the chaotic new musical framework, there was an underlying spiritual awakening drawing upon a diverse set of faiths and influences, from the Nation of Islam, Eastern mysticism, Zen philosophy to Egytoplogy and Buddhism.
Coltrane’s Love Supreme was a representation of his own spiritual quest, as he explored Mysticism, Hinduism, Sufism, the Kabbalah, African history, and the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. But as alto saxophonist Marion Brown explains in the book, The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records: “I think you’ll find the spirituality of the music during the sixties wasn’t something exotic. It was coming directly out of the church. I know there was a whole tradition of saxophones in the church and I don’t know if Albert [Ayler] had been a part of that, but what he was doing was sure related to it.”
Released on Impulse! records in February 1965, Coltrane’s four-part musical exploration laid bare all of the demons that he had previously struggled with and purged them though song. He continued to test the limits of traditional jazz and further incorporated more spiritual elements on albums like OM (1967), Meditations (1966), and Ascension (1966). Coltrane was the prophet and Impulse! was his pulpit. “Impulse was there at the right place, at the right time,” said veteran jazz producer Ed Michel in The House That Trane Built. “We were the beneficiary of a cultural deep breath.”
By 1968, the Beatles had made their trek to India and soon the rest of the culture was getting hip to Eastern philosophies like transcendental meditation and Afrocentric awareness. Before his untimely death on July 17, 1967, Trane gave his blessing to the next generation of players including Marion Brown, Archie Shepp, John Tchicai, Dewey Johnson, Pharoah Sanders, and Albert Ayler. Their spiritual devotion was sometimes taken in the literal sense, as Ayler once famously said, ‘Trane was the Father, Pharoah was the Son, I am the Holy Ghost.”
Coltrane’s death left a spiritual and creative void that was later occupied by his wife Alice Coltrane and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders – both members of his later groups. They picked up where Coltrane left off, marrying melodies with ambient-rich improvisations and introducing a new musical vocabulary through African and Indian percussion instruments, harps, chimes, and vocal incantations, which became known as cosmic or spiritual jazz.
Sanders had gigged with everyone from Sun Ra, Don Cherry, and performed on much of Coltrane’s later exploratory albums. While he never turned his back on the more abrasive free-jazz of his days with Coltrane, he channeled the raw energy of music into something even more divine and combined elements of Arabic and Indian folk music, Afro-Cuban, Southern gospel, and R&B into a string of solo albums on impulse! from 1967’s Tauhid to 1969’s Karma, 1971’s Thembi and through 1974’s Love in Us All – with 11 total on the label.
Five years after A Love Supreme’s release, Pharoah took Coltrane’s universalist sound and brought it to its logical climax with Karma and its famous track, “The Creator Has A Master Plan.” Clocking in at 32-plus minutes, it took up the entire first side of the original release and even managed to get mainstream FM radio airplay at the time. With its cycling bassline, repeated invocations of peace and happiness and free jazz explorations, Sanders not only created the template for astral jazz but also what would later become “world music.”
Like Sanders, clarinetist Tony Scott was another early proponent of world music and his record, Music for Zen Meditation in 1964, is considered to be the first New Age record. Scott had a serious jazz pedigree, playing with everyone from Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, and Benny Green and cycling through different styles before doing away with them all.
In 1960, he decamped to Japan, hooking up with renowned koto player Shinichi Yuize and shakuhachi flute player Hozan Yamamoto. He continued to mine various global influences throughout the 70s and 80s, combining his improvisational clarinet with synthesizers. According to Scott, “Without experimenters, jazz would die a lingering death. I believe in being receptive to all music. If you stop learning, you might as well throw your horn away.”
As the “other” Coltrane, Alice was a controversial figure in jazz, though not by choice. While her talent was respected, she was blamed for breaking up the greatest jazz group of the mid-60s when she replaced McCoy Tyner as pianist in her husband’s rhythm section.
Abandoning the constraints of bebop, Alice’s albums serve as the precursor to modern, experimental electronic music. Her approach to spiritual synth music delivered sumptuous albums tinged with classical Indian instrumentation, harp-rich meditations and stirring strings. Her first solo outing, A Monastic Trio on Impulse! had Alice on harp for the first time and featured Pharoah Sanders, Jimmy Garrison, and Rashied Ali and playing the same free and open-ended style jazz that her late husband extolled.
Aside from the closing track, “Jaya Jaya Rama,” Huntington Ashram Monastery doesn’t fully delve into astral jazz. It wouldn’t be until Ptah, The El-Daoud (1970) featuring Pharoah Sanders on bass clarinet, that Coltrane really came into her own, with a spiritual jazz album that stirs like an old blues record. If anything, the melancholy piano solo on “Turiya & Ramakrishna” is worth a listen alone.
Coltrane would continue to develop her own style, collaborating with other like-minded artists like Ornette Coleman on Universal Consciousness (1971). As the high priestess of spiritual jazz, Coltrane would continue her modal explorations throughout the 70s, blending in Middle Eastern and North African music and culture and experimenting with different instruments, from a tamboura to a Wurlitzer.
Another pianist and key player in the spiritual jazz movement was Lonnie Liston Smith. Before he gained the reputation as the harbinger of smooth jazz, he cut his teeth playing on Sanders landmark album, Tauhid, and was featured as a pianist (and sometimes co-arranger) on five Sanders albums. While Coltrane was working her magic on the Wurlitzer, Smith was a pioneer of the Fender Rhodes electric keyboard.
According to lore, he happened upon the instrument during a studio session for Thembi, started playing around with it and that’s how the song “Astral Traveling” was born. Smith would later join Miles Davis on his own electric piano adventures before forming his own group Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes in 1973 and releasing a debut instrumental album inspired by his work with Sanders, titled Astral Traveling.
Albert Ayler was another saxophonist who graduated from the school of John Coltrane. Skipping right past bebop and other modern jazz styles, he personified the explosive sound of “fire jazz,” turning his instrument into an amplifier for unfettered sounds that represented the other side of the astral jazz spectrum. His source material was not imported but the home grown sound of Southern blues and spirituals, as he declared on Music is the Healing Force of the Universe in 1969.
Though typically not grouped into the canon, synth innovators Beaver & Krause have secured their spot in the pantheons of ambient, experimental or what would later be called “electronica” music for introducing the Moog synthesiser into popular music. With a sound effects man, Paul Beaver and a session musician and former Weaver, Bernie Krause, together their records were equally experimental and unclassifiable. Their albums, In a Wild Sanctuary (1970) and Gandharva (1971) also fused elements of funk, devotional hymns, and New Age space odyssey explorations.
One cannot speak of spiritual jazz without mentioning the pianist-bandleader Sun Ra. His massive discography even dwarfs Sanders, hovering somewhere around 500 albums, and his live performances are the stuff of legend. He was the physical embodiment of all these disparate threads of spiritual jazz — Afro-futurism, cosmic philosophy, tribal percussion and free jazz all built on the bedrock of early 20th century jazz.
Ra always occupied his own orbit, along with creating his own aesthetic of futuristic costumes and theatrical stage shows, he also co-founded his own record label with his friend Alton Abraham – El Saturn Records – one of the music industry’s first black-owned record labels. Along with his musical collective the Arkestra and his modified electronic instruments, Sun Ra explored the outer reaches of the avant-garde while maintaining a sense of rhythmic play. His music is a source of endless discovery for samplers and crate diggers today.
Unlike the more blustering and abrasive sounds on the free jazz spectrum, Don Cherry’s Brown Rice (1975) is considered a welcome entry point to the sub-genre and at only four tracks, it manages to win over most cynics at first listen. The title track features Cherry’s scat inspired vocals layered over the wah-wah guitar of Blaxploitation music. The result is some pretty freaky free jazz.
The jazz trumpeter had also played with Coltrane on The Avant-Garde album and contributed to the soundtrack of the psychedelic cult film masterpiece, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain. But Cherry is best known for his free jazz/funk/world/ psych hybridisation, Eternal Rhythm, a live album recorded at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1968. While it doesn’t fall into the spiritual jazz category, it represents all of the experimental styles mentioned above and how they can converge together onto one magnificent album.
As the decade came to a close, the various sub-genres all started to sound the same. Turns out having no musical boundaries can be very limiting. Spiritual jazz has always been coveted by critics and considered too experimental for the mainstream public, but then again that’s why so many people like it. Thankfully there’s a new generation of artists – who with endless technology at their fingertips – are creating spiritual and ambient jazz though a modern lens.
Follow the Jazz Giants playlist, featuring some of the finest jazz ever recorded.
Wed, 12 May 2021 17:12:00 +0000
DC Comics and Loma Vista Recordings today announced the Dark Nights: Death Metal Soundtrack. Executive produced by Tyler Bates (Guardians of the Galaxy, Watchmen, John Wick), the soundtrack will be released digitally on June 18, 2021, and physically on July 16, 2021. Just as the lauded DC “Dark Nights: Death Metal” series isn’t the typical superhero storyline, this musical counterpart isn’t the typical superhero soundtrack.
Acclaimed composer Bates has united an array of artists across various genres—including Mastodon, Denzel Curry, Manchester Orchestra, Chelsea Wolfe, IDLES, and Soccer Mommy (full tracklist below)—forming his own musical super crew.
Mastodon’s album-opening buzzsaw “Forged By Neron” is out today and the lead single sets the tone. “We are super excited and honored to be part of the Dark Nights: Death Metal Soundtrack! We’ve all been fans of DC Comics and the Batman universe since we were kids, so it really means a lot for us to be able to add something to that world,” says Brann Dailor of Mastodon.
All artists involved took a hands-on approach with Dark Nights: Death Metal Soundtrack, contributing songs—and in the case of a few, collaborating together for the first time. The soundtrack will be available via digital download, CD, and 2xLP—with exclusive Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman vinyl variant covers, 11 limited edition character trading cards, and more.
Dark Nights: Death Metal Soundtrack is out June 18 (July 16 physical release) and is available for pre-order.
Dark Nights: Death Metal Soundtrack Tracklist:
1. Mastodon – “Forged by Neron”
2. Chelsea Wolfe – “Diana”
3. HEALTH, Tyler Bates – “ANTI-LIFE (feat. Chino Moreno)”
4. Maria Brink, Tyler Bates – “Meet Me In Fire (feat. Andy Biersack)”
5. Grey Daze – “Anything, Anything”
6. Rise Against – “Broken Dreams, Inc.”
7. Manchester Orchestra – “Never Ending”
8. Denzel Curry, PlayThatBoiZay – “Bad Luck”
9. Carach Angren – “Skull With a Forked Tongue”
10. Starcrawler – “Good Time Girl”
11. GUNSHIP, Tyler Bates – “Berserker (feat. Dave Lombardo)”
12. Greg Puciato, Tyler Bates, Gil Sharone – “Now You’ve Really Done It”
13. Show Me The Body – “Stone Cold Earth”
14. IDLES – “Sodium”
15. Soccer Mommy – “Kissing in the Rain”
Wed, 12 May 2021 15:55:01 +0000
Blue Note Records proudly announces the signing of acclaimed Grammy-nominated saxophonist and composer Melissa Aldana, who has joined the prestigious roster of the legendary jazz label.
Aldana will be heading into the studio later this month to record her Blue Note debut, which will be released in early 2022. She will also be performing this Sunday, May 16 at the JCAL Jazz Festival at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning in Queens.
“It feels unreal that I was signed to Blue Note,” says Aldana. “There’s so much Blue Note music I’ve checked out through the years that influenced me and gave me a sense of direction. It helped me figure out how I wanted to sound and what speaks to me, musically. I feel extremely honored to be a part of the label and a part of the legacy. It means so much to me.”
“Melissa Aldana is one of the foremost musician/composers of her generation,” says Blue Note President Don Was. “Her vibrant artistic vision, mastery of her instrument and her deep groove make Ms. Aldana a perfect exponent of the Blue Note ethos. We’re thrilled to be part of her musical life.”
Aldana was one of the founding members of Artemis, the all-star collective that released their debut album Artemis on Blue Note this past Fall. The album featured Aldana’s simmering composition “Frida,” which was dedicated to Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, who inspired the musician through “her own process of finding self-identity through art.”
Kahlo was also the subject of Aldana’s celebrated 2019 album Visions (Motéma), which earned the saxophonist her first-ever Grammy nomination for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, an acknowledgement of her impressive tenor solo on her composition “Elsewhere.” In naming Visions among the best albums of 2019 for NPR Music, critic Nate Chinen wrote that Aldana “has the elusive ability to balance technical achievement against a rich emotional palette.”
Melissa Aldana was born in Santiago, Chile and grew up in a musical family. Both her father and grandfather were saxophonists and she took up the instrument at age six under her father Marcos’ tutelage. Aldana began on alto, influenced by artists such as Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley, but switched to tenor upon first hearing the music of Sonny Rollins. She performed in Santiago jazz clubs in her early teens and was invited by pianist Danilo Pérez to play at the Panama Jazz Festival in 2005.
Aldana moved to the U.S. to attend the Berklee College of Music, and the year after graduating she released her first album Free Fall on Greg Osby’s Inner Circle label in 2010, followed by Second Cycle in 2012. In 2013, at 24, she became the first female instrumentalist and the first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, in which her father had been a semi-finalist in 1991.
After her win, she released her third album Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (Concord). Aldana is also an in-demand clinician and educator, and the New England Conservatory’s Jazz Studies Department recently appointed her to their jazz faculty beginning in the Fall of 2021.
Wed, 12 May 2021 13:31:54 +0000
PJ Harvey and Jarvis Cocker are among the newly-announced acts for Glastonbury Festival’s ‘Live At Worthy Farm’ has unveiled more acts, set times and special guests for its livestream event later this month.
‘Live At Worthy Farm’ will take place between May 22-23 and is described as a “five-hour journey through all of those spots that you know from Worthy Farm”. Performances from Coldplay, Haim, Damon Albarn, Wolf Alice, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka, Jorja Smith and IDLES have already been confirmed.
Further artists have now been announced for the livestream event, with George Ezra, DJ Honey Dijon and Róisín Murphy all set to perform alongside those artists already announced. Further “surprise guests” will also feature in the show.
