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Transformed by Irish Sean Nos Singing, Musician Clarissa Riddles/Purcell Redefines Her Style For All Her Audiences

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Sometimes, a musician comes across the computer screen which produces a profile not just because of the music but the backstory, too. That was certainly the case for singer/songwriter Clarissa Riddles (nee Purcell) who not only found her voice through jazz but traditional Irish music as well.

Based in Nashville, the classically trained pianist and vocalist wrote the songs on her latest record, “Be Still My Soul,” “as a tribute to God and the scripture which had brought her out of an intense personal struggle into a new life.”

That provocation was confirmed by Widerside Productions’ Matt Wilder — producer of this album: “When I first met Clarissa years ago, her talent was immediately clear. A gifted and diverse singer, songwriter and painter, who, like so many great artists, had a self-destructive streak and struggled with addiction. I believe dealing with internal turmoil is part of what drives many great artists to create.

Over the years we’ve both been through many life changes —  and in Clarissa’s case finding sobriety, getting married, having a child, and most of all, turning her life over to God as she understood him [to be]. I was thrilled when she approached me about making an album about redemption, recovery and faith.

“I recognized my own struggles in hers and in her surrender. These Celtic-flavored songs are like beautiful mystic upwellings rising from her soul as she was born into a new life. It’s healing music that envelopes and comforts you with grace, humility and beauty. A true work of art by a great artist I consider myself blessed to collaborate with.”

So upon listening to Clarissa’s melodically rich vocalizations of these recently released songs, a search into her past led to lots more releases and songs. From jazz-inflected compositions to her Irish-influenced recent productions, Riddles/Purcell is an artist-performer worth exploring.

The late 30-something grew up in Northern Virginia, near Washington DC, Fairfax, and the Annandale area. Now, the Nashville resident Purcell works part-time at the YMCA and is a full-time mother. Now that her daughter is turning eight and in school, she’s been able to commit more time to music. “I have always made money on the side with creative pursuits, little jobs, playing background music for restaurants, and selling artwork.

“Recently, I have been able to make a little extra by working for commercial music placements, advertising and some work for music library/sync licensing. But it’s been sporadic; hence the YMCA gig.”

Q: What’s your background — musically and otherwise?

CR: I’ve done music my whole life, different genres, classical training, etc. I grew up in a musical family. We were exposed to mostly classical music. My dad was a well known baritone singer and entertainer who could play and sing almost any request from the great American songbook. My mom had a beautiful voice and sang in the church choir along with us kids.

I spent a lot of time from junior high onward making up songs and accompanying myself in the singer/songwriter fashion. My first love with songwriting was in the folk tradition. A return to that with this latest album, while being something novel, was a familiar ground with the simple melody and poetic lyrics I often wrote in my younger days. I went on to study jazz piano at University of Tennessee under the tutelage of renowned pianist and composer Donald Brown who had played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He encouraged me to pursue composing and we often traded ideas and tunes.

Q: You’re just building your new identity now — where do you see it going?

CR: With this latest album, I feel like I have stumbled upon what I was really meant to do, both artistically and from a spiritual perspective. I just wanted to clarify that. When I first conceived this album project, it was after being inspired by the music section in the movie “Brooklyn,” where Iarla o Lionaird sang a Sean-nos song, which was a kind of hauntingly beautiful melody and lilting in the voice that I had never heard before. It absolutely blew me away. It really thrilled my soul, and it had been such a long time since I had felt inspired by music that way.

Then I discovered another Sean nos singer on the Irish John Murray show. I ended up learning this same Gaelic folk song that she performed, and later e-met Saileog Ni Cheannabhain, the gifted singer on the show who introduced many to the distinctly Irish tradition of Sean-nos singing. Later, I had the opportunity to take a few lessons from her during the Covid lockdowns via Skype.

It was then that I was inspired to make an album that was a return to the early American hymn tradition, incorporating these lilting variations in the melody line (also known as ornamentation in sean-nos). The result is an amalgamation of American and Irish singer/songwriter tradition.

