RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2009

Have Mercy, Percy!!

sledge

Spotlight on Percy Sledge, y’all.

While most well-known for When A Man Loves A Woman, Southern soul legend Percy Sledge is a master of delivering smoldering, aching love songs that young lovers have been rubbing bellies to for generations.  I grew up on Percy music and he’s one of my all-time favorite artists.  The Alabama native was honored by being inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. 

Enjoy.

  Warm & Tender Love

  My Special Prayer

  Set Me Free

  Bring it on Home to Me

  Take Time to Know Her

  A Sweet Woman Like You

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 18, 2009 in music legends, oldies, Soul

 

Tags: ,

Go n-eírí an bóthar leat

“May the road rise up to meet you.”

humor_kiss_me_irish_green_shirt

Blessin’s upon ya.

  Obligatory Irish Drinking Song

One that didn’t go so smoothly…

HAPPY ST. PADDY’S DAY!!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 17, 2009 in Funny, holidays

 

Tags: , ,

A Tale of Redemption…Going “The Distance”

taylor-hicks2

First, let me say that Taylor Hicks owes me nothing.  Nada.  Not a thing.

I used to think that he did, but let me say here (clearly), that I was wrong.  You see, four years ago when I rabidly followed Taylor on the cheese fest that is American Idol, I was envigorated by a young man who appeared to beat the odds, defy “the man” and strike a blow for the every day music lover.  He was a refreshing throwback to good, “old” music that was pure, un-synthesized, and “real”.  He was the everyday musical hero who came to save the day.

After AI, I expected Taylor to remain “all about the music” and continue to defy the musical ogres who control content and dole out the uninspiring pablum derived from electronic manipulation.  It was evident from Taylor’s first post-AI release, Taylor Hicks, that there was more influence from those writing the checks than any of us would have preferred.  Through the whole time, Taylor seemed to be impersonating some character in a play and while fans largely supported the record, it rang hollow on the charts.  It seemed that the daring, soulful style and smokin’ harmonica accompniment was largely absent from the record, leaving listeners, including me, wondering just where Taylor Hicks went.

His live tour was very successful and likely garnished Taylor enough dough to break away from J Records (whether mutual or not), start his own label, and take time for the next record that, maybe…just maybe, would more closely represent what fans so desparately want to hear from the soul man.  There have been some detours along the way, including the Broadway role of Teen Angel, that I simply did not agree with because it’s not my vision for the dude.  But, really…what do I know?

Oddly enough, Grease appears to have been the catalyst that provided some public acceptance and a bit of a springboard for, perhaps, a redemption of “America’s pick”.   Even though I still cringe at the notion of Taylor crooning out Beauty School Dropout, I can’t deny that it’s been good for his career.  Hey, it’s a mean to an end, I guess.  I have said all along, if the music is good, people will listen and all of the other extra-cirricular activities won’t mean a thing. 

That brings us to the release of Taylor Hicks’ new CD, The Distance.  I’ve been listening to it for a few days along with some other new music that I’ve been recently turned on to.  I wanted to give it a few days to simmer before I commented.  First, let me quench your curiosity and say that overall, this CD is MUCH better than the first release.

There’s a definite ease on this record that was absent on Taylor Hicks.  While that effort was frenetic, disjointed and a bit out of control, The Distance is thoughtful, balanced and comfortable.  It is very reminiscient of his pre-Idol work and shows that Taylor seems to be going “back” to his core, which is exactly what most people loved about him in the first place.  This should have been his Idol release, had they been smart.  The arrogance of greedy people who believe their “formula” for making a record and maximizing its profit never ceases to amaze me, but we continually see these dinosaurs take unique and genuine talent and turn them into something that is the opposite of what actually makes them appealing, and then scratching their head at its failure.

But, I digress…back to the review.

As I previously detailed, the first single, What’s Right is Right, is a simple, pleasing tune with a great video.  It’s currently doing well on AC radio and seems to be a happy medium between what’s expected from fans and what’s accepted by the industry. 

But what about the rest of the record?   Well, I think I get Taylor.  He is not just one style or one genre.  Like me, he likes a lot of different types and styles of music and I think that’s what he wanted this record to be.  Recently, he did a guest DJ spot on “My Turn” on 100.3 (Newport Beach, CA), no doubt as part of his promotion of this release (which I have to say is 200% better than the crack PR team at J Records and The Firm).  Whoever is in charge of promotion this time is doing a fabulous job.  Anyway, Taylor’s playlist for the hour long DJ stint is very telling.

