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Month: February 2010

I Still Really Really Love You…

The sweat is pouring off of me even though the air conditioner is humming away right above my head. It’s the end of July and I’m in Southern Illinois. Murphysboro to be exact. I’m sprawled out on my dad’s couch watching MTV. As the videos roll before my entranced eyes, music in the year 1984 is bursting to life. I see U2, R.E.M., Culture Club and the Police. I also see Yes, Billy Ocean, and the Thompson Twins. They all sound great. I close my eyes to really dig on the music. This is what I live for…

A new song comes on that I have never heard. My eyes are still closed. I’m half delirious from the heat. It’s a slow samba beat, followed by a slinky bass, and then…a crush-my-heart wonderful saxophone. Then I hear her voice.

She’s telling the story of a man. A man who is a world traveler who preys upon women – leaving a trail of broken hearts strewn about the earth. The tale is so compelling that even as I am sitting in a small southern town, I feel as though I am “coast to coast L.A. to Chicago” and “across the north and south to Key Largo.”

I am a world traveler now and am bearing witness to these tragic, passion-soaked events over a martini and a game of Baccarat. This would be the power of music. It transports your mind, heart, and soul to faraway lands that lie outward and inward. It’s a sacred, holy power that in the hands of woman makes it truly blessed.

In the hands of Sade Adu, it’s a monumental gift.

From the day I first heard the song “Smooth Operator” (nearly 26 years ago) until the present, I have worshiped at the feet of this elegant woman. Her sultry voice with the slight Brit accent overwhelms with each new album release. The first two albums came rather quickly…in 1984 and 1985 respectively. Then we had to start waiting a little bit. Three years for the third (and best) album, Stronger Than Pride; four years for Love Deluxe; six years for Lover’s Rock, and now ten years for Soldier of Love.

None of this matters, of course. I’d wait fifteen or twenty for the next one. They’re all filled with gorgeous music that rains kisses all over me. Each one has the ability to transport and transform a person – a rarity in music of any generation – and something to be embraced immediately. Her backing band (Stuart Matthewman, Paul Spencer Denman, Andrew Hale) have a lot to do with this fact. In addition to setting the scene and preparing us for the journey perfectly on each album, they fill in the long gaps between Sade releases with their own music: the fantastic Sweetback. The song “Mountain” on Sweetback’s second effort, Stage, should be at the top of the play list for any romantic evening.

Honestly, ten years wait was well worth it considering how Soldier of Love grabs you immediately and just…captivates. The first track, “The Moon and The Sky” begins with a gentle flamenco guitar and then bursts to life with chill out power combined with a nod to the balance we find in the sacred feminine. Put on any chill out track from the last fifteen years, b to the w, and hear how ALL of them owe their muse to the goddess that is Sade Adu. Next up is the title track and I recommend listening to it while mulling the album cover. As a fellow soldier said when looking at the cover, “Her  right hand…”

Mmm-hmm…

As the rest of the album unfolds with her usual, cherished themes of faith, devotion, heartbreak, and loss, a new theme reverberates: hope. We hear it first in “Long Hard Road” and then again in “Bring Me Home.” I guess this idea isn’t all that new for her, though. She expressed an abundance of hope in the song “Love is Stronger Than Pride” and, quite honestly, it was more than that.

She told us in that song that is was okay to capitulate to the wonder and terror of love. It was alright to be weak because with that kind of love weakness is actually a strength. This is that love that makes you stronger in all of the other relationships in your life. It’s relentless and it simply can’t be helped. There’s just too much, so it spills out to everyone. This is the power of your beloved. It represents a testament of hope for lovers everywhere that needs to be nourished forever.

I am a Soldier of Love… are you?

Buy Soldier of Love [+digital booklet]

Visit: Sade’s Official Site

The Friday Five: February 26, 2010

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

“Loom” by Ani DiFranco (from Little Plastic Castles, 1998)

There are songs that define you; coming into your life at the exact right moment in your life, taking up residence next to the memory of that time. This song is one that finds place in a very distinct period in my life. Lyrically it spoke to a relationship that had consumed me in a decidedly unhealthy way. I will admit, I listened to this a second time before moving onto the next song.

“Endless Summer Nights” by Richard Marx (from Richard Marx, 1987)

Nearly a decade earlier, here is nostalgia in a jar. You see, before I grew into the wise old music geek that I am today, I was a young music geek — with an emphasis on the geek. Even at the tender age of 13, I was smitten with the schlock-pop of Marx. Fast-forward some twenty-odd years and I still get that tinge of youthful yearning that hearing this tune brings to mind.

While we’re on the subject,  has anyone else heard the Adam Lambert single, “Whataya Want from Me,” and asked themselves, “Hey, does Richard Marx have a new song out?”

“The (Shipped) Gold Standard” by Fall Out Boy (from Folie à Deux, 2008)

I know I have stated it here before, but I dig Fall Out Boy. If you can manage to ignore the gossip-columnist drama of the band, and get past the image, the band has actually cranked out some quality pop music. It certainly does not hurt that Patrick Stump’s voice is golden.

“Bad Habits” by Maxwell (from BLACKsummers’night, 2009)

The lead off track from Maxwell’s triumphant comeback record, BLACKsummers’night; this song starts at a smolder and builds to its soulful climax before breaking it back down to a simmer. It might have taken him eight years to create this record, but it was well worth the wait.

“Don’t Stop ’till You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson (from Off the Wall, 1979)

In all, not a bad way to end this week’s installment of The Five and kick off the weekend. Can’t wait to see what you guys come up with this week!

What’s on your shuffle today?

Reading: Last Train to Memphis

This past January, on what would have been Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday (Jan 8.), I was watching some concert specials and sharing some thoughts on Twitter. It then occurred to me that I’d never read a definitive biography about the life of the King. One of the great things about Twitter is the instant feedback, so I put the question out there – what Elvis bio do I need to pick up? The answer came quickly from Dave and Ken: Peter Guralnick’s two-volume series: Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley and Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley.

I started Last Train a week or so ago, and let’s just say I am enthralled by this book. Reading about Elvis’s early days recording for Sam Phillips at the Memphis Recording Service, his early tours around the South with the Louisiana Hayride and Hank Snow‘s Jamboree – going from virtual unknown to the new “country & western” sensation… and up to where I currently am in the book: being scooped up by Colonel Tom Parker and signing with RCA (who bought out his contract from Sun for $35,000 – the highest price paid for a contract buyout to date).

It’s really a fantastic book, and I want to urge anyone who hasn’t read it to go pick it up (Amazon: Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley)

Many know that Elvis’s first hit with Sun Records was “That’s Alright Mama”. But those early sessions in 1954 started out with Elvis singing “Harbor Lights,” a ballad made popular by Bing Crosby. This is the very first song recorded in Elvis Presley’s very first studio session (with Scotty Moore on guitar and Bill Black on bass):


From Elvis At Sun


The Guggenheim Grotto, Live!

The Guggenheim Grotto

The Irish Troubadour of the New Millennium has been largely defined by the likes of Damien Rice and Glen Hansard. My wife refers to it as “sad bastard” music, a title that I find difficult to argue. It’s not all doom and gloom on The Emerald Isle though, one of its best-kept secrets is the folk-pop duo The Guggenheim Grotto. One of my favorite “new to me” bands of last year, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to see the group bring their quirky tales to the stage. Thankfully, I’ll get that chance on March 18th, when the band stops at The Rockwood Music Hall. I cannot recommend enough that those of you local to the venue join me. Enough of my yapping, check out the video for “Her Beautiful Ideas,” and if you dig that pick up the band’s latest record Happy the Man.

