Daryl Hall and John Oates have been two of my favorite musical heroes ever since I first heard their Voices album in the summer of 1980 when I was just nine years old. I have seen them in concert many times over the last four decades, but tonight in Atlantic City I finally fulfilled my lifelong dream of seeing them from the front row. The show was phenomenal and I felt the same energy that I felt when I first heard “You Make My Dreams (Come True)” so many years ago. Daryl, John, and their stellar band are at the top of their game. Hours after the concert ended, I’m still riding a natural high from the experience. Their music has been a huge part of the soundtrack of my life. I’m overjoyed that Daryl and John are still with us and continue to keep playing live and making music. Here are some more photos from this magical night.
Nick Lowe is one of my musical heroes who I didn’t really discover until his 1998 album Dig My Mood. It’s not that I didn’t know of him at all, simply that I hadn’t bought any of his albums or delved deep into his recorded catalog until then. In the early eighties I had heard his wonderful gem of a pop single “Cruel To Kind” plenty of times on the radio and had even seen the music video for the song in the early days of MTV. I also knew that Elvis Costello had covered a fiery rendition of what today is widely considered to be Nick’s signature song, “(What So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”, but that was the extent of my knowledge about Nick. For some reason I just never looked any deeper into his music. In the eighties I was engrossed in the music of Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Duran Duran, and many other artists, and I really missed the boat on Nick Lowe’s discography.
I really don’t remember what compelled me to buy his album Dig My Mood, but I’m pretty sure I probably heard one of the superb tracks from the album on Philadelphia’s WXPN radio station, which was most likely the only terrestrial radio station that I would have been listening to at that time when commercial radio had died. Whatever the circumstance, I absolutely fell in love with the album and immediately dove into Nick’s back catalog, completely unaware that this brilliant singer-songwriter was also considered by many to be the godfather of pub rock, punk rock, and new wave, having worked with Brinsley Schwarz, The Damned, Elvis Costello, and The Pretenders, among others. After buying all of his back catalog, I was hooked. The albums that followed Dig My Mood — The Convincer (2001), At My Age (2007), and The Old Magic (2011) — are not just my favorite Nick Lowe albums, but some of my favorite albums period. They are masterpieces and stand alone as tremendously rare examples of an artist creating the very best work of their career later in life. It was as if Nick had found the magical formula to creating perfect albums when so many of his contemporaries were churning out recycled “heard it before” tracks.
I recently stumbled upon Will Birch’s superb biography of Nick Lowe, Cruel To Be Kind: The Life and Music of Nick Lowe. While the book is not necessarily an “official” biography, it is the closest thing we’ll ever get to one, and it’s fantastic. Birch has known Lowe for more than 40 years and relied on many interviews that he personally conducted with the man himself as well as just about everyone who was a part of Nick’s life and career. This is one of the most informative, insightful, and thoroughly enjoyable music biographies that I have ever read. I believe that the best way to know an artist is through their work, but I’m tremendously grateful to have this book as an authoritative companion piece to Nick’s recorded works, as it tells the in-depth (but never boring) stories about Nick’s life and music in a well-written, scholarly, objective style by someone who knows Nick and many of the players in the story personally.
If you’re a fan of Nick’s music and haven’t discovered this book yet, I urge you to seek it out immediately and binge it like I did. I promise you will be delighted.
Here is a link to order the book:
For more information about the author:
My wife, daughter, and I wrapped up a fantastic summer of concerts by seeing Harry Styles live at Madison Square Garden September 2, 2022. Having seen AJR, Tears for Fears, Jackson Browne, Rick Springfield, and Duran Duran over the last few months, we wrapped up our summer of concerts with another great show. Here a few photos along with a video of highlights from the concert.
My wife and I last saw Duran Duran in Camden, NJ on their Paper Gods tour July 21, 2016. Obviously a lot has changed in the world since then. The absence of live music during the pandemic took a serious toll on my emotional well being, but once live music returned, my soul started healing. Last night at Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD wasn’t just a night out. It was on par with a religious experience and a restoration of faith. Specifically, faith in the power of music and its ability to shine through the darkness, even at a time when it seems like the world has gone insane. For our family (me, my wife, and our daughter, who joined us for her first Duran Duran show) the concert served as an early celebration of my wife’s birthday and simultaneously a celebration of finally getting to see one of our all-time favorite bands in concert again after a six-year wait.
The evening started with the legendary Nile Rodgers and Chic playing an incendiary, soulful, joyous set featuring music that Nile collaborated on spanning his entire career. It was a hit-packed performance of songs by Chic, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross, Madonna, and David Bowie. My wife and I had seen Nile and Chic once before at the same Duran Duran show that we saw in 2016, so we were already aware of Nile’s greatness, but as eager as I was to see Nile again, I was even happier that I would finally be able to introduce my daughter, Megan, to the power and the majesty of Nile live in concert. He did not disappoint, and he conducted a master class in live performance.
Nile Rodgers and Chic had the audience fired up and ready for Duran Duran. It was finally time for Simon LeBon, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes, and Roger Taylor (along with touring member Dom Brown on guitar) to hit the stage. The new song “Velvet Newton” played in the background as the band came out, and the boys hit the crowd hard by opening with a raucous “Wild Boys” which instantly created a frenzy. The evening continued with many of the Duran Duran classics that you would expect, and also a few that you might not, such as “Friends of Mine,” from their debut album and “Hold Back The Rain,” from the Rio album. These songs were a thrill to hear live and were superb additions to the setlist. Here’s the setlist as posted to Duran Duran’s social media after the show.
Simon had the crowd in the palms of his hands all night long. Ever the dramatic showman, Simon is in my opinion one of the all-time great front men in music history. It’s always a thrill to watch him captivate the audience while delivering masterful vocal performances of the songs we all know and love. John and Roger powered the rhythm section with their usual intense vigor that is the core essence of Duran Duran’s sound, while Nick embellished all of the songs with his trademark elegance of synthesizer beauty. I would be truly remiss if I didn’t mention the contributions of Dom Brown on guitar, who plays gritty when that’s what the song calls for and still delivers elegant, melodic solos when required.
