Coldplay: Parachutes; I’m Growing With It

I recently found out a friend is a really big fan of Coldplay, and that may be an understatement. He has seen them approximately 27 times since the beginning of their career.

Again, I am late to the game. I have never given Coldplay a fair listen. It’s not that I don’t like them. In 2011 I did purchase their album Mylo Xyloto and I loved it. I planned on getting into their music more, but then some other artist happened. Which speaks to the mantra of my life; so many artists, so little time!

Since my friend had such a conviction about the greatness of Coldplay, I decided it was time to dive into their catalog. I’m determined not to become distracted again (Well, until the next record sale). So I got on Discogs and purchased their first album from 2000, Parachutes.

On my initial listen I thought Coldplay was boring. It wasn’t anything like the album Mylo Xyloto. The album seemed melancholy and I really didn’t get excited about any of the songs. A few stuck out to me, but nothing I was going to put on repeat. Convinced this must not be one of their best albums, I texted my friend and expressed my feeling of indifference. I asked him if this was a boring album. Maybe there is better things to come? A progression in artistry if you will.

His reply: “It’s one of their best.” Clearly, I was missing something.

I gave it a second listen and read all the lyrics along with the songs. Then I gave it a third listen. Sometimes I find myself hating an album on it’s initial listen, but I fall in love with it on the third and fourth. Yet with Parachutes, I still find myself in the middle.

This album is not my favorite (at the moment), but it has given me a deeper respect for Chris Martin and Coldplay as a whole. I think Martin is a brilliant vocalist and the band writes intuitive lyrics. I do find this album fascinating, because often times the musical tones of the music do not match the lyrics.

As I listen to this album more, I am finding it more appealing and I am beginning to relate to their music. Oddly, I feel it somehow get’s me. The music is alive. Each song is up for interpretation, which gives this album an “I’m here for you” tone.

I may have gone off the deep end here.

My takeaways from this album are “Spies,” Yellow,” “Trouble,” and “Everything’s Not Lost” with “High Speed” coming in very close. These tunes are growing on me more and more, and I’m finding myself liking new songs with every listen.

So really I cannot write much about this album for I cannot figure it out, but I like it. I’m not ready to move on to Coldplay album two because this one has so many facets to it. This speaks to the brilliance of the album. How does an album that is nearly 17 years old speak relevance to listeners today? **Mind Blown**

So I would say that my Coldplay journey is starting out rather interesting. I’m excited about listening to their next albums like I haven’t been for a “new” artist in a long time. Martin’s voice has many layers and together the band makes penetrating melodies. Not to mention the lyrics are like clay and mold to different situations.

Parachutes is going to be on repeat for the next week. Although I feel this album is not going to grow on me, instead I’m going to grow with it.

Happy Birthday Amy Winehouse: Reliving “Frank”

Today Amy Winehouse would have been 33 years old, had numerous more critically acclaimed albums under her belt, and multiple Grammys to go with them.

Winehouse was before her time, yet she was also a beacon of the past. Her vocals proclaimed a renaissance in modern music while being distinctly reminiscent of legendary vocalists past. I cannot find a word that penetrates to the core of Winehouse’s artistry. She was simply unexplainable and for me, completely intriguing.

fullsizerender-9Although Winehouse is mostly remembered for her album Back to Black, in which she won five Grammy awards, her previous record Frank is just as memorable. This album is one of the best compositions of the 21st century and is a must for every lover of music. It doesn’t belong to any one genre.

This album has a completely different vibe then Back to Black. It again defies all genres, but in a different way. Throughout this album Winehouse’s vocals remind me of a pure jazz singer, but not every song is necessarily jazz or has jazz elements.

The essence of jazz music is that each time you sing a jazz song it can be sung a different way through different stylization and emotion. It’s truly an artist’s genre and is completely freeing to the vocalist. This is where Winehouse’s vocals lie in Frank, completely free.

Frank begins with the song “Stronger Then Me.” Like most of the tunes on this album, this song is co-written by Winehouse. This song mixes R&B, soul, and jazz. Winehouse sing’s over these lyrics with her distinct brass and sarcasm. This song sets the tone for the entire album.

Although Winehouse is distinctively wanting someone stronger than her current boy, she immediately goes from the woman in charge straight into the one down position with “You Sent Me Flying.” This sentiment is quickly forgotten as she sings about her new friend, “Cherry,” who has now taken the place of her boy. I’ve never heard someone explain a guitar so affectionately.

Moving on down side A, we have the song this album is most known for, “F*ck Me Pumps.” The lyrical content of this song is about those women that seem to make clubbing a living while seeming to live shallow lives, when they actually just want to settle down. We all know the ones. This is a hard one not to get caught in your head with its addicting rhythm and piano riff.

Another standout on side A is “Moody’s Mood For Love,” a classic jazz  song that has been covered by many artists. This song really shows how savvy Winehouse is in pure jazz. I can just imagine her singing this in an underground jazz club in NYC. This sound parlays into side B.

fullsizerender-10Side B opens with “Take The Box.” This is one of the prize possessions of this album. “Box” takes a ballad turn, while keeping a consistent R&B beat. The metaphorical lyrics are nearly brilliance and I find them to be some of Winehouse’s finest. This song is easily coupled with “What is It About Men?,” which follows the same vibe, yet with a sensual touch.

As I walk away from this album, I am just as intrigued with Winehouse as I was the first time I heard her voice. What I find truly exquisite is how this record reads like a story-book filled with poetry. You can find different meaning in each song depending on your emotional and physical surroundings, but each has a distinct setting. The same goes for Winehouse’s vocals. They are a never-ending book. There is always something new and profound to find in her stylings.

So today we celebrate her life and music that will last decades. Her legacy is much like that of Buddy Holly’s, although her career short, her influence in music is permanent. This album was named Frank due to her “frank” telling of the truth and also in tribute to Frank Sinatra, one of her biggest influences. This album and everything that proceeded was bound to be legendary.

Now only time will measure the legacy and footprint that Amy Winehouse has left on music. Happy Birthday to this beautiful songstress. May you rest in peace while taking another seat too soon in that heavenly choir.

 

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.

sdy6zg4h

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.

 

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: 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”

Good Charlotte: It’s Been a While Old Friend

It’s time to bust out my MADE hoodie and LeVel 27 shirts. Good Charlotte is in the house.

I have been a long time fan of GC, as I have chronicled before (check out my review over The Young and The Hopeless here and my review of The Madden Brother’s Greetings from California here). When I heard they were releasing a new album, I was pretty excited. I could once more hear my mom shriek as she saw Benji and Joel’s tattoos and become flabbergasted by such “hard rock” music from the early 2000’s. Good Charlotte and their image was not quite like the Nsync and Backstreet Boys albums I usually asked for.

FullSizeRenderNow let’s jump back 11 years to the present. I have relentlessly jammed out to GC music since and their last album, Cardiology, had me wondering where the band would go next. Well, wifes and babies is what came next for the members of GC. Unfortunately, I’m still single and my dog died last year.

Furthermore, GC has now released their brand new album Youth Authority. The guys always seem to make an album that stops me dead in my tracks and this album is not an exception.

The lyrics, song choices, instrumentation, and content of Youth Authority have matured from their previous records, but there is still that rebellious flair. The sound of the album may seem lighter at first listen, but the treasure of this record is in the lyrics. This album also doesn’t disappoint in the sound I believe GC created, a universal pop/punk sound.* This is truly an album for the fans.

*Disclaimer: I’m not putting their music down by calling it “pop.” I simply am saying that their music crosses over rock and pop charts causing more people to hear their message and their music. It’s a good thing.

The album begins with “Life Changes,” a song of survival and defying the odds. The key lyrics to remember in this song is “You know that love changes. The pain, it rearranges,” for this sets the tone for the entirety of the album.

From @GoodCharlotte's twitter

From @GoodCharlotte’s twitter

The album then goes into its three singles, “Makeshift Love,” “40 oz. Dream,” and “Life Can’t Get Much Better.”  “Makeshift Love” is a more optimistic and slightly sarcastic take on the GC fan favorite, “My Bloody Valentine.” If only there was a triage for the poor boy in that song. “40 oz. Dream” is an ode to what every 1990’s and 2000’s kid misses about what music used to be. The lifestyles of the rich and famous seemed to have hijacked our sound.

“LIfe Can’t Get Much Better” is one of my favorite tracks off the album. This song comes at a slower pace and contemplates the goodness of life that comes with time. The members of GC have been through a lot and it seems they are finally in a place of contentment with this song.

Flipping the record to side B truly solidifies what GC’s message is with this album. This side opens with “Stray Dogs,” a fun song admitting that our other “halfs” really do make up the best of us. Then we have “The Outfield,” a song directed straight at those of us who were once young and hopeless.

I find “Cars Full of People” and “War” to be the lyrical highlights of this album.”Cars” speaks of the people who reek judgement, but never stop to see the actual situation. This is a song of survival and it contains a middle finger to all naysayers. “War” speaks of the war we go through in our lives, but also the war one is willing to pursue for others. Underneath these lyrics this is a song of love and loyalty.

