Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Song:Mashed Potato Time
Album:The Best of Dee Dee Sharp: Cameo Parkway 1962-1966
Dee Dee Sharp scored a top five hit with Mashed Potato Time in 1962. And of course it led to the creation of a new dance. This was from the same people who brought you Chubby Checker's The Twist. Dee Dee had some other hits but Mashed Potato Time is the one most will remember. She was born Dione LaRue Sept. 9, 1945 in Philadelphia. She grew up playing piano and singing in her grandfather's church. When Dee Dee's mom was seriously injured in a car crash, Dee Dee went to work as a backup singer at age 13. Her big break came when she appeared on the 1962 Chubby Checker hit Slow Twistin'. Cameo-Parkway producer Dave Appell decided to record Dee Dee. Mashed Potato Time was written by veteran songwriters Harry Land and Kal Mann. Mann used the pseudonym Jon Sheldon. Mann no doubt worked on the production with Appell. Supposedly Dee Dee got the idea for the song watching her mom make dinner and it was written in the studio. Not only did Mashed Potato Time reach #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 but it started a new dance craze. Dee Dee had some other hits like Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes), Ride! and Do The Bird. You can get them all on this budget CD. But by 1966 she left Cameo-Parkway and married producer Kenny Gamble. He attempted to revive her career in the disco era of the late 70s but he was unsuccessful. She charted with a cover of 10cc's I'm Not In Love in 1976. They divorced in 1980. Dee Dee Sharp still tours the oldies circuit and records occasionally. You might find her doing oldies themed cruises. Here's Dee Dee Sharp performing Mashed Potato Time on Shindig 1962.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Renee Fleming is a very versatile opera singer equally comfortable performing classical, Broadway and jazz standards. She has been around since the 80s and she is one of today's most popular sopranos. She was born Feb. 14, 1959 in Indiana, PA and she grew up in Rochester, NY. Her parents were music teachers. Renee studied at SUNY Potsdam and performed with a jazz trio in local clubs. Jazz sax legend Illinois Jacquet invited her to tour with his big band. But she decided to continue studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and then a Fullbright Scholarship led to studies in Europe and Juilliard. She got her big break when she joined the Metropolitan Opera in 1988 and Renee has been performing and recording steadily since then. After recording for RCA, Sony and Telarc, Renee signed with Decca Records in 1997 and she still records for them today. This recording of the Gershwin classic Summertime from Porgy and Bess is from the 1998 CD I Want Magic. It's interpretations of American composers like Gershwin, Bernstein and others recorded with James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. This is available on CD. Or you can get Summertime on this 2003 CD By Request which is a Greatest Hits album though it doesn't say that on the cover. It's a good intro to Renee's music. Renee is probably best known for her appearances in the Lord Of The Rings films. She also sang the Star Spangled Banner at the 2014 Super Bowl. She still tours and records. Her latest CD was released last year. Here's Renee Fleming performing Summertime with Paul Gemignan and the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera 2003.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Here's the match video of Paige VanZant vs Bec Rawlings from last night's UFC show in Vancouver. The last time we saw Paige in the cage she was getting clobbered by Rose Namajunas. Since then, she created a lot of mainstream buzz on Dancing With The Stars. This led to a proposed role in the remake of the film Kickboxer and she was supposed to appear at SummerSlam. She self consciously decided to turn down both of those things to take this fight. She wants to be thought of as a fighter first. The problem is she hasn't beaten anyone decent yet. And Bec is nothing special. She is mainly a kickboxer. And she is coming off of a hip injury. Bec is an Aussie now training at Alliance in San Diego. Jessica Penne was in her corner. In round one, Paige tries to keep her distance except when she does some fancy spinning moves. I don't recall her doing those kinds of moves in her previous fights. Those are low percentage moves that get a spectacular result when a fighter gets lucky and lands one. Between rounds I joked that Paige thought she was still on Dancing With The Stars. Bec did some good work when she got Paige in the clinch. Other than the fancy stuff, Paige didn't do much so I scored round one 10-9 for Bec. Paige's corner told her to knock off the flying stuff. She proceeds to come out for round two and this time the flying head kick finds the target and Paige wins by KO. I thought it was hilarious. Hell, she got $50K for KO of the Night. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes. Winning like that doesn't help Paige and it could hurt her if she thinks it's a way to beat better fighters. I understand the finish was spectacular but I have to look past that. And beating another lower card fighter doesn't help Paige. She says she wants to fight in Sacramento in December. She trains there. And Tecia Torres has offered her services. We'll see how that goes. Enjoy the video!
