Transcending: A Conversation with Paula Cole

Every music aficionado finds multiple albums they love, but it’s not often they find an album that changes the tone of how they listen to music. These albums are few and far between, but sometimes there are facets of our mind we don’t realize need to be unlocked. When this happens, it creates a vacuum of self-exploration, a new favorite album, and often another favorite singer.

Recently, I found the album that did just that. Ballads by Paula Cole has taken mycomplete music world by storm and has caused me to explore a layer of my mind I didn’t know existed (Read my review on Ballads here).

Many of us know Cole from her renowned album This Fire, which sparked the top ten hits “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone” and “I Don’t Want to Wait.” She went on to win the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1998 and This Fire was certified 2x platinum in the U.S.

It is not often when you get to speak to the artist that touched your soul, but I had the opportunity to speak with Paula Cole about her new album, what she is doing now, and how to define Jazz.

Before our conversation got underway, I had to tell Ms. Cole exactly where I was coming from. I have literally been a fan of hers for almost two months now, but I could not be a bigger fan today. Her music is fresh in my mind. After I fell in love with Ballads, I quickly and consistently listened to Cole’s complete catalog of releases, beyond her two biggest hits, finding multiple gems in each album.

That is my story in a nutshell. People think of me for those hits, then they move on. They don’t give it another thought and yet, I’m grateful for the hits, but there is so much more to what I am. I mean it was even ill fitting at the time when I was in the spotlight for one minute. It felt ill fitting and I needed to go away. I have always felt I was more of a catalog artist. That was odd, the whole hit thing anyway.

Cole had started out as a Jazz singer when she attended Berklee in the early 1990’s. She was offered a few record contracts at the time, but she turned them down. She felt that she wasn’t good enough to sing Jazz and that she could not meet the standard it took to sing Jazz professionally. This surprised me, as I would not think a vocalist as talented as Cole would have this level of insecurities.

That’s definitely one of the reasons. I had 3 or 4 reasons…It’s a waste of one’s life. It’s a tragedy to be that cruel to one’s self and deprive yourself of artistic expression, for what? I needed to get out of that loop and try and I knew that now having lived at least 25 years in the music business and nearly 50 years in life, I know I can do this. I know that I was being unnecessarily mean to myself, and that I have something to say here…It’s time to just try.

Although what I quickly realized, as our conversation evolved, was that turning these deals down wasn’t just a case of the butterflies, it was a part of Cole’s artistry. There was going to be a time to make a Jazz album, and when it was, it had to be done correctly. She knew what she wanted from her own Jazz album because it is personal to her.

The two Jazz deals that I got…I wouldn’t have been able to make this album [Ballads]. I think that I would have been pushed by A&R at the record company, and the producer that they were selecting for me, to make it much more shiny and polished and piano based, even choosing some of the songs, and walking into the control room of the studio and requesting certain changes…I wouldn’t have been able to stand my ground. You learn that when you are young and you get your first record deal, that you have to make some compromises in order to stay in that place of fortune and power of having a record deal…You have to make compromises, so if I had taken the Jazz deal then, it would have been thick and I wouldn’t have been proud of what I really wanted in my heart. I knew who I wanted to work with. I wanted it to be rootsy…So finally under the right conditions, me being the record company, me being accustomed to producing myself, and having fans that funded a Kickstarter project, I was able to make it the way I wanted it to be all this time.

If Ballads had been made 25 years ago versus today, it would not be the same album. Cole would not have been completely satisfied with it, although she did tell me it would have been beautiful in its own way.

Now, I wanted to get down to the essence of Ballads. It’s a mystical album that takes you on journeys through songs from the 1930’s through the 1960’s. Not only does she take classic Jazz standards and make them her own, she takes classic American songs and turns them on their head. At this time, I asked her how she arrived at ballads at this juncture in her life and why it had to happen now.

I have several items on that giant to-do list in the sky, well actually on my notepad on my iPhone, that are life items, things on my bucket list, and making my own Jazz album was one of them. It was uncanny the way an attempt of a Jazz album would manifest and it would go away, manifest and go away. So I knew I needed to do it for me and do it the way I wanted it, which was rootsy and blended genres that I think really stand side by side with Jazz and what Jazz is. I think it is also because I’m doing a lot of reflection right now in my life. My kids are growing up and they’re out of the house a lot. I’m feeling a bit of empty nest. My parents are getting older, more fragile; I have a sense of their mortality. I’ve lost love ones and I feel a sense of my own mortality and my dad is still here and I want to thank him while he is alive. 

