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Album Review Johnny Cash American IV: The Man Comes Around

Posted on December 29, 2016 by Daniel Lombardy | 0 Comments

 

True genius, whether understated or bombastic, is almost universally seeded in torment. Human nature’s favorite personal quality lies in redemption, in the comeback, in staring down demons and arriving at full circle beaten and scathed, yet somehow still standing. It’s virtually impossible to achieve your personal penultimate moment without having been torn asunder by the trial by fire that is life, and it is at this moment where we separate the average from the great. Johnny Cash’s ride through this whirlwind was more colorful than most. His trials were huge, his ability unmatched, his penchant for massive, overreaching contradiction unrivaled. Cash’s well documented torment is buried in contradiction, and the fact that he was intelligent enough to fully understand it made the underlying pain that much worse. It’s much easier to be a bastard when you don’t know any better. It’s a hell of a lot easier to essentially abandon a wife and four children in favor of truckloads of dope and miles of tempting p*ssy if you do not carry an ingrained Religious and spiritual background. It’s these mitigating factors that ripped Cash apart internally but also made him shine professionally, carried by an overpowering sense of heartbreaking sentimentality to combat the Outlaw. The scope of genius in art is rooted in motivational sorrow. In short, Johnny Cash BECAME a legend because he was a straight up son-of-a-bitch.

Cash found redemption long before “American IV.” The last record released before his death, “American IV” is not the sound of a man suddenly realizing his life is a waste with few stitches of time to redeem it. “American IV” is not arguably Cash’s greatest studio recording because he suddenly came to terms with himself. Its transcendent greatness favors understatement over bombast, a bleak sense of rawness chronicling a lifetime of contradiction, 60 years of torment delivered bare by a still beautifully baritone d but now shaky throat. It may be ironic that an album mostly full of covers can be the ultimate detail of Cash’s life, his final great act and ride into the sunset, but its overpowering sentimentality and the song choices suit his life and mood while recording it better than possible anywhere else. This album IS Johnny Cash, and while he didn’t write the majority of it, the subject matter of the songs and the manner in which they are executed deliver an unmatched correlation to just who the hell he was, and more importantly, where he was mentally while facing impending death.



It’s entirely ironic the deeply spiritual Cash’s epitaph was written by an industrial metal legend who is not only an atheist but holds a deep seeded, burning contempt for religion. The concept of Johnny Cash successful pulling off “Hurt” seems like utter madness on the surface, but owing to his mastery of contradiction the execution of the song and it’s soul-ripping theme of everything eventually turning to dust is so utterly gorgeous and deeply transcendent it can legitimately be considered the greatest cover song in the history of music. Classic songs like “Desperado,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Personal Jesus,” and “In My Life” have always resonated deeply with people, every one of them about troubled souls finally grasping redemption and nostalgically reflecting back on it just before it’s too late. It’s not that Cash’s versions are better than the originals, it’s the way he makes them his own, his life experience installing an overpowering sense of legitimacy to the themes, his lifetime of contradiction delivered raw by that soothing voice. The same man who sympathized with both prisoners and their victims, all while fully deserving to BE in Folsom Prison is the perfect option to deliver this canvas of acceptance tinged with a subtle hint of desperation. You’ll hear the pangs of a lifetime of duality in the morose double meaning of “I Hung My Head.” You can hear the fear in Johnny’s voice throughout, yet he’s still there in sunshine and in shadows, just when you think he might cower in the face of impending mortality he stands tallest.

More than anything, “American IV” is about that acceptance of the past, about grasping redemption with pride, still feeling the raging pangs of fear but facing that sh*t head on. Johnny’s tired voice was one of the most powerful of its time, but now this old man’s baritone frequently cracks and quivers like a teenager, fully cementing the album’s theme of coming full circle. One of Cash’s greatest moments, “The Man Comes Around” happens at the onset of his epitaph. A song detailing faith, the Rapture, the co-mingling of saints and sinners in the face of God, it’s the perfect accompaniment for what Johnny wanted to tell us. His time was up, but damn it if he wasn’t finally ready for it. by (BigHans). You can get the Album here: Johnny Cash American IV: The Man Comes Around.

 

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Album Spotlight Elvis: The '68 Comeback Special Deluxe Edition DVD

Posted on December 29, 2016 by Daniel Lombardy | 0 Comments

When in June 1968 Elvis Presley made a television special to be aired in December of the same year, he accomplished two things. He saved his career, and he made the best music of his life. Wearing a black leather suit as if he were born in it-Elvis sang his old songs, but they did not sound old. Suddenly there were fewer songs than events-where anything could happen, where everything did. The discs that make up this DELUXE EDITION are a treasure chest of that moment: The Complete Original Broadcast plus three-and-a-half hours of BONUS MATERIAL - a total of 7 hours of material.

