Monday, July 25, 2005

Payola probe reveals what we all suspect

I'm sure by now many of you have read news reports about major labels allegedly buying airplay for artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Good Charlotte, Franz Ferdinand, Jessica Simpson. This news has come about because of an investigation by the New York state attorney general's and a report written by Fox News columnist Roger Friedman that was published at today.

If these charges are true, it should come as no surprise. After all, how do you explain commercial radio's inability to break great music outside of that pushed, promoted and pawned off by the big labels. In my Orange Pop column - which celebrates its 10th anniversary in the Orange County Register on Aug. 1, 2005 - I have written about dozen of great acts that simply can't get any airplay. Even when releasing a well-produced, professional compact disc - they hit one roadblock after the other.

Let me list the names of a number of artists you should all check out. Forget about the hype of the industry. Seek out music that connects with you. Don't listen to Franz Ferdinand or the White Stripes just because the hitmakers tell you to. Listen to national acts that don't get the acclaim they deserve; Aimee Mann (folk rock), DADA (rock), Walter Trout (blues), Lee Rocker (roots-rockabilly), Ocean Colour Scene (Brit rock), Glen Phillips (formerly with Toad the Wet Sprocket). And there are some great Orange County, CA artists worth listening to:

Roots and Americana: Michael Ubaldini. His Web site is at

Pop-rock/melodic rock: John Hoskinson, Joe Ongie, Walter Clevenger, John Carrillo; all have urls with their name and dot-com. And check out 9 Ball at

Singer-songwriters also worth noting: Jannel Rap (, Bright Blue Gorilla (, Joy Flying (, and the list really keeps going. Just read my OC Reg column on Friday and stay up with how great the local scene is!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

we'll try it again

Yesterday, I had just about finished my blog entry relating to this past weekend when I had to get off the computer and it was lost.

Anyway, rather than try to rewrite what I penned yesterday, I'll start from scratch. I caught Tears for Fears, Gin Blossoms and Dishwalla on Sunday night at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa. It's an 8,500-seat venue and it was pretty close to capacity. I had seen Tears for Fears before - a decade or so ago at the Universal Amphitheatre - but when it was the version that boasted only Roland Orzabal (so was missing Curt Smith).

This performance, although clocking in at a mere 75 minutes, was so much better than that mid-1990s show. Coming on the heels of last year's "Everybody Loves a Happy Ending" comeback disc, this was a performance that demonstrated Tears for Fears still matters. Indeed, time has only strengthened the craft of some of the duo's best '80s and '90s material. So while the highlight for me was "Call Me Mellow" off the 2004 album, older material such as "Break It Down Again," "Sowing the Seeds of Love" and "Mad World" filled the summer night with a magic that won't be forgotten any time soon.

Like Tonic - who I caught on a bill with Cracker and Hootie & the Blowfish a week ago - I would have ditched Dishwalla and allowed both Tears for Fears and Gin Blossoms to each play a bit more. Gin Blossoms, like the Smithereens, play loose in concert. And like the Smithereens, the style works for them. Songs such as "Until I Fall Away," "Follow You Down," "Allison Road" and "Lost Horizons" continue to sound beautiful in that pop-rock-dipped-in-melancholy kind of way. And just about everyone got to their feet to dance when the band closed with a strong "Hey Jealousy."

2005 is turning out to be a great year for concertgoing.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Oldies, some goodies

I had another busy musical week. I was assigned to review two shows at the Orange County Fair. I covered Hootie & the Blowfish, Tonic and Cracker on July 12, while I covered another triple act bill last night, July 14, featuring headliner Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo, Berlin and the Motels. Although you can see my reviews that ran in the Orange County Register to get the full story, general impressions are some of these acts are a lot better than many of the so-called musical press want to admit. Hootie & the Blowfish continue to prove they are the best bar band in America (being a long-time fan of the Smithereens, that's saying a lot for me!). And Cracker rocked. "Low" could be a hit on modern rock radio today - more than a decade since its release.

I was never much of a fan of Pat Benatar (my mom and brother loved them), but I really enjoyed the authentic connection she and husband-guitarist Neil had with the audience and their own music in Costa Mesa last night. Neil is a great guitarist and seems to only have improved over the years too.

I really excited about the weekend; I get to see Tears for Fears and the Gin Blossoms on Sunday night. I'll check in with you early next week about that concert.

I'm also hoping to check out Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" at the movies this weekend. Composer Danny Elfman, who led the great Oingo Boingo, is back singing for the first time since "The Nightmare Before Christmas" with the soundtrack here and it should be good. I'll let you know.

Friday, July 08, 2005

A Look Ahead

Every Friday, time permitting, I'll go ahead and use this space to recommend a few upcoming shows and good reads. I will include the basics and contact info...

First, check out my story in the Orange County Register today. The subject of my Orange Pop column is Lee Rocker, the one-time Stray Cats bassist and a talented solo artist on his own. I saw him at the Hootenanny last Saturday and he was epic. He has two new albums coming out on July 12th. I cover all that and more in my feature story on him and click on the Entertainment button, etc.

If you don't have any plans for tonight, James Grey and Tyrone Wells perform songs and tell stories at Martini Blues, 5874 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, sometime after dark. Call (714) 840-2129 or visit for more details.

Anyone going to the Orange County Fair on Saturday, July 9th should plan on catching Grampas Grass when they perform from 4-6 p.m. on the Sun Stage. The show is free to anyone with fair admission. The band blends folk, rock, Southern rock and Latin styles. Nice outdoor music, perfect for a July afternoon while you enjoy all the great food in So Cal! Info:

My continued prayers and good thoughts for our friends in London who have suffered an attack by suspected al Qaeda bombers. The victims are people like you and I, innocent people going about their lives. Going to work, to see family and friends, etc. It is sick stuff and I hope we never loose touch with how far this evil movement will go to destroy all of the freedoms we enjoy...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Sad Day

Today recalls the saddness of 9/11/2001. The terrible attacks by murdering terrorists in London today reminds all of us who value freedom and human life of how far many will go to destroy our way of life.

I've been to London several times, in 1980 and again in June 1995. I loved both my stays in that great city and my thoughts go out to all those who suffer there. I hope authorities catch the terrorists responsible and kill them. Soon.

I hope many of the musicians who worked so hard at Live 8 - especially those who are British - will do something for their own nation. Instead of just slamming how terrible the Western World is, etc...It will be interesting to see if any of the hundreds of nations that Great Britain has helped go to her aid now...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Weekend remembered

I didn't post over the 4th of July weekend. But I have a multiple of excuses.

There was Hootenanny '05, a day-long festival next to Irvine Lake on Saturday, July 2nd. I got there early, so I could park next to the gate. And I was there all day, getting in early enough to check out Social Distortion's 30-minute soundcheck that kicked off at 11:45 or so, and was there until the Orange County band's actual set ended around 7:30 p.m. It was a long day and the music was generally very strong. And it was a hot one! Those energy drinks were a lifesaver.

In addition to the strong performance from Social D (highlights came off the band's latest album, notably the songs "Reach for the Sky" and "Highway 101"), I really enjoyed Lee Rocker's set. He delivered some great moments across 30 minutes, particularly a reworking of his old band, the Stray Cats, "Rock This Town" and a song titled "Runnin' from the Hounds" that really rocked.

Ever heard of Ricky Warwick? I hadn't either until I saw him perform at Hootenanny in 2004, and the Irish singer-songwriter returned this year. I enjoyed his set even more this weekend. He has that Steve Earle-John Mellencamp element and put on a great show.

Other great moments came courtesy of punk-styled Throw Rag, James Intveld and Deke Dickerson.

What about Live 8? Because I was at Hootenanny, I taped the day-long broadcast from VH1 and caught the ABC highlights special live that night. I also caught part of the CMT hour special last night. I was disgusted by the coverage. The stupid veejays injecting penny thoughts in the middle of songs. No Neil Young, no Cure, no Bruce Cockburn? I understand Paul McCartney played "Helter Skelter," but never a second of it on the tube. MTV is about anything but music these days.

Hopefully, some of the performances will be released later on DVD minus the chit chat...

Friday, July 01, 2005

No June gloom; Ringo Starr, Beyond 7

Looking back at the last week of June, there was little gloom.

I got to spend time with my wonderful wife Kim as she celebrated another birthday, and I got to see two great shows.

On June 29, I was lucky enough to get to cover a special club show at the El Rey in Los Angeles featuring Ringo Starr & the Roundheads. It was great to see the former Beatle and his six-man band tear it up front a standing room spot only 20 or so feet from the stage.

I never saw him more relaxed. And despite the fact he will turn 65 next week, he was in top form. He delivered the Fab Four gems, his early solo hits such as "Photograph" and "It Don't Come Easy," as well as the great tracks from his two latest albums with equal power.

The highlight of the 75-minute show for me - and the time when I got complete chills - was when he performed "Never Without You," his emotional tribute to his late friend George Harrison that was featured on his 2003 album "Ringorama." His latest album, "Choose Love," is wonderful and I've been listening to it (as well as Coldplay's "X&Y") a lot this past week.

Last night, I drove down to the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano to catch an acoustic set by Beyond 7. The band was great, and featured a number of songs off "Smoke," the forthcoming 3rd album from the band. Greg Stoddard remains one of the world's best-kept secrets. A singer with a great voice and fiery passion, he is supported by a strong group of virtuoso players with an artistic approach and melodic bent that makes for soaring performances.

Check out for more info on this great band!

Happy Independence Day everyone. I am covering the big Hootenanny Festival with Social D., Lee Rocker and Throw Rag tomorrow, so I'll have lots to share next week!