Friday, June 30, 2017


"Nightlife" by Archibald John Motley Jr. , 1943 oil on canvas
June 1, 2017
"Black And Tan Fantasy" (live at Newport) performed by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra
"West End Blues" performed by Louis Armstrong
"Black Coffee" performed by Ella Fitzgerald
"Broken  Hearted Melody" performed by Sarah Vaughan
"What A Difference A Day Makes" performed by Dinah Washington

"(You Caught Me) Smilin'" performed by Sly and the Family Stone
"Lady" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"Dust" performed by Van Hunt
"Holy" performed by Jamilla Woods
"Power" performed by Kanye West

"Full Of Smoke" performed by Christion
"Be Here" performed by Raphael Saadiq with D'Angelo
"Hold On" performed by En Vogue
"Creep" performed by TLC
"Here Comes The Hotstepper" performed by Ini Kamoze

June 2, 2017
"Wild And Peaceful" (live 1974) performed by Kool and the Gang

"Reasons" performed by Minnie Ripperton
"No Pain, No Gain" performed by Betty Wright
"Jada" performed by The Pointer Sisters
"Giving Up" (original) performed by Gladys Knight and the Pips

"Back And Forth" performed by Cameo
"Stay A Little While Child" performed by Loose Ends
"Burn Rubber" performed by The Gap Band
"Cool" performed by The Time

"Misrepresented People" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Reflection" (live) performed by Prince with Wendy Melvoin

June 3, 2017

"Struttin'" performed by Billy Preston
"You Got The Love" performed by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
"Let 'Em In" performed by Billy Paul
"Ain't Gone Hurt Nobody" performed by Brick
"Finally Got Myself Together" performed by The Impressions

"Africa" performed by Richard Pryor from "Richard Pryor: Live On The Sunset Strip"
"We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue/Give Me Your Love" (live) performed by  Curtis Mayfield
"People...Hold On" performed by Eddie Kendricks

"The Heathen" (live)
"So Much Things To Say"
"Exodus" (live 1977)

Thundercat performing LIVE at the BBC 6 Music Festival 2017

June 4, 2017
"Peace" performed by Ornette Coleman
"Monk's Dream" performed by Thelonious Monk
"A Day In The Life" performed by Grant Green

"Proud Mary" (live 1982) performed by Tina Turner
"Heartburn" performed by Alicia Keys
"Black Cat" performed by Janet Jackson
"Don't You Want Me" performed by Jody Watley
"Rock Steady" performed by Aretha Franklin

"I've Got Dreams To Remember" performed by Otis Redding

June 5, 2017
"Monday Morning Blues" performed by Mississippi John Hurt
"Keep It To Yourself" performed by Sonny June Boy Williamson
"When The Hurt Is Over" performed by Mighty Sam McClain
"The Sky Is Crying" performed by Gary B.B. Coleman
"When I Woke Up This Morning: performed by Lightnin' Hopkins

"Vibes And Stuff" performed by A Tribe Called Quest
"Midnight Sun" performed by Lionel Hampton
"Apple Blossom" performed by Esperanza Spalding featuring Milton Nascimento
"Day To Day" performed by Robert Glasper Experiment
"Rising Down" performed by The Roots

"Stereotypes" performed by Black Violin

June 6, 2017
"Stratus" performed by Billy Cobham
"Capricorn" performed by George Duke
"Cebu" performed by The Commodores

"Still Waters Run Deep" performed by The Four Tops
"It's Gonna Take A Miracle" performed by The Royalettes
"Right On The Tip Of My Tongue" performed by Brenda & The Tabulations
"I Love You For All Seasons" performed by The Fuzz
"How Can I Tell My Mom And Dad" performed by The Lovelites

June 7, 2017

"Mountains" performed by Prince and the Revolution
"I Wanna Be Your Lover"
"She's Always In My Hair" performed by Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL
"When You Were Mine" (live)
"Kiss" performed by Prince and the Revolution
"America" (live) performed by Prince and the Revolution

June 8, 2017
"In A Sentimental Mood" performed by Duke Ellington and John Contrane
"You And I" performed by Stevie Wonder"

"Cold Little Heart" (live session) performed by Michael Kiwanuka
"River" performed by Leon Bridges
"Because I'm Me" performed by The Avalanches
"I Won't Complain" performed by Benjamin Clementine
"A Change Is Gonna Come" performed by Brian Owens and Thomas Owens
"Why Is It So Hard" (live on KEXP) performed by Charles Bradley

June 9, 2017
"H2OGate Blues" performed by Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson

"Ain't That Peculiar" performed by Marvin Gaye
"My Baby Loves Me" performed by Martha and the Vandellas
"Hey Joe" performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
"Prototype" performed by OutKast
"People Get Up And Drive Your Funky Soul" performed by JAMES BROWN

June 10, 2017

"They Just Can't Stop It (Games People Play)" performed by The Spinners
"Just Don't Want To Be Lonely" performed by The Main Ingredient
"So Very Hard To Go" performed by Tower Of Power featuring Lenny Williams
"Can This Be Real?" performed by The Natural Four
"Dancing Machine" performed by The Jackson 5

"My Baby Just Cares For Me" performed by Nina Simone
"Fraser (The Sensuous Lion)" performed by Sarah Vaughan
"Green Eyes" performed by Erykah Badu
"Let Me Down Easy" performed by Bettye Lavette
"I Want To Be Evil" performed by Eartha Kitt

DJ Jazzy Jeff Budweiser Philadelphia Boiler Room set

June 11, 2017
"St. Thomas" performed by Sonny Rollins
"Moanin'" performed by Charles Mingus
"Booker's Garden" performed by Charles Lloyd Quartet

"Betray My Heart/Spanish Joint" (live North Sea Jazz Festival) performed by D'Angelo and the Vanguard
"She Ran Away" performed by Cody C hesnuTT-WSPC PREMIERE
"Nights Over Egypt" performed by The Jones Girls
"Searchin'" performed by Roy Ayers
"Chicago, Damn" performed by Bobbi Humphrey
"Hard Times" (live) performed by John Legend and The Roots

June 12, 2017
"Too Darn Hot" performed by Ella Fitzgerald
"Electric Chair" (live on "SNL" 1990) performed by Prince

"Call It What It Is" performed by Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
"I Wanna Breathe" performed by Sananda Maitreya
"Someone Like You" performed by Living Colour

June 13, 2017
"Tracks Of My Tears" performed by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
"Love Is Here And Now You're Gone" performed by The Supremes
"I Found A Love Pts. 1 & 2" performed by Wilson Pickett
"You're So Fine" performed by The Falcons
"Eddie My Love" performed by The Teen Queens
"Up On The Mountains" performed by The Magnificents
"Ka Ding Dong" performed by The G -Clefs

"Evil" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Maggot Brain" performed by Funkadelic
"Fight For Nutmeg" performed by Fishbone

June 14, 2017
"Scirocco" performed by Tony Williams Lifetime
"I Feel Sanctified" performed by The Commodores
"Up For The Down Stroke" performed by Parliament

"Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved, Loved, Loved)" performed by JAMES BROWN
"Hot Stuff" performed by Donna Summer
"Hot Boyz" performed by Missy Elliot
"Drop It Like Its Hot" performed by Snoop Dogg with Pharrell Williams
"Hot In Herre" performed by Nelly

June 15, 2017
"Keep Your Head To The Sky" performed by Earth Wind and Fire
"It's All Over" performed by Ohio Players
"Statue Of A Fool" performed by David Ruffin

"What The World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love" performed by The Isley Brothers and Santana-WSPC PREMIERE

June 16, 2017
"Me And My Woman" performed by Shuggie Otis
"Wanted Dread Or Alive" performed by Peter Tosh
"BAM BAM" performed by Sister Nancy
"Black Roses" performed by Barrington Levy
"Ring The Alarm" performed by Tenor Saw
"Rain" performed by Divine Styler

"Year Of The Dragon" performed by Wyclef Jean
"Gun" performed by  Gil Scott-Heron
"Someday We'll All Be Free" performed by Donny Hathaway
"Life Is Better" performed by Q-Tip with Norah Jones
"That Hump" performed by Erykah Badu

June 17, 2017

"Pillow Talk" performed by Sylvia
"Day Dreaming" performed by Aretha Franklin
"Loves Maze" performed by The Temprees
"To Be True" performed by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
"And I Panicked" performed by The Dramatics

"I Love Myself" performed by Chaka Khan-WSPC PREMIERE

Just Blaze Boiler Room DJ set in London

June 18, 2017

"So What"
"Dear Old Stockholm"
"Someday My Prince Will Come"
"Summer Nights"
"You're My Everything"

June 19, 2017
JAMES BROWN live on Italian television 1971
"L'Aventure du Jazz" performed by George Benson, Jimmy Slyde, Papa Jo Jones
"Hot Summer" (live) performed by Prince

"Stakes Is High" (live) performed by Robert Glasper Experiment with Mos Def
"Black America Again" performed by Common featuring Stevie Wonder
"I Try" performed by Talib Kweli featuring Mary J. Blige
"Respiration" performed by Blackstar featuring Common
"When I B On Tha Mic" performed by Rakim

June 20, 2017
"Living For The City" performed by Stevie Wonder
"Black Lives Matter" performed by Andre Cymone-WSPC PREMIERE
"Drawn" performed by De La Soul featuring Little Dragon
"We The People" performed by A Tribe Called Quest
"Compared to What' performed by Les McCann and Eddie Harris

"Introduction/Maiden Voyage" (live) performed by Herbie Hancock
"That How I Feel" performed by Sun Ra

"Housequake/The Bird" (live) performed by Prince with The New Power Generation & 3RDEYEGIRL

June 21, 2017
"Snake Oil" performed by Tony Williams
"Dreaming About You" performed by The Blackbyrds
"Summer Nights" performed by Lonnie Liston Smith
"Soul Girl" performed by Ahmad Jamal
"The Wolf" performed by Darondo

June 22, 2017
"Nevertheless (I'm In Love With You)" performed by The Mills Brothers
"Drinking Again" performed by Dinah Washington
"Joey" performed by Natalie Cole
"For The Good Times" performed by Al Green
"I'm Dying Of Thirst" performed by Robert Glasper

"Fight The Power (parts 1 & 2)" performed by The Isley Brothers
"Bank Robber Man" performed by Lenny Kravitz
"If You Don't Like The Effects, Don't Produce The Cause" performed by Funkadelic

June 23, 2017
"Wake Up" (live) performed by John Legend and The Roots
"Beasts Of No Nation" performed by Fela Kuti

"I Believe To My Soul" (live in Zaire 1974) performed by B.B. King
"Five Long Years" performed by Buddy Guy
"One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" performed by John Lee Hooker
"Back Door Man" performed by Howlin' Wolf
"Champagne And Reefer" performed by Muddy Waters
"Summertime" performed by Big Mama Thornton

June 24, 2017

"Harlem" performed by The 5th Dimension
"What's Your Name" performed by The Moments
"If It's In You To Do Wrong" performed by The Impressions
"So In Love With You" performed by Leroy Hutson
"Close To You" performed by Ronnie Dyson
"If You Let Me" performed by Eddie Kendricks

"Waterworld" performed by Handsome Boy Modeling School featuring Encore
"Keep On" performed by Alfa Mist-WSPC PREMIERE
"Sunrays" performed by Madlib


June 25, 2017
"Bethena" performed by Scott Joplin
"After You've Gone" performed by  Fats Waller and Art Tatum
"C Jam Blues" performed by Oscar Peterson Trio

"This Time Around"
"In The Closet"
"Liberian Girl"
"Human Nature"
"Enjoy Yourself" performed by The Jacksons
"Show You The Way To Go" performed by The Jacksons
"Blame It On The Boogie" performed by The Jacksons
"Maybe Tomorrow" performed by The Jackson 5
"Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)" performed by The Jacksons

June 26, 2017
"Ignorance Is Bliss" performed by Living Colour
"Judgement Day" performed by 24-7 Spyz
"Mistachuck" performed by Chuck D.
"My Philosophy" performed by Boogie Down Productions
"Unyielding Conditioning" performed by Fishbone

June 27, 2017
"Rapper's Delight" performed by The Sugarhill Gang

"Free Your Mind" performed by En Vogue
"Are You That Somebody" performed by Aaliyah
"Gotta Work" performed by Amerie
"Ladies First" performed by Queen Latifah featuring Monie Love
"Expression" performed by Salt N' Pepa

"Get It Up" performed by The Time
"Dark Prince" performed by Geri Allen Trio

June 28, 2017
"Hello, Jeff" performed by Stanley Clarke
"Snoopy's Search/Red Baron" performed by Billy Cobham

"Sweet Love" performed by Anita Baker
"Blue Skies" performed by Josephine Baker
"Remember When" performed by The Platters
"Hurts So Bad" performed by Little Anthony and the Imperials
"Thinkin Bout You" performed by Frank Ocean

June 29, 2017
"ELEMENT." performed by Kendrick Lamar-WSPC PREMIERE
"Who Shot Ya?" performed by Living Colour
"Can't Truss It" performed by Public Enemy
"Fishin' 4 Religion" performed by Arrested Development
"Get The Funk Out Ma Face" performed by The Brothers Johnson

June 30, 2017
"One Nation Under A Groove" performed by Funkadelic
"Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" performed by JAMES BROWN
"Bustin' Out" performed by Rick James
"Move On Up" performed by Curtis Mayfield

"Take The A Train" performed by Duke Ellington
"Gutter Rainbows" performed by Talib Kweli
"Wholly Holy" performed by Aretha Franklin
"What's Going On" (live) performed by Marvin Gaye
"Let's Go Crazy" (live) performed by Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL
"Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama's Call)" performed by Stevie Wonder

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


1. "Black Man In America" performed by Andre Cymone
2. "Skywriter" performed by The Jackson 5
3. "Dust" performed by Van Hunt
4. "I Miss" performed by Jesse Johnson
5. "Grinder" performed by Gary Clark Jr.
6. "La La, La, Hee, Hee, Hee" performed by Prince
7. "Easy To Be Hard" performed by Cheryl Barnes from the film "Hair"
8. "Feel The Energy" performed by Angelo Moore & The Brand New Step
9. "I'm Dying Of Thirst" performed by Robert Glasper

