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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sweden's Roxette returns to action

Fans who recall these late '80s/early '90s pop hitmakers will want to read on...

After 25 years as a world-famous act with more than 70 million albums sold, one of Sweden’s top pop groups steps back into the spotlight a decade after the release of their last studio album (Room Service).   

Roxette’s acclaimed new album, Charm School , released internationally in February, will be released digitally in the U.S. on July 26 by Capitol/EMI.  On the same date, Capitol/EMI will release a new collection of Roxette’s Greatest Hits on CD and digitally.  Both titles will be available for album and individual song download purchase from all major digital service providers.
 
Charm School is a new album of 12 songs in a style that’s best described as “updated classic Roxette,” from the initial power pop fireworks of ”Way Out” to the bittersweet closer, ”Sitting On Top Of The World.”  Roxette’s new Greatest Hits collection features 12 major chart hits and fan favorites, including “It Must Have Been Love,” “The Look,” “Listen To Your Heart,” “Dangerous,” and “Joyride,” as well as two new songs from Charm School.
 
The chances for a new Roxette album to happen looked slim when vocalist Marie Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the autumn of 2002. But Marie managed to defeat the illness, and starting in 2009, the pieces gradually fell together for Charm School ’s creation. First, Marie and her Roxette partner, Per Gessle, were reunited onstage in Amsterdam to perform ”It Must Have Been Love” and ”The Look” during Per’s ”Party Crasher” tour.  Before long, Roxette had made a full-scale comeback as headliners for the ”Night of the Proms” tour in front of more than 600,000 people in Holland, Belgium and Germany.
 
”By then we started to think ahead and plan for the possibility of making a new album – an album that captured everything that’s good about Roxette while still looking ahead,” said Gessle. During the tour, the band’s hotel rooms were transformed into recording studios where a string of new Roxette songs took shape.
 
Back home in Sweden , the work continued during the spring and autumn of 2010.  Just as when the band recorded in their heyday, Per had written many songs from which to choose. The sensitive ballad “In My Own Way,” for example, is a rediscovered gem from 1984, when Gessle and Fredriksson’s shared dream of international recognition was yet to be realized, while the album’s newest song is the infectious groove-master single ”She’s Got Nothing On (But The Radio).” written in 2010.
 
Between those songs is everything that has made Roxette one of the world’s most radio played pop groups; the clinging melodies, the passionate delivery, the humorous pop sense and the unique mix of Marie Fredriksson’s and Per Gessle’s voices. 
 
”For me, the starting point has always been to write songs for Marie’s voice,” said Gessle. “She got this ability to make you believe every word she sings, and that’s why she brings the stories to life. As a songwriter that’s an incredible gift to be a part of.”
 

Beatles news

Very interesting news for those of you who prefer to hear The Beatles digitally or don't have this eye-opening collection...

The Beatles’ three remastered 'Anthology' music collections will make their worldwide digital debut on June 14, exclusively on the iTunes Store (http://www.itunes.com).
 
Starting today, the acclaimed 'Anthology, Vols. 1-3' are available for pre-order in most countries as individual iTunes LPs ($29.99), as are an iTunes-exclusive 'Anthology Box Set' with all 155 tracks from the three volumes ($79.99) and an exclusive 23-track 'Anthology Highlights' collection of standout tracks from each ($12.99).  'Anthology' songs will also be available for individual download on June 14 for $1.29 each.  A special 'Anthology' video introduction and a 50-minute “Meet The Beatles” radio show are available for free streaming at www.iTunes.com/TheBeatles starting today.
 
'Anthology, Vols. 1-3' have been digitally remastered by the same dedicated team of engineers at EMI Music’s Abbey Road Studios responsible for remastering The Beatles’ original UK studio albums, carefully maintaining the authenticity and integrity of the original analogue recordings. The result is the highest fidelity the catalogue has seen since its original release.  The collections feature original collage artwork created by Klaus Voormann from classic Beatles imagery.
 
Originally released in 2-CD volumes in 1995 and 1996, 'Anthology'’s three chronological collections of rare and previously unreleased Beatles recordings include studio outtakes and alternate versions.  The “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” singles, from 'Anthology, Vol. 1' and 'Anthology, Vol. 2,' respectively, were completed in 1995 by George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr from 1977 demos recorded by John Lennon.
 
Upon their original release, ‘Anthology, Vols. 1-3’ topped charts and went multi-platinum in several countries around the world.  Free as a Bird” became The Beatles’ 34th Top 10 hit in the U.S. , winning the 1996 GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.  ‘Anthology, Vol. 3’ includes “A Beginning,” an instrumental orchestral arrangement originally recorded for ‘The Beatles’ (The White Album).
 
Last November, The Beatles’ 13 legendary remastered studio albums, a special digital ‘Beatles Box Set,’ the two-volume ‘Past Masters’ compilation, and the classic ‘1962-1966’ (‘Red’) and ‘1967-1970’ (‘Blue’) collections were released on iTunes® worldwide as albums and individual songs.   In February, The Beatles’ ‘LOVE’ album and ‘All Together Now,’ the feature-length documentary about the making of The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil®, made their worldwide digital debuts exclusively on iTunes.
 
