Thursday, August 10, 2006

New Loreena McKennitt Album Due This Fall - An Ancient Muse (Quinland Road/Verve)

It's been a long nine years since Loreena McKennitt's last album, The Book of Secrets (1997). This fall, Loreena will release her seventh studio album, An Ancient Muse. Check out the e-card announcement.

Here are all the details from the official Quinland Road/Verve Records press release.

For Immediate Release August 8, 2006

This autumn, Verve/Quinlan Road will release Loreena McKennitt’s label debut, An Ancient Muse. As with her earlier albums, McKennitt takes her inspiration from the Celtic peoples, fusing the melodic sensibility of Scottish and Irish balladry with musical traditions from Greece, Turkey, Spain, and even Scandinavia. The recording is McKennitt’s first new studio album since 1997’s multi-platinum The Book of Secrets.

Produced by Loreena McKennitt, An Ancient Muse continues McKennitt’s exploration of Celtic themes on a journey that sweeps across eras and musical genres, from the British Isles to ancient Greece and Byzantine- and Ottoman-era Turkey. As McKennitt herself describes it, “This record is a little like equipping yourself with a Eurail card. It’s like saying, I don’t know where I’m going to on this trip. I’m just going to get on board the train, and allow each encounter to lead to the next.”

The nine tracks on An Ancient Muse take the listener on a timeless journey: a return home in “The Gates Of Istanbul;” the wonder of nomadic wandering in “Caravanserai;” star-crossed love and the Crusades in “The English Ladye and the Knight” based on a poem by Sir Walter Scott; and loss and longing in “Penelope’s Song,” which takes as its subject Odysseus’ wife, waiting and worrying while he was off having the adventures immortalized in Homer’s The Odyssey. Despite the wide array of instrumentation (including oud, lyra, Swedish keyed fiddle and viols da gamba), all the performances derive from similar inspiration: the sense of landscape McKennitt brings to all of her work—a visual set of images, organically connecting the piece to musician and instrument.

McKennitt works from her hometown of Stratford, Ontario, Canada where she is self-managed, self-produced, and head of her own internationally successful record company, Quinlan Road. In a recording career spanning two decades, her music has won worldwide critical acclaim and gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards in fifteen countries across four continents. She has won numerous awards including the Billboard International Achievement Award and two Juno Awards.

McKennitt says of her collaboration with Verve: "In so far as this recording represents a musical journey of exploration, I am very much looking forward to working with the people at Verve in exploring the possibilities this new musical document may embody." “Loreena is a truly gifted artist, producer, and business person,” says President and CEO of the Verve Music Group Ron Goldstein. “The new album will surely please her dedicated and loyal audience, who have been anticipating this event for a long time. It is, once again, a masterpiece of originality, spirit, and great music. We are thrilled she has chosen to work with Verve.”

For more information, please contact Krista Williams or Carla Sacks at Sacks & Co., 212.741.1000, or,,

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

WXPN's 885 Greatest Artists - It's That Time of Year Again

Following up last year's 885 Greatest Albums, which itself was a sequel to 2004's 885 Greatest Songs, WXPN has launched this year's listener survey to determine the 885 Greatest Artists of all time. Dismissed as silly by some but hotly debated and agonized over by others, these surveys provide great fun during the voting and a great listen when the results get counted down on the air. Go to xpn's website to submit your top ten list which also enters you in a contest to win the complete cd catalog of each of the top three artists as voted by the listenership. Voting deadline is September 10th. Check out the xpn discussion boards which will heat up as the countdown gets closer, with real time critiques, reaction and tears as the results are revealed. Also check out xpn's staff and artist picks, and xpn's music blog.

Listener JimGPhynn of Horsham got the ball rolling very nicely on the discussion board with this post, Letterman style, of the top ten reasons not to vote for the Beatles:

  1. Everyone else is doing it. Be different.
  2. You'd be giving an effective rubber stamp to the fact that countless radio stations have overplayed most of their songs.
  3. Michael Jackson owns the rights to their music.
  4. Paul McCartney is trying to change the credits to "McCartney/Lennon" from "Lennon/McCartney"
  5. What the hell is a "four of fish and finger pies" anyway?
  6. The album 'Yellow Submarine.'
  7. Can you listen to the song "Birthday" without seeing that obnoxious kid from the movie Sixteen Candles? I can't.
  8. You've got everything you want. And your bird can sing.
  9. They never did answer whether or not Paul is dead.
  10. They just don't have the staying power of bands like Arrested Development or Strawberry Alarm Clock...
My first move is to compile a list of every artist who would be worthy of inclusion on a top ten all time list. I think my number one and two positions are locked in already, the rest are up for grabs. Here we go:

1. The Beatles
2. Stevie Wonder

Here comes the hard part, picking 8 out of the following list, each one of which seems worthy on their own of an all time top ten berth. Here's the rest of the field:

The Allman Brothers Band
Louis Armstrong
Chet Atkins
Brian Auger
Average White Band
Burt Bacharach
George Benson
Karla Bonoff
Greg Brown
Jackson Browne
Lelia Broussard

The Carpenters
Valerie Carter
Ray Charles
Eric Clapton/Cream/Derek & Dominoes
Nat King Cole

The Corrs
Elvis Costello
Del Amitri

Tina Dico

The Doors
Bob Dylan
Keith Emerson/ELP
Ella Fitzgerald
John Fogerty/Creedence Clearwater Revival
Julia Fordham

Melody Gardot
Jerry Garcia/Grateful Dead
Lowell George/Little Feat
Jimi Hendrix

The Hooters
B.B. King
Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits
Leo Kottke
k.d. lang
Led Zeppelin

Dougie MacLean
Bob Marley
Rebecca Martin/Once Blue

Nellie McKay
Joni Mitchell
Van Morrison

Holly Palmer
Pink Floyd
Chris Rea
Rolling Stones
Joe Sample

The Spinners
Bruce Springsteen
Steely Dan
Swing Out Sister
James Taylor
Tanita Tikaram
Tower of Power
Tom Waits
Brian Wilson/Beach Boys
The Who

Zero 7

Friday, August 04, 2006

Kiki & Herb - Wilma Theater, 8/04/06

Kiki & Herb previewed their new Broadway show for four nights at Philadephia's Wilma Theater this week. Initially thinking this to be something of a self-test of my own open mindedness, Kiki & Herb's show quickly exploded the notion that one needs to be gay to enjoy drag queen musical comedy cabaret lounge act theater (not that there's anything wrong with that). Having honed their act for the better part of the past twenty years, Justin Bond totally becomes the aging diva Kiki, and Kenny Mellman is equally at home in the role of her piano man Herb, variously described in the act as a "gay Jewish retard."

Essentially, it's a parody of a lounge act where Herb plays piano and Kiki sings and drinks. The songs are interspersed with lengthy asides that are both historical (tales of their characters' history) and hysterical. As outrageous as the comedy is (the stuffed toy cow on the piano was described as having been in the manger when Jesus was born, and having eaten the afterbirth was bestowed with eternal life), the show hits some serious social and political notes as well without missing a beat.

Beyond the comedy and the commentary, the real key to the show is the excellent musical presentation. Herb is a supremely talented piano player, working the entire night providing accompaniment to the stories as well as the songs. By never breaking character, Kiki gets to have it both ways with the songs, both sending up and celebrating the art of the lounge singer, the aging diva, and even the drag cabaret stereotype from which their act obviously originated. About halfway through the first song when it dawns that you are hearing a lounge version of the current Gnarls Barkley hit "Crazy" it quickly becomes apparent that this is going to be no ordinary ride.

The song selection is both eclectic and goofy and therein lies the charm. Dan Fogelberg would likely have a coronary were he to hear Kiki & Herb's wonderful version of his "Same Old Lang Syne" reimagined as a chance meeting between Kiki and her estranged daughter. Clearly, the more pretentious the song, the better it plays for comedy. One could think of many more songs that would benefit by the Kiki and Herb treatment. The showstopping version of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" left that chestnut stuck in my head long after leaving the theater. After the final curtain call, I was left with just one thought: there's no people like show people!

Kiki & Herb with Oprah & Yoko wax figures.

All Kiki & Herb photos courtesy of their website and Myspace page © 2006.