1. "Hideaway" performed by Todd Rundgren
2. "Something To Fall Back On" performed by Todd Rundgren
3. "Piece By Piece" performed by The Tubes
4. "Shave Your Legs" performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
5. "Rising Sign" performed by Utopia
6. "You Cried Wolf" performed by Todd Rundgren
7. "Frederick" performed by The Patti Smith Group
8. "You're Much Too Soon" performed by Daryl Hall & John Oates
9. "Take It Home" performed by Utopia
10."Hang On Paul" performed by Nazz
11."Boogies (Hamburger Hell) performed by Todd Rundgren
12."Love Is The Answer" performed by Utopia

1. "Supersoulfighter" performed by Lenny Kravitz
2. "All Day Sucker" performed by Stevie Wonder
3. Anxiety/Taurian Matador" performed by Billy Cobham
4. "You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks" performed by Funkadelic
5. "Penelope Please" performed by Terence Trent D'Arby
6. "Outstanding" performed by The Gap Band
7. "Falling In Love Again" performed by Eagle Eye Cherry
8. "The Slouch" performed by Vernon Reid & Masque
9. "Diamond In The Rough" performed by Ernie Isley
10."Pray My Soul" performed by Axiom Funk (featuring Bernie Worrell and Eddie Hazel)

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Released April 28, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC: WSUM's Freak Scene Radio brought me here and incidentally, this album was my final purchase at the great Mad City Music Exchange before they closed up shop at the location they occupied for 30 years and just prior to their move to a new location (long may you run).

Anyhow, and for no reason in particular, I have never really listened to Sonic Youth. Certainly, I have heard some songs over the years but believe me, I could never even begin to tell you what they even were let alone what they sounded like. That being said, there was some thing that did indeed compel me to purchase "Rock N' Roll Consciousness," the latest solo offering from Thurston Moore and it was a wise purchase indeed. For me, these five extended songs, the shortest of which ("Cusp") runs a hair over six minutes while the longest ("Exalted") is just shy of 12 minutes, feels like one, vaguely prog, subtly post-rock, undeniably psychedelic soundscape where emotions of melancholia, doom, rage, and oddly enough, a certain tranquility weave its meditative spell..albeit a decidedly agitated meditative spell.

Through all of the sounds and hippie styled lyrics as contributed by poet Radio Radieux, the guitar is unquestionably the star of the album as elegant passages crash into bombastic power chords, which then float into feedback drenched anarchy and often, brilliantly so, into mesmerizing interlocked sequences that for me, recalled the very best of Television's now iconic "Marquee Moon" (released February 8, 1977). 

Thurston Moore's "Rock N' Roll Consciousness," for me, is that perfect "grey day" album--one for solitary moments spent under cloudy skies.
Released April 28, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC: This is a quickie...but first things first...Ryan Adams, who reportedly recorded a whopping 80 songs for his achingly beautiful album "Prisoner" (released February 17, 2017) definitely picked the very best of the best to make up that album. 

As for this B-sides collection from the same sessions and collected upon the "End Of The World" vinyl set and later released digitally, these 17 songs make up for a rawer, rougher double album length experience that only extends and deepens the "Prisoner" album with its post-divorce themes of heartbreak, isolation, confusion, restlessness, uncertainly and the attempts of trying to figure out how to move forwards when "'til death do us part" has proven itself not to be. With titles like "Are You Home?," "It Will Never Be The Same," "Broken Things," "Let It Burn," "Please Help Me," "Too Tired To Cry," and "The Empty Bed," you know that upon listening to these songs, you are in for a dark, sad ride.

I am still working through the collection but even so, what remains is my mystification at just how oh how does Adams continue to unearth new ways, lyrics, melodies and performances to convey stories and emotions of love and loss, essentially the cornerstone of his entire recording career.  Regardless of the methods behind his specialized brand of musical magic, these songs are more than worth your attention if you are just itching for something even broader, something that sounds like the perfect extension of one of his finest works (aside from "Prisoner"), "Love Is Hell" (released May 4, 2004)
Released June 9, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC:  Essentially a Fleetwood Mac album in all but name and without the presence of Stevie Nicks (whom, as far as I am concerned, is acting a bit mercenary lately due to her lack of studio participation in favor of solely participating in more money grabbing tours), "Buckingham McVie," itself a play upon the pre-Fleetwood Mac endeavor (and still unavailable on CD or digital formats) "Buckingham Nicks" (released September 5, 1973), is a glistening, rock solid pop album that shows without any doubts that these musical veterans still have more than enough musical magic to create and deliver.

These 10 new songs are a veritable showcase for Lindsey Buckingham (who seems to be on a prolifically creative high over these last 15 years or so) and Christine McVie to not only remind listeners why we fell in love with the in the first place but to introduce any curious new listeners a level of songcraft, production and musicianship that is of such rare quality in the 21st century but was the norm 40 years ago. Frankly, Buckingham and McVie get to show everyone just how it is done while still unearthing some surprises.

Where tracks like "Feel About You," "Red Sun," "Lay Down For Free," "Sleeping Around The Corner" and the stunning, warm wind rush of "In My World" could all sound like updates from Mac's "Mirage" (released June 18, 1982)--and in the very best way--I was indeed surprised by the funk groove of "Too Far Gone" and was undeniably moved by the selections of  the flat-out beautiful "On With The Show," "Love Is Here To Stay," and "Game To Pretend," songs that conveyed a level of wistfulness that only arrives with age and having much life lived.

It is truly a joy to hear Christine McVie, a songwriter who I have always felt gets a bit lost in Stevie Nicks' powerful presence and looming shadow. Her warmth, skills, and supreme voice have lost absolutely nothing during her time away and er songwriting remains as bulletproof as ever. Hearing her paired with Lindsey Buckingham again allows him to work with his musical paintbrush with a completely different sense of inspiration and the effect is sparkling. And man, by the time he unleashes his guitar solo during the album finale "Carnival Begin," it feels as fi he has realized another potential live in concert six string fireworks display.

Essentially 30 years ago, I vividly remember hearing some B-side selections from Fleetwood Mac's "Tango In The Night" (released April 13, 1987) including one oddball cut entitled "Ricky," a joint composition by McVie and Buckingham on which McVie seemed to be singing in Buckingham's agitated style. It was a song so quirky, so unexpected and yet, it worked perfectly.

Now 30 years later, it feels as if Christine McVie (now fully returned to Fleetwood Mac after a 16 year absence) and Lindsey Buckingham have blissfully picked up from where they left off and the time apart has not dulled their skills whatsoever. And with bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood, one of rock and roll's finest rhythm sections ever, playing on the album throughout, we have an album of rock royalty performing with vibrancy and vitality and without any of the angst of the past.

