Today, I'm highlighting one of my favorite Canadian bands: Lighthouse. While they only had one major hit in the United States, the band cranked out a series of really great albums that fused rock, jazz and pop in a way that has probably only been matched by the pre-Peter Cetera-era Chicago. But they were much more popular in their native Canada, where they won the Juno Award for best Canadian band in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
Lighthouse was formed in Toronto in 1968 by vocalist/drummer by Skip Prokop and keyboardist Paul Hoffert. The band had a rotating group of musicians and had some initial success with their first three albums. But the addition of lead singer Bob McBride in 1970 marked the band's biggest commercial success. Lighthouse released two albums the following year and the title track from the "One Fine Morning" album went to #2 in Canada and #24 in the United States. They continued to have success in Canada and their 1972 double-album "Lighthouse Live" became the first Canadian album to be certified platinum. By 1976, the band had fallen apart but some of the original members did reunite in 1992 for a tour and new album which produced a Top 20 Canadian hit with "Remember The Times." That marked the band's 7th Top 20 hit in Canada.
Members of Lighthouse continue to tour sporadically, but the best known Lighthouse alumi is likely original saxophonist Howard Shore. After leaving the band he became the musical director of "Saturday Night Live" and went on to win three Academy Awards for "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy.
Taylor Swift Fans Out To Remind Netflix That Only Taylor Swift Can Joke About How Many Men She May Or May Not Have Dated
One annoying aspect of writing about the world of entertainment is that there is no shortage of dumbass, over-blown controversies. Every day brings another story or two of some perceived slight or trumped up outrage and for the most part, I just tune it all out. Because even when the issue is legitimate (and half the time, it's really just some convoluted PR stunt), no one is going to give a crap about it 24 hours from now. And I am at the point in my life when I just don't have the desire to waste precious hours of my life dissecting someone's hurt feelings based on random tweets from fans.
Still, I decided to write about this latest Taylor Swift story because it's the perfect storm of brand management. fan overreaction and a not especially funny throwaway line in a streaming series. In a better world, this is the type of story that would never get past the Taylor Swift fan group text level. But it's 2021, and there is apparently no outrage too small to ignore. So even the Hollywood Trades wade in with a story or two, because....hey, pageviews.
This tale of misplaced PR assets begins with the new Netflix series Ginny And Georgia. There is a mention of singer Taylor Swift in episode ten and here is how it is described by TV Line:
Georgia (Brianne Howey) and daughter Ginny (Antonia Gentry) get into an argument, prompting the following comeback from Ginny when Georgia comments on her daughter’s relationship status: “What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift.”
It's a throwaway line and to be honest, it's not the greatest joke in the world. Especially since the young singer/global brand has apparently been in a committed relationship for several years. Still, it doesn't seem like a big deal. And when I watched the episode maybe six weeks ago before it premiered, the line didn't even register in my consciousness.
But apparently Taylor Swift noticed, because she did what any savvy celebrity does in 2021, she cranked out an angry tweet:
Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back. How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse shit as FuNnY. Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you. Happy Women’s History Month I guess.
Now Swift is certainly entitled to be annoyed by the joke. But given that her PR people spent years encouraging fans to breathlessly dissect her songs for hints about her love life and her every dating move was indirectly monetized, the Ginny And Georgia line might be lazy, but it's not "deeply sexist." And it certainly doesn't rise to the level required to threaten Netflix with the "hey, I let you stream a special with me. How can you treat me this way?"
And in fact, the line seems to be there to be cringy and tone-deaf. It's a bit of a cheap shot on purpose, designed to show one of the nuanced aspects of the mother/daughter relationship and how people will say things in order to seem hip or cultural aware while at the same time also showing how out of touch they really are.
But regardless of any context for the line, Swift has a core sub-group of fans who love her in the same way that Zack Snyder fans love the #SnyderCut. So her fans swarmed onto sites such as IMDB, Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes to downvote Ginny And Georgia. Because screw all of those people who worked on the show and the year or two of hard they put into the show. All I care about is a five-second not-that-funny joke in one episode. Fuck everything else, all that matters is the supposedly hurt feelings of my favorite singer.
What's the point of this piece? Part of it is just ranting, because I hate this entitled, whiney fan culture. As well as celebrities who engage in this passive, aggressive brand management and PR spin through social media outlets. I really enjoy Swift's music and I look forward to what she'll do in the next few decades. But while that throwaway line might not be a highlight of Ginny And Georgia, this overblown controversy isn't going to make any of Swift's "year-in-review" highlight reels.
If you're a music fan, one of the saddest things about getting older is that songs that hold a touchstone for your life become essentially invisible to later generations.
"Colour My World" by Chicago is one of those tunes. Thanks to the demographic quirks of classic rock formats, it's rare to hear anything older than the early 1980s on the radio. And even on the few hard classic rock radio stations, a lot of bands that were integral rock bands in the 1960s and 1970s are pretty much ignored because they fall into that category of "classic but not hard rock."
While plenty of the Peter Cetera-era soft-rock hits from Chicago's 1980s and 1990s output are still receiving plenty of attention, the early songs of the band once known as the Chicago Transit Authority are sadly unknown to most music fans under the ago of 50. Which sucks, because the band put out a string of really impressive horn-based rock albums that reflected the jazz and classical roots of the original band members. A great jumping-in point for that era of Chicago is the band's Chicago At Carnegie Hall, a massive four-album live set that covered most of the important tracks from the band's first three releases. While the studio version of "Colour My World" (which was on the band's second album) was the hit, I much prefer the live version. It sounds a bit more relaxed and despite the size of the crowd, more intimate.
With vocals by the late, great Terry Kath and music/lyrics by James Pankow, "Colour My World" was originally released as the "B" side of the May 1970 single "Make Me Smile." It was released a year later as a single and went to #7. Despite only having one verse and a flute solo, the song was played at every high school dance and most of the backyard weddings throughout much of the 1970s.
Rather than focusing on the death of convicted murderer and well-known music producer Phil Spector, I wanted to focus on some of his victims. Specifically, people whose careers and lives were negatively impacted by Spector's erratic behavior and tendency towards violence. And if you want a textbook example of Spector's negative impact on a female singer's career, you have to look no farther than his ex-wife, Ronnie Spector.
Spector's voice is instantly identifiable, and as the lead singer of The Ronettes, she had a string of hits arranged and produced by Phil Spector. "Be My Baby," "Baby I Love You," "Walking In The Rain" and other singles helped define the pre-Beatles soundtrack of the early 1960s. But the group broke up in 1967 & the following year Ronnie Spector (born Veronica Yvette Bennett) had married Phil Spector. Where she quickly found herself in the grasps of a manipulative, angry psychopath.
She famously left the marriage when she escaped barefoot from his mansion in 1972, but in the years of her marriage she experienced a simply stunning level of abuse from her husband. In her 1990 memoir, "Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness," she detailed years of psychological torment. He surrounded the house with barbed wire, guard dogs and confiscated her shoes to keep her from leaving. On the rare occasions he allowed her out alone, she had to drive with a life-size dummy of Phil. She also claimed he sabotaged her career by forbidding her to perform.
It wasn't until 1976 that she began an attempt to build a solo career by appearing on the Southside Johnny recording of "You Mean So Much To Me." The track was written by Bruce Springsteen and that association brings us to "Say Goodbye To Hollywood."
In 1976, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band were hobbled by a lawsuit filed by former manager Mike Appel. They were legally prohibited from recording a follow-up to the "Born To Run" album and spent much of their time touring. But members of the E-Street Band did also did some session work, including drummer Max Weinberg and pianist Roy Bittan appearance on Meatloaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" album. In January of 1977, Steve Van Zandt decided to take the entire E Street Band into the studios and cut some tracks with Ronnie Spector. The result was a single of Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" b/w "Baby, Please Don't Go." Release on the same CBS-distributed label as Meatloaf (Cleveland International), it was billed as the first single off an upcoming album.
Joel had released "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" in 1976 and was obviously inspired by the Phil Spector Wall of Sound that framed the Ronettes work. So much so that his version of the song began with the same drum intro as their single "Be My Baby." "Baby, Please Don't Go" was written by Steven Van Zandt. Both tracks are magnificent updates of the iconic Ronettes sound as listening to them now, it's hard to believe "Say Goodbye To Hollywood" wasn't a hit. Incessant piano undertones, the incessant Clarence Clemons sax counterpoints and an overall production that is best described as "timeless." There was some level of work done on an album, but in later years, Ronnie Spector said she was distracted by custody issues and other legal problems that prevented her from focusing on her career.
She has released several albums since (including a 1999 album produced by Joey Ramone), but her most recognizable work as a solo act is likely her vocals on the 1986 Eddie Money hit "Take Me Home Tonight."
Along with The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Four Seasons were by far the most commercially successful bands during the 1960s. But The Four Seasons have long been underappreciated by music fans, in part because they were less about music experimentation and more focused with cranking out hit after hit. And they did just that, hitting the Top 40 35 times in the 1960s and early 1970s and selling more than 100 million records worldwide.
While the band's early music found a renewed success following the success of the Broadway show "Jersey Boys," there have been large parts of the band's output that has been neglected. Many of the band's albums are out of print and there have been no deluxe editions or bonus track releases. And many of the group's best-known hits aren't available for streaming because the band prefers to sell the tracks digitally to capitalize on the "Jersey Boys" resurgence.
An expansive new box set of CDs promises to finally give The Four Seasons its proper due with a 44-disc collection that features every album released by the band, along with unreleased tracks, several early live sets and a CD of previously unheard tracks from the group's tumultuous stint at Motown's Mowest label.
The career of The Four Seasons (known in the 60s as "4 Seasons") has a number of chapters and the set will extensively cover all of them. Frankie Valli had recorded and performed under a number of names beginning in 1953, before settling on the name The Four Lovers. The group released a number of singles, but aside from one #63 hit, the group never took off. Personnel came and went and after failing a 1960 audition at a New Jersey bowling alley, Valli and band keyboardist and guitarist Bob Gaudio formed the Four Seasons Partnership, which they split ownership of 50-50. That partnership still owns most the group's master recordings, which has ended up being both a blessing and a curse for fans.
Within two years, the band was now called The 4 Seasons and had signed to Vee Jay Records, where their first three singles all went to #1. Unfortunately the Chicago-based label was in deep financial trouble, despite at one point having both The Beatles and The Four Seasons on its roster. The group moved to Phillips Records and had a string of hits that continued into the late 1960s. But after the commercial failure of 1969's concept album The Genuine Imitation Life and 1970's part group/part solo Frankie Valli release Half & Half, The Four Seasons were without a label for the first time in 8 years.
The next few years were difficult for the group, but also included a lot of experimentation. Some of which has remained unreleased until being selected for this upcoming (and still untitled) box set. The group signed with Motown's new LA-based Mowest label, and they recorded a large number of tracks. Some with familiar producers like Bob Crewe and some with longtime Motown producers like The Corporation. A 1972 album named Chameleon was unsuccessful, as was a solo Frankie Valli single. The group worked on a new album set for an early 1974 release, but when Mowest declined to release it, the Four Seasons Partnership attempted to purchase all of those master recordings. But the label wanted too much money for the tracks, so the Partnership negotiated a deal that allowed them to purchase one completed track for $4,000. That track - "My Eyes Adored You" - was later released by Private Stock Records and became a #1 solo hit for Frankie Valli in late 1974.
That solo hit - along with a successful "best of" album release by The Four Seasons - convinced Warner Brothers to sign them. By this point, Frankie Valli's was gradually losing his hearing due to otosclerosis (though eventually, surgery restored most of it). And in an effort to ease the load on Valli, a new version of The Four Seasons was recruited, led by Don Ciccone (formerly of the Critters) and Gerry Polci. The result was the album Who Loves You, an album in which Polci did about half of the lead vocals. That album's title cut went to #3 on the U.S. singles chart, the follow-up single "December 1963 (Oh What A Night) was the group's last #1 hit and the third single ("Silver Star") just slipped into the Top 40.
At the same time, Valli was having a string of solo hits - "Swearin' To God," "Our Day Will Come," "Fallen Angel" - and 1976 ended on a high note for everyone. But that was also the last big commercial success for either Valli or The Four Seasons. The group's next album, "Helicon" didn't produce a hit single and topped at #168 on the album charts. A plan to spin-off the group without Valli so he could focus on his solo career was dropped. The Four Seasons changed members again and became essentially a backing band for Valli and a jukebox to play the group's many hits.
This up-and-down career offers a lot of opportunities to fill in the blanks with unreleased and under-appreciated tracks and this new set reportedly covers nearly every aspect of the band's long career. The set will begin with an expanded version of the 1962 album Sherry & 11 Others and ends with a rerelease of the 2008 Rhino album Jersey Babies. In between are numerous rare stereo or mono versions of tracks, 13 previously unreleased songs from the Mowest-era, three live board-mixed concerts: a 1972 show from Atlantic City, a 1973 show in Boston and a complete live show from 1974 that includes numerous otherwise unrecorded songs. There is a CD of previously unreleased tracks recorded in 1968-1970. And much, much more.
Despite the massive proposed size of this box set, there are plenty of unreleased tracks that weren't included for various reasons. Because the Four Seasons Partnership controls most of the group's masters, the set doesn't include some tracks that for whatever reason weren't approved by the group. While 13 unreleased Mowest-era tracks are being included, Bob Gaudio declined to approve others he and/or Valli felt weren't up to the group's standards. There are an unknown number of tracks that are controlled by long-time producer Bob Crewe and because of a long-running disagreement between Gaudio and the late Crewe, those tracks are also not part of the set.
But given the massive proposed size of the box set and the number of rare tracks, this release - which is due sometime in the summer of 2021 - will be a dream release for any hardcore fan of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.
A musical sweet spot for me is the kinda difficult to describe fusion of bluegrass, country-pop, folk and mountain music. But while I'm hard pressed to define it, it's one of those genres that you can instantly identify when you hear it.
I don't know anything about the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based band Saugeye other than what I was able to discover online, primarily on the group's Bandcamp page.
The track "Keystone Lillie" comes from their upcoming album, which is coming out on January 29th and is apparently an homage to a beloved dog:
"Ten years I got to love you/Ten years just ain't enough/Oh what I'd give/For one more day/With your perfect love"
Saugeye is comprised of a bunch of veteran Tulsa musicians: Jared Tyler (acoustic guitar / dobro / vocals), Seth Lee Jones (electric guitar / slide guitar), Jake Lynn (drums / backing vocals) and Casey Van Beek (bass / backing vocals). I'm a fan of Tyler's solo work, but while I am sadly not as familiar with any of the work from the other members of the band (although I do know the music of The Tractors), that is my mistake. These are clearly musicians I should be listening to on a regular basis.
"Keystone Lillie" is a breezy, bittersweet ray of musical sunshine that instantly makes you wish you were sitting around a fire pit, pulling back a cold one while listening to the band play. The track is timeless in a way that never sounds dated and if the rest of the album is half this good, you should pre-order your copy today.
Here is some info about the band from Horton Records, the label releasing the album. The video of the song is below:
Since 2017, the band has honed its tight live performance with weekly residencies at Tulsa’s Mercury Lounge and The Colony, as well as festivals including Okemah’s Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, Tahlequah’s Medicine Stone Music Festival and Kansas City’s Open Spaces Art Festival, building a loyal following along the way. The eleven songs on this release reflect that musicianship.
Recorded at Tulsa’s Black Box Studio on a single day, with the goal of capturing the band’s live show, all of the tracks (including drums, bass, lead and rhythm guitar, and lead vocals) were cut live, with background vocals and B3 organ added later. The songs are a selection of originals (including “Keystone Lillie,” Tyler’s recently penned, beautiful tribute to his faithful dog) and covers by some of the band’s friends and favorites. Saugeye’s powerful rendition of Bill Wither’s “Grandma’s Hands” features an added original verse, and the band does justice to singer-songwriter Malcolm Holcombe’s “To the Homeland” and “One Leg at a Time.” “Gideon’s Bible,” by the late Brandon Jenkins, is the band’s homage to the considerable lyrical talents of their sorely missed friend.
Although Saugeye is relatively new on the music scene, its members boast impressive resumes. Singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tyler began his professional career as the longtime sideman to acclaimed singer-songwriter Malcolm Holcombe. Tyler’s solo releases include Blue Alleluia (2006), featuring guest vocals from Emmylou Harris, Here With You (2010), which was co-produced by Chuck Zwicky, Prince’s mixing engineer, and most recently, and Dirt On Your Hands (2017). Seth Lee Jones is a third-generation guitarist and noted luthier who began his career in his family’s band. Jake Lynn plays drums with Texas country outfit Jason Boland & The Stragglers, and Casey Van Beek was a member of The Tractors, with a long career that includes time alongside Glenn Frey and Don Henley in Linda Ronstadt’s band.
Taylor Swift announced on social media early Thursday morning that she is releasing a companion album to her recent album Folklore.
I’m elated to tell you that my 9th studio album, and folklore’s sister record, will be out tonight at midnight eastern. It’s called evermore.— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 10, 2020
?: Beth Garrabrant pic.twitter.com/xdej7AzJRW
I’ve never done this before. In the past I’ve always treated albums as one-off eras and moved onto planning the next one after an album was released. There was something different with folklore. In making it, I felt less like I was departing and more like I was returning.— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 10, 2020
And I loved creating these songs with Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, WB, and Justin Vernon. We’ve also welcomed some new (and longtime) friends to our musical kitchen table this time around...— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 10, 2020
I also know this holiday season will be a lonely one for most of us and if there are any of you out there who turn to music to cope with missing loved ones the way I do, this is for you.— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 10, 2020
All *digital downloads* of the album will include an exclusive, digital booklet with 16 brand new photos. You can pre-order evermore now at https://t.co/QYMUTL0IAj— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 10, 2020
Tonight the story continues, as the music video for “willow” drops at midnight eastern. pic.twitter.com/T3o0nsANpY— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) December 10, 2020
In a since-deleted Instagram post, Halsey criticized the Recording Academy’s behind-the-scenes operations – including by stating that the organization accepts "bribes" for Grammys nominations and awards.
Halsey's 2020 album "Manic" failed to receive a single Grammy nomination despite having been the first album of 2020 to be certified Platinum by the RIAA.
In the Instagram post, the performer mentioned that many people had reached out offering her words of support and that while she was upset, she was going to choose her words "carefully."
She went on to claim that success at the awards show "often" results from private performances, "knowing the right people," and campaigning "with the right handshakes and 'bribes' that can be just ambiguous enough to pass as 'not-bribes.'"
"And if you get that far," she went on write, "it’s about committing to exclusive TV performances and making sure you help the Academy make their millions in advertising on the night of the show."
She ended her post arguing that the Grammys aren’t "always about the music or quality or culture," and that she hopes the process and the organization will become more transparent.
Some of the tunes I've been choosing for my daily "Oddest Songs Of Christmas" posts really are best described as terribly inept attempts to provide a little holiday spirit. The singing is clunky, the instrumentation is overblown or the finished track is just boring.
And then there are those tunes that aren't bad in the traditional sense of the word. There are some Christmas singles that are so magnificently insane that they transcend what we think of as good or bad music. They might be catchy and you may even sing along to them. But as you do, you'll feel both joyous and embarrassed.
One Christmas song that neatly fits into that category is the 1996 Randy Bachman track "Taking Care Of Christmas." The song was a bonus track recorded for the album "Randy Bachman Songbook," which featured re-recorded versions of songs Bachman had written and recorded while being part of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. One of BTO's biggest hits was "Takin' Care Of Business," which might have one of the most distinctive guitar riffs of the classic rock era. And for whatever reason, Bachman thought it was a good idea to recreate that song, while changing the lyrics to make it a Christmas tune.
The result is a track that manages to be both ear candy as well as infuriating. You can't help but sing along, but you also hate the fact that you can't resist. Now the fact that Bachman recorded an all-Christmas album in 2008 that also included this song must mean some people loved it. And I'll admit, I've listened to the track a lot this week. I just hate myself for doing so.
If you're a rock music fan, you're likely familiar with the story of Big Star, a Memphis-based band that created three albums of music that are still regarded as highly influential even though the best-selling release - the debut album entitled "#1 Record" - likely only sold a few hundred copies when it was released in June 1972. But the band's music has been re-released continuously over the ensuing decades and you can now buy pretty much every track and live show the band ever recorded. Their music matters because not only were they talented, but their songs captured the zeitgeist of what was to come in music. Every one from R.E.M.'s Peter Buck to Paul Stanley have cited the band as an influence.
There are a precious few bands like Big Star that just seem to capture a specific moment in time. More often than not, the bands aren't all that successful at the time, but as the years pass, their talent and influence become clear. Which brings me to the Chicago band Insiders.
The band was part of a massive wave of talent that exploded in Chicago in the 1980s. You could go to clubs seven days a week and not catch all of the talent playing on a regular basis. And for whatever reason, the scene never took off the way it did in L.A. in the late 1980s or Seattle in the 1990s. A number of bands were signed by major labels but for the most part, the exercise was more frustrating than starmaking.
One group that nearly everyone thought would break big was the Insiders. Imagine Lennon and McCartney backed by Tom Petty's Heartbreakers. Their songs were ear candy, the band was incredibly tight live and they were one of the few bands that didn't have a weak spot in the lineup. After being initially courted by Warner Brothers, they signed with Epic and released their debut album, "Ghost On The Beach" in 1987. The title track became a Top Ten modern rock track and the album reportedly sold about 100,000 copies.
But like a lot of bands, the follow-up album turned into a bit of a nightmare. They recorded a bunch of tracks in Memphis, which the label apparently decided didn't include a hit. They recorded another group of tracks and eventually were dropped by the label. The entire story is much too long to get into here, but it's worth noting that Chrysalis Records wanted to sign the band, but wasn't willing to pay Epic's price for the recorded tracks.
The band later released several albums through the independent label Monsterdisc, including "Live At Fitzgerald's," an absolutely smoking live album that included tracks from their debut album as well as ones that had been slated for the follow-up.
There are a number of great unreleased tunes from the Epic period, but I wanted to showcase "Little Miss Information" here. In part, because it's just a song with a hook as powerful as a cannonball. And also because a member of the band posted this live clip on YouTube, which gives you an idea of just how good a band they were live.
"Ghost On The Beach" has been out of print since the early 1990s and it has never been released digitally. I love the band enough I spent some time trying to shake loose tracks from Sony to release independently, but wasn't able to make it happen. But if you like their sound, a collection of unrleased tracks called "Back In Memphis" is floating around on some torrent sites. And you can listen to a couple of live tracks and well as songs from their unreleased Epic album on this Soundcloud page.
The 54th Annual CMA Awards were hosted by Country Music superstars Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker and featured performances by Jason Aldean, Jimmie Allen, Ingrid Andress, Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth, Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Eric Church, Luke Combs, Dan + Shay with Justin Bieber, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Ashley McBryde, Maren Morris, Old Dominion, Jon Pardi, Charles Kelley and Carly Pearce, Darius Rucker, Thomas Rhett featuring Reba McEntire and Chris Tomlin, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and Morgan Wallen and more. Trailblazing Country legend Charley Pride received the 2020 CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.