Thus, I find this album to have three resonating themes: survival, finding yourself in others, and never-changing who you are.

First we have survival. The members of GC have survived many hardships and they faced a  lot of people who didn’t think they could make it, let alone last. This is obvious in tracks like “Life Can’t Get Much Better” and “Moving On.” All members of GC have found themselves in different industries flourishing with success. They have survived this storm and proven many wrong.

Inspiring liner notes from Benji Madden.

Inspiring liner notes from Benji Madden.

Next is how the guys have found themselves in others. It’s all about love and hugs here. So many of these songs are what I consider “you” songs, which are songs that point to someone else who has helped you discover who you are while becoming inseparable to who you have become. They make fun of themselves over this topic in the song “Stray Dogs” while getting serious in songs like “War.” This aspect was also obvious in “Makeshift Love.” On the surface, this song is about a bad relationship, but it is set in the past tense.

Lastly, there is the theme of never-changing who you are, amidst any circumstance. Each member of GC’s lives has taken a 180 since we last heard from them, yet their music still carries the same demeanor and they still play on the same topics. The difference with this album is that their lives have now progressed and evolved around these topics. I found this message in “40 oz. Dream” and “The Outfield,” amongst almost every other track.

Right now in my life I have made a huge move to New York. It’s a world of difference from Oklahoma, but I am welcoming the change. I am progressing. Sure I have my naysayers and a huge fear of failure, but I know I will make it somehow. I’m working toward the lives GC has found and this album inspires the strength of perseverance within me.

Thank you Good Charlotte.

Although, in retrospect, when looking at GC’s entire career, this album has inspired me to move on and realize great things are in store like…

Life. Love. Truth. Trust. Faith. Pride. Love.

 

The Sounds of Haggard and Williams

Last Friday I had the pleasure of seeing Leona Williams in concert. I was excited to see this country legend and she didn’t disappoint. After the show she even talked to my friends and I for around an hour over her career. It was a music fan’s heaven.

Williams has a really interesting history in country music. Besides having her own chart successes and performing at the Grand Ol’Opry, she worked in Loretta Lynn’s first touring band, has written numerous number one hits, and worked with the best in the business. She was also married to that one guy Merle Haggard. Have you heard of him?

IMG_2527With all my new facts in mind I decided I needed to visit some of her albums in my collection. I decided to start with her 1983 duet album with Haggard, Heart to Heart. Although none of these songs were as chart successful as their previous duet “The Bull and The Beaver,” this album still holds many diamonds that often go unnoticed.

For the most part Heart to Heart is a pretty mellow album. Side A has the only two songs that Williams and Haggard penned together.  First there is “Let’s Pretend We’re Not Married Tonight.” This song speaks about forgetting about all the idiosyncrasies that come with marriage and just enjoying each other once more. This song has a twist and fits right into any classic country catalog.

Then there is “We’re Strangers Again.” This closes out side A with heartbreak only country music could capture. This amiable tune talks of a relationship that has fallen apart. Set to gentle guitar rifts and a steady two stepping beat, this track could easily find its way on to a dance floor today. They also did Ernest Tubb’s “Waltz Across Texas” in between there.

IMG_2528Side B creates a more uptempo feel, but the music stays relaxed. My favorites from this side are the more upbeat tracks, “Don’t Ever Let Your Lover Sleep Alone” and Rose Maddox’s “Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down.”

“Don’t Ever Let Your Lover Sleep Alone” was written by Haggard. It’s a fun duet between the two, basically saying never to leave your lover to their own vices. Although there is a weird effect placed on William’s voice in this song that threw me off. It doesn’t sound bad, it just sounds different. Then there is the enjoyable and conventional classic country hoedown tune with “Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down.” This song sounds like it was just plain fun to record.

This album charted at number 44 and came off the heals of two other duet albums Haggard had made. These records were with Willie Nelson and George Jones. This was quite a switch up for the “outlaw” showing a more vulnerable and “sappy” side to Haggard.

wleona8x10bw-hagBut, the real gem of this album is the talent of Williams. I am not discrediting Haggard, but everybody was familiar with his talent. Williams has one of the best country voices the industry has ever heard and she gives this album some of its best moments. Williams provides harmonies that are not easily compared. She is her own artist while completely blending with another.

In the end this album didn’t do much for their marriage and it was actually released after they were separated. Nonetheless, Haggard and Williams were together for nearly ten years and she wrote and contributed to some of Haggard’s biggest hits. With this album and their writing they made musical gold.

Of course I think you could tell me to spin anything of the bull’s or the beaver’s and I’d have to say “10-4.”

 

Don’t forget to read my tribute to Merle Haggard, An Okie From California.