Monday, December 29, 2008

The Wackiest, Weirdest Band Names of 2008

Amid all the top-10 lists of the best songs, albums, etc. of 2008, here's something completely different (as Monty Python would say). The Onion's AV Club has an article that takes a look at the many unusual, wierd, and just plain dumb band names it has encountered in 2008 (along with others that are just boring, odd, or lame).

2008: The Year in Band Names features categories such as Metal (or Metal-Sounding), Melodramatic Theater Nerd Names, Bad Attempts to Sound Funky, (Random Thing) and (Other Random Thing), and Just Plain Stupid.

Some samples: My Son My Executioner, Distorted Impalement, and Fecalized Rectal Sperm Spewage (all from the Metal category, naturally); Druids Of Huge and Vesperian Sorrow (Melodramatic category); and other memorable names such as Magically Delicious Smoking Skunk Monkey, Sh!tty Sh!tty Band Band, Vigo The Carpathian And The Thrash Money Millionairez, Steve E. Nix and The Cute Lepers, and Midnight Spaghetti And The Chocolate G-Strings.

The article features pithy commentary by the AV Club staff and links to many of the bands, so you can listen to the music thrown up by these bands... if you dare!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tom Moon's 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die


The end of the year is always a time for best-of lists, but here's a look at something with a slightly different twist. A few months ago music critic Tom Moon came out with a book called 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Though Moon is mostly a rock and pop critic, his book includes genres such as blues, classical, hip-hop, and even Latin dance music. The book is nearly 900 pages, and Moon includes explanations of why each selection made the list.

Moon discussed the book on NPR's All Songs Considered podcast (Moon is a music reviewer for the program, as well as a former music critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer), along with some selections that didn't make the book. Moon also discusses the recordings at his site (above), where he has a blog on which he conducts an ongoing discussion about the 1,000 recordings as well as current music.

So while most radio stations and critics are examining the best and worst of 2008, it's interesting to consider the all-time best recordings, and what selections should or shouldn't be on that list.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Music News: Top Pop Tours of 2008, U2 to Tour Early 2009, and More

2008 may be nearing its end, but there's no shortage of music news this week:

* Top tours: New Jersey may get no respect from a lot of people, but its rock stars ruled the roost in terms of chart-topping tours in 2008. Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen had the top-grossing tours of the year, with Madonna and The Police taking the third and fourth spots.

* New U2 album: The Irish rockers show no signs of slowing down. There will be a new U2 album coming out in early March 2009, their record label says. The CD will be called "No Line On The Horizon," and you can bet there will be a world tour to support it.

* Coal in the music industry's Christmas stocking: It's shaping up to be another blue Christmas for music labels and retailers. Billboard reports that music sales were down nearly 22% in the first week of December compared to the same period last year. CD sales continue to drop, although it's noted that "hit albums are selling better this year than last."

* ... And in the odd news department: Headbanging is bad for your metal health: Australian study finds that music fans who engage in headbanging risk serious head and neck injury ... Miley Cyrus has been hired to perform at a Houston law firm's holiday party. She and her posse will get $1 million for the gig, but the party will benefit a charity ... rapper 50 Cent was spotted having a kind of car trouble in London recently: he locked the keys to his Rolls Royce inside the car. Don't you hate when that happens?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pylon Returns to New York - Knitting Factory Gig 12/15

I wouldn't call it a reunion tour yet, but legendary Athens, Georgia rock band Pylon has been playing out more and more in recent months. Most of the gigs were around the band's home base in the South, but they've also played shows in L.A. and San Francisco, but now they've added a New York City show tonight, Dec. 15th, at the Knitting Factory.

As with some of the previous shows, Pylon is one of a number of bands on the bill, though it would seem the highly influential rockers are the prime attraction of tonight's show (info and tickets), which is a celebration of the 35th anniversary of radio station WNYU. Also on the bill are Psychic Paramount, Christmas Decorations, Halflings, Grouper, Ehnahre, Zola Jesus, and Starkey.

I remember seeing Pylon play a great show at Maxwell's in Hoboken back in the early 1980s, and have a copy of their LP "Chomp" around my apartment (somewhere)...

Pylon reissued a remastered and expanded version of its debut album, "Gyrate," last year.

An interview Pylon did with the Village Voice sheds light on the band's history, and also includes a free download of the band's classic song "Cool."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eight Great Green Gadgets for Holiday Giving

Electronics and other gadgets are top items for gift giving, and the blog CleanTechnica has a page on the best "green gadgets" to put in someone's stocking (or a box). CleanTechnica, a part of the organization Green Options, shows items including a solar-paneled backpack, a power strip/surge suppressor that supposedly tells you how efficient your electrical devices are, a wind-powered cell phone charger, a water-powered clock, and more.

There are other ways to "green" your shopping for the holiday season (or any season); Apple claims its new MacBook and MacBook Pro computers are some of the most environment-friendly ever made, from an aluminum case to fewer toxic ingredients.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Beatles' White Album 40 Years Later

Yes, it's really been 40 years since the Beatles issues their landmark White Album (almost exactly--the record came out in November 1968) and NPR's All Songs Considered takes an interesting look back at how this seminal record came to be.

It looks at the band's trip to India [to record the album] andf the many disparate factors at work during the White Album's creation, from the band's impending collapse to disputes with the Maharishi Yogi to oddities such as some band members' unhappiness with the food.

All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen talks with Bruce Spizer, author of The Beatles on Apple Records, in a one-hour conversation about the White Album. The podcast features a number of excerpts from demo sessions for the album, including some unreleased tracks. You can download the podcast or stream the show online, and also check out other Beatles-related podcasts on the site.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Odetta, Folksinger and Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 77

Odetta Holmes, the black folksinger who was a civil rights activist for decades, has died at the age of 77. She passed away at Lenox HIll Hospital in New York. Although she was classically trained, Odetta (who performed using only her first name), sang in the blues, folk, and gospel genres.

The L.A. Times has a good article on Odetta, and notes that she was cited as an influence on performers ranging from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to Janis Joplin and Tracy Chapman.

Farewell, Odetta. You will be very much missed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Annie Lennox Gets American Music Award Honor; Will Release First Solo Career Collection

Annie Lennox won the Award of Merit at the 2008 American Music Awards last night, and reminded us anew of why she is one of the most successful British female singers ever. With that reminder, both and new Lennox fans will be happy that she will be releasing her first-ever solo career retrospective set, entitled The Annie Lennox Collection, in February 2009.

The Scottish-born singer first broke onto the music scene as half of the 1980s duo The Eurythmics (with Dave Stewart), starting with their haunting single "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", which featured an odd and quirky video that was in heavy rotation on MTV.

The Annie Lennox Collection is the first such CD of the singer's solo work. Although it spans her 15-year solo career, the bad news is that it contains only 14 songs... not nearly enough, to me, to capture the many songs and stylings Lennox has pursued in that time. The set includes songs from all of Annie Lennox's solo albums: Diva, Medusa, Bare, and Songs of Mass Destruction. The set will also include two new songs.

The Collection is also said to be available in a "deluxe" edition with a CD and DVD (presumably containing live performances or music videos, or both).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Get a Truly Unique Rock & Roll Gift for a Loved One (or Yourself!)


It's the time of year when we're bombarded with ads for stores promising that they have gift items that are unique, one-of-a-kind, etc. But here's a gift opportunity that will truly be memorable for the music lovers on your shopping list: a signed piece of rock memorabilia from the Rock & Roll Charity Auction.

The Auction benefits Rock For Kids, a charity that directs much-needed funds to underprivileged children. This year's Auction, the 20th annual, will take place in Chicago on December 5th, but you don't have to be there to take part and bid on items... the Auction has a proxy bidding procedure, just like on eBay.

(If you will be in Chicago for the Auction, see the details below for time and place and how to buy tickets.)

So what kind of unique items are in the Auction? Head for the official Rock & Roll Charity Auction Web site to view the items.

There are autographed items from everyone from Janis Joplin and Carlos Santana to B.B. King, Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen, and almost 200 more. There are straightforward rock memorabilia items (an Allman Brothers poster signed by the band) to the more offbeat (a Chicago Blackhawks hockey jersey signed by the members of The Cure).

Other artists with items up for auction include Andrew Bird, Aretha Franklin, The Breeders, Brian Wilson, Carole King, Dave Brubek, and even some non-musical folk like Jerry Seinfeld.

Check out the items on sale and make a bid on a truly unique item for that perfect holiday gift, or a treat for yourself!

The Twentieth Annual Rock & Roll Charity Auction
December 5th, 2008
Park West, 322 W. Armitage, Chicago

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Twilight Movie Mania: 5 Things to Know, Fan Sites, Podcasts, and More

Midnight approaches and the madness over the movie Twilight is hitting a fever pitch. So here's some online info to read while waiting in line at the theater, or anywhere for that matter.