I had arrived at a crossroads in some personal struggles and in my addiction — and what appeared to be an end-of-the-road financial crisis. These hymns are meant to be an intimate, personal tribute to God, as he walked me through a series of struggles and helped me to overcome my suffering with his grace.

I also had the generous help of an old friend and talented producer, Matt Wilder, who had been around to see me when I hit rock bottom. He had worked with me back then, when my drinking problem kept getting in the way. When he saw how seriously I was committed to recovery, I was able to record these songs at his studio on a tight budget, after closing, just singing and playing piano together by myself for all the takes. He then selected my best live takes.

We would later add Grammy award-winning fiddle player Jenee Fleenor and London Symphony musician/composer John Mock to the recordings. We are planning on hiring a backing band for future performances.

I obviously want to grow my audience and reach out to as many people as possible. In such a divided world we live in now I would like to restore some belief that there is something bigger out there that will bring us peace and serenity. I hope my songs focus on something other than politics. My hope is that this music will help “restore us to sanity” — myself included.

Q: Is your music Irish with American influences or American with Irish influences?

CR: I am an American with Irish highlights. Yes, my husband is from Dublin, but I grew up in northern Virginia. My heritage is largely Irish/Scottish/and English according to my family tree.

Of late I see my main influence is Sean nos Celtic and spiritual music. I was not exposed to much American pop music  growing up so I think my main influence is 1940/1950 blues, jazz and old school jazz standards of the Frank Sinatra era. Plus Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Billie Holliday, Peggy Lee and Etta James to mention just a few.

Growing up we had season tickets to Kennedy Center, and I was exposed to opera, symphonic music and performed in Handel’s Messiah along with family members at Columbia Baptist Church.

So old church hymns like “Amazing Grace,” classic composers of the Romantic era such as Chopin, and Rachmaninov and singers such as Eva Cassidy and Barbara Streisand were influences as well.

But my many visits to Ireland had a transformative impact on my music going forward. The wistful beauty of the landscape, the romance of the storytelling tradition in Ireland’s music were all very inspiring.

And meeting Chris had a similar impact on me as well. Chris came to the USA in 1990 but his feet are still planted firmly on Irish soil. All his family are there and he would bring me to seisuns in Kerry, Clare and Galway. A favorite stop off in Ireland is Gus O’ Connor’s pub in Doolin.

I was very drawn to the Sean-nos’ style of singing and love listening to local Irish musicians, The Cranberries, Enya, Saileog O Cheannabhain, Iarla O Lionaird and the traditional Irish group ‘Danu From County Kerry.

Q: How did you two meet?

CR: I met Chris later on after college at a small party with close friends. We hit it off right away. We have been visiting his large Irish family in Dublin ever since 2011.

It was there in places like Doolin, Dingle and the West coast of Ireland that I learned about Irish seisuns. With my jazz background of improvisation, I was able to incorporate this beautiful, highly-ornamented singing style into my new album, “Be Still My Soul.” It is a bit of a challenge when recording to not change up the phrasing on each take though.

Purcell is my married name, Riddles is my maiden name. I use Clarissa Purcell for the ‘Be Still’ album and all my recent music with the ‘Celtic Spiritual’ influence. I use Clarissa Riddles on all my Jazz compositions.

This project was a new genre for me but I come from a very musical background, having sung and played piano since I was young. I grew up singing and playing church hymns. I started doing original music around 12 years of age. And then I majored in jazz piano in college.

Q: After having done this record, what plans do you have in the immediate and with your overall career.

CR: My future plans include finishing an album of love songs with producer Matt Wilder and the completed production of 10 more songs of this same kind that we’re already in the process of finishing — along with some favorite old American hymns.

Cabaret

An A-Mayes-ment in black and white 

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Imagine the surprise, when expecting the sweet and bouncy lady you’ve known from the Broadway stage—you know, the one who is part Dorothy Loudon/part Anita Gillette—takes the stage and delivers a program that reveals her to be a jazz baby as well. The lady in question is of course Sally Mayes in Now and Then/Jazz Standard Time. 

