Music people unite! Nashville’s indie rock band may currently be Music City’s best kept secret, but that could be changing soon. The band’s dynamic debut album is getting its first physical release (finally!) on limited edition white vinyl and you can preorder your copy here at this link now!
In case you missed the digital release of Smart Objects’ mindboggling debut during last year’s pandemic, you can rectify that now by reading my Q&A with the band’s mastermind, Benjamin Harper here, as well as downloading a copy now at Bandcamp or check it out on various streaming platforms everywhere: Apple Music, Amazon Music or Spotify.
Also, Smart Objects will be livestreaming a 30-minute show on May 1st at 8:00 PM CST over at StageIt’s 5 Spot. You can find ticket info and purchase tix here. Personally, I can’t wait to see they’ve cooked up for everyone.
Don’t miss out on your chance to own this intelligent and vital album on vinyl LP. Believe me, you will want this in your collection.
Prolific superstar and artist extraordinaire Prince was found unconscious in his home on Thursday, April 21, 2016. I’ve now unwillingly committed those words to print, but although it’s been days since I first heard the news, I’m still not wanting to believe it’s true. I keep thinking it can’t be real. How can a seemingly indestructible tour de force leave this mortal world in such a shocking and untimely manner?
It’s now been five years since Prince Rogers Nelson left us to become part of the eternal ether. In the time that’s passed, mourning has turned into a celebration of his remarkable talent that still continues to gift us with treasures hidden away within Prince’s legendary vault of music.
The Prince estate has done a commendable job of bringing to light newly discovered gems with the deluxe releases of 1999, Sign O’ the Times, and now the soon to be released Welcome 2 America. Recorded spring of 2010, Welcome 2 America encompasses Prince’s ideals for a fluctuating society, craftily prophesizing political division and racial injustice.
Welcome 2 America features collaborations with Tal Wilkenfeld, Chris Coleman, Jason Agel, and New Power Generation singers Shelby J, Liv Warfield, and Elisa Fiorillo. The deluxe edition includes the double LP and CD versions of the album, alongside a previously unreleased Blu-Ray of Prince’s full April 28, 2011 performance at the Forum in Los Angeles. The show contains 24 tracks, from his biggest hits to fan favorites and rare cover versions. Additionally, the deluxe edition features a 32-page 12×12 book, exclusive poster housed within a gold embossed package. Welcome 2 America will be released on July 30th, giving us yet another reason to celebrate the greatness of Prince.
It’s funny how a change of season and a cyclical change in the weather can bring memories rushing back. In March 1984, the Go-Go’s released the third and final album of the band’s ‘80s peak popularity. Now, 37-years later, the trailblazing ladies have been nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, making it the ideal time to revisit the totally awesome, but criminally overlooked Talk Show.
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). As 1983 slowly progressed, I frantically scoured Rolling Stone and Billboard, as well as my local magazine stands for any scrap or morsel about my favorite band, but only rare dribbles were found few and far between for the entirety of that year.
When word finally arrived that the Go-Go’s were across the pond in England recording the eagerly awaited third album with Martin Rushent, I could barely contain my excitement. This thrilling news was soon followed by an unwanted update that the new album had been delayed due to Charlotte Caffey’s ailment with carpal tunnel syndrome. Reading this unwelcomed tidbit quickly dashed my hopes for new music arriving anytime in the immediate future. Luckily, after waiting out an extended absence that felt like an eternity, the Go-Go’s eventually returned to the spotlight in March of 1984 with an astoundingly robust and electrifying new collection of songs. My appetite was first whetted with Talk Show’s lead-off hit single “Head Over Heels,” accompanied by its neon-tinged music video, which brightly signaled the return of the Go-Go’s, while gratifying my ears, albeit temporarily. While wearing the grooves off my “Head Over Heels” 45 rpm record and its B-side, “Good for Gone,” I began frantically calling my local record stores daily to find out when I would be getting my hands on that elusive third album. Fortunately, my nearly two-years of suffering for a new Go-Go’s album was rewarded on March 19, 1984 with a fantastic collection of ten prodigious songs. I can still remember my overpowering exhilaration as I raced home from my local record shop to play my newly acquired LP.
As soon as I placed the needle into the groove, my ears were filled with the opening piano riffs of “Head Over Heels,” which I’d already committed to memory during the month-long countdown to the full-length album. Then, I was entranced by the unexpected power of “Turn to You,” which still remains as my all-time favorite Go-Go’s track. As the record progressed, I was amazed by how much I loved each and every track; from the hypnotic synth intro of “You Thought,” the exquisite harmonies of “Beneath the Blue Sky” and the beautiful melancholia of “Forget That Day.” Side one was all killer, no filler. I couldn’t have been happier.
