Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The greatest in this world, the next world ...

This image, taken by Linda McCartney, has shown up in the Beatles iTunes TV commercial.

Because I've been an ardent devotee of The Beatles for almost my whole life, the news that their songs are now on iTunes is rather ho-hum. I mean, if you already have "The White Album" on vinyl and CD (you can rip CDs to iTunes and Windows Media Player), what does it matter? Now if bootleg recordings that didn't show up on the Anthology series made it to iTunes -- like they did in the free for all days of Napster -- then they'd have my attention.

Here's something more significant than the iTunes announcement! WMGK-FM is bringing The Beatles -- well, their artwork anyway -- to the Montgomery Mall from Dec. 8-24. We're talking signed pieces, photos, animation, plus related Rolling Stones, Elvis and Bob Dylan memorabilia, and more. "The Art of the Beatles" is free to look at, and all for sale, on the lower level of the mall next to JC Penney from 10-9, 11-6 Sundays.

As my public relations friends Leah Rice and Scott Segelbaum pointed out, 2010 has been an active Beatle year, with Paul McCartney playing two sold out shows in Philadelphia and announcing an appearance on an episode of "Saturday Night Live"; Ringo's All Starr Band making tour stops in Easton and Atlantic City; a Ringo Starr star on the Walk of Fame; the remastering of John Lennon's sometimes maddeningly uneven solo catalog in honor of his 70th birth anniversary; the word that Martin Scorcese is making a film about George Harrison ...

The opening date, Dec. 8, is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's murder.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

One of 2010's memorable discs

It's early yet to be doing best-of countdowns for this year, but I would like to nominate "Wake Up!" by Philly products John Legend and The Roots for consideration. While it breathes new hip-hop life into forgotten soul/R&B nuggets of the '60s and '70s, it also shines a spotlight on the inspiring, articulate, generational social consciousness of that era that Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, The Black Eyed Peas, etc. sorely and distinctly lack.
This album hits a home run just by putting Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "Wake Up Everybody" and Les McCann and Eddie Harris' "Compared to What" on the same disc.
Marvin Gaye gets the remake treatment on "Wholly Holy," ditto on Donny Hathaway's "Little Ghetto Boy" and Nina Simone's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free."
The tricky part with soul is there's a fine line between emoting, and over the top hamminess. Legend crosses that line on an overlong version of Bill Withers' harrowing and heart-sinking yarn about a war wounded veteran, "I Can't Write Left Handed."
Legend's song "Shine" from the "Waiting for Superman" soundtrack closes the album, and ends with a spirit of optimism to maybe get the current generation thinking more in terms of unity. It's still not as good as those old school songs though.
No doubt about it -- The Roots are more than just the Jimmy Fallon houseband! And although Legend's a Grammy-winner, this might be the most interesting thing he's done.
The album was conceived in the summer of 2008 before Obama got elected. For whatever reason, they sat on it till this September. The release of an album like "Wake Up!"would have been much more appropriate during the Bush Administration. has a nice performance of "Hard Times" (originally by an act called Baby Huey and the Babysitters) which features rapper Black Thought.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Can't wait till February

You're thinking: Why's this guy eager for the dreariest, coldest part of the year?
Because that's when the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown gets an excellent traveling Smithsonian exhibit, "Elvis at 21: Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer."
Keep checking The Reporter's Thursday "Go" section for the opening date.
While visiting old friends in Winchester, Va., I caught this remarkable set of spontaneous and candid images at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.
As the story goes, Wertheimer tagged along with the still-not-yet famous Elvis for a week in 1956, and happened to chronicle the Big E on the cusp of fame. He captures the young Elvis' raw star power and oozing sexiness in a context that has never been seen before.
At the time, Elvis could still grab a bite to eat unnoticed. All in that week, he appears on national TV on "Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey's Stage Show" and "The Steve Allen Show" in New York, makes out with a cutie (or maybe more, for all we know), and catches a train back to Memphis. He gets off the train a couple stops early to walk home to his mom and dad's because it saves having to get on a bus, which would make the trip longer. Wertheimer's photographic sequence of Elvis walking to the street, asking a black woman for directions, and going unmolested on his merry way, is priceless.
While he is home, we are told by Wertheimer, Elvis listens to a couple records and smooches with his girlfriend while shirtless. Understand that this is the 1950s, and that young lady was likely feeling most uncomfortable with this brazen amorous advance!
Hard to believe it today, but Elvis' conservative critics back in those days called him a "disciple of the devil," never mind that gospel was probably his favorite kind of music.
There's even video of those iconic TV moments in Elvis' career. Make sure you take the time to watch it.
Like Elvis, this thing is larger than life. Just look at its online presence: