Categories
Music Reviews

Champlin Williams Friestedt

Champlin Williams Friestedt

CWF II

Black Lodge Records

The Super Group is BACK! Or maybe they never really disappeared; I just stopped noticing them. This particular ensemble consists of Joseph Williams (Toto) – Bill Champlin (Chicago) – and mega producer Peter Friestedt. It’s a time trip back to the 1980s with this slick, highly produced rock sound that leans a bit toward an “Easy Listening.” The tunes lack any rough edges, drum solos or chemical excess. I find it a comfortable retreat; this is what the 1980s would have sounded like had MTV never appeared. This whole collection of 10 polished tracks slides easily into the ear, exciting and listenable. These guys are pros and they all have a string of hits in their back pocket. This is the voice of experience, rocking along very nicely.

The first track I really stood up for is “10 Miles”. It’s a gentle love song where the singer finds himself in Nowhere, TX as he sings: “10 miles east of El Paso”. He’s hoping to give his lover his heart if he can just catch a ride. Knowing this genre of music, that heart is the symbolic one. Then there’s a great break up song a bit farther down the road. “Look Away” catches a romance at the opposite end of the love subway line. Our singer just broke up for good, she’s got someone new and much better behaved, and this poor guy is left with a bitter memory and a great guitar solo. This entire collection leans on the vicissitudes of romance, and that’s the heart of pop music, isn’t it? Late in the playlist we enjoy “Restless Love.” Here our male protagonist recovers joy and looks forward. It’s a more upbeat lyric, but slow and thoughtful in the melody department. I’m taken back few decades as the program flows. Good vocals, clean production and gripping stories: love, loss and recovery.

blacklodge.se

Categories
Music Reviews

Lauren Anderson

Lauren Anderson

Won’t Stay Down

Devious Planet

Lauren Anderson has traveled the country learning her craft. From a childhood in Chicago, to a music therapy degree in Kansas, to playing gigs across the South and making a home in Nashville, she has made her bones as a traveling blues singer. Won’t Stay Down is her fourth release, and it shows how she has combined her love of classic blues with a progressive sound incorporating pop and jazz hooks to build something new. The opening track, “Honey, Call Me Baby,” puts a spin on the classic love song by calling out the cat-callers who demean and diminish her talents as being just another pretty face. The opening riff feels like the Spencer Davis Group backing up a Stax singer in a Mississippi juke joint. “Too Little Too Late” is just what it sounds like – a ballad telling her lover that no matter how hard they try to fix things, it’s over. The title track brings in a funky groove, but the lyrics become a bit repetitive. “Cake” adds a bit of Latin flair with a lively drum beat and a horn section as she sings about having it all. The EP closes out with “Wild and Free,” which tells a good story, but loses me in the chorus as she stretches it out to “wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wild and free.”

Anderson will naturally draw comparisons to Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Raitt, both justifiably so, but she also reminds me of Canadian singer Sass Jordan. Her vocal range is similar, and more importantly, she sounds like she is having a good time while singing these songs. The EP isn’t perfect, but it has intrigued me and I will be on the look out for more music from this talented artist.

www.laurenandersonmusic.com

Categories
Event Reviews

Don Felder

Don Felder

Disney Epcot® International Flower & Garden Festival — Garden Rocks Concert Series, Bay Lake, Florida • May 6, 2019

Walt Disney World’s 2019 Epcot® International Flower & Garden Festival — Garden Rocks Concert Series continues to offer quality performances from stellar talent, and this year is no exception. Don Felder, formerly of The Eagles, thrilled the theme park crowds with a three-evening stint from May 5 to 7. He looked and sounded amazing, and he seemed genuinely thrilled to wow the intimate audiences before him. Each night, the seasoned rocker and Florida native pumped out three 30-minute sets at the American Gardens Theatre. I was lucky enough to catch the final set on the last evening. It was a seven-song Epcot® sojourn down Eagles memory lane. I doubt there was a single person there who wasn’t taken right back in time to the 1970s, when The Eagles ruled the airwaves with epic hit after hit. Felder was backed by guitarist David Myhre (who has toured with Tanya Tucker), bassist Jeff Coffey (former bassist/vocalist for Chicago, 2016-2018), drummer Chris Ralles and keyboardist Timothy Drury.

Don Felder

Michelle Wilson
Don Felder

Don Felder

Michelle Wilson
Don Felder

Jeff Coffey, Don Felder, David Myhre

Michelle Wilson
Jeff Coffey, Don Felder, David Myhre

During some of the sets, Felder mixed in the title track off his newly released solo album, American Rock ‘N’ Roll, ( stores.portmerch.com/donfelder/featured-products/american-rock-and-roll-lp.html ), which features a slew of guests including Sammy Hagar, Slash, Richie Sambora, Orianthi, Peter Frampton, Joe Satriani, Mick Fleetwood, Chad Smith, Bob Weir and more.

Don Felder

Michelle Wilson
Don Felder

But the final set was straight-up Eagles cuts: “Already Gone” (On The Border, J. Tempchin/R. Strandlund, 1974), “Peaceful Easy Feeling” (J. Tempchin) and “Witchy Woman” (D. Henley/B. Leadon, both off Eagles, the 1972 debut album), “Seven Bridges Road” (S. Young, never officially recorded for a studio album but released on Eagles Live 1980), “Heartache Tonight” (The Long Run, D. Henley, G. Frey, B. Seger and J.D. Souther, 1979), and “Life In The Fast Lane” (J. Walsh/G. Frey/D. Henley, Hotel California, 1976). As soon as Felder’s iconic Gibson EDS 1275 SG Double Neck Arctic White, 12-string guitar appeared on stage, EVERYONE knew what was coming. The discernible opening notes of “Hotel California” (D. Felder/D. Henley/G. Frey) rang out on the balmy Florida evening and then just like that, the half-hour set was over in what seemed like seconds.

Don Felder

Michelle Wilson
Don Felder

Don Felder and David Myhre

Michelle Wilson
Don Felder and David Myhre

This concert series offered by Disney/Epcot® is such a perfect way to enjoy some of your favorite performers in an intimate setting. What a treat it was for Don Felder to entertain park visitors with an Eagles songbook. After all, who doesn’t know and love the hits of The Eagles? I only wish it had been longer.

Don Felder

Michelle Wilson
Don Felder

Felder is on tour in Europe right now. If you’re lucky enough to be there, do not miss the opportunity to attend a show.

Check out the full gallery of photos from Rock Legends Photographers.

rocklegendsphotographers.smugmug.com/ROCK-CONCERT-PHOTOS/DON-FELDER-Epcot-Orlando-FL-5-6-19

www.donfelder.com disneyworld.disney.go.com/entertainment/epcot/flower-garden-rocks-concert-series

Categories
Screen Reviews

WAX TRAX! Industrial Accident

WAX TRAX! Industrial Accident

directed by Julia Nash

starring Al Jourgensen, Chris Connelly, Richard 23, Throbbing Gristle, Groovy Mann, En Esch, Julia Nash & others

As a first-hand enthusiast and follower of the eighties “alternative”, “new wave”, “electronic”, and ultimately “industrial” scene, I was excited to learn an aptly titled, Wax Trax! Industrial Accident video was forthcoming! This “truth is stranger than fiction” tale of the off-kilter friend/partnership of Trax co-founders, Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher provide perspective on how two guys on the fringe of society, underground culture, and music could become ground-zero for an iconic storefront, label, and musical genre, is nothing short of miraculous! I was pleasantly surprised to find the story a first-hand account as told by those most intimately involved with Jim, Dannie, & the Wax Trax! artists, not from a disconnected documentarian with nary a toe in the pond of industrial sludge!

Speaking of personal, Jim Nashs’, daughter Julia, appropriately serves as producer and archivist. When she found a virtual time capsule of all Wax Trax stock, photos, video, etc. in an Arkansas barn in 2010, she knew the time was ripe to share the story. The Wax Trax! trajectory lends itself to a Behind the Music formula, which entails a chronology of the humble beginnings, rise, and ultimate fall of its subject(s). Yet, it’s the serendipitous journey of all cast members through the eighties and nineties that really makes Industrial Accident so riveting. Rarely would one reflect on how a label’s backstory and artists evolve, but the film gleans insight from shop employees, close friends of Jim and Dannie’s, and the artists who became synonymous with the Wax Trax! brand-Al Jourgensen, Chris Connelly, Richard 23, En Esch, among others to reveal how this “accident” became, and has remained, a beloved cultural icon some forty years later.

Interwoven with video and photos from their first store in Denver, then to the heyday of Chicago, archival footage of Jim and Dannie, live performances, and of course the obligatory mayhem and nonchalant demeanor that whisked these merry-men through the years, I am confident you will find the video engaging. Whether you “wax” nostalgic or simply want to know what the hell was going on in those days, the story is fascinating pure and simple! My intention is to simply share “why” you need to see this incredible story of music history told by those who lived it, not fill a page with a play by play regurgitation of its contents. For the first time, the Wax Trax! story is to be told AND seen. What a beautiful combination indeed!

In addition to the DVD, there is a full-length LP of tracks from Wax Trax artists-Thrill Kill Kult, Ministry, REVCO (unreleased track!), KMFDM, and Front 242, to name a few. There will also be a few live shows in select cities featuring Ministry as headliner! For more info on all the Wax Trax! happenings, head over to: www.waxtrax.com or give ’em a ring at 1-833-wax-trax.

www.waxtraxfilms.com

Categories
Features

Short Attention Span: Quick Takes on Worthy Records

Short Attention Span: Quick Takes on Worthy Records

The year is rapidly coming to a close and there is still a pile of CD’s I haven’t had time to review. I want to say something about these discs before we roll over into 2019. So, here are some records I want you to know about in nice, concise summations for the attention deprived.

• •

The Devil Makes Three

Chains Are Broken

New West

What really caught my attention about this Santa Cruz based roots rock band is their sideways approach to life. There is a beautiful honesty in “Need to Lose” that addresses obsessive behavior. “I don’t gamble ’cause I want to win, boys. I gamble ’cause I need to lose.” “Native Son” takes on immigration saying, “I came free and I came chained. I watched ships pull up on shore … Don’t say you don’t need me anymore… I don’t have to love it. And I don’t have to leave it. Ain’t no stranger here, I am your native son.” Devil Makes Three is a hoedown for thinking people.

• •

Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles

Love’s Middle Name

Blue Corn Music

Love’s Middle Name is a flat-out rocking outing from Borges and her backing band. It’s been five years since she’s taken to the studio with the Broken Singles, and they seem intent on making up for lost time. Musically, Sarah comes out all swagger and toughness. Lyrically, she sings about deterioration relationships and bad choices. The gut punch that comes half way through the album is “Are You Still Taking Them Pills?” The song is a clear-eyed conversation between a recovering addict and an old dope buddy. It’s not preachy, just an honest question; are you still taking them pills?

• •

Sam Ravenna

Fragile

Samrevenna.com

Sam Ravenna is another artist finding inspiration in sweet soul music. “Help Me Find It” has a loose groove and jazzy horns that make me think of Allen Toussaint in the ’70s. “Let it Be Known” channels a Terry Kath-era Chicago singing about love and hope. “Fragile” is lover’s rock for troubled times. Turn off the TV, dim the lights and hold your significant one close.

• •

Justin Kauflin

Coming Home

Qwest Records

Coming Home feels like a safe place to be. Kauflin’s piano work is lively, with a gentle touch and a focus on melody. With Quincy Jones involved in the production, the album has a lush feel without being overwrought. “Looking Forward” would fit comfortably along side Bob James classic theme from Taxi. While most of the tunes are original compositions, Kauflin interprets tunes by Mulgrew Miller, Sufjan Stevens and the Beatles. Kauflin actually takes two runs at “Strawberry Fields Forever”, once as a fusion fantasy with the full band and again to close out the disc as a solo meditation.

