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.

 

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.

Who Owns That Song?

On occasion a singer-songwriter becomes so identified with a song written by another singer-songwriter that the ownership of the song seems to transfer.  This came to mind when John Prine passed away a couple of weeks ago.  Early in her career, Bonnie Raitt made Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” her own.  Enjoy this early performance by Bonnie and take a look at this poignant duet from just a few months ago.

Another classic example is Patti Smith’s version of “Because the Night”, written by Bruce Springsteen.  You get the same feeling watching Patti and Bruce perform the song together that you do when watching Raitt and Prine – this is Patti’s song.

And then there’s Elvis Costello’s cover of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”.   A Costello performance staple for decades, the history of the song is particularly interesting.  Lowe originally released it with his band Brinsley Schwarz in 1974.    Lowe became Costello’s producer a couple of years later, working on his first five albums, and Costello’s version of the song was first released as the B-side of a Nick Lowe 1978 single.  When it became a hit, the track was added to the American release of Armed Forces.  Lowe generally performs softer acoustic versions of the song these days, but when he gets on stage with Elvis, it’s the Costello version they’ll do (drop into this video at 3:00).  Enjoy Costello’s comic intro below, or go straight to the song at about 1:00.

Catching Up With My Favorites

Over the past few years I’ve come across a few artists that have taken places among my favorites.  So this week I’m checking out what’s new with Lake Street Dive, Snarky Puppy and Chris Thile.

In an amazing convergence, Chris Thile performed with Snarky Puppy at a recent live show.  Chris jumps in to play jazz mandolin at about 2:30. You’ll hear Snarky Puppy’s band leader Michael League say, “We got six minutes, Chris Thile you got four-and-a-half!”. Suitable homage from one supremely talented musician to another.

Chris also dropped by the Steven Colbert show where he played his Punch Brothers song “My Oh My” with Jon Batiste & Stay Human. You don’t often get to see Stay Human play a full song, so check out their work including Batiste’s fantastic piano accompaniment. You’ll see why Thile exclaims “This band!”.

Lake Street Dive’s members seem to have taken time over the winter for some side projects.  Listen to Rachel Price tap into her jazz roots with a 1930’s Gershwin Brothers tune, in a duet with Brooklyn-based guitarist/singer Vilray.

And LSD’s base player, song writer, backing singer and all around super talented Bridget Kearney put out her own album “Won’t Let You Down” a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the video from “Wash Up”.