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Thursday, December 18, 2008
A year to remember: my top albums of 2008
Coldplay “Viva La Vida” (Capitol) – Commercial success should not necessarily be equated with lackluster artistry. Case in point, the latest full-length gem from Coldplay. Recommended tracks: “Life In Technicolor,” “Viva La Vida.”
Al Green “Lay It Down” (Blue Note Records) – When I reviewed the Reverend Al Green a few years ago, I thought my ears were playing a trick on me because the sixtysomething performer sounded so flawless and inspired. His most recent album, the wonderful “Lay It Down,” reinforces my belief that my hearing was just fine that night. Recommended tracks: “Just For Me,” “No One Like You.”
Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson “Rattlin’ Bones” (Sugarhill) – A wonderful and heartfelt collection between Australian songstress Kasey Chambers and her husband Shane Nicholson, this 14-song alternative country-minded effort is magical from start to finish. Recommended tracks: “Rattlin’ Bones,” “Monkey on a Wire.”
R.E.M. “Accelerate” (Warner Bros.) – “Accelerate” is the first album by R.E.M. since the departure of original drummer Bill Berry a decade ago that works from start to finish and captures the magic of the Athen, Georgia-spawned outfit’s early work. Recommended tracks: “Supernatural Superserious,” “Until the Day is Done.”
Snow Patrol “A Hundred Million Suns” (Geffen Records) – Singer-guitarist Gary Lightbody continues to craft songs that offer something for both casual and discerning listeners, but with the depth of the material on “A Hundred Million Suns,” this is clearly the troupe’s best effort since 2003’s “Final Straw.” Recommended tracks: “Take Back the City,” “Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands.”
Aimee Mann “@#%&! Smilers” (Superego) – There have been few singer-songwriters who have delivered the kind of lyrically introspective and melodically pleasing songcraft on such a consistent basis over the past decade as Aimee Mann. Recommended tracks: “Freeway,” “Thirty One Today.”
Sonny Landreth “From the Reach” (Landfall) – Although Louisiana-based singer-songwriter and slide guitar master Sonny Landreth is joined by luminaries such as Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson and Mark Knopfler on his latest disc, it is his own unique blend of talents that shines so brightly on this remarkable collection. Recommended tracks: “Blue Tarp Blues,” “The Milky Way Home.”
Jack’s Mannequin “The Glass Passenger” (Sire / Wea) – Confessional and honest, singer-songwriter Andrew McMahon delivers another winning round of Brian Wilson-tinged pop and piano-anchored modern rock on his group’s sophomore release. Whether it was his successful battle to overcome leukemia in the wake of Jack’s Mannequin’s debut “Everything in Transit” or the full spectrum of life itself, the songs on his 2008 release explore love, loss and the world around him with an ever-growing depth. Recommended tracks: “Annie Use Your Telescope,” “Swim.”
She & Him “Volume One” (Merge Records) – The full-length debut from M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel drips with the retro sound and style of a range of ‘60s and ‘70s icons such as the Zombies, Linda Ronstadt and Dusty Springfield. But there is an intoxicating innocence about Deschanel’s vocals and Ward’s tasteful arrangements that adds up to something special. Recommended tracks: “Sweet Darlin’,” “Sentimental Heart,” “This is Not a Test.”
HONORABLE MENTION (alphabetical order):
Asia “Phoenix” (EMI America Records) – Call it a guilty pleasure, call it a nod to virtuoso musicianship; call it what you will, but Asia’s first new studio album in more than 25 years boasting the super group’s original lineup is solid musically and boasts heartfelt lyrics from singer-songwriter-bassist John Wetton focusing on his near-death related to open heart surgery. Recommended tracks: “Heroine,” “An Extraordinary Life.”
Glen Campbell "Meet Glen Campbell" (CAPITOL) – One of the more unusual surprises of 2008, "Meet Glen Campbell" may feature covers of other artists, but Campbell brings unexpected depth to selections such as Travis' "Sing" and Tom Petty's "Walls." Recommended tracks: "Sing," "Walls," "Times Like These."
Parkaimoon "The Sum of Our Experience" (Platonic Music) – Thankfully, there remains modern music that can't easily be categorized, defying well-established labels. The modern rock of Parkaimoon combines the vast soundscapes of U2 and Pink Floyd, but also boasts the modern rock of Garbage and Evanescence. Recommended tracks: "Bury Me Deep," "Tunnel Vision."
Matthew Sweet "Sunshine Lies" (Shout! Factory) - Matthew Sweet returned in 2008 with a wonderful and infectious collection of songs courtesy of "Sunshine Lies." Recommended tracks: "Time Machine," "Byrdgirl."
Michael Ubaldini "Street Singin' Troubadour" (Blackwater Records) – Not a year seemingly goes by without Fountain Valley-based Michael Ubaldini issuing another solid collection. His latest, "Street Singin' Troubadour," is a 13-song collection that examines a wide range of subjects in a thoughtful and artful approach. Recommended tracks: "Sound of the Age," "Sad Empty Streets of Sunday."
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Mike Ness, Big Sandy impress at Coach House show
Yet, despite covering songs by Bob Dylan, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash (a sing-along for “Ring of Fire” kicked off the encore), Ness played his Gibson Les Paul with almost as much ferocity as he does at a summertime Hootenanny fest fronting his other band. The intimacy of the Coach House, and the rare sight of a large crowd sitting (as opposed to standing or slamming in a mosh pit), gave the show a surreal feel. He also exchanged small talk with the audience providing additional magic to the night.
Throughout the performance, Ness’ own tunes stood up as well as his remakes, whether it was the Smithereens-style riff-rock attack of “Misery Loves Company” or a soaring “Reach for the Sky” or a honky-tonk version of “Ball and Chain.”
Long-running Anaheim act Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys kicked off the evening with a 45-minute set of authentic, infectious American roots music. Focusing on the band’s latest album, "Turntable Matinee," the quartet blazed through a mix of tunes anchored in rockabilly, Western swing and traditional country. The spirit of Buddy Holly lives in the beautiful tenor of Robert Williams (whose stage moniker is Big Sandy) and songs such as “The Great State of Misery” and the uptempo “Love That Man.”
Mike Ness' main set: Company C / All I Can Do Is Cry / Let the Jukebox Keep on Playing / Ballad of a Lonely Man/ Cheating at Solitaire / Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright / The Devil in Miss Jones / Rest of Our Lives / You Win Again / Dope Fiend Blues / Misery Loves Company / Crime Don’t Pay / Ball and Chain
Encore: Ring of Fire/ Reach for the Sky / I Think I’ll Stay / I Fought the Law
Friday, December 05, 2008
Mike Ness goes solo for Coach House December dates
Mike Ness is headlining at the Coach House six times this month.
Although Mike Ness is best-known as the frontman of Social Distortion, the seminal and groundbreaking punk band that emerged out of Orange County’s music scene in 1979, his solo work explores a different side of the singer-songwriter’s multifaceted musical personality.
Both released in 1999, Ness’ rockabilly-styled “Cheating at Solitaire” and subsequent Americana-flavored “Under the Influences” fuse a vast array of roots styles together, with the ghosts of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and real-life talents of Bruce Springsteen and Stray Cats singer-guitarist Brian Setzer among the notables bringing this alternative sonic universe to life in the recording studio.
In fact on “Under the Influences,” Ness’ life-long affection for legends such as Hank Williams, Marty Robbins and aforementioned Carl Perkins are cemented with rousing covers of classics by those artists on the aptly-titled album.
Almost 10 years after the release of those now-classic recordings, Ness is performing a string of six highly-anticipated shows at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
Whether performing a honky tonk version of his own “Ball and Chain” or raucous cover of “I Fought the Law,” Ness can fuse punk rock, alt-country and rockabilly together effortlessly.
“I have a great affection for roots music; old blues, country, folk, rockabilly and primitive rock and roll in general. Without these roots, I wouldn’t have perspective,” Ness says in a recent bio.
“I love the music and feel it is as relevant as 70’s glitter and early punk. As a solo artist, I am able to cross the boundaries and integrate it all. I tried to bring these influences together and keep it honest.”
Ness headlines at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, at 8 p.m. on Dec. 6, 9, 10, 14, 19 and 20. Although the majority of the shows were reportedly sold out as of this posting, some tickets do remain for the Sunday night, Dec. 14 date.
For more details, including what kinds of seats are available at specific dates, call the Coach House at 949-496-8930.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
2008 Holiday Music a gift in tune with the season
So while 2007 revealed the memorable “Christmas Songs” from Jars of Clay and rollicking “Christmas with the Smithereens,” an equally sharp field of 2008-issued discs seems positioned to blast over the speakers at Santa’s toy factory this year.
“The Dawn of Grace” (Nettwerk Music) features the recently-reunited Sixpence None the Richer-led Leigh Nash revisiting eight traditional Christmas songs, including a stirring rendition of “Angels We Have Heard On High” and tender “Silent Night,” the latter showcasing the artful guest vocals of Jars of Clay lead singer Dan Haseltine. Two original tracks, “The Last Christmas” and “Christmas for Two,” highlight the pleasing folk-rock approach of the Grammy-nominated group.
Although not as well known as the aforementioned Jars of Clay and Sixpence None the Richer that she is touring with as part of the Love Came Down: A Christmas Pageant throughout December 2008, Sara Groves’ “O Holy Night” (Integrity Media) is a strong 12-song collection sure to win the one-time Rosemont, Minnesota high school teacher more followers.
Because Groves’ voice works best when singing emotive material in hushed arrangements (think Shawn Colvin), standards such as “O Holy Night” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” are reworked to focus on the lyrics and melodies with refreshing insight.
The fourth full-length album from Texas-based Los Lonely Boys is “Christmas Spirit” (Sony Records) a 10-song collection that features outstanding takes at “Run Run Rudolph” and “Away in a Manger,” as well as a flamenco-flavored instrumental take on “Cancion de las Campanas (Carol of the Bells).”
Rosie Thomas’ “A Very Rosie Christmas” (Sing-a-long Records) will please fans of the Seattle-based indie singer-songwriter, as well as lovers of traditional Christmas albums. Her voice draws comparisons with Joni Mitchell, so it’s no surprise a version of that singer’s “River” works so well here. She brings a nice dose of melancholy to reworked selections of “Christmastime Is Here” and “Silent Night,” making the songs her own.
Thomas is currently planning her first-ever Christmas tour, which includes a stop at Hotel Café in Hollywood on Dec. 9.
Of all the season’s new holiday-minded entries, few are as adventuresome as “Jingle All the Way” (Rounder Records) the latest album from Grammy-winning banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. While the track list includes plenty of well-known standards (“O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Silent Night”), the delivery is all about style and innovation.
Highlights abound, including impressive renditions of the Vince Guaraldi Peanuts gems “Linus and Lucy” and “Christmas Time Is Here.”
The Boxmasters bridge the gap between traditional classics and rockabilly on the trio’s latest, “Christmas Cheer” (Vanguard Records). If you haven’t heard of the Boxmasters, you’ve surely heard of at least one member of the group; actor Billy Bob Thornton handles lead vocals and drumming duties in the band. He is joined by bassist-guitarist J.D. Andrew and lap steel-lead guitarist Mike Butler on versions of “Silver Bells,” “Blue Christmas” and John Lennon’s “Happy X-Mas (War Is Over),” as well as several Thornton-penned originals.
One of the original heroes of the rockabilly revival movement of the 1980s has become a champion of holiday-themed releases in the ‘00s.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra has released the 2-disc “Ultimate Christmas Collection” on Surfdog Records, a best of set that also includes a new recording of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” The release also features a full-length concert on DVD that was filmed at Universal Amphitheatre in December 2004.
If it’s Christmas, chances are Mannheim Steamroller is issuing another holiday offering. The group’s 2008 collection, “Christmasville” (American Gramaphone), includes a number of songs from the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” animated classic (including “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas”). This release also marks the first Mannheim Steamroller album with vocals on every track.
Although Enya released the 4-song “Christmas Secrets” in 2006, the Irish singer has issued a full-length album of new material in 2008. “And Winter Came…” features a range of holiday material boasting her distinctive vocals and Celtic-tinged new age style.
Christian rockers Third Day released the excellent “Christmas Offerings” in 2006, and completed a full-length Christmastime tour in 2007. One of those full-length shows was videotaped and has just been released on the similarly-titled “Third Day: Christmas Offerings” (Sony Music Videos) a DVD that finds the Georgia outfit performing gems such as “Do You Hear What I Hear” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” as well as their own “God Of Wonders” as part of the 13-song set.
Although Johnny Cash died in 2003, his enormous and wide-ranging body of work continues to be reissued. Several recent releases have special significance this season, with Shout! Factory having issued a 4-DVD box set that includes his annual Christmas specials shown on CBS television between 1976 and 1979. The holiday specials are also available individually.
There are highlights on all four programs, but the 1977 special includes an all-star tribute to Elvis Presley that features Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison playing together.
BilesOnDVD has released “Johnny Cash: Chapter & Verse,” a DVD-CD set featuring Cash’s 19-hour narration of the New King James Version New Testament on DVD with an accompanying CD featuring 14 of Cash’s gospel hits.
With the upcoming arrival of Hanukkah on Dec. 21, Shout! Factory is issuing the perfectly-timed “The Heart and Humor of a People,” a collection of classic Jewish songs newly-recorded for the 13-song disc. An especially eclectic mix of musicians and actors have recorded tracks, including Neil Sadaka, Herb Albert, Max Weinberg (Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band), Dave Koz, Barbara Streisand, Jason Alexander and Adam Sandler.
There are a number of other noteworthy holiday-related collections that have been issued in recent weeks, including Yo-Yo Ma’s “Songs of Joy & Peace,” Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas,” Tony Bennett’s “A Swingin’ Christmas,” Melissa Etheridge’s “A New Thought for Christmas,” Sarah Brightman’s “A Winter Symphony,” Harry Connick Jr.’s “What a Night! A Christmas Album” and Mindy Smith’s “My Holiday.”
Parkaimoon defies conventions on new album
So when getting an earful of the stunning new release from Parkaimoon, "The Sum of Our Experience," discerning listeners might want to throw away labels and note that it's simply a great modern rock album.
Released on Parkaimoon's own Platonic Music label on Nov. 11, 2008, "The Sum of Our Experience" is a wonderful 11-track disc that boasts artful and intelligent song craft enhanced by the troupe's strong musical instincts and dazzling performances.
The Orange County quintet spent about 18 months recording the finished tracks with engineer Jerry Adamowicz at Adamos Recording in Westminster. The album was produced by Kenny Hale, who plays guitar and piano in Parkaimoon.
"We wanted to do a big production record with multiple layers and orchestration," explained guitarist Tony Howell, noting Parkaimoon set out to get the big sound captured by some of their favorite acts, notably Pink Floyd and U2.
Added bassist Damon Tucker: ""Kenny, Tony and I sat down and watched the DVDs about the 'Making of the Joshua Tree' and the 'The Dark Side of the Moon.' If you are going to emulate someone else, you want it to stand the test of time. We rerecorded four songs from our last album ('Empty Vessel,' 'Disappearing Act,' 'Tunnel Vision,' 'Bury Me Deep') and did better versions of those."
Indeed, "The Sum of Our Experience" captures the grandeur of the band's heroes, while singer Kari Melissa, drummer Dave Goode and aforementioned Howell, Tucker and Hale bring their own distinctive talents to the mix to create something positioned between the far-flung sounds of Paramore, U2, Garbage and Evanescence.
"I can listen to it and enjoy it. I used to not be able to listen to my own stuff. I'm happy it (the new album) has the same sound quality as the other bands I like," Tucker said.
In addition to the band's album of all-original material, fans can download a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" or hear the reworked classic on Parkaimoon's MySpace page.
"We do a lot of cover gigs and we wanted to do a remake while in the studio," Tucker said. "I figured; why not throw some fresh bait out there? A lot of bands I came to like were based on covers they did, like Primus with Pink Floyd's 'Have a Cigar' and the Chili Peppers with Stevie Wonder's 'Higher Ground.'"
Most of the lyrics featured on "The Sum of Our Experience" were penned by Tucker, although Howell and Stefani Roscoe wrote those on "Bury Me Deep."
