28 May 2007

At first when I see you cry it makes me smile….

The other day I was watching the “Today Show” – it was Friday and they were kicking off their summer music series with an appearance by Blondie. As a long time fan (how could you not like them?) I was very excited to see three of the original members on stage – including, of course, the inimitable Debbie Harry – who at sixty three is probably one of the hottest women in Rock ‘N Roll. They were on the show to promote their upcoming re-release of Eat To The Beat on DVD and digitally remastered CD – out on 26 June.

Even at 8.45a they were on their game – Debbie Harry can still sing with the best of them. So she did – maybe not the best but certainly one of today’s more interesting new talents, Lily Allen (I love her CD Alright, Still and if you haven’t checked it out it’s a fun mix of reggae and pop music – really awesome). On stage to sing a duet of “Heart Of Glass” mid way through the set I was completely blown away. WOW! There was something so cool about the two of them together – old torch – new torch – what you heard was not only a timeless song but a timeless meeting of talents and for anyone who has ever doubted Lily Allen’s ability to sing live (not me, ever, by the way) than all your doubts would surely be erased - it was a great duet! http://youtube.com/watch?v=F3U_sVIIJqs

A few weeks ago I wrote my blog about Hugh Grant and his bean throwing incident justly aimed at the paparazzi. It got me thinking and got me feeling a little nagged as well. How do I contribute to the furthering of these useless photographers careers of stalking the famous and infamous? I know how. Over the last year I have been reading a couple of the online websights that publish these silly pictures of women’s crotches as they get out of a limo, or take their kids to school, or are drunk as they leave a party (horrors!!). Well, last week one of them (I won’t dare name the sight as I don’t wish to publicize further the lameness that is them) published a picture of Sharon Stone on a boat at Cannes – showing her backside. I admit I’d love to see Sharon Stone in a bathing suit - having seen her in person at an airport she’s just as beautiful on person as on screen. But what got to me was the caption under the picture – some bitchy, queeny comment about the cottage cheese on her upper back thighs. I was really bothered by the comment and thought that it went too far because if I look as good as she does at her age I’ll find religion – and fast! I realized that that’s all that guy does – he posts pictures of the stars and does nothing but write nasty, mean things about the people in them. Rarely does he, or any of the other sites, post anything nice.

As I checked his site again Friday morning, as I’ve done nearly every day for the last year I found I’d had it. I deleted the web address from my browser. I felt good. I felt freed. I felt like less of a fraud. How can I condemn the photographers who take the nasty pictures so that other nasty’s can post nasty comments when I read the blogs that post this crap? As I watched the film “Georgia Rule” Friday afternoon I found myself thinking of the ugly comments I’d read about Lindsey Lohan on one of these blogs. My viewing of her performance was clouded – unjustly so because she was, as usual, excellent in this role – and I knew I’d made the right decision. No matter what her personal troubles may be – she’s a hell of an actress who has more talent in her little pinky than the nasty’s who write those blogs that get off on smiling while others cry.

On this Memorial Day I’d like to give a shout out to our troops (my cousin being one of them) – I hope you know how much you are appreciated – now lets get those yahoos in Washington to end this silliness so you can all come home.

Thanks for tuning in….Until next Monday…CHEERS!!

21 May 2007

I treated myself like I knew I would, I told you I was trouble, you know I’m no good….

In honour of her very sad passing this past weekend I thought I would republish this post from May 2007. Needless to say this is a very deep loss to the music community and her talent will be missed! She was a true original....RIP, Amy...


I picked up the Amy Winehouse CD, Back To Black , this weekend and thought I would try something new – writing about it as I listen for the first time. Over the last few months (her second album, it was released in October 2006) I’ve heard a track here and there but this is my first REAL sit down with it. So far it’s a smooth mix of jazz and R & B.

What strikes me most is her retro sounding voice. If I didn’t have a picture of her in front of me (she definitely looks like a modern woman – tattoos and all) I would think she’s some 1960’s girl jazz group reincarnate (were there actually any? But still….). This isn’t surprising since she sites as her influences many female jazz/R & B singers – Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and the late great Minnie Ripperton to name a few.