This album Ballads, dedicated to her father and his musical influence on her, was just as much retrospective as it is a modern take on iconic songs. Ballads was a completely new concept for Cole in many ways due largely to the fact, that she didn’t write any of the songs. Her catalog is vast and covers many genres, topics, and styles; yet now she was honing in on one genre with covers of well-known songs.

Did she have struggles making this album without having any writing credits? Was she intimidated by covering other musician’s music?

I think that I sing them as myself and I’ve arrived at many of these songs without even hearing these famous singers’ versions of them first. Many of them I came to myself by reading the music at my piano and learning them and teaching them to myself … I was able to find the song first myself…

Cole, being a professor now at Berklee and a music scholar, had a deep connection to these artists she was covering.

I have been listening to Billie Holiday so much. I have so much profound respect for her and she could quite possibly be the best Jazz singer that ever lived…I can hear her influence more on “I Cover The Waterfront,” but in general I think it is more of a spiritual connection. I didn’t worry about sounding like other people. I feel pretty well formed as a person and that’s probably why I could make the album now. I trusted myself. I didn’t feel nervous in the way that you are asking. Yes, I’m singing these legends’ songs. I’m doing it because I love them. I love them. I’m channeling them and worshipping at their altar.

My next question dealt with Cole’s song selection. As I mentioned earlier, the songs on this album range from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. Some of these songs would be completely misplaced on a Jazz album, like “Ode to Billie Joe,” which is considered country.

What struck me the most was Cole’s choice of “protest” songs. The three songs that stood out for me was “I Wish (I Knew How It Feels to Be Free),” “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” and “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.” I had to know why she made these unconventional choices for an album categorized as Jazz.

I’m white. I’m from a little New England village called Rockport, MA. I knew kindness from my parents…I went to Berklee at 18 and I joined the gospel choir…I had never ever been in such a world like that. I was now the minority. I wish every white person could have that experience and what that feels like. I was so humbled and so moved. It really changed my life…I was in a much more diverse community that opened my eyes and that started me along the path of the music business and where I was able to live in a much more mixed way. 

Now I’m here, a mom to a biracial daughter, and I care very much about race and it needs to be a conversation. I’m moved by these songs because they speak to me and the way I feel. I think they are as relevant today as ever and I wanted to underscore that by including them in this collection.

Music is a pioneering place, but I remind myself always of a quote Picasso said, “Artists are the politicians of the future.” We have to be that voice, that love, and sometimes I stumble into uncomfortable conversations, sometimes I stumble into awkward places, but we must try.

It is here that genres and musical categories began to blend in our conversation. Earlier, Cole had already shared her dissatisfaction with being categorized as a certain musical genre, but now I didn’t even feel like we were talking about Jazz anymore. What I found out though, was that I really didn’t understand what Jazz and even music as a whole was, and neither did Cole. This brought me to the simple question of how does one define Jazz?

I really don’t think I can answer that question. It’s something I’ve been searching for my whole life. I’ve been one to transcribe horn solos and learn Miles Davis and John Coltrane and they are my heroes, but so is Billie Holiday, and she never improvised a note. I think of her as one of America’s great singer/ songwriters and yet, she’s Jazz. Nina Simone to me is gospel and classical and folk and a little bit of Jazz, but yet she is categorized as Jazz. I don’t understand what Jazz is. Maybe it’s a sense of freedom and the ability to improvise. I’ve always been drawn to that. Maybe it’s deeper musicianship, that you care about chord changes and the ability to be free within the confines of traditional music. Maybe that is Jazz to me, exploring the boundaries and being freer in what we understand as music. That’s Jazz to me.

I then asked, “so Jazz is a loaded word?”

Yes. I have this book of interviews with Jazz musicians and the question they pose at the beginning of every chapter is, “What does Jazz mean?” Jazz has no etymological roots that they can trace. People have every different understanding of what Jazz means. A lot of times what people come back with is “fucking,” a brothel word from the brothels of New Orleans. So who knows what it means? Who knows? It could mean that, maybe something else. I think it’s fantastic. And that’s kind of where we are at with it. I worship at the altar of several Jazz musicians and also Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris and Bobbie Gentry. And you know if Johnny Cash could sing Shel Silverstein lyrics and Nina Simone could cover Bob Dylan songs, then what is it? Why are we categorizing?

