Frontier Radio turns 30

March 12, 2011

Normally, my March column is usually given over to local musical celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day.  Not to worry, there’s still plenty of those in store this year, and I mention a number of them in my online Now Hear These listing.  But this St Paddy’s Day there’s a special reason to celebrate.  On March 17, WMSE Radio will mark exactly thirty years on the air.  With a radio landscape filled with ever changing call letters and formats, the fact that Frontier Radio (affectionately known in the early days as “Messy Radio”) has maintained the same programming format for this long is nothing short of remarkable.  Consider the fact a number of the station’s volunteer DJ’s have been doing their thing for the station’s entire run.  And for many listeners (including yours truly), the station has provided an education in a wide array of musical genres.  And thanks to the internet, the station’s listeners now literally span the globe.  Combine that with the station’s never-flagging support of the local music and arts scene, and you truly have an asset that’s one of this community’s cultural treasures.  And that’s something worth celebrating.  Big time.

And celebrate they will, beginning on March 6, when the station presents the ninth annual Rockabilly Chili contest at the Kern Center on the MSOE campus.  This is the station’s single biggest fund-raising event, and around fifty establishments will be offering their chilis for your perusal.  And the public is strongly encouraged to vote for their favorites in three categories:  meat, veggie, and spicy.   Add to this  the great records spun by DJ’s Jonny Z and Dietrich, and you’ve got yourself one of the city’s biggest parties.  And with the winter we’ve been having, it couldn’t come soon enough.

The official celebration takes place the week of March 13-20, when the station will showcase some of our best local acts at venues all over town.  On the actual anniversary on March 17 the Thursday DJ’s, including Dori, Tom Wanderer, and especially Jules, who’s been with the station since Day One, will be featuring special music to commemorate the occasion.  Capping the day’s festivities will be a show at Turner Hall Ballroom featuring Celtic punk band the Tossers, back again in Milwaukee for St Paddy’s Day.  And if that’s not enough, head over the next night to Mad Planet on Center St, where their weekly 80’s Retro Night will be taken over by veteran MSE DJ’s Dori and Melissa, who will be spinning their favorite 80’s tracks.

Full details on anniversary events and lineups are available at the station’s website, wmse.org.

Happy Anniversary, Frontier Radio!

(Disclaimer: Randy Otto is a volunteer and sometime co-show host on WMSE.)

NOW HEAR THESE!

Before getting to this month’s picks, just a few quick notes.

First of all, kudos to Bay View resident Bill Theisen because his term as Artistic Director of the Skylight Opera has been extended  two years.  A lifelong Milwaukee resident, Mr. Theisen’s talents aren’t restricted to the Skylight stage.  Last fall, he co-starred in the Rep’s hit Laurel and Hardy, and on March 18-20, he’ll be directing the Florentine Opera’s production of Rossini’s comic masterpiece The Italian Girl in Algiers (more info at florentineopera.org).  And of course, we’ll be looking forward to more great shows at the Skylight-the 2011-12 season lineup is now available at skylightopera.com.  Congratulations, Bill!

There’s good news for local jazz fans.  There’s a brand-new website that caters to the Milwaukee jazz community.  Go to milwaukeejazzvision.org for up-to-the-minute information on jazz performances and activities around town. Check it out!

As I expected, a few of you chimed in response to last month’s column on music DVD’s.  Patricia of Milwaukee agreed on my top choice, Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, but for a different reason.  “It’s a fantastic workout video!” she tells me.  Well Patricia, there’s no doubt this DVD is packed with energy to spare.  Jeff from Cudahy picks the Eagles’ DVDs, especially the 1994 classic Hell Freezes Over. “The sound and camera work are sublime.  It really boosted my appreciation for Joe Walsh’s talents as a guitarist, and best of all, the DVD sure is a lot cheaper than a ticket for one of their shows!” Jeff also put in a vote for Peter Gabriel’s concert DVD’s, Growing Up Live and Still Growing Up Live and Unwrapped. While they’re both extremely well-made concert films, I would opt for Still Growing Up as its setlist contains a better overview of Gabriel’s entire solo career. And Scott from Shorewood and Kyle from Milwaukee put in votes for last year’s Rush documentary Behind the Lighted Stage, saying it was much better than one might expect.  There are a lot of other people that agree with you, since the film received the Audience Award at last year’s prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

On February 18, I attended show #9 of Cheap Trick’s unprecedented 12 concert series at the Northern Lights theatre.  The “Dream Police” show lived up every bit to the deafening buzz I heard after the initial shows.  And given the logistics of the show’s multi-level stage, the orchestra and singers that joined the band for each show, and the Broadway-caliber stage effects (right down to the confetti that showered the crowd during the closing number “Surrender”-or were those more of Rick Nielsen’s guitar picks?), Milwaukee is the only city that will see this production.  Brian Burke of the Northern Lights staff told me that the band tweaked the setlist in the second part of the show nightly since a number of fans have attended every performance of the series.  Luckily for me, two of my favorite Trick tracks (“California Man” and “Mandocello”) made the setlist the night I attended.  And while there were rumblings that the series would be extended “by popular demand,” Brian said the most likely scenario would have the band returning in the fall for another residency at Northern Lights.  Either way, this show is not to be missed.  To this veteran concertgoer, it’s one of the best rock shows I’ve ever seen.

Gaelic Storm, Pabst Theater, March 17 (pabsttheater.org)

The world’s #1 Irish party band returns to Milwaukee, and for the fourth straight year, is celebrating St Paddy’s Day at the historic Pabst Theater.  To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, “Of all the pubs in all the towns in all the world, they celebrate St Paddy’s here.”  That says a lot for the love affair this band and our fair city have enjoyed since they made their momentous Milwaukee debut at the 1998 Irish Fest, after their appearance in the classic movie Titanic. Band member Patrick Murphy still loves talking about that gig, the first time the band performed outside of their home pub in Santa Monica, CA, describing the experience as going from pubs to Woodstock!  Now although the Pabst may be a cozier venue than being among the thousands that jam their Irish Fest shows, the evening promises to be every bit as raucous.  Leo was right, Gaelic Storm is a REAL party!

Frogwater, March 17 (frogwater.us)

St. Paddy’s Day rates alongside Irish Fest as the busiest time of year for many of Milwaukee’s Celtic-inspired acts.  Exhibit A is the ever-popular duo Frogwater, and this year John and Susan Nicholson will be playing no less than five gigs on March 17, all of them in the Milwaukee city limits!  They start the day at 10 am with their first-ever gig at the Black Rose at 2856 N. Oakland Ave, followed by a return to one of their favorite haunts, Slim’s at 338 S 1st St. at 2 pm.  Then it’s back downtown for a 4:30 gig at Trinity 3 Irish Pubs at 125 E Juneau Ave (try to guess which pub they’ll be playing in!), and then it’s a return to Slim’s for a 7:30 gig.  And in Frogwater tradition, St Paddy’s ends with a gig at the iconic County Clare at 1234 N Astor St from 10 pm until 2 am or when the band collapses, whichever comes first.  I’m putting my pot of gold on 2 am!  And if that wasn’t enough, they’ll be right back at it the next night when they’ll be playing the Horse and Plow pub at the American Club in Kohler.  When asked about playing so many gigs in such a short time, Susan echoed the sentiment of many other musicians by responding, “When the gigs are out there, you play!”

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Milwaukee Rep, March 1-27 (milwaukeerep.com)

Continuing a very strong season, the Rep also continues to broaden its musical horizons with this show from Tony and Pulitzer prize winner August Wilson, who was one of America’s greatest playwrights.  The show takes place in a Chicago recording studio in the late 20’s, where Ma Rainey and her band are cutting some blues sides.  Between the blues classics is a story that illustrates the black American experience of that era.  This is the second music-based show staged in the Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse Theatre this season-the first was the highly successful Cabaret that opened the season last fall.  Hopefully this signals a trend of more musicals in the Rep’s future, as well as more music-inspired shows in the Rep’s Stackner Cabaret.

Wanda Jackson, The Party Ain’t Over

This onetime girlfriend of Elvis Presley is a bona fide member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and this brand-new album produced by Jack (White Stripes) White offers ample testimony that she deserves to be there!  Mr. White won a Grammy for producing Loretta Lynn’s 2004 comeback album, and don’t be surprised if he gets another one for producing this gem.  Backed by a crackerjack band (with horn section), the septuagenarian Ms. Jackson leads off with a 1-2 punch of “Shakin’ All Over” and “Rip It Up” and finishes with a dandy acoustic take on Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel #6.”  In between are knockout renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Thunder on the Mountain” and even pop standards “Rum and Coca Cola” and “Teach Me Tonight.”  With this album, the party’s just getting started!

Various Artists, LateNightTales Goes to the Movies

In the UK, the LateNightTales series has been very popular.  It allows acts to compile “mixtapes” of their favorite tracks by other artists.  So far, the series has included albums compiled by Air, Snow Patrol, Belle & Sebastian, Arctic Monkeys, Nouvelle Vogue, Flaming Lips, Moby, Fat Boy Slim, and Sly & Robbie, with a set compiled by Midlake on the way.

With the Academy Awards just behind us, I wanted to highlight this recent release, the first in-house production from the LateNightTales team, in which the themes from no less than 39 films are seamlessly woven together.  Some of the segueways are nothing less than pure genius.  For example, the opening track is Ry Cooder’s theme for Paris, Texas, which seamlessly melds into the late John Barry’s memorable theme for Midnight Cowboy. Later, the sounds of choppers herald the opening strains of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings as heard in Platoon, which transitions without skipping a beat into the opening acoustic guitar notes of “Cavatina” from The Deer Hunter. Then there’s Tomoyasu Hotei’s music for the Kill Bill trailer flowing into Dame Shirley Bassey’s classic “Diamonds are Forever” moving into Lalo Schifrin’s “Bullitt Main Title.”  And Vangelis’ “Tears in Rain” from Blade Runner going into Prince’s “Purple Rain” truly gave me chills.  With few exceptions, it’s strictly music, but the dialogue snippets are utilized to great effect, including Martin Sheen’s soliloquy accompanying Carmine Coppola’s “Saigon” from Apocalypse Now and Robert DeNiro’s chilling monologue accompanying the great Bernard Hermann’s “If the Animals Come Out at Night” from Taxi Driver, Hermann’s final score.

If you love movies and/or movie music (I know, that’s a bit redundant), this is a must for your collection.  The mini-posters of all 39 movies included in the CD booklet are a nice bonus.

More information on the LateNightTales series is available at latenighttales.co.uk.

Peter Baime, March 10, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music (wcmusic.org)

Guitarist Peter Baime is one of the longest-serving members of the WCM faculty.  And his specialty is flamenco guitar, which has similarities to jazz in which musicians carry on a musical dialogue with each other.  In this case, the guitarist responds to the steps of the flamenco dancer, and vice versa.  Dancers based in Madison and Chicago will be joining Baime on the program.  Just a word to the wise…Baime’s previous flamenco programs have played to packed houses, so in the words of Marty O’Neal, get your tickets now!

Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water (Legacy Edition)

Traffic, John Barleycorn Must Die (Deluxe Edition)

Derek & the Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (Super Deluxe Edition)

All of the above listed classics came out over 40 years ago and have stood the test of time very well, so they certainly are worthy of the “deluxe” treatment.

Bridge Over Troubled Water turned out to be Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s swansong, and received a then-unheard of five Grammy awards (until Carole King’s Tapestry duplicated the feat the following year).  It spawned an amazing number of hit singles, including the title track, “El Condor Pasa (If I Could),” “Cecelia,” “Keep the Customer Satisfied” and the epic “The Boxer.”  This Legacy Edition will be especially attractive to fans since it includes a DVD containing the TV special Songs of America, which features concert footage from the duo’s 1969 tour and has not been seen since its original 1969 broadcast.  There’s also a feature on the making of the album, featuring recent interviews with Simon, Garfunkel, co-producer Roy Halee, and others involved with the making of the album (including members of Phil Spector’s legendary “Wrecking Crew”).

Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die is the band’s comeback after Steve Winwood’s fling with supergroup Blind Faith the year before.  Even so, many fans consider it Winwood’s first solo album, since he handles the majority of instruments and, of course, those unmistakable lead vocals.  But Winwood would insist that Jim Capaldi’s percussion and harmony vocals along with Chris Wood’s reed work were key elements in the album’s success.  Whatever, with its opening salvo of the great instrumental jam “Glad,” “Freedom Rider,” and the majestic “Empty Pages,” along with their take on the title track, one of the oldest songs in the English folk canon dating back to before Christianity, Barleycorn is one of the truly great rock albums.  The deluxe edition includes a 1970 Traffic show from New York’s legendary Fillmore East, recorded for a live album but previously unreleased.

The Great Rock Album accolade can also be accorded to Layla, and it has, many times.  This one time meeting of Winwood’s Blind Faith bandmate Eric Clapton and the late Duane Allman created an album of guitar masterpieces that have inspired axe masters for the past forty years.  And the title track’s concluding section provided unforgettable accompaniment to Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece Goodfellas. The Super Deluxe Edition is similar to the package given the Who’s Live at Leeds last year.  It contains 4 CD’s, 2 LP’s and a DVD along with book, all packaged in a flip top case.  The CD’s include the original album, both sides of a Phil Spector-produced Dominos single, all the songs the band performed for the Johnny Cash Show in November, 1970 (including Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox,” in which the band is joined by Perkins himself), songs recorded for the never-released second Dominos album, as well as an expanded edition of the band’s performance at the Fillmore East.  The DVD features a brand-new surround sound mix of the original album, for those of you who own home theatre systems.

The Traffic and Simon & Garfunkel releases arrive March 8; the Dominos set is scheduled for March 29.

Various Artists, Troubadours:  The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter

Starbucks’ Hear Music has done it again with this nifty DVD/CD package.  The DVD chronicles the singer/songwriter movement of the early 70’s zeroing in on the Troubadour, the venerable LA club that became the hub of the movement, along with two of its brightest stars, Carole King and James Taylor.  The DVD also includes interviews with other Troubadour stars such as Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Jackson Browne and Kris Kristofferson.  The bonus CD features key tracks from the artists.


Honey, let’s stay in and watch…a music DVD

January 30, 2011

By Randy Otto

For your next movie night, how about a music DVD to stave off the winter chill? CD sales continue to decline, but here are 10 surefire, can’t-miss music DVDs that have not let me down.

1. Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense

Jonathan Demme’s 1984 film remains to this day the best concert film ever made. Demme’s amazing camera work, combined with David Byrne’s stage design and an absolutely killer soundtrack mix, have made this movie the gold standard by which all other concert films must now be judged. This edition of Talking Heads (including Shorewood native Jerry Harrison and P-Funk veterans Bernie Worrell and Steve Scales) will never be topped.

2. The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night

The Fab Four’s 1964 movie debut is not only the best rock movie ever, it’s also one of the best movie comedies ever, period. The movie follows the lads on tour around England, and though it’s a scripted story, it faithfully shows those early days of Beatlemania. Director Richard Lester’s camerawork and editing helped pave the way for the art form known as the music video.

3. Various Artists, The T.A.M.I. Show

This 1964 concert, just released on DVD in 2010, features so much incredible history. You get several Motown greats (The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) as the label was beginning to make its mark, the Rolling Stones’ first American tour, Chuck Berry’s post-prison comeback, the Beach Boys live, and James Brown proving he was indeed the Hardest Working Man in Show Business.

4. The Band, The Last Waltz

This is Martin Scorsese’s great film of The Band’s farewell concert, Thanksgiving Night 1976. By inviting their musical influences musicians onstage, The Band’s concert was a celebration of rock’s second generation. Memorable moments include the aging Muddy Waters’ killer version of “Mannish Boy” on which guest Paul Butterfield blows a single note on his harmonica for what seems forever, Van Morrison ripping through “Caravan” like a man possessed, and Neil Young’s gripping rendition of “Helpless,” featuring a chilling offstage descant vocal from Joni Mitchell.

5. Pink Floyd, Pulse

Filmed on the band’s 1994 Division Bell tour at London’s Earls Court (without Roger Waters), this concert covers all phases of Floyd’s storied history, including performances of “Astronomy Domine” and the complete Dark Side of the Moon album.

6. Kraftwerk, Minimum Maximum

In spring 2008, I had the privilege of seeing Kraftwerk’s concert at the Rave, on their way to performing at the Coachella festival. An amazing meshing of sound and video, it’s one of my all-time favorite concert experiences. Filmed on the German band’s 2002-03 world tour, this DVD does a fantastic job capturing the live experience.

7. Jeff Beck, Appearing This Week Live at Ronnie Scott’s

Slash has called Jeff Beck the “world’s greatest living guitarist,” and these gigs, filmed in 2007 at London’s venerable jazz club, offer jaw-dropping proof. The set list covers a wide swath of Beck’s career, going all the way back to “Beck’s Bolero” from Truth, the first Jeff Beck Group album in 1968.

8. Led Zeppelin

From early European TV appearances in 1969 to their final UK gig at Knebworth in 1979, this two-disc set is the closest many of us will ever have of experiencing this band live. Nearly five hours of kinetic footage!

9. West Side Story

One of the great things about DVDs is they make movies from the late ’50s and ’60s (that were recorded in four-track stereo sound) look and sound better than you remember from seeing them either at your local movie theater, campus film society, or on TV. Nowhere is this more evident than on the DVD of 1961’s Best Picture Oscar winner.

