A Modern Review: Goodbye June “Danger In The Morning”

Yesterday I did something I usually don’t do. I decided to look through the new releases on Spotify. I always love discovering new music, but I’ve lost hope in a lot of the artists that are coming out today. Everything just seems commercial and superficial. A person or band can’t just sit and play anymore, they need lights, dancers, and fireworks.

Well, except for Goodbye June.

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Courtesy of Twitter, @GoodbyeJune

I had never heard of Goodbye June until I found their newly released EP right next to the Britney Spears album on Spotify. I just pressed play to see what happened, without much hope, yet I was immediately hooked.

Goodbye June is made up of three cousins Landon Milbourn, Brandon Qualkenbush, and Tyler Baker. They formed the band after Baker’s brother was killed in a car accident while on leave from the military, which lended the band their name. They began focusing on their music after this tragic, life altering experience, and it is nothing short of authentic.

The EP opens with “Oh No,” a song with a “screw you” attitude. The song starts off with a bang and Milbourns vocals quickly grabbed me. This song teeters on rock, folk, country, and metal all at the same time. It was like Mumford and Sons meets Led Zepplin meets Chris Stapleton.

The next song, “Daisy,” was equally intriguing, talking about how that one lady can drive you crazy. They then go into the power anthem “Man of The Moment,” relishing in confidence. This song and “Oh No” seem to be related. That one lady seemed to have taken it too far, but these guys aren’t ones to lay down and die. They begin to sound reminiscent of Jack White, post White Stripes, but less chaotic.

Next comes “Darlin.” This ballad song knocks right at Led Zepplin’s door. I was hooked by its lyrics initially (“Darlin’ I don’t know what you’ve done to me, but it works and I hate it”), then the composition took over. The guitar is immaculate and the vocals as smooth as silk, yet as gritty as sand paper, same goes for the content. This is my favorite from the EP.

Lastly, they close with “Danger In The Morning.” This song mixes in heavy banjo that shows the guys southern and midwest roots. That mixed with heavy guitar rifts finishes this EP with a semi colon. For there seems to be a whole new thought brewing with this song and this EP is only serving as an introduction to the music to come.

In the end this EP can be summed up by a line from “Oh No:”

“I’ll take a bow and I’ll show you how to survive.”

For this EP may be over, but there’s a lot of staying power behind Goodbye June.

Connect with Goodbye June on Twitter, Facebook, and their official website.

 

Dusting My Shelves: Peter Criss “Kiss Solo”

Artist: Peter Criss  Album: Peter Criss (KISS Solo)

FullSizeRender 7I’ve always felt that Peter Criss was the step-child of Kiss. He never seemed to get the same credit or “buzz” in the media when it came to the other members. Although, he does have one of their most legendary hits, “Beth,” as the lead vocalist.

Since I visited Gene Simmon’s 1978 Kiss solo album last week, I thought it would be fitting to visit them all eventually. To be completely honest, I have listened to every Kiss solo album, but Peter Criss.’ I am guilty of not giving him a fair treatment as well.

This album opens with “I’m Gonna Love You,” a funky rock tune that easily fits in its 1970’s context. At the opening of this album Criss’ voice has a southern rock twang with some gravel.

Next comes “You Matter To Me.” This song immediately has some 70’s flair sounding almost disco-esque with its synthesizers. This was one of two singles released from this album. It’s easily one of the best tracks of the record. The other single was “Don’t You Let Me Down.” This song has the tendencies of a doo-wop band from the 1960’s, within a Hawaiian flair. An interesting track to say the least.

Side B opens with the Peter Criss the public was used to hearing solo. He trades in the piano ballad for a guitar on “Easy Thing.” The passion of this song is really felt in his vocals. This is the first time I truly feel Criss is comfortable on the album.

The record then goes into “Rock Me, Baby.” I found this song quite intriguing for it goes back to rock and roll’s roots with some “honky-tonk” piano stylings, while throwing in some horns. This wasn’t your average Kiss song. Criss then brings the ballad back with “Kiss The Girl Goodbye,” with, dare I say it, some Carpenter’s type stylings (in vocals only).

FullSizeRender 8Criss finishes the album with what would be your typical Kiss song, “Hooked On Rock ‘N’ Roll,” along with another ballad “I Can’t Stop The Rain.” Criss brings a vocal that is reminiscent of  Michael Bolton in his last ballad.

All in all, I feel like Criss really does get the short end of the stick when it comes to many of Kiss’ compositions. Although this isn’t my favorite of the solo albums, I feel it largely portrays Criss as being misunderstood. His album stands out as the least 1970’s “rock and roll,” but it shines a light on the inter-workings of Kiss.

This light shows that Criss’ is not behind the other members of Kiss in talent or intrigue, but that his artistry is made up of more contrasting elements. Now I am not up on my “Kisstory,” but I do know that Criss often had a rocky relationship with the band. This is obvious looking at his solo work.

His 1978 solo album really shows the beginning of what would soon lead to clashes within the band when it pertained to Criss. His makeup was just made up differently versus the rest of the members and this album portrays this difference. No pun intended.

Key Tracks: “You Matter To Me,” “I’m Gonna Love You,” ” Easy Thing”

Deep Cuts: “Kiss The Girl Goodbye,” “I Can’t Stop The Rain”

An Orchestra’s Need: Liza Minnelli, Results

In 1989 an odd, yet unparalleled event, occurred in the world of music. Liza Minnelli, known for her theatrical performances of classic songs and her impeccable acting both on stage and Broadway, decided to make a dance pop album.

FullSizeRender 6Often times I would almost shy away from this idea, a veteran singer taking on dance pop, but I have never seen the two mix so flawlessly. Minnelli teamed up with The Pet Shop Boys to produce this musical gem, her 9th studio album, Results.

Now I am a long time fan of Minnelli’s. I first saw the genius of Minnelli when I was a little under five in The Judy Garland Christmas Show. She performed “Steam Heat” from the musical The Pajama Game with Tracey Everett. This number had me instantly clicking my fingers. Later in the show, she sings “Alice Blue Gown,” a stunning performance to say the least.

As I got older and began collecting vinyl, I quickly started to pick everything up of Minnelli’s I could find. I soon had a stack of live recordings and albums full of American Songbook, jazz, pop, and easy listening standards. Minnelli is at home with a big band or just a piano and presents astute song interpretations. So when I came to the album Results, I was expecting the same…results.

At first, I thought I had picked up the wrong artist after hearing the first couple of beats! This album opens up with “I Want You Now.” This wasn’t the Liza I was used too. The song includes a rhythmic beat you could easily find at Studio 54. I was immediately taken a back.

Did Liza Minnelli just sing a pure dance tune with the conviction and deliverance she used with such songs as “Maybe This Time” and “But The World Goes Round?”

Damn straight.

FullSizeRender 5The album then goes into the lead single, Stephen Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind.” Now I was hooked. Only Minnelli could mix Sondheim and synthesizers. Her vocals could easily be lifted from this track and laid upon the traditional orchestration of this song and sound just as brilliant.

Then one meets the first ballad of the album, “So Sorry I Said.” Minnelli’s vocals simply flow over the consistent percussion and light keyboards. Her voice sounds unreservedly lush. She then finishes out side A with “Don’t Drop Bombs,” a song about a destructive relationship mixed with an irrefutable dance rhythm.

Side B opens with a mid-tempo song and one of the best tracks of the complete album, “Twist in My Sobriety.” This was a cover of Tanita Tikaram’s hit from 1988. Minnelli’s version opens with a remix of the chorus from her signature “Liza With a Z.” I feel this song is verbally unexplainable, but it makes complete sense at the same time. It seems to resonate with Minnelli as a personal testimony. She again reaches the core of a song.

Next is my personal favorite from the album, “Rent,” a ballad of emotion and strength. The strings and synthesizers effortlessly surround Minnelli’s voice to convey the message of giving up ambitions and self for comfort and responsibilities.

We then have Minnelli’s version of Yvonne Elliman’s disco hit, “Love Pains.” This song has the listener easily seeing lights flash mixed with lasers and strobes. This is a dance floor anthem made for commercialization.

Minnelli with The Pet Shop Boys. By Terry O'Neil. http://psb-atdeadofnight.net/spoluprace/collaboration.php

Minnelli with The Pet Shop Boys. http://psb-atdeadofnight.net

Minnelli closes the album with two ballad-esque songs. Both of these tracks are met with an interpretation that only Minnelli could present. First, there is “Tonight is Forever.” Minnelli sings with such command in her voice. I always enjoy a soaring high note from Minnelli, but this song simply doesn’t need it. Lastly there is “I Can’t Say Goodbye,” a perfect mid tempo song mixed with a jazzy saxophone rift to close this album.

What struck me the most about this album was its production and orchestration. Minnelli’s vocals are so in tune to the songs meaning and assembly that the instruments sound as if they are playing to her. It’s like her vocal track was laid down and then they decided to add music.