"We have influences, but they may or may not come out on our records," Howell said.
Tucker had a slightly different take on the group's influences: ""We listen to current stuff and listen to old stuff. We don't sound like anything else out there."
Many of the newer songs on "The Sum of Our Experience" reflect Tucker's more recent experiences and view of life, notably the album's uplifting title track.
"That song says life's short, appreciate every moment you have."
Parkaimoon will perform at King Neptune's, 17115 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach, 9:30 p.m.-1 a.m. on Dec. 5.
Parkaimoon will perform at Mahe South, 24961 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point, at 8 p.m. Dec. 13, and at Mahe, 1400 Pacific Coast Highway, Seal Beach, at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18. The band will also perform at the Marine Room, 214 Ocean Ave., Laguna Beach, at 9 p.m. on Dec. 19 and 20.
Information: http://www.parkaimoon.com/ or www.myspace.com/parkaimoon.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Terri Nunn-led Berlin returns to Orange County
Terri Nunn, lead singer of the techno-pop group that formed in Orange County in the late 1970s and rose to international fame in the early 1980s, reflected in a recent e-mail interview how much she enjoys returning here to perform.
"Orange County had a very open ear to new music and still does," noted Nunn, who now lives in the Los Angeles area.
"The people there were situated in an area that could get two extremely influential stations, KROQ in Pasadena and 91X in San Diego; both amazing stations for new, cutting-edge music. So we had an audience and two radio stations willing to take a chance on us. Without you guys, we would never have happened. There is nothing like playing your hometown and I am honored to get the opportunity to play for the people of Orange County especially."
Berlin's first release with Nunn on vocals was 1982's "Pleasure Victim," a seven-song disc that featured a number of groundbreaking new wave tracks, including "The Metro," "Masquerade" and the controversial "Sex (I'm A …)."
"Sonically, we were inspired by the European synthesizer bands Kraftwerk and Ultravox, and found other musicians to work with who felt like we did," Nunn explained. "It took writing and arranging a lot of songs to find the right balance of sounds that became the Berlin sound. I would have to say it was 'The Metro' that finally defined it for us. When we finished that, all of us were literally, "Wow! That's what we want the rest of this record to be like!'"
When Berlin hits the stage in San Juan Capistrano on Nov. 28, fans can expect to hear many of the tracks off "Pleasure Victim," as well as subsequent hits such as "No More Words" and "Take My Breath Away," the latter from the 1986 movie "Top Gun."
Although Berlin disbanded in 1987, Nunn reformed the group in 1999 and since has seen acclaim and recognition for the important musical outfit only grow. In addition of 2002's "Voyeur" focusing on new material, Berlin's full-length 2005 effort "4play" featured the band delivering a number of energetic covers of tracks such as Prince's "Erotic City" and David Bowie's "Fashion."
Nunn says fans of Berlin can look forward to several new projects she is working on that should see the light of day in 2009.
"A new album is happening, and it doesn't have a title yet. But I am very excited by the new writers I am working with now. It is still very electronic, with a little goth edge at times. There is also a concert event I'm putting together called 'Girls Night Out.' I am bringing together the best women artists in music today to sing not just on the same bill, but sing together. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event and I am thrilled," Nunn said.
Nunn said she is thrilled to still be performing with Berlin, almost 30 years after bassist John Crawford saw her ad placed in the Musician's Contact Service in Hollywood in which she said she was looking to sing in a "unique" band.
"I am very fortunate to still be able to do this as my job," Nunn acknowledged.
"I enjoy it more now than I ever did. Someone asked me the other day, when in my career did I finally feel I could sing? God, it took me 10 years just to feel like I had a tiny handle on it. … Now I feel like back at the beginning when I sang for fun, without an agenda. I can create whatever I want, and now I get to do it without being so freaked out all the time. It pays to stick with something."
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The Bacon Brothers: Music now taking center stage
Photo credit: Paul La Raia
The Bacon Brothers, from left, Kevin and Michael Bacon.
Keanu Reeves, Kevin Costner, Billy Bob Thornton, Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix are among the growing number of successful actors who have also pursued secondary careers playing music.
But none of those film stars has enjoyed the well-deserved critical praise for their music that has greeted the Bacon Brothers, the group featuring acclaimed actor Kevin Bacon and his older brother, Emmy Award-winning composer Michael Bacon.
The Bacon Brothers have just released "New Year's Day," the siblings' sixth album. The duo will feature songs from that release in a headlining show at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Nov. 21.
From the infectious countryfied power pop of "Tell Me What I Have To Do" and authentic reggae-fueled "Bunch Of Words" to the lush melodic rock of "Architeuthis" and rocking title track, "New Year's Day" is an album that captures the brothers' collective talents as singers, songwriters and musicians.
"Every time I record something, I think that's the last one (song); the (tap) has been turned off. But the songs have kind of just kept coming," Kevin Bacon said in a recent phone interview. "I feel really good about the songs."
Michael and Kevin Bacon were raised in Philadelphia, so it's not surprising that soul is a part of their sound. As evidenced by the tracks on "New Year's Day" and 2005's "White Knuckles," country, folk, reggae, funk and an increasing number of other styles fit into a sonic brew that sounds both classic and contemporary.
"In some ways, this album feels a little bit more cohesive than the last one," said Kevin Bacon, a gifted actor whose range of eclectic performances have been featured in well-known movies including "Apollo 13," "JFK," "Footloose," "The Woodsman," "Tremors" and "A Few Good Men." His real-life role in the Bacon Brothers finds him sharing lead vocal duties with his brother. Both Bacons play guitar, while Kevin also plays harmonica and Michael plays cello.
The Bacon Brothers' top-notch band features Paul Guzzone (bass, guitar), Ira Siegel (guitar, mandolin), Frank Vilardi (drums, percussion) and Charlie Giordano (keyboards, accordion, melodica).
Michael Bacon, whose professional music career began in the late 1960s as a member of the Philadelphia band Good News, said the brothers share a life-long bond of making music together.
"Kevin was probably still in diapers. I don't ever remember a time where I didn't think it was a really good idea for us to play music together," said Michael Bacon during the interview, noting he bought Kevin his first guitar when he was young and taught him how to play his first song, the Beatles' "Hey Jude."
When the Bacon Brothers released their debut "Forosoco" in 1997, it was common for music writers to cover the group only because Kevin Bacon was a member. Today, the focus is usually on the depth and range of songs that the brothers play.
"If you want something, you have to work long and hard for it. We certainly didn't expect any shortcuts (because of his fame)," Kevin Bacon said.
Many local musicians will relate to Kevin's story about some of the Bacon Brothers' early shows.
"We were moving our own gear in Michael's station wagon," Kevin said.
"For one thing, it sort of keeps you about (realizing) how difficult this thing is. And I think people appreciate that you are not that (conceited) because of the movie star thing."
Both brothers said their primary objective when they play the Coach House is to put on a great concert.
"The most important thing is to have a great live show because you cannot digitize, you cannot download a live show," Michael noted.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Little Feat coming to San Juan Capistrano
However, the other members of the group re-formed and enjoyed a well-deserved comeback in 1988 with “Let It Roll.”
Now, the outfit has jumped into the spotlight again with “Join the Band,” a 15-song set released in August 2008 that has the seven-member troupe joined by a number of famed guest musicians.
Standouts on “Join the Band” include the Delta blues-minded “Fat Man in the Bathtub” featuring slide guitarist Sonny Landreth, a powerful reworking of the Band’s “The Weight” with banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck and upbeat classic rock of “Something in the Water” showcasing the vocals of Bob Seger.
Little Feat’s long-time love of Cajun swamp boogie comes to life with the help of Vince Gill on the infectious “Dixie Chicken” and the bonus track “I Will Play for Gumbo.”
Little Feat will feature material from across the band’s long career at the Coach House on Nov. 8.
It is the band’s genre-busting mix of styles and excellent musicianship that makes a Little Feat performance so rewarding. Fans of the group know that Little Feat’s sound is an infectious blend of rock, folk, Delta blues, jazz and funk all built around dazzling songs.
The group’s long-time lineup features singer Shaun Murphy, bassist Kenny Gradney, guitarist Fred Tackett, guitarist Paul Barrere, drummer Richard Hayward, percussionist Sam Clayton and keyboardist Bill Payne.
San Diego-based Laura Roppé will open for Little Feat, and will perform songs off her full-length debut “Girl Like This.” Excellent county-styled tracks such as the tuneful “Float Away” and upbeat “Mama Needs A Girls Night Out” are likely to be included in her set.
Little Feat and Laura Roppé will perform at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8.
Tickets are $35.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
John Oates music shines in solo setting
Typically, I don't make a point of trying to get backstage to meet well-known musicians, but being such a fan of Hall & Oates, I couldn't refuse this invitation. He was gracious and polite with a number of fans that I saw him meet with, and it really is a great reminder to a critic like me that when musicians take even a few minutes to meet with a fan, it does mean so much to them and can build an even stronger bridge between musicians and their loyal listeners.
But as wonderful as it was to meet and talk for a few minutes with John, it was his subsequent show that was what I will most remember. He and his semi-acoustic trio were wonderful in a 16-song set that included many choice Hall & Oates classics from the 1970s, as well as the strong material off his 2008 album "1000 Miles of Life."
For fans of early Hall & Oates, John Oates' set list fully delivered. He kicked things off with "Lady Rain," the first of several songs he would play off the 1973 album "Abandoned Luncheonette." His expressive voice, wonderful use of rhythm and lead guitar work on his acoustic guitar and skillful arrangements extended throughout the 1 hour, 50 minute set.
Highlights of the concert were an upbeat and soulful "She's Gone," "Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)," "Change of Season" and "Sara Smile" representing his work with Hall & Oates, while the sparse protest song "Ravens" and alt-county flavored "I Found Love" off his recent solo CD were equally strong.
He closed the night with the title song off his new album, before returning for a well-earned encore to play "Circle of Three," written about the strong love he shares with his wife and son.
The subdudes bring unique sound to San Juan Capistrano
The subdudes, from left, Jimmy Messa, Tommy Malone, John Magnie, Steve Amedée and Tim Cook.
When a group blends Louisiana soul, funk, Cajun blues, gospel and Southern rock as well as the subdudes, it doesn’t matter what brand is used to describe the music.
The original music troupe – founded in 1987 with the idea of playing a single show at Tipitina’s in New Orleans – has subsequently performed countless shows over the past 21 years and will headline at the Coach House on Oct. 17.
When the subdudes play in San Juan Capistrano on Oct. 17, the group will be featuring material off their excellent 2007 studio album “Street Symphony,” as well as the group’s forthcoming two-disc DVD and accompanying “Unplugged at Pleasant Plains” CD.
Part of the subdude’s sonic recipe for success in undoubtedly a lineup of four strong lead vocalists, as well as the ability of all five players to handle a number of instruments.
The quintet features Tommy Malone (lead vocals, guitar), John Magnie (vocals, keyboards, accordion), Steve Amedée (vocals, mandolin, hand-struck tambourine, drums, percussion), Tim Cook (harmony vocals, bass, percussion) and Jimmy Messa (bass, guitar, vocals).
Since the release of the group’s self-titled debut in 1989, the subdudes have gone on to release a number of outstanding releases including “Lucky” (1991), “Primitive Streak” (1996), “Miracle Mule” (2004) and “Behind the Levee” (2006).
In addition, the subdudes' live recording of "Poor Man's Paradise" is featured on the new collection "FUV Live Volume 11," the latest installment of the CD series of in-studio performances issued by New York's WFUV (90.7 FM). Other artists featured on that recommended collection include Aimee Mann ("Borrowing Time"), Iron & Wine ("Resurrection Fern") and Bell X1 ("Rocky Took A Lover").
The subdudes, Chuck Alvarez and Bob Malone will perform at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, at 8 p.m. on Oct. 17.
Admission is $20.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
John Oates to play Coach House tonight
Indeed, one of the highlights on the album is the beautiful "I Found Love," which features the sound of banjo, mandolin and other bluegrass sounds positioned around Oates' superb voice. Oates wrote the song for his wife Aimee back in 1993, but put it aside when he realized it had a country sound and wouldn't work on a Hall & Oates project.
"I knew it needed a special treatment," Oates said of the song in a recent interview. Oates lives on a ranch outside of Aspen, Colo., with his wife and their 12-year-old son Tanner.
"So I got Bela Fleck on banjo, Jerry Douglas on dobro and Sam Bush on mandolin. They're the crème de la crème of that bluegrass world. And to have them all playing together on that one song was one of those moments where I felt like 'Wow,' I've put myself in this position where I can play with one of the greatest group of players in the world on a song to me that is very personal and very important, and to have them surround that song with the beauty of their playing – you know, you just don't get moments like that. It is a very special thing for a musician."
Oates is thrilled to perform with his three-member acoustic combo at the Coach House on Oct. 15. He is only playing a handful of these intimate dates in connection with the release of "1000 Miles of Life."
"It's more like an evening with (John Oates)," explained Oates, noting he has performed with Hall at a number of shows in Orange County over the years, but never at the Coach House.
"I don't really put a time limit on it. I have a general idea of what I'm going to do and then I take it from there. You never know. People call out a song; after all, doing what I do and writing songs for 30 years, I have a lot of songs that are not only hits when you talk about Hall & Oates but other songs that were album tracks. This show gives me an opportunity to reach into the catalog and pull out things that normally don't get played anymore at a Hall & Oates show, and of course I have a new album, so I do a lot of songs from the new album."
While Oates is currently focused on his solo album and related acoustic shows, he and Hall continue to make music together as well. On Nov. 25, Shout! Factory will release a deluxe DVD/2-CD combo (also available on Blu-ray) "Live At The Troubadour" chronicling the duo's performances at the historic Los Angeles venue in May 2008 featuring well-known hits ("Rich Girl," "Kiss on My List," "Out of Touch"), as well as live versions of more recent songs like "Getaway Car."
Another notable release of interest to fans is a remastered reissue of "Along the Red Ledge." Released in September 1978, "Along the Red Ledge" featured the duo working with a number of players such as Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, singer-songwriter-producer Todd Rundgren and former Beatles guitarist George Harrison.
It was a mutual interest in auto racing that paved the way for Harrison to come play slide guitar on the song "The Last Time."
"During the Long Beach Grand Prix we were recording and I was down there with George (in Long Beach) watching the race and hanging out with him," Oates recalled. "I asked him because we recorded that album in Los Angeles; I asked him if he would sit in and play on a song. He said, 'Oh sure' and he came down and played, and it was great. He was a complete gentleman."
In addition, an ever-growing number of young musicians (notably Gym Class Heroes, Finger Eleven and KT Tunstall) have been heralding the duo's music this decade.
This writer admits to being confused as to why Hall & Oates have not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; I shared that view with Oates toward the end of our conversation.
"There is a lot of politics involved," Oates said. "There are a lot of personalities involved. I personally feel we deserve it and that goes without saying. But we're not in a position to dictate that kind of thing.
"You know, Daryl and I were voted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame about four years ago and we were also won the BMI Icon Award (on May 20, 2008, as part of the 56th annual Pop Awards), both of which are awards for songwriting. And for us, personally, I find it satisfying to be in that category and to be among the people in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
"For me, it's all about the songs and all about the songwriting and that's how we started and I think that's essence of what Daryl and I do individually and collectively, so I'm proud of that. If the day comes and we get voted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, that will be amazing; I'll be there with bells on. But until that happens I won't lose any sleep over it."
Monday, September 22, 2008
Rancid celebrates its legacy with an energetic sold-out show
Performing before a packed crowd at the House of Blues in Anaheim on Saturday night (Sept. 20, 2008), the Bay Area quartet played 28 songs showcasing scorching material such as "Adina" and "Rejected" from Rancid's 15-year-old eponymous disc, as well as the more artfully arranged sonic attack displayed on the ska-tinged "Fall Back Down" from 2003's "Indestructible."
Rancid singer-guitarist Tim Armstrong noted at the start of his band's set that the thoughts of all the night's performers were with former Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, who is a band mate of Armstrong's in the Transplants, and the others aboard a jet that crashed in South Carolina late Friday.
As of the time this review was written on Sunday morning (Sept. 21, 2008), Barker and celebrity disc jockey DJ AM were expected to fully recover from burns they suffered. However, four other people aboard the Learjet were killed in the crash.
Rancid has been a favorite of the indie punk scene since emerging from the underground with 1995's "… And Out Come the Wolves," and the group (rounded out by bassist-singer Matt Freeman, lead guitarist-singer Lars Frederiksen and drummer Branden Steineckert) continues to deserve its place as a leader of the genre.
Hard, fast tunes are Rancid's favored method of attack, so it's no wonder the band was able to play more than two dozen titles in a mere 75 minutes. A blazing "Black and Blue," Clash-styled "Roots Radicals" and fiery "Maxwell Murder" (the latter displaying Freeman's amazing talents) were among the many songs that had the bravest of souls engaging in as wild a mosh pit as I've ever witnessed at the House of Blues.
Over the past four years, whenever I go to House of Blues, I usually chat for a minute or two with Alex Peguero, a member of the security staff at House of Blues. Perhaps he put it best when giving me his own mini-review of the show.
"The minute Rancid came on, it looked like that curtain," he said in comparing the large multi-colored patchwork of shapes and colors to the huge mosh pit and ordered chaos. "It was energy."
Although the two opening acts were not able to match the power of Rancid's memorable set, both New York City hardcore troupe H2O and Los Angeles female punk foursome Civet each scored with the crowds with vigorous outings.
Capturing the assault of old school '70s L.A. outfits such as the Weirdos and the Dogs, Civet got better as its 30-minute set went along. The romance-gone-bad-themed shout-outs were at their finest in the aptly-titled "Alibis" and set-ending "Hell Hath No Fury."
H2O was similarly effective, with the group focusing on material from the newly-released album "Nothing to Prove." Originals such as "1995," "Nothing to Prove" and especially catchy "Fairweather Friend" served as both sing-alongs and fuel for the slam floor.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Acoustic Eidolon to play Lord of the Strings dates this weekend
PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK SIMMS
It's no exaggeration for discerning listeners to assert that guitarist Joe Scott and cellist Hannah Alkire have created a sound that they can call their own.
Since joining forces in April 1998, the two members who make up Acoustic Eidolon have embarked on a musical journey that has produced scores of wonderful concerts and excellent recordings.
The fact that Scott plays an instrument he invented – a double-neck, custom acoustic guitar known as a guitjo – helps establish that unique sound. And no matter whether Acoustic Eidolon is playing material fused with folk, Celtic, Latin or bluegrass influences, the sound is intoxicating and accessible.
The duo's music has been featured on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," as well as countless other television and radio stations around the country.
Scott and Alkire have performed at the Vancouver Island MusicFest, the legendary Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. And Acoustic Eidolon will spend the better part of October playing a string of shows in Germany and the Netherlands.
However, before heading across the Atlantic, Acoustic Eidolon will make two intimate performances in south Orange County this weekend as part of the Lord of the Strings concert series, performing at the Dana Point Community House on Friday, Sept. 19 and playing in nearby Mission Viejo on Saturday evening, Sept. 20.
Acoustic Eidolon is touring in support of the duo's most recent album, "Barefoot," a collection of material blending the far-flung sounds of Australia, Hawaii, gypsy dance music and Irish-Celtic via nine instrumentals and five vocal-anchored tracks.
The sonic team's other releases include "Live to Dance" (2004), "Beyond Words" (2001), the Christmas-themed "Joy to the World" (2002) and "A Simpler Time" (2000).
Acoustic Eidolon's self-titled debut was issued in 1999. Highlights on that disc include the Celtic-tinged "Walking Stones" and Delta-mining "Joe's Blues."
Acoustic Eidolon will perform at the Dana Point Community House, 24642 San Juan Ave., Dana Point, at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The duo will also perform at the Mission Viejo Civic Center, 200 Civic Center, Mission Viejo, at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Information: www.lordofthestringsconcerts.com or call 949-842-2227.
Friday, September 12, 2008
A big hometown show for Augustana's O.C. drummer
That's because the opening act on the bill, Augustana, is set to hit the stage at 7 p.m. sharp.
The show will be a homecoming of sorts for drummer Justin South, a 2001 graduate of Dana Hills High School who moved from his native Dana Point to Pasadena to attend college before joining Augustana in mid-2004.
"At the time, I was working a dead end job and relocated (back) to Orange County," recalled Justin, now a resident of San Clemente. "All through college, this is always what I wanted to do."
Augustana had a hit with "Boston" on its debut album, "All the Stars and Boulevards," released in 2005.
And since the release of the band's sophomore album "Can't Love, Can't Hurt" on April 29, the group has found even more acclaim via radio airplay and television appearances, as well as strong live performances.
"On the first record, we were inspired from some of the English influences (Keane, Coldplay, Snow Patrol) and Tom Petty," South said of the sonic origins of Augustana when interviewed via cell phone recently. The band had just performed in Houston the night before and he was on his way to perform in Dallas later that night when we spoke on Saturday morning.
In addition to South on percussion, Augustana features Dan Layus (vocals, piano, guitar), Jared Palomar (bass, vocals), Chris Sachtleben (guitar, mandolin) and John Vincent (keyboard, vocals).
Augustana has a large fan base, as evidenced by the song "Boston" logging more than one million digital downloads and the collection of more than 161,000 friends on its My Space site. In addition, the quintet has appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "The Today Show."
Even more thrilling for South, is that Augustana has opened for well-established rock acts such as Snow Patrol and Dashboard Confessional.
"It has been awesome; we've learned a lot touring with bands like that," said South. "Its been cool to have so many bands championing around us."
When asked what it will feel like to perform in front of thousands of fans in Orange County, South even grew more animated: "It's the coolest thing ever. Growing up and going to shows at Verizon and now opening for two great bands, it's awesome."
Friday, September 05, 2008
Another magical reunion show from Toad the Wet Sprocket
Friday, August 29, 2008
Matthew Sweet in concert: it's all about the songs
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Toad the Wet Sprocket to play in O.C. on Aug. 30
The Santa Barbara-based quartet – famously named after a Monty Python comedy sketch – released a string of outstanding albums last decade, including "Pale" (1990), "Fear" (1991), ""Dulcinea" (1994) and "Coil" (1997).
Although Toad the Wet Sprocket officially disbanded in July 1998, just over a decade later fans of the legendary outfit have a chance to see the melodic rock outfit when they perform a rare show at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Saturday night, Aug. 30.
"I think we finally found the balance that makes it work for us. I don't think we could do another album; there is a certain kind of electricity that you want in a band … the reason we broke up was because we didn't have that anymore," said Phillips in an Aug. 14 phone interview from his home in Santa Barbara, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. Toad the Wet Sprocket was formed in 1986 by four students at San Marcos High School and still features an all-original lineup including Phillips, lead guitarist Todd Nichols, bassist Dean Dinning and drummer Randy Guss.
The band's best-known hits include "Whatever I Fear," "All I Want," "Something's Always Wrong," "Walk on the Ocean" and "Fall Down."
Toad the Wet Sprocket may only play a handful of dates every year or two, but Phillips and the other members of the outfit remain busy.
"I think we're all pretty happy creatively with what we're doing these days," Phillips explained.
"The years have gone by; Dean has started doing compositions and voice acting, Todd is producing and recording bands in his studio, and Randy has been playing with a number of people, so everybody has really moved on."
Phillips has released a number of excellent albums in the '00s, including "Winter Pays for Summer" (2005) and "Mr. Lemons" (2006). His most recent release is "Secrets of the New Explorers," an excellent six-song concept album he released earlier this year.
"It was a pretty quick thing. I had planned to do an EP (Usually 4-6 songs) with my friend John Askew and I thought I'd have a whole bunch of songs ready and when he showed up I had nothing. And we decided 'Let's do a concept album' and I said 'What are you reading about?' and he said 'Privatized space travel' and we had both just read the same article about Robert Bigelow and the X Prize."
Phillips and Askew approached the project with the aim of completing the songs and recordings with a rocketlike speed in tune with the cosmic-minded theme of the project
"We had five days (to complete the project) and I think the first day was a complete waste because we didn't know what we were doing and then we started three of the songs," Phillips recalled.