10. Monterey Pop

Technically a documentary, D.A. Pennebaker’s record of the 1967 festival, considered the granddaddy of the big rock fests, devotes the majority of its time to musical performances: from Janis Joplin’s earth-shaking “Ball and Chain” to the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s American debut to David Crosby’s final performance with the Byrds to Otis Redding’s rapturous performance that totally won over the “love crowd.”

Now Hear These!

First a few updates from last month’s column. As is usually the case when assembling the “Nifty Fifty” list, something tends to get overlooked. I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention I Learned the Hard Way, the great CD from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. It’s a perfect complement to Kings Go Forth’s Outsiders are Back.

Also, in my item on the Rep’s great Hank Williams show Nobody Lonesome for Me, I mentioned Williams died on New Year’s Day 1955. He actually died on New Year’s Day 1953. I stand corrected.

Tango Buenos Aries, February 8, Marcus Center (mso.org)

The Milwaukee Symphony certainly knew what they were doing by presenting this show, especially now. Yes, it’s cold outside, but it’s also close to Valentine’s Day, and this world-renowned dance troupe from Argentina will certainly help heat things up with an evening filled with the tango, the world’s most sensuous dance. Hey fellas, if you want to score big time points with your favorite lady, treat her to an evening out at this show! Please be aware the MSO itself will not be performing for this program, since Tango Buenos Aries will provide its own music.

Nowhere Boy DVD

This British film had its US premiere last October to coincide with John Lennon’s 70th birthday. Although the highly acclaimed film played Chicago, it totally missed Milwaukee, so it’s great to see it’s finally available on DVD. It tells the story of Lennon’s early life up to the point where he hooked up with Paul McCartney, exploring the complex relationship between John, his mother Julia (immortalized in his White Album song “Julia”), and his Aunt Mimi who was his guardian during his teen years. It goes a long way in explaining Lennon’s relationships with women, and it has a great soundtrack of early rock and roll classics.

Jeff Beck, Rock & Roll Party Honoring Les Paul
Jeff Beck, Rock & Roll Party Honoring Les Paul DVD & Blu-ray

Back in December, during Milwaukee Public TV’s membership drives, one of the many special music programs buried in the schedule was this absolute gem. Filmed in June 2010 at New York’s Iridium club where Les Paul held court every Monday night right up until he passed away in 2009, Jeff Beck paid homage to his hero with this killer program of Les Paul standards (including “How High the Moon,” “Vaya Con Dios” and “Tiger Rag”) and early rock classics, including “Sleep Walk,” “Apache,” “Peter Gunn” and “20 Flight Rock.” In addition to a hot backing band, Beck is joined by guests including rising Irish singing star Imelda May, hot young New Orleans musician Trombone Shorty, and Mr. Stray Cat himself, Brian Setzer. What a party!

The CD and DVD’s arrive on February 22.

Cheap Trick, Northern Lights Theatre, February 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26 (paysbig.com)

Fans of the boys from Rockford, who have long considered Milwaukee their “backyard,” have a special treat in store for them. The band is in the midst of an unprecedented 12 show series, celebrating the 30th anniversary of their classic Dream Police album, performing the album in its entirety, and including many other favorites as well. The show is being staged on a specially designed set with laser and video effects, and the three original members (Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander and Tom Petersson) are joined by several backup musicians and singers, plus an eighteen piece orchestra comprised of musicians from the Milwaukee Symphony, Wisconsin Philharmonic and Milwaukee Ballet orchestras. Add the fact that the shows take place in the intimate 500 seat Northern Lights theatre, and you have a show that would normally require you to travel to Vegas. The buzz from the early shows has been huge, so don’t hesitate to get your tickets, as it appears all performances will sell out!

Peter Roller, Blue Fog

Several months ago I reported on the 40th anniversary concert for local guitarist Jack Grassel. But he isn’t the only Milwaukee guitarist celebrating a major milestone. Another longtime music fixture, Peter Roller (original member of the R&B Cadets and currently teacher at Alverno College), celebrates 30 years of performing with his new Blue Fog CD. Playing an impressive array of guitars, Roller presents a program of 16 original compositions, covering the gamut of musical styles. Several guest musicians (including another local veteran guitarist, troubadour Colin O’Brien) assist on several tracks, but it’s pretty much Roller’s show, a great guitar showcase. The CD is available at cdbaby.com.

The Last Play at Shea DVD

Billy Joel, In Concert at Shea Stadium (DVD and Blu-ray)

Arriving February 8 is Last Play at Shea, the film that documents Billy Joel’s 2008 concerts at New York’s Shea Stadium, the last event at the venue. Alec Baldwin narrates the film, which had its debut at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and tells the history of the venerable ballpark as well as presenting highlights from the Joel concerts.

Those seeking the entire Billy Joel show will have to wait until March 1, when In Concert at Shea Stadium is released. The entire concert is here, including guest performances from Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, John Mellencamp, John Mayer, Steven Tyler and Roger Daltrey. Plus there’s a special surprise guest appearance from Paul McCartney (who was actually touring Canada at the time of these shows), whose original band the Beatles were the first music act to perform at Shea in 1965.

Decemberists, The King is Dead

Making a welcome left turn from previous releases, Colin Meloy’s band presents a ten song set of country flavored rock tunes, quite different from the elaborate song cycles of past albums. The band is joined by guest artists Gillian Welch and REM guitarist Peter Buck. “This is Why We Fight” is a personal favorite from this great album, destined to be one of 2011’s best.

Gregg Allman, Low Country Blues

On his first solo album since 1997, the blues-rock mainstay presents a program of mostly covers of blues standards. The sole original “Just Another Rider,” co-written with fellow Allman Brothers Band member Warren Haynes, sounds a tad reminiscent of Allman’s classic “Midnight Rider,” and it’s no coincidence. The remaining tracks feature Allman’s takes on songs from Muddy Waters, Skip James, Otis Rush, and Amos Milburn, among others, all done under the watchful eye of ever-busy producer T-Bone Burnett. Like he’s already done with recent albums from Robert Plant, Elton John and Leon Russell, Burnett has helped deliver Allman’s best solo release since 1973’s classic Laid Back. Given the health issues that have challenged Allman in recent years, the fact he’s come through with such a fine album is downright amazing.



The Nifty Fifty music releases of 2010

January 2, 2011

As we head into 2011, let’s take a moment and look back at the past year in music. Once again, it’s time for my “nifty fifty” list of new music releases from the past year. Please keep in mind that the rankings do not necessarily mean one album is better than the ones that follow. All of them are worthy of inclusion. With no further ado, here we go…

1. Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone

2. Charlie Musselwhite, The Well

3. The Black Keys, Brothers

4. Carolina Chocolate Drops,
Genuine Negro Jig

5. Kings Go Forth, The Outsiders Are Back

6. Richard Thompson, Dream Attic

7. Neil Young, Le Noise

8. Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song

9. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

10. Elton John and Leon Russell, The Union

11. Robert Plant, Band of Joy

12. Chieftains and Ry Cooder, San Patricio

13. Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Guests,
Preservation

14. Johnny Cash,
American VI: Ain’t No Grave

15. Tom Jones, Praise & Blame

16. Grip Weeds, Strange Change Machine

17. Elvis Costello, National Ransom

18. Willie Nelson, Country Music

19. Spoon, Transference

20. Rumer, Seasons of My Soul

21. Mose Allison, The Way of the World

22. Merle Haggard, I Am What I Am

23. Jerry Lee Lewis, Mean Old Man

24. Jack Grassel and Jill Jensen,
Live at the Carleton Grange Pub

25. Jeff Beck, Emotion & Commotion

26. Lee Ritenour, Six String Theory

27. Pat Metheny, Orchestrion

28. Trombone Shorty, Backatown

29. John Legend and the Roots, Wake Up!

30. Eric Clapton, Clapton

31. Quebe Sisters Band, Timeless

32. Testa Rosa, Testa Rosa II

33. Mumford and Sons, Sigh No More

34. Herbie Hancock, Imagine Project

35. JP, Chrissie, and the Fairground Boys,
Fidelity!

36. Leonard Cohen, Songs from the Road

37. John Mellencamp, No Better Than This

38. Kid Rock, Born Free

39. Various Artists, Afrocubism

40. Vampire Weekend, Contra

41. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mojo

42. Buddy Guy, Living Proof

43. Holmes Brothers, Feed My Soul

drjohn

44. Dr. John, Tribal

45. Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust

46. Steve Gadd and Friends, Live at Voce

47. The Roots, How I Got Over

48. Steve Miller Band, Bingo!

cabbage

49. Gaelic Storm, Cabbage

50. Peter Wolf, Midnight Souvenirs

NOW HEAR THESE!

NOW HEAR THESE!

First, here’s an update from last month’s column.  Apparently because of my enthusiasm for the new Testa Rosa CD, I neglected to mention where you can find this great new album. Testa Rosa II is available at testarosamusic.com.

THE BEST VAULT RELEASES OF 2010

  1. Various Artists, Next Stop is Vietnam
  2. David Bowie, Station to Station (Deluxe Edition:  The Ultimate Fan Experience)
  3. Bruce Springsteen, The Promise
  4. Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Vol 9:  The Witmark Demos
  5. Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St (Super Deluxe Edition)
  6. Jimi Hendrix, West Coast Seattle Boy
  7. The Who, Live at Leeds (40th Anniversary Edition)
  8. Leonard Bernstein, The Symphony Edition
  9. Bob Dylan, The Original Mono Recordings
  10. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (40th Anniversary Edition)
  11. Dave Brubeck, Legacy of a Legend
  12. Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Complete Sessions
  13. John Lennon, Gimme Some Truth
  14. Otis Redding, Live on the Sunset Strip
  15. Various Artists, Elektronische Musik:  Experimental German Rock and Electronic Music 1972-1983
  16. Various Artists, 100 Hits-Sixties Pop
  17. John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy (Stripped Down)
  18. Mott the Hoople, Live at Hammersmith Odeon, October 2009
  19. REM, Fables of the Reconstruction (Deluxe Edition)
  20. Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, In Session (CD/DVD Edition)
  21. Steve Winwood, Revolutions:  The Very Best of Steve Winwood
  22. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, A Time and a Place
  23. Various Artists, CTI Records:  The Cool Revolution
  24. Various Artists, Complete Introduction to Chess Records
  25. Various Artists, 101 Sixties Party Hits
  26. Various Artists, The Weekend Starts Here!
  27. Various Artists, Jackie:  The Party Collection
  28. Various Artists, The Rounder Records Story
  29. Bee Gees, Mythology
  30. Oasis, Time Flies:  The Complete Singles Collection
  31. King Crimson, In the Court of the Crimson King (Super Deluxe Edition)
  32. 30 Rock:  Music from the TV Series
  33. Various Artists, Late Night Tales at the Movies
  34. Various Artists, Amorphous Androgynous Presents A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Vol 3

MUSIC ON DVD

  1. Various Artists, The TAMI Show
  2. Various Artists, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concerts
  3. Various Artists, 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival
  4. The Rolling Stones, Stones in Exile
  5. Michael Jackson, Vision
  6. Jimmy Page, the Edge, Jack White, It Might Get Loud
  7. Rolling Stones, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones (much better than the 1974 theatrical release)
  8. Perpetuum Jazzile, Live!
  9. Les Paul & Friends, Live in New York
  10. Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 (Blu Ray Edition)
  11. Rush, Beyond the Lighted Stage
  12. Michael Jackson, This Is It
  13. John Lennon, LennoNYC
  14. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Classic Albums:  Damn the Torpedoes
  15. Who is Harry Nilsson and Why is Everybody Talking About Him?
  16. Bee Gees, In Our Own Time
  17. Rush, Classic Albums:  2112 and Moving Pictures
  18. Neil Young, Le Noise
  19. Frank Sinatra, The Concert Collection
  20. REM, Live from Austin Texas
  21. Brian Setzer Orchestra, It’s Gonna Rock Cause That’s What I Do-Live in Montreux
  22. Elvis Costello, Spectacle Season 1
  23. Alice Cooper, Theatre of Death-Live at Hammersmith 2009
  24. Phil Collins, Going Back:  Live at Roseland Ballroom NYC
  25. The Boys:  The Sherman Brothers Story

FAVORITE GIGS

  1. Cabaret at the Milwaukee Rep
  2. Richard Thompson Band at the Pabst Theatre
  3. Pianist Lang Lang with Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
  4. All Mozart program with Todd Levy, Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at St Josaphat Basilica
  5. The Four Seasons with violinist Frank Almond, guest conductor Nicholas McGegan and the Milwaukee Symphony
  6. The Milwaukee Rep’s A Christmas Carol at the Pabst Theatre
  7. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis with the Alloy Orchestra at the Oriental Theatre
  8. Jack Grassel’s 40th Anniversary Concert at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
  9. HMS Pinafore at the Skylight Opera
  10. Scrooge in Rouge at In Tandem Theatre
  11. Bassist Edgar Meyer and Stravinsky’s Firebird with guest conductor Perry So and the Milwaukee Symphony
  12. Christmas Choral Concert at Wisconsin Lutheran College
  13. Liz Carroll and John Doyle at Irish Fest
  14. Carl Palmer Band at Shank Hall
  15. Carolina Chocolate Drops at WMSE Radio Summercamp at Cathedral Park
  16. Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
  17. Jeff Beck at Summerfest (despite the ignorant crowd)
  18. Levon Helm Band/James Hunter/Sarah Watkins/Dar Williams at Summerfest (fantastic crowd!)
  19. “The Big Beat,” the We Six Jazz Sextet with guests Robert Figueroa and Amy Richter at Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
  20. Junior Brown at Shank Hall
  21. Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony with Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony
  22. “S’Wonderful:  the Music of George Gershwin” with pianist Kevin Cole, Marvin Hamlisch and the Milwaukee Symphony Pops
  23. “Love, Liebe, L’Amour” Vocal Faculty Recital at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
  24. Gershwin’s American in Paris with guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and the Milwaukee Symphony
  25. “Music of Thelonious Monk” with the We Six Jazz Sextet at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
  26. Frogwater at Irish Fest (and many other venues)
  27. “Hooray for Hollywood” with conductor Jack Everly and the Milwaukee Symphony Pops and Chorus
  28. Guitar Faculty recital at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
  29. All Saint-Saens program with Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony
  30. An Evening with Gilbert and Sullivan at the Skylight Opera
  31. Bugs Bunny on Broadway with the Milwaukee Symphony at the Riverside Theatre
  32. Dames at Sea at the Skylight Opera
  33. Laurel and Hardy at the Stackner Cabaret
  34. Robin Pluer’s Festive Soiree at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
  35. Delhi 2 Dublin at the Global Union Festival at Humboldt Park
  36. East Side Jazz Showcase at WMSE Radio Summercamp at the Miramar Theatre
  37. La Excelencia at the Global Union Festival at Humboldt Park

“The Latin Side of Lee Morgan,” January 20, 7:30 pm, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music (wcmusic.org)

Trumpter Eric Jacobson combines forces with some of Milwaukee’s finest jazz musicians (including several members of WCM’s We Six sextet) to present this tribute to one of Blue Note Records’ greatest legends.  This show is certain to heat up a cold winter’s evening!

Hank Williams:  Nobody Lonesome for Me, January 21-March 13 at the Stackner Cabaret (milwaukeerep.com)

Continuing its tradition of great shows devoted to music legends like Billie Holiday and Liberace, the Stackner’s latest production is devoted to arguably the greatest single figure in country music, the iconic Hank Williams.  The story takes place on the last night of Williams’ life, New Year’s Eve 1954.  “Hank” mixes stories from his life with several dozen of the songs that have become country standards.  One of Waylon Jennings’ songs musically asked, “Are you sure Hank done it this way?”  This show will tell you.  It’s sure to become another smash hit for the Milwaukee Rep’s 2010-11 season!

Benefit Concert for Berkeley Fudge, January 28, 7:30 pm, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music (wcmusic.org)

On November 18, I once again was privileged to attend a great session with We Six, the Conservatory’s great house faculty jazz sextet.  Heading up this illustrious group is tenor sax great Berkeley Fudge, a Milwaukee music icon who’s been plying his trade since the 50’s and has inspired countless musicians, jazz and otherwise.  Several days after this We Six gig, Berkeley suffered a stroke, news that shocked the Milwaukee music community.  The good news is Berk is recovering at home, is walking with a cane, and has been attending daily therapy sessions, although the road to recovery will be a long one.  To help aid Berkeley in his recovery, the Conservatory will be hosting a benefit show on January 28.  As testimony to the love and respect he commands from his peers, many of Milwaukee’s most talented musicians (including many of his fellow We Six members), a list too lengthy to print here, have committed to appear.  And the music’s not just limited to jazz, further evidence of how revered he is in our community.  It should be quite the party (Berkeley would accept nothing less), and donations will be accepted at the door.  Please come and help Berk get back on the bandstand where he belongs!

Delta Routine CD Release Party, January 22, 9 pm at Linnemans (linnemans.com)

One of Milwaukee’s hardest-working young bands (and whose members spend a lot of time here in Bay View), Delta Routine’s second CD is ready to go, and are celebrating its release with a special gig at Linnemans, where they’ll be joined by the highly acclaimed local band the Ragadors, along with Archie Powell & the Exports.  The cover includes a copy of More About You. Sounds like a great way to get 2011 off to a rockin’ start!

Friday Jazz Jam Sessions at Wisconsin Conservatory of Music (wcmusic.org)

A recent addition to the schedule at WCM is the monthly open Jazz Jam, where musicians from high school and up are encouraged to join in performing in the beautiful Bader Recital Hall.  The series is hosted by the WCM jazz faculty, so if you’d like to show your chops with some of Milwaukee’s most talented musicians, or just hang out, the next sessions are January 14, February 11, and March 11.  Sign up is at 6:30, with the music getting underway at 7, so check it out!


Hendrix, Springsteen, and The Who legacy releases are true gems

October 31, 2010

By Randy Otto

Jimi Hendrix, West Coast Seattle Boy

Earlier this year, Sony Legacy acquired the much-coveted rights to the Jimi Hendrix catalog. Phase I consisted of deluxe reissues of the Hendrix studio albums, plus the well-received Valleys of Neptune collection of previously unreleased studio tracks.

Phase II is the crown jewel of the reissue project, the brand-new boxed set West Coast Seattle Boy. This marks the first time Jimi’s entire musical career has been documented in a single anthology. In fact, the first disc of the four-CD set consists entirely of Jimi’s pre-Experience work backing the likes of Little Richard, the Isley Brothers, Don Covay, and King Curtis. The remaining three CDs contain songs familiar to Hendrix fans, but the vast majority of these tracks are previously unreleased outtakes or live tracks. Among the tracks are a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tears of Rage” and the legendary studio jam with Hendrix and jazz organist Larry Young. The Hendrix/Young track offers a hint of the direction Jimi’s music would have taken had he lived.

Topping it all off is a new DVD documentary on Jimi’s life from director Bob Smeaton, who was responsible for helming the Beatles Anthology series, done with the same care Smeaton brought to the Beatles programs.

Finally, an anthology worthy of this musical giant.

Bruce Springsteen, The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story

One of the year’s most-awaited releases is the new Promise box set that offers a never-before-seen look at Springsteen’s creative process during the creation of Darkness on the Edge of Town, which many consider a defining moment in his career. In addition to the newly remastered CD of the original Darkness on the Edge of Town, there are two CDs packed with songs recorded for but not included on Darkness, including “Fire” and “Because the Night.” There are also three DVDs: the recent HBO documentary on the making of the album, another featuring a rollicking E Street Band gig filmed in Houston in December 1978, and one more featuring Bruce and the E Streeters performing the entire album live in an empty Asbury Park theater, filmed in 2009.

Calling The Promise a bonanza for Springsteen fans is the understatement of the year.

The Who, Live at Leeds (Super Deluxe Edition)

Oh, no! Yet another reissue of Live at Leeds? Sure, it’s one of the greatest live albums ever, but it’s been previously issued on CD several times, including the 1995 edition that featured the entire gig (with its complete performance of Tommy) for the first time.

A little historical perspective is in order. During their UK tour in February 1970, the band decided to record several of the gigs with the intent of releasing a live Who album. On the 13th, they recorded their show in Hull, one of the band’s best gigs ever. On the 14th, the band recorded their show in Leeds, mainly as a backup just in case there were technical problems with the Hull tapes.

Which, as it turned out, there were. When listening to the first few songs of the set, it was discovered that John Entwistle’s bass parts were missing. After hearing the first couple songs sans bass, the band abandoned the Hull tapes, and the Leeds tapes became the Live at Leeds album.

But as it turns out, the Hull tapes were recently pulled from storage, and upon listening to the entire show, it was discovered that the Entwistle bass parts were actually on the majority of the tapes. So, thanks to some slick digital editing, Who fans will get to hear this legendary show for the very first time. This monster box contains the original remastered Live at Leeds double CD, the complete Hull show on two CDs, the original Live at Leeds LP on heavy duty vinyl, and a special collectible 45 featuring tracks from the show. In addition, tons of memorabilia from the band fill out the box, just like on the original LP. All in all, a true rock masterpiece just got even better.

See bayviewcompass.com/archives/category/did-you-hear-that to read my exclusive online Now Hear These picks for November, including our annual look at local musical offerings for the upcoming holiday season.


NOW HEAR THESE!

Musically Celebrating the Holidays in Milwaukee

With the myriad of musical events celebrating the upcoming holiday season here in the area, once again Now Hear These presents my list of recommended events that might slip under the radar of more well-known traditional events like the Milwaukee Ballet’s Nutcracker and the Rep’s Christmas Carol. So climb aboard the sleigh, and away we go!

HMS Pinafore, Skylight Opera, November 19-December 19, Cabot Theatre (skylightopera.com)

In the over 50-year-history of this venerable company, the holiday season usually meant one thing: Gilbert & Sullivan. Many of the Skylight’s greatest productions have been their holiday productions of classic G&S operettas. The tradition returns for 2010 with a sparkling revival of the duo’s HMS Pinafore, the delightful comedy of hi-jinx on the high seas seasoned with good English humor. The show is loaded with memorable songs like “My Gallant Crew, Good Morning,” “When I Was a Lad,” “Poor Little Buttercup,” “Carefully on Tiptoe Stealing,” and of course, “He Is An Englishman.” In fact, there is nary a former piano student who didn’t learn this show’s jaunty “We Sail the Ocean Blue” as part of his/her training (My kid sister certainly did). While not containing a holiday theme per se, Artistic Director Bill Theisen’s production will certainly put you in the seasonal spirit. Bangers and mash, anyone?

A Nod to Bob, Linneman’s, November 24

Get an early start on your Thanksgiving celebration by attending this Milwaukee tradition, a benefit for the Hunger Task Force, where some of the area’s best musicians get together to perform their favorite songs by the Bard of Hibbing. A full list of performers and schedule is available at the pub’s website listed above. Don’t forget to bring several non-perishable food items and get a discount on the cover. And get there early, the place fills up fast. And the show does run pretty late, but so what? You don’t have to go anywhere the next morning, do you?

Whitefish Bay Christmas Parade, East Silver Spring Drive, November 26, 5 pm

Ever wanted to attend a nighttime Christmas parade like the one in A Christmas Story? Well, I’ve got just the thing for you. On the day after Thanksgiving at 5pm (after dark, of course), bundle up, fill the thermos with hot chocolate, and head to Whitefish Bay as their annual Christmas Parade rolls down Silver Spring Drive. Floats, bands, the whole shebang…and of course, Mr. Claus will be on hand. And instead of heading to Higbees’ store after the parade like in the movie, you can head to Winkie’s variety store on the corner of Silver Spring and Marlbourough and check out their awesome basement toy department, just like Ralphie and his buddies.

Wisconsin Lutheran College Christmas Choral Concert, December 2-5, Schwan Concert Hall, 8815 W. Wisconsin Ave .

Yes, I’ve been touting this event every year, and for the nominal ticket price, it’s truly a holiday performance everyone can afford. And apparently it’s no longer one of Milwaukee’s best-kept holiday secrets, as an additional evening has been added to the schedule for 2010. The college’s three choral groups perform gorgeous arrangements of some of the season’s greatest traditional carols, as well as Christmas music from around the world. So don’t look for Santa, Frosty, or reindeer running over Grandma here, just some of the most wonderful music ever composed. And limber up those vocal cords, as there are several opportunities for the audience to sing along as well.

Scrooge in Rouge, In Tandem Theatre, December 3-31

From the feisty group who brought you the much-beloved Cudahy Carolers’ Christmas comes this new classic which made its debut last year and makes a welcome return for 2010. An English music hall troupe comes down with food poisoning the night before the premiere of their musical version of the Dickens classic, leaving three healthy actors to carry on. And the show goes on, with the trio performing all 22 roles! It’s a version of A Christmas Carol like you’ve never seen before, and likely will never see again (not unless the play returns for 2011)!

Festive Soiree with Robin Pluer, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, December 9-11

It may not be the boulevards of Paris in July, but attend this perennially popular show with Ms. Pluer and friends at WCM, close your eyes for a moment, and you will indeed be transported to the streets of gay Paree (or at least Cathedral Square in Milwaukee where Robin performs annually during Bastille Days). While the majority of the show features many of Robin’s favorite chansons—including Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris”…en francais!—she also offers a nod to the season with an absolutely heartbreaking rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Handel’s The Messiah with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

December 16 and 19, Basilica of St. Josaphat. December 17 and 18, Cathedral of St. John

After several years’ absence, another Milwaukee holiday tradition returns with the MSO’s performances of Handel’s beloved oratorio, featuring the magnificent “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” “And the Glory of the Lord,” “I Know My Redeemer Liveth,” and of course, “Hallelujah.” It was here in America that Christmastime performances of Messiah began, and became a worldwide tradition, one that the MSO and its glorious Chorus bring back to Milwaukee for 2010.

Gershwin and Friends, Skylight Opera, December 19-January 9, Studio Theatre

It’s New Year’s Eve at George Gershwin’s New York apartment, and the hired help are on hand to work the New Year’s party, where the strains of many Gershwin standards fill the air. After the party winds down, the staff heads uptown to Harlem to continue the revelry, accompanied by songs from Gershwin “friends” Fats Waller, Duke Ellington and Harold Arlen. A great showcase of some of the greatest songs from the 20’s through the 40’s, and a special way to ring in 2011.

New Year’s Party with Sha-Na-Na, Marvin Hamlisch and the Milwaukee Symphony Pops, December 31-January 2, Marcus Center

Speaking of novel ways to ring in the New Year, how about a live “Record Hop” with the kings of oldies revivals, teamed up with Marvelous Marvin and the MSO?

This band, assembled for a talent show while the members were students at Columbia University, got booked to play the legendary 1969 Woodstock Rock Festival, wound up in the subsequent classic film about the festival, and the rest is history. Grease, Happy Days, and countless other shows inspired by 50’s rock and roll probably wouldn’t have existed if Sha-Na-Na didn’t do it first. As far as they’re concerned, some 40 years on, Rock and Roll IS here to stay!

Now I’m just wondering if Bowzer is still part of the group all these years later. Guess there’s only one way to find out…check ‘em out with the MSO this New Year’s!!

World Rock Sessions, November 6 & 13, Highbury Pub

It seems appropriate that the pub where soccer fans of all ethnicities congregate to watch matches, namely Bay View’s own Highbury Pub, should host this nifty series of showcase gigs. WMSE and Alverno College are helping to present these shows, which ably demonstrate that Rock & Roll isn’t just an Anglo-American thing, not by a long shot. If you enjoyed the recent Global Union festival in Humboldt Park, make sure to check out these shows! Each session gets underway at 9 pm.

Richard Thompson Band, November 4, Pabst Theater

Please note the word “band” following the esteemed English singer/songwriter and guitar legend’s name. Although RT has appeared numerous times in Milwaukee over the years, it’s been quite a while since he’s taken the stage with a full backing band for an all-electric show. So this upcoming Pabst show is truly cause for celebration. Add to that he’ll be armed with songs from his great new Dream Attic album, and you have what’s certain to be one of the year’s best shows.

Mark GE Video Showcase, November 18, Oriental Theatre, 7 pm

Now this should be a pre-Thanksgiving treat. Local filmmaker and composer Mark GE will be presenting previously unseen music videos made for his 80’s TV show Joy Farm. Among the many acts featured in these professionally shot concert videos are Red Hot Chili Peppers, Violent Femmes, BoDeans, Husker Du, and They Might Be Giants. In addition, Victor De Lorenzo of the Femmes will be on hand for the festivities. It’s a special opportunity to see the key bands that represented the true alternative vanguard of the early to mid 80’s. Journey back to a time when MTV really meant Music Television. For ticket info call 414-276-8711.

La Guitarra, November 11, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

Speaking of guitar, in case you didn’t get enough fancy fretwork at last month’s guitar faculty recital, here’s another great guitar showcase. This trio features fingerstyle guitarist (and guitar faculty chairman) Matt Schroeder, classical guitarist Brad De Roche, and jazz guitarist Matt Warnock. Each guitarist performs an individual set, winding up with the threesome playing together as Trio La Guitarra. There should be musical fireworks aplenty!

Various Artists, Dear New Orleans

Here’s a musical Christmas gift suggestion for someone who has everything, because you won’t find this in a record store. This 2-CD tribute to the Crescent City comes five years after Katrina, and the material reflects the continuing struggles in that city as well as its resilience. Plenty of stars provided special tracks for this collection, but special mention must be made of the tracks that fill the second half of disc 2. The almighty funk brass band Bonerama are joined by a cast of guest stars on these live tracks, capped by the trifecta of Nicole Atkins on the band’s absolute killer version of “When the Levee Breaks,” REM’s Mike Mills on the CSNY classic “Ohio,” and MC5’s Wayne Kramer on the band’s anthem “Kick out the Jams” which absolutely smokes (and also includes a flute solo!). Proceeds from the album’s sale benefit musical charities in New Orleans, and the album can be downloaded from iTunes or Amazon.

Bee Gees, Mythology

Well, here’s another boxed set scheduled to arrive November 16. I felt it deserved to be mentioned separately from the collections in my main article because it commemorates a very special milestone. Pop music icons the Bee Gees first started harmonizing 50 years ago, and thus this new 4-CD set. However, this isn’t just a typical hit parade collection (last year’s Ultimate Bee Gees fills that niche very well). Each disc is devoted to songs personally selected by Barry and Robin Gibb, as well as Maurice Gibb’s widow and kid brother Andy Gibb’s daughter. There are plenty of the classic hits all right, but just as many album tracks that may well surprise you. However, conspicuous by its absence is “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Tell You.” Guess you can’t have everything, right?

Elton John and Leon Russell, The Union

Elvis Costello, National Ransom

Producer supreme T-Bone Burnett (Grammy winner for the soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou? And the amazing Robert Plant/Allison Krauss album Raising Sand) caps a busy year with these two outstanding releases. The Union may well do for Sir Elton and the legendary “Master of Space and Time” what Raising Sand did for Plant and Krauss. However, this pairing of keyboard-tickling shouters makes more sense on the surface. As it turns out, EJ is a longtime admirer of Russell, going all the way back to Elton’s first days in America, when both were lighting it up playing shows on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Suffice it to say this is Elton’s best effort in years, and Leon’s vocals and piano totally complements the Rocket Man. Plenty of stellar guest stars, including Neil Young and Brian Wilson, are on hand as well. Keep in mind the Deluxe Edition of the album features two additional songs, plus a DVD on the making of the album from acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe.

National Ransom reunites Costello with Burnett, a relationship begun in the 80’s on Costello’s King of America album. The prolific Costello doesn’t disappoint, delivering a whopping 16 songs with nary a misfire in the bunch. The sharp Costello wit is much in evidence, and Burnett surrounds him with great musicians, including members of Costello bands the Imposters and Sugarcanes, plus guests Vince Gill, Buddy Miller and Leon Russell (boy, he’s sure making up for lost time!).

Eric Clapton, Clapton

Charlie Musselwhite, The Well

Two veteran bluesmen return with outstanding new albums. Clapton is Slowhand’s first studio album in five years. For those looking for guitar fireworks, go back and dig out those Cream and Derek and the Dominos albums, because you won’t find them here. This is a man comfortable in his own skin, and this album mostly contains his takes on standards, some that date back to his childhood (ie, Irving Berlin’s “How Deep is the Ocean”). Plus, he’s surrounded by a stellar lineup of musicians, including some of New Orleans’ very best (including jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and legendary songwriter/arranger Allen Toussaint). Nice production work from Clapton band member Doyle Bramhall II on an album that may eventually be ranked with EC’s very best.

The Well is truly a watershed release for the great blues harp maestro Charlie Musselwhite. It’s his first album in which he wrote all the songs, and it’s deeply autobiographical, dealing with topics like overcoming alcoholism and the tragic murder of his mother in her Memphis apartment. Guest vocalist Mavis Staples is on hand to provide some extra punch to the proceedings. It’s not too far-fetched to place this album along other deep soul baring works like John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night, and Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English. To say it’s one of 2010’s very best releases is a huge understatement.

David Bowie, Station to Station (Deluxe Reissue)

For the past several years, EMI has been reissuing the classic 70’s David Bowie albums with additional bells and whistles. But for this reissue of this very pivotal album in the Bowie canon, the label has pulled out all the stops. Transitioning from the funky hipster of Young Americans to the classic Bowie/Brian Eno Berlin trilogy that began with 1977’s Low came this album that was definitely fueled by drugs combined with the L.A. scene, from which emerged the persona of the Thin White Duke. And it also provided some truly great music, including Bowie classics like “Golden Years,” “TVC 15,” the amazing cover of “Wild is the Wind,” and the amazing title track. Besides a newly remastered CD of the original album, the new edition contains 2 CD’s of live tracks recorded during Bowie’s 1976 tour, featuring songs from this album as well as earlier Bowie classics. For the true Bowie geek, there’s also a Collector’s Edition that contains the CD’s, vinyl LP’s of all the music and oodles of Bowie memorabilia from the period. I will be eager to see what EMI has in store for the reissues of the Bowie/Eno trilogy.

Neil Diamond, Dreams
Josh Groban, Illuminations

Now what could these two possibly have in common? Well, they’ve both worked with master producer Rick Rubin. Groban’s Illuminations, his first new album since the bajillion-selling Noel, also marks his first work with a producer other than music guru David Foster. The resulting album sounds quite different from anything else associated with this pair. And considering Rubin’s prior work with the likes of Diamond, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica, that’s saying something. While he could have made another album like his previous work and sold tons of copies, Groban deserves credit for taking chances musically with Illuminations.

After making several highly-acclaimed albums of original songs with Rubin, Diamond takes a break from Rubin and emerges with a covers album which features his takes on some of his favorite songs of the rock era. Ironically enough, Rubin is currently working with Crosby, Stills and Nash on their own covers album! Among the songs Diamond has chosen are “Blackbird,” “Yesterday,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Let It Be Me,” “A Song for You” (there’s Leon Russell again), and “Alone Again (Naturally).” If nothing else, it should be fun to hear Diamond’s takes on these familiar tunes.