Ick’s Radio Daze: KOSI Denver

Denver correspondent Kathy B. checks in after spending an hour with Denver’s “Continuous Lite Rock” station, KOSI. – Pete

Station: 101.1 FM, KOSI
Format: Lite Rock
Type: Terrestrial (Denver, CO)
Slogan: “Continuous Lite Rock”
Date / Time: Friday, Feb. 19th, 2010 / 10:30-11:35 am MST
Commercials: 16 minutes
Streaming Online? Yes
Hot Dude on Home Page of Web Site? No. In fact, I don’t see a single man, hot or otherwise.
Hot Chick? Not really. Amy Grant is the closest thing.
DJ: Jackie Selby
Favorite Song: (a complete guilty pleasure, I fully admit, and I’m prepared to take my lumps for this) Air Supply — “Lost in Love”

Runners-up: Seal — “Kiss from a Rose,” Jason Mraz — “I’m Yours,” Sheryl Crow — “All I Wanna Do”
Least Favorite Song: David Cook — “Light On” Gads, is this AWFUL.

Song List:
Amy Grant & Peter Cetera — “The Next Time I Fall”
No Doubt — “It’s My Life”
Seal — “Kiss from a Rose”
David Cook — Light On
Air Supply — “Lost in Love”
John Mayer — “Your Body Is a Wonderland”
Faith Hill — “This Kiss”
Bryan Adams — “Straight from the Heart”
Sheryl Crow — “All I Wanna Do”
Five for Fighting — “Superman”
Whispers — “Rock Steady”
Jason Mraz — “I’m Yours”
Daniel Powter — “Bad Day”
Eric Clapton — “Layla” (Unplugged)
Plain White T’s — “Hey There Delilah”

Comments: This is the number one radio station in Denver and has been for a while, probably because it’s so inoffensive that it gets played in a lot of offices, restaurants and reception areas. However, “inoffensive” often translates into “boring” for me. I’ve gotten really sick of hearing it in the Chinese restaurant across the street or while I’m waiting on hold, so I was surprised that I actually mildly enjoyed this hour, David Cook notwithstanding.

Although none of the music was what I would call “adventurous,” there were quite a few songs I can genuinely say I like quite a bit. And nothing that made me want to have a screaming fit and throw the radio out the window, although if I hear that David Cook song a couple more times, who knows what might snap (This was the first time I’ve heard it).

Maybe it’s because it’s not the time of year where they play 24-hour-a-day holiday music, which becomes excruciating after a while because so much of it is BAD holiday music. Every American Idol winner or runner up singing “Jingle Bells”! Celine Dion over-emoting her way through the Yuletide songbook! Endless repetitions of “Wonderful Christmastime”! And I swear it starts the day after Election Day.

I could have done without the semi-computerized back-announcements of the songs (it sounded like a real woman trying to sound mechanical rather than an actual computerized voice, and it became really cheesy). But they did identify every song, which is kind of nice in these times when it often seems listeners are supposed to be partially psychic. The DJ had a friendly voice, and it seemed as if she was trying to be friends with the audience — in fact, she invited listeners to become her Facebook friend twice during the hour, and to e-mail, tweet, text, or even old-fashioned call her with requests for the all-request hour that started at noon.

All in all, it could have been a lot worse.

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Check out previous Radio Daze reports:

Feel like reporting on your local radio stations? Drop Pete a line if you’re interested.

Two Times One Night: Los Lobos at the Compound Grill

Los Lobos delivered as expected last night at the Compound Grill in Scottsdale. The wife was a great sport, and powered through two full shows with me – an 8pm dinner show and a 11pm late show. Friends Jen and Brian also rocked out all night along with us.

The Compound Grill is a brand new venue, having been open only a few months now, and it was built with live music (and good food) in mind. So the atmosphere was just fantastic – a small club feel, friendly and attentive staff, and a great sound system.  The early show was sold out with the max capacity of 200 people, so it felt like the coolest private party I’d ever been to.  Eating dinner, putting back a pint or two, with Los Lobos as the house band.

After the first show, most of the folks cleared out, leaving those of us who were in it for the two shows. I was expecting it to fill up again, but the late crowd ended up being probably 80-100 people tops.  This only elevated that private party feel. Guitarist Cesar Rojas set the celebratory atmosphere from the very beginning – toasting “Salud!” with a glass of red wine. He toasted “Salud” throughout the night, right up through the last tune of the night as the clock ticked past 1am (“Bertha”).

The highlights were many. The cover tunes included a blistering 1-2 punch of Neil Young’s “Down by the River” into Jimi’s “Are You Experienced?” in the first show (jaw dropping solos by David Hidalgo, Cesar, and Louie Perez); a great cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “300 Pounds of Joy”; Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy”; another Jimi cover, “Red House” near the end of the late show; and of course their popular take on the Grateful Dead’s “Bertha”.

Another cool moment: slow dancing with my wife at the foot of the stage, as Lobos played a 50’s doo-wop ballad, “Daddy’s Home”. Dancing slow with the lady, and looking up to see Los Lobos playing five feet away? Priceless.

Of course, Los Lobos has a rich catalog to draw from – and the night featured old and new (full set list below) – including great versions of “Kiko”, “Evangeline”, “I Got Loaded”, and the always raucous “La Bamba”/”Good Lovin'” combo, which whipped the dance floor into a frenzy, and Hidalgo inviting a few young ladies to dance on the stage.

I always get instantly nostalgic after a great live music experience – so tonight feels a little bittersweet. The feeling I get while watching Los Lobos live is one I’d like to carry around with me every day of my life. If you’re one of the many who haven’t seen Los Lobos live, please put it on your bucket list and find out what this feeling is all about…

—-

Cesar threw a few CD’s into the crowd last night. My wife grabbed a hold of one – their latest CD, Los Lobos Goes Disney. We listened today, and the album is a blast. It also contains a slow, beautiful tune called “Not in Nottingham” (from Robin Hood).  Check it out…

,


Buy the MP3 of Not In Nottingham

Check out the whole album:


SET LIST
LosLobos
February 20th, 2010
The Compound Grill, Scottsdale, AZ

8pm Show

La Pistola y El Corazon
Saint Behind the Glass
I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)
One Time One Night
Happy Birthday – electric
Chuco’s Cumbia
Dream in Blue
Down By The River (Neil Young) >
Are You Experienced? (Jimi Hendrix) >
Kiko and the Lavender Moon
Let’s Say Goodnight
Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio
Soy Mexico Americano
Volver, Volver
Road to Gila Bend
Don’t Worry Baby

Encore:
Mas y Mas

11pm Show

La La La La La (Blendells)
Evangeline
Luz De Mi Vida
Whiskey Trail
Why Do You Do?
Emily
Wicked Rain
The Neighborhood >
300 Pounds of Joy (Howlin’ Wolf)
Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic)
That Train Don’t Stop Here
Daddy’s Home (Shep & the Limelites)
Maricela
Red House (Jimi Hendrix)
I Got Loaded
La Bamba > Good Lovin’ > La Bamba (Ritchie Valens)

Encore:
Bertha (Grateful Dead)

The Friday Five: February 19, 2010

Friday Five

Friday Five : ‘frī-(,)dā,-dē ‘fīv : On the sixth day of every week, I hit the shuffle button on my iTunes, then share the first five tracks and thought for each track. Sometimes there is a playlist involved, occasionally we’ll have a guest, but most of the time it’s just me. The rest is up to you, our friends and readers! Fire up your media player of choice and share the first five random track of your shuffle in the comments.

The Five:

“Another Day” by Dream Theater (from Images and Words, 1992)

Oh Dream Theater, how your melodrama seems to haunt the Friday Five. You may recall that this tune reared its ugly head back in October, where I speculated on David Fosters’ involvement in the high gloss production of the power ballad. Upon further research, it turns out that it was producer Jay Beckenstein — of the Smooth Jazz/Fusion group Spyro Gyra — that supplied the soprano saxophone solo. This doesn’t change the fact that this tune is a sappy lump of crap on an otherwise quality record.

