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April 29, 2012

Song of the Day #1045

Song of the Day: Keep On features the words and music of Hubert Eves III and James Williams of D-Train. The group scored a huge R&B and Hot Dance Club hit with this track. I highlight it today because it was the kind of groove in heavy rotation on one of my favorite urban contemporary FM stations of all-time: WRKS-FM (98.7 FM). Today is the last day that this FM station will broadcast; it merges with that other great urban contemporary FM outlet, WBLS-FM (107.5), making way for an ESPN sports station that has been broadcasting on 1050 AM (it will, for now. simulcast). KISS-FM was well known for its unforgettable Mastermixes (one of which I've already featured: "Must Be the Music"). So today, in tribute to KISS-FM, check out the classic Shep Pettibone Mastermix [YouTube link] heard on a station that I will truly miss. Keep keepin' on.

April 24, 2012

Song of the Day #1044

Song of the Day: Free Again (Non C'est Rien), music by Armand Canfora and Joss Baselli, French lyrics by Michel Jourdan, English lyrics by Robert Colby, is featured on "Je m'appelle Barbra" (1966), the eighth studio album of Barbra Streisand, who, today, turns 70. The album was arranged and conducted by the great Michel Legrand, who, on February 24th, turned 80 (a belated Happy Birthday to Le Grand Michel!). Listen to the English-language version of the song from the album, and the French-language version of the song [YouTube links], which was introduced on Streisand's third TV special, "Color Me Barbra" (which first aired on CBS on 30 March 1966). This is vintage Barbra; she remains one of my all-time favorite artists and one of the most accomplished artists of her generation. Happy Birthday, Funny Girl! Forgive me, I'm getting a little Verklempt!

April 18, 2012

Song of the Day #1043

Song of the Day: Forget Me Nots, words and music by Terri McFaddin, bassist Freddy Washington, and singer and pianist Patrice Rushen, received a Grammy nomination for "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance." This pop, R&B and dance hit from Rushen's album, "Straight from the Heart," includes a nice sax solo by Gerald Albright. The song has been covered and sampled by several artists (most famously, Will Smith for "Men in Black" [YouTube link]), but Patrice's version is tops for pure finger-poppin' pleasure. Check out her music video, the album version, the 12" dance mix, and a really jazzy live 2009 performance with guitarist Lee Ritenour at North Sea Jazz [YouTube links]. On a day when we lost "America's oldest teenager," at 82 years of age, we pause to celebrate the life of the irreplaceable Dick Clark, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who helped us embrace the promise of every new year with his New Year's Rockin' Eve specials, and who gave us countless productions and television shows, including the trailblazing "American Bandstand," on which Patrice Rushen performed this song (Season 25, Episode 29, airdate: 29 May 1982). We forget you not ... ever!

April 17, 2012

Song of the Day #1042

Song of the Day: Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone features the music of Bernard Herrmann (whose immortal "Twilight Zone" theme is used to great effect) and the words and additional music of Jay Graydon and Alan Paul, a member of The Manhattan Transfer, which scored a disco hit for this jazz-influenced vocal group. The song appears on their album, "Extensions," which includes the jazz-vocalese gem, "Birdland." Check out the original promo 12" mix and the Disconet Mix [YouTube links].

April 16, 2012

Song of the Day #1041

Song of the Day: Birdland was composed by Joe Zawinul, the keyboardist of the jazz-fusion group Weather Report, which recorded it for their seventh studio album, "Heavy Weather" (1977). Named after one of the great 52nd Street jazz clubs in New York City, which took its name from the nickname of be bop pioneer, alto saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker, it became a landmark Grammy-nominated jazz-fusion track. But the Grammy Award went to The Manhattan Transfer a few years later, for their jazz vocalese version of the celebrated track. The lyrics for the track were written by Jon Hendricks (of the always-fascinating vocalese group, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross), though Eddie Jefferson had started writing lyrics for the piece before his untimely death. The Manhattan Transfer version appears on my favorite album of theirs: "Extensions." And the album is dedicated to Jefferson. In 1980, they received Grammy Awards for Best Jazz/Fusion Performance, Vocal or Instrumental for "Birdland" and for Janis Siegel for Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices, for the same recording. Check out the original instrumental classic by Weather Report and the equally classic vocalese version by The Manhattan Transfer [YouTube links].