Minnelli has made a profound impact on both recorded music and the world of musical theater. There seems to not be an area of show business she cannot conquer. This album proves just that feat. She is the best at song interpretation and her talents transcend every musical genre. This album demonstrates this incredible talent, while showing Minnelli isn’t your typical singer.

Through Results I realized listening to Minnelli sing is like listening to an orchestra, for Minnelli doesn’t need instruments, instruments need her.

Dusting My Shelves: Gene Simmons “KISS Solo”

Artist: Gene Simmons  AlbumGene Simmons (KISS Solo)

I really do love Kiss. Their image is revolutionary and their music is timeless rock and roll. When they came out into the public they shook America’s pop culture to its core with their different costumes and on stage antics, and the inevitable meaning of KISS. *Rolls eyes*

The face that is most quickly identified amongst the members of Kiss is that of Gene Simmons. He is the demon and yes he does breathe fire. Pastors beware!!

Simmons is an excellent business man and has really helped construct Kiss into the product they are today. From t-shirts, coffee mugs, shower curtains and dolls, one can always find a Kiss product. I might have owned that shower curtain…

FullSizeRender 2Now back to the music. In 1978 all four members of Kiss released their own solo albums. There are varying accounts of why they did this with the most popular being that the band was starting to not get along so well. Basically, they needed a break from each other.

Simmon’s opens his album with a haunting laugh reminiscent of Vincent Price in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The album then goes into “Radioactive.” This song could easily be identified as a Kiss song with its obsessive guitar rifts and rhyming chorus. The same goes for the second track of the album “Burning Up With Fever.” Although, not easily heard by the untrained musical historian, this track does feature Donna Summer.

We then get treated to some soft rock vibes that continue throughout the record. This is easily heard in the tracks “See You Tonight,” “Always Near You/Nowhere to Hide,” and “Mr. Make Believe.”

Side two opens with the track “Living in Sin.” This track is an odd track that could easily be updated and be the theme song of the dating app Tinder. With lyrics such as “I know you write me sexy letters and you send your pictures for my wall” and “I’m living in sin
at the Holiday Inn,” one can feel a tad uncomfortable. This song is quickly redeemed though once one realizes the lady on the phone is Cher. I also believe she added some backing tracks. A cameo from Cher can never hurt, especially during her 1970’s heyday.

Side two goes on to “Man of 1000 Faces,” which has very Beatles-esque styling, incorporating  ear friendly melodies and a 1960’s pop feel. This song is also mixed with strings and horns, not something you expect from Simmons. He quickly returns to his rock and roll flare though with “See You In Your Dreams.”

1045078_10151748873836412_1047232890_nWhat shocked me the most about this album was the closing song. I thought the album was over until I heard a Disney like medley with Simmons continuing into “When You Wish Upon a Star.” I was definitely not expecting the Demon to cover Jiminey Cricket, but after reading about this album I found the profound meaning behind the reason Simmons chose to record this song.

“When I first heard that song I could barely speak English but I knew the words were true. Anybody can have what they want, the world and life can give its rewards to anyone.”

This song gave a young Simmons, an immigrant from Israel, inspiration for his new life in America. I absolutely love that and the fact that he covered this song going against every fiber of the image KISS had built.

What I really discovered about Simmons while listening to this album was he is kind of a softie. Not in a bad way though. I just alway think of him as breathing fire or spitting blood for the sake of entertainment, but underneath all the showmanship is a true artist. He wrote nearly each song on this album and there are some great lyrics to be had. This album will make you see a completely new side to Simmons. I find this album to truly be the first time he was “unmasked” and vulnerable with his audience, showing some of his core emotions.

I guess one could say he is a sentimental demon.

Key Tracks: “Radioactive,” “Living in Sin,” “See You In Your Dreams”

Deep Cuts: “True Confessions,” “Mr. Make Believe,” “When You Wish Upon a Star”

Dusting My Shelves: Steve Lawrence, “Winners!”

Artist: Steve Lawrence     Album: Winners!

I adore Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé. Every album they made as a duo or as solo artists I can spin continuously. There is a carefree, genuine love that comes with their albums made together and their solo vocal chops are equally golden.

IMG_2964One of my favorite albums out of Steve Lawrence’s catalog is his 1962 album Winners! This record contains the number one hit single “Go Away Little Girl,” co-written by a then unknown Carole King.  Bobby Vee originally recorded this song earlier in 1962.

