Heart Goes To Heaven

heart-jpg (1)Within minutes of the 8:00 starting time Nancy Wilson was already on stage banging out the chords of “Barracuda”, seconds later Ann Wilson arrived and just knocked the house down, it didn’t stop for another 12 songs. Ann’s voice is absolutely incredible, songs like “What About Love” and “Crazy On You” sounded even better than the record. On “What About Love” she did some inflections and emotional singing that the sterile studio produced record version doesn’t have. She never missed a beat, her voice never faltered, all power but not overdone, it’s all live no lip synch here.

Nancy always seems to be overshadowed but she must be one of the finest guitarists out there, male or female. On the last Heart song “Crazy On You” she was just stunning with her guitar intro but the best was the jump and kick she gave at the opening chords wow, you’d never believe she was in her 60’s. Nancy isn’t a slouch at singing, far from it; I love her lead vocal songs as much as Ann’s. Like a fan girl I rushed up to the front stage when she did my favorite “These Dreams”, I was singing and miming the lyrics, she looked down on me and smiled, that made my day. There was even 3 couples slow dancing up front. Her guitar playing on Paul McCartney “Let Me Roll” (while not my favorite McCartney song) was just as impressive.

Can we talk about “Alone” there no words to describe it you must hear Ann singing it live. On “Dreamboat Annie” she did a beautiful flute solo. She played a few other instruments including guitar and an autoharp on a new song called “Heaven”.

After the Heart set Ann told the audience there was a 20 minute intermission, not a Hollywood 20 minutes but a real 20 minutes, a Victoria 20 minutes, that didn’t stop people from coming back late, although the line up at the washrooms were crazy. Speaking of the audience, Victoria has one of the suckiest. Who sits at a rock concert especially with Heart and Led Zeppelin songs. You don’t want to stand during the song fine but at least stand up and give Ann and Nancy (who are in the 60’s rocking out like they are in their 20’s) a standing ovation after the song, seriously! They only stood up at the end for “Crazy On You”, while most on the floor stood up for the Zeppelin set, the other off the floor audience did not, not even during Kashmir.

Speaking of Zeppelin, The girls opened the second set playing acoustic guitars with “The Battle of Evermore” a song that perfectly fits their catalogue, and then they were joined by Jason Bonham on an incredible 7 song set, that didn’t seem like a tribute but an authentic take. Who needs Robert Plant when you got Ann Wilson (just kidding!) Wow. Her voice on “No Quarter” was stunning, they seemed to have had some sort of echo or reverb on her mic, it was hauntingly beautiful. “The Immigrant song” was sort of fun but “Kashmir” was incredible. The ending with “Stairway To Heaven”, backed by Seattle’s Total Experience Gospel Choir was a show stopper.

My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough “Heart”, I would have loved to have heard big songs like “Never” but they seem to be shying away from their 80’s repertoire. Let’s hope they keep on rocking so they can come back and play those songs.

SETLIST

  1. Barracuda
  2. Heartless
  3. What About Love
  4. Dreamboat Annie
  5. Straight On
  6. Little Queen
  7. Let Me Roll It (Wings cover)
  8. Heaven
  9. These Dreams
  10. Alone
  11. Mashallah
  12. Magic Man
  13. Crazy On You

INTERMISSION

Led Zeppelin songs with Jason Bonham on drums

  1. Battle of Evermore
  2. No Quarter
  3. The Ocean
  4. Immigrant Song
  5. Kashmir
  6. The Rain Song
  7. Stairway to Heaven

2013 The Year In Review

2013 was a year full of catchy pop dance oriented music and controversies. Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus brought us both, they danced and twerked with two of the biggest songs of the of the year. Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” spent 12 weeks at #1 and ended up at #2 on the year end HOT 100 chart, in the UK he had the best-selling singles of the year. The Billboard Hot 100 chart started factoring in YouTube streaming data ,on-demand audio streaming, and online radio streaming, this along with radio plays and digital sales turned songs like Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” and Baauer’s the “Harlem Shake” into huge hits. You could not go anywhere without hearing New Zealand’s young alternative artist Lorde and her hit “Royals” which spent 9 weeks at #1. The rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis kept going strong with their first LP “The Heist”, “Thrift Shop” not only topped the weekly charts but it topped the year end Billboard chart while their other #1 hit “Can’t Hold Us” ended up in the top 5. Their most important song “Same Love” might have stalled outside the top 10 at #11 but it’s message on equality and pro-gay marriage stance rang throughout the world. On the year end Billboard album chart, no surprise is Justin Timberlake’s “20/20 Experience” at #1 followed by Taylor Swift “Red” and One Direction’s “Take Me Home”. The UK boyband topped the charts again at the end of the year with their 3rd LP “Midnight Memories”, but enough about Billboard, what about my thoughts, there were so many releases at the end of the year, a few of them battled out for the last spot.

1. Random Access Memories–Daft Punk4e6c6fb2
I have to admit I’m not usually a fan of records that are vocal-lite, but there’s no doubt what album deserves the top spot this year. French EDM duo Daft Punk takes the best of their 90 dance oriented sound and infuses an old school production to create an absolutely timeless record. The album was recorded with real instruments, a full orchestra and choir which gives their sometimes robotic sound a warm feeling. They also hired some of the music industry’s biggest producers to work with them. Nile Rodgers (Chic, Diana Ross, Madonna) gives them the chart smash and best song of 2013 “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself To Dance”. Rodger’s signature guitar licks and melodies are unmistakable infectious and pulls you right in, both songs co-written and sung by Pharrell Williams just can’t get any better. The album’s other opus “Giorgio By Moroder” tells the story of the king of Eurodance and music maker of Donna Summer”, with no vocals aside from his little prologue story the song goes on into dancefloor bliss, mixing the sounds of the 70’s with, as Moroder expresses, the “sound of the future”. Many of the songs like “Within”, the relaxing “Motherboard” and “Beyond” take you on an atmospheric trip, the latter begins with a beautifully orchestrated segment and settles into a Daft Punk –esque groove. I could easily see their music as a score to a major film or story. “Instant Crush” featuring Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, and “Fragments of Time” featuring Todd Edwards both sound like lost forgotten 80’s synth records. Then there is the odd “Touch” sung by American composer singer/songwriter and actor Paul Williams known for writing for the Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, and the theme to the Love Boat TV show. The song is a slow groove, a 70’s acid trip mixed with “vocoder” style vocals, sandwiched between emotive vocal verses that sound like the Phantom Of the Opera rising. This isn’t a hard beat high BPM house album; all the sounds are filtered and sophisticated, robotic yet somehow organic at the same time.

pet-shop-boys-electroic2) Electric—Pet Shop Boys
After the sophisticated slow jam album “Elysium” released just a year ago the boys come back with their 12th studio album. Produced by Stuart Price, “Electric” is a high octane dance floor banger that piers half their ages could only wish for. From the opening “Axis” the albums 9 songs takes you on a fabulous journey. From the Soviet-esque catchy “Bolshy” to “Love Is A Bourgeois Construct”. The latter based on Michael Nyman’s classical piece “Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds” is magnificent, and fits right up there with some of their best songs, like “Go West” it a gay dance floor anthem and a broken heart song with tongue and cheek-y lyrics that only Neil can deliver “love is a bourgeois construct so I’ve given up the bourgeoisie”. It’s a blatant fallacy You won’t see me with a bunch of roses promising fidelity Love doesn’t mean a thing to me”. The albums centerpiece for me is “Thursday” featuring UK Rap artist Example whose vocals blend very smoothly with Neil. The song has a beautiful melody and all the 80’s bells and whistle of a signature Pet Shop Boys song, but one that could easily play on the radio today. Then there’s the odd cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Last To Die” but like their other covers (“Always On My Mind” or U2’s “Where The Street Have No Name”) they turn it into a new song with a four on the floor dancebeat, a fantastic backing chant and in my opinion a more effective vocal take by Tennant then by Springsteen. After listening to it, one wonders if they are talking about its original intent, the Iraq War or perhaps the Aids epidemic? “Fluorescent”, “Inside A Dream” and the final track “Vocal” could fill the clubs and keep the kids dancing all night long, but unlike most EDM music their songs soothe and groove with you, they have an organic natural feel. The only track I don’t like is “Shouting In The Evening” a bit too dudstep for me but maybe the kids will like it.

olly-murs-right-place-right-time-1348837177-custom-03) Right Place Right Time—Olly Murs
A UK X-Factor runner up, Olly has proven that a TV product can put out a credible album. Writing alongside some hefty pop songwriters, Wayne Hector, Claude Kelly and Steve Kipner, Olly hold his own. His 3rd studio release opens up with the fantastic orchestral gem “Army Of Two”. The Canadian release includes the hits “Heat Skips A Beat” and “Dance with Me Tonight” from his sophomore album, but even the original UK edition without them has lots of nuggets. The first single “Troublemaker” sound like a Maroon 5 copycat but who cares, the songs thumping drums and groove is infectious, I don’t usually like guest rap artists but Flo Rida only adds to the charm of the song without feeling like it was on add on. “Dear Darlin” “Hand on My Heart” and “Loud and Clear”, a beautiful uptempo ballad cements Murrs into a modern crooner à la Robbie Williams, and way better then Robin Thicke. Yeah a few of the latter tracks are filler but even “Hey You Beautiful” is fun. “What A Buzz” missing from the Canadian edition is worth seeking out, Only Olly can make a song about binge drinking with the lyrics “What A beautiful buzz about the girl I might love” cute. The fabulous title track could have been his X-Factor winning song but sometimes coming in second is better.

