Friday, September 30, 2011

Sights and Sounds: The Beatles, Hugh Laurie, Chris Pierce, Shane Alexander

Big news for Beatles fans leads the way in today's roundup of noteworthy media releases. Read on and have a good weekend!


AVAILABLE NOVEMBER 8, 2011 (Time Life)

Deluxe Packaging Includes Rare and Candid Photos by Astrid Kirchherr,
Signed Contracts and Personal Biographies Handwritten by Each Member in 1961

Fifty years after The Beatles first entered a recording studio, the complete collection of those tracks will be available for the first time in North America when THE BEATLES WITH TONY SHERIDAN: FIRST RECORDINGS: 50th Anniversary Edition, is released to stores November 8, 2011 on Time Life.

The 2-CD set comes with a specially-designed book that is a historical trove of concert and intimate photos taken by Astrid Kirchherr and others who were with The Beatles during the early days of their career. The book also includes handwritten biographies by each member of the group, signed contracts, original artwork taken from posters and records, and text by Hans Olof Gottfridsson, who has spent years researching this period of the Beatles’ career.

In North America, it is generally believed that the Beatles’ recording career began on Capitol in 1964. Few know that it actually began on the German Polydor label in 1961. As Gottfridsson notes in the book for THE BEATLES WITH TONY SHERIDAN: FIRST RECORDINGS, Polydor executive and big band leader Bert Kaempfert discovered the group in a German nightclub, signing them to his own company and then releasing the songs through Polydor. The night they signed the contract at Kaempfert’s kitchen table, the four Beatles wrote brief autobiographies, reproduced here in their original handwriting. Through a combination of music, photos, documents, artwork and history, THE BEATLES WITH TONY SHERIDAN: FIRST RECORDINGS beautifully captures John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison just before they rocketed to international stardom. The earliest days of The Beatles have never been revisited in such detail.

The set includes every recording they made for Kaempfert and Polydor in 1961 and 1962. Multiple versions have been released throughout the past several decades – some in mono, some in stereo – each with distinctly different sounds. Most notably, the US versions of these tracks were overdubbed with another guitar player and drummer in an attempt to mirror the edgier sound the group had evolved into, unbeknownst to American fans at the time of their release in 1964. All versions of every track, including mono and stereo mixes, are included in the double disc set, remarkable in their difference but all bearing the same unmistakable sound of a wholly new kind of band.

Many of the Polydor tracks feature Tony Sheridan on lead vocals, a decision made by Kaempfert. However, John Lennon sings lead vocals on “Ain’t She Sweet,” and George Harrison plays an instrumental, “Cry For A Shadow.”

THE BEATLES WITH TONY SHERIDAN: FIRST RECORDINGS: 50th Anniversary Edition is a remarkable story, told through music, mementos and words, of a band on the cusp of changing music and pop culture forever. The collection is a fascinating and comprehensive view of one of the most important yet overlooked moments in Beatles history.

Catch Hugh Laurie live on PBS Great Performances tonight, Sept. 30

An American favorite for his award-winning role in the hit TV series House, versatile British actor Hugh Laurie showcases his musical side in an atmospheric personal odyssey filmed on location in New Orleans.

Taking its name from his recent Billboard #1 Blues album, Let Them Talk is Laurie's very personal journey into the heart and soul of that music: "Here I am in the French Quarter playing with all these amazing musicians. This may be about as good as it gets. In fact, this may be what heaven is like."

Laurie sings a wide selection of tunes, accompanying himself on piano or guitar, and backed by some of the town's top-flight musicians. He refuses to pigeonhole his selections. "There are only two categories: good and bad. Those are the only things that matter." Throughout the hour, there are intimate performances and rehearsals with blues legends Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas, known as the "Soul Queen of New Orleans," as well as another fellow traveler from Great Britain similarly inspired by this uniquely American music, Sir Tom Jones.

Of Laurie's piano prowess, Jones observes admiringly, "He must have listened to a lot of blues players, a lot of boogie-woogie players," and notes that Laurie's playing resembles that of Jerry Lee Lewis. Thomas marvels that when she saw him on the keyboards on House, she "could tell he was actually playing."

Hugh Laurie: Let Them Talk - A Celebration of New Orleans Blues airs on THIRTEEN's Great Performances on Friday, September 30 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (including on KOCE-TV here in Orange County, CA where I am based).

