Taylor Hicks’ “Early Works” Review

August 26, 2008

Taylor Hicks’ recently released compilation CD, “Early Works” is not exactly hitting the target in sales with Target. First week’s estimation had sales between 2300 and 2500 and the next week’s results filtering through the channels are perched at under 500. Disappointing, certainly considering this work the body of sound that helped to score Taylor Hicks that Idol win in 2006. I remember listening to Mr. Hicks’ tracks over at Gray-haired Dude and Wiseguy’s site, WOOO Radio back in those early days of the competition and absolutely loving what I was hearing.

Largely Taylor’s appeal for me, his being completely outside the PopTart Idol character. He did not look the part to play for a position on that reality show, and it blew me away to hear a prospective contestant in the early auditions sing something other than Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey. I was a fan from the get-go. His Top 24 walk as he swaggered with measured bluesman steps, blowing a harmonica all the way from the elevator doors to the judge’s bench, captivated me. He was just too cool.

Now those same tunes that I grew so enamored with on WOOO radio for their very throw-back qualities are now, outside the show and the boundaries of their novelty, garnering criticisms even from past supporting reporters.

Ken Barnes, in USA Today’s IDOL Chatter writes,

“If there’s one overriding reaction, it was the less intensity he brings to a song, the better it sounds. Even cutting him a break for this album being made up of, well, early works, he indulges in some of the most overwrought, heavily mannered pseudo-soul singing I’ve heard since Joe Cocker’s heyday — something that the tight format of Idol probably didn’t allow him to practice to excess. The bulk of the album is made up of either dull, by-the-numbers blue-eyed soul (including, sadly, two cuts later recut for his major-label album, The Deal and Soul Thing — they are not diamonds in the rough here) or the aforementioned excursions into tortured oversinging (a cover of Ray Charles’ version of Georgia on My Mind, two highly Cocker-esque tracks called Heart and Soul and In Your Time).

Yet on a few tracks he breaks the mold, notably a pair of folky numbers, The Fall and West Texas Sky, that I would recommend you check out, especially the former. Skip, however, the ultra-loose cover of Archie Bell & The Drells’ Tighten Up, which the album booklet not only gives him credit for writing but which he seems to date (unless I misheard him) as coming from 1973, when it was a hit in 1968.

So a disappointing collection from someone who’s still one of my favorite Idol contestants. Let’s hope the new album displays a little more restraint and variety.”

I agree with Mr. Barnes regarding two of the best tracks on the “Early Works”, “The Fall” and “West Texas Sky”. He prefers the former while I prefer the latter. I find it interesting that “West Texas Sky”, up until this new CD was released had, in the past not received little to no commentary. I could imagine either one being a viable radio friendly offering.

Like Mr. Barnes I remain hopeful for Taylor Hicks.
“Well, we bursted out of class
Had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a 3-minute record, baby
Than we ever learned in school
Tonight I hear the neighborhood drummer sound
I can feel my heart begin to pound
You say you’re tired and you just want to close your eyes
And follow your dreams down…”

“No Surrender” Bruce Springsteen LYRICS


Everlast Tunes: “This Kind of Lonely”

August 26, 2008

“Put Your Lights On” Santana and Everlast live version, great combination; Santana’s flame throwing guitar work and Everlast’s full-throated growling.

video by the grace of TheGero; gracias amigo

Perhaps Taylor Hicks has something along this line regarding new music he’s working on for that post-Idol soph album.

“This Kind of Lonely” Everlast. Laid back tune, tinged country with a smack of sitting on the front porch Blues. Haunting steel guitar accompaniment. Video is a little ‘watery’ but the only one there is of a live performance.

video c/o milanv1

Everlast in 1999 at Woodstock. “Ends” Lyrics

Sunday Morning Saying “Grace”

August 24, 2008

Erick Schrody also known as Everlast and Whitey Ford, developed a unique genre-crossing sound mixing hip-hop and acoustic-based rock music; his sound appeals to me on several levels. In the event you haven’t heard of him, he won a Grammy for best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal with Latin rock musician Carlos Santana. They collaborated together for a tune called, “Put Your Lights On” featured in Santana’s 1999 album Supernatural.
“There’s a darkness,
living deep in my soul
Its still got a purpose to serve
So let your lights shine,
deep into my home
God don’t let me lose my nerve,
don’t let me lose my nerve…”

His vocals carry a subtle hint of Tom Waits married with something rich and molten, golden and fluid. He’s not a singer in the sense that the man carries a great range, but he knows what he has and works it to his advantage. In honor of Sunday, I can’t omit this tune while speaking of Tom Waits:
“Chocolate Jesus” Tom Waits

(Pure genius, and thanks to dwizle on the Youtube for capturing this golden moment on Letterman.)

