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Location: La Mirada, California, United States

All original content on RickSpeak is the intellectual property of Rickspeak.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Random Thoughts On The Grammys And Music

I love conversing about music as much as anything in life so I will add my 2 cents about last week’s Grammy Awards show.

Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys were a great pairing, almost a passing of the torch, one could surmise. I am a fan of Coldplay and they are a good band, but their latest offering, X & Y was partly very inspired and partly very insipid. They have reached a crossroads in their career.

John Legend is the real deal.

People are excited about Kelly Clarkson, and I am a rabid fan of American Idol since season 3, which means I missed Clarkson's rise to the top, but she is a manufactured pop star so I will be curious to see how long her career will last.

Paul McCartney's last three records are definitely worth checking out, despite what "mainstream" critics have written about "Driving Rain" and "Flaming Pie". Are they "Abbey Road"? Of course not, but they are relevant and reveal a portrait of an artist coming to terms with aging while fighting to remain viable in pop music culture, particularly with "Chaos and Creation..." And, in the end, all three records provide good pop songs that appeal to the ear, unless you are a jaded, aging music critic. Sir Paul McCartney still wants to fill the world with not so silly pop songs and what’s wrong with that?

Mariah Carey. Yes, there is quite a lot of "fluff" in her catalogue, but when she decides to perform, she is truly captivating, and I think her performance was the highlight of the evening.

Fantasia I think is better suited for Broadway rather than pop. Her performance of Gershwin’s "Summertime" on American Idol still gives me shivers. It was real and it was moving.

I Loved the whole Jay-Z, Linken Park and Paul McCartney thing. Just good rock'n'rap fun. Later Paul blows us away with a surprising and frenetic rendition of “Helter Skelter”!

I was not a big Bruce Springsteen fan for a long time, until I saw him perform at the L.A. Coliseum back in 1987 when I was still in college. He was one of two artists whose concerts I have attended that had total command of the audience, the other being Peter Gabriel.

Check out the following records by "The Boss": “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, which came out in 1978 when punk began to take hold. The record stands up to punk with its own dark and intense desperation with songs like "Adam Raised A Cain" and "Candy's Room" (another song that gives me shivers just thinking about it). This record is not for the faint of heart. It survived in its time because it had a punk rock attitude filtered through an angry palooka from New Jersey.

The other Springsteen record to investigate is Nebraska, in which he channels the spirits of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan and makes a folk record that stands with the best of what Guthrie and Dylan were able to achieve.

Kanye (“George Bush doesn't care about black people.”) West has a chip on his shoulder that, I believe, is manufactured by the rapper. However, if it can continue to motivate, more power to him. I doubt that it can.

Rap is not a live medium. Since the recording studio is the most important instrument in Rap music, it rarely translates well live. The Cars had the same problem. Impeccably produced Roy Thomas Baker records that, for whatever reasons, did not translate well live.

Christina Aguilera. Unlike Mariah and Whitney, she seems to challenge herself artistically more than the other two. Imagine an entire record of Mariah Carey's that had the artistic merit of "Hero"! I guess that is why Madonna was so interesting for nearly two decades. She wanted to be both an entertainer and an artist and she succeeded to a certain extent (“Oh, Father” could have easily been a John Lennon song). I think now she is struggling to be a viable force in the world of pop music and I don't think she is winning.

Finally, musicians get better as they get older. Some five years or so ago, I and a buddy of mine had the opportunity to see John Lee Hooker and Ike Turner perform at the Carpenter Music Hall at Long Beach State (proud alumni - class of 1988 - Go Dirtbags!).

Although Mr. Hooker had to sit during his performance and it was obvious he was not in good health (I think he passed within a year of this show), but when he started keeping time with his foot and began strumming his guitar, the magic that keeps all musicians eternally young swept over him and damned if he did not wow the audience. What a privilege it was to see him live.

Ike Turner amazed me with both his guitar playing and his blues voice. I had only really known him for his R&B music with Tina Turner, but his blues performance was a pleasant surprise. The man still has the "It" factor. He also gave a command performance that evening.

One final thought, the Grammy big all-star jam that featured Sly Stone was odd as he walked off stage in the middle of the performance. They should just leave the poor man alone as it is obvious, or should be, that he does not want to be a performer any longer.

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