Monday, March 29, 2010

"Rock And Roll Ain't Gonna Die"

What makes a rock and roll musician iconic? Is it their catalog of music? Their live performances? What they say in interviews? Or is it the way they are portrayed in photographs? I’m going to go with all of the above but I think the fourth answer could be the most important. Since most of us have never and will never meet our favorite musicians we have to rely on other peoples’ photographs to give us some kind of perception of what these people are like. Although what we are really getting is the photographer’s viewpoint through their lense, at least it’s something.

Famous rock and roll photographer Jim Marshall died last night at the age of 74. We have lost someone whose photos of music icons like Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix are so renowned that you’ve probably seen them before and didn’t know they were taken by Marshall. Whether they were made into posters seen in college houses (i.e. the black and white image of Cash giving the camera his middle finger) or used in blogs (i.e. the black and white of Hendrix I used on March 16) his photos are everywhere. And for good reason. He was brilliant.

I think one of the reasons I admire Marshall so much, other than his amazing images, is that he reminds me of my Father. My parents' house in Miami is decorated with decade's worth of photos my Dad took of everyone including Elton John, Michael Jackson (one from the 70s when he was black and one from the 90s when he was white), Mariah Carey, Bruce Springsteen, John Denver, Willie Nelson and many more. His photos are great and it’s very cool to be able to say that my parents have seen and/or met these music legends.

When I saw Billy Joel and Elton John with my best friend Carly I was adamant about taking the best possible photos I could of the two piano men. I figured it was the only time I would ever have the chance to see them and that I had better get some good photos to give to my parents and to Carly. We recently found out that Joel and John cancelled the rest of their tour. I guess it will be awhile before anyone is taking their photo again.

Although Marshall is gone and both the world of photography and the world of rock and roll have suffered an enormous loss his images aren’t going anywhere and neither is his legacy. There will never be another Jim Marshall but hopefully he will continue to inspire photographers to do great things and take unforgettable photographs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Best New Guitarist: Orianthi

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post since I saw the rehearsal footage in Michael Jackson’s This Is It movie. The blonde, badass guitarist he hired blew me away so I did some research. Turns out her name is Orianthi; a 24-year-old from Australia who picked up the electric guitar at age 11. Her influences are guitar greats like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Cream and Santana, along with some of my favorite 80s metal bands including Whitesnake, Van Halen and Def Leppard. I knew I liked this girl!

In the last few years Orianthi has performed onstage with Carrie Underwood at the 2009 Grammy Awards, opened for Steve Vai, and traded solos with Carlos Santana. After seeing her perform with Underwood, MJ called Orianthi with an offer for her to be his guitarist for his dates at the O2 Arena in London.

Although the tour never happened, This Is It is worth watching just to see this girl shred her guitar. When she played Eddie Van Halen’s solo for “Beat It” my jaw hit the ground. I knew we hadn’t seen the last of her.

At the end of 2009, Orianthi released her debut album called Believe on which she writes, sings and leads her band all by herself. If you happen to catch her video you might mistake her for Avril Lavigne when she sings but then all of the sudden you hear her play guitar and you would swear it was Slash. Seriously. And I don’t make Slash comparisons lightly. So don’t adjust your televisions or radios; Avril Lavigne did not learn how to play guitar that well and no, Slash isn’t guest guitaring on a new pop single. It's just that we're seeing the best new female guitarist of our generation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lady Gaga and Beyonce Raise The Bar For Music Videos

Have you see the new video for the song “Telephone” featuring Lady Gaga and Beyonce? Wow! In an age where music videos are all but an afterthought, two of current music’s most dynamic women get together and turn out one of the most exciting videos I’ve seen in very long time.

A few observations:

-Those are some badass convicts!
-Was that jail sequence a deleted scene from Chicago?
-Running almost 10 minutes long it’s like a combination of Madonna’s 80s flick Who’s That Girl, Thelma and Louise and Kill Bill.
-In fact, was that Beyonce bailing Gaga out of jail and driving off in the P***y Wagon from Kill Bill???
-Did Gaga really just debut a pair of sunglasses made entirely of cigarettes? Your move, Elton John!
-This video is full of black leather, skulls and makeup that would make Motley Crue blush.
-Beyonce saying the word “motherf*****” like she means it? Never thought I’d see the day!
-The costumes, colors and cleavage are out of control!
-All of the colorful subtitles make me feel like I’m watching VH-1’s Pop-Up Video.
-The video ends with “To be continued…” and I’ve never been so excited for a sequel!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shaun White: Pioneer Or Pain In The Ass?

Why Shaun White is one of the most exciting athletes of our generation:

-He became a pro snowboarder at age 13, an age when other kids are getting braces and worrying about cliques at a middle school dance.
-He was mentored by Tony Hawk.
-He loves rock & roll.
-He brought snowboarding into living rooms all over the world.
-When he’s on a snowboard he defies gravity and it really is something to see.
-In a sport full of egos and entourages White does his own thing.
-He’s a competitor above everything else.
-He seems to be humble regardless of his massive success.

