Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Genesis Reconsidered - The Live Lamb, Genesis Archives Volume 1. 1967-1975 (Atlantic, 1998)

The recent performance of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by The Musical Box has brought a new appreciation for the Genesis original. Although Foxtrot (1972) and Selling England by the Pound (1973) were masterworks in their own right, and even though a case could be made that Banks, Rutherford, Hackett and Collins carried on with some great progressive music sans Gabriel on A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering (both 1976), I'm starting to think that The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) may be Genesis' best album.

For many listeners, the story of the Lamb tends to overshadow the music. While the imagery is often bizarre, it's really not that different from what Genesis was already doing lyrically, in their previous records; think about "Supper's Ready" for example. The weirdness really got the spotlight because the Lamb was a concept album spread over two vinyl lps. It's become pretty clear over the years that the Lamb was the breaking point that led to Peter Gabriel's departure from the band; it's been written that the rest of the band were not on the same page with Gabriel and even they didn't get it at the time. Ironically, in spite of any philosophical differences, the music rose to the occasion with powerful anthemic progressive rock masterpieces interspersed with enough sound effects and weird sounds to effectively bind the music to the story.

For me, the defining musical track is "Hairless Heart." Steve Hackett's guitar leads a triumphant melody that is amplified by the powerful bass, beautiful keyboards, and great drumming. Gabriel, Banks, Rutherford and Collins are all superlative musicians, but I believe that Hackett's incredible technique and tunefulness was the driving force that made Genesis one of the best purveyors of progressive rock in an era when that style of music was at it's peak. "In the Cage, Carpet Crawlers, The Chamber of 32 Doors, and The Lamia" all excel in similar fashion. And let's not forget the excellent "Fly on a Windshield, Broadway Melody of 1974, Back in N.Y.C., Counting Out Time, Lilywhite Lilith, and Anyway." The final sequence of "The Light Lies Down on Broadway, Riding the Scree, In the Rapids, and It" combine for a great ride to an incredibly satisfying finish. Thirty years on, it's perhaps easier now to rationalize the story as a dream sequence and focus back on the music, which stands with Genesis' best work. For an incredible array of listener reviews of the Lamb, check out this progressive rock website.

On the drive down to Atlantic City to see The Musical Box, I gave a listen to a live performance of the Lamb by Genesis, recorded January 24, 1975 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Having the real thing fresh in memory made The Musical Box rendition all the more impressive. The live version is available on the four disc box set, Genesis Archives, Vol. 1: 1967-1975. When this box set was released in 1998 I was initially disappointed to discover that the first two entire discs were devoted to the live version of the Lamb, and with disc four filled with demos and rough mixes from their Jonathan King singles period, 1967-1970 (of use mainly just to archivists and completists), only one disc seemed to feature the sort of material Genesis fans had hoped would fill a box set such as this; the 1973 Rainbow concert, a couple of live BBC recordings, two collectible b-sides, and the single mix of "Watcher of the Skies."

In retrospect, now it's great to have a live recording of the Lamb, even if Gabriel and Hackett both went back into the studio in 1998 to "sweeten" or re-record some of their parts. Gabriel has been known to do this throughout his career (and he's certainly not the only one); purists however are justifiably annoyed when artists tinker. The live Lamb is a treat to hear now, and when you get to the end of it, you really have no choice but to continue on listening to all the great stuff on disc three. I'm guessing that there's likely plenty more material of similar quality still in the vaults, but for now we must just appreciate that we've got these recordings to enjoy.

The four pictograms above were used on the original Lamb album's inner sleeves.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

New Album from Al Stewart Released on 6/21/05

A Beach Full of Shells is Al Stewart's first U.S. release in ten years, not counting collections and live recordings. Stewart has always been one of our more literate and tuneful singer-songwriters. I can still recall being first introduced to Stewart's music by disc jockey Luke O'Reilly who at the time was an exchange student at the University of Pennsylvania who came over from Britain with an excellent record collection which he freely shared on his WMMR radio program in the formative days of fm progressive rock radio (1970-71). O'Reilly later became Stewart's manager.

Although he began recording in the sixties, it was a string of albums in the early seventies that included Past, Present and Future, Modern Times, Year of the Cat, and Time Passages that gave Stewart his greatest notoriety, mostly due to the huge worldwide success of "Year of the Cat." He's worked steadily over the years, with 1988's Last Days of the Century being another high point. Initial indications are that this new album is prime Al Stewart. Here's hoping that's true.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Girl in the Cafe (HBO Films, 2005)

Being friends with Bono and Bob Geldof and sharing the mission to help end world poverty, especially in Africa, and being a filmmaker rather than a musician, Richard Curtis decided the best way of furthering the cause was to write this movie which premiered on HBO on June 25th. Directed by David Yates, The Girl in the Cafe is ostensibly a love story set in the midst of this year's G8 summit, fictitiously located in Reykjavik, Iceland.

In his previous efforts such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones's Diary, Notting Hill, and Love Actually, Curtis has proven himself the master of the British romantic comedy, writing all of the above and also directing the latter. The love story in The Girl in the Cafe is the calling card to attract viewers to hear the political message. Bill Nighy, the aging singer from Love Actually, does a fine job as Lawrence, the assistant to the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lawrence by chance meets Gina, played by Kelly MacDonald, in a cafe; she's at least twenty years younger, they strike up a conversation which leads to dinner which curiously (conveniently) leads to an invitation for her to accompany him to Iceland for the G8 summit whilst knowing absolutely zero about her, other than she's Scottish which we can deduce by her accent.

Curtis is well known for having a great sense for selecting the music used in his movies, and The Girl in the Cafe starts off looking and sounding great, with artfully composed cinematography accompanied by Damien Rice's "Cold Water" which plays both at the beginning and at the end. The political message is strong (is is really possible that 30,000 die of starvation every day?), important (the assembled powers of the G8 summit have the power to eliminate this if they so choose), and timely (the G8 summit takes place in a few weeks). If you want to know what has motivated the Live 8 concerts, this movie spells it out very clearly.

Unfortunately, the personal story never rises above being a vehicle for the message, and has none of the humorous or poignant character development that made Love Actually so good. The majority of the interaction between the main characters is awkward and slow moving and when they inevitably get together late in the film it strains believability. But any concern for believability is totally thrown to the wind when Gina becomes a metaphor for the movement that is pushing the G8 to take action. Gina seems totally wooden through the first two reels, and when she becomes the voice of conscience at the summit it would initially seem to be totally out of character, however we really have no sense of her character. Even more inexplicable is Lawrence's repeated decision to keep bringing her to events where she has access to the G8 powers even after her first two ambush encounters with Lawrence's boss which play like assisted suicide for Lawrence's career.

You can't fault Curtis' motives here, and the message is presented in an informative way that never seems preachy or heavy-handed. It's just a shame that the rest of the story couldn't have been fleshed out with a little more of the screenwriting that Curtis is known for. Instead of a classic movie with a vital message, we are left with only a timely vehicle for said message; essential viewing for anyone who doesn't realize the scope of the problem, which is probably most folks, but not in a league, cinematically, with any of Curtis' prior efforts.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Mark Knopfler - Mann Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, 6/25/05

Mark Knopfer has his reasons for retiring the Dire Straits tag, and his solo albums have studiously avoided the sort of guitar pyrotechnics that built a huge worldwide following for this amazingly talented player. However in concert, even now, fourteen years on since the last proper Dire Straits album, the distinction is irrelevant. Knopfler live is Dire Straits, regardless of who's manning the bass, drums, and keyboards. The solo material which on record often cries out for more guitar, gets fleshed out in concert with all the guitar that's lacking in the studio versions. The Dire Straits classics are well represented in the set too and Knopfler still kills on every one.

The concert production on this tour is a good as it gets; superb lighting with numerous color schemes to delight the eyes. More importantly, the concert sound was the best I've ever heard; loud and powerful when it needed to be with nice deep bass, with a perfect mix that allowed every instrument to be heard clearly, which was especially impressive during the songs that mixed acoustic backing with Knopler's electric lead. At one point I noticed Guy Fletcher stage rear, lightly tapping a tambourine which could amazingly be clearly heard in the sound mix.

Knopfler is becoming the elder statesman of the electric guitar, with his graying hair and glasses his look reminded me of Eric Clapton one minute, and Chet Atkins the next. Appearing relaxed in jeans and black t-shirt, he makes playing the guitar look deceptively easy, the amazing leads seeming to pour effortlessly from his guitar.

The Mann has a strict no-camera, search-on-entry policy, but these fan shots from the website are from the current tour and look exactly like the show here. It occurred to me during "Sultans of Swing" that we've been listening to this song for twenty-seven years now and it has never sounded better; Knopfler added a nice rockabilly style solo for a good couple of minutes to finish the song. Opening the show was Irish singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy who delivered a suprisingly enjoyable set, accompanied by an excellent electric guitarist, resulting in a sound that reminded of a sort of Irish Chris Isaak.

Here's the Knopfler setlist:

  • Why Aye Man - I've never quite understood this lead song from The Ragpicker's Dream, and musically it's seems not to be one of his best but he played some great guitar in this live version.
  • Walk of Life - No waiting for some classic Dire Straits off the Brothers in Arms album, played with string bass, acordian, Hammond organ, and acoustic guitar backing with Knopfler on electric.
  • What it Is - Nice version of one of the singles from Sailing to Philadelphia, setting the table nicely for...
  • Sailing to Philadelphia - With a perfect sound mix of acoustic backing and truly beautiful guitar work from Knopfler. The Philly crowd loved it.
  • Romeo and Juliet - Knopfler played the National Steel acoustic on this Dire Straits classic from the Making Movies album, switching to electric for the finish.
  • Sultans of Swing - The song that started it all back in 1978. Paul pointed out that he's now performing the song as originally produced, with no keyboards - just two guitars, bass and drums.
  • Done With Bonaparte - An all-acoustic tune from Golden Heart. See photo below.
  • Song for Sonny Liston - An unlikely choice for the first tune from his latest release, Shangri-La. Knopfler sat down and was served a cup of tea, then remained seated, playing accompanied by only string bass and drums, and cranked up a very powerful sound.
  • Donegan's Gone - A very twangy tribute to skiffle-king Lonnie Donegan, also from the latest album.
  • Boom, Like That - Completing the Shangri-La portion of the show with the single, Knopfler adding a killer lead.
  • Speedway at Nazareth - Maybe he thinks that here in the U.S. we're all nuts for NASCAR, but this unlikely selection from Sailing to Philadelphia, almost like a racing car, was fast, loud, and built in intensity to the finish, but didn't really go anywhere.
  • Telegraph Road - The payoff for the lesser songs, this was the full length Dire Straits classic, all 15 minutes as heard on Love Over Gold, with enough Knopfler guitar leads to justify the admittedly high price of admission, all by itself.
  • Brothers in Arms - For the first encore, Knopfler's all time best song in terms of both songwriting and guitar work. The lead solo that forms the basis of this song is Knopfler at his best.
  • Money for Nothing - Without changing guitars, and no preamble, Knopfler launched right into this crowd-pleaser to complete the encore. The band did their best Sting impression with the "I Want My MTV" part at the end of the song.
  • So Far Away - A nice choice for a second encore, from the classic Brothers in Arms album. Sent the fans home well satisfied with a great performance.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Genesis Reincarnate: The Musical Box, Trump Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, NJ, 6/22/05

.The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

Despite the many glowing testimonials I'd heard and read, I couldn't shake a certain basic skepticism regarding The Musical Box recreations of classic Genesis concerts, after all this is just a cover band, right? That, combined with the notion that Father's Day gifts should really not be any more extravagant than a $15.00 tie, led me to initially think that Jenn had taken leave of her senses when she made me a present of two tickets to the Musical Box performance of Genesis' Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original Genesis tour from 1974-75, booked for four nights at the Xanadu Theater in the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, NJ for the final U.S. performances of this tour leg.

.Broadway Melody of 1974

It's likely that nothing I could say here could possibly reverse any similar skepticism in the uninitiated reader, however I will try. This Canadian band of music lovers and ultimate Genesis fans have far transcended the cover band limitations and have for all intents and purposes become Genesis, circa 1973-1975. Let's start with the music; all five musicians are so good at their respective instruments, that the live rendering of Genesis' music sounds every bit as great now as it did then, a truly remarkable feat, in and of itself. From the first moment when the band kicked in at the beginning of the first song with the power of the bass pedals, it was instantly clear that we were in for a musical and sonic treat.

.Hairless Heart

Genesis music during this era was complex like a classical concerto, intensely rocking one moment, soft and delicate the next, and always supremely melodic. The Musical Box does this music proud, from start to finish. There was no weakness I could detect in the musical performance; each member played their part as well as their original counterpart, actually intensifying the music at times. They played the same set list that Genesis did on this tour, which was The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album in its entirety, followed by "The Musical Box" and an encore performance of "Watcher of the Skies."

.Counting Out Time

Denis Gagne does an excellent job with the Peter Gabriel role as singer, showman, and musician. He doesn't look exactly like Gabriel, but he's certainly close enough. Likewise, his voice is not an exact mimic of Gabriel's but it's similarity is uncanny, especially in the many vocal inflections that Gabriel used. Gabriel was responsible for the highly theatrical aspect of Genesis' live performance during this era, and Gagne does all the moves and wears all the costumes just as Gabriel did.

.The Carpet Crawlers

François Gagnon plays the lead guitar just like Steve Hackett, who in retrospect was largely responsible for the progressive nature of Genesis' music. Sébastien Lamothe plays the double neck Micro-Fret six string bass and Rickenbacker twelve string guitar along with the bass pedals, just as Mike Rutherford did. Éric Savard plays all the keyboard parts with all the virtuosity of Tony Banks, exactly matching the many keyboard sounds Genesis used. Martin Levac does a great job on drums and occasional vocals, even perfecting the same tilt of head that characterized Phil Collins' look behind the drum kit back then. Collins himself thrilled both band and audience recently when he joined the band onstage in Geneva to perform "The Musical Box." Hackett has also performed an encore song with them at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2002; Gabriel and Rutherford have both attended shows.

."It's the bottom of a staircase that spirals out of sight" - The Carpet Crawlers

To stage an accurate recreation of a Genesis tour, the Musical Box does tremendous research to duplicate the staging down to the last detail. The Lamb tour was never filmed, so they had to rely on "hundreds of photos and slides of the original concerts, videos, amateur films, articles from papers and magazines, as well as information offered by numerous people who either worked on or attended the shows." The stage set, the lighting, the special effects, and the costumes all match the original production exactly. For The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour, The Musical Box are actually licensed by Genesis and Peter Gabriel to perform this show. To present the 1124 slides that were used on three rear-projection screens to illustrate the story of the Lamb, they were assisted by David Lawrence who was the original slide operator during the Genesis tour. The slides used in the Musical Box production are duplicates if not the original slides. Similarly, the costumes are identical to those worn by Gabriel.

.The Lamia

On their website, they describe the pre-production for this project, in which Tony Banks allowed the band access to Genesis' original 24 track masters of the Lamb recording sessions at the Farm Studio in Britain. "Some instruments and pieces on the album are very hard to pick out accurately. It has been a unique and valuable opportunity to be able to listen to the original recordings so that each instrument and vocal line can be identified and recognized in order to be able to more accurately reproduce this on stage. Sebastien (bass) and Denis (vocals) were able to go through each song and each of the 24-channel recordings to work out sections that had been previously difficult to hear."

.The Colony of Slippermen

A historically accurate recreation of a rock band's tour is unprecedented; the only comparisons that come to mind are classical music, in which the classical repertoire is constantly reproduced by orchestras all over the world, mostly without the benefit of recordings or photographs to provide reference points on the original compositions and performances. The original instrument movement does exhaustive historical research in the attempt to reproduce classical music in the same manner in which it would have been performed at the time it was written.


Similarly, The Musical Box uses the original instruments (Taurus bass pedals, ARP Pro Soloist sythesizer, Mellotron, Hammond organ, Leslie amplifiers, Rickenbacker guitars, etc.) that were used by Genesis to create this music, in order to capture the exact sound. The other parallel that comes to mind would be the theater, in which various companies can perform a play or a musical without direct participation of the original composers or performers. Genesis in this period combined the best aspects of classical music and theater in their brand of progressive rock, and in this context, The Musical Box has actually become the current day touring company of Genesis.


For anyone who has ever enjoyed the Gabriel era of Genesis, including Nursery Cryme (1971), Foxtrot (1972), Selling England by the Pound (1973), and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974), seeing The Musical Box perform is a chance to "take a little trip back" to experience this music played live as it was done by Genesis at the time. For anyone who actually saw any of these tours, seeing The Musical Box recreation is revelatory – you will not understand the magnitude of their accomplishment (as I didn't) until you experience it for yourself.

.The Musical Box

In the meantime, go to the website where you will find a number of video clips from both the Lamb and Selling England tours in which you can get a little sample of what The Musical Box can do; a DVD is planned. If the best gifts are ones that the recipients would not necessarily buy for themselves but ones that they would highly enjoy, I'd have to say I've received the ultimate gift (although I still say she spent too much!). Thanks J.

.Watcher of the Skies

The Musical Box - A Reader Responds

I'm posting this thoughtful response with permission from Larry P. from email because it wouldn't fit within Blogger's comment space limitation. You've got the floor Larry:

I can sense these musicians have a great respect and caring for the original Genesis music - how often do the covered artists give such a blessing and so much cooperation! So, philosophically, I can see some distinction between this and Beatlemania, which was a commercial concept where the producers found the singers to fill the roles. I suspect Musical Box was a much more from-the-music-up effort (art-driven; not dollar-driven). Says a lot that Genesis members cooperated.

In classical music and other performing arts, we draw a distinction between art and entertainment. Entertainment can happen when someone listens to Beethoven's 5th and just likes the familiar melodies. The effect is compounded if the musicians are comatose or the conductor is a self-adoring showman. Art, on the other hand, takes us beyond where we are to somewhere new, and often (as I have learned in my 17 years working for a major symphony orchestra) leads to a deep feeling of inner satisfaction - of being moved beyond. Obviously the two categories overlap/blur.

A recreation like Beatlemania and that Abba-cover band are obviously pure entertainment/fun. Only the shallow person is moved. It's just fun for the rest of us.

In a good rock concert, where the performers are really engaged - like the bits o' Bruce I saw on PBS a few weeks ago- that's art drawing from the artist's insides, but may be experienced by some as mostly just fun, familiar entertainment. Same can happen in classical concerts with familiar repertoire.

Usually in classical music, while the artist's performance generally reflects great fidelity to the score (major diversions being considered heresy, generally), the greatest performances are those that reflect strongly the artist's own musical wisdom and insight, within the context of the composer's vision of the work. The various performances of the same work are both similar and different (reflecting individualistic interpretive differences).

So here's the puzzle for me, which ultimately I could answer for myself only if I too were to experience a Musical Box concert: Is that re-creation of rock music -- where there is such a great thrill for the audience from witnessing the painstakingly and reverently and accruately covering of the great original music -- is that an artistic expression that draws from and reflects the re-creators' inner artistry, or is it simply an all-around thrill (for artists and audiences) from recreating the music as accurately closely as possible to the original -- like a skilled art forgery (but here done with the cooperation of the artists!)?

The best rock music contains large doses of both. It is an important question for me, being in an area of music (classical)where we worry how we can keep the artistic integrity, and balance the budget, without pandering to the need for entertainment to such an extent that the artistry is harmed.

Ultimately I think I would agree with your email comment to me, Bill -- you said "As far as The Musical Box is concerned, I'd say they are purely entertainment while the creation by Genesis of The Lamb or Selling England would definitely fall in the category of art."

But it sounds like the recreation was a real hoot anyway! BTW, I was really curious about their SEBTP show and followed your weblink. I'm afraid I was wholly unimpressed with the "Gabriel" recreator. Maybe he's gotten a little more zest since then (I think they did that show in 1993??). But he had no oomph. It all sounded accurately recreated, but his singing (to the extent that one can tell such things from a QuickTime view) didn't have that Gabriel gutsiness....

Thanks Larry. The art vs. entertainment issue is a sticky one, even just considering the realm of physical art like paintings. There are likely as many interpretations as there are viewers. I've had some very amusing experiences at museums viewing modern art, with which I have a definite love/hate relationship. But like the old definition of pornography, I may not be able to adequately define "art" but I know it when I see it.

Regarding rock music, I'd put it mostly in the realm of entertainment, although occasionally it does rise to the level of art. As far as The Musical Box is concerned, I'd say they are purely entertainment while the creation by Genesis of The Lamb or Selling England would definitely fall in the category of art. Not for nothing was Genesis the prime beneficiary of a brief movement that attempted to relabel progressive rock as "art rock" in the seventies; I never liked that term, sounded kind of twee. One might even make the case that the term helped kill the genre, although punk music might have had something to do with it too.

The Musical Box is not in any way going for a creative interpretation - they are trying for historical accuracy. Somewhere on their website it says that musically, they strive to duplicate the album verisons rather than Genesis' live renditions which may have varied from night to night, tour to tour etc. which would make the endeavor potentially unwieldy.

Your comparison of The Musical Box to skilled art forgery with the cooperation of the artist is definitely apt, however I think I prefer the concept of a theatrical touring company performing a show for people who greatly appreciate the opportunity to have a musical experience that they could not otherwise have. I shudder to think that if early Genesis had a wider appeal, these guys might be doing permanent gig in Vegas along the lines of Cirque du Soleil, Elton John, or Celine Dion (yikes).

That these guys can do the Genesis music as well as they do, speaks to their ability as musicians, however to rise to the level of "art" I should think they would have to create something new that would have a similar level of musical accomplishment as that which they emulate. They may actually do original music when they're not working as The Musical Box, it looked like one of the members had a CD for sale at the show, but I didn't really take time to check it out.

I would agree with you that the singer is not quite Gabriel, but that speaks more to Gabriel's talent I think. In the duration of the two hour performance, the Musical Box singer more than proved himself in the Gabriel role, which might be one of the more demanding and least forgiving jobs in show business. What really put them over the top for me was the beauty and power of the instrumental work. All the other accurate duplication of the staging was further icing on the cake. If only for an evening of celebration of some great music, the likes of which we really haven't seen much of since, this show is wholly worthwhile. It really boils down to great music performed by and for people who have a high appreciation for it. As the ultimate Genesis fans, the guys in The Musical Box may have found the best jobs of all if they can make a living off it, and with tours going all over the world with numerous sellouts (they sold out two nights at the Keswick earlier this year), it would seem that they are doing well.

Incidentally, Steve Hackett has carved out a very interesting dual solo career (maybe I'll do an in depth blog entry about him one day). He does acoustic music in a trio format - him on guitar usually with keyboard and woodwind accompaniment. The music is beautiful, bordering on classical (he's done a number of quasi-classical albums including a very nice album of Satie recorded w/his brother). He also works with an electric band which performs a mixture of songs from his many solo albums and many Genesis classics, often in medley form, often taking just the progressive instrumental passages. He makes no attempt to duplicate the Genesis versions, his musicians are excellent and these passages are no less powerful regardless of their setting. He's got a great air of British dignity also, the last time I saw him here in Philadelphia, at the end of the concert he shook hands with each member of his band - you don't see that much in popular music (or ever). You can check him out at his

Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway Tour, Indianapolis Convention Center, 11/22/74

For the sake of comparison, here's what the real thing looked like. The image quality of these scanned 35mm slides doesn't compare with current photographic technology, but you can get the idea. Check the Slipperman costume then and now. This show was the second stop on the U.S. tour which had opened in Chicago the night before. The Lamb album had not yet been released in the U.S., so the audience heard the double album in it's entirety for the first time live.

.Rutherford & Gabriel

.Gabriel & Collins

.Hackett, Gabriel, Rutherford, Collins

.Hairless Heart

.The Colony of Slippermen


.The Musical Box

Jim Greider, our friendly local record store owner (The Peace Chief, Richmond, IN) gave both Dave and I imports of the Lamb album as we were leaving for Indianapolis to go to the show. We recorded the concert, but since we now had the album, we debuted the album on our college radio station, WECI-FM, the next night, in it's entirety, complete with Peter Gabriel's spoken introduction to each side, recorded at the concert. Good times, indeed.

Monday, June 20, 2005

New Single and Album Due from Texas

Texas will release two versions of a new single, "Getaway" in the U.K. on August 1st. Their new album Red Book, from which the single is drawn, hits the racks on October 31st. Bassist and songwriter Johnny McElhone describes the new record's influences as "Stax, soundtracks, electronic pop, Giorgio Moroder, Kate Bush, and the usual mix of Prince and Motown," which could just as easily describe their classic White on Blonde album (1997).

At last count, this great Scottish band remains without a U.S. contract and this, their seventh studio album will be import only; their last album Careful What You Wish For (2003), the excellent collection, Greatest Hits (2000), and the standard-setting live DVD, Paris (2001) which featured the complete Paris concert from the Greatest Hits tour, plus every Texas song video as a bonus, were likewise not released here. Samples of "Getaway," more info, and a nice new Sharleen Spiteri photo shoot are all up now on the website.

Looks like motherhood agrees w/her.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

New Album From Tanita Tikaram Released on 6/13/05

Speaking of female vocalists from the U.K., it was great to discover yesterday that Tanita Tikaram has a new record out this week, Sentimental. From what I can gather, she's released it on a French label, Naive, which is distributed by V2 Records Scandinavia. There are sound samples of four songs at the Naive site, and they all sound great. It's available at at Amazon (UK), but the best price is to be found at CD-Wow, £8.75 with free worldwide shipping which works out to approximately $15.99.

After breaking out with an international hit, "Twist in My Sobriety" at age eighteen, Tanita released six fine albums over the course of ten years, but hasn't been heard from since her last album, The Cappuccino Songs (1998) which never even saw release in the U.S. even though it ranked with the best work of her career. Sentimental features a simplified, live-in-studio production style that provides the perfect setting for the long awaited return of this talented singer-songwriter. Welcome back Tanita, can't wait to hear the entire disc.

Looks like 7 yrs off agrees w/her.

Top Ten Female Singers from the U.K.

I'll freely admit to being swayed by a great live concert, and as such I've not been able to stop playing Swing Out Sister discs and videos since last Monday's show. Watching the videos again today, appreciating what a great singer Corinne Drewery is, I got the notion to formulate a top ten list of female singers from the U.K. Here it is.

  1. Corinne Drewery (Swing Out Sister)
  2. Julia Fordham
  3. Dido
  4. Sharleen Spiteri (Texas)
  5. Tanita Tikaram
  6. Andrea Corr (the Corrs)
  7. Eddi Reader
  8. Sade
  9. Tina Dico (Zero 7)
  10. Jem

Here are some more excellent singers from the U.K. Please add any that I might have overlooked and if you are so inclined, please post a comment with your own top ten.

Sophie Barker (Zero 7)
Maire Brennan (Clannad)
Kate Bush
Christine Collister
Kiki Dee
Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention)
Lisa Hannigan (Damien Rice)
Annie Haslam (Renaissance, now transplanted to Doylestown, PA)
Chrissie Hynde (another transplant)
Annie Lennox
Karen Matheson (Capercaillie)
Alison Moyet
Mairead Ni Mhoanaigh (Altan)
Beth Orton
Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span)
Kate Rusby
Sia (Furler, Zero 7)
Joss Stone
Linda Thompson
Tracey Thorn (Everything But the Girl)
Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies)
Martina Topley-Bird

Happy Father's Day

Chuck Elliot played a nice Richie Havens version of Cat Stevens' song, "Father and Son" yesterday on WXPN's Sleepy Hollow program (week in, week out the best music show on radio), in honor of Father's Day which got me to thinking about another great father song, "Jack Gets Up" by Leo Kottke from his 1989 album, My Father's Face. The album takes it's title from the lyric of this song, "If you look in the mirror it's your father's face/Everyday in the morning when you get up and you crawl out of bed." Kottke's an acoustic guitar master, but I still love his occasional vocal songs with his deep and sometimes droll vocal style. The complete lyrics for "Jack Gets Up" are here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Swing Out Sister, The Trocadero, Philadelphia, 6/13/05

Simply put, Swing Out Sister's performance tonight at the Troc in Philadelphia was one of the all-time best concerts I have ever been privileged to witness. This is partially because this is a band I didn't expect to ever see play live, much less here in my town. But mostly it is because over the course of eight studio albums spanning eighteen years they have amassed a wealth of excellent material which they played with the utmost of skill, utilizing many of the same musicians who have played on the albums and on their occasional tours. Corinne Drewery sings with a seemingly effortless command of this material, and the live treatments while true to the melodies on the records, expand and enhance the tunes, occasionally mixing in unexpected musical treats.

The setlist was flawless with virtually all of their albums represented. The musicians made the most of their solo opportunities, including the two backup singers who maintained a vocal rapport with Corinne that was uncanny. This show had everything you could want in a live music performance and then some (okay, better lighting would've been nice). The small but incredibly enthusiastic crowd at the Troc were all enriched by the experience. Three of their last four albums have not been released in their home country (the U.K.) or here in the U.S., released only in Japan, which is incomprehensible considering the unwaveringly high quality of their work. Making tonight's musical experience all the more memorable was an excellent pre-show music mix played on the venue's sound system via an iPod hooked up to the soundboard that was programmed by Andy Connell, the other half of Swing Out Sister, who doesn't partake of live touring anymore as he explains here (see the news entry for 3/31/05).

Corinne Drewery

Here's the setlist:
  • Surrender
  • Feel Free
  • You on my Mind
  • Sugar Free
  • Better Make It Better
  • Don't Give Up on a Good Thing
  • Circulate
  • La La (Means I Love You)
  • Who's Been Sleeping
  • Now You're Not Here/No Scrubs (yes the TLC hit from 1999)
  • That's the Way It Goes
  • Am I the Same Girl (w/reggae break by bassist)
  • Stoned Soul Picnic/Get In Touch With Yourself
  • Twilight World (just awesome)
  • (Encore) Love Won't Let You Down (w/dancers from the audience)
  • Breakout