Archive for May, 2014

Mark Steyn, Broadway Baby

May 21st, 2014
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“What do you want for our anniversary,” my wife asked in mid-April. Number twenty-three was coming up, and as hasn’t happened in about twenty years, I had something I actually wanted: a $100 gift certificate to the SteynOnline.  I want to support his fight against that loon Michael Mann, and for free speech, (which took yet another hit in Toronto this weekend *). So by mid-morning on April 27th, I had already spent most of my $100, and bought 3 Steyn offerings, America Alone (hardback edition), Passing parade and Broadway Babies Say Goodnight.


While I worked through Passing Parade first, and having bought America Alone on my Kobo when it first came out, I am now about two-thirds through Broadway babies. I simply cannot say enough how much I am enjoying it. Steyn is, of course, such a good writer, but Broadway is an obvious passion, and his knowledge on the subject is frightening. For myself, I’m a big music fan who has lately grown to enjoy the musicals, show tunes, and jazz standards that are covered through the book. It is a book I looked at for years at SteynOnline and decided no, finally bought, albeit reluctantly, and is one of the best books I’ve read in

One thing I keep thinking, I would love if Steyn updated the book, being more than 15-years out of date and things on Broadway have, naturally enough, changed since the mid 90’s. Or have they changed? It’s a question I’d like to see Steyn answer.

If you prefer e-books, Steyn has made his books available in various formats, more dead people than ever version of Passing Parade. But really, just go to SteynOnline, order some books and support his fight against big climate bully Michael Mann.

Mark Steyn

Freedom of Music: California Breed

May 18th, 2014
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

It’s an easy temptation to compare California Breed to it’s predecessor, Black Country Communion. To look upon Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham’s new power trio as BCC minus Joe Bonamassa and Derek Shirinian, as their debut album as the fourth BCC studio effort. Easy, but wrong. A far better comparative would be Hughes 70’s power trio, Trapeze, with the California Breed album slotting itself musically in a natural progression after 1970’s Medussa and ’72’s You Are The Music… We’re Just the Band.

California Breed is in fact exactly as advertised, a power trio of the old school. As much as the narrative on Black Country Communion was a band out of the 70’s, there was always something about that story that rang false. California Breed is far closer in feel and mood to a 70’s band, with the twist that guitarist Andrew Watt often sounds straight out of the 90’s grunge movement.

The problem is, the power-push rhythm section is missing the tempering quality of Bonamassa, his instinctively melodic lines that make sense of the rhythm sections natural inkling to roll with power for the entire album. While Watt is a good guitar player, he is too inclined to join the raucous fun, with the end result being an album that is thunderously rockin’ and entirely forgettable.

That’s not to say that there are no softer moments, no ballads. But even the ballads, such as All Falls Down and Chemical Rain, are driven by a distorted guitar instead of defaulting to an acoustic (Breathe being the exception, using an acoustic throughout). The Ballads however, along with Sweet Tea, despite it’s obvious similarity with Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love, and Spit You Out are the albums highlights.

The problem falls in a number of heavy (as in plodding) numbers that sound more or less alike and are meaningless, loud and otherwise boring: The Grey; Days they Come; Strong; Invisible and Scars are interchangeable and boring in spite of their volume.

The reality is I want to like this album, I like Glenn Hughes and, as a loyal Led Zeppelin fan am cheering for Jason Bonham to do well. I want to like this album, but I just can’t. It has it’s moments where it’s good, but it has far too many that detract from the good within. I want to like it, but I know the truth is, having reviewed it, I will probably never listen to it again.

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod

The Freedom of Music: Divas

May 11th, 2014
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

I’m not one for the current crop of pop stars. In the best imitation of my parents that I can do, it often occurs to me ‘that’s not really music.’ Over-reliance on computer tricks, double-taping the vocals and too many dancers on stage make a guy wonder if they’re hiding what they don’t have by spending a fortune on show. sidebar-1 But less face it, I write on music because I love music. As much as I have my fair share of the miserable old bastard about me, if somebody who I previously dismissed manages to blow my socks off, I’ll not stand there saying, “but, but…”

Nobody hides on a Broadway stage. You either have the stuff, or you die up there while the critics in the pit rip you apart. So when my daughter and I went to see Carly Rae Jepsen as Cinderella in Rogers and Hammerstein’s stage variation on the beloved fairy tale, I was skeptical. Jepsen, the Call Me Maybe hit-maker, is cute as a button and perky like Tigger. But can she sing with the auto-tune in the off position?

Short answer: oh yes, she can. Jepson as Cinderella was a) cute as a button b) perky like Tigger and c) sang the Rogers and Hammerstein score flawlessly. I may never be a Call Me Maybe fan, but I’ll tell you what I know: Carly Rae Jepsen can sing.

But when it comes to female pop singers, nobody’s bigger than Beyonce. She has it all, the designer clothes, multi change stage show, half-naked dancers, celebrity rapper husband and Time Magazine cover. But it’s easy to see the pictures of the celebrity couples baby, Ivy Blue, in the celebrity magazine’s and the Pepsi sponsorship and forget she came out of a vocal group, Destiny’s Child.

Watching the 2008 movie Cadillac Records, about the success of Chess Records, Beyonce, starring as Etta James sings an astounding version of I’d Rather Go Blind. It is a performance of a classic song that sends chills up the spine. If you haven’t seen it, it is a must watch, just so you can put aside whatever bias you have against Beyonce, she’s that good in this movie.

At the risk of repeating myself: Beyonce can sing.

No, I’m not running out to buy Beyonce, or Carly Rae Jepson’s records, and because the evidence suggests these two women can sing, doesn’t mean Lady Gaga, Madonna or Brittany Spears automatically can. There’s still too much trickery, not enough relying on talent. But it’s useful to remember that just because talent isn’t immediately evident, doesn’t mean it’s absent.

The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod