DAVID BERKELEY “The Faded Red And Blue”, A Peaceful Protest

The United States is going through troubled times. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you sit; the US is fighting many cancers. One of the most significant ailments facing the nation right now is division.

This division runs deep, from disagreeing over policies to human rights, many Americans find themselves willingly huddled in a corner without room to budge. Many artists have spoken out on this harsh reality, yet David Berkeley does it differently in his newest EP, The Faded Red and Blue.

Check out the full article here on HAUS Music + Sound. 

ALBUM REVIEW: Jenna Nicholl’s, Radio Parade

Some albums take you back in time, while others make time irrelevant. Radio Parade by Jenna Nicholls is one of those albums.

Released in 2018, Radio Parade consists of seven songs. Each song has a distinct narrative, yet they are cohesive. The album’s orchestrations range from ukuleles to steel guitar all mixed with jazz undertones. It takes you back in time while standing staunchly in 2019.

For the full article check out Haus Music + Sound Spotlight.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Judds, ‘Christmas Time with The Judds’

Every year I have a tradition. I’ll be honest and say I do love Christmas music but there is one album, in particular, I can’t go a year without listening to. That album is Christmas Time with The Judds.

I’m a big fan of The Judds — and I always have been. I listen to them throughout the year, every year. In December, though, I dedicate my ears to this classic country Christmas album…

Read the full article here on Nashville Noise.

ALBUM REVIEW: Believe Again, 20 Years of Cher’s “Believe”

Some hits are timeless, while others eventually fall to the wayside. It’s safe to say that Cher’s 1998 hit, “Believe,” is here for good.

It has been 20 years since Cher released this iconic single, accompanied by its equally trailblazing album. The album Believe comes off the heels of Cher’s 1995 album, It’s A Man’s World. Although It’s A Man’s World truly shows the scope of Cher’s vocals, it was a commercial failure, only selling 700,000 copies worldwide to this day.  Believe came at a “do or die” moment in Cher’s career…..

Read the full article here on VENTS Magazine.

ALBUM REVIEW: BeBe Neuwirth, Porcelain

l have fallen in love with the story song. It’s an avenue I’ve always liked, but I had never heard a story song sung by BeBe Neuwirth before till recently. There are not many words that describe her talent, besides genius and brilliant. Her 2011 album Porcelain leaves everything on the table. Nobody tells a story as complete as Ms. Neuwirth.

Now many of us know Neuwirth as Lilith Sternin Crane from Cheers and Fraser and for her show-stopping performances on Broadway. Since moving to New York, I have tried to immerse myself in Broadway performers, so once I found out Neuwirth was a Tony winner, I prayed for solo work.

I quickly found Porcelain and I have had the album in constant rotation since. This record overwhelms me in story, interpretation, and style. Neuwirth cannot simply sing a song, she becomes the song. One cannot see music, but Neuwirth brings each song to near visual life.

With this album Neuwirth, a professionally trained and accomplished dancer uses her dancing techniques through a new channel, her voice. This album opens with “The Bilbao Song.” Each line is met with grace and poise as she tells the story of Bill’s Beer Hall in Bilbao. These elements allude the entirety of the album.

A few tracks later, Neuwirth invites us to the blues, the famous Tom Waits anthem. With “Invitation To The Blues,” Neuwirth is able to massage these lyrics into a new identity. She gives this song brass and vulnerability in this cabaret arrangement. One can feel the dusty hotel room and smell the cigarette smoke.

My personal favorite comes in at track 5. “Mr. Bojangles” is a well-known song done by some of the elites, but like I’ve said before, nobody tells a story like Neuwirth. She takes you on an emotional journey of complete happiness to complete sorrow with a resolve of contentment. Her vocal phrasing nearly brings me to tears as she sings about Mr. Bojangles’ dog passing, yet I smile as she tells the story of his dancing career. This song is one of complete brilliance.

One cannot ignore the Kander and Ebb classics “Ring Them Bells” and “But The World Goes Round.” Each of these songs I knew previously from different artists, but their inertia didn’t hit me the same. Neuwirth tells the story of Shirley Devore with humor to a hoppy piano accompaniment that can only make one smile.

Then there is the passion she gives “But The World Goes Round.” Again, I can feel the kicks in the shins as Neuwirth’s voice whirls around this piece. It’s a big finish and Neuwirth gives her body and soul in this simple arrangement.

This same passion is quietly channeled in another Waits’ classic, “Shiver Me Timbers,” with the final closing of the album “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Again, one can visualize the sand shiftin’ as Neuwirth caresses “Shiver me Timbers.”  All the familiar places come to life in “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Her voice is fragile, as if it can be harmed by a feather, as she bids farewell to a lost lover….or is it her audience?

Neuwirth is divine. That’s the only word I can find to describe her performance on this album. As I mentioned before, one cannot see music. Even as a singer sings, one cannot tangibly grab a note. The closest visual we get to music is from dancers. That’s exactly what Bebe Neuwirth’s voice accomplishes through each story she tells.

ALBUM REVIEW: Cher, 3614 Jackson Highway

Life is supposed to be a hit, much like this album.

With all the ups and downs of life lately, I found myself in some tough situations. I have questions from my career to finances, and there doesn’t seem to be a concise decision. My life status is complicated.