DELUXE EDITION FEATURES: 3 DVD set, over 7 hours of material Includes the original 1968 broadcast version of The Special plus over 3 1/2 hours of previously unseen material  Outtakes, false starts, alternate stagings of the skits and dramatized musical numbers  IF I CAN DREAM - Special music video combining white-suit finale with black-leather performance footage  Deluxe booklet with historical text and never-before-seen photos and memorabilia THE LITTLE THEATER - Essay by Greil Marcus

 

Disc 1 (Running time: 2:40:49)

  • Available for the first time, the original ELVIS television special as it aired on NBC on December 3, 1968
  • For the first time, both BLACK LEATHER SIT-DOWN SHOWS in their entirety featuring jam sessions with original band-mates Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana, and friends
Disc 2 (Running time 1:42:32)
  • For the first time, both BLACK LEATHER STAND-UP SHOWS in their entirety featuring Elvis performing solo on stage
  • IF I CAN DREAM - bonus music video created for this DVD
  • Available for the first time in its complete, raw form, used and unused takes:
    • TROUBLE / GUITAR MAN opening
    • IF I CAN DREAM show closer
    • "Huh-huh-huh" promotional tag for the television special - all takes
Disc 3 (Running time 2:51:27)
  • Available for the first time in its complete, raw form, used and unused takes:
    • Gospel production number
    • GUITAR MAN production number

Product Details:

  • Format: DVD
  • Dolby Digital
  • Region: NTSC
  • Running time: 440 min
  • Studio: RCA, BMG
  • Printed in USA

You can buy the Album here: Elvis: The '68 Comeback Special Deluxe Edition DVD

 

 

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Album Review If I Can Dream Elvis Presley with The London Philharmonic Orchestra

Posted on December 28, 2016 by Daniel Lombardy | 0 Comments

There have been several attempts at an Elvis Presley remix album, none of which have worked. This one does! The songs don't and were never intended to replace the original masters, nothing ever could, but to my ears Sony Music have succeeded where others have failed - they have produced an album that while remaining faithful to the style that was Elvis Presley, have created a new listening experience.

And this is what the album is, a new listening experience, not a replacement of his body of work.

And importantly it is an album. One that Elvis would have - could have - gone into the studio to cut.

It is cohesive.

With the newly recorded backing the songs sound and feel like they were recorded together, not years apart as of course they are, and normally do sound like. So overall there is the feeling of completeness.

Yet there is still a whole lot of Elvis. The Royal Philharmonic compliments Elvis and doesn't override him. In a few cases where there is something very different and pronounced it is brief, like the opening to 'Burning Love'.

Burning Love

The album kicks off with a unique opening to 'Burning Love'. My very first observation was that this was clever, although overall I didn't much like the track -- but by my third listen I loved it.

It is by far the most different of all the tracks here, a very powerful rock song and very much a 'new' song.

It's Now Or Never

'It's Now Or Never' is second and while it is much closer to the original than 'Burning Love' it really is a wonderful new recording. What strikes me as I sit here now and listen to this song is how I stop and listen to the music, it compliments the recording and I never feel, 'why was that put there'. I listen in awe like I have never done before.

Love Me Tender

Moving gently into 'Love Me Tender' the opening is very different; until Elvis starts singing then the feel is much the same as the original except now overall it now sounds like a modern recording, fuller and of course stereo. The stings really compliment this song, I think perhaps more than on any other track on this CD.

Fever

This track has taken me many plays to appreciate it. I have never been a fan of Michael Bublé - nor had/have a positive few of 'virtual' duets with Elvis (in the words of Waylon Jennings when asked to duet with Elvis on the 'Guitar Man' Album, 'Call Elvis', I told them. 'If it's okay with Elvis, it's okay with me', but after several listens, getting used to his vocal, I like it, it is different, it compliments the overall album, it fits. Also I think that the producers got it right using a male vocal because to me Michael Bublé's vocal is more in keeping with the overall sound than (I suspect) if they had used a female vocal, or even a more 'pretty' male vocal the track. It would have sounded too individual. I could be wrong but this is what occurs to me.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

'Bridge Over Troubled Water' up next and there is no troubled water here. This is a perfect track for this project. Perhaps the song is not 'improved' but it is as powerful and enjoyable as ever. So it is a case of the Royal Philharmonic complimenting it perfectly.

And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind

'And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind' has always struck me as something that is both special - so unique - and much under utilized in the many re-releases over the years. The producers seem to agree with me as the new overdubs on this track are very subtle leaving the track very close to the original, yet with a nice new ending. A case of less is more. Listen EASY!!!

You've Lost That Loving Feeling

'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' is another that is so well suited to this project. And this track is unreal. I can just see Elvis on stage - in London - backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, what an event that would have been!! So no I haven't lost that loving feeling for this song, this is very nice.

If all things were equal then either 'Bridge' or 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' could have been the albums title track but 'If I Can Dream' is so much more marketable!

 

There's Always Me

'There's Always Me', a favorite of Don Reedman, the albums co-producer. This track does not really work for me but the ending is powerful and i think most will like this track.

Can't Help Falling In Love

Another great choice for this project. Sound wise the Royal Philharmonic compliments it nicely.

In The Ghetto

'In The Ghetto' was always perfectly produced to begin with, so they have done well not to have impacted negatively here I think. A nice track, as strong as ever.

