Saturday, January 30, 2016

Signe Toly Anderson dead at 74

Signe Toly Anderson
September 15, 1941-January 28, 2016

Signe Toly Anderson, singer and co-founding member of Jefferson Airplane, died on Thursday. Anderson was 74. The announcement of Mrs. Anderson's death comes two days after the death of Paul Kantner, who also died on January 28. At this time, the cause of death is unknown but it is known that Mrs. Anderson had health problems throughout her whole life. The news was confirmed by former Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin, saying "One sweet Lady has passed on."

Mrs. Anderson was one of the six founding members of Jefferson Airplane, which formed in 1965. Mrs. Anderson was only on the band's 1966 debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. The album included songs such as "It's No Secret" and "Chauffer Blues," the latter of which Mrs. Anderson sang lead on alone. Due to her pregnancy and marriage with musician Jerry Anderson, Mrs. Anderson decided to leave the band as she thought touring and traveling would become complicated. She would be replaced by singer Grace Slick. It was with Slick when the band were able to gain commercial success with Surrealistic Pillow in 1967. The Andersons were married from 1965 to 1975. 

Aside from being in Jefferson Airplane, Mrs. Anderson was not in any other major bands. When she moved back to hometown of Oregon, she joined Carl Smith and the Natural Gas Company. Mrs. Anderson was with them for nine years. In 1977, she married Michael Alios Ettlin- a building contractor. The couple were married until February 2011 when Ettlin died. Although she wasn't in Jefferson Airplane for a long time, Mrs. Anderson did make several appearances as a guest during Jefferson Starship concerts in the 1990s. 

Rest in peace, Signe.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Paul Kantner dead at 74

Paul Lorin Kantner
March 17, 1941 - January 28, 2016

Paul Kantner, guitarist and co-founding member of Jefferson Airplane, died today from multiple organ failure and septic shock. Kantner had also suffered a heart attack earlier in the week and had suffered another in March of last year. Kantner was 74. 

Kantner was one of the founding members of Jefferson Airplane, one of the many psychedelic bands coming out of the San Francisco music scene in the late 1960s. From 1965 to 1974, Jefferson Airplane were able to release seven studio albums. The band's hits included psychedelic rock classics such as "Somebody to Love," "White Rabbit," "It's No Secret," "Embryonic Journey," "Lather" and "Volunteers." The band went through a number of line-ups but their classic line-up is considered to be the line-up consisting of Kantner, singers Marty Balin and Grace Slick, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady and drummer Spencer Dryden. The band also have the distinction of having played all three of the major music festivals of the late 1960s: Monterey Pop in 1967 and Woodstock and Altamont in 1969. 

Dryden left in 1970 while Kaukonen and Casady would go on to form Hot Tuna. Kantner and Slick, along with Balin and David Freiberg would form a spin-off band- Jefferson Starship (a name Kantner had used in 1970 for his debut solo album, Blows Against the Empire). As Jefferson Starship, the band were able to achieve some success in the 1970s with hit singles such as "Miracles," "With Your Love" and "Jane." Jefferson Starship initially broke up in 1984, although Slick and singer Mickey Thomas would continue under the name Starship. The band reunited under the Jefferson Airplane name in 1989 for one album and then as Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation in 1992. Before his death, Kantner was still a member of the band. Kantner is survived by three children: Gareth, Alexander and China. Kantner's oldest, China, was the child Kantner had with band mate Grace Slick. 

It's sad to hear of Paul's death. Jefferson Airplane made some great music. I liked hearing him talk in some music docs that I've gotten the chance to watch over the years. He seemed like cool guy. 

RIP, Paul.  

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jimmy Bain dead at 68

James Stewart Bain
December 19, 1947 - January 24, 2016

Jimmy Bain, bassist for bands such as Rainbow and Dio, died today. The news was confirmed by several news sources and former Dio bandmate Simon Wright. Bain was 68. The cause of death has yet to be revealed.

Bain was born in Scotland in 1947. His earliest recorded work can be found on Rainbow's 1976 sophomore effort, Rising. Rainbow, formed by former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in 1975. For their debut, the band consisted of Blackmore, singer Ronnie James Dio and members of Dio's previous band Elf. Blackmore was unhappy with the first album and decided to fire everyone except Dio. For Rising, Blackmore assembled a band more to his liking. Joining with Bain would be drummer Cozy Powell and keyboardist Tony Carey. For many,  Rising is considered to be Rainbow's best album. However, Bain was fired from the band in 1977. During the late 1970s, Bain worked with former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson. Together, the two formed Wild Horses. The band would release two albums in 1980 and 1981 before finally calling it a day. Bain also worked with other Thin Lizzy alum such as Gary Moore and Phil Lynott. Bain played on both of Lynott's solo albums. One of them, Solo in Soho, featured the track "Dear Miss Lonely Hearts"- a song written by Lynott and Bain. 

