Music Review: Annie Lennox – Nostalgia

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My first introduction to Annie Lennox was as one half of 1980′s power duo Eurythmics on MTV, when the channel actually played music videos. I discovered her profound vocal ability with her solo album, Diva, back in 1992, and I just picked up her fifth solo effort, Nostalgia. The new album is a covers compilation of Lennox’s childhood favorites, from the soul, jazz and blues genres. Watch the YouTube interview of the album.

In my experience, a young voice singing the great American songbook falls flat. It’s more than the gravel in a voice that communicates the blues; it’s life experience, the beautiful and the painful, that bring truth to the lyrics. I’ve always said; “it’s impossible to lie while you sing, everyone listening knows it”. Annie has lived a life with varied experiences that bring truth to the lyrics of these classic songs. As this music shows: Lennox brings the poignant power of her distinctive voice to offer fresh perspectives to these mostly familiar songs.

Annie takes on Hoagy Carmichael’s Memphis In June with an emotive tone. Considering she turns 60, on Christmas Day, Annie’s voice shows no sign of faltering. Lennox’s take on the vintage hit, Georgia On My Mind, is also a Carmichael song made famous by Ray Charles, has an ethereal blues groove on the chorus, followed by soothing strings to lighten up the mood on the verses. The B3 organ adds an almost gospel vibe, possibly a homage to Mr. Charles. Lennox then performs a super-sassy version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ 1956 hit I Put A Spell On You as the lead single, playing with chord changes altering the placement of its shifts from major to minor and thus bringing new emphasis to the song’s expression of romantic desperation. George Gershwin’s Summertime was also beautified by Lennox’s talent. She sustains for an impossibly long time single notes rather than injecting as many melismatic flourishes as humanly possible (the technique of so many present-day female singers), and consequently extracting every ounce of emotion from it.

The jazz standard, I Cover The Waterfront, (I was unfamiliar with this tune prior to this album) is an amazing story of existential loneliness and vulnerability. Annie’s flair for jazz music is impeccably divine and you can hear her passion for the genre in her voice.

The most sobering song on the album is Strange Fruit written in 1937 as a poem, made famous by Billie Holiday in 1939. Lennox revives the track into the modern era and she manages to preserve the emotion of the piece, phrasing like a jazz trumpeter, with that distinct voice of hers. She covers Billie Holiday again on God Bless The Child; I melted as I listened to the melody that introduced me to Billie’s music. Jo Stafford’s version of the 1952 track You Belong To Me made it commercially successful, Annie’s cover is just as beautifully delivered. James Melton’s September In The Rain has been covered endlessly, but it certainly didn’t sound like an exhausted standard when Annie took the reigns, its gracefulness resonates throughout from the initial note. In, I Can Dream, Can’t I?, originally written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal, Lennox nails the track’s optimism with her smooth rendition. The Nearness Of You was made famous in the 1938 film “Romance In The Dark”, Lennox revives the song’s enchanting vibe and delivers a cover worthy of gracing even today’s theatrical works; her take on Mood Indigo is pure magic amongst the rest of these gems.

Nostalgia gave Annie Lennox the chance to open up one of the many windows into her influential life to give fans and admirers alike a glimpse of what inspired her musically. The compilation was delivered beautifully and masterfully; though the tracks have aged, Lennox breathed some life into them once more with her powerhouse of a voice, another quality that is seemingly ageless. It’s a wonderful notion for an artist of this or a previous era to release a collection of classics such as what is featured on Nostalgia, it opens up today’s generation to the origins of music from the jazz/blue/soul genres with class. Yet another desirable hit from the legend that is Annie Lennox.

Autism Spectrum Disorder & Music [infographic]

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How dumb does your music make you look? [chart]

Do you love Radiohead with a red-hot passion? Well, congratulations, genius, because according to this lovely chart, you are what every parent dreams of having whilst putting headphones on the preggers belly.

Virgil Griffith, a brave man who spends his days as a software application writer, decided to make a lot of Beyonce fans mad by looking at SAT scores and the music downloaded at several colleges to see how they stack up.

No surprise, Nickelback wasn’t exactly Ivy League material either.

Here’s the link to the chart and thesis behind it.

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KORG CLIPHIT | CLIP DRUM KIT

korg-cliphitKorg, renown manufacture of electronic musical instruments has introduced the Cliphit, a clever device that turns the world around you into your own personal drum kit! Cliphit takes your air-drumming to the next level, simply attach one of the included clips to almost anything and play drums in real time! The portable drum kit also features a footswitch to control kick sounds, built-in drum sound effects, a headphone jack for private practice, and a built-in speaker that delivers great-sounding tone for your drum performance. watch the video

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Learn to Play an Instrument: It’s Good for Your Brain

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 7.37.30 AMIf you’re looking for an exercise that’s fun, interesting, and will work out your entire brain, grab an instrument and start playing.

This TED-Ed video explains whats going on in your brain when you make music.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 10.28.27 AMRemember that Cyndi Lauper song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun?” If you’re like most people, you probably know every word to that song. But did you know it was a cover? The original was written in fifteen minutes by Robert Hazard. The song was originally about a philanderer––obviously, Cyndi Lauper changed the meaning dramatically.

“I Love Rock ‘N’Roll” was another one of those universal songs that everyone seemed to know. It was not originally performed by Joan Jett, though. She first heard the song on a TV show, performed by the band a TV show.

Read the complete article on BBC News.

http://www.emmanuelfonte.com/17004/

Music Production Evolution: The Rise Of Digital vs. The Vinyl Revival

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Music Review: Michael W. Smith “The Spirit of Christmas”

MWS SPirit of ChristmasYou may have noticed Christmas CDs showing up at your favorite coffee shop, or bookstore (yes, some places still have those…) Me? I’ve been playing Christmas music since April. When I saw Michael W. Smith’s latest release, I ordered (no, not downloaded, I want the CD booklet with all the information), immediately. There are some really stunning orchestral arrangements combined with some dramatic studio magic on this, Smith’s fourth Christmas albums. Watch the teaser video of recording sessions.

Christmas CDs are a cash cow for most artists. They sing these songs like they are reading the Yellow Pages and still be able to get away scot free simply because these carols by themselves are already seasonal successes. Michael W. Smith avoids this completely. “The Spirit of Christmas” isn’t elevator muzak – this album is a story…a story worth listening to.

Smith put a lot of creativity and focus into this record, and the stars have shown up for this CD -all 9 of the renowned artists have had at least one #1 hit on the charts. From the country music world, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Nettles, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride and Vince Gill. We have Smith’s lifelong friend Amy Grant and from the pop/rock genre we have two legends, U2’s Bono and Doobie Brothers’ crooner Michael McDonald. My favorite guest artist is the London Symphony Orchestra who sounds spectacular on the entire disc.

This album isn’t like other Yuletide recordings where songs are just thrown together randomly. The sequencing of the songs I tell a story. The London Symphony starts us off with a childlike awe of the magical beauty of Christmas playing Smith’s composition of “The Miracle of Christmas”, followed by classic tunes “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”“Happy Holidays/Holiday Season”“Christmas Time Is Here”featuring Vince Gill sounding quasi angelic. “White Christmas”has Lady Antebellum joining MWS.

Smith’s granddaughter joins him and the Nashville Children’s Choir on “Somewhere In My Memory”. It is the poignant melody that most will remember from “Home Alone”the movie. It is breathtaking in its simplicity and emotion. The Symphony sets up the next section with “The Spirit of Christmas”a medley of carols; Deck the Halls, Good King Wenceslas, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Feels Like Christmas and, O Come All Ye Faithful. Brilliant programming here, it is impossible not to find a favorite among these chestnuts (had to do it…).

Little Big Town sings a traditional“Silent Night”, while Martina McBride joins Michael with an ethereal sounding“What Child Is This”. “Almost There” features Amy Grant starts with an almost medieval tone with its instrumentation and harmonies. These two sound the same as when they started singing together thirty years ago. Their harmonies blend so well its like they are the same person.

The most dramatic musical moments come in the last section of the album. Carrie Underwood’s rendition of Smith’s “All is Well,” is sensational. This CD s worth every penny for this song alone! I’m very familiar with “Christmas Day,” having performed it with the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree in 2012. Here Jennifer Nettles almost overshadows Smith on this timeless MWS seasonal ballad.

I’m not sure what the vision was for “Darkest Night”, U2’s Bono delivers a breathy narrative on how evil and good clash on the day of Christ’s birth. It feels like this was a way to get a legend on the album with little effort. “Peace” is one of my favorite tunes on the disc. While Michael McDonald and Smith have such different tones, they come together to create a beautifully haunting version of this song.

Smith’s no stranger to Christmas music. With such a star-studded line up of guests, well-chosen songs, and the rich sounds provided by the London Symphony Orchestra, “The Spirit of Christmas” is his best Yuletide album to date.

This Guitarist Will Blow Your Mind [video]

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 5.26.14 PMThis guy plays guitar unlike anything you’ve ever seen or heard. What’s even more impressive is that his advanced techniques are more than just for show––they sound amazing. Enjoy Conny Berghäll’s “Revolution.”