Thursday, June 28, 2007

When the others turn you off, who'll be turning you on...

Trust me, there’s no way you can act cool with the Captain & Tennille blaring on the car stereo. I’ve tried. Twice. Unluckily relegated to novelty status due to the popularity and timelessness of the so-sweet-it-promotes cavities “Love Will Keep Us Together”, the duo of Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille, married in real life, rode the soft-rock/pop wave in the mid-70s, with a few hits, a television show, and endless guest-shots to make them a bigger presence then what people can remember them for. It seems everyone knows who the Captain & Tennille are, but besides “Love Will Keep Us Together” and Dragon’s “Captain” outfit, it’d be hard to find a majority that can say how. After a reissue of C&T’s Greatest Hits album, which left a couple omissions, Hip-O Records, the reissue label of Universal Music conglomerate, put out the Captain & Tennille: Ultimate Collection, which collects 22 tracks from both the A&M and Casablanca years. And believe me, this is all the Captain and Tennille you’ll ever need, and then some. Four or five songs are culled from their first three albums, three tunes from two more albums, and two tracks from their final “collaborative” album. Of course, the ringer in the beginning. I can’t ever get tired of “Love Will Keep Us Together”. With its trademark “I know that song in five notes” intro, if you really listen it’s not as simple a song as you think (“When the others turn you off, who’ll be turnin’ you on”), and Tennille’s voice is ten times more soulful than most of the “pop” records of the time. That’s even more apparent in the followup “The Way I Want To Touch You”, an adult yet classy “between-the-sheets” jam disguised as bubblegum pop. I just the chord progression in that tune. Also included from the debut Love Will Keep Us Together album are two songs penned by Beach Boy Bruce Johnston: “Disney Girls”, which succeeds over the BB original with Tennille’s delicate phrasing, and “I Write The Songs” which does the opposite, making worse than Barry Manilow’s. I not sure if it’s more the fact that neither of them wrote the song saying they “write the songs”, or the fact that it just over-the-top sucks, and only Manilow can carry off over-the-top suck. With their second LP, Song Of Joy, C&T again enlisted Neil Sedaka (who wrote “Love Will Keep Us Together”) for another big (at the time) hit “Lonely Night (Angel Face)”. Not as memorable as “Love..”, the song does have an interesting structure from pseudo-heartache tune to cheerful love ode. Two “cover” songs are on from the album as well, a bouncy version of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Shop Around” and a precious take on America’s “Muskrat Love” (both top-5 pop hits). This time, both succeed; while “Shop Around” by no means eclipses Smokey’s, it’s got a fun, not-forced groove to it, and “Muskrat Love” even betters that, since Tennille’s voice matches the over-cute lyrics. And while we’re on over-cute, there’s “Wedding Song (There Is Love)”, which befits their “Holiday Inn lounge-act” persona which otherwise would’ve sank an “artier” type of artist. I guess color me cynical – though for a “trying-to-be-a-standard” song, it’s done quite well. “Song Of Joy”, is a competent though unremarkable song. This was at the crest of Captain & Tennille’s arc, with a TV variety show bringing the duo to millions of living rooms in the US. Unfortunately, the next offering, “Can’t Stop Dancing”, catered too much to the disco fad, which is so not in their element, and in consequence seemed like a jump-the-shark moment, missing the top-10 (though not by much). It would have been much better to have come out first with the second single, “Come In From The Rain”, which showcased Tennille’s voice range in the best way, and which floundered trying to followup the disco sidetrack, and failed to even hit the top-40. However, that song and its followup, the dullish “Circles”, made the Adult Contemporary top-10. Also from the Come In From The Rain is the TV-show closing theme, “We Never Really Say Goodbye”, which compliments “Love Will….” quite nicely. The next album, Dreams, continued the rut, and Neil Sedaka couldn’t even save it totally – his subdued “You Never Done It Like That” made it into the top-10, but that was after a single that failed badly (“I’m On My Way” didn’t even make the top-half of the pop charts, though the plain song did make top-10 Adult Contemporary as well as inching on to the country chart). And third single “You Need A Woman Tonight” certainly didn’t convince me (like there’s a shot there). With both disco and punk/new-wave ruling the airwaves, it seemed like C&T’s career was waned out. Leaving A&M Records, the duo went over to disco powerhouse Casablanca, seemingly balancing the label from Kiss on the other side. This apparently did the trick, with “Do That To Me One More Time” a pure soft-rock concoction (just what specifically did she want me to do?) that brought them back to the top of the pop charts, only five years yet so long in terms of musical changes since “Love Will…”. However, that was a fluke, with the subsequent singles “Love On A Shoestring” and a watered-down psychedelic version of the Turtles’ “Happy Together” (subtitled “A Fantasy”) stalling in the lower half of charts. The writing has on the wall by that point. The musical landscape was changing, and although sterile soft-rock would still rule until about 1983, the acts of the 70s were being ritually dumped for the new decade. Their final album, Keeping Our Love Warm, didn’t apply to the charts, and only “Gentile Stranger” showed a small hint of the spark they had before. And appropriately book-ending the collection is the Spanish version of their biggest hit, “Por Amor Viviremos”, which managed to make it to the top half of the pop chart just on the Captain-&-Tennille-mania. Yo soy indeed!

The compilation is well-remastered, brightening the sound, and the booklet contains a thorough and interesting interview with the couple. Since this was released, there’s been a 6-CD box and the individual albums, but unless you’re rabid about C&T, I can’t imagine anyone needing any more than the 22 songs chosen here to represent their career. It’s got everything – all the singles, key album tracks (good or bad) and well-written notes. You may find yourself skipping a few songs after the first listen, but it’s worth the purchase.

Fun Fact: The most-sold recording Toni Tennille appeared on: Pink Floyd's The Wall. Honest.

Grade: B-
Best Cuts:
“Love Will Keep Us Together”, “The Way That I Want To Touch You”, “Shop Around”, “Come In From The Rain”
Weakest Links: “I Write The Songs”, “Can’t Stop Dancing”

"Love Will Keep Us Together" hit #1 pop, #1 Adult Contemporary, and #32 in the UK.
"The Way I Want To Touch You" hit #4 Pop, #1 AC, and #28 in the UK.
"Lonely Night (Angel Face)" made #3 Pop and #1 AC.
"Shop Around" made #4 Pop and #1 AC.
"Muskrat Love" hit #4 Pop and #1 AC.
"Can't Stop Dancin'" made #12 Pop and #13 AC.
"Come In From The Rain" hit #61 Pop and #8 AC.
"Circles" hit #9 AC.
"I'm On My Way" made #74 Pop, #6 AC, and #97 Country.
"You Never Done It Like That" made #10 Pop, #14 AC, and #63 in the UK.
"You Need A Woman Tonight" hit #40 Pop and #17 AC.
"Do That To Me One More Time" hit #1 Pop, #4 AC, #59 R&B, and #7 in the UK.
"Love On A Shoestring" made #55 pop.
"Happy Together (A Fantasy)" made #53 pop and #27 AC.
"Por Amor Viviremos" hit #49 pop singles.

Listen: "Come In From The Rain" (click to link).

Buy: You can pick up a copy of Ultimate Collection - Captain & Tennille at websites like here and here.

And now for the videos....first up of course I have to include "Love Will Keep Us Together", here from her TV show.

And here's C&T from her 80s talk show singing "Shop Around"

And for the ultimate in cheese, a "fan" video for "Muskrat Love"..

And finally you can see the "karaoke" "Do That To Me One More Time" here.

We believe in the Land Of Love....

When I hit college, there were a holy quartet of bands, Depeche Mode, Erasure, the Smiths, and New Order. Suffice to say besides the Smiths the rest of the groups were going strong, though it's up in the air whether New Order are through for good (they've been done before).

New Order formed from the remains of post-punk pioneers Joy Division after lead singer Ian Curtis hung himself in 1980. With guitarist Bernard Sumner taking over most of the vocal duties, and adding keyboardist Gillian Gilbert to the mix, New Order progressed to be the quintessential alternative electronic band through the 80's through the 90's. Singles is the fifth attempt to anthologize the group, and for the newcomer pretty much does the trick, containing all of their charting British singles save for a couple of (very) low-charting instrumental tracks. Sprawled out on 2 CD's with 32 songs, Singles is the best single listen you can get from the band. No extended remixes, no 8 minute long exercises, just the radio singles...And (almost) every one is a gem unto itself.

"Ceremony" (1981) is the closest they would come to a Joy Division track - in fact it was planned to be one with even a demo being recorded and a live recording existing. However it New Order's introduction, and Sumner tries his best at the time to emulate Curtis' drone, while the jangling guitars portend a brighter future. The great upside to Singles is that is contains the original NO recording, as all of the other compilations have the rerecorded version from later that year.

"Procession" (1981), again reviving Ian Curtis (he wrote the lyrics), but in a muted setting, where the vocals are almost drowned out by the layers of synths (Gilbert exerting herself boldly with that and backing vocals), and dancing guitarwork. Good more for the musical texture than any "statement".

"Everything Gone Green" (1981) is New Order finding disco. With an even more prominent synth riff, Sumner deadpans lyrics that predict their star-turn on "Blue Monday" later on. "Seems like I've been here before", indeed. Great use of new-wave to not sound kitschy.

"Temptation" (1982) is here in a dramatically different form than on their previous extended best-of, Substance. Mixed more as a pop song, it comes across as sweeter than I originally heard it.

"Blue Monday" (1983) And here is where it really began. Reaching the upper parts of the UK pop and US dance charts, this was a phenomenon of a record. With eerie keyboards over an infectious Kraut-funk drum/bass combo, "Blue Monday" became reputedly the biggest 12" record of all time. With no real chorus, just a plaintive verse ("How does it feel..." and all) which adds to the drama. Classic.

"Confusion" (1983) - where New Order "finds" Madonna. Producer/mixer Arthur Baker provides a blippy, poppy backdrop to the bands never-changing dark lyrics. This is the original single version, drastically different from the 1987 mix on Substance. Unbelievably even made the R&B/Soul chart.

"Thieves Like Us" (1984) is a more classic new-wave track, though it does have a great sunny bass/drum back to it. And love enters the picture in a big way, though there's still paranoia "It's called love and it's belongs to us, and it dies so quickly, and grows so slowly, and when it dies it dies for good". Whoa.

"The Perfect Kiss" (1985) - this so takes me back to my collage years. Great, busy, track, though the edit on this compilation truncates off the actual singing of the title (revolutionary for this band). Also the first single they released that would appear (in a different form) on an album.

"Subculture" (1985) is my favorite early-NO track. Almost funky, accessible but not sell-out version of the "New Order brand". Love the backup singers.

"Shellshock" (1986) is from the "Pretty In Pink" soundtrack. It's very martial in production, and relievably unconformist to the "brat pack" distillation that usually accompanys a John Hughes film.

"State Of The Nation" (1986) has aged better than I thought it would, although it still sounds more of an album track than a bonifide single. And I'm not sure if it's supposed to be an "issue song" or what, its so oblique.

"Bizarre Love Triangle" (1986). Along with "Blue Monday", the classic NO song. Surprisingly it bombed in their home country, reaching #56, while becoming their highest-charting dance hit in the US at the time. Swirling string-like keyboard parts with holiday-like bells in the back of a busy, happy dance ditty belie the dark, moody meaning to the lyrics. The first New Order song I heard (and anyone should hear, for that matter).

"True Faith" (1987) was their first American top-40 hit. Supposedly about drugs, it's vague enough to just let me ride along the melody. Deservedly popular, big bold and unabashedly pop.