SBYStandard_Web4) Swings Both Ways—Robbie Williams
I’m not a fan of swing music that’s why this album took me by surprise. A big part of it has to do with Robbie reuniting with his long time music partner Guy Chambers, in my opinion his music hasn’t been the same since. Another saving grace is that the album is half covers and half originals like “Shine My Shoes” and the first Single “Go Gentle”, an ode to his daughter to beware of men, which is both cute and touching, the song is more big band/pop then swing, musically it reminds me of his old hits like “Feel. I’m not usually a fan of artists reinterpreting their old hits but “Swing Supreme” is just genius, I think I like this version better than the original “Love Supreme”. Robbie is joined by some of his friends including X-Factor and “Williams wannabe” Olly Murs on the appropriate I Wan’na Be Like You, Lilly Allen joins him on a acoustic cool rendition of “Dream A Little Dream”, Michael Bublé sizzles on “Soda Pop” but Kelly Clarkson eclipses them all on “Little Green Apples”, her voice is absolutely gorgeous and surprisingly restraint, I actually had to check the credits twice to make sure it was actually her. The album’s opus is the title track featuring Rufus Wainwright, which sounds like a long lost movie duet, à la Fred Astaire and Gina Rogers but gayer if that is possible. Robbie has never shied away from making fun of himself or the rumours of his sexuality with Rufus proclaiming: “Now Robbie, everybody swings both ways, from the butchest, the bandits, the fairest, the faggots and singers…Face it Robbie you’re a little bit gay”. “Snowblind” and “Minnie The Moocher” are the low points but even “Puttin’ On The Ritz which I’ve heard many times before makes you want to get up and dance. The Wizard Of Oz’s “If I Only Had A Brain” is cute and quaint. There’s something about Robbie’s personality that rubs off into his music and makes you wanting more.

Agnetha A5) A–Agnetha Fältskog
Not counting her 2004 cover album “My Colouring Book” this is the X-ABBA’s first album of original material since 1987’s “I Stand Alone”. Produced and co-written by Jörgen Elofsson (Britney Spears, Leona Lewis, Kelly Clarkson) who crafted what could be the closest to a new ABBA album we probably will ever get. His best material did not go to Britney or Clarkson, so it’s no wonder that Agnetha fell in love with the demos and agreed to do a full album. There something special about Agnetha’s voice, sweet, clear and beautiful, she sounds the same even after all these years. She doesn’t scream a song to death like the modern divas but polishes and caresses her voice over the melody. “The One Who Loves You Now” and “When You Really Loved Someone” are pure Swedish pop magic, if sung by a 20 something singer they would be huge hits. “Perfume In The Breeze” is breathtaking while the ballad “Flower” is beautifully heartbreaking. Oddly the weakest song on the album is the Gary Barlow duet “I Should’ve Followed You Home”, it just seem more generic then the rest. “Past Forever” and many of the songs seem written for her or about her ABBA years and failed relationships. If you are looking for disco or dance look no further than the marching, thumping Voulez Vous-ish “Dance Your Pain Away”. “Back On The Radio” is a cute ode to her fans, while she may not be setting the charts on fire we can be happy that she is still singing. Jörgen did one thing that Benny and Bjorn couldn’t, he convinced her to write a song, the final track “I Keep Them On The Floor Beside My Bed” shows that she was more than just a pretty voice and face.
6) Since I Saw You Last—Gary Barlow
Only his 3rd full solo album, Take That’s lead singer/songwriter works his magic skills. The album leads off with the fabulous piano driven “Requiem”, a Robbie Williams co-written Beatles-esque tune”. Lead single “Let Me Go”, and final track “More Than Life” are inspired by the popularity of folk/pop groups like Mumford & Sons but I’m happy that the rest of the album stays away from this sound. Keane’s keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley joins Gary on the rock stadium ballad “Jump”. The album’s centerpiece is the Elton John duet “Face To Face”, one of 3 songs co-written by John Shanks, Elton sounds fabulous on this piano driven uptempo number. “G_D” is a beautiful heartfelt look at modern society, religion and morals, “If you found God and he gave you hope / Would you tell the world or save your soul. If you found God, would you take him home / Would you open the curtains or keep them closed”. The cute melodic boyband track “Small Town Girls” will make heats flutter, his voice on this track proves why he was chosen as the lead singer of Take That. The excellent “6th Avenue” sounds like he is channeling the best of Billy Joel, too bad popular music is too EDM to accept this type of song. “We Like To Love” for me is the weakest track, a bit boring although it does sound a lot like an old Take That songs, I could hear Mark Owen singing this, the ending with just the piano and his falsetto is really pretty. The album gets back on track with “This House” and the title track, Gary sings “I’ve made my peace with what may happen / Accepted I won’t be in fashion”, in response to the criticism of being “settled in” or too middle of the road, but why should these songs be any less valuable then the latest hip hop, dubstep or rock metal invasion. If you want wretched emotions check out the touching “Dying Inside”. The Deluxe edition includes 3 extra songs, the first 2 are filler but the last one “The Song I’ll Never Write” is worth checking out.

The_Wanted_Word_of_Mouth7) Word Of Mouth—The Wanted
A cross between a boyband and the sound of Colplay The Wanted seem to always play second fiddle to the mega group One Direction. Word Of Mouth is their 3rd, 2nd or 1st album depending which country you are from. There are so many different versions from a 12 track regular edition to a 16 to 18 song deluxe editions that it’s hard to know which one to review. In North America the album includes the 2 years old smash “Glad You Come” while it omits the dance club hit “Chasing The Sun” which is on the UK CD. Let’s go with the newer songs. The album opens with the sing-a-long bar drinking anthem “We Own The Night” followed by “In The Middle” and “Out Of Reason” both are solid pop songs but they don’t compare to the next 3 tracks. “I Found You” released earlier this year is a thumping EDM dance track with one of the best falsetto of the year. The Dr Luke penned “Walks Like Rihanna” had mega-hit written all over it, why it didn’t happen is beyond me. “Show Me Love (America)” is absolutely lush with a beautiful string arrangement and orchestra. The next few tracks go into deeper dance club territory with the generic “Summer Alive” and even harder dubstep “Glow In The Dark”. Check out the last song on the regular edition “Everybody Knows”, it’s one of the most honest songs on the album. The boys have a spattering of co-writing credits throughout the album but I was surprised this wasn’t one of them. The song written by pop hit makers Steve Mac and Claude Kelly feels tailor made. The extra 6 tracks unfortunately don’t match up to the rest of the album. The album needs a bit more cohesiveness, but with so many pre-single releases and a two year plus recording time, it’s no wonder it feels thrown together.