Jeff Beck, Live and Exclusive from the Grammy Museum

If you saw the guitar great play Summerfest this year, or if you’re just a fan of jaw-dropping guitar, you’ll want to check out this album, recorded live earlier this year to coincide with the release of the latest Beck studio album Emotion and Commotion. The song list features a palette of styles that would be the envy of most guitarists. The set list includes his soaring take on the opera aria “Nessun Dorma,” a tribute to guitar icon Les Paul with “How High the Moon,” some get-down jams on “Hammerhead” and “Brush with the Blues,” a great instrumental take on Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and yet another Beck take of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” But with the masterful way Beck handles this classic, I certainly don’t mind in the least.

Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 DVD

Now regarded as “the original music videos,” Walt Disney’s 1940 classic Fantasia, along with its 1999 sequel Fantasia 2000, will be available for the first time on Blu-Ray on November 30. Besides the fact that both movies will be available in a single package, the Blu-Ray edition contains a bonus feature for which animation fans have been waiting for decades. Destino, the never-completed collaboration between Disney and artist Salvador Dali, finally sees the light of day on this DVD. When these movies were scheduled for release on Blu-Ray, the staff at Disney Animation (which is now headed up by John Lasseter, the founder of Pixar Studios) decided to exhume the existing footage of Destino and then complete it. A daunting task, to be sure, but it’s certain to get the same response from animation buffs that the restored classic Metropolis received earlier this year. Heck, I just want to see the amazing “Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria” sequence from the original Fantasia in glorious Blu-Ray!

Michael Jackson, Vision DVD

While the fate of the hours of unreleased Michael Jackson session tapes is up in the air, this DVD release will more than compensate. Arriving November 22, this is the ultimate Jackson video retrospective. The set’s 3 discs contain every Michael Jackson video (or “short film”) ever made, including a whopping 10 previously unseen videos! And all the existing videos are uncut (including the car window smashing finale to the “Black or White” video). The set is a vivid reminder that Jackson’s work practically defined the art of music videos…and they still look and sound great!

Ray Davies, See My Friends

Now here’s a new release that totally snuck up on me. Rock legend Ray Davies, who with his band the Kinks recorded some of rock music’s great milestones, has teamed up with some “friends” to record a collection of some of these tunes. When the album leads off with “Better Days,” on which Davies is joined by Bruce Springsteen, you know you’re in for quite a party! Also joining in the fun are Metallica, Jon Bon Jovi, Mumford & Sons, Lucinda Williams, Jackson Browne, Black Francis, Spoon (on the title track), Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan. Sadly, this album also features the final recorded performance of the late, great Alex Chilton. But all in all, it’s a grand celebration of one of rock music’s greatest songwriters. Keep in mind the album will be available on import only until April 2011.


Massive reissue project spearheads Lennon’s 70th birthday celebration

October 1, 2010

By Randy Otto

Especially for those of us who can remember watching the actual performances of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, it’s hard to believe that Oct. 9 marks the 70th birthday of one John Winston Lennon. Of all the events marking the occasion, perhaps the biggest is the reissue of Lennon’s solo catalog, the largest project of its kind since the much-acclaimed reissue of the Fab Four’s catalog in 2009.

All eight of Lennon’s solo albums have been remastered by the same team that worked on the Beatles reissues. In addition, a number of special packages will be released for the occasion. The most imposing of these is something called the John Lennon Signature Box, which contains a whopping 11 discs, containing every track Lennon recorded during his post-Beatles career, including non-LP B-sides.

Perhaps the most intriguing of these releases is Double Fantasy: Stripped Down, which consists of an upgrade of the original 1980 Grammy-winning album, along with a “stripped down” version of the entire album before studio sweetening was added. Album co-producer Jack Douglas says it’s a revelation to hear these songs in this context. Also, the cover features a drawing of the original’s cover photo by Sean Lennon.

The package I welcome the most is Gimme Some Truth, a 72-song box consisting of most of the Lennon solo tracks. Rather than sequence the songs chronologically, the songs are divided into four themed discs: love songs, political songs, rock & roll roots, songs about life. It’s similar to a Johnny Cash thematic reissue series from a decade ago.

For those not wanting to splurge on the boxes, there’s Power to the People: The Hits, a single disc collection of “Dr. Winston O’Boogie’s” radio hit singles. The deluxe edition also contains a DVD of videos of the songs.

Whatever way you want to celebrate, take some time Oct. 9 and spin some of these classics that continue to influence new generations of musicians—and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

NOW HEAR THESE

Richard Thompson, Dream Attic

Mavis Staples, You Are Not Alone

Neil Young, Le Noise

To paraphrase Paul Cebar, three of the “grandest” figures in pop music have returned with new releases that ably demonstrate you’re never too old to make great music.

Richard Thompson’s Dream Attic solves the problem that some feel has dogged Thompson’s albums for years. While a great songwriter and a supreme guitarist, the rub was the studio recordings could never match the fire Thompson brought to his onstage performances (Ask anyone who saw his solo gig at the 2007 Irish Fest). For Dream Attic, Thompson took a set of brand-new songs and his crackerjack band and recorded them before live audiences. Although this is not a new concept (i.e., Jackson Browne’s classic 1977 album Running on Empty and Neil Young’s 1973 album Time Fades Away-which, ironically enough, has faded out of the catalog), this album is truly an unqualified success, one of the very best in this distinguished artist’s career. By the way, the UK deluxe edition of the album includes a second disc featuring acoustic demos of all the album’s songs.

Ever since she was a young girl singing with the great Staples Singers, Mavis Staples has truly been singing her heart out. For her new album You Are Not Alone, the septuagenarian Staples enlisted her great backup band and producer Jeff Tweedy, frontman for the band Wilco. Recorded in Wilco’s loft studio in Chicago, the set list offers a great song assortment including two new Tweedy originals, several songs penned by Staples’ daddy, the great Pops Staples, John Fogerty’s “Wrote a Song for Everyone,” Randy Newman’s “Losing You,” Allen Toussaint’s “Last Train” and a number of traditional gospel songs (including the great “In Christ There is No East or West”), that reach back to Mavis’ roots. Her appearance at Chicago’s Lollapalooza a few months back was one of the high points of this year’s festival. You Are Not Alone marks another milestone in her great career.

Upon hearing the news that the surviving members of Buffalo Springfield would reunite for this month’s Bridge School benefit shows in California, it made me take note of the fact that Neil Young is now into his fifth decade of pursuing the muse that drives him and his music. His just released Le Noise (the title is a nice wordplay on the album’s producer Daniel Lanois) is his best album since 2004’s Prairie Wind but as one would expect when dealing with Mr Young, they are two very different albums. While Prairie Wind was a country tinged outing reminiscent of classics like Harvest and Harvest Moon (on which he was joined by a backup band, backup vocalist Emmylou Harris and a college gospel choir), Le Noise features just two musicians: Young and Lanois. The strongly autobiographical songs were among the best-received at Young’s recent Riverside Theatre gig, and the soundscapes the pair creates on the album are quite striking.

Bet the farm you’ll see these three albums on my “2010 Nifty Fifty” list come January.

Mozart Program, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, October 15-17, Basilica of Saint Josaphat (mso.org)

The Milwaukee Symphony leaves the friendly confines of the Marcus Center for this special concert at one of Milwaukee’s architectural treasures, the Basilica of Saint Josaphat. The program opens with MSO Principal Todd Levy featured on the composer’s great Clarinet Concerto. The main course is the majestic Requiem, on which soloists and the mighty MSO Chorus join Music Director Edo de Waart and the MSO. The tricky acoustics can pose a problem for such a large scale performance, but de Waart has done wonders in shaping the MSO sound during his brief tenure, and if anybody is capable of solving the basilica’s acoustics, he’s the guy. This should be one of the musical highlights of 2010.

Guitar Faculty Showcase, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, October 17 (wcmusic.org)

Part of the WCM’s popular series of Faculty Artist performances, the annual guitar faculty showcase is always among the most awaited. Embracing many musical genres, department chair Matt Schroeder (fingerstyle) is joined by colleagues including Paul Silbergleit (jazz), Peter Baime (flamenco) and George Lindquist (classical). This recital always sells out, you’ve been given fair warning!

Carl Palmer Band, Shank Hall, October 28 (shankhall.com)

Since Keith Emerson and Greg Lake appeared earlier this year at the Northern Lights Theatre, it only seems fair that the third part of the prog supergroup Emerson, Lake and Palmer makes a return visit to Shank Hall, where he performed with his Carl Palmer Band a few years back. The drummer extraordinaire hasn’t lost a beat, it sounds a bit jarring initially to hear the ELP classics performed by a band with no keyboards! Guitars replace Emerson’s parts, but not to worry, you’ll adjust to it with no problem. I wonder if Carl will have his painted dragon gongs in his percussion arsenal.

The Complete Ed Sullivan Shows featuring the Beatles DVD

Various Artists, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concerts DVD

A couple of rock milestones are now available on DVD. Although the Sullivan Beatles shows were previously issued on DVD in 2004, this marks the first time the four shows from 1964 and 1965 are presented in their entirety (including the original commercials). Besides the Fab Four’s electrifying live performances, the DVD’s make for an interesting time capsule of what passed for primetime entertainment back in 1964-5. One particular oddity included here is Frank Gorshin (the future Riddler on the Batman TV series) doing his standup comedy shtick.

Last October, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebrated its 25th anniversary with two nights of unforgettable concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The highlights of these shows, hosted by Tom Hanks and originally shown on HBO, are now available on DVD. Among the one-time only performances included in the four hours plus of music are Mick Jagger and Fergie on the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” backed by U2; Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel rocking out on “Born to Run”; the Boss hooking up with John Fogerty on Roy Orbison’s classic “Oh, Pretty Woman”; Ozzy Osbourne backed by Metallica on Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” and “Paranoid”; and Paul Simon, David Crosby and Graham Nash on an acoustic rendition of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” Now we can all see (and hear) what the buzz was about.

Leonard Cohen, Songs from the Road CD+DVD

Speaking of septuagenarian performers, this iconic singer/songwriter just turned 76, and thanks to his recent world tour, is currently at a high point of his career. Following his magnificent 2009 Live in London set comes this 12 song collection of Cohen classics recorded at various stops on the tour and it’s just as good as the previous release, except this time you also get the videos of all the performances, along with a backstage documentary of the tour.

Backed by his fantastic band (including keyboard master Neil Larsen), all 12 songs are pure gems, but special mention must be made of the version of “Hallelujah” that climaxes the set. It’s a song that never fails to move me, and great as previous versions by Jeff Buckley and kd lang are, hearing the song’s composer performing it at the 2009 Coachella Music Festival simply brought me to tears. Like a fine wine, great troubadours like Cohen simply get better with age.

Phil Collins, Going Back

One of Phil Collins’ biggest hits was his remake of the Motown classic “You Can’t Hurry Love.” Now, 25 years later, Collins returns to the Motown songbook for his latest album, on which he’s joined by his trusty cohort (and area resident), guitarist Daryl Stuermer, along with with several members of the Motown Funk Brothers house band, including bassist supreme Bob Babbitt. It’s obviously a true labor of love for Collins, who offers his takes on eighteen Motown tunes, many familiar, others a bit more obscure, but all deserving to be on the set list. It’s apparent a splendid time was had by all, so get the party started! Please note: the deluxe edition of the album offers an additional seven songs (for a total of a whopping 25 tracks!), along with a DVD that includes a “making of” documentary, videos, and live performances from the band. And by the way, seek out the original versions of these songs. For songs that first came out upwards of 50 years ago, they still sound mighty, mighty good.

Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Volume 9: The Witmark Demos

Ably demonstrating the continuing hold Dylan’s music has on generations of fans, the acclaimed Bootleg Series has now reached a ninth volume. There aren’t too many artists whose demos, outtakes and throwaways would have such appeal to the public. But this is Dylan we’re talking about here. This volume contains 48 acoustic demos Dylan recorded for his music publisher back in the early 60’s (hence the album title). The songs include a many that became Dylan standards, as well as several that have been previously unreleased, even on bootlegs. These are the songs that are the real find for Dylan fans, but it’s also fascinating to hear the familiar songs in these formative versions, demonstrating Bob’s habit of tinkering with his arrangements, something he continues to this very day.


Global Union brings down curtain on summer festival season

August 29, 2010

By Randy Otto

During its short history, Global Union has grown from a cozy gathering in Bay View’s Humboldt Park to Milwaukee’s premier showcase for world music, as well as the official end of the summer festival season. This year’s free event takes place on Sept. 25 and 26 from noon till 5 each day. Here’s a quick preview on the featured artists at this year’s festival, an eclectic group indeed!

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, Mahala Rai Banda, 1pmMahala Rai Banda

Saturday, September 25 Mahala Rai Banda, 1pm

Imagine if the famed Tower of Power horn section were to hook up with the Gipsy Kings. Then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this Romanian group, sure to get the festival off to a rousing start.

Saturday, September 25, Joan Soriano, 2:30pmJoan Soriano

Saturday, September 25, Joan Soriano, 2:30pm

Keeping the groove going is Joan Soriano, a musician from the Dominican Republic, known as “El Duque de la Bachata.” Bachata is a highly percussive style of folk music unique to the DR, and Soriano’s blend of vocals and steel playing is most intoxicating. If you’re a fan of Robert Randolph, make sure to check out this artist.

Saturday, September 25, Debo Band with special guests Fendika, 4pmDebo Band

Saturday, September 25, Debo Band with special guests Fendika, 4pm

Day 1 finishes with an African jam as two of Ethiopia’s best bands perform as part of their first U.S. tour. If you’re into the music of Fela Kuti, make sure you don’t miss this special opportunity to see two of Africa’s best throw down the funk.

Sunday September 26, Delhi 2 Dublin, 1pmGlobal Union lead image 1

Sunday September 26, Delhi 2 Dublin, 1pm
Sunday, September 26, Meklit Hadero, 2:30pm
Perhaps no single act better epitomizes the variety of music heard at Global Union than this Vancouver-based act. As their name implies, the band is a fusion of Celtic and East Indian music, an intriguing blend, to be sure, but one that makes musical sense. Throw in elements of dub and electronica, and you have one of the festival’s great surprises.Meklit Hadero, 2:30pm

Fans of Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, and Nina Simone have taken to this rising star, born in Ethiopia and raised in the United States. Now based in San Francisco, she is currently touring to support her debut album On a Day Like This. With her warm vocals and strong lyrics, she wears her influences well, but offers a truly unique voice with her jazzy folk style.Meklit Hadero

Sunday, September 26, La Excelencia, 4pm

La Excelencia
Sunday, September 26, La Excelencia, 4pm

La Excelencia, 4pm

Global Union 2010 concludes with this 12-piece salsa orchestra from New York. But this isn’t your grandpa’s salsa music. This isSalsa Dura, a hardcore form of salsa that took hold in the ’60s and ’70s. This is salsa with an edge, fusing hard-driving rhythms with themes of social relevance. They are to salsa what Black 47 are to Celtic music, an act that moves your soul as well as your feet.


Sunday, September 26, 4pm

More information (and videos) on this year’s Global Union performers are available at alvernopresents.alverno.edu.

For more about Global Union, see more Compass coverage here.

NOW HEAR THESE

Jack Grassel: A Compositional Retrospective, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1584 N Prospect Ave, September 30, 7:30 pm

It was exactly 40 years ago when local guitar great Jack Grassel gave his debut performance on the stage at the Conservatory. To celebrate this milestone, the WCM launches their new season of the Faculty Artists series with this special program. The entire concert will consist entirely of Grassel originals. His wife, vocalist Jill Jensen, bassist John Babbitt, and percussionist Ben Hans will join him. This is a special celebration for a special musician.

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Marcus Center, September 24-26

When the late Lukas Foss began his tenure as Music Director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in September, 1981, he chose program Beethoven’s mighty Ninth Symphony for his opening, with its immortal “Ode to Joy” movement. For the start of the MSO’s 2010-11 season, current Music Director Edo de Waart has again turned to this monumental work. In addition, the program will be bookended with works from two of the greatest American composers. The program opens with Tromba Lontana, a short piece from John Adams, America’s greatest living composer. Following that is Aaron Copland’s majestic Suite from Appalachian Spring, which features the memorable arrangement of the folk hymn “Simple Gifts” that concludes the piece. Along with the Beethoven, it should add up to one of the greatest openers in MSO history.

Farm Aid, Miller Park, October 2

Prompted by a remark made by Bob Dylan at the original Live Aid concert in July, 1985, country music icon Willie Nelson quickly organized Farm Aid, a mega-concert to raise funds for America’s financially strapped family farmers. That concert was held on a rainy Sunday in Champaign, Illinois that September. Scores of acts from country, pop and rock answered Willie’s call to perform. In fact, it was the first time Eddie Van Halen performed onstage with Sammy Hagar, foreshadowing Hagar’s joining Van Halen the following year.

Three of that concert’s performers-Farm Aid board members Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp-will again take the stage for the 25th edition of Farm Aid, being held for the first time in Wisconsin at Miller Park on October 2, rain or shine. They will be joined by recently added board member Dave Matthews, along with Norah Jones, Kenny Chesney, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Jason Mraz, Band of Horses, Robert Francis, Amos Lee, and local legends The Bodeans. With tickets priced between $40-$100, it’s the concert bargain of the year, and once again, the proceeds will benefit family farmers, especially those in our own area.

Tickets are available by calling (414) 902-4000 or tickets.com. More info can be found at farmaid.org.

Cabaret, Milwaukee Rep, September 14-October 24

The Rep’s new Artistic Director Mark Clements launches his tenure with the Kander and Ebb Broadway classic set in a seedy Berlin nightclub during the early years of the Nazi regime. The show made stars of Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. This production marks a number of firsts for the Rep. It is the first Broadway musical to be staged in the Rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse Theatre. It also marks the Rep’s first joint venture with the Milwaukee Ballet. MBC Artistic Director Michael Pink provides the choreography for the production and a number of MBC dancers will be featured in the show’s production numbers. It should be a special treat for fans of musicals and theatre alike.

Metropolis, Oriental Theatre, September 28 & 29, 7 pm

The 2010 Milwaukee Film Festival will be held September 23-October 3, and a special treat of this year’s festival is a special screening of Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction masterpiece Metropolis. For decades, a 25-minute section of the film went missing and feared lost forever. In 2008, the missing footage miraculously turned up in a warehouse in, of all places, Argentina! Thus, the festival screenings will mark the first time this epic about a futuristic society will be seen in its entirety in Milwaukee. Making the occasion extra special will be the return of the Alloy Orchestra to provide the live background score music. Alloy has been given Roger Ebert’s personal stamp of approval, and their uncanny ability to make a small number of musicians sound like a full-size orchestra is amazing. It’s bound to be an audio and visual experience not to be missed.

Marc Cohn, Listening Booth: 1970

Carlos Santana, Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time

Singer/songwriter Marc Cohn (“Walking in Memphis”) has taken a novel approach to his latest release, Listening Booth: 1970. As the title implies, all the songs come from 1970, when the young Cohn initially heard these songs in a listening booth at his local record store. (Brings back memories of Radio Doctors, doesn’t it?) Cohn puts his unique spin on these gems, including “Wild World,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “The Only Living Boy in New York,” and “Into the Mystic.” Two particular highlights are his duets with India.Arie on Bread’s “Make It with You” and Aimee Mann on Badfinger’s “No Matter What.” All in all, a nice trip down Memory Lane. Fans of James Taylor’s recent Covers albums will find plenty to like here.

In 1999, Carlos Santana was reunited with his mentor, Arista Records chief, and the man who signed Santana to his first Columbia records contract in 1969, Clive Davis. For Santana’s first album with Arista, Davis suggested teaming up Santana with current music stars. The result was the stunningly successful Supernatural album, featuring the worldwide smash hit “Smooth,” which sold tons and garnered Santana a raft full of Grammys. The duo hopes lightning strikes twice with the modestly titled Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time, arriving in stores on September 21.

As the title implies, Santana turns his attention to rock classics this time around, and as on Supernatural, he gets plenty of help. Among the more intriguing tracks are Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” featuring Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell; Jeff Beck’s “I Ain’t Superstitious,” a guitar duel with Jonny Lang; AC/DC’s “Back In Black,” featuring Nas and rising star Janelle Monae; the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” featuring Yo-Yo Ma (!) and India.Arie (there she is again!); the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” with Stone Temple Pilots’ Scott Weiland; and Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing,” featuring Joe Cocker. Looks like Santana and Davis have hit the jackpot again.

Guitar Heaven is available in both the regular CD and a Deluxe Edition featuring a DVD containing a “making of the album” documentary, along with interviews with Santana and Davis.

Marc Cohn performs at the renovated Northern Lights theatre on October 15th.

Tom Jones, Praise and Blame

Jerry Lee Lewis, Mean Old Man

Two pop icons have new albums, both clearly indicating they still have plenty left in the tank.

Sir Tom Jones’ Praise and Blame is on the Lost Highway label, home of Americana artists like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Ryan Bingham. And that’s appropriate, given the material draws heavily from blues and gospel music. Hearing him doing standards like “Ain’t No Grave” and “Run On” might come as somewhat of a shock to his longtime fans, but to those that saw his appearance on Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues series on PBS several years back, it comes as no surprise. This is the music Jones cut his teeth on growing up in Wales, and with assists from producer Ethan Johns and greats like Booker T. Jones, the result is a peak in Jones’s long and storied career. It’s one of 2010’s best albums.

Following up his great all-star album Last Man Standing from 2006, the Killer returns with Mean Old Man. It looks like everybody who wasn’t on the previous album is on board here. First of all, make sure to get the Deluxe Edition of the album. It contains 18 songs versus 10 on the standard version, so spend the few extra bucks and get yourself a really great album. Among the highlights on an album full of them are “Dead Flowers” with Mick Jagger; “Sweet Virginia” with Keith Richards; “Swinging Doors” with Merle Haggard; “You Can Have Her” featuring guitar icons Eric Clapton and James Burton; “Railroad to Heaven” with Solomon Burke; “Hold You in My Heart” with Shelby Lynne; and a rousing rendition of “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” featuring Mavis Staples, Robbie Robertson, and Nils Lofgren.

Measuring up to the high standard set by Last Man Standing is a tall order, but leave it to Jerry Lee to equal if not surpass it on Mean Old Man, another of 2010’s great albums.

Fidelity! JP, Chrissie, and the Fairground Boys

Pretenders leader Chrissie Hynde has never been one to sugarcoat anything, and so it is with the new album Fidelity! on which she’s joined by Welsh singer-songwriter JP Jones. It’s a concept album that tells the story of the duo’s relationship, a doomed love affair between Hynde and the much younger Jones. These songs grab you by the scruff of the neck and don’t let go. It can stand alongside the Beach Boys’ classic Pet Sounds, another album that tells a similar story, and that’s high praise indeed.

Les Paul, Live in New York DVD

The core of this DVD comes from a 2005 show at the Iridium club celebrating the “Wizard of Waukesha’s” 90th birthday. Guests appearing with Les for this special show are Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Miller, Keith Richards, David Grisman, and Jose Feliciano. But the real star of course is Paul himself, with plenty of his classic songs. Lots of great bonus features are here too, including testimonials from Tony Bennett and Bonnie Raitt, a 1940’s “soundie” featuring the Les Paul Trio, and more surprises. It’s a great keepsake of a true musical giant.



Paddy McFest turns the big three-oh

August 1, 2010

By Randy Otto

2010 marks the 30th edition of Irish Fest, which has evolved from its humble beginnings to become one of the world’s greatest showcases of Celtic culture. And it’s happening Aug. 19-22 at Maier Festival Park. For this auspicious occasion, there will be many special features, including a showcase of the music and culture of Northern Ireland.

With the dozens of acts performing during the festival, it’s almost overwhelming to make the decision about whom to see. Although you can hardly go wrong with any of them, here are several of my personal recommendations.

Red Hot Chili Pipers

Yes, that’s Pipers. These Scottish lads are back by popular demand from last year, armed with their brand new live-in-Glasgow album Blast, and rockin’ the house with a blend of originals and surprising covers. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard bagpipes playing “Smoke on the Water,” “Thunderstruck,” “Clocks,” “We Will Rock You,” and “Eye of the Tiger.”

La Bottine Souriante

Yes, that’s French and means the laced boot or the smiling boot. This veteran band hails from Quebec, Canada, a melting pot of Celtic cultures, and their music draws from Celtic and Cape Breton styles. The influences are clearly heard in their music, with the added twists of French lyrics and a horn section straight out of Chicago! They caused a sensation in their Irish Fest debut several years ago, and they’re back to celebrate the 30th anniversary.

Cherish the Ladies

This all-female group, around almost as long as the fest itself, also returns for the Big Party. Led by irrepressible flutist (or is that flautist?) Joanie Madden, and comprised mainly of descendants of Irish who emigrated to the United States, they carry on the traditional music and dance of their ancestors. To be fair to the lads, several male step dancers usually make their way into the show.

Liz Carroll

The amazing fiddler from the Windy City captured the all-Ireland fiddle championship as a teenager, and has been appearing regularly at the fest dating back to the early ’80s, when she was a member of Green Fields of America (also returning this year for the fest’s 30th anniversary). Hopefully, virtuoso guitarist/vocalist John Doyle will be back at her side for these fest gigs.

Different Drums of Ireland

The Irish version of Drumline, this group from Northern Ireland came together in 1999 to perform in a BBC TV special celebrating the new millennium. They were a huge hit with the TV audience, and have been touring and recording ever since, including numerous performances at Irish Fest. Most recently, they stopped in Milwaukee for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center. They mix their highly percussive sounds with some lovely ballads.

Baal Tinne

A special note should be made about this group whose name is pronounced Bahl Tinnuh. Chicago-area flutist Noel Rice has been performing at Irish Fest since its inception, a record shared perhaps only by the members of local group Blarney. With his kids, fiddler Cathleen and bodhran wizard Kevin, they formed the nucleus of what became Baal Tinne, a five-piece band that mixes elements of jazz with their traditional sound. Noel also helped found Chicago’s Academy of Irish Music, whose talented students have performed many times at Irish Fest and will be back again this year.

Frogwater

Speaking of veteran performers at Irish Fest, these Bay View residents have been playing the festival since the ’90s, when they were members of The Ghillies, a local Celtic band. Fiddler/vocalist Susan Nicholson and her husband, guitarist John Nicholson, have truly become a fest tradition. Their appearances usually include surprise guest musicians, and their energetic performances continue to delight fans new and old. The duo is truly in their element at Irish Fest.

NOW HEAR THESE! NOW HEAR THESE!
August 2010

Summer Sizzle Historic Third Ward Jazz Festival, August 7, 11 am-11 pm

After a one-year hiatus, the Summer Sizzle jazz festival makes a welcome return on Saturday, August 7, with free performances on four stages. Among the array of national and local talent are two Milwaukee jazz legends: guitarist Manty Ellis and tenor saxman Berkeley Fudge. They’ll be performing from 1:30-6pm on the Main Stage. It’s a great opportunity to catch these giants.

For more info go to historicthirdward.org or call 414-273-1173.

Herbie Hancock, Imagine Project

You’re a Hall of Fame jazz pianist. Your last album, a tribute to Joni Mitchell called River, stunned the music world by winning the Grammy for Album of the Year (not just Jazz Album of the Year). What do you do for an encore? Well, if you’re Herbie Hancock, you spend several years traveling the world recording with great musicians from all fields of music. The final result is Imagine Project,and you’re not likely to find a more electic album this year, or perhaps any year.

Again teaming up with producer/bassist Larry Klein, Hancock has created one of the year’s most exhilarating releases. Check out this guest list: Jeff Beck, the Chieftains, Pink, Seal, India.Arie, Dave Matthews, Wayne Shorter, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Anoushka Shankar, Los Lobos, Chaka Khan, and plenty more. The music includes remakes of classics including John Lennon’s title tune, Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Joe Cocker’s “Space Captain,” Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up,” and Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” In some ways, it is reminiscent of last year’s Playing for Change collection, and equally inspiring. A nice 70th birthday present from Mr. Hancock.

Herbie Hancock’s Imagine Project performs at the Northern Lights Theatre on August 20. For tickets or more info, go to paysbig.com/entertainment.

Various Artists, 101 Beer Songs

Various Artists, Smoke That Cigarette: Pleasure to Burn

In my quest for unique compilations, these two recent releases have unlikely sources for inspiration.

101 Beer Songs is part of EMI’s ongoing “101” series, but with a twist: this one was produced in Australia, a place where the locals know a thing or two about lagers. Giving that fact, and not having any track information beforehand, I was intrigued to see what songs would make the cut. I expected songs from the likes of Tom Waits and a propensity of country classics.

One artist I saw on the picture of the cover was George Thorogood & the Destroyers. Aha, “I Drink Alone,” right? Try “Bad to the Bone,” a track that has turned up over and over again on these comps. As for country, the very few C&W tracks include the likes of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” and Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.”

That being said, a more appropriate title for this set might be 101 Pub Favourites, since all of these songs would be great accompanying an evening at the local watering hole. As a bonus, you do get classics from Aussie acts that just never caught on here in the USA (i.e., Cold Chisel, Dragon, Skyhooks, Reef, the Ferrets). And it’s packed with great sing-a-long faves like Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun,” Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Devo’s “Whip It,” Heart’s “Barracuda,” Blondie’s “One Way or Another,” John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” the Band’s “The Weight,” Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” J Geils Band’s “Centerfold”…even George Baker Selection’s “Little Green Bag.” and Blue Swede’s grunting version of “Hooked on a Feeling!”

So while it’s not what I originally envisioned, this is one great party set.

On the other hand, Smoke That Cigarette: Pleasure to Burn has no such misleading pretenses. Arriving to coincide with Wisconsin’s new anti-smoking law taking effect (purely coincidental, I’m sure), this great comp from Germany’s venerable Bear Family label features several decades’ worth of smoking songs. Along with obvious tracks like Tex Williams’ “Smoke Smoke Smoke (That Cigarette)” Joe and Rose Lee Maphis’ “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud Loud Music),” and Patsy Cline’s “Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray,” you also get smoky gems including Les Paul and Mary Ford’s “Smoke Rings,” Jerry Reed’s “Another Puff,” Marty Robbins’ “Cigarettes and Coffee Blues,” Homer & Jethro’s “Are You Kissing More Now (But Enjoying It Less)?” Peggy Lee’s “Don’t Smoke in Bed,” Frank Sinatra’s “These Foolish Things” and the Rev J.M. Gates’ recorded sermon “Smoking Woman in the Street.” There are thirty-two tracks in all, including a Jack Webb radio testimonial for Fatima cigarettes from a 1950’s Dragnet episode.

It will cost you half the cost of a carton of smokes to score this disc, but like other Bear Family releases, very much worth it.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer, A Time and a Place
Emerson, Lake & Palmer, High Voltage
Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pictures at an Exhibition DVD

The original supergroup of prog, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer were heralded by bursts of cannon fire when they made their debut at England’s Isle of Wight festival 40 years ago this month. Coinciding with this milestone, as well as their recent reunion gig at a festival in England, there’s a slew of new ELP releases, one of which will be essential to ELP and prog fans.

High Voltage is yet another ELP compilation, this one commemorating the reunion gig. Disc 1 features the original versions of the extended works Pictures at an Exhibition and Tarkus in their entirety, while Disc 2 has “shorter” songs like “Fanfare for the Common Man,” “The Barbarian,” “Take a Pebble,” and “Lucky Man.” Strictly for ELP completists only.

The Pictures DVD features a filmed concert performance of one of the band’s signature works, their adaptation of Mussorgsky’s classical warhorse. Rarely seen in the U.S., it provides an opportunity to see the band’s stage act from the early stage of their history. However, beware of the psychedelic visuals added to the performance footage. A filmic conceit designed to enhance the performance, it only serves to detract from the concert experience.

Most intriguing of the releases is A Time and a Place, a 4-CD set containing live performances spanning 1970-1998. The first three discs are taken from soundboard recordings, while the fourth disc contains recordings made by fans at ELP gigs. The sound quality on this disc is surprisingly good, and affords one the opportunity to hear such treats as first-time-ever authorized live-versions of “Endless Enigma” and “Abaddon’s Bolero,” as well as a pre-Brain Salad Surgery version of “Toccata,” complete with a tour de forcedrum solo from Carl Palmer, before he acquired the Moog drums that defined the studio version.

In fact, you get no less than three extended Palmer drum workouts. In addition to “Toccata,” there are solos on “Tank” and “1st Impression” from Karn Evil 9, offering solid evidence that Palmer is the greatest rock drummer this side of Neal Peart.

All the ELP classics (except “Trilogy”) are present, and the sound restoration work is quite remarkable. The discs come packed in a classy box, complete with art by famed bootleg cover artist William Stout, whose work graced dozens of 70’s LP’s. Perhaps the fact Keith Emerson himself provided much input to this compilation has resulted in the live album ELP fans have awaited for decades.

The Carl Palmer Band performs October 28th at Shank Hall. For more info go to shankhall.com.

Marvin Hamlisch Presents The Way We Were: The Music of the 70’s, August 15, 7 pm on MPTV 36.1

Yes, Marvin Hamlisch is the current pops conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, but back in the 70’s, he was truly Mr. Music. The former accompanist for Groucho Marx and bandleader on the Mike Douglas TV show, he won Oscars for the songs “The Way We Were” and “Nobody Does It Better,” as well for adapting the music of Scott Joplin for the movie The Sting, helping to ignite a revival of Joplin’s music. He also won Tony and Pulitzer prizes for the classic musical A Chorus Line. Heck, the guy even appeared on the Midnight Special TV series, performing his hit version of “The Entertainer” from The Sting, for which all ice cream truck drivers are eternally grateful (Nice tux, Marvin!). So who better to host a special featuring pop music of the 70’s? Along with Hamlisch, this recently filmed concert features from performances from the likes of Debby Boone, Gloria Gaynor, Three Dog Night and BJ Thomas.

What, no “Stairway to Heaven?” Don’t put it past Marvin; that song just might turn up here.



RIP, Dr. Demento

July 3, 2010

By Randy Otto

Shaving Cream! Be nice and clean! Shave every day and you’ll always look keen!”

“They’re coming to take me away, Ha-Haaa!!”

“Fish heads, fish heads, roly-poly fish heads! Fish heads, fish heads, eat them up—yum!”

“Dead puppies, dead puppies, dead puppies aren’t much fun.”

“Ma-ma-ma-my bologna!”