• •

The Innocence Mission

Sun on the Square

North American Badman

Karen and Don Peris have been making music as the Innocence Mission for over three decades. It’s been a long time since they were on a major label being touted as the next 10,000 Maniacs. Sun on the Square is their 11th album and it’s like slipping through the wardrobe into another world. The music makes me think of Victorian parlors and sepia-toned photographs. Karen’s voice is sweet and child-like which his so right for the sense of wonder found in her lyrics. If Guillermo Del Toro made a Disney movie, The Innocence Mission would be the soundtrack.

So there you have a quick round up of some records I didn’t want to get away before the New Year. 2019 will be here in a few minutes with loads of new adventures.

Categories
Music Reviews

Malo

Malo

Latin Bugaloo: The Warner Bros. Singles

Omnivore

Listening to this compilations of Malo’s singles that were released in the early 1970s reminds me something Frank Zappa once said about the music industry. “Some music of an unusual or experimental nature did get released. Now look at who were the executives … not hip young guys. These were cigar chomping old guys who looked at the product and said, “I don’t know, who knows what it is? Record it and stick it out, if it sells, all right. Nowadays the media consultants and professional taste makers would find a little niche for Malo But back in the early ’70s cigar chompers said press it up, and see if people like it. That “Oye Como Va” tune did ok.

Malo came out of the dynamic San Francisco scene They took the rock sounds of the day, infused a healthy amount of Latin influences and a full horn section. The group experienced a lot of personnel changes over the course of the four albums these singles are culled from. Unlike, say Chicago, the horn players came and went with alarming frequency. Vocalist Arcello Garcia and guitarist Jorge Santana led the group through the Warner years. The original incarnation of Malo disbanded after their fourth Warner Bros album, Ascencion.

Latin Bugaloo collects the A and B sides of Malo’s Warner singles. In order to get radio play, songs had to be around the magical three-minute mark. To render the tunes radio friendly, these tunes were edited to fit the format. The same tracks on the Malo albums could stretch out closer to the ten-minute mark.

Malo peaked commercially with their first single, the swaying, romantic tune, “Suavecito” reached number 18 on the Billboard charts. If you’ve heard anything by Malo, it’s probably this tune (or you’ll recognize the sample used by Sugar Ray on “Every Morning”). I actually like the Latin jazz of the B side, “Nena” better. The song has an infections rhythm and alternating trumpet, flute and guitar solo. The next single, “Café” sounds a lot like what Jorge’s brother (Carlos) was doing at the time (with horns). The flip side, “Peace”, is an organ driven soul burner brimming with passion.

Malo’s sales steadily declined over the course of their four albums, even if the quality of their music remained high. The music industry, especially the hit oriented top 40 radio of the day, is notoriously fickle. “I Don’t Know” and “Love Will Survive” are nice, but you can definitely hear the rough edges being sanded down so the songs would be more palatable to radio programmers. “Love Will Survive” wouldn’t sound out of place of Chicago’s VII, which was released the same year. The fun Latin jams “Just Say Goodbye” and “Pana” were only released in Turkey.

Over the decades, the Malo has come and gone, broken up and regrouped in different configurations. Arcello Garcia is the only original member in the version of Malo still active today. Latin Bugaloo is a fun bit of Latin rock history and a peak at a time when the old time record men were willing to take chances.

Categories
Event Reviews

Chicago

Chicago

with REO Speedwagon

Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, Tampa, FL • July 21, 2018

Living in Florida, we are so privileged to have no shortage of fabulous outdoor venues that offer a variety of musical acts to appeal to every fan. The double bill of REO Speedwagon and Chicago at Tampa’s Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheatre brought out a huge crowd for these long-time favorites. It was a typical Florida evening – hot and humid, with a gorgeous cotton-cloud sunset backdrop.

REO Speedwagon

Michelle Wilson
REO Speedwagon

 

The back lawn held a sea of people and the seated area was packed when REO Speedwagon took the stage at 7:35pm to play just over an hour-long set. Frontman Kevin Cronin still has the pep and zeal of a man half his age, and the vocal chops too. In fact, he has never sounded better, and the band is still having a ball doing what they do, throwing picks, engaging the crowd in clap-alongs and sing-alongs, and offering up major bang for the buck. Backed by founding keyboardist Neal Doughty, bassist Bruce Hall, guitarist Dave Amato and drummer Bryan Hitt, the band packed more punch into their sixty-five minute than most bands do in a full show. The high-energy was contagious, and people were on their feet dancing and singing along for the entire set. Cronin was in high spirits and quite talkative. “We love it here in Tampa! You people surely make us feel right at home!”

REO Speedwagon

Michelle Wilson
REO Speedwagon

REO Speedwagon

Michelle Wilson
REO Speedwagon

REO Speedwagon

Michelle Wilson
REO Speedwagon

 

Opening with “Don’t Let Him Go,” “In Your Letter,” “Keep Pushin’,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling” and “Tough Guys,” Cronin paused to reminisce about the early days. “I remember in those days in Florida in the ’70s there was only one song in the entire set that anyone knew, including the band! We milked it for everything it was worth and saved it ’til the end. When the beginning chords would hit, it caught fire. You could feel the vibe change and the feeling in the room changed. We thought, some day we will come back to Tampa, Florida where everyone can sing along to every song we play.” Then the familiar opening notes of “Take It On The Run” wrapped the crowd in a warm, fuzzy blanket and no doubt took everyone back in time to the first moment they heard the song. Amato killed it on guitar as the crowd belted out the lyrics. “Time For Me To Fly” was next and Amato broke out the double-neck guitar for this one, followed by band intros from Cronin.

REO Speedwagon

Michelle Wilson
REO Speedwagon

REO Speedwagon

Michelle Wilson
REO Speedwagon

 

“The people are expecting us to deliver some of that meat and potatoes rock ‘n’ roll. We are about to break out the REO secret weapon, Bruce, who now lives in Orlando,” shared Cronin. Hall gleefully shared his signature song, “Back On The Road Again,” with platinum blond hair blowing in the breeze while he played his bass. “Back on the road, all the way to Tampa, baby!” Cronin joked, and then the band did “Ridin’ The Storm Out.”

“Looking back on your life, you think about minutes that can change your life. In the spring of 1980, we needed a special song. I woke up from a dead sleep at 4am with three chords. I knew it was something special. I grabbed a Sony Walkman tape recorder to make a demo tape. It’s a good thing I did because our lives have never been the same since,” admitted Cronin, as he played the opening piano notes of “Keep On Loving You” with loud cheers from the crowd. “Keep on loving you, Tampa!” shouted Cronin as it ended. They segued into “Roll With The Changes” featuring outstanding Hammond B3 work from Doughty, and Hall’s young son playing a mini-snare drum towards the end. “Do we have time for one more? Look at these people – ok start rockin’, Tampa!” as Cronin pretended to push his guitar tech away. “One of my favorite rock bands is from right here in Florida, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Tom was my neighbor in Encino, California.” REO closed out their set in tribute to the late Tom Petty with “Listen To Her Heart.”

“We are REO Speedwagon. We love you and we always will, Tampa! Now get ready for our friends in Chicago!” It was a stellar set from beginning to end.

Chicago

Michelle Wilson
Chicago

 

At 9pm, Chicago’s mighty ensemble took the stage while the crowd went down nostalgia lane as photos and footage of the band’s early years flashed on the big screen. There are still four original members of the band left (Robert Lamm/keys/vocals, Lee Loughnane/trumpet, James Pankow/trombone and Walt Parazaider/saxophones/flute), although Parazaider no longer tours. Rounding out the remainder of the band are Ray Hermann/saxophones/flute, Keith Howland/guitar/vocals, Lou Pardini/keyboards/vocals, Brett Simons/bass, Walfredo Reyes, Jr./drums, Ramon Yslas/percussion and Neil Donell/vocals/acoustic guitar.