130207-justin-timberlake-20-20-experience-album-art8) 20/20 Experience Part One—Justin Timberlake
Another slickly produced album by Timberlake and Timbaland. Unlike their previous effort this isn’t hard dance but a slow romping jam excursion with songs like the beautifully orchestrated “Pusher Love Girl”, and “Spaceship Coupe”, it then moves into Barry White territory on “Strawberry Bubble Gum. I love the jazz infused sophisticated pop songs like “Suit & Tie”, the horn sections are fabulous, but I could really do without Jay-Z, I don’t see what his rap adds to any song. The album is chalk full of hits from “Tunnel Love” to the Grammy nominated “Mirrors”. “Let The Groove Get In” is a nice change of pace, a Cuban inspired Gloria Estefan type of song. I realize his absence from the music scene prompted JT to release a “Part 2” album a few months later, but I wish he would have pruned it down to one album of best tracks including the amazing song on Part 2 “Take Back The Night” inspired by the 70’s groove of The BeeGees, it would have made one hell of an album.

celine-dion-loved-me-back-to-life-single-5109) Loved Me Back To Life—Celine Dion
After a few low key albums, Celine comes back with a vengeance. A change in her singing and approach is evident with the incredible “Water and A Flame”, her voice isn’t over powering like usual but subtle, warm and rich, it has texture that she hasn’t had before. “Somebody Loves Somebody” is the type of pop I’ve been waiting for her to make, modern current but not too far away from her roots. The Title track ventures slightly into dubstep but I find it a bit overproduced, not digging the stuttering “I-I-I-I-I’s”, I think it was a misfire to release it as the first single. The Ne-Yo written duet is absolutely fabulous, and he really holds up to Celine’s vocals, a feat which is not easy, the song is a huge hit in the making. “Beakaway” and “Didn’t Know Love” are beautiful and emotional ballad either could be singles. “Save Your Soul” keeps the album going strong with cool slice of R&B groove just as good as her contemporaries. “Thank you” is not single material but another good track, unfortunately this is where the album starts losing steam. I love Stevie Wonder’s song “Overjoyed” but I hate this production by “Tricky” Stewart and his team on this duet, they slow it down to a syrupy, drippy version that just clogs my ears. The album’s other cover Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” is poignant when Celine explains why she covered it but it just doesn’t sound right. The Walter Afanasieff produced “Always Be Your Girl” and Diane Warren’s “Unfinished Songs” are good but they venture back into her safe repertoire.

cher-closer-to-the-truth-album-cover10) Closer To The Truth—Cher
I wasn’t enamored at first with this album but it has to do with the first 2 tracks and lead singles “Woman’s World”, and “Take It Like A Man”, both tracks are a bit dance generic, I love the sentiment on both but outside of the 2AM rave party they don’t offer much musically. The album doesn’t start cooking till the 3rd song “My Love” a beautiful melodic song that while is in dance mode I could easily see making a great ballad. “Dressed To Kill” “Red” and “Lovers Forever” continue the club oriented side of the album and a nod to her gay fans. What I like to call side 2, tracks 7-11 turn into a rock/pop oriented sound. The Pink penned “I Walk Alone” is one of the standout songs. It starts off with a country riff, turns into rock/pop on the verses and then goes slightly dance on the refrain, it sounds eclectic but it all works together beautifully. “Sirens” is the centerpiece on the album, a beautiful wind sweeping ballad. “Favorite Scars” sounds like it was tailor written for her, while “I Hope You Find It” originally sung by Miley Cyrus seems to have found a new home, way better in Cher’s repertoire. The album ends off with another great track “Lie To Me” written by Pink. There’s no doubt that Cher and her team had 2 ideas for this album, one for the dance clubs, the other more in style with her 80’s music. I’m fine with that, I just wish they would have opted for different singles.

My Top Singles of 2013

1. Get Lucky–Daft Punk
2. All-American Boy–Steve Grand
3. Same Love –Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert
4. Troublemaker–Olly Murs
5. Walks Like Rihanna –The Wanted
6. Take Back The Night –Justin Timberlake
7. Love is a Bourgeois Construct–Pet Shop Boys
8. Wrecking Ball –Miley Cyrus
9. Story Of My Life–One Direction
10. Show Me Love (America)–The Wanted
11. Face To Face–Gary Barlow and Elton John
12. King Of Everything—Boy George
13. Popular Song–Mika and Ariana Grande
14. Burn–Ellie Goulding
15. Thursday –Pet Shop Boys
16. Loud & Clear–Olly Murs
17. Gypsy–Lady Gaga
18. Army Of Two –Olly Murs
19. I Hope You Find It–Cher
20. Incredible (Duet With Ne-Yo)– Céline Dion
21. Dance Your Pain Away–Agnetha Fältskog
22. Mirrors Justin Timberlake
23. Go Gentle–Robbie Williams
24. In A World Like This–Backstreet Boys
25. Half of Me–Geri Halliwell

Pet Shop Boys Queen Elizabeth Theatre October 3rd 2013

imageTwo albums in less than a year, a world tour and the “boys” are still going strong. At 8:10 the show opened up with a shear curtain covering the theater stage, you could see Neil and Chris’ outline over flashing graphic images like out a video game with rushing tunnels transporting us to another dimension, all to the the sound of their new album opener and dance club banger “Axis”. The curtain stayed up for a mash up of “One More Chance” from their first LP with “A Face Like That” from the underrated “Elysium” project, their last for Parlophone records. The projection screen was well done but the crowd was happy when the curtain fell to the sounds of “Let’s Make Lots of Money…” from then on everybody stood up and never sat down.

The Boys have a large repertoire to choose from, this show could have easily been a greatest hits tour, while many hits were playedimage2 it’s obvious the Boys are doing it for the die hard fans, many cuts from the two new albums were played along with some lesser known hits like “Miracles”, “Rent”, the B-side “I Get Excited”, and their glorious dance version of Bernstein and Sondheim’s “Somewhere”. I have to admit a few of these songs seemed to go over the heads of the audience which to my surprise was a mixed bag of young/old straight and gay. While some might have been lost to the unknown tunes, the incredible laser show kept most of the audience mesmerized, one thing you are never bored at a Pet Shop Boys concert. They had two dancers which were OK but didn’t seem to always dance in unison. Tennant who almost had as many exotic wardrobe changes as Cher (a rubber jacket made out entirely of straws and a metal bulls head hat covering his face) seemed in great form although he sounded a bit hoarse at the beginning of the show, his voice sounded better on the newer tracks as oppose to songs like “West End Girls”. “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing” preceded by the “Rite of Spring” was my favorite highlight but the winner of the night artistically was “Love Etc.” with both Neil and Chris strapped to vertical beds while images of moving bodies where projected below their heads.

1377462_10151598352726403_473145023_n (1)Neil who usually seems stiff in concert finally seemed to loosen up at the end with “It’s A Sin”, and then let the audience sing almost the entire version of “Domino Dancing” but he came right back with“ I think you might know this one” before going into the fan favorite cover of “Always on my Mind”, and the encore “Go West”. The show ended with the appropriate “Electric” LP album closer “Vocal” Neil sings: “I like the people, I like the song, this is my kind of music, they play it all night long, I like the singer, he’s lonely and strange, every track has a vocal…”

…how true.

Setlist

1. Axis
2. One More Chance / A Face Like That
3. Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)
4. Memory Of The Future
5. Fugitive
6. Integral
7. I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing
8. Suburbia
9. I’m Not Scared
10. Fluorescent
11. West End Girls
12. Somewhere
13. Leaving
14. Thursday
15. Love Etc.
16. I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too)
17. Rent
18. Miracles
19. It’s a Sin
20. Domino Dancing
21. Always on My Mind

Encore:
22. Go West
23. Vocal

Pat Benatar Rocks Victoria

9c07aadb7a730777894a5eb20022cf84The show called for 7:30 and ten minutes in (which seemed needed to get people to their seats) she hit the stage playing for about an hour and a half. From the first licks of “All Fired Up” the show never stopped rocking. I have to admit I was a bit confused since they advertised the Victoria show as an acoustic one, but for once am I glad that was a false advertisement, acoustic can be cool but Benatar fans like to see her rock. In 1986 at the height of her career, my best bud and I got tickets for her “Seven The Hard Way” tour at the Montreal Forum. That’s why when she said this next song is from “Seven The Hard Way, I reverted to that 19 years old kid seeing Benatar for that first time, as “Sex As A Weapon” started I could not help but mimic the video with my hands in “The Supremes” stopping motion. I wanted to dance but nobody was getting up, Victoria audiences really suck, how can you be that subdued at a Benatar concert? By the time “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” came on a few of us got up and never sat down. My only complaint is that I found the setlist at 13 songs a bit short. Most concerts at this price usually have close to 20 songs. She sang her 4 top ten singles from “We Belong” to Love is a Battlefield but a few other hits like the fabulous “We Live For Love”, Fire and Ice, and “Shadows Of The Night” a favorite, was missing. Promises In The Dark was a definite highlight, I never really loved the song that much till that night. “Hell Is For Children” was poignant and incredible, she mentioned they sing that song at every show and will continue to do so until this horrible crime stops. Some of the deeper cuts like “Everybody Lay Down” was fab, but “So Sincere” and “Let’s Stay Together” could have been replaced with so many better options, anything from Tropico or Seven The Hard Way. What I wouldn’t give to hear “Run Between The Raindrops”. The finale which incorporated Jonny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” with “Heartbreaker” was genius; maybe she should cover the song on a future album?

Setlist

1. All Fired Up
2. Invincible
3. So Sincere
4. Sex As A Weapon
5. Promises in the Dark
6. We Belong
7. Hell Is for Children
8. You Better Run
9. Hit Me with Your Best Shot
10. Love Is a Battlefield
Encore
11. Everybody Lay Down
12. Let’s Stay Together
13. Heartbreaker / Ring of Fire / Heartbreaker

Sting Back To Bass Tour Victoria Save On Food Memorial Center

4fcf617ce92fe.preview-620Don’t be late to Sting’s Back To Bass Tour, the show called for 8:00 and at exactly 8:10 without any opening act or build up, he is on stage playing the first bars of “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You”. Not sure if it’s the Save On Food Memorial venue, the incredible band or both but sound and acoustics were the best I’ve ever heard in a long time. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, sounded better the original recording. I could hear every sound and instrument clearly. His voice hasn’t aged; it was pristine, he held some long notes that only a few Idol divas can do that took me by surprised. He was definitely in top form rocking the stage like it was the 80’s, the band was superb check out the incredible violinist that does a few solos. “Englishman In New York” had an brief instrumental remix break that I just loved. Most songs sounded faithful, but I was a bit disappointed with “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, I’m, not a fan of slowing down songs, it sounded like a drugged down reggae version, however the light show during the song was really cool. “Roxanne” was slightly different but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, then in the middle of the song it took a strange jazzy turn only to go back into the original by the end, I can’t forget the blinded red light that shined throughout the song. My big complaint always goes to setlist. He did a big cross section of his career but there was too many album tracks that I didn’t find that interesting, I could have done without “I Hung My Head”, “Driven To Tears”, “Next To You”, “Heavy Cloud No Rain”, and “The Hounds Of Winter”, from his least successful album Mercury Falling, I know there is a fine line between just doing Greatest Hits and fan favorites but I felt he lost the crowd, are any of these liked that much? Why would he completely ignore his Grammy nominated hit making solo record “The Dream Of The Blue Turtles” he did not play one song from it, Does he hate “If You Love Somebody” that much? “All This Time” is cute but he could have done so many other singles instead. He did 2 encores, “Desert Rose” followed by “King Of Pain” and “Every Breath You Take” was just magical. The show ended with the mellow moment of “Fragile”, just a few minutes shy of 2 hours.

A review by the Times Colonist said he played “Walking On The Moon” but unless I was sleeping I do not remember him playing it.

Setlist:

1. If I Ever Lose My Faith In You

2. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

3. Englishman In New York

4. All This Time

5. Demolition Man

6. I Hung My Head

7. Fields Of Gold

8. Driven To Tears

9. Heavy Cloud No Rain

10. Message In A Bottle

11. Shape Of My Heart

12. The Hounds Of Winter

13. Wrapped Around Your Finger

14. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da

15. Roxanne

1st Encore

16. Desert Rose

17. King Of Pain

19. Every Breath You Take

2nd ENCORE

20. Next To You

21. Fragile

2012 The Year In Review

I flip flopped back and forth with the #1 position any of my top 5 could have filled the bill but I believe that the Scissor Sisters and Mika produced superior products and interesting outputs. A few albums surprised me like Lionel Richie’s country “Tuskegee”, which become one of the top ten selling albums of the year in the USA, and Kylie Minogue’s “Abbey Road”, I did not think I would like either of them.

A few albums missed my top ten like Taylor Swift’s “Red” which had some great tracks but I found needed more pruning, The Wanted’s North American EP, and One Direction who had two albums chart at #1, “Take Me Home” could have made my list but I thought their first effort had better tracks. The most surprising is two of my favorite divas not making my list. The first is Madonna, I originally liked “MDNA” but it quickly wore off, she really needs to rethink her music for her next album. Then there’s Celine Dion who French album “Sans Attendre” just didn’t cut it for me despite the great single “Parler A Mon Père”.

The single charts were much more interesting than the albums charts, they were ruled by Riahnna, Marron 5, Fun, Gotye (who topped the Billboard Hot 100 songs of the year), Taylor Swift and Canadian Idol Carly Rae Jepsen (who didn’t cover “Call Me Maybe”), unfortunately I found her full length album really disappointing. There were great singles by the Scissor Sisters, Mika, One Direction and Ke$ha.

Top Ten Albums of 2012

music_scissor_sisters_magic_hour1) Magic Hour—Scissor Sisters

Their best effort since their debut album the “Sisters” keep delivering solid, exciting and fabulous music, from Jake’s plead to his lover on the sultry “Baby come home” to their Calvin Harris collaboration “Only The Horses” one of the best dancefloor tracks of the year, so much better than “We Found Love” which Harris gave to Rihanna. “Inevitable” produced by Pharrell Williams for the Neptunes is lush and gorgeous, Jake’s falsetto evokes memories of the BeeGees at their best, while “The Year Of Living Dangerously” feels like a James Bond theme, maybe they could replace Adele next time.

The album is a bit of a mixed bag “San Luis Obispo” is a typical Spanish/Island flavoured ditty but hey if Madonna could do it why can’t they? While never boring some of the tracks like “Keep Your Shoes On”, and “Shady Love” which I find mildly annoying especially Jake’s attempt at Hip Hop, are kind of hit and miss, but a “Sister” miss is still better than a chart hit by any other.

“Self Control” turns to the house beats of the 90’s, while the average “Best In Me” is kind of forgotten by the end of your listen. Luckily the last 2 songs get back on track with the beautifully haunting “The Secret Life of Letters” and “Somewhere” the Pet Shop Boys-esque dance jam that is pure bliss, this song should have been a single.

Then there’s “KIKI”, who would have thought that this would be the song everybody including Hollywood’s stars would be clamoring about. The little Ms Matronic jam, with nothing but pulsating drums over her complaints about having her “par-tee” closed down even took the TV show Glee by storm, yet despite all that the Sisters have yet to produce a hit single in the USA.

mika-the-origin-of-love-535x535 (1)2) The Origin Of Love—Mika

When you open a Mika album you never know what you are going to get, but melody and lots of fun are a given. This album his 3rd, feels a little more grown up and less sugary pop, but he hasn’t lost his sense of wonder, poetry or joy. Many collaborate with him including some of the industry’s best. Nick Littlemore from the Australia dance duo Pnau lends a hand for a many of the songs including the fabulous title track whose melody and lyrics “Love is a drug and you are my cigarette, love is addiction and you are my Nicorette”, “sticks in your head like glue, but once the breakdown/guitar verses kicks in, its bliss, this song has everything from pulsating drums, a double chorus “to the one I love…”, too bad it’s too unique for radio. “Lola” is a fun synth 70’s bass line romp but following it is my favorite track “Stardust” produced by Benni Benassi, a fantastical dance floor pulsating jam over Mika’s fab falsetto. “Make You Happy” whose video was filmed in Montreal, has a beautiful synth and string arrangements melded over an auto tuned muffled chorus which produces a really nice effect. “Underwater” is a stunning and haunting piano electro ballad, a song begging to be a big film score. “Kids” sound like an old familiar 70’s classic tune but updated to our time, while “I Love You When I’m Drunk” is a fun take on his love life. “Step with Me’ is a bit too formulaic for me but I give two thumbs up to the track “Popular Song” with Priscilla Renea, both authors give a big “middle finger” to their haters in high school with a cheeky silly synth song.

“Heroes” is a heartfelt and bittersweet song especially in this time of civil war around the world, “fighting someone else’s’ war” Mika’s sing “Your blood on me, my blood on you”, “Heroes aren’t meant to survive”. The moment doesn’t last long as Mika breaks up the sombre tone with Pharrell Williams for “Celebrate” a Madonna-esque dance floor anthem perfect to dust off the sadness.

Included is Emily the English version of his fabulous French song “Elle Me Dit”, whose friends tells him to stop wasting his life, get off his ass and do something with his life, write a song, make a million dollars, while he might not be making millions or having many hits, he and I are having lots of fun, eh Emily?

Pet-Shop-Boys-Elysium (1)3) Elysium—Pet Shop Boys

Nobody does smooth electronic dance music like the boys, from the opening track “Leaving”, you feel like you are covered in a warm and fuzzy blanket of beats. We aren’t talking about hit you over head like Guetta or Calvin Harris but soothing melodies. A departure and less “pop” then their previous effort “Yes” this album takes a few listens to get into. Unfortunately it starts off in my opinion with a few week tracks. “Invisible’ is a little too low key for me. The single “Winner” picks it up a bit and it only gets better from there.
I love how the boys they both don’t take their status too seriously, they get cheeky and make fun of themselves with the inspired story “Early Stuff” about a cabbie who chats them up on a ride “You’ve been around but you don’t look too rough, And I still quite like some of your early stuff” Neil sings “Those old videos look pretty funny What’s in it for you now, need the money?”They say that management never used to pay, honestly you were ripped off back in the day”. Then there’s “Ego Music” at first listen I found the song annoying, but I think that was the point, this song most likely about Kanye West and his rapper buddies “Ego music, it’s all about me” , sense of entitlement…” How ironic that the boys hired Andrew Dawson (Kanye’s album engineer) to produce the album.

