Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Depeche Mode's 'Tour of the Universe - Live in Barcelona' set for Nov. 9 release

Anytime there is a concert-related release featuring Depeche Mode, that is cause for celebration among fans of the electro-rock pioneers.
This arrived in my inbox today and it is only fair I share the news...

‘Tour of the Universe – Live In Barcelona’

DVD, Blu-ray & Deluxe Edition to be released Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Extensive DVD package to feature a host of content including bonus tracks recorded at the group’s concerts in Barcelona, a tour documentary ‘Inside The Universe,’ performances filmed at rehearsals in New York & Anton Corbijn's specially created 'screen films'

On November 9, 2010, Depeche Mode will release Tour Of The Universe - Live In Barcelona (Capitol), a live DVD of two recent performances in Spain from their most recent world tour. This spectacular and extensive DVD package will feature 21 tracks recorded over two sold out nights at the Palau St Jordi in Barcelona, Spain on November 20th and 21st 2009. These concerts were part of Depeche Mode's acclaimed Tour Of The Universe, which saw Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andrew 'Fletch' Fletcher playing 102 shows across 40 countries to over 2.7 million people. Their epic trip across the globe was one of the most successful tours of recent history and saw the group performing an array of stunning material, spanning their impressive 30 year history. In addition to the DVD package, the deluxe and blu-ray editions will be released the same day. Both the deluxe edition and the blu-ray will be available exclusively at Amazon.com.

The Tour of the Universe – Live In Barcelona collection comes with a host of exclusive content, including four bonus tracks recorded across the band’s two nights in Barcelona, a tour documentary entitled Inside The Universe, two live tracks filmed at tour rehearsals in New York, as well as Anton Corbijn's specially created 'screen films' for seven tracks plus further bonus montages created from the on-stage screens. The package also includes the four music videos released by the group off of their acclaimed Sounds Of The Universe album, including the GRAMMY nominated video “Wrong,” directed by Patrick Daughters. For a sneak peek of the DVD fans can log on to www.depechemode.com.

’Tour of the Universe – Live In Barcelona’ comes in three formats:

Super deluxe 4-disc version (2xDVD, 2xCD):
DVD1 (a 21 track live performance plus four bonus tracks)

DVD2 (extra bonus content including documentary and promo videos)

2 x CD (audio of the 21 tracks from DVD1)

Deluxe version (1 x DVD, 2 x CD):

Contains DVD1 and the two audio CDs

Blu-ray (2x Blu-ray discs)

Depeche Mode

Tour Of The Universe Barcelona

November 20 & 21, 2009

1. In Chains
2. Wrong
3. Hole To Feed
4. Walking In My Shoes
5. It's No Good
6. A Question Of Time
7. Precious
8. Fly On The Windscreen
9. Jezebel
10. Home
11. Come Back
12. Policy Of Truth
13. In Your Room
14. I Feel You
15. Enjoy The Silence
16. Never Let Me Down Again
17. Dressed In Black
18. Stripped
19. Behind The Wheel
20. Personal Jesus
21. Waiting For The Night

Bonus tracks
World In My Eyes
Sister Of Night
Miles Away / The Truth Is
One Caress

Inside The Universe
Tour documentary
Tour Of The Universe / Screens
In Chains
Walking In My Shoes
Come Back
Policy Of Truth
Enjoy The Silence
Personal Jesus
Tour Of The Universe / Rehearsals
Walking In My Shoes

Bonus tracks
Hole To Feed
Behind The Wheel
Never Let Me Down Again

Sounds Of The Universe - Videos
Hole To Feed
Fragile Tension

Depeche Mode belongs to a select premiere league of super groups who have survived from the early 1980s with their ideals, creative vision and core members intact. Formed in 1981, Depeche Mode – Martin Gore, Dave Gahan and Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher – continue to win critical and commercial acclaim across the world both in the studio and on the road. All of the band’s 11 studio albums have reached the Top Ten in not only the UK and USA but 20 plus countries around the world including Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and Belgium. All told the band has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.

For more information please go to www.depechemode.com.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Glen Campbell shines in performance at The Grove of Anaheim

Photo credit: Kelly A. Swift took this photo of Glen Campbell when he performed at the Grove of Anaheim in 2009.

This review first appeared on the Soundcheck blog on the Orange County Register Web site on Oct. 25, 2010.

Glen Campbell has carved out the kind of career that just doesn’t happen anymore.

A strong singer and virtuoso guitarist, the Arkansas native was a member of the fabled Wrecking Crew group of studio musicians who helped cut some of the most seminal recordings of the ’60s. He even served as a touring member of the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson in 1964-65, and the next year played guitar on the band’s landmark Pet Sounds.

But Campbell’s greatest fame, of course, came later that decade and on into the next, when he scored hits on both the country and pop charts while simultaneously garnering notice as an actor (most notably co-starring with John Wayne in 1969’s True Grit) and as the host of the popular Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which ran on CBS from 1969 to 1972. Even when the crossover hits ended in the late ’70s, Campbell continued to score a number of singles on the country charts.

Sunday night (Oct. 24, 2010), in a return engagement at the Grove of Anaheim, the 74-year-old icon brought this wealth of music and memories to an enthusiastic crowd, interlacing his best-known songs with heartfelt stories and playful jousting with members of his band.

Although Campbell only performed for roughly 70 minutes, his fast-paced show made up for such brevity with plenty of big-time audience favorites. Opening with “Gentle on my Mind,” he followed with “Galveston,” both selections bolstered by plenty of impressive and mostly flawless fretwork from the master. Before the night was through, he had offered up equally effective takes on the uptempo “Try a Little Kindness” and “Southern Nights” (complete with a 12-string guitar solo) as well as the achingly beautiful “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Where’s the Playground, Susie?” He also shared the thrill of working with the Duke as an introduction before singing the Oscar-nominated theme song from True Grit.

But the highlight of Campbell’s set in Anaheim, as it is most anywhere he performs, was “Wichita Lineman,” the Jimmy Webb classic, featuring some of his most emotive singing of the night and still more impressive guitar skills. Other standout moments came when Campbell’s voice effortlessly blended with the sopranos of one or both of his daughters, Debby and Ashley (who also plays banjo, guitar and keyboards). Campbell’s band is rounded out by one more of his eight children, Cal Campbell on drums and vocals, along with rhythm guitarist Ryan Jarred, bassist Siggy Sjursen and Campbell’s musical director, keyboardist T.J. Kuenster.

The set ended with several songs likely to be included on Campbell’s next disc, tentatively titled Ghost on the Canvas and set for release in spring. The final song he played at the Grove, “A Better Place,” allowed him to powerfully reflect on a life well-lived, from the perspective of someone who has learned the limits of human endurance.

Looking around at the enthusiastic reaction to every staple he played and the palpable affection that remains for the man performing them, it was clear that even if he hadn’t delivered these memories in full, the crowd would have loved him simply for showing up. Yet the fact that Campbell still delivers the musical goods with obvious passion is worth celebrating no matter how many times he chronicles the tales of Rhinestone Cowboys, Wichita Linemen and those sweet Southern Nights.

Opening for Campbell was Instant People, a quartet featuring the aforementioned Jarred (on lead vocals), Ashley Campbell (banjo, guitar, keyboards), Cal Campbell (percussion) and Sjursen (bass). Befitting the twentysomething age of its members, the group boasted a contemporary indie rock sound somewhere between Travis and She & Him. The group’s five original songs featured here were mostly dazzling, particularly the country-tinged folk-rock of “Abbot Waits” and artful pop of “Home.”

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Week Ahead: Norah Jones, Elvis Costello

Looking to get an early listen to material from Norah Jones' forthcoming ...Featuring collection, which isn't set for release until Nov. 16?

You can catch Norah Jones and The Roots performing the song "Chasing Pirates" on NBC-TV's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" on Monday, Oct. 25.

Blues Notes Records will release ...Featuring, a star-studded collection of the multi-platinum selling, multi-Grammy Award winning singer Norah Jones' musical collaborations from the past decade. The 18 songs on the album include duets with such legends as Ray Charles, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, and with 21st Century icons from OutKast to the Foo Fighters.

The tracks span Jones's entire career, and reveal her astonishing musical versatility, from jazz to country, hip-hop to rock. The result serves as a kind of parallel history to her own four albums, which have sold over 40 million copies worldwide.

Elvis Costello takes 'National Ransom' to the people via Web, TV and Radio

Release week includes WNYC, Ustream, Letterman, Fallon, Colbert, MSNBC, PBS, NPR, WFUV, SiriusXM and more

ColbertNation hosts week-long album stream kicking off Oct. 25

Elvis Costello will spend release week for National Ransom (November 2 by Hear Music/Concord Music Group) in NYC with a mix of intimate appearances and major special performances that will reach fans worldwide, across every media platform conceivable.

Stay tuned for more details on tickets to these shows, links to the streaming content and other updates. Watch for National Ransom at these and other locations. Read on:

Monday, October 25
ColbertNation.com - For those who just can't wait a minute longer, check out ColbertNation.com, where Elvis Costello's National Ransom premieres and will be featured as a full week-long stream.

Monday, November 1
"The Greene Space" at WNYC - On the eve of release, Elvis Costello brings in his six-piece band the Sugarcanes with Pete Thomas on drums to WNYC's innovative performance venue for a unique concert that marks the first New York City performance of this line-up. The concert streams live at 8:30 pm ET on www.wnyc.org/thegreenespace and is powered by Ustream, the leading live interactive broadcast platform. NPR.org/music will also link visitors to the performance.
CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman" - Later that night, Costello and band take on domestic broadcast with an interview and performance of "National Ransom."

Tuesday, November 2
AOL Sessions - Costello and band will tape an in-studio performance to stream on AOL this November.
Costello tapes a full set in front of a live audience at a stately, unconventional venue (TBA) for PBS' "Live from the Artists Den," which will air in early 2011. Costello will release several pairs of tickets via an NYC-based Foursquare scavenger hunt.

Wednesday, November 3
Costello appears for an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," as part of a special episode, shot live in front of a studio audience.
WFUV Presents "Words & Music with Elvis Costello" - Costello will be the featured artist of the day, all day on 90.7fm / wfuv.org. At 7pm, WFUV presents: "Words & Music: A Conversation and Live Performance with Elvis Costello." With an encore on November 5th at 7pm on WFUV's "The Whole Wide World."
WNYC's "The Leonard Lopate Show" airs a four-song excerpt from Costello's Monday night WNYC/Ustream concert at 12pm on WNYC 93.9 FM / AM 820 / wnyc.org.
Sirius/XM Satellite Radio will air multiple interviews and a live in studio performance featuring a four-song excerpt from Costello's recent visit to the outlet's world class NYC studio. Listen for Elvis on Willie's Place, Outlaw Country, Spectrum, The Bob Edwards Show and more.

Thursday, November 4th
Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" - Elvis Costello makes a solo appearance performing "Slow Drag with Josephine" and speaks with Stephen Colbert.

Friday, November 5
NBC's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" - Costello joins Fallon for an interview and collaborates with The Roots on "Stations of the Cross."

Saturday, November 6 & Sunday, November 7
"Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!" - NPR listeners across the U.S. will hear Costello play "Not My Job" on November 6 and 7.
All band performances are with the Sugarcanes and Pete Thomas. The Sugarcanes, who appear on 'National Ransom,' are: Jerry Douglas (dobro, lap steel), Stuart Duncan (violin), Mike Compton (mandolin), Jim Lauderdale (guitar and vocals), Jeff Taylor (accordion), Dennis Crouch (double bass). Pete Thomas (drums) has played with Costello since 1977.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

'Live At Blair' featuring Alison Brown Quartet, Roger McGuinn's 'Thunderbyrd' DVDs coming next week

Two exciting and highly-anticipated DVD releases are set for next week. I wanted to share the news since these under-the-radar collections may not be in stores forever. Indeed, I recently had a pal complain he could no longer get an out-of-circulation DVD title that featured the Beatles and it had been issued everywhere a few years ago...

Alison Brown Quartet 'Live At Blair' DVD set to arrive in stores on Tuesday, Oct. 26

Forthcoming DVD to also feature Joe Craven (David Grisman Quintet alum)

Filmed at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, Live At Blair showcases the virtuosic Alison Brown Quartet on a riveting set of the group’s best-loved compositions. Filmed in HD, recorded in high-end audio and featuring a guest appearance from multi-instrumentalist and David Grisman Quintet alum Joe Craven, this is the GRAMMY-award winning artist’s first live DVD recording in a 15-year career that spans eight albums, countless tours, appearances on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR’s All Things Considered and in the Wall Street Journal.


Relix.com the online home of Relix Magazine is hosting an exclusive premiere of ROGER MCGUINN'S THUNDERBYRD performing "Eight Miles High". This video was taken from the forthcoming DVD ROGER MCGUINN'S THUNDERBYRD ROCKPALAST Westcoast Legends Volume 4.

You can view it on the Relix.com homepage.

This performance which took place at Grugahalle in Essen, Germany on July 23 and 24 of 1977 is finally being released from the ROCKPALAST archives and will be in stores on October 25, 2010 from MIG Music.

With his band THUNDERBYRD (a tribute to Bob Dylans's Rolling Thunder Review) that included Rick Vito on guitar, Greg Thomas on drums and Charlie Harrison on bass and vocals, MCGUINN celebrated his musical history, including BYRD'S classics such as: "Turn Turn Turn", "Mr. Tambourine Man", and "Eight Miles High".

ROCKPALAST is a world renowned German television series that began airing in 1974 on the German television station Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR). Translated into English as "Rock Palace" the television series still airs today. Over the years countless artists and bands have appeared on the show and now MIG is pleased to present four memorable performances from some of Rock's most iconic bands and musicians. All of the recordings will be available in CD and DVD format, with the exception of the JOHN CALE release which has a Double CD, Double DVD and an LP version and the ROGER MCGUINN release which is available only on DVD.

Other ROCKPALAST releases from MIG on October 25th include:


Recorded at Grugahalle in Essen, Germany on October 13, 1984 JOHN CALE starts off his set with the classic "Autobiography" this concert features CALE at his very best. The performance includes songs such as "Caribbean Sunset", "Fear is a Man's Best Friend", "Paris 1919" and a breathtaking version of the Velvet Underground classic "Waiting for the Man"

Supported by David Lichtenstein on drums, Andy Heermans on bass, and David Young on guitar, this performance remains to this day one of the most spectacular concerts in the history of ROCKPALAST


In sharp contrast to the first performance, you can see and hear CALE'S solo performance recorded the year before on March 6th at the Zeche Bochum. Here you will find the more introverted JOHN CALE: A man with his guitar and piano performing his all-time classics.

MICHAEL SCHENKER has always been an artist who never made false compromises. Even when he was the guitarist in world famous bands such as The Scorpions and UFO his unique style soon became the trademark sound at the time for each of these bands. By the end of the Seventies, the typical confines of being in a band began to limit Schenker more and more. So he took the next logistical step in his career and left UFO to form his own band, THE MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP.

Filmed on January 24, 1981 at the Markthalle in Hamburg, Germany, this concert presents the first MSG album almost in its entirety (and almost in the same running order) including the two greatest songs SCHENKER created with UFO: "Doctor Doctor" and "Rock Bottom" After more than 20 years this intense hard rock document finally is available to all fans in perfect quality.

From the first notes of "Lettin' Go" you can hear an experienced band celebrating a compact, homogenic, and straight forward performance. UFO took to the stage on November 29, 1980 at Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany. During this show they tore through their hits including: "Lights Out", "Too Hot to Handle", "Only You Can Rock Me", "Cherry" as well as a magnificent cover of Elvis Presely's "Mystery Train". Ending the night with a breathtaking encore which included "Rock Bottom" and "Doctor Doctor", this concert remains a stunning document of the power and perfection of one of the greatest hard rock bands that have ever existed

For more information be sure to visit:


Concert recap: Rosanne Cash, Maroon 5, Jónsi, Macy Gray

Jónsi photo credit: Kim Kinsler

Have I been missing in action? Of course not. I've been busy covering shows for The Orange County Register and even writing a couple of concert previews as well as shooting new episode of "Music Worth Buying" with TJR so I haven't posted in a bit. Sorry. But while I think of something interesting to share, why don't you check out my four latest concert reviews posted in the Soundcheck blog at the Orange County Register site. They are re-published below for your daytime or evening reading pleasure...

Macy Gray eclectic as ever at the Mouse House
Originally posted on Soundcheck on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010

Few singers have a voice as distinctive as Macy Gray’s. But that raspy instrument wouldn’t mean much if the celebrated singer didn’t have solid material to put those pipes to good use.

Throughout a strong 100-minute concert Tuesday night at House of Blues Anaheim, the 43-year- old Ohio native delivered songs incorporating every far-flung influence in her past, from pop and alt-rock to blues and soul, R&B and jazz, even reggae. The power of her voice, a solid backing group (five musicians and two backing singers) and an easygoing rapport with fans made the mix of styles flow together exceptionally well.

Evidence of that came early on, when Gray and her band offered up a rocking yet nuanced take on Radiohead’s “Creep.” Her idiosyncratic personality and gruff vocal resonance couldn’t be more different than Thom Yorke’s, but the version offered up at the Mouse House was no gimmick; there was a sense of power and emotion that really made the remake memorable.

Better news was that the bulk of this set came from Gray’s new disc The Sellout, her fifth full-length effort (and first for Concord Records), an outstanding collection full of authentic material written or co-written by the singer. It proves how after a decade of consistently interesting work — built on the emotion inherit in the very sound of her voice as well as the wealth of influences she has amassed — Gray has become a master at mixing together the classic with the contemporary.

On “Kissed It” Tuesday night, she wrapped her straightforward lyrics of romantic rejection around a ’70s-styled rocker anchored by a heavy drum beat. Elsewhere she used slow soulful grooves (“Stalker”) or modern dance styles (notably during “On and On”) quite effectively.

And throughout the night, she and her band would blend her own songs with bits of classic rock that added texture to her performance, while simultaneously exciting the crowd as well. Yes‘ “I’ve Seen All Good People,” Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” (which morphed into a hearty version of her own “Oblivion”) and Queen’s “We Are the Champions” were all infused into Gray’s wide-ranging set in Anaheim, before she brought things to a convincing close with a rousing rendition of her breakthrough hit “I Try,” followed by her latest single, the shimmering feel-good anthem “Beauty in the World.”

Jónsi captivates at tour kickoff in San Diego
Originally posted on Soundcheck on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010

Jón Thór Birgisson — better known to an ever-increasing number of devotees as Jónsi – kicked off his second tour of the U.S. this year with a dazzling, adventurous performance Friday night in San Diego. The Icelandic singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who normally fronts the ensemble Sigur Rós performed with all the zeal he showcased at Coachella six months ago, yet this time his songs and singular, indie-rock-meets-world-music style were bundled with a theatricality that impressed throughout a 90-minute show delivered before a capacity crowd at 4th & B. (He plays again Sunday at the Wiltern in Los Angeles and Monday at the Fox Theater in Pomona.)

As ambitious as it was artistic, Jónsi’s concert included emotional reworkings of most of the material on his wonderful solo debut, Go, along with many new songs. Whereas the two Sigur Rós performances I’ve seen played out like a perfect fusion of rock and symphonic music, Friday night’s set, backed by an outstanding four-man group that includes his partner Alex Somers, offered an equally ideal blend of modern alt-rock and musical theater.

After opening with a new solo acoustic song (“Stars in Still Water”), things moved quickly with a nature-minded storyline showing a conflagration destroying a taxidermy shop during the emotive “Hengilas.” High-tech projections of animation, 3-D artwork positioned on stage and dancing lights all around resulted in birds and butterflies taking flight, a deer and wolf battling in a forest, ants marching, rain falling and a storm raging. All the while, the buoyant “Boy Lilikoi,” the exuberant “Animal Arithmetic,” the joyous “Grow Till Tall” and the contemplative one-two punch of “Kolnidur” morphing into “Tornado” challenged the traditions of what a rock ‘n’ roll concert should look and sound like.

Whether seated at a piano, playing his acoustic guitar or simply standing in front of a microphone, Jónsi’s soaring tenor and falsetto were used to bring depth and power to every moment. The show didn’t reach its zenith, however, until Jónsi held the last note of the show-closing “Grow Till Tall,” the echos of his far-reaching voice and vision resonating in the collective crowd as people slowly made their way out of the music hall. It was truly a concert free from cliche: no band introductions, no pleas for fans to get on their feet and participate, no frivolous sing-longs. Indeed, Jónsi said very little, preferring instead to let the power of the concert, the lights and this celebration of nature challenge and excite the audience. It worked.

Opening these shows is Mountain Man, a female trio spotlighting original songs from its recently released debut, Made the Harbor, each track constructed around their unique vocals. At times, MM’s sound evoked Americana and Celtic folk, notably on the set-ending “Sewee Sewee,” but other original songs, like “How’m I Doin,” showcased their blended voices alone or, as on “Follow the Tracks,” against the backdrop of a lone acoustic guitar. All of it defied easy categorization, yet the performance from Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Randall Meath was an ideal way to kick off a night of unique music-making.

Jónsi, with Mountain Man opening, plays again Sunday (Oct. 17) at the Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles ($47.20-$62.45) and Monday (Oct. 18) at the Fox Theater, 301 S. Garey Ave. in Pomona ($32.65-$43.65). All prices include fees.

Maroon 5 fires up a party night at the Greek
Originally posted on Soundcheck on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010

Anybody who has caught nostalgic acts at Pacific Amphitheatre during the OC Fair can attest that no matter how talented the performers, no matter how good the show, music-making ultimately takes a backseat to nonstop crowd chatter, bumping and shoving as people head out for frequent beer runs, and a general lack of interest in anything beyond a simple singalong.

It was sad to see that same vibe at the near-capacity Maroon 5 concert at the Greek Theatre on Saturday night (Oct. 9, 2010), the second of two shows from the popular L.A. quintet staged there this weekend.

Whereas bands like Hootie and the Blowfish, Styx and Duran Duran enjoyed their biggest successes decades ago, and thus largely attract party people who talk and talk until they hear a hit they love, Maroon 5 is one of the most popular mainstream groups right now; its newly released third disc, Hands All Over, was one of the biggest-selling albums the week of its release late last month, and a new single from it, “Misery,” currently sits atop the Hot AC (adult contemporary) chart. You’d think these guys would get more respect.

It was an energetic version of “Misery” that kicked off M5’s 90-minute set, with the outfit’s talented frontman Adam Levine on a mission to lead these hometown tour stops via an energetic stew of funk, rock, soul and R&B. To its credit, no matter how many distractions took place in the crowd, the band was determined to reward longtime fans with a solid and memorable concert.

Maroon 5 struck successfully with a mix of its best-known hits (“Harder to Breathe,” “This Love,” “Makes Me Wonder”), slices of sublime pop-rock (the infectious “Won’t Go Home Without You”), expressive ballads (“Secret,” “She Will Be Loved”) and perhaps most remarkably a wonderful cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”

Although Levine’s impressive vocals, notably his pleasing tenor falsetto, have become the most obvious part of M5’s sound, this show also spotlighted tight and reworked arrangements from the rest of the group, often bolstered by the strong guitar work of Levine and James Valentine. Of the newer material played on Saturday, the upbeat “Stutter” and “Give a Little More” were standouts.

It would be a stretch to credit Maroon 5 as having reached the artistic heights of an Arcade Fire (another band that just delivered two shows in L.A.), but there’s nothing wrong with a group that can write and perform commercial material that is both accessible and well-crafted. But by the end of the band’s energetic show, I had grown weary of trying to listen amid the ceaseless commotion and banter around me, and was happy the show was over. I don’t often say that about a perfectly solid concert on a beautiful night under the stars in Griffith Park.

In a brief but obviously crowd-pleasing cameo, actor-musician Jason Segel performed a couple songs before Maroon 5 took the stage, playing his “Dracula’s Lament” (from Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and adding his humor and piano-pounding talents the night’s party atmosphere. I’m pretty sure he was kidding when he screamed out about “bringing on the greatest band (Maroon 5) in the history of rock ‘n’ roll,” but on a date when most of the world was recalling the 70th birthday of the late John Lennon (who was definitely a member of the world’s greatest rock band), that was definitely pushing the envelope of his comedy.

Even for casual fans of modern music, OneRepublic’s familiar material was a solid fit here as another opener. Singer-keyboardist Ryan Tedder led his L.A. band through its best-known material (especially “Apologize” and “Stop and Stare”) along with more forceful rock stuff like “Marchin On” and “Waking Up,” all delivered with zeal. But the real ace in the band’s arsenal is the cello playing of Brent Kutzle, whose work added real substance to the introspective “Good Life,” among other songs.

Those wondering if any of the artists on the bill would pay tribute to Lennon hopefully arrived early. When first opener Ry Cuming took the stage at 7 p.m. the Australian noted that he wanted to dedicate his first song, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” to the Beatle. His sparse version, his vocals accompanied by his own guitar and his band’s keyboardist, ultimately proved to be one of his best selections across a half-hour set of mostly original material.

Rosanne Cash gets deep at the Grammy Museum
Originally posted on Soundcheck on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010

It has taken Rosanne Cash most of her adult life to both escape and embrace comparisons with other members of one of country music’s most celebrated families.

The eldest child of Johnny Cash, now 55, has released a dozen albums over the last three decades while more recently establishing herself as a talented author, thanks to her compelling short stories and essays, plus a popular book for children, Penelope Jane: A Fairy’s Tale, from 2000. A decade later, her profile has risen once more via both her deeply affecting memoir Composed, which arrived in August, and her latest disc, The List, a selection of reworked Americana gems taken off a list her father hand-wrote for her in 1973.

Tuesday night (Oct. 5, 2010) at a packed Clive Davis Theater at the Grammy Museum, Cash showcased that two-tiered attack with an hour-long discussion, conducted by the museum’s executive director Robert Santelli and including a reading from her new book, before performing a poignant acoustic set with her husband, acclaimed guitarist John Leventhal.

Cash may well have been content to just remain a songwriter, if not for the loss of her singing voice for two years while suffering with vocal polyps. But it’s the deaths of June Carter Cash and her father in 2003 and then her mother Vivian Liberto two years later — as well as her own life-threatening brain surgery in late 2007 — that provided the dramatic events to help her complete Composed and come to grips with being a member of such an esteemed family.

“I feel sorry for my daughter, who is a musician,” she said when asked about performing in the shadow of her late father, one of the most beloved American artists of the 20th century. “It’s a challenge and requires a lot of grace. I didn’t have that until I was 50 years old. At the same time it is my family.” She’s been recording since the late ’70s, of course, but here she pointed out that “I don’t think I could have done it fully until after (her dad) died.”

Before performing a set focused on her two most recent releases, Black Cadillac (featuring original material) and The List (which tackles seminal songs by Bob Dylan, the Carter Family, Hank Williams and more), Cash recalled how her latest project germinated, starting when she was 18 and on the road with her father. One day Johnny Cash asked his daughter about one song; she said she hadn’t heard of it. He asked her about another one; her reply was the same.

“Off the top of his head — no Google,” he said of how her father immediately sat down and devised a list of 100 essential songs she should hear. “I saved that list all these years,” noting that it included country music, Delta blues, soul, folk and gospel selections. Whittling it down to the dozen she covers on The List, however, wasn’t as difficult as it sounds: “Some didn’t make sense for me to sing, like (Johnny Horton’s) ‘Battle of New Orleans.’”

But Cash’s biggest confession of the evening had nothing to do with her musical ancestry or the big names who duet with her on The List, which include Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Rufus Wainwright. A member of the audience asked what she thought of country music today: “Don’t know anything about it,” she said as many in the audience erupted in laughter. “I still love old country music — still love my old Merle Haggard.”

Noting there are no quality country music stations in New York City where she has long lived, Cash quipped: “I hadn’t heard Taylor Swift until this year.” Of course, when she and Leventhal began to perform, it was clear that Cash continues to have much more in common with her late father and the Hag than the prefab and mass-marketed modern country brandished by Swift.

The six-song set was a blend of her own choices (including the beautiful “Sleeping in Paris” and the autobiographical “House on the Lake”) plus several reworkings featured on The List, among them a haunting “Motherless Children” and the more traditional “Sea of Heartbreak,” with her husband handling Springsteen’s sparse harmony effectively. They closed the night with a beautiful “Good Intent,” an original named after the ship that brought her ancestors from Scotland to America in the early 1600s.

Throughout her set, Cash reminded how she has the depth of emotion and range as a singer to fully carry forward the musical birthright of the Cash name. If Tuesday night was any indication, the best may be yet to come.

Michael Ubaldini bounces back with new band

Photo credit: Jesse Navarro

Note: This story was first published on The Orange County Register's Soundcheck blog on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010.

When Michael Ubaldini was rushed to the hospital last Thanksgiving, suddenly unable to stand or move his left hand or arm, little did he realize he was in for the biggest challenge of his life: a series of tests revealed that the Orange County musician was suffering from a heart-valve infection known as endocarditis.