Shaking with excitement, I quickly flipped the record over and continued to be blown away by the guitar drenched “I’m the Only One,” the fiery “Capture the Light,” the dramatic “I’m With You” and the bouncy, hook-laden “Yes or No.” Talk Show profusely demonstrated newfound growth and maturity in musicianship, lyrical content, plus a noticeable new confidence in Carlisle’s phrasing and vocal delivery.
Legendary producer Martin Rushent (The Human League, The Stranglers) 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.
Unfortunately, the album’s accompanying Prime Time Tour failed to live up to expectations. I caught two shows during Talk Show’s tour cycle and each performance confirmed the first public signs of trouble in paradise. Not only was it glaringly obvious the band members were going through the motions or “phoning it in” on stage, but also painfully apparent they were not thrilled to be spending time in each other’s company. Shortly after the tour’s completion, Jane Wiedlin announced she was leaving the Go-Go’s to pursue a solo career. This was hardly surprising to me as I’d witnessed her unhappiness on tour as she sat down and looked pouty at both of the shows I attended during performances of “Forget That Day.” This song allegedly became a specific point of contention within the band. Written by Wiedlin, “Forget That Day” seemed to create a sore spot between Wiedlin and Carlisle as Wiedlin stated she’d originally wanted to sing lead vocals on the track, but was overruled by Carlisle and the other band members.
Sadly, Talk Show proved to be the female fivesome’s final full-length offering for 17 years until Belinda Carlisle and company reunited for 2001’s God Bless the Go-Go’s. In the interim, it seemed that the Go-Go’s were destined to fulfill the all too familiar rock cliché of burning out before fading away. After Talk Show, the band members’ demons were eventually revealed on an unflattering episode of VH-1’s Behind the Music. It seemed as if the band members were hell bent on fulfilling the prophetic declaration of becoming the “catty girls, dreamers, and whores” Caffey and Wiedlin described in “This Town” on the band’s debut album Beauty and the Beat, instead of exercising the option to keep sealed lips. However, there are no audible signs anywhere to be found when listening to Talk Show. Listeners would be hard pressed to hear any evidence of an imploding rock band’s behind the scenes drama, infighting, or substance abuse issues. Perhaps the only hint of discord exists solely on the album’s front cover, as the separate compartmentalization of each band member unintentionally conveyed the group’s disjointed state of existence?
No matter the surrounding circumstances of the time, the female fivesome’s third studio effort still sounds as effervescent as an “uncorked bottle of cold champagne,” as Christopher Connelly described it in Rolling Stone’s original 4-star album review in 1984. Although the Go-Go’s will never be considered prolific, thankfully they managed to give us some superlative music that still manages to transcend time.
The Go-Go’s have hit another milestone by being nominated to become members of the historic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I must confess this news excites my youthful heart as The Go-Go’s were not only my first favorite band, but also my very first rock concert and front row experience.
With masterfully crafted earworms such as: “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Vacation,” “Head Over Heels” and “We Got the Beat,” the female fivesome made history with the historic debut album, Beauty and the Beat, which sat perched atop the Billboard 200 album chart for six consecutive weeks and selling over two million copies. The double platinum Beauty and the Beat is the first and only album by an all-female rock band to achieve this monumentally historic feat, which has yet to be repeated in the four decades since.
Although the band broke up in 1984, they reunited in 1990 and went on to record a powerful fourth album in 2001 (God Bless the Go-Go’s), which featured Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong on the lead-off single “Unforgiven.” The Go-Go’s have continued to tour in the following years and recorded and released a new track, “Club Zero” in 2020, as well as the critically acclaimed documentary about the band lensed by History of the Eagles director Allison Ellwood.
A long overdue oversight (eloquently echoed by a recent op-ed piece in Billboard by James Duke Mason) has now been rectified and an anticipatory congratulations is extended to Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine and Jane Wiedlin. May the magical mystical power of Apollo be bestowed upon the most successful all female rock band of all time.
To cast your vote for the RRHOF 2021 nominees click here
To read more about my obsessive fandom click the titled links below:
Last week inconceivably marked five years since David Bowie’e untimely passing, but it’s still hard to believe he’s gone. Today, on what would have been his 74th birthday, I am once again exploring his extensive catalog, as I fondly reflect upon my personal journey of discovery into the bewildering artistry of Bowie.
Nearly every Bowie fan has a favorite period or persona with a specific entry point, making it all the more difficult to attempt summing up the gender-bending, sexually ambiguous performer and musician’s life and accomplishments without writing an entire book (of which there are already more than a few of in existence). So instead I’ll try to sum up what impact the icon of music, film, art, and fashion had on my life.
My initial exposure to David Bowie was from top 40 radio and television shows such as The Midnight Special, Soul Train, and Saturday Night Live during the 1970s. As a kid I already liked the songs I’d heard (“Space Oddity,” “Fame,” and “Golden Years” were my favorites), but as a sheltered pre-teen I was jarringly taken aback, even frightened by him when first exposed to his spaced-out androgynous Ziggy Stardust persona. My initial reactions to the glam rocker were fear, confusion, and intrigue as I’d never seen or heard anyone like him, but my initial perceptions morphed into unadulterated admiration in the 80s.
I can remember being completely blown away as I sat transfixed the very first time I saw the “Ashes to Ashes” music video on MTV. This resulted in my newly awakened interest, just in time for Bowie’s latest incarnation, as he dominated the new music video age. Let’s Dance was the first Bowie record I purchased (as I became hypnotized by the infectiousness of “China Girl” and “Modern Love”), which led to my own personal discovery period as I began to delve into and devour each of his past albums from Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, to The Man Who Sold the World, and Space Oddity.
I’m pleased to say I finally had the opportunity to experience one of his electrifying and unequaled live performances in 2004, during what was sadly to become his final concert tour. The two-and-a-half-hour set was truly one of the greatest moments of my life (as well as one of my most cherished ticket stubs) and not a moment too soon either. Just weeks after attending his concert, Bowie underwent an angioplasty procedure for a blocked artery and the remaining dates of his A Reality Tour were cancelled.
Following his heart surgery, Bowie seemed to all but disappear until 2013 when he quietly surprise released The Next Day, his first album of new material in a decade. Well worth the wait, TND debuted at number two on Billboard and received glowing reviews. After a 10-year span of virtual silence, it was a sigh of relief to hear exciting new material. This exciting time of reemergence continued as “Moonage Daydream” was featured in the film and soundtrack of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Shortly after Bowie’s music was forever immortalized into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, news swirled that we could expect another new album early in 2016.
Finally, I was elated when Bowie’s Blackstar was released on January 8, the artist’s 69th birthday. I spent that entire weekend enraptured by the eerily dark, but strangely hypnotic new music. I couldn’t help noticing an indescribable undercurrent within the lyrics the more I listened, especially in “Lazarus,” “Dollar Days” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” but I was too elated at having new Bowie music to dwell too deeply. However, this uneasiness became all too clear when I awakened on Monday morning to the shockingly unforeseen news that Bowie had passed away after an 18-month struggle with cancer. My first thought was that it had to be an internet hoax, but sadly it was confirmed as I watched the plentiful tributes begin to pour in from around the world.
Death is an unfortunate reality for all of us, but it almost seems as if some people are supposed to miraculously beat the cosmic odds and defy death. Somewhere deep down in my subconscious, I think I always believed that if anyone could escape the Grim Reaper’s grasp, it would have been David Bowie.
Thank you, Mr. Jones, for sharing your talent with us mere mortals and giving the world such a magnanimous and inspiring body of work.
“There’s a starman waiting in the sky/He’d like to come and meet us/But he thinks he’d blow our minds…”
Kylie Minogue delivers a much-needed shimmering light of hope on the Aussie Queen of Pop’s 15th studio album, DISCO. During the early part of 2020, Minogue learned to record and engineer her own vocals as the COVID-19 outbreak began. The majority of DISCO was created while using her own home studio amid the pandemic’s lockdown, which served as the primary source of inspiration for the album’s theme of escapism and isolation. Minogue co-wrote all 16 of the deluxe album’s tracks, with the bulk of production duties helmed by Sky Adams (Doja Cat, Zak Abel) and Teemu Brunila (The Crash, Trey Songz).
“We’re a million miles apart in a thousand ways” laments Minogue on album leadoff single “Say Something,” which presently sums up the current mood and feelings of thousands of people around the world, while establishing the tone. With DISCO, Kylie is attempting to lift spirits as a counterbalance to enduring the lost freedoms of normal life during what can only be described as a wasted year.
Although DISCO leans more towards Madonna than Donna Summer, Minogue has crafted the perfect throwback soundtrack to dance away your pandemic blues, by sonically creating a virtual dance floor to cure your lockdown woes. With plenty of melodic nods to the 1970’s grooviest of grooves, DISCO more than lives up to the promise of its title. It literally sounds like a 1970s disco record made in 2020.
“Dancing together, ain’t nothing that could be better/Tomorrow don’t matter, gonna make the night last forever,” decrees Minogue on the feel-good album opener, “Magic.”
