Archive for the ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ Category

CD Review Cyndi Lauper ‘She’s So Unusual’ 30th Anniversary: She Bops

April 1, 2014


Cyndi Lauper’s debut disc as a solo artist, 1983’s She’s So Unusual, is testament to the rigors and rewards of the music business. No overnight sensation, she’d been singing around New York for a decade when she finally broke through — at age 30 — with her solo debut, which sold five million copies, yielded several hit singles and made Lauper an early MTV fixture.

But she was slow to respond with new recordings, she made movie misfires and she stalled as an artist after that.

Does that change anything about She’s So Unusual? Not a bit. It’s still a classic ’80s pop album. And its new 30th Anniversary Celebration is a welcome treat from Sony Legacy, with the remastered album joined by new remixes of its songs and an entire nine-track second disc of demos, rehearsals, a live track and a B-side.


“Michael Bloomfield: From His Head to His Heart to His Hands” CD/DVD Review

February 2, 2014


One glorious aspect of ’60s-born music is the immense scope of its grandeur. If Jimi Hendrix had been the only incredible guitarist of the era, that would have been enough. But even beyond the many other superstar pickers from Clapton to Page were lesser known lights with their own claim to greatness, if not commercial success.

Michael Bloomfield was one such light, who shined briefly but brightly from the mid-’60s into the ’70s, before he died at 37 in 1981 from a drug overdose.  And now his legacy lives on with the lavish box set From His Head to His Heart to His Hands, new from Sony Legacy Tuesday. (more…)

CD Review ‘The Essential James Taylor’: Sweet, Baby

November 7, 2013


I’m a rocker — so why would I love James Taylor?

Ever heard of a song being “unplugged”? If it’s good enough for the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Melissa Etheridge, it’s good enough for me — and so is Taylor, who, after all, has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Without question, a voice and an acoustic guitar can get it done, as Taylor has for over 40 years as a recording artist, years from which 30 songs have been gathered for The Essential James Taylor, a new two-disc collection from Legacy/Sony.


CD Review ‘Miami Pop Festival’: Hear Jimi’s Train A Comin’

November 3, 2013


So much “new” Jimi Hendrix material has been issued and reissued since his death in 1970 that it’s unusual to find a truly new product such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Miami Pop Festival, new on CD and vinyl Tuesday, Nov. 5 from Sony, Legacy and Experience Hendrix.

Sony notes this is the first-ever release of the May 18, 1968 concert, recorded by Eddie Kramer. As such, it features the first recorded concert performances of Tax Free and Hear My Train A Comin’, along with strong songs from Hendrix’s repertoire of that time such as Purple Haze, Fire, I Don’t Live Today and Hey Joe(more…)

Blu-ray Review ‘The Idolmaker’: Fallen Idol

August 25, 2013


New on Blu-ray Tuesday from Shout! Factory, The Idolmaker is a largely forgotten film from 1980 despite the fact that it sports a superb cast, strong performances, catchy music and assured direction from the great Taylor Hackford (who provides a commentary track) in his feature debut.

It tells a fact-based tale of an early ’60s (pre-Beatles) singer-composer (Ray Sharkey, winner of a Golden Globe for the part) who realizes his road to greatness lies in grooming other, younger guys to be the next Fabian or Frankie Avalon. But despite some inevitable show-biz cliches along the way, the film emerges as a thoughtful, funny, dramatic and potent portrait of the inner workings of entertainment and the inevitable prices of fame. (Sharkey himself lost his way due to drugs after its release.) (more…)

Blu-ray Review ‘Roadie’: Cold Meat

August 18, 2013


You should know I’m a huge fan of Meat Loaf, one of the greatest rock singers ever — and that’s coming from a man who considers rock the greatest music ever.

As a reviewer for The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City (for four years there I was a transplanted Texan), I heard Meat’s debut Bat Out of Hell album before its release and championed it, big-time. I wrote a rave review. I interviewed Meat and partner Jim Steinman, the gifted songwriter, before they came to town. I hung out backstage with them at a sparsely attended show in Oklahoma City. I continued to support Meat’s music over the years — seeing my praise validated with an explosion of popularity. And, of course, I saw his movies.

Roadie was one of them.

Now Roadie makes its Blu-ray debut, on Tuesday, Aug. 20, from Shout! Factory.