“One doctor said, ‘There is a chance you won’t be able to play (guitar) and walk,’” Ubaldini recalled during a recent interview. “(But) on Christmas Day, my left hand opened up and I was able to play guitar. I bounced back so fast, they thought it was a miracle.” He was hospitalized for six weeks and underwent subsequent physical therapy to complete his recovery.

Less than a year after he fell to the floor while grabbing a vinyl LP to play after dinner, Ubaldini will unveil his new band, dubbed Michael and the Lonesome Playboys, this Friday (Oct. 22, 2010) at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, where the group will open for the Blasters and Wayne “The Train” Hancock. The show also marks the first chance longtime Ubaldini fans have to hear this new group’s material live or to pick up its wonderful debut, Last of the Honky Tonks.

The disc features 14 Ubaldini-penned songs that blend together the sound and spirit of Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Buck Owens and Hank Snow, with highlights including the confessional “Cross Country Ride,” the beautiful “Highway Ghost” and the rousing “Shambles.” All of it complements yet contrasts the roots-rock the Fountain Valley songwriter has become known for in the past decade, capped by his superb 2009 release Portable Record Player.

“I want to lay waste to this fake, studio-created country music,” Ubaldini says, noting that just because a recording has fiddle or pedal steel guitar doesn’t make it real country music. “It’s like someone selling you a car and then giving you a bicycle.”

Although Ubaldini’s influences can be heard in spades across Last of the Honky Tonks, the album primarily marks another dynamic showcase for his strong songcraft. “This is not a retro record,” he insists. “The songs are original. It’s just got the feel of the old-styled country.”

The Lonesome Playboys recorded most of these songs last October, returning to Adamos Recording in Westminster to complete the set in July 2010. “Everything was recorded live — no overdubs,” Ubaldini declares, noting that the technique he and the band employed evokes the in-the-raw studio sides cut at Chess and King Records in their heyday.

“The ironic part, before I started this record, (is that) I wanted to do this as a fresh start. Now, all that has happened with my recovery, it truly was a new beginning.”

Locals who want a copy of Last of the Honky Tonks before it goes on sale via iTunes and Amazon.com in mid-November — and can’t make it to Ubaldini’s gig Friday night — Pepperland Music in Orange (at 850 N. Tustin St.) is currently selling it.

Michael Ubaldini opens for the Blasters and Wayne “The Train” Hancock at 8 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 22, at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, in San Juan Capistrano. Tickets are $24.25, including service fees, via Ticketmaster, or $18 at the box office. Call 949-496-8930.

Friday, October 08, 2010

John Lennon celebrated in 'Life Is What Happens'

It makes total sense that John M. Borack would write a book on John Lennon.

"(Krause Publications) asked if I was interested in writing this book in October 2009," recalled the long-time Fountain Valley resident in a recent interview. Borack is a longtime contributor to the record collector's publication Goldmine magazine and is author of the first-ever guide to the melodic rock genre, Shake Some Action: The Ultimate Power Pop Guide, published by Not Lame Recordings in 2007.

"I jumped at the chance. The Beatles are the ones who got me into music in the first place."

John Lennon: Life Is What Happens is a 256-page book filled with 400 photos, artwork and images of memorabilia that celebrate the life of the former Beatle - from his childhood in the 1940s through the heights of Beatlemania in the 1960s and through his untimely death at age 40 in December 1980. The book is available at Amazon.com and other online retailers and will be in bookstores within the next week or so.

In addition to his own heartfelt text about the life and enduring legacy of Lennon as a musician, social activist and popular icon, Borack has gathered the stories and reflections of a number of musicians and fans as well.
Guitarist Earl Slick and bassist Tony Levin (both featured on Lennon's final album "Double Fantasy"), Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken, Turtles singer Howard Kaylan, actor-musician Bill Mumy (best known for his role as Will Robinson in "Lost in Space") and dozens of others contribute.

"I never knew Susan Olsen (who portrayed Cindy Brady on the "Brady Bunch") was such a big Beatles fan," Borack explained, when asked about the most unique contributor to "John Lennon: Life Is What Happens."
"One of her quotes about Lennon really touched me - 'I grew up in the sunshine of his art' - it's simple but it's so powerful."

Just as Lennon went through personal and professional struggles throughout his life, Borack's writing project was completed against the most difficult of times.

"My mother became very ill not long after the offer to write the book came in," he recalled, noting his mother Catherine Borack passed away on Nov. 27, 2009 - the day after Thanksgiving.

"In some ways it was difficult to do this with her being so sick. But writing so much of the book in the aftermath of her death, her spirit definitely guided me through the process. She would have been so excited and so proud to see the finished product. She would have gotten the first copy."

The forward of John Lennon: Life Is What Happens is dedicated to both Borack's late mother and father (John F. Borack) and immediately sets the tone of why Lennon's music still matters via a story I won't spoil here.

Borack will celebrate the release of his wonderful book with a signing and tribute concert at Fitzgerald's Irish Pub, 19171 Magnolia St., Huntington Beach, at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday, Oct. 8. Lennon would have celebrated his 70th birthday on Saturday, Oct. 9.

The special event will feature the music of the Beatles and John Lennon performed by Orange County-based rockers Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings, and the Popdudes (with Borack on drums). Performing with the Popdudes for the first time is Alan Bernhoft, well-known for his singing portrayal of Lennon in the tribute band Imagine.

"I'm very excited with how it turned out," Borack said of his new book. "When I was writing, I wasn't sure how the final product would look. The editors did an amazing job of gathering tons of rare photos and memorabilia to complement the text.

"Being able to see my name associated with John Lennon is a dream come true."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Recent DVD releases celebrate rockers in peak form

Although the holiday season won’t arrive for a month or so, many of the year’s finest rock DVD titles are out now. And adding to that good news is most of the sets retail for well under $20.