The event will also see a range of special guest appearances from PJ Harvey, Jarvis Cocker, Kae Tempest, George The Poet, Kurupt FM, Little Amal and Michael Eavis, who will each provide a “unique spoken word narrative”, according to a press release.
Glastonbury ‘Live At Worthy Event’: Set times for May 22 (all times BST):
7.00pm: Wolf Alice
7.25pm: Michael Kiwanuka
7.55pm: George Ezra
9.50pm: Damon Albarn
10.35pm: Jorja Smith
11:05 pm: SPECIAL GUEST
12:00am DJ Honey Dijon ft Róisín Murphy
A day of new ‘encore streams’ have also been added for May 23, which will allow viewers to watch the full five-hour show from Sunday afternoon. Two new Sunday broadcast times have now been added at 2pm and 7pm (BST).
The Glastonbury livestream will also be shown in selected cinemas across the UK on May 22. Tickets for these screenings are available to buy from May 12.
Last month, Glastonbury Festival announced plans to open a new campsite to the public this summer.
Organisers shared details of ‘Worthy Pastures’, a “family-friendly campsite” – bookings are now open and tickets are able to be purchased from here. Further information on Worthy Pastures’ official website added that “with no Festival taking place on Worthy Farm for a second consecutive year in 2021, Michael and Emily Eavis are pleased to invite campers, for one year only, to experience the farm in a way you’ve never been able to before.”
Wed, 12 May 2021 12:58:10 +0000
After much anticipation and deliberation, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has announced their inductees for the class of 2021. The group of honorees includes Jay-Z, Tina Turner, Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Carole King, and Todd Rundgren.
“This diverse class of talented Inductees reflects the Rock Hall’s ongoing commitment to honor artists whose music created the sound of youth culture”, said John Sykes, Chairman of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. “It will make for an unforgettable live celebration of music in October at this year’s Induction Ceremony in Cleveland.”
Jay-Z has stayed busy in 2020 and 2021 thanks to his role as head of Roc Nation. In December of last year, Roc Nation launched a new book publishing imprint, Roc Lit 101. The first slate of titles has already been announced: Shine Bright by music journalist Danyel Smith and the memoir of former New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, titled Till the End, will be released in the summer of 2021.
The distinction highlights an exciting year for Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, who has kept fans entertained during the pandemic thanks to his collaboration with Mick Jagger, “Eazy Sleazy.” Additionally, the former Nirvana drummer has announced a forthcoming memoir, The Storyteller. The book will go on sale October 5, 2021 via Dey Street Books. The book caps an exciting and reflective period for Grohl. In May 2020, he wrote a moving reflection for The Atlantic on missing the thrill of live music during the COVID era that went viral.
The Go-Go’s have also made news of late, as the Alison Ellwood-directed The Go-Go’s documentary won a 2020 Critics Choice Award for “Best Music Documentary” in addition to receiving the honor of “Most Compelling Living Subjects in a Documentary.”
The film, which first premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, aired over the summer on Showtime to rave reviews. Additionally, on May 14, 2021, The Go-Go’s’ critically acclaimed 2001 reunion album, God Bless The Go-Go’s, celebrates its 20th anniversary and will be reissued on CD, vinyl, and digital formats via Eagle Records.
On receiving the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame news, The Go-Go’s said, “We are overwhelmed with gratitude to be 2021 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Women have always been a vital part of the ever changing music business and the Go-Go’s are so proud to have our success story honored and recognized by fans and voters.”
Rock and soul legend Tina Turner was also the recent subject of a critically acclaimed documentary that chronicled her early beginnings with Ike and Tina and her storied second act as a solo, global superstar.
Neither has King missed out on renewed attention of late, notably with February’s 50th anniversary of her seminal Tapestry album. Fans got a unique perspective of the record when KT Tunstall and peers covered it track-by-track on a livestream that month. She and many other talented UK artists remade the album for the Tapestry Rewoven event, in pre-recorded performances hosted from south London independent venue the Sound Lounge.
To be eligible for the Rock Hall, artists are required to have released their first record 25 years prior to induction. The Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, and JAY-Z were on the ballot for the first time. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) will become a two-time Inductee having previously been Inducted with Nirvana in 2014. Other two-time inductees include Carole King, previously inducted with Gerry Goffin in 1990, and Tina Turner, previously inducted with Ike and Tina Turner in 1991.
The 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place on Saturday, October 30, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, Ohio with a radio simulcast on SiriusXM’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Radio channel 310. The Induction Ceremony will air on HBO and be available to stream on HBO Max at a later date.
The full list of inductees for the 2021 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is as follows:
Early Influence Award:
Gil Scott Heron
Musical Excellence Award:
LL Cool J
Ahmet Ertegun Award:
Wed, 12 May 2021 12:52:48 +0000
There will be new music from ABBA this year, according to Björn Ulvaeus in an interview which appears to confirm their release plans more definitely than ever.
Speaking to Australia’s Herald Sun about the longtime reports that the Swedish superstars had been working on fresh material, he said: “There will be new music this year, that is definite. It’s not a case anymore of it might happen, it will happen.”
The group announced in 2018 that two new tracks were in the works, “I Still Have Faith In You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down.” Later reports stated that there were to be five new songs, to reward fans forced by the pandemic to wait longer than first anticipated for the proposed ABBAtar digital tour featuring avatars of the group.
When the existence of the first two songs was revealed, Ulvaeus said: “One of them is a pop tune, very danceable. The other is more timeless, more reflective, that is all I will say. It is Nordic sad, but happy at the same time.”
‘There are such strong bonds between us’
In the Herald Sun interview, he also says of the quartet’s recording reunion: “We’re really, really good friends. The four of us stand in the studio for the first time in 40 years and there’s just something in knowing what we’ve been through. It’s hard to describe, but there are such strong, strong bonds between us.”
In another interview published last week by the New York Times, the ABBA songwriter also spoke of the prospect of new material this fall, but “with tantalizingly little detail,” according to writer Ben Sisario.
“Benny and I have written some new songs, and there will be some new music from ABBA released this autumn,” said Ulvaeus. “But I’m forbidden to say anything more about it. I’m sorry. I would have told you everything, but I can’t.
“All I can say is that it was fantastic in the studio because it was like yesterday. It was so strange coming into that studio and the four of us looking at each other and thinking, “What is this?” It all came rushing back.”
Listen to the best of ABBA on Apple Music and Spotify.
Wed, 12 May 2021 11:32:04 +0000
Dire Straits’ fifth studio album, Brothers In Arms, catapulted the band to rock royalty. One of the biggest albums of the 1980s, the groundbreaking work spent nine weeks at the top of the charts in the US and was the first album in the UK to go ten times platinum.
Released in May of 1985 and creatively led by Mark Knopfler, the album drew from Knopfler’s deep love of American blues and jazz, melding it with impressive guitar riffs and other rock flourishes. Thematically, the record’s reflective takes on war, love, and one especially satirical look at the music industry, spawned some of the band’s most iconic hits.
But how much do you know about this record? Check out the quiz below and find out.
And, while you’re playing, listen to Dire Straits’ best of playlist on Apple Music and Spotify.
Wed, 12 May 2021 10:17:34 +0000
Okkervil River’s Will Sheff will return to the stage this fall on a co-headlining U.S. tour with Damien Jurado. The tour, which kicks off on September 21 with two dates at Evanston, IL’s SPACE and wraps December 11 at Bellingham, WA’s Wild Buffalo, includes shows in Nashville, Brooklyn, Big Sur, and two nights at Portland’s Mississippi Studios. All dates are below and tickets are on pre-sale now and will be on sale to the public on Friday, May 14.
Alongside the tour announcement, Okkervil River releases a new song “In A Light,” the band’s first new music since its acclaimed 2018 LP In The Rainbow Rain. A second new track, “It Hasn’t Happened Yet,” will be released this Friday, May 14.
“I wrote “In a Light” with our guitarist Will Graefe right before I moved out of Brooklyn,” says Sheff. “We recorded it in one take at Figure 8 studios, with Frank LoCrasto adding piano and Ryan Dugre on second guitar. It sounded great instantly, but it didn’t seem like the right moment to release the track, and the track didn’t seem to be quite at home on In the Rainbow Rain. So I kept it under my hat. I’d had “It Hasn’t Happened Yet” kicking around as well, and I’d always wanted to release that one on its own but I could never get the recording to sit quite right.
“Finally I had a tandem eureka moment with both of them – I figured out what I needed to do to fix “It Hasn’t Happened Yet” and I felt the time was right for “In a Light.” So I brushed them off and sent them to Dave Cerminara to mix. The whole process was incredibly smooth and easy. I think of these songs as two sides of the same coin, supporting each other by saying two different but complementary things. And even though I started them a couple years in the past they both seem to want to talk about the present and future.”
Damien Jurado’s new album The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania is also out this Friday, May 14 on Maraqopa Records.
Okkervil River (Solo) & Damien Jurado – Fall US Tour:
9/21 – Evanston, IL – SPACE
9/22 – Evanston, IL – SPACE
9/23 – Grand Rapids, MI – Wealthy Theatre
9/24 – Ann Arbor, MI – The Ark
9/25 – Louisville, KY – Headliners Music Hall
9/26 – Nelsonville, OH – Stuart’s Opera House
9/28 – Nashville, TN – Third Man Records
9/29 – Atlanta, GA – City Winery
9/30 – Charlotte, NC – Neighborhood Theatre
10/1 – Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
10/2 – Vienna, VA – Barns at Wolf Trap
10/3 – Woodstock, NY Levon Helm Studios
10/5 – Boston, MA – City Winery
10/6 – Brooklyn, NY – To Be Announced
10/7 – Holyoke, MA – Gateway City Arts
12/1 – Santa Ana, CA – Ebell of Santa Ana
12/2 – Ojai, CA – Ojai Women’s Club
12/3 – Oakland, CA – Starline Social Club
12/4 – Big Sur, CA – Henry Miller Memorial Library (early show)
12/4 – Big Sur, CA – Henry Miller Memorial Library (late show)
12/5 – Sonoma, CA – Sebastiani Theater
12/8 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
12/9 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
12/10 – Tacoma, WA – Fawcett Hall
12/11 – Bellingham, WA – Wild Buffalo.
Visit Okkervil River’s official website for further information about the upcoming US tour.
Wed, 12 May 2021 08:49:59 +0000
Sons Of Kemet have announced a North American tour for Spring 2022. The dates include Washington DC, Philadelphia, NYC (Webster Hall), Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago, Minneapolis, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. Tickets for Webster Hall and the whole tour go on sale Friday, May 14 at 10 AM local time, with presales beginning May 12 at 10 AM local. Check out the band’s official website for further information.
The acclaimed UK outfit release a new album, Black To The Future, this coming Friday, which features appearances by Angel Bat Dawid, Moor Mother, Kojey Rad Radical, Lianne La Havas, Joshua Idehen, D Double E and more.
Sons Of Kemet are a jazz and experimental band from London made up of Tom Skinner, Eddie Hick, Shabaka Hutchings and Theon Cross. Their musical style frequently spans jazz, rock, Caribbean folk, and African music with a revolving cast of two drummers, saxophone, tuba, clarinet and more.
The band won Best Jazz Act at the 2013 MOBO Awards for their debut album Burn, which they followed up with Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do in 2015, also released through Naim Records. For their most recent album, 2018’s Your Queen Is A Reptile the band signed with Impulse! Records, and earned themselves a Mercury Prize nomination.
Sons Of Kemet are among the names confirmed for Somerset House’s Summer Series, and they’ll also play Glastonbury this year.
Sons Of Kemet’s North American tour includes the following 2022 dates:
March 27: Washington, DC – Union Stage
March 28: Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
March 29: New York, NY – Webster Hall
March 31: Boston, MA – The Sinclair
April 1: Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre
April 2: Toronto, ON – Mod Club
April 4: Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
April 5: Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line
April 7: Vancouver, BC – Imperial
April 8: Seattle, WA – Neumos
April 9: Portland, OR – Star Theatre
April 11: San Francisco, CA – Independent.
Black To The Future is out on May 14 and can be pre-ordered here.
Wed, 12 May 2021 08:09:42 +0000
The 2018 version of Procol Harum’s deathless 1967 pop staple “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” by singer-songwriter Dylan Menzie, from the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island, underlined what an endlessly inspiring song it remains. It also leads to our look at some of the most interesting versions of the piece, written by Gary Brooker and (as established after legal proceedings) Matthew Fisher, with the unforgettable lyrics of Keith Reid.
Procol’s original was a worldwide No.1 with sales of six million copies. It continues to be their most well-known song and a feature of concerts by the latter-day line-up. When the band’s latest, admirable album Novum was released in 2017, frontman Brooker told this writer how “Whiter Shade” dominates the media perception of their 50-year history. “To keep a standard going that amount of time is an achievement in itself,” he said. “I think the new album crowns that, [so] they can play something other than ‘Whiter Shade.’ Which still sounds good!”
Interpretations of the song started to appear almost immediately. But it’s not often remembered that the first by a well-known artist was by the Everly Brothers, sounding almost unrecognizable on a track from their August 1967 album The Everly Brothers Sing.
By October that year, the Box Tops included the song on their album The Letter/Neon Rainbow, assembled in the wake of their US chart-topping success “The Letter.” The Procol hit soon went reggae, in a reading by Alton Ellis, and before 1967 was out it had also been recorded by Noel Harrison, singer-actor son of thespian Rex, and by saxophone ace King Curtis with his group the Kingpins.
American chart regular Johnny Rivers swapped Fisher’s original, expressive organ motif for piano on his cover from the 1968 album Realization. The Dells put their soulful stamp on the song in 1969 and there were minor US chart versions by Cleveland R&B group the Hesitations in 1968 and R.B. Greaves, the nephew of Sam Cooke, in 1970.
Joe Cocker’s 1978 album Luxury You Can Afford included his instantly-recognizable treatment, and the same year the song reinforced its endless versality in a disco-to-pop crossover by Munich Machine. One wonders how many other compositions could then have added early 1980s versions by Bonnie Tyler and Willie Nelson.
Another great vocalist to lend his talents to “Whiter Shade” was Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, who included it on his Classic Blue album with Mike Batt and the London Symphony Orchestra in 1989. Six years later, it was also a well-remembered part of Annie Lennox’s Medusa album.
