Sunday, January 29, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Sunday, January 15, 2012
I am very happy to be alive and well this year, 2012. I don’t wish that I could have lived years ago to see and hear some of the great musicians of yesterday. I don’t wish I was younger like so many persons either. Because I am well over forty years old at this time I have heard some of the great soul and funk music of the 70’s and 80’s firsthand. However, I am still young enough to appreciate hip-hop and rap music too. Not to mention other genres like Country, Classical, Jazz, Blues, Rock and Metal. All forms of music have really evolved and are much more accessible due to the influence of technology. Even with all the tremendous advances in music there are still artists who come along with a sound that reminds us of how music sounded in years past. Today, we have several of what I like to call “throwback” vocalist on the scene, but one in particular is Anthony Hamilton. I can remember back in 2003 as he released his first solo effort how special and wonderful his voice sounded with songs that worked well for him. Hamilton seems like he could fit easily into one of the great Soul groups like the Temptations, O’Jays or Spinners. For me to say that means Anthony Hamilton, in my opinion, is on top of the talent food chain today. If any readers disagree, you might want to take a listen to his new album “Back to Love”. The material is a little different than previous albums from Hamilton but in this case different means well-done. Perhaps this is because Hamilton took three years before releasing the current album. Sometimes that time spent between recordings can give an artist perspective and forethought on how to best put together the next album. In listening to “Back to Love” this seems to be the case. Nevertheless, Anthony Hamilton still delivers the vocals that brought him initial notice. Already with one Grammy Award in his display case, I feel Hamilton may need to make room for a couple more. We’ll see. Much success Anthony!
Sunday, January 8, 2012
People do not stay at the top of their professions for their entire lives. Throughout history this is a fact that has remained true. Regardless the field of athletics, business or music, every successful person will give way to the next of his or her own generation. Many of you reading this blog may have experienced this fact first hand and either retired, or moved on to other endeavors from your first. We see this “changing of the guard” in the entertainment industry more so as new artists become popular in place of older ones who slow down from recording and performing. I recalled a conversation with a friend several years ago about whom I thought was the best vocalist at the time. Without hesitation I answered, Whitney Houston. We were having this conversation toward the late 1990’s when she was at the top of the charts and her performance level. After three films and several major hit songs there was no doubt of her success. But as my father used to say, “Time marches on”, and new talented young singers will emerge to launch their own successful careers; or a “passing of the baton” takes place. But usually this change is gradual and very transparent. All can see and hear both the seasoned veteran entertainer and the young up and coming artist performing within the same span of time. Usually the older entertainer is revered by the younger and the older appreciates the respect and work of the younger. Notice Aretha Franklin for many years well respected for her work but enjoying so many young singers following her steps. I only wish Whitney Houston was more visible today as she is truly given her rightful respect as a great artist. It is amazing to watch and hear female vocalist perform on today’s reality shows and reach for Whitney Houston songs. Those are major songs to try to perform and rarely do we hear someone pull off a good performance of one of Houston’s epic recordings. Nevertheless, it shows Houston raised the bar high for the next generation. Her problems are well documented and she is not the first nor will be the last to have challenges in life. With that being said I still would love to see her perform occasionally. News broke at the end of November 2011 that she completed filming of the remake of “Sparkle” with Jordin Sparks. Many are looking forward to the release of the film and also Houston on screen again. I’m one of her fans really wishing her the best!
Sunday, January 1, 2012
|Donald Fagan and Walter Becker of Steely Dan|
Sometimes I like to play a little game with friends to guess their favorite type of music. I must know a little about his or her personality to make an attempt at figuring their musical tastes’, but I’m pretty accurate at my assessments. I bring up this game I play because my own musical preferences are a little difficult to pin down. I have been exposed to all genres of music and my appreciation for all types of music has grown greatly. However, my own listening predilection is more artists driven than even I would admit. Recently I found myself listening to “Steely Dan” and enjoying their music as I always have. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker founded and have successfully made the group one of the most critically acclaimed acts in the music industry. Throughout the years I have followed the careers of many high-profile ex-Steely Dan members like, Michael McDonald, Jeff Pocaro, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and more thus proving the point of my musical tastes’ being artist driven. Although, when it comes to Steely Dan there are more factors that fuel my appreciation for their music. After reading more about the process of their songwriting and recording, I fully understood why I liked their sound. It was because Fagen and Becker were tireless perfectionists when it came to the sound they wanted to produce. I can remember times in the studio having an idea about what sound or effect I wanted only to change when someone presented a better idea or I stumbled upon a sound I liked more. But with Steely Dan absolutely nothing is done by accident. I was recently watching an old interview with the late longtime Steely Dan engineer Roger Nichols who was an integral part of the groups’ sound talk about studio sessions with Fagen and Becker. He said Steely Dan recordings included some techniques that were not widely used until after their songs were released. Yes, they were breaking new musical and recording ground. Also, the studio musicians used are a "Who’s who" list of great jazz musicians. Fagen and Becker’s arrangements were so complex they cried for fine musicianship. One fellow musician said that having Steely Dan on your resume was something special throughout the music industry. Therefore, if you like Steely Dan music there is a good reason why you do. Every recording was well-crafted and nothing was done by accident. I hope you all enjoy the video of a live performance of “Peg”. Great song!