Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Willie!

Today is Willie Nelson's 75th Birthday and I hereby request that everyone spend a minute or two or more to reflect on the man and his work.

Austin 360 has put together a great tribute, hats off to Michael Corcoran.

KGSR has a great event tonight featuring many artists singing Willie songs, anyone in Austin should stop by. I will wish I was in Austin tonight that's for sure.

Please stop by the Sony Legacy podcast page to hear some great interviews with Willie and Family members Bobbie Nelson, Paul English, Poodie Locke, Jody Payne and Mickey Raphael.

Check out the great Willie page for some great pics from Amsterdam where Snoop Dogg and Willie performed the other night (the lens cap is on for a minute or two!):

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Manhattan Omnivore: Rakim to bless Nokia Theater!

This post is my take on the Brooklyn Vegan thing of announcing shows that have gone on sale.

The other day I received the news that the great Rakim is performing at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square. The show is June 4 and Rakim will be supported by GZA and Blackilicious among others. Click here for tickets.

Rakim is the best and most influential mc in the history of hip hop. At the top of this page is a picture I took at BB King's in November '06 (an incredible night). His recent hits/live compilation The Archive probably fell on deaf ears. When it takes eight years to make four songs, it's hard to "keep them eager to listen" to use his words from a previous release. At least the fans will have something to buy at the shows.

But The R is one of the best artists ever! I can heartily recommend seeing him live too, which is a recent development. In their prime, Eric B. and Rakim often performed with Rakim rapping along with vocal versions of the records. Terribly disappointing. Now he struts around the stage spitting lyrics with appropriate backing from Kid Capri, who renders Eric B. a non-entity.

In a recent appearance on Howard Stern, Tracy Morgan concluded an amazing interview ("I'm the son of Ron O'Neal") by telling Howard, "I got soul, that's why I came, to teach those who can't say my name," a direct quote from Eric B. and Rakim's seminal 1987 hit "I Know You Got Soul."

Take a look/listen!

Earbender Earth Day Post: Green Baseball and Bands

If you read this story about the recent Cubs-Reds game where Lou Piniella reacted to Cincinnati broadcaster Marty Brenneman, perhaps you also saw the irony in it: Piniella's friend and longtime coach Lee Elia is famous for a long, blistering attack on the Wrigley faithful.

Here's the clip of Lee Elia going off, for old time's sake. It was 25 years ago next week:

Since it's Earth Day, and I am recycling old bits above, please read on to see about how Lou and Lee's old teams the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds are both going green today for Earth Day by playing carbon-neutral games. They are buying carbon-offsets Seattle and a biomass project in Spain, respectively, and reducing lighting and other forms of consumption to be carbon neutral for the day.

It's only a few parks on one day, but it's not a bad publicity stunt. It's more than the White House is doing!

Plenty of artists on the road are going green by using recycled vegetable oil and BioDiesel to help curtail consumption. Reuters made a top ten list, with Willie Nelson only #2 to Jack Johnson! No worries about that, it's not a competition, and I'm very into Jack's support and involvement with of Stonyfield Farms, Patagonia and One Percent.

New York Comic Con 08 Wrap Up

As Frank Thomas donned the powder blue Toronto Blue Jays throwback jersey last Saturday for the last time, I attended the NY Comic Con with my good friend Hugh Surratt.

My last comic conventions were the inaugural Marvel Comics Convention and Superman's 40th birthday party in 1975 and 77, held in the Commodore hotel. Many of the same folks and companies were there, but the biggest differences are:

Comic-based movies are now big business

Toys and other merchandise based on comics is massive

Video and computer games are way beyond "Pong."

And I'm about 30 years older!

Websites and a culture of commentary and podcasts has arisen, many with hilarious names like Nerdcast.

Topps Trading Cards, recently bought and "re-purposed" by Michael Eisner, had a big table promoting the Topps Vault, a collectibles auction site that's fun to play look at. They were giving away very rare Comic Con only items, which I will feature in a contest here as well.

I had an awesome encounter w/a Gomorrean Guard, reprising Gary Garver's wonderful interviews on Howard 100. There were many fans dressed up for the event, including Hellboy and a gaggle of Princess Leia in the hostage costume.

My friend Whitney Matheson of USA Today had a typically tight wrap-up in her blog.

James Bond "News", New Steve Winwood

The BBC has been covering the production of the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace in great detail. Almost daily, we are being treated to news about Daniel Craig, the car, the co-stars, etc. I DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE PLOT, so I am resisting the temptation to read them. But if you are interested, here are a few links.

Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson are working on a song for Quantum of Solace.

BBC recently reported that a stunt man crashed a car during filming and was hurt badly.

A museum exhibit on Bond creator Ian Fleming's hundredth birthday revealed some letters to "the real Miss Moneypenny." I recommend the Ian Fleming Centre for swag and info.

I would recommend very highly a visit to Goldeneye, the hotel created in and around Fleming's house in Oracabessa, Jamaica. The view of Bond Beach will remind you of Dr. No, and many places in Jamaica would be familiar to a fan from the movies.

Speaking of Jamaica, Goldeneye and James Bond reminds me of the picture above, which I saw there. Winwood has been on a five-year mission to take back his career from my estimation, having re-debuted around the time of the 2003 Louisville Non-Commvention. He was working his own record and I was on my way out of Island Records. At the time I thought to myself, if he isn't on Island, why should I be?

So I told him about the picture and he was weirded out. But it seemed like a more interesting picture from Goldeneye than Fleming's desk. I have added the others to my "visual flow," powered by Flickr.

Anyhow, I listened Winwood's new album "Nine Lives" the other day and it seems like an improvement on the last one. I wouldn't want him to go all "Roll with It," but I would like him to have a hit. There are some good songs on this album, Winwood's voice sounds excellent and he can still play great guitar and keyboard. His guitar playing has a ton of character and I have seen him fill an arena with it.

Nine Lives is a decent album without too much of the 80s corn. And finally, on the Leftsetz tip, I recently "lent" a young lady some Traffic albums w/o much traction gained. I like how he says he is "first in music analysis" on his site. But that's another story for another day!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Catching Up with Shelby Lynne

Shelby Lynne is a great artist and I'm proud to call her my friend. Two years of working together at a critical time in both our careers, including a lot of tension, intense effort and including both major successes and failures, created a pretty strong bond.

So when Shelby and her manager Elizabeth Bottrell were in town a few Fridays ago, it was sweet to see a great show at the Society for Ethical Culture, and re-connect. In the fall, we had a big hang at the Hiro with Rita Houston and Laura Fedele from WFUV and Espo from WEA. It's always a sweet reunion, we all dig Shelvis!

As great as Shelby has always been, this performance was one of the best I've seen. The combination of Dusty Springfield songs and her own greatest hits was, and guitarist John Jackson's return to the band was close, if not beyond, the artistic triumph of her 2000 "I Am Shelby Lynne"

Here's a little vid (so little it's audio) of Shelby performing a long, typically sultry, version of "Dreamsome" from I Am Shelby Lynne:

Shelby also recently visited our friend Jody Denberg at KGSR. Click here to listen.

Wail on Shelby, wail on!

Getting Ready for Patriot's Day

So what if the Pope* is rolling through New York City this weekend? Spring is in the air and on Monday, Boston will celebrate Patriot's Day. I had the pleasure of attending last year, seeing my first Boston Marathon and 11am Red Sox game.

The re-enactment of the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" takes place at 5:30am according to my friend Mark Kates, who grew up near the Green in Lexington, MA and The Old North Bridge in Concord. Mark has a label called Fenway Recordings you might enjoy.

Is anyone else digging John Adams on HBO as much as I am? It seems like you have to watch each episode a few times to catch all the lines but I like that they give you at least one or two iconic visuals per episode, such as Adams' Inauguration, where he is framed by Washington and Jefferson, the reading of the Declaration of Independence and the White House under construction.

It's not The Sopranos or Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I'm enjoying it.

How about three cheers for the original Minutemen?!

* - Sinéad O'Connor was right on the whole Pope/child abuse thing. I would say she was early but people have probably been complaining about this as long as there have been priests. Let us recall great women:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a cool blog

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar meets Carole King: the Lakers star and former Cranberry Records president interviews fellow 70s icon backstage on his blog. He talks with his hands a lot and they are humongous and hard to ignore!!!

In a more recent post, he discusses staying fit after forty, a topic he is a real expert in.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seems like a cool guy with a diverse group of interests, hope you have time to visit his spot.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ray Davies and the Three Faces of Jimmy Fallon

I had no doubt as I approached the Beacon Theater tonight that Ray Davies would deliver an excellent show. As leader of The Kinks with his brother Dave, he was the the master showman of rock and roll in the 70s and 80s. Armed with a massive stack of great songs and with Dave's crunching guitar and sympathetic support vocals, they were the one band from the British invasion an American rock fan could really latch on to in those days.

So all this was on my mind as I watched the man wake up an aged crowd (see photo outside the venue -- 75% male, 45+) with some hits ("I'm Not Like Everybody Else") to start the set. He settled into some new material, but always with intros showing his great rapport. By the end the whole place was on its feet w/Davies walking us through his encores including "Lola," and a sweet version of "Waterloo Sunset," which I captured on video:

Some guy in back of me was talking at full voice with his friends during the quiet parts and wouldn't shut up even though I kept turning around and giving the peeved vibe. A few times later I realized it was that dude Jimmy Fallon from TV. The funny part is he thought I was looking at him because he's on tv and not because he was being a disruptive bastard. At the end I was so happy I didn't care about anything including Jimmy. Those are the three faces - annoyed, embarrassed, uninterested. By the way, Fallon's favorite song seemed to be "Come Dancing."

So the music was pretty great but I'm sure I'm not the only one who missed Dave Davies. The kid on guitar was competent but early in the show, I told my buddy Randy Dry from Sirius and PolyGram that his distortion sounded like it came from Guitar Center and not from throwing the amp down the stairs or cutting the speaker cone like Dave's did.

When they played "You Really Got Me," my fears were confirmed. The kid played it like Eddie Van Halen. Can't blame him, he probably heard that version more times than the great Dave. Ray told a story about writing the song as a blues and speeding it up in the studio w/his brother, then 16, creating rock history with his distorted sound. Ray said someone thought the guitar sounded like a barking dog on that song.

It wasn't perfect but it's about as good a show as you could expect from a guy with Ray Davies' history with a need to play new material ("I'm a songwriter, that's what I do," he explained. Can't argue with that. He can still turn it out with humor, intelligence and a nice rhyme or two as well.

Highly recommended!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Rolling Stones "Shine A Light" IMAX Review

The movie was pretty good and I almost think I would see it again just to remember the good parts better. "Faraway Eyes" might have been my favorite. It had something missing in the Stones' arena shows: Keith singing background vocals. Buddy Guy was excellent, his unmoving face as he watched the other players on stage got the extreme closeup. My one complaint was that there wasn't enough Charlie Watts on camera.

We had just one or two moments behind the kit with the man who is the mvp of the band in so many ways. In an interview he said he wanted to be a designer. Charlie is so genius... he takes a deep breath after "All Down the Line," the third song, and one of the fastest in their repertoire. Mr. Richards naturally doesn't hit a bad note all night although you could say he only hit bad notes too. They are all so great.

I was there that night! And all day, outside the theater trying to get an extra from someone. I asked President Bill Clinton when he walked by. As he shook my hand, I said, "Mr. President, got an extra for tomorrow?"

Without skipping a beat, Mr. Clinton said "I'll try." He blew me off smoothly. I ended up listening to a few songs by the back door before going home. I knew I would get to see it in the movies.

It was galling knowing that they cast the audience in the first few rows of the theater when I was shut out of the show. Shut out because the band announced that there might be some tickets released to the public. There weren't. Seeing the young women in the front row in front of the REAL audience of old guys w/camera phones, wire-rim glasses and caps in the movie, I understood Sir Mick's play. He probably took a look at who lined up that day, and started going through pictures of potential audience members.

Meanwhile, the hot woman in the movie is Christina Aguilera. She looked and sounded great. I wonder why none of the 17 cameras caught Mick grabbing her. Her squeal was audible and the whole thing made me feel like Pat Boone watching Mick and Tina Turner on Live Aid.

I would see this movie again but I wish there had been a bit more Charlie in it!!!

USA Today interview with Scorsese.

Social Media was used to promote a Stones album for the first time:
Rolling Stones site reprints Rolling Stone magazine interview. has an RSS feed I'm proud to say I signed up for.
Facebook Stones page
myspace Stones page

Paula Nelson is Kicking

On March 19, The Paula Nelson Band was performing their usual Wednesday night set when a patron approached the stage. Watch the video to see what happened next.

In all my years of attending shows, I don't think I've seen the band defend themselves, although I would like to see video of Pete Townshend hitting Abby Hoffman with his guitar at Woodstock.

This created some action last week, legendary Austin country station KVET and our friends at KGSR were talking about it.

... and by the way Sirius Outlaw Country added the record last week before all this came out, along with many other Americana folks.

See The Paula Nelson Band Live!

April 10: The Mucky Duck Houston, TX 7:30pm
April 12: The Hook Lake Bryan, TX 8pm acoustic trio
April 15: Jester Dorm UT (outside courtyard) Austin, TX 4:30-7:30pm FREE SHOW
April 18: Lorraine’s Live Music Venue Marble Falls, TX 8pm
April 19: Paula is driving a race car and singing National Anthem in Kyle
April 23: Varsity Theater- Baton Rouge, LA- 9:15pm- opening for Reckless Kelly- 10.00
April 24: Bootleggers- Tyler, TX 8:30p (opening for Reckless Kelly)
May 5: Acoustic trio Luckenbach 8pm
May 6: River City Grill- Marble Falls, TX- not sure when- acoustic trio
May 11: La Zona Rosa, Austin, TX- Benefit for Women and Children’s health issues with John Trudell and Folk Uke
May 16: Hill Country BBQ- NYC, NY- 10:00pm

Band sites:
The Paula Nelson Band Home
Paula Carlene Nelson on myspace

Media coverage "the incident":

The Chicago Sun-Times

Jimmy Kimmel's Monologue

VH-1's The Best Week Ever

CO-ED Magazine

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

One Hell of A Ride -- New Willie Nelson Box Set

After over 40 years in the business, a variety of labels and tons of bootlegs, Sony Legacy's new Willie Nelson box set, "One Hell of A Ride" covers it all with 100 songs spread over four cds. The album was released yesterday, April 1, no foolin'.

From the very first recording he ever made at KBOP, Pleasanton TX in 1954 through the Nashville frustration of RCA, to Atlantic and the glory years of Columbia Records. Recent forays into reggae, blues and his recent Cindy Walker tribute; it's all here.

There is also a great set of liner notes written by respected Willie biographer Joe Nick Patowski. While the album only contains one unreleased song, it's a new version of that first recording from KBOP, the prescient "When I've Sung My Last Hillbilly Song." I find it poignant, you should too:

Broke the heart of my darling who loved me
Broke her heart and I know I've done wrong
But I hope that someday she'll forgive me and remember
When I've sung my last hillbilly song

When I've sung my last hillbilly song
I hope that someday she'll forgive me and remember

When I've played my last hillbilly bar
I hope that someday she'll forgive me and remember

When I've sung my last Hank Williams song
I hope that someday she'll forgive me and remember

When I've sung my last hillbilly song
I hope that someday she'll forgive me and remember

-- Willie Nelson

There is a great radio special on its way to the stations. Part 1, is Willie's own perspective on his career and songwriting. Part 2 is "Willie Nelson's True Outlaw Stories," as told by him and longtime collaborators Sister Bobbie Nelson, Paul English, Mickey Raphael, Poodie Locke, Jody Payne and friends Nels Cline of Wilco and Ray Wylie Hubbard. If you want to know about Willie and how he got to be the Godfather of Outlaw Country (and a few other sects), you've got to check it out!

Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. Still Stars, Still Gold

Solid Gold was one of the only ways to see music on television in the 80s, especially if you didn't have cable for MTV. The show has been parodied by Weezer in a video, so I won't belabor the obvious and describe the "theme" but it was visually pleasing.

One thing I loved about Solid Gold was when Marilyn McCoo, the beautiful lead singer of the 5th Dimension who was host, would cover a current hit. Her version of "Only Time Will Tell" by Asia was better than the record, and I would love to hear it again someday.

I spent a few fun hours at a WFMU Record Fair teasing the geeks because they didn't have these materials. Also I wouldn't have to buy anything that way.

Cut to last Saturday night, at the incredible event of the Dodgers game at LA Coliseum, the first in 50 or so years there, and the biggest crowd to ever see a Major League Game.

Imagine my joy when I heard Marilyn and her partner Billy Davis Jr. (also of the 5th and Mr. McCoo) announced as the singers of the National Anthem that night, since they were cancer survivors as well as being a great act. I heard my old friend Charles Steinberg made that call, and a good one it was. Congrats on making it back to the west coast and out of Boston to old Dr. Steinberg, a big sports/music guy.

It was one of my favorite renditions ever, including Marvin Gaye at the NBA All Star Game and Whitney Houston's from the 1984 Olympics, also held in the LA Coliseum.

Please enjoy the video I took of their performance above and visit the Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr. page when you have time.