Winners! is an album of cover songs. The idea behind the album was to find previous song “winners” and let Lawrence give them his golden take. Listening to this album one would never guess that Lawrence was covering other’s songs because he makes each song his own.

The album starts with “Cotton Fields,” which was originally recorded by Huddie Ledbetter in 1940. This is a quick audience grabber as Lawrence’s vocals swoon over this folk classic. Later he goes into Connie Francis’ smash hit, “Who’s Sorry Now?” This is one of the high points of the album. He takes this song and turns it completely on its head. His vocals are confident and crisp, and all but resist the stinging tone of an “I told you so.” Lawrence’s vocals have class and debonair wrapped into one.

The second side of this album contains “Go Away Little Girl,” but the treasures on this side are Lawrence’s covers of Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, and Jack Jones. I would think it would be a bold move for Lawrence to cover his contemporaries songs, but the orignal artist names don’t even cross your mind when listening to his versions.

Lawrence’s smooth vocals gently caress “All The Way,” while he portrays determination to never give up on the one he loves. His rendition of “Moon River” starts out with the conventional beginning, but he ends it with a big band. Lastly, he covers one of my personal favorites, “Lollipops and Roses.” He again is backed by a big band and he gives this song a less vulnerable feel then the original, portraying faith and confidence in his romantic tactics.

FullSizeRenderBesides the fact that I like this album, it is special to me for other reasons. I sent my album cover with a writing I did over an album Steve and Eydie made to an address I found for Lawrence. It was a shot in the dark, but I wanted to try to get his autograph. It wasn’t much more than a week later he sent it back to me with the inscription

“To Gabe, Thanks for all the wonderful things you said about me and Eydie. All the best to you. Fondly, Steve Lawrence.”

This album holds a special spot on my shelf, for both its recordings and the special inscription Lawrence sent to me. As a vocalist myself I consider him one of my models. As a writer I could not be more thrilled that he actually read my post over him and his late wife Eydie Gormé.

Lawrence is just a class act and his vocal cords are plated in gold.

Key Tracks: “Go Away Little Girl,” “Kansas City,” “It’s Not For Me To Say”

Deep Cuts: “All The Way,” “Who’s Sorry Now,” “Teach Me Tonight”

I Was There…Sort Of– Bobby Darin: Darin At The Copa

rSometimes you find an album that makes you ponder 3 ideas:

  1. I wish this album would never end.
  2. If only time machines were real….
  3. Why the hell wasn’t I born decades ago?

These were my exact thoughts this week as I listened to Bobby Darin’s Darin at The Copa. Unfortunately, I am just now getting into the world of Darin, but he has quickly become one of my new favorites and this album solidified his distinct spot on my shelves.

I have been doing research on Darin and I think it is only fitting for my first post about him to be about this album for both his history and my sake. First, there is the matter that Darin performed this album at the Copacabana (Yes, the one with Lola). After doing some research on Darin, I found that this was his dream venue. He always wanted to play the Copa just like Frank Sinatra, except he wanted to sell more seats. Second, since moving to the New York City area, I am finding the historical music scene that surrounds this town fascinating and I can’t help but tear up when I wonder across these pieces of history.

This album is a collection of songs from Darin’s first appearance at the Copa. By the time his first stint at the Copa concluded, he had shattered their attendance records and performed to rave reviews in nearly every New York publication. He must have been the envy of every performer who regularly frequented the dinner club scene in New York and I think he is still the envy of many young performers today.

Darin At The Copa opens with a medley of an African-American spiritual, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and a song written in the same tone and style, “Lonesome Road.” “Chariot” is a traditional spiritual that has been around since the early 1900’s, whereas “Lonesome Road was written by Nathaniel Shilkret and Gene Austin in 1927 in the style of an African-American spiritual to wide commercial success. Darin pulled these off effortlessly and arranged the medley himself. It was a daring move for the young performer. This album was recorded in 1960 and he was promoting African-American song stylings. Proving, as I have discovered he often does, that he was always a few moments before his time. Change was already long overdue.

Next, Darin goes into the standard “Some of These Days,” followed by his smash hit “Mack The Knife.” He then dives into the music of Cole Porter with “Love for Sale” and “You’d Be Nice to Come Home To.” “Love For Sale” is one of the biggest highlights of the entire album. He sings this song with a finesse of deception and loneliness. He took advantage of his vocals here and went rogue compared to many singers of the day. He then closes side A with another one of his hits, “Dream Lover.”