In 1983, Bain was recruited by former bandmate Ronnie James Dio to join Dio's namesake band- along with guitarist Vivian Campbell and drummer Vinny Appice. Bain would go on to play on the first four Dio studio albums (Holy Diver, The Last in Line, Sacred Heart, Dream Evil), along with 2000's Magica and 2002's Killing the Dragon. Before his death, Bain had been a member of Last In Line- a band formed in 2013 with former Dio members Campbell, Appice and Claude Schnell. With singer Andrew Freeman, the band performed the early era Dio songs. The band's debut album, Heavy Crown, is to be released on February 20. 

It's sad to hear of Jimmy's passing. He was a great bassist with a lot of credentials under his belt. When I saw Dio in 2003, he was the bassist for the band at the time. 

RIP Jimmy. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Iggy Pop to release Post Pop Depression in March

Punk rock icon Iggy Pop announced yesterday that he will be releasing a new studio album. The album, Post Pop Depression, is a collaboration between Pop and Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme. The album, however, is being credited as an Iggy Pop album. Pop and Homme recorded the album in three weeks at Homme's home studio in Joshua Tree, California. Post Pop Depression will be Pop's first studio album as a solo artist since 2012's covers album Apres and his first album overall since the Stooges' 2013 effort Ready to Die. Post Pop Depression will be released on March 18. The tracking list is as follows:

1. Break Into Your Heart
2. Gardenia
3. American Valhalla
4. In the Lobby
5. Sunday
6. Vulture
7. German Days
8. Chocolate Drops
9. Paraguay

I may have to pick up this album. I will admit that I don't have a lot of Iggy's solo albums (I only have The Idiot, Lust for Life and New Values). I was listening to Soldier the other day and I just might listen to his other albums on YouTube and/or Spotify.

Below is a video of Iggy and Josh on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert performing "Gardenia."

Monday, January 18, 2016

In Memoriam: Dale Griffin (1948-2016) and Glenn Frey (1948-2016)

Two musicians from two different bands have passed away yesterday and today. One of them is from a band I like and the other is from a band I don't like (no offense). Still, I feel they both deserve a proper obituary so I'm going to put them both in one post.

Terence Dale "Buffin" Griffin
October 24, 1948 - January 17, 2016

Dale Griffin, drummer and co-founding member of glam rockers Mott the Hoople, passed away yesterday from complications of Alzheimer's Disease. Griffin was 67. Griffin was one fifth of the original line-up for Mott the Hoope, who formed in 1969. The original line-up consisted of Griffin, guitarist/singer Ian Hunter, guitarist Mick Ralphs, bassist Pete "Overend" Watts and keyboardist Verden Allen. The band struggled to find any commerical success during the release of their first four albums. In 1972, singer/songwriter David Bowie came to the rescue and offered to produce their fifth studio album, All The Young Dudes. The album was a hit, thanks to the Bowie-penned title track. Mott the Hoople would continue to perform (with different line ups) until 1975 when Hunter left. The band would continue under the name Mott for two albums and then as British Lions for one album. Griffin, along with Watts, were the two constant members in all three bands from 1969 to 1980. After the break-up of British Lions,  Griffin would produce music for other artists. Mott the Hoople would reunite for several shows in 2009 and 2013, but Griffin was not present for the 2013 dates (Pretenders drummer Martin Chambers filled in for Griffin). Griffin was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 58. Until his death, Buffin was active in the press talking about the disease.

Glenn Lewis Frey
November 6, 1948 - January 18, 2016

Glenn Frey, guitarist and co-founding member of the Eagles, passed away today from complications of an intestinal surgery. Frey is said to have had rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. He was 67. Frey was one of the original members of the Eagles, who formed in 1971. Frey and drummer Don Henley were the two constant members in the band's original run. The Eagles would become one of the most successful bands of the 1970's, releasing top-selling albums and hit singles such as "Hotel California," "Life in the Fast Lane," "Take It Easy," "Witchy Woman" and many others. The band originally split in 1980 but reunited in 1994 and had been touring ever since. Along with being in the Eagles, Frey had a relatively successful solo career- with hit singles such as "The Heat is On" and "You Belong to the City." 

Rest in peace to both Dale and Glenn. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie dead at 69- A Look at His Life and Career

 David Bowie (born David Robert Jones)
January 8, 1947 – January 10, 2016

Singer/songwriter and rock icon David Bowie passed away yesterday after a private 18 month battle with cancer. According to his publicist, Bowie died peacefully surrounded by his family and friends. Bowie was 69 years old.

