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Frankie Valli - A Touch of Jazz (2021)

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I've always liked The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli's solo work. I even went to see Jersey Boys on Broadway and enjoyed it immensely. The famous 60s quartet - whose initial success coincided with The Beatles' earliest chart hits in America - hinted that they possessed a taste in music that was more sophisticated than their early doo wop influenced rock hits would indicate. Their version of Cole Porter's "I've Got You Under My Skin" (#9 in 1966) - covered by many and made a standard by Frank Sinatra - and Frankie Valli's solo hit, "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" (#2 in 1967), were a testament to that so it's not totally surprising that Valli, now 87 years old, has recorded a vocal jazz album.    The Four Seasons' cover of Porter's great tune worked extremely well because they remained true to themselves. However, Valli's vocals on this new record are incongruous with the Great American Songbook. The hall-of-fame tenor do

Bill Carter and The Presbybop Quartet - Dancing Day (2000)

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Can any of you jazz fans out there imagine what it would have been like if Dave Brubeck lived a double life, one as a Presbyterian minister and the other as a piano playing leader of a jazz quartet? The Rev. Bill Carter and his band - named after his other vocation - answer that musical question. Not only does the Presbybop Quartet sound like one of Brubeck's classic groups, the famous jazz pianist was a fan of this aggregation. The group includes Al Hamme on sax, clarinet and flute, Tony Marino on acoustic bass and Tom Whaley on drums. This is not a group of amateurs playing for their own amusement. These groovy cats are serious jazz musicians. Hamme has played with jazz all-stars Clark Terry and Slam Stewart. Marino has played bass for Betty Buckley, famous on Broadway for her starring role in Cats, and Whaley has a national reputation playing with the likes of Mose Allison. Leader Carter, who composed most of the music on this CD in addition to saving souls, is blessed with th

Buried Treasure: Wendy Matthews - Lily (1992)

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You know an artist is slated for the big time when T-Bone Burnett is the producer so it shocked me that I never heard of Australian Wendy Matthews when I first listened to her second CD, Lily , several years after its 1992 release.  I had no idea who she was and I wondered why Burnett, Booker T. Jones, and INXS members Jon Farriss and Garry Beers  were all playing in a band with a singer I knew nothing about. Later, I was surprised to learn that Lily went double platinum and contained the big hit single, "The Day You Went Away." The song peaked at #2 on the Aussie singles chart and is Matthews highest charting record.  Matthews is a native of Montreal who left home at seventeen to busker her way to Los Angeles. She eventually ended up singing backup on countryman Glenn Shorrock's tour after he left Little River Band. When the tour was over she made the decision to stay in Australia and the singer quickly became a frequently sought after session vocalist for many of he

The Corrs - Home (2006)

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This review was originally published on Bloggerhythms in 2006. After all of these years it's still one of my favorite Celtic albums of all time so I'm giving it another chance to be loved by all. It's been updated ever so slightly from the original. Commercially, The Corrs became a blockbuster success but to me they were never totally satisfying because they always lacked a clear identity. Did they want to be a mainstream pop band who frequently recorded some wimpy material or did they want to explore their Irish folk roots? The quartet tried to have it both ways, and unfortunately the two genres didn't always mesh well together. That uncertainty often lead to some schizophrenic and uneven albums. With Home , their aptly named CD from 2006 - and their last before a lengthy, decade long hiatus - The Corrs finally appeared to have found a home. The band still sounds very much like they always did but the three sisters and their brother have completely embraced the

Almost Hits: Chuck Berry and His Combo - Roll Over Beethoven (1956)

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To celebrate the 4th of July, and to improve your mood if necessary, the rock 'n roll doctor is prescribing an extra dose of  Almost Hits  this month. Take it, it'll be good for you. "Roll Over Beethoven" (1956) is the oldest song to be featured so far in this fun series of posts. Chuck Berry's famous record dates back to a time before the Billboard Hot 100  existed. On the pop chart of the era the song peaked at #29. It made the top ten on the R&B chart, reaching #7.  The single was one of fifty recordings   to be added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress and   Rolling Stone  magazine ranked it at #97 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. "Roll Over Beethoven" was a very early Berry hit that struck a chord with kids who were among the first rock 'n roll fans. The new, hard-hitting music style was still in its infancy and had not yet achieved the mainstream, worldwide phenomenon it would become in the 196

A Brief Assessment On The Talent Of Ringo Starr

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Because I'm writing this only as a listener and a fan - and not as a musician - I'm unable to discuss the fine points of drumming, so I'm just relying on my untrained ears to determine if Ringo Starr is a master of his instrument. Many years ago I believed that the rest of The Beatles defended Starr's talent more out of loyalty and deep friendship than anything else. I never heard his name mentioned with the widely acknowledged great drummers. Dudes such as Charlie Watts, Ginger Baker and John Bonham were all supposed to be better than Liverpool's native son. I assumed I wasn't totally wrong when I discovered that producer George Martin (a man who should know) used another drummer of his choosing for his first Beatles recording session. I always cited "In My Life” and “Free As A Bird” as proof Starr wasn't super-talented, but later I determined that his playing wasn’t the problem on either one. John Lennon's otherwise outstanding song from Rubber So

Almost Hits: Bob Dylan - Tangled Up In Blue (1975)

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There is no need here to discuss Bob Dylan as a musician or as a legend. Plenty has been written about him for more than half a century by people way more qualified than me. Yes, Dylan is rock's second most influential act after The Beatles but despite all of the accolades he's received the man has never been a top player on the singles charts. While the singer-songwriter, who just celebrated his 80th birthday a couple of weeks ago, has had his share of hits, being a highly successful singles act is not what he is known for, nor is it what he ever aspired to be.  Deservedly, Dylan's  Blood On The Tracks  is one of his most celebrated albums, and one of that record's most beloved songs is the minor hit single, "Tangled Up In Blue," the classic LP's opening track. Sadly, it never climbed higher than #31 on Billboard's Top 100 in 1975 even though Rolling Stone Magazine later listed it at #68 on their list of all time great songs.  Dylan had recently separ

Vitamin String Quartet - VSQ Performs The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds (2005)

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CMH Label Group , the independent record company that has issued dozens of string quartet tribute albums under the moniker Vitamin String Quartet (VSQ) has covered artists as diverse as Slayer, Enya, Bon Jovi, Oasis, Warren Zevon, Bjork, Radiohead, Rush, Fleetwood Mac, and more. Even more recently they've released albums covering Lana Del Rey, Sigur Ros, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, and Kanye West. Tom Tally, a producer of over 50 VSQ albums  described VSQ's mission on Wikipedia. " Vitamin String Quartet is about applying rock n' roll attitude to classical technique."   Back in 2005 VSQ was responsible for a nice reworking of The Beach Boys' 1966 classic,  Pet Sounds. I   can't envision either string quartet fans or Slayer fans listening to classical arrangements of that band's work, but Pet Sounds is music that easily lends itself to a classical treatment. Despite the limitations of using only three string players and a percussionist the quartet's spars