April 15, 2012

Song of the Day #1040

Song of the Day: Raise the Titanic ("Suite") [YouTube clip at that link; Nic Raine, conductor], composed by the great John Barry for the 1980 film, "Raise the Titanic," gives us a kaleidoscope of the majestic, the poignant, and the reverent. On this date, at 2:20 a.m. UTC-3 ship's time, the Titanic sunk, having struck an iceberg, en route to New York harbor. Its survivors, aboard the Carpathia, would arrive at that harbor by 18 April 1912, greeted by tens of thousands of New Yorkers (check out an interesting 1929 flick: Titanic, Part 1 and Part 2 on YouTube). They may never "Raise the Titanic," but this act of "raising," of "resurrecting," is appropriately noted on a day that Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter with the phrase "Christos Anesti" ("Christ is Risen"). We raise the spirit by keeping the memory of Titanic, resurrecting its history and meaning, even in song. And so ends our 6-day tribute on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its sinking.

April 14, 2012

Song of the Day #1039

Song of the Day: Titanic: A New Musical ("In Every Age"), words and music by Maury Yeston, opened on Broadway in 1997 and went on to receive five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Check out the Broadway cast album version [YouTube link]. My favorite version of this song, however, is a jazz interpretation by guitarist Frank DiBussolo. It can be found on his really nice 1998 album, "Titanic: A New Musical" [the amazon.com link provides a small sample of the piece]. So many other Titanic music projects are available and worthy of attention: "Disasters! The Disaster Movie Music Album" and "Titanic: The Ultimate Collection," both of which offer selections from several Titanic-inspired films; the lovely Alberto Iglesias soundtrack to "La Camarera del Titanic"; and a stupendous 4-disc set, "Titanic: Collector's Anniversary Edition," featuring James Horner's magnificent Oscar-winning score to the Cameron-directed film, which includes remastered versions of the two previous "Titanic" soundtrack albums, and 2 extra discs of music from the period (not to mention great liner notes and Titanic-White Star replica luggage tickets). Tonight, ABC presents the first part of a new miniseries, "Titanic," written by Julian Fellowes, co-creator of "Downton Abbey." Another 12-part BBC miniseries is forthcoming: "Titanic: Blood and Steel." It was on this date, at 11:40 pm, UTC-3 ship's time, that Titanic struck an iceberg. In a little more than 2 hours, it would sink.

April 13, 2012

Song of the Day #1038

Song of the Day: The Unsinkable Molly Brown ("I Ain't Down Yet"), words and music by Meredith Wilson, is featured in the 1960 Broadway musical, in which the lead character was played by Tammy Grimes, who won the 1961 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress. The 1964 cinematic adaptation garnered six Oscar nominations, including a Best Actress nomination for Debbie Reynolds who became the feisty Molly Brown on screen. Born Margaret, though her friends called her Maggie, she is known to history as Molly. A traveler on the Titanic, she was the quintessential strong woman and suffragist who, in Lifeboat No. 6, exhorted the crew to return to the waters of death, in search of survivors. On screen, so many have portrayed her, including: the independent, playful, and feisty Kathy Bates in the 1997 Cameron blockbuster; the ever-effervescent Thelma Ritter, who is named "Maude Young" but is clearly Molly, in the 1953 film, "Titanic"; and Cloris Leachman played her twice: as Maggie Brown in a 1950s dramatization for "Television Time" [YouTube link to that episode], and in the television movie, "S.O.S. Titanic". Molly Brown survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic. No wonder the character sings this song as a celebration of The Unsinkable. No better day to note it than on Friday the 13th, which happens to be both Good Friday for the Eastern Orthodox and Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Check out Tammy Grimes in the Broadway cast version [amazon.com sample] and, my favorite, Debbie Reynolds from the film version and (watch her inspire Titanic lifeboat survivors) [YouTube links]. You'll be singing: "Told Ya So! Told Ya So! Told Ya, Told Ya, Told Ya So!"

April 12, 2012

Song of the Day #1087

Song of the Day: Titanic ("Main Title") [YouTube clip at that link], composed by Lennie Niehaus, opens the 1996 4-hour CBS miniseries, starring Peter Gallagher, George C. Scott, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Eva Marie Saint. The theme manages to capture the grandiosity of the ship, while allowing us to reflect upon the ominous events yet to come.

April 11, 2012

Song of the Day #1086

Song of the Day: Titanic ("Main Title") [YouTube link to the film trailer], composed by Sol Kaplan (under the musical direction of Lionel Newman), is from the 1953 American film drama starring Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck. The film won a single Oscar, for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. On April 11, 1912, one hundred years ago today, Titanic stopped in Queenstown, Ireland before embarking on its fateful voyage to America. This fine movie begins on YouTube here, and the "Main Title" is contained therein.

April 10, 2012

Song of the Day #1085

Song of the Day: A Night to Remember ("Main Title") [not that one], composed by William Alwyn, opens the very fine 1958 British film adaptation of Walter Lord's famous book of the same name (some of the film is available on YouTube). This particular cinematic take on one of the most definitive 20th century catastrophes stars Kenneth More, who, for me, is best remembered for his role as Young Jolyon in the great BBC series, "The Forsyte Saga" (1967). One hundred years ago on this date, Titanic began its journey, leaving Southampton in England and stopping in Cherbourg Harbor, France. Today begins our own six-day tribute to the fateful maiden voyage of Titanic. Among the multitude of provocative books on the subject is one written by my colleague and very dear friend, Stephen Cox, entitled The Titanic Story: Hard Choices, Dangerous Decisions (1999). So much music and so many films have also been inspired by this tragic event, starting with a 1912 newsreel [YouTube link], featuring its own poignant piano accompaniment. Cinematic presentations by filmmakers the world over have been presented throughout this past century: even the Nazis produced a movie, portraying the disaster as the inexorable result of sinister British capitalist greed (that 1943 German "Titanic" is actually pretty good as a film; some of its frames may have been used, without credit, in the 1958 British film highlighted here). As film scores go, I will never forget the great James Horner score to my favorite "Titanic" film of all time, directed by James Cameron. The 11-Oscar Award-winning "Best Picture" has now been re-released to theaters in 3D to mark the centennial occasion. Today, however, we turn to the majestic opening of "A Night to Remember" on YouTube, as we begin our own voyage into history, film, and music.

April 09, 2012

Multilingual Appeal

A brief essay I wrote back in July of 2004, "The First Landing of Ayn Rand in Japan!," which discusses the first Japanese translation of The Fountainhead, was just, itself, translated into Romanian, courtesy of Alexandra Seremina. Readers of the language will get a lot more out of the reading than I will, I suspect, but I'm very grateful to have this on the web.

Here's the Romanian translation of my essay: "Prima aterizare A AYN RAND IN JAPONIA!"

Enjoy!

Song of the Day #1084

Song of the Day: Kiss on My List, words and music by Daryl Hall and Janna Allen, was a #1 Hot 100 single for Hall & Oates in 1981 from the album "Voices." Check out the original single with its melodic hook, an extended mix, and a duet with Daryl and Rob Thomas. And so ends our mini-tribute to H&O.

April 08, 2012

Song of the Day #1083

Song of the Day: I Can't Go for That (No Can Do), words and music by Daryl Hall, John Oates, and Sara Allen, was a #1 Pop, R&B, and Hot Dance Club track recorded by Hall & Oates for their 1981 album, "Private Eyes." This smooth "blue-eyed soul" recording has had a huge impact on popular music; it has been sampled on countless dance and hip hop tracks and its influence can even be found on "Billie Jean" (check out Daryl Hall's memories of Michael Jackson). Here are YouTube links to: the original music video, the extended 12" mix, another extended mix, and Daryl with Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo.

April 07, 2012

Song of the Day #1082

Song of the Day: Maneater features the words and music of Sara Allen, Daryl Hall, and birthday boy John Oates, who came into this world on this date in 1949. This has always been among my favorite Hall and Oates tracks; so in the next couple of days, I'll do a mini-H&O tribute. Check out the original version and music video of the song on YouTube, which appears on the album "H2O".

April 06, 2012

Song of the Day #1081

Song of the Day: Glory Days, composed and performed by "The Boss," Bruce Springsteen, appears on his huge hit album, "Born in the U.S.A." It's the perfect way to kick off the New York Yankees' 2012 baseball season, which begins today in Florida against the Rays. Check out the terrific baseball-inspired video on YouTube. And Go Yanks!!!

April 05, 2012

Song of the Day #1080

Song of the Day: Meet the Mets, words and lyrics by Ruth Roberts and Bill Katz, is the fight song of the New York Mets, who open their 2012 baseball season today at Citi Field. I'm a diehard Yankees fan, but I have to admit . . . uh, I actually have always liked this theme from the cross-town rivals. Play ball! And check out the Mets song [YouTube link].

April 04, 2012

Song of the Day #1079

Song of the Day: You Stepped into My Life features the words and music of Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, otherwise known as The Bee Gees, who recorded the song in 1976 for their album, "Children of the World" (it was also included on the "Bee Gees Greatest" hits package in 1979). Check out renditions by The Bee Gees, Wayne Newton (who, in October 1979, took the song to #90 on the Billboard Hot 100!!!), and, my favorite by far: Melba Moore (who, in February 1979, took the song to #47 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the dance chart) [YouTube links].

April 03, 2012

Song of the Day #1078

Song of the Day: Days Go By, words and music by Victoria Horn and Steve Smith, is the Dirty Vegas recording that received the 2002 Grammy Award for "Best Dance Recording." The infectious track is best known for its use in a famous Mitsubishi commercial; also check out this hot mix, the Paul Oakenfold remix, the Mimosa remix, and the Jimmy Fallon MTV commercial parody [YouTube links].

April 02, 2012

Song of the Day #1077

Song of the Day: Unison, words and music by Andy Goldmark and Bruce Roberts, was first recorded in 1983 by Junior for the Tom Cruise film, "All the Right Moves." Laura Branigan and Lory Bianco also recorded versions before the song became the title track from the English-language debut album of Celine Dion. That album was released on this date in 1990. It is one of my favorite uptempo Celine Dion songs. Check out the various renditions: Junior [YouTube link], Laura Branigan [amazon.com sample], Lory Bianco, and the Celine album track, the Celine dance version (my favorite), and the Kevin Unger remix, featuring rapper Frankie Fudge [YouTube links].

April 01, 2012

Song of the Day #1076

Song of the Day: What a Fool Believes, words and music by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, won a 1979 Grammy Award for "Record of the Year" for The Doobie Brothers. The song was featured on their album "Minute By Minute" (their original drummer, Michael Hossack, passed away last month). Michael McDonald sings lead on that recording and one of the backup singers may have been Michael Jackson [YouTube link]. One of the few #1 non-disco hits of that year, it was remixed at the time by Jim Burgess for the dance floor [YouTube link] and has been remixed several times since [YouTube links]. But check out YouTube for the Grammy-winning original, a Kenny Loggins version (released on "Nightwatch," five months prior to the Doobie Brothers' rendition), a nice 1993 live duet by its songwriters featured on "Outside: From the Redwoods" and, finally, a rendition by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin [YouTube links]. Only a fool would believe that I would only post this particular song on this particular day. But it really is one of my favorites!