Many other readings have followed, across the musical spectrum from Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes to Engelbert Humperdinck. Dylan Menzie’s 2018 version, from his As The Clock Rewinds EP, replaces the organ feature with piano and strings to fine effect. Ever more shades of a classic song continue to reveal themselves.
Tue, 11 May 2021 23:14:35 +0000
The annual Monsters of Rock Cruise is returning in 2022 to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Departing out of Miami, Florida, promoter On The Blue announced the five-day/five-night full ship charter cruise will set sail February 9-14 aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, visit two ports in CocoCay, Bahamas and Labadee, Haiti, and features performances from rock icon Alice Cooper, along with performances from over 35 artists.
The public on-sale kicked off today at 9:00 am ET, with cabins starting at $1,799.00 per person (double occupancy, not including mandatory taxes and fee supplement).
The supporting lineup for MORC ’22 includes Queensrÿche, Cinderella’s Tom Keifer, Skid Row, Lit, L.A. Guns, Kix, Winger, Michael Monroe, Great White, H.E.A.T, Loudness, Pat Travers, Y&T, Eclipse, Vixen, Rose Tattoo, Black ‘N Blue, Firewind, Chris Holmes, Joel Hoekstra, Lillian Axe, Faster Pussycat, Pink Cream 69, Dangerous Toys, Killer Dwarfs, XYZ, Beasto Blanco, Electric Boys, Crazy Lixx, Little Caesar, Roxanne, Signal 13, and The Mayor of MORC―John Corabi.
Plus, official cruise hosts―Eddie Trunk (VH1, SiriusXM), comedians Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine (former hosts of VH1 Classic’s hit TV show That Metal Show), SiriusXM’s “Ozzy’s Boneyard” and “Hair Nation” hosts Keith Roth and Lüc Carl, Nikki Blakk, Izzy and Brian, Metal DJ Will, and Ginger Fish―will be moderating Q&A’s and activities specifically designed to bring the party up a notch.
In addition to performances, MORC ‘22 will host interactive events between artists and cruisers, including Q&A sessions, Gong Show Karaoke, “So You Think You Can Shred,” Cooking with Rock Stars, Painting With Rock Stars, Rock Stars vs Average Joe Basketball, and Beach Volleyball, with more to be announced. Furthermore, the cruise will host themed nights, opportunities to dine with selected bands, and artist photo experiences.
The award-winning ship, Freedom of the Seas, received a massive makeover in 2020 as part of the cruise line’s “Royal Amplified” program. In addition to a ship-wide refresh, new bars and restaurants were added, complimenting the already endless list of activities and features the ship offers.
For more information and booking options, visit the official Monsters of Rock Cruise website.
Tue, 11 May 2021 23:06:18 +0000
The history of singer-songwriters is as rich as music itself. A man or woman singing, accompanied by nothing but a guitar, is inherent to our humanity. It’s a tradition built into the fabric of society. While loud rock bands and thrilling jazz quartets are intoxicating, there are few things as powerful as a singer-songwriter. The combination of lyrics, instrumentation, and melody is a simple formula, but few can solve it like the artists on this list. Granted, this isn’t meant to be a definitive list of the best singer-songwriter albums of all time, this is merely a representation of some of the best examples of artists honoring the tradition of songwriting.
The list covers artists who put a premium on evocative storytelling, little (if any) background instrumentation and beautiful vocals. Of course, beauty is subjective, that’s why someone like Neil Young appears on this list alongside Tracy Chapman. Both have brilliant voices, although completely different in tone, register, and grace. As with everything in this world, the idea of the singer-songwriter has evolved over the years, and that’s why artists like Elizabeth Cotten are joined by musicians like Beck and Sheryl Crow. Above all, these performers prove that there is no singular way to tackle the singer-songwriter model. Each brings a one-of-a-kind style to the subgenre.
This list is a starting point for exploration, not a deep dive into particularly fertile scenes like the British folk movement of the 60s or the outlaw country scene in the 70s. (Both scenes that you should absolutely check out, by the way!) There’s also not much country music here generally because that’s a world in and of itself. (Again, a world most definitely worth exploring!) There are plenty of artists who could, and should be on this list, like Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen, and John Prine. But this is merely a starting point for exploration into the infinite history of singer-songwriters.
Follow our playlist of the best albums from singer-songwriters to hear our picks.
Elizabeth Cotten: Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folk Songs (1958)
While many of Elizabeth Cotten’s songs on Freight Train aren’t originals, the title track more than carries enough weight to qualify her seminal album as an all-time singer-songwriter LP. The blues and folk musician from North Carolina turns in an incredibly moving performance throughout the record, imbuing the traditional folk tunes and original compositions with an unmistakable POV. Plus, Cotten was a lefty playing a right-handed guitar upside down long before Hendrix ever came along.
Selected track: “Freight Train”: Elizabeth Cotten estimated that this song was written in her teenage years, likely in the first decade of the 20th century.
Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)
Bob Dylan’s second album was a masterpiece of creativity. He wrote only two songs on his debut, but his second contained 12 originals, including “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Masters Of War.” The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan mixed social commentary with love songs, some inspired by the late Suze Rotolo, his teenage girlfriend at the time. She was pictured on the cover too, strolling through Greenwich Village on the arm of the 21-year-old folk singer who was about to inspire a generation.
Selected track: “Blowin’ In The Wind”: Born out of an African-American spiritual called “No More Auction Block,” this song became a folk anthem and instant classic, with Peter, Paul And Mary’s cover version selling 300,000 copies in the first week of release.
Richie Havens: Mixed Bag (1966)
Richie Havens’ was a real musician’s musician. Many of his peers were self-proclaimed fans (Hendrix supposedly had a few of his records), and on Mixed Bag, it’s easy to see why. His elegant blend of folk structures with a loosely-inspired jazz feel made it ahead of its time, while Havens’ rich baritone was at once instantly recognizable and entirely unique.
Selected track: “Handsome Johnny”: This jaunty, anti-war protest song was co-written with actor Louis Gossett Jr.
Tim Hardin: Tim Hardin 1 (1966)
When former marine Tim Hardin died in 1980, aged just 39, there was deep sadness within the music industry at the loss of man described by Joe Strummer as “a lost genius of music.” Tim Hardin 1 contains some of his most frequently covered songs, including “Don’t Make Promises.” It features his rich, soulful voice on a dozen songs that astutely explore despair, drug abuse and a damaged romantic sensibility.
Selected track: “Reason To Believe”: This country-style song was later a hit for Rod Stewart.
Jacques Brel: Ces Gens-Là (1966)
Belgian singer-songwriter and actor Jacques Brel composed wry and tortured songs that had an influence on musicians as diverse as David Bowie (who covered his songs “Amsterdam” and “My Death” live) and Leonard Cohen. Brel died from lung cancer, aged 49, in 1978.
Selected track: “La Chanson De Jacky”: Released as “Jackie,” the song was a UK hit for Peter Straker, whose version was produced by Freddie Mercury.
Laura Nyro: More Than A New Discovery (1967)
Bronx-born Laura Nyro was 19 when she released her debut album and, though it was not a commercial success at the time, it had a huge influence on Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones. The poetic lyrics and emotional delivery made Nyro one of the most important female singer-songwriters of the 60s and 70s. Nyro also died aged 49, due to complications from ovarian cancer.
Selected track: “Wedding Bell Blues”: A song that spawned a new catchphrase in America.
Neil Young: After the Gold Rush (1970)
Neil Young has many peerless records, but After the Goldrush stands alone. From the haunting piano of the title track to the crunchy rock of “Southern Man,” Gold Rush is a front-to-back triumph. The record is one of four high-profile albums released by each member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, who each explored solo territory after their chart-topping 1970 album Déjà Vu.
Selected track: “Southern Man”: An undeniable classic.
James Taylor: Sweet Baby James (1970)
James Taylor was broke and homeless when he made one of the definitive albums of the 70s. Marrying his sweet voice and deft acoustic guitar playing to memorable lyrics – with some relaxed accompaniment by Carole King on piano – the album launched James onto the world stage as one of the new superstars of the singer-songwriter genre.
Selected track: “Fire And Rain”: An enduring folk classic, this song was also covered beautifully by Bobby Womack.
Cat Stevens: Tea For The Tillerman (1970)
Blending haunting singing, potent lyrics and majestic orchestration, Cat Stevens’ album was a triumph of musical ambition from the artist who later converted to Islam as Yusuf Islam. Tea For The Tillerman is bursting with memorable songs, including “Wild World,” “Hard-Headed Woman,” and “Father And Son.”
Selected track: “Where Do the Children Play?”: A disconcerting song about ecological threats facing the world nearly half a century ago.
Elton John: Elton John (1970)
The first album released by Elton John in America gave the British star his debut US chart hit with the wonderful “Border Song.” Featuring songs written with his long-time writing partner Bernie Taupin, this album established John as a key solo artist of the 70s.
Selected track: “Your Song”: Simply one of the sweetest love songs of all time.
Tim Buckley: Starsailor (1970)
Tim Buckley, father of Jeff, produced a body of work that was enormously varied. On Starsailor, arguably his finest album, Buckley managed to blend folk with avant-garde jazz in an original way, while his maudlin voice floated over beguiling imagery and troubling lyrics, as on “I Woke Up.”
Selected track: “Song To The Siren”: A beautiful and stark love song.
Paul McCartney: McCartney (1970)
The man – and pen – behind some of the greatest pop songs of the 20th century made his debut album during a period of acrimony with his former Beatles colleagues. Paul McCartney played every instrument on the album, including drums and toy xylophone, and was backed by then-wife Linda on vocals. The album went straight to No.1 on the Billboard charts.
Selected track: “Maybe I’m Amazed”: A striking and strident love song.
John Lennon: Imagine (1971)
Imagine contains all sorts of gems beside the title track, including the acidic “How Do You Sleep?” George Harrison plays guitar and Phil Spector produces an album that also contains the powerful protest song “Gimme Some Truth.”
Selected track: “Imagine”: A song that captures the eternal hope of a world built on brotherhood and peace.
Carole King: Tapestry (1971)
Carole King, one of the best modern songwriters, took the brave step of recording some of her own soul classics as slow-burning folk melodies. The result is intimate, with moving versions of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”
Selected track: “You’ve Got a Friend”: Also a chart-topper for James Taylor.
Dolly Parton: Coat Of Many Colors (1971)
The extravagant personality and sweet singing of Dolly Parton sometimes obscures her considerable talent as a songwriter. “I’ve always prided myself as a songwriter more than anything else,” the Tennessee star said. The title song of Coat Of Many Colors is one of country music’s most touching songs about childhood.
Selected track: “My Blue Tears”: An outstanding bluegrass track.
Nick Drake: Pink Moon (1972)
Nick Drake’s tragic death in 1974, aged just 26, from an overdose of antidepressants, has meant that the singer-songwriter’s life has come to personify a particular idea of doomed romanticism. The wistful beauty of Pink Moon, a stripped-down acoustic album that allows his fragile words to soar, is full of treats such as “From The Morning.”
Selected Track: “Place To Be”: A haunting song about depression.
David Ackles: American Gothic (1972)
David Ackles was appearing in Vaudeville from the age of four. As a musician, his critical peak came with American Gothic (produced by Bernie Taupin), a sprawling and ambitious album about his homeland. Ackles was also a major influence on Elvis Costello.
Selected track: “Montana Song”: A bold and gritty 10-minute song about the hardships facing the first American settlers.
Randy Newman: Sail Away (1972)
Randy Newman is at his sardonic best on his third album. “Political Science” is a piece of political satire perhaps relevant nearly half a century on, and few songwriters would have the courage to record an anti-slavery song as edgy and ironic as “Sail Away.”
Selected track: “God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)”: A song in which God chooses to speak through Randy Newman.
Van Morrison: Veedon Fleece (1974)
Though Astral Weeks gets the most kudos, Veedon Fleece, set mostly in Ireland, is Van Morrison’s overlooked masterpiece and a great example of ambition and imagination in songwriting.
Selected track: “You Don’t Pull No Punches, But You Don’t Push the River”: A blissfully enigmatic epic.
Janis Ian: Between the Lines (1975)
Janis Ian’s brilliant 1975 breakthrough LP, Between the Lines, helped bring a folk resurgence to the forefront of mainstream music after the genre dominated the 60s thanks to stars like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Between the Lines reached No.1 on the Billboard charts thanks to Ian’s brilliant vocal performance and patient, contemplative arrangements.
Selected track: “At Seventeen”: An anthem for social outcasts everywhere.
Joni Mitchell: The Hissing Of Summer Lawns (1975)
Four years after the seminal Blue, Canadian Joni Mitchell released an experimental, jazzy album that would come to be regarded as a classic, especially by Prince. The Hissing Of Summer Lawns features contributions from James Taylor and includes the song “The Boho Dance,” about a refusal to betray artistic values for commercial gain.
Selected track: “Sweet Bird”: A sparkling Mitchell delight.
Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska (1982)
Nebraska was described by Rosanne Cash as “one of the great documents of American life.” This bleak, solo acoustic album was Springsteen’s attempt to write a non-commercial “inner-directed, psychological” album. It contains some of his finest personal songs, including “My Father’s House” and “Mansion On The Hill.”
Selected track: “Used Cars”: A short, sharp gem about the American Dream.
Tom Waits: Rain Dogs (1985)
By the mid-80s, the now gravelly voiced Tom Waits had come a long way since his gorgeous yet somewhat straightforward 1973 debut album, Closing Time. Rain Dogs is an ingenious and unpredictable album about America’s “dispossessed,” and is full of songwriting treasures such as “Time,” “Downtown Train,” and “Singapore.”
Selected track: “Hang Down Your Head”: One of the most affecting songs Waits has ever written.
Steve Earle: Guitar Town (1986)
Few debut LPs have been as assured as Steve Earle’s Guitar Town. The project introduced the country-folk artist as an instant star, thanks to his gravelly voice, brilliant lyrics, and mesmerizing voice. The record was an instant smash. It topped the Billboard country album charts, and the title song reached No.7 on the country singles charts. Earle was also nominated for two 1987 Grammy Awards, Best Male Country Vocalist and Best Country Song, for the title track.