Like his buddy and long time collaborator Warne Marsh, alto sax player Lee Konitz is a forgotten pioneer of jazz. The album Subconcious-Lee was his 1950 debut as a leader after recording with Lennie Tristano and Miles Davis. The great thing is that Konitz is still around. He was born Oct. 13, 1927 in Chicago. His parents were Eastern European Jewish immigrants. He asked for a clarinet after listening to Benny Goodman on the radio. Konitz switched to sax and for most of his career he has played alto sax. His first professional job was in Teddy Powell's band in 1945. Then he was in Claude Thornhill's band. It was there that he met Gerry Mulligan. Before that he had met pianist Lennie Tristano and the two started working together. Gil Evans was the arranger in the Thornhill band and that led to many of the guys in that band working with Miles Davis on the 1949 landmark album Birth Of The Cool including Konitz and Mulligan. Konitz has always said that he thought Mulligan was the real leader of that band and soon after Mulligan moved to California. Meanwhile, Konitz and Marsh recorded with Tristano and this led to Konitz's 1950 debut as a leader Subconicious-Lee on Prestige. The musicians were the Tristano band with Marsh on tenor sax, Billy Bauer on guitar, Arnold Fishkin on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. This jazz classic is available as a budget CD. Konitz continued to record as a leader while a member of Stan Kenton's band in the 50s. Konitz retired from music in the early 60s. But he returned in the mid-60s and he still tours and records though he had heart surgery a few years ago. Here's Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh on tenor sax, Billy Taylor on piano, Mundell Lowe on guitar, Ed Safranski on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums performing Subconcious-Lee on the 1958 TV show The Subject Is Jazz.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Guitarist Fareed Haque brings classical and world music influences to his music. He is probably best known for his time with the popular group Garaj Mahal. But he has recorded as a leader since 1989. Trance Hypothesis is his latest CD. He was born in 1963 in Chicago. His father is from Pakistan and his mother is from Chile. He learned classical guitar as a child. He got into jazz at Von Freeman's Chicago jam sessions and he earned a jazz guitar scholarship at North Texas State. After joining Howard Levy's jazz fusion group Chevere, Haque met Cuban sax legend Paquito D'Rivera and he toured with him for several years. Haque made his recording debut as a leader in 1989 with the album Voices Rising on Sting's Pangaea label. Haque recorded for Blue Note in the 90s. His producer there was Bob Belden so Haque appeared on albums by Blue Note artists like Cassandra Wilson. He continued to record with D'Rivera and he was also a member of Joe Zawinul's Zawinul Syndicate. Haque joined Garaj Mahal in 2001 and they had a lot of success. He left Garaj Mahal in 2011 and he currently tours with his band MathGames. Trance Hypothesis is Haque's latest CD. It was released in 2014 on Delmark Records. It features World Music stars like Essam Rafea on oud, Indrajit Banerjee on sitar, Matthew Tembo on kalimba and Shiva Ghoshal on tabla along with jazz musicians Tony Monaco on organ, Willerm Delisfort on piano and his touring band of Alex Austin on bass and Greg Fundis on drums. MathGames released the CD We r From The Future independently. It's available from CD Baby. Haque is currently on tour so jazz guitar fans should check him out. Here's Fareed Haque and MathGames performing Trance Hypothesis at Audiotree Dec. 12, 2013.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Song:Sail Along Silvery Moon
Album:The Best Of
Alto saxophonist Billy Vaughn had success in the 50s as a bandleader recording easy listening music. Sail Along Silvery Moon was a top five hit in 1957. He was also musical director at Dot Records. He was born Apr. 12, 1919 in Glasgow, KY. His father was a barber who loved music and inspired Vaughn to teach himself to play several musical instruments. Like Perry Como, Vaughn's original plan was to follow in his father's footsteps and become a barber. But he decided to become a musician while serving in the US Army during WWII. Vaughn studied music composition at Western Kentucky University. He eventually got a job as a pianist for the vocal group The Hilltoppers. They had success and that led Vaughn to become musical director at Dot Records. Vaughn produced Dot artists like The Fontane Sisters, Gale Storm and Pat Boone while he recorded his own music as a bandleader. Vaughn's signature sound was multitracking alto saxes. It's in all