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By Andy Argyrakis
Weekend Report: Grammy predictions
include Imogen, Gnarls
Friday, February 9, 2007
As previously reported, all eyes will turn to the 49th Annual Grammy Awards this coming Sunday, February 11 as a reunited version of The Police takes the stage. Even with all the anticipation surrounding this historic reformation, Sting and the boys will have plenty of competition as a slew of other stars were just announced, including Shakira, Smokey Robinson and Lionel Richie. Those names come on the heels of other recent performance announcements, such as Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Mayer, the Dixie Chicks, Gnarls Barkley, Mary J. Blige, Justin Timberlake with many more being added up through show day.
Aside from the mere artistic action (and sure fire shenanigans that always seems to creep into such festivities) expect a boatload of trophies to be passed out across a slew of categories. Though there's literally dozens of genres represented, today's predictions will cover a mere handful of highly coveted awards with Monday's "Daily Dish" focusing on a broader look at the most prominent winners. But no matter if discussing the program before or after the event, the top honor is always "Record of the Year," which features recent singles from Blige, Barkley, the Chicks, James Blunt and Corinne Bailey Rae. Hopefully voters will place this in the hands of "Crazy" composers Gnarls Barkley, as the song "Crazy" not only dominated summer radio play, but remains red hot to this day.
Despite the drama surrounding country music's top Chicks and President Bush, the group did turn in an impressive album in 2006 with Taking the Long Way (Columbia). While most of its primary demographic was turned off by their comments and boycotted the project, the trio exposed themselves to a brand new fan base, who besides political agreement, favored genuine artistry over commercial country (especially evidenced in the lead single "Not Ready To Make Nice"). Still, these leading southern ladies have some tough competition, which again include Barkley, plus Timberlake, Mayer and the Chili Peppers.
And who can look back on the past year without looking forward to the talent of tomorrow? The "Best New Artist" nod doesn't guarantee a fruitful future (Christopher Cross has long went "Sailing" away), but it partially improves the odds at longevity. Dreamy electro piano popper Imogen Heap should win this category hands down, especially in the light of her much weaker counterparts (Blunt, Bailey Rae, Chris Brown and Carrie Underwood). Still, the guessing game can only last so long with all roads leading to the Staples Center in Lost Angeles (or CBS TV) starting at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) this Sunday.
Gabriel takes technology
to fight for rights
Thursday, February 8, 2007
As one of the most original and creative artists in all of modern music history, Peter Gabriel always pushes the envelope in the studio and on stage. Even outside of performance contexts, the legendary former Genesis front man is active with cutting edge outreach causes, such as his anti-apartheid anthem "Biko" and endless support of Amnesty International. One of his latest ventures is shedding additional light on Witness (www.witness.org) which he founded in 1992 to curb human rights abuses by taking advantage of today's technological capabilities. But nowadays his goal is even more global as the group's collecting video footage from cameras or cell phones to expose unethical behavior and eventually end the epidemic of abuse worldwide. Gabriel recently announced plans to build a video hub (think "a YouTube for human rights") where situations of unjust torture are brought to the public's attention, such as the Rodney King beating footage that helped inspire the organization.
Soul star Mavis Staples has never been shy about reaching out a helping hand and she continues to let her light shine on We'll Never Turn Back, which marks the singer's Anti- Records debut (also the home of Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Merle Haggard). The disc lands April 24 and is slated to cover everything from Hurricane Katrina's aftermath to themes of unity and civil rights. That relevant approach could be considered an updated approach to the Staple Singers' hopeful lyrics throughout the past four decades, such as the enduring smash "I'll Take You There."
While Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh have been steadily flying solo over the past three decades, they've embarked upon countless cash grab Eagles reunions. After faking out fans on the cheekily titled "Farewell 1" tour, the group is promising an album of all new original material, which like The Who, has literally been decades in the making. The band's last official project was 1979's The Long Run (Elektra), though a smattering of new songs have trickled into singles, concert CDs and DVDs, plus greatest hits compilations. Even so, the long awaited full-length announcement is sure to find faithful celebrating with yet another "Tequila Sunrise."
The Police top reunion round-up,
but why Wham!?
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
It's no secret after much media speculation and countless reports that The Police are getting back together, starting with an appearance at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards. But aside from a very short Rock and Roll Hall of Fame appearance in 2003, the trio comprised of Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers hasn't exactly been active and it remains to be seen if the magic will come back. Its last full tour ran two decades ago in support of Synchronicity (A&M), after which Sting went solo to dive even deeper into adult contemporary commonplace, while the less famous members went onto largely unrecognized side projects. Will the tag team result in a cross country tour or end after a mere one off like Pink Floyd at last year's Live 8? All official arrows are hinting to a full blown affair, but nothing's been confirmed so far.
While The Police's reconnection is certainly understandable, who put the bug in Wham!'s ear to get George Michael and that other guy who didn't really do anything back together? Even though Michael just released his solo hits project Twenty Five (Sony) and had a successful European tour, All Headline News reports he and musical partner Andrew Ridgeley will reclaim their glory years with a possible record and tour later this year. Though 80s appreciators are shrieking with delight, the years haven't exactly been good to the band's front man, who between sex scandals and drug accusations has become quite the media whipping post. But who knows, another round of "Careless Whisper" could be a building block of "Faith" for a career comeback.
Also from the decade of decadence, Crowded House is plotting its reunion tour after previously announcing reformation following the double disc release Farewell to the World (Capitol), a concert collection that ironically traces its 1996 farewell tour. The Neil Finn-led outfit is best known for the hits "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong," which both remain alternative and pop radio constants to this day. Yet the band hopes to take an even hipper approach with this comeback, locking in a show alongside Bjork and Rage Against the Machine at this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Bloc Party is back
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
After headlining last year's Intonation Festival in Chicago, along with a slew of overseas shows, Bloc Party's profile has remained relatively high. But with a new CD under its British belts today, chances are the Vice Records flagship act will be showered in hype all over again. As was the case on its full-length debut disc Silent Alarm, the brand new Weekend In the City is steeped in 80s dance rock sensibilities, but also razor sharp riffs and towering distortion. However, fans hoping for the rawer sounds of the freshman effort may be a bit bummed at the additional coat of polish from producer Jacknife Lee (U2, Snow Patrol), but then again, the extra leverage could get the group the much more deserved mainstream attention.
Singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche is said to have done the exact opposite when it comes to production on Phantom Punch (Astralwerks) and he cites Elvis Costello as the inspiration. In the past, the twenty-four-year-old tunesmith has sought grand arrangements and lush complication, though he dials down with a lean, rebellious punk spirit a la early Attractions-era Elvis. Fellow troubadour Patty Griffin also throws fans for a loop with Children Running Through (ATO), running away flat out folk for a more soulful, early Memphis rock appeal.
On a pop/punk note, last year's rage Fall Out Boy hopes to keep the momentum going with Infinity On High (Island). The band's been active in MySpace promotion over the past several months, along with its current "Friends Or Enemies" preview tour, which has played to intimate clubs in place of 2006's arena sized outing. Fans of the group may also be interested in checking out the latest Bayside disc The Walking Wounded (Victory). However, expect a more sophisticated and aggressive hard edged sound within the group's punk premise, along with more brooding lyrical themes. The Long Island natives are currently criss-crossing the country with Tooth & Nail-ers Anberlin before embarking on another round of headlining dates.
Love on American Idol?|
Courtney's confused again!
Monday, February 5, 2007
The ultimate rock n' roll drama queen and former Hole front woman has struck again with yet another round of silliness. That's right, Courtney Love finds herself in the land of confusion, this time relating to American Idol. (Who would've thought those two names would ever appear in the same sentence?) According to usmagazine.com, the one time Mrs. Cobain thought she received a phone call from the show's executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, during which he offered her a judging slot on the show. But all reports have been denied by the Idol camp and Love's own publicist relayed to E! News that there was "no truth to it whatsoever." Perhaps it was a prank call, or even more feasibly, another unfathomable fabrication from Love's unique mind. But no matter what the reason, Paula Abdul remains in the position and has yet to call this quasi-competitor a 'cold hearted snake.'
In less ridiculous terms, ATO artists Gomez and Ben Kweller have teamed up for a co-headlining trek that kicks off this week. Brit-rockers Gomez just jumped off tour with jammers O.A.R. (who they clearly upstaged at a recent Chicago show), while regular road warrior Kweller continues in his troubadour tradition. Aside from last year's critical darling How We Operate, Gomez recently released the Live Session EP, an iTunes exclusive recorded at Soundworks Studios in San Francisco. The collection includes the hits "How We Operate" and "See The World," new versions of oldies "Get Miles," "Rex Kramer" and "Whippin' Piccadilly," plus the new tune "A Song For Lovers in Between the Wars" (a solo selection by band member Tom Gray).
Anyone wondering where Macy Gray and her fluctuating afro puff have been in recent years can cite the studio for her long overdue Big (will.i.am music group/Geffen), finally slated for March 27 release. Although her claim to fame will always be the single "I Try," along with a support slot on David Bowie's 2004 tour, she's hoping to get her sexy back again with an all-star list of producers, including Justin Timberlake, will.i.am and Ron Fair.