Selected track: “Guitar Town”: An infectious opening salvo from a new talent.
Paul Simon: Graceland (1986)
Paul Simon had one of the best back catalogues in popular music when he came to make this ambitious album in 1986. Featuring South African musicians, Graceland was a triumph, full of warm and witty songs amid despair.
Selected track: “You Can Call Me Al”: Simon at his deceptively simple best.
Tracy Chapman: Tracy Chapman (1988)
Tracy Chapman’s self-titled debut is one of the most iconic first albums in history. It featured a smash hit in “Fast Car,” but the record’s true strength is in its depth and precise scope. Chapman dives into folk traditions through a contemporary lens, offering a vital perspective as a Black woman in folk music. It’s no wonder Elektra Records signed her as soon as she showed them a demo of her single, “Talkin’ ‘bout a Revolution.”
Selected track: “Fast Car”: One of the most indelible 80s songs.
Sheryl Crow: Tuesday Night Music Club (1993)
Tuesday Night Music Club is classy upbeat country-rock from Sheryl Crow, a former music teacher from Missouri. The album title was taken from the studio group who composed and recorded the album, with guitarist Bill Bottrell acting as producer.
Selected track: “All I Wanna Do”: The song that launched Crow was based on the poem “Fun” by Wyn Cooper.
Elliott Smith: Either / Or (1997)
Elliott Smith’s Either / Or has set the modern standard by which all other singer-songwriter albums are measured. Elliott’s unimpeachable masterpiece introduced the reclusive songwriter to a wide audience, especially after Gus Van Sant included three songs from Either / Or in the Good Will Hunting soundtrack. “Miss Misery” was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1998 Academy Awards, and was performed at the televised ceremony in an abridged version by Smith.
Selected track: “Between the Bars”: Melancholy perfected.
Lucinda Williams: Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (1998)
Country singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams’ fifth studio album was a painstaking one, taking six years to make after having been recorded twice from scratch. The emotive songs were a hit and it was her first album to go gold.
Selected track: “Jackson”: A gritty tearjerker.
Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans (2004)
Picking a great album from Sufjan Stevens’ eclectic discography is a tough choice, but on a pure level of songwriting composition, Seven Swans stands the test of time. The record, released in 2004, effortlessly transforms stories of Christ, Abraham, and Christianity into applicable everyday stories. As always, Stevens takes universal maxims and indisputable truths and scrutinizes them with the perspective of a believing skeptic.
Selected track: “To Be Alone With You”: Hushed brilliance.
Beck: Morning Phase (2014)
The Grammy Album Of The Year for 2015 was the first album Beck had released for six years following health problems and is full of sweetly melancholic songs. Beck said that the impressive songs on Morning Phase felt “personal, direct, and uninhibited.”
Selected track: “Wave”: An eerie and meditative treat.
David Crosby: Lighthouse (2016)
David Crosby’s affection for jazz tones was clear on his 1971 classic If I Could Only Remember My Name and his album from 2016, co-written with Michael League of jazz-funk band Snarky Puppy, was his finest in nearly five decades. The songs were performed with real feeling by the 74-year-old songwriter.
Selected track: “Look In Their Eyes”: A tender plea for compassion for refugees.
Follow our playlist of the best albums from singer-songwriters to hear our picks.
Tue, 11 May 2021 22:39:27 +0000
The 2021 Brit Awards took over London’s O2 Arena, marking the first, live large-scale indoor event since March of last year.
British comedian Jack Whitehall reprised his role as host for the ceremony, which was delayed from its usual February spot due to the pandemic.
Unlike the Grammys, artists took the stage in front of a live studio audience, with stunning performances from The Weeknd, who performed “Save Your Tears” along with Oneohtrix Point Never, Elton John enlisted Years & Years’ Olly Alexander for a rendition of the Pet Shop Boys “It’s A Sin,’ from Alexander’s show of the same name, and rising star Olivia Rodrigo gave her first live TV performance of her smash hit “driver’s license.”
Rodrigo is equally popular in the UK, with “driver’s license” topping the UK charts at No.1 for nine weeks. Rodrigo will also be performing her hit song live this weekend on Saturday Night Live.
Along with many of the night’s big performances, international artists also picked up several awards at the UK ceremony.
The Weekend won International Male Solo Artist, Taylor Swift became the first female and youngest artist in history to receive the Global Icon Award, Billie Eilish picked up the award for International Female Artist, and HAIM won for International Group.
Along with thanking the UK musical community, Swift especially thanked the NHS healthcare workers who were in attendance and helping to keep the event COVID-safe.
Meanwhile, Alana Haim also thanked their UK fanbase. “Sisters! This is incredible … the UK was the first place to ever embrace us in the entire world and for that, honestly, we will be forever grateful.”
The last time an all-female group won this award was the Corrs in 1999 and The Bangles in 1987.
Among the many talented UK artists in attendance were Coldplay, Arlo Parks, Griff, and Dua Lipa, who also gave stellar performances.
Watch all of the performances here and see the full list of winners below.
British female: Dua Lipa
British male: J Hus
British group: Little Mix
Breakthrough artist: Arlo Parks
British single: Harry Styles – Watermelon Sugar
British album: Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
International female: Billie Eilish
International male: The Weeknd
International group: Haim
Global icon: Taylor Swift
Rising star: Griff
Tue, 11 May 2021 21:57:20 +0000
Following their performance of the Pet Shop Boys classic “It’s a sin” at the BRIT Awards, Elton John and Years & Years have officially released a new version of Olly Alexander’s brilliant cover.
Produced by Stuart Price (The Killers, Madonna, Scissor Sisters, Dua Lipa) and Pet Shop Boys the single sets a somber tone with Elton’s unmistakable vocals and piano and Olly’s wistful vocals, before unveiling itself as a euphoric, floor-filling anthem.
The collaboration and performance were inspired by the Russell T Davies hit TV series, It’s a Sin, a five-part series set in 1980s London during the AIDS epidemic, starring Alexander in the leading role.
The single is in support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Founded in 1992, the Elton John AIDS Foundation is one of the leading independent AIDS organizations in the world.
Elton and his husband, filmmaker David Furnish, will also be honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards at AIDS Walk: Live at Home 2021, a virtual fundraising event hosted by GMHC of New York and AIDS Walk San Francisco Foundation. The event airs Sunday, May 16th at 1:00 p.m. ET/ 10:00 a.m. PST on local television stations and on streaming services.
Hosted online due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the ceremony will combine seven AIDS Walk events from cities around the country — Austin, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles — into one fundraising show.
John and Furnish have a long history of working with advocacy groups in battling the AIDS epidemic. In 1991, John helped kick off the first AIDS Walk in Atlanta, Georgia. Furnish currently serves as the foundation’s Chairman of their Board of Trustees.
In addition to presenting John and Furnish with their awards, AIDS Walk: Live at Home 2021 will feature appearances by Billy Porter, Ann-Margret, Danielle Brooks, Heather Headley, Rita Moreno, Tony Goldwyn, Liz Callaway, Alex Newell, Rosie Perez, Carson Kressley, George Takei, and contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Buy or stream Elton John And Years & Years’ “It’s a sin.”
Tue, 11 May 2021 21:04:54 +0000
J. Cole’s versatility doesn’t stop when he exits the recording booth. The North Carolina MC will be the first ever solo artist to grace the SLAM Magazine cover, basketball’s premiere outlet.
The news comes on the heels of more exciting developments for Cole, who has reportedly signed with the Rwandan club team Patriots BBC and may hit the court as early as this Sunday. For those keeping track, that’s just two days after the release of his highly anticipated new project, The Off-Season.
J. Cole took to The Players’ Tribune to explain his decision: “There were a lot of dudes on campus that played high school ball and some could have easily played for a low level division I team. For what it’s worth, in this small basketball community of non student-athletes, I was one of the top players. I was a late bloomer, though. I played in high school, but had only started to find real confidence after my senior year was over. I was 6’3“, athletic with a high motor, and highly competitive. What I lacked in fundamentals (which was a lot), I made up for in creativity, finesse, and will power. If there was one word to describe my game at the age of 19 it was, potential.“
Cole has escalated anticipation for his new project after releasing the record’s first single and a behind-the-scenes documentary. The visual, Applying Pressure: The Off-Season, was executive produced by Cole and Ibrahim Hamad, and directed by Scott Lazer. Just a few days before the release of the documentary, Cole released The Off-Season’s first single, “i n t e r l u d e,” which Cole produced with T-Minus and T. Parker. The track proves that Cole is still at the height of his powers and one of the best pure lyricists in the game. He raps, “Through hard times, it was there I discovered a hustle/And makin’ the best out the struggle/I kept grindin’ ’til this day, up a level/Respect mine, gotta stay out of trouble.”
Listen to the best of J. Cole on Apple Music and Spotify.
Tue, 11 May 2021 20:41:02 +0000
George Harrison, Marvin Gaye, and more music legends appear in the new trailer for 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything.
The series, which arrives May 21, comes from a filmmaking team that includes figures from documentaries like Amy, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and Senna. 1971’s trailer suggests that the film will focus on numerous masterpieces from that year, from the Who’s Who’s Next to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On. It also has a heavy emphasis on the socio-political climate that made much of this music vital and lasting.
1971, coming via Apple TV+, was inspired by the book Never a Dull Moment: 1971 the Year That Rock Exploded by David Hepworth. The project will be directed by Asif Kapadia, with James Gay-Rees, David Joseph, and Universal Music Group’s Adam Barker executive producing.
Says Gay-Rees, “When we first engaged with David Hepworth, who wrote the book, I remember sitting in a room with him as he gave me the context of what was happening socially and politically that year, alongside which albums were coming out that year. And, like a lot of people, I’m a massive fan of some of the artists we feature in the series. But it was a slightly jaw-dropping moment, because the list just seemed to never end, and I couldn’t believe that all those records came out of that one year. I mean, some of these months alone are kind of iconic moments for music.”
The trailer opens with Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and shows footage of artists, many of whom had huge roles in the music revolution of 1971: The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Elton John, Bob Marley, and more.
1971 will expand its focus to include artists who found greater stardom or impact later but were having some deeply seminal moments during that year, like David Bowie, who can be heard over the opening credits of the film saying: “We were creating the 21st century in 1971.”
Explore more seminal classic albums from the 1970s on vinyl.
Tue, 11 May 2021 18:13:11 +0000
Soprano Lise Davidsen won Female Singer of the Year at the 2021 International Opera Awards last night. She also made her La Scala debut, in the reopening concert, marking the 75th anniversary of the reopening of the Milan opera house after World War Two bombings. The concert, conducted by Maestro Riccardo Chailly, featured works by Verdi, Wagner, Purcell, Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss performed for around 500 masked people watching from the surrounding boxes.
Since winning Plácido Domingo’s Operalia and Queen Sonja competitions in 2015, Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen has taken the classical music world by storm, with resounding debuts in venues including Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Bayreuth, Aix-enProvence and Glyndebourne Festivals, Bayerische Staatsoper, Wigmore Hall and the Barbican, Wiener Staatsoper, the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall and Zurich Opera House.
Lise Davidsen’s self-titled debut album of Strauss and Wagner songs, released in 2019, entered the Official UK Classical Artist Chart at No. 1. She released her second studio album, Beethoven • Wagner • Verdi, featuring some of the great operatic heroines from German and Italian repertoire and Wagner’s five Wesendonck Lieder which has become a signature piece for Lise, in March 2021.
“Not just a voice. The Voice”
Few young singers have received such critical acclaim as Lise Davidsen. The New York Times announced she has, “Not just a voice. The Voice,” and Gramophone noted she has, “One of the greatest voices to be heard today.”
Lise Davidsen will reopen the Bayerische Staatsoper on 13 May 2021, with Jonas Kaufmann, as Sieglinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre. She will also perform as Elisabeth in Wagner’s Tannhäuser, and as Sieglinde in Die Walküre, at the Bayreuther Festspiele in July and August before performing as Eva in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in October and November.
The International Opera Awards
The International Opera Awards, considered opera’s answer to the Oscars, celebrate achievements in opera around the globe over the last calendar year in a wide range of categories. After 2020’s live ceremony was forced off stage by the pandemic, the online event celebrated work done in 2019 while also paying tribute to the resilience of the opera world during the pandemic in 2020.
Opera Company of the year was presented to the Teatro Real Madrid, Mexican tenor Javier Camarena won Male Singer of the Year, and American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton won Opera Magazine’s Readers’ Award.
The full list of winners can be found below:
EDUCATION & OUTREACH
Birmingham Opera Company
LEADERSHIP sponsored by the Good Governance Institute
Tale of Tsar Saltan (Tcherniakov, La Monnaie De Munt)
Teatro Real, Madrid
OPERA FOR PEACE PRIZE
Bayerisches Staatsorchester / Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich
Martina Arroyo Foundation
RECORDING (SOLO RECITAL)
Jakub Józef Orliński: Facce d’amore (Erato)
RECORDING (COMPLETE OPERA)
Thomas: Hamlet (Naxos) [DVD]
OPERA MAGAZINE READERS’ AWARD
Moniuszko: Paria (Teatr Wielki, Poznań)
Glanert: Oceane (Deutsche Oper, Berlin)
YOUNG SINGER sponsored by Mazars
Lise Davidsen’s album Beethoven • Wagner • Verdi can be bought here.
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Tue, 11 May 2021 17:07:39 +0000
Some of the most spectacular jazz of the 50s (or of any era, for that matter) appears on The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions. It is a 6 LP compilation that brings together all of the sides recorded for Bob Weinstock’s jazz indie label by Miles Davis and his groundbreaking young group. When the quintet formed in July 1955, saxophonist John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones were all relatively unknown to the music-buying public, but that situation would quickly change. Indeed, they would quickly become revered by jazz fans as gods.
“That was some great music we made”
During his Prestige tenure, Davis recorded in several different settings, from quartets and all-star sextets to septets. Nevertheless, his best music for the label resulted from a brand new quintet he assembled in the summer of 1955. It came in the aftermath of a game-changing appearance at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival. Davis’ mesmerizing performance there caught the ear of Columbia producer George Avakian, who said he would sign the trumpeter if he could put together a steady working band to showcase his music. Miles obliged by recruiting Garland, Chambers, and Jones, along with saxophonist Sonny Rollins. When Rollins left in September 1955, John Coltrane came in as a replacement, and one of the greatest and most influential jazz groups of the 50s was born.
Before signing with Columbia, Davis had to fulfill his contractual obligations to Prestige. After recording Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet, the group’s debut for the label, on November 16, 1955, he went into Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack studio twice more: for two marathon recording sessions, held on May 11 and October 26, 1956, respectively.
There was little preparation beforehand. Miles treated both sessions as if he were playing a gig, calling out the song titles and counting in the band. They quickly went from one song to another without any fuss or second takes. What resulted was eventually sequenced by Weinstock into four different albums: Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’, and Steamin’. They not only helped to establish Miles Davis as an intrepid jazz pathfinder, but also established his quintet as one of the most significant small groups in jazz. As he wrote in his 1989 memoir, Miles: The Autobiography: “That was some great music we made at both those sessions, and I’m really proud of it today. But this ended my contract with Prestige. I was ready to move on.”
“He had an idea set in his mind”
“These sessions for Prestige are what I’m really most proud of him for,” says the trumpeter’s son and former percussionist, Erin Davis, in an exclusive interview with uDiscover Music. “The music he did wasn’t intended to be legendary but was what he just wanted to get done. He had an idea set in his mind, and he knew that bringing in the right musicians would make that happen. He was like: ‘Let’s go to the studio and call the tunes. We don’t need to talk about arrangements or solos, let’s just feel it.’”
“They just got together and called out the tunes,” adds Erin’s cousin, Vince Wilburn, a drummer with Miles Davis’ band in the 80s. “Uncle Miles liked to get it done on the first take. That way you get the synergy of the band. Both Erin and I can attest that he didn’t like to go beyond one or two takes in any music he made. He loved spontaneity. You had to be on your toes to capture what he wanted. I can only imagine what it was like when you had Coltrane and these guys in the studio.”
On The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions, all the tracks are presented in chronological order, rather than how Bob Weinstock sequenced them for release. It gives the impression of hearing a live concert in the studio. Says Erin Davis: “In Stanley Nelson’s documentary on my dad, Birth Of The Cool, the writer Jack Chambers talks about how these albums are gems of spontaneous music in the way that they recorded them. So I think a lot of people like these particular sessions because Miles and his band were working in a free environment when they were recording.
“You can feel the camaraderie and pride”
Miles Davis expressed his enthusiasm for the group in this passage from his autobiography: “By the beginning of 1956, I was really enjoying playing with this group and enjoying listening to them plays as individuals.” His son Erin confirms that his father was immensely fond of his first quintet. “This was one of the bands that he used to talk to me about,” he reveals. “He didn’t talk about the music very much, but I remember he used to tell us about Philly Joe all the time. He would tell Vincent and me stories about stuff that happened on the road – but a lot of it I’d be a little reticent to repeat!”
Says Wilburn: “He didn’t talk about his old music very much, but he would always be telling jokes about Philly Joe. The camaraderie, the friendships, the seriousness of the music, and the pride of musicians are the things that you can feel on those Prestige dates. To call off those songs in the studio and make records consecutively like that and put them out was incredible.”
The first album in the box set came from a November 16 session in 1955, which resulted in the group’s debut album, Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet. Miles often used a muted horn, which brought a sense of vulnerability to his sound. Erin says, “The mute gave him a human sound, like a voice, and it’s very compelling. His romanticism came through his music on ballads.”
“He would always pick guys you never expected”
Miles’ lean, lyrical style, compared to Coltrane’s dense, robust yet rhapsodic solos, made the saxophonist – who was then largely unknown – the trumpeter’s perfect foil. “They complemented each other,” says Erin Davis. “You could hear in what he was playing that there was something special in Coltrane. My dad would always pick guys that you never expected him to take. He could hear something in someone’s playing and wanted to have them join his band.”
With Garland providing delicately sparkling piano and Chambers and Jones establishing an ESP-like rapport with their bass and drums, the group immediately established itself as one of jazz’s leading small ensembles. “It’s like the all-star team of the greats,” says Vince Wilburn. “That band was like a masterclass.”
Highlights from Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet ranged from the beautifully mellow swinger “Just Squeeze Me,” to the moodier but more energetic “S’posin’” and “Stablemates,” both archetypal slices of classic 50s hard bop. The album also featured the Miles Davis-penned “The Theme,” which the trumpeter would use to close his live sets for many years.
The quintet’s second Prestige album, Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet – whose highlights included “My Funny Valentine” and “Airegin” – was recorded on October 26, 1956, but by the time it came, out in July 1957, Miles’ group had released their first Columbia album, ’Round About Midnight.
“A masterclass in working the tunes”
Rather than saturate the market, Bob Weinstock had decided to stagger the release of Davis’ remaining Prestige albums over several years. Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet appeared in March 1958, drawn from both of the trumpeter’s marathon final sessions for Prestige, two years earlier. The album’s killer cuts were a scintillating version of “If I Were A Bell” and a dynamic reconfiguration of Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo.”
Prestige released Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet in December 1959. By that time, Miles Davis was a jazz superstar having just released the immortal Kind Of Blue for Columbia several months earlier. Like Relaxin’, Workin’ was drawn from the May and October 1956 sessions, and featured “Trane’s Blues,” “Four” (a Miles-penned tune that became a jazz standard) and the hauntingly beautiful “It Never Entered My Mind.” The latter was a song that Miles had recorded for Blue Note two years earlier.
The band’s final Prestige album was Steamin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet. That, too, was sourced from the same sessions as the Cookin’, Relaxin’, and Workin’ albums, and, like those, is a consistently engaging set characterized by potent individual and collective performances. It contains excellent versions of Thelonious Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts” (showcasing the firecracker trap work of Philly Joe Jones), and the lesser-known Rodgers and Hammerstein tune “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” which pianist Ahmad Jamal popularized in the early 50s.
“They’re like the Holy Grail”
The sixth and final disc in The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions features some rare bonus material, including essential recordings that capture Davis’ group performing live. There are four songs from New York’s Café Bohemia – the venue where the quintet honed their craft – two from Philadelphia’s Blue Note Club and a couple the group performed on the popular TV show Tonight Starring Steve Allen. They give a taste of what this magnificent band sounded like playing in front of an audience.
Vince Wilburn first became acquainted with his uncle’s classic Prestige albums as a youngster. “I grew up on the south side of Chicago, and my parents used to play all these records in the basement,” he says. “I remember just lying in bed listening to them.”
Erin Davis went to live with his father when he was 14, but says there were none of his old records in the house. It was only after Miles passed away, in 1991, that Erin began discovering how extensive and varied his father’s back catalog was. “To be honest, after he died, I was looking to fill that hole, and I listened to a lot of his music. I just took it upon myself to explore his catalogue and started deep-diving into music from so many different periods. When I put the Prestige sessions on, it’s just a masterclass in working the tunes.”
Decades on, the world is still talking about the Miles Davis Quintet’s Prestige recordings. “These are gems to me,” says Vince Wilburn. “They’re like the Holy Grail.”
The 6 LP The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions box set is out now.
Tue, 11 May 2021 17:03:10 +0000
“I’ll play it and tell you what it is later.” Delivered in his characteristic husky rasp, these were the words of 30-year-old Miles Davis, talking to his producer Bob Weinstock, before clicking his fingers and counting off the tempo for his band’s hard bop reconfiguration of Frank Loesser’s “If I Were A Bell,” originally written for the 1950 musical Guys And Dolls. Significantly, it became the first tune on one of Miles’ best-loved albums, Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet. The album didn’t come out until March 1958, though it was, in fact, recorded two years earlier.
Listen to Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet on Apple Music and Spotify.
To get the full story, you have to travel back to the summer of 1955. Miles, then signed to Weinstock’s indie jazz label, Prestige (where he’d released several albums since 1951), joined up with Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan in a hastily assembled all-star band to play at George Wein’s Newport Jazz Festival, then in its second year. While he was a prominent figure on the US modern jazz scene, Miles wasn’t yet the revered, iconic figure he is today. In fact, as he wrote in his book, Miles: The Autobiography: “I think my name in the clubs was still s__t and a lot of the critics probably still thought I was a junkie. I wasn’t really popular at the time, but that began to change after I played the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955.”
Indeed it did. Miles’ sensational performance at Newport, where he used a mute on some spellbinding ballads, marked the starting point for his transformation into a bona fide jazz star and household name. Columbia producer George Avakian witnessed Miles’ performance and immediately wanted to sign him. The only problem was that Miles was signed to Prestige, with a year left on his contract. Avakian negotiated with Weinstock to buy Miles’ contract and an agreement was struck whereby Miles would sign with Columbia but they wouldn’t release anything until his Prestige contract had expired. As a parting gift, Miles would give Weinstock four albums’ worth of material.
By this time, Miles, urged by Avakian and Weinstock, had assembled his first proper band. It was a quintet comprising a relatively unknown tenor saxophonist from Philly called John Coltrane, along with pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones on drums. They had a residency in the newly opened Café Bohemia in New York, where they were able to hone their material and then, during two long studio sessions for Prestige at recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s highly-regarded New Jersey studio – in May and October of 1956 – they laid down the tracks that became the four Prestige LPs Workin’, Steamin’, Relaxin’ and Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet.
The third album to be released from the sessions, Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet – comprised of tracks from both the May and October recording sessions – is arguably the best. It started very low key, with Red Garland’s delicate piano chimes announcing the intro to a lightly-swinging “If I Were A Bell.” Miles uses a mute and his tone is light and airy, but underneath, the groove – driven by Paul Chambers’ sprightly walking bass and Philly Joe Jones’ propulsive drums – is cooking nicely. The entrance of Coltrane’s sax brings more heat and intensity to the piece, his solo marking him out as an exciting new talent.
After a false start, the ballad “You’re My Everything” begins with Red Garland’s tasteful block chords, laying the foundation for some lyrical horn playing from Miles, who again uses a mute which infuses his sound with a note of poignancy.
For a former professional boxer who went in the ring with a young Sugar Ray Robinson, Texas pianist Red Garland had an exceedingly delicate touch on the keyboard, as the tinkling intro to a swinging version of Rodgers & Hart’s “I Could Write A Book” reveals. In acute contrast, Coltrane’s meaty saxophone solo is robust and virile, and his contribution also lights up a version of Sonny Rollins’ uptempo, riff-laden “Oleo,” a popular number with the hard boppers, which finds Miles and Trane playing in unison on the intro, before they break off to improvise.
After the high energy of “Oleo,” the album takes a cooler turn with a gently swinging take on Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke’s Sinatra number “It Could Happen To You,” where Miles again uses a mute. His solo is spare yet eloquent, while Coltrane’s, which follows, begins quietly in a subdued fashion but then crescendos into an avalanche of notes. The contrast between the two men’s very different styles is acutely dramatic here and underlines the old adage that opposites attract.
The album’s closer, a revamp of Dizzy Gillespie’s classic bebop number “Woody’n You,” picks up the pace again. Miles, as usual, solos first, followed by Trane, who then briefly passes the baton back to Miles, before a short drum solo by Jones which leads to a Latin-style coda that concludes the piece.
It provides a memorable end to what is a superlative album. Listening to Relaxin’ today, over six decades on from its original release, it’s not difficult to see why Miles’ band at this time was dubbed his First Great Quintet. Collectively and individually, they were on fire – and also at one with their leader. But by the time that Relaxin’ hit the shops in March 1958, Miles was a Columbia recording artist.
Not one given to nostalgia, Miles rarely gave his career a backward glance, but he evidently looked back at those final Prestige recordings with fondness. “That was some great music we made at both those sessions and I’m really proud of it today,” he wrote in 1989, three years before his death.
Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet can be bought here.
Tue, 11 May 2021 17:01:29 +0000
The Beatles were all in their 20s when they recorded their game-changing run of albums. Some artists toil their whole careers to create a classic, while others hit it straight out of the gate. Here are 25 young musicians who’ve created timeless work that still stands today.
Classic Albums By Young Musicians: 25 Age-Defying Greats
Stevie Wonder: Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius (1963)
Nothing but truth in advertising here: 12-year-old Stevie Wonder’s first live album was recorded at the Regal Theater in Chicago during a Motortown Revue performance in 1962 and featured an improvised version of his hit “Fingertips.” Wonder was already electrifying crowds and played a 10-minute version of the track, leading to Motown splitting the live version into “Fingertips Part 1” and “Part 2” on the album. By the time he released his truly first classic song, “Uptight,” he was merely a 15-year-old genius.
Key track: “Fingertips Parts 1 And 2”
U2: Boy (1980)
This is perhaps the one mainstream classic album that was recorded by an entirely teenaged band – though both Bono and bassist Adam Clayton had crossed the line by the time of its release. When it wasn’t the explicit subject matter, the band’s youth was a subtext on all these songs, and Boy captured U2’s nascent stage before they became one of the biggest rock bands in the world.
Key track: “I Will Follow”
Jackson 5: Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 (1969)
Forget for a moment about anything he did later: with “I Want You Back” 12-year-old Michael Jackson was the youngest person ever to sing lead on a stone-cold soul classic. Jackson 5’s debut album marked a new era in crossover pop and soul, and introduced the world to some of the most talented young musicians to date. Not bad for a bunch of kids; Jackie was the eldest at 19.
Key track: “I Want You Back”
The Jam: In the City (1977)
Paul Weller had In The City and its follow-up, This Is the Modern World, under his belt before leaving his teens; his Jam bandmates were both three years older. He built the songs on the trials and triumphs of his age, just as he’s done with every stage of his life since then.
Key track: “In The City”
Bee Gees: The Bee Gees Sing And Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs
The Brothers Gibb were ridiculously young when they first scored in Australia. On their debut single, “The Battle Of The Blue And The Grey,” their voices hadn’t even changed yet. The songs on this early album (later shuffled onto various reissues) are charming in their naivete, including the classic song “I Was A Lover, A Leader Of Men.” However, the real hits poured out after Barry turned 20 and the family band really got started.