Has the 1980 film worn well? Is Meat a crooner instead of a belter? (more…)

‘Loretta Young Show: Best of The Complete Series’ DVD: The Moby Grape Connection

December 12, 2012

Moby Grape-Peter LewisLoretta Young Show DVD

Baby Boomers with long memories may be stoked to learn that a 17-disc set of The Loretta Young Show: Best of The Complete Series- 100th Birthday Edition is due Feb. 12, 2013 from Timeless Media Group, a division of Shout! Factory. The price should be around $90.

As its title indicates, this isn’t a complete series collection, but a “best of the complete series” collection, which starts with the first telecast in 1953, when Young was the first female to host a network TV anthology series (hers was for NBC).  The show ran for eight seasons, until 1961.

Already an Oscar-winning actress for 1947’s The Farmer’s Daughter, Young (who died in 2000) also won three prime-time Emmys for her TV show.

Extras promised for the DVD set include: rare family home movies, a featurette of Young discussing her career and an interview with Young’s children.

The last extra intrigues me most, since one of Young’s offspring was Peter Lewis, when she was married to writer-producer Tom Lewis.

In his 20s, Hollywood brat Lewis migrated to San Francisco, where the guitarist and composer shot to fame as a founding member of Moby Grape, an incredibly potent rock band whose self-titled debut album was among the best rock records of the ’60s. That’s not just my opinion, but that of many critics.

But the band also was sidetracked by legal and management woes, group defections and the perception of being a “hyped” band by its label, Columbia, which released 10 of their debut disc’s 13 songs as singles (A and B sides) — simultaneously. Only one, Omaha, hit the charts.

Lewis (second from the right in the photo above) didn’t write that, but he did write some of Moby Grape’s best songs, including the pensive yet fervent Sitting By the Window, I Am Not Willing and the incendiary rocker Fall On You.

All this was a far cry from the wholesomeness and taste of Loretta Young. But let’s hope Peter Lewis made his mother proud.

— Bruce Westbrook

CD Review of Heart’s ‘Fanatic’: Magic, Man

October 3, 2012

As sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of  Heart hit three dozen years as recording artists, can they still rock?

Straight on, baby.  The Wilson sisters sound as good as ever in my book on Fantatic, their 14th studio album, new from Legacy Recordings.

In an age of mindlessly repetitious and vaguely melodic dance pop, having Heart still standing as rock stalwarts feels almost like the “In your face, disco!” tour by Bruce Springsteen in ’78, when the masses all felt they “should be dancing, yeah.”

I mean, somebody’s got to keep the faith and hold the torch high, and Heart does it here, with incendiary rockers like the lead-off title track, bolstered by Ann’s still-belting voice and the crunching guitar riffs of Nancy and co-writer Ben Mink. (more…)

CD Review: Meat Loaf’s ‘Hell In A Handbasket’

March 14, 2012

Legacy’s release this week of  Meat Loaf’s 11th studio album, Hell In A Handbasket, reminds me: I discovered him.

Well, not exactly. That would be some Columbia/Epic A&R guy’s honor. But when no one knew of Meat Loaf beyond grub which went with potatoes, I discovered Meat and former collaborator Jim Steinman for the state of Oklahoma.

Cut to the fall of 1977, when I worked my first full-time entertainment writing job for The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, the state’s largest newspaper. Weeks before its release, I received a vinyl copy of an album whose Rich Corben-painted cover caught my eye with its lurid grandiosity — as did the back cover shot of a big, beefy singer in an open-collar tux and a wiry little piano player and composer. (Oh yeah, and a babe.)

I had to listen. And when I did, I was blown away. (more…)

Jimi Hendrix 4th wave awash in riveting live Winterland sets — and more

September 11, 2011

Can we ever get enough of Jimi Hendrix? Fortunately, it’s a question that’s credible and not just rhetorical, given the voluminous live recordings of rock’s greatest guitarist during his brief career. They include Legacy’s new releases in its fourth wave of the Jimi Hendrix Catalog Project, due Tuesday Sept. 13.

The biggie is a four-disc box set of Jimi Hendrix Experience — Winterland (also available on vinyl as an eight-disc 12-inch set and in a single-disc CD of highlights). The handsomely packaged box set features music from six 1968 concerts performed over three dates at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. And talk about a historic venue, which went on through the Band’s “Last Waltz” concert and an eight-hour closing show headlined by the Grateful Dead on New Year’s Eve 1978. (more…)