How Great Thou Art

How great thou art indeed. What a wonderful re-working of the original. Essentially it makes the song more a balance between Elvis and the music, whereas the original was more Elvis which was fine for a gospel album, but as a single track or as part of a mixed album like this, this works so much better. Perhaps you will disagree, but this is what occurs to me while listening. I think this recording will see a ton of people appreciating Elvis' gospel as never before.

Steamroller Blues

'Steamroller Blues' is well done, it does steamroll along. I like 'What Now My Love' more, as used on the delux box set, but this is because I like that song better anyway, for Elvis' unbelievable vocal. Importantly I would think the producers wanted to inject something more up-tempo and not another big ballad - for album balance.

An American Trilogy

Another album highlight is 'An American Trilogy' and here we have a new 'studio' recording with no noticeable audience (as are all the live tracks on this album). Very nice indeed, different but as powerful as ever.

If I Can Dream

'If I Can Dream' is well chosen as the title track.

The new recording is very true to the original and a great way to close.

Conclusion

I have listened to this album five times now, and each time has bought a new level of appreciation for the recording - one I (certainly hope) that will bring Elvis into the CD players, play-lists, or even turntables of a new generation of fans. And the charts! As for existing fans, we know there are so many dying to give this CD a go.

Overall 9.5/10

The booklet is perfect. There are no long winded liner notes, instead there are three short notes, one from executive producer Priscilla Presley, and one each from the two co-producers. All are interesting and to the point. And they have chosen some wonderful photos for this release, as you know already from the cover.

So overall, a great release. You can get the Album here. Elvis If I Can Dream

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Album Review The Wonder Of You Elvis Presley

Posted on December 27, 2016 by Daniel Lombardy | 0 Comments


 

 

The Wonder of You Elvis Presley album is truly a worthy successor to last year's If I Can Dream Elvis Presley  First off the sound is magnificent and Elvis' voice is really upfront. The backings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are innovative and brought right up to date. Again, Elvis is featured singing in many musical genres including rock, country, pop and gospel.

The album opens with an Elvis classic from the 1950's A Big Hunk o' Love  which rocks along magnificently with the help of the RPO who give it a really innovative opening. Then comes I've Got A Thing About You Baby  which is not a very well known track by Elvis but it is given a really upbeat treatment here, especially with the drums, and is great to dance to. This is followed by perhaps Elvis' most loved song ' Suspicious Minds' which is given a new string arrangement here. Elvis' voice never sounded clearer or upfront. Next up is another 50's track with the young Elvis singing one of his classic ballads. The arrangement is great and it is amazing how brilliant Elvis' voice sounds after all these years. This is followed by another Elvis favorite 'I Just Can't Help Believing' which was recorded 'live' for the personal appearance film 'Elvis, That's The way It Is' in 1970. A truly beautiful song written and sung originally by B.J. Thomas. Elvis has never sounded better with the RPO string section coming very much to the fore towards the latter part of the song. Next, comes another Elvis fan favorite, and certainly one of mine, 'Just Pretend'. Nothing need be said about this track as it is magnificent.

Then we have the classic Ketty Lester track 'Love Letters'. Elvis sang two versions of this love song - one in the 60's and one in the 70's. It is the 70's string version which is used here but the RPO strings bring it bang up to date. 'Starting Today' is a song about lost love and again not a very well known song from his album 'Something For Everybody'. It is beautifully sung by Elvis in that soft falsetto voice he used often in the 1960's. This is what makes this album special - the different voices Elvis could conjure up at will. 'Kentucky Rain' is up next and a country track which Elvis sang in Vegas during the early 70's. Another great track and one really liked many many DJ's. All of Elvis' songs tell a story and this one is no different.

'Memories' was recorded during Elvis' 1968 NBC TV Special known as his Comeback Special. He looked magnificent in his black leather suit and sang this song sitting down on the edge of the stage with fans. A beautiful song reminiscing about days gone by. 'Let It Be Me' is another live recording from his early Vegas years and is most famously associated with The Everly Brothers. Elvis puts his heart and soul into this love song and it shows. 'Always On My Mind' follows and many believe that this song was sung by Elvis with Priscilla in mind. Beautifully sung and the RPO give it that extra touch to improve on the original. The album ends with the title track 'The Wonder Of You' again another 'live' track from Vegas1970 and this is classic Elvis with a 50's sounding ballad. It's a knockout. Apparently, according to Priscilla Presley, when Elvis sang the song he was referring to the glory of God. I Love these albums with the RPO as they bring the sound and arrangements bang up to date. A big well done to all those involved. Finally, if one buys the download version of this album you get an extra 'bonus' track of a Duet of 'Just Pretend' with German singer Helene Fischer. Personally, I think it is fantastic and has been mixed amazingly well. (F. B. Quinn). You can learn more about the Album here The Wonder Of You

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Duke Ellington on problem solving

Posted on December 01, 2015 by Daniel Lombardy | 0 Comments

"A problem is a chance for you to do your best." ---Duke Ellington

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