Concert Review: MTV Unplugged (part 2: 90’s)

(Continues from https://intermediaries.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/concert-review-mtv-unplugged/ )

Back in the 90’s, MTV Unplugged became popular worldwide and was an opportunity for new artists for gathering new audiences.

Interesting crossovers start happening. In 1991, MTV Unplugged transmitted by first time a rap show, featuring: LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, accompanied by a 5 musicians band called Pop’s Cool Love. For me, it’s almost the first time I’ve ever heard rap in this way. It has something special; perhaps more organic sound at the same time as all energy is focused on the singers without the traditional DJ’s set.

90’s also was the era of grunge to strike on all teenagers on their rebel inside. Memorable presentations were Pearl Jam (1992), Nirvana (1993) 5 months before Kurt Cobain’s death, Stone Temple Pilots (1993) and Alice In Chains (1996) being one of front man Layne Staley last performances live before his death also.

Some of the prominent presentations was Eric Clapton’s (1992), which album became the bestselling Unplugged album in the US, with more than 10 million sales. Also, The Eagles “Hell Freezes Over” (1994) version of “Hotel California” is a well known classic worldwide.

MTV Unplugged was also a window for non-English speakers. Roxette on 1993 was the first one. On 1994, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs were the first latins to perform, followed by Charlie Garcia (1995), Soda Stereo (1996) and Shakira (1999), who’s show was the first latin Unplugged album to win a Grammy. The first big concert I ever assisted was Shakira’s, when I was over 10.

to be continued…

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Berklee- Alumni Member- Charlie Puth

Berklee Alumni member, Charlie Puth has been gaining a lot of attention online. The 22-year old hit the 31 million net views on Youtube at the age of 20 instantly gaining recognition by The Boston Herald.

Visit the following website for the news article.

http://www.bostonherald.com/entertainment/music/music_news/2012/09/berklee_student_youtube_star

What I find fascinating about Charlie Puth, is his extreme vocal range and tonal quality. One of his best videos on Youtube is his cover of Sia’s Chandelier which exemplifies that range.

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In addition his covers, his original work dives deep into a variety of harmonies and takes a unusual approach to the modern sound.  Instagram Models is an example of this.

However, I am not the biggest fan of the image he has created through his music videos and Facebook page.  There is a sense of ‘boyishness’ that needs to be changed.

All his other videos are ‘bedroom-made’ which is undervaluing his potential and worth as a exemplary musician.

Puth has also partnered up Emily Luther to create more music covers. They seem to gel pretty well however the partnership is ‘diluted’ when Charlie takes the low key.

What I would have liked to hear was him taking the higher note while she stays on the low key. Kind of like a Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham partnership.

I see alot of potential in Charlie Puth, His 400,000 + Youtube subscribers is a mere reflection of his ability and demand. But as mentioned, an image makeover is much needed.

On the Road with Sonny

Sonny Rollins had been managed by his wife, Lucille, until she passed away in 2004. They started working together in 1971, after she persuaded him to come back from a hiatus.

Eventually, Lucille, who had been doing all the tour work, was looking to hire a tour manager. Ted Kurland in Boston (Sonny’s agent) put her in touch with Peter Downey. Downey, a Berklee alum, had admired and studied Rollins’ work and was excited for the job. He had already worked as a tour manager and audio engineer for musicians like Henry Connick Jr. and Whitney Houston.

In an interview found on Noodle.com, he says that there are two parts to the job of a manager. 10% of the job is logistics, and 90% of the job is personality. “Personality”, mainly referring to Sonny’s preferences regarding accommodations. He says that after years of working with Rollins, he rarely needs to ask for his preferences because he knows his personality so well. I might guess that for smaller artists, the ratio is a bit different, because they can’t afford to be as picky about accommodations.

