Madonna: Rebel Heart
What is there to consider regarding a new Madonna record that hasn’t already been discussed? Why bother saying anything at all? Not because she recently scored her 44th U.S. number one on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart, or her 71st Top 40 single in the U.K. Certainly not because her Rebel Heart Tour is currently commanding top dollar ticket sales and is on track to becoming the highest grossing tour of 2015. But just maybe it’s worth stating her new music is arguably as relevant as anything currently trending.
Nearly every Madonna review states the same tired phrases: she should record songs more age appropriate, she sounds like she’s trying too hard, or she sounds like some other artist, which is funny if you stop to think about when Madonna began making records in the early 1980s, not only were her contemporaries not born yet, but the dance-pop genre was barely in its infancy and had yet to attempt to crossover into the mainstream. Yet, if you actually take a beat to set aside all the bullshit that typically accompanies the release of new Madonna material and listen to the way her voice resonates on the confessional “Joan of Arc,” or the evocative “Wash All Over Me,” you might remember why Madonna has reigned as the Queen of Pop for more than three decades. Besides, what gives anyone the right to say she should stop being the kind of artist her legacy is built upon?
Originally intended as two separate records (one half upbeat and rebellious, the other half subdued and reflective), Madonna’s thirteenth studio album, Rebel Heart, which includes heartfelt pop ballads, trap, and house, is her most contrasting work yet. Ranging from heartfelt ballads, to the gospel-tinged “Living for Love” and the reggae-soaked “Unapologetic Bitch,” to the dubstep groove of “Body Shop” and the shit-stirring, tongue-in-cheek cunnilingus ode “Holy Water,” in which Ms. Ciccone boldly quips “Bitch get off my pole/Bless yourself and genuflect/Yeezus loves my pussy best.” Also noteworthy is the international bonus track “Auto-Tune Baby” (easily her Madgesty’s most annoyingly infectious pop confection since her True Blue era), as well as the super deluxe bonus tracks “Addicted” and “Beautiful Scars.”
This time out, Madonna chose to collaborate with such contemporary cronies as Diplo, Avicii, Blood Diamonds, Toby Gad, and Yeezus himself, Kanye West to help her flesh out her latest electronic dance-pop machinations, easily resulting in what can only be described as her best and most provocative set in years, despite being discriminated against by a multitude of self-righteous music snobs and closed-minded ageists. She came, she saw, she conquered.
The Great Affairs: Dream in Stereo
After teasing us with 2013’s 7-track EP, Nashville’s The Great Affairs finally return with their latest full-length set, Dream in Stereo. Denny Smith and company deliver yet another top-shelf collection of kick-ass material which begs to be featured within any play list that includes Kings of Leon, Counting Crows, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, and their ilk. Thought provoking lyrics coupled with Smith’s raspy voice invite you inside the album as it often harkens back to the kind of grit and raw emotion of Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story.
Manning the board alongside Grammy-nominated engineer Michael Saint-Leon seems to have been the right decision as TGA sound more confident and proficient than ever on each of the record’s dazzling 13 tracks. Dream in Stereo must not be overlooked by fans of no frills, balls out rock ‘n’ roll, especially since it’s getting harder and harder to find in these seemingly endless days of over produced, soulless, drivel.
Not to be missed highlights (among many) include: “Miss America, “Eyes in Every Room,” and a first-rate cover of Dave Mason and Jim Krueger’s classic “We Just Disagree.”
Vinyl sales were up 49% in 2014 from the previous year, totaling eight million records sold, the highest tally since the early 1990s. Demand is currently more than suppliers can meet with approximately only 15 record manufacturing plants currently existing in the U.S., the busiest being United Record Pressing in Nashville.
Thus, renewed interest in the vinyl record format has made the Internet ubiquitous with numerous music blogs and websites discussing the enduring format. Among the most noteworthy and entertaining I’ve found is Vinyl Rewind, which is hosted by wax enthusiast Eric Callero, aka The Vinyl Geek. The Vinyl Geek shares his insight of his latest groove-a-licious finds in an extremely entertaining and informative style. I always learn fascinating tidbits, as well as add new items to my wish list each time he uploads a new video. So, if you treasure collecting favorite old and new albums on this long beloved format as much as I do, then I highly recommend subscribing to The Vinyl Geek’s YouTube channel and checking out his website.
