Record Store Day!

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Saturday July 17th, 2021 is the second drop of vinyl goodies at independent shops.

From watching store owners and people who are passionate about Vinyl on YouTube there is a vast spectrum of opinions.

The consistency of this special day are the expectations people have for certain titles to appear on the release list.

As many people are disappointed as thrilled by the discovery each time out.

This is exactly the reason why going to record stores had always been a source of pure joy for me.

The record store is where I found my first Queen album! It’s where many now classic artists are found when they were new.

This Saturday I have the deep pleasure of going to one of the largest independent stores in the USA—Princeton Record Exchange in New Jersey with my best friend from high school.

Picture Vinyl, First time on Vinyl live albums from legendary artists, special singles, special color vinyl, box sets, and records being pressed for the first time since their original release sometimes decades ago.

This year Box sets feature a studio album set from Randy Newman; War has a 5 album set of color vinyl of their core catalog not seen on vinyl since the mid seventies!

Two E.P. titles are Queen+Adam Lambert Live Around The World including 2 tracks not found on the #1 album plus a 7″ Freddie Mercury song, Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow on pink vinyl packaged with the e.p.

A late addition to the release list, Foo Fighters Dee Gees features their covers of iconic Bee Gees hits and a side of their own.

Soundtracks are always big. This time out Aliens The Matrix, and Harold & Maude are being featured.

There are three volumes of rarities from The Monkees. Each title comes on color vinyl. You won’t know the color until you open it!

Live albums from Ramones, Suzi Quatro, Aretha Franklin and John Prine are limited editions.

Click this link for the list of releases:

https://recordstoreday.com/NewsItem/9578

Record Stores in NJ and NY:

Princeton Record Exchange Info:

https://www.prex.com/phone/

For info on NYC’s newest record store, Rough Trade, next door to Radio City Music Hall click below:

https://www.roughtrade.com/us

Happy Record Store Day!

Band of Misfits

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Queen formed in 1971. Their debut album was released in 1973. Several major labels turned them down. For 20 years Queen were: (L)—(R): Roger Taylor, drums/vocals, John Deacon, bass, Freddie Mercury, Lead vocals/piano, and Brian May, Guitar/vocals

The year was 1979. A pre-adolescent boy who was collecting his first records discovered a mail-order music club. Offering 14 LP’s for a penny as their introductory hook was too good to pass up. When the records arrived I opened up the albums with great anticipation.

I was always eclectic in my tastes for music. There was Waylon Jennings, Aerosmith, Jackson 5, and Queen among the selections. The record with the biggest impact was Queen Live Killers, a gatefold 2 LP package with a collage of full color images from their European and North American Tour in support of their Jazz record.

There on full display was Freddie Mercury in tight black PVC pants and jacket (shiny like leather) with his jacket open to reveal a bare chest. Unknown to me at the time was the cabaret style he was doing. This was a new image for him in 1978/9.

All I know is the first time I saw an image of Freddie Mercury was a poster from their ‘Opera’ Tour. His penchant for stripping onstage thrilled me to no end. Onstage in candy stripe shorts and red suspenders with the band’s logo in the center of the poster. My eyes popped out of my head like a cartoon wolf.

Although years later I heard how much the band disliked the mix of the record I felt strongly it was a great representation of their live sound. I loved how they played a medley of hits too.

I was taken aback by how different the songs sounded in a live setting. Nothing like the studio engineered layers of over dubs or multi-tracked vocals.

Except for a brief spell following the release of their bio-picture, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, I have never lost interest in them. That brief interlude was caused by too many kids finding them based on their parent’s tastes. Hey, that’s life!

For many years it was hard to find any Queen memorabilia in the states. I know this sounds crazy to the listeners of today. There are websites. Obviously there is the Queen Online Store which always has a great selection of Queen everything.

Back in the 1980s in America after their popularity fell away we had record stores and rock t shirt stores. Freddie Mercury’s most dramatic transformation into gay clone in 1980 was not appreciated by a largely straight audience.

Despite the huge success of The Game in ’80, the band ended their decade long relationship with Elektra records. The label released a Greatest Hits album in 1981. At the time it felt like rock fans were putting Queen out to pasture. Their Elektra years were ending.

‘Another One Bites The Dust’ by bassist John Deacon borrowed heavily from Chic. Becoming the best-selling single in Elektra’s history it topped The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, which gave the band an idea that funk rock was gaining traction in America.

The fact that Queen were in Munich, Germany enjoying the nightlife a bit too much influenced the next platter a lot. Freddie Mercury without stating it officially was out to anyone with two eyes, especially if you were gay.

What happened next was a mix of bad timing and trends that would exile Queen from the USA until well after Mercury’s death in 1991. In fact when he died I remember a news anchor stating there was bad news for fans of Queens. Queens? That was how out of touch our media were with Mercury’s death.

Rolling Stone magazine was never particularly kind to Queen. Freddie’s Obit was a single page in an issue with Michael Jackson on the cover. He was not an American star. I felt that kept the band’s mystique intact.

‘Hot Space’ was the final record owed to Elektra. The band never conformed to what their label wanted especially when it came to album covers. The label’s demand for a band photo was ignored for years. Greatest Hits has a portrait of the band taken by Lord Snowden. It has become an iconic image. The label got their wish granted by contractual obligation.

Freddie Mercury had a brief friendship with Michael Jackson. Mr. Jackson was a huge Queen fan. He was the impetous for releasing ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ as a single. Queen had a #1 hit with it. The new direction was clear for at least Freddie Mercury and John Deacon.

Freddie and John developed a friendship over the years based upon a mutual love for Motown music. The divide in Queen was clear. Brian loved heavy guitar driven music. Roger was into Punk then New Wave. Swaying him into drum techniques outside of traditional rock was done.

In the early days when they were in college the members of Queen were united in their dreams of rock stardom. As they grew in stature with the the rock audience experimenting with different sounds became a reality. Roger Taylor’s ‘Fun It’ was funky and danceable. This song in particular made me think it was not such a big deal for the band to express more of a funk beat in 1982.

Freddie’s single, ‘Bicycle Race’ actually incorporated rap within the track. Both songs were on Jazz. That title was a huge deal. A band that mixed every musical element in its music now titled a record for a specific genre. However, being the academically minded nerds that they were the name also meant calling the collection by a moniker that had many facets to it. Like the name Queen itself.

Change is inevitable. Every band faces it. Fortunately for Queen they were a big band by the time they grew out of their excessive 1970s persona. They could not be pigeonholed. Freddie Mercury never believed in doing anything by half-measure. He took every idea to its maximum. This attitude created amazing songs and music videos. The latter would compound their loss of popularity in America.

As a gay kid Queen were my idols. I bought every album as they were released starting with the #1 Game record. The video for the song, ‘Play The Game’, revealed a cropped haircut and mustache for the first time. I loved it. American fans hated it.

When ‘Hot Space’ came there was no doubt in the band’s new look and direction. Funk, dance, and disco were now emphasized. Even Brian May’s guitar was absent on some tracks, most notably the single ‘Body Language’ by Freddie Mercury. Pushing sexual boundaries the explicit video got banned by MTV. The sales dropped from the prior ‘Game’ LP and the tour proved to be the last in America with Freddie and John.

