ALBUM REVIEW: Dusty Springfield, Dusty

Another week is upon us which only means one thing…it’s another week to celebrate female musicians for Women’s History Month!!

For my second installment to celebrate women’s history, I bring you the blonde haired, blue-eyed soul of Dusty Springfield.

Dusty is consistently on my list when I record shop. I discovered her a few years ago when I was in a job that was not personally fulfilling and I desperately needed an out. I can not even remember what brought her to my attention, but thank goodness for neglecting my duties!

img_1617Tonight, years later, I find myself sitting and listening to the first Dusty Springfield album I ever purchased. It was her second album she released in the United States, but it was really her first record she released in Britain. In the United States, this album is known as Dusty and in Britain, it is known as A Girl Called Dusty.

Although this album was not met with as much praise as her first release, Stay Awhile/I Only Want to Be with You,it is still filled with some of my favorite Dusty tunes. For starters, it has her modest pop hit “All Cried Out.” This song blends 1960’s soul and pop seamlessly, which is exactly what Dusty did perfectly.

The album possesses some great covers of Dusty’s soulful contemporaries including “Can I Get a Witness” by Marvin Gaye and “Don’t You Know” by Ray Charles. There are some great Dusty originals here as well like the mysterious “Guess Who” and “Nothing.”

Then there is the commanding and dramatic ballad, “Summer is Over.” This song has some of Dusty’s best early vocals. It shows how she isn’t merely a little singer, but that she can belt and deliver a song with the best of them. This song was co-written by her brother Tom Springfield.

dusty_springfield_youngWhat I found extremely interesting was the elegant soul she brought to this album with the songs “My Coloring Book” by the famed Fred Ebb and John Kander, and “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Both of these writing combinations have become staples in today’s cabaret, ballad, and American Songbook ethos.

“My Coloring Book” was originally recorded by Barbra Streisand and Dusty’s version differs drastically. Where Barbra sang it proficiently, Dusty’s vocals brought a childlike perspective to the song while maintaining its sad tone. Dusty’s version of “I Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” is by far my favorite. It is the impeccable mix of classic vocal style with 60’s pop.

The album Dusty began to truly shape her future recording career, while providing an innovative style in a time when music desperately needed to find itself.

As if Dusty’s music wasn’t enough, she also created an iconic image with her bleach blonde bouffant style hair and her excellent showmanship. Add on a lot of eyeliner, and you have one of the biggest influences on popular music. She is the original Adele and based on their voices, they could be mother and daughter.

Sadly, Dusty left this world in 1999 due to breast cancer, but her influence will continue to live on both in what she was and her innovative image and vocal combination. She pushed the envelope in a doo-wop society and helped bring soul music to the forefront of American and British culture.

To say the least, all my pop and soul vinyl post-1963 is a bit Dusty…

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Ike and Tina Turner, The Ike and Tina Turner Show Vol. 2

This last weekend was my first venture into New York City to go on a vinyl hunt since moving to Westchester County.

My first find,was The Ike and Tina Turner Show Vol. 2. The record is in near mint condition and still has the shrink-wrap on it. Any vinyl collector can tell you how hard it is to find these older Ike and Tina Turner albums.

Tina Turner MusicWe all know the story of Ike and Tina Turner and personally I have no respect for Ike Turner. He may have been a good musician, but anyone who beats women immediately gets a “0” in my book. I love the fact that she went on to have a huge solo career without Ike and has been able to discover a happy life for herself.

“What’s Love Got To Do With It” was virtually a big “screw you” to Ike.

Although, what I discovered with this album, even though it presents Ike Turner, Tina Turner, and The Ikettes, was that Tina was a solo singer long before their divorce in 1978. Ike could not have made it without Tina and he knew she was a hot commodity. With this live album, released in 1965, Tina was already showing the foundation, at least vocally and musically, for a solo career.

This is obvious from the very beginning of the album. If the announcer acknowledged it by saying, “Introducing the main attraction of the evening, meet the star of the show, give her a nice friendly welcome, the fabulous Tina Turner!”

The album then immediately goes into Ike and Tina’s hit “Shake Your Tail Feather.” This track had a little too much Ikettes for me, but It also showed me how talented these ladies were Ike employed to back Tina. This is the same feeling I had for “You’re No Good” on side two.

Tina Turner MusicWhere Tina really shines is when she takes the mic alone. She first undertakes “Ooh Poo Pah Doo.” Her artistry comes out like a fire-ball wrapped in a lace blanket.

She quickly defines herself as a solor artist with “All I Can Do is Cry.” I have heard this song by Tina before, but never with quite this same passion. She told the story of being at “her man’s” wedding. In this emotional tune she was the preacher, choir, and usher.