Click here to check your local listings to confirm the exact channel and air time.

Get Hugh Laurie's Let Them Talk at Rhino Records.


Pierce And Shane Alexander Co-Headline "Brothers From Another Mother" Tour

Record Release Showcase Parties Include Hotel Cafe In Los Angeles On Tuesday, October 11

Singer/songwriter Chris Pierce will be touring the U.S. this fall in support of his new album, I Can Hear You, set for October 11, 2011 release. He'll be hitting the road with his 1951 Gibson ES-150, a couple harmonicas and longtime friend Shane Alexander, another acclaimed Los Angeles-based artist. The two will co-headline the "Brothers From Another Mother" tour, which launches on October 17 at Nashville's 12th & Porter. The run will include a show at The Living Room in New York City on October 28. Pierce, who has opened for such artists as Seal, B.B. King, Al Green, Toots and the Maytals, and Colbie Caillat, will also play a series of Southern California record release showcase parties. The first will be at Hotel Café in Hollywood on October 11. See below for itinerary.

"Pierce, whose work has been compared to that of musical elder tribesmen Van Morrison, Jimmy Cliff, Bill Withers and Otis Redding - engages his audiences with his rich vocals and heartfelt tunes," said, which included Pierce on its list of "homegrown artists you ought to know." noted: "his tunes...seem to come from a heart so open and honest that, your cynicism safely checked at the door, you believe music possesses mystical healing powers too."

For a limited time, fans can get a free download of the soulful focus track "Looking for the Spark," which opens I Can Hear You, at:

Shane Alexander is an internationally known singer/songwriter/guitarist with four solo albums to his credit including his newest release, Mono Solo. Since 2005, in addition to his own headlining tours, Alexander has toured with Jewel, Seal, Suzanne Vega, Bon Iver, and most recently, opened for Styx / Yes on their 'Progressive U.S. Tour' in July-August of 2011. Shane Alexander's music has been licensed for over 50 television shows and films, including: "Bones," "Criminal Minds," "White Collar," and "One Tree Hill."

"This album is for the strugglers, the invisible people - those who make light out of the darkest of times even when it seems like no one is listening," says Pierce.

Co-produced with GRAMMY® award winner Seth Atkins Horan, who has worked on each of Pierce's previous releases, most of I Can Hear You's 10 tracks were captured live on the first take, underscoring the raw emotion of the material. Pierce penned five songs himself and four with long-time collaborator Marvin Etzioni. A poignant version of Bill Withers' "Hope She'll Be Happier," featuring simply vocals and piano, completes the collection. I Can Hear You follows Walking on the Earth, which was named one of the Top 10 albums of July 2008 by Nic Harcourt, formerly of KCRW, and 2009's Chris Pierce Live at the Hotel Café.

Although Chris developed otosclerosis, a rare hearing disorder that led to the loss of hearing in one ear at age 15, a journey he addresses in "Thunder or the Rain," music continued to be his passion. He was awarded the prestigious Ella Fitzgerald scholarship for jazz studies at USC when he was 18. Impressed by his performance at a small Hollywood party, Seal invited him to open on a string of worldwide tours, launching his career to a new level. His music has been heard in the film Soul Men and on Music From and Inspired by Crash and been licensed by Banana Republic and such shows as "Brothers and Sisters," "Eli Stone," "In Plain Sight" and "Army Wives."

Chris Pierce - Upcoming Tour Dates

Record Release Parties

10/11 Hollywood, CA Hotel Café (w/Shane Alexander)

10/12 Ventura, CA Zoey's Café (w/Shane Alexander)

10/15 San Diego, CA Anthology (w/Melissa Morgan)

10/16 Hermosa Beach, CA Saint Rocke (w/Shane Alexander)

"Brothers From Another Mother" Tour with Shane Alexander

10/17 Nashville, TN 12th & Porter

10/18 Atlanta, GA Smith's Olde Bar

10/20 Louisville, KY Uncle Slayton's

10/21 Dayton, OH Wrights

10/22 Cincinnati, OH House Concert

10/26 Pittsburgh, PA Club Café

10/28 New York, NY The Living Room

10/29 Cambridge, MA T.T. the Bear's Place

11/1 Ogunquit, ME Jonathan's

Additional dates to be announced.

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