Friday, December 31, 2010

John Waite Unearths Old Tunes, 'Punk Energy' For New Album

John Waite set out to rock on Rough & Tumble, which will be his first new studio album in four years when it's released on Feb. 22. And he's pleased to say that's what he accomplished on the 11-song set.

"Coming off the back of the live album [this year's In Real Time], there was a certain edginess and an almost punk energy that I've missed for a while," Waite says. "As I look around me, everybody's so produced. They're on stage playing along to tapes. They don't care. Rock 'n' roll seems to be on vacation. I don't like studio-manicured things. I like imperfection."

While some of the songs on Rough & Tumble date back a ways -- "Mr. Wonderful" is a remake from Waite's 1982 solo debut Ignition, "Skyward" was written in 2004 and Waite penned "Evil" in June of 2009 -- the album began in earnest in January, when a writing session in Nashville with Matchbox Twenty's Kyle Cook yielded five songs. "I kind of walked away from it at that point," says Waite, who considered releasing an EP. "I thought I couldn't top those songs. I couldn't imagine anything to them."

But management and label convinced Waite he had the makings of a full-length album, so he returned to the studio this fall to work with his regular guitarist, Luis Maldonado, and Shane Fontayne. Rough & Tumble's first single will be "If You Ever Get Lonely," another song Waite had "floating around" before he and Cook finished it off.

"I loved the chorus and thought the rest of it was just not happening," Waite says of the track. "I thought it was overstated, typical modern country music, very pop. Me and Kyle took it aside at the end of the day after writing and producing this other stuff... and it was as natural as a bouncing basketball."

Waite chose to remake "Mr. Wonderful" because "it was a massive hit in Germany. I thought we could strap it onto this record as a bonus track. We just did it between takes. That's a completely live vocal." Also of note on "Rough & Tumble" are covers of Tina Turner's "Sweet Rhode Island Red" and Gabe Dixon's "Further the Sky," which was recommended to Waite by Alison Krauss.

Waite plans to "tour like mad" to support Rough & Tumble and already has U.S. dates booked in February, March and April, with a club tour of Europe planned for the spring. "We'll just tour 'til we drop; at certain times in your life, that's the only answer," Waite says.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Edie Brickell Resurfaces With Two Albums

It is common for musicians who once claimed fame to try to hold onto it by any means possible, but folk-pop singer Edie Brickell is content simply to make music with little concern over recapturing her former stardom.

This January, the artist who first lured the media spotlight in the late 1980s, returns to record stores with two albums -- a self-titled solo record and an album with a new band called the Gaddabouts featuring Brickell and drummer Steve Gadd, a longtime collaborator with her husband, Paul Simon.

Brickell, 44, started both projects years ago. The first sessions on her solo album took place in 2003, and the idea for the Gaddabouts band came up in 2000 after a conversation she had with Gadd in a hotel lobby following a Simon concert.

Over the years, Brickell released only two solo albums, and the Gaddabouts record marks the first band Brickell has joined outside her work with Edie Brickell and New Bohemians.

She recently played with The Heavy Circles, which was formed by her stepson Harper Simon, but she does not consider it a group because many different players performed on each track. She also noted that she has played in bands with several New Bohemian members and probably will again in the future.

Still, Brickell calls the Gaddabouts her first real band since the New Bohemians, in which she initially found commercial and critical success 22 years ago with the release of Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars.

For Brickell, those days of superstardom never felt right.

"There was too much attention paid to us," Brickell says. "Too much selling around me that was embarrassing. I felt at that time that we had not earned this. But you can't go out there and say 'here we are, we're embarrassed.' We didn't know how to stop the machine once it got rolling."

Since 1988, Brickell's output with the New Bohemians has been minimal. In 1990, the group released Ghost of a Dog, then largely became inactive as Brickell started her married life with Simon. In 2006, the New Bohemians released Stranger Things, their third and final album as a group.

After her 1992 marriage to Simon, with whom she has three children, Brickell's focus shifted from making pop records to settling down and raising a family, a life that she said doesn't suit record industry executives.

"When you sign with a record company, they really feel that if you're going to be a responsible business partner, you're going to be on the road for nine months," Brickell said. "It didn't make any sense for me because I couldn't back up that part of the deal."

Both of her new records display Brickell's voice front and center -- something that's remained a constant over the years.

Many of the 10 songs on Edie Brickell feature her on piano, playing pop tunes that revolve around relationships. Although, she does tackle the pervasive use of prescription medicine on "Pills."

Songs like "Bad Way" and "It Takes Love" pair Brickell's voice with slower, R&B inspired arrangements, while "On the Avenue" sounds like one of her vintage rock songs that fans came to love in the late 1980s.