I then had to touch on Cole’s vocal technique and approach to this album. Anyone familiar with Cole’s catalog knows that she is a vocal acrobat. She can sing the softest love song, croon a torch ballad, and compete with the greatest belters of the past.

Although on this album, Cole took a rather reserved approach to her vocals. Her voice was retrospective. Was that intentional? Had she created this formula before going into the studio?

No, it was not any kind of executive decision at all. I think it comes from an internal, personal place where I’m just not wanting to scream as much. I have been doing some retrospective shows where I play This Fire and frankly, it’s exhausting. I can feel my 20-year-old self and I feel my anger and my frustration, especially in kind of being treated a little second class in the music business. I don’t want to sing like that on Ballads. Sometimes I do. It’s absolutely liberating. It’s victorious and I find the audience loves it. There is a time and place for that, but it wasn’t on these songs. No, no. I wanted something more gentle. I wanted to sing for the lyrics not for vocal prowess. I wanted to sing for the lyrics and the stories of these songs now.

There is so much to the album Ballads. So much, that I can’t even begin to describe what the album means and what one is supposed to take away from it. The album is transformative as Cole weaves in every genre, sings in sync with the greatest artists of all time while conveying a message of strength, social injustice, and self-worth.

Lastly, as a teacher at Berklee, I wanted to know what Cole had to say in regards to millennials and this album. What was she wanting my generation to take from this record?

I want millennials to listen to the masters in music and I want them knowing that history to go forward and be a voice that the world needs. They need to stand up. They need to make this world better. We’re counting on you. We as “Xers” or “Boomers” above you need to walk the walk, too, but we need you now because you’re young and you are relevant and you are forming the modern pop society right now. You’re forming the modern culture right now. We need you to look back and hear our stories and bring it into the light and be the politicians of the future through your art.

That call to action has been rolling in my head since this conversation. Now, in the light of the recent tragedy in Vegas, it seems to ring even louder. It’s time for everybody, but especially young people, to stand up and stop hate. We have to look at the legacy of our family, country, world, and humankind and move forward. I believe we hold the answers, finding them is the difficult part.

This album has moved me in many ways, freeing my mind to think on a larger scale. Cole achieved this through song selection, vocal style, and never putting up walls to categorize music. Her vision is clear and she is using the only universal tool known to mankind, music.

As I contemplated my interview with Paula Cole, I listened to Ballads again. Her words inspired me, many of which are not written here. Her album has given me a clearer direction on what music is, especially Jazz; yet, it has completely muddied the waters. This album is retrospective in both music, cultural issues, and situations each individual faces. This album is also innovative due to its musicality and message. This album simply transcends time, genres, categories, and ideas.

What I have learned from Cole is that music truly has a home in every heart surpassing time. It’s artists like Paula Cole that bring that universal connection together to all of us.


Buy Ballads on Amazon or her official site.

Visit Paula Cole’s official Website here.

Check out Ms. Cole’s Twitter and Facebook.

Protest Songs: Let’s Not Make Another List

The world is hurting. From the earthquake in Mexico, the hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and those being savagely ripped apart at the hands of war, lives are being stolen all around us.

The heart and soul of our nation, world, and human race are hurting, bleeding more and more with every catastrophe. What adds even more wounds to the mix is the attitudes of people. There are some amazing people with great means stepping up to help victims of these tragedies, yet the same political, cultural, and meanness of society is in full force.

Just go on any social media medium and scroll through the feeds. Hate is all around us, even in these most trying times. I will never understand how to look at others through the lenses of race, religion, sex, or orientation. None of that denies the basic rights of being a member of the human race.

Lately, I’ve been fascinated with “protest” songs. I like to call them songs with a purpose. There are great compositions from yesterday that both remind us of how far we’ve come, but even more so, how far we need to go. Here’s a list of a few songs speaking to me today.

1. “Strange Fruit”

“Strange Fruit” is one of the most haunting, socially aware songs ever produced. It laid the groundwork for songs with a purpose. It was truly the pioneer. What does it mean for us today? I never want to loosen this songs ties to the brutality the African American community faced in the past and current day, but for me, at this moment, the bodies in the trees are those that you choose not to associate with just because you are different. This can range from race all the way to political party. This disassociation only causes deeper divides amongst humans and provides nothing for solutions.