This show stands out as one of the greatest that I have seen Duran Duran perform and it was a thrill to finally introduce my daughter to the exhilaration of a Duran Duran live show. She had grown up listening to their songs because my wife and I played them constantly, and she finally got to see what all the fuss was about.
Here are some more photos and videos that I shot at the show along with a few shot by my daughter.
Every who knows me and my wife knows that our household is a Springsteen and Springfield household. Tonight in Atlantic City we celebrated my wife’s birthday a few days early with Rick Springfield at The Borgata Event Center. Here is a selection of great clips from the show.
After making a solo trip to the Tears for Fears concert at Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD June 19, I caught their June 21 show at The Mann Music Center in Philadelphia, this time accompanied by my daughter for her first Tears for Fears show. It was an emotional night for me seeing one of my favorite bands and sharing the experience with my daughter. Roland, Curt, and the band were superb. Here are a few shots from the evening.
Tears for Fears brought The Tipping Point tour to Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD last night in support of their new album of the same name. I have always loved their music, but somehow never wound up seeing them live until this show. When their new album was released in February, I immediately fell in love with it and have played it so many times that I already consider it a classic. My love for The Tipping Point album made me determined to finally catch Tears for Fears in concert.
When most bands tour, they focus heavily on their greatest hits and might throw in a few songs from their newest album, much to the audience’s chagrin. But with The Tipping Point tour, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith made the bold decision to include a hefty assortment of songs from the new album. A whopping seven songs from The Tipping Point were played during last night’s show. This wasn’t unique to the Columbia stop of the tour. The band has built their core setlist for their entire tour around these seven songs while also including a crowd-pleasing selection of their biggest hits and fan favorites. The result is an inspiring, joyous show that celebrates the band’s past and present in a strong, 19-song set. It’s a gamble to include so many new songs in a show, but the reason that it works in this show is due to the strength of the songs on The Tipping Point album. I would argue that the new album is equally as good as — if not better than — Songs From The Big Chair, their classic eighties masterpiece. I am aware that this is a bold statement, but I stand by it. The Tipping Point is not just a good album, it’s fantastic. The show is so great that I decided to catch another date on this tour, June 21 in Philadelphia at The Mann Music Center. I can’t wait to experience the thrill of this show one more time before the band heads overseas for the rest of their tour. Thank you Roland and Curt for a beautiful night!
Here are a few photos and a video compilation of short clips from the show.
The Prince estate and Sony Legacy have finally released Prince and The Revolution Live, shown here in the deluxe box set configuration that includes 2 CDs, 3 LPs, and a Blu-Ray Disc. This marks the first time that this concert has been officially released on CD, LP, and Blu-Ray. The concert from the Purple Rain tour was originally broadcast around the world from The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY March 30, 1985. The video of the concert was later released on VHS, laserdisc, and eventually decades later as a bonus DVD included with the Purple Rain deluxe edition CD. Dissapointingly, that DVD was very similar in quality to the VHS release. The fact that the DVD had not been remastered or restored at the time was a major letdown to fans. That tragedy has been corrected with the Blu-Ray included in this new set, as the video and audio have been significantly improved. The video looks much better and more vibrant than the VHS and DVD, and even looks better than the laserdisc that had been — until now — the best video release of this concert. The audio on the Blu-Ray is a tremendous improvement too, presented here in 2-channel stereo, 5.1 Surround, and even a Dolby Atmos mix.
The real gem in this set is the audio itself, included as 2 CDs and 3 LPS. The sound on the previous VHS, DVD, and laserdisc releases always sounded compressed, was heavy with treble, and had almost zero bass or low-end frequencies. Brown Mark’s bass was almost inaudible in many portions of the audio. The fans always knew that there must be a better-sounding source for this audio, and finally, that source has been located. The audio in this set has been remixed and remastered from the original multi-track master tapes that were found in Prince’s vault. The result is simply stunning.
When I first heard that Sony Legacy was planning to release this set, I had tremendously low expectations because the audio for this show has always been mediocre at best. Even when a new version was released to streaming platforms in 2020, it sounded mostly the same as the previous video releases, which to my ears was a disappointment. But with this new release, the audio is infinitely better in every way. I’m not talking about one of those remastered releases in which you compare the original release to the remaster and say to yourself, “Ah, I do hear a bit of a difference,” to make yourself feel better about the used car (or more accurately, CD) that you just bought. I’m talking about a day-versus-night difference. A difference so significant that the original VHS, DVD, and laserdisc releases of this show sound like bootleg audience recordings when compared to this new release. The sound is still crisp and clear in regards to treble, but the low-end sounds have finally been revealed in the master tapes and Bobby Z’s drums and Brown Mark’s bass can now be heard and felt in all of their glory. I say “felt” because when I went to my first concert, The Purple Rain Tour in Philadelphia November 24, 1984, I vividly remember literally feeling the rumble of the bass in my chest as the show began. With the previous releases of the Syracuse concert, it was impossible to recreate that feeling at home because the bass and low end were virtually non-existent. But with this new release, I can finally hear — and feel — Brown Mark’s bass playing again, and it is wonderful! Mark is a superb, funky-ass bass player, and his rumble technique has always been lost in previous releases of this concert, but now it’s back and the world can finally hear the genius of Brown Mark and his contribution to this era of Prince’s live shows. Bobby Z’s kick drum is also back in all of it’s glory, serving as the anchor for The Revolution’s groove.
This set magically captures The Purple Rain Tour and is an essential purchase not just for Prince fans, but for anyone who wants to see what a live masterpiece looks and sounds like. It’s essential viewing/listening.
Daryl Hall brought his Spring 2022 tour to The Met in Philadelphia last night promoting his new 2-CD collection of songs titled Before After, which features a selection of his solo material compiled by Daryl himself.
I have been to many Hall & Oates shows but somehow missed out on Daryl’s previous solo concerts through the years, so this was my first time seeing him on his own. It was not only an emotional night for me because of the fact that Daryl is one of my musical heroes, but also because I celebrated the night with my longtime best friend, Chris Mohr, who had been living on the west coast until recently moving back to New Jersey. We both turned 50 in 2021 but didn’t get to celebrate together due to the pandemic, so Daryl’s concert doubled as our belated 50th birthday celebration. Daryl and his band, along with Todd Rundgren, made the evening magical.
The evening opened with a great set from Rundgren backed by the Live From Daryl’s House band. Hall’s set was also fantastic, featuring songs from his solo albums such as “Dreamtime,” “I’m in a Philly Mood,” and lesser-known solo gems such as “Sacred Songs,” and “Babs and Babs” from his collaboration with Robert Fripp.
Hall and Rundgren shared the stage for three songs: Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends,” the Hall & Oates classic “Wait For Me,” and “Expressway to Your Heart,” a cover of the Soul Survivors hit.
The night concluded with the Hall & Oates masterpiece “You Make My Dreams,” the mega hit which recently reached the historic milestone of one billion streams worldwide on streaming services. If you’d like to catch Daryl on tour this Spring, check out the tour dates below.
Here’s a little taste of the show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtfYsz5nK3Q&lc=UgySRiPR4qVsGIiyWBV4AaABAg
I’m going to take a bit of a detour for today’s blog post. I normally write about concerts and rock musicians who I love, but I am also a die-hard fan of David Cronenberg’s 1983 sci-fi/horror motion picture masterpiece Videodrome, and today I want to share some huge news for my fellow Videodrome enthusiasts.
La-La Land Records and Universal Pictures will finally release Videodrome: The Complete Restored Score on CD in a limited edition production run of 2,000 units. Mondo will release a vinyl LP version which has already sold out, but the company recently tweeted that there will be another pressing.
This release marks the first time that Howard Shore’s original score from the movie will be available in any format. The original release of the film’s soundtrack was actually a remixed version of selections from the score, but this new release restores the complete score in its original form. Howard Shore has personally overseen the restoration. The restored score has been produced by Shore and Alan Frey, and was mastered by Simon Gibson at Abbey Road Studios.
I have been obsessed with Videodrome since the first time I saw it late at night on HBO sometime in the mid 1980s. I consider it to be Cronenberg’s finest, most relevant work. Long before virtual reality was achievable with today’s technological wonders, Cronenberg captured the awesome wonder and awe of the subject and, in true Cronenberg fashion, explored the horror that could ensue when the lines between the virtual world and the real world begin to blur.
The visuals of the movie — along with masterful performances by James Woods, Deborah Harry, and the rest of the cast — created an indelible, haunting vision that left me fascinated and in deep thought long after the credits rolled, and not just days later, but decades later. As much as Videodrome is a Cronenberg project (both written and directed by Cronenberg), I would argue that it is equally a Howard Shore project. The complete and total vision and impact of Videodrome could not have been fully realized without Howard Shore’s haunting, unsettling, fascinating score. His music paints the perfect aural landscape to match the bizarre visual world that Cronenberg so wonderfully created. In the same way that the Star Wars movies would not be the same without John Williams, Videodrome would not be the same without Howard Shore. I am thrilled that his original score is finally available. For more information, check out the links below.
Tears for Fears have released their new album The Tipping Point, their first new album since the 2004 release Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. It’s always a thrill for me when one of my favorite artists releases new material, but in this case I am ecstatic. It has been far too long without new music from Tears for Fears. Having grown up with their music in the eighties, I loved watching Tears for Fears grow and evolve as artists and constantly surprise and delight their fans with new musical directions while staying true to the essence of their sound.
A few years ago, their former manager had encouraged Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith to work with younger artists and producers in an effort to expose their music to a younger audience and pursue hit singles in this age of streaming. They did some “speed dating” sessions with some of those artists, but when they had assembled an album, Roland and Curt agreed that it wasn’t what they wanted, so they scrapped it. It had what they thought would be hit singles, but the album didn’t tell a story and wasn’t truly representative of what a Tears for Fears album should be. Tears for Fears amicably parted ways with their management and went back to the drawing board.
Roland and Curt got together for a writing session and the song “No Small Thing” emerged. That song was the impetus that convinced them that there was more music to come, and they continued working on other new songs that would become their brilliant new album The Tipping Point. I’m so glad that they stayed true to themselves and created an album that captures the essence of Tears for Fears. I listened to the album twice this weekend and can’t wait to give it another spin. It’s a beautiful work filled with meaningful, insightful lyrics and the trademark Tears for Fears sound and also evolves into new musical directions.
As for the hit singles that their former manager was looking for, The Tipping Point is packed with at least three songs that could be #1 hits if given the proper exposure. “Break The Man,” “Master Plan,” and “End of Night” all have hooks that will have you humming long after the music stops. But more important than hits and hooks, the songs on The Tipping Point carry weight and provide healing and hope for these crazy times.
Paul Sinclair at Super Deluxe Edition recently conducted an in-depth interview with Roland and Curt in which they discuss The Tipping Point. You can read the interview here: https://superdeluxeedition.com/interview/in-search-of-the-tipping-point-tears-for-fears-talk-to-sde/
It’s been a few years since I last listened to Paul Young’s superb 1985 album The Secret of Association. I recently bought an autographed copy of the 2-LP Music On Vinyl reissue from the fantastic superdeluxeedition.com. The signed LP is sold out but I highly recommend that you order the special edition booklet commemorating the album. It’s packed with interviews and commentary, and is still available at this link: https://superdeluxeedition.com/news/paul-young-the-secret-of-association-2lp-coloured-vinyl-reissue/
When I revisited this album again yesterday, I was stunned that I had almost forgotten about the track “Everything Must Change”. I remember hearing it only occasionally on the radio in 1985. This song should have been a #1 hit. Apparently it only reached #56 on the Billboard Hot 100 here in the United States, which is a damn shame because this is such a beautiful song. The Brits must have better taste in the case of this song, as the single reached #9 in the United Kingdom. Written by Paul Young and Ian Kewley, “Everything Must Change” is a rare gem of a song that contains lyrics that are as powerful and emotional as the music. Here’s a link to Paul performing the song on Top of the Pops. Enjoy!
Every once in a while I stumble upon an eighties song that I somehow neglected to appreciate at the time. I recently rediscovered the song “My Ever Changing Moods” by The Style Council. Originally released as a single, then as a 12-inch single in a longer version, and then again in a stripped-down, piano-and-vocal-only version on their album Cafe Bleu, “My Ever Changing Moods” could easily be on the list of greatest soulful pop songs in history.
What’s truly amazing about this song is how beautiful it sounds across multiple arrangements. Take some time and listen to the four versions below and behold the magic of this Paul Weller composition.
Original single version:
12-inch single version:
Version from the album Cafe Bleu:
2021 orchestral version by Paul Weller accompanied by Jules Buckley and the BBC Symphony Orchestra:
I just finished listening to the audio book version of Stevie Van Zandt’s memoir Unrequited Infatuations. I chose to listen to the audio book instead of reading the print version because the man himself, Stevie Van Zandt (a/k/a “Little Steven” and “Miami Steve”) narrates it. It would be more accurate to say the he performs the book as opposed to narrates it, because unlike many narrators, Van Zandt reads the book with an unmatched enthusiasm, vigor, and dedication that I have rarely encountered in an audiobook.
The audio version captures your attention immediately, right from the opening, and never relents. If you’ve ever imagined sitting down on a park bench with one of your musical idols and hearing all about their life, their trials and tribulations, their dreams, their goals, their adventures, and their life lessons, that is exactly how this audio book feels. It’s shockingly but refreshingly candid, and provides tremendous insight into his work with Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, Darlene Love, his solo music, his political activism, his acting career, his work with The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame committee, his Teach Rock foundation, and just about everything else you could possibly want to know. This book was such a thrill to experience. The time flies by. With the exception of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, I don’t think I have ever felt such exhilaration after finishing an audio book. Unrequited Infatuations is easily one of the best memoirs I have ever experienced.
If you have read this blog in the past, you already know that I mostly write about my two favorite musical heroes, Bruce Springsteen and Prince. So what the hell am I doing at a Jonas Brothers concert? Well, I don’t exclusively write about Bruce and Prince (see my other recent post about AJR’s stellar concert in Wallingford, CT). I listen to a wide variety of artists, but I admit that I always assumed that the Jonas Brothers were just another boy band, and I haven’t listened to terrestrial FM radio in many years, so their music wasn’t on my radar. That is until my teenage daughter started watching their old show on Disney+ and she fell for them hard. So of course I hear their songs all the time around the house now. The brothers are now her number one musical obsession right alongside another set of brilliant musical brothers, AJR.
My daughter, along with almost every other kid her age, had a rough 2020. The pandemic of course halted almost all social gatherings and she went to school remotely for three out of four marking periods of her freshman year of high school, finally going back in person for the last marking period. She worked hard and stayed on the Principal’s List, but despite having a loving family and friends, it was still a rough year. Shortly after our family got vaccinated, I found out that the Jonas Brothers were touring, and I made it my mission in life to take my daughter to see her boys.
If you haven’t been following the concert industry, you might not know about dynamic ticket pricing. I could write an entire book about this topic and how to use it to your advantage, but the quick version is that instead of tickets in certain sections of the venue having a fixed price, the ticket prices can change constantly based on supply and demand, just like prices from scalpers. I logged onto Ticketmaster every day of the summer and watched the prices in the first few rows of the pit change until they reached a price low enough for me to pull the trigger. Then one day, boom! I scored her tickets in the sixth row of the pit, dead center in line with Nick Jonas’ microphone. You can’t put a price on your kid’s happiness. Well, you can actually when it comes to concert tickets, but you have to work hard to make sure you don’t get robbed in the process.
So was it worth it? Let me explain it like this: One day in 2020, in tears, my daughter asked me, “Daddy, will things ever go back to regular normal?” The best honest answer I could give her was that yes, they would, but I couldn’t promise her when. I could only promise her that they would...eventually. Thursday night at the Jonas Brothers concert, I got to see her watch her musical heroes up close and hear her say, “Daddy! I made eye contact with Nick!” and I saw the same look in her eyes that I’m sure I have in mine at a Springsteen show. That look is priceless. So yes, that alone was worth it. The surprising part is that I myself enjoyed the show! Part of my enjoyment was of course seeing the show through my daughter’s eyes, but I also knew almost every song they played at the show because I had heard them at home for the last few years. Their songs have infectious hooks, creative bridges, and lyrics that make you feel something. And speaking of those lyrics, after a long time without being at a large-scale concert due to the pandemic, it was an absolute joy watching thousands of girls sing every single lyric along with the band during the show. Luckily the amps were louder than the girls, but not by much. The girls gave the amps a fight! I’m not saying they were as frenzied as a Beatles audience, but these are my daughter’s Beatles, and that’s why it was so much fun. Last but not least, I found out that the Jonas Brothers are Jersey boys, and I’ve had a pretty good run enjoying many, many concerts featuring a certain Jersey boy from Asbury Park, so maybe it’s something in the water in Jersey!
On September 25 my wife, daughter, and I took a road trip to The Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, CT to see AJR’s concert, one of the stops on their OK Orchestra tour. The group isn’t scheduled to perform in our area until May 2022, so we decided to catch their Connecticut show now. We had never seen an AJR concert in person before, but we were captivated by their December 2020 live stream special One Spectacular Night. My daughter is the big AJR fan in our house, but after seeing that special and listening to their albums, my wife and I got hooked on AJR’s music too, so a family road trip made perfect sense.
You’ll see in the photo above that we were fortunate enough to meet the band (The Met brothers Adam, Jack, and Ryan) at a special pre-show event billed as “Ryan’s Production Masterclass” in which Ryan Met discussed the production of the band’s song “Way Less Sad” with a fun presentation showing his Pro Tools breakdown of the creation of the song. It was fascinating to see how AJR took a brief horn section from the last few seconds of the Simon & Garfunkel song “My Little Town” and turned it into an entirely new song of their own.
I often hear people complain about today’s music and argue about which — if any — of today’s new bands will still have fans coming to see them years or decades from now. After witnessing AJR’s spellbinding, incendiary concert at The Oakdale Theatre Saturday night, I am pleased to report that AJR will most certainly be one of those bands who will still have fans coming back to see them over and over again for decades to come. These guys are the real deal and they’re here to stay. Their songs feature superb production, excellent musicianship, and insightful, inspiring lyrics that leave you thinking about the songs and humming their unforgettable hooks long after the music stops.
It was truly a thrill to see AJR’s die-hard fans of all ages singing the songs at the top of their lungs for the entire night. In their live shows, AJR feeds off of the energy of the crowd and uses it to take their live performances to euphoric levels of intensity. In addition, they combine elements of theater, showmanship, humor, hope, and inspiration. I have rarely seen a show like this one and I’m not sure that I will again. These guys have something very special going on with their music and their audience, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. If you aren’t already familiar with their music, I highly suggest you check it out, and if you have a chance to see AJR in concert, make sure you go! For information about AJR, visit www.ajrbrothers.com.
I finally made it to Broadway to catch the 2021 version of Springsteen on Broadway. I normally hate to see the summer fly by, but this year I couldn’t wait for the calendar to hit August 18. The last time I saw Bruce live was August 7, 2019 when he played a brief set with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the premiere party for the film Blinded By The Light which took place in Asbury Park, NJ. Two years between Bruce shows, as any Bruce fan will tell you, is way too long a time to wait to see Bruce live again. We always need more live Bruce, and we need it now!
I’ve seen some discussion online among fans over the last few months asking whether or not they need to see Springsteen on Broadway again if they already saw the show during its 2017-2018 run. I’m pleased to tell you that after seeing the August 18, 2021 show, I can emphatically and enthusiastically tell you that yes indeed my friends, if you have the opportunity to see the current run, you have to go!
I was lucky enough to attend three previous Springsteen on Broadway performances (October 2017, May 2018, and October 2018). While the August 18, 2021 show retained most of the core elements from the previous Broadway runs, a lot has changed in the world since the previous performances. I won’t get into specifics because I don’t want to spoil anything for you in case you attend, but I can at least tell you that the changes that the world has gone through in the last few years have definitely affected Springsteen on Broadway’s structure, but not in a way that feels out of place with the core narrative of the show. In fact quite to the contrary, Bruce’s adjustments to the show fit right into the narrative in a way that feels like updates to that core story, Bruce’s own story, and our story. The changes to the show reflect the journey that we have been on together all these years, and throughout that journey, Bruce didn’t just take us along for the ride; he often asked us really tough questions along the way, and dared us to search our souls to make the world a better place, and that is the case here with the adjustments to the show.
Bruce changes some of the musical nuance this time around here and there, and in some cases he even dropped a few songs from the 2017-18 run and replaced them with songs that (in my opinion) fit into the narrative better given what the world has gone through recently. His delivery of many of the stories, while mostly the same as in the previous run, are often delivered with new embellishments, or just a different feel or tone, while remaining true to the story that he wanted to tell the first time around.
Words can’t fully capture the exhilaration that I felt when Bruce walked onto the stage, but I’ll make a modest attempt. Due to the pandemic, I had not been to a live concert since August 2019 when I saw my last pre-pandemic concert, Hall & Oates. The two-year stretch of August 2019 through August 2021 is the longest I have ever gone without seeing a live show since I first began attending concerts (my first being Prince & The Revolution on the Purple Rain tour November 24, 1984 at The Spectrum in Philadelphia). I had a tremendous feeling of longing in my heart because of the absence of live music in my life. When Bruce walked back onto the stage the other night, it felt like seeing a lifelong friend after a two-year absence. My “great song traveler” musical hero (as another of my musical heroes Jackson Browne might put it) was back to share his songs of joy, sorrow, introspection, reflection, inspiration, and hope. To me, Bruce stepping out onto that stage gave me the same high that is typically only felt during a wedding, a birth of a child, or some other life-affirming event. It was a sign that life will go on, that there is hope for the future, and that our journey together over all of these years has meant something, and that the journey is not over.
And speaking of signs of hope, Bruce walked onto the stage wearing a mask, and later in the show thanked everyone in the building for doing the same and for protecting themselves and their neighbors at the show. Masks are now required for all audience members due to the Delta variant’s rapid spread. I didn’t see a single person without a mask in the audience. It almost felt like a different world. A world in which wearing a mask to protect each other was not a political idea, but a common decency and an act of love towards our fellow citizens. I felt hope and sadness at the same time. I felt hope because if this entire building of people could wear a mask to just to see Bruce, maybe the whole country can find it in their hearts to wear masks to protect their fellow citizens until this pandemic is truly over. I felt sadness because if everyone in the country had been wearing masks all along, the pandemic might already be over. But the feeling of hope outweighed the sadness because for just one night, everyone in attendance had come together, all masked up, with a common goal: To see Bruce Springsteen perform what he calls his “magic trick”. If Bruce is indeed a magician, there will never be one greater. This show is living proof. I hope that you get to experience it. I will never forget it.
Prince and the Parade & Sign “O” The Times Era Studio Sessions 1985 and 1986 is the second book in author Duane Tudahl’s superb series titled The Prince Studio Sessions. Coming June 7, 2021, the 728-page hardcover picks up right where the previous volume left off. A day-by-day, chronological record of Prince’s recordings and performances during the years 1985 and 1986, this book covers recording sessions that resulted in not only Prince’s Parade and Sign “O” The Times albums, but also tracks that would go on to be released on Jill Jones’ debut album, Sheila E’s second album, the debut album by BrownMark’s group Mazarati, the first Madhouse album, The Black Album, and many tracks that would not see the light of day until the 2020 release of the Sign “O” The Times deluxe box set. Many of the songs, including songs from Prince’s jazz project known to fans as The Flesh Sessions, remain unreleased.
As he did with his first book in this series, author Tudahl crafted a pleasantly exhaustive and authoritative labor of love in the same manner that one might go about assembling a puzzle. He researched recording studio session logs, interviewed band members, recording engineers, and other Prince associates, and includes pieces of previously published interviews as well as brand new interviews and assembles all of these pieces of the puzzle to provide the reader with the closest thing that we will ever get to a being a fly on the wall during the creation of Prince’s music. The interview segments often correspond specifically to the time period or song that is being discussed, incorporating all of the interview commentary into the chronological format that documents the two years covered in the book.
As with the first volume, the book avoids gossip and sensationalism. Tudahl only discusses Prince’s personal life when doing so will provide direct insight as to Prince’s frame of mind at the time that he recorded certain songs. In addition to the interviews with others, Tudahl provides many quotes from Prince himself taken from the time periods covered in the book. By adding Prince’s own words to the story in a context and chronological manner that complements the recording studio log session dates, Tudahl provides a balanced collection of quotations from Prince and those who worked with him at the time to provide as comprehensive an examination as possible of the recording sessions and Prince’s life during these two years.
With the experience of the first book behind him, and happily due to the success of the first book, Tudahl was able to interview even more Prince associates this time around than with the initial book. All of the additional interviews provide even more in-depth insight here than with the first book, which itself was a masterwork. Now that Tudahl has proven his intent with these first two books to be honorable, as historically accurate as possible, and with the genuine purpose of further understanding Prince’s musical legacy, the floodgates should open in regards to accessibility to interview others who worked with Prince, and hopefully we will see even more books in this series covering additional studio sessions from other eras of Prince’s recording career.
If you love Prince’s music, this book is an absolute must-have. I can’t wait for the next volumes in the series.
Here are some links to buy the book:
If you’re familiar with the 33 1/3 series of books, you already know that each book takes an in-depth look at one of the greatest albums of all time. May 6, 2021 sees the release of a brand new book in the series that explores Duran Duran’s classic album Rio.
It appears that Amazon won’t have copies ready to ship until the end of May (as of today) but physical copies are in stock right now direct from the publisher, Bloomsbury USA.
This album is not just one of my favorite albums of the eighties, it’s one of my favorite albums ever.
The link below will take you to the author’s page about the book along with ordering information. I ordered my copy today and will post a review soon.
Music brings people together in an infinite number of ways. While this blog focuses on my musical heroes, my family heroes often show up in these posts too because music and family are often inextricably linked together in one way or another.
Yesterday our family lost my Aunt Lillie. She was my dad’s little sister, the love of my Uncle Steve’s life, amazing mom to my cousins Susan and Steven, and loving grandmother to my cousins Christopher and Elizabeth. Just last year, in June, in the midst of a global pandemic, my Aunt Lil and Uncle Steve celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Nothing could separate them. Even when it was time for her to go and nothing left that anyone could do about it, by the grace of God, my Uncle Steve was able to be by her side.
I have lived in South Jersey for almost my entire life, and my Aunt Lil and Uncle Steve lived in North Jersey for most of theirs. It was about a 90-minute or two-hour drive to visit, depending on traffic, but when I was growing up, the difference between North Jersey and South Jersey always seemed like the same distance between New York and Los Angeles. I visited from time to time, but not enough. Two of my fondest memories of my Aunt Lil took place during times when that distance between North Jersey and South Jersey seemed much shorter.
The first was In the summer of 1999. I was 28 years old, gainfully employed, single, had very few bills, and even had some savings in the bank. I was on the verge of purchasing my first home — the home where I still reside today with my wife and daughter— and decided that my summer vacation would consist of seeing all 15 of Bruce Springsteen’s concerts at The Meadowlands in North Jersey. The shows were scheduled to start July 15 and finish on August 12. I could afford to go, but driving back and forth to the shows — about two hours each way — was my only concern. That would be a lot of driving, and quite a bit of it in the wee hours of the early morning. I was able to get tickets at face value for all of the shows, but the tickets ate up my entire vacation budget. There was no money left for 15 nights at a hotel. And then I remembered that my Aunt Lil and Uncle Steve lived about 15 minutes from The Meadowlands arena. I called my Aunt Lil and asked if I could stay at their place on the nights of the concerts, and knowing how important Bruce’s music is to me, she instantly said yes, without hesitation. I had always been horrible about keeping in touch, and yet she and my Uncle Steve accepted me into their home that summer with open arms. Not only did I get to see the concerts, but as an added bonus, I really got to know my Aunt Lil and Uncle Steve better that summer. Now that she’s gone, I take great comfort in the fact that in addition to her living on forever in the hearts of her family and friends, every time I tell the story about my Summer of ’99 Bruce shows, my time with her and my Uncle Steve will be a beloved part of that story. People who would otherwise never have known her will hear me say her name and listen to me tell them how great she was.
The second was under different circumstances. In the fall of 2007, just a little over a year after the birth of my daughter, my employer of 11 years was sold and I was faced with potentially looking for a new job. I work in a very specialized field and didn’t want to relocate to New York or Los Angeles, where most of the jobs in my industry are based. All of our friends and family were in New Jersey and I wanted my daughter to grow up near family. Luckily, the company that bought my former employer offered me a chance to stay on in an expanded role, but the position was based in Mt. Kisco, NY, which is more than a three-hour drive from my home. Commuting daily would not be feasible, but I was offered the opportunity to work remotely provided that I go into the office once a week. Working remotely would give me the opportunity to spend less time commuting every day and give me more time to spend with my daughter, so driving 6 hours round trip once a week suddenly didn’t sound that bad to me. Still, it would not be a fun commute driving three hours up and three hours back every Tuesday. I wasn’t sure I was going to take the job. But then I had an idea. My Aunt Lil and Uncle Steve lived about an hour away from my new potential employer. If I could stay at their place on Monday nights, that would cut two hours off of my commute. If I could stay at their place on Monday nights, I could then wake up early on Tuesday mornings and only have an hour to drive to the new office. Then after work on Tuesday nights, I would drive the three-hour drive back home to my house and work remotely the rest of the week. The only problem was that I didn’t know how long this would last. It could be a few months until I found something better, but it could be longer if the job worked out well. I called my Aunt Lil to see if she would even be open to the idea, and again, without hesitation, she and my Uncle Steve welcomed me into their home with open arms. No questions asked. They saw that a family member was in a bind, and they did what they always do. They helped.
I wound up keeping that job for a little over two years. The professional experience and connections that I made in the new position led to the experience and connections that landed me where I am today, in a tremendous new role with a major player in my industry. It is quite possible that without the generosity of my Aunt Lil and Uncle Steve, I might not be where I am today. Just about every Monday night from October of 2007 through January of 2010, I would make the two-hour drive to their house shortly after dinner. My grandmother lived about five minutes from them in a senior residence, so I would often stop to visit her on the way. I’d usually arrive at my Aunt Lil and Uncle Steve’s house before 9pm, just in time to chat with them for a little while and watch some TV together before I headed to bed for what was always a long day on Tuesday. They opened their home to me as if it were my own. The weekly visits over those two years gave us the chance to catch up and spend some really nice time together, and I will always remember that fondly. Every time I tell the story about how those two years led to future opportunities for me, more and more folks will hear about how loving and generous my Aunt Lil was.
One of my happiest memories from some of those Monday night visits was when I would get to see her and my Uncle Steve come home from their church choir practice. She always seemed to have an extra glow after she had been singing in church. She loved to sing and had an amazing voice. She probably could have been an opera singer if she wanted to. I didn’t make it to church often, but on the few occasions that I had the pleasure of hearing her sing I was blown away.
I mentioned in the beginning of this post how music and family are often inextricably linked to each other. In October 2020 Bruce Springsteen released a new album, Letter to You. The closing track, “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” was about all of those we’ve lost, and how they’re never really gone because we’ll see them in our dreams. As I listened to this album over the last few months during the final days of my Aunt Lil’s fight, she was always on my mind, as were the memories I wrote about here. She will always live on in the hearts of those who loved her, and I’ll keep sharing the stories about how she changed my life for the better. Aunt Lil, I’ll see you in my dreams and will think of you every time I hear this song:
What a month it’s been for music! I’m still riding the high from listening to the jam-packed Prince Sign ‘O’ The Times box set, and now I have just finished listening to Bruce Springsteen’s new album Letter To You. I’m going to keep this brief because I don’t want to spoil anything by analyzing the lyrics or telling you my thoughts about each song. What I will tell you is this: Do you know how sometimes when a movie, television show or album is hyped up so much that when you finally get ready to experience it, you go in with lowered expectations so that won’t come away disappointed? You won’t need to do that with this album. In fact, I’m here to tell you that this album is so fantastic that I encourage you to envision your wildest dreams of what a 2020 album from Bruce and the E Street Band could sound like. I dare you to approach Letter To You with those high expectations. Now, get ready, because I’m thrilled to inform you that even going in with those top-shelf expectations, I truly believe that you will be blown away by what you hear on this album.
The songs, performances, mixes, and sound quality are all superb. Even if you saw the track list ahead of time and noticed that Bruce resurrected the old songs “Janey Needs A Shooter,” “If I Was The Priest,” and “Song For Orphans,” and thought to yourself, “I’ve already heard those songs,” no, you truly haven’t. Not like this. I don’t care what versions you heard. These are now the definitive takes of those three songs, captured on record with the full band in their greatest arrangements and firing on all cylinders.
What I love most about this album is that the recording, more than any other studio album in recent memory, genuinely captures the energy and feel of the E Street Band performing together live.
You might have seen some of the glowing reviews for this album, but no written words can accurately convey what a thrill it is. I’ll be playing this one over and over again. I highly recommend that you don’t skip tracks. Listen to it in its entirety from front to back and enjoy the ride.
The latest release in Bruce Springsteen’s Live Archive series is now available from his official site and Nugs.net. Details from BruceSpringsteen.net follow:
Originally broadcast live on radio stations across the Southeast, Atlanta 9/30/78 is the fifth and final Darkness tour transmission released in the Live Archive series. While not as familiar to fans as other ’78 broadcasts, the blistering Atlanta performance more than holds its own and is newly mixed from Plangent Processed, multi-track analog master tapes. The 23-song show presents a potent core Darkness tour setlist augmented by the yet to be released “Independence Day” and “Point Blank,” plus special additions “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “Raise Your Hand” and the only performance ever of James Brown’s “Night Train.”
- Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocals, guitar, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano, backing vocal; Clarence Clemons – Tenor and baritone saxophones, percussion, backing vocal; Danny Federici – Organ, glockenspiel; Garry Tallent – Bass, backing vocal; Stevie Van Zandt – Guitar, backing vocal; Max Weinberg – Drums
- Recorded live with the Record Plant Remote Truck by David Hewitt and DB Brown. Original broadcast mixed by Jimmy Iovine
- Two-inch, 24-track analog master reels transferred by Jamie Howarth, Plangent Processes via Sonicraft, Freehold, NJ
- Mixed by Jon Altschiller; Additional engineering by Danielle Warman
- Mastered to DSD and PCM by Adam Ayan at Gateway Mastering, Portland, ME
- Post Production by Brad Serling and Micah Gordon
- Art Design by Michelle Holme
- Cover Photo by PJ Plutzer
- Tour Director: George Travis
- Jon Landau Management: Jon Landau, Barbara Carr, Jan Stabile, Alison Oscar
- HD files are 24 bit/192kHz; Audiophile DSD files are DSD128 (“Double DSD”)
- Read essay by Erik Flannigan
September 30, 1978
Click here to purchase the show: 2nu.gs/BruceAtlanta78
Prince Sign ‘O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition (8 CD + 1 DVD)
If you’re waiting for your copy of Prince’s Sign ‘O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition box set to arrive, I am happy to tell you that you are truly in for a treat. You’re going to be tempted to listen to it on the day that you receive it, but unless you have that entire day off from work, I strongly suggest that you wait until the weekend or take the day off. You’re going to need at least 10 hours to marathon your way through this massive collection of music and video.
The first two CDs consist of the remastered Sign ‘O’ The Times album. I’ll leave it up to the audiophiles to explain specifically how this remaster sounds compared to the original CD, but to my ears, this remaster by Bernie Grundman sounds significantly better than the original 1987 CD. I am pretty confident that no matter what device you listen on, you’ll prefer this new remaster.
The third disc contains single edits, B-sides, and extended versions of the songs that were released as singles from Sign ‘O’ The Times. For me, this disc is all about the B-sides and extended versions. I’m not a fan of the single edits, but if you want them, you’ll have them.
The real treasure here is found on discs 4-8. There are three entire discs (Discs 4-6) packed with previously unreleased tracks from the vault. The majority of these are from 1986 with a few exceptions. Quite a few of these tracks have circulated among fans in lesser sound quality for many years, but the sound quality in this set is far superior to any of the bootlegs that I have heard. In addition, there are still a significant number of tracks that I have never heard at all. Even some of the tracks that I had heard previously are significantly different versions than those that have circulated. In many cases, just as I thought, “Oh, I know this song,” I was stunned to hear additional music, additional instrumentation, or even different arrangements.
Disc 7 and 8 comprise a complete concert from Utrecht on the Sign ‘O’ The Times tour. The sound quality far surpasses all of the live bootlegs that I have heard from that tour, so you’ll be thrilled with the performance and the sound.
The DVD features the complete December 31, 1987 New Year’s Eve show shot live at Paisley Park and includes a guest appearance by Miles Davis. The audio and video quality is fantastic for a video from 1987 and the quality is consistent throughout. For much of the show, the camera mix is focused on Prince, which I love because I get to see close up what he’s playing on guitar. This show in my personal opinion is even more enjoyable than the theatrically released Sign ‘O’ The Times movie (which by the way, is not included in this set due to legal reasons).
I strongly recommend that you listen to all 8 CDs and watch the DVD on the same day, as I did on Saturday. Binge it like you would a great Netflix series. I feel that binging it in one sitting will give you a deep understanding of just how hard Prince worked in the studio. After listening to and watching all of the material in this set, I felt exhausted in an exhilarating way, and fully satisfied. I think you will too.
On a rainy night in early 2020, right before the Covid-19 pandemic reached the United States, I was improvising on my guitar and came up with a chord progression that I really liked. It felt soulful, a little dark, introspective, and just a bit hopeful. I decided right then and there that I was onto something, and that I needed to finish this song. I then stepped into the shoes of a fictional character that I had in mind and I wrote down some lyrics about what this character was feeling looking out their window watching the rain. In less than a half hour, I had most of the lyrics completed. I then recorded a couple of takes in GarageBand and before the night was through I had a completed demo. I was happy with the instrumental parts, but the lyrics weren’t completely finished and I had only recorded a scratch vocal. I’m happy with my own vocals when used in the background behind a good lead vocalist, but I’m rarely happy with my own lead vocals on their own, and so I thought the song might never see the light of day. Besides, as it stood, the lyrics captured the feeling of isolation and sadness that I was going for, but I wanted the song to build as it progressed, eventually bringing forth a feeling of hopefulness and optimism about the future. I wasn’t happy with my vocal track. The lyrics weren’t finished. The sense of hope was missing. The song might just stay tucked away on my hard drive forever.
Fast forward to July. With the country battling the pandemic, my family and I had been avoiding public places as often as possible and spending a lot more time at home, which gave me more time to be creative in my home studio. Scrolling through Facebook, I noticed that my cousin had shared a post about the debut album that his friend, Megan Kleven, had just released titled “I Am”. (For more information about “I Am” please visit www.meganklevenmusic.com). I previewed her songs, liked what I heard, and bought her CD. I was really impressed with Megan’s voice. On her album she effortlessly glided between soft, lower registers and powerful, soulful higher notes. Her songwriting also impressed me. The idea hit me immediately: This was the voice that could turn my demo into a finished song that I could be proud of. I reached out to Megan via Facebook Messenger to see if she had any interest in collaborating, and luckily she was ready for a new project and was up to the challenge. I sent her my GarageBand file of the song and she soon sent the file back to me with her lead vocal track added in place of my scratch vocal. I was absolutely blown away. When I sent the song to her, my vocals were just the skeleton of a melody. What she sent back to me was a breathtaking vocal performance filled with melody, nuances, and most importantly, the sense of hope that had eluded me when writing the song. She re-wrote some of the lyrics and added some new ones, and that, combined with her amazing vocal performance, elevated the song to a level that I had not dreamed possible when I started it.
Now that you know the story behind the song, I would be honored if you would take the time to listen to our debut song “Rain”. If we accomplish our goal and the song moves you, we would greatly appreciate it if you could take a minute to share the song with your friends on social media. The link below will take you to a page where you can listen to “Rain” on your favorite streaming service. Thanks for listening!