Women in Music

HAIM just released their third album, Women in Music Pt. III.   Sisters Danielle, Este and Alana Haim arrived on the scene in 2012 with their first album Forever and the hit single “The Wire”.  It’s official video is an awfully entertaining girl power trip.  The video for “Summer Girl”, one of three singles released from the new album, adds new meaning to “layering” and gives a big boost to the baritone sax.

Forty years before HAIM released Forever, Fanny, fronted by sisters June and Jean Millington, covered Marvin Gaye’s hit “Ain’t That Peculiar” (click through to YouTube to watch the video and forward to 1:30 to skip the studio chatter).  If you want to compare Fanny’s version to the original, check out Marvin Gaye’s live performance at New York’s legendary club, The Bitter End.

About half way between the launchings of Fanny and HAIM came the formation of the best selling female group of all time, TLC. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas joined forces in 1991. One of four #1 charting U.S. hits from their second album, CrazySexyCool, was “Waterfalls”.  It may be their signature tune, and the video won MTV’s Video of the Year.  It’s a very heavy song and video with a super-infectious chorus.

 

Grab Bag

The first post in my blogging renaissance was about the soothing sounds of Morcheeba.   Frank Ocean’s “Sweet Life” from his first album, 2012’s channel ORANGE, has that same feel to me.   The song was co-written by Pharrell Williams.

A couple of weeks ago I posted artist “at home” videos.  Here’s a good one to add to that series – James Taylor, his wife and his son performing “You Can Close Your Eyes” for the Jimmy Fallon show.

Among the viral sensations I have missed – OK, I miss ALL viral sensations – is the Holderness Family.  Penn and Kim left their on camera TV jobs to start a video production and digital marketing business several years ago.      No idea how their business is going, but their own on-line videos costarring their kids and dog have garnered millions of views.   And they are tailor made for spoofing quarantine time.

Young Jazz Stars from Russia and India

In December 2019 the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz held its International Guitar Competition in Washington D.C.   The Institute, named for Thelonious Monk until this past year, has held competitions going back to 1987 honoring young singers and musicians.   This year’s winner was 30-year old Russian phenom Evgeny Pobozhiy.

A few years ago Evgeny recorded this performance of his composition “the Aether”.  Joining him were two fellow Russian jazz artists and Italian bassist Federico Malaman.

In this more recent recording of his composition “Calumet”, Evgeny starts to show off his chops at about 2:00.  Later in the track you’ll hear a sax solo by Brandon Fields, a session man who’s played with dozens of stars from Ray Charles to Stanley Clarke to Earth Wind and Fire.

In this video we add another young jazz powerhouse, 24-year old bassist Mohini Dey from Mumbai   Oh my goodness.   Rolling Stone wrote Mohini up as an artist to watch in 2012 when she was 15.

And check out this amazing duet with the aforementioned Federico Malaman.

Artists at Home

There have been a zillion at home performances created over the last several weeks by artists famous and undiscovered, young and old, solo and synced-up with bandmates.   Stripped down as they are, the performances reveal just how good – or not so good – voices and musicianship are.  Below are a few performances that succeed on both counts – for the most part.

Pink begins this clip by admitting that playing piano is a new part of her repertoire.  Bob Dylan wrote “Make You Feel My Love” for his 1997 album Time Out of Mind.  A cover of the song by Garth Brooks was a huge hit for him in 1998, as it was for Adele a decade later.  Pink gives us a very pretty version for this decade, showing off her fantastic voice and the fruits of all those hours of piano practice.

The Doobie Brothers prove they still have it on both counts with this performance of “Black Water” Live in Isolation.  I’m just sorry I didn’t get tapped for the amateur harmonies at the end.  And Patrick Simmons is as cool a grandpa as a kid could have.

This one is a comical group effort (I’ve never seen air drumming, and I have no idea what the heck Keith is doing).  But Mick is incredible!  His voice hasn’t lost anything, and he even anchors the guitar work.

 

Prince – Four Years Gone

April 21st marked the fourth anniversary of the untimely passing of Prince Rogers Nelson.  I’ve been learning a lot about Prince recently, finishing the 2019 book “The Beautiful Ones” and now part way through the biography “Prince, Inside the Music and the Masks”.   To mark the anniversary the Grammy organization aired a tribute concert on network television this week, filmed in January after the Grammy Awards show.

In the same vein as last week’s post on artists who have made covers their own, I did not know till I watched the TV tribute that the Bangles’ hit “Manic Monday” was penned by Prince.  When the Bangles released the song in 1985, it rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, just behind Prince’s “Kiss”.  What we wouldn’t give for a Manic Monday right about now.

Here’s the steamy video from “Kiss”.  The guitarist in the video, Wendy Melvoin, was a member of Prince’s band, The Revolution, at the time.  She performed at the Grammy tribute concert: “Mountains”

When Prince’s early promotor and collaborator, Chris Moon, was trying to get Prince his first record deal in 1976, he called Atlantic Records and told the receptionist he represented Stevie Wonder.  When the receptionist put the call through Moon said, “This is Chris Moon, and I’m representing Prince.  If you like Stevie Wonder, you’re gonna love my artist.  He’s only eighteen, he plays all the instruments …”.   Prince got an audition but not the contract.   That came in 1977 with Warner Records, and Prince released his debut For You in 1978 – playing all the instruments, singing all the vocals, and doing pretty much everything else.  Here’s Prince’s first single from his first album, “Soft and Wet”.

If you want even more Prince, check out my blog post from 2016 featuring his guitar shredding skills.