Kristen McCracken has a great Twilight primer at Tribeca Film packed with links for more exploring. She talks about Twilight's move from book to screen and gives a guide to five things you need to know about the Twilight movie.

Twilight screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg is on the hook for lots of anger if her adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's book doesn't meet with the approval of the legions of fans. The blog at Wired.com interviews Rosenberg and notes that she's got experience with some of the themes of Twilight: she's worked on the cable serial-killer series Dexter, and has experience with the youth market through her work on The O.C.

Over at Venus Zine, you'll see how Twilight fans are spreading their obsession into fan sites, podcasts, and even Twilight-related travel.

And of course, head for the official Twilight movie Web site for visit the official Web site for previews, film clips, photos, showtimes and locations, and even a free music download.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Music News: Beatles Jam Track, New Concert DVD from The Who

You've no doubt heard that there's a 14-minute Beatles jam recording out there somewhere, and it turns out Paul McCartney is looking to get it released. According to an article in Billboard, "Carnival of Light" is the most experimental track the Beatles ever recorded and McCartney needs to get permission from surviving Beatle Ringo Starr and the estates of George Harrison and John Lennon to get the tune to see the light of day.

"I said it would be great to put this on because it would show we were working with really avant-garde stuff," McCartney told the BBC about the track, which was recorded early in 1967.

Speaking of classic rock releases, here's one that's definitely reaching the listening public: a DVD of a 1977 concert by The Who. Called "The Who at Kilburn 1977," the DVD is coming out tomorrow, November 18th and is the full performance of a concert that was filmed for the Who documentary, "The Kids Are Alright."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Music & Tech News: Cheap iTunes Movies, Gmail Video Chat, Live Nation to Sell MP3s

Lots of news already this week in the world of tech and music....

* iTunes has launched a digital bargain bin for movies, says Ars Technica, offering a set of movies that will be offered for download each week for $5.

* Google has packed some more features into Gmail, launching on Tuesday video and voice chat functions for the ubiquitous free Web mail service. The features are embedded in the interface. Cnet takes it for a test drive, and notes that while it's no Skype, it's simple to use and a good addition to Gmail.

* Mega concert promoter Live Nation has confirmed that it will begin selling DRM-free music MP3s from three of the four major music labels. But it won't be using a store or database like Apple's iTunes; instead, buyers will be taken to artist pages that than an iTunes-style database, Live Nation's MP3 store will route fans to artist pages that are "somewhat similar to the ones found on MySpace," says Wired.com.

* and finally, Aretha Franklin has been named the greatest singer of the rock era in a poll conducted by Rolling Stone. She was already the Queen of Soul; now I guess we can just call her the queen of all genres.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

"Lost" is Coming Back, Sooner than Expected

ABC has lifted the veil on some of the details of the upcoming fifth season of its paranormal tropical-island action-fantasy show Lost. No, not on any plot lines, but on when and where the show will return.

ABC plans a two-hour season premiere of Lost and the Web site The Live Feed reports that it will take place Wednesday, Jan. 21. A one-hour clip show (recapping the Lost story thus far) will precede the season premiere.

The Live Feed this means that Lost is going back to the 9 p.m. Wednesday time slot. Last season it was on Thursdays, first at 9 and then at 10.

The Lost Web site above notes that all of the first four seasons of the show are now available for free streaming online (not sure if this was the case before).

And if you want to get your Lost fix before January, check out the Lost Book Club, a complete guide to all the books referenced on the show or read by the characters.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Author Michael Crichton Dies of Cancer at Age 66

Fans of fiction and audiobooks, or old-fashioned printed books, may be saddened to learn that author Michael Crichton, who gave us such thrillers as "Jurassic Park," "The Lost World," "Disclosure," and "Rising Sun," has died of cancer at the age of 66. His death occurred November 4th or 5th (I'm still finding conflicting information on this.)

A native of Chicago, Crichton was an M.D. who started writing fiction while a student at Harvard Medical School. He specialized in science fiction and technothriller novels, often with cautionary tales about the use and misuse of technology. Among his other novels are "State of Fear," "Prey," "Airframe," "Timeline," and "The Terminal Man."

Many of his novels were made into films, including "Westworld," "Jurassic Park," "The Andromeda Strain," "Congo," "Sphere," and "The Great Train Robbery." He also directed movies and TV shows written by others, including "Coma" and Twister."

Michael Crichton was also the creator, executive producer, and writer for the long-running TV show "E.R.," which is now in its final season.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MTVmusic.com Brings Back Music Videos Old and New

Once upon a time, MTV actually used to show music videos (not surprising, since MTV stands for "music television.") Of course, the network has over the years gotten away from music to put all kinds of lame reality shows on the air, and it became hard to find music television on MTV.

That's where MTVmusic.com comes in: it's a Web site that has plenty of your favorite (and not so favorite) classic and current music videos where you can view them on demand, whenever you want.

The "most viewed" columns has both old and new offerings" "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits shows up first, followed by Britney Spears's new "Womanizer." There's also "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads and the classic Guns N' Roses tune "Welcome to the Jungle."

And if after all the rickrolling on the Internet you still yearn for more Rick Astley, you can view the original video for "Never Gonna Give You Up."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Liz Phair Performs "Exile in Guyville" Live - Free Podcast Download

A young Liz Phair shook up the rock world 15 years ago with her brash, sexually charged "Exile in Guyville." Now a middle-aged single mother, Phair has distanced herself from the album, but recently has undertaken a limited tour in which she performs the entire album live.

You can download the "Exile in Guyville" concert free from NPR Music, or stream the concert along with an interview with Phair. At the Web page above you can also find some previous stories NPR did on her. The concert was recorded at The Troubadour in West Hollywood.

Whether you were a fan of the album when it first came out or have come to it later, check out the performance and hear today's Liz Phair recreating her classic CD.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

British Singer Adele Appears on SNL

Adele is the latest British female singer to take the U.S. by storm, following the success of women like Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, and Duffy. Some of Adele's songs you might have heard include "Cold Shoulder," "Chasing Pavements," and "Make You Feel My Love." (The video for "Cold Shoulder" is below.)

Adele appeared on Saturday Night Live on Oct. 18th, and you can hear her songs, view her videos, and learn all about Adele at her official Web site. You can also hear tunes and view videos, and buy songs online from her album "19" at Adele's MySpace page. Unfortunately, NBC doesn't have Adele's performances from her 2008 SNL appearance archived on its website (or the rest of the show, for that matter).

Adele has had to cancel planned performances in the U.S. and elsewhere but will be touring the U.S. starting in January 2009.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

2008 CMJ Music Marathon - Artists and Panels Announced

It's as much of an autumn ritual in New York City as as falling leaves and the Greenwich Village Halloween parade: it's the annual CMJ Music Marathon! The artists and panel discussions have been announced for the 2008 edition of CMJ Music and Film Marathon (as it's officially known).

This year's CMJ Marathon takes place October 21st to 25th.

The Marathon is an abundance of riches: more than 1,000 different artists performing in 65 different venues over five days. Some of the artists included Coheed and Cambria, George Clinton and the Gangsters of Love (w/ special guests RZA, Shavo Odadjian, El Debarge), Broken Social Scene, the Del McCoury Band, Deerhoof, Donavon Frankenreiter, Minus the Bear, The Dears, and the rising Swedish singer Lykke Li. And many, many more. Check the CMJ Marathon artists' page for the complete listing.

Besides all these live music performances, there are panel discussions and films. You can find out more information about the performances and when and where they're playing at the CMJ Music Marathon Web site, www.cmj.com/marathon. There you can find out about buying passes for the entire festival (if you're daring) or buying individual tickets to any of the gigs.

You can also get a free taste of the artists from 2008 CMJ Music Marathon, and previous years, with an exclusive download of 28 tracks by some of the featured artists. (I haven't yet been able to get it to work, though.) And the Web site features a music player that streams songs from various artists taking part in this year's Marathon.

Sometimes too much of a good thing really is a good thing.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Dylan, Basia Bulat, and a Young Mexican Singer on NPR

There have been a number of good music stories and previews on NPR in the last few days. And while they may not be available as podcasts, you can stream them live.

There's a story and sneak preview of Bob Dylan's "Tell Tale Signs," his new two-disc set. Actually it's not so much "new" as a collection of bootleg recordings from the last 20 years. The album comes out on Oct. 7th, and it appears you can stream both discs from the NPR link.

Canadian singer-songwriter Basia Bulat was the subject of an NPR story on Oct. 5th, called "Making the Autoharp Cool." You can hear that story, along with a live session from Bulat and a story on her as one of the artists to watch at the 2008 South by Southwest Festival, at a page that features these and other Basic Bulat stories.

