Janis Ian Gets a Jazz Treatment – Sarah Partridge Talks about Her Tribute Album to the Folk Singer

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About this Episode

Sarah Partridge and Janis Ian

About two years ago, Sarah Partridge began working on a project to bring new life to Janis Ian’s songs by presenting them with fresh jazz interpretations.  Ian, who debuted during the folk scene of the 1960s, rose to fame with her hits “Society’s Child” (1967) and “At Seventeen” (1975), and she’s written numerous songs – some of which were previously unrecorded – that deal with social, political and relationship issues.

Partridge and her arrangers – Allen Farnham and Tim Horner – have mined Ian’s rich catalog of music for the tribute album Bright Lights and Promises: Redefining Janis Ian (Origin Records).  The selection of songs and new arrangements work so well, it’s a wonder no one has attempted this before.

Making the project even more special is Ian’s involvement. She co-wrote two new songs with Partridge, and Ian and Partridge perform a duet on one of those new songs, “A Quarter Past Heartache.”

On this episode of Documenting Popular Music, Partridge tells us how the album came together and how she was able to get Janis Ian involved in the project.

You can find more about Sarah Partridge, who, before becoming a jazz singer, had an acting career that featured a role in the 1983 movie Risky Business, at the website, www.SarahPartridge.com, and you can find more about Janis Ian at the website www.JanisIan.com.

Upcoming episodes of Documenting Popular Music will feature a look at Gordon Lightfoot’s career with author Nicholas Jennings, a conversation with Merrilee Rush (“Angel of the Morning”) and a look at the story behind one of Barry Manilow’s most beloved hits.

From the Heart of Alabama, Part II – Former ‘Split the Dark Member’ Scott McDavid Talks about His Journey as a Musician

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About this Episode

Scott McDavid’s new single, “The Lady in Black (Just Let Me Dance)”

Documenting Popular Music puts a spotlight on the thriving musical scene in Alabama and the city of Birmingham, where musician Scott McDavid was born and raised.  McDavid’s journey is representative of numerous other musicians who work under some anonymity, but who have been vital to the creation, maintenance and spread of popular music in America.

McDavid’s career began in his hometown, where he played with a number of local bands, including KD Ryzer, a very popular regional group.  He later joined former members of the group Hotel (“You’ll Love Again” 1978) as part of 1980s band Split the Dark (“Always a Chance” 1986).

In Part I of this feature, McDavid talks about some of the highlights of his Birmingham career, including winning the MTV Basement Tapes Contest with Split the Dark.  He also discusses his work with jazz guitarist Eric Essix and his band.

In Part II of this feature, McDavid reveals why his respect and admiration for the legendary Chuck Berry didn’t match the difficult task of actually working for the rock and roll great.  McDavid also discusses his award winning work in scoring documentaries and independent films.  Additionally, he talks about the process of making his newest single, “The Lady in Black (Just Let Me Dance),” which features singer Stephanie Love.  The show concludes with his recollections of Birmingham’s music scene.

You can learn more about McDavid at his website, www.ScottMcDavid.com and you can watch the music video for his new song at his YouTube page.

From the Heart of Alabama, Part I – Former ‘Split the Dark Member’ Scott McDavid Talks about His Journey as a Musician

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About this Episode

Scott McDavid

Documenting Popular Music puts a spotlight on the thriving musical scene in Alabama and the city of Birmingham, where musician Scott McDavid was born and raised.  McDavid’s journey is representative of numerous other musicians who work under some anonymity, but who have been vital to the creation, maintenance and spread of popular music in America.

McDavid’s career began in his hometown, where he played with a number of local bands, including KD Ryzer, a very popular regional group.  He later joined former members of the group Hotel (“You’ll Love Again” 1978) as part of 1980s band Split the Dark (“Always a Chance” 1986).

In Part I of this feature, McDavid talks about some of the highlights of his Birmingham career, including winning the MTV Basement Tapes Contest with Split the Dark.  He also discusses his work with jazz guitarist Eric Essix and his band.

In Part II of this feature, McDavid reveals why his respect and admiration for the legendary Chuck Berry didn’t match the difficult task of actually working for the rock and roll great.  McDavid also discusses his award winning work in scoring documentaries and independent films.  Additionally, he talks about the process of making his newest single, “The Lady in Black (Just Let Me Dance),” which features singer Stephanie Love.  The show concludes with his recollections of Birmingham’s music scene.

You can learn more about McDavid at his website, www.ScottMcDavid.com and you can watch the music video for his new song at his YouTube page.