On "The Gaddabouts," Brickell's voice is paired with more mellow, acoustic driven folk-rock songs.

Tunes such as "Mad Dog" and "Let It Slide" find Brickell's singing backed by a simple guitar arrangement, amid Gadd's soft drumming. "Good Day" sees the group exploring more funky-blues territory.

Of her new work, Brickell said she is content just being able to record without worrying about sustaining her life through record sales and performances.

"For me, it was all about the songs and being a songwriter," she said. Not 'hey, look at me, here's how I move.' I'd like to keep my foot in the door and have some sort of semblance of a career (so) when my kids do get their own lives and move away, I can enjoy my creative life again."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bon Jovi, AC/DC Top Concert Draws In 2010

Bon Jovi may have recently been snubbed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the veteran band still ended the year as the world's top concert attraction, according to a trade publication.

The group sold $201.1 million worth of tickets, split almost evenly between North America and the rest of the world, said Pollstar magazine. Its success was noteworthy given that it was promoting a 2009 album that did not sell strongly.

Bon Jovi also shone even as overall sales slid in a tough economy. Pollstar said sales for the top 50 tours worldwide fell 12 percent to $2.93 billion. In North America, the top 50 tours dropped 15 percent to $1.69 billion.

Overseas tours are increasingly becoming more lucrative for musicians, especially as infrastructure improves across Asia and the former Soviet bloc, Pollstar said.

Indeed, hard rockers AC/DC came in at No. 2 and Irish foursome U2 at No. 3 after making all their money overseas. AC/DC grossed $177 million, and U2 $160.9 million. U2 was the top worldwide act in 2009 with $311 million, followed by AC/DC with $227 million.

In a field dominated by rock acts, flamboyant pop star Lady Gaga was No. 4 this year with $133.6 million. The "Poker Face" singer worked harder than any other musician in the top 10, playing 138 shows, two-thirds of which were overseas.

Bon Jovi, by contrast, played 80 shows. AC/DC (40 shows) and U2 (32 shows) took it relatively easy.

Metallica was No. 5 with $110.1 million from 60 overseas shows. Both Metallica and AC/DC last released albums in 2008, relying on their extensive catalogs of headbanging favorites to keep drawing fans.

The field was rounded out by Canadian singer Michael Buble (No. 6, $104.2 million), the "Walking with Dinosaurs" live family show (No. 7, $104.1 million), Paul McCartney (No. 8, $93 million), the Eagles (No. 9, $92.3 million) and former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters (No. 10, $89.5 million).

Waters earned all his money in North America, where his acclaimed restaging of Pink Floyd's The Wall was the No. 2 draw behind Bon Jovi with $108.2 million. Among all-time North American tours, the Bon Jovi trek ranks at No. 9, Pollstar said. The Rolling Stones hold the record with $162 million from their 2005 outing. The publication has been collecting worldwide data for only two years.

The Dave Matthews Band was No. 3 in North America with $72.9 million. Buble followed with $65.7 million and the Eagles with $64.5 million.

Bon Jovi's previous best performance in North America was in 2008, when the band was fifth with ticket sales of $70.4 million. The New Jersey rockers, led by singer Jon Bon Jovi, were on the ballot for inclusion in the 2011 class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, but failed to make the cut. Critics have largely been dismissive of the group's catchy "soft-rock" tunes, even as the band has little problem selling out stadiums and arenas to its female-skewing fan base. Its 2009 album The Circle debuted at No. 1 in the United States, but ended up selling relatively poorly.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

At 62, Elton John Becomes First-Time Dad

Zachary is the name of 62-year-old Elton John's first child with his partner, 48-year-old David Furnish. The couple married in 2005.

In a joint statement, the new parents told that "Zachary is healthy and doing well" and they are "overwhelmed with happiness and joy at this very special moment."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Celebrating The Legend Of Robert Johnson

How do you throw a 100th birthday bash for the most influential bluesman that ever lived? If you’re Big Head Todd and The Monsters, you gather some of the greatest living blues musicians and record 100 Years of Robert Johnson (February 1, 2011 - Ryko/Big Records), a stirring new tribute album featuring 10 potent interpretations of some of the most vital and durable music of the past century.

Big Head Blues Club, as the ad hoc ensemble is calling itself, features, in addition to the Colorado-based quartet—guitarist and vocalist Todd Park Mohr, bassist Rob Squires, drummer Brian Nevin and keyboardist Jeremy Lawton—special guests, blues legends B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin, Honeyboy Edwards and Charlie Musselwhite, as well as keepers of the blues flame Ruthie Foster, Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm.

Recorded at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, and produced by Grammy award winning blues producer Chris Goldsmith (Blind Boys of Alabama), 100 Years of Robert Johnson will be released in early 2011, and supported by a national tour (“Blues at the Crossroads: The Robert Johnson Centennial Concerts”) featuring many of the participants in the sessions.

For Todd Park Mohr, who founded Big Head Todd and The Monsters with Squires and Nevin nearly a quarter-century ago, the project has served to re-introduce him to the iconic music of Johnson, whose songs provided many of the pioneering blues-rock bands — Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Cream, Canned Heat — with some of their most popular material.

100 Years of Robert Johnson features several inspired takes on Johnson’s best known compositions. For Mohr and Goldsmith, the challenge in recording the tribute was to give new voice to Johnson’s music, to avoid copying the countless cover versions already extant. “In so many of the takes on Robert’s stuff, you don’t get the depth of emotion that’s in the lyrics and in Robert’s voice. That’s one thing that Chris and the band and my voice were able to bring to it. Chris had great ideas about how to represent the stuff, and all the musicians were just so good at what they did, the unique arrangements just came naturally.”

Robert Johnson’s story is the stuff of myth and legend alike, and his music has fascinated blues fans and musicians for more than seven decades. Born in Mississippi in 1911, Johnson recorded only 29 songs, all during the years 1936 and ’37. His unique guitar style and haunting vocal phrasing, and the evocative, often mysterious nature of his lyrics, made him a popular artist during his short time in the spotlight and has continued to intrigue since. A persistent tale that, as a young man, Johnson sold his soul to the Devil in order to become a more proficient musician has been attached to his biography since his untimely death at age 27—the alleged victim of a poisoning incident at the hands of the jealous husband of a woman with whom Johnson had been flirting.

A hundred years after the birth of its greatest artist, it looks like the blues itself is about to be reborn.

100 Years of Robert Johnson Track List:

1. Come On In My Kitchen (w. Charlie Musselwhite)
2. Ramblin' On My Mind
3. When You Got A Good Friend (w. Hubert Sumlin on guitar and Ruthie Foster)
4. Cross Road Blues (w. B.B. King)
5. Preachin' Blues
6. Kind Hearted Woman (w. Ruthie Foster)
7. If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day
8. Last Fair Deal Gone Done (w. Charlie Musselwhite)
9. All My Love Is Love In Vain (Todd solo vocal and acoustic guitar)
10. Sweet Home Chicago (just Honeyboy and Musselwhite)

Cedric Burnside plays drums on “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” and “Preachin Blues,” and acoustic guitar on “Ramblin On My Mind”

Lightin’ Malcolm plays electric guitar on “Ramblin on my Mind,” “Gotta Good Friend,” and “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” and plays acoustic guitar on “Preachin Blues” and “Kind Hearted Woman”

BLUES AT THE CROSSROADS: THE ROBERT JOHNSON CENTENNIAL CONCERTS tour featuring Big Head Todd and The Monsters and special guests David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Hubert Sumlin and Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm is as follows:

Jan. 28 San Francisco, CA Regency Ballroom
Jan. 29 Costa Mesa, CA Orange County Performing Arts Center
Jan. 30 San Diego, CA (2 shows) Anthology
Jan. 31 Santa Barbara, CA Campbell Hall / UCSB
Feb. 04 Austin, TX Paramount Theatre
Feb. 05 Dallas, TX Lakewood Theatre
Feb. 10 Ann Arbor, MI Hill Auditorium / U of M
Feb. 11 Chicago, IL Orchestra Hall
Feb. 12 Kansas City, MO Uptown Theatre
Feb. 13 Meridian, MS Riley Center / MSU
Feb. 16 Chapel Hill, NC Memorial Hall / UNC Chapel Hill
Feb. 17 North Bethesda, MD The Music Center at Strathmore
Feb. 18 Boston, MA Berklee School of Music
Feb. 24 Ridgefield, CT Ridgefield Playhouse
Feb. 25 Princeton, NJ McCarter Theatre
Feb. 26 Blue Bell, PA Montgomery County Community College
Feb. 27 New Bedford, MA Zeiterion Theater
March 4 Milwaukee, WI Potowatomi Casino
March 5 Omaha, NE Holland Performing Arts Center
March 6 Minneapolis, MN Orchestra Hall
March 8 Urbana, IL Krannert Center – Tyrone Festival Theatre

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Widespread Panic To Celebrate 25th Anniversary In 2011

Widespread Panic is planning to keep "a pretty high profile" in 2011, as the Georgia jam band marks its 25th anniversary.

"I plan to do a lot of celebrating," Dave Schools -- who will also be releasing an album by his other band, Stockholm Syndrome, next year -- tells "Twenty-five years is kind of a milestone to keep a band together through all the things we've been through. We've never had a chance to sit back and go, 'God, there's a lot of gigs under the belt.' So it'll be a good time to go, 'OK guys, we've made it a lot farther than anyone could have imagined'...and take a good, hard look at how we can take this further, how we can continue to evolve as a group of people, not only musically but spiritually and hopefully in a positive way."

With Dirty Side Down only seven months old, Schools says he doesn't anticipate a new Widespread Panic album in the new year, but he's sure the group will be touring. And he says there's "some pretty serious backing for a major documentary over the course of next year," which the group began filming over Halloween weekend in New Orleans and which will include both newly shot and archival footage.

When the celebration isn't keeping him busy, however, Schools plans to focus on Stockholm Syndrome, which he launched in 2004 with Jerry Joseph of Portland's Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons and resumed this year to make a second album, "Apollo" with Schools producing and Widespread Panic cohort John Keane engineering. The album comes out Feb. 15, and quintet will be part of Jam Cruise 9 in January and start a West Coast tour on Feb. 18-19 in San Francisco. More dates will be added to the itinerary soon, Schools says.

"We'll be touring as much as we can throughout the year," he promises. "We want to really roll out the carpet and let the word out that there's a new record. We can take this music out and let people hear that it's more than just a hobby side project. It definitely evolved quickly into something that's beyond that. It's living, breathing. It's a band."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Led Zeppelin Drummer's Son Plays To Similar Beat

There's no sugar-coating the death of John Bonham.

The wild Led Zeppelin drummer choked on his own vomit after downing 40 shots of vodka in 1980, a demise that brought one of rock's biggest bands to a premature end.

His son, Jason, started following in his footsteps -- both as a rock drummer and as a drunken rabble-rouser. When he turned 32 years-old a dozen years ago, he felt it was only natural that he should die at the same age as his father.

"I would be the party animal, wanna smash things up or throw a TV out the window because Dad had done it," Bonham recounted in an interview. "Just past that 32 stage, I very much nearly drank myself to death ... I remember thinking it was kinda funny: This is my year."

But with the support of his patient wife of 20 years, Jan, Bonham got back on the straight and narrow. He toured with veteran rock band Foreigner, formed his own band, and went on the road in North America this fall in an authorized multimedia tribute labeled "Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience."

The tour grossed $2.1 million after playing 38 cities and cracked the top 50 of trade publication Pollstar's annual top tours list. Bonham is expected to launch a second leg in the spring, although details have not been announced.

The "Experience" show saw Bonham lead a band whose faithful covers of such songs as "Whole Lotta Love" and "Dazed and Confused" were interspersed with his heartfelt recollections and old home movies. On tunes such as "Moby Dick," Bonham played along with concert footage of his father, replicating his monster drumming style.

Never shy of his heritage, Bonham played with his dad's old workmates both at the Atlantic Records 40th anniversary concert in 1988, and at the band's one true reunion concert at London's 02 Arena in 2007.

The latter show, a memorial to late Atlantic co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, was one of the most coveted tickets of the decade. For a few hours, Bonham basked in the reflected glory of singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones.

As the plaudits rolled in, an adrenalized Bonham assumed the show would lead to a full-fledged reunion tour. But Plant later disabused his bandmates of that notion at their annual meeting. If they were disappointed, Bonham was despondent.

"It was hard to be in the biggest band in the world for that short time, and then not. I'd kinda given up other things, and now what am I gonna do?

"I was just miserable for a good year ... My kids -- the English sense of humor is very cruel -- they said, 'Dad that was yesterday, now you're back to being a nobody again.' Out of the mouths of babes."

He found his nine years' sobriety sorely tested. Surely he deserved a quick drink to get over his misery? But he stayed strong, and eventually got a call inviting him to join a new project with Page and Jones. They worked on new material and rehearsed with various singers, until Page pulled the plug.

Bereft again, Bonham put together his Led Zeppelin tribute at the behest of promoters who urged him to see the Beatles' tribute "Rain" in Las Vegas. The concept immediately clicked with Bonham, who was eager to tell his father-son story without dodging some inevitably heavy moments.

"People say, Aren't you sick of talking about him, doing this?' No ... I miss the guy on a daily basis," Bonham said. "I'm 44 years-old now, but I still feel that he's got older. I see Robert and I see Jimmy, and I'll try to imagine how dad would look now."

Looking at the son, it's disturbing to imagine the late rocker with a bald head. But Bonham said his father was blessed with his family's good hair gene.

"I'm hoping my son's got that one, because I said, 'Look after it. You won't have it for long.'"