Monday, January 18, 2016

All About Madonna

It is almost hard to believe that Madonna is over 50 years old. As we still remember this new eccentric new singer in the early 1980's with strange new looks and video clips like none other female singer had done before her.

I am sure some people even thought that the name Madonna was a completely fabricated name to sound more showbiz. However, Madonna is the real first name of Madonna Ciccone born to an Italian father and a French Canadian mother whose first name was also Madonna.

Madonna's mother died when she was only 5 years old and the singer has admitted during several interviews that her mother's death affected her deeply and was the reason of some of her behaviors and overall personality.

She felt abandoned and weak and was determined to be strong. She said that this was the drive of her success as one of the most successful singer of all times.

Madonna is the top-selling rock music female with over 300 million records sold worldwide and 64 million albums in the United States. She is the second 2nd best female overall record selling of the 20th century only after Barbara Streisand.

During the 1980's and the first half of the 1990's no other female singers could even remotely reach the kind of success, fame and popularity that Madonna had reached.

Madonna who has revealed herself that she had been influenced by Marilyn Monroe, which was evident in the music video "Material Girl", is definitely bearing some kind or resemblance with her down to the neck blond hair, fair skin and red lips.

Curiously the loss of her mother at a very young age was also a similitude between Madonna and Monroe having to grow up without a mother.

Like Monroe, Madonna has also found herself in the middle of several controversies because of her provoking videos and films. In the end, however, Madonna has always come out victorious, continuing to sell albums by the millions.

Even though Madonna has been somewhat quieter in recent years, she is far from retired and has recorded her third live album earlier this year and has a film project as a director of a movie about the affair of King Edward VII and Wallis Simpson.

Yes, beside her eccentricity and a few scandals that have sparkle her career, Madonna is also a talented artist who can sing, dance, act and direct films. All with obvious talent and ease.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Paul Anka cemented a place in the pop music world as a teen idol with his classic hits "Diana," "Puppy Love," "Lonely Boy" and "Put Your Head on my Shoulder." But that was merely the opening act for the Canadian crooner. Six decades after his debut recording "I Confess," he is a musical icon, fit as the proverbial fiddle and in demand worldwide.

His extensive 2015-2016 concert tour in this country and abroad showcases songs from his rich catalog.

"We do our homework before we leave home," he said. "We acknowledge the musical tastes in every city we visit by playing their favorite songs and even re-doing arrangements. Wherever I perform, I travel with 25 musicians, some who have been with me for years. Occasionally, we pick up a symphony orchestra to join us on stage."

While still a youngster, Mr. Anka knew exactly what he wanted to do. He set his sights on music by studying piano and theory and honed the craft of writing by seeking advice from his high school English teacher. He even worked as a cub reporter on the local Ottawa newspaper.

"I applied what I learned in class and at the paper to writing lyrics," he said. "I achieved a lot for my age. Even at 15, I had confidence in my lyrics because they expressed the honesty of adolescence. From the age of 21 on, after composing 'The Longest Day,' I had a lot more confidence. I knew it was important to diversify. If I didn't have a hit record, I kept working naturally and grew from that experience.

"When composing, I may get a melody structure by using dummy words. Melody is the foundation of the song and once I get the foundation of a melody, I sit at a piano to refine it. Because love is the strongest emotion, many of my songs are about love."

From the outset, his love songs captivated fans. "Diana" catapulted to number one on the charts when he was only 16. It was inspired by an "older" girl in his church choir, while "Lonely Boy" echoed the despair of many dateless youngsters. Maturity did not diminish the focus on love in his songs, some of them showcased in his album "Love Songs,"

Mr. Anka spent his early years in Hollywood acting in movies with fellow teen idols Annette Funicello, Mickey Rooney, Tuesday Weld and Mel Torme. While playing an Army private in "The Longest Day," a 1962 film about the D-Day landing at Normandy that also featured teen crooners Fabian and Tommy Sands, he convinced the producer, Darryl F. Zanuck, to let him compose the title song.

Showbiz luck was often on his side. For several years, he lived and worked in Italy and France. While there, he took a fancy to a tune he heard on French radio and was subsequently granted permission to use the melody for English lyrics. It became "My Way," Frank Sinatra's signature song.

