Thursday, February 26, 2009

Because Ticketmaster Wasn't Evil Enough

If you go see concerts in the United States, you should be paying attention to the Ticketmaster/Livenation merger. Check out Bill Wyman's great coverage here [via Idolator].

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Estelle Bennett

Ben Sisario has a heartbreaking article in today's Times about the
troubled life of Estelle Bennett, the original Ronette who passed away
last week. A must-read for anyone interested in early pop history.

A Life of Troubles Followed a Singer's Burst of Fame [nytimes]

Monday, February 16, 2009

Giving You Something You Can Feel

While flipping between shitty romantic comedies and turrrrrrible music videos that were devoted strictly to "love," I stumbled across this 1976 gem on BET: Sparkle. Starring Irene Cara (you know, of "Flashdance...What A Feeling" and "Fame" er, fame) in the title role, Sparkle is the story of the three Williams sisters (glamorous and bitchy Sister, demure and shy Sparkle and sassy and introspective Dolores) from Harlem who form a singing group, Sister and the Sisters, in 1958 with the encouragement of two neighborhood friends. Naturally, trials and tribulations ensue (racial inequality, drug use, abusive crime lord boyfriends by the name of Satin) and at the film's end, Sparkle is the only sister left standing (Sister ODs on cocaine and Dolores leaves Harlem to escape the ghetto and racial prejudice). She finally makes it and is performing at Carnegie Hall, opening for Brother Ray. The film, which is considered a cult classic (it inspired Dreamgirls and gave us this bomb ass En Vogue cover), could be just another Cinderella story, but, thanks to the genius of Curtis Mayfield, who created the film's amazing music, it's a fantastic slice of early 1960s R&B.

The movie's soundtrack was performed by none other than Aretha Franklin, who sings over the film's original score, replacing the vocals of Sparkle's stars. The gorgeous soundtrack gives us some of Aretha's most shimmering and lovely tunes like the classic "(Giving Him) Something He Can Feel," "Rock With Me," "Look Into Your Heart" and of course, "Sparkle." Only eight tracks deep, this soundtrack doesn't need any filler. It's flawless. If you haven't already heard it, please do. It's a real treat. I can't WAIT for the Whitney Houston backed remake to ruin everything: Jordin Sparks as Sparkle (Aaliyah was the first choice and actually would've been pretty good), Alicia Keys as Sister and Omarion (is this a goof?) as Stix, Sparkle's boyfriend and encouraging manager/mentor. Trife.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Fat Cow Loses Grammy

This picture is on the front page of the Times' Arts section this morning, and in their online slideshow here. I think M.I.A.'s really let herself go since getting all of this mainstream attention. You know? It's like jeez, I get it, looks aren't everything, but would it kill a girl to do a few sit ups every now and then? No wonder she didn't even win any awards.

Three Acts Win Big at the Grammys [nytimes]

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Crazy Backing Bands Dept.

News broke a couple weeks ago that Booker T. Jones, he of legendary Stax session band Booker T. and the MG's, would be releasing a new album in the coming months. The shocking part of this, to me at least, is that he'd be recording with a band comprised of members of Drive-By Truckers and Neil Young. Today Pitchfork has a stream of a track from the album called "Warped Sister," and it's surprising to say the least. It has the in-the-pocket drumming you'd expect from a Booker T. project, and the man's organs are front and center but the real shock comes from the gritty guitar that leads you into the song. It drops to the background once Booker T.'s organ arrives, but the two mesh together throughout the song, giving it an almost grungy feel. A welcome surprise that does much to underscore how at home Booker T. can sound even outside the soul genre he's helped define. That organ's a lot like Nutella: you could spread it on a gym sock and it'd still make your mouth water. Potato Hole drops 4/21 on Anti records.

"Warped Sister" stream [p4k]
Booker T. Jones [official website]

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Rock and Roll Specialists

Today's the anniversary of the day the music died: the 1959 plane crash in which Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) perished. No one knows the kind of music we'd be listening to today if Holly lived through the '60s, but try not to think about it; watch this video instead.

"Peggy Sue" Live in New York [youtube]

Monday, February 2, 2009

Prince Launches New Website, U R Welcome

Last night, two very important things happened. One, a puppy got a boner during Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl V and had to be taken off the field. Two, Prince launched his new website, He threw some kind of intimate soirée which involved Anita Baker, a Kat Williams impression, fantastic covers during his (until the wee hours of 3am) performance (Sly & The Family Stone, Mary J. Blige, the Rolling Stones, Rick James) and apparently, shoes that emitted a red light with each step the Purple One took. After I got over my initial shock that I had NOT been invited, I was delighted to find that there are three new songs streaming on this site, and one of them, "Another Boy," is positively sublime. I need to know who the woman singing is. She's great. A new protégé perhaps? This song is so classic and straightforward Prince. It's like what Apollonia would've sang in Purple Rain if she hadn't gotten pimped out by Morris and blown it entirely with "Sex Shooter."

Live at Prince’s mansion: Everything but the pancakes
[Pop & Hiss]