Recently, The Vinyl Geek was kind enough to take time to answer a few of my questions, and I thought I’d share his responses with others who not only appreciate vinyl, but are always on the hunt to score a good haul.
Q & A with The Vinyl Geek:
PopMartZoo: When did you first start collecting vinyl and why?
Vinyl Geek: Records have always been a part of my life, even when I didn’t own any. I used to spend hours just looking at the covers in my family’s storage cabinet. I wasn’t allowed to play them, [because I was] still too young. I first started buying cassettes, Weird Al mostly. When I started getting into classic rock, probably around JR. High, I wanted some Lynyrd Skynyrd, so I went down to the local used record shop and picked up a copy of Gold & Platinum. Kind of lame, I know, but it was the cheapest option, as CDs were $20 plus back then. Around when I entered high school, I started shopping at thrift stores for wardrobe, and looking through the records became a natural extension of my shopping experience. I first bought records for funny, strange, and weird covers. I would show them off to my friends, maybe even play them. As high school progressed, I started buying more for enjoyment and for DJing. My brother was big into the electronica/rave scene and still is in some sense, so he inspired me to want to DJ. I did some parties and a wedding; mostly all on vinyl. I bought a lot of 80s and disco music, anything you could dance too. By the time I was in college, I gave up on being a DJ and started collecting exotica, cocktail, mood music, and 50s/60s era oldies. Once I decided to move to L.A. around 2007, I started selling off my collection. I got rid of most of my novelty music: records that I bought for odd, strange or funny covers. I also got rid of most of my pop music. Besides the obvious fact that records are heavy to move, YouTube had finally hit it’s stride and so much of the music I was collecting for comedy’s sake was on there, no need to own it, just show someone the video. I didn’t see the point in having half of the records I had. What’s funny is that now I’ve started to buy back a lot of what I sold. I’ve even started to think about DJing again. Ha-ha, funny how life will do that to you. I will say that through it all, there was always a sense of a collector’s value in what I purchased. I don’t like to pay a lot for my vinyl, which is why I usually shop at garage sales and thrift stores. It’s the hunt that I really enjoy and if I could get a $20 record for a buck, that’s even better. I love record shops, but I usually only go to them if I’m looking for something specific. I’m the same way with vintage clothing stores. Otherwise, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff I want.
I have a collecting personality, but I don’t like to collect things that serve no purpose other than to collect dust on the shelf. Whatever it is that I collect, it needs to have another purpose. Vinyl is great because it satisfies the collector in me as well as the music lover. I love the hunt (dig), getting a good deal and it’s fun to see what something could be worth. I don’t collect because I’ll think I’ll get rich, but it’s nice to know that I could sell my collection if I ever needed the cash.
Another reason I collect vinyl is because it’s a window to the past. Sometimes you’ll get an album with some clues to whom the previous owner was. Sometimes it’s just their name, other times you’ll find a newspaper clipping that they took the time to save. One time I found an invitation to see Josephine Baker in concert in San Francisco tucked in the album sleeve. Stuff like that makes my imagination go wild. Who was this person? Why did they buy this album? Did they cherish the music? What happened to them? Even more personal are acetates, used in the record industry as a test pressing more or less. The technology was also made into a vending machine that [gave] normal folks [the opportunity to] record a personal message to loved ones and send it to them in the mail. Those to me, are amazing time capsules of everyday people. Not movie stars or TV personalities, just regular folks having fun. Those types of records are generally one of a kind because of how the technology worked. Granted, not all of them are that cool, but you get the idea.
Lastly, there’s just some stuff only available on vinyl. With every new advancement in media presentation, a lot of stuff gets left behind. Not every album has been transferred into the digital realm, nor are there plans to do so. So finding a hidden gem of an album or record is totally plausible and that’s what makes digging so exciting.
PMZ: How many pieces do you own?