Yep, Sally’s back, bedecked in a black-and-white outfit with just enough subtle sparkle to be seductive.  As sassy as ever, with a glint in her eye like the female Harold Hill, she presented a selection of songs that were rousing, heart-rending, funny, and overall fabulous. Fueled by talent we all know and love and coupled with an energy and verve that were enviable, she was entrancing. This was a new Sally and one I was very pleased to meet. With Tedd Firth as Musical Director and Tom Hubbard supporting on bass, a sensational evening was virtually guaranteed. 

Sally began with “Cloudburst”, a tongue-twister of a tune that revealed her verbal as well as vocal dexterity. She then switched gears, spoke of her son and his birth which led to “The Way You Look Tonight” sung almost as a lullaby. Her delivery of “Don’t Blame Me” which had been arranged by the much-missed Mike Renzi revealed some of the truthfulness and vulnerability that makes her such a beloved performer. A hint of Peggy Lee was to be spotted, which just added to the magic of the evening.  There was plenty of scat and lots of giggles as Sally told stories about her mother, life in Westchester, and other peeks into her life that made her feel like an old friend. 

If you missed this performance, fear not—there’s more to come! Sally will be returning to The Green Room 42 (570 Tenth Avenue in YOTEL).  Make reservations early—you don’t want to miss these two:  

The Stories on May 16 and The Broadway Extravaganza on June 20 

One caution: The overly enthusiastic lighting features the equivalent of headlights flashing, quite disconcerting and unnecessary.  It had me yearning for my cataracts.  Next time I’ll bring sunglasses.

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Cabaret

An Evening With Richard Holbrook and The Tom Nelson Trio

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 Richard Holbrook along with The Tom Nelson Trio performed at 54 Below in Richard Holbrook: Twenty Plus Four In 2024. This anniversary show celebrated Mr Holbrook’s twenty-four years of  singing in New York City. With Tom Nelson on piano; Tom Kirchmer on bass; and Peter Grant on drums they returned to 54 Below this week with his  latest show, directed by MAC Award-winning cabaret performer Jeff Harnar.

As always Richard shows his sophisticated style making each song very personal. He can take any song and add his personal touch. Richard is also a four-time MAC Award nominee. My favorite part of the show was Richard’s take on some of Charles Aznavour songs. He shows off his deep understanding of Aznavour’s dramatic songs. 

Richard’s debut in musical theater happened when he was a freshman in high school and got cast in a production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. This began a life-long love affair with performing. Richard appeared on such hit television series as “The Sopranos”,  “Spin City”, and “Law & Order: (Season 22). No stranger to daytime television, he frequently appeared in “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”. In regional theatre he performed in productions which included leading roles in Deathtrap and The Subject Was Roses.

In 1985 Richard started performing in cabaret venues throughout Manhattan which he continues to do to this day. Over the years, he has done highly acclaimed cabaret shows with musical direction by Tom Nelson. In 2003, he did a tribute to Fred Astaire by focusing on the legendary dancer’s other talents … that of a singer and a musician. The act Richard Holbrook: The Untapped Fred Astaire, received critical acclaim.  In August, 2004, Richard released his first CD entitled Richard Holbrook Steps Out. This recording features Richard, accompanied by The Tom Nelson Trio, singing several well-known songs from his Astaire show and other selections by such composers as Portia Nelson, Ronny Whyte, and Kander & Ebb.  

Between 2008 and 2015, Richard successfully performed his cabaret act Richard Sings Burton – The Songs of Burton Lane at such venues as Don’t Tell Mama, The Metropolitan Room, and Feinstein’s/54 Below. In March, 2015, Richard reprised the show at Feinstein’s / 54 Below.  After that, Richard’s tribute to the legendary composer Richard Rodgers, Richard Holbrook: Richard Sings Rodgers With A Lot Of Heart, was presented in October, 2015 at The Metropolitan Room. It received excellent notices and played to sell-out crowds. All three tribute shows – Fred Astaire, Burton Lane, and Richard Rodgers – were directed by Richard Barclay. 

 In 2013, Richard was diagnosed with single cell carcinoma (cancer of the jaw) and successfully underwent a thirteen-hour operation in which his jaw was replaced with the fibula of his left leg. After five months of recovery, Richard resumed his singing career. For the past several years, Richard has presented a musical tribute to the lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, as well as his annual Christmas cabaret fund-raising shows at Don’t Tell Mama for The Cancer Support Community. In the summer of 2024, Richard and his musical director Tom Nelson presented his anniversary show at 54 Below celebrating their twenty-three years of working together. This show was a reprise that show.

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Cabaret

Cabaret News: ROSIE: A New Musical, Karen Mason, The Wicked Stage: Songs About Show Business, Lisa Dawn Miller and Late Night Vibing: Asian R&B

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54 Below, Broadway’s Supper Club, presents ROSIE: A New Musical by Annika Stenstedt on March 31st, 2024 at 9:30pm. Join us for an empowering evening featuring the songs of this new musical based on Rosie the Riveter and all the “We Can Do It” women who worked on the homefront of World War II. Experience the public debut of ROSIE’s sweeping, emotional score, which both celebrates and interrogates the legacy of the iconic feminist symbol. Featuring a stunning cast, including theater favorites and recent NYU Tisch graduates, the concert will share a special glimpse into a project that has been years in the making.

ROSIE: A New Musical is written and created by Annika Stenstedt. The concert is produced by Annika Stenstedt, Brie Leftwich, and Caroline Lace McPherson. The cast includes Cara Rose DiPietro, Chris King, Demiah Latreece, Amanda Leske, Sean Manucha, Caroline Lace McPherson, Marissa Mitchell, Joey Morof, Olivia Ondrasik, Senna Prasatthong, Annika Stenstedt, Gus Stuckey, Mona Swain, and Hannah Lauren Wilson. The band also features Henry Wolf on Drums and Gus Stuckey on Trumpet.

ROSIE: A New Musical by Annika Stenstedt plays 54 Below (254 West 54th Street) on March 31st, 2024 at 9:30pm.

Birdland Jazz Club will present the return of Broadway, concert and recording star Karen Mason in the debut of a new show “Just in Styne: Karen Sings Jule” – honoring Jule Styne, one of her favorite songwriters – on Monday, March 25 at 7:00 PM. From the first time she sang for Mr. Styne in New York City, to performing in a concert in his honor at Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Karen has made the songs of Jule Styne a part of her musical life. This new concert may include Broadway tunes “Just in Time” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and pop standards “Time After Time” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.” Karen will be joined by Christopher Denny on piano and Tom Hubbard on bass. The show will be directed by Barry Kleinbort. There is a $30-4o music charge. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street in New York.

Karen Mason was seen playing Mrs. Marsh on Ryan Murphy’s “Halston” on Netflix. On tour, was last seen as Madame Giry in the North American premiere of Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. On Broadway, she starred as The Queen of Hearts in Wonderland and originated the role of Tanya in Mamma Mia! (2002 Drama Desk nomination as Best Actress). Her other leading roles include Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway and in Los Angeles for three years; Velma von Tussel in the Broadway company of Hairspray; “Monotony” singer and Mazeppa in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. In regional theater, Karen starred in Chasing Rainbows (Paper Mill Playhouse), A Christmas Story as Miss Shields; White Christmas (St. Louis Muni Opera); Side by Side by Sondheim (Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida); Gypsy (Sundance Theatre in California); Company (Huntington Theatre in Boston). Off-Broadway, she won the Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance in And the World Goes ‘Round.

She is a 14-time MAC Award winner, and was the recipient of the 2019 MAC Lifetime Achievement Award. She also won 3 Bistro Awards. Her eight recordings include the single “It’s About Time,” written by Paul Rolnick and Shelly Markham; her 2009 MAC Award-winning Right Here/ Right NowThe Sweetest of NightsWhen the Sun Comes OutChristmas! Christmas! Christmas!Better Days (featuring the 1998 Emmy Award-winning song “Hold Me”); and Not So Simply Broadway. Also, Wonderland (original cast); the film Jeffrey (Varese Sarabande); Wonderful Town (JAY Records); the cast album of And the World Goes ‘Round (RCA Victor).

54 Below, Broadway’s Supper Club, present The Wicked Stage: Songs About Show Business on Monday, March 25th at 7pm, in-person and streaming live.Everything about it is appealing!” Hear musical tales from Broadway, Tinseltown, TV & popular song about the colorful characters  who create the crazy business called SHOW.”
Musical theatre comedienne & Sirius XMs On Broadway DJ Christine Pedi  will host  & perform  along with John Bolton (Anastasia, A Christmas Story, Dames at Sea), Cabaret & Jazz legend Marilyn Maye,  Tony Award® nominee Lee Roy Reams (42nd  St, Applause, Hello, Dolly!), and Zal Owen (Harmony, The Band’s Visit). Music direction by Michael Lavine.
Christine Pedi (Chicago, Forbidden Broadway, Newsical) and Michael Lavine  (renowned vocal coach and musical archivist) have created and performed in many memorable evenings at 54 Below. The Wicked Stage features Broadways most vivacious performers from many of your favorite shows past and present singing songs (and telling tales)  from the stage, screen and beyond that tell the  stories  of show people”  who are like NO people YOU know!  From Norma Desmond to Harold Hill, from Show Boat to A Chorus Line, the evening features songs about the ups, down, ins, outs, highs and lows, passions and pitfalls of performing.

New York’s newest hotspot for intimate dining and extraordinary music – will celebrate one of Motown’s most successful hitmakers in “For Once in My Life: The Songs of Ron Miller” on Monday, March 25 at 7:00 PM. Produced by his daughter Lisa Dawn Miller, the show salutes the legendary songwriter and producer, who penned some of the label’s biggest hits including multiple-Grammy Award winner “For Once in My Life,” recorded by over 700 major label artists and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Some of his other standards include “Touch Me in the Morning,” “Heaven Help Us All,” “A Place in the Sun,” “Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday,” “Someday at Christmas,” “I’ve Never Been to Me,” and “If I Could.” Ron’s songs have been featured in numerous blockbuster and Academy Award-winning films, and on countless television shows throughout the decades. This evening, which will feature special guests, features music director Ryan Rose. Tickets are $25-$45 in addition to a service charge and a two-item food and beverage minimum. A livestream option is available for $20. Chelsea Table + Stage is located at 152 West 26th Street.

Lisa Dawn Miller is a singer, songwriter and producer as well as the daughter of legendary songwriter, Ron Miller. She produces and stars as “Frank’s One Love” in the critically acclaimed hit musical “Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack,” which tours throughout the U.S. and is currently in its 14th season. She also produces and directs the musical comedy “My Buddy,” and has produced multiple recordings and directed numerous music videos. Lisa is set to release three new singles this summer under a new distribution deal with The Orchard, a subsidiary of Sony Music: “I Need Your Love,” “Rhythm of Me,” and “There You Are,” as well as a new EDM dance record, “I’ve Been to Paradise,” an interpolation of her father’s classic, “I’ve Never Been to Me.” In 2022, she signed a new publishing deal with Sony Music Publishing to administer her father’s songs. The new deal expands upon a decades-long partnership between Millers’ songs and the publishing giant. Lisa runs her own music publishing company, LDM Worldwide and record label, J-Wall Records. She manages her father’s vast legacy song catalogue.