Throughout the 1980s I knew it was uncool to love Queen. I could understand why they lost their mojo with America. Homophobia was rampant. Conservatism was in power. New Wave and Heavy Metal dominated. Pop music developed new icons Madonna, Prince, and Duran Duran. Queen were the past, a relic of the 1970s. Despite releasing more records that hit #1 throughout the world, the USA would never allow them back into the Top 10. From Hot Space, ‘Body Language’ was the highest charting single in the US at #11.

Everywhere else in the world Queen kept selling records and tours. This was painful to me because I knew I missed my only chance to see them in concert with Freddie and John.

Back tracking here. In the 1970s I was a kid. Every Sunday I read the Times’ Arts section. There were ads for Broadway shows, movies, and rock concerts. I noticed that Queen played the Garden practically every year.

Then one fateful day following the debut of ‘Hot Space’ the Arts section had a full page ad for QUEEN Live In Concert with Special Guest Billy Squier at Madison Square Garden! Their faces appeared across the page in the Warhol—inspired, Freddie designed graphics of the album.

This was not the original Times ad but the graphics are the same. Queen played Madison Square Garden in early July for Hot Space. The set list was fantastic. The live album Queen On Fire Live At The Bowl from Milton Keynes, U.K. is my favourite Queen live album—not on vinyl in US yet.

I begged my parents to let me go see them. Nobody would take me. Back in the early 80’s tickets were like $12! Still in that time parents were not keen on their kids’ love of rock music. I have never gotten over the disappointment of missing this tour.

The opener was Billy Squier! I still love his music. Back in 1982 I was mental for both Squier and Queen. In the 1970s, Thin Lizzy, Styx, and Journey opened for Queen.

It proved to be their last here until Paul Rodgers joined them decades later in the naughts.

America ignored A Kind Of Magic and The Miracle. Both albums were enormous sellers around the globe even hitting # 1 in several countries like the UK, Japan, France, New Zealand, Australia, and Netherlands. The Magic Tour of 1986 became a record called Live Magic. The Tour and record followed Live Aid in 1985.

‘Magic’ was also partly the soundtrack for the fantasy film “Highlander”. Like “Flash Gordon” before it loved by Queen fans, loathed by others. The American sitcom “The Goldbergs” actually did an episode that featured Highlander and one of its stars, Clancy Brown who was now a regular on the series.

I never lost my love for music, especially Queen. They were misfits. Remaining so throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The critics never really appreciated them. Only after the death of Freddie Mercury from bronchial pneumonia brought on by HIV/AIDS in November 1991 had the press expressed any love for him. Freddie was a Jimi Hendrix fan. He understood how much an artist’s value increases upon death. He lived life his way. A true rocker.

Being a gay kid in the 70s was amazing and scary. There were so many great looking boys. And the hippie 60’s had a lot of left over guys who sported long-hair. And going shirtless was part of street style. And rock stars were no exception.

Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones, Roger Daltrey of The Who, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and every other frontman have appeared shirtless on stage. Then along came South African born Freddie Mercury! He took the image to a completely different level. He performed a striptease!

Loving Queen was difficult. I had my first rock music tee featuring the band from 1977. Wearing it to camp one day I got called a faggot. The group had become stigmatized by straight kids who hated Mercury’s effeminate posturing. The rock press had a field day with his sexual escapades. The worst magazine coverage for any artist I have ever seen was Creem, a rock rag from the 1970s and ’80s.

They did a story on Queen that was not a story. It was just the magazine hating Freddie and Queen. Anti—gay comments filled their coverage. Truly shocking to me.

Queen made their only appearance on American TV live on SNL’s Season Premiere with Host Chevy Chase. He hosted remotely from LA as a joke. Today this would be protocol. Danny DeVito introduced Queen. Performing 2 songs: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” a #1 hit in America and “Under Pressure”. Freddie’s voice was in the low register only. Years later I read he was recovering from a cold when the band appeared on the show. This was not a good time for them.

Back to their transformation from 1970s glam to 1980s pop. Following the commercial failure of Hot Space which still went Gold in America, the band signed to Capitol Records in North America. They even recorded for the first time in Los Angeles. ‘The Works’ album featured all the trademarks of their sound with Brian’s guitar blaring and Roger’s drums more upfront. Then another music video did them more cultural harm.

John Deacon’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ was made into a video that parodied the British soap opera Coronation Street. It featured the band in drag! Not Freddie’s idea. In the USA once again MTV banned them. Momentum killed.

Although the album was a return to form with hard rockers like Brian May’s ‘Hammer To Fall’ the top ten eluded them in America. Roger’s anthem ‘Radio GaGa’ peaked outside the top ten stalling at #16.

I still believe Queen were ignored. Punished for Freddie’s unapologetic gay image. Other British bands from the 1970s did not suffer this fate—Genesis released pop music—Pink Floyd went pop—and The Who also went pop. Rolling Stones released a cover of the song ‘Harlem Shuffle’ which was totally their worst.

Why was Queen singled out? Strong expressions of gay sexuality were taboo in the states. Despite being multi–faceted Queen had only the one face in America. Flamboyant is code for gay. Liberace had the straight audience believing what they wanted to believe. Freddie did not suffer fools.

I went to Giants Stadium to see Pink Floyd, Genesis , The Who, and Rolling Stones on separate tours during the ’80’s. Their music was not very good at the time. It was crazy to me that Queen did not tour here. My theory was that Freddie’s HIV status prevented them from playing here. Sad but true.

In my teenage years I knew many people who were either indifferent to my love of their music or could not get into it. And a lot of the time gay people fit their stereotype with a love for disposable pop or dance tracks. I can tell you the Hot Space CD was on a jukebox in a gay bar.

Hot Space cover designed by Freddie Mercury. Like a Warhol silkscreen.

The Queen album most likely to be on any jukebox was Greatest Hits. Unfortunate since I always thought they had great songs that were never going to be hits. No doubt about the high number of singles/hits in their catalog. Later in this blog post I have listed my all–time favourite Queen songs.

Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, and Twisted Sisted were all influenced by Queen. The lead vocalists of those groups wore even more make-up than Freddie! Yet since they were hard rock/metal Americans accepted them. The make-up bands of the period were largely from America. Paradoxically this is also when the biggest make-up band ever, KISS, took their make-up off!

Unknown at the time that Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) and Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) were in the crowd that saw Queen open for Mott the Hoople at New York’s Uris theater on Broadway, it makes perfect sense.

Until the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley stadium few Americans understood just how much Queen had influenced the heavy bands of the 80’s. The line-up featured England’s Def Leppard, America’s Guns N Roses and Extreme alongside Elton John, George Michael, and David Bowie. Eclectic to the end Queen also invited Freddie’s main influence, Liza Minnelli to the proceedings. He got so much ridicule from the press for loving Liza as well as Hendrix.

I believe today that Queen got into my marrow, my DNA because their image and music were original. Upsetting the status quo was part of their appeal. Decades after his death the film of his life was a blockbuster. He kept the mystique. Proving that no other rock performer could rival him, Queen became paragons of rock music. Today their legacy has grown in leaps and bounds.

Taking them into my heart has kept me alive too. Queen have a few explicit anti—suicide songs. Mercury admitted in his final days that the image he worked so hard to build became somewhat of a monster to his personal life. Becoming less active, meeting a man named Jim Hutton who became his partner until the end was his ultimate goal.

For the first time since reading several biographies about Freddie I understand why ‘Somebody To Love’ was a personal favorite. Love is what we all need to survive. Take a listen to the many tortured love ballads he wrote and performed. His delivery is genuine. That’s also why it touched me so deeply.

I think it’s why I met my beloved husband Brian. I love him more than anything. He has made my life the best possible. Our mutual love of music with great singers has created a bond.

Here for the first time I have compiled my list of personal favourite Queen tracks. B-Sides and rarities are not included here. They are taken from the 15 studio albums released from 1973—1995.

My Favourite Queen songs of all-time

  • My Fairy King by Freddie Mercury on Queen
  • Great King Rat by Freddie Mercury on Queen
  • Liar by Freddie Mercury on Queen
  • Nevermore by Freddie Mercury on II
  • The Fairy—Feller’s Master Stroke by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Ogre Battle by Freddie Mercury on II
  • The March of the Black Queen by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Seven Seas Of Rhye by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Doing Alright by Brian May & Tim Staffell on Queen
  • Lily of the Valley by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Now I’m Here by Brian May on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Brighton Rock by Brian May on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Killer Queen by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Bring Back That Leroy Brown by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Stone Cold Crazy by Mercury, Deacon, Taylor, & May on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Flick of the Wrist by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Misfire by John Deacon on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Bohemian Rhapsody by Freddie Mercury on A Night At The Opera
  • 39 by Brian May on A Night At The Opera
  • The Prophet’s Song by Brian May on A Night At The Opera
  • You’re My Best Friend by John Deacon on A Night At The Opera
  • The Millionaire Waltz by Freddie Mercury on A Day At The Races
  • White Man by Freddie Mercury on A Day At The Races
  • You and I by John Deacon on A Day At The Races
  • We Will Rock You by Brian May on News Of The World
  • We Are The Champions by Freddie Mercury on News Of The World
  • Sheer Heart Attack by Roger Taylor on News Of The World
  • Fight From The Inside by Roger Taylor on News Of The World
  • Spread Your Wings by John Deacon on News Of The World
  • It’s Late by Brian May on News Of The World
  • My Melancholy Blues by Freddie Mercury on News Of The World
  • Jealousy by Freddie Mercury on Jazz
  • In Only Seven Days by John Deacon on Jazz
  • Dead On Time by Brian May on Jazz
  • Dreamer’s Ball by Brian May on Jazz
  • Don’t Stop Me Now by Freddie Mercury on Jazz
  • Dragon Attack by Brian May on The Game
  • Play The Game by Freddie Mercury on The Game
  • Rock It (Prime Jive) by Roger Taylor on The Game
  • Don’t Try Suicide by Freddie Mercury on The Game
  • Another One Bites The Dust by John Deacon on The Game
  • Flash by Brian May on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • The Hero by Freddie Mercury on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • Football Fight by Freddie Mercury (Instrumental) on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • Battle Theme by Brian May (Instrumental) on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • Staying Power by Freddie Mercury on Hot Space
  • Dancer by Brian May on Hot Space
  • Back Chat by John Deacon on Hot Space
  • Action This Day by Roger Taylor on Hot Space
  • Put Out The Fire by Brian May on Hot Space
  • Under Pressure by Queen & David Bowie on Hot Space
  • Las Palabras De Amor (The Words Of Love) by Brian May on Hot Space
  • Machines (or Back To Humans) by Brian May & Roger Taylor on The Works
  • Radio GaGa by Roger Taylor on The Works
  • Keep Passing The Open Windows by Freddie Mercury on The Works
  • I Want To Break Free by John Deacon on The Works
  • Hammer To Fall by Brian May on The Works
  • Is This The World We Created…? by Brian May & Freddie Mercury on The Works
  • Man On The Prowl by Freddie Mercury on The Works
  • One Vision by Queen on A Kind Of Magic
  • A Kind Of Magic by Roger Taylor on A Kind Of Magic
  • One Year Of Love by John Deacon on A Kind Of Magic
  • Pain Is So Close To Pleasure by John Deacon & Freddie Mercury on A Kind Of Magic
  • Friends Wil Be Friends by Freddie Mercury & John Deacon on A Kind Of Magic
  • Don’t Lose Your Head by Roger Taylor on A Kind Of Magic
  • Princes Of The Universe by Freddie Mercury on A Kind Of Magic
  • Breakthru by Queen on The Miracle
  • The Invisible Man by Queen on The Miracle
  • Rain Must Fall by Queen on The Miracle
  • Scandal by Queen on The Miracle
  • Was It All Worth It by Queen on The Miracle
  • Innuendo by Queen on Innuendo
  • I’m Going Slightly Mad by Queen on Innuendo
  • I Can’t Live With You by Queen on Innuendo
  • Ride The Wild Wind by Queen on Innuendo
  • The Show Must Go On by Queen on Innuendo

In 1995 Queen released Made In Heaven which re-worked some of Freddie’s songs from his solo debut Mr. Bad Guy. The record featured Mercury’s final songs. “A Winter’s Tale” was his last composition. The lyrics described Montreaux, Switzerland in his final days. The list of my all-time Queen songs continues below with the band’s posthumous release.

  • Mother Love by Freddie Mercury & Brian May on Made In Heaven —This was the last track he recorded.
  • A Winter’s Tale by Freddie Mercury on Made In Heaven

Queen Retired—Legacy Grew

My least favorite Queen album, Made in Heaven, was followed by years of inactivity. Then in America TV commercials began licensing their hits. LA Gear used We Will Rock You; Diet Coke used I Want To Break Free; Mountain Dew used Bohemian Rhapsody even copying the now iconic promo clip. These are just a few examples.

From 2004—2009 Queen added Paul Rodgers of Bad Company to their line-up. He was one of Freddie’s favorite singers. In the 1960’s he fronted Free. In the 1980’s he fronted The Firm with Led Zep’s Jimmy Page.

Brian May, Paul Rodgers, and Roger Taylor. Queen 2.0

The Queen+Paul Rodgers tours would return Queen to North America for the first time in 20 years! I never missed a show in New York. However, this line-up never played The Garden.

Queen+Paul Rodgers released a studio album, The Cosmos Rocks. There was a live album too.

American Idol, a talent search reality series would enable a meeting that was pure fate. Adam Lambert, an American youth who was also out auditioned by singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Queen are his favorite group. Idol invited Brian May and Roger Taylor to perform with the show’s 3 finalists for its season finale. Adam came in second but in my opinion he really won.

Eventually Queen would announce touring with Adam Lambert fronting the group. It was made explicit that he would never replace Freddie Mercury. For the past decade now known as Queen+Adam Lambert touring the globe again.

Queen 3.0 has become the juggernaut that fans across the globe celebrate. The show has finally gone beyond the original line—up!

