Sunday, September 30, 2012

The English Beat interview with Dave Wakeling

A version of my story originally appeared at The band returns to Riverside on Friday; see info below...

When the Third Wave ska revival hit big in Southern California during the mid-1990s, various bands (including Orange County’s No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and Save Ferris) often gave a stylistic tip of the checked hat to U.K. progenitor The English Beat.
Formed in Birmingham as The Beat (“English” was added in America for legal reasons) by lead singer/guitarist Dave Wakeling and guitarist Andy Cox in 1978, the pair sought to create a vibrant sound that would meld such disparate influences as Toots & the Maytals, Velvet Underground and The Clash. Bassist David Steele, toaster/co-vocalist “Ranking” Roger Charlery, drummer Everett Morton and veteran saxophonist Lionel “Saxa” Martin rounded out the lineup.
It wasn’t long before the trailblazing interracial sextet joined The Specials’ 2 Tone label/music movement and racked up several hit singles at home. Here in SoCal, alt-rock stations KROQ/106.7 FM put “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Save it for Later,” “I Confess” and a jittery take on Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown” into regular rotation.
After recording three albums which deftly incorporated reggae, ska, punk, Motown sounds and more during a five-year period, the band broke up.
Wakeling and Roger started the short-lived General Public and scored a U.S. top 40 pop single with “Tenderness” (a ‘90s reunion spawned another one in Staples Singers cover, “I’ll Take You There”). Meanwhile, Cox and Steele hooked up with singer Roland Gift for Fine Young Cannibals and landed back-to-back chart toppers in ’89 with “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Good Thing.”
Flash forward to the present. Last spring, The English Beat performed at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in Cleveland, where Wakeling's trademark teardrop-shaped guitar is on display. The past few months have been plentiful with archival English Beat releases from Shout! Factory Records.  
First came The Complete Beat, an exceptional five CD box set containing remastered versions of studio albums I Just Can’t Stop It (1980), Wha’ppen (1981) and Special Beat Service (1982) - all expanded with bonus tracks. Two discs contain 12” and dub versions, John Peel’s BBC Radio One sessions and live selections from a 1982 Boston show. The accompanying booklet is filled with rare photos.
Single disc compilation Keep the Beat: The Very Best of the English Beat contains 16 tracks and an introduction by Rhoda Dakar of fellow 2 Tone labelmate The Bodysnatchers. Live at the US Festival ’82 & ’83, a CD+DVD marking the 30th anniversary of the band’s appearance at the inaugural event (they were among two acts to play both), arrived a few weeks ago.
Last week, we caught onetime Dana Point resident Wakeling, 56, in a jovial mood during a phone interview from his present home in Pacific Palisades. 
Soundcheck: You’ve played several OC venues over the years. Do you have a favorite?
Dave Wakeling: I really like the House of Blues [Anaheim], because it has a really nice ambience, a nice dance floor and a great sound. I like the Coach House too. We’ve had a lot of great reactions there, despite the tables and chairs.
You recently toured Australia for the first time. How was that experience?
A bit of a shock, really. They have this incredibly high standard of living and an enormous amount of rules and regulations.
Like what?
In most [places], you can’t buy a shot of liquor straight up. It has to be on the rocks. That includes fine whiskeys and rums, which would never be served on the rocks elsewhere. But that’s the only way you’re allowed to drink it. So that was an odd one.
I’ll bet your Aussie fans were ecstatic, having waited so long to see you live.
They were, indeed. The tour was nearly sold out. It was amazing. They’d been waiting for 33 years. Some songs were too fast for them to dance to anymore. I must say, I enjoy California because everybody’s quite happy to be the age they are and let time roll by; let things evolve and have fun in the moment. Not pretending to be any other decade.
What do you remember about performing on Day 1 of the first US Festival, alongside The Police, Talking Heads, Ramones and others? 
When we were putting the footage and package together, I looked at the old posters and saw who else was on the bill with us and I was amazed. To be honest, at the time, it was so huge, that it was a hard to take on board. You just acted blasé about it - as if you always rode helicopters to every gig, had three-quarter of a million people and three PA systems flaking up into the distance.
In retrospect, I didn’t realize until we started compiling it that I was actually on the side of the stage for The Clash’s last gig [with its original lineup]. My favorite band of all time and I was right there!
That was the largest gig you’d played until that point…
Still ever.
Anything else stand out in your mind about those two appearances?
It was the first time we’d ever been on a helicopter and I didn’t know they go sideways with the wind when they’re taking off. I thought they just went straight in the air…I remember feeling a bit of Dutch courage, thinking, ‘I can do this.’ You looked at the crowd and you couldn’t see the end of it. We played in the afternoon. People looked like the size of ants coming up over the top of the hill.
Were you nervous at all?
When we got onstage, I started singing the first song and a camera with a telescopic arm, immediately shot right in front of my face. I was singing to a quarter of a million people, but guess what? I couldn’t see one of them! The only way I managed to get through it was to straighten my legs, keep them really firm and solid until the first song was over and I was ok.
The Sept. 1982 festival set is far more rousing. Would you agree?
Yes. In ’82, we’d been touring with The Clash, so I think we were in a punky/reggae mood. We’d been touring with The Police in ’83, so that probably chilled us out for that one…The Beat weren’t going to do many gigs after that. So there was a sense of [finality]. The ’82 one is more energetic, but I would say the ’83 one is tighter and more choreographed.
The new CD+DVD is the first-ever live release from the band.
There had been scratchy versions of one song or another over the years. We had endless requests. I even started searching around myself, three or four years ago, to try and find out where things were. Then the last couple years, there has been a flurry of activity. I think some tapes that were held by somebody were sold or released or licensed. All the sudden, the dam gates were opened. We were glad to be able to eventually find them. All I’d ever had was a VHS copy of a copy that looked and sounded so badly, you only wanted to watch it once and then not bother again.
Shout! Factory just does incredible work on mastering. I think they absolutely maximize whatever’s there. Not only is it nice to have everything in a beautiful box, but it’s the best they’ve ever sounded, which is terrific. We’re doing the same thing with the General Public [catalog] in the spring. I’m really looking forward to getting a great version of those songs too.
Was unearthing all the rarities a matter of everyone digging through their closets?
Yes. There was an incredible amount of searching. We managed everything except two tracks of which we could only find a cassette version. They were from radio sessions: “It Makes Me Rock” and really terrific version of [Cole Porter’s] “Night and Day” from the early 80s. I thought I’d sung it particularly well at the time, like Tim Buckley might have…We left those two out with the promise we’d continue looking for the reel to reels. Although it may have disappeared at the BBC. That would be a tricky thing to find there. If we do ever find cleaner versions, we’ll stick ‘em up online for the collectors.
After listening to the remastered albums, I didn’t think they sounded dated like so many others from the same era do. Is that because the band didn’t succumb to all the latest trends, like using synths, sequencers, etc.?
Exactly that. It wasn’t really our doing, although I’d love to take the credit. Many of us did want to have a go. Everybody was starting to get into synthesizers. At the time, we though they sounded a bit like an orchestra. Producer Bob Sargeant was absolutely opposed and wouldn’t be involved if we wanted to do that. He was BBC trained.
So the band used actual strings on “Save It for Later” and the smooth cover of the late Andy Williams’ Pomus/Shuman-penned “Can’t Get Used to Losing You.”
We got a string quartet from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. They performed “Save It for Later” in their black and whites as if they were doing a concert at the Royal Festival Hall! They were serious professional classical musicians. Now the proof is in the pudding. The songs don’t sound particularly dated and they don’t sound as old as the songs that were trying to be terribly modern at the time. So we thank Bob for that. We didn’t at the time [laughs].
Did having videos shown on MTV during the channel’s early days help The English Beat get a leg up here in America?
It did, undoubtedly. When we first started, the videos were a bit of a novelty. The first video we did was for “Mirror in the Bathroom,” the third single. We never made a video for “Tears of a Clown” or “Hands Off, She’s Mine.” There was no demand for them. By the time of “Mirror,” we started to hear that people were doing these videos for the songs in America.
Suddenly, everybody was making them.
I was always about ambivalent about music videos because I loved radio - what’s known as a ‘hot’ medium. It leaves you space for your own imagination. For your favorite songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s, before they made videos, you made up your own film. Your own collection of images that would pore through your head while enjoying the music soundtrack. But you weren’t allowed to be nearly as creative in video as you were in audio. MTV got to the point where it was a bunch of 40-year-old people deciding what was appropriate for 14-year-olds. We all knew and they’d forgotten that 14-year-olds are offended by very little [laughs].
After The English Beat and General Public ran their course, you joined Greenpeace in the ‘90s. Were you burnt out on the music industry?