Key track: “I Was A Lover, A Leader Of Men”
LL Cool J: Radio (1985)
You can’t say that LL Cool J didn’t live to the fullest during his late teens. He was still fresh-faced and exuberant on Radio (arguably the first hip-hop landmark by a 17-year-old), then gradually toughened up as he fired back at disses. By the time he fully struck back on Mama Said Knock You Out, he was a wise 22 and one of the most promising young musicians in hip-hop.
Key track: “Rock The Bells”
Genesis: Trespass (1970)
Everyone in Genesis was fresh out of Charterhouse School when they began work on their first classic album (which predated the arrival of Steve Hackett and the even younger Phil Collins). Notable here is the premature world-weariness that affects many of the songs, particularly on “Visions Of Angels,” which, as its main writer Anthony Phillips later admitted, was a coded response to Peter Gabriel stealing his girlfriend.
Key track: “Visions Of Angels”
Arctic Monkeys: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)
It’s easy to forget how impossibly young this band were at the time of their debut – not least because Alex Turner was a writer well beyond his years. Even at age 19, he convincingly channeled the punk poet John Cooper Clarke.
Key track: “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor”
The Cowsills: We Can Fly (1967)
The siblings’ second album was an overlooked classic of sunshine pop, with harmonies to die for and a strong melancholy undertone (see the Bee Gees homage “In Need Of A Friend”). It’s true that a couple of brothers were leaving their teens by the time of its release, but the addition of eight-year-old Susan lowered the median age.
Key track: “In Need Of A Friend”
The Undertones: The Undertones (1979)
This Derry quintet were a young band even by UK punk standards, and they reveled in their youth. When they sang about “gettin’ teenage kicks right through the night,” they spoke from experience. On “Teenage Kicks” and “Get Over You” they managed to turn two-minute punk songs about teenage lust into enduring classics.
Key track: “Teenage Kicks”
Ritchie Valens: Ritchie Valens (1959)
Valens was one of the youngest artists ever to make a classic rock’n’roll record – three of them, in fact, since he cut “Donna,” “La Bamba” and “Come On, Let’s Go” by the age of 17. By comparison, Buddy Holly was an old geezer at 19 when he began releasing hits. Sadly, Valens was tragically killed in a plane crash before he released a proper album, but his posthumous debut (with all three singles) holds together just fine.
Key track: “La Bamba”
Amy Winehouse: Frank (2003)
Amy Winehouse is enough of an icon by now that it’s easy to forget how short her life was; all of her debut album, Frank, was recorded before she turned 20. She already had a voice for the ages, however, along with a youthful bravado that was cut short too soon.
Key track: “Brother”
The Runaways: The Runaways (1976)
As conceived by the notorious Kim Fowley, The Runaways were expected to make noise and raise eyebrows. They probably weren’t expected to deliver an enduring rock’n’roll classic on their very first try – as they did when singer Cherie Currie (16) and guitarist/writer Joan Jett (17) opened their debut album with “Cherry Bomb.”
Key track: “Cherry Bomb”
Trombone Shorty: Trombone Shorty’s Swingin’ Gate (2002)
When he made his debut as a bandleader, Trombone Shorty was still a good decade away from becoming the crown prince of New Orleans music. But he was already known as a prodigy, making his debut at 16 with this impeccably hip, mostly-instrumental album that touches on jazz, funk, R&B, and zydeco. His career would begin in earnest when he released the genre-blasting Backatown at the ripe old age of 24.
Key track: “Ooh Poo Pah Doo”
Laura Nyro: More Than A New Discovery (1967)
Released when she was 19, Nyro’s first album was her most commercial, including four songs – “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Blowin’ Away,” “And When I Die” and “Stoney End” – that became major hits for other artists. It freed her up for the more idiosyncratic brilliance that came afterward. The album was later reissued by Colombia with a new title, The First Songs, and new cover art featuring a rose illustration in 1973.
Key track: “Blowin’ Away”
Bright Eyes: A Collection Of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 (1998)
Conor Oberst was born in 1980, so be amazed that he was setting a future direction for indie-rock when he should have been doing his homework. On his debut record, he proved himself a singular talent and a singer-songwriter the likes of which only comes along once in a generation.
Key track: “Falling Out Of Love At This Volume”
Kate Bush: The Kick Inside (1978)
This debut was released a few months shy of her 20th birthday, but Kate Bush was only 16 when she began making demos, with David Gilmour producing. A couple of those early songs made The Kick Inside, and one even turned into a UK No.1 single: “Wuthering Heights.”
Key track: “Wuthering Heights”
The Beach Boys: Surfin’ Safari (1962)
Brian Wilson turned 20 just before the group’s first album, Surfin’ Safari, was released, but most of the other Beach Boys were still high-school age (Carl Wilson, the baby of the band, was only 16 at the time), and their effect on American pop was already evident. Even their first single, “Surfin’,” famously scored Wilson an F in music class.
Key track: “Surfin’ Safari”
Free: Fire And Water (1970)
Free were remarkably young as legendary hard-rock bands go; all four members were teens on their 1969 debut. When they released their third album, Fire And Water, which included the classic “All Right Now,” bassist Andy Fraser was 18. He co-wrote that song along with singer Paul Rodgers, who’d just turned 20.
Key track: “All Right Now”
Fairport Convention: What We Did On Our Holidays (1969)
The youngsters in Fairport Convention were singers and guitarists Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol, aged 19 and 18, respectively. Which means that Thompson was just a teenager when he wrote Fairport’s existential anthem “Meet On The Ledge,” off their third album What We Did On Our Holidays. It would be a career-defining song if he hadn’t accomplished so much since then.
Key track: “What We Did On Our Holidays”
Tony Williams: Life Time (1964)
The legendary drummer was only 17 when he and Herbie Hancock (then 21) joined Miles Davis’ second landmark quintet. Tony Williams recorded his first album as a leader two years later, with Hancock and Ron Carter, setting the stage for the innovative jazz fusion that followed.
Key track: “Two Pieces Of One: Red”
Lil Wayne: Tha Block Is Hot (1999)
Lil Wayne was already a rapper of note before even entering his teens, and his youth didn’t make his rhymes any less hard-hitting. By the time of this platinum debut he was a grizzled veteran at 19, having already scored big with his former group, Hot Boys.
Key track: “Tha Block Is Hot”
Traffic: Mr. Fantasy (1967)
Steve Winwood was 18 (and four to five years younger than his bandmates) when he began work on Mr. Fantasy, whose almost-title track is still played by your local cover band (and sometimes by Steve Winwood himself). Of course, Winwood was already something of a veteran by then, having come into the Spencer Davis Group at 14.
Key track: “Dear Mr. Fantasy”
Lorde: Pure Heroine (2013)
Signed at age 13, Lorde shook the world with her breakout hit, “Royals,” at 17, and became an international superstar at 18, off the back of her debut album, Pure Heroine. With her 2017 follow-up, Melodrama, she proved she was capable of even more ambitious work, and is clearly set to deliver more first-class music as she approaches her mid-20s.
Key track: “Royals”
Spontaneous Combustion: Spontaneous Combustion (1972)
One of the great unknown prog-rock albums, this 1972 gem was made by the trio of guitarist Gary Margetts, drummer Tony Brock (later with The Babys and Rod Stewart), and bassist Tris Margetts – 18, 18, and 16 years old, respectively – and given shimmering production by Greg Lake, a Dorset neighbor who took the lads under his wing. Their sound anticipates Rush, with plenty of layered melodies and stacked guitars, while the vocals are positively Beatlesque. Seek out CD reissue that includes their second album, Triad, also terrific and teen-made, but lacking Lake.
Key track: “Leaving”
Tue, 11 May 2021 16:29:20 +0000
One of the first New York City music venues to welcome back audiences, Blue Note Jazz Club will celebrate its reopening with its annual Sony Presents Blue Note Jazz Festival from June 15 – August 15, 2021.
The festival will feature in-person concerts both indoors at the storied Greenwich Village venue and outdoors at SummerStage in Central Park. Performances at the Blue Note Jazz Club mark the return of a legendary stage following its closure in March 2020.
The festival’s all-star line-up features SummerStage in Central Park concerts from Chris Botti, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic and Galactic with special guests MonoNeon, as well as Blue Note Jazz Club concerts from Robert Glasper, Jacob Collier, Brasstracks, Ron Carter, Talib Kweli, Eddie Palmieri, John Scofield, Digable Planets, Keyon Harrold, Ms. Lisa Fischer, Ravi Coltrane, Michel Camilo, Al Di Meola, Eric Krasno, Ghost-Note, and more. Set times for Blue Note Jazz Club concerts will remain at 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
“Reopening the Blue Note and re-establishing the Festival in 2021 is a significant and important step toward restoring the vibrant music community of New York City,” says Steven Bensusan, President Blue Note Entertainment Group. “The reopening will also allow us to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our Festival this year as well as the 40th anniversary of the Blue Note New York.”
“We feel immense gratitude and appreciation for the artists performing at the Blue Note as we reopen,” said Alex Kurland, Blue Note’s Director of Programming, Talent Buyer. “The legacy and legendary quality the Blue Note represents results from the greatness and magic the artists bring to the stage. We are grateful to get back to presenting special and intimate live shows at Blue Note with such extraordinary artists.”
For more information, visit the official Blue Note Jazz Festival website.
Blue Note Jazz Festival Schedule:
SummerStage in Central Park:
Sunday, June 20 – Chris Botti
Sunday, June 27 – George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic
Sunday, July 11 – Galactic feat. Anjelika ‘Jelly’ Joseph & MonoNeon
Blue Note (Greenwich Village):
Tuesday, June 15 – Sunday, June 20 – Robert Glasper
Monday, June 21 – Jacob Collier and Friends
Tuesday, June 22 – Wednesday, June 23 – Ghost-Note
Thursday, June 24 – Sunday, June 27 – Ravi Coltrane w/ Orrin Evans, Dezron Douglas, Johnathan Blake
Monday, June 28 – Joel Ross
Tuesday, June 29 – Thursday, July 1 – Eric Krasno Trio (E3 FT Eric Kalb & Eric Finland)
Friday, July 2 – Saturday, June 3 – Brasstracks
Sunday, July 4 – Monday, July 5 – Eddie Palmieri Residency
Tuesday, July 6 – Wednesday, July 7 – Maurice “Mobetta” Brown
Thursday, July 8 – Sunday, July 11 – John Scofield
Monday, July 12 – Thursday, July 15 – Keyon Harrold
Friday, July 16 – Sunday, July 18 – Talib Kweli with Live Band
Monday, July 19 – Eddie Palmieri Residency
Tuesday, July 20 – Wednesday, July 21 – James Carter Quartet w/ James Hurt, Gerald Cannon, Kahlil Kwame Bell
Thursday, July 22 – Saturday, July 24 – Ms. Lisa Fischer
Monday, July 26 – Michel Camilo
Tuesday, July 27 – Judith Hill
Wednesday, July 28 – Thursday, July 29 – Joe Lovano Quartet
Friday, July 30 – Sunday, Aug 1 – Al Di Meola
Monday, Aug 2 – Eddie Palmieri Residency
Wednesday, Aug 4 – Sunday, Aug 8 – Ron Carter Quartet w/ Renee Rosnes, Jimmy Greene, Payton Crossley
Monday, Aug 9 – Tuesday, Aug 10 – Isaiah Sharkey
Wednesday, Aug 11 – Thursday, Aug 12 – Digable Planets
Friday Aug 13 – Sunday, Aug 15 – John Pizzarelli Better Days Ahead (Solo Guitar Takes on Pat Metheny)
Tue, 11 May 2021 16:28:13 +0000
An on-off guitarist for Bob Dylan, an acclaimed film composer, and a five-year spell as a macadamia nut farmer in Hawaii… It’s an unconventional career and one that suggests obscurity for the man behind it. And yet this is also the CV of the person who was, supposedly, the Mr. Tambourine Man behind the acclaimed Dylan song.
Who was Mr. Tambourine Man?
Drama followed Bruce Langhorne all his life. After leaving Tallahassee as a child, he moved with his librarian mother, Dorothy, to Harlem and began learning the violin. His days as a prodigy ended at the age of 12, when he blew off the tips of two fingers and his right thumb after clinging on too long to a homemade firework called a cherry bomb. “At least I won’t have to play the violin anymore,” he told his weeping mother.
Despite later inspiring the Mr. Tambourine Man of Dylan’s song, the boy who had grown up loving the music of Louis Jordan took up the guitar and, like Django Reinhardt, found a way around his disability. Though he could not strum, the young Langhorne became an accomplished finger-picking player and said, “I got to be a very good accompanist because I was really forced to listen.”
After working as a street performer and in New York folk clubs, word of Langhorne’s talent got around and he played a session with Dylan in October 1962, showcasing his stunning guitar on “Corrina, Corrina” for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. His potent electric guitar lines also light up songs such as Bringing It All Back Home’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Maggie’s Farm.” Dylan said: “If you had Bruce playing with you, that’s all you would need to do just about anything.”
Who else did Bruce Langhorne play with?
Langhorne played with lots of other leading musicians, including Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte, but thought his finest work was with Dylan. “The connection I had with Bobby was telepathic,” he said.
Dylan was supposedly inspired to write “Mr. Tambourine Man,” on which Langhorne also plays, after seeing him arrive for a recording session holding a giant Turkish frame drum with jingle-jangling bells attached to its edges. It looked like a tambourine the size of an extra-large pizza.
In the liner notes to his Biograph box set, Dylan said, “‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ was inspired by Bruce Langhorne. Bruce was playing guitar with me on a bunch of the early records. He had this gigantic tambourine. It was like, really big. It was as big as a wagon wheel. He was playing, and this vision of him playing this tambourine just stuck in my mind. I don’t know if I’ve ever told him that.”
Langhorne enjoyed the notoriety, though he noted wryly that Dylan “had a wonderful sense of humor and the ability to let people just let out enough rope to hang themselves.”
His Hollywood career was launched when jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, with whom Langhorne had toured, introduced him to actor Peter Fonda. He went on to compose the music for Fonda’s movie The Hired Hand and for Jonathan Demme’s Fighting Mad. He also worked on Dylan’s soundtrack of Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid.
