Category Archives: album review

Guest Album Review: “Blackbird: Lennon-McCartney Icons” by Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.

Another excellent review from Amy McGrath Hughes:

McCoo Davis BlackbirdThis album is available for pre-order from EE1/BMG and will be released April 30, 2021.

There is no small coincidence in my mind about what went down in Minneapolis on April 20 and hearing the beautiful voice of Marilyn McCoo singing The Beatles “Blackbird” in a way only she can – uplifting and soulful – to see how timely and timeless the band’s music has always been.

With husband Billy Davis, Jr., this dynamic duo is back (and really, were they ever far away?) releasing a collection of Lennon & McCartney covers entitled Blackbird: Lennon-McCartney Icons. Way past what they both acknowledge to be relevant inspiration in today’s music culture, it really should come as no surprise that these legendary vocalists have truly risen above any sort of categorization and are in a class all by themselves.

I can say without question that the choice of songs is point on with their history and perspective in the entertainment industry. Having risen to fame in The 5Th Dimension in the late ‘60s and then going onto a stellar career in show business (breaking barriers for hosting their own variety show in the ‘70s), one can only say bravo for them reappearing with the collective voice their audience has never lost touch with.

With the songs that appear on Blackbird, it’s the vocal arrangements (and classy orchestration) that give this album its standout appeal. Both McCoo and Davis are in stellar form with the chosen material and are masters of interpretation with these well-known compositions. To be honest, any remake of a Lennon-McCartney song has got to be solid and believable for it to be worthwhile. McCoo & Davis’ tribute give the meaning and message more than enough power to sustain an entire collection.

While “Blackbird” the song has always held poignant historical weight, I appreciated the choices brought here: Davis’ laidback vocal in “Ticket To Ride” has just the right amount of jazzy inflection and fierce reading to render the original unrecognizable. McCoo’s smoky phrasing for “The Long and Winding Road” and her syncopated reading of “Yesterday” are the gifts that keep on giving. Meanwhile Davis’ powerful rendition of “Help!” literally gave me goosebumps with his gospel, throaty vocal rising to the occasion; it leaves you with one of those head-shaking moments wondering “where did THAT come from?”

Lennon and McCartney also each get a solo tribute: the duet are tender on Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” while Davis rips up (are you ready for this?) McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs.” Yes, you read that right. He hits the right amount of high melody that McCartney could only be dreaming of these days. And it’s to Davis’ credit he can do it justice.

Of course, their duet “And I Love Her” is magical. However what shows off the best range of their chemistry are the tunes tailor-made for their vocal give-and-take: “Got To Get You Into My Life” (featuring saxophonist Yancyy) and “The Fool On The Hill” (sharing a guest vocal with Natalie Hanna Mendoza) are highlights that remind you: keep on listening to this album or you are definitely going to be missing out on something special.

Producer Nic Mendoza has perfectly captured two unmistakable vocalists still in their prime. The social injustices we continue to endure and the over-arching messages of remembrance here are undeniably powerful and personal for both McCoo & Davis. Collectively, they have overcome obstacles once thought unthinkable and for all that this amazing collection has to offer to today’s music generation…

I give this album 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Album Review: “Now It’s All This!” by The Red Button

Now It's All This The Red ButtonI’ve come to trust that whenever my PR friend Maureen Daye Pietoso from JEM Records sends me information about the latest band she’s promoting that it’s going to be well worth my while to listen! This one doesn’t do anything but just reconfirmed this belief.

Now It’s All This! is The Red Button‘s third album, but it’s a whole lot more than just that. This album not only contains 6 new songs, and 4 unplugged remakes, it also contains their first two albums…33 tracks in all! The Red Button is made up of Seth Swirsky (whose name I’ve seen around Facebook but had no idea what he did for a living!) and Mike Ruekberg.

It was hard to pinpoint all the influences and sounds in this band, there are just so many! In the new songs, you’ll not only hear that Beatlesque sound that you would expect to be there if it’s being reviewed on this blog, but you’re also going to hear influential hints of The Monkees, The Knack and Weezer all rolled into the EP’s six tracks. The very first track on the new EP, Can’t Let Candy Go, is going to make you want to break out your Go-Go boots and bell bottoms and dance. Tracy’s Party and the title track are definitely in the Beatlesque style. Solitude Saturday has what I thought were some great harmonies reminiscent of the 70’s and reminded me a lot of Gilbert O’Sullivan. And the song Picture, one of the unplugged songs, has definite sounds of something Brian Wilson might have written for the Beach Boys.

This album is power-pop at it’s very best. It’ll take you back with the good feelings of the songs from the 60’s, 70’s,  and 80’s while still being able to stand up to the very best in today’s pop music. Whether you download it or buy the actual CD, you’re going to love it! And for that reason…

I rate this CD, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Album/CD Review: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 50th Anniversary Edition

I decided it was time for me to review something new, so I went out and bought the new Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 2 CD Deluxe EditionYou can pick up various packaging for the revised/remix of the original album (1 CD, 2 CD, Deluxe, etc.), but I decided that for my own purposes all I really needed was the 2 CD set with the new mix and a CD of outtakes (I won’t be reviewing the outtakes).

In order to fully understand what Giles Martin did in his editing of the original cuts, I pulled out my Sgt. Pepper’s CD from 1987 and tried desperately to get my old 5 disc player to play the two discs in spiral mode so I could hear the old, then new version of each track…but alas, after 2 hours of wrestling with both our players, I ended up having to do it manually! UGH…time warp back to the 1980s!

Well, it didn’t take long to hear the difference! The older disc has a duller, more muted sound to it and the tracks sound very distinct as they change from speaker to speaker.  The new version is an amazing mix that flows…Picture yourself in a boat on a river, With tangerine trees and marmalade skies INDEED! The music literally surrounds you and it made me sorry I was listening to it on just two speakers. My next purchase is going to be a fantastic set of headphones for just the purpose of listening to this CD. I also can’t wait to get to listening to these mind blowing, full bodied moving tunes in the six speaker sound chamber of my car. It’s so hard to describe, maybe you just have to be there! And for that reason…

I rate this album/CD 5 out of 4 Beetles! (George Martin included this time…)

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