Friday, August 29, 2008

Music and the Convention

The Democratic Convention has come to an end. There were some powerful moments and some tearjerkers. Did you see Joe Biden's son's introduction? Through it all I was very aware of the music, whether it be in the background, on the stage at Invesco Field or closing out the night. There were some interesting choices. I would love to know who was calling the music shots or did those speaking, chose their own anthems? Here are some comments in no particular order.

I couldn't help but smile when Al Gore walked on and off the stage to Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In. I still have my 45 of that song by The Fifth Dimension. I'm guessing it wasn't chosen for the Hair/hippy aspect of the song, but taken literally as we're saving the planet, the sun is shinning, let's all recycle.

Hillary Clinton's choice of music in the video that played before her speech, could have been on any rock fan's mixed party tape: You Really Got Me, Are You Gonna Go My Way and my favorite of all the songs played, Tom Petty's American Girl. Bill Clinton exited to U2's Beautiful Day.

Caroline Kennedy entered to Sweet Caroline, which Neil Diamond revealed for Caroline's 50th birthday that he was inspired to write the song by a photo of the president's daughter. Michael McDonald sang American the Beautiful.

Sheryl Crow was on hand (as she is for almost any event) and was followed by Stevie Wonder, whose music bookended the convention. Isn't She Lovely was played after Michelle Obama's speech and last night he performed (with Take 6) Fears Can't Put Your Dreams to Sleep, which I believe PBS said was played at Barak's wedding followed by a rousing Signed Sealed Delivered which he dedicated to Barak and Michelle. I don't think there was one person in that stadium that did not know that song. John Legend also bookended, but both his performances were live, the latter with Will I Am.

The strangest choice of music surrounded the man of the hour. After Barak's speech the sounds of Brooks and Dunn's Only In America surrounded the stadium. I wouldn't peg him as a B&D fan. This was followed by what sounded to me like music from the Ponderosa, which I later read was the soundtrack music from the film Remember the Titians, written by Trevor Rabin.

If I chose candidates based on the music, Hillary would get my vote at this convention.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Irma Thomas "Simply Grand"

Irma Thomas' new record, Simply Grand contains 14 songs with piano accompaniment by Randy Newman, Norah Jones, John Medeski and Dr John to name a few. She talked about music today in an article in the WSJ. "A lot of music today is not giving the rawness it should. It's losing something with the technicality of it." In reference to vocal-enhancement technology, she called it "a gimmick" She recorded her new record in New Orleans, LA and NY using one day to lay down each track. When asked about the challenges of recording an album in 14 days with just a few hours for a session with each of the above mentioned musicians she elaborated, "when you have two professionals in the studio who are both confident that the other will enhance the other, then all you do is run through it, find the key, verses and bridge." In response to comparing this recording to live performing Irma says "when you walk on stage, you don't have time to technically rip a song apart. You just go out there and sing. That's what you want to capture." Here's a lady who's been doing it for a long time and these are words for musicians to live by. Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What Was That Dress Thing?

I'm still having a hard time with London's contribution to the closing Olympic ceremonies. With all the music talent that has come out of England, they chose Leona Lewis, the winner of the TV show The X Factor (Simon Cowell's version of Pop Idol) to perform with Jimmy Page to represent London. On top of a double decker bus, the two went at Whole Lotta Love. In the middle of the song, Leona rose to new heights as she was hydraulically raised another 8 feet or so into the air, the long train of her dress following her. This seems to be a trend with female singers. Carrie Underwood utilized it when opening for Keith Urban. Neither singer was able to move while performing, probably for fear of breaking their collar bone from a tumble. Performers have been elevating on platforms for years, but not with their dress getting longer and longer as the fear of falling is written all over their faces. It's cheesy and it takes away from the song and singer. Leona is a capable singer, but should not be tackling a classic like Whole Lotta Love. Jimmy Page is a rock god and still looks like he's having fun. All of these elements along with David Beckham who looked like he would rather be anywhere else and it was embarrassing, especially when held up to the spectacular opening and closing orchestrated by Zhang Yimou along with Chinese choreographers Zhang Jigang and Chen Weiya.

Friday, August 22, 2008

iTunes Subscription Service?

This appeared on MacDailyNews:

RUMOR: Apple to hold special event in late September to debut iTunes Music subscriptions, more
Wednesday, August 20, 2008 - 09:03 AM EDT

An anonymous tipster has told MacDailyNews that Apple will hold a special media event in late September that will discuss and/or announce the following. The information that the source provided, verbatim:

• MobileMe, iPhone, iPod Touch
- Enable disk use
- When enabled for disk use, iDisk folder accessible
- iDisk app
- Viewable formats can be opened, other formats grayed out
- Button to sync with MobileMe
- Photo syncing support via MobileMe
- October launch

• iTunes Unlimited
- 256 Kbps music; highest quality digital music subscription service ever
- 50% of U.S. store available for iTunes Unlimited at launch, U.S.-only launch
- Available through iTunes or retail box a la MobileMe, funds applied through iTunes gift cards cannot be used towards subscription purchase
- $129.99 stand-alone or $179.99 with MobileMe, current MobileMe subscribers can add iTunes Unlimited for $99.99
- One-year subscription period
- Current a la carte options unchanged
- When signed in to subscription account, “Buy” is “Get”
- “Download and Play throughout iTunes Unlimited Subscription” or “Buy and Keep”
- “Buy and Keep” option available for downloaded subscription songs, purchased version replaces subscription version

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Microsoft Ads About Nothing

Jerry Seinfeld is the new pitchman for Microsoft. The ads will start appearing Sept 4. According to the WSJ: "Microsoft weary of being cast as a stodgy oldster by Apple's advertising, is turning for help to Jerry Seinfeld." The campaign is reported to cost $300 million with $30 million of that going into Jerry's pockets. Microsoft is trying to turn the tide on the negative publicity they have gotten from their Vista operating system. The article said that other celebrities were considered such as Will Ferrell and Chris Rock. It seems to me that if you want to connect with a younger audience and cast doubt on Apple's smart, sassy Mac Vs. PC ads, they go with Will or Chris. My bet would be on Chris.

Jerry's show went off the air in 1998, although it's all over the place in syndication. Does he still resonate with people? I was a faithful viewer of Seinfeld when it originally aired. I find it hard watching it now. It does not hold up the way I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and more recently, Everybody Loves Raymond has. Jerry hasn't been in the public eye recently, except for his misguided comments on Letterman attacking the woman who's publishing company accused his wife of plagiarizing a cookbook. It seems to me that both Will Ferrell (bring back "More Cowbell") and/or Chris Rock would be much more in tune with todays audience. Everybody Hates Chris is a wonderful show that every parent should make their kids watch. Watch full episodes on the shows site. Wasn't Will's website behind the Paris Hilton rebuttal to the crazy McCain ads? Many watched and it was well done. Bill Gates will be appearing in the ads with Jerry. I'll be watching closely to see if this ad campaign brings a hipper image to Microsoft.

Note: Only Chris Rock's website URL is his name. Neither Jerry or Will's name will link to a site.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rock & Roll Heaven

It's been said that celebrity deaths come in threes. In the past few days we've lost two music legends: Isaac Hayes and Jerry Wexler. Yesterday Dave Matthews Band sax player LeRoi Moore died at age 45 from complications from a vehicle accident.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

John Rich Claims to Know What Johnny Cash Would Do

Apparently John Rich is now throwing around Johnny Cash's name like he's been in touch with him recently. As an avid McCain supporter, he has stated that he knows Johnny Cash would support McCain also. How can you speak for someone who can no longer speak for themselves? Rosanne Cash was none too happy with the use of her father's name. Eloquent as ever, she had this to say on her website:

Regarding the Use of My Father’s Name To Further Political Agendas:
August 15, 2008: It is appalling to me that people still want to invoke my father’s name, five years after his death, to ascribe beliefs, ideals, values and loyalties to him that cannot possibly be determined, and to try to further their own agendas by doing so. I knew my father pretty well, at least better than some of those who entitle themselves to his legacy and his supposed ideals, and even I would not presume to say publicly what I ‘know’ he thought or felt. This is especially dangerous in the case of political affiliation.
It is unfair and presumptuous to use him to bolster any platform. I would ask that my father not be co-opted in this election for either side, since he is clearly not here to defend or state his own allegiance.

Rosanne Cash

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Two Joans

Have they been talking to each other? Both have albums impacting radio this week and here are the titles:
JOAN BAEZ "God Is God"
JOAN OSBORNE "Hallelujah In The City"

Sampling: Easy Way Out or Genius

Today I was hit twice with the sample as a song issue. On Howard Stern they discussed Kid Rock's All Summer Long-not to be confused with the Beach Boys' song of the same name (although I'd like to hear Kid Rock's version of that song). Sampling might be too loose a word, he uses the backing track for Werewolves of London throughout the song, except when he samples the guitar riff from Sweet Home Alabama. It's a fun song about his younger days in Detroit and it's a big hit. When a musician takes a song(s) that already exists and creates different lyrics and adds his/her vocal to it, is it genius or just taking the easy way out? Both songs have very recognizable instrumental parts, which Kid Rock is capitalizing on. It's always easier to get people to listen to something that is familiar, then to get them involved in something experimental that doesn't strike a chord until years later.

Today's Record of the Day is Girls by the Sugababes. It's a fun upbeat song that is basically a slightly reworked version of Ernie K. Doe's Here Comes the Girls. Not much difference in the Sugababes version to me. They'll probably have a hit with this.
Both are fun songs that don't ask too much of the listener, making them perfect for the dog days of summer.

Friday, August 15, 2008

What Does the Artist Think About Tix Prices?

I have been obsessing over Cheap Trick lately. Can't listen to enough. I need to see them live as it's been a few years. They are on the road with Heart and Journey and are opening the show with a 45 minute set, which probably means they'll play the hits but I wouldn't get to hear Top Of The World or Say Goodbye. I went on the Jones Beach website, where this show played Thursday night, to check out ticket prices and my eyes nearly fell out. They were in the range of $65 for the cheapest seats, all the way into the $500 (this gets you the first few rows, VIP parking and tent) range with most tickets falling in the $150 range. I don't have the numbers yet on this show, but the tour is doing well, in most cases selling out the venues. Both Cheap Trick and Heart are still in tact, but the lead singer of Journey was found on YouTube and I'm sure it's Journey that is packing then in. Journey has had their share of lead singers.

People that buy the first few rows at this price are either independently wealthy or get their company to buy the tickets. In this economy, the vast majority will not have a grand to spend on one show. In this case, I'm guessing these are the people who would like a glass of wine or cocktail to go with their concert (who wouldn't?). I can't imagine they are the ones who know the lyrics to every song, can list all the tracks in order on side one of Evolution or stand up and clap, scream, etc. As a musician, don't you want the dedicated fans, the ones who know every album, the ones who know what your kids are named in the first few rows as that's probably all you can see anyway? Don't you want the excitement coming from the front and spreading to the back? Don't you want the rest of the venue to see the front rows standing and cheering every song? I'm guessing that doesn't happen when the ticket prices are that high. Maybe I'm wrong, I haven't seen the show. I know there is money to made, but isn't a show that packs energy, leaves the fan begging for more, a lot more satisfying. Maybe not. No one is getting any younger.

The PS to this story: On the Cheap Trick message board fans stated that the show started 45 minutes last, it was raining, the band only played for 25 minutes and here is the set list:
Oh Claire, 70's Song, California Man, I Want You To Want Me, The Flame, Surrender, Goodnight Now, Dream Police

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame gets a NY Annex for At Least 2 Years

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is going on the road to New York -- the city that spawned hip-hop and gave Bob Dylan and the Ramones their start.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday that the Cleveland-based museum is opening an annex in downtown Manhattan. It is the first of several planned outposts that will take its collection of artifacts to a wider audience, possibly as far as the Middle East.

Billy Joel and Clive Davis joined the mayor at the location in SoHo where the branch will open in November. Joel, who said he was donating some memorabilia to the museum, recalled how he has played every New York venue from Carnegie Hall to Shea Stadium.

"New York gave me my words and my music, and rock and roll gave me a place for that music to live," Joel said.

The 25,000-square-foot annex will house Bruce Springsteen's 1957 Chevy and will feature a number of different exhibits, including one with sites around the city that have musical significance.

"There really isn't a more fitting spot for this museum than New York, the hometown of hall of famers like the Velvet Underground, Paul Simon and Blondie ... this is where Ed Sullivan met the Beatles, where Lou Reed took a walk on the wild side," Bloomberg said.

The New York annex will be open for a minimum of two years, longer if it proves successful. It's backed financially by Running Subway Productions, a New York-based entertainment company known for "Bodies ... The Exhibition" and the Broadway production of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"

Among the planned exhibits is "New York Rocks," which is dedicated to Big Apple artists such as Joel and the Talking Heads' David Byrne. The exhibit will feature an interactive map of musically significant Manhattan locations such as Studio 54 and the landmarked Chelsea Hotel, whose guests and residents have included many famous artists and musicians including the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious. The front awning and cash register of the recently closed club CBGB will be on display.

A number of exhibits that appeared in Cleveland will also make their way to New York, beginning with the museum's look at the Clash.

Admission at the New York annex will be $26 for adults. The Cleveland museum charges $22 for adult admission.

I wonder if the first exhibit will focus on the Clash in NY. I have plenty of ticket stubs: The Palladium (before it became a dorm), Bonds, etc..... Why is Studio 54 being featured? I don't remember any rock & roll happening there. Lots of sex and drugs, but not much rock and roll.

Greetings from Beijing

Steve King is working the Olympics. He took some great photos. My favorite is this one of a trash can. If you can't see the translation, it reads: Protect Circum Stance begin with me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Celebrating Misdaventures In Stereo at Joe's Pub

There was not a space to be filled on the stage at Joe's Pub last night. Jim Boggia and his very large band celebrated the release of his new album by performing the entire album, which can be purchased on CD and/or vinyl. He encouraged the audience to buy two copies of the LP and play simultaneously, as it's recorded in mono. Mono made me think of Pet Sounds. Pet Sounds co-writer is Tony Asher. Tony Asher co-wrote with Jim, Chalk One Up for Albert's Sake. Last night the horn section added that borderline melancholy Pet Sounds feeling to the song. The drum fills and vocals at the end of the song were pure Pet Sounds. Adding these little touches to the song hinted at its co-writer's pedigree. The song’s opening reminded me of a faster version of the Rascals’ Girl Like You. All of this, makes for a multi-layered, good pop song. As I’ve said before, I think one of the endearing things about Jim is he wears his influences on his sleeve.

An aside: On leaving the show, my friend Sean and I were contemplating that there are two songs we can think of with the name Albert (remember Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey?) in the title, which also happens to be my father and brother's name. We couldn't come up with one song with Sean (or Shawn) in the title.

Jim reaches back into his musical memory for songs like 8 Track, a fun, put the top down, Rubinoos type song and Listening to NRBQ. Both songs evoke the days when radio was king, albums were listened to on both Side A and Side B and liner notes were read.

Ben Carroll joined Jim on stage (at this point it was only Jim and Ben) to add vocals to a touching acoustic version of On Your Birthday which Jim co-wrote with David Poe. Jim usually plays at least one cover and it was a soulful version of I’d Rather Be Blind, which has been recorded by Etta James and Faces.

A great live performance is made that much better when the backing singers and band are having too much fun. This was clearly happening. In the trio of singers was Kate who performed with him at his last NY show. Their energy combined with Mr Boggia’s had me clapping along and having a great time. I guarantee you’ll have a smile on your face during and after a Jim Boggia show.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Clash Bootleg

The Clash's October 13, 1982 performance at Shea Stadium is soon to be release on Sony Legacy. Announced in Billboard this week, the album will contain the following songs:

Kosmo Vinyl Introduction
"London Calling"
"Police on My Back"
"Guns Of Brixton"
"Tommy Gun"
"The Magnificent Seven"
"Armagideon Time"
"The Magnificent Seven"
"Rock the Casbah"
"Train in Vain"
"Career Opportunities"
"Spanish Bombs"
"English Civil War"
"Should I Stay or Should I Go"
"I Fought the Law"

Sigh, no Lost In a Supermarket ...
Legacy does things right, so I'm looking forward to this package. It will be interesting to see if this release coincides with the final weeks of post season play at Shea. As a Mets fan, I can hope, can't I?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sony to Buy Back BMG

Is anyone else scratching their head? Sony Corp agreed to buy Bertelsmann's half of their SonyBMG Music venture. According to the WSJ, Sony hopes this will give it an inexpensive way to bolster it's consumer-electronics business. In the past Sony, has not been successful in building synergies between it's divisions. Do they believe this will work now? In the bulk of cases, they will have to get artists approval before they make any moves. I'm not sure I see Springsteen letting them use Glory Days for a new Sony TV ad. It remains to be seen where this acquisition will lead them.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jim Boggia @ Joe's Pub

7:30pm on Tuesday August 12th see Jim Boggia @ Joe's Pub-There will be a lot on the small stage. He's playing with a large band to celebrate the release of Misadventures In Stero.