TBT – Neil Diamond’s Melody Road Album Review from 2014

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About this Episode

Cover of Neil Diamond’s Melody Road album

For this ‘Throwback Thursday’ (TBT) episode of Documenting Popular Music, we are replaying our 2014 review of Neil Diamond’s Melody Road album.  To date, it is the last studio album of all new songs Diamond has delivered, and he is currently out of the country with his concert tour, celebrating 50 years in music.  The TBT replay of the album review is a small way to satisfy Diamond’s legion of fans during his absence.

The episode also offers some Neil Diamond history and takes a close-up look at the ‘A-list’ of musicians who performed on the album under the guidance of rock producers Don Was and Jacknife Lee.

The album was ultimately another Top 5 success for Diamond and featured several standout songs such as “Nothing But a Heartache,” “In Better Days” and “Something Blue.” Melody Road also continued the success Diamond is having late in a career that first saw him hit the charts in 1966.

Future episodes of Documenting Popular Music will feature a look at the making of one of Barry Manilow’s most beloved hits, an interview with the author of a new biography about Gordon Lightfoot, an in-depth interview with Merilee Rush (“Angel of the Morning”) and a conversation with Scott McDavid, a former member of the 1980s group Split the Dark, who will be debuting a new jazz song.

 

Documenting Popular Music’s theme music by composer frankum (https://frankum-frankumjay.blogspot.com.es/), © copyright 2017 and used under a licensing agreement (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/legalcode) via freesound (https://freesound.org/people/frankum/). No warranties are given for the use of this music.

Rusty Young – The Leader of Poco Talks in-depth about His First Solo Album and Joyfully Reminisces about the Past

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About this Episode

Cover of Rusty Young’s new album ‘Waitin’ for the Sun’

After more than 50 years in music, Rusty Young, the leader of the group Poco, has recorded his first solo album.  The new set is entitled Waitin’ for the Sun, (Blue Élan Records) and it features 10 songs that not only give you a peek into Young’s life, but also into his emotions, as the “Crazy Love” singer/songwriter is unabashedly sentimental.

Young tells the stories behind the songs, and when he gets to the track “My Friend,” already rising in popularity, it becomes an historic, musical trip down memory lane about the musicians he’s known and the friendships that have endured.

While some artists promoting a new album might not want to talk about the past, Young embraces it and happily talks about former Poco bandmates Randy Meisner, Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Timothy B. Schmit, as well as others such as Gregg Allman (who once auditioned to be a member of Poco), Gram Parsons, JD Souther, Don Henley and Glenn Frey.

A few of the members of Poco – past and present – are featured on the new album.

Waitin’ for the Sun also features songs about Young’s family, and in the interview he provides the backstories to songs about his daughter (“Sara’s Song”) and his grandparents (“Honey Bee”).

Young says life has been good to him, and the album is a reflection of his appreciation. Poco fans will easily be drawn to the album as will fans of the southern rock genre that emerged in the early 1970s.  The most satisfying news about the album may be that Young had such a good time making it, he’s interested in a follow up, and more stories from this natural storyteller would be welcome.

Leader of the Band: Remembering Dan Fogelberg with Stories and Insights from His Record Producer

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About this Episode

Dan Fogelberg’s 1977 album ‘Nether Lands,’ produced by Fogelberg and Norbert Putnam

Dan Fogelberg’s talent was apparent from an early age, and by the time he was 19, he had a recording contract with a major record label.  The man who would produce this young talent was Norbert Putnam, who was only about nine years Fogelberg’s senior.  Together, these two worked on three of Fogelberg’s albums, which would turn out to be some of the most important records in his career.

In an exclusive interview for this radio documentary, veteran journalist Robert Neil speaks with Putnam about creating the album ‘Home Free,’ ‘Nether Lands’ and ‘Phoenix.’ Included are stories about recording some of Fogelberg’s most famous songs, including “Longer,” “Dancing Shoes,” Netherlands,” “Wishing on the Moon” and others.

In this presentation you’ll also learn how the man who wrote musical scores for The Outer Limits, a sci-fi television show, was instrumental in one of Fogelberg’s albums. Just as important – if not more – was a 14-year-old girl, who let her important father know Fogelberg was a rising star.

The late Fogelberg, who died in 2007, was one of the most talented musicians Putnam says he’d ever recorded, and he is currently working to produce a new tribute album that will feature numerous stars singing Fogelberg’s songs.