VG: I must have around 500 LPs. I have maybe 2 picture discs. I might have 200-300 45s. I have about 100-150 78s and about 75 10-inch albums, my favorite to collect.
PMZ: Why do you prefer vinyl over digital media?
VG: I actually don’t prefer one over the other. Digital is fantastic because it’s so portable and you can check out a ton of different bands in one sitting. Plus, I love to make digital mix tapes. Way easier than converting vinyl. The down side is that the music is more disposable and you may have the tendency not to care about it as much. Vinyl is awesome because the artwork is massive, the sound is great and it makes you an active participant in the listening experience. The downside is that they are heavy and not nearly as portable. I love the fact that both are coexisting right now.
PMZ: What tips do you have for someone wanting to start vinyl collecting?
VG: L.A. has a ton of great resources, but your readers may not live in as fortunate of a city, so here are some great places to visit on the web:
1) Needle Doctor for new turntables and parts.
2) Discogs: a great place to go to buy vinyl, maintain your collection, and all around resource.
3) Vinyl Engine is a fantastic resource for turntables. They have manuals, reviews, and a great forum. Their members are super knowledgeable.
Also check out the Vinyl Community on YouTube. The men and women on there are some of the coolest cats I know and they will totally make you feel like you’re part of a family.
Ultimately, start small. Don’t feel the need to spend a lot of money to enjoy your records. Start with the basics, and as your ear develops, then upgrade your system and records. Records in near mint condition command high prices, but copies in good condition can be had for very reasonable prices.
PMZ: What one LP should everyone have in their collection?
VG: Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones, because it really showcases why physical media is so cool. You can’t get that experience from a CD or a MP3. Runner up would be The Velvet Underground’s debut, plus it’s just amazing music.
PMZ: What is your guilty pleasure album?
VG: For now it’s Electric Light Orchestra’s Out of the Blue.
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B.L.A.M! Following months of finger-crossing and swirling rumors, the official lineup for Bonnaroo 2015 is here! Who is headlining this year’s festival?
The roster of performers includes:
Florence + The Machine
Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters
Mumford and Sons
Run The Jewels
Tears For Fears
Twenty One Pilots
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood
Moon Taxi, Odesza
For a complete list of artists and more information, go to Bonnaroo.com.
Donna Summer: The CD Collection
Whenever you hear the name Donna Summer, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the disco era, but Donna Summer was much more than merely the “Queen of Disco.” Summer managed to amass five Grammy awards, three consecutive number one double-albums, and sell over 130 million records during her 44-year career, making her one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. Those diligent enough to look past her classic hits such as “I Feel Love,” “Last Dance” “Love To Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls,” will quickly discover Summer’s vastly underrated versatility evidenced by her thirst to explore well beyond her dance oriented wheelhouse and successfully conquer R&B, soul, rock, pop, country, and gospel.
With the new posthumous release of Donna: The CD Collection, which focuses on her post-disco years, longtime aficionados can excitedly revel in the joyous rediscovery of Summer’s less famous, but noteworthy and highly diversified musical offerings. This limited edition 10-disc box set features Summer’s Geffen and Atlantic Records output from 1980 to 1991. Donna: The CD Collection includes remastered, deluxe casebook editions of the previously out-of-print albums: The Wanderer, I’m a Rainbow, Donna Summer, Cats Without Claws, All Systems Go, Another Place and Time, and Mistaken Identity, complete with b-sides, twelve-inch remixes, single edits, instrumentals, and dub versions, plus an exclusive set of six postcards featuring photographs from Donna Summer’s personal archives, all of which are housed within a uniquely designed box.
Also included is a comprehensive booklet with in-depth album credits, song lyrics, and newly authored liner notes by noted US writers Justin Kantor and Christian John Wikane, as well as excerpts from new interviews by Bruce Sudano, Brenda Russell, Harold Faltermeyer, James Ingram, Joe “Bean” Esposito, and Kim Carnes, among others. This lavish and highly sought after collection is sure to be snatched up hurriedly and treasured by all who actively seek to keep the unforgettable and ground-breaking dance diva’s legacy alive and well for years to come.
Donna – The CD Collection includes:
The Wanderer – Donna Summer’s 1980 Geffen Records debut produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte includes the singles “Cold Love,” “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin'” and the new wave styled title track. Now includes single edits as bonus tracks.
I’m A Rainbow – Summer’s aborted double-album and last with her longtime collaborators Moroder/Bellotte (notoriously shelved by David Geffen in 1981), is presented here in its originally intended 2-disc configuration and features fan favorites “Highway Runner,” “Romeo,” “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,” “To Turn the Stone,” as well as the moving title track.
Donna Summer – The Quincy Jones produced album includes the hit singles “Love Is In Control (Finger on the Trigger),” Summer’s cover of Vangelis’ “State of Independence,” and “The Woman in Me.” Also features a rocking’ version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Protection,” written specifically for Summer by “The Boss” himself and the rare b-side “Sometimes Like Butterflies.” Now includes dance versions and single edits.
Cats Without Claws – Summer’s second effort to be produced by Michael Omartian features the singles “There Goes My Baby,” “Supernatural Love,” “Eyes,” and the feral title track. Also includes extended remixes and single edits.
All Systems Go – Summer’s thirteenth studio album features the Top Ten R&B hit “Dinner with Gershwin,” her duet with Starship’s Mickey Thomas “Only the Fool Survives,” and the long lost b-side ” Tearin’ Down the Walls.” Also includes extended versions and single edits as bonus tracks.
Another Place and Time – This Stock/Aitken/Waterman produced set from 1989 was Summer’s Atlantic Records debut (newly expanded to three discs with numerous remixes and single versions), and contains the Top Ten hit ” This Time I Know It’s for Real,” plus the singles “I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt,” “Love’s About to Change My Heart,” ” When Love Takes Over You,” and ” Breakaway.”
Mistaken Identity – Summer’s second set for Atlantic Records was the R&B infused album produced by Keith Diamond, and features the singles “Work That Magic,” and “When Love Cries.” Also includes remixed versions and single edits as bonus tracks.
Six-time Grammy Award winner Ronnie Milsap is one of country music’s most revered and illustrious recording artists. Selling over 35 million records with a hit-packed discography that includes 40 number one singles, and an ongoing legacy that dates as far back as 1971, Milsap has irrefutably left a perpetual mark that will unlikely be erased anytime soon. Alongside his recent induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Milsap and his long-spanning career is finally procuring the recognition he deserves with the release of the 21-disc box set, The RCA Albums Collection.
This comprehensive box set includes all 21 of Milsap’s RCA studio albums, many of which have been long out of print and are making their debut on disc for the very first time. Each disc is housed within its own sleeve, which faithfully replicates the artwork of the original vinyl LPs. The set also includes a 51-page booklet featuring individual album notes by Milsap himself. The RCA Albums Collection perfectly encapsulates Milsap’s unique ability to seamlessly combine country, R&B, rock, and pop. Every album in this essential collection has been newly remastered, resulting in the ultimate and long overdue listening experience for Milsap aficionados.
The box set includes:
Where My Heart Is – Making its first appearance on CD, Milsap’s top-five 1973 RCA debut album features the hit singles “(All Together Now) Let’s Fall Apart,” “I Hate You” and “That Girl Who Waits on Tables.”
Pure Love – Includes the classic title track (written by the late Eddie Rabbitt) and Milsap’s incomparable version of Kris Kristofferson’s “Please don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends.”
A Legend In My Time – Features “Too Late to Worry, Too Blue to Cry” and the Don Gibson penned “(I’d Be) a Legend in My Time.”
Night Things – Includes the number one hit “Daydreams About Night Things,” live fan favorite “(After Sweet Memories) Play Born to Lose Again,” and a cover of Conway Twitty’s “Linda On My Mind.”
20/20 Vision – Contains number one singles “What Goes On When the Sun Goes Down” and “(I’m A) Stand by My Woman Man.”
Ronnie Milsap Live - Milsap’s first live album from 1976 includes the number one hit single “Let My Love Be Your Pillow,” hidden gem “Busy Makin’ Plans,” an electrifying cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women,” and the shoulda-coulda-woulda been hit “I Can Almost See Houston from Here.”
It Was Almost Like A Song – Milsap’s pop breakthrough album includes the number one crossover smash title track and “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life.”
Only One Love In My Life – Features Milsap classics “Back on My Mind Again,” “Let’s Take the Long Way Around the World,” as well as the number one title track.
Images – Milsap’s genre-defying album from 1979 includes the number one single “Nobody Likes Sad Songs,” the hit “In No Time at All,” and the disco-styled “Get It Up” and “Hi-Heel Sneakers.”
Milsap Magic – Includes the hits “Why Don’t You Spend the Night,” “My Heart,” and the double-sided singles “Silent Night (After the Fight)” and “Misery Loves Company.”
Out Where the Bright Lights Are Glowing – Milsap’s evocative tribute album to Jim Reeves includes the number one hit “Am I Losing You,” alongside Milsap-styled re-workings of “I’m Beginning to Forget You,” “I’m Gettin’ Better,” and “I Guess I’m Crazy (For Loving You).”
There’s No Getting’ Over Me – This album reached number one on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart in 1981. Features the crossover mega-smash title track and the number one “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World.”
Inside – Features Milsap’s hit cover version of the Burt Bacharach penned “Any Day Now,” alongside the hit title track and “He Got You”.
Keyed Up – Milsap’s fifteenth studio album includes top 5 lead-off single “Stranger in My House”, plus his number one hits “Don’t You Know How Much I Love You” and “Show Her.”
One More Try for Love – Milsap’s pop-infused 1984 album contains the number one single “Still Losing You,” as well as the hits Prisoner of the Highway, and “She Loves My Car.”
Lost In the Fifties Tonight – This number one country album from 1986 contains four number one singles, including the smash title track, “Happy, Happy Birthday Baby,” “In Love,” and “How Do I Turn You On.”
Christmas with Ronnie Milsap – Milsap’s only holiday album features Christmas classics mixed with Milsap-style originals “Only One Night of the Year” and “It’s Just Not Christmas (If I Can’t Spend it with You).”
Heart & Soul – This hit-packed, diverse classic includes Milsap’s hit singles “Snap Your Fingers,” the Kim Carnes penned duet with Kenny Rogers “Make No Mistake, She’s Mine,” “Where Do the Nights Go,” “Old Folks” (with Mike Reid), and “Button Off My Shirt.”
Stranger Things Have Happened – Milsap’s return to traditional country roots includes the hits “Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me),” “A Woman in Love,” “Houston Solution,” as well as the hit title track.
Back to the Grindstone – Milsap’s twentieth studio album contains the hit singles “Are You Lovin’ Me Like I’m Lovin’ You,” “Turn That Radio On,” “All Is Fair in Love and War,” and his hit cover version of “Since I Don’t Have You.”
My Life – Milsap’s twenty-fourth and final RCA album from 2006 features 11 tracks, including the singles “Local Girls” and “You Don’t Know My Love.”
So this happened…U2 surprise released their long-awaited new album, Songs of Innocence to the unsuspecting masses via iTunes, but what about the music itself? First of all, Songs of Innocence sounds like a U2 album, unlike their previous effort, 2009’s quickly forgotten No Line on the Horizon.
Secondly, after hearing about the highly touted “Every Breaking Wave” during the past five years (reportedly conceived during the last album’s recording sessions), it’s nice to hear that track not only lives up to its mythic reputation, but is easily the band’s finest tune in years. It’s also good to know the band can still pack a punch, best evidenced in lead-off single “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone),” “Volcano” and “Cedarwood Road.”
While I’ll readily admit I’ve been a U2 fan for over 30 years, that doesn’t mean I’ve loved everything they’ve released. I can still be objective about my favorite artists and I’ll simply agree to disagree with David Fricke’s excessive five-star review for Rolling Stone, although he did make some excellent points concerning the album’s subject matter.
Songs of Innocence is indeed a very good U2 album, but I’d hardly call it perfect. To quote Bono: “Very good is the enemy of great,” but with that said, the band’s 13th release is a welcome return to form. Songs of Innocence successfully manages to be reflective, while concurrently demonstrating a positive step forward in the band’s canon, ultimately proving the world did indeed need another U2 record.
U2’s Songs of Innocence arrived today in its proper physical release form as a 2-LP set on 180-gram white vinyl (with an exclusive 12” mix of “The Crystal Ballroom”), and as a 2-CD deluxe version complete with bonus tracks, acoustic sessions, plus the hidden full-length version of original lead single “Invisible.” The deluxe version adds a new dimension to the overall listening experience, as it highlights the set’s strong points (most notably the stunning acoustic version of “Every Breaking Wave”), adds high caliber bonus tracks (“Lucifer’s Hands” and “The Crystal Ballroom), as well as corrects the previous omission of “Invisible” with its apt inclusion.
Also, I highly recommend the following playlist sequence in order to maximize your ultimate listening experience:
1. The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)
2. Lucifer’s Hands
3. Every Breaking Wave
4. California (There Is No End to Love)
5. Song for Someone
6. Iris (Hold Me Close)
9. Raised By Wolves
10. Cedarwood Road
11. Sleep Like A Baby Tonight
12. This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now
13. The Troubles
14. The Crystal Ballroom
15. Ordinary Love
5 Seconds of Summer
“Hey, hey simmer down/They say we’re too young to amount to anything else/But look around we work too damn hard for this just to give it up now” declare 5 Seconds of Summer, the latest power pop band to crash onto U.S. airwaves with the breakout hit “She Looks So Perfect.” It may sound a bit daring as a mantra for a new band with members ranging in age from 18-20, but seems aptly worded judging from the young band’s recent accomplishments.
Hailing all the way from Australia, the 4-piece band has been making its presence known in a big way as its self-titled full-length debuted atop the Billboard 200 album chart, after managing to sell over 259k copies upon its first week of release. While proclaiming heavy influences from Blink-182 to Nirvana, 5SOS’ debut album sounds eerily like someone emulsified albums by Green Day, Sum 41, and BBMak in a blender and poured out an irresistibly catchy alt-rock, pop-punk smoothie.
While many may be quick to cast them aside as just another boy band, 5 Seconds of Summer successfully differentiate themselves from the pack by writing their own songs, playing their own instruments, and sharing lead vocal duties. Upon first listen, there’s no denying the band members have obviously paid attention to their musical heroes and learned how to write seductive hooks syncopated with audacious power chords. The bulk of the Aussie band’s debut was produced by writer/producer Steve Robson (known for his work with everyone from Busted to James Blunt) alongside Goldfinger lead singer John Feldman. Ultimately, you won’t find anything here that hasn’t been tried before, but it’s awfully refreshing to hear guitar-driven pop/rock again amongst the heavy beats currently dominating Top 40 radio.
Armed with hit singles “Don’t Stop” and the current “Amnesia,” the boys from down under have been busy pressing the flesh since invading American shores. During their current U.S. press junket, the band mates successfully managed to juggle their duties as opening act for One Direction’s Where We Are World Tour, while simultaneously selling out Los Angeles’ famed arena, The Forum, in just 45 minutes. However, stateside 5ers will have to wait until next summer before 5SOS launches its own Rock out with Your Socks out North American headlining tour, which is set to kick off on July 17, 2015 in Las Vegas.
What can be waxed poetic about a live performance by Tori Amos that hasn’t already been covered over the last 25 years? Not much, but her stop in Music City on Monday night at the world famous Ryman Auditorium proved the 50-year-old songstress hasn’t lost any of her magic.
Amos’ latest outing in support of Unrepentant Geraldines (her first proper pop full-length release in five years), finds her touring solo with the bare essentials – her pitch-perfect voice, Bösendorfer, and inimitable charisma. Although I personally prefer when she performs with a band, as playing with others forces Amos out of her comfort zone and the results are usually unforgettably rewarding, over the years I’ve learned to appreciate the nuances of an intimate Amos solo performance. Amos heavily mined her vast canon of baroque compositions stripped to their core, and skillfully delivered each one as a revealingly honest pop song confessional.
The attendance of this particular show marked my 11th Amos concert, and I was accompanied by a friend and fellow music enthusiast, who wasn’t very familiar with her repertoire, and I was curious how he’d react to his first venture into the world of Tori Amos. I’d learned long ago not to expect to convert a novice, as Amos’ set lists have always been cherry-picked like a classic iPod had been shaken and/or shuffled. Quickly my curiosities were vanquished as I watched my crony wriggling impatiently like an unruly child trying to sit still in church and he seemed more interested in the pre-show musical selections of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits. I, on the other hand, was wanting to jump up and down ecstatically as I reveled in hearing some of my all-time favorite Amos compositions, some of which I’d been waiting to hear performed live for several years. My only consolation was sitting in the midst of two-thousand Toriphiles, among them a twenty-something female who was brimming with enthusiasm as she anticipated the heady experience of her first Amos concert. We discussed our favorite songs before the lights went down (“Blood Roses” and “Sugar”) and we both were delighted when both were unexpectedly performed back to back midway through the show.
As is always the case, Amos was highly aware of her surroundings, and this was by far her first appearance at Music City’s mother church of country music. She shared with us how honored she felt to be playing her songs at the beloved venue and confided an anecdote of how her minister father has always wanted her to write songs about carrying out God’s will, at which she replied, “But dad, I do!” The crowd erupted into thunderous applause and ear-splitting cheers as Amos segued into “Cool on Your Island” from her long out-of-print 1988 album, Y Kant Tori Read. The auditorium again became engulfed in a cloud of euphoric surprise as Amos broke into the chorus of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ classic “Islands in the Stream,” followed by a heart-wrenching cover of Parton’s “Jolene.”
The evening’s significant highlights included a technically enhanced version of “Cornflake Girl,” an endearing version of the Beatles’ “Here, There, and Everywhere,” and a thrilling 4-song encore including a haunting version of Depeche Mode’s “In Your Room.” The 2-hour set concluded with the sold-out crowd on its feet and applauding ferociously as the red-haired siren disappeared into the legendary stage’s wings.
Although I’d hardly converted my buddy into an Amos fan, the audience made up of Ears with Feet members of various ages appeared gratified. As for myself, I couldn’t have asked for a more satiating set list.
With U2’s eighth studio album celebrating its 21st anniversary, I still recall getting caught up in the premature foofaraw surrounding Zooropa upon its initial release in 1993. The throngs hungrily tried to over analyze and dissect the latest release from Ireland’s renowned rock band.
Although Zooropa was originally intended to be an EP recorded during a six-month break during the third and fourth legs of the band’s monumental Zoo TV Tour, it eventually morphed into a full-length album. The band immediately hit the recording studio to try and capture the moment fresh from playing sold-out arenas in North America.
Delving even deeper into the alternative rock and electronic sounds hinted at on Achtung Baby, Zooropa may have failed to produce massive radio hits (although I remember the “Lemon” and “Numb” videos being in heavy rotation on MTV), but the Grammy-winning effort is still regarded as a highly creative and experimental entry into U2’s varied discography.
Bono and company, along with the help of Flood and Brian Eno, managed to explore new musical territory with the six-and-a-half-minute opening title track, the robotic rapping of “Numb,” the falsetto soaked “Lemon,” and the compellingly offbeat “The Wanderer,” with guest vocals by Johnny Cash. Add the more signature stylings of “The First Time” and “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)” to the set’s unusually diverse track list, and the result is an oddly satisfying listening experience that still captivates with its infectious grooves.
Although Zooropa received mixed reviews upon its release, there’s no denying it has made a lasting impact among U2 devotees. I remember my first reaction was a combination of excitement and surprise upon its arrival, but over the years I’ve found myself reveling in its inventiveness with incessant appreciation. As far as its legacy, Zooropa managed to sit atop the charts in 10 countries, sell over seven million copies, and has been touted as one of the all-time best albums of the nineties. Not bad for what started out as just an experimental EP.