“A Face Like That” and “Hold On” bring us back to the old PSB’s, I love the latter whose choir like atmosphere are matched along with the cheeky lyrics “Hold on hold on or the world will end today”. “Breathing Space” and “Give It A Go” are just middle ground but the album really shines with 2 songs buried at the end. “Memory Of the Future” is a Pet Shop Boys opus, Neil sing “It’s taking me all of my life to find you” his voice surrounded with swirling magical, melodic synthesizers, covering him in a warm blanket of pure bliss. “Requiem in Denim and Leopard skin” is like finding an old Pet Shop Boys gem that was lost in a vault, unfortunately the song sounds like a happy “goodbye” from the boys, let hope this is not the case.

Up-All-Night-up-all-night-one-direction-album-32378937-370-3854) Up All Night—One Direction

Only Simon Cowell can turn five unknown twinks, into the world’s biggest superstars. It might not last long but he knows how to get what he wants from the best in the business. From the brilliant debut single “What Makes You Beautiful” the album is filled with great slick and fun produced pop songs, almost any song could be single material. “One Thing” is just as good as it’s predecessor and the title track was screaming to be released “Katy Perry’s on a plane, she’s on a plane” they sing over a thumping beat as good as any of Perry’s hits. “More Than This” and “Taken” fill the slots for pretty ballad which don’t sound kiddy but grown up band. “Tell Me A lie” penned by Kelly Clarkson” is a rocking rolling dance gem along with the Beatles/Take That sounding “I Want”. Even the songs they co- write like “Everything About You” holds up to the other tracks. The album ends off with 2 of the best tracks “Save You Tonight” and “Stole My Heart” which is one the best dance songs of the year, I don’t understand why they released a 2nd album so quickly instead of releasing this as a single, a wasted opportunity.
5) Overexposed—Maroon 5

Inspired by their mega hit “Moves Like Jagger” the new album produced by hit maker Max Martin (Backstreet Boys, Kelly Clarkson, and many others), venture the boys into a pop infused dubstep album, from the opening reggae influenced song “One More Night” which spent 9 weeks at #1 to their previous single “Payphone”, the album is jammed packed with winners. “Daylight”, “Lucky Strike” (with Ryan Tedder) and “Love Somebody” with its clever synth 80’s hook are future hits in the waiting. “The Man Who Never Lied” is a sly rocking thumping dance romp with Adam trying to convince himself it’s OK to not tell the truth. “Ladykiller” is olf Maroon 5 with a funky baseline, less production and more vocals, but “Fortune Teller” and “Tickets” goes right back into dubstep. Favorite track is the Shellback produced “Doing’ Dirt” which feels like a long lost 70’s disco gem crossed with the Sugababes “Red Dress”. Could Maroon 5 be the crowned kings of the dancefloor? Maybe so.

If you get the deluxe edition be sure to check out their fabulous jazzed up version of Prince’s “Kiss”.

lionelrichie_2012cdcvr_h6) Tuskegee—Lionel Richie

The idea of Lionel Richie doing a country album might confused the average music listener, but if you were more attentive you would see that his songs like “Stuck On You” and “Deep River Woman” are pure Country, not to mention the mega hit “Lady” which he penned for Kenny Rogers. For this project Lionel got some of country’s best singers and musicians to duet with him. When I first heard snippets of the album I was a bit disappointed but after hearing the full LP I love it. R&B staples like my favourite “You Are” with Blake Sheldon are just as good if not better, this guitar flavoured version only adds to the song without taking away any of the original magic. “My Love” with Kenny Chesney, “Sail On” with Tim Mcgraw and “Stuck On You” with Daruis Rucker are perfect. “Deep River Woman” with Little Big Town, in my opinion rivals the original sung with Alabama back in 1986 on his “Dancing On The Ceiling album”, the harmonies here are gorgeous, this song needed this production. A song that should have been a bigger hit “Just For You” is another stand out with Billy Currington. “Hello” with Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland, is an interesting mix but I’m not sure their vocals work well together while “Easy” with Willie Nelson sounds like it could have been written for him.

I only wish it was less of a Greatest Hits list, “Dancing On The Ceiling” and “All Night Long” do not translate into country, Lionel what were you thinking? Even Rascal Flatts couldn’t country-fi “Ceiling”. “All Night Long” gets saved by going more island flavoured then country with the help of Jimmy Buffet and some cool Hawaiian like steel drums. “Say You Say Me” with Jason Aldean is another oddity that doesn’t translate well. I read all about the lengths Lionel went through to get Shania Twain to record “Endless Love”, but I don’t think their vocals match well plus did we really need another version? I never liked the Mariah Carey Luther Vandross one, nothing compares to the original with Diana Ross. Speaking of vocals, despite the guest list nobody sounds as good as Lionel singing his own songs, his voice still sounds great, unlike Kenny Rogers who’s losing it, I would have preferred a solo version of “Lady” instead.
7) Good Morning To The Night—Elton John VS Pnau

What happens when you take a modern electronic Australian duo and give them Elton John’s early classic masters to play with? You get this little ingenuous piece of heaven. I’ve never like sampled music, but this album is a whole new ballgame. Elton actually hired the duo Pnau when he heard their previous recordings and fell in love with their music. These are not remixes but total reconstructions of his songs. I find that remixers have gotten quite lazy, Pnau have definitely set the bar high. Every song has a familiar feel but sounds shiny and new, Pnau have created a certain atmospheric charm, unlike modern remixes which seem to only hit you with bass and sound and no melody. Trying to figure out which parts of what song they used is also part of the fun, they didn’t used his most famous material, the title track, a UK dance hit, borrows from ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘Mad Hatters’ and 7 other tracks. “Sad” feels like a long lost disco classic, it doesn’t sound like a remix but rather a sophisticated new song. “Black Ice Stare” feels like a lost reggae classic, while “Foreign Fields” is a fantastic take on Elton “High Flying Bird”, “Telegraph to the Afterlife” slows down to a Beatlesque acid trip and “Phoenix” take on Elton’s “Grey Seal” to new heights. Only 8 tracks long the album leaves you wanting more.

216916_10151345380080116_1564333419_n8) The Abbey Road Sessions—Kylie Minogue

I thought I was going to be disappointed, after all who needs a jazzy acoustic album of Kylie’s dancefloor classics? Kylie is not known for her vocal prowess, but this album definitely delivers. While some songs are misses, “On A Night Like This” just doesn’t have enough melody to work, and who needs “Slow” slower, really? Opening track like “All The Lovers” proves how good a song really is. “Better The Devil You Know’ is fab but we’ve heard this version in concert before same goes for “I Believe In You and “I Should Be So Lucky”. “Never Too Late” is absolutely fabulous, a forgotten gem that translates well, same goes for “Finer Feelings”, interesting how most Stock Aiken and Waterman tracks work well into many mediums and genres proving that a good melody counts. While I think that “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” should be banished to never be heard or recorded again, I actually love this version, the strings/violins are beautiful. Love At First Sight is cute. I was worried that we would get the snooze jazzy version of “Locomotion” but luckily we get a somewhat upbeat version. Having Nick Cage record his vocal for “Where The Wild Roses Grow” was a definite delight, but the true gem is the only new song “Flower” a fan favorite which up until now was only sung in concert, the sad song (as most fans speculate), about her longing to have a child, is emotional and poignant.

Too bad songs like “Spinning Around” which sounded fabulous when she sang it at the Proms concert was not included and “Wow” and “In My Arms” were only bonus tracks on certain editions. I would have preferred less of a hit package and more lost classics that suited the genre.

take-the-crown9) Take The Crown—Robbie Williams

After a return to Take That greatness Robbie delivers another solo album, he claims this is the album he wanted to do instead of “Reality Killed the Video Star” which I actually liked. While “Take The Crown” it’s no “Sing When You’re Winning”, or “Escapology”, it’s a valiant effort. “They said the magic was leaving…” he sings on the opening track, “Be A Boy”, he still has some magic with the #1 saccharine sweet cutesy UK hit “Candy”, and the synth 80’s inspired “Shit on the Radio” which reminds me of Queen’s “Radio Gaga”. “Gospel” sounds a bit like early Robbie rebel but it doesn’t come close to anything on his first 2 albums. “Different” the required power ballad is likable enough like “Feel” or Come Undone”. The next 2 tracks are probably my favorites, “All That I Want” is an 80’s funky electro sounding piece that could make a good single and “Hunting For You sound more authentic than anything else on the album, Robbie’s vocals and falsetto really shines. “Into The Silence” could be another power rock ballad but it tries too hard and sounds overproduced. “Hey Wow Yeah Yeah” is just filler in my opinion, I don’t get it. “Not Like The Others” is a bit of return to form, the music reminds me of good old Robbie but after 3 to 4 songs I’m getting tired of lyrics about his sex life.