The Beatles have now sold more than eight million songs and over 1.3 million albums on iTunes worldwide.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"American Idol" season finale thoughts

I'm definitely glad I watched Wednesday night's "American Idol" season finale on DVR, rather than live. There was plenty I needed to fast forward through.

Does Beyonce really have to turn up on seemingly every show this week (Billboard Music Awards, Oprah Farewell)? And I'm getting mighty tired of Lady Gaga being everywhere all the time. I know she's on Interscope Records - the label that "Idol" mentor Jimmy Iovine runs - but c'mon! Gaga was already a mentor and performed on the show then. It was cool though to see the E Street Band's Clarence Clemons reprising his sax role from Gaga's album, yet the melody was lacking. Both female vocalists have reached media saturation. 

While I am a Tom Jones fan, the "Idol" male contestants' medley was kind of rocky and it was so obvious the Welsh singing legend would turn up after the third song or so that he made famous. Jones was definitely straining at the end there. When I caught him live a few years ago, he did a little better.

"Rise Above," the song from Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark that Reeve Carney did with Bono and The Edge, was mediocre at best. Hopefully, the recorded version is better.

So much for Aerosmith appearing on the finale with "Idol" judge Steven Tyler. I'll bet all is still not well among the Beantown Boys. The show's truncated version of "Dream On" with Tyler backed by STP's DeLeo Bros., Marti Frederiksen and others, was rushed and just plain odd.

I feel a little sorry for last year's "Idol" winner Lee DeWyze, who didn't get to sing and wasn't even mentioned as host Ryan Seacrest passed by his row in the Nokia Theatre. Not even a slap on the back from Seacrest. It was surprising that Carrie Underwood was the only past "Idol" to be included. Usually the finally is packed with former members of the Top 10.

On the upside, my favorite segment came early: James Durbin's appearance with Judas Priest was great and probably the hardest that show has rocked since Adam Lambert duetted with KISS. 

"Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark" soundtrack to be released

Music From Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark will be released June 14 on Interscope Records.

With 14 new songs co-written by U2's Bono and The Edge for the Broadway production, the album is produced by Steve Lillywhite. Songs are performed by the cast including Reeve Carney as Peter Parker/Spiderman, Jennifer Damiano as Mary Jane, T.V. Carpio as Arachne and Patrick Page as the Green Goblin, with contributions from Bono and The Edge and music performed by the production's orchestra. The release date coincides with the official opening night of the Broadway show.

Now available is first single, "Rise Above 1" performed by Reeve Carney feat. Bono and The Edge, produced by Alex Da Kid. The three musicians performed it Wednesday night on the season finale of "American Idol." 

Carney is also frontman (lead vocals/guitar) of the LA-based rock band Carney. His band-mates, Zane Carney (guitar), Jon Epcar (drums) and Aiden Moore (bass), perform nightly with the Broadway orchestra of Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark.

Juliana Hatfield album news

Juliana Hatfield is set to release Speeches Delivered To Animals and Plants on Aug. 30 via her own Ye Olde Records. 

Speeches... was entirely fan-funded via www.pledgemusic.com, where individuals pledged varying amounts in advance of the album's completion for different returns, including Hatfield memorabilia, a guitar used on the recording, original Hatfield artwork, song workbooks, demos and more.

PledgeMusic gives artists the option to build a charitable donation into their campaigns; Juliana will be donating a percentage of the funds raised to two of her favorite charities, the Save a Sato animal shelter in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Mass.

Hatfield says, "I really think that PledgeMusic and similar sites are the future of music, especially for people like me who have devoted cultish fanbases but who have never sold a ton of records and don't really fit in anywhere at major labels. Working with this new model, you go straight to the fans, who become your patrons, in a very direct and vital way. They have a special kind of access to you in a way that makes them happy - they see the progress of the album-making in real time with the video and audio updates I post at the PledgeMusic site. And I have total ownership of the music at all stages, present and future. I love working like this."

Speeches... is the follow up to last year's Peace and Love, which Paste Magazine hailed for its "fearless honesty" while SPIN extolled its "affirmations turned narratives that are sharpened rather than softened by their harmonies."

Working at Q Division Studios in Somerville, Mass., Hatfield produced and played all the six-string guitars and keyboards on the new album. Ed Valuaskas played bass and Pete Caldes played drums. 

The 13 songs feature Hatfield's distinctive guitar stylings-highly emotive but not overly slick, and resonating with a range of human emotions from joy to despondence to goofiness to resignation. 

What's with the title? "I think that when people get to the presumed halfway point in their lives, they inevitably look back and assess what they have or have not accomplished. There is an acceptance of one's limitations, a scaling back of goals, a settling into the way things are," observes Hatfield. "I think I have always had a pretty measured perspective-I am always grateful for all the good opportunities I've had but at the same time I'm never really content. I always want to do more, to be better-a better singer, performer, writer, person, friend, sister, daughter, etc. I don't shy away from the dark stuff -without the darkness there would be no light."

Hatfield first came to prominence in her teens as a founding member of the Blake Babies. After four independent albums with the group, she signed to Atlantic as a solo artist and had a string of modern-rock hits (including "My Sister," "Spin The Bottle" and  "Universal Heartbeat"). She left the label in 1998, signing to Zoe/Rounder Records and releasing four well-regarded albums, including 2004's In Exile Deo, named as one of that year's 10 best albums by The New York Times' Jon Pareles. In 2005, Hatfield came full circle, returning to her independent roots and founding Ye Olde Records.

