Friday, February 25, 2005

The Day the Music Died

Word comes from Universal's Geffen record label that an ambitious retrospective CD and DVD collection dedicated to Buddy Holly & the Crickets is coming in April. Although Holly died on February 3, 1959, his music remains a joy for long-time listeners and those lucky enough to discover it today.

Although Elvis Presley is often heralded as rock 'n' roll's first star, songwriters and musicians often credit Holly as the father of the modern school of original rock. My view; Lennon and McCartney (and the rest of the Fab Four) owed more to Holly than Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry combined.

I have been to Clear Lake, Iowa twice; both times I made the trip to visit the site where Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson) died in a tragic plane crash on a cold winter night after performing at the Surf Ballroom. Walking through the tall fields of corn for the 1/2 mile or so to the fan-created memorial to the rockers is a trip back in time, and the long walk through the rural ghost of America's heartland is a time to reflect on the birth of rock - what it meant in those early days and its disputed role in the world today.

With Holly, the music, the songs, the style - they all had meaning. The connection between the man, his music and his audience mattered. Today, it's all part of some business plan. It's about opening week sales and the Billboard 200. About MTV. About radio station adds.

Walking through the cornfield to the place where a small plane went down on a cold winter morning long ago was truly a glimpse back at the day the music died.

Friday, February 18, 2005

That ain't music!

Isn't Billboard a music magazine?

Why the heck do any of us care about Shania Twain developing a fragrance with Stetson? Why did Billboard post that story on the front page of their Web site? They can't be bothered with wonderful new releases by the George Fryer Combo, Ken Garcia Band or Eric Anders (you have to read my Orange Pop column in the Register today to get the goods on those discs), but have plenty of electronic ink to showcase the so-called Canadian country singer.

Other thoughts after reading a bunch of music stuff on the Net today.

I agree with just about every credible critic that Ashlee Simpson was terrible before her "Saturday Night Live" stint and is still bad. And I didn't even catch her show in Orange County earlier this week. I heard her CD and that was bad enough...and another thing, Jessica Simpson is equally bland.

And while I'm on that subject, I think every music fan can celebrate the announcement that Jennifer Lopez has cancelled her European tour. Maybe the undiscerning listeners who would have attended those shows will happen to pursue something where real music is in the offering...

Have a great weekend! Go out and listen to something worthwhile. Snow Patrol today, Neil Young tomorrow...

Monday, February 14, 2005

Grammys 101; history repeating itself

Grammys 101
If you record a high profile album and release it right after your death, you have a good chance to win. That was the lesson provided by the late Ray Charles, who picked up a leading eight Grammys on Sunday, Feb. 13. Was his recent duets album, "Genius Loves Company," the best work of his career? You know the answer to that; he was great all along and should have been recognized with this kind of acclaim decades ago.

Ray Charles' songs, including classics such as "Hit the Road Jack," as well as recent recordings such as "Here We Go Again" (a duet with Norah Jones that won best pop collaboration with vocals and record of the year on Sunday), provide another lesson. How hungry we are to embrace music that is lasting.

Does anyone really believe that fellow winners such as Usher, Tim McGraw and Kanye West will be celebrated when they are 73 years old? I doubt many will even know who they are. Alicia Keyes, armed with a powerful but undistinctive voice and the ability to play the piano, won big a few years back in the wake of her debut "Songs in A Minor." She extended her 15 minutes of fame on Sunday night, but I seriously doubt discerning listeners will be spinning "My Boo" 25 years from now.

Another question to ponder in the wake of this year's Grammys...
there was talk about Kanye West being upset for losing out in the best new artist category to Maroon 5 (at least it looked like that on TV). Not that I care much about Maroon 5 either, but why no shock about Brian Wilson (as in Beach Boys) never earning a single Grammy after crafting some of the most timeless and influential music until he picked one up for best rock instrumental performance for "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow." More than 40 years after crafting the first of countless pop gems, he finally won - and for an instrumental? But what is a Grammy worth? After all, Britney Spears picked up her first Grammy as well. So Britney wins for "Toxic," while Brian Wilson was never recognized for a single Beach Boys recording. God only knows (that song didn't win either).

Another thought; here are a few of the winners they should have been put on television to perform; Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Steve Earle, Howard Shore (who deservedly won for his epic soundtrack "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"), Ozomatli and Etta James. U2 was the lone great performer of the night.

Remember when Fugees member Lauryn Hill scored five Grammys for her 1998 solo debut "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." When was the last time you heard the music, or anyone talk about it? Let that be a listen to us too...

On a related note, I saw the Finn Brothers perform an incredible show on Saturday night, Feb. 12, at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. Featuring songs off their 2004 album, "Everyone Is Here," they were incredible as was that album. Was that even nominated for a Grammy? If you want to hear great music, the Grammys seldom get it right.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Monday musings

Sir Paul rocks
I read on the Associated Press that television writer David Bauder thought Paul McCartney put on a safe show during the halftime show at the Super Bowl yesterday. Mr. Bauder tried to be hip stating that McCartney's show was "offputting for the kids." Huh?

The problem with Bauder's conclusion was he is wrapped up in the world of here today, gone today. The Beatles, like artists stretching from Bach to U2, pushed music forward but did not do so at the expense of crafting art that is timeless and will win over fans with each passing generation.

McCartney and his top-notch band delievered an excellent 12-minute set of music that was crafted for a mass audience without pandering to the lowest common denominator. With the possible exception of U2's incredible performance three years ago, I can't remember a better Super Bowl halftime show that Sir Paul's four-song set yesterday.

As for Bauder, I doubt his prose will be remembered past its publication date...He might want to note that very few of today's new crop of pop music entertainers can expect to command a successful career lasting anything close to a decade. McCartney has been thrilling fans for more than 40 years and has not lost his place at the front of the line...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Day Two

Day two
Is anyone reading? Once again I've volunteered to be a judge at the annual Orange County Music Awards. So I'm listening to dozens and dozens of songs put on CDs by OCMA chief Martin Brown for me. I don't know the artists' names or categories where they are placed. I just listen to each track and rate them between 1 and 100 with 100 being a perfect score.

As I write this, I'm listening to a female singer, accompanied by her acoustic guitar. I've already heard heavy alt rock, funk-tinged grooves and country-western stuff all on the same 19-song disc today. Your mind and music ears must switch gears on a dime. It's interesting, although only one of the artists I've heard so far today blew me away. That's a tough task for artists to catch my attention being I have to listen to so much music and often feel like I've heard it all before.

Now I'm listening to a heavy alt band that lacks the rage of Korn or groove of Pearl Jam. Everybody wants to be Hoobastank now. Next year, all the rock bands will want to be somebody else. I can't honestly rate this band high; I appreciate they can all play their instruments and make it sound good in the studio. I just wish it had some heart.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Welcome Friends

Welcome everybody!
Many of you who read my Orange Pop column in the Orange County Register have been introduced to some wide-ranging and strong artists who do or have called Orange County home; Scarlet Crush, Bright Blue Gorilla, Michael Ubaldini, Rusty Anderson, Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings - the list goes deservedly on. This column will allow me to talk about live shows, CDs and other music-related stuff that I simply can't squeeze into my columns that run Friday in the Show section.

I invite you all to check back often. I will try to update this column when I can. I often read or hear things and have a strong opinion and I will post my thoughts on all that and more. So much has been made about downloading, song production and producers, that I really feel the emphasis on great songs and musicianship has taken a back seat. I don't like that, so expect to read much about singers, songwriters and performers who are worth celebrating - especially in a time of diminished returns.

Keep on reading! And you can always read my Orange Pop column via every Friday too!