Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Topeka leads to Gypsy's Kiss

Is it Tuesday? Yes, it's Tuesday. Catching up late on the weekends musical happenings.
I caught two wonderful local shows this past weekend. On Saturday night, it was a double bill with Topeka and Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings at the Bamboo Terrace restaurant in Costa Mesa, while on Sunday I enjoyed an afternoon show at with Irish music outfit Gypsy's Kiss at the Harp Inn - also in C.M.

Topeka features singer-songwriter-guitarist Fletcher Harrington (of Cowboy Buddha fame), lead guitarist Brit Collins (of Moonhead) and singer Tanya Livingstone (of Blind Ruby). Performing excellent songs from their first CD, "Land Rush," as well as material from Fletcher's most recent solo CD, it was a powerful show. This is alt country with heart. The blending of voice and layers and arrangements worked strongly on Saturday night. I'm hooked. Information: www.lopie.com.

Next was the always rocking-good-time Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings. When a band rocks out with original tunes such as "Radio Sea" and "Supermarket Checkout Queen," as well as the infectious "Jonathan Doe," well the night is great. Clevenger is a songwriter whose material draws comparisons with artists ranging from Buddy Holly and Tom Petty to Nick Lowe, but his blend of power pop meets country is definitely his own. And his band is great. Learn more about this wonderful artist at www.walterclevenger.com.

And on to Sunday for a totally different kind of show. Gypsy's Kiss is an acoustic-styled Irish-Celtic music ensemble. The group put on a wonderful show, playing a blend of instrumental numbers and emotive songs.
"Star of the County Down" and "Black Velvet Band" were among many of the group's highlights. The group features the talents of Krysta Townsend (fiddle), Fred Salmon (electric bass, guitar), Kevin Moran (guitar, whistle, vocals), Heidi Kuyper (lead vocals) and Heidi Halbur (wooden flute, whistles).
Information: www.gypsykiss.us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

More thoughts about "greatest hits"

Not long ago I wrote how funny it was that artists who were too young to yet deserve a career retrospective, as well as those who never really had enough hits to warrant such a collection.

I was online today and discovered some other funny people who already have released such offerings. "The Best of Mandy Moore" is available, why? I likely couldn't name a single hit she has released, and even if I could, I'm sure it isn't worth the disc it's burned on.

Here are some "best of" collections you should seek out, in addition to my recommendations from earlier this month.
"The Best of...Lee Rocker - Burnin' Love"; this disc is great. If you think Rocker's career ended with the Stray Cats, you owe it to yourself to get this disc.

"Anything Anytime Anywhere," Bruce Cockburn's amazing 2001 collection of his best-known material. "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," "Pacing the Cage" and "The Coldest Night of the Year" are only a few of the great songs on this powerful set.

Neil Young's "Greatest Hits" is exactly that. After all, we're talking "Like a Hurricane," "Heart of Gold," "Old Man," "The Needle and the Damage Done" and the list goes on. If you haven't discovered his music yet, do.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tale of two concerts

Wow, don't be surprised I'm so tired. On Sunday night, Aug. 21st, I went to Coldplay in Irvine. Last night, Monday, I went to James Taylor at the Hollywood Bowl.

Both concerts were worth attending, but it was the James Taylor show that really blew me away. Surprised? Don't be. Coldplay was amazing when I saw the band at Coachella on April 30, 2005. But here, with a longer set and only a night after playing a full-length show at the same venue (Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine), the band was good, but not great. Maybe it was because I was way back in the lawn area, a million miles from the stage. But there were plenty of great moments; "Yellow" and "Speed Of Sound" immediately coming to mind. Chris is a great lead singer, but the natural comparisons with U2 will always hurt. There is only one U2.

James Taylor is an original, and draws comparisons to ... James Taylor! He was amazing! It was my first time ever catching him in concert and it was worth the long drive to L.A. and the even more daunting journey home.