At this point I’m about half way through the CD and so far I would say I’m really loving the music! Somehow, some way you get the feeling that this could be a live show in a club in NYC in the mid 1960’s. I swear it’s truly amazing how good this stuff sounds! Don’t get me wrong – it’s not some faux retread, it’s fresh and interesting and downright impressive! Even the backing vocals have it down…back when they added almost more than real instruments and certainly more than they add these days. I think that was what was so cool about the music then - it was more basic and stripped down – you couldn’t hide behind synthesizers and electronic drums – you had to work with what you had and vocals stood out more because of those now antiquated methods of recording and more ‘acoustic’ instruments. Nowadays it’s easy to fill in musical gaps – to make something better than it is because of all the recording tricks, and cutting and pasting one can do whilst in the studio and after the fact.

While I can’t be certain of the methods used in recording this CD, I can say that after hearing the whole album straight through it’s true to it’s word throughout– honest, pure and definitely a sexy listen! If you’re looking for something retro but new and fresh – this is it! She’s got a killer voice – the songs are cool and it’s a fun ride! Check her out at itunes, www.myspace.com/amywinehouse, or http://www.amywinehouse.co.uk/

My mother always told me ‘those who can’t do – teach’. She felt that if you were really capable at your art – you wouldn’t be teaching it – you would be a successful artisan. This was especially loud in my ears as she fought my tenth grade English teacher when he gave me a ‘C’ on a paper she (and others – including my mother’s own college professor) felt was a college level paper. She even tried to get the hack fired - that’s how strongly she was behind it. So when recently I was asked to donate time to run lights for the adult version of “Grease” for the kiddie school where I have worked on and off over the last six months – I was a little skeptical. Of course, it was all for their scholarship fund – about 30 students a session are on scholarship – so that wasn’t the issue – every person working on it donated their time – but I was unsure of what I would see on stage. In the adult versions of these musicals all the teachers, some former teachers and a few parents act and sing their way through the show.

I was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised. After months of seeing/working these kiddie shows where, despite the talent that some of these kids come from, the apple does apparently fall from the tree, it was great to see a show how it’s supposed to be done! There were harmonies, people being IN character, knowing their lines and knowing the songs. Overall I was impressed by the actors on stage! Of course some were better than others and some were more in tune than others but no matter what it was a lot of fun! Everyone on stage and in the audience had a blast – and it showed! At one point last night I held a blackout a little longer because “Good Lovin” came on (I know – “Grease” takes place in the 50’s and this song came out in 1966 – a point not lost on me) and everyone in the theatre started clapping in time and singing along, it was a cool moment that you think only happens in movies. But the point is – while no one on stage is an academy award winning actor or singer these teachers impressed me. They can do!

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday….CHEERS!

14 May 2007

Blame it on fate, blame it on blind love….

I was at a loss for what to write about today…my brain is encompassed by many thoughts about how/what to do with the EP baby I’ve just given birth to. While it isn’t officially born yet – that will happen later this week when I pick up the CD’s I’m having made – but still it’s almost here (by the way, copies will be available for purchase at cdbaby.com in the next couple of weeks). So I gave Abby a shout and she suggested the following: do what a lot of bloggers have done – put your ipod on random and write down the first ten songs that play – no cheating! Since this is a music and life review blog it made sense – it tells you something about my life and my music. Here is what came up (artist, song, album title):

Michael Penn, “18 September”, Mr. Hollywood, Jr. 1947
Sheryl Crow, “All I Wanna Do”, Teusday Night Music Club
Joan Armatrading, “Prove Yourself”, Live – All The Way From America
Fleetwood Mac, “You Make Loving Fun”, The Dance
Butterfly Boucher, “Life Is Short”, Flutterby
Jules Shear with Roseanne Cash, “Who’s Dreaming Who”, Between Us
Missy Higgins, “Katie”, The Sound Of White
Coldplay, “Talk”, Greatest Hits Coldplay
Idina Menzel, “Follow If You Leave”, The Other Sister soundtrack
Mazzy Star, “She’s My Baby”, So Tonight That I Might See