Born David Jones in Brixton, London, Bowie was the son of Haywood “John” and Margaret “Peggy” Jones. His father was a promotions officer for Barnardo’s while his mother worked as a waitress. It was when Bowie was nine years old that he discovered rock n roll music. Sooner or later, Bowie picked up on how to play ukulele. In school, Bowie studied art, music and design. In 1962, Bowie found himself in a fight over a girl with his friend George Underwood. Underwood punched Bowie in his left eye, leaving Bowie in the hospital for four months. For the rest of his life, Bowie was left with weak depth perception as well as a permanently dilated pupil- giving Bowie a unique look.

Bowie formed his first band at the age of 15. By 1967, he found himself signed to Deram- the record label that would release his self-titled debut album that same year. Around this time, Bowie changed his previous stage name of Davy Jones, as there was already a famous Davy Jones at that time. He changed it to David Bowie, drawing inspiration from 19th century frontiersman Jim Bowie and the knife he named after himself. Even as David Bowie, Bowie’s debut album was a commercial flop.  It wasn’t until 1969 when Bowie was able to score his first hit with the novelty tune “Space Oddity.” 

In 1971, Bowie formed his own backing group the Spiders from Mars. Along with Marc Bolan and T. Rex, Bowie was one of the leading figures in the gender-bending sub-genre of glam rock. In concert, Bowie was extravagant as he and his band were decked out in spandex outfits and make-up. In 1972, Bowie had reached the peak of his career with the classic album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. From 1971-74, Bowie was releasing hit after hit: “Changes,” “John, I’m Only Dancing,” “Starman,” “Suffragette City,” “The Jean Genie,” “Life on Mars,” and “Rebel, Rebel” just to name a few.  

Musically, Bowie was known for being a chameleon- as he kept reinventing himself every few years. After the release of Diamond Dogs, Bowie decided to abandon glam rock and branch out. This started in 1975 with the release of Young Americans, Bowie’s Philly soul album. The album spawned two hit singles with the title track and “Fame,” the latter of which he co-wrote with John Lennon. Bowie experimented with a wide variety of sub-genres: Krautrock (“Sound and Vision,” “Heroes”), new wave (“Ashes to Ashes,” “Let’s Dance”), alternative (Outside) and electronica (Earthling).

Bowie often collaborated with other artists. During the peak of his career in the early 1970s, he took artists such as Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Mott the Hoople under his wing. For Reed and Pop, Bowie produced albums for them. In 1972, Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson produced Reed’s sophomore effort Transformer- which would have a hit single with “Walk On the Wild Side.” With Pop, Bowie produced the Stooges’ third studio album Raw Power in 1973. When the Stooges split in the mid 1970’s, Bowie helped Pop kickstart his solo career with The Idiot and Lust For Life. When Pop was struggling financially, Bowie came to the rescue by re-recording “China Girl” in 1983- a song Bowie and Pop wrote together for The Idiot. As for Mott the Hoople, Bowie helped the struggling band by producing their fifth studio album All The Young Dudes. The title track, written by Bowie, was a hit for the band. In the 1980s, Bowie recorded hit duets with several artists. In 1981, he sang alongside Freddie Mercury on Queen’s hit single “Under Pressure.” He also recorded “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby for Crosby’s 1977 special. When released as a single in 1982, it became a hit. In 1985, Bowie covered Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” with Mick Jagger- which was promoted with an infamous music video.

Aside from music, Bowie also acted in several movies. His first movie was the 1976 sci-fi cult classic The Man Who Fell To Earth. Bowie’s other notable movie roles include 1982’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence as Major Jack Celliers, Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy musical Labyrinth as Jareth the Goblin King, and Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ as Pontius Pilate. His last movie role was in 2006 in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige as Nikola Tesla. In the early 1980s, Bowie received praise for his performance as Joseph Merrick in the stage adaptation of The Elephant Man.

In his lifetime, Bowie was married twice. From 1970-80, he was married to Mary “Angie” Bowie (nee Barnett). Together, the couple had a son named Duncan Jones (aka Zowie Bowie during his childhood) in 1971. Jones is now a successful film director, having worked on movies such as Moon, Source Code and the upcoming Warcraft. Since 1992, Bowie was married to model Iman. With Iman, he had a daughter named Alexandria in 2000.

Two days before Bowie’s passing, he had released his 25th studio album Blackstar. According to the album’s producer Tony Visconti, Bowie wanted the album to be his “parting gift” to his fans. Other reports suggest that some of the songs from the album were about accepting his eventual death. Whatever the case may be, David Bowie left this planet having accomplished many things. His influence can be seen and heard in almost every artist that has come after him. From his music to his live performances, it’s easy to say that David Bowie will be missed.

Rest in peace, Mr. Bowie. 

David Bowie- Blackstar album review

 David Bowie - ★
David Bowie
Rating: ****

Note: The first two paragraphs or so were written just hours before the news of David Bowie’s passing broke. The original plan was to have this review up by Monday. Given that some of this has already been written, I will write this review as if I finished it the day before. At the end, I will add some afterthoughts about this being Bowie’s swan song and what that means.

            At 69 years old, David Bowie has had a long and successful career. Throughout his career, Bowie has been a chameleon as he’s able to reinvent himself almost effortlessly every few years. His latest album, Blackstar, is no exception. Released almost three years after The Next Day, Blackstar is an experimental jazz album. With seven tracks to offer, Bowie presents us with another impressive album.

            The album opens with the epic nine minute title track. The song sets the tone for the entire album: it’s going to be a dark and haunting jazzy ride. The title track could be split into two parts, with the first part being an electronic-synthpop tune and the second part being a down-right funky number. Of the seven songs on here, this is my personal favorite as it is wonderfully mysterious and mystic. As mentioned before, Blackstar is jazzy affair. Some of the songs on here are wild. This includes the sax-driven “Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” and the chaotic dizziness of “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime).” The former is a mildly amusing tune as Bowie laments “Man, she punched me like a dude” while the latter has Bowie’s backing band in fine form.

             Looking for something easier to listen to? Try the loungey post-punk romp (a la Joy Division) “Lazarus.” It’s simply chilling, with Bowie’s vocals backed up droning saxophones and distorted guitars. The song is well written and of the songs on here, Bowie voice sounds the best on here. Another personal favorite: the eerie “Girl Loves Me,” which is lead by a plodding bass line while Bowie wonders “Where the f*ck did Monday go?” While Blackstar is a wild jazz album, it ends with two rather conventional songs. “Dollar Days” is a somber yet gentle track that features some sweet acoustic work and yet more saxophones. The album’s synth-riddled closer, “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” almost nears adult contemporary territory while still sounding like an indie Bowie track. It’s a solid way to end the album as Bowie’s vocals are as smooth as the saxophone and harmonica that wail in the background.

              Overall, Blackstar is a great album from David Bowie. However, I still prefer The Next Day as it’s more diverse in musical styles. Still, Blackstar is a shorter album- clocking in at some 40 minutes- which I can appreciate. With a little over 20 studio albums in Bowie’s discography, Blackstar is nice addition to a brilliant career.

Afterthoughts: David Bowie died two days after the release of Blackstar, which officially makes it his last album. As a swan song, people are going to look at this a little differently. Now knowing that Bowie was sick with cancer for 18 months, it is a haunting last album. Producer Tony Visconti has said that Blackstar was to serve as Bowie’s “parting gift.” Considering how this album’s last song is titled “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” I’d say this is one hell of a parting gift.

Rest in peace, Mr. Bowie.

Update (written 1/24/16): After listening to this for the first time since Bowie's passing AND marathoning everything I own by him, I think I can safely say that I like Blackstar more than The Next Day. While I still like The Next Day, it's a very safe album. Having not released an album in ten years, Bowie decided to take the nostalgic route and make songs that we would like (examples: Where Are We Now being connected to Heroes and Valentine's Day being a throwback to the glam era). Since Bowie figured this would probably be his last album, he went all out with this experimental jazz album with a dark overtone. I like both albums but Blackstar is the better album in my opinion.

Monday, January 4, 2016

It's official: Slash and Duff McKagan have rejoined Guns N Roses, will play Coachella 2016

After weeks and weeks of speculation, it is official: Guns N Roses are slated to play at the 2016 Coachella Music and Arts Festival with Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan in the band's line-up. The festival will take place during the weekends of April 15-17 and April 22-24.

The news was leaked a few week earlier, hinting that a Guns N Roses reunion may or may not happen. Reports were also suggesting that the classic line up of Rose, Slash, McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler wouldn't reunite and instead be a few members. This still seems to be the case, as Stradlin and Adler haven't said anything. One report suggests that Adler's replacement, Matt Sorum, is also back in the band while other reports seem to say current drummer Frank Ferrer would be in the band, along with long-time guitarist Richard Fortus.

Rumors of a Guns N Roses reunion have been rampant since last summer, when Slash revealed in an interview that he and Rose had recently renewed their friendship- after almost 20 years of no communication.

There has also been speculation about the band negotiating a deal to do a 25-date football stadium tour, with ticket prices being no higher than $250 to $275. This has not been confirmed as of now.

Even though the news was leaked, I'm pleasantly surprised that Axl, Slash and Duff will share a stage again. However, I'm more surprised by the fact that Axl and Slash will share a stage for the first time in a little over two decades. I would've never guessed that. People seem to be complaining that the reunion has arrived too late, and they might be right. Still, it's a pretty big deal given that Slash- the man that Axl once referred to as a cancer- is now going to play with Axl again. I can't believe it's happening.

As for a full-blown tour, we'll have to wait and see.