The young Mexican singer Ximena Sarinana was interviewed on Oct. 4th, and though her debut album "Mediocre" is entirely in Spanish, it's gotten rave reviews from critics in the U.S. as well as Mexico, including a four-star review in Rolling Stone. The page also includes a live session from KCRW.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Learn About Gwen Ifill, Moderator of the Biden/Palin Vice Presidential Debate

We're all used to seeing the likes of Tom Brokaw and Charles Gibson moderating political debates, but on October 2nd a relatively new (and different) face will be running the debate: Gwen Ifill of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

As moderator and managing editor of PBS' "Washington Week in Review" and senior correspondent for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," Ifill has a savvy and no-nonsense style, which I'm hoping she'll bring to the debate. She joined the NewsHour in 1999 as a senior correspondent (and a substitute host for regular host Jim Lehrer). She is probably the most well-known black woman in American journalism, and the most respected.

(As you'd probably guess, I'm posting this profile because there's a connection to podcasting: both the "NewsHour" and "Washington Week" have podcasts that you can download. You can check them out through iTunes, or look for information on the PBS Web site, www.pbs.org.)

This year's VP debate won't be the first debate moderating stint for Ifill, either: she was the moderator for one of the Vice Presidential debates in the 2004 election.

Gwen Ifill worked for NBC News before coming to PBS, serving as chief congressional and political correspondent. She can still be seen occasionally as a panelist on NBC's "Meet the Press." Before joining NBC she covered beats including the White House, politics, and national affairs for publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Baltimore Evening Sun.

Born in New York City, the 53-year-old Ifill has received more than a dozen honorary degrees, according to her profile on A&E television's Biography.com.

You can find also find a biography of Ifill at the "Washington Week" Web site.

Gwen Ifill is also working on a book: she is the author of "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama," to be published next year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dar Williams Out On Tour with New Album - Hear Interview and Full Concert

Singer-songwriter Dar Williams recently came out with her latest album, Promised Land, and is touring in support of it. You can hear a radio interview she did that aired on public radio Sunday, Sept. 28th at the link below.

Williams talks about the things she writes about on her new album, the musicians and producers she's worked with, and how she fits songwriting into her busy life as a wife and mother... something that's a change from when she first started out as a carefree singer in her early 20s. "I know that I need to take the time to structure my life to create the empty spaces, so every story really has its due," said noted.

I've been a fan of Dar Williams since her first album, The Honesty Room, and have enjoyed seeing her in concert a number of times. She always puts on a good live show, and has a friendly and funny manner in talking to her audience. Some people may find it too cloying or cutesy, but it's one aspect of her style that has endeared her to her many fans over the years.

At the NPR Music link, you can hear the interview as well as songs from the new Dar Williams album and a complete Dar Williams concert.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Singer Kate Voegele Wrapping Up "Back to School" Tour

Kate Voegele is nearing the end of her Summer/Fall "Back to School" Tour, which has seen the young pop singer-songwriter headlining on a busy tour schedule around the country. The 21-year-old Ohio native has been out promoting her impressive debut full-length album, "Don't Look Away," and she gotten some valuable exposure from the CW Network TV show "One Tree Hill."

But she isn't just having her songs featured on the show. She is getting attention that most musicians in her position would die for: as a recurring character named Mia who is a budding singer-songwriter, which puts her songs and her face in front of the TV audience. (Ironically the character of Mia is rather shy, which Voegele says is the exact opposite of her own outgoing personality.)

After being on tour earlier this year opening for Natasha Bedingfield, Voegele is finishing her run of headlining gigs on the East Coast this coming week. You can find all the upcoming Kate Voegele tour dates at her special MySpace tour page. Here are the final dates listed for the "Back to School" Tour:

9/27/08 : New Haven, CT
9/28/08 : South Hackensack, NJ
9/30/08 : Baltimore, MD
10/1/08 : Falls Church, VA
10/3/08 : West Chester, PA
10/5/08 : Salisbuty, MD

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Podcast Party - Disclosure Policy

This policy is valid from 24 September 2008


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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jazz Bassist Charlie Haden Returns to His Bluegrass Roots

Charlie Haden is well known as a jazz bassist and composer, playing alongside everyone from John Coltrane to Pat Metheny. But he loved bluegrass as a kid and now, many years later, has made an album in that vein, "Rambling Boy." along with his family and some friends. That family includes Petra, Tanya and Rachel (his triplet daughters), his son Josh, and even the actor and comedian Jack Black (who is married to Tanya).

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday talked to Charlie Haden and several family members about "Rambling Boy" on its Sept. 21st show. You can hear the interview and some musical excepts there.

Besides the impressive cast of family members, "Rambling Boy" also features a heavyweight collection of "friends," including Vince Gill, Rosanne Cash, and Ricky Skaggs.

Haden's children, of course, have their own musical achievements: Petra was a member of the indie folk-rock group The Decemberists as well as the group that dog, and even recorded an a cappella cover version of "The Who Sell Out." Rachel was a member of the rock band The Rentals; and Josh was in the band Spain.

"Rambling Boy" will be released on Tuesday, Sept. 23rd.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

IMDB Adds Free Video to its Site

Amazon.com, which owns the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), is making free movies and other video content available on the IMDB Web site.

This is such a natural progression that many people have been wondering when Amazon would finally do it, according to an article on PaidContent.org.

News reports say that more than 6,000 full-length feature films and TV episodes will be offered free on IMDb.com’s video section. The content is said to include things like classic films like "Some Like It Hot" and more recent films such as "Bring It On," as well as recent episodes of popular TV shows like "30 Rock," "24," and "Heroes."

In addition, IMDB has said that the first episodes of new fall television shows like "Lipstick Jungle" and "30 Rock" will be available to view online before they first air on TV.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Linda Ronstadt Honored for Her Many Musical Contributions

Singer Linda Ronstadt has had one of the longest and most successful careers in pop music, from the early 1960s to the present day. This week the singer, whose parents are of Mexican and German ancestry, was honored with a special tribute at the ALMA Awards, which honor contributions that Latinos have made to music, television, and film. (Her honor was for Trailblazer Award for Contribution to American Music.)

I've always been a big fan of female singers and female bands (and bands with women singers), and Ronstadt was one of my favorite artists growing up. Linda Ronstadt had her first hit single as part of the folk-rock group The Stone Poneys, famous for their chart hit "Different Drum" -- which I owned on 45 (anybody remember those?)

Ronstadt later made several solo albums covering a variety of folk and country tunes, but made her mark with a later album featuring the single "Silver Threads and Golden Needles."

Her big breakthrough came in the early 1970s with her chart-topping album "Heart Like a Wheel," featuring the hit singles "You're No Good" and a cover of the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved." That's when I started following her career in earnest, buying each new album of hers as it came out, and delving into her catalog of previous albums.

All told, Linda Ronstadt has had 38 top 100 singles, 21 of which have made the top 40. She has earned a number of Grammy Awards as well as an Emmy Award, and has also received nominations for Tony and Golden Globe Awards.

Besides her well-known rock/pop/folk/country tunes, Ronstadt has also extended her talents into other musical genres. She starred on Broadway in a revival of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "The Pirates of Penzance;"recorded several albums of American standards with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra in the 1980s; and also reached back to her Mexican roots to record the album "Canciones de Mi Padre" ("Songs of My Father").

She has also recorded albums in which she shares vocal duties with other legendary singers, including Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris.

Ronstadt has always been a strong interpreter of the songs of others: sometimes well-known songwriters ranging from Buddy Holly and Bob Dylan to Warren Zevon; other times giving valuable exposure to lesser-known writers such as Tracy Nelson and Julie Miller.

Sticking with her recent eclectic streak, Ronstadt's most recent album is "Adieu False Heart," released in 2006, in which she teamed with longtime friend Ann Savoy (with the two of them recording under the name the ZoZo Sisters), and including musical styles including pop and cajun.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

Apple "Let's Rock": New iPod Nano and Touch, iTunes 8

The consensus for tomorrow's Apple "Let's Rock" media event on Sept. 9th is that we will see new iPod Nano and iPod Touch models, new iPhone firmware, and probably iTunes 8. Macrumors also suggests additional possible developments, saying that the afore-mentioned items would be welcomed but not are not worthy of the buildup Apple has sought to create for this event.

Among the possibilities Macrumors mentions are GPS/turn-by-turn features for the iPhone and "secret features" in iPhone 2.1 that haven't been revealed yet.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Tickets for Michael Bublé at Madison Square Garden Going on Sale

The immensely popular singer Michael Bublé is coming to New York's Madison Square Garden on December 5th, 2008. Tickets go on sale Monday, September 8th, and the good seats are sure to go fast.

Granted, the huge Garden is not the ideal venue to see this type of singer, but because of Michael Bublé's popularity I guess this type of arena is where he will be booked.

You can get your Michael Bublé Madison Square Garden tickets right from the Garden's ticketing system.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New iPods Expected at Apple Event Sept. 9th

New iPods are expected to be announced that the Apple Inc. event that's now been officially confirmed for next Tuesday, Sept. 9th. The invitation sent to the media as a silhouette of a man listening to an iPod jumping in the air, as in iPod ads, and has the slogan "Let's Rock" on the front.

Rumors have been flying around that new iPods were in the works from Apple, including a redesigned iPod Nano that ditches the new stubby format and returns to the longer format of the original Nano. Case designs shown on various Web sites have shown a video screen that is viewed when the iPod is held horizontally, rather than vertically.

So if all goes as planned, we'll all be able to listen to our tunes, podcasts, and audiobooks on brand new iPod models that have higher capacity and maybe even lower prices, if the rumors are correct.

New MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops have been rumored to be announced, but some observers have suggested that these might be announced later in September or even October.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Smithsonian Folkways Podcasts FREE on iTunes

The Smithsonian Folkways collection is a vast treasure trove of the history of American music from the last century or so. Now iTunes is making available FREE a series of 24 one-hour video episodes from the Folkways collection, consisting of music, spoken word, and sound recordings. The episodes are available in the iTunes University section of iTunes.

The Folkways recordings episodes cover music styles from country to bluegrass to blues, and each covers a particular artist. This is a great way to get an education (and a free one, at that) about the history of American musical styles and forms. As the iTunes description notes, "the music of modern day giants like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Ani Difranco is interwoven with original Folkways recordings to demonstrate the lasting legacy that Folkways Records has on popular music."

Of course, you'll find older musical pioneers including Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Leadbelly, as well as the noted author Studs Terkel.

You can learn more about Smithsonian Folkways and their projects, and buy their recordings, at the Smithsonian Folkways Web site.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Wailin' Jennys Craft Beautiful Harmonies in Weehawken


Heather Masse, Nicky Mehta, and Ruth Moody of the Wailin' Jennys




The free annual summer music festival in Weehawken, New Jersey wrapped up for the year not with a bang, but with the lovely harmonies of the Wailin' Jennys. The acclaimed female trio played their brand of folk/pop/traditional tunes with the Manhattan skyline in the background, and showed why they have developed a loyal following in their native Canada and in the U.S., despite a few personnel changes.

The Wailin' Jennys have been together for over six years, with Ruth Moody being one of the original members. The latest addition is Heather Masse, an American now living in Brooklyn. (Moody and the third member, Nicky Mehta, are from Winnipeg, Manitoba.)

The band performed mostly their own compositions, but also did some worthy covers, including "Deeper Well" by Emmylou Harris and fellow Canadian Neil Young's "Old Man." You can hear some of their songs at the Wailin' Jennys MySpace page.

This is at least the second season of the free concerts in Weehawken at Lincoln Harbor, part of the Hudson River Performing Arts Center series. Kudos to Bruce Sherman and all the members of the HRPAC team and the Township of Weekhawken for continuing to put on these great shows in a gorgeous location.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

All Points West Wrapup: Looks Like a Winner

The sets went off on time, the weather mostly cooperated, and the inaugural All Points West Festival has attracted good notices.

There was some griping, of course, mainly about the long walk to mass transit (the promised shuttle buses were nowhere in sight) and about the restrictive drinking policy (attendees had to line up to get wristbands to drink, then were limited to five beers a day, which had to be consumed in fenced-in pens). Other reviewers noted that for the price ($89 per day), the festival should have have more big-name artists, which I can agree with to a point. But seeing festival-length sets from a number of groups I'd been interested in, plus what was pretty much a full Radiohead concert, seemed like a fair bargain to me.

For a first-year festival with dozens of acts spread over three days, I thought the session I attended (Friday) was very well run. Entertainment Weekly offered a review of Friday's All Points West show, while reviews of Saturday's proceedings were available from sources ranging from The New York Times, Yahoo, and The Gothamist, which summed up Saturday's show as "more Radiohead, more crowded."

Friday's show did seem sparsely attended (walk-up tickets were available at least as late as 2:30 p.m.); I guess not enough people have summer hours on Fridays.

New Jersey's Star Ledger offered a hometown review of the festival, noting that the organizer of All Points West (and Coachella) is a Jersey native.

I'll have more later on the specific sets I enjoyed most.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Radiohead (and Lots More) at All Points West: Friday Tickets Still Available

If you're a Radiohead fan and will be in the New York area Friday, you can still get tickets to see the band... and a whole bunch of other great musicians... at the inaugural All Points West Festival at Liberty State Park, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.

You can buy tickets for All Points West at Ticketmaster. If there are any tickets available as of tomorrow, they'll also be on sale at the gate.

Radiohead is the All Points West headliner and is scheduled to perform from 8:30 to 10:30. Other bands on Friday's bill (which starts at 1 p.m.) include The New Pornographers, Underworld, Duffy, Girl Talk, Mates of State, The Duke Spirit, and CSS.

You can get to All Points West easily by ferry or by the light rail system, which goes right to the park. From NYC, you can connect to the light rail via the PATH trains.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Live Webcasts from Newport Folk Festival

The 2008 Newport Folk Festival is on, and NPR is Webcasting much of the proceedings. You can check their Newport Webcast schedule and also see who is playing the festival and when.

You can also find links to the artists and interviews with various performers and the Newport Folk Festival organizers through links on that same page.

It's possible some of these music sets might find their way into free podcasts later on; NPR Music has a regular series of free concert podcasts available for download (and others for streaming only).

Friday, August 01, 2008

Set Times Published for the All Points West Festival

The set times have been announced for next weekend's All Points West Festival in Liberty State Park, one of the most high-profile music festivals to take place in the New York area for some time. With any luck, it will be a recurring event.

You'll find set times for all three days of All Points West at the Festival's Web site. I'm going Friday and am getting excited about seeing many of the acts, but as with any multli-stage festival, there is of course at least one conflict (Go! Team and The Duke Spirit are playing at almost the same time).

Radiohead, the headliner for Friday and Saturday, is scheduled for 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. both nights. Maybe it will be two 45-minute sets with a break in between?

Tickets were previously sold out for Saturday, but I got an e-mail today saying that record companies had released some tickets, so apparently it's no longer sold out. Friday still hasn't sold out from what I've heard, so if you're interested in hearing Radiohead and a bunch of other artists, by all means head to the All Points West Web site.

Should be a great (and long) day of music. Considering that I'll be outside for more than 10 hours hearing live music, I'm praying for good weather.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bob Mould Plays Maxwell's Solo (But Not Acoustic)

Bob Mould put on a rocking show with his band back in March in New York, and last Thursday he played a couple of intimate solo shows at Maxwell's in Hoboken. Solo, yes, but definitely not acoustic: Mould and his electric guitar were strumming and howling through a selection of songs from his entire catalog, much like his NYC show in March.

That show was in one of a much larger venue, Irving Plaza, and Mould probably wouldn't play a club the size of Maxwell's except for its historical value. Maxwell's was one of the clubs that Mould's seminal band Husker Du played at, and onstage at the club Mould even seemed to recall the first time he played there (1984). Mould's two-night stand at Maxwell's was part of the club's 30th anniversary, and the 10th anniversary of the club's current ownership (which rescued the club from a brief, unfortunate incarnation as an Italian restaurant and brewpub).

There definitely seemed to be a sameness to the songs when heard only on one electric guitar, but to hear a legend like Bob Mould in a place as intimate as Maxwell's, with a capacity of about 200, was a rare treat I didn't want to miss.

And good news for Mould fans: he played a few new songs at Maxwell's and said that he was working on a new album, which is scheduled to be out next Spring. Considering that District Line is still a pretty recent album, that's good news indeed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Donnas Featured on Rock Band 2

The Donnas have been one of my favorite bands for several years now, so I was happy to hear from the band that one of their tracks will be featured on the new Rock Band 2. The song is "New Kid in School" and the band says it's a bonus track from their latest album, "Bitchin'" (but it's not on my copy).

Other twenty-first century songs included on Rock Band 2 included "Down with the Sickness" by Disturbed, "PDA" from Interpol, and "Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups. You can read the entire Rock Band 2 song list and features at the Rock Band Web site.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pay What You Want to Download the New Girl Talk Album

The recording artist Girl Talk is the ultimate mash-up king: his new album "Feed the Animals" is said to sample more than 200 different songs. In fact, the "songs" by Girl Talk (real name Greg Gillis) are totally composed of ingeniously spliced clips of songs from disparate genres. Following in the footsteps of Radiohead's "In Rainbows," Girl Talk is offering "Feed the Animals" in digital download format on a pay-what-you-want basis. You can get the name-your-price download at the Girl Talk MySpace page, among other places.

"Feed the Animals" got a write-up in today's New York Times Magazine, so he can expect a lot of downloads in the next few days.

