Archive for September, 2010

Phil Collins Motown tribute tops UK album chart

September 27, 2010

Phil Collins’ 18-track Motown tribute album Going Back has lived up to its title by putting him back at the top of the UK album charts for the first time since 1998.

Going Back is Collins’ eighth studio album and his first full solo release for eight years. It features cover versions of many of the soul gems that influenced him as a teenager – including The Temptations’ ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone’ and ‘Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)’, Martha and The Vandellas’ ‘Heatwave’ , and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Uptight’, along with other classic songs recorded by The Four Tops, The Supremes and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.

To make the album as faithful to the original Motown sound as possible, Collins brought in three surviving members of Motown’s legendary in-house Sixties studio band The Funk Brothers – bassist Bob Babbitt and guitarists Eddie Willis and Ray Monette.

Collins – who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year – says the album was a deeply personal labour of love for him. “These Motown songs, along with a couple of Dusty Springfield tracks, a Phil Spector/Ronettes tune, and one by the Impressions, make up the tapestry, the backdrop, of my teenage years.”

He says his intention was to make an ‘old’ record, not a ‘new’ record. “I didn’t try to bring anything new to these already great records,” he says. “I tried to recreate the sounds and feelings that I had when I first heard them.

“To be able to have three of the Funk Brothers play on all the tracks was unbelievable. I learned more about production skills and the wonderful songwriting of those concerned whilst making this album than I have from anything else.”

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Fifties teen idol Eddie Fisher dies at 82

September 24, 2010

 

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US singer Eddie Fisher – who sold millions of records in the 1950s and whose ex-wives included Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds and Connie Stevens – has died at the age of 82.

Fisher’s good looks and clear dramatic singing voice brought him a devoted following of teenage girls in the early 1950s, with a style that has been described as a “throw-back” to Al Jolson and Tin Pan Alley.

Edwin Jack Fisher was born in Philadelphia on August 10, 1928, one of seven children of a Jewish grocer. At 15 he was singing on Philadelphia radio.

After moving to New York, Fisher met comedian Eddie Cantor and began appearing on his highly rated radio show in 1949. Cantor adopted the young singer as a protégé and helped him become a star on radio, TV and records.

Fisher’s romantic messages resonated with young girls in the pre-Elvis Presley period, and his manager Milton Blackstone helped the publicity by hiring girls to scream and swoon at Fisher’s appearances.

His first few singles for RCA, including ‘Thinking of You’ and ‘Turn Back the Hands of Time’, achieved chart success. But it was two consecutive million-sellers in 1952 – ‘Any Time’ and ‘Tell Me Why’ – that established Fisher as a major star. He also achieved another big hit in 1952 with ‘Wish You Were Here’.

But 1953 proved to be the biggest year of his career. Both ‘I’m Walking Behind You’ and ‘Oh! My Pa-Pa’ spent many weeks at the top of the charts. Fisher then gained his own top-rated TV shows: Coke Time and The Chesterfield Supper Club. His success continued to grow in 1954 with ‘I Need You Now’, followed by more Top 40 hits such as ‘I’m Yours’, ‘Lady of Spain’ and ‘Count Your Blessings’.

Fisher’s fame was enhanced by his 1955 marriage to teen movie star Debbie Reynolds and they were dubbed “America’s favorite couple”. Their marriage produced two children, including Carrie Fisher who starred as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Fisher stunned his fans by divorcing Debbie Reynolds to marry Elizabeth Taylor after Taylor’s husband (and Fisher’s best friend) Mike Todd was killed in a plane crash in 1958. His divorce from Debbie Reynolds caused sensational headlines – followed by even bigger headlines five years later when Elizabeth Taylor divorced him to marry Richard Burton. Fisher’s career never really recovered from these scandals.

Although his singles did not reach the Top 40 again, a return to RCA in the mid-1960s resulted in a moderate hit with the LP Games That Lovers Play. After two more RCA albums – People Like You and You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet – Fisher rarely recorded again, although he continued to perform live in America.

After being discarded by Elizabeth Taylor, Fisher became the butt of comedians’ jokes. He reportedly began relying on drugs to get through performances, and his bookings dwindled. He later said he had made and spent $20 million during his heyday, and much of it went on gambling and drugs.

Eddie Fisher died on 22 September 2010 as a result of complications following hip surgery at a hospital in Berkeley, California.

How important are favourite songs from your past in bringing back happy memories to cheer you up in these worrying economic times?

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Elton John and Leon Russell together onstage for BBC Electric Proms in October

September 13, 2010

Sir Elton John is set to appear alongside legendary US singer-songwriter Leon Russell at the BBC Electric Proms in October.

The duo will perform live – at separate pianos – on Thursday, October 28 at London’s Roundhouse. The set will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, with highlights from the concert forming the centre piece of A Night In With Sir Elton John on BBC Two on October 30. The “night in” will also include behind-the-scenes footage from the Roundhouse gig and a new documentary about Sir Elton’s life and music.

Sir Elton – who has sold over 250 million records in a career spanning four decades – is expected to play classic tracks from his back catalogue. He will also perform new songs from his forthcoming studio album with Leon Russell, The Union, which will be released by Mercury Records on October 25.

“I’m delighted to be kicking off this year’s BBC Electric Proms,” says Sir Elton, “particularly as I’ll be joined on stage by Leon who is one of my musical heroes. The performance will feature other very special guests and some memorable moments.”

Leon Russell, now 68, collaborated with Sir Elton in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was also responsible for classic songs such as ‘Delta Lady’ (a huge hit for Joe Cocker in 1969) and The Carpenters’ Grammy-nominated hit ‘Superstar’ in 1971.

The Elton John/Leon Russell album, The Union, features guest appearances by Brian Wilson, Booker T, Don Was and Neil Young. It was produced by T-Bone Burnett and is accompanied by documentary footage shot by filmmaker Cameron Crowe.

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Lou Reed denies preventing Susan Boyle from performing ‘Perfect Day’

September 12, 2010

Fans of Susan Boyle may not have to threaten to burn copies of Transformer after all. Former Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed insists it was not him who barred the Scottish singer from performing his song ‘Perfect Day’ on America’s Got Talent. It seems it was all down to a “licensing mix-up”.

TV companies have to obtain a licence from the copyright owner before they can broadcast the performance of a song. According to representatives for Reed, ‘Perfect Day’ was cleared to be performed in the UK, but was not licensed for a US performance in time for the America’s Got Talent recording.

Susan Boyle reportedly flew to Los Angeles especially to perform ‘Perfect Day’ – one of her favourite songs – for the season finale of America’s Got Talent. But when she arrived at the studio for the taping of the show, she was told she had been refused permission to perform the song. According to reports, SuBo was left “crushed and heartbroken” and left the stage in tears. She flew back to the UK immediately.

Reed, now 68, was turned into a villain in the media because of the incident. But his spokesman insists the singer had no idea about the drama surrounding Susan Boyle’s version of the song.

‘Perfect Day’ was written in 1972 for Lou Reed’s first solo album Transformer. It has been covered by artists such as Duran Duran, Patti Smith and Kirsty MacColl, and performed live by Coldplay and Luciano Pavarotti. It was also released as a chart-topping charity single in aid of Children In Need in 1997.

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Debbie Harry and Blondie to release new album ‘Panic of Girls’ in 2011

September 11, 2010

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Debbie Harry and her band Blondie have revealed that they plan to release a new album next year. Titled Panic of Girls, it will be Blondie’s ninth studio album and their first collection of new material since The Curse of Blondie in 2003.

According to Blondie drummer Clem Burke, the band has already recorded about 35 new songs in Woodstock, New York – with 14 of the songs expected to make it onto the album. He hints that some of the surplus songs may be released via the Internet.