"Three of the songs (were done) with John and three were done by myself. And I kind of finished it up and mixed it by myself. It was a really fun project. In general, I like to make records quickly."
The variety of projects revolving in his sonic universe definitely keeps things interesting for Phillips.
"I think there was a period for me mentally when I was always comparing it (Toad the Wet Sprocket) with my solo career," Phillips admitted.
"I finally realized I'm not in a rock band anymore. And this audience, they all were in college or high school when they heard these songs. It's about memories for them. (Today) I'm doing folk music – if I'm doing electronica or whatever else – but I like playing for a more engaged, adult audience. I don't feel the need to communicate through these rock 'n' roll gestures. So I finally got to really enjoy it (playing with Toad). I get to go out, play electric guitar, sing a little harder and move around a little more and it's a great night. Then I really feel really good about going back to my own stuff where the audience is listening to every word.
"But it's great to get to go back and play these songs we wrote and visit it (the past), but know I don't have to live there and it doesn't have anything to do with what I'm doing now."
For more information on "Secrets of the New Explorers," visit www.GlenPhillips.com.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Matthew Sweet is back
In 2003, he joined forces with Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins to release the eponymous album from the Thorns, a masterful 13-song collection recalling the style of Crosby, Stills & Nash via stunning three-part vocal harmonies and breezy acoustic rock. And in 2006, Sweet and former Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs teamed up on "Under the Covers, Vol. 1," a wonderful collection of tuneful covers from the 1960s such as the Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing" and the Who's "The Kids Are Alright."
Now fans of intelligent, tuneful and groundbreaking melodic rock can get ready to welcome another disc to their growing collection of favorite Sweet albums.
"Sunshine Lies," which is being released by Shout! Factory on Aug. 26, 2008, is every bit as strong as his aforementioned classic '90s releases.
"I felt very good about this record during the making of it," said Sweet during phone interview on Aug. 15, 2008. Sweet completed the recording of "Sunshine Lies" at Lolina Green Studios, his Los Angeles-area home studio.
"I'm comfortable working in my home studio now whereas earlier in the decade I was just kind of learning how to do that (make professional recordings at home)."
His 10th full-length commercial release, the 13-song "Sunshine Lies," boasts up-tempo riff rock ("Room to Rock," "Flying"), psychedelic forays (the aptly-titled "Daisy chain"), tender ballads ("Feel Fear") and shimmering power pop ("Time Machine," "Byrdgirl").
"The way this particular record took shape was an unusual trajectory. First of all, it was made over a longer period time," Sweet explained.
"Initially, it was all rock songs like 'Flying' and 'Room to Rock' and songs like that. But I kind of felt it was missing other dimensions. Almost always when I make a record I try to make sure to have a variety of kinds of things on it, so it doesn't just only represent one way."
Sweet is generally recognized as one of the great power pop architects to emerge since the 1980s. Although the genre had its share of commercial heroes in the 1970s (notably the Raspberries, Badfinger, Big Star and Cheap Trick), the Lincoln, Nebraska-born Sweet was among a handful of successful artists to bring new life to the field in more recent times.
But while Sweet's music is accessible, his recordings simultaneously offer up lush and colorful sonic arrangements rarely equaled in modern music.
"My main complaint about music now is it's so perfected that it sounds boring and canned."
Sweet noted that music fans attending the upcoming show at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano can expect to hear material off "Sunshine Lies," as well as off his well-known '90s albums.
"Those (a trio of Southern California club shows in late August) are warm-up dates for us," Sweet said. "We'll go to the rest of the country in October."
Matthew Sweet and Orange County's Fallen Stars perform at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008.
I hope to see you all there!
Friday, August 15, 2008
Sports injury throws Brett Young a sonic curve
A few years ago, Brett Young was a promising pitcher at Fresno State whose future seemed to be that of a hurler headed for a career in the big leagues.
After a serious elbow injury put an end to his goal of being a professional athlete, he had time to rediscover his love of music and has since emerged as one of Orange County's most promising singer-songwriters.
Young's self-titled debut, released in 2007, boasts an array of authentic and heartfelt songs that effortlessly mix together rock, blues, folk and soul in a way that recalls the artful approach of genre-blending heroes as Gavin DeGraw, John Mayer and Tyrone Wells.
"The only way to have longevity is to have good songs," Young said this week. "John Mayer will be around forever, like the Eagles and Eric Clapton. It's your songs."
Increasingly, discerning listeners are getting the chance to hear those songs. On Aug. 10, Young performed on an outstanding bill with Tyler Hilton, Terra Naomi, Kelley James, John West and several other artists as part of the sold-out 3 Hour Tour IV, an afternoon concert event staged on a yacht cruising through Newport Harbor.
The unique setting allowed Young to perform with many of the other performers, including Caitlin Crosby.
"It was cool," Young said of the chance to appear in front of so many music lovers in Newport Beach. "Caitlin Crosby and I were able to do one of our songs we wrote together. At the end, we (all of the musicians) did a Bob Marley song and even a Journey song."
The Westminster resident's introduction to a musical career began in the late 1990s when he was attending Calvary Chapel High School in Costa Mesa.
"I started helping the worship leader on Friday mornings," explained Young, noting his initial participation was simply playing some guitar. However, one week he was told that the leader of the band was going to be gone one Friday and he would have to lead hundreds of students in song.
"At that point, I had never sung in front of anyone. He tossed me into the fire and it didn't go half-bad."
However, while Young enjoyed singing and playing guitar, baseball seemed to loom large in his future. During his senior year, Young helped lead his high school squad to a 28-1 record and a CIF championship, going 15-0 with a 0.90 ERA and 130 strikeouts that year.
"I was playing college baseball, injured my elbow and was not able to pitch anymore," Young recalled. "Actually, Gavin DeGraw is the reason I started playing music again. I heard his first album (2004's 'Chariot') and said 'I could do this.' I followed him around and saw him 12 times. He is such a great performer and good singer."
Young is a fan of many of the artists whose styles draw natural comparisons with his own, but his sound – and songs – are clearly his own. Tracks such as the emotionally-charged "Define Me," alt country-tinged "Fly" and chiming "I'm the One You Need" strike with plenty of authenticity.
"In terms of themes, (it's usually) sadness and heartbreak. When you go through something difficult, it's much easier to write about it," Young said.
"I have to be inspired to write a song."
Young says one of the reasons he enjoys playing at intimate venues such as the Hotel Café in Los Angeles, Plush Café in Fullerton and as part of the recent 3 Hour Tour music cruise is the opportunity for him to make a strong connection with fans who love music.
"I'm very approachable and want to meet everybody."
Been Gone So Long: Mt. Whitney, other updates
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Chris Isaak and Vanessa Carlton, Wailers revisited
But I have covered a few shows for the Orange County Register this month, including a strong bill with Chris Isaak and Vanessa Carlton on July 13, and a reggae show headlined by the Wailers on July 17.
I have reposted the reviews as they ran in the Orange County Register below:
Monday, July 14, 2008
Chris Isaak does his usual thing and that's not a 'bad, bad thing'
There was a time – say 10 years or so ago – when singer-songwriter Chris Isaak seemed destined to be forever identified solely with his best-known hit, the haunting and timeless "Wicked Game" off 1989's breakout recording "Heart Shaped World."
However, when an entertainer has the musical instincts, a captivating Roy Orbison-styled vocal style and a top-notch five-man band, it might not matter if he ever had a single hit on commercial radio for a near-capacity crowd to enjoy the best ride of the day at the Orange County Fair thanks to his two-dozen song set on Sunday (July 13, 2008).
Isaak may not be the most innovative artist of all time – in fact, the personable singer-songwriter covered tunes from several of his 1950s era heroes over the course of his 95-minute set – but his retro-tinged rock 'n' roll is much more than a bland nostalgic act.
While the haunting "Wicked Game" may be his masterpiece, several new songs set for release on his next album achieved nearly equal power in the live setting.
In particular, one song ("We Let Her Down") was particularly strong, with its sparse and moody delivery enhanced by lead guitarist Hershel Yatovitz echo-drenched guitar work.
Isaak was so much in control of the crowd, he could alternate between raucous rockers such as a cover of "I Want You to Want Me" and his own "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing" and hushed acoustic titles like "Dark Moon" and "Two Hearts" while keeping the momentum going strong.
Isaak closed his full-length show with a poignant, acoustic version of "Forever Blue," a fitting finale to the best show this writer has caught by Isaak.
Opener Vanessa Carlton was anchored to her piano throughout her 45-minute set, but that didn't prevent the Pennsylvania native from playing her accessible material in an entertaining nine-song showcase.
The best songs in her Sunday set came off her third album, 2007's "Heroes & Thieves," which find Carlton exploring deeper issues than her better-known 2002 debut "Be Not Nobody."
Whether singing about being dropped from her first record label in "Nolita Fairytale," the joys of an exciting romance in the wonderful "Hands on Me" and a magical walk through New York's Central Park chronicled in "Heroes & Thieves," her fine piano playing and vulnerable voice (often cracking artfully at its upper range) made for a particularly good outing.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Reggae night smokes at the O.C. Fair
Because the Wailers are rightfully identified with some of the biggest and most significant reggae recordings of all time, fans of the genre are justified in making it to at least one of the band's shows.
And while singer-songwriter Bob Marley died in 1981, several longtime members of the Wailers (notably bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett) continue to play as part of the ensemble, which was fronted this evening by the singer Yvad.
In a 90-minute set before a near-capacity crowd at the Pacific Amphitheatre on Thursday night (July 17, 2008), the Wailers proved that good songs are timeless and classics such as "No Woman No Cry," "Is This Love," "One Love" and inspired night-ending "Exodus" continue to shine when played with the kind of magic put on display under a bright full moon in Costa Mesa.
Although the group's first few songs were not played with quite enough firepower, the group hit its stride when it turned the outdoor venue into a giant dance floor with a feel good-styled "Keep on Movin'" and "Stir It Up." A strong vocal performance highlighted "I Shot the Sheriff" minutes later and that set the strong tone for the rest of the night.
The Wailers seem to have a few new tricks up their sonic sleeve, with Yvad kicking off the encore with an acoustic guitar and playing the folk-styled "Buffalo Country" that could have been at home in a Neil Young set.
Eek-A-Mouse might be the talent that launched a well-known vocal style (sing-jay, where a singer uses vocals to fuse singing and DJ-styled chant together), but the Kingston, Jamaica, native's 35-minute lackluster set seemed at odds with the ready-to-cut-loose crowd that greeted his initial arrival.
Ultimately, Eek-A-Mouse's performance was a backdrop to everything else happening in the crowd (more on that a bit later). Had he simply performed "Biddy Biddy Beng" or "Sensee Party" over and over, he would have been greeted with the same cheers.
Although many in the crowd had not yet arrived when Pato Banton kicked off the night with his own 35-minute set of original music, the Birmingham, England, singer actually accomplished something the night's subsequent acts did not.
Armed with his engaging personality and an extended walk through the crowd early in his set, he had the party-minded audience actually listening to his songs.
Songs such as "Stay Positive" and "Don't Sniff Coke" hit home with his emotive vocals and strong performances from the seven members of the Mystic Roots Band and two backup singers.
On another note, anyone interested in enjoying the show solely for music-related reasons would have been disappointed. From the time Eek-A-Mouse took the stage, many in the crowd were more interested in snapping photos with their friends, talking on their cell phones, hitting beach balls and – this was a reggae show after all – smoking and drinking to the point where at least one concert-goer was so sick in the row in front of me he had to be escorted out before the Wailers even hit the stage.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Orange County Fair puts power pop on display
Now fans of jangly pop-rock and lush vocal harmonies will have a number of opportunities to catch regional proponents of Rickenbacker-powered sounds thanks to a trio of shows coming to the Orange County Fair.
Time Warner Cable is sponsoring entertainment on the Plaza Arts Stage at the fairgrounds throughout the event, but has specifically set aside three Sundays to host mini-music festivals.
"The Damage Done and I are excited and honored to be a part of this year's Orange County Fair," said Courtney Chambers, who inaugurates the bill on July 13 with a 10:30 a.m. set. "We're looking forward to kicking off the show and unveiling some new songs in our live set."
Orange County's music scene will be represented throughout a series of concerts sponsored by Time Warner Cable. Courtney Chambers & the Damage Done, Sparkle*Jets UK, Kenny Howes, Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings and the Barry Holdship Four will perform on July 13, while a so-called "Night After Prom" event will feature students from the Commercial Recording Arts Department at Huntington Beach High School performing songs from the Beatles' "Rubber Soul" and the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" as well as original material from 11 a.m.-noon and 1-2:30 p.m. on July 20.
The series of special concerts ends when the Orange County Fair hosts International Pop Overthrow (better known as "IPO") for a day, with 10 bands set to perform between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 3. That lineup features several regional acts such as Orange County's X86, as well as artists from around the world (including Japan's Strawberry Mud Pie and Canada's the Irises).
"I suggested to David Bash that we hold an IPO show at the Orange County Fair," said John Borack, who has been assisting IPO founder David Bash organize events in Orange County since the annual pop festival was launched in 1998.
"This is the second year that we (Time Warner Cable) have been a sponsor of that stage. Last year, I noticed the stage was empty sometimes during the day. I thought, I know a lot of bands and people in bands. I checked with the people we deal with at the fair and they were excited by it.
"It's a whole untapped audience that otherwise might not hear this music."
So while Borack has been busy organizing the trio of concerts at the Orange County Fair, the Fountain Valley resident will take a break from organizing concerts so he can play in some too. He will play drums with the Barry Holdship Four at the fair on July 13 and at the Fountain Valley Summer Concert Series from 6-8 p.m. on July 17; he will also get behind the kit with the Popdudes as part of an IPO date at Fitzgerald's in Huntington Beach on July 26.
In addition, Borack is busy planning to pen a follow-up to his "Shake Some Action: The Ultimate Power Pop Guide" that was published by Not Lame Recording Company in late 2007. The ambitious and fully-illustrated book has sold several thousand copies and a follow-up is already in the works.
"I have been playing with Barry (Holdship) for more than two years and had never recorded with him. (I thought) it would be great to do something and it be exclusive for the CD recording that accompanies the next book," Borack explained.
Earlier this year, the Barry Holdship Four went into Clevenger's studio to record a version of Elvis Presley's "Girl Happy." An early mix of that recording can be heard at www.myspace.com/barryholdship.
Borack said the real treat for music lovers is to see power pop acts in a festive live setting such as the Orange County Fair on Sunday afternoon.
"I think it will be a real treat for fairgoers. The music appeals to kids who like Green Day and to their parents and grandparents who grew up and listened to the Beatles. The bands booked to play at the fair represent a wide range (of styles) that people will like," Borack said.
For general information about the Orange County Fair, visit www.ocfair.com. For more specific information on any of the events, email Borack at Popdude@aol.com.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Laurel Canyon Ramblers to perform in library series
Laurel Canyon Ramblers will bring an intoxicating blend of bluegrass, folk, country-western and Americana styles to the upcoming shows at San Juan Capistrano Regional Library. Led by Herb Pedersen (vocals, banjo, guitar), Laurel Canyon Ramblers’ strong lineup also features Kenny Blackwell (vocals, mandolin), Richard Reed (vocals, guitar), Bill Bryson (bass) and Gabe Witcher (fiddle). The ensemble has released a trio of winning albums, including “Rambler’s Blues” (1995), “Blue Rambler 2” (1996) and “Back on the Streets Again” (1998).
Catching Laurel Canyon Ramblers in such an intimate setting as the outdoor courtyard at the San Juan Capistrano Regional Library is a treat for fans of progressive country music. Pedersen has been a key member of seminal groups such as the Desert Rose Band and his singing and banjo playing with the Dillards and Country Gazette is recalled with his work with Laurel Canyon Ramblers. Laurel Canyon Ramblers will perform at the San Juan Capistrano Regional Library, 31495 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 5, 2008. Tickets for the show are $ 1 0 for adults, $5 for children under 1 2. For more information: www.musicatthelibrary.com.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Satisfaction satisfies with blend of old and new sounds
SATISFACTION: The band features, from left, bassist Aaron Wahlman, keyboardist Matthew Fletcher, singer-guitarist Michael Rosas and drummer Michael Nielsen (who is temporarily filling in for regular percussionist James Fletcher this month).