After he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Langhorne and friend Cynthia Riddle scoured the Los Angeles markets until they found the right blend of African peppers to suit his desire for tasty, spicy sauces with no sodium or sugar. He marketed his product successfully under the Brother Bru Bru’s label. He also returned to music and played piano on his only solo record, Tambourine Man, released in 2011.
How did Bruce Langhorne die?
After suffering a stroke in 2015, Langhorne spent his final years in a hospice until his death from kidney failure, in Venice, California, on April 14, 2017.
The scratched and yellowed Turkish frame drum that became the inspiration for the Mr. Tambourine Man character is now one of the 6,000 items housed at the Bob Dylan Archive in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The song, first performed by Dylan at the Royal Festival Hall in London, in May 1964, has a warmth and spiritual message that continues to delight (“Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me/In the jingle-jangle mornin’/I’ll come followin’ you”).
And what did Langhorne think of the song itself? “I like it. I think it’s a good song. I do,” he told Richie Unterberger, adding, with a laugh, “and it’s about me. If I wanted to fuel a big ego, that’d be a way to do it… well, I do have a big ego.”
Tue, 11 May 2021 16:25:25 +0000
Nearly 50 years after his debut album, Ry Cooder produced another classic with The Prodigal Son, mixed and mastered by Martin Pradler, who worked with Cooder on his previous album, 2012’s Election Special. On The Prodigal Son, released on Fantasy Records on May 11, 2018, the 71-year-old plays the guitar, bass, and mandolin with his usual distinctive touch and panache – “It only took six decades of trying to get good at this,” he joked at the time – and wrote new compositions and selected old songs that sounded fresh and relevant.
Listen to The Prodigal Son.
The album’s 11 tracks include three Cooder originals and a carefully curated selection of blues, gospel, and bluegrass from the early decades of the 20th century.
The guitar maestro has always had a close affinity with the music of Blind Willie Johnson, the Texas blues musician who died in 1945; Cooder recorded a seminal version of the hymn-like “Dark Was The Night, Cold was the Ground” back in 1973. On this, his 17th solo album, he brings to life two other songs from a pioneering musician he has described as “just so good that I think the guy is one of these interplanetary world musicians.”
On The Prodigal Son, Cooder covers another of Johnson’s “great songs,” the pertinent social commentary “Everybody Ought to Treat A Stranger Right,” which showcases his guitar skills, with Terry Evans, Arnold McCuller, and Bobby King providing neat backing vocals.
For another Johnson 20s classic, “Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” Cooder’s son, co-producer Joachim Cooder, brings a brooding quality to his percussion work that beautifully underscores some more deft guitar work and Cooder senior’s plaintive singing. He also draws from a Texan well for the song “Straight Street,” which was recorded by the gospel group The Pilgrim Travelers in 1955.
Religion runs through the album, from the biblical parable that inspired the traditional title song, to the core of spiritual tracks that are a pivotal theme on The Prodigal Son and which offer an unflinching look at modern America through the prism of morality.
Cooder has said that all the different kinds of music he plays are “the same stuff – good time music,” and this is certainly true of his version of Blind Roosevelt Graves’ 1936 spiritual “I’ll Be Rested When The Roll Is Called,” which is the most musically upbeat of the album’s 11 songs. The religious theme continues with a respectful version of Carter Stanley’s “Harbor Of Love.”
Perhaps the highlight of the spiritual songs is “You Must Unload,” which was written by Blind Alfred Reed, a bluesman discovered by Ralph Peer, who recorded Reed, along with The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, at the famous 1927 Bristol Sessions.
Reed’s songwriting is remarkably potent (he wrote the standard “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?,” which has been a Cooder staple for decades), and this song, from those celebrated 1927 sessions, is given a masterful makeover by Cooder. He is helped by some superb musicianship on the track, from the bass playing of Robert Francis to some angelic violin playing from Aubrey Haynie. The lyrics, a warning that greed is not the path to Heaven, was written by a forgotten craftsman of song, who died of starvation in 1956.
Cooder’s own work has always been political, and his anger about the selfishness and small-mindedness of the modern world comes through loud and clear in the trio of songs he wrote and co-wrote for the album. “Shrinking Man” is a plea for decency as Cooder sings “Look as good as you can, but please don’t rob your fellow man” against a bluesy shuffle rhythm. In his liner notes, the California-born musician says: “I do connect the political/economic dimensions with the inner life of people, since people are at risk and oppressed on all sides in our world today.”
“Gentrification,” co-written with his son, is another song about inequality (it includes references to Johnny Depp and Google), with a breezy melody that contrasts with the dark lyrics. But the bleakest of Cooder’s trio is “Jesus And Woody,” which namechecks classic Woody Guthrie songs such as “Vigilante Man” and “This Land is Your Land.” Guthrie was a songwriter that Cooder first imitated when he was only four years old, and this song casts a cold eye on what the world does to idealists: “Now they’re starting up their engine of hate/Don’t it make you feel lonesome and blue?/Yes, I was a dreamer, Mr. Guthrie, and you were a dreamer too.”
Composer William L Dawson, who died of pneumonia in 1990, at the age of 90, was head of the Tuskegee Institute Choir for 25 years and acclaimed for his choral arrangements of African-American folk songs. Cooder delivers a wonderful version of his song “In His Care.”
Dawson said late in life, “I have never doubted the possibilities of music,” and The Prodigal Son reaffirms that message of hope, despite its darkness. It is vintage Cooder, full of spirit and humanity.
The Prodigal Son can be bought here.
Tue, 11 May 2021 16:21:42 +0000
While, in the 80s, hip-hop firmly established itself as both a cultural and commercially viable force, it was still primarily an underground concern. The following decade changed all that. Not only did hip-hop hit arguably its artistic high, but, for the first time, its artists became superstars in their own right. The huge hits of 90s hip-hop put the genre firmly at the top of the heap – a lofty position from which it’s never looked back.
Listen to the best 90s hip-hop on Spotify.
Yet, at the dawn of the 90s, hip-hop faced something of a crisis. The success of gangsta rap groups such as Los Angeles natives NWA, whose 1988 debut album, Straight Outta Compton, detailed street violence in an uncompromising and explicit style, led to many radio stations pulling effective boycotts against hip-hop’s more aggressive artists. To make matters worse, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s successful court case against Biz Markie, in 1991 (he’d used a sample of O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” without consent), threatened to change the very way the art form was constructed; no longer could producers use multiple samples, for fear of litigation.
On the plus side, artistically, hip-hop was in rude health. The first few years of the decade saw 90s hip-hop classics from the likes of Public Enemy (Fear Of A Black Planet), A Tribe Called Quest (Peoples Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm, The Low End Theory), De La Soul (De La Soul Is Dead) and Main Source (Breaking Atoms). NWA’s 1991 follow-up, Efil4zaggin, showed the tables were beginning to turn commercially. The album moved way beyond its urban heartland and into the bedrooms of suburban youth, becoming the first album by a hip-hop group to hit No.1 on the Billboard 200. By that point, however, the group had started to disintegrate. Ice Cube had left in acrimonious fashion the previous year (releasing his debut solo album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, to critical and commercial success), followed by Dr. Dre, whose own solo career would change the course of hip-hop history.
Forming Death Row Records with Suge Knight and The DOC, Dre used the fledgling imprint to issue his stratospherically popular debut album, The Chronic, at the tail-end of 1992. His revolutionary production style – christened G-Funk – was a canny mix of deep rolling bass, P-Funk-indebted grooves, and soulful vocals that smoothed the jagged edges of gangsta rap into a more accessible format which radio stations could get behind. With Death Row Records releasing a succession of hugely successful G-Funk records by artists such as Tha Dogg Pound (Dogg Food) and Snoop Dogg (whose 1993 debut album, Doggystyle, entered the Billboard charts at No.1), 90s hip-hop saw the West Coast usurp its Eastern counterpart as the dominant force in rap music, its artists becoming huge stars and establishing themselves as part of the mainstream.
However, while New York was struggling to compete commercially, its scene was far from stagnant. 1993 saw the release of A Tribe Called Quest’s incandescent third album, Midnight Marauders, and the arrival of Wu-Tang Clan, whose groundbreaking debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, heralded a new era for gritty East Coast hip-hop. The following year was just as strong for local talent, with Nas releasing his monumental debut, Illmatic, and Notorious BIG issuing his first, hugely successful, solo venture, Ready To Die. Released on Sean Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment label, that album’s hit singles “Juicy,” “Big Poppa” and “One More Chance” (which matched Michael Jackson’s “Scream” for the highest-ever debut on the pop charts), led to the album shifting over four million units, turning Biggie into a major star.
The rivalry between the two coasts’ hip-hop scenes was, however, far from healthy. In 1995, one of LA’s biggest stars, 2Pac, was shot by a pair of muggers while in New York, the day before being found guilty of sexual assault. While in prison, he later accused Sean Combs and former friend Notorious BIG, among others, of being behind the shooting. Suge Knight, who would bail 2Pac out of prison later that year before signing the rapper to Death Row, joined the fray when he publicly insulted Sean Combs on stage at The Source Awards.
2Pac’s law-breaking notoriety hadn’t done his career any harm, and by the middle of the decade he was not only one of 90s hip-hop’s biggest stars, but one of the most bankable acts in music. Released in 1995, while the rapper was still in prison, Me Against The World reached No.1 on the Billboard charts, while the following year he released All Eyez On Me, his first album for Death Row. An astonishing double-album (hip-hop’s first) tour de force, All Eyez On Me confirmed 2Pac’s status as one of the genre’s most singular voices as well as one of its most successful, again hitting No.1, and shifting 566,000 copies in its first week.
The simmering feud which had been building between Death Row and Bad Boy ended tragically. Leaving a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas, on September 7, 1996, a car carrying 2Pac and Suge Knight was peppered with bullets. Six days later, 2Pac died from his injuries. The following year, Notorious BIG shared an eerily similar fate after he was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. While Biggie’s Life After Death album, released just a few days after, became the best-selling hip-hop album of all time, the genre was forced to do some serious soul-searching in its wake.
Sean Combs was the first to point the way towards a less antagonistic art form. Later that year, as Puff Daddy, he released two benefit singles in memory of his slain friend. His ensuing hit-laden solo career, various entrepreneurial interests, and high-profile relationship with Jennifer Lopez made him one of the most recognizable figures to emerge from 90s hip-hop, presaging a new generation of rap stars who were as comfortable on the red carpet or in the boardroom as they were in the recording studio.
Biggie’s protégé, Jay Z, also moved on from the overt violence of his 1995 debut, Reasonable Doubt. 1997’s In My Lifetime, Vol.1 harnessed Sean Combs and Teddy Riley’s radio-friendly productions to cross over into the pop market. Combined with his famed rapping prowess, the album – and its hit-laden 1998 successor, Vol.2… Hard Knock Life, catapulted Jay Z to the superstar status he continues to hold.
There was one more seismic shift in hip-hop before the decade was out. Dr. Dre, who, in 1996, had abandoned Death Row to set up his new stable, Aftermath Entertainment, signed a then little-known Detroit rapper, Eminem, to the label. The ensuing 1999 album, The Marshall Mathers LP, topped the charts. Cementing 90s hip-hop as the point of global dominance for the music, the album also set Eminem on his path to becoming the top-selling artist in music, ensuring that hip-hop’s own trajectory would continue to soar in the decades that followed.
Looking for more? Find out why 1997 was the greatest year in hip-hop history.
Tue, 11 May 2021 15:52:19 +0000
The Bee Gees’ High Civilization album — the first of three full-length studio releases that brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb recorded in the 90s — debuted in North America on May 14, 1991. High Civilization features uptempo dance songs powered by drum machines. The Gibb sibs may feel like old friends in your head, but how much do you know about their High Civilization album? Take our quiz and see how you score!
And, while you’re playing, listen to the Bee Gees’ best of playlist on Apple Music and Spotify.
Tue, 11 May 2021 15:19:47 +0000
Firefly Festival has announced its line-up for its 2021 edition, with Billie Eilish, Tame Impala, Lizzo and The Killers headlining the four-day event.
The festival held in The Woodlands of Dover, Delaware returns September 23-26. Billie Eilish headlines the Thursday night followed by The Killers on the Friday, Tame Impala on the Saturday, and Lizzo on the Sunday.
Also on the bill is Megan Thee Stallion, Cage the Elephant, Phoebe Bridgers, Denzel Curry, Glass Animals, Caribou, Roddy Ricch, Wiz Khalifa, Diplo, Sylvan Esso, Taking Back Sunday, Band of Horses, Khruangbin, Nelly, Girl in Red, Arlo Parks, Duckwrth, KennyHoopla, Claud, Middle Kids, Aluna, and many others.
Fans can enter a ticket pre-sale this Friday, May 14, before the general sale begins next Monday, May 17 via the festival’s official website. General admission passes for the festival that has camping facilities are priced $299, with VIP tickets costing $699 and Super VIP $2,499.
Besides access to the festival’s camp grounds and set stages, the ticket prices include daily yoga, a beach club, silent discos, intramural sports and permanent showers as well as a farmers’ market and general shop.
Firefly is one of hundreds of US festivals that is planning to run this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Other festivals including Tennessee’s Bonnaroo are set to return this year after numerous delays caused by the health crisis. Bonnaroo, which usually takes place annually in June, has been moved from its regular summer slot and will return to the fields of Manchester, TN over Labor Day Weekend (September 2 – 5). 2021 also marks Bonnaroo’s 20th anniversary.
The festival had already postponed its 2020 live edition from March to September last year. The organiszers later cancelled outright, announcing a new date of June 2021 (with a line-up set to include Lizzo, Tool, Tame Impala and Miley Cyrus) but moved it for a third time.
Tue, 11 May 2021 15:11:24 +0000
Today, synth-pop sensations Sylvan Esso have released a brand new track, “Numb,” to celebrate a new slew of tour dates.
The song is an affirmation of hope and strength, a rebellion against stasis in the face of pending doom. Singer Amelia Meath’s vocals float effortlessly across the instrumentation created by her and the other half of Sylvan Esso, Nick Sanborn.
