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By Andy Argyrakis
Weekend Report: Cobra Starship blasts off
Friday, February 23, 2007
Don't confuse them as the millionth Jefferson Starship offshoot act because Cobra Starship has absolutely nothing to do with Grace Slick or stoner rock from the 70s. Instead, it focuses on former Midtown singer Gabe Saporta and a bunch of backers streaked with alternative rock fury, touches of punk and thankfully not too much emo. The group initially found fame on MySpace when Saporta parodied Gwen Stefani, moved onto more impressive heights with a slot on the Snakes on a Plane soundtrack and eventually inked a deal with Decaydance (the Fueled By Ramen imprint). In support of its freshman CD While the City Sleeps, We Rule the Streets (which debuted at the top spot on SoundScan's "Top New Artists" list) Saporta and company kick off a new leg of dates with Cartel, Boys Like Girls and Quiet Drive tonight at House of Blues in Las Vegas. They move to the same venue in Anaheim Saturday night and continue on the west coast through the end of February before hitting the midwest and Canada in March. For a full itinerary, log onto www.cobrastarship.com.
As if the Grammy Awards didn't hand out enough trophies to keep track of this month, the Oscars hit the red carpet this weekend. Movie maniacs are sure to be glued to their TV screens, but what does the historic event mean for music buffs? The "Original Song" category honors the top soundtrack slot, which is packed with plenty of pop star power this year's 79th Academy Awards. Nominees are Melissa Etheridge's "I Need To Wake Up" (from An Inconvenient Truth), James Taylor's "Our Town" (from Cars), plus a trio of tunes from Dreamgirls: Jennifer Hudson's "Love You I Do," Beyonce's "Listen" and the Eddie Murphy/Keith Robinson/Anika Noni Rose triple team "Patience."
Will Murphy and his cast mates "party all the time" after awards are handed out? Probably so, especially given the widespread attention and fanfare the movie's already racked up. But given critical complaints from Motown heroes such as Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross, perhaps the vote should go to Etheridge, who turned in a much more potent song from a truly meaningful movie. See which of the ladies' claws come out on top Sunday at 5PT/8ET on ABC.
The Jam, minus Paul Weller, are back
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Can a band really stage a reunion without the original lead singer, especially when he's still alive and performs the group's hits in solo settings? Generally not, and thankfully The Jam's bass player Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler are tweaking the influential English mod/punk act's moniker accordingly. The two are touring under the banner From The Jam, kicking off a 21-city tour in May hitting the U.K. to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its classic debut disc In the City (Universal). However, lead singer Paul Weller is not scheduled to appear in the line-up, which seems incredibly strange since his tours regularly incorporate the band's back catalogue and he just released Hit Parade (Yep Roc), chronicling time in The Jam, Style Council and his individual releases. But the remaining players insist Weller is welcome whenever he'd like, so as long as egos don't get in the way, a full-fledged "Beat Surrender" might emerge sometime down the road.
Fallen pop star Britney Spears can't seem to beat the splitsville blues with her hubby Kevin Federline (the worst white rapper since Vanilla Ice). According to Reuters, she entered an unnamed rehab facility for undisclosed treatments, an episode that comes mere days after she was spotted with a shaved head in Los Angeles. Regardless of the reasons, hopefully she'll grow her hair back, get on the right track and stay away from singing.
Thankfully with the rise of the iPod, listeners can program their own play lists without having to worrying about hearing Brit or Fed-X on the radio. But in New York City, music lovers may have to pop out their headphones when crossing public streets in the near future, otherwise they could be dealt a hefty fine. Similar to legislation banning cell phone usage while driving in major cities, a system is currently being considered slapping street crossing MP3 player users with a $100 ticket. While it may make addicted listeners groan with disgust, three pedestrians have died in the past year from such distractions, so cautionary crossing is certainly encouraged.
All-star album for June Carter
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Following Johnny Cash's passing, the music marketplace was flooded with CDs, DVDs, books, commemorative editions of previous releases and even a major movie. Though most of the attention was certainly warranted given his seminal status, some of the products seemed to capitalize on his name being in the news and merely regurgitated material that was already available on countless other compilations. However, one major stone that went unturned was a tribute to his late great wife June Carter Cash, who despite not having as many hits as her husband, still made a significant name for herself in country, folk and acoustic pop circles. Thanks to the Dualtone Music Group, she's finally getting some much deserved additional attention with Anchored In Love: A Tribute to June Carter Cash, produced by Johnny and June's only offspring John Carter Cash. As the title implies, it features many of her peer artists (Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Ralph Stanley, Kris Kristofferson) and younger faces (Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow) covering Carter Cash tunes, along with versions of timeless standards she made famous. Look for the disc and a companion book titled Anchored in Love: An Intimate Portrait of June Carter Cash (Thomas Nelson) June 19, just a few days before her June 23 birthday.
After scoring two Grammy Awards earlier this month, Gnarls Barkley keeps the momentum going with a spread in the new Sports Illustrated "Swimsuit Edition." Though it may seem uncharacteristic of the rockers to turn to athletics, main members Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo Green pose for the cameras in grand fashion right alongside supermodel Jessica White. After working it on the runway, the group returns to the road kicking off the latest leg of its tour with Red Hot Chili Peppers on February 27 in Chicago. The trek wraps up just a little while later on March 7 in Houston, giving the guys some time to rest up for the jet lag they're sure to face with a trip to Australia for the V Festival March 31 and April 1.
Though most people could probably care less about his personal life, Kenny Chesney feels compelled to share with the entire world that he is not gay. Though rumors have been flying rampant amongst fringe fans for years, his lightening speed marriage to actress Renee Zellweger and her filing for annulment (citing "fraud") only kicked up additional dust. The singer gives the full dish as to what really happened on CBS' 60 Minutes this Sunday, but country ladies across the globe have already breathed a collective sigh of relief since they think more than just his tractor's sexy. .
Erasure goes country?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The idea of Erasure setting up shop at Tennessee's Ryman Auditorium (the former home of the Grand Ole Opry) seems just as strange as Merle Haggard hitting the European club circuit with the Pet Shop Boys. But Andy Bell and his musical mate Vince Clarke (and one time member of Depeche Mode) have indeed turned county for its latest CD/DVD release On the Road To Nashville (Mute), taken from last year's Union Street (Mute) tour. That disc took a stripped down, southern focus to some of the band's older album cuts, while the shows scaled back on synthesizers and flamboyant costumes in favor of acoustic guitars and Bell in blue jeans. The results are actually much better than the notion may initially conjure up, reinterpreting favorites such as "Chains of Love," "A Little Respect" and "Ship of Fools" in an entirely new light. And this project also sheds light on the fact that Erasure's always written solid pop songs, which campy as they may be, hold up even stronger in this unexpected arena.
Taking cues from Joy Division, The Cure and Interpol comes Anberlin, who turn in release number three today. The project is titled Cities (Tooth & Nail) and builds upon the group's merging of an affinity for all things retro with a grip on today's trends. These Orlando natives are currently on one of this winter's most buzz-worthy club tours in the pop/alternative rock/punk traditions, sharing the bill with Victory Records act Bayside. The live show, like all band's records, balance a series of scorching rockers, surging melodies and brooding songwriting (though it's a bit more hopeful than the late great Ian Curtis).
One of this week's most eyebrow raising re-issues centers around the career of Electric Light Orchestra, which despite the group's sales success has never translated to significant degrees of critical acclaim. In hoping to capitalize on the former tradition, Legacy Records put together Out of the Blue: 30th Anniversary Edition, featuring the original album with additional artwork and extensive liner notes. Though diehards will probably feel compelled to pick up the project, the reality is additional perks are few and far between. All three bonus tracks (one of which is a home demo) are quite forgettable, while updated artwork still can't hold a candle to the LP packaging. While the music may have been questionable, the vinyl release was attractive, packed to the brim with cardboard cut outs of spaceships and an attractive gatefold design that could never translate to a jewel case size. .
Waters revisits his
Dark Side days
Monday, February 19, 2007
With the surge of reunions thus far this year, some gamblers were probably starting to consider Pink Floyd being added to that pack. After all, principle members Roger Waters and David Gilmour finally buried the hatchet to perform at Live 8 and their short set received rave reviews. However, the odds just dropped much lower now that Waters is embarking on the second American leg of his marathon solo tour, which not only features solo hits and the band's classics, but also a complete rendition of Dark Side of the Moon (Capitol). The return engagement comes on the heels of several sold out shows and also features elaborate production, including a 360 degree quadraphonic sound system and large scale video projections.
Dreams keep coming true for fans of The Police, who've been announced amongst the handful of key headliners at the sixth annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. From June 14-17, the event hosts over a hundred bands on thirteen stages, also including a highly anticipated return of The White Stripes (after Jack White's tour with The Raconteurs), plus hard core heroes Tool. To appease the hippies, Widespread Panic also scores top billing, though having their names on the same marquee as the aforementioned is truly a shame. On more redemptive notes, ticket buyers can also expect Franz Ferdinand, the Flaming Lips, Wilco, The Decemberists, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, Regina Spektor and Damien Rice. A comedy tent is also in the planning stages, slated to feature David Cross, Dave Attell and Lewis Black with many more to be announced as the weekend nears.
Considering Counting Crows aren't exactly the rage anymore has left front man Adam Duritz with some more free time on his hands. Rather than twiddling his thumbs or whining through "Round Here" and "Mr. Jones" on the solo circuit, he's formed an indie record label called Tyrannosaurus Records (T-Recs), which thus far has signed two acts he discovered on MySpace. The first is the Chicago based rock/pop/punk act Blacktop Mourning, a group that's already been featured on eleven MTV shows and earned nods as an "MTV Featured Artist." Next up is New York emcee and jazz trumpeter Notar, who first found fame in the Big Apple with The Formula Project. For a sneak peak at these and future releases, log onto www.TyrannosaurusRecords.net..