In fact, I almost wonder with Stevie Nicks' absence, she has contributed to the album as that aforementioned angst and friction is out of the way (not that she was ever the sole cause--just let me make that clear). It is through her absence, we can see and hear the joy and love between these bandmates. We can hear how this specialized chain musically stays together.
Released June 9, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC: I have to admit, that even though I like the album, Phoenix's previous release "Bankrupt!" (released April 22, 2013) is not an album that I have returned to very much at all because it just felt too much like a step-by-step sequel to their breakthrough "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" (released May 25, 2009)--the sound of a band wanting to creatively  move forwards but not really knowing quite how to do and ultimately sounding just as before. It was fine but you just knew they could do a bit  better. Now...they have.

"Ti Amo," the sixth album from Phoenix, is a top to bottom winner where every single track is a sunshine beachball splashdown spectacular that should be voluminously blasting from car and house party windows all summer long. If you want a pop album and not  hate yourself for loving it to pieces, Phoenix have cracked the code as they fully understand songwriting, performance, and production to the degree that they have crafted a European summertime fantasy album where the warmth radiates from the speakers and your bodies are in constant motion due to the infectious grooves that merge the dance floor from the 1970's and the 21st century blissfully and effortlessly,
Released April 7, 2017
NEW 2017 MUSIC: One of the best albums of 2017 without question.

Andre Cymone, veteran singer/songwriter/musician, pioneer of the Minneapolis scene and sound of the late 1970's/early 1980's and close friend, confidant and former pre Revolution bandmate of Prince himself, has followed up his stirring 4 song "Black Man In America" EP (released September 30, 2016) with the propulsive, swaggering, downright electrifying "1969," a collection of raw, ragged rock and soul inspired by the music of Cymone's youth.

True to the album's title, Andre Cymone and his crack band evoke the sonic styles of Sly and the Family Stone, The Rolling Stones and James Brown plus the pastoral psychedelia and fearless folk of the era, what is most notable about the album is how Cymone superbly mirrors the socio/political landscape of the past with the present to showcase brilliantly how not terribly much has changed over nearly 50 years, and especially in a post President Obama world, which has seemingly swung backwards in time to a point before 1969.

With tracks like the slammin' strut of "Money," the urgently acoustic "Black Lives Matter," the street chants of "Black Man In America," the meditative poignancy of the album's title track and even more, Andre Cymone's "1969" is a fully transportive experience fueled by  his undeniable energy, focus, commitment as well as his muscular voice and instrumental prowess and powers.
384 pages 
Published by Crown Archetype
Released October 25, 2016

Phil Collins has long existed as one of my most passionate musical heroes.

While I prefer his music as a member of Genesis rather than his solo material, I have long felt a certain kinship with the legendary drummer as I play drums (admittedly nowhere near as brilliantly as he) and of course, we share the same last name (no relation...ha ha). As I look over my musical loves and education throughout my life, I remain so graciously thankful that I was coming of age at a time wen spectacular rock drummers armed with exquisite skill as well as the personality to make each kit sound completely unique to themselves were so present.

For me, having the likes of Neil Peart, Stewart Copeland and Collins all so visible, creative, and especially innovative to the point where they all completely altered the perception of what a drummer could possibly be was seismic to me. Phil Collins was just towering to me as I was growing up and I marveled at how a drummer could also be a songwriter, singer, frontman, producer, and even an actor! While many grew tired and even irritated with his increased ubiquity during the latter half of the 1980's and early 1990's, I didn't care a whit because I simply continued to cheer him onwards as his talent was unquestionable.

While he has always been an artist (especially Genesis) that I have found myself having to defend over and again, the level of cruelty hurled towards him over the years is massively unnecessary because, honestly--look at all of the music released and tell me if the music of Phil Collins is really that sub-par. It isn't. You know it. And besides he is one of the finest musicians to ever hold two sticks behind a drum kit and his drum sound is iconic!!!

So, of course, it was imperative that I pick up a copy of Collins' memoir Not Dead Yet, and I believe that for Collins fans as well as for those who just love good books, this autobiography makes for compulsively entertaining, candid reading.

Chronicling the entirety of his life, Phil Collins' Not Dead Yet is surprisingly breezy and disarming with its tone that strikes a fine balance between the literary and the conversational. Collins' written voice comes off much like his music...warm, earnest, confessional, romantic, sometimes sentimental, sometimes cheeky, and at its very best, brutally honest and unflinching towards the mistakes made in his life, therefore leading to quite powerful soul searching regarding the imbalance between the grand success of his working life and the emotional drama with in his tumultuous family life, one that has given him three wives and five children between them.  Additionally, I was deeply moved by the later sections of the book in which he details the harrowing details of his late in life alcoholism which nearly killed him plus his declining physical health due to 50 years of playing and bashing away upon the drums. Every high and low of his life is presented cleanly and without any stitch of self-conscious maudlin. It is as if Collins is sitting in the room with you, personally sharing the story of his wondrously charmed life.

No, the book is not as exquisitely, meticulously written as Elvis Costello's Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (2015) and certainly, as a Genesis fan, I would have loved to have read more complete stories about the makings of certain albums and songs. But, even so, what we have is akin to Pete Townshend's wonderful memoir Who I Am (2012), a memoir from a musical legend who brings himself so fully down to Earth with wit, charm and an accessibility that showcases an enormous commonality and humanity. 



Produced, Arranged, Composed and Performed by Prince and The Revolution
Released June 23, 2017

"Let the rain come down..."


Dear readers and listeners, the vault has been opened!!! Or at least, a little bit. Do not get me wrong, for I am not complaining in the least because for what we have all now received is a cause for rejoice and an especially and blissfully electrifying way to commemorate the artist forever known as Prince.

For an artist of Prince's legend, stature and unbelievably high artistic quality, it has long disturbed me with how poorly his catalog has been treated over the years. In this age of remastering, Prince's discography, most notably everything he recorded for Warner Brothers from the beginning of his career to perhaps the early 1990's has been in such serious need of an upgrade that the negligence has been nothing less than shameful as far as I am concerned. But now, corrections have been made and gloriously so with brand, spankin' new deluxe, fully remastered edition of the iconic "Purple Rain," a full 33 years after its original release. Believe me, for what we have been given, this was more than worth the wait

First things first, the remastered version of the original album, personally overseen by Prince himself before his passing, sounds absolutely pristine and speaker shaking, just as it did when I placed that vinyl onto my turntable back in the summer of 1984. In fact, and just as with some of the very best remastered albums that I have had the pleasure to hear, most notably The Beatles or Led Zeppelin's full catalog, Prince and the Revolution's "Purple Rain" fully represents what it means to have music that is very much of the time in which it was created but somehow it transcends time and space itself becoming purely and beautifully timeless. The remaster makes the music sound as if it was all recorded just yesterday, if not tomorrow!

The bass drum beats give you that power kick to the chest while the guitars scorch the speakers and the keyboards, vocals and all other musical and sonic dressings superbly surround and envelop, making for an experience that is fully immersive, especially now as our knowledge of these nine iconic songs have merged and congealed with our memories, blending and blurring any sense of nostalgia and this moment in time circa 2017 seamlessly. Prince often said later in his life that time was an illusion. Listening to "Purple Rain" now, all cleaned up and sparkling fresh, I am seriously prone to believe him as the emotions I feel while listening, first when I was 15 and now at 48, are remarkably the same and enhanced.

