Saturday, April 21, 2018


I needed to have this day.

After an extreme exhausting, exhaustive week at work, with a needless and more than hefty snowstorm smack dab in the middle of the week, the day had arrived!! Saturday, April 21st--the 2nd anniversary of the passing of the iconic musician Prince, no less-was the official date for the annual Record Store Day event, the celebration of local, independent records stores around the nation and starring oodles of exclusive (and expensive) items to whet the appetites of music fans everywhere.

Since it had indeed been such an aforementioned tiring week, I knew that is year, my pilgrimage would be as brief as possible..but again, as necessary as it had ever been. I needed to pay respects. I needed to show my face at the places that have meant so very much to me during my residence in Madison, WI over these past 31 years, as well as a tribute to all of the records stores that I have ventured into throughout my life as places of community, sanctuary and discovery.
My first stop was Mad City Music Exchange, the very record store where I first discovered and purchased a bootlegged and vinyl copy of Prince's then legendary and unreleased "The Black Album" back in early 1988 when I was 19 years old. 
Now owned and operated by Dave Zero and housed in its third physical location in these past three decades, it feels as if the store is stronger than ever, a feeling exceedingly confirmed when I walked into the establishment at around 8:45 a.m. The store was JAM PACKED!!!!
I was told my an employee that lines began forming outside of the store at 5 a.m.!!! And by the time of my arrival and the store not even open for one official hour, elbow room was powerfully scarce and the lines were epic,--a wonderful sight to see on Record Store Day, of course. But most of all, it seemed that people were all in good spirits, despite the chill in the air compared to the previous two years. I checked out some of the special releases and just casually listened to the conversations while regarding the armloads stuffed with music to purchase. 

With all due respect to Dave Zero and his expert staff and beautiful store, I felt the need to get outside and move along as I knew that it would take more than a little bit of time to make a purchase due to the sheer amount of customers (don't KNOW I'll be back). 
So, it was time for me to head to Stare Street and B-Side Records...

All was quiet on State Street this Saturday morning--a good sign that perhaps navigating B-Side would be a tad easier, maybe.
B-Side Records, owned and operated by my friend Steve Manley, a location that I have frequented since my very first week on the University Of Wisconsin-Madison campus back in 1987--and frankly, the last record store standing on State Street, a location that was once my record store mecca--was also heavily populated today. Again, it was a beautiful sight to me and I was indeed gracious to have a tad more elbow room at my disposal.
While the physical space of B-Side is quite tiny and tightly packed, it has always remained a treasure trove of sights and sounds and I know that I could still spend hours looking through the stacks and memorabilia from the legends and newer, local artists and musicians.
And speaking of local musicians, on this day, I was also extremely pleased to run into both singer/songwriter/bassist/guitarist Alivia Kleinfeldt (Dash Hounds, Squarewave, Modern Mod) and songwriter/drummer/guitarist Brendan Manley (Post Social, Dash Hounds, Squarewave, Modern Mod) each of whom also put time into keeping the flame of B-Side alive and kicking.
Alivia Kleinfeldt and Brendan Manley

By the time I reached the counter to pick up my purchases and say hello to Steve, my time at Record Store Day had been completed. While not a marathon of a day by any means, this was just another step on a lifelong journey.

Thank you so much to Steve, to Dave, to B-Side and Mad City plus Madison's Strictly Discs, Sugar Shack and to all other record stores around the nation that continue to serve as essential pieces of their respective communities, musical, economic, cultural and social.  

Sunday, April 8, 2018


Music and Lyrics by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed by David Leveaux and Alex Rudzinski
Aired LIVE on NBC Easter Sunday-April 1, 2018

For so much of my life, I have adored Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's classic rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar," which originally entered my consciousness sometime during childhood on Easter weekend broadcasts of the CBS late, LATE show via the 1973 film adaptation from Director Norman Jewison and starring Ted Neeley as Jesus Christ and the late Carl Anderson as Judas Iscariot and was strengthened even further via an Uncle who gave me his copy of the original double album (released September 1970).

For over 40 years, the musical journey into the final week of Christ's life as mostly viewed through the eyes of the doomed Judas, has enraptured and enlightened me just as much as it has entertained and enthralled me. Seeing that NBC was planning to re-stage the production for their annual live television musical event certainly made me curious and to see none other than John Legend in the titular role more than piqued my interest. To have the chance to see and hear completely different people take on a production in which certain specific and idiosyncratic voices have been etched firmly into my inner musical jukebox was definitely something I felt to desire to check out, at least for a little bit. If it just didn't work for me, no harm, no foul. Nothing could taint what I already cherish, so I had nothing to lose. But fingers were...ahem...crossed.

