Ciao, Luciano!


Beloved Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti died Thursday at the age 71 from pancreatic cancer. Perhaps second only in popularity to the legendary Caruso, the colorful tenor was the most important classically-oriented singer of the second half of the 20th century, adored by opera-goers and popular music fans alike. Aside from his impressive recording oeuvre, Pavarotti had a notable influence on the current resurgence in the operatic repertoire, including the three tenors phenomenon.

Great Balls Of Fire

Anyone who says that Nashville is the home of country music, has obviously never heard of Sun Records. In the 50s, the Memphis record label assembled soon-to-be country music icons Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Elvis Presley into their small building on Union Avenue and then knocked out some the greatest examples of pure rockabilly (which is country with a backbeat.)

The Roaring 90s, Part II: The Rebaddening of Music

In the last installment of "The Roaring 90s," I talked almost exclusively about The Wallflowers, but their story is the story of the 90s: an alternative band releases a multi-platinum album, maybe a mildly successful single off of their next one, then finds themselves trapped in the limbo that is the Adult Contemporary charts (ugh... Adult Contemporary,) falling off the face of the planet, or worse: selling out. The Wallflowers, Counting Crows, Spin Doctors, Live, Blind Melon, The Black Crowes, Pearl Jam, Sublime, and the list goes on. Actually, it’s a fun rainy day game to try and list all of the bands that couldn’t quite release that second album up to the standards of their first.

The Roaring 90s, Part I: Just About The Wallflowers

Folks my age oft criticize me for my musical tastes, persistently asking me, "Don’t you like any new music?" It’s true; I do gravitate toward older music mostly released before I was even born (and, according to my questioners, the Rolling Stones' newest record doesn’t count as "new.") But I love music from my lifetime, and I find myself very lucky to be born in 1984, because by the time I grew old enough to enjoy popular music, a revolution had taken place and a stream of great, roots rock, "alternative" bands starting popping up everywhere. A deluge of bands came on playing their instruments well in tight ensembles, reviving an earlier mentality of how a band should sound, eschewing synthesizers, excessive reverb, and the hair. Of these new groups, my favourite is The Wallflowers.

"Gifts of Art" is a true gift

Do you know about the "Gifts of Art" program at the University Of Michigan Hospital? If you don't, check it out tomorrow when Tad Weed, recently transplanted Los Angeles jazz pianist performs at 12:10 p.m. in the University Hospital's main lobby. For the last twenty years, Weed has toured with Woody Herman, bandleader, singer Carmen McRae and others.

"Gifts of Art" is an innovative program that brings both art exhibits and music to hospital patients, family, friends and staff in the belief that art promotes healing. The events are open to the public. Concerts are weekly and cover a broad range of musical styles from classical to world music. Exhibits include exemplary work from area sculptors, painters, mixed media artists and photographers. Also, check out the Library's books on art and healing.

The Sun's Not Yellow, It's Chicken

Bob Dylan (born Lucky Wilbury.) What good can I say that hasn’t been said countless times already? He gave urban folk and 60s protesters a face with records like The Freewheelin’ and The Times They Are A Changin’. He felt a need to rock, so he plugged in and released such rollicking blues-rock albums as Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Now, into his career’s fifth decade, Dylan sounds like a grizzled old cowboy on Love and Theft or Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3. No one can deny that when he’s good--a few more: Blood on the Tracks, Modern Times, New Morning--he’s the best out there (of course when he’s bad... watch out.)

Oh, Carlos... What have you done? Not smooth.

Once upon a time, before Shakira, before Michelle Branch, and, oh, yes, before Rob Thomas, Carlos Santana: adult contemporary and pop star, did not exist. There was only the Santana Blues Band. To the ire of the band's fans--or at least to the ire of this fan--the meaning of the name Santana has since transformed from a group of rock and rollers that played an amazing amalgam of blues, jazz, and soul (all with a Latin percussion section) to a single guy who plays guitar with famous pop stars to score rote, radio friendly, and--at best--merely competent hits. I mean, for crying out loud, the same guy playing "The Game of Love" was on stage at Woodstock! I don't see Richie Havens singing a song with Dave Matthews.

Ode To George

Having made my inaugural blog about Paul McCartney, I feel obliged to write a fawning review of my favourite Beatle, George Harrison. While John and Paul got all the attention (as well as the majority of space on records,) during his time with The Beatles, George’s gift for songwriting grew exponentially, yet when it came time to cut a record, he consistently found a good deal of his songs rejected by Lennon/McCartney in favour of their own. By the time George’s first post-Beatles release, All Things Must Pass hit the shelves, he had two LPs worth of material.

The Great The Who Debates...Settled!

The Who or Led Zeppelin?
People have told me, "You can like The Who, you can like Led Zeppelin, but you're always going to like one of them more." Well, the winner here is The Who. Just listening to the wonderful The Who box set, Thirty Years of Maximum R&B, we can hear just how diverse their music is, ranging from furious energy to thoughful artistry, surging basslines to three part harmonies. Zeppelin, while popular, shouldn't even qualify as the same league as The Who. But don't take my word for it, what does Pete Townshend, The Who guitarist and main songwriter, have to say about the Zeppelin/Who rivalry? "I haven't liked a single thing that they've done. I hate the fact that I'm ever even slightly compared to them. I've just never, ever liked them. It's a real problem for me, because I think as people, they're all really really great guys... I've never liked them." (quoted from The History of Rock 'n' Roll. Disc 4.)

Life After Beatles

I do not exaggerate when I say my only goal in life is to convince people that Paul McCartney's solo career has (present tense) life beyond Ram and Band on the Run.

For whatever reason, back in 1970 when he started releasing his first solo albums, critics condemned his music as too poppy and superficial. Even the reviewers that liked the records seemed to slight him. Maybe everyone was still mad about the fact that Paul announced the Beatles were breaking up, or that his first album was released almost simultaneously with Let It Be, but now all the flak has stopped and his solo career is starting to get proper recognition.

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