My Girl 45 by The Temptations

November 30, 2010

If you play me “My Girl” by The Temptations, I’ll follow you anywhere.

The song was originally written by Smokey Robinson for his own group, The Miracles. After the Temptations heard the song backstage at The Apollo Theater in Harlem, they pestered Robinson to let them record it.

Robinson finally gave the song to them but he chose David Ruffin to sing the lead for the first time with the group.

The Temptations recorded the song Dec. 21, 1964 and by early 1965 it had reached the number one spot on the American singles charts.

ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE ranked it as the 88th best song of all time which I believe is to low.

An Evening At Trasimeno Lake (DVD) by Ana Popovic Band

November 27, 2010

Are you ready for some trivia? How many blues artists have come from Serbia? Or to be more precise, who is the leading female blues musician to be born in Belgrade, Serbia, Yugoslavia? The answer is Ana Popovic.

She was born into a musical family and at a young age decided to make the guitar her instrument of choice. By the age of 19, she was opening for Junior Wells. During the course of her career, she has released five studio, two live, and two DVD albums. All are fine examples of a blues/rock fusion sound.

Popovic is a somewhat under the radar artist in The United States as she has been more active in Europe than North America.

Her latest release is a live DVD recorded at Trasimeno Lake in Castiglione Del Largo, Italy, and is appropriately titled, An Evening At Trasimeno Lake. The sound quality and the visuals are excellent. My only complaint is at times they switch the angles too often. I would have preferred longer and more close up shots of Popovic playing her guitar, which borders on the spectacular.

The DVD extras include two acoustic performances from a different show, which are nice counterpoints to the electric material of the main concert, plus an extended interview.

Popovic is backed by an eight-piece band whose members tend to rotate in and out from song to song. The basic backing band consists of drums, bass, and keyboards. She carries one female backing singer to fill in the sound.

She may veer into jazz and rock territory upon occasion but she is at heart a modern day blues/fusion artist. Her guitar virtuosity does not take a back seat to anyone, male or female. Her fast hands and the clarity of her tone all make her one of the leading proponents of the blues working today.

Popovic has close to a perfect blues voice. It is interesting that she speaks with an Eastern European accent, but it is nowhere to be found when performing. She also sings in perfect English.

From the opening notes of “Wrong Woman,” it is a blues and guitar delight. “How’d You Learn To Shake It Like That” is the blues at its toughest and most intense. “My daddy was a preacher boy/my mother was an alley cat.”

She shows she is adept at a slide guitar style as well. “Nothing Personal” takes the sound in a slightly different direction as she adds a small brass section to fill out the sound and move it in a rock direction.

Ana Popovic proves there’s a new woman on the blues block, and the guys will have to move over and make room. An Evening At Trasimeno Lake is a delight for any fan of the blues and the guitar.

Article first published as Music DVD Review: Ana Popovic Band – An Evening At Trasimeno Lake on Blogcritics.

Tusk by Fleetwood Mac

November 27, 2010

What do you do when you have just released one of the ten best selling albums of all time, which topped the American album chart for 31 weeks? This was the question and task that faced Fleetwood Mac when they returned to the studio during late 1978 to record their follow up album to Rumours.

The resulting Tusk would be a long and sprawling double album. It would receive some criticism at the time of its release and not have the commercial success of its predecessor. It would, however, reach number four in The United States and number one in England and sell four million copies worldwide, which would have been outstanding for almost any other band or release.

Unfortunately, it was considered a failure in many circles. In retrospect, it could not have lived up to the expectations which preceded it.

I remember being disappointed at the time of its release, but the album has grown on me as time has passed and as it escaped the Rumours shadow. Today it stands on its own as another brilliant pop/rock release by Fleetwood Mac.

If Tusk was originally one thing, it was ambitious. In many places the sound veers from the safe pop styling of their last two releases to a more adventurous rock direction.

Lindsey Buckingham wrote nine of the twenty tracks and takes the most chances musically. “Tusk” was a drum=based track featuring the USC Marching Band. It was released as the lead single, which quickly announced that this was a different Fleetwood Mac release.