St. Dominic’s PreviewVan Morrison
Gasoline Alley -Rod Stewart
How Long – Ace
Rainy Night In Georgia – Brook Benton
You Belong To Me – Carly Simon 
Hurricane Water – Citizen Cope
Foggy Mountain Breakdown – Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs
Where I’m From (Alabama Frame Of Mind)- Shelby Lynne
Life’s Been Good – Joe Walsh
Lowdown in Lodi – Freddie King
Something So Right – Paul Simon
Arc Of A Diver – Steve Winwood
Don’t Think TwiceSusan Tedeschi
I’m In Love – Wilson Pickett

To hear Taylor’s DJ skillz, click on the following player.

Now, I have to say that this was one of the most redeeming things I’ve heard from Taylor in a while.  It validated that the dude still has great music taste and still true to it.  Many of the songs on the new CD incorporate “sounds” from Taylor influences like Steve Winwood, Keb ‘Mo, Delbert McClinton, Van Morrison, and The Meters.  He signed on a quality producer in Simon Climie, who has produced Eric Clapton and who is an accomplished keyboardist and song writer in his own right.  In addition, some of Clapton’s touring band performed on the record, including Doyle Brahmall II and bassist Nathan East and was joined by Paul McCartney’s drummer, Abe Laboriel, Jr.

This is a quality record, with quality songs, musicians, and mixing.  I like it.  I have to say that it’s very entertaining and there are a few really good tracks on it.  If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Maybe You Should.  Written by Taylor and Nashville songwriter Gary Nicholson (who contributes on several songs), it is a great ballad that reminds me of Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me.  That could be because songwriter Michael Reid co-wrote both of them.  While I love Taylor’s raspy blues feel to this song, I could also see Keith Urban doing this song.

Along with Nineteen, Seven Mile Breakdown (co-penned with Hicks by Spoonful James’ guitarist and pre-Idol buddy, Wynn Christian) and the title-track, The Distance, Maybe You Should has serious Country potential, if appopriately brought to Nashville.  Even the blues number, Wedding Day Blues is oddly reminiscient of Garth Brooks’ Country anthem, Friends in Low Places.

While there’s certainly some Country influence, this CD is not a one trick twang pony.  One of my favorites, Keeping It Real, is influenced by co-author Delbert McClinton’s wily humor along with a great strider piano, New Orleans sound.  It’s also the ONLY track on the CD with a harmonica accompniment.  A pity, as I really dig the harp.

There’s also plenty of “soul” in the Nick Lowe cover, I Live on a Battlefield, and one of my all-time favorite tunes, Woman’s Gotta Have It, where he is accompanied by AI buddy, Elliott Yamin.  Now, Woman’s Gotta Have It is one on my Music Maven “All-Time Favorite” list, but James Taylor’s 1976 version from his In the Pocket CD which is, in my opinion, one of the best albums ever made — but that’s a different subject for a different day.  I really love the meshing of voices between Elliott and Taylor and especially Taylor harmonizing background vocal (fulfilling Simon’s ambition for him), but the beginning of JT’s version is more to my liking.  Got me to wondering what a combined version would sound like.  Hmmmm….

Once Upon a Lover and New Found Freedom are my “throw away” tracks.  I didn’t like the Latino sound of West Texas Sky and I don’t care for it on Once Upon a Lover.  New Found Freedom is more of an Idol “coronation” song that just doesn’t measure up to the other songs on the CD.   

The marketing plan of three “special tracks” via different store exclusives are in play for The Distance.  Wal-Mart offers the Ray Charles’ cover Hide Nor Hair, Target provides Indiscriminate Act of Kindness, and iTunes has Yes We Can, Can.  While I haven’t been able to sample Hide Nor Hair, Indiscriminate Act of Kindness reminds me of Taylor’s much heralded performance of the Ray classic, Georgia.  It is indulgent and very non-descript.  While I know this won’t be popular with the “Soul Patrol”, Indiscriminate Act of Kindness is NOT a song that exhibits Taylor Hicks’ talent nor is it a very appealing cut.  However, if you’re looking for a theme song about drug addiction and recovery, this is likely as good as it gets.

On the other hand, the iTunes “special”, Yes We Can is a veritable who’s who of funk & boogie.  Written by Allen Toussaint and covered by the likes of soul man, Marc Broussard and The Pointer Sisters, Yes We Can pays homage to the soul/zydeco/funk of the Southern Gulf Coast.  While Taylor may be considered the “forgotten idol”, the fact that Ivan Neville, Delbert McClinton and Stax legend, Steve Cropper provide back-up, indicates that “real” musicians “get” Taylor.  Even Marc Broussard couldn’t pull that off.

Music Maven gives Taylor Hicks’ The Distance  4 of 5 stars.   Buy it.

Redemption attained.

 

A New World

Sometimes, something falls out of the sky…more to come.

  The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down, Ellis Paul

You gotta get gone
You gotta get going
Hey, the world ain\’t slowin\’ down
For no one

It’s a carnival calling out to you
And it sounds like a song
It hits you like scripture
You paint the picture
With colors squeezed from your hand
Weren’t you the kid
Who just climbed on a merry-go-round
Hey, look, the world ain’t slowin’ down

….gotta get going….

 
5 Comments

Posted by on March 11, 2009 in acoustic, folk, friends, inspiration, that's life

 

Tags: , ,

No Bad News

blue-skies

Nothing but blue skies do I see….

With the change to daylight savings time, I am hereby changing my focus.  No bad news.  Not going to check the 401k, not going to read the scary newspaper, and not going to bitch about the current state of affairs.  I’m considering it part of my penance for Lent that can serve as a “twofer”, and possibly save my sanity, as well.

  No Bad News, Patty Griffin

 
 

Tags: , ,

Lovin’ JM

Mayerliciousness

Mayerliciousness

My Mayer love is well documented.  If you search the John Mayer tag on this blog, you’ll find many a tidbit concerning the young guitar hero.  I’m really not fangirly over Mayer…I mean he’s cute and all, has a wicked sense of humor, and lives the most enviable life, but more and more I gravitate to JM for the music.

I still find myself migrating  back to Continuum tracks when I’m surfing my iPod on plane trips.  Good music does that.  It beckons listeners back to visit and enjoy.  Now, I know that there are MANY Mayer haters out there (several have visited this blog), that think Mayer is a sell-out and even go so far as to call him “untalented”.  Sorry, but I can’t go there with you.  Mayer’s guitar prowess, alone, commands respect of the music appreciater.  Whether you like the dude or not, his talent is proven.

Besides, he is not in the generic mold of the current day Pop Star.  From his famously big mouth (sardonic & sarcastic) to his unconventional “style” (arm sleeve tattoos and ever-changing hair style), John Mayer is a non-conformist.  Mayer has been able to expand and explore other genres, despite his label trying to keep him constrained to high-selling “pop”.  He can do this because his audience accepts it and even demands it, giving him the leverage to basically do what he wants.  That’s how big talents roll. 

Ray Charles didn’t stay confined to blues and R&B.  He ventured deep into Country, traditional Adult Contemporary, and even a little Rock & Roll.  He did so and was readily accepted because the audience loved and appreciated his TALENT.  I see John Mayer in the same way.  And, before you submit some snarky comment….NO, I’m not saying that John Mayer is on par with Ray Charles.  At least, not yet.  However, he has proven his music ability which has given him the leverage to expand his horizons and that IS in the same vein as the great RC.

Perfect example is Mayer’s alter ego, The John Mayer Trio and their foray into heavy blues, jazz, and “standards”.  I was so pleasantly surprised to find this gem from Mayer’s traditional Thanksgiving night visit to David Letterman.  Normally, I would balk on a “pretender” trying to cover Sinatra on one of my favorite Sinatra tunes, but Mayer takes it and makes it his own, without bastardizing or dramatically retarding the song and its wonderful essence.

Bravo.

  Wee Small Hours of the Morning

 

Tags: , , ,

Every Day I Have the Blues…The Progression

Yep.  Every day. 

every_day_i_have_the_blues

  Originally recorded by Memphis Slim, 1948

  Elmore James

  Professor Longhair

  B.B. King

  T-Bone Walker & Chuck Berry

  Buddy Guy

  Eric Clapton

  John Mayer

 

Tags: , , ,