Girl Talk's songs contain a dizzying array of samples in each selection (one of them combines Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl," Kelly Clarkson's "Since You Been Gone," and The Prodigy's "Firestarter," among a number of others), and he hasn't obtained permission for any of them. Apparently he hasn't been sued yet, maybe because the original artists are happy to get the added exposure or consider it a form of indie cred to get sampled in a Girl Talk tune.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sub Pop Features Bands Old and New at Its 20th Birthday Bash

Sub Pop Records has turned 20 years old, and of course they had a concert to celebrate the occasion. Many people just know of Sub Pop as being Nirvana's label, but they've had plenty of other strong acts through the years. An article about Sub Pop's birthday concert makes clear that the label is still signing great acts, some of which I didn't know were even on Sub Pop. (I've discovered a number of good tunes from the label through their podcast... check on iTunes to see what songs they've been featuring lately.)

Of course, Mudhoney is on Sub Pop, and they've been touring with some new songs. And Scottish duo The Vaselines, who could count Kurt Cobain among their admirers, are back together again, and have played a number of shows in the U.S., including gigs in New York and Hoboken's Maxwell's.

I had forgotten that Sam Beam, better known as the performer Iron & Wine, is on Sub Pop; in fact, he's one of their all-time bestselling artists. Also on Sub Pop these days are Helio Sequence and Canadian indie rockers The Constantines and Wolf Parade, as well as Flight of the Conchords, Fleet Foxes, and a bunch of others.

Happy birthday, Sub Pop, and here's to many more.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The CBC Summer Road Trip Mix Tape is Out

If you want some great traveling music, head over to the CBC Radio 3 podcast Web page and download the Summer Of 2008 Roadtrip Mixtape Special (show #163). As in years before, it's a virtually nonstop playlist of great Canadian indie music tunes just right for driving down the endless highway with the windows down. Host Grant Lawrence keeps the talk to a minimum so you can enjoy the songs almost nonstop, nearly one and a half hour's worth.

U.S. audiences may recognize artists like Sloan, Kathleen Edwards, and Matt Mays on the mix tape, but there are also great lesser-known (in the 50 states, anyway) Canadian indie artists such as Ladyhawk, the Wet Secrets, and Malcolm Bauld.

And while you're at the CBC Radio 3 site, download podcast #164 too, which announces the 10 finalists for the Polaris music prize, and features a song from each artist that made the final cut.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Crazy Rhythms: The Feelies Return to Maxwell's

The Feelies were one of the bands that helped cement the reputation of Hoboken's Maxwell's as a rock mecca in the early '80s. Their first album, "Crazy Rhythms," was named #49 in Rolling Stone's "Top 50 Albums of the 1980s," and it received acclaim from other critics as well. Someone hearing The Feelies today would remark that they sound a lot like early R.E.M., but R.E.M. has reported said that it was influenced by The Feelies, which makes sense since they were around earlier.

In any case, the band that originally arose from Haledon, New Jersey (that's HALE-dunn) is back and performed two shows at their old home away from home, Maxwell's. These two shows were billed on the band's Web site as a "warm-up" for their spotlight as the opening act for Sonic Youth in the big Fourth of July free concert in lower Manhattan, they were in fine form in the show that I saw, Tuesday night's gig at Maxwell's.

The Feelies made several more albums after "Crazy Rhythms" and then broke up for good in the early 1990s, though various members were reunited in a range of other bands, including Speed the Plough and The Trypes. (You can find more about Feelies history and spin-offs at their MySpace page.)

Last night's show revealed that they still had the chops and intensity that made them so acclaimed back in the day. And playing two 45-minute sets, they clearly have the stamina.

They played plenty of old favorites from their albums, of course, along with a few cover tunes and, surprising to me, a couple of songs that bassist Brenda Sauter referred to as new tunes. Is there a new Feelies album in the works, I wonder?

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Bon Jovi Central Park Free Concert is On - July 12th

The rumors of a free Bon Jovi Central Park concert have been confirmed. The band will perform a free show in the Park on July 12th as part of the festivities surrounding the baseball All-Star Game, which will take place at Yankee Stadium on July 15th.

The possibility of a Bon Jovi Central Park concert arose when the singer inadvertently let a comment slip about the idea in an interview back in April.

In giving a free Central Park concert, Bon Jovi is joining a long tradition of performers who have performed free in New York City's largest park, including Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon, and the Dave Matthews Band.

Bon Jovi also has concerts scheduled for Madison Square Garden on July 14th and 15th.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Billy Preston: He Played with Everyone from Ray Charles to Beatles and the Stones

Seeing Billy Preston on last night’s replay of the first Saturday Night Live show reminded me of what an amazing talent he was. Preston, who died a couple of years ago at the age of 59, had a number of hits in the 1970s as a solo artist (including “Nothing from Nothing,” which he performed on SNL) but he is best known as a versatile keyboard player who collaborated with a who’s who of star musicians.

Billy Preston started performing as a child, playing with gospel and soul legends including Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, and Little Richard, among others.

He is the only musician to have played with both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, and was often called the “fifth Beatle.” In fact, when the Beatles were nearing their end there was discussion of making Preston an official member of the band. That didn’t happen, but their single "Get Back" was credited to "the Beatles with Billy Preston" – said to be the only time that the band allowed a side player to be so credited. And Preston also was playing with the band their final public performance, the famous rooftop gig they played in London.[

Despite being hospitalized with kidney disease in his later years, Billy Preston continued to record and tour with various musicians. I was lucky enough to see him playing at part of Eric Clapton’s band a couple of years before he died, in a concert at Madison Square Garden. I was surprised to see him playing, since the show was not that long after he had been hospitalized.

It was good to see Billy Preston in his prime on SNL, but it was also sad to think of how many great talents from that show died too young: Billy Preston, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and of course George Carlin.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Rockin' in Weehawken: NJ's Smithereens Play the Waterfront



Jim Babjak, Pat DiNizio, and Derek "Toledo Tornado" Anderson of The Smithereens in Weekhawken

After 28 years, The Smithereens are still rocking, and sounding good, and were in fine form Wednesday night at a concert in their home state of New Jersey. Playing in a park just steps from the Hudson River, and in the shadow of the Lincoln Tunnel, Pat DiNizio and company played a solid hour and a half set that was spirited and very much appreciated by the audience.

The Smithereens got serious airplay on the old progressive rock station WNEW-FM, which bit the dust long ago. DiNizio remarked at one point that while WNEW is long gone, his band is now played on the "classic rock" stations.

The band played many of its hits from its various albums, from "Blood and Roses" to "Only a Memory" and "House We Used to Live In," as well as a number of Beatles covers that the band did on their album "Meet the Smithereens." Being a weeknight concert, the audience thinned out a bit as the clock approached 9 p.m., but the majority of the crowd that stayed was rewarded by a lengthy encore set by the band.

Bruce Springsteen isn't the only Jersey rocker from the '80s that's still out there rocking hard.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tonight's Weather Forecast: Dark. George Carlin Has Died

Anyone who's familiar with the work of George Carlin will recognize the first part of this post's title; it's from Carlin's famous routine, The Hippy-Dippy Weatherman.

George Carlin died yesterday at the age of 71 from what's being described as heart failure, though I didn't learn of his death until this morning. Though 71 doesn't seem that old by today's standards, Carlin had suffered from heart problems for years.

Carlin spoofed all kinds of subjects, from the sacred to the inane. Among the former were the Catholic Church, Vietnam, and of course the "seven dirty words" and "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television." Among the less-weighty topics he tackled were the too-cool-for-school mellow-voiced FM disk jockeys, consumerism, and the contradictions of daily life. One of my favorite Carlin lines was from the "Al Sleet," the afore-mentioned hippy-dippy weatherman — "Tonight's forecast: Dark. Continued dark throughout most of the evening, with some widely-scattered light towards morning."

Reading some of his obituaries, I learned some things I never knew or had long forgotten: he was the host of the very first show of Saturday Night Live; he performed in suit and tie on the Ed Sullivan Show and elsewhere before becoming a long-haired counterculture figure; he was present at the arrest of groundbreaking comedian Lenny Bruce.

You can find an interview Carlin did with The Onion here, and read of his extensive movie appearances here.

Rest in peace, George.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Feist's "Reminder" Gives Her Label a Lift

Here's a rare good-news story about record labels, the business that everybody loves to hate. But there are some good labels out there, and Canada's Arts & Crafts is certainly one of them. That's why I was glad to see this Billboard article saying how Feist's latest album "The Reminder" had given the label its biggest hit ever.

"The Reminder" has sold more than 200,000 copies in Canada according to SoundScan, and the use of the single "1-2-3-4" in an iPod commercial made the song ubiquitous on TV for a while. (The album has sold 600.000 copies in the U.S., but A&C doesn't hold the rights there.)