There aren’t many legends from Miles Davis’ generation still around. Sonny Rollins is definitely one of them. He hasn’t been touring lately however. His latest album, Sonny Please, was released in 2006, and he did headline the Newport Jazz festival in 2008. This isn’t the first time he has taken a step away from performing though, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a come back.

https://www.noodle.com/learn/details/66698/meet-peter-downey-sonny-rollins-tour-manager

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/19/arts/music/19rollins.html

Concert Review: MTV Unplugged

Hello everyone, and happy thanks giving for my USA friends!

This time I want to make a series of blogs for reviewing the history and evolution of the famous MTV Unplugged, from its origins to recently Miley Cirus’ version.

I want to start with an interesting quote I found on an article:

images People know this, but they don’t necessarily remember this: MTV used to air music. Not 20-second snippets of the new Katy Perry jam before a 16-hour Jersey Shore marathon, but videos, documentaries, concerts, and more. If there was one place you were going to get your music fix on television, MTV was where you’d go. Everything they aired was original, since there was no real competition– at the time, anyway– and one show that would always appear just when you thought it was time they do another one was MTV Unplugged. This show’s premise remained simple. Producers would take some of the biggest names in rock/pop/hip-hop and see what happened when they cut the power, the amps, the beats, and the stadiums. Instead, they would supply them with acoustic instruments in an intimate setting and have them perform their biggest hits.

http://consequenceofsound.net/2011/03/rock-history-101-mtv-unplugged/

The fact that today’s most MTV’s content is not music is another interesting/sad discussion, but let’s talk about history now.

MTV Unplugged concept was born on the late 80’s, created by producers Robert Small and Jim Burns, in inspiration with several acoustic and informal set ups done on the 70’s and 80’s by another artists such as Elvis, The Beatles, and a famous UK show called “The secret policeman’s Ball”. The second version of this show in 1981, which became very famous in the US, included artists Sting, Phill Collins and Bob Geldof. On the late 80’s, bands like Jethro Tull and Bon Jovi also start making live acoustic appearances.

MTV Unplugged first season had 13 episodes, hosted by singer/songwriter Jules Shear. The first episode was aired on November 26th, 1989, which feautured band Squeeze (UK) and artists Syd Straw (US) and Elliot Easton (US, Berklee Alumni!).

to be continued…

Raw talent first performance

I’ve been representing Nayvia for some months now. She’s a talented girl that never took any sort of voice education but still can do what you can see in the video of this post.

It’s a very special and satisfactory challenge that actually demands more patience than it usually needs. It’s special because you’re building an artist from scratch, you’re trying to let the new talent learn a ton of new things, learn how to communicate with musicians that actually have been in the business for a while. It’s a constant struggle with simple but huge insecurities and interests.

It’s satisfactory, because every step Nayvia takes, don’t matter how big it is, it feels like it’s being a huge one. Jon O’Hara and myself are always having our jaw dropped when we hear her during rehearsal. Every time she sings I can see how she gets more and more convinced that maybe her voice it’s her biggest asset, I can see her dancing while practicing her song and having a dumb smile that she can not contain.

Jon O’Hara, just finished Nayvia’s first song, they have been rehearsing and working on its details. In less than a month they will be recording it in a professional studio with some professional artist and professional sound engineers. I’m not sure if she realizes how big is this recording going to be. Jon and myself are convincing some artists from Berklee to get involved in this project and we are getting good response so this dream is about to come true.

Next step it’s making a photo shoot to Nayvia so hopefully next time you read something from me, you’ll see a beautiful picture of her in the post.

Lecrae Part IV: Restoring the Image

“The Fever”

If Church Clothes was a disappointment and selling out, Church Clothes Volume 2 (Lecrae’s second mixtape) put forth a good effort in going back to the roots of Lecrae’s values in lyrics. “The Fever,” featuring Andy Mineo and Papa San, utilized his strategic marketing (collaboration) without compromising his content the way he has for his past couple releases.

The diversity of timbres in the instrumental were interesting, but just like Church Clothes and Gravity, the musical crafting (distinct from lyrics) doesn’t show much growth since his 5th album (Rehab: The Overdose). I found myself wishing that Lecrae would stretch the limits of his musical composition a little more.