It’s the first time the band has recorded outside Manhattan since Automamerican, which was produced in Los Angeles in 1980.

“We tried to make the recording process as organic as possible,” says Burke. “We tried to stay away from programming as much as we could because the last album, The Curse of Blondie, had a lot of programming on it. So in the spirit of Woodstock, we just kept going in the studio and playing.”

He says everyone in the band contributed songs, although Debbie Harry – who turned 65 in July – wrote most of the lyrics. The album title, Panic of Girls, is a line from one of her new songs.

Burke says Blondie has been previewing a handful of the new songs during its summer tour dates – including the tracks ‘What I Heard’, ‘The End’ and ‘Mother’.

Debbie Harry admits she’s pleased to have some new songs to perform on stage. “I feel a definite urge to not just do old songs,” she says. “I really want to have a voice in the present, so I’m very happy that this is all going on because we’ve been stuck in a position for a couple of years where we weren’t recording.

“It really is awful having to go out and do the same old songs over and over again, although it’s not completely awful because you get a great response from the audience. They’re happy to hear the songs.”

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Cliff Richard to perform 70th birthday concerts at Royal Albert Hall

September 9, 2010

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Sir Cliff Richard is to celebrate his 70th birthday with a series of six spectacular concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall between Monday, 11 October and Sunday, 17 October 2010.

The only night Sir Cliff won’t be performing during that week is Thursday, 14 October – his 70th birthday.

Accompanied by a Swing Band, Cliff will sing many of the hits from his 52 year career, along with a selection of songs from his forthcoming album, Bold as Brass.

The special 70th birthday shows follow Sir Cliff’s solo 50th Anniversary concerts in 2008, and his 36-date reunion tour with The Shadows in 2009 and 2010.

Sir Cliff – who had his first hit in 1958 with ‘Move It’ – has sold more than 250 million records to date. He is the only UK artist who has had a Number One hit in each of five decades from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Sir Cliff is also said to be launching his own brand of sparkling wine to mark his landmark birthday. He owns a vineyard in Portugal’s Algarve region, where he already produces his own brand of wine called Vida Nova.

Despite reaching the big ‘70’, and planning to perform on a gruelling six nights out of seven, Cliff insists he is as fit as ever … an inspiration to any Sh-Boom! readers who have also had to blow out 70 candles this year.

“I’m still driven,” says Cliff. “I never feel I’ve reached my peak.”

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Engelbert Humperdinck new album Released…

September 9, 2010

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Engelbert Humperdinck has released a new album, titled Released, which was recorded in Los Angeles with Australian record producer Paul Wiltshire who has previously worked with artists such as The Backstreet Boys and Delta Goodrem.

Wiltshire and Engelbert’s son and manager Scott Dorsey were executive producers of the 11-track album which sees Engelbert stamping his own touch on current songs such as ‘We’ve Got Tonight’.

Wiltshire produced Engelbert’s first-ever iTunes hit, ‘Tell Me Where It Hurts’, which is also be featured on the new album.

Engelbert says he was thrilled by the success of ‘Tell Me Where It Hurts’ on iTunes. “In the old days, you put out a single and promoted it in person,” he says. “Now with iTunes it’s instantly all over the world. It’s quite exciting.”

Engelbert, who turned 75 last May, admits he will forever be best known for his version of the ballad ‘Release Me’, which was recorded over 44 years ago (and was responsible for keeping The Beatles’ ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ from reaching Number One in the UK).

He feels it’s “an honour” to be so closely associated with the song. “I’ve recorded so many albums in my life, but because it was my signature and because it was my first song and because it went to number one around the world and gave me a global career immediately, it’s the only song they sing in my face at airports. It just goes to show the power of one song.”

During his 45-year career, the ‘king of romance’ has always been synonymous with smooth ballads. But he doesn’t like being classed as a ‘crooner’. “No crooner has the range I have,” he says. “I can hit notes a bank couldn’t cash. What I am is a contemporary singer, a stylised performer.”

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