Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sights and Sounds: M. Ward, Kate Bush, Plain White T’s, Audio Fidelity releases

Wow, I've been so swamped attending NAMM and wrapping up my coverage of the event that my inbox is stuffed. Now I've had some time to get some of it cleared out and I'm sharing it here!

M. Ward to release A Wasteland Companion in April; full North American Tour announced

Merge will release M. Ward's sixth solo album, A Wasteland Companion, on April 10.

In the three years since Portland, OR-based troubadour M. Ward released his last solo album - the universally lauded Hold Time - he’s toured the globe, released two albums as one half of Grammy-nominated duo She & Him as well as one with the talented group of friends collectively know as Monsters Of Folk.

Inspired by his increasingly itinerant lifestyle Ward set forth to create something of a musical travelogue. He explains, “Between now and when I made Hold Time there has been a lot of traveling which requires a lot of reckoning with what to leave behind and what to carry – material and otherwise – and thinking about what I want versus what I need, creatively and otherwise. I wanted to get a reflection of that on the album. It was a process of stripping away my security blanket, which is the same four walls I always record in.”

The album was made with 18 musicians and recorded in eight different studios in Portland, Omaha, New York City, Los Angeles, Austin and Bristol (UK). A Wasteland Companion features the talents of M Ward (piano, guitars, voice, production), Mike Coykendall (percussion, bass), Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb (piano), John Parish (percussion, marimba), Bright EyesMike Mogis (organ), Susan Sanchez (vocals), She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel (vocals), Jordan Hudson (percussion), Adam Selzer (bass), Nathan “JR” Andersen (piano), Scott McPherson (percussion), Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley (percussion), Dr. Dog’s Tobey Leaman (bass), Devotchka’s Tom Hagerman (strings), Oakely Hall’s Rachel Cox (vocals), Amanda Lawrence (violin), John Graboff (pedal steel) and Tyler Tornfelt (bass). The recording utilized eight engineers, including Tom Schick (Rufus Wainwright) and John Parish (PJ Harvey).

M. Ward can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and at mwardmusic.com.

Track listing:
1. Clean Slate (for Alex & El Goodo)
2. Primitive Girl
3. Me And My Shadow
4. Sweetheart
5. I Get Ideas
6. The First Time I Ran Away
7. A Wasteland Companion
8. Watch The Show
9. There’s A Key
10. Crawl After You
11. Wild Goose
12. Pure Joy

M. Ward on tour:
Feb 2 Los Angeles, CA Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Apr 11 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
Apr 12 Santa Cruz, CA The Cocoanut Grove Ballroom
Apr 13 Indio, CA Coachella **SOLD OUT**
Apr 14 Santa Barbara, CA SoHO
Apr 16 San Diego, CA Belly Up
Apr 17 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballroom
Apr 18 Flagstaff, AZ The Orpheum
Apr 20 Indio, CA Coachella **SOLD OUT**
May 5 Portland, ME State Theatre
May 6 Burlington, VT Higher Ground
May 7 New Haven, CT Toads Place
May 8 Boston, MA House of Blues
May 11 New York, NY Webster Hall
May 12 Philadelphia, PA Union Transfer
May 13 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
May 15 Durham, NC Duke Performances at Page Auditorium
May 16 Athens, GA Georgia Theatre
May 17 Atlanta, GA Buckhead Theatre
May 22 Chicago, IL Vic Theatre
May 24 Minneapolis, MN First Avenue
Jonathan Richman supports 4/11
fIREHOSE supports 4/12, 4/16-4/18
Lee Ranaldo Band supports 5/5-5/22


Clip For “Lake Tahoe” From Acclaimed New Album
50 Words For Snow

Revered singer Kate Bush is premièring a new video from her acclaimed new album 50 Words For Snow at NPR’s All Songs Considered. The beautifully evocative cinematic clip is for her song “Lake Tahoe” and features stark shadow puppetry – featuring a dog moving through a stark landscape searching for its owner - perfectly compliments the music’s haunting sense of dramatic longing.

Bush told NPR that despite the video's abbreviated running time, she intended the clip to be viewed as a complete work: “The video exists as a self-contained piece, it is called 'Eider Falls at Lake Tahoe'. It has all been created in camera with shadow puppets, one of my favorite art forms because of its simplicity. It is something that I've wanted to do for years and it was great fun to make.”

