Madonna: “Medellín”

Madonna has just dropped the leadoff single from her forthcoming album, Madame X, her first since 2015’s Rebel Heart. Unfortunately, “Medellín” is not the Queen of Pop’s return to form her diehard fan base has been awaiting. Instead, our first taste of Madonna’s fourteenth studio is a laidback English-Spanish collaboration featuring Colombian singer Maluma.

The Latin pop of “Medellín” is slyly seductive, but sadly comes off sounding like a reductive attempt at trying to recapture Madonna’s previous Spanish-tinged pop hits “La Isla Bonita” and “Who’s That Girl.” Once again, the former leader of musical trends sounds like she’s unsuccessfully chasing relevancy instead of doing what she does best, which is exciting us with her legendary brand of dance-pop classics.

Judging from the Latin-tinged reggaeton of “Medellín,” along with Madge’s solid, but lackluster previous two efforts MDNA and Rebel Heart, I’m left wondering if Madonna is simply unwilling or incapable of producing material as strong as the output of her glory days.

Madame X seems to be an enticing concept for a new Madonna album, but the first offering leaves much to be desired. Ultimately, the excessively auto-tuned “Medellín” isn’t bad, just very disappointing. “Sipping my pain just like champagne…” Could this be “the day the music died” Madonna herself warned us about in her 2000 remake of Don McLean’s “American Pie”?

Go-Go’s ‘Talk Show’: Something to Talk About

Exactly 35 years ago this week, my entire world revolved around awaiting the release of the Go-Go’s third album, Talk Show. Therefore, in celebration of this milestone, I’ve decided to pluck it from obscurity and revisit its virtues for posterity.

Talk Show hails from the heydays of when new wave and MTV ruled, all the way back to the early spring of 1984, but I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I achingly recall how the previous year had been sheer agony for myself and fellow Go-Go’s fanatics, as Belinda, Jane, Charlotte, Kathy and Gina seemed to all but disappear from the 80’s music scene, despite making a big splash with their two important and impactful releases; Vacation and Beauty and the Beat, both of which I have discussed previously (those can be found by clicking on the abovementioned album titles).

Producer Martin Rushent amped up the guitar crunch and added subtle sprinkles of piano and synths, consciously choosing to veer away from the girl group echoes of Richard Gottehrer’s previous album productions, which added a much-needed renewal to the Go-Go’s sound. Bassist Kathy Valentine handled the lion’s share of lead guitar licks due to Caffey’s battle with carpal tunnel, which added a noticeable frenetic ferocity throughout the album’s 10 tracks. Talk Show’s material was masterfully accentuated by Gina Schock’s unyielding and metronomic pounding of the drums, undeniably proving that Schock indeed, still had the beat. [Read full tribute here]

Donna Summer: ‘Another Place and Time (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)’

To commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of Donna Summer’s 1989 studio album, Another Place and Time, a special ultimate deluxe version will be released on March 29, 2019 by Driven By The Music. This release celebrates Donna Summer’s collaborative studio effort with Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman, aka SAW, known for their world renowned “hit factory” sound. The thirtieth anniversary edition will be available in a 3 CD, DVD-sized 24-page media book, as well as a 2 LP silver and red collector’s vinyl edition.

Summer’s landmark SAW album was a successful comeback for the “Queen of Disco” and contains the Top 10 hit “This Time I Know It’s for Real” plus the singles “I Don’t Wanna Get Hurt,” “Breakaway,” “Love’s About to Change My Heart” and “When Love Takes Over You.” A follow-up album to Another Place and Time was planned as another Summer and SAW collaboration, but sadly never came to fruition.

The deluxe anniversary edition will contain the original album, numerous extended and single versions, 6 previously unreleased mixes, and two brand new exclusive tracks; “The 30th Anniversary Minimix” and “The 30th Anniversary Megamix. The 24-page book will feature excerpts from newly conducted interviews with Matt Aitken, Pete Waterman, Phil Harding, Summer’s former husband and co-writing partner Bruce Sudano, plus new liner notes by NYC-based music journalist Christian John Wikane.

Daryl Dragon 1942 – 2019

( : A&M Records)

Daryl Dragon, the man behind the keyboard stacks and producer of hit-making duo Captain & Tennille passed away on Wednesday, January 2, 2019. Dragon, along with his former wife and partner Toni Tennille created a musical pop culture legacy that includes well-known hits “Love Will Keep Us Together,” “Muskrat Love” and “Do That to Me One More Time.”

Captain & Tennille made an unforgettable impact on me during my formative years, which has lasted well into my adulthood. I previously paid tribute to the Grammy Award-winning pop duo last summer in my piece titled The Pop Perfection of Captain & Tennille, which details my admiration for Daryl Dragon’s talented contributions as half of Captain & Tennille. You can read more by clicking on the above link or by clicking here.

R.I.P. Daryl Dragon and remember, we never really say goodbye.

The Mavericks: ‘Hey! Merry Christmas!’

Does the holiday season make you feel as if you’ve morphed into a Grinch-like Scrooge? If so, then take a deep breath and rejoice with the new holiday record, Hey! Merry Christmas! by The Mavericks. Raul Malo and the boys have delivered 10 tracks of seasonal country-rockabilly goodness with a pinch of zydeco that is guaranteed to instantly put you into the Christmas spirit.