 

This was the exact situation Cher found herself in when she released her 1969 album 3614 Jackson Highway. It had been a few years since Cher or Sonny and Cher had a hit. Their record label ATCO were hoping to change that with this record. Instead of stringing together another standard pop album, they wanted to essentially reproduce what had happened with Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis. They wanted to give Cher a “soul” and “blues” feeling with the top studio musicians.

This is an album of mostly covers with a few newer compositions. Covers were nothing new for Cher. She had done many Bob Dylan covers on her previous albums, but this time they were going to be delivered via Muscle Shoals Sound Studios (Fun fact: Cher was the first to record at their then “new” studio, 3614 Jackson Highway). This was also her first album not produced by Sonny Bono.

The album starts with the Buffalo Springfield cover “For What’s It’s Worth.” This rootsy, almost southern rock arrangement, gives Cher’s voice a completely new venue. The first true gem of this record comes in “(Just Enough to Keep Me) Hangin’ On.” Although this song is a lukewarm song on love, Cher’s voice literally sounds like mascara stained teardrops. This theme continues throughout many of the album’s later cuts.

One can’t ignore her version of “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of The Bay.”  You can hear the dreams in Cher’s voice as she dips her toes in the bay. Side A closes with “I Walk on Guilded Splinters,” a cover from Dr. John. Lyrically, this song serves as a precursor to Cher’s future career.


Side B belongs to the ballads, although songs like “Cry Like a Baby” definitely deserve an honorable mention. Cher completely owns the ballad “Please Don’t Tell Me.” This song, again soaked with mascara-stained tears, jars the heart into vulnerability. It places you in the most helpless, yet loving moment. It’s a perfect leeway into the album’s conclusion “Save The Children.” Then there is Cher’s version of “Lay, Baby, Lay,” a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay.” Cher uses her seductively rich vocals to bring this song a new facade.


 

In my life, I have been learning to find my own voice, and that is what sets this album apart from everything Cher had made previously. This album is in Cher’s voice. She sounds as if she is talking to you from across the table about her hopes, aspirations, and heartbreak, set to a rootsy, Americana, and blues background.

Yet the album was a commercial failure. The critics loved it, but the album itself bombed on the charts stalling at number 160.

So I sit here, 49 years after this album, and I feel a deep connection to it emotionally. Cher’s vocals have always been underrated, and she has truly spoken straight to my being with this album. Life is meant to be a hit, but sometimes we walk through valleys, but they result in beauty.

So let’s look on our past and present struggles through the lens of beauty. Looking back, it will only be a stepping stone to greatness. Basically, we are all a hit. We may be a commercial failure now, but we could be a gypsy, tramp, or thieve tomorrow….or something along those lines.

Check out some of my other articles on Cher:

Cher, Dressed to Kill: There Is no “If,” It’s When

Vinyl Playlist: Slaying Since The 60’s, Happy Birthday Cher!

Vinyl Music Review: Sonny and Cher, The Wondrous World of Sonny and Cher

ALBUM REVIEW: Janet Jackson, Damita Jo – BLACKLISTED

Since I cannot quite get through Justin Timberlake’s new album, I have continued to listen to Janet Jackson. Partly in protest to his halftime show, and partly because she is exceptional.

It’s really a shame though. Since 2004, Jackson has released 4 studio albums of brand new music. Not one of these albums has reached the success it deserved. Like I’ve stated before, it’s not her best work (because you can’t top Janet or The Velvet Rope), but it’s not shabby. It’s the classic R&B Jackson has always provided for us with each album.

To continue my series of blacklisted albums by Janet Jackson, I decided to look at her immediate follow up to “Nipplegate,” Damita Jo. 


Damita Jo was released 5 weeks after the Super Bowl performance. Viacom and Clear Channel’s ban of Jackson’s singles and videos contributed to its underperformance. I’m not going to be a Jackson purest. Damita Jo is not Jackson’s best work, but there are some incredible gems within this album.

The album opens up with another one of Jackson’s classic interludes that introduce you to the tone of the album. We are then met with the upbeat and autobiographical “Damito Jo,” before heading straight into an uptempo sex scene with “Sexhibition” and “Strawberry Bounce.” All three songs are incredibly aesthetic to the ear.

Next, we come into the album’s groovy and funky portion with the songs “All Nite (Don’t Stop),” “R&B Junkie,” and “I Want You.” What’s fun about these songs, besides the beat, is Jackson’s vocal tone. She isn’t using her normal sensual purr, but she is dancing with her voice. They slightly compare to “Scream,” her duet with Michael Jackson, in the fact that they push Jackson out of her comfort zone.  The same happens with the closing song “Just a Little While.”

The last takeaway I had from this album is “Thinkin’ Bout My Ex.” With the song’s beginning guitar rift to its smooth chorus, this song returns Jackson back to her sensual side with a flush of vulnerability.


What I really took away from this album is how every one of Jackson’s albums since Rhythm Nation 1814 listens like a novel. Each album is perfectly curated into themes (scenes) with narrative introductions (interludes) while cumulating in a resolved ending.

This album deserves a lot more praise then what it received in 2004. The reviews were tainted with “Nipplegate” influences, instead of objective musical reviews. Although this album did not get its time in the light and greatly underperformed compared to Jackson’s previous releases, it still went on to be certified platinum.

This album shows, even in the face of adversity, it’s hard for Jackson to make a flop.


Check out my first article in my Jackson Blacklisted series here.

Check out my halftime protest playlist of Jackson’s music here.