Regardless, Lecrae’s continued strategic collaboration grew his fan base even more, getting us to this September. Here are two songs from Lecrae’s most recent release, Anomaly.

“Nuthin”

“Messengers”

Finally! Lecrae gets back to the core issues he wants to talk about, and shows musical growth as well.

Do you hear how he weaves together the melodic components with his rapping? And how the melodic and harmonic elements evolve in “Messengers”? I especially love the Bastille-like vocals in “Messengers.”

The cool thing about Anomaly is that Lecrae is making a deliberate move away from collaboration, and back toward independence. By doing this, he is able to take on more creative control, but also control the lyric content and themes of his songs. Based on these two examples, I think Lecrae is well on his way to restoring his image as a rapper who raps about his Christian life and struggle. And all of this is happening, but with a massively expanded audience.

This brings us up to date.

I am looking forward to hearing Lecrae’s music continue to grow, and to watching how he presents himself to his developing audience. Without a doubt, whatever he does next will be a strategic move.

Lecrae Part III: Selling Out? Or Maybe Not.

After tracing Lecrae’s career trajectory (an musical growth), I had high hopes for his first mixtape, Church Clothes. I was sorely disappointed.

As was discussed in Part I, this mixtape was obviously a strategic move to gain mainstream attention: Lecrae featured a different artist on almost every track. What I found, however, was that the musical quality remained stagnant, and the content was compromised. In “Special,” featuring Lester L2 Shaw, the harmonies, melodies, and (synth) orchestrations do not show growth since Rehab: The Overdose. I was hoping that bringing in collaborators would expand Lecrae’s technique and artistic perspectives, but it merely seems to box him in. On top of that, I was shocked by how much Lecrae distanced himself from his outspoken Christian lyrics. Instead, he opted for social themes in line with his religious values – a much softer approach than he used in the past. It is no surprise that the Christian community accused him of selling out.

You can hear what I mean in “Special” from Lecrae’s first mixtape, Church Clothes:

With Church Clothes under my belt, I dreaded listening to Gravity, Lecrae’s sixth album. I feared that his continued collaboration would mean a continued compromise of his lyric content and musical exploration. Lucky for me, Lecrae didn’t stagnate.

Take a listen to “Tell the World” on Gravity:

Do you hear what I hear? Lecrae included some of the lushest melodic and harmonic work in his career to date.   And just at the point when I started to get bored, he brought in variations to make his music more meaningful. On top of that, Lecrae made a move back toward his original lyrical goals: speaking about his faith and struggles explicitly.

The best part is that Lecrae became much more visible after the release of Church Clothes, so Gravity had not only a larger audience, but a more diverse audience as well. The blip in his musical and artistic integrity necessary to get to this point may prove to be a worthwhile investment after all.

To be continued…

Foot Stomping Folk by THE BOLLANDS

The Bollands are a band I recently spoke about in artist management class. Christian and Joyce Bolland are not your average couple. They are from New Zealand and are now based in Hong Kong where they have become quite popular as a foot stomping folk band.

Joyce Bolland plays the Keys and provides percussion and backing vocals support to Christian’s raw and energetic vocals, extreme strumming guitar ( Christian often breaks at least a few strings on every stage he plays on) and foot stomper.

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Joyce is originally from Malaysia and moved to New Zealand where she met her future husband and bandmate Christian, who spent his childhood living in a ‘house truck’ travelling all over the island.

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A picture of the house truck is on the cover of their recent album, Paper Houses, which was well-received in their current country of residence.

What I like about this band is their commitment to self-manage and focus primarily on touring. Over the past few years, The Bollands have toured unconventional markets such as China, Korea,  Singapore, India, and Taiwan to name a few. They win the hearts of their fans by spending time getting to know as many of them on a personal level. In fact, that is how I got to know them initially. Hence a lesson learnt from this is to really get to know your fans and find ways to make them happy.1491413_773299666044897_4762432956505334353_o

On stage, they create a highly energetic environment tempting their audience to sing along to their melodic tunes and dance to their rhythm folk music.