While the list does not nearly encompass all the music that I listen to (I have jazz, opera, classical, and electronica to name a few other genre’s) – in fact the ten songs that came after the first ten were almost more diverse (Lisa Loeb, Joni Mitchell, Rolling Stones, Fastball, Kate Bush, Steve Forbert, Bread, Alanis Morrisette, Pete Yorn). Overall it’s a pretty good sample, though, and hopefully has given you some insight into the kind of stuff I listen to among the 7,945 songs in my ipod. And no, the Jude Cole song I quoted in today’s title never came up…I can you can blame it on fate....maybe next time.

Thanks for tuning in…Until next Monday…CHEERS!!

07 May 2007

You catch me, I am tired, I want all that you are…..

Tanita Tikaram is perhaps best known for her 1988 hit song “Twist In My Sobriety” from her debut CD Ancient Heart. Since that debut she has lived in relative obscurity while releasing seven albums – the latest, Sentimental, in 2005. It’s hard for me to imagine what happened to her in the last 19 years or so. For some reason the world did not find her follow up work to be as interesting or perhaps her best was already behind her. I don’t buy that theory. Though I will say my favourite song is “Cathedral Song” from the above -mentioned quote – also on Ancient Heart. It’s a beautiful tune about seeing someone from a distance, chasing after them, falling in love and falling apart. As I listen to the CD today I find it’s a timeless piece of work. Not many can say that about music they released when they were just nineteen. It’s an emotional, angst-filled collection of songs that irrespective of age and time still resonate.

I admit I have not been following her career lately and until I thought to write about her this week I wasn’t even sure she was still putting out CD’s. To be honest, I lost touch with her new music after her Lovers In The City release in 1995. I feel bad. She is a very talented poetess with a husky, deep voice that hits you right in the middle of your chest like a bass drum. And if you sit down and read her lyrics (or really listen closely) you find a spiritually enlightened soul who like the rest of us is trying to make sense of the world. She’s a pretty cool artist and I hope she makes more music. I also hope I’m smart enough to follow her career from this day forward and not let her releases slip through my hands and go unnoticed. Check her out at www.myspace.com/tikaramp

As of today it’s official. NUMB will be finished. I say ‘will be’ because I’ve spent the last four days remixing two songs that needed some extra care and today is the last day for me to work on it before I go to get it mastered and designed tomorrow. I made an appointment that I am ready to keep. It’s time to put this to bed, lay it to rest, let it go and move on. These last tweaks I’m making I believe will truly enhance these two songs and make them better. I got some feedback in the last few days that suggest that it’s the right thing to do. One last pass, one last adjustment, and one last time to drive myself crazy.

It’s hard in some ways to let it go. I know I will always hear these tunes and find more places that I could make better or add a lick or two. It’s part of the process of creativity and putting something in stone, or rather CD. It’s permanent. It’s work that I will be judged by and hopefully will move my career forward or at least in another direction. You see, I don’t need to be a ‘rock star’, though I love performing, indeed I would be very happy selling these songs to other artists or even producing other artists. In the meantime it’s been a long seven months of nights, weekends, and coordination. It’s been nearly non stop this whole time save for some well needed trips home, to Alaska, and Utah. There have been mistakes made, headaches to no end and it’s been one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve stretched my brain, my hands, and my confidence.

Now the fun begins….I’ve written the liner notes and am very excited about what the CD will look like. I can’t wait to see what John at The Dupe will come up with and what he’ll make of the pictures I bring in. All I know is I’m tired and I’m ready. I’m ready for the next phase, the next steps and I can’t wait to get people’s feedback on this work that I’m very proud of. I hope they like it, I hope they love it and I hope they’ll want to hear more! If you’d like to check out a slice of NUMB I’ve posted two songs online: www.myspace.com/laraschuler

Thanks for tuning in….Until next Monday…CHEERS!!