While the song was one of Mick Fleetwood’s crowning achievements, his drumming is excellent throughout. Just check out “Brown Eyes” and “What Makes You Think You’re The One.” Songs such as “The Ledge,” “Not That Funny,” and “What Make’s You Think You’re The One” have a frenetic feel that was not what its fan base was expecting at the time but which seem fine today. His “Save Me A Place” returned the group to a more familiar place complete with tight harmonies.

Stevie Nicks contributed five songs that may have been her overall strongest group and were what the band’s fan base expected of her. “Sara” is one of the finest performances of her career and became a deserved hit single. The original album version was almost two minutes longer than the single and remains superior. It was written about Mick Fleetwood’s wife Sara and her effects upon the group. Its harmonies, overdubbing, and emotional vocal make it one of her better creations.

“Storms” is moody and quiet, while “Sisters Of The Moon,” and “Beautiful Child” continued to develop her mystical personality.

Christine McVie sort of put it on cruise control for this release. “Never Make Me Cry” is a nice piano-based ballad. “Honey Hi” is surrounded with beautiful harmonies. “Over & Over” may have a mournful sound but it is also well created pop.

In many ways, Tusk is the modern pop Fleetwood Mac’s most creative album. It is a release that has stood the passage of time well and bears repeated listens to be truly appreciated.

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Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

November 27, 2010

Mick Fleetwood and John McVie started a nice little blues band back in the 1960s. Despite personnel changes, both professional and personal, the band endured and increased in popularity while transitioning from a traditional blues band to a pop/rock group. Their tenth self-titled album brought the band acclaim and unprecedented commercial success as it topped the American charts and ultimately sold in the neighborhood of five million copies. Fleetwood and McVie must have been feeling pretty good when they entered the studio during 1976 to record their next album.

Rumours was released February 4, 1977, and remains one of the most successful albums in music history. It topped the United States album charts for 31 weeks and sold 19 millions copies while producing four top ten singles. It also topped the British charts and sold 10 million copies in that country as well. When all was said and done, it became one of only ten albums to sell in excess of 40 million copies worldwide.

Rumours is rightly recognized as being pop perfection. The songwriting, harmonies, melodies, and slick production all added up to a perfect mix.

Christine McVie had been developing as a writer of pop songs, and here she created several of her masterpieces. “Don’t Stop” was a personal song about the end of her relationship with husband John McVie but from an optimistic viewpoint. It is catchy pop/rock at its best and reached number three as a single release. “You Make Lovin’ Fun” was another hit single in the same vein. This time it dealt with her affair with a member of their road crew that put the fun back in her love life. “Songbird” is a gentle song with an innate beauty. “Oh Daddy” may be a bit melancholy, but it is another song encased in pop melodies.

The three Stevie Nicks tunes are highlighted by the number one hit single “Dreams.” It would further cement her growing reputation as the pop witch queen. “Gold Dust Woman” is delicate pop that she was so good at creating.

Lindsey Buckingham’s major contribution was “Go Your Own Way.” His song was about his break-up with Nicks, coached in harmonies and melody. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as the 119th best song of all time, and The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame honored it as one of The 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.

“The Chain” is a rare Fleetwood Mac song that gives writing credit to all five members. Their 1992 4 CD, compilation box set, 25 Years: The Chain took its title from the song. It was a group effort and makes one wish they could have joined together more often.

Rumours remains one of the key releases in pop/rock history. It has been honored for decades and has kept Fleetwood Mac among the elite artists of the music world since its release.

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Fleetwood Mac By Fleetwood Mac

November 27, 2010

Bob Welch had left Fleetwood Mac and the group was in disarray. Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Christine McVie decided to replace him with the obscure duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who had issued one commercially unsuccessful album. The Buckingham/Nicks addition would turn out to be brilliant and, when combined with the remaining three members, would create music history.

The band’s self-titled album was released July 11, 1975. It was a release that gathered commercial speed as the months passed. It took 53 weeks to reach the number one position on The United States charts, which was a record at the time. It would eventually sell five million copies in The USA alone. It would not be as initially successful in Great Britain as the new Fleetwood Mac would not be embraced until the release of Rumours, which would allow this album to reach number 23. Rolling Stone magazine would honor it as one of The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.

Lindsey Buckingham’s “Monday Morning” is the first track and quickly established the fact that this was indeed a new Fleetwood Mac. Their blues foundation had been left behind and been replaced by a pop/rock masterpiece. It is an infectious, up-tempo classic that featured the beginnings of the legendary McVie, Buckingham, and Nicks harmonies. His other solo composition, “I’m So Afraid,” closed the album on a haunting note.

Christine McVie wrote four tracks and co-wrote a fifth. “Say You Love Me,” with its sensual vocal, and the emotional “Over My Head,” would both become successful singles and be identified with the Fleetwood Mac sound for decades. Her lesser known “Warm Ways” is smooth and romantic. “Sugar Daddy” may not measure up to the first three but is a solid creation in its own right. She wrote “World Turning” with Buckingham which is slow, smoldering, and a little funky in places.

Not to be outdone Stevie Nicks contributed three songs. The hit single “Rhiannon” established her persona as the Welch witch and quickly became one of her signature performances. “Crystal” was originally released on her duet album with Buckingham. The lyrics provide an impact and the music is airy in a typical Stevie Nicks way. Her “Landslide” has an innate beauty that leaves you wanting more.

Mick Fleetwood and John McVie must have thought they had died and gone to heaven. The group that bore their names was now on top of the music world in The United States. They could not have imagined at the time that this brilliant album was only a warm-up for what was to come in the very near future.

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Be My Baby 45 by The Ronettes

November 27, 2010

Ronnie Bennett (Spector) was actually the only member of The Ronettes who sang on the song and sing she did. Phil Spector recorded 42 takes before he was satisfied he had enough for his Wall Of Sound.

“Be My Baby” would become a huge hit reaching number two on the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE singles chart for three weeks during 1963.

Spector was at the height of his producing powers during this period of time and would employ a fill orchestre and all manor of backing singers including a young Cher).

“Be My Baby” remains one of the best examples of the early sixties girls group sound that was so popular at the time.

Waltz For Debby by Bill Evans

November 25, 2010

Bill Evans, August 16, 1929–September 15, 1980, is regarded as one of the best and most influential jazz pianists of all time. The apex of his work was the four albums he recorded as the Bill Evans Trio with bassist Scott Lafaro and drummer Paul Motian.

They expanded both the jazz trio concept through their interplay and individual solos, plus the use of the piano as an interactive jazz instrument. Evans would almost deconstruct a song through his skill at the piano. They would set a standard that many jazz artists would follow in the future.

Waltz For Debby was one of two albums recorded at the Village Vanguard on June 25, 1961, during a five-set performance. It was the last release by his original trio as Lafaro was killed in a car accident less than two weeks after its appearance.

Waltz For Debby remains a Bill Evans classic and a milestone in the history of jazz music. Released during late 1961, it now returns as a part of The Concord Music Group’s Original Jazz Masters Series. The sound is crystal clear and five bonus tracks have been added.

While three are different takes of the album’s original songs, they remain interesting for the subtle differences that appear. “Discussing Repertoire” is only 30 seconds long and could have been eliminated. The gem is “Porgy (I Love You),” which at over six minutes presents the trio in all their interactive glory.

The original liner notes are included, which are always welcome. The written gem of the set is the four-page essay about the performance by 87-year-old Orrin Keepnews, who was one of the founders of the Riverside label on which the album was originally released. He was at the performance and was the producer for the album 49 years ago.

The title track was a musical portrait of his niece. It appeared as a short piano performance on his 1956 debut album. It returned on this album in a filled out, elongated form and would become his signature song.

“My Foolish Heart” was a pop standard that first saw life in the film of the same name where it earned an Oscar nomination. Evans would turn it into a slow tempo jazz number, a style which would be covered by generations of jazz artists that followed.

Evans was a member of The Miles Davis Sextet for eight months and while their time together was short, it would be productive for both. Evans covers Davis’ famous “Milestones.” He twists and turns the song through the use of the trio’s three instruments but is always true to its intent.

The career of Bill Evans would come to a tragic conclusion at the age of 51. His longtime use of heroin and cocaine caused his body to finally give out. He is buried in Rose Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Baron Rouge, Louisiana.

Waltz For Debby remains a classic Bill Evans release and a center piece in the history of American jazz.

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