Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pacifika - Asunción (Six Degrees Records, 2008)

Checking out some new music recently with Dave from Direct Current, this track by Pacifika caught my ear.

Listen to "Sweet (Radio Mix)"

Suggesting a mix disc concept of songs that are described by their title, "Sweet" comes from Pacifika's album Asunción,recently released by Six Degrees Records. This Peruvian/Canadian threesome is distinguished by a most interesting mix of musical influences and the very appealing vocals of Silvana Kane; described on their website thusly:

Pacifika is the multi-talented Silvana Kane, a Peruvian born singer, re-formed pop sensation (West End Girls), and accomplished actress with a love of flamenco, electronica, and textured percussion; Adam Popowitz a Canadian bred guitarist adept at new wave, classical, and pop, and a skilled producer responsible for a catalogue that includes indie rock and Armenian folk music; and Toby Peter, a dub wise bassist born in Canada and raised in Barbados, explorer of jazz, hip-hop, Latin, metal and Caribbean grooves.

Together the Vancouver based trio is making a new kind of global pop, music that nods to its diverse international influences, while forging its own unique voice. Jazz infused and Latin tinged, marked by gently flowing melodies, deep grooves, waves of cracking percussion and the occasional burst of exhilarating guitar noise, Pacifika's comfortable, complex sound defies categories, creating soothing soundscapes held together by Kane's smooth, intimate vocals.

Check out Pacifika's website for a free download of "Me Cai", here is the video.

The website player offers up four songs from Asunciónwhich is more than enough to conclude that the full length CD will be well worth a listen.

Pacifika myspace.
Pacifika website.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ledisi - CBS Saturday Early Show, 6/28/08

The CBS Saturday Early Show presents live music performances every week during the last half hour of the program. Very quietly presenting some of the best new artists and most interesting established artists, the "Second Cup Cafe" has become the most reliable source for quality live music on network television. Just check out the Second Cup Cafe archive at the CBS website where videos of the performances are all available to watch; most of these are so good we can forgive being subjected to a commercial at the start of each video.

Ledisi's latest, Lost & Found (Verve, 2007)is her major label debut and her third album overall. Garnering much attention for the two Grammy nominations she earned for Lost & Found,Ledisi is also the worthy recipient of much praise for her contributions to tribute albums such as We All Love Ellaand Forever, for Always, for Luther.Live appearances on TV can be a great way to bring new audience to the table, and this morning's performance of "All Right" is a perfect example.

Soul Singer (LeSun, 2001) is Ledisi's debut album, this is the original release.

Soul Singer, the Revival (LeSun, 2003) is remastered & expanded.

Feeling Orange But Sometimes Blue (LeSun, 2002) is a jazzy record with both standards and originals. The first two albums go in and out of print frequently but are currently available at Ledisi's website. Lost & Foundis available at Amazon, and all three can be found at all the usual download stores.

Ledisi's myspace.
Ledisi's website.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin, 1937-2008

One of our most free-thinking, opinionated, accomplished, and funny practitioners of comedy, George Carlin died yesterday at age seventy-one. Carlin perfected the art of comedy as social commentary (and vice versa) and was well into his fifth decade at it, always bringing new and fresh material to the stage. I had two brief brushes with Carlin during his career. As the local radio disc jockey for an FM rock station, I had the honor of introducing Carlin on stage at one of his live concerts in the mid-seventies. Years later, standing on line at the NBC studios one afternoon for a taping of the Conan O'Brien show on which Carlin was a guest that night, I remember Carlin arriving at NBC with no entourage, not even an assistant, just the ultimate everyman in jeans, with ponytail and briefcase.

Much has already been said and written about Carlin since the news of his death this morning, but the appreciation that really struck a chord with me is one written by music industry veteran and prolific cultural commentator, Bob Lefsetz in his Lefsetz Letter, the complete text of which is reproduced here with permission.

George Carlin

The last time I saw George Carlin was at the Universal Amphitheatre. As I watched him stride the stage with his mic, I thought what a great job this was. You get an agent to book the gig, you drive to the venue from your house, you do your show and you take ALL THE MONEY!

I'm sure George loved that. After all, he invented the format. Oh, the Borscht Belt comedians preceded him, but George wasn't a member of that club, hell, he wasn't even Jewish. He didn't depend on favors from singers, and he had a gold-selling record career. George Carlin didn't tell jokes, he specialized in the TRUTH! And one thing the baby boomers recognized was the truth. They flocked to George. Once he gave up trying to please their parents and just said what he felt on the inside.