Thankfully, and frankly within witnessing the fullness of the musical's Overture, this new production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" was a triumph. Delivered with a visual sheen that blissfully blended the theatrical with the cinematic, Webber and Rice's classic rock opera felt timeless as well as vividly fresh and potent in our especially turbulent 21st century via the visuals of the multi-cultural casting to the opera's core themes of political subjugation and grass roots uprisings, mob mentalities and the consequences of self-preservation in addition to spiritual turbulence, faith, fame and fraudulence, religion and reason, the possession and abuse of power, prophecy and proselytizing, love, humanity, mortality, sacrifice, salvation and ascension.
Staged like a rock concert, complete with mosh pit where audience members could interact directly with the cast and musicians often entering into and out of the main action, gave the entire production an infectious energy that was palpable through the television screen and only added to the overall excitement, seemingly feeding and pushing the entire cast (especially the gloriously vibrant collective of chorus and musicians) to perfection.

Housed with an open aired set design, often appearing as an updated version of the film's version's towering metallic scaffolding, the show's Directors David Leveaux and Alex Rudzinski made a series of highly captivating choices which only increased the power of the musical's songs and themes. With the name "JESUS" spray-painted graffiti style upon one wall, singers and dancers all dressed in rock star leather and copious a mounts of glitter, the elements of rock and roll extravaganza were certainly all in ravishing place and purpose.

Yet, for the story of Christ, his disciples and his enemies and the spiritual passion play a work, all of which were cemented by the presence of a giant wooden cross in the middle of the floor, I was struck with how malleable a presentation the show actually was, growing delicately intimate for some sequences yet vast, profound and epic during others, most especially the show's final stunning, shattering final image of Legend as Christ now having been crucified and fading into death. being lifted upwards and backwards into a wall of light as the stage's backdrop splits apart vertically and horizontally, revealing another cross into which Christ vanishes. Presented with the strains of the  opera's last selection, the string section led "John Nineteen: Forty-One," it was a grace note fully earned and left me with feelings of combined awe, sorrow and a certain meditative air that is as ethereal and inexplicable as one could imagine for a story such as this one.
For those who may have been experiencing this musical for the very first time, I sincerely hope they were not simply moved by the proceedings but just swept away by the audacity of it all. The nature of a story being told solely through songs and with no spoken dialogue whatsoever is a challenge in an of itself. But to tell the story of Jesus' last days and from the aspect of Jesus as a man and decidedly not as a God, remains controversial, but for me, is crucial for the story to carry any significant weight at all. Essentially, this is an exceedingly difficult story with exceedingly difficult parts to play and sing and truthfully, as much as I enjoyed the show, there were some...well, I won't say "faults," but more like aspects from the two primary leading figures, which, in all credit to them, showcased just how difficult and demanding "Jesus Christ Superstar" actually is.

It was certainly a reminder to me.
As Judas, Brandon Victor Dixon has to make the first significant vocal performance of the rock opera and it is a ferociously formidable one. "Heaven On Their Minds" presents Judas as one of the show's antagonists, the skeptic yet self-professed "right hand man" to Jesus who fears that the proselytizing of Christ combined with his rising fame and possibly self-aggrandizing propaganda will undo the progress made in the uprising against the Romans who have occupied Jerusalem. It is a song of searing doubt fused with a difficult love and admiration tinged with fury and recrimination and truthfully, Dixon did not quite match the titanic level the late Carl Anderson achieved in the film version, a performance during which he sang every song as if they would be the last songs he would ever sing.
To his immense credit, Dixon worked himself into fits and sweats with his performance. You could easily see the veins in his throat and temples on his cleanly shaven head flexing throughout every song he performed. He held a forceful, dominating presence certainly but you could also feel him finding his way to a degree, only building full comfort along the way, especially as the character endures his betrayal of Jesus ("Damned For All Time"/"Blood Money" and "The Last Supper") and he supremely came into focus with his anguish and suicide in his expertly staged and performed "Judas' Death."  Dixon certainly saved the absolute best for last with his spectacular, glitterific and hallucinatory excursion into "Superstar," during which he fully unleashed his inner Lenny Kravitz to brilliant effect.

And while Judas certainly wrestled with the demands of the musical, I think even Jesus had an even greater struggle.
As an actor, how would one even begin to conceptualize performing as Jesus Christ? I can only imagine how daunting of a task it would be to say the very least. In the case of John Legend, the reason I was most curious to watch this production, I truly wondered what was going through his head as he prepared for the role. John Legend, while he has acted, is not an actor, and to a degree that lack of experience presented itself in "Jesus Christ Superstar" as his earlier conflicts with Judas showcased how unnatural of a fit this was for him. Even the songs themselves were ones where you could hear how difficult they were, regardless of how splendid of a vocalist Legend already happens to be (and he truly is a tremendous singer).  .

Like Brandon Victor Dixon, Legend worked himself into a sweaty, deeply concentrated frenzy in the role and I give him an A+ for his efforts and perhaps a B for his full execution. That said, credit must be given to John Legend for taking such a massive risk, performing songs that are not of his specific musical genre and songs that were often out of his natural singing range--again, you could see him practically willing himself to hit some of the notes, taking extra, deeper breaths before releasing his voice. And then to act on top of the singing? No small feat whatsoever.
Legend also struck me as finding his way throughout the show, feeling more confident in the m moments where he displayed the charm and graciousness of Jesus, from  his gorgeous entrance as he emerged from a sea of light and interacting with the live studio audience at the lip of the stage and the quieter moments in songs like "Hosana" and especially in the palpable warmth and intimacy of his scenes with Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene (more on her very shortly).
Yet, by the time Legend arrived at his centerpiece, the wrenching, existential howl that is the solo "Gethsemane," he seemed to completely arrive as both singer and actor, delivering an exhaustively committed performance of a selection that drives to the core of the human condition. No, it didn't unseat what Ted Neeley achieved in the film version--a performance that truly suggested that these would be his final words on Earth...that is a Master Class performance. Even so, John Legend dug DEEPLY unearthing new levels of grace, pathos and searing power once the show dove into its final sections featuring "The Trial Before Pilate (The 39 Lashes)" and "The Crucifixion." 
Whatever difficulties notwithstanding, it is notable to see these two titans (as Dixon has performed in no less than "Hamilton" and Legend is...well, John Legend) honestly working diligently to deliver the goods, to being so devoted and committed to parts they will most likely perform only this one time. What was most beautiful to witness regarding both Dixon and Legend was the sight of these two beautiful, Black men at the centerpiece of this classic rock opera and frankly, John Legend marked the very first time that I have ever seen a Black man portray Jesus Christ in my lifetime, making the image and representation undeniably seismic to behold.
Faring much more effortlessly was Sara Bareilles, an artist that I honestly had not heard of before this production, despite her pedigree with hit singles and her work on the stage version of "Waitress." The impact she made upon me was instantaneous!!!! Yes, full confession, an instant, powerful crush emerged but as a performer, singer, actress, I felt that Bareilles took what is essentially an underwritten role and infused an enveloping warmth and serenity each time she appeared, and especially as the story grew more turbulent.

Sara Bareilles proved herself to be a more than worthy successor to the character's original actress/singer Yvonne Elliman as the rich, clarity of her voice provided a certain oasis as well as a powerful lesson for all of the up and coming vocalists, especially those who compete on those singing performance shows. Less IS more!! You don't have to invent syllables to create emotion. Find the truth in the words and that will carry the way and Bareilles achieved that feat enormously on "Everything's Alright" and her show stopper, "I Don't Know How To Love Him." 
As an actress, just watch (or remember) how she engaged herself with John Legend. How she would touch him. How they would regard each other. Their connection and chemistry was perfection, suggesting a certain spiritual, emotional and possibly physical intimacy and history that I had never quite felt before in this story. Sara Bareilles, without question, made the absolute most of her time, proving that there are no small parts if you just find the right person to perform them. 
That sentiment only extends itself to the show's supporting players from the baritone voiced Norm Lewis as Caiaphas, Jin Ha as Annas, Ben Daniels (who resembled Michael Fassbender to me) as the conflicted Pontius Pilate, and who sang himself completely hoarse by the show's end. And of course, there is no way to exclude the towering and appropriately theatrical demonic presence of the mighty Alice Cooper as King Herod, who was clearly relishing his part in "King Herod's Song" as well as the excitement and adoration of his fans in the audience.
If I had only one real complaint with the telecast it was all down to the commercials. Yes, NBC has to pay the bills but I do agree greatly with one review I read that suggested that perhaps there should have been an "intermission" of sorts. An extended period of advertisements smack in the middle, therefore the momentum of the show itself would not have been interrupted so frequently and also being emotionally jarring--for  how do you logically adjust and re-adjust from crucifixion to smartphone ads?

Regardless, and most of all, the endurance of "Jesus Christ Superstar" was not only extended even further its longevity was entirely justified through the earnestness and sheer commitment to this production by all participants involved. Imaginatively staged and directed, it also proved itself to be tailor made for the live television format as this was an honest event experience that are indeed harder to come by with the immense prevalence of channels and viewing outlets.

In fact, I wonder if this show will be preserved on the home video format down the road because it was indeed one that I would wish to add to my collection and have the opportunity to experience all over again, for it was so stirring, so surprisingly moving as it was filled end to end with that rock and roll power merged with spiritual deliverance.

Monday, April 2, 2018


To all of the local musicians, creating passionately, anxiously, ferociously and fearlessly, I salute you...

To all of the local DJs who keep spreading the word, the news, the sounds, the visions and the dreams, I salute you...

To all of the music writers, who compulsively and painstakingly put into words nothing less than the sheer emotions of those sensations their bodies make while listening, I salute you...

To the clubs who house these joyous events of communion, I salute you...

To the record stores, where everything comes together, I salute you...

Saturday, April 21st is the date for this year's Record Store Day  and I sincerely hope that you take the time to spend even a few moments inside a local business that performs a tremendous duty for local communities as well as for the art form of music itself. Come for the rarefied, expensive, exclusive items and stay for the people, the conversations, the discoveries, the search and the hunt and of course, for the music.

And always...yes, always...PLAY LOUD!!!!!!

Saturday, March 31, 2018


March 1, 2018
"Time" performed by Pink Floyd
"Song To A Seagull" performed by Joni Mitchell
'Things" performed by Joe Walsh
"Tell Me Why" performed by Neil Young
"Over And Over And Over" performed by Jack White-WSPC PREMIERE

March 2, 2018
"Pray For Me" performed by The Weeknd with Kendrick Lamar-WSPC PREMIERE
"Zen Archer" performed by Todd Rundgren

"The Everlasting Gaze" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Discipline" (live rehearsals 2008) performed by Nine Inch Nails
"Judith" performed by A Perfect Circle
"All My Life" performed by Foo Fighters
"Little Sister" performed by Queens Of The Stone Age

March 5, 2018
'Telluride Speed" performed by Ryley Walker-WSPC PREMIERE

"Wally" (unreleased) performed by Prince
"Right On" performed by The Roots with Joanna Newsom
"She Works Out Too Much" performed by MGMT-WSPC PREMIERE
"Influenza" performed by Todd Rundgren
"Loving You" performed by Jonathan Wilson-WSPC PREMIERE

March 6, 2018
"Highway To Hell" performed by AC/DC
"The Last DJ" performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

"Shook Ones Part II" performed by Mobb Deep
"Rattle That Lock" performed by David Gilmour
"Red Flag Day" performed by U2
"The Alien" performed by Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow-WSPC PREMIERE

March 7, 2018
"Let's Go" performed by Ernie Isley
"Young Americans" performed by David Bowie
"Rewind" performed by The Amazing-WSPC PREMIERE
"Always See Your Face" performed by Love

March 8, 2018
"Body And Soul" performed by Billie Holiday
"Black Is The Color Of My true Love's  Hair" performed by Nina Simone
"I Get Out" performed by Ms. Lauryn Hill
"Song For Sharon" performed by Joni Mitchell
"Flower Of The  Universe" performed by Sade-WSPC PREMIERE

March 9, 2018
"More Than This" performed by Roxy Music
"Holding On" performed by The War On Drugs

"What's Good" performed by Son! featuring Emily Massey-WSPC PREMIERE
"At All" performed by Kaytranada
"Sway Daisy" performed by Little Dragon
"Backstage Girl" performed by DJ Shadow

March 12, 2018
"Baba O'Reilly" performed by The Who
"Brand New  Cadillac" performed by The Clash
"Regatta De Blanc" performed by The Police