To watch Kate Bush’s new video go to: http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/

50 Words For Snow features 7 new tracks set against a background of falling snow, with a total running time of 65 minutes; through a highly evocative musical and lyrical landscape. The record features a number of special guest musicians including Elton John.

Plain White T's on Guitar Center Sessions - Airs on DIRECTV on Jan. 28, 2012

THE PLAIN WHITE T’S Bring Their Successful Mix of Pop-Rock To New Season of Award-Winning TV Series Guitar Center Sessions

Show to feature performance from Plain White T’s – plus an intimate conversation with Tom Higgenson, Tim Lopez and De’Mar Hamilton about the creative process of writing songs, the sometimes difficult dynamics of working together as a band and the increasing importance of commercials and TV in making a hit song — with host and esteemed musical tastemaker Nic Harcourt

Sneak Peek At: http://guitarcenter.com/sessions/

Westlake Village, CA – Guitar Center (http://www.guitarcenter.com), the world's largest retailer of musical instruments and equipment, and DIRECTV, one of the world’s leading providers of digital television entertainment services, feature PLAIN WHITE T’S in a new episodes of the award-winning music series Guitar Center Sessions this Saturday, January 28. Guitar Center Sessions features exclusive performances and intimate, enlightening conversations conducted by revered musical tastemaker Nic Harcourt. The episode premieres Saturday, January 28th at 9pm ET/PT in 2D hi-definition on DIRECTV’S Audience Network (channel 239) and in 3D on DIRECTV’S n3D™ powered by Panasonic.

An exclusive clip of Plain White T’s performance of “Hey There Delilah” from the episode can be seen at http://guitarcenter.com/sessions/.

Hailing from the suburbs of Chicago, the pop-rock Plain White T's began taking shape in 1997, a full ten years before the acoustic ballad "Hey There Delilah" made them Grammy-nominated stars. Led by Tom Higgenson, the band toured extensively over the next years, weathering personnel changes along the way and building a following through a solid work ethic and promising songwriting. After a few indie label releases, in 2006 they signed with Hollywood Records, released Every Second Counts and hit big with “Hey There Delilah” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for Grammy awards (song of the year and best pop performance by a duo or group). The following year they had another hit with “1, 2, 3, 4,” which struck a universal chord and catapulted up the charts with an assist from a Hallmark Valentine’s Day ad. In 2010, Plain White T's released their sixth, most recent studio album, The Wonders of the Younger, changing up their dynamic with two songs penned and sung by guitarist Tim Lopez, including the hit single, "The Rhythm of Love," which layers on a new laid-back acoustic sound to the band's usual mix of spunky energy and pop/rock craft. Plain White T’s line-up: Tom Higgenson (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Tim Lopez (lead guitar, vocals), De’Mar Hamilton (drums), Dave Tirio (rhythm guitar) and Mike Retondo (bass).

In the episode, Higgenson, Lopez and Hamilton talk frankly to host Nic Harcourt about the pressures of working together as a band, with Lopez noting “the closest we’ve come to fighting in the writing process comes with putting songs together as a band.” Higgenson also discusses his shock at the huge success of “Hey There Delilah,” which he thought of as a “good, small song” until it took off on MySpace, becoming an early Internet sensation—and a chart-topping hit—in 12 countries. Hamilton agrees, saying the success of that song funded the band at a crucial time (“We were able to continue doing what we love to do – play music”). The three also talk about the evolution of social networking from the band’s early days (“so much time and money at Kinko’s making up a flyer”) to today with Higgenson saying it can be hard to feel a connection with the live audience “when you see a bunch of phones instead of people’s eyes and faces.” Another change they’ve witnessed concerns the benefits of licensing songs for commercials and TV shows. Higgenson and Lopez agree that placing a song in the right scene in the right movie or commercial adds a stronger emotion in visual form to the song. When Harcourt asks the seasoned musicians what advice they’d give young bands to get their music out, the answer is a resounding “Anything you can. Work hard, keep writing songs and do great live shows.”