And this line-up brought Queen back to Madison Square Garden for the first time since Hot Space! The setlist celebrated the band’s live at the Rainbow concert in support of Sheer Heart Attack. They opened with II’s ‘Procession’ and Sheer Heart Attack’s ‘Now I’m Here’.

Adam Lambert has released new solo records while touring with Queen. He sang ‘Believe’ at the Kennedy Center Honors bringing Cher to tears!

His presence on stage is truly a sight to behold. Bringing back the flamboyance of Mercury without mimicking his moves. Adam’s voice is his own unique stamp. He can sing any Queen tune. He has a new album out now called Velvet.

The shows proved so successful that Queen returned to celebrate their News of the World album next time around. Complete with Frank the Robot in full mascot mode. Opening their shows with ‘We Will Rock You’ like they did in 1977. Brian May performed his solo against a backdrop of stars fitting for an astrophysicist.

Their current tour is centered around the global success of the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” which tells Freddie’s story. Albeit with a completely incorrect timeline of events to create a cohesive cinema narrative.

In Freddie’s brilliant words it has been no bed of roses for Queen. For 20 years, 1971—1991, they reigned with the same line—up of 4 creative songwriters with extremely different personalities. Fans felt proud of their achievements.

Then the untimely death of Mercury from AIDS in November 1991. Queen ended. I always thought they could continue if the right elements fell into place.

Elton John performed with them during a final concert as Queen. Mr. John sang ‘The Show Must Go On”. He encouraged Brian and Roger to find a way. He said of their catalog of hits: ‘it must be like having a Rolls-Royce in the garage that you cannot drive anymore.”

Having them back today means so much to me. I want Queen to go on forever…

In my lifetime I have not played another artists music as often as Queen. They have rescued me many times with their life affirming works.

I have many other favourite music groups: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Judas Priest, Styx, and Elton John.

The Queen sound is unique and original. Their music is not rock nor disco nor black nor white. It’s Queen music.

The Queen catalog has sold over 300 million records worldwide. They are tied with The Allman Brothers Band at #52 on Rolling Stone’s list of Best Artists.

This image of the Classic Queen Line—Up on the Rolling Stone List of Best Artists.

In England Queen Greatest Hits is the top selling record in British music history. Greatest Hits II is #10.

The Queen studio album catalog seen below does not include The Cosmos Rocks. That album featured Paul Rodgers.

The Queen studio album catalog is seen here. All 15 LP covers. The final album with Freddie Mercury and John Deacon was Made In Heaven released in 1995. It blows my mind how all of their records are now iconic.

Waxing Rhapsodic

Today the world is quite different then the early 1970’s. The band’s legacy has become it’s own cottage industry. The Queen Online website is updated every day. The Online Store has a line of goods that any fan would enjoy.

The Royal Mint in the U.K. has issued Queen coins in sterling; The Royal Mail will issue Queen stamps on July 9th, 2020 featuring 8 album covers including The Game and News Of The World and a set of 4 concert images from their world tours plus a proper band portrait as seen below.

Queen become the third British band to receive this honour following The Beatles and Pink Floyd.

The sterling pound coins feature the band’s instruments and their logo. The piano has three keys shaded to mark the notes in Bohemian Rhapsody. Above you can see all 4 packet designs. A mini poster and full colour images and text about Queen are included. The coins are a singular design with the Queen on the back of each.

Queen have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were inducted into the songwriters hall of fame and most recently were given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” became the highest grossing bio picture of all–time. Rami Malek won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury.

The film won a Golden Globe for Best Picture.

On YouTube Queen+Adam Lambert released a new version of their classic “We Are The Champions” called “You Are The Champions” to help raise funds for Covid—19 relief workers via The World Health Organization and U.N.

Drummer and Vocalist Roger Taylor’s daughter appears in the video. She is a nurse!

To see this mobile phone created clip click here: https://youtu.be/7LcLqIHzNkY

This Fall two new books will be published: Neal Preston’s Queen photos from their Tours and The Treasures of Queen.

2021 marks the group’s 50th Anniversary.

Don’t stop them now!

Dear Readers

Thank you for reading my blog! To all my new readers, Welcome!

More Queen band features to come. Next week I will continue my posts featuring my photography.

Stay well! Wear a mask.

Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Ordinary Man’

A decade since 2010’s ‘Scream’. Recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Ozzy Osbourne has released his eleventh solo album.

The production here is flawless. If you’re a longtime listener you will hear some pleasant echoes of past glories.

Released February 21, 2020
Epic Records/ Sony Music
Produced by Andrew Watt

Make no mistake this is Mr. Osbourne’s swan song. Being an iconic rocker is like performing the feats of Hercules albeit with the handicap of substance addiction.

Ozzy has been an open book during his career which has lasted for 50 years. His continuing struggles are once again part of his lyrics.

“Straight To Hell” serves to open the proceedings. Drug addiction takes center stage. The core of Ozzy’s adult life has been this threat of tragic end.

With a little help from his friends Slash & Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses) this is an ultimate warning. The high is short-lived; Hell will be the eternal destiny.

“All My Life” and “Goodbye” are tough to hear. Raw naked honesty from Ozzy about feeling like no matter what he always felt like he came up short in life.

Saying goodbye is the hardest task. Final farewells are something he had postponed for decades. Inspired by Post Malone, we get a sense this is really it.

The title track is another ballad in the style of ‘Goodbye To Romance’ off 1981’s solo debut “Blizzard of Ozz”.

Featuring Elton John, who shares Ozzy’s struggles with addiction, is pitch perfect.

Longing for redemption after decades of debauchery the plea is to not die an ordinary man.

“Under The Graveyard” is my personal favorite song on the album. A portrait of an addled existence full of self inflicted pain.

At 72 with the onset of his final challenge the lyrics make crystal clear how Ozzy feels about his mortality.

Even rock stars lose everything in the end. Yet he has been waiting for darkness for most of his career.

Every one of his recordings contains some cheeky wink as well to the devil inside.

Here we receive the invitation to consume the Ozman on ‘Eat Me’. Then even more dark humor on ‘Today Is The End’ and ‘Scary Little Green Men’.

On both tracks the sun is black and the sky is red. Is the sky falling? Can we escape our own destruction?

‘Holy For Tonight’ is a song of contemplating the end. Ozzy is not fearing his final days.

Just wondering what it will be like when it arrives. He is certain of one thing. It will be a long night. He hopes it can be holy.

The final song features Post Malone. A spirited rocker ’til the end, ‘It’s A Raid’, recalling the infinite moments of being caught with the goods.

Ozzy has been caught alright. In the crosshairs of addiction, fame, and death he will face it alone.

And with the millions around the globe whose love has been earned. This crazy train is about to pull into its final station.

Don’t be sad nor afraid. Just be happy Ozzy is still here making his music.

Album Cover Art In Our Digital Age

Since the 1960s the covers of long-playing records have undergone many changes.

Before the Beatles and Stones most records were just simple photographic images of the band leaders or crooners of the period.

During the 1960s when the counter-culture movement arrived albums underwent a major alteration.

The new artists had album covers that were more than just their mugs in close-up.

Before I continue let me be clear about what the cover of a record means to me.

