Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Santana Unveils New Covers Disc In Las Vegas

Carlos Santana knows the power of a good guest vocalist: His 1999 album Supernatural, which paired the guitarist with a youthful cast of star singers, sold 28 million copies.

His forthcoming Guitar Heaven (out September 21st) tweaks the formula, teaming Santana with singers to cover a healthily diverse mix of guitar-centric rock tracks.

Santana invited three of his new partners — Chris Daughtry, India.Arie and Gavin Rossdale — when he debuted the album in a special edition of his residency at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel.

Before the show, Sony Music mogul Clive Davis (who signed Santana in 1969) played eight cuts from the disc for journalists and guests like NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton and Mary Wilson of the Supremes. Two big highlights: Surprisingly heavy renditions of AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” featuring Nas and Janelle Monáe, and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” punctuated by Chris Cornell screaming his head off.

When the band came onstage, they powered through “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va” and “Maria Maria” (staples of the Santana residency) before bringing out India.Arie, who put a feminine, earthy spin on George Harrison's “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” as Olivia Harrison, George's widow, watched.

“When I think of that song," Arie said, "I always had this vision of George Harrison being at home with his wife and his kids, and going in at five o’clock in the morning and playing his guitar to himself. I imagined that and put a sensual energy on it.”

Chris Daughtry, who met Santana for the first time in rehearsal, offered a spirited take on Def Leppard’s “Photograph.” “I don’t have the Joe Elliott range, but I’ll do what I can with it,” Daughtry had warned, but he nailed all the big notes and brought the crowd to its feet.

Gavin Rossdale bounced around the stage while singing T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong” and the evening’s highlight, “She’s Not There” by the Zombies, which morphed into a free-form jam as Santana issued precision licks and wails of feedback.

Earlier in the day, Rossdale gushed about a prized memento from the Guitar Heaven recording sessions: a “gracious and mind-blowing” thank-you note from Santana, which the Bush singer says he has affixed to his bathroom wall.

“You see Carlos onstage and the way he approaches the instrument and the passion he brings to his music,” Clive Davis said after the show. “Ecstasy is the word, when you see him playing.”

Davis, meanwhile, literally crossed his fingers when suggested Guitar Heaven might reach the commercial heights attained by Supernatural. Santana’s passion — and Rolodex — can’t even guarantee that.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Heart Hits The Road With 'Red Velvet Car'

Nancy Wilson of Heart says the travel aspect of touring remains "just as hard" after almost four decades. "But the sweeter thing," she adds, "is to still be doing it."

She and sister Ann Wilson are touring in support of their first studio album in six years, Red Velvet Car. Written on the road and featuring the act's signature rock sound with deep acoustic currents, the album is gaining traction on adult contemporary radio with "Hey You."

"The heat at radio reminds me of the old days," Nancy says. "It's good to see stations adding it and people requesting a simple love song I've had in my back pocket for quite a while."

Guitarist Nancy and singer Ann have quite a few previous hits in their back pockets. Co-founders of '70s-spawned Seattle band Heart, the sibling frontwomen/songwriters forged a gateway for female rockers. Among the act's 21 top 40 hits: "Magic Man," "Barracuda," "These Dreams" and 1987's "Alone," which has become a favorite of "American Idol" contestants.

"'American Idol,' Fergie doing 'Barracuda,' 'Guitar Hero' ... all the different imprints of the songs we did in the '70s and '80s are connecting the dots, bringing a new generation to our live shows," Nancy says. "We've even seen people showing up with kids 10 years and younger."

In addition to a headlining tour through September, Heart is set to guest on "ShopNBC" (August 29), "Today" (August 31), "Fox & Friends" (September 1), "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (September 2) and NPR's "Weekend Edition" (September 4). The band will head back on the road in November and December.

"We have to get this baby born and on the map," Nancy says. "It's our calling."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

U2, Glen Hansard Star In 'Music of Ireland' Documentary

U2, Glen Hansard, Damien Rice and The Script will star in the second installment of the Music of Ireland documentary series, which originally premiered on PBS stations in February. Music of Ireland - Welcome to America will roll out nationwide on public television stations this month and throughout the fall.

Welcome to America begins where Welcome Home left off in the early 1980s, as U2 was emerging as a world-renowned act. It goes on to profile the careers of Sinead O'Connor, The Corrs and The Cranberries, and the international influence they cultivated. The hour-long documentary also features interviews with Academy Award winner Glen Hansard of The Swell Season and songwriter Damien Rice.

"The thing that fascinates me the most is that this tiny little island of 4 million has been able to turn out [this] number of top-selling artists and influential artists," says president and founder of Elevation Group Denny Young, who is also executive director of the series. "That was the story that hadn't been told in totality and something I felt the general public would find very interesting."

Clannad's Moya Brennan, who hosts the documentary, says that she feels the Music of Ireland series informs people of how wide the scope of Irish music is and that part two will share how important America has been in the preservation of Celtic musical traditions.

"The people that [immigrated to] America were able to record and treasure what they brought with them," Brennan says. "[America] helped us sustain and remember."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Yoko Ono Plans Iceland Ceremony For John Lennon's Birthday

In remembrance of what would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday, Yoko Ono is planning a series of peace-promoting events in Iceland on Oct. 9.

Ono will continue the annual tradition of lighting the Imagine Peace Tower, which will be followed by the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band playing a special concert.

The Peace Tower lighting, which will take place on the island of Viðey, can viewed around the world via a live feed at imaginepeace.com.

Ono will also present the LennonOno Grant for Peace biannual award, with four recipients this year instead of the usual two due to the significant birthday.

This year's recipients include Gasland director Josh Fox, nature and culture writer Michael Pollan, author and human rights/non-violence activist Alice Walker and human rights/safety activist Barbara Kowalcyk.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Early Bob Dylan Demos Released In 'Bootleg' Set

Bob Dylan's label has dusted off 47 demos recorded by the singer between 1962 and 1964 for its latest foray into his extensive archives.

The Bootleg Series Volume 9 -- The Witmark Demos is due in stores on October 19, the same day Columbia Records also releases new mono mixes of Dylan's first eight albums in a boxed set.

Columbia launched its Dylan Bootleg Series in 1991, and the most recent set was issued in 2008, Tell Tale Signs.

The Witmark demos, which have long been bootlegged by collectors, include early versions of such songs as "Blowin' In The Wind, "The Times They Are A Changin'" and "Masters Of War."

Dylan, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, harmonica and occasionally piano, recorded them for his first music publisher, Leeds Music, in January 1962, and for his second publisher, M. Witmark & Sons, between 1962 and 1964 -- all before he turned 24.

The publishers, in turn, would pitch the songs to other artists, which is how they came to be recorded by the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary and Stevie Wonder ("Blowin' In The Wind"), Judy Collins ("Tomorrow Is A Long Time") and the Byrds ("Mr Tambourine Man").

Columbia said 15 of the compositions have never been officially released, although one of those listed, the civil-rights tale "The Death Of Emmett Till," appeared on the 1972 Smithsonian Folkways compilation Broadside Ballads, Vol. 6: Broadside Reunion.

The boxed set, Bob Dylan - The Original Mono Recordings, comprises eight albums reproduced from their first-generation mono mixes, spanning his 1962 self-titled debut through to 1967's John Wesley Harding, and including his 1966 double opus Blonde on Blonde. Many of these albums were reissued in SACD stereo in 2003.

Mono was often the preferred sound reproduction classification of such acts as Dylan and the Beatles (who reissued mono versions of their albums last year), while the stereo mixes were left to studio engineers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stevie Nicks Says Internet Has 'Destroyed Rock'

Stevie Nicks is convinced the Internet has "destroyed" rock 'n' roll because young bands are no longer given the chance to develop if they don't achieve instant success.

The Fleetwood Mac singer is vehemently opposed to the expansion of the Internet, blaming the growth of the online music industry for stifling upcoming talent and discouraging youngsters from socializing with their peers.

She says: "The Internet has destroyed rock. Children no longer develop social graces. They don't hang out anymore. I'm financially stable. I'm OK. But what about the kids trying to make it in this business? If you're not an established band, if you don't have a hit single, they're (the record labels) gonna drop you. There are a lot of people out there as talented as we (Fleetwood Mac) were, but they can't sustain being in a rock 'n' roll band for long without success. We were able to, but we're going to die out."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

UK Show Explores Hendrix's Links To Handel

The Handel House Museum in London is a permanent celebration of the 18th century German-born composer's life and times, but this week honors another legendary musician linked to the site -- Jimi Hendrix.

From August 25 to November 7, period instruments and manuscripts of George Handel's works will be displayed alongside an electric guitar, velvet jacket and handwritten lyrics by Hendrix, who died in London 40 years ago.

The U.S. guitar legend moved into the top floor flat of 23 Brook Street with his English girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, and it became his home in 1968 and 1969 while he played venues across town and enhanced his international reputation.

Handel moved into what is now 25 Brook Street in 1723, lived there for 36 years and died in the property in 1759.

According to Etchingham in her book Through Gypsy Eyes, Hendrix was well aware that Handel had lived next door.

"Not only were they both musicians, they had both come to England from their own countries in order to find recognition and build international careers," she wrote.

Sarah Bardwell, director of Handel House Museum, said she had always wanted to put on an exhibition dedicated to Hendrix, and the 40th anniversary of his death, which falls on September 18, was a good reason to try.

"Obviously we mustn't upset either the Handel or the Hendrix fans, but there are brilliant people who love both," she said at a press preview of the show.

The small flat where Hendrix lived, which now serves as the museum's administrative office, will be cleared from September 15-26 to allow the public to visit.

"It is very fitting that Handel House will now be the venue for a celebration of Jimi's life, as he considered our Brook Street flat his true London home," Etchingham said.

"The flat was the ideal place for us -- at the heart of London at a time when the city was the center of the music world -- but we were still somehow able to spend very relaxed days there, away from the limelight," she added in a statement.

Hendrix's habit of keeping the curtains drawn in the property was one reason his co-musicians dubbed him "the bat," organizers said.

He and Etchingham rented the property for 30 pounds ($46) a week, which organizers said was a large amount in the late 1960s. Hendrix and Etchingham had split up by the time of his death in another area of London aged 27.

Among the items borrowed from Hendrix collections for the show is a custom Gibson Flying V guitar commissioned by Hendrix in 1969, known by him as the "Flying Angel" and played at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.

The exhibition also features a sketched self-portrait, and on the reverse side of hotel notepaper are his handwritten lyrics to the song "Love or Confusion."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Neil Young's ‘Le Noise’ Coming Next Month

Neil Young has announced on Facebook that his new album will be called Le Noise, and that it will be released on CD, vinyl and iTunes on September 28th. In late November it will then become available on Blu-Ray, and in the form of an iPhone and iPad app.

"The app will be free," Young wrote. "It gives you an interactive album cover. Forgive my use of the word 'album.' I am old school. When you buy the songs/movies from I-tunes they show up in your APP."

Young and producer Daniel Lanois recorded the album in a Los Angeles mansion earlier this year. "We cut a couple of solo acoustic songs, but the rest is very electric," Lanois told Rolling Stone last month. "There's no band, but I got in there with my sonics. There's nothing else out there like it."

Young previewed many of the tracks on his recent solo theater tour. You can to see his performance of "Hitchhiker," at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, here. Young first performed the autobiographical tune - which features a list of the drugs he has ingested over the decades - on the 1992 Harvest Moon tour.

Young also took to the web recently to address negative fan comments on the popular Neil Young fansite Thrasher's Wheat. (The site’s commenters have complained about Young’s ticket prices, charity work with Tyson Foods, and that he hasn’t played with Crazy Horse for years.)

"This is the most respected site on the net for this type of activity," Young wrote about Thrasher's Wheat on his own web site. "Let me take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in what I am doing,” he continued, addressing the site’s operators. “There is always negativity with any Internet endeavour. Now it has perhaps worn you down. It is alright to say goodbye ... Whether you choose to continue or just hang it up and get on with your life is up to you.”