Hey! Merry Christmas! features eight original tunes, plus two holiday faves (“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and “Happy Holiday”) that are guaranteed to take away your Bah humbug attitude and have you smiling in no time. The one-two-three punch of the irresistible and energetic “Christmas Time is (Coming ‘Round Again),” “Santa Does” and “I Have Wanted You (for Christmas)” are guaranteed to get you rockin’ around the Christmas tree and turn any occasion into an instant Christmas party. Things calm for a beat on “Christmas for Me (Is You)” and the aforementioned “Happy Holiday,” which allow you to catch your breath and/or have a slow dance with your holiday honey.

The Mavericks’ Hey! Merry Christmas! is the perfect cure for fighting off any symptoms of a pesky blue Christmas, plus it’s available on extra groove-a-licious vinyl too! So, cheer yourself up by taking The Mavericks’ new Yuletide album for a spin or two. I’m willing to bet Santa’s naughty list Yule love it!

Click below to hear the album’s title track:

The Beatles: ‘The White Album’ 50th Anniversary Edition

First off, let me preface my forthcoming comments by admitting The Beatles (“The White Album”) is not my all-time favorite album by the Fab Four. In fact, I’ve always had a strange aversion to it thanks to its unfortunate association to the Manson Family murders. But with that said, I’m constantly surprised by how much I actually enjoy it whenever I take the time to dust it off and listen.

Just such an occasion has recently presented itself for a well-deserved revisit of the legendary double album with the 50th anniversary edition. The Beatles has been newly remixed by Giles Martin and given a superb new stereo remix, much like he did with 2017’s extraordinary deluxe treatment of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The Beatles is available as a super deluxe edition, which consists of 6 CDs plus a Blu-ray audio 5.1 mix of the proper album, and also includes the long-awaited Esher Demos and numerous alternate versions and outtakes. Additionally, a condensed 3-disc version is offered as an alternative to the super deluxe box set, which features the newly remixed version of the double album, plus the Esher Demos.

However, putting the bonus material aside, the new 2018 remixed and remastered version is a vast and noticeable improvement over the previously released versions and remasters of The Beatles.  Giles Martin and engineer Sam Okell have once again outdone themselves with this marvelous new stereo remix. Never before have favorites “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Helter Skelter” sounded so good. For skeptics wondering if you need to buy yet another copy of the “The White Album,” the answer is astoundingly yes!

Personally, I chose to skip the super deluxe box set and opted for the 3-CD version, as I don’t need to own every alternate take or demo version of “The White Album” tracks. While the outtakes are certainly interesting and enjoyable, after streaming the super deluxe version, I’m satisfied I made the correct choice in purchasing the 3-disc edition. Now, bring on the super deluxe box set of Abbey Road.

David Bowie’s ‘Alien’ Has Landed!

“Waiting so long, I’ve been waiting so, waiting so…”

After months of waiting, David Bowie’s latest box set, Loving the Alien has finally arrived. This expansive look at Bowie’s most commercially successful period of output not only boasts remastered versions of his 1980s albums, but also includes the never-before-released audio recording of the iconic Serious Moonlight Tour. This 2-disc offering features some of Bowie’s best live recordings from “Look Back in Anger” and “Heroes” to “Modern Love” and “Let’s Dance.”

Continuing where the three previous box sets left off, David Bowie’s Loving the Alien box set encapsulates Bowie’s ‘80s commercial era. The 11 CD and 15 LP sets will be released October 12, 2018 and includes the newly remastered studio albums Let’s Dance, Tonight and Never Let Down, plus the previously unreleased Serious Moonlight double live album (recorded in Montreal in 1983), as well as a remastered two-disc version of Glass Spider 1987 (Live in Montreal).

Among the box set’s exclusive materials is a new production of the 1987 album Never Let Me Down by Mario McNulty. This is not merely a new remaster or remix, but NLMD 2018 features newly recorded instrumentation by Reeves Gabrels, David Torn, Sterling Campbell and Tim Lefebvre. Other exclusives include RE: CALL 4, featuring remastered single versions, non-album singles, album edits and B-sides, as well as soundtrack songs from Labyrinth, Absolute Beginners and When the Wind Blows. DANCE features 12 remixes, some of which are appearing on CD and vinyl for the very first time.

The remastering is not only superb, but also adds new luster to each of the studio and live recordings. Let’s Dance and Tonight have never sounded better. The newly produced 2018 version of Never Let Me Down also sheds new upon this overlooked and underrated classic album. The only oversight here (albeit intentional) is the unfortunate omission of “Too Dizzy” which was originally included on the initial pressings of the Never Let Me Down album and compact disc. Although the track was reportedly despised by Bowie, its inclusion would have allowed diehards the opportunity to revisit this often-maligned album in its entirety. With that said, at least the B-sides “Girls” and “Julie” have been included which help to make up for the aforementioned track’s absence.

The 128-page book is packed with photographs and contains interesting insight into Bowie’s most loved and loathed era, which is heightened by historic photos shot by fashion photographer and music video director Herb Ritts, as well as a treasure of technical notes about the albums from Nile Rodgers and Hugh Padgham.

While Loving the Alien may not capture Bowie’s most creative decade, it is another outstanding presentation of one of music’s most imaginative artists, which contains more than enough rewarding moments to satisfy any true Bowie fan’s expectations.