Photo credit: ROBERT GIAMPA
The capacity crowd that caught Matt Costa's headlining show at the Samueli Theater in Costa Mesa on April 24 was collectively and pleasantly caught off guard by the powerful opening act, Orange County's own Satisfaction.
I was among the countless concert-goers who won't soon forget the powerful performance that singer-guitarist Michael Rosas, keyboardist Matthew Fletcher, bassist Aaron Wahlman and drummer James Fletcher delivered that night.
Led by ex-Smile front man Rosas, the quartet's propulsive attack was truly formidable. Rousing performances of songs such as "So We'll Just Take the Night" and "Feel So Stupid" were among the highlights of Satisfaction's 40-minute set.
But don't fret if you missed that terrific show two months ago; Satisfaction will be featuring songs from the band's latest CD "Cougars, Sharks & Flying Sparks" at a number of upcoming performances over the next few weeks.
Satisfaction is that rare and gifted musical chameleon able to deliver songs that rock without losing their melodic way. And the group's original tunes somehow fuse the best of 1970s artists such as Paul McCartney & Wings and Harry Nilsson with the modern attack of neo-new wave proponents such as Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand.
"The ideas that have stuck for us are things that we (initially) throw out and ourselves then laughed about at first," Rosas explained earlier this week at a Costa Mesa coffeehouse before he headed off to rehearsal.
"It was something ridiculous and then we say, 'No, we should really do that.' The less we think about it in the creative process, the better it comes out," Rosas said.
When asked to provide more details about how the four members of Satisfaction craft their songs, he added: "Like any band, (we) filter the things we don't like and embrace the things we do like."
Satisfaction's blend of strong chemistry among the members, winning vocals, virtuoso musicianship and timeless sound make for something special.
"We like a lot of music that's commercial, but also like things underground and indie. We try to inject a bit of avant-garde into the sound," Rosas said.
Performing together since 2004, the four members came together out of the burgeoning Costa Mesa music scene that revolves around the Detroit Bar.
Now the group is playing high-profile shows at celebrated venues and has scored airplay on both Indie 103.1 FM and KROQ/106.7 FM.
"We feel really lucky to be in a band like this. We are four distinct personalities on stage," Matthew Fletcher said of band's music and strong friendships established within the outfit.
"I will be able to someday play this (music) for my grandkids and they'll say, 'Whoa, this is amazing,'" Matthew Fletcher said.
Satisfaction will headline at La Cave in Costa Mesa at 9 p.m. on June 25, open for the Shys at OC Tavern in San Clemente at 8 p.m. on June 26 and open for the 88 at the Roxy in West Hollywood at 8 p.m. on June 28.
Information: www.satisfactionmusic.com or www.myspace.com/satisfaction.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Plena Libre will perform two shows on June 14
Founded by composer/bass player Gary Núñez, Plena Libre has released a dozen albums that have earned the troupe four Grammy nominations. Plena Libre’s most recent CD, the Grammy- and Latin Grammy-nominated “Evolución,” was released in 2006. “Plena al Salsero” will be the group’s 13th full-length album.
“This idea of a live recording was something that I had been encouraged to do for years,” Núñez said in a recently-posted update on Plena Libre's official Web site.
“But in the past year the personnel and the chemistry in the band had gelled so much that I knew that the timing was now ripe. The evolution of the musical sound, excitement and energy of Plena Libre’s live show over this past year was something I had never experienced with the group before.”
So in November 2007, with Plena Libre invited to perform five concerts in Monterrey, Mexico. After performing the first two shows, Núñez realized the setting and sound was perfect to complete a concert recording. He found a recording studio titled El Cielo Recording Studios (“Heaven” in English) and it happened the engineer was able to bring all of his equipment to Monterrey’s Parque Fundidora on short notice to perform the final nights.
The best tracks from those live sessions are featured on “Plena al Salsero.”
Fusing the sounds of Puerto Rico’s plena and bomba sonic traditions with African-styled rhythms, Plena Libre has been featured on celebrated stages such as New York’s Lincoln Center and Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center.
But local audiences in Orange County can be thrilled that Plena Libre is celebrating the release of “Plena al Salsero” with two special shows in San Juan Capistrano on Saturday night.
Plena Libre will perform at San Juan Capistrano Regional Library, 31495 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano, at 6:30 p.m. and again at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 14.
Tickets are either show are $10 for adults and $5 for children under the age of 12.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Aimee Mann delivers amazing performance in Anaheim
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Lit Drummer Allen Shellenberger diagnosed with Malignant Brain Tumor
I just received the following press release from Ken Phillips Publicity Group, Inc. today:
Allen Shellenberger, 38 year-old drummer for Orange County rock band Lit, has been diagnosed with amalignant brain tumor. Lit made an initial announcement over their website on May 5th that a brain tumor had been discovered and the band was canceling their European tour dates with KISS.
Biopsy results identified Shellenberger's cancer as malignant glioma. According to the National Cancer Institute, malignant glioma affects approximately 10,000 Americans per year. It is the same type of cancer Senator Edward M. Kennedy is battling. Allen's symptoms prior to diagnosis were numbness and tingling in the left side of his body. Shellenberger is under the care of world-renownedneurosurgeons Dr. Hunt and Dr. Black at theCedars-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute where he is pursuing radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
Despite the news, Allen is in good spirits and committed to the fight. Lit, which has been both a brotherhood and a band forover 20 years, has enjoyed multi-platinum success and chart-topping singles including "My Own Worst Enemy,""Miserable," and others. After two decades together, the band continues to write, record and tour.
"Allen's young and healthy and if anyone has a chance to beat this, it's him," says Lit guitarist Jeremy Popoff. "As sad and scared as we all are, we're standing by him and staying positive. We're going to fight this together."
Doheny Blues Fest closes with a series of superb sets
Her 90-minute set capped more than two dozen performances that played out at the two-day festival staged at Doheny State Beach over the weekend. For those – and I count myself in that camp – who had only seen the 58-year-old singer-guitarist play in an indoor venue, watching Raitt perform at an outdoor event was a decidedly different affair.
Her trademark skills as a slide guitarist and nuanced vocalist were on display, but there was a casual attitude that goes with being at a blues fest that found Raitt inviting a fan on stage at one point and bantering back and forth with members of the crowd. Indeed, at one point when one fan yelled out a request for a favorite song, Raitt good-naturedly replied, "I can't play them all. I've been around too long."
However, few in the capacity crowd seemed anything but thrilled with the song choices and their presentation in Dana Point. Whether performing radio favorites such as the upbeat blues-rock of "Thing Called Love" and "Something to Talk About" or bringing many in the audience to tears with the beautiful "I Can't Make You Love Me," her set was truly outstanding.
Earlier in the day, the full scope of roots and blues music was showcased via a wide range of artists. Those arriving by 11:15 got to see singer-guitarist Shawn Jones kick things off on the Main Stage with an accessible and infectious blend of original blues-rock. His guitar playing, voice and songwriting won over many who didn't know this newcomer from the Inland Empire. Songs such as the confessional "Glorybound" and high-octane rocker "Savin' the Best for Last" were among the highlights of his 45-minute set.
And from the excitement and overheard comments from everyone positioned around the Main Stage, few will forget their introduction to Joe Bonamassa. The 31-year-old Bonamassa is this generation's real life guitar hero, a fret master who has a vast number of musical ideas and an arsenal of electric and acoustic guitar chops to express those dreams in full.
On Sunday afternoon, his style of heavy blues recalled strong guitar players such as Walter Trout and Gary Moore, but Bonamassa showcased his own voice with original material such as the beautiful rocker "Sloe Gin" and Delta blues-tinged "High Water Everywhere."
Although it's anyone's guess when Watermelon Slim & the Workers will find their way back to Orange County, the talented and original blues quartet performed an enjoyable 45-minute set of blues on the Backporch stage. Watermelon Slim proved to be both charismatic and engaging in the intimate setting, singing, playing harmonica and slide guitar with fervor.
There was an authentic, retro quality across the troupe's fiery set, with "Devil's Cadillac" and "Ash Tray" illustrating the loose and freewheeling style the commanding ensemble has made their own.