With the possible exception of recent shows by Aimee Mann and some of the better sets at Coachella, I can’t recall a concert where so many people stopped chattering and ignoring their cell phones in favor of listening to the music making – which is exactly the way it should be at a James Taylor concert.
Performing before an enthusiastic and capacity crowd at the legendary Hollywood Bowl on Monday night, the personable singer-songwriter demonstrated that his skills as vocalist, guitarist, bandleader – and comedian – remain formidable.
And while the audience was unusually hushed during beautifully-rendered acoustic-styled songs such as “Fire and Rain” (a masterpiece that never sounds dated; it brought tears to my eyes), “Carolina in My Mind” and “Sweet Baby James,” they would clap along without prompting during upbeat numbers such as “Your Smiling Face” and Latin-flavored “Mexico.”
Performing 25 songs stretching across more than two hours, Taylor and his 11-member band performed plenty of hits, but also took the audience on well-timed detours displaying his skills playing the blues, Celtic and even country-western styled material. His reading of the traditional Irish folk song “The Water is Wide” was simply gorgeous, with his rich baritone and acoustic guitar conquering the song’s timeless melody with a mix of authenticity and emotion as he was accompanied by virtuoso fiddle player Andrea Zonn.
Early in his show, Taylor introduced two songs he had written for the late Ray Charles. Both the tender “Nothin’ Like a Hundred Miles” and more driving “Everybody Has the Blues” also featured Taylor’s impressive guitar playing.
And recalling how he had toured with the Dixie Chicks last year, his band performed a rousing country version of that group’s “Some Days You Gotta Dance.”
Between songs, Taylor would tell stories and engage in humorous exchanges that usually hit home. At one point, a woman yelled out, “I love you James.” The singer replied, “I love you too,” before pausing and adding with a Bob Newhart-styled manner, “It seems like a funny time to bring it up.”
At another point, someone yelled out a request for a song. Taylor picked up a small chalkboard that featured the set list, looked at it and noted the band would get to that song later in the night.
His stories often recalling when and why specific songs were written, as well as engaging exchanges with the audience – including signing autographs for fans who made it to the edge of the stage – only added a dimension to the concert. Who knew “Sweet Baby James” was a cowboy lullaby or that a photo he saw in National Geographic magazine inspired the introspective “The Frozen Man”?
Toward the end of the night, Taylor and company performed energetic songs such as “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You),” “Steamroller Blues” and “Summertime Blues” getting the audience to their feet.To close the night, Taylor returned to the stage with his three backing singers to perform a hushed and beautiful “You Can Close Your Eyes.” This was a night where offering up classic hits and nostalgia took a unquestionably back seat to Taylor’s loving and emotional delivery of the songs.

Friday, August 19, 2005

It gets more silly by the second

Are our attention spans really that short? Have computers, MTV, American Idol and all the rest of that stuff really blown out our collective ability to hang in there with an audience?

I don't know how old Hiliary Duff is and I don't really care, but I'm pretty sure she is still in her teens. She already has a greatest hits collection? Do people really need her "Most Wanted" collection. I bet she knows (and the money makers directing her career) know they better strike while the iron is hot.

It reminds me of what they did with Martika earlier this year, a nothing late '80s artist who had been forgotten by the masses. But when Eminem took her sole big hit "Toy Soldiers" and turned it into a hit ("Like Toy Soldiers") on his 2004 "Encore", Sony BMG hurried and released a Martika greatest hits collection. Anyone who saw (or met Martika - we were both on a television show together around 1986?) her knows she had little to no talent.

Here are other greatest hits collections that are a joke (they only had a hit or two, why bother?):

"The Best of Toni Basil: Mickey & other love songs" (I can't believe this was released!)
"Walking On Sunshine: the Greatest Hits of Katrina & the Waves" (Oh, please)
"Belinda Carlisle - Her Greatest Hits" (do any of these hold up, no!)
"Tiffany - Greatest Hits" (she should even be embarrassed)
"The Best of Naked Eyes" (if I hear "Always Something There to Remind Me again, I'll scream)

But there are a few bands that only scored big a time or two that should be checked out...Listen to these, really!

"The Very Best of Soft Cell" (artisty beyond "Tainted Love" to be sure)
"Look of Love: the Very Best of ABC" (sounds as good today as ever)
"The Fixx: Ultimate Collection" ("Driven Out," "Red Skies," "Stand Or Fall," "Saved By Zero," and much more. This is great)
"Blown to Smithereens: The Best of the Smithereens" (you can't go wrong here. One great rocker after another...)
"Big Star Story" (if you don't know this band, you should!)
"The Hollies' Greatest Hits" (they are great too)
"Retrospective: the Best of Buffalo Springfield" (Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay - amazing stuff)

Friday, August 12, 2005

You're kidding, right

It's Friday. Why not have some fun.

Billboard reports Ashlee Simpson is in talks with "Saturday Night Live" to host and perform in connection with the release of her second CD in early October. Sick.

Wasn't faking it once bad enough? So "SNL" can't find any real musicians to feature on the show. Are they kidding? Here are a few suggestions: Dada, Dead Can Dance, Neil Young, Keane, Snow Patrol, New Order, Color Theory, Michael Ubaldini, Lee Rocker, Trespassers William, Rusty Anderson, Social Distortion, Aimee Mann, Bruce Cockburn and hundreds more. Maybe they can actually champion some real music. Now that's a stretch...

Check out my Orange Pop column in the Orange County Register today. I talk about Summerfest, a promising six-hour power pop-minded show coming to Stanton tomorrow, kicking off at noon. And it's free. All ages. You can read it via www.ocergister.com and click on the ENTERTAINMENT button on the left and you'll find my story under the Music area.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Classical Mystery Tour

Last Friday, I was able to catch a time machine back to the 196os. Indeed, Classical Mystery Tour is just that. Featuring a top-notch Beatles tribute band that performs with a 40-member orchestra, the performance was wonderful.

What makes the experience so amazing isn't simply that the four key players look so much like John, Paul, George and Ringo. But it it how they sound like them, move like them and how the arrangements of classics such as "A Day in the Life" and "Yesterday" benefit from the layers provided by violins, cellos, brass, etc. It truly elevates these concerts to a level seldom reached at rock 'n' roll shows.

The cast features Jim Owen (as Lennon), Tony Kishman (as McCartney), Tom Teeley (as Harrison) and Chris Camilleri (as Starr). Kishman was particularly strong and if he was left handed, people might think he was Paul his voice and look were so dead on...

Information: www.ClassicalMysteryTour.com.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Down and About

Hi Friends,

Where have I been. Listening to tunes - music.

Cowboy Junkies. Remember them? On August 16, they have a new record coming out.
It's called "Early 21st Century Blues" and is a strong 11-song collection featuring a mix of reworked covers by the likes of Bruce Springsteen ("Brothers Under the Bridge" and "you're Missing"), George Harrison ("Isn't It a Pity") and Bob Dylan ("License To Kill"), as well as several original songs penned by Cowboy Junkies guitarist Michael Timmins. And Margo Timmins still is armed with the most haunting and emotive of voices.

Berlin. Another name, band out of the past. The Fullerton-launched outfit, featuring singer Terri Nunn, performed a show at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa last month and among the songs played was an energetic version of Prince's "Erotic City." It led me to seek out getting a copy of the disc featuring the remake, the recently-released "4Play." Not bad, not bad at all. And fans of Peter Gabriel will love the rousing "Big Time." Nunn sounds strong on the album and it works...

On a sad note, I missed yesterday's performance by Harry and the Potters at the Dana Point Branch Library. I kid you not; there really is a punk band where they dress up like the popular wizards and crank out songs such as "Voldemort Can't Stop the Rock" and "Wizard Chess."
Check mate.

That's all folks. Pass me a pork chop.