The song is a summer anthem in collaboration with Teddy Geiger. Regarding the track, Amelia explained: “The song itself is about figuring out how to shake yourself out of depression by celebrating. Teddy took the bones of Numb, kept the idea of a serious backbeat, but brought out the softer, romantic parts of the song. I’m just so grateful that we have gotten to work with her.”
The band took to Twitter this morning to celebrate the news: “WE ARE GOING ON TOUR- we have a new video for ‘Numb,’ to celebrate- thank you all for sticking with us and being the best fans any band could ever ask for – can’t wait to see you out there.”
The video was directed by first-timer (yet long-time stalwart of the Los Angeles choreography scene) Jasmin Albuquerque. The video invokes the feeling of a late-night at the Berghain in Berlin, where you shed off a week’s worth of milieu and drudgery, except for Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath, she and her dancers are shedding off over a year of hibernation and confinement. This video is in the spirit of re-emerging and freeing ourselves. This is Sylvan Esso’s first new music since their critically acclaimed 2020 LP, Free Love.
For more tour details and ticket info, visit the official artist site.
The Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley
Los Angeles, CA
The Greek Theatre
San Diego, CA
Salt Lake City, UT
Union Event Center
The Mission Ballroom
The Moody Amphitheater
South Side Ballroom
Bayou Music Center
Firefly Music Festival
St. Paul, MN
St. Paul, MN
Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom
Old Forester’s Paristown Hall
New Haven, CT
College Street Music Hall
House of Blues
House of Blues
New York, NY
New York, NY
Tue, 11 May 2021 13:35:33 +0000
Lorde has reached a milestone with her 2013 debut single “Royals” reaching one billion streams.
The Auckland, New Zealand artist is the latest Australasian artist recognised by the region’s ‘The 1,000,000,000 List’, as organized by APRA AMCOS. Other artists who’ve previously made the list include Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) and Gotye.
The data accounts for streams across all major digital platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, YouTube Music, Vevo and Amazon Music, among others.
Billboard reports that Lorde was presented with her latest award at the APRA AMCOS NZ offices in her hometown by CEO Dean Ormston and Anthony Healey, head of APRA AMCOS NZ operations.
“Royals” was Lorde’s debut single, included in her debut extended play (EP) ‘The Love Club’ EP (2012) and debut studio album Pure Heroine (2013). Lorde wrote the song with producer Joel Little. “Royals” is a minimalist art pop and electropop song with influences of hip hop, R&B, and indie pop. The track’s lyrics express disapproval with the sumptuous lifestyle presented in songs and music videos by pop and hip hop-influenced artists.
Her publisher, Kobalt Music Publishing, also received an award for the song’s landmark achievement.
She’s one of four New Zealand songwriters officially added to ‘The 1,000,000,000 List’ in recent days. Kiwi producer Joel Little, one of the producers of Taylor Swift’s ‘Lover‘, landed his fourth award – this time for Swift’s hit ‘ME!‘ from her 2019 album.
‘The 1,000,000,000 List’ is promoted as being the first award of its kind to acknowledge a songwriter’s achievement.
Past recipients include Kevin Parker (for Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know The Better”), Dean Lewis and Jon Hume (for “Be Alright”), Flume (for “Never Be Like You”), and Gotye (for “Somebody That I Used to Know”).
In other Lorde news, the singer took on Bruce Springsteen‘s “Tougher Than the Rest” in New Zealand in March, performing a duet with Marlon Williams.
Tue, 11 May 2021 13:17:48 +0000
Canadian-born, Nashville-based singer and multi-instrumentalist Bella White has signed to Rounder Records. The label has now given her independent 2020 debut album Just Like Leaving a worldwide release.
White, who’s 20 and hails from Calgary, initially self-released the set in late 2020. A performance video for the album’s title track has also been unveiled, featuring Patrick M’Gonigle on fiddle and Patrick Metzger on bass.
M’Gonigle, of the Lonely Heartstring Band, also produced the album, which is mixed by the Grammy-winning engineer Dave Sinko. Rolling Stone was moved to describe White’s songwriting as “sublime Appalachian heartbreak.”
White was raised on classic country and old-time music via her musician father, a Virginia native who played in bluegrass bands throughout her childhood. Holler.country said that she “possesses an uncanny ability to capture the delicate nuances of heartache that’s often only mastered by veterans of the trade.” Saving Country Music called the young artist one of the “most promising up-and-coming performers and songwriters in independent country music.”
Featured musicians on the album include Reed Stutz on mandolin and vocals, Julian Pinelli (fiddle, vocals), and Robert Alan Mackie (bass). Says White, who herself plays guitar on the record: “I met everyone by jamming together, which felt perfect for this album – I really wanted it to sound like friends making music. The whole process felt very collective and collaborative, and everyone’s creative choices ended up shining through.”
She adds: “Just Like Leaving feels like a storybook of the things I went through when I was 18 and 19-each song is about a very specific feeling from my relationships during that time. I’ve had a lot of younger people tell me that they relate to the experience of learning about yourself through someone else, and I’ve also had older folks tell me how it reminds them of when they were younger.
“I used to fear sometimes that I might run out of things to say in my songs, but I don’t feel that way after seeing how this album has affected people. It’s reminded me that there will always be a creative source for me to tap into.”
Just Like Leaving is out now, and can be bought here.
Listen to the Rounder Records New Releases 2021 playlist on Spotify.
Tue, 11 May 2021 10:19:51 +0000
Billie Eilish took to the desert to give her first television performance of “Your Power”, aired during The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. You can check it out below.
Matching the color scheme from the song’s music video, Eilish performed the song acoustically while sitting on a stage in the middle of a desert, with her brother Finneas sitting beside her playing an acoustic guitar.
In an interview with Colbert, Eilish revealed that she had been platinum blonde for longer than we’d thought, even wearing a wig resembling her famous black-and-green do for her appearance on the show in February.
“I knew it would have these processing periods where it would look insane, and I didn’t want to look insane,” Eilish said of her hair.
“But I needed something quick – so I literally ordered a Billie Eilish Halloween costume wig on Amazon. It was awful. It was the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Your Power” is the third song we’ve heard so far from Eilish’s forthcoming second album Happier Than Ever. It followed the release of Eilish’s two 2020 singles, “My Future” and “Therefore I Am”.
Happier Than Ever was announced last month, and is set for release on Friday July 30. While announcing the project, Eilish said it’s her favorite thing she’s ever created.
“I can’t even tell you,” she wrote. “I’ve never felt so much love for a project than I do for this one. Hope you feel what I feel.”
Last week, Eilish was announced as one of four co-chairs for the 2021 Met Gala, with the theme of ‘In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion’.
Eilish makes history as the youngest co-chair of the iconic fashion event, at only 19 years old. The event will also be co-chaired by actor Timothee Chalamet, poet Amanda Gorman and tennis star Naomi Osaka. The four co-hosts will be joined by honorary chairs Tom Ford, Anna Wintour and Adam Mosseri.
Happier Than Ever is out on July 30 and can be pre-ordered here.
Tue, 11 May 2021 07:44:10 +0000
The third collection of rarities from Frank Sinatra’s years on his own Reprise Records is now available digitally. Frank Sinatra: Reprise Rarities Volume 3 has been launched by Frank Sinatra Enterprises and UMe, and features 15 Reprise tracks by “The Chairman of the Board,” all of which are making their digital debut.
The new digital set, the third of five, follows Reprise Rarities Volume 1, released last December in honor of Sinatra’s birthday, and Volume 2, which launched in February for Valentine’s Day. The collections are part of the ongoing 60th anniversary celebrations of the storied vocalist’s founding of the Reprise Records label.
Listen to Frank Sinatra: Reprise Rarities Volume 3 on Apple Music and Spotify.
Once again available via all digital streaming platforms, Volume 3 is another admirable showcase of Sinatra’s peerless vocal stylings. It showcases non-LP singles, alternate versions, and bonus tracks from previously-released box sets. The 15 songs in the collection were recorded between 1960 and 1977.
Highlights include “The Game Is Over,” written by John Denver – then still some time from his own full commercial breakthrough – and arranged by Don Costa. The track was recorded on November 2, 1970, as part of Frank’s last session before his 1971 “retirement.” After he returned to live work and to occasional recording sessions, Ol’ Blue Eyes was in the studio on February 5, 1976, when he cut the rare, piano-only versions of “Empty Tables” and “Send In The Clowns.” Both feature Sinatra’s longtime pianist Bill Miller, whom he first hired in 1951. Apart from a few years, it was a partnership that lasted for the rest of Frank’s life; no other musician worked with him so closely and for so long.
Two tracks in the collection from February 16, 1977 reflect the burgeoning disco sound of the era, with arrangements by Joe Beck of Sinatra’s classics “Night and Day” and “All or Nothing At All.” These remained Frank’s only foray into the disco sound.
This month, to complement the latest digital collection, Siriusly Sinatra (SiriusXM Ch. 71) will air part three of an exclusive Sinatra: Reprise Rarities special.
Frank Sinatra: Reprise Rarities Volume 3 is available now.
The full Frank Sinatra: Reprise Rarities Volume 3 tracklist is:
1. The Last Dance – December 21, 1960
2. The Second Time Around – December 21, 1960
3. Moment to Moment – October 21, 1965
4. In the Shadow of the Moon – March 25, 1969
5. The Game Is Over – November 2, 1970
6. The Hurt Doesn’t Go Away – June 5, 1973
7. Walk Away – June 22, 1973
8. Empty Tables – May 7, 1974
9. Empty Tables – piano only – February 5, 1976
10. Send In The Clowns – piano only/spoken intro – February 5, 1976
11. Like A Sad Song – September 27, 1976
12. Dry Your Eyes – September 27, 1976
13. Everybody Ought To Be In Love – February 16, 1977
14. Night and Day – February 16, 1977
15. All or Nothing At All – February 16, 1977
Tue, 11 May 2021 06:46:31 +0000
Tue, 11 May 2021 06:45:57 +0000
Little Richard’s rise to national acclaim in the US was so swift and powerful, it seems surprising in retrospect that his wave of major hits lasted only two years. After his emergence with “Tutti Frutti” in January 1956, he was already renouncing rock‘n’roll by October 1957. After that, in terms of the pop Top 10, he only lasted for one more hit, “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” in February 1958.
The complicated history of a classic
On May 11, 1959, Richard entered the Hot 100 for what turned out to the last time for five years — and even then, it was with a recording he’d made four years earlier. The song was (chiefly, at least) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “Kansas City,” written in 1952 and first recorded the same year by R&B singer-pianist Little Willie Littlefield, under the title “K.C. Lovin’.”
In March 1959, in a flurry of new activity around the song, it was recorded by Charlotte, North Carolina soul man Wilbert Harrison, and in rival versions by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and Rocky Olson. Little Richard had actually made two recordings of it for Specialty in 1955.
One adhered to the Littlefield original, and wasn’t released until 1970. The other, cut two months later, kept that title but added a new lyrical interpolation. As “Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey (Goin’ Back To Birmingham),” that part became the b-side of “Good Golly Miss Molly” early in 1958.
Richard’s second “Kansas City” was included on his new album of March 1959, The Fabulous Little Richard. The Beatles, loving his records as they did, were inspired to cover it in 1962 at both the Cavern Club and in their Hamburg shows. Meanwhile back in 1959, Specialty (by 1959, Richard’s former label) entered it into that new singles race, but Richard’s “Kansas City (Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey)” petered out at No.95, and didn’t make the R&B chart at all.
Olson’s single got to No.60 pop, and Ballard’s No.72, but Harrison was the hands-down winner: his “Kansas City” went all the way to No.1, spending two weeks there from May 18. After many subsequent covers by the likes of Dion, Jan & Dean and Lou Rawls, The Beatles added their treatment to the Beatles For Sale album of late 1964. This came soon after their Long Tall Sally EP, titled after their cover of his 1956 classic, and they had already sung other numbers of his in various BBC radio sessions.
The Beatles For Sale release produced a claim from Richard’s lawyers that the group had also covered his portion of the song. It went on to be listed as a medley with appropriate accreditation. But, aside from the legalities, Little Richard had once again been the inspiration for the superstars from Liverpool.
Little Richard’s “Kansas City (Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey)” is on The Very Best of Little Richard, which can be bought here.
Listen to the best of Little Richard on Apple Music and Spotify.
Tue, 11 May 2021 06:43:28 +0000
Mon, 10 May 2021 21:27:32 +0000
Ahead of J. Cole’s highly anticipated new album, The Off-Season, the North Carolina-based MC has released a documentary, Applying Pressure: The Off-Season, arriving this Friday, May 14. Executive produced by Cole and Ibrahim Hamad, the film was directed by Scott Lazer.
The visual offers a unique insight into the reclusive artist, featuring other MCs like 21 Savage. Cole goes deep into the meaning behind The Off-Season in the documentary, explaining how the title reflects his early mixtape, The Warm-Up, which he released before getting a record deal.
“I had just graduated college, I was broke, I was struggling to pay my rent, I had no job. I was being complacent,“ Cole explains to 21 during the beginning of the documentary. He went on to explain how friends gave him an intervention, decrying his partying ways and lack of fire.
Cole realized that if he wanted to rap, he had to hustle and work towards his goals every day. Cole thought a basketball analogy would be a fitting representation of his grinding mentality, because he had always loved the game but never worked hard enough to take his skills to the next level. Rapping became his game, the moment he realized there was no such thing as an off season.
Last week, J.Cole offered fans an early taste of The Off-Season with “i n t e r l u d e,” which the MC produced alongside T-Minus and T. Parker. The track proves that Cole is still at the height of his powers and one of the best pure lyricists in the game. He raps, “Through hard times, it was there I discovered a hustle/And makin’ the best out the struggle/I kept grindin’ ’til this day, up a level/Respect mine, gotta stay out of trouble.”
“i n t e r l u d e” follows “The Climb Back” and “Lion King on Ice,” the first new songs the Dreamville boss has released since his single, “Snow on Tha Bluff.” Following the release of KOD, Cole appeared as a guest on songs by Gang Starr, Young Thug, Cordae, Big K.R.I.T., and more.
Listen to the best of J. Cole on Apple Music and Spotify.
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