I think covers are a canvas to be used to draw in would be listeners. It does not have to be literal or easy to understand.

After decades of releases before the internet we have thousands of covers to gawk at in pleasure and disgust.

The images can excite, enlighten, and become stand alone pieces of art.

In some cases they can also offend certain sensibilities.

The Beatles’ infamous butcher cover was censored by their record company upon release.

Capitol records pulled this album from circulation after distributors complained the cover image was revolting. If you can find this album with the offending picture it’s worth a lot today.

Guns N Roses biggest seller, “Appetite For Destruction” had its cover banned.

It featured a cartoon image of a flower girl being raped by a robot.

Guns N Rose’s original art got banned by their label. The cross and skull art is the cover now.

The aforementioned covers became highly valued on the market for collectors.

Their rarity increased the value of original prints. Digital representation of album art will never be valuable.

Many classic (old) rock groups hired artists to paint, photograph, and collage their cover art.

Roger Dean, Derek Riggs, and the firm Hipgnosis are good examples of why artists commission painters, graphic designers and illustrators.

The progressive rock group Yes compiled a catalog of music along with covers by Roger Dean.

His dreamscapes were colorful, fantastic, and surreal. This fit well with Yes’ music.

Fragile by Yes features the above art by Roger Dean to promote a greener planet.

Derek Riggs painted the first 8 Iron Maiden album covers.

His art became instantly part of the band’s image.

Each cover features the mascot Eddie, a decaying corpse reanimated back to life.

The art collective Hipgnosis was hired by British art rock icons Pink Floyd.

The indelible photographic elements are imprinted on the memory of any classic rock fan forever.

Their cover images include a cow for Atom Mother, a flying pig for Animals, and a prism for Dark Side of the Moon.

The records pictured above included extras you cannot enjoy digitally.

Styx and Pink Floyd had posters within their sleeves.

One more artist I want to mention is Michael Doret a designer, lettering artist, and illustrator based in Los Angeles, California.

He has created logos, album covers, magazine covers, and art for various brands in media, advertising, and sports.

The illustration he created for Kiss in 1978 was so eye catching the band worked with him again in the 21st Century!

Rock N Roll Over by Kiss was the last album in which all four original members performed. Ace Frehley had no writing credit.

Sonic Boom was released in 2009. The art is sort of a follow up to its 1970s predecessor.

On vinyl the album was issued with vinyl platters in six different colors.

The Rock N Roll Over album was reissued in 2015, complete with a sheet of full color stickers replicating the cover art.

The art is the original size meant for public view when it’s on a physical item.

Digital cannot transmit how vivid these covers actually appear.

Many albums have gatefold sleeves. This means they open up to show a two panel artwork.

Queen used an image by scifi illustrator Frank Kelly for News of the World in 1977. A two panel gatefold is featured.

Today album frames are sold as a means to display album cover art.

There are many examples of art for record covers. I have covered a few of my favorites for this article.

Keep in mind none of this art looks great in digital form. In physical presence you must stop and stare.

Record albums are cherished items. The extra goodies inside like posters are really cool too.

To be fair, digital music files can show the art. It’s tiny and trapped under the glass of your smart device.

MP3 files can become corrupted. I have had to stop my PC many times due to bad playback.

Records force you to take better care of your music.

It is much more of an experience to play an album on a turntable. You value it more. And the art is for keeps!

Jimmy Eat World “Surviving”/ Review

I may have come late to this band since they have been around since 1993 with their share of career ups and downs, but it’s a sheer pleasure to hear something this fresh.

Their 10th studio album is called “Surviving”. A emo/punk/alt wink at all the folks who may have doubted their ability to stick it out.

A consistent sound that falls somewhere between R.E.M. and Green Day; remaining authentic alt rocker outsiders.

Jimmy Eat World:

  • Jim Adkins – lead guitar, lead and backing vocals (1993–present)
  • Zach Lind – drums, percussion, programming (1993–present)
  • Tom Linton – rhythm guitar, backing and lead vocals (1993–present)
  • Rick Burch – bass, backing vocals (1995–present)

This record has a fresh quality that would surprise any listener aware that it’s a tenth album.

Each song bristles with energy. You don’t have to be a fan of this kind of music to enjoy the sounds on this album.

Track List:

1.“Surviving”3:04
2.“Criminal Energy”3:11
3.“Delivery”3:13
4.“555”3:41
5.“One Mil”3:07
6.“All the Way (Stay)”4:05
7.“Diamond”3:13
8.“Love Never”2:54
9.“Recommit”3:50
10.“Congratulations”6:11
36:29

The self-assured title opener crackles with endless riffs. “Criminal Energy” drives with melody that are a mix of pop and punk.

“Delivery” is a pretty percussive piece of balladry. “555” is an ominous synth shift into another mode. This track is modern rock. Real catchy with just a great hook. The vocals shine brightly here.

A basic acoustic arrangement is looped into “One Mil”, a love song with pop punk sensibility, that asks how chances at love are missed. A propulsive beat keeps threading itself throughout.

“All The Way (Stay)” opens with strumming and drumming that is captivating. A pleading message to a mate.

The vocals are varied enough to keep you listening with engagement. There is an unexpected sax solo with back-up vocals too.

Like all the tracks contained here there are quick witted breaks in the riffs.

“Diamond” opens in similar fashion with power riffs. A song about aspirations. The quality of the singing is especially ripe on this track. Slow and sure is the best path in life.

“Love Never” is just a great power pop song. The lead guitars are super here.

“Recommit” has the slowest build up. It’s worth the patience. About the different levels of love/commitment.

The set ends with the epic, “Congratulations”, a completely propulsive song with lead and backing vocals that have a mix of angelic yet foreboding mystery around them.

The band pulls out all the stops with synth, percussive beats that accent the chords well. Symphonic quality with a pop/punk delivery.

This album would make a nice addition to any audio library.

Colorado/Neil Young & Crazy Horse/ Review

Neil Young’s 38th album, “Colorado”, released on October 25, 2019.

This is the first studio offering from Crazy Horse since 2012’s “Psychedelic Pill”.

The sounds you get these days are often produced so meticulously it’s miraculous there are any musicians left with real soul.

Crazy Horse have soul in spades. This latest offering is about climate change.

More to the point it’s a raw jammy statement of love for the planet; a pro-immigration, pluralistic mission from perhaps rock’s last angry man.

Crazy Horse are:

Neil Young (guitars, vocals, piano, vibes, harmonica), Nils Lofgren (guitars, vocals, pump organ), Ralph Molina (drums, vocals), and Billy Talbot (bass, vocals). They recorded Colorado mostly live in studio in the titular state. Neil Young produced the album with John Hanlon.

Recording a Crazy Horse album in Colorado.
  • 01 Think of Me
  • 02 She Showed Me Love
  • 03 Olden Days
  • 04 Help Me Lose My Mind
  • 05 Green Is Blue
  • 06 Shut It Down
  • 07 Milky Way
  • 08 Eternity
  • 09 Rainbow of Colors
  • 10 I Do

While none of these new compositions will strike a novice listener as anything hip or catchy they are not meant to be commercial.

These are brilliant musicians laying down jams that are recorded well.