“The Plain White T’s are one of the first artists to benefit from the unprecedented reach that the Internet provides to musicians,” says Harcourt. “They were able to hear fans in the UK sing along to ‘Hey There Delilah’ before their album was available there, thanks to the Internet. It’s fascinating to hear such a modern success story, and to find out how the band is able to build off their original success in a tangible way. It’s exactly the type of story we’re trying to explore with Guitar Center Sessions.”


Dio's Holy Diver and Bryan Adams' Cuts Like a Knife Rock Anew on Limited-Edition Audiophile Compact Discs Arriving January 31, 2012

Marshall Blonstein, president of Audio Fidelity, has set January 31st as the release date for the audiophile label's Gold CD reissues of Dio's HOLY DIVER and Bryan Adams' CUTS LIKE A KNIFE. Both albums will be issued as numbered, limited editions that will be available through both online and brick-and-mortar retailers and will be retired after they have reached 5000 units in sales.

The two albums hail from 1983, a year when rock was reasserting its place on a music landscape then dominated by dance and pop records. Long acknowledged as classic entries in each artist's catalog, HOLY DIVER and CUTS LIKE A KNIFE represented key turns in the careers of Ronnie James Dio and Bryan Adams. The albums enjoyed the longest tenure of any Dio or Adams set on Billboard's chart, with HOLY DIVER logging 38 weeks and CUTS LIKE A KNIFE notching 89.

Ronnie James Dio had already achieved star status as the lead singer of Elf, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and Black Sabbath by the time he released HOLY DIVER, the first record of what would be a long and fruitful solo career. Joined by alumni of his former bands-drummer Vinnie Appice (Black Sabbath) and bassist Jimmy Bain (Rainbow)-and teenaged discovery, guitarist Vivian Campbell, Dio crafted a searing debut that won widespread pop acceptance without compromising an ounce of its power or heavy-metal principles. The group-composed "Rainbow in the Dark," as well as the Dio-penned title track, became mainstream-rock radio hits, and the Bain-Dio cuts "Straight Through the Heart" and "Stand Up and Shout" grew into fan favorites-the latter featuring impressive, breakneck-speed soloing from Campbell.

HOLY DIVER peaked at No. 56 on Billboard's album chart (and reached 13 in the U.K.) and was certified Gold a year after its release and Platinum in 1989. The song "Holy Diver" retains considerable popularity almost three decades after it was first recorded, having been featured on TV's South Park and in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. "Rainbow in the Dark" was featured in Rock Band 3. Dio himself appears in the opening musical performance of the 2006 comedy Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny starring Jack Black.

Audio Fidelity's reissue of HOLY DIVER includes a two-page spread reproducing the original vinyl LP's photo montage of images from Dio's time with Black Sabbath and Rainbow.

Following two solid solo albums, Canada's Bryan Adams broke through with CUTS LIKE A KNIFE, which was a Top 10 entry on both the American and Canadian charts. The set initiated Adams' run of five such acclaimed credits, sold some four million copies internationally and launched the raspy-voiced singer-writer as a major pop music figure, one who's garnered 15 Grammy® nominations. Adams wrote or co-wrote (mostly with longtime writing partner Jim Vallance) the album's ten songs-among them three solid Top 30 hits: the stirring piano ballad and signature piece "Straight From the Heart," the brisk rocker "This Time" and the troubled-relationship title track. "Straight From the Heart" was covered by Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler, and the album-closer, "The Best Was Yet to Come," was recorded by Laura Branigan.

Recorded in 1982 and originally issued on January of 1983, CUTS LIKE A KNIFE was produced by Adams with frequent associate Bob Clearmountain, whose engineering and mixing credits include Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. and recordings by the Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi. Foreigner lead singer Lou Gramm contributes backing vocals on CUTS LIKE A KNIFE.

Founded in 2002 by music industry veteran Marshall Blonstein, Audio Fidelity specializes in deluxe reissues of classic popular-music recordings for the audiophile and collector markets The Camarillo, California-based label is best known for its 24-Karat Gold CDs and its 180-gram virgin-vinyl album editions, as well as a line of popular DVD titles. Audio Fidelity emerged out of the pioneering DCC Compact Classics label that Blonstein started in 1986, following stints as president of Island Records and co-founder of Ode Records (where he helped make Carole King's Tapestry one of the best-selling albums of all time and built the cult-film franchises The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke).

For more information, visit: www.audiofidelity.net

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