Music Archives

February 29, 2004

The Chieftains Visit The Twin Cities

The Chieftains, the most well-known traditional Irish music group, tours through the Twin Cities this week, and the Pioneer Press profiles the legendary band: Chalk up another one for Irish charm and musical diplomacy. But Moloney and his bandmates have long been known as Irish music's foremost ambassadors, hauling their jigs, reels and airs across every continent but Antarctica. Wednesday, the globetrotters will stop in the Twin Cities for a performance at Orchestra Hall that will show off some of the cross-cultural fusions they've fashioned but will mostly be an Irish folk showcase from its most famous purveyors. The Dublin-bred Moloney formed the group in 1963 with the idea of not only preserving his country's folk music traditions but also finding open ears elsewhere. "I wanted to be able to do a kind of music that brought in the tradition," he said, "but made it a little more exciting, particularly...

March 15, 2004

Goodbye To Love

Yesterday, while the First Mate and I relaxed in her hospital room, we watched a portion of a show on The Carpenters, the teenage sibling duo that turned into an entertainment phenomenon. The show took a look back at the extraordinary career of Richard and Karen Carpenter, two young artists that could easily have been mistaken for the kids next door -- and growing up about a decade behind the two, not far from their Downey, CA home, that connection was easy to make. The Carpenters first broke onto the music scene in 1969 at the apex of the counterculture and seemed to represent everything that the radicals resented: sweet melodies, understated arrangements, and an almost relentless optimism in the face of widespread cynicism and hatred. While their music was wildly popular almost from the outset of their careers (although Richard Carpenter emphatically states that they were decidedly not an...

April 9, 2004

Jim Croce Revisited

If I could make days last forever, if words could make wishes come true, I'd save every day like a treasure and then, again, I would spend them with you... Jim Croce died in a plane crash more than 30 years ago just as his long-delayed career started to finally flower. Croce was one of the last folk-music singer/songwriters to become popular in 1972, as pop tastes were already changing to more synthesis and production. He barely had time to score two hit singles, "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" and "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" before being killed, along with his musical partner Maury Muehlheisen. By any logic, Croce should have been a footnote in musical history, but a strange thing happened: people suddenly couldn't get enough of him. A string of hits followed, most poignantly "Time in a Bottle", which talked about the precious moments in life and how...

April 24, 2004

The Worst Damn Song, Period

Everybody's talking pop music this week, as the entertainment magazine Blender released its highly presumptuous list of the 50 Worst Songs Ever, in conjunction with an upcoming VH-1 special in May. (You can find the list itself here.) Once the list rolled out, everyone started talking about it, including my friends Mitch Berg and James Lileks, in his Backfence incarnation. In fact, over at Mitch's, we're starting a rhubarb on the merits of "Afternoon Delight" by the Starland Vocal Band. No, seriously. The problem with a list of 50 songs is that it will inevitably include something so stupid that it invalidates the entire exercise. It doesn't take long on this list, which mistakes mediocrity for badness. Even the #1 song on their Hit Parade, "We Built This City" by Starship, isn't bad as much as it was disappointingly commercial, from the remnants of what once was a great rock...

May 15, 2004

Gene Simmons to Islam: KISS Off!

Gene Simmons, bass player in glam-rock band KISS and no stranger to controversy for his outspoken views on religion, stirred up a hornet's nest in Australia when he called Islam "vile" and the UN useless (via The Corner): KISS bass player GENE SIMMONS has angered the Muslim community after labelling Islam a "vile" culture on a live radio interview ... Simmons also warned that the West was under threat, and that the United Nations didnt work, adding the West must "speak softly and carry a big stick". "This is a vile culture and if you think for a second that it's going to just live in the sands of God's armpit you've got another thing coming," he said. "They want to come and live right where you live and they think that you're evil." Melbourne's 3AW radio received a large number of complaints following Simmon's statements, claiming that Simmons' insults...

November 16, 2004

And The Winner For Best Switchblade Artist Is ...