The article quotes an Arts & Crafts co-founder as saying the the album's success "Has allowed us to build out our infrastructure ....We now have all the tools at our disposal that any much larger label has. We can do things that were previously outside our scope."

Arts & Crafts is also the home of respected Canadian indie artists Broken Social Scene, Stars, The Dears, and The Stills.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New On iTunes: Coldplay, The Hold Steady, Camp Rock Soundtrack,

Among the new releases this week that are now available on iTunes are the new Coldplay album, Viva la Vida and the new album from The Hold Steady. The iTunes folks say that the new Coldplay download comes with an "exclusive acoustic track;" don't know if this is available on the CD release or not. To celebrate Viva la Vida, iTunes is selling Coldplay's previous albums for $7.99 each.

I liked the last album from the Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America, and they put on a great free show in downtown NYC last summer, so I'm interested to hear what their new CD sounds like.

It's a good things I get the iTunes new music e-mail each week, otherwise I'd be woefully out of touch with new releases. I didn't even know that that old '90s band The Offspring was coming out with a new album. As is an even older band, Judas Priest.

And my college friends with tween daughters are no doubt already aware that this is the release week of the soundtrack from Camp Rock, a new Disney Channel movie. It features performances from New Jersey's own Jonas Brothers, a couple of whom also act in the movie. Camp Rock the movie premieres this Friday on TV; the Camp Rock soundtrack was dropped on the world today. The iTunes version includes an acoustic version of "This Is Me," performed by Demi Lovato, one of the lead actresses from the Camp Rock movie.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert Dies at Age 58; Was Host of "Meet the Press"

Sad news from the business of news: Tim Russert, the political analyst and longtime host of "Meet the Press" on NBC TV, died this afternoon of a heart attack. Russert was only 58 years old, and reportedly died while at work.

Russert was also the Washington bureau chief for NBC News. I don't know if he had any health issues, but he was a big man. And his NBC colleague Tom Brokaw, who announced Russert's death on NBC, said Russert had been pushing himself hard and working long hours during this long political campaign season.

And yes, there is a podcasting connection in this story. Podcasts of Tim Russert hosting "Meet the Press" are still available free from iTunes (both audio and video versions), so his political analysis lives on. And Russert's bestselling books, "Big Russ and Me" and "Wisdom of Our Fathers," are available in audiobook form from iTunes and other sellers.

Tim Russert was a straight-talking journalist who always tried to get the the heart of an issue in interviews. He will certainly be missed.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

"@#%&! Smilers"! Aimee Mann is Back With a New Album

Indie singer-songwriter Aimee Mann is out with "@#%&! Smilers," her first album in three years, and though I haven't heard much of it yet it's been getting good reviews. Billboard, for one, praises the CD (which came out on June 3rd) as "her most compelling album to date" (though it misspells her name "Amy").

The title is a tongue-in-cheek swipe at people who encourage others to put on a happy face, and fits in with Mann's slightly jaded view of life, love, and the music business. Of course, she's perfectly justified in the latter: while some artists can point to being dropped by their labels or had an album held up in limbo, Mann has been through numerous nightmares with labels and record execs. Happily, she finally started up her own record label, SuperEgo Records, a number of years ago, and has control over her work.

Starting her own label is just one of the do-it-yourself actions Mann has taken; she also began using email to keep in touch with fans earlier than other artists, and has had several different podcast series devoted to her musical projects.

From what I've heard of "@#%&! Smilers," Aimee Mann is still in good form as a songwriter, combining wry lyrics with the kind of catchy pop-rock melodies that attracted attention when she was with Til Tuesday, singing the '80s megahit "Voices Carry." A Billboard article notes that Mann herself admits that the new CD is "one of her most 'smiley' to date."

But apparently there's no need for fans to worry that Aimee Mann is going soft on us (after all, she has even given in to one of the most time-honored music biz traditions and made a Christmas album), but the new CD does have some songs with bite, like "Thirty One Today."

I can't wait to hear the rest of the album.

Monday, June 02, 2008

BREAKING: Rock Legend Bo Diddley Has Died

Just heard on the news that Bo Diddley has died of heart failure at the age of 79. I was lucky enough to see him play a free show in Central Park, must have been 15 years ago, and he was still rocking. That chugging Bo Diddley beat has been used in many songs over the years by all kinds of artists, from Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and Bruce Springsteen's "She's the One" to U2's "Desire."

He wrote many songs that were hits by other artists, including "I’m a Man," "Who Do You Love?," and "Before You Accuse Me," as well as distinctive tunes like his trademark "Bo Diddley." The distinctive rectangular "cigar box" electric guitar he played was one he designed himself.

Bo Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1996 he released "A Man Among Man," an album that featured guests including Keith Richard and Ron Wood.

The accomplishments of Bo Diddley are far too numerous to mention here, so I'll refer you to his induction page from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here.

Jesse Malin Plays a Marathon Show at Maxwell's

Punk rocker turned singer-songwriter Jesse Malin showed both sides of his musical personality at a show at Maxwell's in Hoboken on Friday night. Well, it was practically two shows: Malin played an engaging set with acoustic guitar, accompanied by singer and keyboardist Christine Smith, then brought on his full band for a second set. The whole evenng lasted more than an hour and a half... quite a long show by club standards.

Malin is a fun performer to see live, especially in a small venue such as Maxwell's (where I also saw him perform a New Year's Eve show a few years back). His full-band set was rocking, backed by Smith and other musicians who are longtime Malin collaborators, But even his acoustic songs can have a kind of punk edge to them.

Formerly a member of the punk group D Generation, Malin has several solo albums under his belt. The Maxwell's gig was billed as a CD release party for his latest disc, "Mercury Retrograde," a live set drawn from shows he performed at New York's Mercury Lounge.

In addition the studio albums of his own material, Malin also has a covers CD out called "On Your Sleeve," featuring some of his favorite tunes from the '70s. He performed several tunes from that CD at Maxwell's, including Paul Simon's "Me And Julio Down By The School Yard," Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side," and Jim Croce's "Operator."

Friday, May 30, 2008

“The Foot Fist Way" Part of Danny McBride's Summer Tripleheader

Comedian Danny McBride is going to have a great summer. He's gone from having only one acting role in a movie to being in three of the summer's most anticipated comedies: “The Foot Fist Way,” (opening today), “Pineapple Express,” and “Tropic Thunder.”

"Pineapple Express," of course, is the latest comedy from the comedy success machine of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen (who serves as both actor and screenwriter for this film). Apatow, of course, is the producer or director of such successful and popular comedies as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," "Superbad." and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

The Los Angeles Times offers a profile of McBride, telling how he went from night clerk at the Burbank Holiday Inn to sharing the bill with some of today's biggest and most established comedy names, including Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller. It talks about his knack for playing bumbing, awkward characters, which in this summer's movies involves McBride being beaten up, blown up, and tied up to a chair, among other things.

But if moviegoers like McBride as much as film festival audiences and his fellow actors do, it's going to be a very happy (and lucrative) summer for Danny McBride.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"Sex and the City" Movie Unleashed Upon the World

The "Sex and the City" movie has had its New York premiere, and now it's ready to be released to the world at large. And naturally, HBO wants to help get you in the spirit of things. If you can't remember where Carrie and the gang were at last time you saw them, when the TV show ended, don't worry. HBO has a Web site to bring you back to where you left off with the girls.

Besides telling you about the weddings, hookups, and other situations the girls were involved in, it lets you relive some of the highlights of the shows. You'll find links to Carrie's most outrageous outfits, Samantha whipping the boys at a fetish restaurant into shape, Charlotte breaking the rules, and Miranda deciding whether to date the sandwich-board guy.

And, of course, plenty of fashion photos from all four ladies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Earle Hagen Dies; Composer of "Andy Griffith" Theme and Other Classic TV Themes

You may not know the name of Earle Hagen, but if you've seen classic TV shows from the late 1960s you'll recognized the songs he wrote. Earle Hagen, who died at age 88 the other day, was the composer of some of the most memorable TV theme songs of all time.

Perhaps the best known is the whistling intro to "The Andy Griffith Show" (which he whistled himself), but Earle Hagen composed music for more than 3,000 TV episodes, pilots, and made-for-TV movies. Among those are themes for a number of iconic shows, including "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "I Spy," "That Girl," "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.," "The Mod Squad" and "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer."

Hagen was a big-band trombone player before his TV career, though, playing with top names including Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. And he wrote the longtime jazz standard "Harlem Nocturne."

You can learn much more about the work and life of the prolific composer Earle Hagen at "The Best of All Worlds," a fan site dedicated to Hagen.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The FrankBlack.net Podcast is Back (and So is Frank Black)

After a nearly one year silence, the FrankBlack.net podcast is back with new episodes. With one host in the U.S. and the other traveling throughout Asia (and perhaps elsewhere), I guess it wasn't possible to produce the podcast, and the podcast's return, 4/1/08's "The Fools are Back," was itself a cross-continental collaboration between the two hosts, Dean and Brian. A second return podcast, "The Lost Podcast," came out on 5/14.

Frank Black himself has been busy as well (a new child has arrived in the Frank Black/Black Francis/Charles Thompson family), but Black has been working on new music as well. The new FrankBlack.net podcasts delve into this music, including the new album SVN FNGRS. These two podcasts also include some live performances and tracks from a project involving Frank Black and his wife Violet.

If you like The Pixies or Frank Black/Black Francis in any of his various musical projects, you'll definitely want to check out the FrankBlack.net Web site and podcast to catch up with his latest recordings and live shows.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Follow the Adventures of iCarly in Free Podcasts

For fans of the highly popular TV show "iCarly" on Nickelodeon, the show features a series of free podcasts featuring Carly, Sam, Freddie, and the rest of the iCarly gang.

If you've got a teen or tween in your family, you may already be familiar with iCarly: it's a TV show that features two girls, Carly and Sam, who create a Web show to express themselves. The free iCarly podcasts feature the show's characters in extended adventures, and also let viewers step into the iCarly set with a look at how the program is put together, insight into the actors who play Carly and other characters, and more. There are even a few full-length episodes of iCarly that you can download for free. [UPDATE, Jan. 2012: if the above link doesn't have the podcasts you're looking for, try this link for downloading iCarly podcasts in iTunes.]

To download the free iCarly podcasts or view them online, go to the link above and click on the iCarly logo near the top of the screen.

In the free iCarly podcasts Miranda Cosgrove (Carly) shows how to make a "spit take" ... Jennette McCurdy (Sam) tries to meet a tongue-twisting challenge ... and much more.

If you or a family member enjoy watching iCarly on Nickelodeon, you'll want to see the cast behind the scenes in the free iCarly podcasts.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Los Campesinos! Opens its U.S. Tour at Maxwell's

The hugely popular Welsh pop-punk band Los Campesinos! opened what it said was its "first proper U.S. tour" at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ Wednesday night. The seven-piece group managed to fit all its personnel and gear on the small Maxwell's stage and ripped through a brisk 55-minute set of tunes from its EP and its new full-length, "Hold on Now, Youngster."

The group's members, who met while student at Cardiff University in Cardiff, Wales, have built a big following in the U.S. over just the last year or so. They received a sometimes raucous welcome at Maxwell's, with many fans clearly familiar with the band's tunes and singing along.

You can download tunes from the band as well as a podcast at their Web site above.

Perhaps the only punk band featuring both a violin and a xylophone, Los Campesinos! continues its tour in the New York area with dates in Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. You can find the band's complete tour schedule at their MySpace page.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Blackberry Bold (Blackberry 9000) Reviews - The Gushing Has Begun

Research in Motion introduced the much-anticipated Blackberry 9000 smartphone on Sunday, along with a new name for the gadget: the Blackberry Bold. And the early reports on the Blackberry Bold are very positive.

Cnet gushes about it, praising the bold screen (which gives the Blackberry Bold its name) in particular.

The Cnet article mentions that Crackberry.com bought a Blackberry Bold on eBay and gave a review.

PC Magazine also gives a hands-on review, saying right up front, "The new BlackBerry handset is intriguing, but the real news is RIM's new, much faster platform."

You can find techincal details in these reviews, or check out RIM's official Blackberry Bold home page.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

2008 Webby Awards Winner Announced

The winners of the 2008 Webby awards have been announced, recognizing the best work being done on Web site content and design. You can find all the Webby winners here, but here's a quick recap of the categories that Podcast Party readers will be likely interested in. In some categories I've also listed the People's Voice winner.

BROADBAND: ABC.com Full Episode Player - http://dynamic.abc.go.com/streaming/landing

CELEBRITY/FAN: Annie Lennox Official Website - http://www.annielennox.com

COMMUNITY: Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/

MOVIE AND FILM: Simpsons Movie - http://www.simpsonsmovie.com/awards

MUSIC: BBC Radio 1 Meet the DJs - http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/djs

PODCASTS: TED.com - http://www.ted.com (People's Voice Winner: The Onion - http://www.theonion.com)

RADIO: BBC World Service channel site - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/ (People's Voice Winner: AccuTunes (from AccuRadio) - http://www.accutunes.com)

I have to admit, I'd never heard of TED, the winner in the Podcast category. Apparently it produces conferences about business and environment issues. And AccuTunes I have heard of, but don't know much about. Being a big music fan, I'll have to check that one out.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Latin Music Legends On Screen, In Person at Tribeca


Multimillion-selling Latin/pop crossover star Gloria Estefan pays tribute to her native Cuba in her latest album "90 Millas," which features a who's-who of Cuban and other Latino music stars from different generations. Her husband, producer extraordinaire Emilio Estefan, made a low-budget documentary of the making of the album, and it received a special screening at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The screening of "90 Miles: The Documentary" was special because it was followed by a unique panel discussion about Latin music and the recording industry featuring the Estefans and some of the Latin stars featured in the movie, including groundbreaking Mexican guitarist Jose Feliciano, legendary Dominican composer and bandleader Johnny Pacheco, and Cuban trumpet player Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros. (Also featured on Estefan's "90 Millas" CD are Israel Lopez Cachao, Arturo Sandoval, Carlos Santana, percussionist Sheila E., and young Latin hip-hop artist Pit Bull.)

The panel discussion was a very interesting look at the history and evolution of Latin music, touching on issues ranging from the African roots of Latin music and the strong connections between Cuban and Puerto Rican music to acceptance of Latin music in the mainstream music industry to what the artists thought of the decline of big music companies and the rise of Internet-based digital music.

Considering the collection of Latin stars past and present aligned on the stage, and the advanced age of Pacheco and Armenteros, this was truly a discussion that won't be seen again.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Emmanuel Jal: From Child Soldier to Worldwide Rap Star

American rappers often detail the hardships of guns and drugs in the 'hood, but their stories pale in comparison to that of Emmanuel Jal. Jale grew up in southern Sudan (a country in the news for the genocide in Darfur), and was at one time a child soldier. When he and more than 350 children left on a boat to escape the fighting, the overloaded boat sank, and Jal was one of just 50 survivors.

The journey of Emmanuel Jal from child soldier to a rapper who now uses his words to help heal the wounds of war is movingly told in the film "War Child," which on Saturday won the Cadillac Award - Audience Choice Winner at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. Jal was present at some of the screenings of "War Child," and even rapped a cappella at the first screening, which was the film's North American premiere.

(The TFF has been consuming much of my time over the last week and a half, but I'll be making up for that by posting about some of the films, especially music-related ones, that were screened at the Festival.)

"War Child" director received $25,000 for winning the Cadillac Award. You can learn more about the film at its Web site, www.warchildmovie.com, and learn about the charity Jal has set up to fund education for children in Sudan.

Jal's music has been featured in movies including the documentary "God Grew Tired of Us" and the feature "Blood Diamond," as well as several episodes of the TV show "E.R."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Prince, Metallica, Free Coldplay Single in Monday Music News

Lots of music news to start off the week. Prince is apparently back in fine form as a live act, and the he L.A. Times has praise for his set at Coachella. "The musician's dazzling performance Saturday night uses hits, guest stars and killer covers to cement his status as perhaps the top live act around," the article gushes. One cover tune he did: Radiohead's oldie-but-goodie, "Creep."

Speaking of Radiohead, Wired reports that Metallica is considering doing a pay-what-you-want release as Radiohead did for its "In Rainbows" album. Although Metallica has long been a critic of filesharing, Wired notes that "...With only one record left on its Warner Music Group contract, [Lars] Ulrich says Metallica could be planning a digital release along the lines of what Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have done, as ironic as that might seem."

Continuing with the theme of digital downloads, Coldplay is going to give away its new single free online. A notice on the Coldplay Web site says that "Violet Hill," from the band's new album "Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends," will be available free online for one week starting on Tuesday.

Perhaps more interesting, Coldplay has announced it will do two free shows: London's Brixton Academy (June 16th) and New York's Madison Square Garden (June 23rd).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Black Maria Film Festival Touring the Northeast

If you're a fan of short films and you live in the NY/NJ area, try to catch the Black Maria Film Festival. I've written about it before; it's a unique festival that travels with a rotating schedule of films.

I caught tonight's show at the Donnell Library in midtown Manhattan, and as usual there was a diverse range of shorts, lasting from three minutes to nearly a half hour. One of the most entertaining was called "Bodega," about two men in the Bronx who go to different bodegas in the area and explain for viewers the "bodega food pyramid," from pork rinds and mini-donuts to the 40-oz. bottle of Olde English malt liquor

The festival will be touring near its New Jersey origins for the rest of its run this year, which goes until the end of June. The Black Maria Film Festival will be at the Donnell Library again this Saturday, April 26th. After that it will be playing in Jersey City; Baltimore; Glen Falls, New York; and several other towns in New Jersey. Check out the schedule at the link above.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Record Store Day, and a Look at NYC Stores

It will be interesting to see if indie record stores get a sales bump from Saturday's Record Store Day promotion. One participating store was New York's Other Music, on the Lower East Side. It was said to be selling limited vinyl singles and EPs from artists including Vampire Weekend and the Breeders, as well as giveaways and guest DJ sessions by members of bands including Interpol, Grizzly Bear, Tapes n' Tapes, and the Black Keys.

New York was once home to a number of great indie record stores, but many of these have fallen by the wayside. How many have closed up and how many are left? Conveniently, Brooklyn Vegan put up a map that the New York Times ran of the record stores in Manhattan, showing which have closed and which are still open. According to the Times's count, since 2003 at least 80 stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn have shut their doors, and about 70 are still operating.

I'm glad to see that one of those still plugging away is Rock and Soul, a midtown shop that I used to go to in the early '80s to buy LPs and cassettes (those were the only formats they sold; they didn't start offering CDs until later, I believe).

Friday, April 18, 2008

R.I.P. Danny Federici, Longtime E-Street Band Member

Danny Federici, one of the original members of the E-Street Band that brought Bruce Springsteen to fame, has died at the age of 58. He died of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, at New York's Sloan-Kettering Hospital.

Federici was a keyboardist who played with Springsteen for 40 years, as Springsteen explains in a note on his Web site. He had been battling melanoma for three years and had been touring with Springsteen and the E-Street Band until last November.

Danny Federici was a key member of the band, and it's sad that he has left us so early.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

2008 Austin City Limits Festival (ACL Festival) Lineup is Out

The lineup for the 2008 Austin City Limits Festival (ACL Festival) has been announced ... see details here. You can click on an artist's name at this page to hear music by that artist.

Austin has just recovered from the South by Southwest Festival, and now if gearing up for the ACL Festival, a tie-in to the long-running PBS TV show Austin City Limits.

Robert Plant and Allison Kraus will be performing at the 2008 ACL Festival, along with the Foo Fighters, Beck, Gnarls Barkley, Patty Griffin, the Black Keys, John Fogarty, and many more. There are more than 130 bands in all, many in the country or singer-songwriter vein, but also heavy on the alt-rock and indie rock genres.

This year's ACL Festival will be held September 26th to 28th in Zilker Park in Austin, Texas.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Record Store Day, April 19th - Support Your Local Store!

The independent record store may be down, but it's not out... and it's fighting back. In fact, a“Record Store Day” will take place on Saturday, April 19th at hundreds of independently owned music stores all over the U.S.

The event seems to have lots of artist support, and many are putting their microphones where their mouths are by giving in-store performances or appearances on Record Store Day. Metallica and Panic at the Disco are the best known of these, but other participating artists include indie and local acts including The Donnas, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Duke Spirit, Film School, and many more. A whole bunch of stores will have live DJs, and others will have special sales or other promotions to attract customers.

The Record Store Day Web site above has listings of the musicians and where they're perform, but the links don't seem to work. Let's hope these will be up and running soon, so that people can find out when and where artists will be performing. You can read more about Record Store Day here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Music News: R.E.M.'s Best Week in 12 Years, '80s (and '70s) Pop Stars on Tour

It's Spring, and that means the Summer concert tour plans are cranking into high gear. There are some interesting moves going on in the recorded-music scene too, so there's lots of music news this week. Here's a rundown of the highlights.

R.E.M. is getting its record-sales mojo back with its new album poised at No. 2 on the U.S. charts. It hasn't been able to outsell country crooner George Strait, but I don't think the boys from Athens, Ga mind: it's their best chart action in 12 years. Good timing for R.E.M., with its worldwide tour coming up in June.

Nothing says Summer like old rockers on tour, and some of the biggest hitmakers of the 1980s are teaming up for a tour called Regeneration. Among the acts: The Human League, Belinda Carlisle, Dead Or Alive, A Flock of Seagulls, and Naked Eyes. The tour is set to begin August 1st in Phoenix.

Not to be outdone, a number of '70s rockers will be out on the road for their own individual tours. The Steve Miller Band, The Eagles, and others icons of the era will be touring, along with Ray Davies of The Kinks. Joe Cocker will be on the bill with Steve Miller.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Lollapalooza 2008 Lineup is Set; Tickets On Sale Now

The Lollapalooza rock festival continues its single-city concept, and will be held once again in Chicago in 2008. This year's Lollapalooza will take place August 1st to 3rd in Grant Park, and tickets are on sale now.

The Lollapalooza 2008 lineup includes Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West, Wilco, The Raconteurs, Love and Rockets, Gnarls Barkley, Broken Social Scene, Flogging Molly, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and many more.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Scott Weiland Dumped from Velvet Revolver; to Tour with STP

Singer Scott Weiland is no longer part of the rock supergroup Velvet Revolver, according to a statement from the other members of the band yesterday. The brief statement referred to Weiland's "increasingly erratic" behavior as the cause for the split; Weiland has long battled heroin addiction and has been in and out of jail and rehab a number of times over the years.

"This band is all about its fans and its music and Scott Weiland isn't 100 percent committed to either," said guitarist Slash in the announcement.

Apparently Weiland is not erratic enough for his old mates from Stone Temple Pilots to undertake a summer tour with the 40-year-old singer. STP has recently reunited and is to announce dates for its upcoming tour.

Weiland responded to the Velvet Revolver statement with one of his own in which he says in part, "The truth of the matter is that the band had not gotten along on multiple levels for some time," and that he looked forward to playing again with Stone Temple Pilots, "performing with a group of friends I have known my entire life, people who have always had my back."

After Stone Temple Pilots broke up, Weiland became the lead singer for Velvet Revolver, which features three former members of Guns N' Roses, including Slash, as well as another guitarist, Dave Kushner.

There could be a number of factors contributing to the split besides the official one from Velvet Revolver. Weiland said during a performance last month that it would be Velvet Revolver's last tour. And Weiland had already planned to tour with Stone Temple Pilots. Also, an article in Entertainment Weekly says that some insiders claim that Slash was jealous of all the attention the upcoming Stone Temple Pilots tour was getting.

The Stone Temple Pilots is set to begin on May 17 at the Rock on the Range festival in Columbus, Ohio.

Monday, March 31, 2008

"Juno" Gives Birth to a Second Soundtrack Album

Just like its namesake movie, the soundtrack for "Juno" was a big hit, so now fans of the music will be getting a second helping. "Juno B-Sides: Almost Adopted Songs" will be issued on April 8th exclusively through iTunes (priced at $9.99), with a release through other digital services on May 13th. No physical release for the album is planned at this time, it seems.

The 15-track "Juno B-Sides," as the name suggests, are songs that didn't quite make it into the movie but, as director Jason Reitman says in the liner notes, "are all essential members of the Junoverse."

The new CD includes a tune sung by "Juno" star Ellen Page, along with a couple of songs by Kimya Dawson, the singer and songerwriter featured in the movie and on the original soundtrack album. Also on the collection are songs by Belle and Sebastian, Buddy Holly, Yo La Tengo, and Astrud Gilberto, among others.

Podcast Novels Gaining Momentum

Modern technology is taking an old idea and giving it a new twist: say hello to the podcast novel. Decades ago, stories and novels would be serialized, or published in regular parts in newspapers or magazines. The rise of the iPod and iTunes have led to the podcast novel, a long-form work of fiction told in regular segments (usually weekly) via podcast.

Author Scott Sigler, who is a pioneer of the podcast novel form, was interviewed recently on the public radio program Weekend Edition. Sigler has become one of the most successful podcast novelists, having written a number of novels that have reached the number-one spot on the iTunes list of top-selling audiobooks.

In some cases, a podcast novel may be eventually issued as a regular book. In fact, Sigler's newest podcast novel, "Infected," will be issued in hardcover April 1st.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Play Ball! Preview Podcasts for the New Baseball Season

If you want to get up to speed on the upcoming baseball season, iTunes has a couple of free video podcasts to give you a concise preview. There's a page in the iTunes store where you'll find two special preseason MLB baseball podcasts.

One is an MLB 2008 season preview that looks at all 30 clubs, hosted by Peter McCarthy. Running at an hour, this special gives divisional overviews, reports from Spring Training, and a segment that features beat writers from all the teams.

The other MLB preview podcast is the Fantasy 411 Season Preview show. It looks to tell you what players will be pleasant surprises and which will be major disapointments. It also features two rounds of a mock draft and goes position by position to help you create the ideal winning team.