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I see potential in the Bollands growing to be a popular band in Asia. They have a unique sound and combination of story-telling lyrics and addictive melodies.

Lifetime’s Aaliyah Biopic… Dust Yourself Off & Try Again

If you Google “Aaliyah Biopic”, the first returned feed is entitled “America Hated Aaliyah Biopic, Twitter reacts as expected“.  With any grand television release, the success is often measured by the tweets and social media posts related, whether it be a new movie, an award show, or in this case a “biopic” that did not do the deceased songstress any justice.  The second returned feed is “Did the Aaliyah Biopic at least get the fashion right“.

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Since the death of this beautiful, fashionable, and extremely talented young singer in a tragic plane crash in 2001, her fan base has long-awaited a film to honor and celebrate her life.  The movie that Lifetime network aired on Saturday, Nov. 15th did exactly the opposite.  Everything from the casting and music to having the accurate dates of significant events went wrong.  The only way to salvage a biographical film to commemorate her life is to live out some of Aaliyah’s most notorious lyrics, “Dust yourself off and try again“!  Try again with a new cast, a better and more accurate story line, a new production team, and a new network.  Aaliyah was well liked and her artistry was greatly appreciated because she embodied a genuine and pleasant character.  Til this day she is still one of my favorite singers/ dancers/ actors.  Often referred to as “baby girl” since she was young and ahead of her time, any impression of her has to be top-notch & exceed expectations because if not, America is not having it!!

Check out Aaliyah’s former producer, advisor, manager, and “big brother”, notorious producer Timbaland’s response to the Aaliyah biopic.  Also several memes posted on social media are shown in this video.

The Endless River…

Hello!

This time I’m very glad to talk about Pink Floyd´s new album from last week, “The Endless River”.

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The Endless River is based on re-vising material from the 1993 Division Bell sessions, which contains original recordings from Richard (Rick) Wright (1943-2008), former keyboardist of the band.

David Gilmour and Nick Mason (remaining living members of the band) refer to this piece is a tribute for their friend Rick, whose sound will be a part of them forever.

Rick wright talking about his favourite song:

The track “Talkin’ Hawkin” features a voice sample of Stephen Hawking’s voice taken from a 1994 British Telecom advertisement.

Some words from David Gilmour about their song “Louder than words” (the only one that contains lyrics)

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“The music for Louder Than Words is from those final sessions, the three of us playing together on the houseboat Astoria with Rick’s idiosyncratic keyboards reminding me now that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  At the start of the album I asked Polly [Samson] to write the lyrics.  She felt that what I played her didn’t need words, that hearing us play was more interesting.  In the end she wrote just this one, which expresses, beautifully I think, the way the three of us, me, Nick and Rick have something when we play together, that has a magic that is louder than words”, David Gilmour

Louder than Words:

In few days, this album release has carried on interesting numbers, hurtling towards the Official Albums Chart number 1.

“Taking a strong lead on fellow rockers Foo Fighters, Floyd’s The Endless River has sold over 92,000 copies at this midweek stage and is set to become one of the fastest-selling artist albums of the year, as well as Pink Floyd’s first chart topper in nearly two decades”, taken from their FB fan-page.

10386378_929484567078990_3086899739860325889_n Let me tell you my opinion of the album as a personal glimpse and as a strong Pink Floyd’s music fan. First, the fact that Pink Floyd makes a new album is amazing itself, so my expectation and my disposition to this one were already biased. As I heard the pieces, I felt a strong nostalgia on their sound and melodies. Melodies are not “dark” anymore, but very “healing”. I saw the interviews and photos and I really got impressed on David and Nick. They look older, but happy. As I was hearing the album, I got very emotional thinking in the possibility that maybe this is a “good-bye” message, “as the endless river will always flow” within their music in our hearts forever. Their love to their friend Rick is so strongly demonstrated in the music, so as the feeling of “we’ll meet again soon”.

I invite all of you to find some time and hear this beautiful work.

You can find it on Spotify in this link: Pink Floyd – The Endless River

Until next time!

Felipe