Monday, August 20, 2012

Van Morrison - "Open The Door (To Your Heart)" - First Track From New Album, Born To Sing: No Plan B (2012), Due 10/2

Born To Sing: No Plan B

We Love the Title: Van Morrison will release Born To Sing: No Plan B on October 2nd. It's his first new studio album since Magic Time (2008). Blue Note has released the first track from it, check it out.

Listen to "Open The Door (To Your Heart)"

Tracklist for Born To Sing: No Plan B:
1. Open The Door (To Your Heart)
2. Going Down To Monte Carlo
3. Born To Sing
4. End Of The Rainbow
5. Close Enough For Jazz
6. Mystic Of The East
7. Retreat And View
8. If In Money We Trust
9. Pagan Heart
10. Educating Archie

Van Morrison 's Website
Van Morrison 's Facebook

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rumer - Live From Daryl's House (8/15/12), A Beautiful Set, Watch It Here

Photo by Mark Maglio

Rumer Has It: Live From Daryl's House last night debuted their 57th episode, featuring Rumer. It was a soulful, magical set. Rumer has a well known obsession with covering great songs from the sixties and seventies. Her gorgeous voice that is reminiscent of Karen Carpenter's is just perfect for the type of songs that Daryl Hall built his career on.

And the audience aren't the only ones thinking that their voices work so well together that they should team up. Rumer was clearly moved to be singing with someone she idolizes for his body of work, "Daryl Hall is a genius, a living legend who continues to write and record amazing music". And for his part, Daryl says at the end of the show that they are making plans to work together.

It's not just the amazing collaboration of talent that makes this session special. The song selection was brilliant, the arrangements were perfect, and the musicians were spectacular. The set (setlist below) included two songs from Rumer, two from Hall & Oates, and two were exceptionally well chosen covers.

Musical Director and guitarist Paul Pesco is responsible for the excellence of Daryl's band, giving each song just the right treatment, his guitar work was a real treat, on both acoustic and electric. The multi-talented Klyde Jones and Eliot Lewis both added backing vocals; both are former members of AWB who also play with Hall & Oates.

On Rumer's latest album, Boys Don't Cry (which gets it's U.S. release on September 4th), she covers all male singer-songwriters from the seventies, including "Sara Smile", the huge Hall & Oates hit from forty years ago, written by Daryl.

In this session "Sara Smile" gets a delicate, beautifully organic treatment, with Daryl's piano, the guitar lead played on acoustic, and duet vocals by Rumer and Daryl that are stunning. Watch "Sara Smile" here, or scroll down to watch the complete show.

Take Me as I Am (Rumer)
Be Thankful For What You Got (William DeVaughn)
Sara Smile (Hall & Oates)
Lady Day & John Coltrane (Gil Scott-Heron)
Slow (Rumer)
“I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do) (Hall & Oates)

Rumer - Vocals
Daryl Hall - Vocals, Piano, Guitar
Paul Pesco - Musical Director, Guitar
Eliot Lewis - Keys, Backing vocals
Klyde Jones - Bass, Backing vocals
Brian Dunne - Drums
Porter Carrol - Percussion

Watch the complete show:

Rumer - Boys Don't Cry

Rumer's Website
Rumer's Facebook

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jessie Ware - "Sweet Talk" , New Single from Devotion, Album Due August 20th, Plus Two Bonus Tracks

All Systems Go: Our favorite Brit singer on the verge, Jessie Ware, is set to deliver her debut album, Devotion, next Tuesday. This week Jessie released "Sweet Talk", the fifth single from the album. Mark Richardson in Pitchfork said this, about the single:

"Every once in a while, a song comes along that is the perfect mix of production, theme, and content-- a song like Jessie Ware's "Sweet Talk"...It's Sade, it's Marvin Gaye; it's unbelievably sexy but also thoughtful; it's sad and wistful and, ultimately, grounded. It pulls me in and it works for me, so I never leave."

Listen to "Sweet Talk" (this is a Youtube audio track)

Jessie Ware - Devotion

Devotion will be simultaneously released next Tuesday in both the U.S. and the U.K. In Britain it's on CD and MP3. Here in the states it's MP3 only; if you want a CD you'll have to spring for the import. Maybe to deflate high expectations for this long awaited debut, Jessie was quoted yesterday on The Digital Fix, saying:

""I didn’t know how to write a fucking song," Jessie Ware recently recalled when asked about the initial penning of her debut album, Devotion."

One reviewer wrote:

"...for someone who publicly declared their inability to write a song some months ago, it’s pretty impressive. Ware’s employment of traditional vocals, regenerated with modern production, elaborates on a distinctive 90s sound, creating an album that is both nostalgic, yet simultaneously innovative. In with the old, in with the new, we say."

In the U.K. there will be a deluxe edition with four bonus tracks added (MP3 only). There is no word about a U.S. release for the deluxe edition. Two of the bonus tracks are here for the listening. One is a cool cover of Bobby Caldwell's "What You Won't Do For Love" which we cannot get enough of, ever since it was posted on her Soundcloud page.