In each piece is expressed wishes, hopes, and dreams of a world that cares about the eternal.

“She Showed Me Love” is an epic jam of 13:36 mins secs in duration.

On vinyl this album is a 3 record set. There is a 7 inch single of ‘Milky Way’ included.

Mr. Young wanted to make an album of lasting value; high quality playback was key.

The musicianship on display here is superlative. “Milky Way” is the first single; “Rainbow Of Colors” will be the second.

Frustration over the lack of universal understanding of the epic problems we face with a climate in decline is resolved in the scorching anger of “Shut It Down”.

The song’s second verse:

Have to shut the whole system down
All around the planet
There’s a blindness that just can’t see
Have to shut the whole system down
They’re all wearing climate change
As cool as they can be

The arrangements are not heavy handed. The delivery is what longtime listeners of this band would expect. A slow churn of political dissent that threatens to boil over.

By the record’s end you want more. In reality you must do your part so there can be more. An eternity of more.

Mr. Young has been recording since 1969. Now in his 50th year as a recording artist he shows no sign of slowing down; not giving in to an apathetic status quo.

He cares deeply for the songs he creates as an artist. His contributions to groups like Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, and Nash are untouchable rock milestones.

Sometimes his solo works have been difficult to translate on first listen. Regardless, you must listen with a close ear, expecting to not get all the meaning within right away.

This album has those qualities. If you do the work you will get the picture. Much more transparent than some of his other works with insightful poetic lyrics in every song.

“Milky Way” is a poem. Universal themes of lost love, longing for connection, and cockeyed optimism are long held hallmarks of musical art. This track embodies all of it.

The repeating verse:

I was sailing in the Milky Way
Losing track of memories
That weren’t that day
Right by her side
As the stars flew by I did collide
With memory but somehow

I survived
And became free

A transient moment in time. Getting lost in the daze of lost/recalled memories and somehow able to move forward stronger.

As the lead single I felt strongly this track represented what the album as a whole says of Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s work.

When a legendary artist releases new music there is a huge weight attached—memory of past glory.

“Colorado” just plainly states that we cannot collide with our past because we risk negating the present; become blind to our future.

According to SPIN magazine there will not be a concert tour this Fall to support the new record. Mr. Young is finishing up editing 15 films!

https://www.spin.com/2019/08/neil-young-crazy-horse-no-tour-15-films/

A companion documentary, Mountaintop Sessions, will be released soon, directed by C.K. Vollick.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse will play Winnipeg in February 2020. More dates to follow.

Wilco’s Ode To Joy/Review

Wilco was formed in Chicago in 1994. After a year off including a 2 1/2 year hiatus from touring they are back!

Jeff Tweedy is a songwriter who can create limitless visions with few words. “You never change, I never change. Somehow we’re still bright leaves.”

Setting a somber yet glorious tone that never leaves you, Wilco’s 11th studio album is filled with magic and poetry.

Yearning to change in a reality that despite its limitations still provides life’s greatest joys.

Simple. Pure. Listen closely to this record. You may just feel better that there are more questions than answers.

The single, “Everyone Hides” is the closest thing to a pop hit in the Wilco soundscape. A reaffirming song about our all too human ability to sell ourselves short.

Fear of vulnerability stops us from becoming our most fully realized selves.

Mr. Tweedy continues to dig deep into the enigmatic nature of life; discovering a form of joy that is protective armour around that soft shell.

The set list:

  • “Bright Leaves” – 4:10
  • “Before Us” – 3:22
  • “One and a Half Stars” – 3:43
  • “Quiet Amplifier” – 5:50
  • “Everyone Hides” – 3:00
  • “White Wooden Cross” – 3:12
  • “Citizens” – 3:03
  • “We Were Lucky” – 4:57
  • “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” – 3:34
  • “Hold Me Anyway” – 4:00
  • “An Empty Corner” – 3:46

“Before Us” is a song that reminds you that we live in a continuum. Even at life’s turning point we are in the middle of something. Achingly beautiful with words that ring true:

“Alone with the people who came before us…I’m high for the people who came before us.”

I remember when wars would end”. Do you remember when wars would end? Now, when something’s already dead we try to kill it again.”

Depression is explored in “One and a Half Stars”. A strong desire to change is thwarted by the inability to get out of a bed two stories high; a prisoner of a domain either imagined or realized.

An internal engine at low hum is running throughout the songs. “Quiet Amplifier” resounds with longing.

Honey, no train’s gonna come. I’ve waited my whole life. I’ve tried, in my own way, to love everyone.”

Eternal questions of existence are internalized on “White Wooded Cross”. How would you cope with a serious loss?

Is it stranger to live?”

“Is it stranger to die?”

“Citizens” lifts the veil of civic pride to reveal we are the very personification of ‘white lies’ of our own making. “High times. High crimes. Medals for you to salute.”

“We were Lucky” has layers of guitar that tingle and reflect upon a life filled with beautiful moments. The sounds build to a humble flourish. Love is complex.

“Love Is Everywhere (Beware)”, “Hold Me Anyway”, and “An Empty Corner” are beautifully reflective works on par with their early releases.

Despite the foreboding nature of love we are consistently reminded that the gains outweigh the risks of exposure.

Wilco: John Stirratt – bass guitar, backing vocals (1994–present)
Jeff Tweedy – lead vocals, rhythm, acoustic and lead guitars, bass guitar, harmonica (1994–present)
Glenn Kotche – drums, percussion (2001–present)
Mikael Jorgensen – samples and sound manipulation, keyboards, synthesizers, effects, piano, organ (2002–present)
Nels Cline – lead guitar, loops, lap steel (2004–present)
Pat Sansone – keyboards, rhythm and lead guitars, backing vocals, synthesizers, maracas, tambourine (2004–present)

Wilco in concert December 15, 16, 18, 19 at The Chicago Theater .

The Rhapsody 2019

To appreciate how Queen recaptured the hearts, minds, and ears of American fans in 2019 you have to turn back to what happened to them in the 1980’s.

Freddie Mercury’s ever evolving image from the 1970s to 1980s.

Music is a teeming mix of personalities bound together for long days and nights; the office changes every day. Management changes hands. Image is altered. Listeners grow up; one record can alienate an established fan base.

Following up a big album has been a challenge for most artists. Fleetwood Mac put out “Tusk” after “Rumours”; AC/DC released “For Those About to Rock…We Salute You!” after “Back In Black.”

Queen might as well have lobbed a hand grenade at its devoted hard rock following after “The Game”. Although there were two more albums until their next official studio effort between 1981 and 1982—“Flash Gordon” was a soundtrack and “Greatest Hits” ended a contract with Elektra.

Both records reminded devoted fans what they loved about them in sound and image. The greatest hits package was a smash.

In the past year Hollywood Records re-issued the hits album minus ‘Under Pressure’ with a new gatefold sleeve. It has been at the top of Billboard’s rock catalog chart for over 600 weeks!

“Queen Greatest Hits” re-issued on double vinyl
The inserts feature the art from each single packaged
in a gatefold sleeve.
Hollywood Records

The final album on their American label Elektra was “Hot Space”. A fresh approach that stripped away the excess of 1970’s rock. Also missing was Brian May’s guitar on the synth pop disco side of the proceedings.