The bonus track “Eight Letters” originally written and sung by Take That proves that Robbie should just stay with the group who are producing better pop songs and albums.

tumblr_marzpjqTmc1qjffalo1_128010) Ke$ha—Warrior

My guilty pleasure of the year. A Dr. Luke/Max Martin production I was actually expecting more, but it’s Ke$ha, trashy, brassy and fun. “Die Young” is the catchiest pop song of the year, “I hear your heartbeat, to the beat of your drums…”, Ke$ha definitely goes to the beat of her own drum and she sings, raps and vomits glitter all over the dancefloor. I almost wish she would give up the silly raps and autotune, the fabulous country pop track “Wonderland” proves that she can sing and write a great song, but unfortunately the other stuff has become her signature.

Highlights are the catchy guitar driven “Crazy Kids” (wishing she would of deleted the awful rap parts) , and the unusual garage/rock duet with Iggy Pop “Dirty Love”, who can’t like a song that name checks Rick Santorum and cockroaches and how they “do it”, no auto tune here. Her voice sounds great on “Thinking Of You”, a big “f*ck you” to her ex, is as good as any mad Taylor Swift song but much more fun. “Whenever You Are” could be another single with it brassy baseline and catchy chorus. So many tracks could be singles including “I Only Wanna Dance With You” a collaboration with The Strokes, “Supernatural” with it’s beautiful haunting verses and a brassy pounding chorus, and “All That Matters (The Beautiful Life)” a thumping 90’s Ace Of Base like track. The regular edition album ends of with a haunting Phil Collins like ballad “Love Into The Light”, another testament that she is more than just a silly pop singer.

Best Singles of 2012

1. Only The Horses—Scissor Sister
2. What Makes You Beautiful—One Direction
3. Glad You Came—The Wanted
4. Sad—Elton John VS Pnau
5. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together—Taylor Swift
6. Flower—Kylie Minogue
7. Parler A Mon Pere—Celine Dion
8. Call Me Maybe—Carly Rae Jepsen
9. Memory Of The Future–Pet Shop Boys
10. Origin Of Love—Mika
11. Little Things—One Direction
12. Troublemaker—Olly Murs
13. Celebrate-Mika
14. One Thing­­–One Direction
15. Die Young—Ke$ha
16. Let’s Have A Kiki–Scissor Sisters
17. Live While We’re Young-One Direction
18. Chasing The Sun—The Wanted
19. Baby Come Home-Scissor Sisters
20. Diamonds–riahnna

The Scissor Sisters rock Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom

IMG_7430

Vancouver or “Vagina” as Jake calls it, (it’s his pet name for the city) had a magical hour and a half as the Scissor Sisters rocked, danced and poured their heart on stage, from the opening fab “Any Which Way” to the closing “Music is The Victim”, Jake and Anna gave it their all, by the middle of the show they were sweating buckets but looked like they were having the time of their life and so was the audience. Because of their style of disco glam and retro music we often forget what a great rock band they are, from Babbydaddy on the keys and bass to the Del Marquis who rocked his socks off with his guitar work on songs like Ms. Matronic’s “Kiss You Off”. They did a wonderful job of alternating with Jake and Ana taking turns on the vocals, I love how Jake joins the back up singers when Ana is on lead. Speaking of, those back up girls were fabulous, incredible voices that complemented but didn’t overtake the lead singers.

My only is complaint is that the music seemed to drown out Jake wonderful falsetto vocals, it often seemed too loud or distorted to the point where I could not hear the words they were singing, for example I could not make out Ana’s part on “Any Which Way” which is a shame, it’s hilarious, one of my favorite tracks “Invisible Light” did not sound good at all. I really wish they would play venues with better sound. For me it was OK since I know their songs but for my partner and most of the crowd it was their first time seeing the Sisters and some might not be as familiar.

 

IMG_7388

I must admit I did not like “Let’s Have A Kiki” when I first heard the new album, but hearing it live was absolutely fabulous, the crowd went wild IMG_7470when it came on like it was one of their biggest hits, the whole vibe and choreography was superb. The few ballads like “Inevitable”, “Mary”, and “The Year Of Living Dangerously” gave the group time to breathe and nicely offset all the other high energy numbers Like “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’”, “Take Your Mama”, “Comfortably Numb”, and their hot new number “Only The Horses”.

The Sisters have a way of making you feel like you are at a private concert. They love to banter with the audience and they notice us, even describing outfits and pointing out members of the audience which they noticed throughout the evening. If you’ve never caught this band before find them on tour you won’t be disappointed.

 

Setlist

1. Any Which Way
2. Keep Your Shoes On
3. Baby Come Home
4. The Skins
5. Kiss You Off
6. Inevitable
7. Take Your Mama
8. Year of Living Dangerously
9. Let’s Have a Kiki
10. Comfortably Numb
11. Invisible Light
12. Shady Love
13. Skin This Cat
14. Mary
15. I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’
Encore
16. Only the Horses
17. Music Is the Victim

Lionel Richie Goes Country On Tuskegee

lionelrichie_2012cdcvr_hThe idea of Lionel Richie doing a country album might confused the average music listener, but if you were more attentive you would see that his songs like “Stuck On You” and “Deep River Woman” are pure Country, not to mention the mega hit “Lady” which he penned for Kenny Rogers. For this project Lionel got some of country’s best singers and musicians to duet with him. When I first heard snippets of the album I was a bit disappointed but after hearing the full LP I love it. R&B staples like my favourite “You Are” with Blake Sheldon are just as good if not better, this guitar flavoured version only adds to the song without taking away any of the original magic. “My Love” with Kenny Chesney, “Sail On” with Tim Mcgraw and “Stuck On You” with Daruis Rucker are perfect. “Deep River Woman” with Little Big Town, in my opinion rivals the original sung with Alabama back in 1986 on his “Dancing On The Ceiling album”, the harmonies here are gorgeous, this song needed this production. A song that should have been a bigger hit “Just For You” is another stand out with Billy Currington. “Hello” with Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland, is an interesting mix but I’m not sure their vocals work well together while “Easy” with Willie Nelson sounds like it could have been written for him.

I only wish it was less of a Greatest Hits list, “Dancing On The Ceiling” and “All Night Long” do not translate into country, Lionel what were you thinking? Even Rascal Flatts couldn’t country-fi “Ceiling”. “All Night Long” gets saved by going more island flavoured then country with the help of Jimmy Buffet and some cool Hawaiian like steel drums. “Say You Say Me” with Jason Aldean is another oddity that doesn’t translate well. I read all about the lengths Lionel went through to get Shania Twain to re-record “Endless Love”, but I don’t think their vocals match well plus did we really need another version? I never liked the Mariah Carey Luther Vandross one, nothing compares to the original with Diana Ross. Speaking of vocals, despite the guest list nobody sounds as good as Lionel singing his own songs, his voice still sounds great, unlike Kenny Rogers who’s losing it, I would have preferred a solo version of “Lady” instead.

Madonna MDNA album review

Madonna-MDNA-album-coverMadonna was never a poet but the lyrics on this album make her other efforts “Like A Prayer” and “Ray Of Light” sound like Shakespeare, but this is Madonna and it’s all about the dance. Gone is the R&B Timbaland beats, replaced by the swirling layers of electronic masters William Orbit (Ray Of Light), and Benni Benassi who opens the album with “Girl Gone Wild”, a nice little club song that sound very Madonna by numbers, if only the refrain wasn’t so awkward sounding. I was excited when I first heard that Mika was writing a song for the album, but he is only one of 8 other songwriters on “Gang Bang”, not sure why this is a fan favourite, I can’t see it being a single with the lyrics “Bang Bang shot my lover in the head”, the best part is the long outro with Madonna going “Drive Bitch” which would have to be edited for radio format. The next two tracks are my favourite and strongest on the album, the multi layered dancefloor “I’m Addicted”, Benassi outdoes himself on this track where we never want the song to end. Then there’s the Martin Solveig produced, simple but pop-tastic “Turn Up The Radio”, both could be potential singles. Despite being the lead single “Give Me All Your Luvin’” almost sound out of place, like it doesn’t belong on the album. Here’s where we get into a bit of filler, Not a fan of “Some Girls” with it’s odds beats, “Superstar” is cute and reminiscent of her song “Spotlight” and that era, but it’s nothing special, her lyrics “You’re my Super Duper Star” don’t help”, then there’s the dire Nicki Minaj duet “I Don’t Give A” enough said.