Ron Miller (1932-2007), the legendary Motown songwriter, wrote numerous hit songs which have sold in the hundreds of millions, with recordings by some of the biggest recording artists of all time, including Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Michael Bublé, and Celine Dion. His songs have been reimagined for every generation with several recordings by even the artists of today, including Justin Bieber, LeAnn Rimes, Jackie Evancho, Noah Cyrus, and Oliver Richman. Ron’s songs have been featured in numerous top-grossing films and on countless television shows throughout the decades as well as in major ad campaigns by the largest global companies and brands. Ron has numerous RIAA gold and multi-platinum records and multiple BMI awards. His songs have won several Grammy Awards including in 2005 for “Heaven Help Us All,” the last song recorded by the legendary Ray Charles.

The Green Room 42 – the intimate concert venue dubbed Broadway’s “off-night hotspot” by The New York Times – will present the special concert “Late Night Vibing: Asian R&B” on Monday, March 18 at 9:30 PM. From artists of 88rising (Joji, NIKI, keshi) and Kpop (Jungkook, Jay Park) to soulful American songwriters (H.E.R., Jhené Aiko) and more, Asian R&B has had an undeniable impact on both the global music scene and broader Asian community. Experience iconic songs from all of your favorite singers performed by an all-AAPI/BIPOC ensemble of star-studded vocalists.

The creative team for “Late Night Vibing: Asian R&B” includes co-producer, director and vocalist Yu Hin Bryan Chan (“54 Sings Allegiance,” Cinderella), music director Rose Van Dyne (Broadway’s 1776, Spring Awakening), co-producer Cindy Tsai (Producer Hub, New York Civil Liberties Union), and arranger Max Addae (Upper Structure LAAF ‘22). The concert will star Roger Rees Award finalist Cassidy Baltazar (The Vendetta), Cindy Tsai (The Chinese Lady, Jeanette: The Musical), Sushma Saha (Broadway’s 1776, Interstate), George Davidson-Dennis (Carousel, A Chorus Line), and Yu Hin Bryan Chan.

 “Late Night Vibing: Asian R&B” will be performed on Monday, March 18 at 9:30 PM at The Green Room 42 (570 Tenth Avenue at 42nd Street, on the 4th Floor of Yotel). The cover charge ranges from $20-$50. A livestream option is available for $20. For tickets, please visit www.TheGreenRoom42.com.

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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

YOUNG’S 12 — (via Ultimate Classic Rock) Since he began making records in the 60’s, Neil Young has seldom let a year or two pass between albums. Even as the last LP by Buffalo Springfield was being prepped for release, the Canadian singer-songwriter was making his self-titled solo debut, which came out just a few months later.

Young has never been reluctant to follow his creative muse, even if he’s in the middle of another project. More than one time during his career he’s shelved a project just to move on to something else. Sometimes – as in the case of Homegrown and Chrome Dreams – those records would be released at a later (sometimes much later) date; in other instances, we’re still waiting.

All this productivity and activity can lead to periods of inconsistency, as you’ll see in the below list of the 12 Worst Neil Young Albums. One era in particular stands out: the ’80s (spoiler: Six successive albums during the decade make the list). But LPs from the ’60s, ’70s, ’90s and the ’00s are here, too.When you’re as prolific as Young, they can’t all be After the Gold Rush and Harvest. Even when the records didn’t reach his usual standards, most of them still found new ways to continue on the restless path he started in the mid-’60s. From synth-pop and traditional country to ’50 rock ‘n’ roll and horn-spotted soul, Young’s instincts rarely took him to expected destinations.

Are You Passionate?’ (2002)

Young’s 24th album was supposed to be another Crazy Horse collaboration, Toast, which didn’t get released until 2022. Instead, he pivoted to a record with Booker T. & the MG’s that was billed as a soul album and included Young’s response to 9/11, “Let’s Roll.” One of the shelved Crazy Horse tracks is included, and it concludes with a nine-minute jam. Scant direction and thin songs sink Are You Passionate?

‘Peace Trail’ (2016)

Young’s 36th studio LP was sandwiched between a live album with Promise of the Real and a solo archival release recorded in 1976. Both are preferable to this quickly assembled record made with drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Paul Bushnell. Its political points are similar to the ones he’d been supporting since the ’60s, but now with a technological lean (there’s even some Auto-Tune on a track). Instantly disposable.

‘Storytone’ (2014)

The second of two albums released by Young in 2014 (the first was the solo acoustic A Letter Home), Storytone featured big band and orchestral backings to songs inspired by a new romance with actress Daryl Hannah. Forgettable and uncertain – swing and classical don’t mix all that well – the album arrived during a period of prolific activity. An equally unmemorable stripped-down version of the album was released at the same time.

‘Old Ways’ (1985)

Young’s country album Old Ways was first proposed after 1983’s Trans, the synth-based LP he delivered to Geffen. The label balked and insisted on a rock album instead; they got the 1950s throwback Everybody’s Rockin’. Young returned to his country album in 1985, enlisting Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and fiddle and pedal steel musicians. Another unremarkable genre detour during Young’s most dour decade.

‘Everybody’s Rockin” (1983)

Young’s second Geffen LP was as baffling as the first. But where Trans moved forward, Everybody’s Rockin’ was a throwback to 1950s rockabilly, complete with a retro look (pompadour, face-dominating sideburns) and name (Neil and the Shocking Pinks). Four songs were covers; an original (“Wonderin'”) dated to 1970. It runs less than 25 minutes. Geffen soon sued Young for making deliberately uncommercial records.

‘Landing on Water’ (1986)

Three genre-specific albums left Young at odds with Geffen Records in the mid-’80s to the point where the label sued him for making records that didn’t sound like Neil Young records. Landing on Water was his return (albeit once again stitched together from years-old sessions) to fuss-free rock music. Good luck finding a memorable song, though. Even Young has referred to Landing on Water as a “piece of crap.”

‘Broken Arrow’ (1996)

After 1989’s career-reviving Freedom, Neil Young had an admirable run in the first half of the ’90s. Then Broken Arrow arrived. Shaken by the death of longtime producer David Briggs, Young and Crazy Horse falteringly recorded the LP over a month, often with no guidance or direction (the first three songs each run more than seven minutes and are little more than aimless jams). An unsteady new era was around the corner.

‘This Note’s for You’ (1988)

After a contentious five-album run with Geffen, Young returned to Reprise for his 16th LP. But he still wasn’t ready to discard the ’80s explorations that marked the decade. The flimsy This Note’s for You, co-credited to the Bluenotes (a horn-based group with other ties to Young’s past), dipped into jump blues music while adhering to a slim conceptual thread about commercialism. At least it contained a minor hit in the title track.

‘Life’ (1987)

Neil Young made five albums with Geffen in the ’80s, none of them particularly good. But at least most of them have some sort of identifiable tag: synth-pop, rockabilly, country. Life has nothing to single it out. Mostly recorded live with overdubs added later, the Crazy Horse collaboration ended Young’s controversial relationship with Geffen on a sour, but expected, note. Maybe the most easily dismissed LP in his entire catalog.

‘Trans’ (1982)

After more than two dozen years with Reprise Records, Neil Young jumped to the flourishing Geffen label for his 12th album. Nobody expected his first record under the new contract to be a futuristic new-wave LP made with synths and a vocoder altering Young’s voice – especially the label. Young has said he made Trans to communicate with his son, who had cerebral palsy. A year later Geffen filed a lawsuit.

‘American Stars ‘n Bars’ (1977)

Neil Young’s catalog is scattered with albums stitched together from various session sources. For his eighth LP, he collected nine songs recorded over a two-and-a-half-year period, starting in 1974. The results were mixed. The stripped-back country rock made with Crazy Horse on Side One has little connection to the plugged-in fury of “Like a Hurricane,” a mid-decade highlight, and the solo acoustic “Will to Love.” Aimless.

‘Neil Young’ (1968)

Young’s solo debut isn’t terrible, it’s just a letdown after the buzz he generated with Buffalo Springfield. Only a handful of songs (including “The Loner,” fleshed out onstage over the years) make an impression; the rest finds the still-growing singer-songwriter tentatively stepping away from his former band while occasionally tethered to their era-identified folk rock. Better things were to come.