Tina’s independence again becomes obvious on “It’s All Over” and “A Fool For You.””It’s All Over” is sang with some of Tina’s deepest emotion. I don’t think the song content was far from reality. She mixed this emotion with gospel styling and a rock sound that hadn’t been invented yet. She ends the show with the classic ballad “A Fool For You.” For some reason I feel like this may have been Tina’s true feelings when it came to fame.

It really didn’t matter who was backing Tina Turner in these early days of her career. After Ike and Tina Turner’s initial launch into stardom she instantly became the brightest star of the bunch.  Ike always resented this fact.

I really don’t feel the need to say “Ike” in front of Tina’s name. I respect that he influenced and arranged much of the music that made Tina famous, but there were others gladly waiting in line (Phil Spector anyone?).

This album shows that Tina was a solo artist from the start. Ike was simply a dealer and Tina was the commodity. The only problem was, the commodity became larger than the dealer could manage.

Ike was always a better user anyway.

ALBUM REVIEW: 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 a 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.

ALBUM REVIEW: Peter Criss, Kiss Solo

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

Kiss Peter CrissI’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).

Kiss Peter CrissCriss 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”

ALBUM REVIEW: 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…

Kiss Gene SimmonsNow 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.”

Kiss Gene SimmonsWhat 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”

ALBUM REVIEW: Joan Jett, Bad Reputation

Recently I was lucky enough to walk away with six Joan Jett and the Blackhearts records. One of my favorite vinyl shops, Monkey Feet Music, has just received a lot of 6,000 records. Needless to say when I get paid, I’m making another trip.

FullSizeRenderOne of the albums I picked up was Bad Reputation. After doing research, I found that this album was actually Joan Jett’s self titled solo debut. This album is her first album after leaving The Runaways.

The album’s opener is the Jett classic “Bad Reputation.” This is one of my favorite Jett songs and is a great anthem to sing while driving to work. There is nothing like yelling, “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation!” right before walking into a dreaded business meeting.

Although what really stood out to me on this album was Jett’s covers of the 1960’s classics “You Don’t Own Me,” “Shout,” and “Woolly Bully” (Technically “Shout” was released in September 1959, but I figured it was close enough). These songs were recorded off the heels of rockabilly, so it is only natural that Jett would pay homage to these founding songs years later.

IMG_2476When listening to anything that Jett touches, you must remember there is rock and roll and then there’s Jett’s version. Her version mixes a punk image with a rhythmic guitar rift and gritty vocals. It’s quite unpredictable.

This is evident on her version of “Shout.” No longer is this a cheery pop song, but it’s a rock anthem of rebellion. I love Jett’s clever rewording of the song, “Take my pants off and shout!” I could easily see myself at a Jett concert or in the comfort of my own home hopping around, beer in hand, screaming these words with or without pants. The same goes for “Woolly Bully.” This song was “dirty” for the time, pushing the limits when it comes to content. Naturally, Jett just piles on all the dirt it needs with a dash of her brand of sex appeal creating a version that definitely wouldn’t be allowed in 1969.

Yet, the true gem out of these tunes is Jett’s cover of “You Don’t Own Me.” This song was originally sung by Lesley Gore who I would consider sweet, wholesome, and just plain cute. Those are some sentiments Jett quickly turns around in her version.

IMG_2477Jett gives this song a completely new persona proving that lyrical content often lies in the hands of the vocalist. No longer was it a sweet girl you felt sorry for, this was a girl you were scared of! She became the girl the boys had to fight for and treat right. Jett played by her own rules and she was not afraid to swing a few punches.

In many ways this album and her 1960’s covers only foreshadows the rest of Jett’s trailblazing career. She was already a bull out of the gates with songs like “Bad Reputation” and “You Don’t Know What You Got,” but it is the little things that remind you of the Jett’s true musical genius and artistry.

For her to go back and cover three 1960’s song on her first effort after the Runaways is brilliance. This shined a light directly on her pure musical talent. It shows Jett’s respect for those who came before her, but it also showed she had a complete style all her own, a style only she is capable of.

It’s safe to say Jett truly loves rock and roll and it’s foundation, but she gives it a new reputation.

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

Today is a musical holiday. They should stop the presses, close the banks, and hold the mail. It is the Prime Minister of Pop, Cher’s Birthday.

I am going to take a gamble that you have probably not heard Cher regarded as the “Prime Minister of Pop.” Often times we hear loads of people saying that Madonna is the “Queen of Pop.” Cher fans argue otherwise, but to be honest, being the queen is beneath Cher.

Let’s take a step back into our English Government Class or lack there of. We all know there is a Queen, but England is no longer a dictatorship. Today the title is held mostly ceremonially with limited powers. The position with all the decision-making is the Prime Minister.

In the case of music, we have a queen of pop based on pedigree, Madonna, then we have the Prime Minister of Pop, Cher, who gets sh*t done. Cher was the original female pop star, garnering 3 number one solo hits in the early 1970’s with countless other charting hits. She had a show with her husband Sonny Bono and when that ended in divorce, she had her own popular variety show. At the same time she quickly became a fashion icon with her over the top costumes and hip length straight black hair. She is even the first lady to ever show her stomach on TV.

Cher didn’t need a shock factor. She didn’t have to roll around and moan in a wedding dress. She used her natural sex appeal and underrated vocals to pave the way for future female pop stars.

Today, in honor of Cher’s legacy, I have created a list of my favorite Cher songs. They are not in any particular order, because it is impossible for me to rank them nor is this list conclusive. They go from obscure to huge hits and from the 1960’s to today.

“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (1966)

This is one of Sonny Bono’s greatest pop inventions. “Bang Bang” has now been covered by numerous artists over nearly every genre. It takes love and encapsulates it in a child’s arms showing both the simplicity and intricacy of this emotion. Cher “remixed” this song on her 1987 self titled album. I have included the original here, but here is a link to the other. This remix shows how versatile Cher’s vocals are and also how Cher’s voice has grown over her career.


“Classified 1A” (1971)

This song barely ever sees the light of day, but it is one of Sonny Bono’s greatest musical masterpieces. The song tells the story of a woman being told that her husband has been killed in a war. “Classified 1A” was released in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1971. Cher can stylize with the best divas, but the raw emotion she portrays on this recording is hard to come by. She has always has a way of shooting straight to the heart through her deliverance of ballads and this is one of her best.


“Train of Thought” (1971)

This should have been a huge hit! I don’t know the exact story of this song, but it has all the mechanisms of a number one. It’s one of those songs that just gets my blood flowing.


“By Myself” (1973)

Easily one of Cher’s least successful albums, Bittersweet White Light, is a diamond in the rough. Within this album, she visits the American Song Book that she has expressed much love for. This is one of the best tracks from this album, but her Jolsen Melody and her take on “The Man That Got Away” should not fall on deaf ears.


“Take Me Home” (1979)

This song makes me want to go struttin,’ much like John Travolta in Staying Alive. The beat is infectious and roller skates are a must. Mixed with Cher’s sex appeal, this record is classic. She could take me home any day…..


“We All Sleep Alone” (1987)

As children we are taught to aspire to have a spouse and a family. We are surrounded by images of the nuclear family that never really existed. What they didn’t tell you was that we are all alone in the end. While being a dark and cryptic song to say the least, Cher lives this song as her power house vocals lay across this power ballad.


“Save Up All Your Tears” (1991)

This is the best song to belt in your car when you are mad at someone. Try it.


“The Gunman” (1995)

This is one of Cher’s best vocal performances. Her warm voice shivers down my spine as she speaks of love having no mercy. She again shares her raw emotion from experience. It leaves you thinking and hitting the repeat button over and over again.


“Our Lady of San Francisco” (2000)

This song comes from, Not.com.mercial, the only album Cher wrote nearly every song. She sings of a homeless woman and how she is looked at as garbage on the street. She speaks to humanity and how many times we have become inhumane. Helping people with the basics is dear to Cher’s heart as seen in her acts of kindness in countries like Armenia and the current Flint water crisis. To this day this album, has not been widely released.


“Love One Another” (2001)

Okay, only two more. This song is from Cher’s 2001 release Living Proof. It is a “filler” song, but Cher, nonetheless, gives it her all. I think she might just believe in its message.


“Lie To Me” (2013)

Cher knocks another ballad out of the park. This time she doesn’t quite use those soaring vocals that she is well equipped with, yet she stays in a modest tone. The beauty of this song is all in her conviction. This comes from her latest studio album in 2013 and is the only true ballad on the entire album. I love EDM Cher, but her voice is magnificent stripped down.


“You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” (2010)

Lastly comes one of Cher’s songs that has helped me out the most in life. Once I hit my adult life, I have found myself kicked down by career, relationship, and life choices just like everyone does. It is always easy to back up into a corner, but you can’t. Cher is a living example that lying down is never an option. I’ve had this song on repeat many times and belted it off-key. It is really the best thing that came out of Burlesque. 

As it is often said with Cher: “After the nuclear holocaust there will be cockroaches and Cher.” Don’t let them ever see the last of you.


As these videos and a proper lesson in music history makes clear, Cher is the first female pop star to call all the shots. She pushed the envelope, but she did not need a shock and awe factor. Her raw talent catapulted her into the icon she is today. She became a legend when there wasn’t a legacy to follow.

Basically, she slays.

So on this day we celebrate Cher’s 35th birthday once more. While I’m lowering my flag to half staff, I’m ok with calling Madonna or one of those other little pop starlets the queen of pop. It’s just an honorary title. Remember, everybody on the tball team gets a trophy.

And while queens have tiara’s, Prime Ministers have headdresses, because you don’t need to see what’s around them while you follow. There is nothing to see. They are paving the way while walking into uncharted territory.

But as always, the wise Cher summarizes her contemporaries perfectly.

Follow this you bitches.