Why Shaun White is incredibly annoying:

-If I read the words “Double McTwist” one more time I’m going to double mctwist his face.
-He says he doesn’t want to talk about snowboarding in interviews. Really Shaun? Then what the hell were you doing at the Olympics?
-He thinks Slash doesn’t want to talk about guitars.
-For a guy who has won gold for Team USA twice he doesn’t come off as a team player at all.
-He needs a new publicist – when every other word out of your mouth is “rad” it gets old.
-That hair needs to be cut immediately.
-He says he doesn’t want people to think about snowboarding when they see his face. How is that even possible?
-He can’t stop talking about how he has trouble relaxing. Find a great view and have a glass of wine Shaun…it works.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jimi and MJ: New Releases and Big Bucks in 2010

The last few days have prompted me to ask an age-old question: Are musicians worth more after they die? Arguably the greatest guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix died on September 18, 1970 at the age of 27. The circumstances of his death are a little shaky but most believe that he died as a result of taking too many sleeping pills.

Hendirx was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and Rolling Stone named him the top guitarist on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all-time in 2003. There is no question that Hendrix made his mark on music history with songs like “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” “The Wind Cries Mary” and one of my favorites “Foxey Lady.” In addition, who can forget when he set his guitar on fire at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival in San Francisco? Even if you weren’t there you’ve seen the footage. It’s an iconic image for sure. Pop culture has also immortalized him from Dana Carvey’s unforgettable interpretive dance in Wayne’s World to Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes arguing about who can hear Jimi in White Men Can’t Jump.

Recently, Hendrix pulled a Tupac/Biggie and released a new record 40 years after his death called Valleys Of Neptune. The title song is classic Jimi- raw guitar accompanied by his strong but melodic voice. He’s never sounded so good. And who can resist lyrics like this:

I see visions of sleeping peaks
erupting ...
releasing all hell that
will shake the Earth from end to end --
And this ain’t bad news, good news,
or any news ... it’s just the truth,
Better save your souls while
you can --

I also love “Ships Passing Through the Night.” I never thought I’d hear new Jimi Hendrix material in my lifetime but this stuff is really, really great. It actually gives me chills.

The album also includes an instrumental cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of your Love” along with some of his older songs such as “Fire” and “Stone Free” but most of the disc is new material. Shocking and awesome at the same time since Hendrix is one of my top five favorite artists of all time.

In other posthumous news, eight months after his June 25, 2009 death (at age 50) from “acute propofol intoxication,” Michael Jackson is making headlines again but this time it’s for a record deal. But not just any a record deal, a $250 million recording contract that Sony and Jackson’s estate say is the most lucrative recording contract in music industry history. With 10 albums over seven years, the deal will involve a mix of previously unreleased songs and new packages of familiar ones. New songs? Really? The guy has been dead since 2009!

Since MJ’s death, Sony has sold an estimated 31 million of his albums globally which is no surprise considering how many fans he has and how many people were affected by his death. For weeks MTV paid tribute to MJ by playing his videos and every media outlet across America was talking about the singer. This Is It grossed $34.4 million in its first five days of release and has become the world’s highest-grossing concert film of all time. By the first anniversary of MJ’s death, his estate expects to have earned $250 million from sales of music, merchandise and tickets to This Is It.

Both Jimi and MJ are on a roll and it’s just too bad that they are not here to enjoy it. Although they were very different musicians with very different styles people were drawn to them. There are kids all over the world who pick up the guitar and try to emulate Jimi while those same kids could be putting on a sequined glove and trying to dance like the King of Pop. We could argue all day about whether death makes musicians more valuable but the fact is that while they were around they struck a chord and it was so loud that many generations are still feeling it and will continue to feel it. Can you hear Jimi and MJ? I definitely can.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Thoughts on Survivor Season 20: Villains vs. Heroes

-It’s been at least six years since I’ve watched this show but the parts that kept my interest for the first few years are still there: the nutjob castaways and the creative challenges.
-I first started watching because my aunt, uncle and cousin enjoyed the show so much that they demanded I watch it. They were right.
-I decided to tune in to Season 20 because I heard that some of the fun characters would be back including Rob (2nd place in All-Stars season), Rupert, Jerri and Colby (second place in Australia season).
-These favorites are back in their “character” uniforms with Rob sporting his Boston Red Sox hat, Rupert wearing his tie-dye tank top, Jerri showing off her Australian hat and Colby wearing his pretty smile.
-All four of them were on the All-Stars season and this is their third time playing the game.

-In addition to featuring the Survivor favorites, the cast also includes a few former winners and a few former 2nd placers such as:

-JT – won Tocantins season
-Tom – won Palau season
-Amanda – second place twice, in the China season and the Fans vs. Favorites season
-Sandra – won Pearl Islands season
-Parvati – won Fans vs. Favorites

-Everyone on this show has done Survivor before. They know the drill.
-They all have big egos and are not afraid to run their mouths which makes it even more fun.
-Another aspect of Survivor that’s great is the host, Jeff Probst. He does not put up with any of the players’ bullshit and is king of the play-by-plays.
-He has even won two Emmys for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program.

-Although Survivor is not nearly as popular as it once was (the Australia season pulled in 30 million viewers) I think Season 20 should make for some exciting TV. Since Survivor (and arguably the Real World) is responsible for bringing reality TV into our lives it is fair to either love it or hate it.
-Either way, these people work their asses off physically and mentally to win $1 million and the twists and turns are always exciting to watch.
-Here’s hoping that the 20th anniversary is something to celebrate.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


-I love Neil Patrick Harris – no one has more charisma and talent.
-I would watch Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin boil water.
-Seeing Martin and Baldwin point out the elephant in the room with both James Cameron and his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow earning Best Director nominations was awesome. Especially since Bigelow was sitting behind Cameron…
-Why did George Clooney look so angry after the hosts recognized Jeff Bridges for his Best Actor nomination?
-Penelope Cruz should wear that shade of red every day.
-So glad the theme song from Crazy Heart won. P.S. Could T-Bone Burnett be any taller?
-The trip down John Hughes memory lane was tremendous. Listening to Ally Sheedy, Matthew Broderick, etc. pay tribute to the movie man of the 80’s was something to remember.
-Unfortunately Macaulay Culkin looked like hell.
-Ben Stiller: on top of his game as always.
-Queen Latifah has come a long way since playing a lesbian/criminal in Set It Off. She looked stunning.
-Sigourney Weaver should also wear that shade of red on a daily basis.
-Hey Twilight kids: It would be impossible for the two of you to be any more boring.
-I literally laughed out loud when they showed Martin and Baldwin in Snuggies. HI-larious!
-How many actors does it take to present the award for Best Actor? Five big names paying their respects to five other big names. Very cool. Very very cool.
-Could Kate Winslet be more of a class act?
-Bridges’ speech included phrases like “groovy profession” when describing show business and he thanked the members of his cast such as “Bobby Duvall.” The way he honored his parents and family put a smile on my face and I’m not sure who was more excited for him, his wife or Maggie Gyllenhaal. Congrats to a fabulous actor in a fabulous movie.
-Gabourey Sidibe looked so happy to be there. It was refreshing.
-Good for Sandra Bullock! Her comedic timing is impeccable and I love that she is married to a badass like Jesse James. She deserves this award and she got it.
-I cannot believe that neither a woman nor a black man has ever won Best Director….until this year. Congrats to Kathryn Bigelow!
-And congrats to Tom Hanks for keeping it short and sweet.
-Everyone assumed Avatar was going to clean up at the Oscars this year but it was Kathryn Bigelow double fisting statues at the end of the night. A job well done for The Hurt Locker.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Southland: Not Your Average Cop Show

If you’re thinking that Southland is just another dime a dozen cop show think again. Shot in gritty, Traffic and Erin Brockovich-era Steve Soderbergh lighting, Southland is a drama that’s heavy on the action. The show, which moved to TNT after NBC cancelled its second season, is shot in L.A. – and not in the pretty parts. These cops contend with drug dealers, gang violence, rapists and bloody bodies on the side of the road.

This show is no joke which is interesting considering two of the main characters got their starts on teen soaps – Ben McKenzie who played Ryan on The O.C. and Michael Cudlitz who played Tony on 90210. (Don’t kid yourself, I loved those shows). There is also Regina King who began her career on 80’s sitcom 227 and later as Cuba Gooding Jr. mouthy wife in Jerry Maguire.

One interesting aspect of the show is that all expletives are bleeped out, as if we are watching a reality cop show. It speaks to the parts of the show that are handled like a documentary and is surprisingly not distracting. Something that is distracting is the number of characters – too many cops with too many storylines. The writers should just stick with the most interesting characters (including McKenzie, Cudlitz and King) and expand their storylines.

In this week’s second season premiere, we find out that Detective Lydia Adams’ (King) partner survived being shot by his neighbor for no discernable reason and that Officer Chickie Brown’s (Arija Bareikis) alcoholic partner went to rehab. She of course is catching a ton of flack for putting him there but after being thrust into a massive riot and surviving, it turns out she’s one of the bigger bad asses on the squad. Meanwhile Ben Sherman (McKenzie ) runs down an addict parolee who has kidnapped an elderly man. We also see a brutal jail stabbing and Adams crying over her hospitalized/may not be coming back to work partner.

Southland still has some growing to do but after a superb first season, the second season is kicking off with the same intensity. The actors are believable and the plot holds the audience’s interest. I'm hoping that Southland and TNT will stick together for a long time and continue to raise the bar for cop dramas on all networks.