SHORT TAKES — On Wednesday’s Today Show, Carson Daly revealed his first concert ever was Ziggy Marley. And as he and a friend took their seats, it seemed to Daly as if smoke rose from the stage. Daly’s friend said it was happy smoke

Leah McSweeney

I never heard of Leah McSweeney (another Bravo Housewife), but Tuesday she filed a lawsuit against Andy Cohen. More lurid details for sure. Is Andy this year’s Harvey? I’ll tell you, between Cohen, Puffy and the gals … it’s a huge, huge mess and heads will definitely roll at NBC/Comcast. Stay tuned … Yankee-Bernie Williams is at the Carlyle?

I haven’t heard his music, but this reminds me of Knick-Earl Monroe years back introducing his Pretty Pearl Records. I honestly don’t even remember the artists, but the project came and went pretty quick … Debbie Gibson on the 80’s Cruise with Wang Chung; Escape Club; English Beat; Soft Cell; Air Supply; Ray Parker; Animotion; and Tommy Tutone. Check it out here: https://the80scruise.com/lineup/

Richard Lewis photo by Stephen Sorokoff

So sad about Richard Lewis. He used to be a very, very frequent companion to me back in the day at Lorelei on West 58th street. He was always so funny and sweet. A true companion for the naughty 90’s. He’ll be much missed …

Kjersti Long

Zach Martin interviews 17-old wunderkind Kjersti Long on his NEW HD radio today …  Felix Cavaliere and The Rascals at the Patchogue Theater on April 26 and SONY Hall on May 17th … Happy BDay Zach Lloyd; Mitch Ryder; Roy Trakin; and Judy Libow!

Debbie Gibson

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Jacqueline Boyd; Nancy Harrison; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Jim Kerr; Debbie Gibson; Heather Moore; Roger Friedman; Mark Bego; Melinda Newman; Joe Lynch; Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Amanda Naylor; Tolouse Bean; Howard Jones; Mark Alpert; Donald Johnson Kyla Nicole; Angela Tarantino;n Barry Fisch; and SADIE!

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Cabaret

Like a Goddess Dressed by Erté  

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That was how Lorna Dallas took over the stage Sunday night at one of the newest cabaret rooms, Chelsea Table + Stage. So regal was she that one wished she had entered via the dramatic curved staircase behind the stage, perhaps with some subtle tinkling on the piano of “Beautiful Girls” from Follies. Well, maybe next time. All that mattered was that she finally arrived, and this long-awaited return was greeted with warm enthusiasm by her fans who filled the room. 

Lorna’s quasi-operatic voice served well the composers she honored with loving and intelligent renditions of their music. Sometimes a soul needs just a bit of Ivor Novello to brighten the moment, and Lorna delivered just enough to make us yearn for more. She sang of her delight in dressing up, which led into “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”, a combination no one saw coming. When she mentioned Very Warm for May, the prospect of hearing one of Kern and Hammerstein’s most popular songs from that show, “All the Things You Are”, stirred the heart. But again, Lorna surprised us with a haunting rendition of the other song from that show that seemed destined for greatness “In the Heart of the Dark”.   

A visit by the Gershwins in the form of “By Strauss” suited Lorna’s talents well, and she speeded ahead a half-century to Sondheim with his song from the film Dick Tracy “Back in Business” followed by his somber and wistful “In Buddy’s Eyes” and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “I Have Dreamed”. A fascinating history of the song “Here’s That Rainy Day” from Carnival in Flanders followed, and then, reluctantly, the evening had to end. Lorna delivered so much in such a short time, and yet we all wanted more.     

Cabaret enthusiasts know that the names Barry Kleinbort and Christopher Denny are like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on any show with which they are affiliated. Denny supplied is customary skillful piano virtuosity and gentle support, while Kleinbort, in addition to masterful direction, also contributed extra material. Those who recall a time when the word diva had a very positive connotation will agree that Lorna Dallas is one of the few left standing who merit that sobriquet.  

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