They’re back. It took 27 years, 11 months, 29 days, 705 tour dates, two new lead singers, and one new bass player – but Van Halen have finally released the long awaited follow-up to their seminal album “1984” – “A Different Kind of Truth”. I have to say, it was well worth the wait.
Van Halen fans have always seemed to fall in two camps – fans of Roth and fans of Hagar. (Let’s face it – we can ALL agree that the Gary Cherone experiment was something that need not ever have happened.) I’ve always found much to like in both Van Halen and Van Hagar. “Van Halen” is one of my favorite albums of all time – and all of the classic line-up albums have done nothing but get better with age. What the band did in their early years laid the foundation for the guitar rock and heavy metal spectacle bands of the 80’s. But, none of those bands did it better than Van Halen.
On the flipside, Van Hagar was the soundtrack to my high school years. “5150” is also one of my favorite albums of all time. With each successive release though, (“OU812”, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” and “Balance”), the band seemed to lose a little more juice and a little more of the cohesive vision of who they were. Those albums just don’t hold up as well as “5150”. That, more than anything, says to me that Van Halen has really always been Dave’s band.
The third audition episode for Season 11 of American Idol found the judges in San Diego. The producers decided to go for huge production value and placed the entire production on the aircraft carrier USS Midway. Cool right? Well, it looked cool – they even played the prerequisite musical clips from “Top Gun”. (Who would have seen that coming? Anyone? Anyone? Buehler?) There was just one teensy-weensy problem – the USS Midway is docked in an active harbor close to the airport. Plane noise? Check. Boat noise? Check? Wind? Check. All in all it made for a different vibe and as a bonus, gave Steven a chance to wear a ridiculous pair of green aviator goggles. But what about the Idol hopefuls, you ask. How did the singers fare on the evening? Have no fear – read on and get the entire scoop…
The second night of our 2012 journey with Idol found us in the city of Pittsburgh. That’s right, Pittsburgh. We were welcomed to the “City of Champions” by a guy with a size 58 beer-belly wearing a size 28 shirt. (And by the way, it looked like he was there to audition. If he’s 28 or younger, I’m Captain Caveman.) With the bar set that low, I had to wonder what sort of talent Pittsburgh would bring to the table.
First up was Heejun Han. To say that he presented himself in an underwhelming manner would be an understatement. As he talked to Ryan I wasn’t sure if he had been sniffing glue or was just roused from his midday nap to attend the auditions. Dude was strange. To top it off, his family told Ryan they had never heard him sing. My thought was – “they’re probably the lucky ones.” But then he walked in the audition room and started singing. You would think by now I would know not to judge a book by its cover. Turns out dude was strange – but dude could sing. Three quick yeses and he was on his way. (By the way – he also had one of the strangest, and yet coolest, “I’m going to Hollywood” moments ever…)
It’s that time of year again – American Idol Season 11 is upon us. Randy is back, Jennifer is back, Steven is back, Ryan is back, and I am back. Well, I hope I’m back. I’ll warn you all now, faithful readers – I’m traveling a LOT for work right now. It’s going to be tough for me to keep up the commentary in real time (this recap of the premiere is almost a week late, for example.) Nevertheless, I’ll endeavor to do my best to bring you the snarky and insightful commentary you’ve come to expect from me. Just be patient – it may come a little slower than you would like.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in. The Idol premier came to us from Savannah, GA this year. (When asked about how this stop was treating him, Steven quipped – “Savannah’s treatin’ me great – but I didn’t know you knew her…”) The theme of the show was all about the young kids who grew up watching Idol and are now old enough to audition. Thanks for making me feel old.
David Leathers Jr. (or “Mr. Steal-Your-Girl”) was up first. My first thought was – this kid is seventeen? He looked like he was twelve. In the first of many flashbacks to their contestants’ earlier years, we found out that David was evidently in a competition a few years ago with Scotty McCreary. Small world, or at least it looks that way when you have millions of audition stories to choose from. Let me say this about “Mr. Steal-Your-Girl”, he may have a voice that sounds vaguely like a chipmunk, but the kid can sing. I wonder if he’ll still be able to sing like that when he hits puberty?
Here is the video for Van Halen’s new single – “Tattoo”. I’ve listened to it quite a few times today and, I have to admit, I like it. I didn’t love it at first, but it’s really grown on me. Its definitely a Van Halen song. Here’s the thing though – am I the only one who thinks David Lee Roth has become David Hyde Pierce? Watch the video and see for yourself…
30 years ago today, on August 1, 1981 – MTV made it’s debut on the country’s cable systems. It was destined to change the face of popular music. I was a spry ten years old at the time and had the fortune to spend the entirety of my musically formative years as part of the first MTV generation. I don’t watch much MTV these days (have segued as so many others into the VH1 and/or CMT generation), but it still holds a special place in my life. So – to celebrate its 30th birthday (just a month after my 40th), I thought I would take a few moments to look back at a few of my favorite MTV memories.
“The Broken Record” represents the next step in the evolution of Corey Smith that began with “Keeping Up with the Joneses”. Like all of us, Smith has grown; he’s matured both as a person and as an artist. Here, through a mix of new songs and reimagined tracks from previous albums, we are invited on a tour of the journey from where he started to where he finds himself today. It’s an arc that will generate knowing nods from anyone grappling with a moment of reflection in their life. It’s also a damn good record.
This album has a different sound from much of what Corey has done in the past. More robust, more polished, and more lush; it’s a record made with an ear towards a broader audience. It’s not the same Corey Smith you heard on “Undertones” – but it’s still Corey Smith. It’s that growth that may catch some longtime fans by surprise, and an issue that he addresses head-on with the intro to the album:
A man on the edge, I can’t take anymore
Here’s the broken record you’ve been askin’ for.
Over and over, I feel kinda strange,
Nothin’s different here, but everything’s changed…
A few months back, my brother recorded a song he had written about our Granny. It perfectly captures those trips up to Kentucky when we were kids, and later when we went up to visit her with kids of our own.
There’s a reason the music of your youth is the music that follows you throughout your life. When you’re stumbling through the transition from adolescence to adulthood you make strong, immediate connections to things around you. It’s the reason your first love is always so intense. It’s the reason you feel invincible when you’re out with your friends. It’s the foundation that leads to that nostalgic look back at “the good old days” in later years. Those moments and memories that surround you during that time of your life become an integral part of who you are. For me, one of those moments was with “Les Miserables”.
I came of musical age during the 80’s – hair metal, the birth of MTV, The King of Pop, and the advent of the “mega” Broadway musical. For my money (and with no apology to “Phantom of the Opera” fans – I just never liked that show), there was none bigger than “Les Miserables”. Debuting on Broadway in 1986, it became one of the most successful musicals of all time.
During my senior year in high school, we did a musical review. The closing number was a medley of songs from “Les Miserables”. I played the part of Marius. We defended the barricades, Eponine died in my arms, and everyone dreamed of one day more. It was the perfect exclamation point to that year and, in many ways, it was a much larger, if more subtle, metaphor for my entire high school experience (but that’s a story for another day). It made a deep impression on me, and the music from the show would follow me and continue to fill me with wonder for the next 20 plus years.
This week it’s time for the third webisode from Corey Smith, promoting his new album, “The Broken Record”. The new installment is called “My Hometown”. Corey talks why he loves living in Jefferson, Ga. and the emotional satisfaction that comes with his kids attending the same elementary school he did. Make sure to grab a copy of his new album “The Broken Record”, available now. My signed collector’s edition showed up today. I’ll be listening to it on the road this weekend and will have a review up next week. Stay tuned!