It was a soul-cleansing operation, really. I’d had enough of record industry double dealing. I wasn’t coping with it very well. I’d always wanted to work with Greenpeace, so when the opportunity came up, I grabbed it with both flippers. I did it for five years. We made the solar-powered album ‘Alternative NRG.’ It helped spread the word about global warming. [pauses] Not fast enough, by the looks of it. At the same time, it raised substantial funds for Greenpeace.
You were lured back into performing after taking some co-workers backstage to meet Elvis Costello when he played Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.
He said, ‘This Greenpeace and anti-Apartheid stuff is all well and good, but your place is on the stage Wakeling and you know it’…about 10 days after that, somebody phoned up and said, ‘would you like to do a song for a movie called ‘Threesome’ and be interested in talking to Ranking Roger about doing it as General Public?’ I said, ‘yes.’ Lo and behold the song ‘I’ll Take You There’ went to No. 1 on the dance charts and we were back onstage.
It was the early 2000s when you started performing again as The English Beat, right?        
Yeah, sort of by default. I had a band called Bang and The Free Radicals. It didn’t matter what you put in the contract [club ads would list them all plus] English Beat, General Public, Dave Wakeling. In the end, I felt if the audiences accept it as The English Beat and we do good enough quality songs that we only add to the mystique and not detract from it, then it’s acceptable. We did a trial period and everybody in the audience said they were happy with that. It’s been The English Beat ever since. (The current version includes ex-General Public bassist Wayne Lothian).
And you have a gentleman’s agreement with Roger who only appears as The Beat in England.
I’ve tried endlessly to make occasions where we could work together in England or America. He always finds a reason why he can’t do it that time, but will next time. We never have managed it and I don’t know if we ever will.
What did you think about seeing your British ska contemporary Madness on the Summer Olympics closing ceremony last month?
The Specials played a show in conjunction with it too. Once I got over the jealousy of not being on that stage myself, I enjoyed it [laughs]. It was an odd spectacle. Obviously, the Olympics were an expensive thing to put on and people there seemed put out by it. But now that it’s all over, everything went well – despite Mitt Romney’s concerns [laughs]. He sure has a way of putting people’s noses out. Better not run for president in England!
I read that you’ve been working on new material and plan to put out a series of EPs. Is that still in the works?
I’ve got them half recorded with basic drum tracks. As we got the [reissues] together, some lads in the original lineup felt that nobody should put out their own records at the same time. Out of deference to that, I’ll follow this in the spring with the General Public re-releases and then put out my new stuff in summer/fall 2013. I still have to figure out the best way to go about it. I’ve always loved EPs. The fans are keen on it. I’ve been talking to record labels about licensing.
Who will be on the recordings?
It will be me on guitar. I’ve never played a guitar solo, so I might get some guests in. I’ve had loose talk over the years with Mick Jones [The Clash/Big Audio Dynamite guitarist contributed to General Public’s debut All the Rage]. I was shocked to hear from Johnny Marr that ‘Save it for Later’ was his favorite song from the 1980s. We had a chat once about maybe playing together some time. So I might approach those guys.
What will you call the project?
Dave Wakeling’s English Beat. The rest of the [original] band still holds the legacy of The English Beat in high regard and feel if I put that name on a record, it might confuse people. My name would make that distinction.
The English Beat performs 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5 at Romano's, 5225 Canyon Crest Dr., Riverside, $22.50, (951) 781-7662,