"1963" (1987) - According to the liner notes, Sumner says this was about John and Jackie Kennedy. Which makes sense because of the title. Though I so had a different take on this when I was younger, mine being a young gay couple where one kills the other one. It doesn't help the Sumner sings in the "female" role. Either way, a great album track that fluked into a single. Check out Jane Horrocks ("little voice") in the video!

"Touched By The Hand Of God" (1987) was not from any album, but from the little-seen movie Salvation. I always associate it with the remix of "Blue Monday" since it was the American B-side, it's a good, pop by-the-numbers New Order track.

Disc 2 begins with the 1988 remix of "Blue Monday '88" (1988) by none other than Quincy Jones, and sounds nothing like he would've done. Sped up a little and everything but the sink thrown in, it can't be sunk but it's not as satisfying as the original.

"Fine Time" (1988) - I just don't get this song. Maybe I have to be on drugs. Nothing but a repetitive beat, with weird thrown in lyrics like "You're much too young to be a part of me". I'll give them points for not selling out, but this is too whacked out.

"Round And Round" (1989), though, totally makes up for it. With its fantastic machinegun bassline, swirling melody, and noncompromising dourness over a heavy dancebeat, this song is by far my favorite later-day NO song and damn close to my all-around fave of theirs. The video's kinda creepy with the beautiful models interspersed with subliminal imagery.

"Run 2" (1989) was allegedly nicked from John Denver's "Leaving On A Jet Plane", but I don't really see it, besides the coincidental chord change.

"World In Motion" (1990) is NO's "jump the shark" moment. Nothing like the poster-children for post-punk sing what basically is an sports advert for England's soccer team. Extra icky points for the "rap" and background singing done by the players. Musically sounds, but morally corrupt. And sadly their only #1 song in the UK.

"Regret" (1993) though, puts the band back on track, with their old-school chiming guitars and rawer production. This is their biggest US pop hit, and deservedly so. Not the best, but worthy of most popular.

"Ruined In A Day" (1993) does cop the Soul II Soul/Enigma beat a little late, but this is a welldone minor hit for them.

"World (Price Of Love)" (1993) is not to be confused with the soccer song, is album Republic's "Round and Round", though with slower production and piano riffs complimenting the more understated bass.

"Spooky" (1993), on the other hand, is their newer "Fine Time". However, this time they add an actual melody and vocal structure. More of a good album cut than a great single.

"Crystal" (2001) - After an eight-year hiatus, New Order returned as a alt-rock band. A nod to the more "goth" NO fans. Tidbit - The Killers got their name from the fake band in the video.

"60 Miles An Hour" (2001) - While the US dance clubs got "Someone Like You" (which was sadly omitted from this collection), the UK got this song. It does have an interesting Smithereens/Kinks vibe to it.

"Here To Stay" (2002) sounds in sync with the Get Ready singles, but was a toss-off from the 24 Hour Party People soundtrack. More dance-oriented than the album, it works as a single.

"Krafty" (2005), meant as an allusion to band Kraftwerk, is more sing-songy than "Crystal", but equally successful. Almost product-like, though subversively so.

"Jetstream" (2005) included Ana Mantronic from the Scissor Sisters, which gives extra bonus points for me already, and with it fun, almost Kylie-like bounciness, a welcome if unintellectual addition to their canon.

"Waiting For The Sirens' Call" (2005) - Wikipedia (and you know you can't always trust that) says this is Bernard Sumner's favorite New Order song. I'm not sure why. It's not bad, but it sounds like a lot of what's gone before.

"Turn" (2005) - failing to chart even in England, it's not horrific but a little derivative.

"Temptation (Secret Machine Remix)" (2005) is totally not necessary. I hate good alternative pop bands needing the "drum-and-bass" remix. Could've been replaced by "Someone Like You" or even an instrumental like "Murder" or "Video 586" easily.

All told, with only a couple minor complaints, this is a compilation New Order needed and deserves. In fact Depeche, Erasure, and the Smiths could use one like this. First point of purchase for any newcomers to this genre. Sidenote - also get Substance for the 12" experience.

Grade: Disc 1 - A; Disc 2-B+;Total - A
Best Cuts:
"Ceremony", "Everything's Gone Green", "Temptation", "Blue Monday", "Thieves Like Us", "The Perfect Kiss", "Sub-Culture", "Shellshock", "Bizarre Love Triangle", "True Faith", "Touched By The Hand Of God", "Blue Monday '88", "Round And Round", "Regret", "World (Price Of Love)", "Crystal", "Krafty", "Jetstream"
Weakest Links: "Fine Time", "World In Motion", "Temptation (Secret Machine Mix)"

Singles hit #14 on the UK Album Chart.
"Ceremony" hit #61 US Dance Club Play and #34 in the UK.
"Procession" made #38 in the UK.
"Everything's Gone Green" made #64 Dance Club Play and #38 in the UK as the Bside to "Procession".
"Temptation" hit #68 Dance Club and #29 in the UK.
"Blue Monday" hit #5 Dance Club and #9 in the UK.
"Confusion" made #5 Dance Club, #71 R&B, and #12 in the UK.
"Thieves Like Us" made #18 in the UK.
"The Perfect Kiss" hit #5 Dance Club and #46 in the UK.
"Sub-Culture" hit #35 Dance Club and #63 in the UK.
"Shellshock" made #14 Dance Club and #28 in the UK.
"State Of The Nation" made #4 Dance Club as the B-side to "Bizare.." and #30 in the UK.
"Bizarre Love Triangle" made #98 US Pop (in 1995), #4 Dance Club, and #56 in the UK.
"True Faith" hit #32 pop, #3 Dance Club, and #4 in the UK.
"1963" hit #21 in the UK in its 1995 remix.
"Touched By The Hand Of God" made #1 Dance Club as the B-side to "Blue Monday 88", and #18 in the UK.
"Blue Monday '88" made #68 pop, #1 Dance Club, and #3 in the UK.
"Fine Time" hit #2 Dance Club, #3 Modern Rock, and #4 in the UK.
"Round And Round" hit #64 pop, #1 Dance Club, #6 Modern Rock, and #21 in the UK.
"Run 2" hit #29 in the UK.
"World In Motion" made #10 Dance Club, #5 Modern Rock, and #1 in the UK.
"Regret" hit #28 pop, #1 Dance Club, #1 Modern Rock, and #4 in the UK.
"Ruined In A Day" hit #30 Modern Rock and #22 in the UK.
"World (Price Of Love)" made #92 pop, #1 Dance Club, #5 Modern Rock, and #13 in the UK.
"Spooky" made #6 Dance Club and #22 in the UK.
"Crystal" hit #1 Dance Club and #8 in the UK.
"60 Miles An Hour" hit #29 in the UK.
"Here To Stay" made #15 in the UK.
"Krafty" made #2 Dance Club and #8 in the UK.
"Jetstream" hit #3 Dance Club and #20 in the UK.
"Waiting For The Siren's Call" hit #21 in the UK.

Listen: "True Faith (Morel's Pink Noize Mix Radio Edit)" (click to link)

Buy: You can pick up Singles at websites like here and here.

and here's the video for the missing single "Someone Like You"...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Twostepcub's music chart for June 22, 2007...

You know, I'm still trying to finish up the New Order post below, but I'm late with the chart, and my OCD's taking over, so here it is. This week Maroon5 is now five weeks on the top, while Christina Aguilera (pictured above) spends a third week at #4. Young Love says goodbye to the chart (how depressing that sounds!) while Jennifer Lopez, Tim McGraw, Lionel Richie, Nelly Furtado, and Smashing Pumpkins make the biggest jumps. And away we go!

This week Song/Artist (last weeks' position in parentheses)
1. Makes Me Wonder - Maroon5 (1)
2. U & Ur Hand - Pink (2)
3. Never Again - Kelly Clarkson (5)
4. Candyman - Christina Aguilera (4)
5. Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood (3)
6. Ticks - Brad Paisley (6)
7. The Other Side Of The World - KT Tunstall (11)
8. Moments - Emerson Drive (10)
9. I Told You So - Keith Urban (18)
10. I Could Fall In Love With You - Erasure (15)
11. Read My Mind - The Killers (7)
12 The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani f/Akon (8)
13. If Everyone Cared - Nickelback (9)
14. What I've Done - Linkin Park (14)
15. Change - Kimberley Locke (16)
16. Beautiful Liar - Beyonce & Shakira (23)
17. Find Out Who Your Friends Are - Tracy Lawrence (17)
18. Colorful - Rocco DeLucca & The Burden (12)
19. Wrapped - George Strait (24)
20. Cupid's Chokehold - Gym Class Heroes (21)
21. Home - Daughtry (26)
22. A Woman's Love - Alan Jackson (22)
23. Good Directions - Billy Currington (13)
24. Cry For You - September (24)
25. Rehab - Amy Winehouse (32)
26. Say It Right - Nelly Furtado (19)
27. I Wonder - Kellie Pickler (27)
28. I Want Your Love - Jody Watley (36)
29. With Love - Hilary Duff (29)
30. Little Wonders - Rob Thomas (30)
31. Paralyzer - Finger Eleven (37)
32. Dig - Incubus (35)
33. A Little More You - Little Big Town (38)
34. It's Not Over - Daughtry (25)
35. Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne (41)
36. You're The One - Ono (44)
37. I Can't Take It - Lola (39)
38. Undeniable - Mat Kearney (42)
39. Pegate - Ricky Martin (40)
40. Johnny Cash - Jason Aldean (43)
41. Que Hiciste - Jennifer Lopez (54)
42. Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's (52)
43. Make It Happen - Maya Azucena (33)
44. Lost In This Moment - Big & Rich (48)
45. What Comes Around...Goes Around - Justin Timberlake (28)
46. First Time - Lifehouse (53)
47. I Need You - Tim McGraw f/Faith Hill (63)
48. Forever - Papa Roach (50)
49. Glamorous - Fergie (49)
50. The World Is Mine - David Guetta (58)
51. Gravity - John Mayer (31)
52. Umbrella - Rihanna (74)
53. Forever - Alyson (71)
54. Life Is Beautiful - Vega4 (59)
55. Lazy Eye - Silversun Pickups (55)
56. Better Than Me - Hinder (57)
57. Ice Box - Omarion (57)
58. Because Of You - Ne-Yo (70)
59. Lucky Man - Montgomery Gentry (60)
60. Put 'Em Up - Edun (62)
61. Extraordinary - Mandy Moore (65)
62. All Around The World - Lionel Richie (88)
63. All Good Things (Must Come To An End) - Nelly Furtado (96)
64. Tarantula - Smashing Pumpkins (99)
65. Automatic - Ultra Nate (45)
66. (You Want To) Make A Memory - Bon Jovi (72)
67. 4 In The Morning - Gwen Stefani (100)
68. Look After You - The Fray (51)
69. Grace Kelly - MIKA (56)
70. Startin' With Me - Jake Owen (78)
71. Settlin' - Sugarland (34)
72. Spotlight - Amador & Carrillo f/Georgia Nicole (61)
73. It's My Life - S-Blush (64)
74. Breath - Breaking Benjamin (69)
75. Rise - Samantha James (68)
76. Signal Fire - Snow Patrol (76)
77. Don't Matter - Akon (81)
78. Teardrops On My Guitar - Taylor Swift (80)
79. How To Save A Life - The Fray (73)
80. He's Alive - A Girl Called Jane (87)
81. High Maintenance Woman - Toby Keith (66)
82. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol (75)
83. I Got More - Cole Deggs & The Lonesome (89)
84. Face Down - Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (84)
85. The Kill (Bury Me) - 30 Seconds To Mars (85)
86. Give It To Me - Timbaland f/Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake (86)
87. A Different World - Bucky Covington (91)
88. Beautiful Disaster - Jon McLaughlin (92)
89. Tough - Craig Morgan (95)
90. In The Clouds - Under The Inlfluence Of Giants (94)
91. Don't Make Me - Blake Shelton (46)
92. Rockstar - Nickelback (RE-ENTRY)
93. Can't Keep It A Secret - Jacinta (DEBUT)
94. Icky Thump - The White Stripes (98)
95. These Are My People - Rodney Atkins (97)
96. Stand - Rascal Flatts (79)
97. Smile - Lily Allen (47)
98. Wasted - Carrie Underwood (93)
99. Guys Like Me - Eric Church (DEBUT)
100. Rapture 2007 - iio (DEBUT)

This week only has three debuts, and one re-entry, that being Nickelback, already on here with "If Everyone Cared", with a song that's actually grown on me, "Rockstar".

Next up is club siren Jacinta, with my pick of the week "Can't Keep It A Secret" (just in time for Pride day, eh?) I love dance songs with a message...

Eric Church puts his third single on here with "Guys Like Me"...

and iio returns with the 2007 remix of "Rapture"..Here's the original video.

And click below to listen to the 2007 Friscia & Lamboy Remix of "Rapture"

Listen: "Rapture (Tastes So Sweet)" [Friscia & Lamboy Remix] (Link)

Come shout it out, let it out, it'll set you free.....

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

OK maybe reality shows aren't ALL bad...

Congratulations to Paul Potts, cellphone store manager from South Wales that's gone to win Britain's Got Talent by blowing away Simon Cowell and the audience. Proof you can do anything if you try...

Video #1 original performance (Shorter "Nessun Dorma")

Video #2 semifinals ("Con Te Partiro")

Video #3 the Finals ("Nessum Dorma" complete)


And in a perfect world, every other girl would fly away, and there'd be nothing but me and Cathy, and nothing else would matter...

I saw Norbert Leo Butz for the first time onstage in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. My friend Karl is a showtune encyclopedia, and is a good judge of theater, and he gave me Butz' pinnacle performance in The Last Five Years. Sort of like an Off-Broadway Memento, The Last Five Years traces the history of a relationship between Cathy (Sherie Rene Scott) and Jamie (Butz); the trick is while his narrative goes forward from meeting to end, hers is the opposite - starting the set off with "Still Hurting", a somber, hurtful, and thus totally unexpected start to a musical. From there starts Jamie's narrative, with the a little too over-the-top uber-Jewish "Shiksa Goddess", where he meets Cathy for the first time (though to give credit for the line "if you used to be a man...I'd say nobody's perfect"), this over a latin-styled beat. After that, we're brought down to earth to the bargaining Cathy in "See I'm Smiling", where her modest stage success is cresting, and from there her struggle there is laid out in "Climbing Uphill" and "A Summer In Ohio", while Jamie's story starts out more exhilirating, with the love-crush rush of "Moving Too Fast" and the overcorny "The Schmuel Song". Their storylines intersect at "The Next Ten Minutes" a snapshot into a date where you know already how everything's gonna end, which is sweet yet saddening at the same time. At this point the narratives get reversed, where Jamie's outlook gets more jaded in "A Miracle Would Happen" when temptation sets in, though he's optimistic enough to shove it off ("it's not a problem, it's just a challenge to resist temptation"), while her counterpoint "When You Come Home To Me" regresses her to the simple girlfriend she was. While Cathy's songs get lighter and funnier, like in "Climbing Uphill" , Jamie gets darker and darker, with the pandering "If I Didn't Believe In You", and culminating on his moment of transgression, with his infidelity with his editor in "Nobody Needs To Know", easily the grandest and touching part of the whole piece, putting me in tears with the vulnerability and the callousness of Jamie's rationalization of his misdeeds. The end brings the couple back together, though while Cathy's part is a hopeful romantic tune ("Goodbye Until Tomorrow"), Jamie's is resolved and mournful ("I Could Never Rescue You"). Jason Robert Brown, who wrote The Last Five Years, is expert in presenting an ordinary relationship in a dramatic, extraordinary way, and the helix of opposing storylines adds to the emotion brought forth in Norbert and Sherrie's performances. And anyone wanting to dip into a musical more about the music (and lyrics) than a big production, you can't go wrong starting with The Last Five Years. Thanks Karl!

Listen: Moving Too Fast (Link)

Buy: You can pick up The Last Five Years at websites like here and here.

And while Norbert is the quintessential voice for this role, I came across this collegiate performance of standout tracks "Moving Too Fast" and "Nobody Needs To Know" sung by Danny McHugh...

All I am is where you are and I never knew you could go so far, all I am is in your heart, you took me with you...

Jen Foster is a Texan singer-songwriter who I was lucky enough to been given a copy of her album by my friend Larry (thanks, Larry). It took me a couple listens to fully appreciate how good this disc is. Admittedly at first I got caught up in the Indigo Girls-style production, and her voice is remarkably like Amy Ray, so the intricate, thoughtful lyrics didn't hit me till listen #2. Now I realize why Jen won so many awards, including being a finalist for the John Lennon songwriting award and winner of multiple Outmusic accolades. I had heard her before on the outstanding Love Rocks compilation, but her second album The Underdogs way surpasses that. Jam packed with melodic pop-folk, the CD starts out with "All This Time", a yearning over a lover seemingly lost, and "Taking Bob Dylan", about a love definitely lost with the tagline "You're taking Bob Dylan, tell me how does it feel?". Each of these should've found a nice home on adult top-40 radio, and fit amongst the best pop music of 2005. "The Underdogs" is a song about gay repression that's the most uplifting I've heard in years. Witness just one of the verses:
Freshman year, Judson Tate, he didn't have a homecoming date. He asked me out, we never kissed, we told each other our big secret. He said he fell for James and James broke his heart - and I understtood him 'cause we were the underdogs....

Between first-person narratives of her first crush and other gay teens, it's not only personal but not vindictive. Foster's sense of importance of art is apparent on "Without Michelangelo", which does seem like a fitting sequel to the Indigo Girls' "Galileo", expanding on the theme of artists' purpose of enlightening life. "Amen" is a good throwback to mid 90s acoustic postgrunge, and used to good results in an effective PSA for teen pregnancy awareness. "Broken" and "In Between Poses" are competent if lesser gems mixed in, with two more excellent pieces following - "Saturn", an amazing pop nugget, and the somber yet beautiful "Everybody Goes", which is definitely the highlight of the album (though maybe way much for the already brokenhearted). Nostalgia arrives again on "We Were Gods", as the album closes on a return to her pure-folk roots with "Sun In Seattle". The guitars, Jen's ability to couterpoint her harmony so well, and her to-the-heart snapshots of life, whether you're gay or straight, make The Underdogs an album to truly seek out. By all means get this disc.

Grade: A-
Best Cuts:
"All This Time", "Taking Bob Dylan", "The Underdogs", "Saturn", "Everybody Goes"
Weakest Links: none

Listen: Everybody Goes (link)

Buy: You can pick up a copy of The Underdogs by going to websites like here and here, as well as taking the easy route and going to I-Tunes, where you can not only download this album, but her other work as well. Go ahead! Time's a-wastin', support independent artists!

View: and finally, here's the promo clip for Jen Foster. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Twostepcub's music chart for Jun 15, 2007...

Hey boys and girls, it's time again for my top tunes of the week. As always, you can click on the highlighted name of the artist to go to their website for more info on them (clips, songs, etc.) This week Maroon5 makes it four weeks at the top, while Kelly Clarkson (pictured above) jumps into the top five. Big moves are made by Keith Urban, Erasure, Finger Eleven, and Tim McGraw, while Lady Sovereign leaves the list. Happy Father's Day!

This Week Song/Artist (last week's position in parentheses)
1. Makes Me Wonder - Maroon5 (1)
2. U & Ur Hand - Pink (2)
3. Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood (3)
4. Candyman - Christina Aguilera (4)
5. Never Again - Kelly Clarkson (10)
6. Ticks - Brad Paisley (7)
7. Read My Mind - The Killers (5)
8. The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani f/Akon (6)
9. If Everyone Cared - Nickelback (9)
10. Moments - Emerson Drive (11)
11. The Other Side Of The World - KT Tunstall (13)
12. Colorful - Rocco DeLucca & The Burden (12)
13. Good Directions - Billy Currington (8)
14. What I've Done - Linkin Park (15)
15. I Could Fall In Love With You - Erasure (25)
16. Change - Kimberley Locke (19)
17. Find Out Who Your Friends Are - Tracy Lawrence (22)
18. I Told You So - Keith Urban (37)
19. Say It Right - Nelly Furtado (14)
20. Cry For You - September (20)
21. Cupid's Chokehold - Gym Class Heroes (23)
22. A Woman's Love - Alan Jackson (24)
23. Beautiful Liar - Beyonce & Shakira (34)
24. Wrapped - George Strait (32)
25. It's Not Over - Daughtry (21)
26. Home - Daughtry (36)
27. I Wonder - Kellie Pickler (29)
28. What Comes Around...Goes Around - Justin Timberlake (17)
29. With Love - Hilary Duff (31)
30. Little Wonders - Rob Thomas (30)
31. Gravity - John Mayer (18)
32. Rehab - Amy Winehouse (39)
33. Make It Happen - Maya Azucena (28)
34. Settlin' - Sugarland (16)
35. Dig - Incubus (40)
36. I Want Your Love - Jody Watley (46)
37. Paralyzer - Finger Eleven (49)
38. A Little More You - Little Big Town (48)
39. I Can't Make It - Lola (42)
40. Pegate - Ricky Martin (41)
41. Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne (45)
42. Undeniable - Mat Kearney (43)
43. Johnny Cash - Jason Aldean (44)
44. You're The One - Ono (53)
45. Automatic - Ultra Nate (33)
46. Don't Make Me - Blake Shelton (38)
47. Smile - Lily Allen (26)
48. Lost In This Moment - Big & Rich (52)
49. Glamorous - Fergie (50)
50. Forever - Papa Roach (51)
51. Look After You - The Fray (35)
52. Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's (59)
53. First Time - Lifehouse (61)
54. Que Hiciste - Jennifer Lopez (67)
55. Lazy Eye - Silversun Pickups (56)
56. Grace Kelly - MIKA (27)
57. Better Than Me - Hinder (58)
58. The World Is Mine - David Guetta (66)
59. Life Is Beautiful - Vega4 (65)
60. Lucky Man - Montgomery Gentry (62)
61. Spotlight - Amador & Carrillo f/Georgia Nicole (54)
62. Put 'Em Up - Edun (70)
63. I Need You - Tim McGraw f/Faith Hill (82)
64. It's My Life - S-Blush (47)
65. Extraordinary - Mandy Moore (71)
66. High Maintenance Woman - Toby Keith (57)
67. Ice Box - Omarion (77)
68. Rise - Samantha James (55)
69. Breath - Breaking Benjamin (63)
70. Because Of You - Ne-Yo (78)
71. Forever - Alyson (81)
72. (You Want To) Make A Memory - Bon Jovi (72)
73. How To Save A Life - The Fray (60)
74. Umbrella - Rihanna (89)
75. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol (78)
76. Signal Fire - Snow Patrol (88)
77. Discotech - Young Love (68)
78. Startin' With Me - Jake Owen (80)
79. Stand - Rascal Flatts (69)
80. Teardrops On My Guitar - Taylor Swift (83)
81. Don't Matter - Akon (90)
82. Gimme Gimme (Disco Shimmy) - Frankie Knuckles (74)
83. I Need To Live - Deepface (84)
84. Face Down - Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (86)
85. The Kill (Bury Me) - 30 Seconds To Mars (85)
86. Give It To Me - Timbaland f/Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake (87)
87. He's Alive - A Girl Called Jane (94)
88. All Around The World - Lionel Richie (DEBUT)
89. I Got More - Cole Deggs & The Lonesome (96)
90. Some Girls - Henri (73)
91. A Different World - Bucky Covington (93)
92. Beautiful Disaster - Jon McLaughlin (DEBUT)
93. Wasted - Carrie Underwood (75)
94. In The Clouds - Under The Influence Of Giants (98)
95. Tough - Craig Morgan (100)
96. All Good Things (Must Come To An End) - Nelly Furtado (RE-ENTRY)
97. These Are My People - Rodney Atkins (97)
98. Icky Thump - The White Stripes (99)
99. Tarantula - Smashing Pumpkins (DEBUT)
100. 4 In The Morning - Gwen Stefani (DEBUT)