Everlast, had been part of the group, House of Pain, of which I wasn’t a fan. I love his work that followed that break-up – Schrody’s soul and presence shine through.
“Lonely Road”

One basic thing that draws me to a singer, a performer, their ability to be fresh, innovative, and importantly be able to write a song. Singing covers is fine, if it’s a great tune, but to call yourself a real artist in the music world, you have to be able to pick up that pen and write.

Schrody has such a passionate, brilliant way with words. Anyone who follows any type of rap music will attest it’s all about the poetry, some are better poets than others. What I love about Schrody’s brand of music, he’s developed his own feel, a cross between that rap world, old soul and alternative rock. His exterior reads burly tough guy, but this man, who’s just recently hit that 40-year mark shows through his writing, especially over the past decade, he’s got a rich soul with intense, internal, spiritual chops.

Everlast found his portion of commercial success, not because he’s striven to be commercial, but he has a knack for targeting the emotional mark that speaks when you listen to him. His music is currently the featured opening song for TNT’s “Saving Grace”.

“One time around the sun
another year older and my work ain’t done
it’s time for me to write the final chapter

Deal the cards and roll the dice
sex drugs and rock’n roll are my only vice
tryin’ to figure out just what’s here after.”

“Saving Grace” Everlast

“What It’s Like” LYRICS

Everlast’s not been abstinent in the rifts that plague some of the mainstream rap artists and about a decade ago, a feud erupted between he and Eminem. It turned out to be likely a misinterpretation of lyrics written by Schrody that Eminem took offense to – the feud then took off in earnest with both rappers taking lyrical shots at each other. They finally arrived at a form of truce with Schrody backing out since he wasn’t in that game to fight to begin with, but it seems he did not want to appear to be intimidated by the overly passionate Marshall Mathers.

This tune is a fine example of his ability to pen down lyrics to wrap a message and story into a four minute time frame. This is an artistic video put together by caw102496 on the Youtube channel.
“White Trash Beautiful” Everlast

Everlast wrote “Letters From Home in the Garden of Stone” in honor of the current war situation in the Middle East.
“Who you think i should be fighting
Mom are you proud are you ashamed
I really am trying to do the right thing
I hope my government can say the same

cause I won’t know the man that kills me
and I don’t know these man that I kill
We all wind up on the same side
cause not one of us doing God’s will”

“Letters Home from the Garden of Stone”

Everlast’s music and news can be found over at his myspazz site.

The Calm

August 23, 2008

Thrown like a star in my vast sleep
I open my eyes to take a peep
To find that I was by the sea
Gazing with tranquillity.
‘Twas then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love,
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Came singing songs of love.

Enjoying a nice mellow vibe.

Chris Daughtry Serenades Virgins

August 20, 2008

Voters, that is. Who knew? Chris Daughtry has sold 400 Billion copies worldwide. Yeah, with a “B”. I was wondering why he was releasing that same CD albeit with a few new tweaks and additions, and I am seeing the light now. That CD, following Chris’ fourth place ‘outster’ from that reality show, has been an enormous fat bellied cash cow. Can I get a “Mooo-lah”?

I read that stat from an article concerning Mr. D recording Foreigner’s 1977 hit, “Feels Like the First Time” for CNN. Chris Daughtry has been enlisted, so to speak, by CNN, to create the theme song for the cable news networks’ League of First Time Voters initiative. As the title of this initiative says, the League of First Time Voters, purpose is to get those virgin voters excited and motivated to get out and hit that ballot box.

It’s really a sad commentary on our country’s state of the affairs – the rampant voter apathy and the massive lack of concern the average American has for who’s calling the shots up on The Hill. So many Americans abstain from allowing themselves to soak up news, information and facts on the politicians striving to be elected, then cry foul when they find they’ve got a Fox in the Hen House. It’s also sad considering the attention and the fervor attached to the reality show, American Idol and the mass amount of folks who expend so much time and energy following the contestants of their choice and casting those telephone ballots.

