Trying To Get To You

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Radio, Radio

Today at 4pm E Street Radio on Sirius/XM radio will be broadcasting the show I co-moderated last Thursday, on the 25th Anniversary of the Born In The U.S.A. album, tour and phenomenon. The show has turned out wonderfully - our panel is fantastic and the conversation is illuminating, funny and in parts, beyond geeky. If you're a Springsteen fan, or someone who's interested in a seminal moment in rock history, definitely tune in.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Story Of Laura Lee

Sometimes the stories of the artists who didn't quite make it are far more interesting than the ones that did.

A case in point would be 60's & 70's soul singer Laura Lee. Hailing from Detroit, Lee sang gospel with Aretha Franklin's sister Erma; recorded for Chess Records; was pursued for signing by Frank Sinatra; recorded for Hot Wax, Holland-Dozier-Holland's post-Motown label; was Al Green's girlfriend before he broke and was the inspiration for songs like "Tired Of Being Alone."

You can hear a fascinating five-part history of her life at Laura's website here. It's definitely worth your time; it's a living, personal history of soul.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quote Of The Day

"You've got to find some way of saying it without saying it."
-Duke Ellington

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tonight At Sirius

Tonight I co-moderated a panel discussion on E Street Radio on Sirius/XM about the Born In The U.S.A. album/tour/explosion/phenomenon. To say it was fun would be an understatement of epic proportion. We had a great panel: My dear friend John Franck co-moderated with me, and as panelists we had Jovan Mrvos, a former A&R man for Columbia Records who I worked with at CMJ; Lewis Largent, a former MTV VJ and a former co-worker of mine in A&R at Island Def Jam; Backstreets columnist Flynn McClean; and record store owner Stu Wexelbaum.

John has been one of my best friends for over 16 years, and Jovan and Lewis have been wonderful friends as well, people whose ideas, thoughts and opinions about music have been enormously influential in my own relationship with music. I met Flynn and Stu for the first time tonight, but they felt like kindred spirits immediately - twenty minutes into the taping, people were finishing each other sentences and completing conversation threads that others had started.

I write this because the evening was such a joy that it reminded me not only of how much I love music, but how much I revel in discussing it with people whose love for music equals my own. I'm also reminded that music has been the greatest means of friendship I've ever known, and perhaps that, as much as anything, is why my passion for it remains undimmed. There are few things more wonderful than the spark of connection between two people when you discover a shared adoration for a piece of music. It remains as much of a thrill for me pushing 40 as it did when I was 15. That's pretty miraculous.

The show will be airing Wednesday, 02/24 at 4pm ET; Thurs, 02/25 at 12am ET and 8am ET AND Wed, 03/03 at 4pm ET. If you have half as much fun listening to the show as we had making it, you're in for a treat.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Corinne Bailey Rae's Magical Thinking

Corinne Bailey Rae's first, self-titled album was a breezy affair, a collection of open and friendly neo-soul songs that worked well enough to earn her a wide-ranging following and to go double platinum in the U.S. But that was in 2006, and for her, that's a lifetime ago.

In 2008, Rae's husband, musician Jason Rae, died, and it's in that aftermath that she has just released The Sea, a meditation on grief, pain and living amidst the ghosts of memory. It's also a joyous affair, but it's a joy very much tempered with the edge of death, which simultaneously makes it subdued and truly beautiful. It's a magnificent album, one that pays off with repeat listens, as its subtleties open and give themselves over to the terrible and miraculous wonder that is living.

The Sea has a harder sound than Rae's debut. Rae's vocals are a bit buried in the mix; the guitars have an occasional growl and the bass sometimes throbs with a malevolent intent. It is less a sound of foreboding than it is about the sound of pain realized. Yet there's no ploy for anyone's sympathy. On the album's first single, "I'd Do It All Again," she sings like a late-period Marvin Gaye, defiantly revealing her hurt and vulnerability while declaring that despite her pain, she wouldn't change a damn thing:

"Someone to love is bigger than your pride's worth
It's bigger than the pain you got, for all it hurts
It outruns all the sadness
It's terrifying light to the darkness
And I'd do it all again"
Even better is "The Blackest Lily," easily the toughest and sexiest Rae song has ever recorded. You can feel the lingering memory of lust pervade every nuance of Rae's vocal, where that lust transformed into love - and where finally, she lost it. This is adult music, and it's music that's vaguely uncomfortable, like watching someone strip in front of your eyes, simply to show you who they really are.

It seems a cliche that great soul music comes from something more than a passing acquaintance with pain, but cliches are cliches for a reason - they're usually true. The Sea, Corinne Bailey Rae has made her version of a truly soulful album, one that does what the best of soul has always done - unflinchingly acknowledging life's most devastating blows, while also experiencing their terrible and magical ecstasy.