Dance oriented on side one; Rock and R & B on side two. Cover art inspired by Warhol and conceived by Freddie Mercury had abstract images of each member’s face set against the pastel colors of a disco dance floor.

Timing is everything in music. Queen upended their American fan base. The album peaked at #22 on Billboard. “Body Language” a sparsely arranged disco track was the highest charting song at #11.

What kept them going was the belief they had more to prove. There were many countries that embraced their new sound too. Somewhere in the world each Queen studio album reached #1 on the charts.

Their biggest fan, Michael Jackson, found this album to be an influence on his new record “Thriller”. Listen to John Deacon’s ‘Back Chat’ and ‘Beat It’. You will hear the similar vibes in the arrangement of the music.

The band stopped touring North America. Freddie Mercury was adamant to play to growing audiences in countries where Queen had not played. American audiences rejected his new image. The gay macho clone in tight leather was too much for fans in denial regarding his sexuality.

While the band bounced back with “The Works” in 1984, their debut on Capitol records in the U.S. , releasing hit singles “Radio GaGa”, “I Want To Break Free”, and “Hammer To Fall”, it failed to bring them back to popularity in America.

Until his final tour in 1986 in support of the worldwide smash “A Kind Of Magic”, part soundtrack to the fantasy movie, “Highlander”, part Queen album, Freddie claimed new fans in countries around the world.

America had new hit makers in the 1980’s; Madonna, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and others became MTV favorites. Queen videos would air. With no tours scheduled people tuned out.

Their third Capitol album, “The Miracle”, was a pop rock sensation in Europe with five hit singles in release and no tour.

The band had innovative promo films made for their singles, including Disney animation for “A Kind Of Magic” and “These Are The Days Of Our Lives”.

Then a turning point arrived. “Innuendo”, Freddie Mercury’s final album was released. With its Led Zeppelin influenced title opener the band began to recapture its American base.

The music video for it utilized old footage of the band roto scoped with animation. Freddie Mercury was gravely ill while making this album. Yet he gave vocal performances that were among his best. His death found fans in mourning.

While Brian May and Roger Taylor thought the band was over there was a posthumous Queen album. “Made In Heaven” reworked some of Freddie’s solo songs into Queen tracks. The record became the biggest selling in Italy, Ireland, Spain, the U.K., and Germany. It performed well with their American fans too.

Then the group exited the public view until 2005! I never stopped playing their records. Missing them live was one of my greatest disappointments. Years heal wounds.

Queen+Paul Rodgers toured America. Part Queen; Part Bad Company. The shows brought them back to touring. Although the record they released, “The Cosmos Rocks”, did not meet commercial success, it remains one of my favorites. Even without Freddie, Queen remained innovative.

Freddie Mercury made his final wish to “Never Be Boring”. All the costumes he wore on stage; the ‘flamboyant’ image he created was unforgettable.

In the next phase came American Idol runner-up, Adam Lambert, a gay American vocalist, who came to discover Queen via the hit comedy “Wayne’s World”.

Who could have foreseen such a reversal in fortune for a long dormant now classic rock group like Queen?

In the years between Freddie’s death and the new eras of touring, Queen would licence their music. Their hits showing up in TV commercials and movies kept them present in the public conciousness.

When they toured with Adam there was a new generation of fans. They loved the band. I was open to it because as a lifelong devotee the Paul Rodgers era was great but this allowed me to see them again.

The tours with Adam Lambert gave the band their best critical notices. Queen were returning to the front of rock’s vanguard.

Then a long gestating biopic of Freddie Mercury, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, came together in 2018. Rami Malek would star and eventually take home an Oscar for Best Actor. Now Queen were restored to their former glory.

Despite a compromised timeline of actual events in the band’s storied career, the film became the biggest biopic of all-time. The soundtrack album release has remained on the chart now a year after the release of the film.

In 2019, Queen’s Rhapsody Tour continued to sell-out arenas across the world. There were 2 nights at Madison Square Garden too!

Queen+Adam Lambert headlined the Global Citizen Festival in New York City; Freddie Mercury’s solo work is reissued on digital, CD, and vinyl; a Box Set is also being released.

“Never Boring” is a new CD box set.
Mr. Bad Guy—Special Edition
Barcelona with Montserrat Caballe
Never Boring—The 12 Inch Singles/B-Sides
Freddie Mercury Solo Videos
120 Page Hardcover Book
Double-sided poster

The band’s “Greatest Hits” became the best-selling record in U.K. music history; the “Bohemian Rhapsody” film soundtrack outsold every record during the first half of 2019.

Their Rhapsody Tour will play 5 nights at the o2 arena in England. British classic rock magazine, Planet Rock, has named them Band of the Year.

Their Rhapsody Tour has more dates in 2020….The Show Must Go On!

Queen+Adam Lambert
The Rhapsody Tour
Following the Summer dates in USA they move on to
Japan, Australia, and the U.K.

Western Stars/Bruce Springsteen

Western Stars is the 19th solo album by Bruce Springsteen.
Produced by Ron Aniello on Columbia Records.
13 Songs; 50 minutes

A wayfarin’ hitch-hiker takes a journey back out to big sky country to reflect on a life gone past. Along the way we learn he was a B-movie Stuntman whose proudest moment was a scene with screen icon John Wayne.

Painting a deceptively simple picture of creeping isolation, lost love, and futile attempts to outrun a road that has to end, Mr. Springsteen has composed a romantic yet melancholy tribute to the American ideals of the West.

Remembering good times at a local cafe where the work is left behind; ‘Monday is a million miles away’. Forgetting the mounting sadness of lost opportunity because the western stars are out tonight.

The thematic thread woven through are light and dark; sunrise and sundown; the sun and the moon.

Evoking this vision are understated orchestrations that support the vocals in even tempo. At times the sweeping beauty of the notes will fill you with longing.

This is because our western star is waiting for his lost love to return. He knows this is a fool’s errand. “Tuscon Train”, “Stones”, and “There Goes My Miracle” are songs of tortured romance literally gone south.

The album’s centerpiece track, “Drive Fast” (The Stuntman), shows a physically broken man whose wounds are his only companion. The steel rod in his leg walks him home each night.

The last song on the album is “Moonlight Motel”. A memory of lost lovers enjoying an afternoon delight in a derelict place. The physical structures have gone to seed while their love blossoms. A place once made for nighttime pleasures becomes the sight of a self-made Eden.

Quite a beautiful album that is able to relate this tale of loss and loneliness without making its listener feel too sad. The melodies are uplifting; the vocals are empathetic.

In the daylight chasing wild horses, running for countless miles is enough to outrun the impending gloom. There is a deep abiding respect for this rugged place by the man at the center of it all—The Boss.

In lieu of a tour for this record, Bruce Springsteen makes his directorial debut on October 25, 2019 with “Western Stars”.

The film is a performance of the album with orchestra before an audience. An album, “Western Stars” Film Version will be released. It’s the same track list as the studio LP except for the addition of “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell.

“Sundown” is the first single released from the film version album. The new versions seem to have even more developed orchestration.

