Friday, January 29, 2010

Michael Ubaldini Benefit Concert coming Sunday

On Sunday afternoon, Jan. 31, I hope to see you all at the Michael Ubaldini Benefit Concert. The fundraiser, set to be held at Tumbleweeds Saloon, 21094 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., will raise money for Fountain Valley-based singer-songwriter Michael Ubaldini.
One of Southern California's most acclaimed and influential artists, Ubaldini was rushed to the hospital shortly after enjoying a Thanksgiving meal on Nov. 26, 2009. He didn't get out of the hospital until mid-January 2010. He is now at home recovering from a rare infection surrounding his heart valve; the condition is known as Endocarditis.
The condition has left Ubaldini weak, and forced the hard-working rocker to cancel all shows until he completes his rehab.
The benefit show will featuring a number of well-known area acts, including the Tricia Freeman Band, West Coast Strayz, Girls Nite Out and singer-songwriter TJR. All of those artists will perform Ubaldini-penned songs. In addition, Norwegian Wood will also make a highly-publicized reunion at the benefit show; the group was considered among the best Beatles tribute bands of the 1980s and featured a trio of future heroes who got their start in the Fab Four-minded band. Walter Clevenger (who heads the Dairy Kings), Danny Walker (of Handsome Devil) and Brian Martin (who went on to play with power pop giants The Tickets) will all play a set of Beatles music at the show.
For those who can't make it out to the show, mail a check payable to the Michael Ubaldini Benefit Fund care of US Bank, 17150 Magnolia St., Fountain Valley, CA 92708.
If you see me at the show, please come say "hi"!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Forthcoming Releases: Music for all

Not a day goes by without me receiving tons of media releases about new music.
I don't post many of those releases, but occasionally I get stuff that is worth sharing. Here is news about two notable commercial collections set for release on March 2, 2010 that look especially promising.

Flogging Molly is set to release Live at the Greek Theatre, which comes as both a DVD and double CD of the band's performance on Sept. 12, 2009 at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Directed by Kevin Custer, Live at the Greek Theatre is a "must have for all Flogging Molly fans and a uniquely-special introduction for those music fans that have yet to experience Flogging Molly's uniquely powerful show," according to the SideOneDummy Records press release dated Jan. 26, 2010. Playing songs from all of Flogging Molly's albums across a 90-minute set, the event was shot with eight high-definition cameras and the audio was mixed by Grammy Award-winning engineer Ryan Hewitt. Live at the Greek Theatre will be available on March 2, 2010.

Three of my bona fide musical heroes are set to appear on the Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey soundtrack. Set for release in connection with the Universal Studio Home Entertainment DVD (which also comes out March 2), the soundtrack features great songs from Brian Wilson (a cover of The Riveiras' hit "California Sun"), as well as several new songs from Virginia's Carbon Leaf ("The Friendship," "On A Roll" and more) and a special title track recorded by 429 Records' artist Jackie Greene ("Follow That Monkey").
Here is the track listing for the Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey soundtrack:
1) "Life Less Ordinary" Carbon Leaf
2) "The Friendship" Carbon Leaf
3) "California Sun" Brian Wilson
4) "On a Roll" Carbon Leaf
5) "Heart of the Day" Carbon Leaf
6) "Let Your Troubles Roll By" Carbon Leaf
7) "Walking in the Sun" Carbon Leaf
8) "Follow That Monkey" Jackie Greene
9) "Moon Man" Heitor Pereira
10) "Going East" Heitor Pereira
11) "Giving a Hand" Heitor Pereira
12) "Zoo" Heitor Pereira
13) "Friendship" Heitor Pereira

Monday, January 25, 2010

Awesome Weekend: Radiohead, Mindy Smith shows

Photo of Mindy Smith I shot at The Coach House on Jan. 22.
Shouldn't every weekend be great? After a week of non-stop rain and plenty of chores at work and home, the skies cleared and I was able to attend two great shows.
On Friday, I caught Mindy Smith, Landon Pigg and Alice Wallace at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, while I caught a special Radiohead benefit concert at the Music Box at the Fonda in Hollywood.
Both shows were fantastic, with the Haiti benefit show featuring Radiohead performing before a capacity crowd (my wife Kim and I were squeezed in on the floor about 50-60 feet from stage) obviously spilling over with the "wow" factor. Indeed, neither of us had ever had the chance to see Radiohead live, so we jumped at the chance to have our first encounter with the legendary band be a good one.
Although there will be those who know the band's music and history much better than me opine on the performance, my general impression is that Radiohead continues to be unique in the modern rock landscape. Thom Yorke is the kind of artist who demands you keep your eyes glued on him. The band hit the stage at 8:30 p.m. and performed about two hours, and the show truly flew by.
What struck me about the intimate show is how Radiohead didn't need any special video or fancy lighting effects. Indeed, it was the power of the music, the songs and performers - and the intensity of the crowd - that made the night so special. Is Radiohead the greatest band in the world today? I wouldn't doubt it.
Rewinding back to Friday night, Mindy Smith's performance was equally simple. The Nashville critics' favorite just played a clutch of her potent material in a sparse, scaled-back setting that showcased both her songs and a voice that never fails to bring added power to them.
Performing an 80-minute set that spanned from her impressive 2004 debut One Moment More to her astonishing 2009 effort Stupid Love, Smith and lead guitarist Lex Price (who sat in for most of the show) conjured up enchantment in every song. Things began with a heartfelt cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" (included on Smith's first disc) and only got better as the New York native delved into her own catalog of probing and introspective songs.
While her debut often looked at issues of faith in pieces such as "Come to Jesus" (one of her most popular tunes) and "Angel Doves," last year's effort is a serious and thoughtful study of the different phases of romance. Naturally, songs from Stupid Love formed a large part of her 14-song set on Friday night, each selection proving every bit as affecting as they are on the album.
Rarely has the study of relationships been tackled with such depth, shades of regret ("What Went Wrong"), understanding ("high and Lows"), loss ("What Love Can Do") and the mystery of it all ("If I Didn't Know Any Better") all delivered in Smith's genre-blurring mix of alt-country, folk, pop and bluegrass, held tightly together by her beautiful soprano.
Other highlights of her well-paced performance included the pretty "Tennessee" and a beautiful acoustic version of "One Moment More," a song Smith wrote for her mother, who died of breast cancer in 1991.
Smith's superb set was reason alone to brave the driving rain to get down to the Coach House this night, but that good news got even better thanks to a couple of solid openers.
Landon Pigg, also from Nashville, served up a 40-minute set of inventive, tuneful songs drawing from '60s pop-rock, '00s Britpop and the modern-day singer-songwriter movement. There's no doubt that songs such as the Beatlesque "A Ghost," the shimmering "Blue Skies" and the uplifting "Take a Chance" are the work of a young artist who crafts songs as accessible as they are listenable. He closed with his biggest hit, "Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop," an irresistible bit that masterfully demonstrated his strong vocals and songcraft.
Local singer-songwriter Alice Wallace turned in a 35-minute set that served as kind of a sequential tale of her recent move from Florida to Orange County. Armed with a voice capable of impressive vocal gymnastics (including an aptly-titled closer about teaching herself to yodel that would impress Jewel), Wallace used effective storytelling and straightforward songs to entertain. A reworked cover of the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand," the original power-pop arrangement transformed into reflective longing, was a crowd favorite.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mindy Smith to perform at Coach House tonight

Photo credit: Traci Goudie
A longer version of this story was originally posted on the Orange County Register Web site on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010.
Mindy Smith's wide-ranging musical style blends pop, alt-country and Americana across her discography.
She'll bring those sounds to the stage at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano tonight (Jan. 22).
Smith is a lyrical songwriter armed with an emotive style, as evidenced by the 13 original songs on her latest album, 2009's excellent "Stupid Love." The material includes the thoughtful "What Went Wrong," the straightforward "What Love Can Do" and the shimmering "Out Loud," as well as the upbeat first single, "Highs and Lows."
Smith co-produced "Stupid Love" with Ian Fitchuk and Justin Loucks at Fiarground Studio in Nashville, Tenn. Fitchuk and Loucks performed many of the instrumental parts on the album, while Smith focused mostly on singing.
Among the notable guests on the album are Leigh Nash (of Sixpence None the Richer), singer Amy Grant and singer-guitarist Vince Gill.
I will be covering the show tonight for The Orange County Register, so make sure to check the newspaper's Web site at sometime late tomorrow to read my review. Smith's music is terrific and I'm looking forward to catching her in concert.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Orange County music highlights: Part 1

Ben Wener at the Orange County Register has put together an ambitious and strong list of the 50 best and most influential releases of the first decade of the 21st century. When Ben approached me about helping provide input for the project a few weeks ago, I started going through my big collection of local releases. Here are some overlooked albums I wanted to highlight for those who want to explore the area scene a bit more.

Artist of the Decade: Michael Ubaldini
Fountain Valley singer-songwriter Michael Ubaldini has released a number of great albums since the mid-1990s, with many of his strongest discs coming in the last half of the last part of the past decade. Since 2005's excellent "Avenue of Ten Cent Hearts," he has been on an incredible roll with the subsequent release of "Storybook," "Street Singin' Troubadour" and 2009's "Portable Record Player." Incredible.

Artist: Dana Parker (singer-songwriter-keyboardist)
Album: "Eclectic" (release was in 2005) - amazing jazz-pop. One of the most original and overlooked artists to emerge in O.C. I wrote a big feature on him after I happened to be at a Border's and caught him performing. I was blown away at the power of an artist playing in a bookstore. Great artist and great songs.

Artist: August Burning
Album: "Zero" (release date 2001). This was the final of three strong albums released by August Burning, a band formed in the mid-1990s by several Chapman University students. Singer-songwriterJohn List and multi-instrumentalist James Wagner wrote and produced some of the most articulate and affecting songs I heard while writing Orange Pop.

Artist: Color Theory
Album: "The Thought Chapter" (2008) - Long-time Huntington Beach singer-songwriter-producer-keyboardist Brian Hazard is Color Theory. Although Hazard's sound draws natural comparisons withDepeche Mode, his artful and intelligent songs fused with skillful studio production are his own. His most recent full-length album is also his strongest.

Artist: Beyond 7
Album: "Smoke" (2006) might have marked the end of the 10-year journey featuring singer-songwriter Greg Stoddard and guitarist-songwriter Brian Stewart dating back to their Warner Bros. Records deal as members of Psychic Rain in the '90s, but the independent release of "Smoke" in 2006 proved the talented team still could deliver a winning mix of strong songs and commanding performances that appealed to fans of power pop, alt rock and classic rock.

Artist: Dusty Rhodes and the River Band
Album: Palace and Stage (2009) - If members of Yes and The Band had formed a band with Gram Parsons, it might sound a bit like Dusty Rhodes and the River Band. The Fullerton outfit's powerful live performances really translated well with the studio recordings that comprise 2009's "Palace and Stage" too. The title track is one of my favorite songs of 2009.

Artist: Wonderlove
Album: "Getting Off the Revolution" (released 2001) - Recalling the sound of early '90s-launched Huntington Beach outfit Altered State, Wonderlove blended tuneful and well-crafted rock with powerful performances. And like Altered State, Wonderlove is missed. And if you don't know the music of Gregory Markel's great Altered State, seek it out via or YouTube.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A week away: Ringo Starr's 'Y Not'

It seems like only yesterday since Ringo Starr released Liverpool 8, his last studio album.

But believe it or not, that album was released on Jan. 15, 2008. With the release of several high-profile mono and stereo collections from his former band The Beatles last year - as well as the fantastic Soundstage Presents: Ringo Starr and the Roundheads concert DVD released by E1 Entertainment in September 2009 - there has thankfully been plenty of great music to enjoy from Ringo since his last studio effort.

With the arrival of 2010 comes another highly-anticipated album from Ringo. Y Not is set for release by Hip-O Records/UMe on Tuesday, Jan. 12, and boasts a strong roster of guests players including Paul McCartney and Joe Walsh. Y Not also marks the first time that Ringo has produced his own album.

Over the weekend, I was listening to the radio show Breakfast With the Beatles and heard the album's opening track, "Fill In The Blanks," an infectious rocker featuring only Ringo and Walsh. With a single listen, the track grabbed me and I can't wait to hear the rest of the album.

Here are some highlights from the comprehensive press release sent out about Ringo's upcoming Y Not disc in late 2009:

Throughout recorded history, great artists across the universe have dared to ask "Why?" On January 12, 2010, one brave man named Ringo finally boldly declares the ultimate answer -- Y Not.

For the first time in one of popular music's most enduring and illustrious careers, Ringo Starr has decided to take charge and produce himself. The result is perhaps the most personal and impressive album of this rock legend's entire solo career. How on earth did Starr finally locate the absolutely perfect producer to work with him? "Well, I looked in the mirror," Ringo says with a smile. "And I was looking real groovy that day."

Starr's decision to take a stronger role in the recording of his latest and greatest solo album was a significant and fortuitous one. "I didn't do it at the start," Starr says. "I was the least involved in the production of the Beatles records. And then with my solo records, I worked with some other great producers like Richard Perry, Arif Mardin and Don Was. So it just seemed like that's the way that it goes. Then suddenly, it's another point in your life, and you say, 'I'm going to do this now.' So I'll be producing anything I make from now on. That's the good news. It's a confidence thing, I suppose. And Y Not is really another way of me saying 'Yes, I can.' "

The joyous result of Starr lookin in the mirror is Y Not, a groovy and deeply-felt song cycle that finds Ringo leading a smaller core group of old and new friends including long-time pal and recent brother-in-law Joe Walsh, Dave Stewart and longtime Roundheads member Steve Dudas on guitar, Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on keyboards, Don Was and Mike Bradford on bass. The album also features Starr's engineer and co-producer Bruce Sugar on keyboards, as well as some special guests like Joss Stone, Ben Harper and Richard Marx on vocals, Ann Marie Calhoun on violin and Tina Sugandh -- aka Tina The Tabla Girl -- on tabla and chanting.

Yet no collaborator featured on Y Not is likely to receive as much attention as Starr's former bandmate and longstanding mate Paul McCartney, who adds a characteristically brilliant bass part to the inspiring "Peace Dream" -- Starr's latest heartfelt plea for peace and love -- and even more notably provides his unmistakably fabulous vocals to "Walk With You," an exquisitie new composition by Starr and Van Dyke Parks.

"Walk With You" is a moving , even spiritual meditation about the lasting power of friendship, and McCartney's inspired participation on the track was a testament to McCartney's generosity of spirit and musical talent. "Paul was doing the Grammys, so he came over to the house and was playing bass on 'Peace Dream.' So I played him this other track and Paul said, 'Give me the headphones. Give me a par of cans.' And he went to the mic and he just invested that part where he follows on my vocal. That was all Paul McCartney, and there could be nothing better. He makes it bigger and he makes it fuller. It makes the song like a coversation between us and that was Paul's idea to do his part one beat behind me. That's why he's a gen-i-us and an incredible bass player."