"You're Gonna Miss Me" performed by The 13th Floor Elevators
"The Passenger" performed by Iggy Pop
"Secrets" performed by Van Halen
"No Time To Lose" performed by The Tarney/Spencer Band
"Skateaway" performed by Dire Straits

March 13, 2018
"Skylab" performed by Steve Dahl & Teenage Radiation
"Crew Cut Hero" performed by Steve Dahl & Teenage Radiation
"Oh Wally" performed by Steve Dahl

March 14, 2018
"Hawking" performed by Todd Rundgren
"N.E.O." performed by Thomas Dolby
"Rocket Man" performed by Elton John
"The Galaxy Song" performed by Monty Python's Flying Circus

March 16, 2018
"Come To Your Rescue" performed by Thinkman
"White Flags Of Winter Chimneys" performed by Wendy and Lisa
"Keep Talking" performed by Pink Floyd
"Broken Things" performed by Ryan Adams
"Days That Got Away" performed by MGMT-WSPC PREMIERE

March 17, 2018

all songs performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"7 Shades Of Black"
"Thirty Three"
"The End Is The Beginning Is The End"

March 18, 2018
"Rise And Shine" performed by Robert Glasper Experiment with the Metropole Orchestra
"Let Go" performed by August Greene-WSPC PREMIERE
"Waterfalls" performed by Meshell Ndegeocello-WSPC PREMIERE
"Days Of Wild" performed by Prince
"Hold Out Your Hand/You By My Side" performed by Chris Squire

March 19, 2018
"Over The Canyon" performed by FDeluxe

"Sunburst Finish" performed by Utopia
"Madonna Of The Wasps" performed by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians
"One Of The Millions" performed by XTC
"Folds Like Origami" performed by Kainalu-WSPC PREMIERE
"Beginners" performed by Sjowgren

March 20, 2018
"Jump In The Air And Stay There" performed by Erykah Badu

"Sweatin' The Jonses" performed by Wilder Deitz Group-WSPC PREMIERE
"Good God Damn" performed by Arcade Fire
"Touch" performed by Daft Punk with Paul Williams
"Walk With You" performed by Ringo Starr with Paul McCartney

March 21, 2018
"Bone Machine" performed by Pixies
"Ya Slippin'" performed by  Boogie Down Productions
"Mountain Song" performed by Jane's Addiction
"Mine All Mine" performed by Van Halen
"Traitor" performed by The Sugarcubes

March 22, 2018
"Ghost World" performed by Aimee Mann
"What Did I Do With My Life?" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"How?" performed by  John Lennon
"Goin' On" performed by The Flaming Lips
"Teaching Little Fingers To Play" performed by Garbage

"Crystal Ball" performed by Prince

March 23, 2018
"Bachelor Kisses" performed by The Go-Betweens
"Time (Clock Of The Heart)" performed by Culture Club
"It's Alright (Baby's Coming Back)" performed by Eurythmics
"It's A Mistake" performed by Men At Work
"Distant Early Warning" performed by Rush

March 24, 2018
"Reach Out" performed by Cheap Trick
"Move!" performed by Public Enemy
"The Hand That Feeds" performed by Nine Inch Nails
"The Call Up" performed by The Clash
"You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks" performed by Funkadelic
"The Kids Are Alright" performed by The Who

"Line Of Sight" performed by Elise Trouw-WSPC PREMIERE

March 25, 2018
"We're Not Gonna Take It" performed by The Who
"Trapped" performed by Utopia
"Sheep" performed by Pink Floyd

"Every Little Thing" performed by Yes
"I Won't Pay To Buy It" (demo) performed by Imperial Drag\
"Jackie Blue" performed by Ozark Mountain Daredevils
"Forever Live And Die" performed by Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark
"Lay Your Hands On Me" performed by The Thompson Twins
"High Flying Bird" performed by Elton John

March 26, 2018
"Beauty" performed by James Iha

"Didn't Hurt A Bit" performed by XTC
"Wolf Eats Wolf" performed by Tony Allen
"The Democratic Circus" performed by Talking Heads
"Lone Rhinoceros" performed by Adrian Belew

March 27, 2018
"Journal Of Ardency" performed by Class Actress
"Pitch The Baby" performed by Cocteau Twins
"Modernaire" performed by Dez Dickerson
"Miss Understood" (unreleased) performed by The Family
"Killer" performed by Seal

March 28, 2018
"Maybe I'm Amazed" performed by Paul McCartney
"The Rain Song" performed by Led Zeppelin
"Humoresque" performed by Jack White-WSPC PREMIERE