The album gets back on track with Orbits “I’m A Sinner” sounding very much like a mash up of their hits “Beautiful Stranger” and “Ray Of Light”, I love the religious spoken bridge. “Love Spent” starts off a bit odd with a bango intro but it turns into a pretty downbeat track and heartfelt lyric. We’ve all heard her beautiful song “Masterpiece” from her film W.E. but I wasn’t expecting the closing song “Falling Free” to be just as good or even better, it’s reminds me of one of her best ballads “Promise To Try”, these tracks show that Madonna can write a lyric and do the slow jams as well as the dance.

The deluxe version comes with a bonus disc of 4 new songs and a remix of “Give Me All Your Lovin’”. Why “Beautiful Killer” was cut from the regular album version is beyond me. It’s one of the better tracks and should have replaced the horrible “I Don’t Give A”. “I F*cked Up” and “Best Friend” are B-side material at best, but the cute piss take “B-day” is adorable, maybe it can replace the traditional one, one day.

2011 the year in music review

I thought 2011 was a difficult year for music. For me anyways, 6 months in and I didn’t think I would have a top 3 let alone a top 10, but as usual a flood of albums come out by the end of the year. The year was dominated by the unlikely superstar Adele who against all odds and all trends dominated the pop scene. Along with heavy weight Lady GaGa, Katy Perry and Riahnna who thanks to producer Calvin Harris had the longest running #1 song of Billboard of the year, “We Found Love”. Many hidden gems not played or overlooked, like veterans Duran Duran, who came back with one of their best albums “All You Need Is Now” and Erasure with “Tomorrow’s World”. Gloria Estefan went back to her dancing roots or should we say WEPA!. Up and comer Frankmusik delivered a great album along with Darren Hayes towards the end of the year. While some years I’m torn which albums will make the cut, this year I was looking to fill my list.

Top Ten Albums of 2011

gaga1) Born This Way-Lady GaGa

The album is a in your face stomping dance/electro beat extravaganza from the dancetastic Marry the Night to the closing song. My only complaint is that it’s a little bit overproduced but subtlety has never been GaGa’s strongpoint. Some of the tracks like the mega hit Born This Way sound too noisy, too many overlapping beats, guitar and synths, sometimes less is more. Almost every song has a killer hook that drags you right in, Judas seems unconventional and strange at first but then the chorus kicks in and you’re hooked. Many reviewers are complaining that unlike her style and dress her music is not innovative but I disagree, she is a pop singer trying to write pop songs not experimental music.

The regular album has 14 tracks and the special edition 17; while some feel it could be pruned down, very few feel out of place or like bonus or filler tracks. The themes revolve around self acceptance, pride, and Catholicism. Most fans seem to have different favourites. The best in my opinion are the two tracks all the way at the end. Yoü And I, The only slow jam is a classic in the making, however I prefer the stripped down live version I’ve heard on TV, the album track is produced by Robert “Mutt” Lange, (Shania Twain’s producer) who turns it slightly more into a country song, guitars are supplied by Brian May of Queen who adds a little We Will Rock You, like I said less is more. The Edge Of Glory ends up on a positive note with one of the best dance song of the year, it features a great sax solo by Clarence Clemmons from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, people have been talking about the similarities of the title track to Express Yourself, but “Edge” sounds so much more like Cher’s Song For The Lonely. Americano is a beautiful little tale about her meeting a young Mexican girl, yes it has the cheesy Spanish guitar influences, and sound like it’s from a Sopranos wedding, but we love it. Her childhood is represented with the beautiful self empowering and danceable anthem Hair, along with the retro disco Bad Kids about her insecurities as a youth. Her faux German song Scheiße comes complete with fake German lyrics but it still hooks you right in with mad beats you only hear at some late night rave party. The album has a definite 80’s vibe; Government Hooker channels the synth/industrial Brit pop, the wonderful retro pop Fashion Of Love which should have been on the regular edition, and Highway Unicorn (Road To Love) whose chorus sounds like powerhouses Pat Benatar or Heart. Electric Chapel sound like something that could have come from Duran Duran’s repertoire think Electric Barbarella.My least favourite tracks are the sluggish and haunting Bloody Mary and the robotic Heavy Metal Lover whose music is blips and bleeps, but even then, they still have a certain charm that pulls you in after a few listens, maybe this is the experimental music that most reviewers have wanted. GaGa has a way of infusing the best of her musical influences to produce some of the best pop music of the day. The song The Queen sums up her title, for how long she stays remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, it will be an absolutely fabulous freakin’ ride.

duran2) All You Need Is Now–Duran Duran

Producer Mark Ronson wanted to create the follow up to “Rio”, well there was a follow up it was called “Seven And The Ragged Tiger”, I would call Duran’s new album “All You Need Is Now” as Rio part two. The title track definitely stands out with the contrasting ruff verses and unmistakable Duran chorus. Best tracks are “Blame The Machines”, and “Being Followed” which follows right on track and formula, and the beautiful airy “The Man Who Stole A Leopard” who seems to have stolen the intro to ”The Chauffeur”. Best guest star on the album is Scissor Sister’s own Ana Matronic who rap/sings on “Safe (In The Heat Of The Moment)” her part is very reminiscent of Blondies 80’s hit “Rapture”. The fan favourite seem to be “Girl Panic!” with their big signature drum sound and “Girls On Film” vibe. I’m not a fan of “Leave A Light On” which tries too hard to be “Save A Prayer”, I prefer the other ballad “Mediterranea” which while suffers a similar fate is a better song. The rest of the album kind of loses steam. “Other’s People Live’s” is cute in this obsessive age of “Fame” and the bonus track “Networker Nation” falls into our internet age, but they do nothing new or inventive. “Too bad You’re So Beautiful”, and “Runway Runaway” again feel like paler versions of a “Rio”. The 2 instrumental tracks “A Diamond In the Mind” and “Return To Now” are nice and makes you wonder what the title track would have sounded with full orchestral strings. The Best Buy bonus tracks didn’t grabbed me at all and I can see why they were cut from the album.

Mark is a genius he and the boys definitely succeeded in creating a retro homage; it’s uncanny to listen to this record. It’s like they pieced together different Duran sounds from their early years to create each song, but I liked the fact that Duran actually evolved and experimented. If this was the real follow up to Rio would we have had “Notorious” Arcadia, or even “The Reflex”? It’s a great pop album but I prefer their 2004 opus “Astronaut” which was a comeback and a return to their signature Duran sound, but it sounded fresh and new with better songs.

bruno3) Doop Wops & Hooligans—Bruno Mars

This album came out in late 2010 but like the recent Grammy nomination for best album, I too just discovered it. Bruno Mars has to be one of the most talented newcomers on the music scene. A singer songwriter and music producer who started his career as part of the The Smeezingtons production team, writing and singing the hook to the hit songs “Nothing On You” by B.o.B and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire”.

His debut album “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” delivers 10 perfect slices of R & B pop which has a retro feel but modern production, there’s no filler. His voice and incredible falsetto bring us back to the Motown crooner’s day with the #1 hits “Just The Way You Are” and “Grenade”. Bruno is Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Temptations all rolled up into one. He rocks and channels Stevie on songs like “Runaway”, delivers reggae tinged pop on the fun “Lazy Song”, and “Liquor Store Blues” with help by Damian Marley. Unlike most music today his songs are infused with an infectious melody from “Count On Me” to “Marry You” which as been covered from everybody to Glee. One of the stand outs is the final song ”The Other Side” where he gets a little help from Cee Lo Green who returns the favour as Bruno co-wrote Cee Lo’s big international hit “F*ck You (Forget You)”. It’s hard to really categorize the album, he has so many influences but they all fuse perfectly together.

di-it-in-the-am4) Do It In The AM—Frankmusik

Frankmusik’s sophomore album takes a definite new turn, gone is the 80’s retro sound of his fist album replaced by a more modern production. From the first track “We Collide” the album stomps and bleeps on the the dancefloor, but what isn’t gone is his sensibility to create a melody and infectious hooks like the Colette Carr duet “No I.D.”, a modern day “You’re the One That I Want” which is clearly shown in the inspired “Grease” homage video. Label mates, The Far East Movement joins him on the title track, while Natalia Kills helps him out on the delicious “No Champagne”, an R&B dancefloor groove waiting to be a single. Not just a great producer and songwriter but Frank has a beautiful voice and falsetto which can be heard on songs like “Footsteps” and “Wrecking Ball” another infectious pop tune. The pre-single “The Fear Inside” is a bold electronic dance stomper, a shame it went unnoticed.