Upon its release, DISCO not only landed atop U.S. iTunes’ sales chart, but also debuted at number 2 on the Billboard Top Albums Sales chart, hit number one on the Official Albums Chart in the U.K. and debuted at number one in Australia, becoming Minogue’s 7th chart topping album on the ARIA Charts. It seems DISCO has been shown global love during one of the planet’s most difficult years.
With DISCO, Minogue deserves to be applauded for proudly choosing to keep her post-disco queen crown firmly intact, instead of losing her identity while fruitlessly chasing current trends and charts. DISCO is triumphant return to form, which we need now more than ever.
So, kudos to Kylie Minogue for making DISCO everything I’d hoped it would be and more. Simply put, I love it (pun intended)!
Purveyors of fine music, have you been yearning for an album that will not only quench your insatiable thirst for new music, but will also satisfy your ears, mind and soul? Then look no further than the genius debut by Nashville rock band, Smart Objects.
Now I know that many automatically conjure mental images of boots, hats, big hair and the Grand Ole Opry whenever Nashville is mentioned, but those of us in the know realize Music City is a haven for some of the world’s most talented songwriters and musicians of all genres. So, toss away those old notions and turn on and turn up Smart Objects, the magnificent debut from Nashville’s modernizers of rock.
Although I’ve been writing about music for nearly 20 years, words to describe this delightfully refreshing record escape me. So, I reached out to Smart Objects’ frontman and mastermind Benjamin Harper who was gracious enough to explain the magic behind this remarkable debut.
When you hear the name Mariah Carey, what comes to mind? Does her name conjure images of inescapable Top 40 pop hits of the 1990s, or massive big ballads heard on adult contemporary playlists? Or maybe hearing her name makes you think of R&B-flavored hip hop bangers. Whatever image or memory stirs from hearing the mention of her name, do they make you think you know Mariah Carey? Turns out we really knew next to nothing about the legendary icon who has been seared into our pop culture consciousness for more than three decades, as revealed in her newly published memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey.
My journey with Mariah Carey’s music began in 1990, while working in a record store. One day, while making a display featuring new and yet-unknown artists, I came across hew just released debut album, which at that time, “Vision of Love” had just begun to get some moderate radio airplay. While looking at the display, I recognized one of the song titles which caused me to play Mariah Carey over the store’s sound system. I was immediately enraptured with the sounds coming from the speakers and couldn’t fully comprehend the brilliance contained with the debut album’s 11 tracks. Not only was I amazed, but from that moment on, I’ve been a devout and loyal participant on team Mariah; buying all of her records, viewing her videos and attending her concerts, for the better part of my life.
Now, 30 years into my fandom, I’ve been shaken to my core upon reading Mariah’s unfiltered telling of her mishaps and struggles. The book’s pages are filled with heartbreaking memories of her enduring a violent and damaging childhood, a cruel and manipulative family and surviving a turbulent marriage to a controlling and demeaning power-hungry oppressor.
Here, for the first time, Mariah Carey is setting the record straight and telling her truths about her music and personal life in her own soul-bearing words. She not only reveals where many of her songs come from, but also sheds a bright light on what really happened during the era known as ‘the Glitter debacle.’ Even at that time, I knew better than to believe she’d had a mental breakdown, but also felt as if that period was a giant red flag that something major was happening behind the scenes. I’m also still reeling from finding out the true inspiration and meaning of “Vision of Love.” For decades I always thought it was just a mere love song.
The Meaning of Mariah Carey is not only a captivating and intimate look inside the private world of one of music’s most successful and enduring artists, but it’s also a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. I must confess I read it in its entirety in just two days. I literally could not put it down. Even if you’re not a Mariah Carey fan, you will find this book fascinating. But, if you are a fan, you’ll absolutely love it.
The newly released ABBA: The Studio Albums is an 8-LP box set containing all eight of ABBA’s proper albums. This superlative collection includes each of the Swedish pop supergroup’s full-length releases on colored vinyl for the first time. This 8-LP color assortment is the perfect way to revisit one of pop music’s most iconic bodies of work, as well as hearing the progression and growth within each album throughout ABBA’s historic career.
My one and only grievance is the baffling decision not to include a bonus disc with the essential non-album tracks “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” “Cassandra,” “Should I Laugh or Cry,” “Under Attack” and “Voulez-Vous (Extended Remix).” However, that’s a minor complaint in a box rife with such iconic musical treasures. Besides, the title succinctly sums up the focal point here, leaving no room for any ambiguous expectations. [Read Full Review]