"I've gotten to a place where I am really proud of the large body of work that I have produced, regardless of how my work is or is not received, or how many records I've sold," she reflects. "I know my weaknesses but I also know that I have gifts and I've made the most of them with this new album."

Bonus Q&A with Goo Goo Dolls

Here are more excerpts from my chat with Goo Goo Dolls bassist/vocalist Robby Takac, who was doing a little  gardening at home in Buffalo, N.Y. between phone interviews.

During downtime with the band, he runs the independent label Good Charamel [goodcharamel.com]. It launched in 2003 and now concentrates on releasing music by Japanese rock bands such as Shonen Knife. Takac also started non-profit organization Music is Art [musicisart.org], where he has served as president since 2004.

Meanwhile, Goo Goo Dolls fans will want to check out frontman John Rzeznik's recent appearance on Daryl Hall's popular web music series, Life from Daryl's House: http://www.livefromdarylshouse.com/currentep.html?ep_id=57

Hall and his musicians play both GGD and Hall & Oates music, talk about the songs (I never realized "Iris" was such a difficult song to play live with its change in time signatures) and Rzeznik displays the best way to barbeque Buffalo wings.

A new Goo Goo Dolls song, 'All That You Are,' will be featured on the upcoming soundtrack to Transformers 3.

Today marks exactly 25 years since the Goo Goo Dolls' first rehearsal in Buffalo.

Read on...

Q: Media references have been made to lyrics on the latest album being in a darker vein than usual. Other than a few instances, I don’t see it too much. Where do you stand on that assessment?
It might address some darker issues, but I agree with you: I think that’s [often] taken the wrong way. You hear ‘darker record’ and you [probably] think, ‘oh, Nine Inch Nails, Tom Waits, Birthday Party’ – that kind of stuff. It’s not like that. I don’t think the record is a bummer. It's got uplifting moments. That’s a very astute observation.

Q: What did you take away from working with Tim Palmer, who produced the bulk of the album?
He jumped in and made [things] happen. That was a different approach for us. It really drew us into a direction that we were comfortable in moving. Funny thing was, when we finished the record with him, we ended up working on it a little more because he moved onto another project. We had the time to go back and actually listen to everything. So much of what we did was interesting, like texturally. We’d never really had that chance before, to go and reach back into the record again. I really think it’s a good thing to do actually, because so many times we finish a record, you’re in such a hurry. You’re done and you mix it and sit there saying, ‘we should have done this.’ With this album, we actually had the time to go back and do it again. It did delay the record for awhile, but for the better.

Q: I heard you’re working on new material again with producer Rob Cavallo.
We did a couple things over at his place. John’s been writing out on the road a little bit and collecting ideas. The business has changed. You’ve got to be out there making it happen. I don’t think we’re going to have the luxury of sitting around for a year, waiting for the muse to strike, then making a record like we were in the past. It’s really going to be a situation where we’re going to be moving quicker.

Q: I read that Good Charamel is putting out a documentary on underground Japanese rock music.
We’ve released a whole bunch of records by Japanese bands over the years. We have a new Shonen Knife coming out soon and this documentary out on DVD on August 23. Some of the money will go to the Red Cross for the tsunami relief fund over there. It’s still pretty nuts over there now.    

Goo Goo Dolls interview; Temecula performance

Warner Bros. Records













A version of my interview originally appeared in the Californian newspaper. It can be viewed here:
http://www.nctimes.com/entertainment/music/article_cd94d740-6f81-5bd1-a183-cbeab47e683b.html

Concertgoers regularly use camera phones to shoot clips and post them on YouTube. As a result, many established bands refrain from performing unreleased songs. 

Not the Goo Goo Dolls.

Last year, while on tour before the release of ninth studio release “Something for the Rest of Us,” the veteran trio encouraged fans to record live selections from it. The decision probably helped the album’s top 10 chart debut.

“It’s a very different world we’re living in these days. You have to realize the outlets are out there for people to consume that stuff,” said bassist/vocalist Robby Takac, in a phone interview from his home in Buffalo, N.Y.

Takac doesn’t think musicians need to be “so unbelievably careful” about where the material ends up. It’s inevitably going to be in the hands of people who haven’t paid for it, so you should capitalize on that.”

A standard Goo Goo Dolls show usually finds Takac prowling around the stage barefoot with a huge smile, looking like a kid in a candy store.

“If you lose your excitement, you’ve missed the point of being up there,” he noted. “Seeing an idea go from couch to recording studio to people’s ears and back to the band again, is an amazing thing.” [<<<]

Having racked up more than a dozen top 10 singles at Adult Pop radio -- including such format staples as “Slide,” “Iris,” “Name,” “Black Balloon,” “Broadway,” “Here is Gone,” “Better Days,” “Let Love In” and a cover of Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit” -- the Goo Goo Dolls always keep their sets well stocked with hits.

“We’re lucky enough to be a band that can go out and do that.”

In the beginning, Takac worked at an upstate New York recording studio, where he met guitarist John Rzeznik and formed the group in 1986. The bassist handled lead vocals on their first few raucous punk albums.

“When our band first started, we used to write these unbelievably happy punk rock songs about the most morbid subjects. People didn’t really hear the words most of the time."