Frank knows just the right recipe to create a song that twist and turns never being boring like the tracks “Break Light”, “Struck By Lightning”, or Ludicrous almost any track could be a single. This is probably why Erasure chose him as their producer of their latest effort. (See #5 below).

tw5) Tomorrow’s World—Erasure

Produced by newcomer electronic wizard Frankmusic, Erasure delivers a delicious pop slice of 9 songs. “Be With You”, “Fill Us With Fire” and “A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot” are some of the best dance song of the year. They swirl stomp and combust to the dancefloor heaven and fit perfectly with any of their greatest hits. The next tracks “What Will I Say When You’re Gone?” And “You’ve Got To Save Me Right Now” take a slightly slower romp but deliver the signature sound and the beautiful vocal of Andy Bell, some say his voice has changed, they have auto-tuned it a bit like most music today which is a shame, but I think he still sounds great, check out his beautiful signature falsetto on “When I Start To (Break It All Down)”. “I Lose Myself”, takes me back to the alternative 80’s when Vince Clark’s first band Depeche Mode where on the charts. “Then I Go Twisting” takes a different turn into a more modern sounding romp and we kind of wonder will this be their last album with lyrics like “Then I go insane, I’m bored of this modern town, Sick of this techno Monophonic sound” . Ironic that many reviews have panned the album for being the “same old” and offering nothing new, but there is nothing wrong with a fun filled well produced dancetastic album.

Note: a well worth deluxe edition features a second disc of remixes and demos that let you hear how some of the songs evolved to the final product

secretcodes6) Secret Codes And Battleship—Darren Hayes

Darren Hayes had great success as the lead singer of Savage Garden but his solo career is completely underrated. His last album This Delicate Thing We’ve Made is in my opinion one of the best pop albums around. While it’s hard to top that album this effort is still top notch, more radio friendly then the previous, Secret Codes brings me back to the days of Savage Garden. From his soaring beautiful mesmeric voice on the opening track “Taken By The Sea” the album delivers. Filled with pop tunes that have atmosphere and meaning. The first single “Talk Talk Talk”, “Don’t Give Up”, and the delish “Clearly Love” are pop perfection but the album is so much more. The melancholy opuses “Block Out The Sun” and “Bloodstained Heart” is Darren at his finest, with lush instrumentations, a falsetto one would kill for and lyrics that make you feel his hurt, Adele’s got nothing on him. Only Darren can take such lyrics as “Nobody knows where this razor has been If you want something broke you better give it to me Because I can make you hurt”, and turn it into a catchy little melody along with the song “Stupid Mistake”, it just drags you right in. Darren gets some help from the renowned Walter Afanasieff who co-writes and produces the beautiful ballad “Roses”.

Not included on the album but check out the great Hall & Oats Mix of “Talk, Talk, Talk” which incorporates their hit “Out Of Touch”.

mlh7) Miss Little Havana—Gloria Estefan

Gloria’s first English album since 2003, although I wouldn’t label this album as unilingual, some of the lyrics and all the music is pure Latin infused dance .The album goes back to her roots from her early days of Conga. The songs are filled with lots of salsa, horns, bongos, whistles and every flavour of the Spanish world, every song has so many overlapping sounds and rhythms, sometimes too much like first single “Wepa” which can come off as annoying but after many listens it grows and becomes infectious, you have to move, “Resistance is futile, you have been assimilated”. The first 9 songs tell the tale of a young Cuban girl who arrives in Miami and gets her heart broken. To tell the story Gloria hires the help of Pharrell William who brings a modern club production, favourite tracks are the disco “Make Me Say Yes”, the title track and the pretty ballad “Time Is Ticking” which bring memories of “Anything For You”. The last 4 songs are produced by Gloria’s hubby Emilio, my favourite being the tongue and cheek vaudeville tune Hotel Nacional where she sings “Drama’s on like Susan Lucci, It’s time for hoochie coochie” and check out the retro dancefloor ditty “Make My Heart Go”. Gloria is no longer a mainstay artist and too bad that radio will probably ignore her, but this album can definitely compete with her contemporary successors.

adele8) 21–Adele

A throwback to the 60’s but yet modern, Adele is a powerhouse singer who wears her heart on her sleeve, she puts it all there from the mega single “Rolling In The Deep” to “Someone Like You”. She has a style all her own, part pop, part jazz, part sassy on songs like my favourite “Rumour Has It” or her cover of the Cure’s “Lovesong”. The rest of the album is very homogenous, melancholy and can get a tad boring, you really have to be in the mood to listen to it.

mc9) Walk In Beauty—Marie Christine

Montreal has a new diva and her name is Marie-Christine. Discovered by Canadian superstar Corey Hart. It took Corey 5 years to find his first artist and after hearing her for the first time he signed her right on the spot for his new record label “Siena”.

The record is separated into 2 parts, Soul Red which has a more slick pop 80’s produced sound and Soul Blue leaning towards a more R & B sound, although with CD’s that only have one side and digital music that randomizes on an ipod it seems pointless, but I like when artists actually put some thought into their records and it’s a nice nod to the past which fits well to the retro sound of the project. The introductory Girl In Shades is a new quirky take on Corey’s Sunglasses At Night, this works so much better when the original writer has a hand in it, then the sampling, interpolation, and stealing that is used in current music by other artists. The second single and first video Totally Random is pure pop delight that stick in your head after hearing it once. She does a few covers including a sultry seductive version of Prince’s I Wanna Be Your Lover, a great reggae version of Squeeze’s songTempted featuring GoldenChyl, and Keep On Running a Stevie Wondersong not often remembered, Corey even manages to get Stevie to appear on the record, all of these tracks would make excellent singles. Most of the other tracks are written and produced by Corey including the title Walk In Beauty a haunting but powerful ballad with a positive message, my favourite Port Au Prince featuring Luck Mervil, and Silence, a song Corey originally wrote for Celine Dion.

Marie-Christine offers a few of her own penned tracks the best being the jazzy, snazzy pop groove Get Out and the slow jam Let Yourself Go. The playing length of the CD opened the doors to more tacks and music, but I would have pruned down this CD from 15 to 12 tracks leaving the beautiful ballad All I Ever Do to close out the record. A very promising first record, I’ll be looking forward to hearing her next endeavours, I hope she evolves but doesn’t change too much, I’d hate to see her trying to do the sound du jour, she’s too sophisticated for that.

Marie-Christine offers a few of her own penned tracks the best being the jazzy, snazzy pop groove Get Out and the slow jam Let Yourself Go. The playing length of the CD opened the doors to more tacks and music, but I would have pruned down this CD from 15 to 12 tracks leaving the beautiful ballad All I Ever Do to close out the record. A very promising first record, I’ll be looking forward to hearing her next endeavours, I hope she evolves but doesn’t change too much, I’d hate to see her trying to do the sound du jour, she’s too sophisticated for that. A very promising first record, I’ll be looking forward to hearing her next endeavours, I hope she evolves but doesn’t change too much, I’d hate to see her trying to do the sound du jour, she’s too sophisticated for that.

sophie10) Make A Scene—Sophie Ellis-Bextor

After many delays and leaving her record label to start her own, Sophie finally delivers her 4th LP. I loved her fantastic 3rd LP“Trip The Light Fantastic” so I was hoping to love it just the same but I’m finding this album just OK. It’s all very dance electronica but it’s a bit too homogenous and some of it sounds dated. The best tracks were already released more then a year ago, the Freemasons production “Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)”, “Not Giving Up On Love” by Armin Van Buuren and Bittersweet. “On And On” is OK “Starlight” is cute. She tries to get experimental with the title track but the opening beats are just annoying. Sophie still sounds great, if only she could get better material.

Top Singles of 2011

1) Edge Of Glory—Lady GaGa

2) Moves Like Jagger—Maroon 5 with Christina Aguilera

3) Born This Way—Lady GaGa

4) Rolling In The Deep—Adele

5) No I.D. Frankmusik featuring Colette

6) Call Your Girlfriend—Robyn

7) Block Out The Sun—Darren Hayes

8) Without You—David Guetta featuring Usher

9) You and I–Lady GaGa

10) Talk Talk Talk—Darren Hayes

11) We found Love –Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris