Long-lost days of musical Saturday morning cartoons and bedroom slide show concerts

As a child during the late 1960s and 1970s, the magical world of music caught my attention immediately, but outlets to find musical sources were extremely limited. My ears were always thirsting to hear something new, thus I would gravitate towards any form of media that related to my affinity for music. One year for Christmas I’d asked Santa Claus to bring me Kenner’s Give-A-Show Projector, and to my delight, he happily obliged. I’d lie in my bed every night and project some of my favorite cartoon character’s images upon my bedroom wall and ceiling. I’d stay up well past my bedtime (unbeknownst to my parents) and produce my own private slide shows and concerts starring The Archies, Josie and the Pussycats, H.R. Pufnstuf and The Scooby-Doo Show.

Weekend nights were usually spent watching The Partridge Family, The Monkees, and The Brady Bunch. I’d also excitedly arise early every Saturday morning and record all the songs from each week’s episode of my favorite cartoon/musical shows including H.R. Pufnstuf and The Krofft Supershow. My childhood Saturday mornings revolved around the world of Sid & Marty Krofft. [Read Full Feature] and [Read Part One]

The Golden Days of AM Radio and Cereal Box Records

Whenever summer rolls around, it annually evokes fond memories of youthful days I’d eagerly spend counting down until the school year would finally end. The anticipation of long, lazy summer days, extended car rides, and family vacations was always palpable. That was the era of AM radio hits which often turned into road trip sing-alongs which served as a much needed reprieve from being cooped up for hours on end in the car. I’m referring to a time when portable electronics were almost non-existent and the only access to music was the standard AM radio that came factory installed in the family owned American automobile.

Summertime also reminds me of how excited I’d get about routine trips to the grocery store when I was a kid. Yes, the grocery store, because back in those days, they used to print records right on the backs of cereal boxes, similar to flexi discs often found in music publications or instructional books. Nothing made me happier than picking out a brand of cereal I’d pretend to like just so I could get a new record by The Archies, The Monkees, or The Jackson 5. I can still recall being mesmerized and oddly entertained as I’d watch the phonograph stylus play over the faces of Betty, Veronica, Archie, Reggie, Jughead, and Hot Dog as I carefully memorized every word of “Everything’s Archie” and “Nursery Rhyme.” [Read Full Feature]

Why Every Beatles Fan Needs Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: Super Deluxe Edition

It was 50 years ago today when the Beatles unleashed what would become the band’s seminal masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The album was a sonic work of art in 1967, forever changing the landscape of what could be achieved in the recording studio. It’s hard to imagine now, but back then, no one had heard anything remotely close to the conceptual revelation that was encapsulated on the fab four’s eighth studio effort.

Now, there’s an entirely new reason to revisit and marvel at the historic wonders of Sgt. Pepper, as a new super deluxe edition box set has been released to coincide with its original release day (May 26th), to commemorate the album’s 50th anniversary. Giles Martin (late producer George Martin’s son) has created a new up-to-date remix, not just another remaster, but a completely remixed version from the original tape masters.

Similar to 1999’s Yellow Submarine Songtrack, the new Sgt. Pepper mix is well balanced, leaving plenty of headroom for the lead vocals to breathe, which are now appropriately up front and center. It’s literally as if you’re hearing this beloved masterwork in stereo for the very first time, highlighting a noticeable wealth of previously buried minute details. The 5.1 surround mix on the box set’s Blu-ray literally brings the album to life in such a way, you literally feel as if you’re standing inside the studio while the Beatles are recording. [Read Full Review]

 

Remembering Donna Summer (December 31, 1948 – May 17, 2012)

Donna Summer 1948 – 2012

I find it hard to believe the five-year anniversary of Donna Summer’s passing is already upon us. Ever since she shockingly succumbed to cancer in 2012, I’ve honored her memory often by revisiting her incredible body of work. I’ve tried to celebrate her spirit by listening to her music and keeping her memory alive, especially on the anniversary of her death.

There’s no denying the fact that Donna Summer knew how to create a dance record. Her magnificent 17-minute non-stop epic “MacArthur Park Suite” (which took up an entire side of her Live and More double album), weaved Jimmy Webb’s unforgettable melody and poetic lyrics around two of Summer’s best original songs (“One of A Kind” and “Heaven Knows”), creating a magical musical opus which I’ve never managed to grow tired of hearing or erase from my memory since its release in 1978. This was followed by Summer’s next masterpiece, the epochal Bad Girls, which deservedly became the best-selling album of her career. Packed with rock-tinged greatest hits “Hot Stuff” and “Dim All the Lights,” as well as the vivacious title track, this four-sided oeuvre also included gorgeous ballads along with the blistering electronic club hits “Our Love,” “Lucky” and “Sunset People.”

Donna Summer’s voice and music inscribed an indelible mark on me, for which I will be eternally grateful. She may have left us all too soon, but her musical legacy will live on eternally. So, let’s dance in memory of Donna Summer, and always keep her among our most cherished memories. [Read Full Tribute]

Harry Styles Emerges as Rock Star on Solo Debut Album

Harry Styles: Harry Styles

What do you do in your spare time while on hiatus from one of the world’s biggest-selling and most successful boy bands? If you’re Harry Styles you use that time wisely by dropping a debut album so commanding that it makes you an instant rock star. If you disregard preconceived notions concerning boy bands, as well as stop trying to decipher if lyrical subtexts may or may not allude to Taylor Swift, you will hear the emerging talent of an undeniably credible solo artist. Harry Styles effectually straddles the line between do-it-yourself production qualities and cock rock.

Harry Styles won’t stop Directioners from wondering if and when the notorious boy band will reunite, but it certainly affirms Styles has the goods to become a major solo star. It’s also utterly refreshing to hear a young artist embrace the use of organic elements such as strings, guitar, and choir instead of opting for the exhausted generic sounding beat-driven production gimmicks currently permeating the musical landscape. [Read Full Review]

Watch the “Sign of the Times” Music Video:

Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 2

James Gunn has compiled another bang-up soundtrack for his highly-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The upcoming space adventure is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the sequel to Gunn’s surprise summer blockbuster of 2014. Here again with Awesome Mix Vol. 2, the songs featured were precisely hand-picked by Gunn and strategically placed throughout the film, serving to underscore the script as a subtle, but dynamic cast of supporting characters. Awesome Mix Vol. 2 is an eclectic assortment of mostly well-known tunes, and happily in its own unique way, just as marvelous as its predecessor Awesome Mix Vol. 1, which went on to sell a whopping 2.5 million copies worldwide. The brilliant second soundtrack album includes Electric Light Orchestra, Cheap Trick, Parliament, Fleetwood Mac, as well as the amusing “Guardians Inferno,” featuring David Hasselhoff. [Read Full Review]

The Serious Genius of Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy

Father John Misty: Pure Comedy

At first glance, Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy might sound like the recorded version of a clergyman moonlighting as a stand-up comic, but in actuality it’s the latest studio album from the former Fleet Foxes drummer. Try to imagine Elton John as an American folk artist with lyrics penned by Randy Newman or Conor Oberst, and you’ll have an entry point into the sardonic, acid-tongued, yet filmic world of singer-songwriter Father John Misty (née Josh Tillman).

While Pure Comedy periodically sounds like the type of luciferous debut album Aimee Mann or Kate Bush might’ve composed had they been born male, only time and perspective will ultimately determine if this turns out to be Father John Misty’s career-defining album, although he’s undeniably grabbed our attention.

[Read Full Review]