This weekI've got 5 debut songs...the first being Lionel Richie with the dance tune "All Around The World"...

Next up is Jon McLaughlin with the delicately wonderful "Beautiful Disaster"...

Nelly Furtado comes back and re-enters the list with the remix to her tune "All Good Things (Must Come To An End)"...

and after a long hiatus Billy Corgan reassembles Smashing Pumpkins with "Tarantula"...

And finally Gwen Stefani, already on the list with "Sweet Escape" in the top-10, comes on at the #100 spot with "4 in the Morning"...

Who's your Daddy?

Friday, June 15, 2007

There's nothing on the TV, nothing on the radio that means that much to me....

Razorlight is an London-based rock band that gets oodles of press in the UK, but pretty much nothin' in the States. And that's a shame. I mean, I know I wasn't ga-ga over the group's debut, Up All Night, but probably more due to me lumping them into a cartload of other British neo-rock bands at the time, like the Libertines, Kaiser Chiefs, etc, etc. But much to my delight, Johnny Borrell and the boys have definitely killed the sophomore curse with their self-titled CD, Razorlight. Filled with tight, melodic tunes that sometimes remind me of Madness (probably the prominent piano on a bunch of tracks), sometimes the Fab Four themselves (in Borrell's spot-on Lennon-tinged voice on "Who Needs Love?"). Most of the disc are "love songs" in a way, though you'd never know it since the leadoff track, "In The Morning", has been accused of being about date-rape, though I listened to it and he is thinking "we", so maybe it's about a couple having a sloshed moment of indescretion. "Who Needs Love" is my highlight of the album, with its simple melody and bright, sunny counterpoint to the normally dirthful lyrics about giving up of being in/getting/having love. "Hold On" is another Britpop nugget, with toss-off inspirational lyrics under layers of killer hooks. "America", their sole #1 hit so far in Britain, was well deserved, describing Borrell's nostalgia for younger days and naive love for American culture. "Before I Fall To Pieces" is a good "wronged-man" shuffle, while "I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got" almost begins like a Hagar-era Van Halen song, but retains its subdued arrangement until the end, which really works for the repressed emotion to carry through. "Pop Song 2006" may be sarcastically named, but it'd fit on radio any day. The visualism of "America" is replayed on the flashback of "Kirby's House", and "Back To The Start" enbodies a psuedo-reggae vibe to start off a typical neo-britpop jam. Closing out the disc is "Los Angeles Waltz", an atypical way to end, being all minorchord-y and 3/4 time (of course) and all. However at no point on here was my interest waned. As much as there was nothing I could call "classic" in my lowly opinion, it definitely was close at many points (the first half is as good as brit-rock in 2006 got and a good listen throughout. A find for those in the states, especially the CD/DVD edition (which I bought on opening day for a whopping 6.99 even!). Hopefully they'll catch on here. Until then...

Grade: B+
Best Cuts:
"Who Needs Love?", "America"

Razorlight hit #180 in the US and #1 in the UK.
"In The Morning" hit #3 in the UK.
"America" made #1 in the UK.
"Before I Fall To Pieces" made #17 in the UK.
"I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got" hit #44 in the UK.

Listen: "Who Needs Love?" (link)

Buy: You can pick up Razorlight at sites like here and here...

and for the videos.... first off the #1 song "America"...

Next, the video for the leadoff track "In The Morning"...

And here's the clip for "Before I Fall To Pieces"...

and finally the single "I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got"...


Tony Snow is a major douchebag, part 253 in a series....

Jon Stewart so caught Tony Snow in a lie, which for Tony Snow comes as often as breathing or eating his own young..This time about Alberto Gonzales (go fig)...

In a world...

(Hat Tip to Jason Hare, prince du pop culture)

More required reading....

Fareed Zakaria, Indian-American journalist and writer for Newsweek, kicks out a poignant and learned treatise on the perils of our jingoistic and shortsighted lack of diplomacy in the current issue.

More troubling than any of Bush's rhetoric is that of the Republicans who wish to succeed him. "They hate you!" says Rudy Giuliani in his new role as fearmonger in chief, relentlessly reminding audiences of all the nasty people out there. "They don't want you to be in this college!" he recently warned an audience at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. "Or you, or you, or you," he said, reportedly jabbing his finger at students. In the first Republican debate he warned, "We are facing an enemy that is planning all over this world, and it turns out planning inside our country, to come here and kill us." On the campaign trail, Giuliani plays a man exasperated by the inability of Americans to see the danger staring them in the face. "This is reality, ma'am," he told a startled woman at Oglethorpe. "You've got to clear your head."
The notion that the United States today is in grave danger of sitting back and going on the defensive is bizarre. In the last five and a half years, with bipartisan support, Washington has invaded two countries and sent troops around the world from Somalia to the Philippines to fight Islamic militants. It has ramped up defense spending by $187 billion—more than the combined military budgets of China, Russia, India and Britain. It has created a Department of Homeland Security that now spends more than $40 billion a year. It has set up secret prisons in Europe and a legal black hole in Guantánamo, to hold, interrogate and—by some definitions—torture prisoners. How would Giuliani really go on the offensive? Invade a couple of more countries?
Read the whole article here - it's worth the time...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I've gotten dull as barbed wire from livin'....

Trace Adkins (real name Tracy, by the way) is a country singer from Louisiana who is seemingly more well known for his height and his ponytail than for his singing. However Adkins' deep baritone is one of the best male voices in the business today. Breaking out of the box big with his debut album, Dreamin' Out Loud, with 4 top-20 hits and one #1 ("This Ain't No Thinking Thing"), things were looking good. As it turned out, Adkins churned out some quality discs, though radio never consistently caught on, giving him one (maybe two) top-10 song an album, getting caught in the slew of "new" artists of his vintage. However the tide started to shift with a change in posture, going from a suave balladeer ("Every Light In The House") to evolve into some sort of Toby Keith-lite. Coincidently (or maybe not) this coincided with his period of trouble with alcohol. What comes of this now is more of a spotty output that appears to be geared on the "manly redneck" section of the country audience, sometimes to the good ("Honky Tonk Badonkadonk") and sometimes notsomuch ("Songs About Me"). And on his seventh studio album (with a greatest hits disc already done), Dangerous Man, Adkins for the most part follows where his bread is buttered. With odes to braggadocio like "Ladies Love Country Boys" and "Southern Hallelujah", the commericalism of redneck is here is full force. No worse can be displayed of that than the threatening jingoistic "Fightin' Words", which plays on the "bully is really the victim" mentality that's three times too old by now. Occasionally that can be somewhat salvaged by Adkins' humor (the players' theme "Swing") or some good guitar chops (album opener "Dangerous Man"), but Adkins' shines best on slow, dramatic numbers, and Dangerous Man is short on that, with "I Wanna Feel Something" the best of the ballad bunch. The heartfelt "The Stubborn One" gets a A for effort, portraying a grandson visiting his Alzeimer-addled grandpa, without going into too much schmaltz. Surprisingly it's jarred into the best fast number in the set, "Ride", a by-the-book driving song. And tagged on to the end of the disc is the "dance" remix of "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" that was shown in the video and eagerly awaited for. There are a few more lesser nuggets on the disc, like the anti-drug "High", and the average love numbers "Ain't No Woman Like You" and "Words Get In The Way". It'll be interesting to see if Adkins continues on the "money" route or if he returns to the A-1 material like "I'm Tryin'" and "Lonely Won't Leave Me Alone". In the meantime, Dangerous Man is a somewhat-competent but disappointing stopgap artistically, yet increasingly productive successfully.

Grade: C
Best Cuts:
"Swing", "Ride", "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk (Video Remix)"
Weakest Links: "Fightin' Words", "Southern Hallelujah"

Dangerous Man hit #3 pop albums and #1 country albums.
"Swing" hit #20 country singles and #76 pop singles.
"Ladies Love Country Boys" made #1 country singles and #61 pop singles.
"I Wanna Feel Something" so far made #28 country singles.

Listen: "Ride" (link)

Buy: You can pick up a copy of Dangerous Man at sites like here and here.

and now for the clips...first off the obvious video to "Swing"...

next up, the surprise #1 of "Ladies Love Country Boys"...

And the video of "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk", with the remix from this album...

There's a cold streak living inside us, there's no rainbows...just bullets and bombs...

There’s no treadmills this time. Jamiroquai, mostly known in the US for the video for “Virtual Insanity” where lead singer Jay Kay dances around a movable room, has been a fixture on the British dance scene for over a decade. In 2005, the collective released Dynamite, which is a seesaw between neo-electrofunk and the classic disco sound they excel with. And this album mostly proves this point – the best moments are when they go totally discofied , like in the anthemic “(Don’t) Give Hate A Chance” and album closer “Time Won’t Wait”, which could have been pulled from any 1979 Salsoul disc. On the other hand, the band stretches on breakbeat jams like leadoff track “Feels Just Like It Should” and rockish toss-off “Black Devil Car” with some success. There’s also some smoother moments on Dynamite, like the nostalgic “Seven Days In Sunny June” and moody interlude “Talullah”, which sounds eerily like a “Quiet Storm” takeoff on George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”. The Eurodisco of collectives like Daft Punk are evident on numbers like “Electric Mistress” and “Loveblind”. And even straight-ahead Kool & The Gang disco is there with “Dynamite” and “Starchild”. Only at the end are there a couple missteps, in the stop-cold “World That He Wants” and the faux-Prince “Hot Tequila Brown”, though neither is totally vapid. Since this is the last album since Jay Kay acrimoniously split from Columbia, only time will tell if Jamiroquai will get the success it deserves in the States. Until then, you’d be well rewarded by seeking out a copy of Dynamite.

Grade: B+
Best Cuts:
“Feels Just Like It Should”, “Starchild”, “(Don’t) Give Hate A Chance”
Weakest Links: “World That He Wants”, “Hot Tequila Brown”

Dynamite hit #125 on the US and #3 in the UK.
"Feels Just Like It Should" hit #1 Dance Club, and #8 in the UK.
"Seven Days In Sunny June" made #14 in the UK.
"(Don't) Give Hate A Chance" made #27 in the UK.

Listen: "Feels Just Like It Should (Ralphi & Jody's Vivacious Vox Mix)" (link)

Buy: You can pick up a copy of Dynamite at websites like here and here.

Watch: Jamiroquai are aces in video. Witness ultra-cool "Feels Just Like It Should"...

Next, second single "Seven Days In Sunny June"...

And finally, the best of the bunch....with a truckload of peace, love, and pride, "(Don't) Give Hate A Chance"....