Thursday, March 31, 2016

Andy Newman dead at 73

Andy Newman
c. 1942-2016

Musician Andy Newman has passed away, according to the Thunderclap Newman page on Facebook. Newman was 73. Newman was one third of Thunderclap Newman, a rock trio consisting of himself on piano, singer/drummer Speedy Keen and guitarist Jimmy McCulloch. The band formed in 1969 and would release the Pete Townshend produced Hollywood Dream. The album featured the hit single, "Something in the Air," which would go on to be used in various movies and TV shows. Despite their success, there was tension within the group and in 1971- the band broke up. After the band's split, the three members went on with their careers. Most notably, McCulloch would end up joining Paul McCartney and Wings in 1974. Newman would reform Thunderclap Newman sometime in 2010 with a brand new line-up, as McCullloch and Keen had died in 1979 and 2002. This new version of the band would tour until 2013.

It's sad to hear of Andy's passing. I heard of Thunderclap Newman when I was learning about Jimmy McCulloch after watching the Wingspan documentary. I still can't believe that a 10 to 11 year old like me actually paid for Hollywood Dream on CD from eBay. It makes me laugh. It's such a great album and it's a shame they weren't able to make another.

RIP Andy.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Iggy Pop- Post Pop Depression album review

 Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression
Iggy Pop
Post Pop Depression
Rating: ****

The last nine to ten years of Iggy Pop’s career have been interesting. In that span of time, he reunited with the Stooges and made two new studio albums with them- The Weirdness in 2007 and Ready to Die in 2013. Pop also released two French themed albums- Preliminaries in 2009 and Apres in 2012. With the deaths of the Asheton brothers (Ron in 2009 and Scott in 2014), Pop seems to have retired have the Stooges name and is now continuing his solo career. His latest album, Post Pop Depression, is his 17th studio effort. While labeled as a solo release, Pop collaborated with Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme for this album- as Homme plays on and produces the album. Compared to Pop’s last few solo releases, Post Pop Depression sees the 68-year-old punk rocker in fine form with an album that can best be described as a modern day sequel to his work in the mid to late 1970’s.

            The album opens with the ska rocker “Break Into Your Heart.” Pop’s is surprisingly strong, as he croons to this brass and guitar heavy track. Homme works his magic with the production, as the guitars sound pleasantly fuzzy. On paper, “Gardenia” might look like a cover of the song by Kyuss- which Hommes was a member of. It isn’t. This “Gardenia” song is a psychedelic grungey number that serves as the album’s lead single. A killer bass line leads the track as Pop sings in his low baritone voice “All I want to do is tell Gardenia what to do tonight.” Speaking of which, the bass is very strong on this album- which would be Homme’s doing in the production side. The bass is especially strong on the dark alternative rocking “American Valhalla” and downright funky Talking Heads-esque “Sunday.”

            While Post Pop Depression is very much an Iggy Pop album, Pop doesn’t shy away from experimenting with other genres of music. The aforementioned “Sunday” is an example. There’s also the Mexican tinged “Vulture” and the droning “In the Lobby.” The former showcases Pop’s baritone voice once more while the latter has impressive guitar work. If there are any downsides to the album, the last third does fall a little on the weak side. Still, “Chocolate Drops” has strong lyrics while “German Days” sounds like a lost cut from The Idiot. The album’s closer, “Paraguay”, is a six minute mini-epic. From its haunting a cappella beginning to Pop’s old angry man rant at the end, it really is a powerful song.

            Overall, Post Pop Depression is a great album from Iggy Pop. I’m really impressed by this album. When it comes to his solo career, Pop’s discography isn’t critically the most consistent. While modern sounding, this album has the feel of The Idiot and/or Lust for Life. Earlier this year, Pop mentioned that Post Pop Depression might be his last album. Personally, I would love to see Iggy make another album. However- if this ends up being his last one, then this is one hell of a way to go out. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Keith Emerson dead at 71

Keith Noel Emerson
November 2, 1944 - March 11, 2016

Keith Emerson, best known as the keyboardist for legendary supergroup Emerson Lake and Palmer, died Thursday evening. The cause of death has not been confirmed, although it has been reported by police that Emerson might have committed suicide, as he was found with a single gunshot wound to the head. According to the Associated Press, Emerson's partner Mari Kawaguchi found the keyboardist dead and called 911 at around 1:30 am. 

Born in Todmorden, Yorkshire, Emerson learned how to play western classical music when he was only a child. As he later came to love rock and jazz music, Emerson was able to combine these influences into his own style of playing the keyboards. When he was a teenager, Emerson was able to get his first Hammond organ. Prior to joining ELP, Emerson was the keyboardist of the Nice. The band were originally the backing band to singer P.P. Arnold. After only a few months with Arnold, the Nice went off on their own. From 1967 to 1970, the Nice were able to release a handful of album before their split. The band also had a minor hit with their rendition of "America" from West Side Story

After the Nice's split, Emerson joined up with bassist/singer Greg Lake (formerly of King Crimson) and drummer Carl Palmer (formerly of Atomic Rooster and before that- the Crazy World of Arthur Brown). Together, the trio formed what would become ELP. Despite being criticized as over-the-top and pretentious by music critics, ELP were one of the most successful rock bands of the 1970s. In their original run, the band managed to release seven studio albums until their split in 1979. The band found success with classic rock radio staples such as "Lucky Man" and "Karn Evil 9." The band reunited in 1985, though not with Palmer. In his place was drummer Cozy Powell- changing the band's name to Emerson Lake and Powell. ELP would reunite from 1992 to 1998 and release another two albums. The band briefly reunited for a tour in 2010- though only with Emerson and Lake. The band's last performance was on July 25, 2010 in celebration of their 40th anniversary. The group headlined the High Voltage Festival in Victoria Park, London. 

Aside from his time in ELP, Emerson was made a few solo albums. Emerson is survived by two sons, Aaron and Damon. 

It is very sad to hear of Keith Emerson's passing. I'm not the biggest ELP fan but I do enjoy the albums I own by them. Keith was a extremely talented keyboardist. Listening to ELP, I'm almost always amazed by how Keith played. I think his keyboard playing would sometimes overpower Lake and Palmer! What makes his death more upsetting is that he took his own life. If he was in any pain, I hope he finds some kind of happiness. 

Rest in Peace, Mr. Emerson. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

George Martin dead at 90: A Salute To The Man Who Produced the Beatles

Sir George Henry Martin
January 3, 1926 - March 9, 2016

Sir George Martin, best known as the producer for the Beatles, passed away in his sleep on Tuesday March 8. Martin was 90 years old. The news of Martin's passing was announced by Ringo Starr via Twitter while Universal Music Group confirmed it. At the time of this writing, the cause of death is unknown.

George Martin was born on January 3, 1926 in Highbury, London, England. He was the son of Henry and Betha Martin. At an early age, Martin had an interest in music. It was after Martin's family had bought a piano that made him want to play music. Martin tried piano lessons but after a disagreement between his mother and his teacher, it was over after eight lessons. Later on in his life, Martin would teach himself how to play. For his education, Martin attended St Ignatius' College in Stamford Hill. Before choosing a career in music, Martin had a variety of jobs. For a short time, Martin was a quantity surveyor and then a temporary clerk for the War Office. Martin also joined the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy in 1943 and became an officer. However, Martin was never involved in combat since the war ended before he could be. After Martin left the service in 1947, Martin attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. It was there that he furthered his interest in music, as he learned to play both the piano and the oboe.

Prior to producing the Beatles, Martin produced comedy and novelty records. Martin worked with many comedians, including Pete Sellers. In 1962, Martin was approached by Sid Coleman, who him about a manager named Brian Epstein. Coleman thought Martin would be interested in working with the band. Martin and Epstein in February 1962. Epstein's band, the Beatles, were a rock group from Liverpool. Epstein was able to score an audition for the band with Decca Records in late 1961, which the band failed. After that, Epstein went around with the recording of the Decca audition under his arm and tried his best to get the band a record deal. When Epstein met with Martin, Epstein played the Decca audition. Another meeting was scheduled with Martin in May and it was then that Martin decided to take the Beatles under his wing without having met them. However, the actual contract with EMI was not signed yet by Martin as he waited until he heard the band perform. Martin did end up signing them. Martin would say years later that he liked that they were charismatic and was knocked out by their sense of humor. The Beatles themselves respected Martin, as he had an immense knowledge of music and worked with Pete Sellers and The Goon Show- both of which were comedic influences to the band. However, Martin was not impressed with the drummer Pete Best. Martin told Epstein to talk to the band about getting another drummer. The truth was that this wasn't the first time someone had said something bad about Best. Sooner or later, Best would be replaced by Ringo Starr.

From 1962 to 1969, Martin and the Beatles made some of the greatest music in the history of rock and pop music. In the studio, Martin was just as important as John, Paul, George or Ringo- as he collaborated with them in making the music. Some of his contributions included...

-changing "Please, Please Me" from a ballad to a faster paced rock tune
-adding a string section to "Yesterday"
-providing the electrifying piano solo on "In My Life"
-creating the psychedelic tape loops on "Being the Benefit For Mr. Kite"- which was accomplished by literally cutting the tapes of carousel music and mixing it together.

The list could go on and on as Martin ended up producing every album in the band's discography (with the exception of Let It Be, which was produced by Phil Spector- although Martin was there when the album was originally recorded in 1969). Given his contributions to the Beatles, someone could make a good case for Martin as to why he might've been the fifth Beatle.

After the band's split in 1970, Martin continued producing various other artists. In terms of rock music, Martin produced albums for America, Jeff Beck, Cheap Trick and UFO. He also produced solo albums by Paul McCartney (Tug of War, Pipes of Peace, Give My Regard to Broad Street) and Ringo Starr (Sentimental Journey). The last album he produced was a remix album for the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show Love in 2006.