If the above quotations sound familiar to you, it can mean only one thing: you were definitely a fan of the long-running Dr. Demento syndicated radio show. Those lines were from songs that were often among the show’s weekly Funny Five, selected by the show’s listeners. During the show’s 40-year run, not only did the Doctor (aka music historian Barret Hansen) present crazy novelty songs past and present, but it’s also pretty safe to say that master parodist “Weird” Al Yankovic (who recently appeared at the Summerfest Classic Rock stage) would not be into the 30th year of his remarkable career had it not been for his debut song “My Bologna” getting its big break on the Demento show.

Although best known for featuring novelty songs, the Demento show focused on comedy recordings of all kinds. Many were introduced to movie and TV stars Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, and Woody Allen’s classic stand-up comedy recordings through regular airplay on the show. And musical comedy geniuses Spike Jones and Tom Lehrer might well be forgotten today were it not for repeated exposure of their songs on the show.

In addition, Dr. Demento was a trailblazer in FM radio when his show was nationally syndicated in 1974, paving the way for radio music stalwarts such as Nick Michaels, Little Steven, Alice Cooper, David Dye, Jim DeRogatis, Greg Kot, and Jim Ladd. In fact, mainstay program Off the Record host Uncle Joe Benson began his career at Racine’s WRKR, Milwaukee’s Demento affiliate. Hansen received industry recognition in 2009 when his show was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame by Chicago radio icon Jonathon Brandmeier.

Alas, it was the recent announcement by Brandmeier’s longtime station WLUP to drop the Demento show, reducing the show’s national network to a handful of stations (there hasn’t been a Wisconsin Demento affiliate for years), that led Hansen to end the syndicated show’s run. But all is not lost. Just as Dr. Demento helped revolutionize FM radio in the ’70s, the show will continue as a weekly podcast on the internet. And you can bet the sounds of Spike Jones, Tom Lehrer, “Weird” Al, et al., will continue to delight “demented” fans new and old. Stay demented, Doctor.

NOW HEAR THESE!

WMSE Backyard BBQ, July 18th, Cathedral Square Park

Last summer, WMSE launched Radio Summer Camp, a weeklong festival of acts, focusing in on local talent, culminating in the Backyard BBQ at Cathedral Square Park, featuring great sets from Bill Kirchen and Justin Townes Earle, among others.

The good news is Summer Camp is returning for 2010, taking place July 15-18. Dozens of acts, again focusing on homegrown talent, will be performing at ten venues around town, culminating in the daylong free Backyard BBQ at the park on Sunday, July 18, getting underway at 11am.

Given the fest is in direct competition with Chicago’s Pitchfork festival that weekend, the MSE folks (with help from the Pabst Theater) have done well indeed. The lineup features longtime Milwaukee faves Southern Culture on the Skids, or SCOTS, as they’re known to their legion of fans, high-octane country from .357 String Band, great New Orleans blues sounds from Eric Lindell, along with Jonathan Burks Band and the Ragadors.

One band on the BBQ lineup I am eagerly awaiting is North Carolina’s Carolina Chocolate Drops, whose new album Genuine Negro Jigs was released a few months back. If you dig bluegrass and /or Celtic style folk, this group is not to be missed. Their sound will blow you away, and perhaps give you a new perspective on this music you thought never existed, but certainly part of this nation’s musical heritage. Based on a recent live in-studio appearance I heard on BBC Radio 2, their stage show promises to be as much fun as their album.

Electri-violet

Those who enjoy the jazz stylings of local jazz couple Jill Jansen and Jack Grassel would do well to check out this new CD from this duo.

Vocalist—and Bay View resident—Carole Ferrara and guitarist John Plankenhorn are the featured musicians of this group, and they’re backed by a number of fine Milwaukee musicians, including drummer Sam Monroe, trumpeter Jamie Breiwick and saxman Aaron Gardner (also featured on the great recent debut from Kings Go Forth).

The CD features Plankenhorn originals nestled beside covers that include BB King’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” Carole King’s “So Far Away,” Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and Chet Baker’s “My Funny Valentine.” Their easy going sound goes down like a cool drink on a warm summer’s evening.

Speaking of which, Electri-violet will be performing at Chill on the Hill July 6 at Humboldt Park.

For CD’s and more info, go to electriviolet.com.

Bastille Days, East Town, July 8-11

Well, while the French soccer team might have been a washout at the World Cup, rest assured that spirits will be high as usual at the 2010 Bastille Days festival, the only Milwaukee ethnic festival held downtown, and it’s free too! A great entertainment lineup is topped by the fabulous Dirty Dozen Brass Band who are bringing New Orleans funk to Cathedral Square, along with many local favorites including Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound, Robin Pluer who will be doing her traditional chansons show assisted by Mrs Fun and Juli Wood, and Frogwater with emphasis on the Cajun side.

For more info, see easttown.com.

TV Soundtrack, Glee-The Music Volume 1

TV Soundtrack, Glee-The Music Volume 2

TV Soundtrack, Glee-The Music Volume 3: Showstoppers

TV Soundtrack, Glee: The Power of Madonna

TV Soundtrack, Glee: Journey to Regionals

Rock Choir, Rock Choir Volume 1

There’s no doubt the biggest surprise of the past TV season was Glee, which followed the stories of the kids in glee club at William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio, and their leader, idealistic teacher Will Schuester.

For most fans, the weekly highlights, other than to see what new scheme cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester has concocted to foil the glee club, are the numerous production numbers. If you thought you heard the last of “Don’t Stop Believin’” on the finale of The Sopranos, Glee has proven you seriously wrong. The group’s rendition of the song on the show’s debut episode sent it skyrocketing to the top of the iTunes chart. This has resulted in no less than five soundtrack CD’s from the show, most of which have topped the album charts. (And yes Virginia, there’s a Glee Christmas disc coming later this year.)

The good news is that the show’s music is so cleverly arranged that it can be very much enjoyed on its own. I particularly enjoyed the cover of “Vogue” by Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) on the Madonna disc. Get on the dance floor!

And Glee is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Glee fever has struck worldwide, already gripping the UK and Germany, following in the wake of the international success of High School Musical.

Now, a real life Glee story is unfolding in the UK. Rock Choir is a network of singing clubs across the UK with members of all ages performing choral versions of rock classics like Queen’s “Somebody to Love” (also covered on a Glee collection). After one Rock Choir chapter was profiled on British TV, the spark turned into a fire. The Rock Choir movement has captured the imagination of the entire UK, with thousands of participants nationwide. This has culminated in a four-album deal with Decca Records, which just released the first album of Rock Choir performances. The album is the UK’s most anticipated album of 2010, with massive preorders indicating the album could wind up outselling Susan Doyle’s mega-selling 2009 release. Don’t be surprised if the Rock Choir phenomenon crosses the Atlantic and launches another British music invasion here in 2011. In the meantime, you can check out the first Rock Choir CD (along with a promo video) at Amazon.co.uk, or at rockchoir.com.

Arts Digest, Milwaukee Public Television

Any locally-produced TV show that focuses on Milwaukee’s arts scene has to be a good thing, right? Well, MPTV’s new show Arts Digest does just that. The monthly half-hour program is hosted by veteran local writers Tom Strini and Jon Anne Willow (of Third Coast Digest) and ubiquitous local actor John McGivern, introducing features on Milwaukee-related arts figures, both those working in painting and sculpture, as well as the performing arts. Even locally-produced animation films serve as links between the main features. I particularly enjoyed McGivern’s behind-the-scenes look at the taxidermy shop at the Milwaukee Public Museum included on the debut program.

So far, three programs have been produced. MPTV apparently is waiting on viewer response to determine if there will be more.

For broadcast times, check local listings, consult mptv.org.

World Café, Monday-Friday, 6-8 pm, WYMS (Radio Milwaukee 88.9)

Back in April, Milwaukee radio icon Bob Reitman shocked the audience of his weekly WUWM show It’s Alright Ma, It’s Only Music by announcing that the station’s long-running daily show World Café would be dropped from the lineup the following week. The syndicated two-hour show, produced in Philadelphia with host David Dye, is a mix of new and vintage album tracks, artist interviews and live performances, and had become a fixture on 89.7. In fact, the show co-presented a number of concerts at the Pabst Theater with the station, so strong was the program’s brand.

In a press release, WUWM Program Director Bruce Winter stated the program “no longer met the program needs of our audience.” Journal Sentinel columnist Duane Dudek noted Winter’s assessment that the program had gradually skewed to “a younger demographic,” and opined that this was alienating the station’s core donor group, comprising a much older demographic. WUWM has filled the void with daily rebroadcasts of Terry Gross’s Fresh Air from 6-8 pm, followed by WUWM Tonight, four hours of “locally programmed” music hosted by Winter or Amanda Shalhoub from 8-midnight. The featured music sounds pretty much like the music already featured on WUWM2, available on HD or online.

In the meantime, World Café was not a Milwaukee orphan for long. WYMS (RadioMilwaukee), already boasting the nationally syndicated music talk show Sound Opinions in its lineup, quickly added World Café to its lineup on May 10, much to the relief of the show’s local fans.

By the way, on Thursdays one can catch World Café from 6-8 pm, although, unfortunately frequently pre-empted by Milwaukee Public School board meeting broadcasts, dovetailing nicely into Reitman’s show from 8-10 pm. So listeners can get the best of both worlds.

Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St. (Deluxe Reissue)

Rolling Stones, Stones in Exile DVD

In 2009, Universal Music acquired rights to the Rolling Stones’ post-1970 catalog, marking the first time the legendary band’s output has been under the control of a single label.

However, one title was conspicuously absent from the list of reissued albums: their 1972 Exile on Main St, considered by many the Stones’ ultimate masterpiece. The label responded by saying Exile was scheduled for a “very special” reissue in 2010.

In May, we found out how “special” this reissue was. Spurred by hype surpassed only by the publicity preceding the Beatles CD catalog upgrade, the band released Exile in a special deluxe two-disc reissue. The first disc is the original double LP, which now sounds better than ever. The sound has better definition, with more punch in the rhythm section, and the vocals coming through much better than in previous incarnations of the album. It’s Disc Two that has stirred up the fans’ passion. Rather than outtakes and alternate versions of songs reportedly were to be included, Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, along with producer Don Was, took “works-in-progress” tapes from the Exile sessions and added 2010 lyrics, vocals and instrumental work (even former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor was reportedly brought in to add some new parts). The songs certainly sound OK, but compared to those songs that made the original album’s final cut, they just don’t hold a candle. At least, the label gives fans the option of buying the “deluxe” edition or just the original album.

Perhaps more intriguing is the 2010 movie Stones in Exile, which is a behind-the-scenes look at the classic album’s sessions, complete with previously unseen home movies and new interviews with the album’s principals. The DVD edition contains over an hour of extra goodies not seen in the movie. Now this is a real find for Stones fans.

Carole King and James Taylor, Live at the Troubadour

In 2008, old friends James Taylor and Carole King got together for a special show at the legendary LA club. And it truly was special, with spirited versions of each of their many hits, along with several opportunities for duets, including a rendition of King’s all-time classic “You’ve Got a Friend,” that really tugs at the old heartstrings. The overwhelming response to the concert led to a 2010 tour by the duo, as well as this souvenir release of the Troubadour show. Not only do you get the CD of the music, but also a DVD of the entire show which also contains delightful intros to many of the songs. It’s one of 2010’s best releases.

Steve Miller Band, Bingo! (Deluxe Edition)

Steve Winwood, Revolutions: The Very Best of Steve Winwood

A couple of rock veterans, both named Steve, have new releases out.

Coinciding with his current tour, which included an appearance at Summerfest, Steve Winwood’s Revolutions updates his 90’s compilation Finer Things. It’s available in either a single-disc edition or a four-CD boxed set. Considering his over four-decade career, a single CD hardly does the man justice. And since the boxed set is very reasonably priced, I would certainly opt for the box. The tracks, going back to his 60’s days with the Spencer Davis Group, sound great, although some have pointed out the set is heavily weighted in favor of his Traffic material at the expense of his solo career in the 80’s and beyond. One should be aware that Winwood himself selected the tracks in the collection, so these are the tracks he feels best represent his legacy. Since Traffic is now recognized as one of the most innovative bands in rock history, I can’t argue with his choices.

Bingo! is native and former UW-Madison student Steve Miller’s first new release since 1993’s Wide River. That’s seventeen years, folks, so Miller returned to the formula he used for his comeback in 1976. Back then, he recorded enough material for two albums, resulting in the spectacularly successful Fly Like An Eagle and Book of Dreams albums.

In 2009, Miller & Co. embarked for Skywalker Sound Studios in Marin County, California, and once again laid down enough tracks for two albums. However, this time Miller elected to cut his takes on blues classics that heavily influenced his career. Also, “Snortin’” Norton Buffalo, a longtime Miller Band cohort, passed away last year, leaving a huge void in the band lineup. However, “Stevie Guitar” found himself a pearl in his search to replace Buffalo.

“Black Pearl,” that is. Sonny Charles, lead vocalist for 60’s soul group Checkmates Ltd has come aboard and looks to be the perfect foil for Miller’s guitar and vocals.

Bingo! is the first release from those Skywalker sessions, with the balance scheduled for 2011 release (just in time for next year’s summer tour). And if you dig classic blues, you’re in for a summertime treat of great listening. “Rock Me Baby,” “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll),” “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby,” “Further On Up the Road,” and “Drivin’ Wheel,” are among the gems featured here. The love Miller has for these tunes is obvious in the grooves of this album, and I’ll be enjoying it, while eagerly awaiting the next volume.

The Steve Miller Band performs at the Wisconsin State Fair on August 10th. For info see to wisstatefair.com.


Clapton lures big stars to Summerfest 2010

June 2, 2010

By Randy Otto

When Eric Clapton announced in February he was bringing his Crossroads Guitar Festival back to Chicago on June 26, perhaps nobody was happier than Summerfest Music Director Bob Babisch. Now why would Babisch be overjoyed about a festival in Chicago, especially one going on at the same time as Summerfest?

Babisch has arguably the most challenging job in the music business. First, he has to book all the talent on over a dozen stages for a 10-day music festival. Now that might sound like a dream job for a hardcore music fan (which Babisch is), and you can be sure he has a “dream list” of acts he’d love to bring to Summerfest.

But there’s the rub. Summerfest takes place during a 10-day window each year, so Babisch is at the mercy of the tour schedules of the acts he wants. The first concern is if the acts will even be touring during Summerfest. Then he needs to see if the acts’ tour routing will bring them near Milwaukee during the festival’s run. Summerfest always takes place during the height of the European festival season (For example, England’s famous Glastonbury and Hard Rock Calling-Hyde Park festivals occur during Summerfest’s opening weekend). So that eliminates a lot of potential acts right there.

Which is where Clapton’s extravaganza comes in. Thanks to his ability to bring in anybody he wants to play Crossroads, a lot of big music stars will be in the area during Summerfest. Looking at the Summerfest lineup, names like Jeff Beck, Sheryl Crow, Steve Winwood, Robert Randolph, and ZZ Top probably wouldn’t be coming here if they weren’t already committed to the Crossroads fest. In fact, Slowhand himself will be headlining Summerfest on June 28, two days after Crossroads.

ZZ Top’s booking at Summerfest is most interesting. The “little ol’ band from Texas” will be opening for Tom Petty (the only time the two bands will be sharing the bill this year) on Friday, June 25. Top will then head down to Chicago and play Crossroads the next day, then return to Milwaukee and again open for TP that evening!

Very nice… With results like this, I reckon Babisch wishes Clapton would have a Crossroads festival in Chicago every year during Summerfest.

Summerfest 2010 runs June 24-July 4. More info: summerfest.com.

NOW HEAR THESE!

United Performing Arts Fund 2010 Annual Campaign, now through June 22

UPAF Ride for the Arts, June 6

I hope you read the article in last month’s Compass covering the budget cuts facing Milwaukee Public Schools. I noticed certain phrases popping up over and over again. Phrases like “arts programs to be cut,” “no music teacher,” and so forth. So what does this have to do with the UPAF 2010 campaign? As it turns out, the member groups of UPAF (including the Milwaukee Symphony, Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Rep and Skylight Opera) all, as part of their respective missions, include educational programs that provide opportunities for students to experience the arts.

Eliminate these groups and their programs, and many students will be likely to never have exposure to the arts. And it’s been proven time and time again that students participating in arts programs get better grades and are more likely to succeed as adults. So your support of UPAF not only ensures that Milwaukee’s arts groups continue to thrive, but their educational programs will still be there for our kids in the face of budget cuts.

UPAF’s biggest single event, the Ride for the Arts, takes place on June 6, as thousands of cyclists take to area roads and streets to raise funds for the fund. If you’re unable to participate, you can still donate to the UPAF campaign. Now through the end of the campaign June 22, every dollar you pledge will be matched by a challenge grant, so your gift will be doubled! And at certain pledge levels, you qualify for a UPAF SmartCard that entitles you to discount tickets for UPAF member group performances. Now how’s that for a win-win situation?

For more info on the UPAF campaign and the Ride for the Arts, call (414) 273-8723, or see upaf.org.

Chill on the Hill, Humboldt Park, Tuesdays at 6:30 pm, June 8-August 31

Jazz in the Park, Cathedral Square Park, Thursdays at 6 pm, June 4-September 2

The arrival of summer brings the return of two Milwaukee mainstays bringing free music performances weekly throughout the season.

Our own Chill on the Hill at Humboldt Park features performances from acts including the Great Lakes Navy Band, Leroy Airmaster, Mike Benign Compulsion, 5 Card Studs, Juniper Tar, Decibully, and Paul Cebar’s Tomorrow Sound, among many others.

The granddaddy of them all, Jazz in the Park, has in its 2010 lineup Bad Plus, Bonerama, La Chazz, and Swing Nouveau.

And remember, all performances are free! For more info on Chill on the Hill see bayviewneighborhood.org. Info on Jazz in the Park can be found at easttown.com.

Leroy Airmaster, Live at Turner Hall

One of Milwaukee’s alltime great bands, Leroy Airmaster (featuring Milwaukee harmonica great Steve Cohen), is back, and from the sounds of their just-released CD, haven’t missed a beat. Recorded at two recent gigs at Turner Hall Ballroom, the CD features covers of songs by the likes of Otis Rush, Taj Mahal, Percy Mayfield, and Jackie Brenston, plus originals from band members Cohen and Bill Stone. The band rocks on this great-sounding disc, and makes a great souvenir for the band’s many fans.

Leroy Airmaster performs at Chill on the Hill at Humboldt Park on June 22nd (bayviewneighborhood.org), at Summerfest’s Big Backyard stage on June 27th (summerfest.com), and River Rhythms at Pere Marquette Park on July 7th with another Milwaukee favorite, Junior Brantley (westown.org). CD’s are available at cdbaby.com.

Jamie Breiwick 5 & 6, Live In Milwaukee

Trumpeter/composer Jamie Breiwick has been a mainstay of the Milwaukee jazz scene, thanks to his involvement with his own band, Choir Fight, as well as the salsa group De La Buena and the We Six sextet at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. His latest CD was recorded at gigs at the conservatory, Highbury in Bay View, and the WMSE studios. He is joined by veteran local jazz musicians, including versatile tenor saxman Aaron Gardner (also heard on the great new album from Kings Go Forth, previously reviewed here) and guitarist Steve Peplin.

Breiwick’s composition “Tunity” is featured along with some great renditions of Miles Davis classics including “Blue in Green,” “Flamenco Sketches,” and “In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time.” Fans of straight ahead, or “real” jazz, will delight in these performances. Thanks to talented musicians like Breiwick and his cohorts, the Milwaukee jazz scene will continue to thrive.

Jamie Breiwick performs at Jazz in the Park in Cathedral Square Park; with his own band Choir Fight on June 10 and the We Six sextet on June 24 (easttown.com), as well as with De La Buena at Summerfest’s Harley-Davidson Roadhouse on July 4 (summerfest.com) and Jackson Park on August 24. For CD’s and/or more info see jamiebreiwick.com.

Various Artists, 100 Hits-Dad

Various Artists, 100 Hits-American Songbook

Well, Father’s Day is just around the corner, and what is the perfect gift for that music-loving dad? Once again, England’s Demon Music (home of previous 100 Hits collections Halloween, Christmas and Irish Party) hits the bullseye with two great new comps.

100 Hits–Dad’s five CD’s feature tracks from the 60’s to the present, with the emphasis on Classic Rock.

The music runs the gamut from Vanilla Fudge’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and Lalo Schifrin’s theme from Bullitt (!) to Garbage’s “Stupid Girl” and Polyphonic Spree’s “Light & Day.” Even Milwaukee’s Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” makes the cut, nestled amongst tracks from Velvet Underground, the Monkees, Faith No More, Dinosaur Jr., the Stooges and Jane’s Addiction. I think you get the idea. Dad’ll dig it big time-that is, if you can manage to give it up yourself!

Now, if dear old Dad is a bit older than Boomer age, not to worry. Demon has him covered with 100 Hits–American Songbook. This set contains five CD’s of nothing less than the cream of songs by masters like George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, and many others. Befitting these classics, the performances featured here are themselves classics, including artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee, Fred Astaire…the list goes on and on. An amazing collection, and at an amazingly low price as well.

Both collections are available at Amazon.co.uk.

Metro Jam, Washington Park, Manitowoc, June 18 and 19

One of the great English ska bands, the English Beat, will be performing at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater in July, when they open for another legendary band, Squeeze. So you can wait until then, or you could set out for Manitowoc’s Washington Park on June 19 and see them when they headline the 2010 Metro Jam festival. This annual event, which has been going for over 30 years, is a fun family festival that just happens to showcase some great regional, national, and in the case of English Beat, international acts.

And this year’s event features an exceptionally strong lineup. The fun gets started on Friday, June 18 when Milwaukee soul greats Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds take the stage. The music resumes at noon the next day with a lineup that includes the fine Wisconsin band Wildbirds, English reggae great Pato Banton, veteran singer/songwriter Marshall Crenshaw (“You’re My Favorite Waste of Time,” “Someday, Some Way”), and finishes off with English Beat featuring hits including “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Save It For Later,” and their classic cover of “Tears of a Clown.”

And it’s all FREE! Think of it as a less-crowded Jazz in the Park, and food and beverages are provided by the Manty Jaycees (the deep fried cheese curds are a big favorite). It’s all over by 10pm, so it all makes for a perfect opportunity to take that day trip out of town to enjoy great music and get warmed up for Summerfest the following week.

For more info, see metrojam.org.

Various Artists, Listen Up! The Official FIFA 2010 World Cup Album

Various Artists, England The Album 2010

Various Artists, Back of the Net!

Various Artists, Great Expectations: The Football Album

Various Artists, 100 Hits-Football Anthems (2010 World Cup Edition)

While baseball may be the national pastime, the eyes of the rest of the world are focused on South Africa for the world’s most-watched sports event-the World Cup soccer (or “football” to true believers of The Beautiful Game) tournament, which opens on June 11. One needs only to see the above list of newly released Cup-related music compilations for proof, just the thing for your World Cup party when Team USA takes on England in their opening match on June 12.

Listen Up! is the officially sanctioned FIFA CD, and the only one available domestically. While it features familiar names like R. Kelly, Shakira, Wyclef Jean, and Matisyahu, it’s also nice to see South Africa’s rich musical tradition is well represented. Angelique Kidjo, Nneka, Claudia Leitte, Siphiwo, and the Soweto Spiritual Singers are present. Even South African icon Nelson Mandela puts in a cameo appearance, helping to make Listen Up! a nice musical souvenir of World Cup 2010.

The English simply have to be the world’s most rabid soccer fans, based on the many football-related CD’s available for World Cup 2010. (And you thought there was an overabundance of Packers CD’s!) While some songs appear on several of these comps, each has its own distinct flavor. England the Album 2010 is the “official” World Cup album. You’ll find Queen’s “We Are the Champions” here, along with football favorites old and new from artists like Tina Turner, Chumbawamba, the Farm, Oasis, and many more.

And it looks like Camp Randall fans aren’t the only ones that “Jump Around” during football games. Yep, House of Pain’s anthem is here as well. And all these CD’s contain a rendition of the English anthem “Land of Hope and Glory,” familiar to us as the graduation march “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Back of the Net probably is the best bargain of the bunch, with a whopping 27 tracks on one CD. This one offers Chumbawamba’s worldwide smash “Top of the World,” which contains the “Ole, ole, ole” chant that has become the international mantra of soccer. It also features Gerry and the Pacemakers’ rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the Broadway classic Carousel that became a theme song for Liverpool FC and has since been adopted as the anthem for English soccer. Plenty of classic novelty tracks abound here, including Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” Rolf (“Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”) Harris’ “Football Crazy,” and the England World Cup 1986 Squad’s “We’ve Got The Whole World at Our Feet.” You know they’re serious about their football in England when even their World Cup squads make records, a tradition going back to 1970!

Great Expectations complements Back of the Net nicely, including skiffle rocker Lonnie Donegan’s “World Cup Willie,” Sham 69’s “If the Kids Are United,” the Jam’s “Saturday’s Kids,” the Spencer Davis Group’s “Keep On Running,” Sergio Mendes’ classic “Mas Que Nada,” Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen,” themes from long-running TV programs Match of the Day, and Sportsnight, capped by a rousing rendition of “There’ll Always Be An England” from the England World Cup 1970 Squad.

But when it comes to taking the prize, the cup once again has to go to Demon Music Group, this time for the amazing 100 Hits-Football Anthems. Like their previous collections for Halloween, Christmas, and St. Patrick’s Day, this one has 80 tracks on four CD’s, plus a karaoke DVD packed with sing-along anthems for that World Cup party, including “We Are the Champions,” “Beautiful Day,” “All Together Now,” “A Little Less Conversation”, “Eat My Goal,” and, of course, the classic English anthem “Jerusalem.”

The first three CD’s contain 60 pop and novelty tracks including “Come On England,” “Stand Up 4 England,” “The Beautiful Game,” “Getta Bloomin’ Move On,” “Sven Sven Sven,” “Is This The Way to the World Cup?,” “Who Do You Think You’re Kidding Jurgen Klinsmann?,” “Whole Wide World 4 England,” “Viva Bobby Moore,” and“We’re All in This Together.” Even Monty Python’s John Cleese makes a cameo appearance on the song “Don’t Mention the World Cup.” And what’s this? The Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” makes the roster, alongside the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

The fourth disc is packed with classical themes that are natural background music for football highlight footage, along with the inevitable “God Save the Queen” and “Rule Britannia.” These collections are available at Amazon.co.uk.

Hi Ho, Let’s Go!!


RiverSplash out, Verge Music Festival in

May 1, 2010

By Randy Otto

For the past two decades, Milwaukee’s RiverSplash festival heralded the arrival of summer. However, due to economic bad times and increasing security concerns (along with being dogged by notoriously nasty weather), organizers of the downtown festival decided earlier this year to table this year’s event.

Leaping into the breach created by the absence of RiverSplash is Milwaukee’s newest summer festival, called the Verge Music Festival, kicking off the summer festival season at Maier Festival Park on June 4-5.

As the name implies, the festival focuses on up-and-coming rock acts, both local and national, on the “verge” of making the big time, along with several veteran alt-rock favorites.

One of those veteran acts, Weezer, tops the festival bill. Also performing will by Three Days Grace, Eagles of Death Metal, Cold War Kids, She & Him, Rogue Wave, and the Raveonettes (the biggest act to emerge from Scandinavia since ABBA…or since Ace of Base at the very least!).

Local acts appearing include the Championship, Wild Birds, Invade Rome, Pezzettino, and Juniper Tar. Sounds like the making of a great time, and cross your fingers for good weather!

And here’s a tip: all Verge tickets purchased in advance also include a free Summerfest ticket so you get more musical bang for the buck. For more info, go to vergemusicfestival.com.

NOW HEAR THESE!

Various Artists, Live At WMSE Volume 11

WMSE Spring Membership Drive, May 10-21

To coincide with WMSE’s Spring Membership Drive is the arrival of the 11th volume in the Live at WMSE series.  Among the CD’s 13 tracks are local and national acts including Sarah Borges, Robbie Fulks, Greg Koch and Nation Sack, and the WhiskeyBelles.  As usual, all tracks were recorded in the WMSE studios, with great sound provided by veteran engineer Billy Ciccarelli.  You can get the new CD (as well as many past volumes in the series) by making a pledge during the member drive beginning Monday, May 10th.  You can pledge online at wmse.org or calling 414-799-1917.  Also, there will be many exciting live in-studio performances throughout the pledge drive, some of which may end up on a future volume of Live at WMSE.

Jack Grassel and Jill Jensen, Live at the Carleton Grange Pub

Back in 2007, Eric Ellsworth, owner of the Carleton Grange Pub in St. Francis, wanted to feature something unique to go along with the pub’s Sunday brunch.  He brought in Milwaukee’s “First Couple of Jazz,” guitarist Jack Grassel and his wife, vocalist Jill Jensen, to perform for brunch patrons.  Three years later, their weekly appearances have become a Milwaukee weekend tradition which is being celebrated with this new CD recorded live at one of their Sunday brunch gigs.

Although the duo has released other CD’s, this marks the first CD on which they appear alone without other backing musicians. And what a treat it is just to hear Jill’s honey-soaked vocals complementing Jack’s intricate fret work.  The song menu is a nice mixture of originals and standards, and the recording sounds great!  Since they perform most of the time as a duo, it’s nice to finally have a CD that represents them in the way most people know them.  And here’s a tip:  the CD includes a drink coupon for the pub.  Why not use it when you catch Jack and Jill’s brunch gig?

CD’s are available at jackgrassel.com.  The Carleton Grange Pub is located at 3807 S. Packard Ave. in St. Francis.  The phone is 414-747-9669.

Pirate Radio DVD

Sneaking in and out of theatres quickly last November was this British flick that told the story of an offshore pirate radio station that played rock music for Britons when the BBC was unwilling to play it.  Although the stations were eventually shut down, BBC Radio 2 was born and continues broadcasting pop music to this very day (as observed in a past column). And now the movie is finally available on DVD and Blu-Ray.   It’s true the station depicted in the film is fictional, but the movie does a great job of capturing the spirit of the time during that moment in British music history.  Heading the cast is Philip Seymour Hoffman as the Yank DJ on the crew, evoking memories of his great turn as rock journalist Lester Bangs in another rock movie gem, Almost Famous. And watch for a great cameo performance from Emma Thompson!  Also deserving of equal billing is the film’s fab soundtrack, featuring a boatload of classic 60’s nuggets.

Saint-Saens Program with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, May 28-29, Marcus Center

French composer Camille Saint-Saens may not be a household name like Beethoven, Mozart or Tchaikovsky, but this late 19th century composer left a body of work filled with gorgeous melodies, which the MSO is featuring on this program led by Music Director Edo de Waart.  In addition to the First Piano Concerto and the popular Danse macabre, a special treat is the opportunity to hear the Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”). It’s that rare beast where the organ is a featured soloist with a full orchestra, and it’s also a rare opportunity to hear the Marcus Center’s magnificent Miller pipe organ.  The symphony is a great showcase for both soloist and orchestra.

For more info go to mso.org or call 414-291-7605.

Jeff Beck, Emotion and Commotion

Many adjectives have been used to describe the fabulous career of guitar legend Jeff Beck.  Prolific is not one of them.  This is his first album in seven years, and it’s the best showcase of his virtuosity since his landmark instrumental album Blow by Blow back in 1975.  Several tracks feature guest vocalists Joss Stone and Imelda May (Stone’s turn on the blues classic “I Put a Spell on You” is a standout and the perfect match for Beck’s fiery guitar work).  But it’s the much-reported tracks on which Beck is backed by a 60-piece orchestra that are absolute gems.  His take on the classic opera aria “Nessun dorma” will leave guitarists’ jaws dropping, and the instrumental “Corpus Christi” is simply gorgeous.

Jimmy Page called Blow by Blow a “guitarist’s guitar album.”  It’s safe to say Emotion and Commotion makes a great bookend to that classic

Jeff Beck appears at Summerfest on June 25th (alas, with no orchestra but a stellar backing band) with local guitar hero Greg “Gristlemeister” Koch opening.


A final aloha from the Man in Black

April 1, 2010

By Randy Otto

Easter is a season associated with life, hope, and renewal, so the arrival of Johnny Cash’s final album, American VI: Ain’t No Grave, couldn’t be better timed. Although it is his final musical testament, the album is filled with songs of anticipation and looking forward.

Like the other albums in the acclaimed American Recordings series, Ain’t No Grave is produced by Rick Rubin. The album hearkens back to the very first volume in the series in 1994 in that it’s very spare, mainly Cash’s voice and guitar. There are minimal additions from musicians like Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench from Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers and Scott and Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers Band.

But make no mistake, the spotlight is clearly on the Man in Black here. Mostly recorded in the weeks before his death in 2003, the vocals, ravaged by years of illness and the recent death of his beloved wife, June Carter Cash, are indeed shaky. But there is no doubt these performances are forthright. Rubin has said that working in the studio sustained Cash and gave him purpose in those final days.  »Read more


Exploring the amazing land of Britcomps

March 1, 2010

By Randy Otto

About a year ago I featured a very entertaining four-CD box set from the UK called 101 Housework Songs. Little did I realize then that I was opening a Pandora’s Box of wonderful musical treats. I have since discovered that nobody does compilation CDs (or “comps,” for short) like the Brits. You name it-musical genre, era, individual artists-chances are good there are comps available for them, often in huge quantity. After all, this is where the wildly successful NOW That’s What I Call Music! series got its start way back in 1984. The American version of the series launched in the ’90s and has reached a total of 32 volumes. However, the UK series is up to an astounding 74 volumes (plus spinoff collections like NOW That’s What I Call the ’00s, etc.)!

And therein lies the rub. With hundreds of these collections available from dozens of labels, which ones are surefire winners? To help you in your search (the best single source would be Amazon.co.uk), here’s a list of four labels releasing the most creative collections that are of consistently high quality, along with selected examples of each label’s offerings.

EMI/Virgin

They’re the home of the long-running NOW and “101 Songs” series, and also have access to the massive archives of EMI Records, though they license tracks from numerous other sources as well. In addition to titles previously reviewed, here are two more favorites:

The Cavern: The Most Famous Club in the World

Although these are not recordings made at the legendary Liverpool club, this three-CD set celebrates the club’s 50th anniversary, with tracks from everybody from Chuck Berry to Arctic Monkeys. It is also notable in that it may well be the only comp to include tracks from both the Rolling Stones (“It’s All Over Now”) and the Beatles (“Please Please Me”).

101 Dinner Party Songs

This just-released collection features many songs with food connections or will nicely complement any dinner party. It’s also amazing in the range of artists featured, from Frank Sinatra to Coldplay. Considering his disdain for Kenny G, it’s quite surprising to find a Richard Thompson track nestled alongside the mellow sax man’s “Songbird.”