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thom Yorke of Radiohead: Atoms for Peace single

Earlier this month, Thom Yorke's new project Atoms For Peace premiered debut single "Default." Now it is set for a 12" vinyl release that will include exclusive vinyl-only new song "What The Eyeballs Did," plus an instrumental edit of "Default" in addition to the original. The 12" will also be packaged in a beautiful Stanley Donwood designed sleeve which will feature foil stamping on the front and an embossed back.

The full 'Default' 12" track list is: 

A. Default
B1: What The Eyeballs Did
B2. Default (Instrumental Edit) 

"Default" is currently available to buy digitally and to stream at

"Default" is taken from the debut album from Atoms For Peace, set for release in 2013, also on XL Recordings. The record will feature Thom on vocals, guitars, keys and programming with Nigel Godrich (production & programming), Joey Waronker (drums), Mauro Refosco (percussion) and Flea (bass).

Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan to unveil solo album next month in U.S.

I can't wait to hear this. The Blue Nile's Hats is one of the favorite releases of the 1980s...

Blue Nile frontman Paul Buchanan will release his already acclaimed solo debut full-length, Mid Air, in the U.S. on Oct. 30 via Essential Music. The U.S. edition will contain a bonus disc of alternate takes, a live recording and remixes from fellow Blue Nile member, Robert Bell.

