Sunday, January 20, 2019
Song:No One To Love Me
Album:The Willie Dixon Story
Most blues fans should be familiar with Willie Dixon for his many years writing and producing for Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and all the greats at Chess Records in the 50s. But before that he was a member of The Big Three Trio. They recorded for Columbia's Okeh label in the late 40s. Dixon was born July 1, 1915 in Vicksburg, MS. He grew up singing in church and he was in a gospel group as a teen. Dixon moved to Chicago in 1936. He took up boxing and won the Illinois Golden Gloves in 1937. He was a Joe Louis sparring partner. After quitting boxing over a money dispute, he met Leonard Caston who convinced him to get into music. Caston was a singer and pianist. They were part of The Five Breezes, a vocal group similar to The Mills Brothers. They split up in 1941 and then Dixon was imprisoned for refusing induction into the military as a conscientious objector. After WWII, Dixon reunited with Caston to form The Big Three Trio. The third member was guitarist Bernardo Dennis who was replaced by Ollie Crawford. They recorded a dozen sides for Columbia and Okeh from 1947-49. I think only one of their songs charted but the group is historically significant. No One To Love Me was written and sung by Caston. The group ended after Dixon went to work for Chess in 1951. This 4CD box set from the British label Proper has all The Big Three Trio recordings and lots more. Of course Dixon was the architect of the Chess Records sound. Caston continued to perform but he was never a significant player. His son Leonard Caston Jr. was a member of The Radiants and a producer for Chess and Motown in the 70s. Dixon and Caston reunited in 1984. Caston died in 1987. Dixon died in 1992. Here's a video for No One To Love Me by The Big Three Trio.
Saturday, January 19, 2019
Song:When I Look Into Your Eyes
When I Look Into Your Eyes was one of two top ten hits in the early 90s for the hard rock band FireHouse. Not surprisingly, it's a power ballad. FireHouse was formed in Richmond, VA in 1984. Guitarist Bill Leverty was looking for a drummer for his band White Heat. Michael Foster auditioned and joined. They saw the band Maxx Warrior at a club and they liked lead singer C.J. Snare and bassist Perry Richardson. When that band split up, Snare and Richardson joined White Heat. They moved to Charlotte, NC. There was already a band called White Heat so the name was changed to FireHouse. They signed with Epic Records in 1989. Their 1990 debut album FireHouse was produced by David Prater. He was the drummer for the 70s band Baby Grand. Leverty and Snare wrote all the songs. The single Love of a Lifetime reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was certified 2XPlatinum. The 1992 album Hold Your Fire didn't do as well but it was still certified Gold. When I Look Into Your Eyes reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Things didn't go so well after that mostly because hard rock wasn't popular anymore and Epic stopped promoting them. They left Epic in 1997 after four albums. This comp has all their hits. FireHouse was still successful internationally especially in Asia. They released the 1999 album Category 5 on the Japanese label Pony Canyon and toured successfully in Asia. Richardson was replaced by Bruce Wraibel in 2000. Sadly Wraibel died in 2003 and was replaced by Dario Saixas and then he was replaced by Allen MacKenzie. FireHouse released two albums for Eagle Rock's Spitfire label. Leverty has released a few solo albums and Snare has recorded with the band Rubicon Cross. But FireHouse released an album in 2011 and they continue to tour. Snare says FireHouse will never stop touring. Here's the video for When I Look Into Your Eyes by FireHouse.
Friday, January 18, 2019
Song:I Love You Always Forever
Album:Now In A Minute
I Love You Always Forever was a top five hit in 1996. It was the only big hit for Welsh singer songwriter Donna Lewis. One of her other songs charted so she's not quite a one hit wonder. Her birth date is listed as Aug. 6, 1973 in Cardiff, Wales. Her father was a jazz musician. Donna learned to play piano as a child. She started writing songs as a teen. She studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. After graduating Donna taught music for a year and then moved to Birmingham, England to sing in a bar band. She set up a home recording studio and one of her demos got the attention of Atlantic Records chairman Doug Morris. He brought her to New York and signed her. Her debut album Now In A Minute was released May 1996. I Love You Always Forever was the first single. It reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks. Apparently that is some sort of record. What was number one? Macarena by Los Del Rio. Donna wrote and produced the album with recording engineer Kevin Killen. One thing Atlantic tried to do is try to make Donna about ten years younger by among other things saying she was born in 1973. It made no sense as she had been married for ten years. Donna wouldn't reveal her age in a 1996 Entertainment Weekly interview but she did acknowledge some messing around by Atlantic. The album was certified Platinum. Her 1998 album Blue Planet didn't do nearly as well and there were no hit singles. She left Atlantic. Now In A Minute is available as a budget comp. After releasing a couple of albums on her own label, she released the 2015 album Brand New Day on the jazz label Palmetto Records backed up by the world famous jazz group The Bad Plus. That might be interesting. Here's the video for I Love You Always Forever by Donna Lewis.
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Song:Been Caught Stealing
Album:Ritual de lo Habitual
Jane's Addiction were successful in the early 90s especially with the 1990 CD Ritual de lo Habitual. They would have had a bigger impact if they had remained together. But they split up while on tour to support the album. Perry Farrell formed Jane's Addiction in Los Angeles in 1985. He was looking for a bassist for his band Psi Com. He was introduced to Eric Avery and Farrell decided to name the band after his housemate Jane Bainter. Other members were Dave Navarro on guitar and Stephen Perkins on drums. Jane's Addiction's success in local clubs attracted record labels and they signed with Warner Bros. They released the 1988 album Nothing's Shocking. But their commercial breakthrough came with the 1990 album Ritual de lo Habitual. The singles Stop! and Been Caught Stealing topped the Alternative Rock charts and the videos were in heavy rotation on MTV. The album was certified 2XPlatinum. The band fell apart during the tour. While recording the album, Navarro was addicted to heroin. He says he doesn't remember recording the album. He recovered for the tour. Farrell and Perkins continued to use drugs while Avery and Navarro abstained. Then they both left. Navarro joined Red Hot Chili Peppers. Avery formed Polar Bear in 1996. Farrell and Perkins formed Porno for Pyros. Farrell went solo after they split up. Jane's Addiction reformed to tour in 2001 and they released an album in 2003. They continued to tour though they don't seem to be active right now. Farrell has a solo album coming out soon. It would not surprise me if Jane's Addiction reformed in the future. Here's the video for Been Caught Stealing by Jane's Addiction.