2.”Blowin’ In The Wind” 

This song was originally written by Bob Dylan and has been covered by countless artists. My favorite version, and I would argue the most popular version, is Peter, Paul, and Mary’s. As Paul points out in this video, this song is composed of 9 questions. Although for me, each question can only be answered by another question. The two questions that strike me the most are “How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?” and “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?” These questions were relevant in the 1960’s and they are especially relevant to this day, yet these question are so simple and can be easily answered.

3. “What’s Going On”

Again, I do not want to cheapen this song’s meaning to the people of African American decent and it’s purpose in the Civil Rights movement. I agree with every sentiment and hardship this song portrays against African Americans, but today so many more prejudices have come into light. The questions this song asks should be archaic. They should not even be applicable to today, yet here we are years later still wondering what’s going on.

4.”Mississippi Goddam”

Nina Simone’s voice on any track speaks straight to my soul, but this one catches me on a different level because she wrote it. The word “Mississippi” can be replaced with so many different locations like Ferguson, Charlottesville, or Flint, just to name a few. This song evokes anger, but more importantly it brings about frustration. It’s not about hiding our flaws as a society of humans, it’s about fixing them. Let’s never say “goddam” again.

5.”I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”

Although this song was originally made popular in the 1960’s by Nina Simone, I wanted to provide a more updated version for two reasons. First, I didn’t want to list two Nina Simone videos in this list, although you can never have enough of Ms. Simone. Second, I wanted to show how relevant this song is today. As I sit at my piano and look over this song, the line that always strikes me is “I wish I could share all the love that’s in my heart.” If we all showed love, with no strings attached, then there would be no reason for this list or a single “protest” song.

In the end, giving love and expecting nothing in return is all our world needs. It’s so simple that we just don’t get it. Even the best of us that try, will fail, but if we all work together, we can create a movement. There is a solution. Let’s start showing kindness through love today to prevent a list like this being created tomorrow.

Paula Cole, Ballads: Uncanny and Reverent

I listen to a lot of albums across every genre. I have found myself jumping from Peter Gabriel all the way to Beyoncé, while hitting every step along the way, during a days time. Some may say I have musical ADHD, I think I’m just well-rounded.

There are two categories of albums I listen to. “Albums I like” is the largest category. This consists of the albums I hear and binge on a daily basis. These albums generally rustle my feathers and often give me goosebumps. Then there are the albums that make me stop and say, “Whoa, that is what music sounds like.” Those are few and far between.

Courtesy of Paula Cole’s Facebook

Recently though, I have found one that has jolted me to a complete halt. That album isPaula Cole’s Ballads.

I can barely express how excited I am about this album. Once I listened to it on Spotify I immediately went to her website, ordered the vinyl version with signature, checked tour dates, and read countless articles on Cole’s career. I have never evangelized for an album, but I want to tell everybody about this masterpiece.

This is a Jazz album including many of the great standards like “God Bless The Child” and “Skylark.” But, then a wrench is thrown into the collection with such songs as “I Wish (I Knew How it Feels To Be Free)” and “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.” The album consists of 20 songs and was released by Cole independently on her 675 label.

So now it’s a Jazz/Folk/protest album. Also, did I mention it has a hint of Country?

Ok Gabe, breath, regain composure and try to write….too much greatness

The album begins with “God Bless The Child,” the Jazz classic written by Billie Holiday. The only word that can describe the orchestration to this arrangement is “rootsy.” It’s not your typical arrangement of Jazz, yet it completely encompasses everything that is Jazz. This idea stays with the entirety of the album.

Next, Cole goes into the protest song made famous by Nina Simone, “I Wish (I Knew How to Be Free).” Again Cole evokes an emotion that often gets lost in songs, and that is the core meaning. This song has specific historical significance, but she brought the song to me today and made it relevant. While listening to this song I began to question myself on what it would look like to be free.

The song asked a question, like many songs, but I have never wanted to answer so badly.

Courtesy of Rockport Music.

“I Wish” is perfectly coupled with Bob Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” later in the album. “Lonesome” is one of my top 5 of the entire album. The way Cole sing’s a story song is like a movie. The listener sees everything in detail. She talks about the longing for justice that was desperately needed in the 1960’s and needed now. Her voice literally becomes the rag to dry your tears. The movies continue with the songs “Ode To Billy Joe” and “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.”

Cole gives the uptempo jazz greats a new facade as well with songs like “Never Will I Marry, ” Nice Work If You Can Get It,” and “You Hit the Spot.” These songs show Cole’s skilled vocal technique and her accomplished talent as a vocalist. Not to mention her pitch perfect melancholy tones on the great standards like “You’ve Changed” and “Autumn Leaves.”