March 29, 2018
"Right On Brotha" performed by Miles Davis & Robert Glasper with Stevie Wonder
"The Space Program" performed by A Tribe Called Quest
"Calypso Frelimo" performed by Miles Davis
D'Angelo and Questlove live footage from 2013

March 30, 2018
"Overture" from "Jesus Christ Superstar" original 1970
"Heaven On Their Minds" performed by Carl Anderson from "Jesus Christ Superstar" 1973 film version
"Bell Bottom Blues" performed by Derek and the Dominoes
"Beyond The 7th Sky" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"Spirit's Lullaby (For Ikal)" performed by Wilder Deitz-WSPC PREMIERE

March 31, 2018
"Corporation" (live) performed by  Jack White-WSPC PREMIERE
"Atomic Dog 2017" performed by Meshell Ndegeocello-WSPC PREMIERE
"Trafalgar Square" performed by Jonathan Wilson-WSPC PREMIERE
"James" performed by MGMT-WSPC PREMIERE
"Gethsemane" performed by Ted Neeley from "Jesus Christ Superstar" 1973 film version


1. "Matter Of Time" performed by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
2. "Unraveling" performed by Elise Trouw
3. "Pull Me Out Alive" performed by Kaki King
4. "Big Tall Man" performed by Liz Phair
5. "Malibu" performed by Hole
6. "Seeds" performed by Georgia Anne Muldrow
7. "You Don't Know My Name" performed by Alicia Keys
8. "Bruised But Not Broken" performed by Joss Stone
9. "Bad" performed by Kirsty MacColl
10."Calling It Quits" performed by Aimee Mann
11."Heartless" performed by Heart

1. "Shine A Little Love" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
2. "I Wanna Prove To You" performed by The Lemon Twigs
3. "Joining A Fan Club' performed by Jellyfish
4. "Condition Of The Heart" performed by Prince and the Revolution
5. "Pi" performed by Kate Bush
6. "Circle" performed by Anna Wang
7. "The Bed's Too Big Without You" performed by The Police
8. "Kiss All The Stars" performed by The Cold and Lovely
9. "Rattle That Lock" performed by David Gilmour
10."The Spirit Of Radio" performed by Rush

1. "Zodiac Sign" performed by Imperial Drag
2. "How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us" performed by R.E.M.
3. "Prepare Your Coffin" performed by Tortoise
4. "Sunburst Finish" performed by Utopia
5. "Save The Whales" performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
6. "Rollercoaster" performed by Everything But The Girl
7. "Little Dark Age" performed by MGMT
8. "Anondah" performed by Jason Falkner
9. "The English Roses" performed by Pretenders
10."Music To Walk Home By" performed by Tame Impala

1. "Maybe I'm Amazed" performed by Paul McCartney
2. "Love Will Find A Way" performed by Yes
3. "Whenever You're On My Mind" performed by Marshall Crenshaw
4. "Easter Theater" performed by XTC
5. "Duke's Travels/Duke's End" performed by Genesis
6. "You're The Best Thing About Me" performed by U2
7. "She's The One" performed by World Party
8. "Bachelor Kisses" performed by The Go-Betweens
9. "Beauty Of A Dream" performed by Thomas Dolby

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Released August 26, 2016
Released May 7, 2017
SYNESTHESIA THOUGHTS: By now, I am more than certain that you have seen these incredible music videos on social media, all filmed in one take and starring a young woman practically gliding from one instrument to the next, multi-tracking herself in real time via live looping and performing sensational "mash ups" featuring Foo Fighters merged with Bobby Caldwell or Radiohead mixed with The Police. Her timing and performances are as impeccable as her musical taste...and to think, this young woman is all of 18 years old.

Elise Trouw is her name and I was as gobsmacked by her videos as I know m any of you have also been. For me, I was so impressed, I needed to discover if she happened to have any music of her own and excitedly, I discovered her album "Unraveling," which was released just last year around her 18th birthday and as impressed as I already was with her videos,  her album show cases  without question that she is the real deal!