Western Stars opens in theaters on October 25, 2019. The concert film premiered last month at the Toronto Film Festival.

E Street Stardom/Solo Magic

For decades now Bruce Springsteen has piece by piece constructed a music career that continues to inspire longtime listeners and attract newcomers.

He has enjoyed commercial success but did not count only on selling his music but by creating a persona that was larger than his self but true to who he is offstage.

After listening to “Western Stars” over and over digitally I found my own take. His E Street albums are the rockstar track built with hits like “The River”, “Born To Run”, and “Born In The USA”.

The solo albums have been allowed by an audience that deeply appreciates his hard work in not just entertaining them but making them think too. This is the internal track of non rock Lp’s that delve into Americana, Folk, and Protest music.

His catalog is like a puzzle with thousands of pieces. For years I was distracted enough not to see what he was doing. Building his following slowly in bars/clubs on the Jersey Shore then reaching a zenith with sold out stadiums. He never relies on just hit singles. He becomes by word of mouth a legendary presence. His audience bestows the nickname, The Boss, to signify to them what he represents in the music world.

The solo work allows Bruce to work on music that he knows will not sell stadiums nor spend weeks at the top of the chart. It’s material he hopes will alternately take listeners down musical byways that cannot fit into the mainstream rock frame of the E Street Band.

I feel there are few solo artists doing such consistently fine work as Mr. Springsteen. Bob Dylan comes to mind. The Boss seeks long term attachment with his audience. He gets it because of the trust built upon decades of great work both rocking and reflective.

I hope the puzzle is not near completion.

Bruce Springsteen is performing at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 5th. A benefit for Stand-Up For Heroes.

Motown 60

Music is placed into categories for the purpose of marketing. At the end of the 1950’s black musicians were placed into the bin marked Rythm & Blues.

Jerry Wexler, a writer/producer at Billboard Magazine coined the term. The prior label, Race Music, was considered offensive after WWII.

Following the war, a migration of black labor left the south for industry in the north.

Berry Gordy and William “Smokey” Robinson founded a new record label for black artists in Detroit. They called their new group Motown after the city’s famous nickname, Motor City.

There were four labels created. Berry Gordy had his own imprint. Tamla was a subsidiary of Motown. In later years the label was sold to Polygram. The music was then labeled, Soul.

In the late 1950s two other black-owned independent record companies that specialized in rhythm and blues and rock and roll had been enjoying considerable success for nearly a decade—Peacock Records, formed in Houston, Texas, by Don Robey, and Vee Jay Records, formed in Chicago by Vivian Carter Bracken, James Bracken, and Calvin Carter. 

This new culture allowed for this to happen, especially after desegregation of schools. Detroit had public schools with music training programs.

Below L-R: Berry Gordy poses with a Supremes record. Smokey Robinson was interviewed by Goldmine Magazine. He talked about his original goals and the early days of the label. He was going to become an electrical engineer. Mr. Gordy thought otherwise.

In January of 1959 they began in a two-story house they named Hitsville, USA. This would become prophetic. 2648 West Grand Boulevard was a former photographer’s studio.

In just 2 years Motown hired over 400 people. The label would score over 100 hits on Billboard between 1959 and 1961.
The first black owned American Corporation.
Recording studios, Administrative Offices, and Berry Gordy’s apartment all
within this deceptively small looking house.

The music created here was a part of millions of people’s lives. This amalgam of Gospel, Blues, Jazz, and R&B became the hallmark known as the Motown Sound.

In the movie business Louis B. Mayer claimed he had more stars than there were in heaven. I think Motown could claim more stars than there are in our galaxy!

Take any artist on Motown’s roster to find many of the
greatest American songs in history.

The Supremes, “Little” Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Temptations, Martha and The Vandellas, The Four Tops, The Marvelettes, Junior Walker and The All-Stars, The Contours, Marvin Gaye, and The Jackson Five were all signed to Motown.

Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland wrote songs for The Supremes:  “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me” (all 1964), “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Back in My Arms Again,” “I Hear a Symphony” (all 1965), and “You Can’t Hurry Love” (1966).

Sylvia Moy, Norman Whitfield, Mickey Stevenson, Ivy Joe Hunter, and Gordy himself were songwriters and producers for the Motown roster.

The label’s peak in the mid to late 1960’s is still unrivaled today. The standards were comprehensive; the talent pool deep. In its heyday, Motown produced more #1 hits than any other record company.

This compilation featured the 100 Greatest Motown Songs.

The Supremes were the top all-female group of the 1960’s. Their record sales second only to The Beatles. Ms. Ross left the group to pursue a solo career and also acted in movies.

When the label signed The Jackson Five, Diana Ross presented them to an audience of 500 friends at a private party. The struggles over songwriting royalties led to crediting the new quintets songs to The Corporation.

As the 1970’s dawned The Jackson Five scored with ABC. Diana Ross starred in the Billie Holiday biopic, “Lady Sings The Blues”. Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” became the defining soul record of the 1970’s.

The Commodores featuring Lionel Richie arrived with their soul masterpiece, “Machine Gun”. Motown was a cultural juggernaut.

Although the label would move to L.A. the legacy would grow. I watched the Jackson Five’s cartoon series on ABC. It took decades for me to understand how big Motown’s impact had been on my listening.

Today I am able to listen with clarity to all of the truly beautiful recordings of this extremely talented community of artists.

Motown’s music has been covered quite a bit by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Van Halen, and Phil Collins to name a few.

The CBS sitcom “Murphy Brown” created by Diane English features snippets of Motown classics in its opening every week.

The title character loved Motown. A tribute to Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson’s mission to successfully market black musicians to a white mainstream audience.

Most famous perhaps was California’s Raisin Council adapting, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, with animated raisins performing the song with Motown’s signature choreography.

The California Raisins became a sensation with its memorable Motown cover of the Marvin Gaye classic.

To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Motown’s founding, PBS aired Motown 60, double LP “Motown’s Greatest Hits”, special color vinyl issues of The Jackson Five, The Temptations, and Marvin Gaye are available.

“Ain’t Too Proud” a Broadway Musical about the Life and Times of The Temptations opened on Broadway at the Imperial theater. The original cast recording is available.

If those releases are not enough, there is the 11-CD box set, “Hitsville”, compiling all 200 plus chart topping hits!

Encased in a hard plastic display case with a replica of the “Hitsville” headquarters in Detroit.

The collectibility of this music is infinite. The Motown group was sold in the 1980’s to Polygram. Today Universal Music Group (UMG) owns the label.

Showtime has Hitsville: The Making of Motown, a documentary. Premieres were held earlier this month in Los Angeles and on Friday night (Aug. 23) when about 20 Motown alumni — including members of the Vandellas, the Velvelettes and the Contours as well as behind-the-scenes staffers — and guests gathered for an invitation-only screening hosted by the Motown Museum in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak.

I admit my ears were listening to full albums by many of these extraordinary people for the first time. I fell deeply in love with their work.

A double bill of Motown greats are on tour again this Fall
Friday October 11th at Sound Waves Hard Rock Cafe Casino in Atlantic City & October 12th at New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
For a full tour schedule go to http://www.ticketmaster.com



And the beat goes on…