But what of the extra goodies, bells and whistles, you ask? addition to the newly remastered album, there is a disc which contains all of the singes released during the "Purple Rain" period and with those singles, there are also the famed B-sides, the extended versions of which have never been released on CD or digital formats before now and their arrivals are most welcome. Yes, that disc certainly carries a hefty level of repetition as we receive the single edits as well as the extended versions--I was thrilled to find the 7 minute movie version of "Let's Go Crazy" included in the package and to that end, the thrilling 10 minute version of "I Would Die 4 U," on which the live sounding track is augmented by Shelia E.'s swift percussion and saxophonist Eddie M.'s jubilant soloing, is a joyful addition, as we can hear the crafting a song which showcases Prince's past, present and future all in one as you can hear how the music evolved from all that came before and signals what was yet to arrive. Time is an illusion!!!!

And then, yes, the B-sides, from "17 Days" to the short and extended versions of "Erotic City" and "Another Lonely Christmas" are included as well. For me, the biggest surprise of all was to find that two selections entitled "God" are collected in this edition as well. First, the ethereal, and even bizarre vocal version and secondly, stunningly, the internationally only released, nearly 8 minute instrumental version subtitled "Love Theme From Purple Rain."  This track is the instrumental music utilized as film score for the still heart racing bedroom love scene and it is a veritable showcase for Prince's peerless instrumental skills from his impressive, innovative drumming, to his sweeping keyboard skills and dazzling Carlos Santana influenced guitar work.

But, without question, the jewel in the crown of this reissue, which I have to tell you also includes a DVD of the long out of print "Live at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY March 30, 1985," concert video, are 11 songs from the vault!!!!! Now, quite a number of selections will be of most familiarity to people (like myself) who have heard bootlegs over these past 30 plus years and are thrilled to have official, unblemished versions. For those who have not heard even a note of anything not officially released, get ready! For all of us, it is a spectacularly fascinating ride through what was discarded, slept on, and even after all of these years, still unknown yet everything informs the nine songs which make up the official album, the determination and strict attention to what would make the album and film work at its absolute tip-top peak.

So, here they are...

1. "The Dance Electric"-Originally given to friend and former bandmate Andre Cymone for this third solo release "A.C." (released 1985), we now have the official release of Prince's original version, running over eleven minutes in length and it is as propulsive as a ferociously speedy yet rock steady locomotive as the song echoes the apocalyptic dance, doom and reverence of making love as the bombs fall and getting your house in order when Kingdom comes.

2. "Love And Sex"-Continuing the theme from "The Dance Electric," this uproarious rave up imagines life in the hereafter and questions will there be sex and dance in the afterlife to go along with the everlasting love.

3. "Computer Blue (Hallway Speech version)"-This track is a MONSTER!!! First of all, I am so thrilled that it is included in this set as I remember hearing it as a tape hiss filled bootleg many years ago and it really speaks to Prince's genius as to know precisely what to use and what to discard to make the song work at its very best on the original album as well as within the context of the film.

While essentially the same song as hear don the original album, this version is over 12 minutes long, containing guitar feedback fury, extra lyrics, a point of pause during which Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman offer their taunting lament of Prince's "poor lonely computer" who still refuses to understand the differences between love and lust and even then, Prince offers a hallucinatory spoken word section amidst the roar of The Revolution.

This version of "Computer Blue" certainly feels like the broader sequel to tracks like "Automatic" and "Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)" from "1999" (released October 27, 1982) and even foreshadows and spiritual crisis inherent in "Temptation" from "Around The World In A Day" (released April 22, 1985). Again, referencing the past while simultaneously pointing to the future while making a raucous, electrifying now like this track.

4. "Electric Intercourse"-The prolific nature of Prince as a writer/producer/performer is now the stuff of legend yet regarding "Purple Rain" and especially this track, Revolution bassist BrownMark has expressed in recent interviews that the original album and film forced Prince to slow down more than he was used to, as the process of filmmaking allowed him to probe deeper, revisit tracks, introduce and discard all the while fashioning the masterpiece we all know and love.

In the case of "Electric Intercourse," which was written for the film, we have a lonely, lusty bedroom synthetic ballad much like what we heard throughout "1999." Prince later was able to re-think and return to the drawing board and good that he did because he ultimately fashioned a ballad for the ages with its replacement, "The Beautiful Ones," a song that plunges to greater romantic, emotional depths. As it is, this track is a stunner

5. "Our Destiny/Roadhouse Garden"- Revolution keyboardist Lisa Coleman has also expressed in interviews that there are potentially four or five complete albums made with The Revolution housed inside Prince's vault. I am assuming this was one of those potential tracks as Prince, at one point during the 1990's, in a rare period of publicly looking backwards, kicked around the idea of finishing a Revolution album entitled "Roadhouse Garden."

As it stands, this 6 minute plus, two part suite (the first string laden half is sung by Lisa) signals the more complex Revolution music to come as the opening string section was later used and an interlude/introduction to "The Ladder" from "Around The World In A Day," an album Wendy Melvoin explained had been fully completed before the "Purple Rain" tour began!

6. "Possessed"-I've heard a couple of bootlegged versions of this song over the years, a notable one being a tad slower, funkier, so to speak. This faster paced, nearly 8 minute, fresh out of the vault release has been heard by all of us before and it is indeed within the "Purple Rain" film in the background of a scene where Morris Day is attempting to woo Apollonia Kotero with fabricated tales of having personal Italian cooks, and being the proud owner of a "brass water-baaaay-ed."

7. "Wonderful Ass"-One of my favorite bootleg songs EVER!!!! Now, I have no idea if this was ever conceived to work within the film or the album but it is notable for the arrival of Wendy Melvoin as I believe this was one of her first studio appearances with Prince, if not the first. The hip swaying bass line and rhythm guitars, the infectious choruses, the brilliance of those drums and the overall dance floor wooziness and then, check it:

Stimulate, Stimulate, Stimulate..."

Take that, INXS!!! The Revolution will be heard!!!

8. "Velvet Kitty Cat"-I have never heard of this one whatsoever and this bare bones track, with primitive drum machine and some bluesy guitar, sounds like a page from Prince alter ego The Kid's musical diary. As does...

9. "Katrina's Paper Dolls"-Another track I have never heard of and I just learned that it may have been named after Denise Matthews a.k.a. Vanity (R.I.P.) as "Katrina" was her middle name. Again, this slice of bedroom pop seems to signal the dreamy, character sketches to come like "Starfish And Coffee" or "The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker."

10. "We Can Fuck"-Eventually released as a collaborative effort with George Clinton and renamed "We Can Funk" on "Graffiti Bridge" (released August 21, 1990), this 10 minute plus version again showcases the past, then present and the future as it growls and flows into a post-coital sequence that echoes "Do Me, Baby" and also presents Prince as relentless Lothario yet with a tremendous sensitivity and vulnerability that makes the song move from masturbatory fantasy towards sexual reality.

What is interesting tome is that the vocal and drums tracks from this version are precisely the same as heard upon the final version. Additionally, I have heard a full Revolution version through bootlegs, complete with horns and just rides that growling groove tremendously. I am curious as to how this song necessarily fits within the odyssey of The Kid especially since he revived it for "Graffiti Bridge," the quasi-sequel to "Purple Rain."