Over 10 tracks, all of which Trouw either wrote or co-wrote and on which she sings every note and performs every single instrument herself, "Unraveling" is a lovely slice of expertly produced pop songs which straddle the divide between alternative rock of the title track, funk ("She Talking," "Target"), light jazz ("X Marks The Spot," "Illuminate," "Your Way") , thumping club jams ("Burn"), dreamy bedroom pop ("Awake") and two gentle piano ballads ("Catch My Breath," "Random Thoughts") which almost feel like very early Todd Rundgren selections. Yes, the lyrical content explores the eternal pop song themes of love and loss, but Trouw, through her superior musicianship, her smoky vocals and stunning gifts with melody, makes everything feel as fresh as a new day's sunrise.

Just one album in and I am ready for more!
Released October 7, 2017
SYNESTHESIA THOUGHTS: It was music that I never really thought that I would ever hear.

It is difficult being a fan of the band XTC as people like myself are never able to reconcile the fact that despite that this band created, produced and released some of the exceedingly finest music of the 1980's and 1990's, the band remains in considerable and increasing obscurity due to their aging fan base and nearly invisible presence upon radio stations. Certainly the band's lack of touring for much of their career and their official disbandment in 2006, even then after six years of inactivity, did not hing to keep their collective name in the forefront of music listeners' minds. But still...

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a new release from late 2017 that features the talents of former XTC bandmates, singer/songwriter/bassist Colin Moulding and drummer Terry Chambers, reunited for the first time in 35 years (!) for a delightful four song EP that superbly serves up an exquisitely idiosyncratic slice of literate English pop.

While as a member of XTC, Moulding signified the reality that it is not always about quantity but about quality as former bandmate Andy Partridge wrote the lion's share of XTC's music yet, song for song, Moulding was unquestionably his songwriting equal. For this new musical collective moniker of TC&I (clearly a play upon the name "XTC" while also cheekily referring to their own names) and their splendid "Great Aspirations," Moulding's songwriting and wonderful voice and musicianship take center stage with four glorious songs that made me simultaneously long for the their XTC past while also giving me hope that even more new music will follow in the near future.

Opening with "Scatter Me," easily the jauntiest tune I have heard about one's mortality and being reduced to ashes ready to be spread into the world, and continuing with the..ahem...aspirational "Greatness," the melancholic tale of gentrification entitled "Kenny," and finally, concluding with "Comrades Of Pop," the playfully stern warning to new, upstart bands wanting to get through the doors of the music industry, TC&I have deftly and artfully taken up the mantle that XTC placed downwards years ago.

Wry, classy, and elegant, TC&I's "Great Aspirations" is a more than warmly welcome addition into the music collections of not only longtime XTC fans, but simple anyone who thrills with the sounds of that distinctively British perspective that fully charms and intoxicates. Welcome back, dear fellows. I do hope that you choose to stay a while this time.
Released February 9, 2018
NEW 2018 MUSIC: I am not typically one that utilizes the term "return to form," as I think it would be presumptuous (and a tad insulting) for me, a listener, to suggest that the artists in question had somehow "lost their way" artistically. Yet, in the case of songwriters/singers/multi-instrumentalists Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, the duo collectively known as MGMT, there was indeed something almost dangerously elusive about their self titled third album (released September 17, 2013) that felt to be more defiantly "art for art's sake," making for an experience that I have not returned to. With "Little Dark Age," their first release in almost five years, MGMT have not dialed down the weirdness by any stretch but what they have accomplished, a greatly so, is to weave in the eccentricities with their striking gift with melodics and pop hooks, so evident within their 2007 debut.

Opening the album with what is easily the best pop tune of the year so far, the deliriously clever "She Works Out Too Much," complete with alluring additional vocals from Cellars' Allene Norton (who performs double duty with singing and supplying the voice of the excessively chirpy workout girl) and an instrumental track that sounds like the percolating lost incidental music from a Super Mario Bros. game starring out of tune keyboards and synthesizers left over from early '80s Todd Rundgren albums, briskly and brilliantly sets the stage for a work that delves into the dark corners of our 21st century solipsism while existing as a work that is remarkably playful given the subject matter.

From the secretive title track to the warmly synthetic dreams of "Me & Michael" and "James" and hypnotic haze of the appropriately entitled "Days That Got Away," and the stoned soul jam "Hand It Over" all sit more than comfortably with the up to the millisecond "TSLAMP (Time Spent Looking At My Phone)" and the disturbingly poppy sounding self-lacerating teenage suicide note "When You Die" (which reminded me of Elton John's strikingly nasty "I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself" from 1972)  plus its more intensely desperate sounding twin "One Thing Left To Try" and the interior "When You're Small," all of which congeals into a woozy, sinister slab of 21st century psychedelia that houses the band's most contagious melodies in years.
Released March 9, 2018
NEW 2018 MUSIC: As with Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, it is still very early in the musical year of 2018 and we have yet another entry that is easily one of the very best albums of the year.

August Greene, the new collective that is the trio of drummer Karriem Riggins, pianist/keyboardist Robert Glasper and rapper/lyricist Common, have arrived with a brilliant,  beautifully pensive, soulfully meditative debut release that explores, motivates and celebrates the notion of Black American excellence and exceptionalism, especially in the post-Obama through-the-looking-glass arrival in the current Trump landscape.

Working alongside bassist Burniss Travis, vocalist Samora Pinderhughes and even a lush guest appearance from Brandy on a cover of the Sounds Of Blackness' "Optimistic," August Greene weaves a sublime yet consistently head bobbing spell fueled with Riggins' J Dilla inspired jaggedness, and Glasper's almost mournful Vince Guaraldi stylings as Common performs less as a rapper and more as an orator, stepping into the role of leader with silken ease.

Tracks from "Black Kennedy," "Practice," "Let Go" and more follow a gracefully subdued path while "No Apologies" and the 12 minute finale "Swisha Suite" grow considerably more propulsive and experimental, the entire proceedings flow as effortlessly as liquid, showcasing and therefore,  elevating 21st century hip-hop far past its current status of superficial, mumble trappings. August Greene's self titled debut is as elegant as it is streetwise and the path for all who listen leads to a higher and higher plane. 
Released March 16, 2018
NEW 2018 MUSIC:  The return of bassist/singer/songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, four years after her gorgeous "Comet, Come To Me" (released June 2, 2014), is equal parts most welcome as well as superbly audacious.

With "Ventriloquism," Ndegeocello and her ace band do not perform a set of newly written originals, but rather a collection of 11 cover songs of selections originally performed and released in the 1980's and 1990's. The result is a stunning, atmospheric album where the traces of the original songs, once performed by the likes of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force, TLC, Janet Jackson, Ralph Tresvant and others, are obviously apparent even as Ndegeocello somehow, someway makes these songs, so particularly idiosyncratic, all her own...and that even includes her BOLD re-workings of no less than George Clinton's "Atomic Dog," Sade's "Smooth Operator," and good gracious, Prince's elegiac, devastating "Sometimes It Snows In April." 

Succulent and oozing with invention and innovation, this also may be one of the year's very best albums.
Released March 23, 2018
NEW 2018 MUSIC: You know, I had just about had had it up to here with Jack White--at least, with the releases of his previous two official albums both solo "Lazaretto" (released June 10, 2014) and with the third album from The Dead Weather entitled "Dodge And Burn" (released September 25, 2015).

To my ears, those albums were two disappointing works that felt as if White had run out of ideas completely as they were each by turns, squeaky, squawky, shrill, sadly recycled and armed with a level of entitled cultural appropriation that was borderline offensive (honestly, Jack Black is blacker than Jack White) and down right pouty as his feud, such as it is, with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach was one that he was definitely losing as Auerbach was making exceedingly better albums by this point.

Perhaps the four years away have been a great time for Jack White to re-group and re-think his approaches, especially with those silly boundaries he places upon himself from color schemes and strict adherence to archaic recording technology which does smack of arrogance rather than preference. With "Boarding House Reach," his third solo release, White has thrown out the rule book altogether and clearly sounds like he is having fun being lost in the unpredictable throes of creation Because of that kid-in-a-candy-store exuberance, the album works incredibly well, making this the first White related release I have thoroughly enjoyed since his first solo album "Blunderbuss" (released April 23, 2012).

Opening with the power ballad/gospel tinged utopian plea of "Connected By Love" and closing with "Humoresque," allegedly based upon an original tune composed by none other than Al Capone and filled end to end with all manner of spoken word segments, funk workouts, conga lines, deranged hip-hop beats, vocoder weirdness, bizarre synthesized advertisements as if Jim Morrison created television infomercials from a backwoods revival tent and of course, White's trademark guitar hero slashings. If it sounds like a mess, maybe it is. But for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the "anything goes" aesthetic as I had no idea of what would be arriving next, making the entirety of the album one surprise after another as it felt to be a work of full artistic rejuvenation.

And if he brings back The Raconteurs, we'll definitely be solid again.