“The Best of My Love” by The Eagles (from On the Border, 1974)

I unapologetically will proclaim my love for this song, though. Penned by Henley, Frey and J.D. Souther, this holds some magical nostalgia for me as I can recall listening to this, followed by England Dan & John Ford Coley’s “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” and “She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates in the back seat of my mothers Pontiac.

“Stuck With You” by Huey Lewis & The News (from Fore!, 1986)

Come on, how can you resist?

By the by, Huey and the boys recently spent some time in Ardent Studios in Memphis cutting a new record paying tribute to the Stax catalog.

“Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” by Black Sabbath (from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, 1973)

I had nearly given up on this week’s shuffle providing some bite; enter my favorite Sabbath tune. I will admit that my introduction to the song came by way of Anthrax’s faithful cover on their I’m the Man EP. I had heard the tune before, both on Ozzy’s Speak of the Devil and a mix-tape a friend had made me with the original Sabbath version, but it was Anthrax’s take that sold me on the song originally. To this day, I’ll reach for this one when I want to bring the RAWK.

“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” by Elton John (from The Greatest Hits 1970-2002, 2002)

The Saturday nights of my youth were often spent glued to the radio, listening to the “All-request Saturday Night with Dr. John Barron.” This track would make its weekly appearance and signal the start of the more rock-oriented portion of the evening.

What’s on your shuffle today?

Los Lobos – Live & Late Night this Saturday in Scottsdale

This is already the perfect time of year here in the Phoenix area – sunny, 75 degrees, and Spring Training about to kick into high gear – but when I got the news earlier this week that Los @#@! Lobos will be in town this Saturday, I about spun around and did the splits James Brown style – and that is not an easy feat.

This Saturday nightLos Lobos will play not one, but two shows at one of the valley’s newer live music venues: The Compound Grill in north Scottsdale. They’re slated for a 8:00 show and a late night, down n’ dirty 11:00 show.

Look, if you’re in Arizona, and especially if you’ve never seen Los Lobos – a national treasure of a band – you need to make your way to the Compound Grill on Saturday night. Do yourself and your friends a favor, and experience a quintessential American band: roots, Tex-Mex, 50’s rock & roll, Latin, Americana, rhythm & blues… there are few things as satisfying as the live Los Lobos experience.

I know this is the ultimate fluff piece, but seriously people, look to the sidebar, Los Lobos are permanently enshrined in the Ickmusic Hall of Fame!

Long Live Los Lobos! And see you Saturday night!

Buy tickets from the Compound Grill Web Site.

2010 McDowell Mountain Music Festival: Lineup Announced (and some changes)

4/20 Update: Win 2 tickets to see Steve Kimock & Crazy Engine on Saturday night.

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Since 2004, the McDowell Mountain Music Festival in Scottsdale has been a yearly spring highlight in my desert home, treating music lovers to the likes of Ratdog, the Wailers, Gov’t Mule, the Neville Brothers, Los Lobos, Blues Traveler, and last year – none other than the Flaming Lips. The setting spectacular: north Scottsdale’s WestWorld –  a large complex offering camping, RV parking, and an immense field of green grass. Plenty of room to take in the music, or break away for a walk around the grounds to check out the vendors, drum circle, kids area, and most importantly, the beer tents.

Well – the festival is back this year, their 2010 lineup announced today. In fact, they’ve even expanded to 3 days. The venue, however, has changed. Instead of Westworld this year, attendees will need to make their way to the northeast corner of 68th St. and Mayo Blvd. This year, an outdoor stage will be erected in the parking lot next to the Compound Grill – a new restaurant and live music venue owned and operated by the same folks who run the festival.

The decision to change venues was based on financial constraints. From the MMMF’s Facebook page:

Our mission has always been to give 100% of the profit back to charity. That mission combined with the current economic situation and a reduction in sponsor contributions has prompted us to change the venue….The founders have prided themselves in donating over $500,000 to family-based charities, never taking a dime for this effort. When last year’s donation came to only $12,000, it was necessary to change strategies.