Certainly I’m the last to cast judgment stones at A.I. watchers as I’ve been hooked by the gills every season, cast my phone in votes. But, I’m also a news junkie who keeps her eye on elections, local and nationally, and I participate. I admit to not engulfing myself head over heels this Presidential campaign up until recently. My reason for that, most of the time in the early stages (and this campaign did start early) there was so much bullshit and politically correct rhetoric to sludge through.

I was fascinated with Hillary Clinton’s daring bid for the top office, especially in light of the past controversies she and hubby were embroiled within during their time in the White House. There is a side of me that very much admires that lady, she has a steel spine and an iron will. (Gee, that sounds almost trite. Hillary affects me that way.) I’d never voted for her, but I am fascinated just the same.

Regarding the current candidates, my mental jury is still out. I find it near fairy-tale, the overall fan fair surrounding Obama; at least the women at the rallies have stopped fainting. Perhaps those A.I. devotees who have coined the word, “thud”, this is what was meant. That makes me wonder, just think of the genius if someone would have started a campaign with T-shirts and posters, “I Thud for Obama”. That’s rather catchy. Maybe the fainting would have continued, that at least, was entertaining.

Now McCain, he’s definitely got the experience in the bag and he’s carrying the War Prisoner badge of courage. My political leanings over the past couple of decades have switched from the left to more a more conservative viewpoint. The more education I have received about the meanings and goals behind each party, the more I realized I identified with the right. So many of the tenets of the Left contain such heavy Socialistic rhetoric and theories that I find them disturbing. Certainly too, the big Leftist proponents seem to be the ones who charge forward with some of the most vicious counterattacks. Often the folks speaking out for the Donkey Party are found to be such loons that it takes drastically away from the party’s appeal.

Ultimately, in the real world arena of voting for our country’s leaders, it will come down to who inspires me to click that button in the booth. Right or wrong, and be damned with that popular opinion, it will be my choice. That’s the beauty of the whole election process. That message ultimately the one that CNN is trying to convey in their League of First Time Voters initiative.

Returning to the Chris Daughtry and season five of American Idol topic, since Daughtry has come to the forefront as being one of that reality shows biggest money makers, do I think I got it wrong that season? I mean, look at the facts in the real world; Chris Daughtry has gone on to smoke the charts in popular opinion with those 400 Billion records sold – Taylor Hicks is still in the ‘struggling musician’ category, if you hold by the numbers. Denial aside, Taylor Hicks proponents, facts are facts. Certainly the man’s got a devoted fan base, but he’s not raking in the numbers, the figures that artists who have ‘made it’ make. Never being one to just run with the pack of popular opinion, popular choice or not, Mr. Hicks was and remains my reality show favorite. Taylor Hicks was the one who inspired me to pick up the phone back then, and after it is all said and done, he still inspires me.

Fantasizing for a moment, perhaps if the voting public could vote via phone from their living rooms we’d have a bigger “turn out”. Add to that, more televised coverage of the candidates speaking. Taking it one step further, how about a new reality show: “American Presidential Candidates”. It could begin at the start of the bid for office and continue through to the bitter end. Just imagine the ratings bonanza! (FOX are you listening?) Just think, MacDonalds could have special Happy Meal toys featuring fun facts, slogans and figurines of the candidates, like they do with American Idol. It’s a given who’d be the Chosen One for the show’s opening and closing tunes, it would be That Guy with 400 Billion albums sold, right CNN?

“Crashed” Daughtry

video c/o semolinacustard

Staind: Substance Over Illusion

August 19, 2008

Today marks the release date for Staind’s new album, “The Illusion of Progress”. I’ve heard some of the new tracks and it’s a change from some of the band’s previous works. Guitarist Mike Mushok has said that “The Illusion of Progress” marks a very different record for the band, “…better different.” I agree.

This new sound not the only evidence this band continues to grow and evolve; they’re branching into an interesting form of marketing. What spurred this idea behind the new CD campaign? The band has, over the past two years witnessed the benefits of interaction with the fans.

Lead singer, Aaron Lewis is a contrast to the likes of say, Eddie Veddar, with his long tangle of hair, model good looks. Lewis is this slightly bearish looking guy with round powerful looking shoulders and fierce ‘Colin Ferrel’ eyebrows. I mean, if you passed the guy on the street you might dismiss him as a local construction worker. That just lends to the guy’s appeal. Aaron Lewis’ beauty lies in his voice, the man possesses some of the best rock vocals in the market today. Lewis doesn’t need rely on studio production or over instrumentation to sound great, he’s absolutely dynamic when he performs acoustically.