Chicago

Michelle Wilson
Chicago

Chicago

Michelle Wilson
Chicago

 

In stark contrast to REO’s crowd-pleaser, Chicago left many fans disappointed and frustrated with their somewhat gratuitous offering of Chicago II (1970) in its entirety. The mammoth double-album is rife with socio-political themes of the day (“We were young and stupid and we felt we had something to prove.”) and meant to be heard sequentially, however, they played it out of side order. They opened their set with Side 2, which features “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon,” the 7-song opus that spawned the hits “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World.” I “kinda” get why they did it, since opening with “Make Me Smile” immediately got the crowd on-board – but it was short-lived. Rabid fans had to wait until the SEVENTEETH song for the band to throw them a bone – “25 Or 6 To 4” – the other hit from this record. At least it was a good one, and one they knew. But it was way too late in the game. The issue wasn’t really that they played the record; it was that they played it in order, without mixing in the hits. That’s just not something fans want to choke down, even diehards. In fairness to the band, it WAS publicly announced that this was their intention, and that they would play “the world’s longest encore” after the intermission (although this show didn’t have one).

Chicago

Michelle Wilson
Chicago

Chicago

Michael Yanko
Chicago

 

One of the real highlights from Chicago II was the beautiful Terry Kath-penned “Memories Of Love,” with Pankow offering these heartfelt words before the song: “A big part of us was Terry Kath. He’s not with us anymore. Terry was the heart and soul of the band. He left us but left behind a little for us.”

Guitarist Howland’s blistering solo at the end of “Where Do We Go From Here” took the band into the last two songs of the second album, “It Better End Soon” and the Lamm classic, “25 Or 6 To 4,” with the new vocalist, Donell, slaying the erstwhile Peter Cetera vocals.

Chicago

Michelle Wilson
Chicago

Chicago

Michelle Wilson
Chicago

 

Finally through the second album, founding keyboardist/singer Lamm came down from the riser and addressed the audience. “So my name is Robert Lamm. I’m a founding member of Chicago.” After he went through the long list of band intros, the long-awaited stream of hits arrived for which the faithful flocked out. “This one goes out to my wife and kids and you.” And with acoustic guitar in hand, he launched into “Beginnings,” followed by “Dialogue (Part I & II),” “Call On Me” and “If You Leave Me Now.”

Chicago

Michelle Wilson
Chicago

 

“Are you having fun Tampa? [A strategically placed question because many in this crowd definitely were NOT having fun a few minutes earlier, in fact there was a steady stream of people heading for the exit.] “It’s about the music, the fans and you. These next two are two of our favorites,” and they launched into “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “You’re The Inspiration,” followed by the Steve Winwood/Jimmy Miller/The Spencer Davis Group hit, “I’m a Man” with incredible drum/percussion solos, “Just You and Me,” “Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry/Get Away,” “Saturday In The Park” and “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day.” The band is not doing an encore on this tour but just playing the hits straight through to the end.

Overall, it was a great night of music for those who chose to stay until the end. Musically, both bands are still in top form and continue to draw huge crowds to their shows.

Check out the full gallery of Chicago photos from Rock Legends Photographers.

Chicago photo gallery

chicagotheband.com, reospeedwagon.com

Categories
Archikulture Digest

Proof

Proof

Theater on the Edge

Barbie took some heat for declaring “Math is HARD!” but until you’ve struggled through elliptic function and modular form theory, you don’t know how hard it really is. And youth helps; the math brain fades after your 20’s. Wunderkind Robert (Barry Wright) should know, he revolutionized three branches of math before he hit 25. But now it’s all downhill for Robert; he’s filling notebooks with gibberish. His loyal daughter Catherine (Raitano) knows; she tries to get a degree in the subject but had to drop out to deal with Robert’s decline. But now he’s dead and the vultures circle. Hopeful, helpful grad student Hal (Barry Wright) offers to help with the stack of nonsensical notebooks, but he MIGHT be cruising to steal a proof from Robert to shore up his fading career. There’s a budding romance, but the facts show Catherine sliding off the sanity ladder as well, and her pushy sister Claire (Elaitheia Quinn) arrives to sell the house, burn the furniture and “help” Catherine, maybe with a little Thorazine chaser.

This script crosses local stages from time to time, and frankly it’s a tough one to pull off without the lecture element overwhelming the human. But the Edge crew pulls it off with Raitano’s break -downs propelling the story from the subjunctive to the active. She enters act one crying and berating the furniture only returning to sanity when she has no choice. Mr. White is confident, loud and demanding but you can tell he loved his daughter when he was sane and clings to that in madness. Bracketing this love / hate romance we find the earnest if slightly shifty Hal; he knows he isn’t changing any worlds and fears a career teaching high school math. That leaves high pressure Claire. Ms. Quinn make it abundantly clear how man sacrifices she’s made unasked, and could Claire have the decency to act a little more pathetic?

What do we learn from this disintegrated series expansion of insanity? While civilians are stumped at processes like long division and addition, the pros stare into an abyss and hope to find cosmic revelations and party hardy when not working. And unlike engineering and medicine, it’s hard to get a good day job with steady pay and a parking spot with a math degree. The concept of intelligence correlates with insanity is brushed upon, but it’s not a theme: the fact is this is a crazy family and their exceptional intelligence is a mere coincidence. But we do get a fun fact: there are over 1511 handmade foam bricks on the stunning set. Go factor THAT, hot shot.

theaterontheedge.org/; facebook.com/TheaterOnEdge

Categories
Screen Reviews

Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago

Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago

directed by Peter Pardini

starring Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider, Danny Seraphine

Film Rise

The Chicago of my formative years never really grabbed my attention. From the mid-’80s to the early ’90s, Chicago was focused on pop ballads, and every song sounded the same. It wasn’t until I was in college and looking backwards that I discovered the early Chicago, the jazz and blues influenced “rock band with horns” that released almost an album a year during the late-60’s and 70’s. Still, while I came to appreciate the band, I was never a super fan. I was interested enough to want to know more about their history, which led me to Now More Than Ever.

The documentary, originally aired on CNN and now available on DVD, attempts to tell the tale of a band that has been going nonstop since 1968 in just over two hours. Interspersing current interviews with archival footage and interviews, we get a rough chronology of the band. As you can imagine, a lot of the story is glossed over. While we learn quickly that the original lineup of musicians from various bands wanted to stop playing cover songs and start playing originals, we never hear about their influences or why creating a rock band with a strong horn section was important to them. We are told of the awesome number of albums produced on a yearly basis, many double-length, but we only get to hear the stories behind a few of the classic songs that were produced. There is a mention of student fan base, but few details about any political activism. We get to hear about the conflict with vocalist/bassist Peter Cetera and his departure from the band at the height of their commercial success, but that is one of the few conflicts that appear in the film. Several people associated with the band declined to be interviewed, most notably Cetera.

Some of these shortcomings have been blamed on the filmmakers. Chicago is listed as a producer in the credits. The director, Peter Pardini, is the nephew of Lou Pardini, a member of the band since 2010. Certainly, this allowed for better access to the band. However, it has opened the film up to criticism that it is nothing more than an infomercial for a group that had just been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was heading out on a new tour.

While there are complaints and concerns, overall the documentary served its purpose for me. It got me interested in Chicago, beyond occasionally listening to “25 or 6 to 4” on the classic rock station. More than anything, it has opened my eyes to the talent of original guitarist Terry Kath. Described by several as the soul of the original lineup, Kath was a songwriter, arranger, and vocalist in addition to being an amazingly underrated guitarist. The tale of his rise and untimely death by self-inflicted gun-shot is the most moving part of the film. Hearing his band mates talk about Kath is enough for me to recommend anyone who is curious about Chicago to check this documentary out. If you are a super fan, most of this will be old news to you. If you do not care about Chicago at all, feel free to skip this disc. Otherwise, give it a look.

Categories
Event Reviews

Chicago

Chicago

with Annie O’Malley

The King Center / Melbourne, FL • 10.26.17

The logo is iconic. And the enormous, state-of-the-art onstage video screen backdrop projecting that legendary crest served as a mighty, electrified battle flag – one representing a timeless brand with an impeccable reputation for creating a consistent, quality product.

Annie O'Malley

Christopher Long
Annie O’Malley

 

A band whose music has bridged generations successfully for the last 50 years, Chicago drew a sell-out crowd to Melbourne, Florida’s fabulous King Center for the Performing Arts. Solo singer / songwriter / musician Annie O’Malley opened the show precisely at 8pm. Dressed in a carefree summertime ensemble – a white strapless half-top with pink, floral-print, floor-length skorts, the fresh-faced, sandy-blond 17-year-old delivered an engaging 20-minute performance. Exuding soft-spoken confidence, O’Malley sang along to pre-recorded backing tracks on two of her five tunes, while providing her own acoustic guitar and ukulele accompaniment on the other three.

Christopher Long

 

By 9pm, the chart-busting powerhouse headliner had taken the stage. “We’ve been around for quite a while,” Robert Lamm announced humbly, early on. But tonight’s set list would be comprised of more than the predictable procession of platinum-selling hits from the last half century. And in short order, the co-founding songwriter / keyboardist / vocalist apprised the 2,000+ fans of an upcoming video project which has prompted the band to revisit copious selections from the acclaimed 1970 album, Chicago (aka Chicago II) – nearly-forgotten treasures, such as “Poem for the People,” “So Much To Say, So Much To Give” and the entire 13-minute opus, “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon.” “We’re still learning the songs,” Lamm commented jokingly. “So you’re all going to be our guinea pigs,” he added.

Christopher Long

 

Visually, Chicago’s current stage show is arguably its most spectacular-looking production to date. And despite a recent rather significant shift in personnel, the band’s musical “WOW factor” remained impressive indeed, as the nine-piece combo marched boldly into a cavalcade of much-loved, high-energy staples, including “Questions 67 and 68,” and “Alive Again.”

Christopher Long

 

Co-founding trumpeter Lee Loughnane and trombonist James Pankow both performed on-point – bringing their classic “A-games” along with acclaimed, recently-recruited, full-time saxophonist / flautist Ray Herrmann – owning such standards as “Old Days,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Saturday in the Park.” For his part, newly-tapped bassist Jeff Coffey was put to the test – yet, proving he was more than up for the task of recreating signature parts masterfully.

Christopher Long

 

Of the set’s numerous highlights, stripped down versions of the 1976 hits, “If You Leave Me Now” and “Another Rainy Day in New York City” both shined as brightly as the gold-plated finish on drummer Tris Imboden’s new custom DW kit. Of “Another Rainy Day,” Lamm confessed, “We play it differently every night.” Another memorable moment, the 1988 chart-topper “Look Away” teamed perennial, smooth-groovin’ keyboardist Lou Pardini with the band’s longtime guitar guru Keith Howland for a warm and toasty first half – then morphing into a powerful, full band crescendo. However, one of the most entertaining highlights of the night was the ferocious, animated dual drum solo between Imboden and renown percussionist Walfredo Reyes, Jr.

Christopher Long

 

Brimming with other such biggies as “Hard Habit to Break,” “You’re the Inspiration,” Call on Me,” “Just You ‘n’ Me” and “(I’ve Been) Searching So Long,” the two-hour hit parade came to a blistering conclusion with the show-closing double-whammy encore of “I Want to be Free” and “25 or 6 to 4.” In sum, if you weren’t a smoker going in to the show, you were likely in dire need of a light on the way out.

chicagotheband.com