11. "Father's Song"-Ah!!!! The music of Prince's Father, Mr. John L. Nelson as heard within the film and as an interlude in "Computer Blue." This haunting, deceptively peaceful yet decidedly turbulent instrumental is a splendid look at Prince's astounding skills as a pianist and keyboardist as he weaves acoustic/synthetic soundscapes that made me wonder if by any chance had he been listening to Vangelis at all. Really! This track sounds like lost music from "Blade Runner" (1982)!

And there you have it!

Two years after the reissue was first announced and planned for the 30th anniversary of "Purple Rain," and now sadly, fourteen months after the passing of its creator (which does make me feel that the suits at WB were just waiting for this period--dark mercenary thoughts but even so...), we now have this splendidly realized document that makes us all see one of Prince's masterpieces anew and even in a more complete way.

Here's hoping that this release will serve as a template for future reissues of a catalog desperate in need of a reverential upgrade.

Saturday, June 17, 2017



Produced by Todd Rundgren
Released May 12, 2017

On June 22nd, singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist and overall musical visionary Todd Rundgren will reach and celebrate his 69th birthday, and this year will mark just shy of his 50th anniversary as a recording artist with 26 solo albums, 12 albums performed with his band Utopia and another 3 albums performed with his first band Nazz. 

Then, there is his legendary catalog of production work for artists as diverse as XTC, The Tubes, The Patti Smith Group, Meat Loaf, Badfinger, Cheap Trick, Jill Sobule, The Pursuit Of Happiness, The Band, New York Dolls, The Psychedelic Furs and even more.  Additionally, Rundgren has essentially been the pioneer's pioneer as he has been so far ahead of the curve with his songwriting, musicianship, production, video, computer and internet technology that the world has taken nearly the same amount of 50 years to even catch up to him.

And after all of that, even now, ever still, if I happen to mention his name, I am met with the blank stare combined with the ever quizzical, "Todd who?"


Yes, for the passionately faithful and devoted Todd Rundgren fan community, of which I am so blissfully a member, this has been par for the course regarding the larger public's perception and understanding of this unquestionably idiosyncratic artist and his ever evolving and on-going life's work, and seemingly, this is precisely the way Rundgren wants it as he has the freedom to follow his creative spirit wherever it may choose to fly, regardless of what even his greatest fans may wish from him.

But even so, I would gather that an idiosyncratic, iconoclastic, self-described individualist like Todd Rundgren might, every once in a while, desire to establish an even greater connection with listeners. Perhaps something larger than his passionately devoted base. Perhaps even new generations of listeners that may wish to discover a musical odyssey unlike any other. Perhaps this may have a little something to do with the arrival of "White Knight."

Todd Rundgren's "White Knight," his 27th solo album release, finds the mercurial musical wizard, a figure who has written, produced, performed, engineered and mixed the lion's share of his studio output all by his lonesome, in a place of rare collaboration as he has joined creative forces with a variety of artists from Donald Fagen, Joe Walsh, Trent Reznor and Moe Berg from The Pursuit Of Happiness, to even his own son, guitarist Rebop Rundgren plus even more.

Yet, despite what it may seem, the album is purposefully not a series of duets. In fact, this has got to be the first album credited to Todd Rundgren on which he doesn't even sing on every selection--certainly a tactic that only continues to keep even his most passionate fans off guard! In doing so, "White Knight" feels to be a triumphant celebration of Todd Rundgren, not just as the studio wizard but more truthfully, the true star he has always been. Todd Rundgren, the songwriter and producer first and foremost, making the full album experience a showcase for his unquestionable and legendary skills and fully designed to remind and introduce listeners to his distinctively exceptional talents.

"White Knight" opens with a startling quartet of songs that immediately displays the wide breadth of musical genres to be experienced throughout the album as a whole but even so, one songs conceptually leads into the next absolutely seamlessly. As a contrast to the opening of his kaleidoscopic headphone masterpiece "A Wizard, A True Star" (released March 2, 1973), where Rundgren almost dared the listener to keep up with him ("I only want to see if you'll give up on me"), we are instead given the pure, sincere and rightfully urgent invitation entitled "Come." 

"The battlefront is our backyard/We raise our flag for all to see," Rundgren sings plaintively as he seemingly is overseeing the increased turbulence, uncertainty and peril within our socio-political landscape. But in his steadfast utopian ideal, he continues with the plea for togetherness and solidarity as the song, slowly rising from an atmospheric ether, as if just after the smoke has begun to clear from some cataclysm, builds upwards into a mountainous chorus. "And when it's time to come for you/ Will you come, come, come/Come with me," Rundgren's announces with his trademark stacked vocal harmonies surrounding his own heroically beautiful leading vocal, which incidentally has lost none of its force and power over the years.

In the past, most notably during the 1970's and 1980's and either solo or with Utopia, Rundgren has typically utilized the conclusions of albums to provide a certain anthemic call to arms, so to speak from the majestic "Just One Victory" as heard on the aforementioned "A Wizard, A True Star," to "Sons Of 1984" from the double album fantasia simple entitled "Todd" (released February 1974), "Fair Warning" from the cosmic vortex of "Initiation" (released June 14, 1975) to even "Love Is The Answer" and "One World" from Utopia's "Oops! Wrong Planet" (released ) and "Swing To The Right" (released February 24, 1982), respectively. With "Come," the anthem is housed right at the beginning of the album, making an opening statement that is powerfully compelling and effectively soul stirring.

Extending from the utopian theme of "Come" arrives "I Got Your Back," the first of the album's collaborations as Rundgren joins forces with hip-hop musician/DJ Dam-Funk, who served as Rundgren's DJ and "band" on his tour supporting "Global" (released April 7, 2015) and supplies a languid funk groove while Rundgren extols how "A brother in need is a brother indeed, " and is further joined by rapper KK Watson, who delivers slyly veiled solidarity with the "Black Lives Matter" movement while also proclaiming how "We will we will feed the hungry!" The supreme soulful warmth of the track is undeniable.

That very sense of brotherhood extends even further in presentation if not lyrical concept with the album's sole duet, and one that I am stunned we have not had delivered to us before now, "Chance For Us," a rare love song from Rundgren's pen and performed by longtime friends and blue eyed soul brothers, Rundgren and Daryl Hall. Much has been written and expressed about the very close similarities of Rundgren and Hall's singing voices, especially as they both came of musical age with a devotion to soul music in their home city of Philadelphia. To finally hear their voices blending and trading spaces with each other on a track as smooth as silk as this one is an absolutely perfect treat and once Bobby Strickland arrives with his terrific saxophone solo, "Chance For Us" reaches its Marvin Gaye heights beautifully.

The fourth track of "White Knight" returns Rundgren to solo territory with the pensive electronic trance of  "Fiction," another meditation upon the paucity of truth.

"Chivalry was never dead
Bitter words were never said
We were always civilized
Happy to no one's surprise...
...This and more if I believe 
This fiction..."

"White Knight" next delivers a selection that has really confounded me. "Beginning (Of The End)" finds Rundgren completely away from the microphone altogether and with New Orleans based jazz singer John Boutte taking over the lead vocals. It is a jazz influenced, deep within the midnight hour ballad that finds the singer caught within an epiphany that may (or may not) lead to the conclusion of an illicit affair. While Rundgren's lyrics brilliantly capture the emotional messiness, the guilt, despair and on-going desire that congeals within a love gone wrong, and filled with genuine levels of soul and lived in romantic angst, this song is the one track on the album that somehow feels as if it has fallen short of reaching the fullness of its desired effect, or at least, the intended fullness did not quite reach me.

Perhaps this is a song that may have functioned better if Rundgren had sung it himself. This is not a slight, however, to John Boutte, a singer that I first became familiar with through his appearances upon the evocative New Orleans set and themed David Simon/HBO series "Treme." At any rate, Boutte's voice is of a higher, thinner register than Rundgren's and his qualities did not feel to serve the gritty heaviness of Rundgren's lyrics. But to that end, Rundgren's instrumental backing and production also did not seem to serve the song as best as possible as again the overall thinness of the synthetic backing track made the song feel more like a demo than a fully fleshed out final version.

Now, I do understand some of the grumbling within the fan community, those who have complained against Todd Rundgren's reliance upon building his tracks electronically rather than playing each individual instrument one at a time just as he performed for so many years and albums in the past. Yes, I do miss some of his more idiosyncratic sounds of old (most specifically, his drum sound, a tonal quality that has not been duplicated by anyone!), but I am ultimately one who is just so pleased to receive anything that Rundgren wishes to give regardless of precisely how the music in question was created. That being said, I do think that all of the parts just do not entirely fit with "Beginning (Of The End)," making a song that could have possessed a shattering ache one that sounds and feels flatter than any of the participants intended, and for my ears, the song slows the album's momentum.

"White Knight" then rebounds...ahem...bigly..with "Tin Foil Hat," the now highly controversial political satire as jointly conceived by Rundgren and Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, who also sings lead vocals. If you are indeed out of the loop and are wondering precisely why the song has grown in controversy then...well, let me just say that it happens to be about a certain individual who "puts the Pluto in plutocrat," who "hasn't got the time for losers," is constantly "tweeting like a teenage girl" and "writing checks to his accusers with those tiny little hands" and who widely promises that everything's "gonna be great, tremendous, amazing and all that" in this "yuge, yuge, yuge new world." 

It truly amazes me that this silly, sardonic, mildly Zappa-esque satirical jab against a certain reality TV gone very real world President of the United States, has become such a lightning rod considering how vicious and unrepentant Rundgren can actually be against his foes (his still unreleased acoustic firebomb entitled "Jesse," on which he took on Jesse Helms, Tipper Gore and even Pope John Paul II still leaves blisters-check it out on YouTube). And frankly, anyone who is honestly stunned and shocked by his political leanings and overall worldview are people who were never fans in the first place and tracks like "Hello It's Me," "Can We Still Be Friends" and "Bang On The Drum All Day" are the only Todd Rundgren songs they know.

That being said, the song has indeed struck a vital and exposed societal nerve as underneath the humor, it recognizes the through the looking glass absurdist nightmare that has become our collective reality-from who is currently occupying the White House to the spineless politicians only too willing to legislate their lethal hatred to finally, the faithful devotees whose racism and violence has been fully enabled and horrifically released. For those of us who choose to resist this administration, "Tin Foil Hat" is indeed the jazz lounge inflected laugh to keep us all from crying.

From the political arena to the EDM amphitheater, we next arrive with the equally sardonic "Look At Me," performed with musician/writer/filmmaker/hip-hop impressario Michael Holman, a booming club track where our very own "DJ T.O.D.D." pokes his fingers in the eyes of the preposterous corners of DJ culture where no discernible talent or creativity is on display yet the empty boasting and bombastic bass is ever flowing.

Right at the album's halfway mark is where "White Knight" feels to really hit its stride as we are given a glorious slice of the very kind of power pop Rundgren has essentially not made for decades. Working alongside Moe Berg, leader of The Pursuit Of Happiness, a band for whom Rundgren produced their first two albums, "Let's Do This," on which Rundgren rightfully proclaims "You're playing checkers and I'm playing chess," is a perfect matching of like-minded musical sensibilities. Berg has long expresses Rundgren's massive influence upon his own songwriting and yet, when I hear this song, the blend is so artfully blissful and seamless that it is difficult to tell where and when these two artists begin and end. This collaboration is easily one of the album's very best.

Next joining forces with guitarist Joe Walsh, we have the exquisite, cyclical chamber pop of "Sleep," a sparkling insomniac's ballad on which our narrator regards a loved one in slumber over a long night. So odd yet so graceful and once those stunning harmony vocals flow through the proceedings, the track effortlessly takes flight like a beautiful dream.

Flying even higher is the aching heartbreak of "That Could Have Been Me," on which Swedish singer Robyn carries the lead vocal while Rundgren provides the 1980's-ish power ballad backdrop. Now, unlike "Beginning (Of The End)," this track is one where all of the elements fit expertly to my ears. Yes, at first it was strange to not hear Rundgren's voice but soon, Robyn's lovely delivery  fully carried and conveyed the song's romantic woe.

"Deaf Ears" returns the album to more political territory as Rundgren tackles the everyday crisis that is climate change and the horror of having the hands of those that deny reality and Science gripping the wheel of our collective existence.

"The dark is far as eyes can see
It's raining ashes
We've reached the end of history
Here come the ashes
It's raining ashes...
Falling on deaf ears..."

Yet another album standout, Rundgren's warning vocals and provocative lyrics combined with the grim, disturbing yet elegant musical textures of Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, culminates in an ominously apocalyptic creation, further expressing the dark truth that we are indeed the sole cause of our own destruction.

From one apocalypse to another, the electronic whirlwind of "Naked And Afraid" enlists legendary soul songstress Bettye LaVette as the track's formidable character of "The Queen," the figure one should never cross for fear of personal destruction. "This time you're in way over your head," she counsels emphatically. "I'll suck the life blood our of you and if you ain't'll wake up naked and afraid." Don't believe her? Just listen to Rundgren's ghostly vocal as if he was The Queen's latest victim offering up his final words, "You and in you are out/There is no in between/Better pray for your life/If you take on The Queen."    

What must be serving as somewhat of a tribute to the dearly departed Prince as well as existing as a comical commentary upon the concert tour merchandise table culture, Rundgren offers up his finest funky falsetto with "Buy My T."

"Buy my T
Buy my hoodie
You need a souvenir
We got your cotton goodies
I know my limits
I give until it hurts
You can bootleg the music
But you have to buy a shirt"

The mesmerizing meditation of "Wouldn't You Like To Know" finds Rundgren collaborating with his son Rebop who provides clean, classically influenced guitar work that merges with the swirling vocals masterfully creating a near album's end dreamlike haze.

Over his last several albums, Todd Rundgren has concluded the proceedings with some sort of political firebomb or urgent plea for humanity to finally shape itself up in order to survive, from the ferocious "Liar" from "Liars" (released April 6, 2004), the roaring "Manup" from "Arena" (released September 30, 2008), the dystopian "Sir Reality" from "State" (released April 9, 2013) and the bleak sorrow of "This Island Earth" from "Global" (released April 7, 2015).

"White Knight" continues this streak with the molten lava of "This Is Not A Drill," on which Rundgren is joined by touring bandmates drummer Prairie Prince and bassist/vocalist Kasim Sulton plus special guest star Joe Satriani who provides the guitar fire bombs.

"This is not a drill, the blood is not for show
The sound you hear is real, the fire is down below
If anyone is capture, we take the poison pill
And curse the bloody coward who doesn't have the will
This is not a drill"

If any song could capture the aggressive urgent energy of our turbulent times, it is this final track of the album on which Rundgren shreds his vocals in absolute fury against the madness of our world, the countdown of our existence and the complacency of our so-called leaders and the woefully disengaged. This call to arms thematically returns the album back to its beginnings with "Come," making for Todd Rundgren's eternal utopian message, especially now as life is so precarious: We are all in this together.

Todd Rundgren's "White Knight," while existing as his most accessible and pop song leaning effort since possibly the stunning live-in-the-studio soul picnic of "Nearly Human" (released May 18, 1989), and I really think that he has offered up something for all listeners while magically retaining the entirety of his personal artistic vision. It is a joyously presented and performed travelogue which is less artistically esoteric and leans much more towards the glories of his peerless pop songcraft, making the album possess a greater reach for listeners who may tend to be thrown off by Rundgren's more overtly adventurous artistic voyages.

"White Knight" is also a beautifully multi-layered release that could be viewed as an album made up of a terrific collection of singles, as well as serving as a victory lap celebration of almost every phase of Todd Rundgren's entire career. With its travels towards power pop, R&B, electronic dreamscapes and EDM workouts, soulful hip-hop, novelty songs, heart-on-sleeve ballads, heavy rock guitar heroics and of course, messages from the utopian slipstream, "White Knight" proves itself to be a wildly diverse album, a continuously fruitful listening experience that celebrates Rundgren's history while also continuing to burn a progressive path. And frankly, creative radio programmers in several different demographics could easily pluck song after song from the album and make them bonafide hits...if they really wanted to!

The concept to have "White Knight" as a more collaborative work than one of Rundgren's typical solo affairs was truly inspired as the guest stars all allowed and afforded him the opportunity  re-visit certain musical avenues he may not have otherwise chosen to return to if left to his solitary devices. And furthermore, it did indeed present him with another musical challenge to tackle, artistic puzzles to be pieced together and throughout, it sounds as if he is having a wonderful time creating with a different set of colors in his musical paintbox. Who knows? But I wonder if the experience of making the cosmic wonderland of "Runddans" (released May 4, 2015), his collaborative album with Swedish musicians Hans-Peter Lindstrom and Emil Nikolaisen, gave him a certain push of inspiration to head into this direction. If so, this is a great look for Rundgren and here's hoping that the long in the works, possible collaborative album with The Roots comes to fruition because I think the joining of those musical sensibilities would be mind-blowing and soul stirring!

And yet, the conceptual layers of "White Knight" continue to reveal as I do think the album could be viewed as a complete thematic work showcasing Rundgren's view of life as it is lived in the 21st century from avenues that blend the emotional, interpersonal,philosophical, social, and political ultimately congealing into the universal. I do believe the songs hold together extremely well and when you listen to the album, just regard how one thematic element ties to the next and I believe that we all again can see how meticulous Rundgren arranges his material knowing how to best direct the songs so "White Knight" does indeed possess a cumulative effect.

In this late period of Todd Rundgren's continuing musical odyssey, my personal tastes may have me lean more towards the fully conceptual and more dizzying works like "Liars," "Arena," and "Runddans," rather than his more electronic dance efforts but even so, "White Knight" bridges all of the gaps harmoniously.

Yes, dear readers and listeners, Todd Rundgren is just about to reach his 69th birthday and 50 full years as a recording artist. I wish that his name and his legacy was firmly etched into the minds and hearts of everyone because the vast richness of what he has been so generous to create and share with the world has been nothing less than life altering for so many, including myself, that it feels to be a crime that he is not more well known, acknowledged to a greater degree, and celebrated beyond measure.  

But maybe..."White Knight" may achieve to correct some of those slights as it is an album that heroically shows the studio wizard as the true star he has ALWAYS been.

Thursday, June 1, 2017



What a beautiful event this month is and how wonderful an event it is for me to experience each year.

Dear readers and listeners, when I began celebrating Black Music Month, I don't think that I really anticipated what it would mean to be on a level deeper than the music. In past years, I have written about the entire aspect of "discovery," how this month is an educational time for me as well as deeply entertaining. Of course, I am unable to know about every musician that has come, gone and remained within our public consciousness but I am surprised and sometimes saddened with how little I do know, considering my heritage. For as much as music means to me, I feel that I should know as much about Black artists or musicians in the field of R&B, soul, hip-hop and especially jazz as much as I do about rock musicians.

Jazz music and the musicians who birthed and continue the art are truly musical superheroes to me as the form of self-expression merged with improvisation becomes a form of communication that transcends language itself as it speaks directly to the soul. I guess it could be argued that ALL music presented at its very best performs that very feat but I guess, when I think of jazz--instrumental music where the lines between performer and instrument are completely blurred until they are one and the same--the sheer virtuosity and artistry is staggering for me to behold. So, how is it that I just do not know who all of these people are? And why not?

That is what Black Music Month has been about to me. A time for sharing my heritage through my mythical WSPC "radio station," depicting the breadth and scope of what Black musicians, singers, producers, composers and arrangers have been able to achieve. If we all really took the time to just examine, just imagine what we would learn!

Yet now, in 2017, life has become just that much more perilous, making the art and artistry, which is steeped in the ways of the world of how we, as Black people, have viewed it that much more essential as the music has now (again) become a crucial element of understanding, of ourselves as well as each other.

As with every month but especially this one, I think you would be able to easily track my emotional and cerebral status just through the songs that I "play." Yes, on Saturday mornings, I may try to again dig up some vintage "Soul Train" clips, something that commemorates my Chicago childhood in the 1970's. And Mondays may be, partially or fully, devoted to Motown due to the alliteration. But, I play whatever my spirit tends to dictate. Some days may just be songs that are fun and celebratory. Some days me be more overtly political and militant. And some days, may be devoted to the selections that just have no words but the music itself tells you precisely where I am coming from...through the voices of those who are exceedingly more talented than I could ever be.

As with past years, the content upon Synesthesia will not necessarily follow the Black Music Month theme as certain album reviews (or better yet, "explorations") have been just waiting to be written for quite some time. But, for this month, if you happen to be Facebook friends with me especially, just take in the songs I post each and every day and see if it does indeed weave a certain story for you or if it leads to to a musical discovery that you otherwise would not have made.

Black Music Month is a journey of inclusiveness and togetherness, for why else would I wish to share it with you and why else would these musicians have chosen to share their art with all of us. Let's sing, dance, experience, learn and discover together, shall we.

And as always, PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!