Rzeznik gradually got more comfortable as a singer/songwriter and by 1993’s “Superstar Car Wash,” the Goo Goo Dolls had finally garnered significant alt-rock radio airplay.

“John wrote more and more stuff; his palate blossomed and opened up a bit.”

Two years later, “A Boy Named Goo” became the group’s commercial breakthrough. They forged a reputation for crafting earnest rock anthems that were fixtures at high school dances and weddings.

“From the band’s inception, we grew up listening to the Replacements” and similar artists, recalled Takac.

“Back then, there was a need to wear your heart on your sleeve. You didn’t want to be a poseur…I think that’s one thing we really hung onto. Around prom time, you don’t just happen to write a song about a guy and girl because you want to sell it to teenagers; it all comes from somewhere real.”

A similar reality continues through “Something for the Rest of Us,” where Rzeznik’s lyrics touch upon the “emotional uncertainty that accompanies hard times” without getting too dark.

“When you’re addressing what’s going on out there and taking a good look around (you notice) a lot of wars and economic uncertainty,” Takac said. “It’s hard for people to feel proud right now. That stuff adds up.”

Elegant, orchestrated “Not Broken” -- inspired by a female Goo Goo Dolls fan whose military husband suffered injuries while serving in Iraq -- features Rzeznik’s trademark soaring vocals and Mike Malinin’s crashing drums. Other highlights: the strident rocker “Home,” propulsive, piano-driven tune “Still Your Song” and dramatically eerie album closer, “Soldier.” 

Producer Tim Palmer (Ozzy Osbourne, H.I.M.) basically “came in and joined the group; we’d never had anyone do that before.” When he moved on to another project, the musicians felt the album needed something extra and used Butch Vig (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and John Fields (Switchfoot) on a single track each.

Takac credited the insight of touring members Brad Fernquist and Korel Tunador for adding more melodic guitar and keyboard textures and harmonies than usual.

How would the bassist describe the Goo Goo Dolls signature sound now that the band's silver anniversary has rolled around?

“You hear John’s voice and you [immediately] know what it is…after 25 years of making records, if we haven’t developed something -- aside from a rash -- I think we’re in trouble,” said Takac, with a laugh.

Goo Goo Dolls perform at 8 p.m. May 27-28, Pechanga Theater, Pechanga Resort & Casino, 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, $55-$80, 877-711-2946. www.pechanga.com

The band returns to Southern California later this summer on Aug. 23 at Humphreys in San Diego and Aug. 27 at the Greek Theatre in LA.

For a full tour schedule and more info, go to googoodolls.com

Stevie Nicks birthday show in LA celebrates "In Your Dreams" album

It's been quite a month for fans of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. An entire episode of NBC's "Glee" was devoted to music from "Rumours" and digital sales of the rock band's classic 1977 album suddenly shot through the roof. Those selections sung by the cast just came out on "Glee: The Music, Vol. 6."

Then Stevie Nicks unveiled "In Your Dreams," her first studio release in a decade. The stellar collection features an impressive roster of musicians, including Eurythmics' Dave Stewart (who produced and co-wrote several songs with Nicks - the first time she'd done that in her career), Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, longtime Nicks guitarist (and member of Keith Richards' X-Pensive Winos) Waddy Wachtel, pedal steel master Greg Leisz and regular backing vocalists Sharon Celani and Lori Nicks. Glen Ballard (Aerosmith, Alanis Morrisette) co-produced.

Clocking in at just under 65 minutes, many of the tracks run past the five minute mark, which should delight Nicks' old school, album rock radio listening followers. The lyrics are intriguing as ever, often filled with mystery.

The origin of percolating opener "Secret Love" dates back to the "Rumours" days. Based on a past clandestine relationship, it finds Nicks and the ladies' full-bodied harmonies taking center stage.

Among the other highlights: a piano-driven "Moonlight (A Vampire's Dream)," inspired by the "New Moon" film; sweeping, string section-enhanced "Italian Summer," which is simply gorgeous and concludes with a sustained vocal note that proves Nicks' range is still robust.

Buckingham plays acoustic guitar and sings on the stark and dramatic "Soldier's Angel," evoking their 1973 pre-Mac duo album. Stewart provides another welcome male counterpoint on stately closing song "Cheaper Than Free." A slight rockabilly vibe takes over "Ghosts Are Gone"; "Wide Sargasso Sea" is a chugging, bluesy number and "Everybody Loves You" bears the most obvious Ballard stamp, with modern keyboards that wouldn't be out of place in a Rihanna song.  

Nicks celebrates her 63th birthday with a belated album release party tonight at 7 p.m., Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles. Tickets are $51-$120 and available through Live Nation. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Christopher Cross back with studio release

Back in January '08, I caught Christopher Cross do a short set during NAMM at the Anaheim Convention Center. He was playing in the Taylor Guitar Room and I was impressed at how his voice still retained the same sweet quality as decades ago. 

This past spring, the film remake of "Arthur," starring Russell Brand, featured a new version of Cross' "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" by Fitz & the Tantrums, which reminded many people of the sublime original. 

The new album is smooth "sailing" all the way, with an appearance by Eric Johnson and bass guitar from frequent Melissa Etheridge band member Mark Browne. Read more about a very special guest vocal reunion in the press release below...
The voice rides high. Melodic. Beautiful. Everything everybody ever loved about Christopher Cross is on display in the 13 exquisite tracks of Doctor Faith, now available through Eagle Rock Entertainment (via earMusic). It marks the first all-new studio offering from Christopher Cross in 12 years.

Thirty-one years, five Grammys and an Oscar later, Doctor Faith is a dramatic return. His songwriting has never been sharper, more observant. His singing is better than it’s ever been. The production, for the first time, is guitar-oriented, rather than keyboard-oriented. Michael McDonald is on hand to give voice to the title character.

“This album not only feels like a new chapter to my career,” says Cross, “it feels like starting a whole new book.” Cross has dedicated the album to Joni Mitchell “for a lifetime of inspiration.”

Influenced by Mitchell’s idiosyncratic way with a lyric line, and the guts to delve deep, Cross, and long time songwriting partner Rob Meurer, have written some songs sure to be instant classics. Opener “Hey Kid” lays it all out:  optimistic yet cautious, forward-thinking yet imbued with a world-weary voice-of-experience, it sets the tone for such profundities as “I’m Too Old For This,” “Poor Man’s Ecstasy,” “Still I Resist” and the title track. One of the recurring themes of the album is the search for peace by making peace within one’s self.

Cross landed loud and large on the music scene in 1980, winning the Grammy for “Best New Artist.”  “Sailing” and “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” were both #1s, the latter co-written with Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, and the late Peter Allen. Cross charted eight times between 1980 and 1983. He has eight albums to his credit, as well as a number of other packages. Through it all, he’s maintained his high level of excellence, also singing, writing and performing with other artists.
 

VH1 Behind the Music returns

VH1's most celebrated music documentary series "Behind The Music," which originally debuted in 1997, returns this summer to give viewers a front row seat to the most exclusive and intimate interviews with the artists, their families, friends and colleagues. 

Among the highlights:
"Behind The Music: Miranda Lambert" Premieres Wednesday, July 13 at 10 PM ET/PT 
"Behind The Music: Enrique Iglesias" Premieres Wednesday, August 3 at 10 PM ET/PT
"Behind The Music: Adam Lambert" Premieres Wednesday, August 10 at 10 PM ET/PT
"Behind The Music: Ricky Martin" Premieres Wednesday, August 17 at 10 PM ET/PT

Select full episodes of "Behind The Music," as well as extended interviews and footage will be available at BehindTheMusic.VH1.com.

Dolly Parton album/tour news

DOLLY PARTON’s BETTER DAY now has a June 28 release date set in stone.  Her much-anticipated album of all-new studio material will be released on her own Dolly Records distributed through Warner Music Nashville. To coincide with the album’s release, DOLLY will launch a world tour bringing her throughout America and then onto the U.K. and Europe in August and September, then Australia in November in support of the new album. BETTER DAY is the follow-up to DOLLY’s critically acclaimed and successful 2008 Backwoods Barbie album. Featuring 12 original DOLLY compositions, BETTER DAY marks the fourth release on the independent label. 

First up, the iconic singer, songwriter, musician, actress and philanthropist will unveil the album’s soaring first single “Together You & I” with a live performance now airing Friday, May 27 on The Ellen DeGeneres Showas the song simultaneously arrives at radio. The song’s video--shot this week in Nashville by director Trey Fanjoy--will debut shortly thereafter.

On the live front, the “BETTER DAY” world tour launches July 17 in Knoxville in her home state of Tennessee and will be highlighted by two shows (July 22 and 23) at the historic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.  After wrapping in the U.S. August 3, the tour moves overseas starting August 20 and will feature a pair of shows (September 7 and 8) at the O2 Arena in London, the venue where DOLLY recorded and filmed Live From London (Dolly Records), her widely praised 2009  two-disc DVD/CD set that included songs from Backwoods Barbie alongside her many classic hits.

Here’s the full BETTER DAY track listing:

In The Meantime
Just Leaving
Missing You
Together You & I
Country Is
Holding Everything
The Sacrifice
I Just Might
Better Day
Shine Like The Sun
Get Out
Let Love Grow

DOLLY’s U.S. tour dates are as follows:

DATE          CITY                  VENUE
Sun   7/17  Knoxville, TN       U. of Tennessee/Thompson Boling Arena
Tue   7/19  Dallas, TX            Verizon Theatre Grand Prairie       
Wed  7/20  Albuquerque, NM Sandia Casino    
Fri     7/22  Los Angeles, CA   Hollywood Bowl  
Sat    7/23  Los Angeles, CA   Hollywood Bowl  
Sun   7/24  Concord, CA        Concord Pavilion 
Wed  7/27  Prior Lake, MN     Mystic Lake Casino      
Thu   7/28  Chicago, IL          Rosemont Theater       
Sat    7/30  Wallingford, CT    Toyota Presents Oakdale Theatre   
Sun   7/31  Vienna, VA          Wolf Trap  
Tue   8/2    Durham, NC        Durham Performing Arts Center    
Wed  8/3    Alpharetta, GA    Verizon Wireless Amphitheater @ Encore Park 

For more information, please visit http://www.dollypartonmusic.net.

"Celebrity Apprentice" musicians' new charity single

Meat Loaf has joined fellow musicians and "Celebrity Apprentice" contestants John Rich, Lil Jon and Mark McGrath to record "Stand In The Storm," a new single benefitting the charities selected by the four members of Team Backbone.
 
Each of the four artists in Backbone will be donating 100% of his individual proceeds from the worldwide sale of "Stand In The Storm" to the charity of his choice: The Painted Turtle (Meat Loaf), St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (John Rich), The United Methodist Children's Home of North Georgia Conference (Lil Jon), and Save The Music Foundation (Mark McGrath).
 
Backbone's "Stand In The Storm" is available for purchase now.  Visit www.meatloaf.net for details.
 
"Stand In The Storm,” a hard-rockin’ hybrid of rock, pop, country, and hip-hop, is a tour de force showcasing the individual strengths and styles of the four musicians in the formidable Backbone supergroup.  It will give fans a first taste of Meat Loaf's upcoming new studio album, titled "Hell In A Handbasket," slated for fall release.
 
Fans can also catch Meat Loaf on his North American tour that kicks off June 29th in Milwaukee, WI.  Check out http://www.meatloaf.net to view the full list of tour dates.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Fest on PBS

Another great reason to watch PBS...

In June 2010, Eric Clapton gathered the world's most talented guitar players at the third Crossroads Guitar Festival, an 11-hour celebration of the six-string that attracted a sold-out crowd of more than 27,000 music fans to Chicago's Toyota Park.  All profits from this daylong display of guitar virtuosity benefited The Crossroads Centre in Antigua, a treatment and education facility Clapton founded to help people suffering from chemical dependency.

Two hours of highlights from the marathon event, Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival 3 will air  as part of Great Performances on Monday, June 6 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). (In New York, THIRTEEN will air the program at 9:30 p.m.)

Clapton notes, "The Crossroads Festival is the realization of a dream for me, to gather a group of amazingly talented musicians to perform on one stage," and adding, "The Crossroads performers are all musicians I admire and respect."

Actor-comedian Bill Murray -- host of the second Crossroads Festival in 2007 -- returns as MC, and supplies the festival's nonmusical highlights with his inimitable style.

It's no surprise a festival named for a Robert Johnson song would include a heavy dose of the blues, and the 2010 edition does not disappoint, with remarkable performances by Sonny Landreth, Gary Clark, Jr., Keb' Mo' and Buddy Guy.  

The rock contingent is also well represented by ZZ Top, Jeff Beck, the John Mayer Trio, Doyle Bramhall II, the Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band, Warren Haynes and Steve Winwood, who teamed with Clapton for several performances including an epic cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile."

Various styles find a home here too, with Vince Gill's amazing take on Clapton's "Lay Down Sally" accompanied by the legendary James Burton and others; and Jeff Beck who performs "Hammerhead" which won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

Other artists making appearances include: Sheryl Crow, Ronnie Wood, Robert Randolph, Jonny Lang, Joe Bonamassa, Pino Daniele, and Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas.

Song Listing:
"Promise Land" – Sonny Landreth w/Eric Clapton
"Going Down" – Pino Daniele, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph & The Family Band
"Waiting for The Bus" – ZZ Top
"Jesus Just Left Chicago" – ZZ Top
"Bright Lights" – Gary Clark, Jr.
"Our Love Is Fading" – Sheryl Crow w/Eric Clapton, Doyle Bramhall II & Gary Clark Jr,
"Lay Down Sally" – Vince Gill w/Sheryl Crow, Keb' Mo', Albert Lee, James Burton & Earl Klugh
"Who Did You Think I Was" – John Mayer Trio
"Midnight in Harlem" – Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band
"Space Captain" – Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band w/Warren Haynes, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas & Chris Stainton
"Five Long Years" – Buddy Guy with Jonny Lang & Ronnie Wood
"Hammerhead" – Jeff Beck
"I Shot the Sheriff" – Eric Clapton
"Had to Cry Today" – Steve Winwood & Eric Clapton
"Voodoo Chile" – Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood
"Dear Mr. Fantasy" – Steve Winwood & Eric Clapton

The first Crossroads Guitar Festival, in June 2004 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, an unprecedented collection of guitar icons from blues, rock, and contemporary music, aired on Great Performances in December of that year. The two-disc DVD that has since achieved the 10x platinum mark in the United States alone. The Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007, the second such concert by Clapton and also staged at Toyota Park, aired on Great Performances in November 2007, and its DVD was certified 6x platinum. The complete 2010 concert was released by Rhino Entertainment on Blu-ray and DVD.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Additional Q&A with Noah & the Whale

 Taking its name from the acclaimed 2005 film drama “The Squid and the Whale” - directed by Noah Baumbach, produced by Wes Anderson and starring Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney and Jesse Eisenberg - Noah & the Whale were part originators of late 2000s new folk scene in London. 

Singer/guitarist Charlie Fink started the band in 2006 with violinist/pianist Tom Hobden and older brother Doug on drums (who left four years later to study medicine in college).

Before joining the group, bassist Matt “Urby Whale” Owens was a child actor. In 1994, he was in a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie “Return of the Native” alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Clive Owen (it was nominated for a Golden Globe and Emmy Award). In '09, guitarist/keyboardist Fred Abbott joined and new Aussie drummer Michael Petulla came up earlier this year.

Fink produced ex-girlfriend Laura Marling’s 2008 debut album "Alas, I Cannot Swim" (which featured Marcus Mumford on drums); It was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize.  