A chance meeting with Johnny Carson in London led to his composing "The Tonight Show" theme, just as friendship with Tom Jones evolved into writing that British crooner's biggest hit, "She's a Lady." For Buddy Holly, his chum and frequent touring partner, he wrote "It Doesn't Matter Anymore."

Although he usually shuns writing commercials, he made an exception for Kodak and composed "Times of Your Life." Its lyrics were inspired by his memories of childhood and family.

"There's no substitute for hard work," he said. "Creativity is the dynamic force in life. I was self-sufficient and people subliminally gravitate to creativity. I learned in Vegas from the best."

While performing there, he became good friends with many noted artists and capitalized on their advice and example. In 1978, he became a partner in Jubilation, a discotheque named for one of his hits.This was but one successful project stemming from his friendships.

His CD "Duets" pairs his vocals and arrangements with earlier recordings by Dolly Parton, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, Willie Nelson, Patti Labelle and others. He expressly composed "I'm Not Anyone" for Sammy Davis, Jr., and also wrote "This Is It," sung by Michael Jackson. The original title was "I Never Heard." Through fair means or foul, the song was renamed and credited to Jackson before the mistake was acknowledged.

One of his favorite current singers is Michael Buble, with whom he partners on "Pennies From Heaven."

"I did Michael's first album after learning that he was carrying the banner of American pop music," Mr. Anka said. "I like not only pop singers, but am also a fan of many different artists, such as Coldplay, Sting, Elton John and Adele, so I based my 'Rock Swings" album on music that may become the standards of tomorrow.

Defying age, Mr. Anka's over-the-top energy on stage and off is a tribute to his lifestyle. He recently chronicled his amazing life in his riveting autobiography, "My Way."

"As you get older, you are conscious of how you live, eat, rest and take care of the vocal chords," he said. "I'd like my audiences to remember that somewhere along the way, I made a difference."

Selected albums by Paul Anka: 1970s Greatest Hits; Love Songs; Rock Swings"; Paul Anka Live; "Duets"

Autobiography: "My Way" with David Dalton, St. Martin's Press, New York

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bad Blood: Led Zepplin Vs Taylor Swift - The Volume Wars

The volume wars, it looked like they might be subsiding, seem to be back with a vengeance. Maybe the pop music producers were just reloading their overzealous compressors, or maybe they were busy acquiring extras so they could can stack them up thus multiplying the un-dynamic over decibeled sound that has become the trademark of such acts as Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, and too many others to list.

Take Taylor Swift's new hit Bad Blood. Even if you have earplugs in and the volume on "1" the song is still so shockingly loud that it sounds like just a bunch of people screaming and yelling so that they can try to be heard above the drums that are all one completely compressed, no dynamic volume, Obscenely Loud!

To get exactly what I mean you can compare Bad Blood with Led Zeppelin's Good Times Bad Times. No one is ever going to call Good Times Bad Times a ballad or wimpy tune. But you can hear dynamics, you can hear feeling, the outro has Robert Plant singing, even screaming, some great rockin' high notes. In short that song is full-out scorching played by some guys who play loud, but with a sonic fullness that does not sound like an assault on the ears or freight train trying to run you over.

The Swift song has none of that nuance - what's more is that Swift's song does not contain any musical intensity at the level of Led Zeppelin's, an interesting phenomenon that shows loudness does not equal intensity. Don't get me wrong - I am a fan of Swift's and enjoy her sound immensely. In fact Swift's voice is so wonderfully full of expression that it is astonishing that her producers seem to have been able somehow surgically remove all emotion from her performance on Bad Blood. Swift's producers have done this to her, and what else is her producers are not the worst offenders. I love Imagine Dragons, but good god someone needs to produce their songs in such a way as to let the band's personality come through. That band has some genuine warmth that is buried under a mountain of tricky producer studio effects.

All in all we need a return to producers who can let the singers, the rockers, the alternative musicians, and the singer songwriters breath a little bit. I've heard some new music lately that sounds pretty good and pretty un-produced in a nice sort of way.