Artist: The Beatles

Title: “The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles”

You will be interested in this DVD if you are a fan of: The Beatles, “The Ed Sullivan Show,” 1960s pop culture.

Tell Me More: With the world poised to celebrate what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday on Oct. 9, 2010, now is the perfect time to ‘get back’ to where it – Beatlemania that is – all began. The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles is a terrific collection – time machine really – where everyone can see all four complete episodes (including the original commercials featured on the broadcasts) where the Fab Four unleashed their musical and magical powers across America in 1964 and 1965 on the popular variety show.
It is really magical to see the quartet tear through gems like "All My Loving," "She Loves You" and "I Saw Her Standing There" at a moment where nobody knew where it would all lead. Looking at the restored footage on the two-disc set, it's easy to glimpse with 20/20 vision and marvel at the Beatles' still- monumental grasp on popular music.
The DVD also includes 13 minutes of behind-the-scenes moments from "The Ed Sullivan Show," including a brief interview Sullivan conducted with John, Paul, George and Ringo in London in 1964 in connection with the release of A Hard Day's Night.

What about the packaging? The 4 Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring The Beatles looks like a small book. When you open the colorful booklet, both DVDs are presented on one panel while the other panel features details on each of the four episodes. Viewers can view the wide-screen episodes and listen using either Dolby Digital Stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround.

Artist: Nils Lofgren

Title: “Cry Tough”

You will be interested in this DVD if you are a fan of: Nils Lofgren, Neil Young.

Tell Me More: Cry Tough is a wonderful collection that features legendary singer-songwriter-guitarist-pianist ace Nils Lofgren at three points in his career, all courtesy of the “Rockpalast” German TV series. Disc 1 features a lengthy 20-song, 1991 performance with Lofgren playing both emotive solo acoustic material (“Sticks and Stones”) and assured rock with a four-member band before an enthusiastic audience. As evidenced by his work with Neil Young beginning when he was in his teens and more recently as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Lofgren’s guitar skills shine. But what comes across in these three shows is his power as a singer able to tap into the deepest of emotions and weave his multiple gifts into genre-defying songs.
His performance of the affecting rocker “Keith Don’t Go,” poignant “Delivery Night” and tender “Valentine” are highlights on the first disc. Fans of Lofgren’s 1970s project will love the persuasive take on that outfit’s rousing and mystical rocker “Moon Tears.”
Disc 2 features two concerts; a 1976 date with nine tracks and a 1979 outing featuring 15 selections. The early concerts are especially revealing, with Lofgren's style a wide-ranging mix of Southern rock, Moondance-era Van Morrison and traditional blues blended into something his own.
What do all three concerts have in common? The personable and talented Lofgren sharing real world emotions in song while unleashing impressive solos on acoustic and electric guitar, as well as on piano.

What about the packaging? Cry Tough comes in a hard shell case, with a beautiful colorful booklet with details about the shows and the lineup of band members backing Lofgren at each show.

Artist: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Title: "Classic Albums: Damn the Torpedoes"

You will be interested in this DVD if you are a fan of: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tell Me More: It may well be a good idea to view the aforementioned Nils Lofgren collection and segue into the new documentary focusing on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 1979 disc Damn the Torpedoes featured on VH1 Classic as part of the popular "Classic Albums" series. After all, as viewers of the Petty special will learn, the group got its first taste of success when critics and fans raved about the troupe when they were featured as an opening act for Lofgren on a tour of England in the mid-1970s.
But it is Petty and company who get to shine on Classic Albums: Damn the Torpedoes and this is one of the best in the series. Petty, guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench and other key players and behind-the-scenes producers and engineers tell the story of the band's journey through the recording of their third and arguably best album. And even for those who caught the hour-long documentary when it aired, the DVD's bonus footage goes to even greater depths in telling the complete story of the recording of tracks such as "Refugee," "Here Comes My Girl" and "Even the Losers."
My favorite chapter amidst the 42 minutes of extras actually is a guitar-minded tale with Campbell recalling how he was looking for a 12-string Rickenbacker when he answered an ad in the Recycler and drove down to Anaheim to pick up the guitar. Several years later on a visit to Rickenbacker's factory in Santa Ana, California he found out the model he had purchased (the guitar is the one Petty is holding on the cover of the album) was the second off the manufacturing line - the first was produced for George Harrison.
"It was probably the best $150 I ever spent," Campbell admits.

What about the packaging? Classic Albums: Damn the Torpedoes comes in a hard shell case with a single disc featuring the documentary and bonus materials.

Artist: Neil Young

Title: Le Noise (forthcoming deluxe edition features the ‘Le Noise Film’)

You will be interested in this CD/DVD package if you are a fan of: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Radiohead.

Tell Me More: With a look that is somewhere between the radiant black and white of Richard Lester’s 1964 Beatles flick A Hard Day’s Night and grainy-saturated look of Phil Joanou’s 1988 film Rattle and Hum starring U2, filmmaker Adam CK Vollick’s Le Noise Film adds another full dimension to rocker Neil Young’s outstanding new studio disc Le Noise.

The album my feature Young alone with his distinctive tenor accompanied only by acoustic or electric guitar, but the wide-ranging lyrical themes and sonic experimentalism enhanced by Vollick’s terrific camera work bring new depth to the eight songs in the Le Noise Film.

In particular, the unsettling “Angry World” is enhanced by Young’s edgy performance (much of it shot deliberately out of focus) interwoven with stark shots of the U.S. and earth as seen from space before everything gives way to the grand expanse of the universe.

What about the packaging? I wrote this review after listening to an audio stream provided me by Reprise Records and watching the film on YouTube. I will update this post with more details when I get the physical copy featuring both the album and the film to view on my home theater system. A bona fide deluxe edition is set for release on Blu-ray in November 2010.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Warner Bros. to release the Danny Elfman and Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box in December


Package Features More Than 19 Hours Of Music, Including Fan-Requested Expansions Of 13 Film Scores, Plus Seven Hours Of Previously Unreleased Music, A Skeleton USB Flash Drive Containing MP3s Of The Music And A Bonus DVD Featuring An Exclusive Conversation Between Elfman And Burton

Burbank, CA – This December, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ingenious collaboration between renowned composer Danny Elfman and legendary film director Tim Burton, Warner Bros. Records will release The Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box, a very special limited-edition, numbered box set of 1000 that collects expansions of the 13 original scores that Elfman has composed for Burton’s iconic films: a newly produced library of 16 CDs each packaged with artwork by Burton, adding up to more than 19 hours of music. Additionally, the package will contain a bonus DVD of a recent exclusive conversation between Elfman and Burton discussing every film and score in their remarkable quarter century collaboration. The box is available for preorder starting today, October 1st at www.elfmanburton.com.

This elaborate and lovingly designed collectible box set includes the first-time-ever soundtrack release of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), as well as scores to the films Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Mars Attacks! (1986), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), and Alice in Wonderland (2010). It also includes music from Elfman and Burton’s numerous other collaborations: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Jar, Amazing Stories: Family Dog, Beetlejuice: The Animated Series, The World of Stainboy, Tim Burton’s Museum of Modern Art Exhibit and Danny Elfman’s unused score to the Edward Scissorhands Ballet.

Additional highlights of The Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box include:

•Among the 19 hours of music are seven hours of previously unreleased music including such rarities as additional masters, cut songs, song and score demos, work tapes, orchestra-only song mixes, and foreign-language songs.
•Danse Macabre: 25 Years of Danny Elfman and Tim Burton: A meticulously researched, lavishly illustrated 250+ page fine linen-wrapped hardbound book, entitled with gold foil stamping, and featuring a foreword by Johnny Depp. The book also includes rare photos, stories, and interviews from the cast and crew behind the scenes of this classic music — from the early days of Elfman's band Oingo Boingo to the recent blockbuster film Alice in Wonderland. Interviewed are such collaborators and peers as Guillermo Del Toro, Phillip Glass, Paul Haggis, James Newton Howard, Tom Jones, Michael Keaton, Ang Lee, Errol Morris, Thomas Newman, Catherine O'Hara, Jon Peters, Paul Reubens, David Rockwell, Scott Rudin, Marc Shaiman, Howard Shore, Twyla Tharp, Gus Van Sant, and Richard Zanuck. This comprehensive 10"x10" keepsake book is written by acclaimed film-music journalist Jeff Bond and designed by Grammy Award winning designer Matt Taylor.
•An hour-long exclusive, newly filmed DVD featuring an extended conversation between Burton and Elfman as they reflect on their quarter-century collaboration.
•As a collectible created exclusively for this treasure box of music, a distinctive Skeleton Key USB Flash Drive has been designed—inspired by the art of Tim Burton. A pull of the key unlocks a USB drive loaded with MP3s of the entire contents of this Limited-Edition Music Box. From Pee-wee’s Big Adventure through Alice In Wonderland, it’s all there, including all the bonus tracks, demos, work tapes, and other rarities.
•Newly created liner notes by Elfman discussing each expanded score and their bonus material of additional masters, song and score demos, work tapes, orchestra-only song mixes, and foreign language versions.
•A collection of music as unique as Elfman’s for the films of Tim Burton needed to be housed in something equally special, wondrous, and whimsical. Designed to evoke a treasure chest found in a mysterious attic, The Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box is a work of art in itself. Grammy-winning designer Matt Taylor has transformed previously unseen art by Burton and crafted a large scale, tin-covered music box complete with an embedded music chip playing “The Music Box Suite” arranged and performed by Elfman specifically for this historic collection. And to literally top it all off, with a flip of the lid, a delightful working zoetrope is revealed featuring strips of art and photos by Burton and Elfman that come to animated life with a spin.

The Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box will be released as a Collectors Limited and Numbered Edition Box of 1,000 copies. The Danny Elfman and Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box is produced by Danny Elfman and Tim Burton and executive produced by Richard Kraft and Laura Engel.

About Danny Elfman: Four-time Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning composer Danny Elfman has scored such diverse films as Spider-Man, Good Will Hunting, Beetlejuice, Batman, Men in Black, Midnight Run, Big Fish, Dick Tracy, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mission:Impossible, Chicago, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Milk. His 25-year, 13 film collaboration with director Tim Burton began in 1985 when Elfman was pulled from his band Oingo Boingo to score Pee-wee's Big Adveture and continues with 2010's blockbuster Alice in Wonderland. Elfman made his classical music debut at Carnegie Hall with his symphony, "Serenada Schizophrana" followed up with "The Overeager Overture" which premiered at The Hollywood Bowl. His first ballet, "Rabbit and Rouge" choreographed by Twyla Tharp debuted with the American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Center. . His upcoming projects include Paul Haggis' Next Three Days, Real Steel, Gus Van Sant's Restless, Men in Black 3, Tim Burton's stop motion feature, Frankenweenie and Cirque du Soleil's "Iris" scheduled to bow in residence in Summer 2011 at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. Elfman is also known for the classic television themes to The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives.

About Tim Burton: Tim Burton has directed memorable and stylistic films, ranging from Batman, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His most recent blockbuster, Alice in Wonderland broke the billion dollar mark. His films have collected 6 Academy Awards and 11 Oscar nominations for everything from acting to art direction. His first feature length film, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, was also his first collaboration with composer Danny Elfman. Their instant film chemistry led them to 13 collaborations, and will continue with Burton’s upcoming stop motion animated film, Frankeneweenie. With a background in animation, Burton has done more to revive the stop motion field than any other director, starting with his first stop motion project, Vincent, and continuing through the cult classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. Burton has also published a book of characters and stories, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy, and most recently released an immense 430 page book comprising over 40 years of his personal and project artwork, entitled The Art of Tim Burton. He currently has an art exhibit that debuted at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and is touring through several art museums across the world.