Before making Noah & the Whale's current effort "Last Night on Earth," Fink was intrigued by the romantic idea of night time, where anything can happen. While listening to Lou Reed’s “Berlin,” Tom Waits “Bone Machine,” Tom Petty and cellist/composer Arthur Russell, Fink and the band used a drum machine, partly out of necessity, after Doug left.

Here is more from my interview with Hobden, also a contributor to Mt. Desolation with Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley and Jesse Quin...


Q: How are fans responding to the new album's decidedly different sounding material on tour?
People are fist pumping in the air and generally having a good time.

Q: Is everyone in sync now with new drummer Michael?
He’s been with us since the beginning of the year. He has quite a battle – to try and emulate drum synths and all the stuff that appears on the album. He’s been doing a marvelous job.

Q: When everyone started to work on the songs, was there any goal in mind?
Whenever we approach an album, it’s always very refined. We know exactly how many songs are going to be on it. It’s never a matter of whittling down 50 songs to get 10. That’s where we are able to draw a cohesion from and make the album sound like a unified piece of work...we purposely tried to challenge ourselves. It would have been quite easy to sit back and settle into a routine.

Q: Was breaking away from the new folk scene you’d been part of ever in the back of your minds?
I’m sure it was, subconsciously. It’s weird: you’re so insulated when you’re touring. You don’t see any guys [in other bands much]. You’re so immersed in what you’re doing. It felt like a natural progression, to be honest, because we were influenced heavily by the stuff we were listening to at the time. 

Q: What was recording in L.A. like for the band?
It was amazing. We actually spent a whole month out there in August...many songs that made the album were heavily derived from the demos – even using sounds and such. It was an encouraging time.

Q: This album took a lot longer to record than the previous two. Was that simply a matter of getting the sounds right?
Yeah, it was. We started in January of last year and hired a space out for a month in East London that was a converted synagogue. Set up all our stuff there and got down to the main graft of writing songs. Then, to be honest, the rest of the year was more of a matter of waiting for diaries to sort themselves out so we could work with Jason [Lader]. Also, like I said, making the songs as concise as possible. Some of the original demos were like nine-minute long epics that were kind of meandering (“Old Joy,” “Wild Thing”). Those demos were quite extensive. It’s always harder taking away than it is putting on.

Q: Your violin work is most prevalent during “Just Me Before We Met” and “Waiting for My Chance to Come.” Are you mostly playing piano on the remainder of the songs?
Yeah, I play keyboards and synths. I’m all over the place, really.

Q: When you first heard the lyrics Charlie had come up with for these songs, what did you think?
I was very impressed; he’s not really written like that before...what I really like about Charlie’s style of lyrics are the themes he’s exploring. They’re very much universal ones that everyone can relate to in some way or another. Whether it’s the boy on the bus in “Tonight’s the Kind of Night” or the photos in the drawer and the girlfriend asking, ‘who’s in this picture?’ on “Just Me Before We Met.” They’re all things that have happened to everyone at some point.

Q: With a running time of 33 minutes, the album can be easily absorbed in one sitting. Do you think there’s something to be said for not piling on so many tracks?
I think it takes a certain daring to make the shorter album. People wrongly think that if you load up an album, [others] will find what they want in it and they might have to skip the odd track to get what they want. That’s definitely not our philosophy. Many of the albums I love are really short. It’s a skill, more than anything else.

Q: What can you tell me about the 12-minute "Making Of" short film that just debuted online?
A lot of the footage was taken from our time in the demoing studio. I think the main body of the footage is from our time in Los Angeles. Charlie does a voiceover and explains what happens. It all slots into place and is pretty informative.

Q: Does the band hope to break America with this album?
Yeah. We’ve been touring America quite awhile now and it’s something we love doing. It would be great to have more success over there. It will always be a matter of turning up and constantly playing good shows. We’ll see how it goes. We’re certainly ambitious.

Q: At the end of August, you'll open for Arcade Fire at the Manchester Evening News Arena. Excited?
It’s probably one of my most anticipated gigs of the year.

Q: Switching gears, let's touching upon some history: when you first started playing music as a kid, who were some of your early music influences?
I’ve played violin since I was four or five. My mom was an opera singer, so I was always heavily involved in the classical world. As I became a teenager, I started branching out more and listened to a lot of Warren Ellis (Nick Cave), seeing another dimension to the violin. It’s moved on in the past few years to people like Arthur Russell and a huge array of people.

Q: When you were in school, did you intend to join a string ensemble or orchestra?
I was actually. When I left school, I applied to various music colleges and conservatories over here. I had some good offers, but I took a gap year after school and formed Noah & the Whale with Charlie that September. It was kind of weird. I’d just started a band I was really excited about and then also having to go to these auditions for something that was a completely different world – the classical violinist route. I kind of let that slip through and focused on the band.

Q: Were Charlie and Urby local musicians around the Twickenham area of London that you associated with?
Charlie and I did go to the same school, but he was a few years older than me. You know how it is in school – you never talk to people who are older. He’d gone off to Manchester University for a bit, didn’t like it and dropped out. He came to London and I was playing in various outfits in my last year in school. We took him under our wing and he started playing guitar in a band I was in. From there, we started to do our own thing.