The First Mate hates awards shows like the Oscars or the Emmys. She not only feels like they're self-congratulatory tripe, but that they bore her to tears. She hates the speeches most of all. Most of the time, I agree, although I watch the Oscars every year, probably due to some deep-seated masochistic impulse. Fortunately, the world of hip-hop has provided a new way of making the awards exciting -- by stabbing the losers: A fight broke out near the stage at the Vibe awards ceremony as rapper Snoop Dogg and producer Quincy Jones were preparing to honor Dr. Dre., and one person was stabbed, authorities and witnesses said. Dozens of people sitting near the stage Monday inside a hangar at the Santa Monica Municipal Airport began shoving each other as the show wound down about 7:30 p.m., a photographer who covered the event for The Associated Press said. News...

November 19, 2004

Digital Downloads To Rescue Music Industry?

The music industry has warned that they face certain economic doom thanks to Internet piracy. Their trade organization, the RIAA, has pressed forward with an aggressive strategy of lawsuits designed to punish individuals who download music illegally as well as force CD manufacturers to include intricate and intrusive security measures. However, the Guardian reports that at least one major record company credits the Internet for reversing their steep declines: The music group EMI today said the music industry was bouncing back from the effects of internet piracy, with lawsuits against file traders having had an "educational and deterrent" effect. Although the global music industry recorded a decline of 1.3% in the first half of 2004, that figure represented a 9.6% improvement on the same period in 2003. ... EMI, the world's third largest label and home to artists including Radiohead and Norah Jones, said its digital music revenues had more...

November 1, 2006

Bono And Bandmates Closet Conservatives?

U2's Bono has made a name for himself as an anti-poverty activist, traveling the world to get Western governments to reduce barriers to trade with poverty-stricken African nations and demanding large outlays of aid to these same nations. He has argued that the wealthiest nations have shared little of their largesse with those in need. Bono has actively worked with political players of all ideologies to get a bigger financial commitment to end world hunger. It's somewhat ironic, as Timothy Noah points out in Slate, that Bono and his bandmates have decided to relocate their publishing business to avoid paying taxes: A familiar paradox about leftist celebrities in the entertainment industry is that their embrace of progressivism almost never includes a wholehearted embrace of progressive taxation, i.e., the principle that the richer you get, the larger the percentage of your income you ought to pay in taxes. The latest example...

January 20, 2007

Denny Doherty, RIP

For those who love the music of the 1960s, especially the folk-influenced rock that defined the era, the departure of Denny Doherty at 66 is a tough blow. Doherty was a member of the seminal group The Mamas And The Papas, whose brief tenure produced some of the era's most brilliant music: Denny Doherty, one-quarter of the 1960s folk-rock group the Mamas and the Papas, known for their soaring harmony on hits like "California Dreamin'" and "Monday, Monday," died Friday at 66. His sister Frances Arnold said the singer-songwriter died at his home in Mississauga, a city just west of Toronto, after a short illness. He had suffered kidney problems following surgery last month and had been put on dialysis, Arnold said. The group burst on the national scene in 1966 with the top 10 smash "California Dreamin'." The Mamas and the Papas broke new ground by having women and...

March 9, 2007

Brad Delp, Rest In 'Peace Of Mind'

The lead singer of Boston, one of the most talented bands of the 1970s, has died unexpectedly. Brad Delp, 55, died alone in his house, and police say no foul play is suspected: Brad Delp, the lead singer of the 1970s and '80s rock band Boston was found dead at his home in southern New Hampshire on Friday, local police said. Delp, 55, apparently was home alone and there was no indication of foul play, Atkinson, New Hampshire, police said. With Delp's big, high-register voice, Boston scored hits with "More Than a Feeling," "Long Time," and "Peace of Mind." Boston always took its sweet time in releasing new albums, but fans could not argue with the results. Any band that produced "More Than a Feeling" would have its place in rock history, but Boston had a string of well-written, evocative hits. Whether Boston tried love songs like "Amanda" or went...

April 14, 2007

Don Ho, RIP

The legendary singer of "Tiny Bubbles" died this morning of heart failure at the age of 76: Ho entertained Hollywood's biggest stars and thousands of tourists for four decades. For many, no trip to Hawaii was complete without seeing his Waikiki show a mix of songs, jokes, double entendres, Hawaii history and audience participation. Shows usually started and ended with the same song, "Tiny Bubbles." Ho mostly hummed as the audience enthusiastically took over the song's swaying, silly lyrics: "Tiny bubbles/in the wine/make me happy/make me feel fine." "I hate that song," he often joked to the crowd. He said he saved it for the end because "people my age can't remember if we did it or not." The son of bar owners, Ho broke into the Waikiki entertainment scene in the early 1960s and, except for short periods, never left. Few artists are more associated with one place. I...

April 24, 2007

Word Up -- Word Out (Updated)

The fall of Don Imus may have accomplished what twenty years of finger-wagging couldn't: to get rap to clean up its act. Influential rap mogul Russell Simmons has called for the removal of curse words from hip-hop music, especially those that carry offensive racial and sexist meanings: Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons said Monday that the recording and broadcast industries should consistently ban racial and sexist epithets from all so-called clean versions of rap songs and the airwaves. Currently such epithets are prohibited in most clean versions, but record companies sometimes "arbitrarily" decide which offensive words to exclude and there's no uniform standard for deleting such words, Simmons said. The recommendations drew mixed reaction and come two weeks after some began carping anew about rap lyrics after radio personality Don Imus was fired by CBS Radio and NBC for referring to the players on the Rutgers university women's basketball team as...

May 7, 2007

Golden Gordon

My friend Scott at Power Line, who writes beautifully and with such depth about music and musicians, tonight talks about Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot. In his post, "For Lightheads Only," he discusses the phenomenon of Lightfoot's popularity on tour maybe 20 years after he stopped charting songs: I identify completely. I've been a fan of Lightfoot's since I was a teenager. I saw him perform at Dartmouth, if I'm not mistaken, in the winter of 1970 right after "Sit Down Young Stranger" (as it was originally called) had been issued. I saw him again a few years back when he came through Minneapolis after the four-disc box set recapping his career was released in 1999. As I approached the cash register to fork over the $50 or so necessary to purchase the box set in 1999, the store clerk mockingly struck up an exaggerated version of "The Wreck of...

July 1, 2007

Rap -- The New Disco

The London Telegraph reports that rap music has suddenly plummeted -- sales have dropped more than twice as fast as the entire ailing recording industry. Sales in 2006 came in at 21% below 2005, and this year looks even worse. The reason? Listeners have tired of misogynistic lyrics, crude paeans to violence, and the garish jewelry that once fascinated America's youth: Confronted with haemorrhaging sales, the most assertive popular music movement since the Sex Pistols has lost its swagger and is suffering a crisis of confidence. This year rap and hip-hop sales are down 33 per cent, double the decline of the CD album market overall, which is under pressure from music download sites such as iTunes, where fans can buy individual songs. In 2006, rap sold 59.1 million albums, down 21 per cent from 2005. Not one rap album made the American top 10 sellers of the year -...

December 16, 2007

The Last Auld Lang Syne

Dan Fogelberg left us too soon and too young at 56. He passed away earlier today after a long battle with prostate cancer. Fogelberg wrote ballads that had a knack of hewing close to the emotional bone while insinuating his deceptively simple melodies into our consciousness: Dan Fogelberg, the singer and songwriter whose hits "Leader of the Band" and "Same Old Lang Syne" helped define the soft-rock era, died Sunday at his home in Maine after battling prostate cancer. He was 56. His death was announced in a statement released by his family through the firm Scoop Marketing, and it was also posted on the singer's Web site. "Dan left us this morning at 6:00 a.m. He fought a brave battle with cancer and died peacefully at home in Maine with his wife Jean at his side," it read. "His strength, dignity and grace in the face of the daunting...

January 31, 2008

Payback For The Zimmerman Note, At Last!

Mexico's ambassador in Berlin has launched a protest over what it perceives as a finger in the eye from a German novelty-song performer -- or perhaps a poke somewhere further south. Mickey Krause, who has such timeless masterpieces as "Go Home You Old S**t" and "10 Naked Hairdressers" in his repertoire, recently hit the charts with another classy entry in his natural oeuvre: A German song that is riding high in the country's charts has ruffled diplomatic feathers as a result of its mixing of geographic and scatological issues. But the singer of "Finger in the Butt, Mexico" is unrepentant. Mexico's ambassador to Germany has voiced his displeasure over a popular German song that allegedly disparages the North American country. The song, which has been on the German charts for 10 weeks, features as its chorus the charming refrain "Finger in the butt, Mexico." (The German version, "Finger im Po,...