The greatest feat of this album is how it portrays Jazz music. All of Cole’s vocals are Jazz in style and soul. Jazz doesn’t belong to a certain instrument or vocal method, it belongs to the approach and deliverance of a song. Jazz encapsulates love, heartbreak, and justice in its purest forms.

Cole then adds a second element to this album. Early in this article, I mentioned how the album feels “rootsy,” but I want to go a step further. This album echoes the foundation of music as a whole. It goes down to the very roots that hold music upright today. This album not only covers some of the best songs ever written, it is a tribute to the great musicians that have shaped modern music.

Inherently, I know Cole collaborated, discussed, and had multiple outside influences, but in the end, she was the sole producer of this album. The framework began in her mind, while others added color, yet she filled in the final details. This album is a testament that Paula Cole is a master at the art of music.

The way Paula Cole weaves the themes of heartbreak, injustice, love, happiness, and sorrow seamlessly on one album is incredible. The album is so relevant it’s uncanny, yet so nostalgic it’s reverent.

Don’t wait for your life to be over to hear this one.


Visit Paula Cole’s official Website here. (Buy the vinyl)

Check out her Twitter here.

Check out her Facebook here.

Nina Simone, Baltimore: Still Speechless

Some artists you can’t figure out. These artists are often the ones I skip over when I’m choosing someone to write about. If I can’t emotionally get my mind and heart wrapped around their music and voice, how could I put words to it?

One of these artists is Nina Simone. Her voice is as sharp as a razor blade, as extravagant as a fur coat, yet as innocent and simple as a little girl. It penetrates your being and goes straight for the soul. Listening to her can be a spiritual experience.

From my personal collection

I have many of Simone’s albums and with each album, I find a new gem. Sometimes it could just be the way she stylizes a song differently, other’s it’s her own compositions. On one of my recent vinyl hauls, I found her 1978 album, Baltimore.

This album immediately took me by surprise. Nina Simone was singing reggae? I wasn’t complaining. I liked it. Songs like the title track “Baltimore” and her cover of Hall and Oates “Rich Girl” really show a different tone to her voice. It is different than every one of her previous studio albums and I think it was innovative.

Although, this change was not welcomed by Simone. We all know Simone was a complex lady, but I truly believe she had a beautiful soul. In 1977 famed jazz producer, Creed Taylor, signed Simone to his label CTI. Simone was not one to do what she didn’t want to, yet her comment’s made about this album proves she did just that. The sessions were tense and she eventually recorded the album’s vocals in an hour and a half.

Yet, a master piece was still born.

First, I was immediately hooked to the second song “Everything Must Change.” Simone’s vocals glide over the words of this song like second nature. At this point in her life, both personally and professionally, she had experienced change, while also not experiencing enough change. On this recording, Simone’s melancholy vocals continue to take on different shapes to each listener’s situation years later.

Then there is Simone’s second ballad of the album, “My Father.” The song’s lyrics make a complete circle, but Simone’s vocals fill in all the space between the words. It’s brilliance.

From last.fm

On side B I found Simone’s “melody” of traditional Christian songs intriguing. Through my experience with Simone, she doesn’t often give a higher power credit, but in “Balm of Gilead” and “If You Pray Right,” she does just that. Her voice sounds completely content and joyful in “Balm of Gilead,” which is taken straight from the Holy Bible. “If You Pray Right” takes on a complete gospel spin that really isn’t Simone, but it’s a vocal style that many African-American singers get type cast into. She is the High Priestess of Soul though, so she can preach like no other! It’s nice to hear Simone in these less heavy songs as she brings a new identity to both of them.

When I first heard the album I thought it was an interesting avenue Simone traveled down musically. Then I did the research and found that she was in essence, disgusted with the album, but the listener can’t hear that. She gives 110% to a project she distastes. Why?

Nina Simone both, self-perceived and in reality, lived on the back burner. People knew she was always going to give her all and they took advantage of that. Even this could not mask her genius interpretation of emotion.

I’m just going to have to end here because I simply can’t think of anything else to say. Again, Nina Simone has left me speechless.

Bond Villain: Simply Innovative

Lately, I have been listening to a lot of newer music. I go through phases. I generally listen to older artists. Sometimes I lose all hope in music being released today, then I find some kick ass artist that renews my hope in humanity. That happened.

From Bond Villain’s Instagram.

Last night, I tuned into Bond Villain’s Facebook Live. I recently heard their collaboration with Kimberley Locke on “Dangerous Woman,” and I thought it was legit music made with real talent (I’m also a sucker for anything Kimberley Locke lends her vocals too). Now it was time to give Bond Villain a shot on other material.

The first song they shared was “Dying Star.” This is one of their earlier compositions. In Bond Villain’s explanation, this song is about either a romantic relationship or about a family relationship. The song boils down to someone who is burning their life out. This is someone you love, yet they are toxic in where you are in your life right now.

When this song began I thought an army was marching, but then it transitioned to a simple piano riff that hooks you in. The vocals are the sinker. The song crescendos at the chorus giving way to a sound that was equally as epic, or more, as the beginning. The climax (bridge) of the song goes into a near military march of emotion, lyrically and musically, while ending with a simple piano. The song comes full circle.

Secondly, they shared “Body Like a Knife” This song is a little less heavy on lyrics while staying incredibly creative. This song is a mix of EDM, hip-hop, and pop. This song was made for the stage. It is filled with dramatic elements, including another epic bridge. Again, it’s the vocals that get you.

The next song “Let Me Go” is my personal favorite. This is a relatively new song for Bond Villain. He describes this song as a mix of emotions that are nostalgic, equating them to a place in your childhood. This place once meant something to you, but its meaning has changed. You find loved ones who had an impact on your life, but you now realize you are different now then who you were then.

For me, this song deeply relates to my life. I am upcoming on my one year anniversary of moving to New York from my childhood home of Oklahoma. As I reflect on the last year I have discovered a new person; a person, who I think is more of who I am. I have a lot of situations and people back home that I need to let go and that need to let go of me.

“Let Me Go” comes with another dramatic intro that immediately takes me home through its lyrics. I find myself walking the corridors of where my life once was (minus the cow patties). The chorus is mid-tempo, but the passion is astounding. It’s a precursor to what the song morphs into. The song then takes on a gospel vibe, with Bond Villain being joined by what sounds like choir. Locke lends her voice here to add some diversity in vocals, passion, and soul. This is the goosebump moment.

From Bond Villain’s Instagram

This song is a ballad in nature, yet it stretches the elements. “Let Me Go” moves ballads into a new era. It has the same sentiment of a ballad and the orchestration of the song has many of the same elements. What this song does is combine orchestration and vocals into one unit. You don’t hear a singer, then a piano, some beats, and back ups. You hear one full composition. This song is simply innovative. It’s moving into my favorite rack.

Lastly, Bond Villain shared the video of “Dangerous Woman” with Kimberley Locke. One would initially consider this song a cover of Ariana Grande, but really it’s anything but. Grande is the original singer, but Bond Villain and Locke make it completely new, bringing it a fresh identity through heavy piano and elastic vocals.

Tonight I listened to a lot of music. I always say my musical choices are a little ADD. I can go from one extreme to the other. That is what happened tonight, yet it came from one artist instead of many. This combination doesn’t show a lack of direction from Bond Villian, yet it creates determination. A determination that is willing to push music past it’s proper composition. A determination defined by a placement of a note beyond the staff. An idea that music is anything but restrictive.

Bond Villain is simply innovative.

———

Check out all his new songs here.

Visit Bond Villain’s official site here. (Seriously, buy a shirt)

Follow Bond Villain on Instagram and Twitter @BondVillianBand

Like Bond Villain’s Facebook here.

Kris Kristofferson: A Profound Experience

Last week I wrote about Diana Ross’ nearly perfect show. Although, that was not the only show I saw that weekend. Sunday I had tickets to see Kris Kristofferson as well.

It was sensory overload.

Now it’s easy to see the stark differences in Diana Ross and Kris Kristofferson. I hope this speaks to my diversity or mental instability. I went from turning upside down to hanging with Bobby McGee within 48 hours. That’s quite a stretch.

I received an email from a friend a few weeks ago with a link to Kristofferson’s show at The City Winery in NYC. Now I’m not a Kristofferson expert, but the tickets seemed irresistible. Oddly, I grew up watching A Star is Born, and I knew some of his songs. He reminded me of home, so I decided to buy.

Kristofferson left me speechless. I didn’t know what to say about his show, and I still don’t. The only word that I can find to describe his set is profound. Every note he sang, every lyric he wrote, every look he gave the audience was simply profound.