No one can knock the organizers for working within their means. The economy sucks, and I’m grateful that the festival is even surviving (another local festival – the more mainstream Tempe Music Festival – called it quits this year). But I can’t sugarcoat it – I can’t help but be disappointed at the loss of Westworld as a venue. Westworld offered an ambiance and a loose, laid back charm that a north Scottsdale parking lot will not come close to matching. Last year, for my third year at the festival, I rented a RV and brought the family. We had a great time, and the kids were looking forward to another RV adventure this year.

But – venue disappointment aside – local music festivals need to be supported through good times and bad, and I’ll be there again to support the charities and see some live music. Hopefully enough dough is raised this year to bring the festival back to Westworld in 2011.

So let’s take a look at the lineup…

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals - photo by Adrien Broom

There aren’t any acts this year that make me jump up and do the happy dance – but it’s good to see that Grace Potter & the Nocturnals will be returning for a third time, closing the festival on Sunday evening. She never disappoints live. And Trombone Shorty? Good call. Any genuine New Orleans flavor is always welcome – especially in snooty north Snottsdale (I kid my Scottsdalian neighbors). Robert Randolph & the Family Band of course are great live. And I’ve heard good things about Toubab Krewe and Ryan Shaw.

I know nothing of Super Chikan, Ruthie Foster or John Brown’s Body – but it’s fun to explore new stuff. Super Chikan looks cool at a glance.

This year also introduces MMMF’s first “After Hours” shows on Friday and Saturday night – which require a separate ticket for each night. Assembly of Dust is Friday night. I was pretty lukewarm on them when I saw them at last year’s MMMF. But Saturday night, it’s Steve Kimock & Crazy Engine – playing from 11pm to 2am. I’ll be tired – but I’m gonna catch Steve for sure. Steve’s guitar playing is supposed to be pretty bad-ass live. Looking forward to it.

So while the initial emotion for a lot of live music lovers who have attended MMMF in the past is one of disappointment, it’s as important as ever to support the festival and its mission: “to support the community, the arts and the underprivileged.” For what it’s worth, Ickmusic stands behind the McDowell Mountain Music Festival, and hopes it continues on – and thrives – for years to come.

Lord knows we need a good festival out here in the desert.

McDowell Mountain Music Festival
2010 Lineup
Tickets

Friday, April 23
5 PM – 6 PM — Ruthie Foster
6:30 PM – 8 PM — Toubab Krewe
8:30 PM – 10:30 PM — John Brown’s Body
**AFTER HOURS SHOW (Separate Ticket)
11 PM – 2:00 AM — Assembly of Dust

Saturday, April 24
12:30 PM – 1 PM — Local Band TBA
2 PM – 3 PM — Local Band TBA
3:30 PM – 4 PM — Local Band TBA
5 PM – 6 PM… — Ryan Shaw
6:30 PM – 8 PM — Super Chikan
8:30 PM – 10:30– Robert Randolph & The Family Band
**AFTER HOURS SHOW (Separate Ticket)
11 PM – 2:00 AM — Steve Kimmock & Crazy Engine [Win a pair of tickets]

Sunday, April 25
Noon – 1:30 PM — Local Band TBA
2 PM – 3:30 PM — Local Band TBA
4 PM – 5:30 PM — Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave.
6 PM – 7:30 PM Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

I Must Be In A Good Place Now

Vetiver - photo by Alissa Anderson

I heard this song on The Loft yesterday in quite the perfect setting – driving with my wife and two girls down a road outside of Flagstaff, AZ. It was a picture perfect day – snow on the ground, green pine trees, blue sky, and the snowy San Francisco Peaks in the near distance – and this song by Vetiver came on.


Nice, right? Turns out the song was originally written and performed by Louisiana music legend Bobby Charles (who passed just last month). It was on his self-titled 1972 album produced by The Band’s Rick Danko. Tonight, I listened to Bobby’s version, and was just as moved as Vetiver’s take on it.

So much music, so little time…


→ Go to the Amazon MP3 Store and buy the Vetiver Version and/or the Bobby Charles Version.

Visit: Vetiver’s Official Site / NOLA.com’s tribute to Bobby Charles