"Strangest Feeling" was Jessie's second single, and it's also a bonus track on the deluxe edition and is not available in the U.S. The other two bonus tracks are acoustic versions of songs on the standard version.

Jessie posted the following video to Facebook this morning. It's not by her, but we think it's a really cool video, so we are including it as a bonus video just for fun.

Photos courtesy of Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware's Website
Jessie Ware's Facebook

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Scissor Sisters - Electric Factory, Philadelphia, 7/05/12, Dancing Days Are Here Again (Updated)

The Scissor Sisters (Photo by Holly Kapral)

You Can't Sit Down: I have been to the frontier of modern dance/rock, I've been Kiki-ed, and I liked it. The Scissor Sisters, for the previously uninitiated (me), are the party band for the new millennium, with a huge worldwide following, they play original music that sounds like Elton John crossed with disco-era Bee Gees on steroids. The whole thing is steeped in the campy New York style transvestite cabaret tradition. The songs are loaded with sexual references and innuendo. I may have been the only person on the planet who didn't know that the group's name is a sexual reference. They make eighties style club anthems that make you move your body; this isn't sit-down concert hall music. But we're getting ahead of ourselves

Long time M&M favorite Chrissi Poland joined the Scissor Sisters in 2010 as a backing vocalist (she had sung with them at SXSW earlier that year). She immediately jetted off for some major league gigs in London, Malta, and points farther east. My introduction to the Scissor Sisters came while following Chrissi's global exploits First up was a sold out show at London's Brixton Academy, site of so many great concerts, including legendary live albums/videos by the likes of Madonna and Dido, about which, Chrissi said this, in her blog:

"The confetti comes in the last song, where canons blast sliver paper and fake three-dollar bills out into the crowd. Nothing like confetti and lasers to make an already-frenzied audience really lose their minds. I get the tingles every time it happens…it’s like being on the inside of a snow globe."

Photo by Ken Lambden

Next came Glastonbury and even though I knew of the Scissor Sisters, I had never heard them until this video. The crowd is impossibly huge; this is a long long way from Rockwood.

In the last two years, Chrissi and the Scissor Sisters have circled the globe several times as well as toured the U.S., plus they released their fourth album, Magic Hour. The Electric Factory show fell near the end of the American leg of the Magic Hour tour. After Thursday night in Philly, they had homecoming shows at Terminal 5 in New York Friday and Saturday, followed by a week's breather, then a gig in Singapore before flying to London for an Olympics related show. You can watch the London show in its entirety here; it was recorded July 21st at the Tower of London.

Photo courtesy of Rye Rye

The opening act was Rye Rye, a rapper from Baltimore. I'm no expert on rap, but I know what I like and it seems to me that words are a pretty important part of the deal. All I (or anyone else at the Electric Factory for that matter) could tell you about Rye Rye is that she looked really happening with her two male dancers, and that her DJ played some wicked beats, but the mix was so muddy and so loud that Rye Rye's raps all disappeared into the din.

There was also a DJ on hand to entertain between acts, and that he did, because the party atmosphere in the Electric Factory was in full swing while waiting for the Scissor Sisters. It didn't matter that the DJ had the same sound as Rye Rye and sounded like a continuation of her set. Luckily, the Scissor Sisters' sound was loud and clear. The show opened just like this, with "Any Which Way".

Someone posted two videos from the Philly show on Youtube, but the sound was a little rough so I chose some better clips from the same tour. If you would like to check out the Philly clips, they are here and here. The musicianship in this band is really tight, all handled by Babydaddy on guitar, bass, and synth, Del Marquis on lead guitar, Marc Delcore on keyboards, and Randy Real on drums.

The lead vocals are shared by Jake Shears and Mistress of Ceremonies, Ana Matronic. The backing vocals and awesome dance moves are by Chrissi and Bridget Barkan. Over time Bridget and Chrissi have been utilized more and more in the choreography of the show, including a vocal solo by Chrissi during "Inevitable"

They played a well constructed set that mixed seven songs from Magic Hour with classics like "Take Your Mama", "Comfortably Numb", and "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'". Here's the setlist:

Any Which Way
Keep Your Shoes On
Baby Come Home
The Skins
Kiss You Off
Take Your Mama
Running Out
Year of Living Dangerously
Let's Have a Kiki
Skin This Cat
Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd cover)
Invisible Light
Shady Love
I Don't Feel Like Dancin'

Only the Horses
Music Is the Victim

The new songs from Magic Hour are so good they already play like old favorites in the live show: "Inevitable", and these next two that we have for you on video, "Let's Have a Kiki", and "Shady Love".

From the outset it was apparent that there were a good deal more PDA's (public display of affectation) among the Scissor Sisters' crowd than you might expect to see at a concert. The Scissor Sisters have a good following among the GLBT community, in fact Ana commented at one point that the GLBT turnout in Philadelphia was the largest of anywhere they play. The Scissor Sisters' tent is large and welcomes people of all stripes; don't expect their tour bus to be stopping at Chick-Fil-A anytime soon.

The crowd was really into it, prompting Ana to rave about the crowd repeatedly saying that the love and energy that they were getting back from the crowd was making them do the best show ever. One might wonder if she says that to all the crowds, but in the end it doesn't matter because it was a killer show.

As I was sifting through the Youtube videos for this piece, I ran across a video that was so cute, I had to include it as a bonus video. The year was 2004 (long before Chrissi) and the Scissor Sisters were in Scotland, playing T in the Park, the major music festival of Scotland. In this song, Jake decides to wear his kilt in the traditional Scots' manner. Be sure to stick around for the wee interview after. Cheers!

Update 8/16/12 - The Scissor Sisters today released this delightful video for "Let's Have a Kiki".

Photo by Holly Kapral

The Scissor Sisters - Magic Hour [Deluxe Edition]

The Scissor Sisters' Website
The Scissor Sisters' Facebook

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Beach Boys - That's Why God Made the Radio (2012), Best New Beach Boys Album in Forty Years

That's Why God Made the Radio

Based on the consistently disappointing new material by the Beach Boys over the last forty years since Holland,the long suffering Beach Boys faithful had no good reason to expect any different when, at the end of last year, it was announced that the surviving members had set aside their differences and that they would celebrate the 50th anniversary of the band in 2012 with a new album and a tour. Here's the pitch:

The fact of the matter is that the new album is not only good, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable listen; yes, all 38 minutes of it. There's not a bum track on the record. The Beach Boys were never this consistent even back when they were good. The album opens with "Think About The Days", a pastoral blend of voices accompanied by a nicely understated piano, forming a beautiful lead-in to the title track, and if there's a better summer single this year, I've yet to hear it.

Listen to "Think About The Days"/"That's Why God Made The Radio"

Photos courtesy of The Beach Boys

The next song is "Isn't It Time" which reminisces about the past in a good way (a recurring theme throughout the album), maybe not as self-referential as "Do It Again", but it feels good like that. It's also got a nice undercurrent of doo-wop, a little nod perhaps back to the time of the group's origin, simpler times indeed.

Listen to "Isn't It Time"

What's clear, three tracks in, is that the vocals are driving this bus, and they sound extraordinary. All the great pop and rock records including the early Beach Boys and the Beatles have been vocal driven and it's good to see the Beach Boys doing it so well, fifty years on. Among it's other charms, That's Why God Made the Radio adheres to the simple recipe of strong vocals, strong songs, and hooks galore.

Listen to "Daybreak Over The Ocean"

The credits show that Brian Wilson not only sang, but that he co-wrote all of the songs but one and that he co-produced the record, and while it would be nice to think that he was working like in the old days, if you've seen any of his live performances, you know that this is just not possible. Brian's presence on the stage at his shows, sometimes seems as much a prop as the keyboard he sits behind but never plays. His band sounds a lot like the Beach Boys in their prime, and while his often off key vocals don't help much, it is his very presence that prevents his band from being just a really talented Beach Boys cover band.

How much that dynamic applies to the recording of That's Why God Made the Radio is anybody's guess, but we subscribe to the belief that Brian's body of work with the Beach Boys in the sixties was genius, and that even after all the years and and all the psychiatric treatments, that he still hears music in his head and the Beach Boys have an organization of just the right people to turn these ideas into Beach Boys songs.

Start with the songwriting; the first behind the scenes hero has to be Joe Thomas. He co-wrote all but two songs, the majority of which are collaborations between him and Brian. Larry Millas and Jim Peterik also contributed to writing the first three tracks, and Mike Love wrote "Daybreak Over The Ocean" by himself. These songwriters, especially Thomas are key, for without good songs, this would be just another disappearing Beach Boys record.

There is one songwriter we haven't mentioned yet. "Summer's Gone" concludes the album beautifully, with a rich melody that comes closer than any other track to the Beach Boys' best work. It embodies all of the wistful emotions that the title suggests. This, most worthy addition to the Beach Boys catalog, was written by Brian Wilson, Joe Thomas, and Jon Bon Jovi.

Listen to "Summer's Gone"

With the songwriting in very capable hands, the other half of making this a great record was the production and the choices made here were as perfect as one could hope. Never sounding over-produced, each of the tracks got just the right arrangement and a delicate production touch. The vocal arrangements and performances are especially key to this sounding like a Beach Boys record, and the other behind the scenes hero would have to be Paul Fauerso. He did the vocal arrangements, keyboard arrangements, percussion arrangements and he also worked as producer and engineer.

Although Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson didn't live to see it, the reunion of Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks in such a talented, friendly, and conducive recording environment is truly a gift. The songs may not reach the heights of "God Only Knows" or "Caroline No", but the fact that they even come close and that we have a new, listenable Beach Boys album in 2012 is nothing short of miraculous.

The Beach Boys' Website
The Beach Boys' Facebook