Side B opens with another song arranged by Darin, “Bill Bailey.” Oddly, this song also has roots in “Dixieland” and African-American tradition. This underlying tone shows that Darin was trying to be a change agent of the time not only with his vocals, but with his social conscience.  He then goes into the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, “I Have Dreamed” showing he had the vocal ability as a classic singer and superb song interpreter.

Darin then goes deeper into his jazz stylings with “Alright, O.K., You Win.” This optimistic tune admits the spell a woman has over a man and is then coupled with a medley of “By Myself” and “When Your Lover is Gone.” “By Myself” is one of my favorite compositions and Darin sings this song with the heartbreak tone this song deserves. Next, he mixes the jazz scene up by throwing in his interpretation of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman,” on which he also played the piano. Lastly, he closes out the album with a song he claims helped start this direction of his career, “That’s All.”

Then, against my wishes, the album concludes.

This record had me sitting at the center table of the Copa watching Darin’s electric performance in

American singer and film actor Bobby Darin (1936 - 1973) rehearsing in London. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

American singer and film actor Bobby Darin (1936 – 1973) rehearsing in London. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

person. I literally looked at my needle a few times to see if it could contain the music. Darin’s pure energy resonates with the listener 56 years later, as if the listener was there. Listening to this album is being in the presence of Darin. His vocals, energy, character, and personality shone as bright as it did in 1960.

I’m afraid if I was at the performance, I might have needed shades.

This album proves that a singer never truly passes and that their impact can touch countless generations through black gold (and if you like that digital stuff). The mastering of this album is done to perfection. I am amazed how Darin was able to jump from Cole Porter to Ray Charles, while mixing in his own compositions and arrangements. This vinyl caught a performer in their natural habitat and captured a brilliant moment in both Darin’s catalog and music history.

With this album, I was able to catch a glimpse of Darin’s high-octane performance style that every performer should strive for. This album also shows the true art of performance and it sadly proves it’s demise in our overly commercial, mechanical, music industry.

Which makes me ask the profound question…..why the hell was I born in 1990?

 

 

Dusting My Shelves: Judy Garland In Song

I recently realized that I have a lot of vinyl records. Some would say too many, but I say you never have enough vinyl. So I have decided to finally dust my selves and unearth the many gems I have yet to write about, thus I am starting a new series. Some reviews may be short, some long, but this will be a journey of rediscovering the music I already have on my selves.

In other words I’m broke and cannot buy any new records at the moment.

Presenting Post 1 in “Dusting My Selves:” Artist: Judy Garland Album: Judy Garland in Song

Everybody that knows me will tell you that I absolutely adore Judy Garland and her seemingly endless, multifaceted, unexplainable voice. She is by far one of my favorite artists and she is pretty damn close to being my down right, undisputed favorite.

I own many of Garland’s albums, from her Capital years to compilations to live performances. There isn’t much more I can write about this superstar. Yet, each Garland album spurs new emotions, thoughts, and insights into this magnificent performer. I just cannot keep them to myself.

IMG_2943Last night I began my venture through Garland’s catalog with a compilation album, Judy Garland In Song. This is an album released of many “staple” songs from Garland’s MGM movie career released by Metro Records. This album was probably an effort to seize on the success of Garland’s performances post MGM.

This album covers everything from “Over The Rainbow” from The
Wizard of Oz
 to “Last Night When We Were Young” from In The Good Old Summertime. Oddly this collection leaves out “The Trolley Song” from Meet Me In St. Louis.

Each tune is a gem on this album with my favorites being “Get Happy” from Summer Stock, “You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun” from Annie Get Your Gun, of which Garland was unable to finish, and “I Don’t Care” again from In The Good Old Summertime. The songs take a journey through Garland’s voice from her adolescent years to early twenties, although they are not in order.

What struck me with this album is the emotional awareness Garland possessed at such an early age. Emotion is raw in Garland’s voice and that was apparent from the very beginning. This album also proved how versatile a performer and actress she was as well. Listening to songs from her movies back to back are nearly like listening to a chameleon sing!

To think that Garland was essentially just getting started when she recorded these songs is remarkable. We still nearly had two more decades of songs, performances, and films to come from this legendary artist. Garland and her voice were in their formative years at the point of these recordings. She still had a lot more in store for the world.

Key Tracks: “Over The Rainbow,” “Get Happy,” “You Made Me Love You”

Deep Cuts: “Better Luck Next Time,” “Last Night When We Were Young,” “Bel Mir Bist Du Schon”