Buchanan released Mid Air in Europe this past May and debuted at #14 on the UK sales chart. A sparse, intimate and stunning collection of songs, Buchanan largely abandoned the synthesizers that have marked the Blue Nile's sound throughout their four full-lengths, since their debut in 1983, putting his rich yet bruised voice, front and center, accompanied solely by piano and the occasional light strings, brass or whispered synth. Mid Air was written from a place of humility and wee-small-hours contemplation.

"You can struggle with your sense of entitlement," explains Buchanan. "You think, I'm not Coldplay - is this valid? There's a modesty that comes with that, but the upside is that many of the external pressures disappear and you start to feel dangerous as a songwriter again. You realize you're still in love with music and you remember why you're doing it."

Mid Air was recorded at Buchanan's home in Glasgow at a friend's house on the east coast of Scotland and at Gorbals Sound, a state of the art studio in Glasgow. Robert Bell dropped by to offer a few thoughts as the work neared completion, but Buchanan is the only musician on the record.

Track listing:

Disc One
1. Mid Air
2. Half The World
3. Cars In The Garden
4. Newsroom
5. I Remember You
6. Buy A Motor Car
7. Wedding Party
8. Two Children
9. Summer On Its Way
10. My True Country
11. A Movie Magazine
12. Tuesday
13. Fin De Siecle
14. After Dark

Disc Two
1. Have You Ever Been Lonely?
2. My True Country (piano version)
3. After Dark (instrumental)
4. Lost, Duty
5. Tuesday (instrumental)
6. Half The World (live)
7. A Movie Magazine (instrumental)
8. Buy A Motor Car (Elegance Remix)
9. God Is Laughing

Brian Eno news

Lux, Brian Eno’s first solo album since 2005’s Another Day On Earth, will be released in North America on Nov. 13 (CD and download) and Dec. 11 (LP) via Warp Records

It finds him expanding upon the types of themes and sonic textures that were present on such classic albums as Music For Films, Music For Airports and Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. Eno sees it as a continuation of his 'Music for Thinking' project that includes Discreet Music (1975) and Neroli (1993).

One of Eno’s most ambitious works to date, the 76-minute composition in twelve sections evolved from a work currently housed in the Great Gallery of the Palace of Venaria in Turin, Italy. The album is Eno's third for Warp, following Small Craft on a Milk Sea (with Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams) and Drums Between The Bells (with Rick Holland).

1. LUX 1 (19:22)
2. LUX 2 (18:14)
3. LUX 3 (19:19)
4. LUX 4 (18:28)

Vinyl (Double 180g LP in gatefold sleeve with 4 x 300x300mm prints and download redemption code card)
CD (CD in gatefold sleeve with 4 x 120x120mm prints)

The Beatles studio album remasters set for vinyl release

Very exciting news for Fab Four fans...

The Beatles’ original studio album remasters, released on CD in 2009 and in 2010 for digital download on iTunes, will make their long-awaited stereo vinyl debut on Nov. 13 in North America.
Manufactured on 180-gram, audiophile quality vinyl with replicated artwork, the 14 albums return to their original glory with details including the poster in The Beatles (The White Album), the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band’s cutouts, and special inner bags for some of the titles. Each album will be available individually, and accompanied by a stunning, elegantly designed 252-page hardbound book in a lavish boxed edition which is limited to 50,000 copies worldwide.
The book, exclusive to the boxed edition, is authored by award-winning radio producer Kevin Howlett and features a dedicated chapter for each of the albums, as well as insight into the creation of the remasters and how the vinyl albums were prepared. The 12”x12” book showcases a wealth of photographs spanning The Beatles’ recording career, including many images which were not included in the '09 CD booklets.
The titles include The Beatles’ 12 original UK albums, first released between 1963 and 1970, the US-originated Magical Mystery Tour, now part of the group’s core catalog, and Past Masters, Volumes One & Two, featuring non-album A-sides and B-sides, EP tracks and rarities. With this release, The Beatles’ first four albums make their North American stereo vinyl debuts. In 2013, the remastered albums will make their mono vinyl debuts.
Available individually and collected in a boxed set, accompanied by hardbound book:

Please Please Me
“Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You” are presented in mono
(North American LP debut in stereo)

With The Beatles
(North American LP debut in stereo)

A Hard Day's Night
(North American LP debut in stereo)

Beatles For Sale
(North American LP debut in stereo)

Features George Martin’s 1986 stereo remix

Rubber Soul
Features George Martin’s 1986 stereo remix

Original album

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Packaging includes replica psychedelic inner sleeve, cardboard cutout sheet and additional insert

Magical Mystery Tour
Packaging includes 24-page colour book

The Beatles (double album)
Packaging includes double-sided photo montage/lyric sheet and 4 solo colour photos

Yellow Submarine
“Only A Northern Song” is presented in mono. Additional insert includes original American liner notes.

Abbey Road
Original album

Let It Be
Original album

Past Masters, Volumes One & Two (double album)
“Love Me Do” (original single version), “She Loves You,” “I’ll Get You,” and “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” are presented in mono. Packaging, notes and photographic content is based on the 2009 CD release.

For all you audiophiles, here are the minute details of the remastering process on the LPs...
There has always been demand for The Beatles’ albums on vinyl. 2011’s best-selling vinyl LP in the United States was Abbey Road. Following the success of The Beatles’ acclaimed, Grammy Award-winning 2009 CD remasters, it was decided that the sound experts at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios should create new versions of The Beatles’ vinyl LPs.
The project demanded the same meticulous approach taken for the CD releases, and the brief was a simple one: cut the digital remasters to vinyl with an absolute minimum of compromise to the sound. However, the process involved to do that was far from simple.
The first stage in transferring the sound of a master recording to vinyl is the creation of a disc to be used during vinyl manufacture. There were two options to consider. A Direct Metal Master (DMM), developed in the late seventies, allows sound to be cut directly into a stainless steel disc coated with a hard copper alloy. The older, alternative method is to cut the sound into the soft lacquer coating on a nickel disc - the first of several steps leading to the production of a stamper to press the vinyl.
A ‘blind’ listening test was arranged to choose between a ‘lacquer’ or ‘copper’ cut. Using both methods, A Hard Day’s Night was pressed with ten seconds of silence at the beginning and end of each side. This allowed not only the reproduction of the music to be assessed, but also the noise made by the vinyl itself. After much discussion, two factors swung the decision towards using the lacquer process. First, it was judged to create a warmer sound than a DMM. Secondly, there was a practical advantage of having ‘blank’ discs of a consistent quality when cutting lacquers.
The next step was to use the Neumann VMS80 cutting lathe at Abbey Road. Following thorough mechanical and electrical tests to ensure it was operating in peak condition, engineer Sean Magee cut the LPs in chronological release order. He used the original 24-bit remasters rather than the 16-bit versions that were required for CD production. It was also decided to use the remasters that had not undergone ‘limiting’ - a procedure to increase the sound level, which is deemed necessary for most current pop CDs.
Having made initial test cuts, Magee pinpointed any sound problems that can occur during playback of vinyl records. To rectify them, changes were made to the remasters with a Digital Audio Workstation. For example, each vinyl album was listened to for any ‘sibilant episodes’ - vocal distortion that can occur on consonant sounds such as S and T.
These were corrected by reducing the level in the very small portion of sound causing the undesired effect. Similarly, any likelihood of ‘inner-groove distortion’ was addressed. As the stylus approaches the centre of the record, it is liable to track the groove less accurately. This can affect the high-middle frequencies, producing a ‘mushy’ sound particularly noticeable on vocals. Using what Magee has described as ‘surgical EQ,’ problem frequencies were identified and reduced in level to compensate for this.
The last phase of the vinyl mastering process began with the arrival of the first batches of test pressings made from master lacquers that had been sent to the two pressing plant factories. Stringent quality tests identified any noise or click appearing on more than one test pressing in the same place. If this happened, it was clear that the undesired sounds had been introduced either during the cutting or the pressing stage and so the test records were rejected. In the quest to achieve the highest quality possible, the Abbey Road team worked closely with the pressing factories and the manufacturers of the lacquer and cutting styli.
An additional and unusual challenge was to ensure the proper playback of the sounds embedded in the ‘lock-groove’ at the end of side two of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Requiring a combination of good timing and luck, it had always been a lengthy and costly process to make it work properly. In fact, it was so tricky, it had never been attempted for American pressings of the LP. Naturally, Sean Magee and the team perfected this and the garbled message is heard as originally intended on the remastered Sgt. Pepper LP.
Highly-skilled technicians have worked long and hard to make The Beatles on vinyl sound better than ever. All we need to do is listen to the results of their dedicated labour on the remastered LPs. Handle with care. But most of all, enjoy the music.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mumford & Sons' new album in stores now

Check out some background info on the new album from this press release...

"We wanted to do something unashamed," says Mumford & Sons musician Ben Lovett. "We're confident and happy to be where we are as a band - everything that's happened with us has exceeded expectations, and it's all been a surprise, it's all much bigger than what we were prepared for. So when we came to recording this record we had a choice: to shy away from that, or to realise that people dig what we're doing, and make something robust, with that energy."

By December 2010, Mumford & Sons had been on the road since the previous summer: a glorious, eventful, yet relentless time. Standing somewhere between exhilarated and exhausted, the plan now was for the band's four members to spend a few weeks apart, write, recuperate, and then reconvene in Nashville in the New Year, with the intention of trying out material for their second album.

The informality of the set-up in Tennessee perhaps helped to dispel any nerves they may have had about following up 2009's Sigh No More - an album that had gone twice platinum in the US, and four times platinum in the UK. The band assembled in the front room of a house and set about sharing the songs they had been working on alone.

"It was a coming together, a sharing of some stuff," explains Lovett (keys, accordion, drums), "a pool of ideas that would come out of our time apart. So if there was nervousness, it wasn't nervousness about the record, it was nervousness about how a couple of these new song ideas would go down. But we knew we were going to play music, and it wasn't time to get into the nuts and bolts of it, it was more like we were starting another year from this point. And that felt very good. Very fresh, and natural."

Out of that time in Nashville came a couple of songs for the new record - the gorgeous Lovers' Eyes and Hopeless Wanderer. Then followed more touring, performances at the Grammys and the Brits, before the chance came in the summer to head into a studio in Bermondsey, south London. Here the band recorded the title song for the soundtrack to Wuthering Heights, as well as finding the footings for several of the new album's songs: Babel, I Will Wait, Not With Haste, Broken Crown, Lover of the Light.

"And then," recalls Marcus Mumford (lead vocals, guitar, drums), "we went down to a farm in Somerset and played the 10 song game, which is where you have to write 10 songs each in a set period of time without any criteria for quality." The result of the 10 song game, the band recall with some amusement, was firstly that Ted Dwane (string bass, drums, guitar) has a natural propensity for writing murder ballads, and secondly a new album track named Reminder.

"It's such a nice exercise because it removes your focus on perfection," says Dwane. "You drop your guard down and you sort of bash about." For Mumford, it also helped to re-focus to the material already amassed. "There were various points in the album where we felt maybe we needed to inject more directness, and maybe that's what Reminder did," he says. "There's a bit more obscurity in this album and Reminder is a really emotionally identifiable song. I think I Will Wait Was the Same. And in terms of making the best record we could we felt like we needed those songs."

2011 took shape slowly - throughout that year they were establishing the album's "cornerstone songs", discussing the new material with producer Markus Dravs - who had also steered Sigh No More ("He's like a mind master," says Lovett) and engineer Robin Baynton ("He has the best ears," says Mumford "but he'll never sacrifice vibe for accuracy") finding more writing and studio time wherever their schedule would allow. But more importantly they were trying to work out just what kind of record they were making. "I don't think any of us had any idea then about what we were trying to do," says Lovett, frankly. "We had a body of songs and we just really wanted to record them. And we thought that was all you needed. But we learned that wasn't quite the case."

Shortly before Christmas, they decided to stand back and take stock of what they had, heading down to Lovett's parents' home in Devon for a review of the new material. "And that's really where we had the vision for the album," says Mumford, "or where it solidified." "We were suddenly really confident and happy with what we were making," adds Dwane. "We were all on-site, all pistols firing. I think the album started to assert its own identity a little bit, it started to make sense, and we knew then what we were making."

Babel's identity Dwane describes as simply "Very us. When we made the first album it was to be a snapshot of Mumford & Sons in 2009. This is exactly the same - but it's us now, and there's a lot of the live energy in there - that was very much what we were trying to capture. Creating the album over the course of a year, going into the studio then back out touring, then back into the studio ... it's almost as if the road has rubbed off on the album."

The influence of the phenomenal live band Mumford and Sons have become is much in evidence on Babel, from the fire and fury of the title track to the keen and tender yearning of the album's closer, Not With Haste. "I think over the past few years we've realised how much we have to play the songs that we've recorded," says Mumford. "So we thought harder about these songs, feeling confident that we could play them again and again and again, and that however you record a song gives it its own life."

As a result, several songs on Babel were recorded live. "When you're in a room with headphones and microphones and no one else, you play it quite differently to how you play it live," says Mumford. "Having played live as much as we have these past five years, it's probably made us a bit more high-octane, a bit more adrenaline-filled, but because of that we probably also need to counter it more. But we really wanted to allow permission for quiet songs on the album, so that we could allow permission for them live as well."

More than anything, there is a real a sense of completeness to Babel, a satisfying wholeness and a kind of musical and lyrical wealth - romanticism tempered by strength and vigour; a brawniness balanced by beauty. "I think there's more subject-matter on this album, and I think we've grown up a little bit," says Mumford. "I feel like it's more exposed, more naked. Ted always talked about wanting to make an album like a story," he adds. "Not necessarily one that has a plot, but one that you can listen from top to bottom and it makes sense. I think that's what we've tried to do, and what we've done."

Winston concludes, "And now we've finished it we can get touring again, which is what we set out to do when we started the band. Back to business."

Monday, September 24, 2012

Paul McCartney 'Kisses' DVD, Blu-ray due in November

Live Kisses, a Paul McCartney film directed by Jonas Åkerlund, captures an evening at the famed Capitol Studios in Hollywood, where The Beatles legend recorded much of his Kisses On The Bottom album.

It is due out Nov. 13 on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Video via Eagle Rock Entertainment.

The live performance saw McCartney re-team with musicians from the album. Without the famous Höfner bass in hand or any instruments, he used the same microphone that has captured some iconic voices in history.

Streamed live online, Live Kisses marked the launch of the Kisses On The Bottom album. The film tells the story of how, with the help of Grammy Award-winning producer Tommy LiPuma, Diana Krall and her band, they created a critically acclaimed album, which featured guest appearances from Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder.

The record represents a personal journey through classic American compositions that a young McCartney first heard his father perform on piano at home. Upon its release, the album topped the U.S. Billboard Jazz album chart at No. 1 and charted top 5 around the world.

On the night, the all-star line up included musical director Diana Krall (piano) and John Pizzarelli (guitar), among others. Tommy LiPuma and Al Schmitt resumed their roles in the studio and special guest musicians were Abe Laboriel Jr (from McCartney's touring band) on backing vocals and Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh. Walsh performed the "My Valentine" guitar solo originally recorded by Eric Clapton on the studio album.

The concert was performed just hours after McCartney was presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the Capitol Records building. The night of the concert (Feb. 9) was also the 48th anniversary of The Beatles' U.S. TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Bonus Live Kisses material includes six versions of the "My Valentine" music video, directed by McCartney and starring Johnny Depp and Natalie Portman as well as a Making My Valentine film.

There are also two short films with behind the scenes footage filmed at the Mary McCartney album photoshoot for Kisses On The Bottom. The final extra is an interview with Paul and producer LiPuma about the story of the album, its conception and creation.

Beautifully presented, Live Kisses comes with a 40-page hardback book containing photographs from the day itself, including the rehearsals.


1) I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter
2) Home (When Shadows Fall)
3) It's Only A Paper Moon
4) The Glory Of Love
5) More I Cannot Wish You
6) We Three (My Echo, My Shadow And Me)
7) Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive
8) My Valentine
9) Always
10) My Very Good Friend The Milkman
11) Bye Bye Blackbird
12) Get Yourself Another Fool
13) My One And Only Love

Recorded and filmed at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, February 2012
Executive Producer: Paul McCartney
Directed by Jonas Åkerlund

1) My Valentine Video
i) My Valentine Music Video
ii) My Valentine Music Video - Natalie Portman One Take
iii) My Valentine Music Video - Johnny Depp One Take
iv) My Valentine Music Video - Split Screen
v) My Valentine Music Video - Natalie Portman Edit
vi) My Valentine Music Video - Johnny Depp Edit
vii) Making My Valentine

Videos directed by Paul McCartney
Featuring Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp

2) Kisses On The Bottom Album Photo Shoot - Version One
3) Kisses On The Bottom Album Photo Shoot - Version Two
4) Kisses On The Bottom Album Interview

Bonnie Raitt concert review: Los Angeles

photo by Marina Chavez
A version of my review originally ran at

Bonnie Raitt definitely knows how to set the right tone. Right from the get-go on Saturday night, she teased the crowd, “I’m gonna throw you in a pan and fry you.”
Indeed. During a very satisfying, nearly two-hour Greek Theatre show, the rock singer/guitarist displayed some sizzling bottleneck slide work – her trademark since the 1970s.
The 17-song set spotlighted half of Slipstream – Raitt’s first studio album in seven years. An alluring collection, it was self-produced (with a few tracks overseen by Grammy award-winning sonic craftsman Joe Henry), debuted in the top 10 and has been a consistent seller since spring.
While Raitt played the Los Angeles venue with Taj Mahal in ‘09 as well as several times in the past, she constantly marveled at the beautiful surroundings like it was the first time. Having grown up in nearby Burbank, this was obviously a welcome homecoming, with plenty of props and dedications thrown out to friends and music industry colleagues in the packed house.  
Onstage, the top notch band including bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, guitarist George Marinelli, drummer Ricky Fataar (all long-serving Raitt sidemen) and keyboardist Mike Finnigan ran like a well-oiled groove machine.
They kicked off the proceedings in smooth fashion with “Used to Rule the World” and a laid back, reggae-fied take on Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit “Right Down the Line.” Clad in a blue metallic top that matched the stage backdrop panels, Raitt did a tasty slide intro for “Something to Talk About” before engaging in some call and response instrument action with Marinelli.
After praising Bob Dylan’s new album and the recent Rolling Stone cover story, Raitt delved into a slow, bluesy version of his “Million Miles” (one of two selections from the folk bard’s celebrated 1997 disc Time Out of Mind tackled on Slipstream). Finnigan played with a light touch and Raitt, on acoustic guitar, gave it a sultry vocal delivery.
The flame-haired frontwoman made a humorous quip about “a woman and her wood – it’s a love story,” before strapping an iceberg blue electric axe back on for the funky “Love Sneakin’ Up on You.” Boasting full-bodied backing vocals from the guys, Raitt ripped off a searing solo.     
Still in casual conversation mode before “Come to Me,” the 62-year-old marveled about her lengthy career, how two decades seemed to pass quickly since Luck of the Draw sold seven-million copies and told of aspirations to still be performing as an octogenarian like her blues artist influences (if anyone can, it’s this candid and gutsy woman).  
As is common at Raitt gigs, many of the set’s songwriters were name checked, including actor/ex-husband Michael O’Keefe, who co-penned “Marriage Made in Hollywood” with Irishman Paul Brady. The breezy folk number about “showbiz bottom feeders” was a highlight.
Raitt dedicated John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” to her late mother Marge, a onetime OC resident who helped fuel a lifelong interest in political activism. The delicate reading, with a capella vocal intro, was simply magnificent.
Later, frequent collaborator Johnny Lee Schell was invited onstage to reprise his Nick of Time studio guitar and background vocals on a ragged, but fun version of John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love.” Raitt also welcomed up John Cleary (Dr. John) to add some keyboard/vocals to the fiery blues of “I Feel So Damn Good.” 
Seated on a stool for the encores, Raitt briefly weighed in on the presidential race (“This is an auction year, not an election year. We need to get money out of politics”) and ticket scalpers (“We made sure to keep prices low so more people could come” and they made it harder).

Then she expressed gratitude to younger musicians Adele and Bon Iver, who have performed Luck of the Draw selection “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (penned by Mike Reid/Allen Shamblin) live for “opening it up to a new audience.” At the Greek, the subtle song was heartfelt as ever. Finally, the band channeled Elvis Presley with a rambunctious, barrelhouse piano-driven “A Big Hunk O’ Love.” All told, Raitt was solid from start to finish.
Gospel/R&B music legend Mavis Staples did a spirited, enthusiastic 55-minute opening set featuring songs from "You Are Not Alone" - the acclaimed Grammy-winning 2010 album produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy - her renown family group The Staples Singers and others. Guitarist Rick Holmstrom was the linchpin of Staples' tight Americana-leaning band, whose backing vocalists included Yvonne Staples.
The 73-year-old Mavis joked about AEG Live's sale of Staples Center ("nobody consulted me") and sought to spread "joy and positive vibrations" all around. She did just that while wrapping her still gritty, robust pipes around John Fogerty's "Wrote a Song for Everyone," The Band's "The Weight," Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
Raitt, who called the entire show a "soul sister extravaganza," appended guitar and backing vocals to the latter. An extended "I'll Take You There" finished things off with plenty of Mavis' soulful vamping.

Bonnie Raitt, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, Sept. 22, 2012
Setlist: Used to Rule the World/Right Down the Line/Something to Talk About/Million Miles/You Can’t Fail Me Now/Love Sneakin’ Up on You/Come to Me/Marriage Made in Hollywood/Not Cause I Wanted To/Angel From Montgomery/Thing Called Love/I Got News For You/I Feel So Damn Good (I’ll Be Glad When I Get the Blues)
Encore: I Can’t Make You Love Me/Love Me Like a Man/Have a Heart/A Big Hunk o’ Love