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Album:Sweet Smell Of Success: Original Broadway Cast Recording
Here's a Broadway musical that had all the pieces to be successful including a Tony award for star John Lithgow. But it only ran for two months. Sweet Smell Of Success is based on the 1957 film starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. It's about legendary newspaper columnist Walter Winchell. Livent decided to turn it into a musical in 1998. It was written by Marvin Hamlisch, Craig Carnelia and John Guare. Nicholas Hytner directed. The show was cast after holding workshops in Toronto. Livent was based in Toronto. The original stars were Jonathan Pryce as JJ Hunsecker and Brian D'Arcy James as Sydney Falcone. Pryce was replaced by John Lithgow. Though Lithgow is best known for his film and TV career, he started out on Broadway in the 70s. He won a Tony for the 1973 show The Changing Room. And though he won a Tony for Sweet Smell Of Success, I'm not sure he should have been starring in a musical in the first place. Most of the songs in the show were performed by a chorus like the song Dirt which was performed on the 2002 Tony Award broadcast. One of the major criticisms of Sweet Smell Of Success was it didn't have that big showstopping number. So though the show was nominated for seven Tonys, it only ran for two months before closing. The original cast album is available on mp3. Here's the Sweet Smell Of Success Ensemble performing Dirt on the 2002 Tony Awards broadcast.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Album:The Very Best of Celtic Thunder
Celtic Thunder is more stage show than vocal group. They are very popular at home. In the US their Christmas albums are popular and they are a staple of PBS pledge drives. So they appeal to an older audience who don't listen to today's music. If Celtic Thunder reminds you of Celtic Woman, that's not a coincidence. Sharon Browne is one of the creators of Celtic Woman. Based on that success, she created Celtic Thunder in 2007. The concept is the same and both acts have been internationally successful. Phil Coulter is the musical director. He's been around since the 60s as a songwriter, producer and arranger. With his partner Bill Martin, Coulter wrote the 1975 Bay City Rollers chart topper Saturday Night. There's no question that Coulter is a big reason Celtic Thunder has been successful. The group membership is constantly changing and Coulter is responsible for keeping the music consistent. Celtic Thunder released their debut CD in 2008 on Decca. And of course they are constantly touring and releasing DVDs. Ireland's Call is from the 2012 CD Voyage II. While watching audience reaction during the video, you might think Ireland's Call is a traditional patriotic anthem. But no, Coulter wrote the song. So clearly, he knows what he's doing. At the time there were eight singers in Celtic Thunder led by Neil Byrne who started out as a guitarist in the band and made a singer in 2009. The one in the video who looks younger than the others is Damian McGinty. He was an original member at age 15. He left when he joined the cast of Glee in 2011 and he returned when that show ended. Ryan Kelly has been a member for their entire run. Other guys seem to come and go. Obviously the concept is bigger than the individual members. Celtic Thunder left Decca for Sony in 2013 which was when this comp CD was released. They are always on tour and releasing new CDs and DVDs. Here's Celtic Thunder performing Ireland's Call 2014.
Monday, January 14, 2019
Song:All The Small Things
blink-182 may have been the most successful post punk group of the late 90s. All The Small Things was their only top ten pop hit. But they were a very successful album and touring band. And they are still around. blink-182 were formed in 1992 in the San Diego suburb of Poway, CA. Guitarist Tom DeLonge was looking to form a band. He met drummer Scott Raynor at a Battle of the Bands competition. A friend introduced him to his girlfriend's brother bassist Mark Hoppus. And they started jamming in DeLonge's garage. They called themselves Blink. They wanted to appeal to skateboarders. They recorded a demo and started to perform locally. They signed with Cargo Records and released an album in 1995. When they discovered there was already a band called Blink, the name was changed to blink-182. After a record company bidding was, blink-182 signed with MCA. Their breakthrough was with their 1999 album Enema of the State. All The Small Things reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was certified 5XPlatinum. It sold 15M copies worldwide. DeLonge wrote All The Small Things about his girlfriend. And it was also designed to be a big hit single by producer Jerry Finn. By this time Raynor was replaced by Travis Barker. They appeared in the hit film American Pie. The 2001 album Take Off Your Pants and Jacket was as successful as Enema of the State. Of course nothing ever lasts in the music business. DeLonge thought blink-182's music was too commercial. So he recorded Box Car Racer. Barker played drums on that and that upset Hoppus. But they got back together and released the 2003 album blink-182. This was not as successful as previous albums. blink-182 went on hiatus in 2005. DeLonge wanted to spend more time with his family. Barker and Hoppus recorded as +44. Barker also appeared on the MTV reality series Meet The Barkers. He was also addicted to painkillers. And Barker was seriously injured in a 2008 plane crash. And producer Jerry Finn died. But the plane crash actually got blink-182 back together. They reformed in 2009 and released an album in 2011. Then DeLonge quit for good. He was replaced by Matt Skiba and blink-182 released the 2016 album California on a new label BMG. They continue to tour and they did a Las Vegas residency in 2018. We should see new music from them in 2019. Here's the video for All The Small Things by blink-182.