He sang a staggering 28 songs. These songs ranged from his hits like “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and “For The Good Times,” while also touching on some minor musical milestones. From the moment he began to sing I could not take my attention away from the stage.

During his show, he seemed to profess wisdom while singing the same songs he has sung for years. Instead of coming at them from just experience, his demeanor also led to advice. This concert was set in a winery and I felt like it was my grandpa and I having drinks together. Kristofferson wanted to give me advice so that I could have a better tomorrow.

The entire show told a story. It was a concept show. Although, I don’t think Kristofferson meant it in that way at all. Each song was a chapter. Every topic he sang about came to a head at the end of the show with the songs “The Pilgrim: Chapter 33,” “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” “Jesus Was a Capricorn,” and “Why Me.” I believe these 5 songs, some of Kristofferson’s best, describe both the high and low of his life and the topics he struggles with. Life may be tough, but he is just happy to be alive.

It was a simple show. The stage was just adorned with Kristofferson, his guitar, and harmonica. What struck me the most in retrospect is how relevant his songs are today. They have passed over generations and he is still writing. He finds a way to explain timeless truths in a language that will never be antiquated.

Seeing him live is surreal and truly a profound experience.

 

Diana Ross: A Concert Review: It’s Her House

When it comes to defining superstar look no further than Diana Ross. From the elegance of her smile to her ageless vocals, she is the entire package.

Recently, I saw Ms. Ross’ during her mini-residency at New York City Center. Her final night was Saturday. This was my fourth time seeing Ms. Ross in concert and although my pocket-book feels pain, I feel completely blessed.

Ms. Ross started the concert out with her iconic 1980’s anthem “I’m Coming Out.” The energy in the room was magnetic, drawing all eyes to the stage as one began to hear her fragile, yet demanding voice. The atmosphere turned electric when she stepped on stage.

She quickly followed with a near chronological order of some of her biggest hits and fan favorites. She started out with the timeless tunes from her tenure with the Supremes. These songs have lost none of their splendor with Ms. Ross. It’s nearly impossible not to sing along with her with the likes of “Baby Love,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and “Stop! In The Name of Love.” I don’t think she has aged a day since The Supremes 1962 debut.

It wasn’t soon that Ms. Ross turned to her everlasting solo career with some of her top dance/disco hits, “The Boss,” “Upside Down,” and “Love Hangover.” There are no words for the energy she produced in the room. A few lucky fans were even lucky enough to be chosen by Ms. Ross to come dance alongside her during “Upside Down.”

Although Ms. Ross knows how to throw a party with a song, some of my favorite moments of the concert were when she slowed it down and simply sang. “Touch Me In The Morning” and “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going Too)” are always amongst my favorite moments from each show I have seen of hers. For this concert, my favorite moment was when she embarked on Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain.” No one will ever be able to sing a song like Holiday, but Ross also proved that no one can sing a song like her.

Then Ms. Ross began to close the show. This is a process at one of her concerts. It’s hard to come off the high of Ross. She begins with her first solo hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” This song immediately had me on my feet. And yes, she can hit all the same notes she could when the song was released.

Then comes her cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” Again, it’s impossible to sit as she walks the stage in her 5th gown of the evening belting a number everybody relates too. This is her closing number, but there is always room for an encore if the audience properly requests it (I’ve been to shows where she hasn’t returned). She closed the night with another one of her early hits “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”

With each show I see of Ms. Ross’ I have always walked away amazed, not only from her pure musical talent, but the atmosphere she creates for an audience. When the music begins and her smile comes to the stage there is immediately a feeling of acceptance. When Ms. Ross sings she immediately erases your background, race, age, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Her music and presence bring people together. This atmosphere is created through the love she portrays for every fan. It’s seen in the halls of the auditorium and the random dance partners found all over the concert hall.

I had two thoughts as I walked away from this show. First, entertainers just aren’t constructed the same as they once were. Ms. Ross comes from a land where autotune didn’t exist and dancers were not a necessity. She is the fully rounded performer.

My last thought walking away was, “When’s the next show?” I think I could see her a dozen more times and still want to see her again. Not many artists do this for me, and I’m often a tough critic, but it’s not just the music that brings me back. It’s the memories and love that I have wrapped up in her music and celebrity and how she brings this element together amongst everybody in the room. That is what keeps me returning.

Basically, when Ms. Ross enters a room, she makes it her house.