Eagle Vision’s “Hall and Oates, Live In Dublin” DVD

hall and oates, eagle vision, live in dublin, universal music group
Hall and Oates: Live In Dublin

Eagle Vision/Universal Music Group
DVD Produced and Directed by Joss Crowley
2CD+DVD Running Time: approximately 111 Minutes
DVD 9, 16:9 Screen Format, DTS Digital Surround Sound, Dolby Surround 5.1, Dolby Digital Stereo

Release Date: March 31, 2015

1. Maneater
2. Out of Touch
3. Say It Isn’t So
4. Family Man
5. It’s Uncanny
6. Back Together Again
7. Las Vegas Turnaround
8. She’s Gone
9. Sara Smile
10. Do What You Want, Be What You Are
11. I Can’t go For That (No Can Do)
12. Rich Girl
13. You Make My Dreams
14. Kiss On My List
15. Private Eyes

Eagle Vision and Universal Music Group‘s new DVD/2 CD package Hall and Oates: Live in Dublin chronicles the duo’s first gig in the titular city’s Olympia Theater. Played to a sold out house, it was a great show to document. Not only is the setting intimate and beautiful but the Dubliners are an effusive and collaborative audience, singing along from stem to stern, making for a really engaging viewing and listening experience.

The 15 song set is a smart mix of crowd pleasers and more obscure material that spans the band’s history and puts a fresh spin on familiar hits. Fortunately Hall and Oates’ catalog is very malleable – ripe for rearrangement – meaning many of the kitschier studio embellishments found on the 80’s hits are eschewed for polished funky presentations that highlight the songs’ “evergreen” status. It also ensures that H&O don’t become a “cover band” of themselves.

Daryl Hall and John Oates’ stock in trade has been a palpable sincerity conveyed in the smooth soul crooning of their breakout tune “She’s Gone” through even the pop-iest of their mega-hits like “Kiss Is On My List.” It’s a believability that’s rooted in their vocal group tenure in the early days of the Philadelphia PA music scene that producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff eventually forged into TSOP: The Sound of Philadelphia. It’s exemplified in H&O tunes like “Sara Smile” and “Do What You Want, Be What You Are.” Both are represented on Live In Dublin in fine fashion. “Sara Smile” is all feel, Daryl announces it as “…the truth, plain and simple.” It’s a worthy successor to The Impressions. The deep soul of “Do What You Want…” gets an extended airing that features a fun solo duel between senior band member saxophonist Charlie DeChant and newest player guitarist Shane Theriot before it seamlessly slides into “I Can’t Go for That.” Theriot favors a scooped lead sound that cuts through the three guitar front line. He’s a fine improvisor who is also willing to replicate a studio solo when it’s a song’s melodic hallmark, as in “Private Eyes.”

Musician Positions…
The duo has always had a knack for finding great musicians for their stage bands from the very start. In the past members have included drummers Jerry Marotta and Mickey Curry, Elton’s Caleb Quaye, Peter Frampton’s “Alive” cohort Bob Mayo, Utopia’s Kasim Sulton and John Siegler and SNL’s house guitarist G.E. Smith and Bassist the late “T-Bone” Wolk. These are formidable shoes to fill but the current line-up is exceptional in their own right and they are deservedly highlighted in a bonus feature that offers a bit of biography on each member. Almost all of them are multi-instrumentalists, with the core players, including drummer Brian Dunne, coming from the Average White Band, and percussionist Porter Carroll Jr. having led Atlantic Starr. Along with their playing, background vocals are stellar from the staccato “watch out’s” in set opener “Maneater” to the “are watching you’s” on second encore closer “Private Eyes.”

SkeletonPete Says…
My bottom line benchmark for any purchase is the level of likelihood I’ll return to the piece after the initial watch. Hall and Oates: Live in Dublin has been a pleasure to repeat spin for the purposes of this review, and will continue to be top of the heap for replay for some time to come. If you’re only interested in the video content I suggest you grab the BluRay, although the standard DVD looks very good up-sampled on my Playstation 3.

What’s missing? Well, I’m one of the oddballs who counts the Todd Rundgren produced War Babies album as a favorite, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for “Beanie G and the Rose Tattoo” to show up in a set list any time soon. That is unless some hipster record bin crawlers decide War Babies is H&O’s great lost Pet Sounds. Hmm… sounds like a Twitter crusade in the making. See hashtag above.

Steppin’ into Stardom: Judith Hill “Back In Time”

judith hill, prince, back in time, 20 steps from stardom
On Back In Time singer Judith Hill offers a unique and idiosyncratic group of performances that distance her from her back up singer roots. Featured prominently in the Academy Award winning documentary 20 Steps from Stardom Hill’s segment typified the predicament and pitfalls of trying to move from a reasonably stable career providing support vocals for “stars” to shouldering a spotlight position of her own. Before that she had seen a major tour and possible springboard for solo recognition evaporate with the untimely passing of Michael Jackson. Her extensive rehearsals with the “King of Pop” appear in the film This Is It. Hill also tried the TV competition route with a stint on The Voice in 2013. Although garnering her nationwide attention it did not produce the hoped for star turn.

Glass Slipper…
Fortunately in the past year Hill came to the attention of Prince and the “always a bridesmaid” situation changed. A few weeks of recording at the Minneapolis Music Maharajah’s Paisley Park studio has yielded a sterling setting for her talents. The album has a tight modern sound but as one might expect from the title and production by a stylistic sponge like Prince there is also a deep awareness of musical heritage.

Laying Tracks…
The opening track “As Trains Go By” is laden with vinyl “rice krispies” and a throaty distorted vocal that could have been sampled from a 1930’s field recording. That said, lyrical content is cutting edge with references to specifics of recent racial tensions warning “While Martin sleeps Brother Malcolm is awake” leavened only by the chorus “Like CeeLo Green in a sea of red lights, might as well be famous, since I ain’t gonna be white,” which cannot help but produce a grin. “Trains” and second tune “Turn Up” set the stage with funky pocket grooves, lots of unison singing and “character” voices, reminiscent of likely benchmark Sly and The Family Stone.

Though each song can stand on its own merit, the excellent track sequencing ultimately makes for a better complete listening experience than a “needle drop” excursion. There’s even an old school crossfade as the jaunty lope and thunky low end of “Cure” (think “Penny Lane” period Beatles) slides into the rainy day dream jazz of “Love Trip.” “Angel In The Dark” is a spare groove with angular electro-string hooks and a radio ready chorus ripe for multiple remixes. “Cry, Cry, Cry” presents a sophisticated mid-century blues complete with bee-sting purple lead guitar lines. “Beautiful Life” is spun off a delicate piano vamp and wrapped in a rich arrangement. It has a delicious Gladys Knight vibe and I’d love to hear it performed live. “Wild Tonight” and “Jammin’ in the Basement” will ably hip check “Uptown Funk” in your current party mixes.

SkeletonPete Says…
A session singer’s stock in trade is as invisible mortar for a lead vocalist’s sonic structure. On “Back In Time” we finally hear who Judith Hill actually is, in her own voice. It’s an exciting, enjoyable, and refreshing revelation and these tracks smartly stay focused on that vocal personality.

Parts Unknown: Greenwich House Explores “Uncharted” Music

brandee younger, greenwich house music school, uncharted series

Harpist Brandee Younger, launched the Uncharted Music Series with a varied and experimental set.

What It Is…
Your Thursday evenings may require musical cartography skills if the folks at Greenwich House Music School (GHMS) have their way. Last year the over century old establishment cast an ear to the past with a series of shows that paid homage to the Café Au Go Go. That venue shared a neighborhood – New York City’s West Village – with the music school through most of the 1960’s. Hosting an array of performers from Lenny Bruce to Cream, the Café has achieved legendary status.

This time around the GHMS 8 week community concert series is titled Uncharted and aimed at exploration of parts unknown. Concert curator Jennie Wasserman, Associate Artistic Producer at San Francisco’s SFJAZZ, asked each of the featured artists to direct their performances to areas of their artistry that would normally not get aired. The relaxed living room vibe of the music school’s Renee Weiler Concert Hall, and an audience most likely predisposed to new experiences, certainly offers the “safe place to take risks” that Wasserman hopes to establish.

brandee younger, greenwich house music school, uncharted series

(L to R) Courtney Bryan, Brandee Younger and Mia Theodoratus debut new material at Greenwich House Music School.

What Went On…
On opening night harpist Brandee Younger was introduced by GHMS director Rachel Black who noted the GHMS faculty member’s impressive résumé, ranging from traditional jazz to hip-hop and pop. Younger, along with pianist Courtney Bryan and harpist Mia Theodoratus, took up the series’ challenge and skewed her set into the “discomfort zone.” Material included a piece by Younger so new it was yet to be titled, an Alice Coltrane cover, and work being prepped by Bryan for Prophetika, An Oratorio which will have its official debut at La MaMa later this month.
courtney bryan, mia theodoratus, brandee younger, greenwich house music school, uncharted series

Brandee Younger and Mia Theodoratus run through “Uncharted” charts at soundcheck.

Midway through the set, the harp duet “Orbits” offered delicate intertwining melodies that passed each other in purposefully loose meter. Composer Theodoratus prefaced the song’s first performance by explaining that she and Younger would be working off tiny LED blinker boxes, each set to a different tempo, an experiment that successfully evinced the elliptical nature of planetary travel. The boxes were scratch built by artist and musician Lary 7, who also recorded Theodoratus’s most recent album Electric Silver, released on Plastikville Records last October. Seven is himself the subject of a recent documentary Not Junk Yet, The Art of Lary 7, directed by Danielle de Picciotto.

In addition to the performance on stage, pen and ink artist Michael Arthur chronicled the event for GHMS archives and will continue to do so throughout the series. Keep an eye on his daily blog for Uncharted updates.

What’s To Come…
The GHMS Uncharted series promises to be a one of a kind experience. Concerts continue every Thursday evening through April 30, 2015 and the full line-up can be found here.

Crazy Train Keeps A Rollin’: Slambovians Go Bi-Polar

Hail, Hail Slambovia…
The Grand Slambovians (AKA The Slambovian Circus of Dreams) return with “A Box of Everything,” their first release on Sony/Red River Entertainment. The 14 track album is a remastered, catch-up on what you missed, compilation that includes new 3 tracks. It’s all new to me and I’m really glad to have made it’s acquaintance.

Formed in Sleepy Hollow, New York (why am I not surprised) in the late 1990’s, The Slambovians are a ragamuffin band that reminds me of expanding/contracting familial collectives like Daevid Allen’s Gong. The festival circuit in the US and UK has been their stomping grounds and they’ve built a grass roots following of fans and friends and extraterrestrial hillbilly pirates.

Heaven and Hellbound Train…
The first track to catch my attention for repeated play was the slide guitar driven party of a tune with the smile inducing title “Trans-Slambovian Bi-Polar Express.” No it’s not about former members of Savatage moving to Sevastopol.

The exuberant romp begins with open tuned acoustic guitar licks that would be at home on The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet, until the mix quickly ramps up to rumble on rails laid parallel to Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited.” Like an amusement park thrill ride based on Dante’s Divine Comedy lead singer and songwriter Joziah Longo leads us through dreamscapes both “safe from harm” and hellish in nature. We awake in our own world, “it’s logic wearing thin” only to seek return passage – “let’s make it end and let’s begin.”

Based on current trends this tune, with it’s railroad metaphor, melodic lead guitar work, and rollicking drum pattern, could easily be as at home on the Country Music Charts as it will certainly be in rotation on college and Americana friendly stations.

Photo: Michael Polito

Photo: Michael Polito

The richly layered production by guitarist Sharkey McEwen and “the circus” perfectly accentuates the band’s multi-instrument nature and continues to reveal little sonic gems on repeat listens.

SkeletonPete Says…
While clearly aware of and well versed in musical styles that came before them, The Grand Slambovians also have an iconoclastic side that allows for cheeky recombinant experiments. New track “A Very Unusual Head” is a Bowiesque British Music Hall ditty that appears to be a rumination on the autopsy of Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man.

For mix-tape makers, any of “A Box of Everything” will fit nicely in playlists with the newest Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Old School Robyn Hitchcock/Soft Boys, Blackfield, The Waterboys, World Party, or their progenitors Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, psychedelic era Beatles and Stones, and (you guessed it) Rolling Thunder Revue era Dylan.

Hey-Hey! Monkee Micky Live @BB King’s Blues Club

When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the antics of the made-for-TV musical foursome, The Monkees. Each week Davy, Peter, Mike and Micky sang and played their way into our hearts. With hits like Pleasant Valley Sunday, Last Train the Clarksville, I’m a Believer and Daydream Believer, written by some of the era’s best known songwriters (Carole King, Neil Diamond, Boyce & Hart), the music group (comprised of young actors and musicians) rocketed to fame. Some of my fondest memories can be traced back to those early days watching, and singing along with, The Monkees.


Long after The Monkees ended their TV series and the band broke up, we still enjoy their hits. I’ve been fortunate enough to see one particular Monkee three times now.


Micky and Friends…
Micky Dolenz is always a treat. Whether he is performing with The Monkees (as in the reunion tour I had the good fortune to see two years ago), or on his own, he never fails to entertain. Last week, I saw Micky on stage with his own band, which includes his sister Gemma ‘Coco’ Dolenz (vocals, percussion), Wayne Avers (guitar, vocals), Dave Alexander (keyboards, vocals), John Billings (bass), Aviva Maloney (saxophone, keyboards, vocals), and Rich Dart (drums).

Fun and self-effacing, the energetic 69-year-old Dolenz (in his trademark hat and vest) performed two sets (mostly Monkees hits) and sounded very much as I remembered him. Although I was disappointed he couldn’t play guitar (not drums like we were used to seeing in the TV series) on Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze this time around due to a wrist injury (Supposedly in a tussle with 19 Somali pirates he had to fend off with a cocktail olive sword!?!? I wonder if Tom Hanks was around for that?), that didn’t stop him from giving his all. From Mary Mary, to Steppin’ Stone, to Words (one of my favorites), the hits kept on coming, with the crowd singing right along for emphasis.


Noteworthy Moments…
Long-time singing partner, sister Coco, had the spotlight a few times herself, surprising and delighting the crowd with Different Drum (made popular by Linda Ronstadt and written by fellow MonkeeMike Nesmith) and Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.


For me, the enjoyment of a fellow Whovian in the audience (dressed as David Tennant’s 10th Doctor), complete with Sonic Screwdriver, just added to my entertainment and amusement. All roads lead back to Doctor Who for me, but I digress…


Andy Says…
It’s hard for me to set aside nostalgia and sentimentality and why should I? A good time was certainly had by all. And for fans, both old and young, Micky Dolenz and Friends kept us singing and dancing in our seats all night long.

If you get a chance to catch them in a city near you, I urge you to see Micky and his band. You won’t be disappointed. Many thanks to BB King Blues Club (my first time there and hopefully not my last) for the opportunity to cover the show.

Links and More…
For more on Micky Dolenz, his tour dates, music, and theatre performances, visit his site.
For more on Coco Dolenz, check out her site.