In his life, Martin was married twice. From 1948 to 1965, Martin was married to Sheena Chisholm. With Chisholm, he had two children- Alexis and Gregory Paul. From 1966 until his death, Martin was married to Judy Lockheart-Smith. With her, he had another two children- Lucie and Giles. In recent years, Giles Martin has followed in the footsteps of his father and also serves as a producer. Since Martin's retirement, Giles has been part of almost all of the major Beatles releases- including The Beatles: Rock Band game.

It is sad to hear of Sir George Martin's passing. He lived a wonderful long life of nine decades. In interviews and documentaries, I adored listening to him. He seemed like a real gentleman. When you watch or listen to any interview he gave, he would always come across as this very fatherly figure to the Beatles- as he would always refer to the band as "the boys." I remember when Gayle King interviewed him in 2011 for the fifth anniversary of the Love show, King remarked how Sir George was a fatherly figure. Sir George, being the polite man he was, kindly reminded King that he was more like an older brother (there's a 15 year difference between him and Ringo). Although Sir George was technically right, Paul said in his blog post that Sir George was like a second father to him. He was a remarkable man and a wonderful producer. In fact- if the Beatles were the greatest band of all time, I'd say that makes Sir George Martin the best producer in music.

I must also add that in various news reports, the phrase of "the fifth Beatle" has been tossed around. Was Sir George the fifth Beatle? I always thought so. Then again, there are some other people that played an important part in the Beatles' career. I'd say there are a fittingly enough number of five fifth Beatles. They would be...

-George Martin (1926-2016)
-Brian Epstein (1934-1967)
-Derek Taylor (1932-1997)
-Mal Evans (1935-1976)
-Neil Aspinall (1941-2008)

Of those five, Sir George was the last one standing. So along with Sir George, I would like to say thank you to all of the fifth Beatles.

Rest in peace, Sir George. Thank you for the music. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Bill Wyman diagnosed with prostate cancer

Former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The news was revealed on Wyman's Facebook fan page on Tuesday by his management team. According to the post, Wyman is currently undergoing treatment. The post also revealed that since his cancer was detected in the early stages, Wyman is expected to make a full recovery. Wyman, 79, joined the Rolling Stones in 1962- replacing original bassist Dick Taylor (who would go on to form the Pretty Things). Wyman stayed in the band until 1993 and was replaced by Daryl Jones, who isn't considered an official member of the band but has been with them since Wyman's departure. Wyman continues to stay active in music. Just last year, Wyman released a solo album- Back to Basics.

Well, this isn't good. However, it's good to know that Bill's cancer was caught early on so Bill doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon. While it says Bill is expected to make a full recovery, I think this should serve as a reminder that Bill isn't getting any younger I don't mean to be negative about this or anything but Bill is going to be 80 by October of this year. As with anyone who is diagnosed with cancer, there's always the chance of it coming back. With any luck, Bill is going to be okay.

Get well soon, Bill!

Monday, March 7, 2016

AC/DC postpone tour due to Brian Johnson's deafness scare

Legendary hard rock band AC/DC announced Monday that they would be postponing the remaining tour dates left in their US leg of their Rock Or Bust tour. The reason why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band decided to put a halt to their tour is due to singer Brian Johnson's hearing. According to the statement, Johnson has been advised by his doctors to stop touring as Johnson could potentially suffer from "total hearing loss." The band were to play in Atlanta, Georgia on March 8 at the Philips Arena next while the tour was original scheduled to end April 4 in New York at the Madison Square Garden. Johnson, 68, has been with AC/DC since 1980. Johnson was given the seemingly impossible task of filling in the shoes of previous lead singer Bon Scott, who died in February 1980 from acute alcohol poisoning. AC/DC proved any doubters wrong later in the year with the release of Back in Black, which went to become one of the best selling albums of all time, as it places second with 25 million copies sold, right behind Michael Jackson's Thriller (which has sold 42 million). Along with the news of Johnson's health, the band has also announced that these rescheduled dates might feature a guest lead singer. Refunds are now being offered to fans who have already purchased tickets for the remaining dates. 

This is terrible. Brian's been in the band for years and has been able to be accepted by the AC/DC fans for over three decades. It's weird that for years, the band hasn't had to worry about finding a lead singer since 1980. I cannot think of anyone who could fill in for Brian now. Along with this, Malcolm Young was forced to retire two years ago as he's currently being treated for dementia.  At the end of 2014, drummer Phil Rudd's tenure with the band was put to an end after trying to hire a hit man. Malcolm's been replaced by nephew Stevie while Rudd has been replaced by Razor's Edge era drummer Chris Slade. The band have been cursed again with bad luck with Brian's hearing is now. If Brian can't perform anymore, then it'll just be Angus, Cliff, Stevie and Chris. At this point, it would be too weird to bring in a new singer. With that being said, I think the guys can call it a day. They have nothing left to prove for us. They've left us with a great body of work. I think what should happen is that these last ten dates should be turned into farewell shows. I think if they can find a couple of different well known singers to come out and swap out every couple of songs- with Brian coming in at the end- that could be a good enough send off for them. Hell, they could even invite more special guests and perhaps some former members could guest (Mark Evans, Simon Wright). 

Whatever ends up happening, I'm wishing the guys the best of luck and hope that Brian gets well soon.