Here’s Lewis in a video from 2006, “Outside” (Love this song.)

In a positive form of self-promotion, Staind has become a real presence on their website. They take the reins regarding involving themselves in the communication with their fans, providing that reach out and touch us experience. Their fans have responded in kind which has motivated the band to continue to do even more. Mushok says Staind is looking forward to seeing how the new initiatives play with its fan base but likes the fact that everything that’s planned “…gives a little bit more back to the fans. It gives them more options and ways of getting more from us.” Yes, give and you receive. Mushok’s a wise man.

Now what exactly is Mushok referring to in his statement? Not content to just put out a new album or offer the usual exclusive or special edition album to accompany the main offering, Staind is taking it a step further. On top of the exclusive album offering three bonus tracks, buyers also receive a free one-year membership to their fan club (Dysfunctional Fan Club). According to Dane Venable, the senior VP of pop/rock marketing with Atlantic, this offering encourages buyers to link to the group’s Web site and expose them to Staind’s online community. Involvement within the community has proven to build band loyalty as the fans are able to stay abreast of the real life happenings for the band and their music, tours. This also allows access to a special 30-minute documentary on the making of the album.

Although they have a paying portion to their website, unlike some artists, Staind’s Official website’s forum is open to view – you don’t have to be a member to read the forum. This contrasts to what is seen in some artist’s ‘official websites’, that webpage ‘gate’ that you can’t pass until you pay up.

“Believe”, is the first single released from the album, currently sitting at No. 9 on the Mainstream Rock chart after just four weeks. The benefits of having the backing of Flip/Atlantic will be felt as the marketing campaign unfolds. The label has planned an ambitious viral campaign for the launch and promotion of the album utilizing a broad range of Web sites and platforms. Outside of taking the single to radio, the new CD is for sale on iTunes, and back on July 24, released the video on AOL.

New tune, “Believe”

Aug. 28, Staind will appear on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Touring starts with two weeks of European dates with Nickelback in September, which is part of the band’s first concerted campaign overseas. Staind returns to North America, touring October through December, more dates expected after the first of the year.

As the story has it, following this new tour, Aaron Lewis will be releasing a solo album with acoustic tunes. A cover of “Turn the Page” might be on it.

Staind has definitely turned their own page, regarding maturity, growth and artistry as “The Illusion of Progress” evidences.

Taylor Hicks and “Don’t Let Me Down”

August 18, 2008

You know it’s one thing to have an interest in a singer, celebrity, it’s completely another thing to consider oneself ‘Hall Monitor’ for that individual. This little phenomenon is commonplace among the fans circumventing American Idol contestants. Interesting in an odd non-important way but perhaps a study in what drives the popularity of that show.

It’s funny some of the tactics used to gang up or run off ‘elements’ that the kewl kids on the block deem non desirable. Like in my blog yesterday, these characters are still back in the school yard ganging up and playing bully. Just like those schoolyard bullies they find justification in random ways for their actions, and just like those schoolyard bullies, they are always on the side of ‘right’.

Another funny thing, many like to hide behind the ‘bringing it all back together’ facade while still carrying on the fight, behind the scenes so to speak. In the Girlfriends blog, once again Chill comes out looking like she wants unity, is against the name calling of ‘good’ fan, vs ‘bad’ fan, even starts a post about her let’s all get along facade. Well, it does make her appear to be fair and nice and sane, even though behind the scenes she befriends and makes wagers in order to intimidate and try to kick me off of a certain site. That whole concept an obvious attempt brought out by the troubled 15 Minutes of Fame person designed to keep me away, natch. So obvious, so low-brow and so childish. Ah, those Kwazzy Fanatics.

Then there’s the sisters of Taylor Hicks’ fandom who are incessantly yapping about suing this person or that. Man, litigious must be their middle name, if it’s not one thing, it’s another issue that has them screaming ‘court’ and ‘criminals’. Then, as a side note, curiously at the top of Chill’s site, she has in her website “…be nice” as something Taylor Hicks supposedly said in reference to the fans.

Apparently that does not apply to many of the ladies at the Girlfriends’ site. That or the definition is what is the issue. Let’s see, “Nice”.

Ah, Mr. Hicks, I think certain somebodies are letting you down.

“Don’t Let Me Down” Taylor Hicks

video c/o sunnydey1

You all be nice.