Q: In one interview that I read, Charlie said he initially took over the vocals because nobody else wanted it.
At the time, he certainly was a nervous performer. I’m surprised he said that because I’ve always seen him as wanting to be a vocalist. I never thought it was a burden on him. He’s progressed a long way. I think his singing has gotten better and better. I think he’s really able to use his voice as an instrument to express exactly what he wants. Before, maybe he was slightly inexperienced. It’s great there’s a naiveté involved with that. Now he can really flex his vocal muscles and show what he’s got.      

Noah & the Whale interview

courtesy of Mercury Records
A version of my interview originally appeared in the North County Times and can be viewed here: nctimes.com/entertainment/music. 

The band plays on Tuesday at San Diego Woman's Club and Wednesday at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles before heading up to San Francisco 5/26-27, Portland 5/29, the Sasquatch Festival in Washington 5/30 and Vancouver 5/31.

“Waiting For My Chance to Come,” a feisty tune off Noah & the Whale’s engaging new album “Last Night on Earth,” could easily describe the London band’s fortunes in America.

Formed five years ago, the group helped spearhead a fresh folk music scene that would later include Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn and others. Their U.K. gold-selling 2008 debut disc “Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down” and single “5 Years Time” both went top 10 back home.

Here, the pastoral music drew positive reviews, comparisons to Belle & Sebastian and Swell Season (Marling provided gorgeous backing vocals) and a prominent performance slot at the Coachella Festival. Released on Interscope Records, it didn’t receive much deserved attention.

Lush and less immediate ’09 follow up “First Days of Spring” --- whose subject matter revolved around the disintegration of lead singer/guitarist Charlie Fink’s relationship with Marling --- landed prime time network TV licensing placements in the U.S., yet only made minor ripples on both sides of the pond.

All that should change with “Earth,” N&TW’s strongest effort to date, where the musicians took a sharp left turn into pop/rock-oriented territory, utilizing synths, sequencers and drum machines for the first time.

Fink sought to use the instruments in an intelligent way and not rely on previous chord patterns. After less than two months, the collection has already gone gold (100,000 copies sold) in England.

“We’ve always been a bit hard to pin down,” admitted violinist/keyboardist Tom Hobden (pictured above, second from left), via Birmingham, where N&TW was on a sold out, headlining U.K. tour. “Our fans realize we’re the kind of band that follows our instincts…people are impressed that we’ve morphed into this new sound.”

Hobden particularly enjoys playing the vibrant new tunes live. “As much as I loved touring the previous album, it was a very hard, emotional thing to get yourself on that level where you could do the songs justice every night. It was a [difficult] year for everyone. So it’s a nice stage that we’re in now where we can perform with lots of energy, excitement and a generally life-affirming motto.”

Recorded last summer in Santa Monica with Jason Lader (Elvis Costello, Rilo Kiley, Julian Casablancas), the Brits found “the heat alone was quite a shock.” The producer “turned us onto a lot of cool sounds, but honestly, we went out there with a clear cut idea of how it was going to turn out.”

Clocking in at just over a half hour, the album doesn’t wear out its welcome.

“The goal was to make as concise an album as we could --- a real, straight down the line pop album, with some unusual bits and twists along the way,” explained Hobden.

Since the young band fashioned their name after Noah Baumbach-directed 2005 drama “The Squid and the Whale” and Fink helmed a short film which accompanied “Spring” as well as N&TW’s latest music video and a making of “Earth” documentary that debuted this week on www.lastnightonearthcinema.com, it’s no surprise the front man strived to infuse many of the songs with a cinematic vibe.

“We threw ourselves into the romance and excitement of being away from everything that’s familiar,” explained Hobden. “Purely because of the location where we were working, it was all slightly dreamy and filmic [anyway]…we made sure we took some inspiration days, headed up to Ojai and did a lot of walking around up there.”

“Last Night on Earth,” takes its title from a Charles Bukowski poetry collection.
 
Hobden said several songs are about “breaking away from home in the context of the open road: that American ideal of driving out into the unknown.” After listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands” in a car, Fink wondered if they could write in a similar style.

Reflective tune “Give it All Back,” with lyrical references to The Boss, The Band and The Beatles, bears a passing resemblance. Sometimes Fink’s deadpan vocals recall Lou Reed (“Just Me Before We Met,” which uses New York School poet Frank O’Hara’s work as a touchstone), while his third person character sketches can be as intriguing as Jarvis Cocker (“L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.”). Luxurious gem “Wild Thing” even brings to mind the Velvet Underground and “Twin Peaks” soundtrack.

Veteran backing singer siblings Maxine and Julia Waters (Michael Jackson, Neil Diamond) make their presence felt on the gospel-tinged “Life is Life” (another Bukowski nod) and “Old Joy.”

Other selections feature singing contributions by Jen Turner of Here We Go Magic, noted percussionist Lenny Castro and former Black Crowe Adam MacDougall on Moog and Fender Rhodes.

Although the band’s star is on the rise in England, Hobden recently got a reality check while filming an episode for the fourth season of studio performance series, “Live from Abbey Road” (which airs Stateside on the Sundance Channel).

“We had a short break and I went over to this old piano in the corner, just wanting to twinkle some keys. Suddenly this security guy rushes over and says, ‘don’t touch that! The Beatles recorded ‘Lady Madonna’ on it.’”