Demon Music Group

This feisty label is the home of the 100 Hits and the newly-launched 100 Hits Legends series, where the focus is on one artist.

100 Hits-Movies

This five-CD set attracted me because it includes the hard-to-find Yello track “Oh Yeah” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This is a great collection of songs featured in movies from the past few decades. The CD booklet also tells you the names of the movies where these songs were heard.

100 Hits Legends-Nat King Cole

This five-CD set not only showcases the legendary pop crooner, but also features a generous selection of his early jazz trio tracks. Unless you’re looking for “Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer,” this set will not disappoint.

Union Square Music

Although a relative newcomer to the comps game, this label has made great strides with some of the most creative comps available.

The Ultimate Collection-Country

Although there are oodles of country comps available, this five-CD, 100-song anthology is arguably the most thoughtful set, containing tracks from legends like Hank Williams, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline to contemporary stars such as the Mavericks, Gram Parsons, Steve Earle, and Alan Jackson.

The Ultimate Collection-50s Jukebox

Just like the country collection, this set has great breadth. Not only are there plenty of early rock classics (Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly), but many country (Johnny Cash, George Jones, Patsy Cline) and pop (Perry Como, Doris Day, Bobby Darin) standards. In other words, a complete 1950s jukebox.

Proper Music

Thanks to European copyright laws that expire after 50 years, there’s a proliferation of comps featuring tracks from the ’50s and before. This label has taken full advantage, creating generous blues, jazz, and pop anthologies, meticulously annotated and at surprisingly low cost.

In Perfect Harmony, Les Paul & Mary Ford

The late “Wizard of Waukesha” certainly gets his due in this four-CD collection, tracing his career from earliest sides to his “retirement” in the ’60s. All the great sides with Mary Ford are here, of course, as well as his solo and sideman work (particularly with Bing Crosby). This stuff still amazes, after all these years.

Roots of Led Zeppelin, Various Artists

This great set features three CDs packed with the original blues, country, and rock classics that were an undeniable influence on this band’s sound, along with a DVD featuring British and American music critics discussing the same.

As previously mentioned, a big reason these comps have been so popular is their low cost. The cost per song is usually lower than the price of downloading each individual song. But be forewarned: these comps are the musical version of Beanie Babies, if you get my drift.

Be sure to check out bayviewcompass.com for my online exclusive Now Hear These picks. This month I’m featuring great new local music from Chris DeMay and Juniper Tar, plus some great new Irish CDs out in time for St. Paddy’s Day, and a DVD featuring one of the greatest rock shows ever, available for the first time on home video.

NOW HEAR THESE!

Juniper Tar, The Howl Street EP
Chris Demay, Bigger Than Small

Local music releases are off to a running start for 2010, thanks to this pair of releases from one of Milwaukee’s great new bands, Juniper Tar.

Named after the Bay View studio where it was recorded, Howl Street picks up where their previous release, the idyllic To The Trees, left off. This four-song EP features more great Jason Mohr songs, and the sound is more polished than on To The Trees, which was recorded on location in a cabin upnorth. While it only hints at the power these guys can unleash onstage, it’s still a great follow-up to a really fine debut.

As if that weren’t enough, band member Chris Demay has released a solo CD, featuring bandmates from JT along with other local music luminaries (Check out the nifty steel guitar work here!). Bigger Than Small ably demonstrates that Mohr isn’t the only fine songwriter in the band. These Neil Young devotees wear their influences very well, indeed.

Taken together, these two EP’s add up to one solid album. The band’s CD is available at junipertar.com or cdbaby.com. The Demay disc is available at Rush Mor and Exclusive Co., or at bearriflerecords.com.

New Celtic Releases for St Patrick’s Day

Just like the annual blizzard of new Christmas CD’s in the fall, St Patrick’s Day brings a pot full of new releases from Celtic-related artists, and this year’s batch is a bumper crop indeed. Here’s a sampling of the most notable titles.

Various Artists. 100 Hits: Irish Party

Following up last year’s excellent 100 Hits: Halloween, Demon Music Group UK has this great 5-disc box guaranteed to liven up any St Pat’s soiree. The 4 CDs feature tracks from Irish music acts both contemporary (The Corrs, Ash, Hothouse Flowers, Divine Comedy) and traditional (Paddy Reilly, Christy Moore, Delores Keane). In fact, one CD is totally devoted to classic reels and jigs to get your ceili going strong. It’s topped off by a karaoke DVD filled with Irish sing-along favorites.

The Chieftains with Ry Cooder, San Patricio

It’s been awhile since we’ve had something new from the Chieftains, the world’s most recognized Celtic music group. St Patrick’s Day 2010 is cause for celebration with the release of San Patricio, on which the group is joined by ace guitarist and world music authority, Ry Cooder, who first worked with the Chieftains on 1995’s Long Black Veil. In addition, a host of Mexican music stars are on board as well. While it might appear a bit odd to see a mixing of Irish and Mexican musicians, it’s familiar turf for the Chieftains, whose mission is to show the pervasiveness of Celtic music in world culture. The title commemorates Irish immigrant conscripts who bolted the U.S. Army to fight on the Mexican side against the Yanks in the Mexican-American War in the 1800’s.

The album is also available in a deluxe edition with a bonus DVD that includes a “making of” documentary and 3 music videos.  The Chieftains (without Cooder) appear at the Pabst Theatre on March 6.

Solas, Turning Tide

Second only to the Chieftains in worldwide stature is the Irish-American super group Solas, led by Irish native Seamus Egan. They’re back with this new album that includes, along with the usual helping of traditional tunes, great covers of Springsteen’s “Ghost of Tom Joad” and Richard Thompson’s “Poor Ditching Boy.”

Altan, 25th Anniversary Celebration

Yet another great Celtic band has a new CD. Altan celebrates a quarter-century of thrilling audiences worldwide with this collection of handpicked songs from their vast catalog. As an added touch, the group is joined by Ireland’s RTE Concert Orchestra to make this a truly special event.

Flogging Molly, Live at the Greek Theatre

Dropkick Murphys, Live on Lansdowne

Still need fuel for your St Pat’s Party? Then get your mitts on these hot new live releases from arguably the two greatest Irish punk bands ever. And for good measure, both include DVD’s of the full concerts. Play these, consume generous quantities of Guinness, and plentiful rowdiness is guaranteed.

Various Artists, Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Various Artists, Sweetheart 2010

Hot on the heels of last month’s great One for My Baby collection, Starbucks’ music division strikes again with another pair of winners. The exquisitely packaged and annotated Mardi Gras is arguably the best single disc collection of New Orleans music ever. Louis Armstrong, Dr. John, Dixie Cups, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Smiley Lewis, Irma Thomas. Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Neville Brothers…16 absolutely classic tracks to help keep the celebration rolling…at least until the next Bastille Days festival in July.

Sweetheart continues Starbucks’ annual tradition of issuing collections of exclusive tracks from acts covering their favorite romantic songs. This year’s class includes Spoon, Yo La Tengo, the Avett Brothers, and Angelique Kidjo, covering songs by Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Paul McCartney, the Zombies…even ZZ Top!

Available for a limited time at Starbucks outlets, or go to starbucks.com/entertainment.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band & Special Guests, Preservation

Released on Fat Tuesday, this exceptional collection featuring the venerable New Orleans jazz band not only celebrates Crescent City music but is a fundraiser for Preservation’s music outreach program to ensure future generations carry on that great musical tradition. Among the highlights in an album filled with standout tracks are Paolo Nutini’s “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” Tom Waits’ “Tootie Ma Was A Big Fine Thing,” Merle Haggard’s “Basin Street Blues,” Richie Havens’ “Trouble In Mind,” Ani DiFranco’s “Freight Train,” Steve Earle’s “‘Tain’t Nobody’s Business,” and Blind Boys of Alabama’s “There Is A Light.” In all, there’s 19 tracks (25 on the Deluxe Edition), and you can count on this one making my Nifty Fifty for 2010.

Various Artists, The TAMI Show Collector’s Edition DVD

Quentin Tarantino has called it “the greatest rock and roll concert film ever made.” Ace producer Rick Rubin calls James Brown’s performance in it “the greatest rock performance ever committed to film.” Yet very few have ever seen this movie, taped at the First Annual Teen Age Music International Show (forever known as The TAMI Show) in Santa Monica, CA, in October 1964. This is a marvelous snapshot of a watershed moment in pop culture history, where the British Invasion collided head-on with Motown, Surf Music, Full Tilt R&B, and classic Rock & Roll. You know you’re in for something special when the show opens with a battle of the bands between rock godfather Chuck Berry and the latest sensations from the UK, Gerry & the Pacemakers. Just a listing of the show’s lineup is enough to make one’s jaw drop: the Beach Boys (seen for the first time since the film’s original release, and man, they’re rockin’!), Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Lesley Gore, Billy J Kramer & the Dakotas and appearing during their first US tour, the Rolling Stones.

Jan & Dean were the show emcees, and the house band was Phil Spector’s legendary Wrecking Crew. My personal memory of seeing this show was at the Oriental Theatre back in the early 80’s, back when it was still a single-screen venue. The print was grainy and the sound was muffled, but there was no denying the electricity flowing throughout the show. Although I haven’t seen it since, I had been fervently hoping for the day this show would be available on home video to enjoy again and again.

The DVD doesn’t reach stores until March 23rd, but Chicago rock critic Jim DeRogatis, co-host of RadioMilwaukee’s Sound Opinions, has seen an advance copy of the DVD and told me that it was everything I hoped for, and “it was worth the wait.” The quality of sound and picture (made with an early form of high def called Electronovision) is superb, and the direction and camera work from Steve Binder (who would also direct Elvis Presley’s legendary1968 comeback special) has truly never looked better. As a bonus feature, you get Binder’s personal recollections of the show as a commentary track.

And if you don’t believe me, go to Amazon.com, look up this DVD and check out the raves in the customer feedback section. Several are personal recollections of attending the show in person or seeing the film in its original 1964 incarnation, and are quite touching.

If for nothing else, get this for the James Brown performance with the aptly named Famous Flames, and imagine Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones waiting in the wings to follow that!

Juniper Tar, The Howl Street EP

Chris Demay, Bigger Than Small

Local music releases are off to a running start for 2010, thanks to this pair of releases from one of Milwaukee’s great new bands, Juniper Tar.

Named after the Bay View studio where it was recorded, Howl Street picks up where their previous release, the idyllic To The Trees, left off. This four-song EP features more great Jason Mohr songs, and the sound is more polished than on To The Trees, which was recorded on location in a cabin upnorth. While it only hints at the power these guys can unleash onstage, it’s still a great follow-up to a really fine debut.

As if that weren’t enough, band member Chris Demay has released a solo CD, featuring bandmates from JT along with other local music luminaries (Check out the nifty steel guitar work here!). Bigger Than Small ably demonstrates that Mohr isn’t the only fine songwriter in the band. These Neil Young devotees wear their influences very well, indeed.

Taken together, these two EP’s add up to one solid album. The band’s CD is available at junipertar.com or cdbaby.com. The Demay disc is available at Rush Mor and Exclusive Co., or at bearriflerecords.com.

New Celtic Releases for St Patrick’s Day

Just like the annual blizzard of new Christmas CD’s in the fall, St Patrick’s Day brings a pot full of new releases from Celtic-related artists, and this year’s batch is a bumper crop indeed. Here’s a sampling of the most notable titles.

Various Artists. 100 Hits: Irish Party

Following up last year’s excellent 100 Hits: Halloween, Demon Music Group UK has this great 5-disc box guaranteed to liven up any St Pat’s soiree. The 4 CDs feature tracks from Irish music acts both contemporary (The Corrs, Ash, Hothouse Flowers, Divine Comedy) and traditional (Paddy Reilly, Christy Moore, Delores Keane). In fact, one CD is totally devoted to classic reels and jigs to get your ceili going strong. It’s topped off by a karaoke DVD filled with Irish sing-along favorites.

The Chieftains with Ry Cooder, San Patricio

It’s been awhile since we’ve had something new from the Chieftains, the world’s most recognized Celtic music group. St Patrick’s Day 2010 is cause for celebration with the release of San Patricio, on which the group is joined by ace guitarist and world music authority, Ry Cooder, who first worked with the Chieftains on 1995’s Long Black Veil. In addition, a host of Mexican music stars are on board as well. While it might appear a bit odd to see a mixing of Irish and Mexican musicians, it’s familiar turf for the Chieftains, whose mission is to show the pervasiveness of Celtic music in world culture. The title commemorates Irish immigrant conscripts who bolted the U.S. Army to fight on the Mexican side against the Yanks in the Mexican-American War in the 1800’s.

The album is also available in a deluxe edition with a bonus DVD that includes a “making of” documentary and 3 music videos.  The Chieftains (without Cooder) appear at the Pabst Theatre on March 6.

Solas, Turning Tide

Second only to the Chieftains in worldwide stature is the Irish-American super group Solas, led by Irish native Seamus Egan. They’re back with this new album that includes, along with the usual helping of traditional tunes, great covers of Springsteen’s “Ghost of Tom Joad” and Richard Thompson’s “Poor Ditching Boy.”

Altan, 25th Anniversary Celebration

Yet another great Celtic band has a new CD. Altan celebrates a quarter-century of thrilling audiences worldwide with this collection of handpicked songs from their vast catalog. As an added touch, the group is joined by Ireland’s RTE Concert Orchestra to make this a truly special event.

Flogging Molly, Live at the Greek Theatre

Dropkick Murphys, Live on Lansdowne

Still need fuel for your St Pat’s Party? Then get your mitts on these hot new live releases from arguably the two greatest Irish punk bands ever. And for good measure, both include DVD’s of the full concerts. Play these, consume generous quantities of Guinness, and plentiful rowdiness is guaranteed.

Various Artists, Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Various Artists, Sweetheart 2010

Hot on the heels of last month’s great One for My Baby collection, Starbucks’ music division strikes again with another pair of winners. The exquisitely packaged and annotated Mardi Gras is arguably the best single disc collection of New Orleans music ever. Louis Armstrong, Dr. John, Dixie Cups, Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Smiley Lewis, Irma Thomas. Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Neville Brothers…16 absolutely classic tracks to help keep the celebration rolling…at least until the next Bastille Days festival in July.

Sweetheart continues Starbucks’ annual tradition of issuing collections of exclusive tracks from acts covering their favorite romantic songs. This year’s class includes Spoon, Yo La Tengo, the Avett Brothers, and Angelique Kidjo, covering songs by Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Paul McCartney, the Zombies…even ZZ Top!

Available for a limited time at Starbucks outlets, or go to starbucks.com/entertainment.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band & Special Guests, Preservation

Released on Fat Tuesday, this exceptional collection featuring the venerable New Orleans jazz band not only celebrates Crescent City music but is a fundraiser for Preservation’s music outreach program to ensure future generations carry on that great musical tradition. Among the highlights in an album filled with standout tracks are Paolo Nutini’s “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” Tom Waits’ “Tootie Ma Was A Big Fine Thing,” Merle Haggard’s “Basin Street Blues,” Richie Havens’ “Trouble In Mind,” Ani DiFranco’s “Freight Train,” Steve Earle’s “‘Tain’t Nobody’s Business,” and Blind Boys of Alabama’s “There Is A Light.” In all, there’s 19 tracks (25 on the Deluxe Edition), and you can count on this one making my Nifty Fifty for 2010.

Various Artists, The TAMI Show Collector’s Edition DVD

Quentin Tarantino has called it “the greatest rock and roll concert film ever made.” Ace producer Rick Rubin calls James Brown’s performance in it “the greatest rock performance ever committed to film.” Yet very few have ever seen this movie, taped at the First Annual Teen Age Music International Show (forever known as The TAMI Show) in Santa Monica, CA, in October 1964. This is a marvelous snapshot of a watershed moment in pop culture history, where the British Invasion collided head-on with Motown, Surf Music, Full Tilt R&B, and classic Rock & Roll. You know you’re in for something special when the show opens with a battle of the bands between rock godfather Chuck Berry and the latest sensations from the UK, Gerry & the Pacemakers. Just a listing of the show’s lineup is enough to make one’s jaw drop: the Beach Boys (seen for the first time since the film’s original release, and man, they’re rockin’!), Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Lesley Gore, Billy J Kramer & the Dakotas and appearing during their first US tour, the Rolling Stones.

Jan & Dean were the show emcees, and the house band was Phil Spector’s legendary Wrecking Crew. My personal memory of seeing this show was at the Oriental Theatre back in the early 80’s, back when it was still a single-screen venue. The print was grainy and the sound was muffled, but there was no denying the electricity flowing throughout the show. Although I haven’t seen it since, I had been fervently hoping for the day this show would be available on home video to enjoy again and again.

The DVD doesn’t reach stores until March 23rd, but Chicago rock critic Jim DeRogatis, co-host of RadioMilwaukee’s Sound Opinions, has seen an advance copy of the DVD and told me that it was everything I hoped for, and “it was worth the wait.” The quality of sound and picture (made with an early form of high def called Electronovision) is superb, and the direction and camera work from Steve Binder (who would also direct Elvis Presley’s legendary1968 comeback special) has truly never looked better. As a bonus feature, you get Binder’s personal recollections of the show as a commentary track.

And if you don’t believe me, go to Amazon.com, look up this DVD and check out the raves in the customer feedback section. Several are personal recollections of attending the show in person or seeing the film in its original 1964 incarnation, and are quite touching.

If for nothing else, get this for the James Brown performance with the aptly named Famous Flames, and imagine Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones waiting in the wings to follow that!


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