The tribute album is just one of several projects focusing on Fogelberg this year, and his widow Jean Fogelberg is hoping those efforts, along with a petition of nearly 50,000 signatures, will help get Dan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  (More info on this can be found on the Facebook page @Induct Dan Fogelberg into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)

Our thanks to Norbert Putnam for the hours and stories he shared for this radio documentary, and to the very busy Jean Fogelberg, who put us in touch with Putnam.

You can read more stories about Putnam’s amazing career in his memoir, Music Lessons Vol. 1, in which he recounts his days playing with Elvis Presley, helping create Jimmy Buffet’s biggest hit and working with a long list of artists on some of their best known songs and albums. (More info on the book can be found at www.musiclessonsbynorbertputnam.com.)

New Music – A Review of Herb Alpert’s New Album, Music Volume 1

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About this Episode

Herb Alpert’s ‘Music Volume 1’

A living legend is back with his sixth album in the past seven years. Herb Alpert, the famed trumpeter and former record company executive, works with producer Jochem van der Saag on the new album Music Volume 1.  The combination of these two talents is masterful and satisfying, and it produces a collection that will please several generations of fans.

The album features primarily cover songs with new treatments that emphasize rhythms and backbeats, and this review not only takes a look at the new album, but also offers a peek at Alpert’s phenomenal success in the music industry. It was 55 years ago this year, for example, that Alpert and his Tijuana Brass began conquering the charts with his first hit album and single, The Lonely Bull.

Music Volume 1 features unique renditions on some familiar classics such as the Beatles “Michelle,” John Lennon’s “Imagine,” and Nate King Cole’s “Unforgettable” as well as new version of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” Alpert also brings back one the TJB’s early hits, Flamingo,” the album’s first single.

Alpert received a Grammy nomination for the Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for his 2016 work, Human Nature.  In many ways, Music Vol. 1 is a superior collection, and should not only receive a 2017 nomination, which would be his 25th, but he can be considered a strong early favorite.

Lessons in Rock and Roll and Jazz Music – Guitarist Doug Jackson of Ambrosia Talks about His Craft

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Doug Jackson’s 2016 solo album ‘The Performance’

Doug Jackson is the guitarist for the progressive rock group Ambrosia, which hit the singles and albums charts in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.  The bands biggest hits include “How Much I Feel” from the 1978 album Life Beyond L.A., and “Biggest Part of Me” and “You’re the Only Woman (You and I)” from the 1980 album One Eighty.  Jackson permanently joined the group in 2000 after founding member David Pack had left to work on other projects.

In this conversation, Jackson talks about his musical roots as well as how his training as a jazz musician has enabled him to play alongside some of the best classic rock artists in the industry. More about Jackson can be found at his website, www.dougjacksonguitar.com.

David Bowie – Changes: Retrospective of a Rock Icon

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About this Episode

David Bowie

On January 10, 2016, the music world was surprised and saddened to learn one of the biggest rock and roll icons of the last four decades had died. Due to his desire for privacy, the public was unaware that David Bowie had been diagnosed with liver cancer 18 months prior, and two days after his 69th birthday – and the release of his final studio album – he died of the disease at his New York home.

This special episode of the Documenting Popular Music takes a look at Bowie’s career, which began in the late 1960s, when his music wasn’t initially understood.  However, the British performer’s unique way of presenting songs eventually caught on and led to a long and successful career that garnered millions of fans around the globe.

Bowie was more than a rock singer and songwriter, and his theatrical nature helped him produce albums that were more than simply music. There were back stories and avant-garde characters, such as Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke, which offered fans something they couldn’t find elsewhere.

And while he had a love for rock and roll, he was also drawn to blues, jazz, dance, grunge and a long list of other genres, which he incorporated into his music.

He also loved to put drama in his music, and that point was made clear on his last album, Blackstar, which deals with the subject of death, as Bowie seemed to write about his own ending in the same theatrical style he’d always loved.

Rock and Roll History – Jazz Musician Ron Aprea Talks about Recording with John Lennon

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About this Episode

Ron Aprea’s jazz album pays tribute to John Lennon and the Beatles

Having played with some of the greats on the big band scene, saxophonist Ron Aprea has carved out a long and successful career as a jazz musician. He has also been part of rock and roll history as one of a small group of horn players to record with John Lennon on the former Beatle’s 1974 Walls and Bridges album.

In this interview with Robert Neil, Aprea talks about his recent tribute album to Lennon and the Beatles as well as what it was like to record with Lennon (including a story about Lennon photocopying his face). Notably, Aprea’s album features a version of “Imagine,” where he is joined by trumpeter Steve Madaio, one of the other original musicians from the Walls and Bridges sessions. (More information about Aprea and his album can be found at RonAprea.com.)

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