I can't remember whether it was '67 or '68, but around seven o'clock on a Sunday evening, with school still in session, my parents dropped me off at Sacred Heart University for a concert. One of those five act extravaganzas like the one featuring the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, the Soul Survivors and...that I went to at Fairfield University the fall before. The headliner was Vanilla Fudge. Actually, I saw Carmine Appice a couple of weeks back at the Kenny Chesney show. Playing second was Connecticut's biggest local act, NAIF, the North Atlantic Invasion Force, but in the middle, on around nine, was the performance I truly remember. George Carlin took the stage. Did the Hippy-Dippy Weatherman. He was funny. I kept my eye on him. When he exploded in the seventies it wasn't news, but the preordained success of someone who worked hard, bucking the system to ultimately be successful in another system, that of youth culture.

Sure, he was about ten or fifteen years older than his new audience, but he was seen as one of them. A God. Quoted ad infinitum from his Little David records.

Seinfeld's observational comedy? That's all derived from Carlin. I don't want to hassle Jerry here, he admits it. Carlin was the first to look at our screwed up world and question it. The only comedian doing this today is Chris Rock. Cable TV killed live comedy and while everybody with a modicum of talent looked to star in, or write for, a sitcom, today's generation was subjected to the inanities of Dane Cook. A harmless gentleman, but that's just the point... Dane's about jokes. Carlin was much more than jokes, he actually inspired people to think, to question.

Save the planet? SAVE YOURSELF!

I think of Carlin's routine every time I hear people pontificate about the environment. George said the planet's been around for millions of years, it will survive. Isn't that an interesting thought? An Earth without people? Instead of thinking about whether your kids will get cancer, think of human beings going the way of dinosaurs.

And, of course, the difference between football and baseball... Sudden death and extra innings. The gridiron as opposed to the field. Baseball is a pastoral game...

And what about the routine about STUFF? Buying stuff, hoarding stuff, moving stuff. As someone addicted to my stuff, I think of George's words whenever I debate throwing something away. Do I really need it? Is my identity really rolled up in my possessions?

And then there was the Friday night executions. Maybe it was Monday night. But you remember that HBO routine. God, that would generate ratings! Begging the question, would executives put ANYTHING on television if it delivered ratings? In the years since, Carlin seems a seer. Hell, it's almost not a joking matter. They have vigils, TV reports, whenever they execute another inmate.

From a distance, it looked like George couldn't break through into TV or movies. The obituaries are saying it was his choice. I'd like to agree with this, if you're sui generis, if you're making a difference, can you play any role but yourself?

I looked forward to those HBO specials.

I must say, in the recent one, George was a bit off his game. Maybe his health was affecting his talent. Then again, we don't reevaluate Sinatra based on his final tours. Frank's legend was cemented over and over again, from the forties to the sixties. And George Carlin's legend was cemented from the seventies to the nineties. He wasn't the voice of a generation, he'd hate that description, rather he was the trusted observer, removed, sitting on high, taking the pulse of a nation.

You might say he was secondary to Richard Pryor. I love Richard, but their acts were different. Richard was a storyteller nonpareil. Carlin's talent lay in his insight, in questioning what the fuck was going on through humor.

If you look at Carlin's track record, it's akin to the Beatles'. He was more consistent than the Stones, even though he worked just as long. And even though we loved his greatest hits, we always wanted to hear his new stuff. Carlin wasn't calcified, he was positively alive.

Sure, he took drugs to cope. But, he also had a wife and a child and a level of normalcy that left him out of the "Behind The Music"/"E! True Hollywood Story" exposes. With Carlin, it wasn't about the drugs, but the talent. We marveled at the talent.

It's funny when a guy like Carlin dies. Because he still lives. Not only all those HBO specials and records, but the routines in our minds. He's changed our lives. You see, Carlin's comedy never got dated. Because being human never really changes.

But now Carlin is gone. Kinda weird, because he was an inspiration, a beacon for all us wannabe truth tellers. If Carlin could do it, maybe we could too. Now, the path is only illuminated by his legacy, there will be no more new words, no more new routines. No more appearances on late night TV where he questions the conventional wisdom, where he states he doesn't vote because it doesn't make a difference. I'm a big believer in casting my ballot, but I can see that George is right. The fat cats win no matter what. The little guy is squeezed out. George was not a star who wanted to live above the fray, he never forgot his roots, he was interested in the little guy, and the little guy loved him for it.

Everybody I know who interacted with Carlin said they had a conversation. His stardom did not eviscerate his humanity. But his poor heart stopped him cold.

Seventy one is too young to die. Seems old, but when you get there, or see that a man running for President is that age, you realize that as a septuagenarian, you've still got a lot of living to do. Hopefully.

George's candle has been snuffed out, but his memory will live on. If I think of my pantheon of inspirations, I put him right up there with Tom Wolfe and Frank Zappa. Wolfe the observer and Zappa the questioner. That's what George Carlin was. An observer who was not afraid to question the status quo. I will be continued to be inspired by him. Hopefully, you will too.

Thank you Bob for that, and thanks for the permission to reproduce it. Here is one of the classics for which Carlin will always be remembered:

George Carlin's website.
The Lefsetz Letter archive.
Subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Carly Simon & Ben Taylor - Family Therapy on the Howard Stern Show, 6/19/08

Carly Simon and Ben Taylor visited the Howard Stern show this morning along with David Saw and Carly's band to perform "You're So Vain" and to talk about Carly's new record, This Kind of Love.Here is the segment in its entirety. You have never heard an interview quite like this. Warning for sensitive ears, this is uncensored satellite radio.

Audio courtesy, photos courtesy

Ben Taylor

David, Ben, Carly

This Kind of Love(Hear Music, 2008)

Carly Simon's myspace.
Ben Taylor's myspace.
Sally Taylor's myspace.
David Saw's myspace.
James Taylor's website.
Livingston Taylor's website.
Kate Taylor's website.
Howard Stern Show website.
Sirius Satellite Radio website.

P.S. Here's a nice flashback courtesy of lupine22 on youtube.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shayna Zaid - Rockwood Music Hall, 6/11/08

Shayna celebrated her birthday last night at Rockwood with her full band and a packed house of adoring friends, family, and fans. Having only just encountered Shayna for the first time about five weeks ago, getting to know her music in the meantime has made my appreciation for this gifted singer and songwriter grow exponentially.

Here's "Take Your Time" from this show.

Shayna's excellent band is anchored by her producer Jay Deasel on guitars, Emek Rave on bass, Christopher Heinz on drums, and also features Yan Izquierdo on violin, and Brendan O'Grady on piano; the piano and violin combining to add a most pleasing texture to the sound on the full band arrangements.

Listen to "It's You".

"I Remember" opened the show, and while the acoustic version of this knocked me out the last time here, the full band version totally killed. There was an amazing amount of love in the room for Shayna, and she reciprocated with an awesome set that included "Love", "Room for Love", "I Need an Answer", "Please Stay", "Take Your Time" (as heard on The Young and the Restless) Shayna sang this with only Jay's accompaniment on acoustic which you can see in the youtube clip above, "It's You" (one of the most beautiful love songs ever), "Made for You" and "Kiss and Make Up" to close the show in great style.

Shayna is currently recording many of these songs and more for her U.S. debut CD, but many of them are currently running on the player on her myspace page so head on over and have a listen. As should be obvious from the photos here, Shayna is one of the most photogenic singers as well as being one of the most musically gifted. Enjoy the rest of these shots from last night's show and remember to click for a larger view.

Shayna Zaid's myspace.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sharleen Spiteri to Release Solo Album, Melody, July 14th in U.K.

After fronting the excellent Scottish band Texas for twenty years (hard to believe, Harry), singer Sharleen Spiteri has finally recorded a solo album, Melody, scheduled for release in the U.K. on July 14th. Hoping not to get lost in the shuffle of current singers working the sixties/pop/soul aesthetic, Melody is described on Sharleen's website thusly:

Not only did Sharleen write the whole album, she also produced it, taking complete artistic control of its every sonic nuance. Steeped in the sound and textures of '60s soul, '50s rock'n'roll and doo-wop, it's an album that's vintage in flavour yet utterly contemporary in spirit. Beside the new generation of retro-obsessed UK songbirds such as Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Adele, it's a timely reminder that Sharleen was already dabbling in similar influences over a decade ago, be it Tamla Motown ('Black Eyed Boy'), Marvin Gaye ('Say What You Want') or Elvis Presley (cross-dressing up as The King for 2001's 'Inner Smile' video).

Going solo has allowed her the freedom to indulge in such consuming passions even further, creating an album that proudly wears its influences on its sleeve. "I've always wanted to make a Nancy Sinatra record," she explains. "That was never going to happen with Texas, but being on my own meant I could take complete control and make the kind of album I've always dreamed of. That's what Melody is all about. It's my dream Nancy and Lee Hazlewood record, but with Johnny Cash, Motown, Elvis, The Righteous Brothers, all these things thrown in. That's what it boils down to. My ultimate personal fantasy record."

Here's the video for the first single, "All the Times I Cried".

All the Times I Cried contains a bonus track "When Did You Leave Heaven", and is released in the U.K. on July 1st on digital download and on July 7th on CD single.

(Photo courtesy BBC/Later with Jools Holland)

All The Times I Cried (Acoustic)

Listen to "That Was a Lie".

Perhaps a future bonus track, this song is described as being from the album but is not included on it or on the first single. "That Was a Lie" is currently being offered as a free download on Sharleen's website.

Also check out Texas' Youtube page for a nice collection of Texas videos.

Sharleen's website.
Sharleen's myspace.
Texas' website.
Texas' youtube.