his hits like Melody Of Love, The Shifting, Whispering Sands, Raunchy and Sail Along Silvery Moon. Sail Along Silvery Moon reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957 despite the rising popularity of Rock 'N' Roll. The song was a hit for Bing Crosby in 1937. It was written by veteran songwriters Harry Tobias and Percy Wenrich. Vaughn continued to be successful in Europe especially Germany. And this 2CD comp from Repertoire includes a lot of his German hits. He recorded albums through the 60s and toured internationally until his death on Sept. 26, 1991 at age 72. Here's a video for Sail Along Silvery Moon by Billy Vaughn & His Orchestra. I'm sure you've heard this song without knowing what it is.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Song:I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool
Album:The Best Of Barbara Mandrell
Here's a song that became a big hit because of the way country music was going at the time. The 1980 film Urban Cowboy was a huge hit and it signaled a changing of the guard to a more pop influenced country music style. Pop music was always an influence on country music. Back in the 60s it was called Countrypolitan. Of course there was some resistance to this change in Nashville and the 1981 number one hit I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool addressed those changes. And it became one of Barbara Mandrell's signature songs. It was funny because Barbara had a very successful TV variety show and was perceived as a pop influenced country singer. Her first number one country hit was Sleeping Single in A Double Bed in 1978 followed by (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Wan't To Be Right. In 1981, Barbara's producer Tom Collins was putting together a live album. I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool was written by Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan who also wrote Sleeping Single In A Double Bed. Collins wanted Barbara to record the song and release it before someone else did. But Barbara Mandrell Live had already been recorded. And Collins got George Jones to agree to record it with Barbara. So the song was recorded in the studio as usual with an audience added in post production. It didn't matter. The song topped the charts anyway partially because it reflected how some country music fans felt about Urban Cowboy. Also, George Jones appeared on a live version of the song on the CMA Awards (I think). Barbara Mandrell Live has not been released on CD but I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool is on this budget comp. Here's Barbara Mandrell featuring George Jones performing I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool on the 1981 CMA Awards.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Album:The Sound Of Revenge
Though Hakeem "Chamillionaire" Seriki raps in his 2006 chart topper Ridin', he is mainly known for his mixtapes. So he's mainly an MC who sometimes raps. He is known as The Mixtape Messiah. To date Ridin' is his only big hit. He was born Nov. 28, 1979 in Washington, DC but he grew up in Houston. Growing up his best friend was rapper Paul Wall. So though Seriki was raised Muslim and wasn't allowed to listen to secular music, he got into rap through Wall. The stage name Chamillionaire is a mix of chameleon and millionaire. Seriki and Wall formed The Color Changin' Click in 1996. They were known locally in Houston. Seriki released mostly mixtapes until he and Wall had success with the 2002 CD Get Ya Mind Correct. Then Seriki signed with Universal as a solo artist and released the 2005 CD The Sound Of Revenge. The album was certified Platinum mostly on the success of the single Ridin' which topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 2006. It features a rap by Anthony "Krayzie Bone" Henderson from the popular group Bone Thugs n Harmony. The song was written and produced by brothers Oscar and Juan Salinas AKA Play-N-Skillz. They have released their own albums and had a lot of success producing rapper Lil Wayne. Seriki has never had another hit single. But he continues to release new music. His new album Poison will be released next week. He left Universal in 2011 so it will be released on his own label. Seriki is also involved in tech startups and he owns a car dealership and modeling and tour bus companies. So obviously there is more to him than one hit single. Here's the video for Ridin' by Chamillionare featuring Krayzie Bone. The cop/wrestler in the video is played by veteran character actor Tom "Tiny" Lister who played Zeus in the 1989 Hulk Hogan movie No Holds Barred and then briefly worked for the WWF. He's a good actor but he was a terrible wrestler.