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Rock News Two: The week in pop

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International   |   May 3, 2003 at 3:00 AM   |   Comments

SPIN: COURTNEY LOVE QUEEN OF SLEAZE

Spin Magazine's June cover story, "75 Sleazy Moments In Rock," is a full-fledged safari through pop music's grimy side. Over the past few years, the piece argues, sleaze has become increasingly public, on TV, in our living rooms, practically sitting on our laps. We no longer have to imagine what Michael Jackson is doing at the Neverland Ranch, because now he's telling 27 million viewers that they should sleep in the same bed with random little boys just like he does. With lists ranging from "20 Sleazy Rock Moments" to "The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Sleaze" and playlists from the nation's finest gentlemen's establishments, Spin counts 75 sleazy moments sprinkled generously throughout the issue. Spin's Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Sleaze is topped by Courtney Love, followed by Ike Turner, Gene Simmons, R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, Vince Neil, Jimmy Page, Ted Nugent, Sid and Nancy and Christina Aguilera. So where's Madonna?


ALL'S PHAIR

Liz Phair's self-titled new album of 14 brutally candid and clever confessionals is set for release June 24 on Capitol Records. The album's lead single, "Why Can't I," is a wrenching ballad that builds to a climactic chorus. Produced variously by the Matrix, Michael Penn (known as both solo artist and producer to Aimee Mann and the Wallflowers), multi-instrumentalist/studio guru R. Walt Vincent (known for his work with Pete Yorn) and Phair herself, the mix is further heightened by contributions from guests like Dr. Dre bassman (and co-writer/producer of 50 Cent's smash "In Da Club") Mike Elizondo, Smashing Pumpkins/Zwan drummer Matt Chamberlin, Prince and the Revolution/Wendy and Lisa bassist Wendy Melvoin and Pete Yorn (who adds drums and guitar to "H.W.C."). Phair will tour much of the summer in support of her album. In addition to a special acoustic performance on select Flaming Lips dates, she is confirmed on the Field Day festival in New York and the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee. Plans are also in the works for a full band summer tour running from late July through August.


OTHA TURNER REMEMBERED

Little Ruby Pictures and 50 Miles of Elbow Room will present a benefit concert May 24 in New York celebrating the lives and legacies of the late fife and drum master Otha Turner and Bernice Turner Pratcher. The event will feature the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band, the Reigning Sound, Mr. Airplane Man, the Church Keys, Eddie Kirkland, Cooper-Moore, Elliott Sharp, Rasin Okan and Arri Up along with rare films. The event will take place at Sin-e, 150 Attorney St. in the lower East Side.


SOSA SCORES DANCE

Dimensions Dance Theater will celebrate its 30th anniversary May 3 with the production of "From Africa to America: Legacies" at the Calvin Simmons Theater in Oakland. This new large-scale, multidisciplinary work is choreographed by artistic director Deborah Vaughan in collaboration with Cuban composer and pianist Omar Sosa. "Legacies" will explore the artistic traditions of the African Diaspora via "backwards mapping", from Oakland to the Caribbean, to the African interior and the centuries-old tribes of Zimbabwe. "Legacies" began in June 1998, wih various parts of the work having been developed through a series of local and international residencies. The first phase of the choreography, "Between Shores, was developed in 2000, during the company's residency in Cuba. This section of "Legacies" was later workshopped during DDT's 2001 home season. The second phase of the work, "In The Shadows Of Our Ancestors, Mudzimu" (2002), was initiated with the company's residency in Zimbabwe in 2001. This section focused on the mythology central to Zimbabwean life, the role of art in social change, and the many voices of Africa.


SOUND PORTRAITS OF HOME

Three New York City artists -- Toshi Reagon, Everton Sylvester and Gabri Christa -- bring the sounds and flavors of their neighborhoods to the radio in Local Frequencies, a one-hour special to be heard May 2 at 10 p.m. on The Whole Wide World with Rita Houston and Wednesday, May 7 at 8 p.m. during City Folk with Corny O'Connell on WFUV (90.7 FM and wfuv.org). Local Frequencies mixes original music with interviews and ambient sound to create "sonic portraits" of the artist's home and community. Singer-songwriter Toshi Reagon leads an audio tour of the streets of Crown Heights; poet Everton Sylvester, backed by his band Brooklyn Funk Essentials, contrasts roosters in Jamaica with sirens in Bedford-Stuyvesant; dancer, choreographer and teacher Gabri Christa creates a collage of recordings of her high school students on the North Shore of Staten Island, framed with music by Vernon Reid. WFUV's Rita Houston hosts this program of unique sound portraits, produced by Danny Kapilian and commissioned by the New York public arts presenter Creative Time. In addition to the radio broadcasts, the three compositions have been compiled onto a CD, which is being distributed at various sites in the three neighborhoods.


MADONNA IS TOPS

Madonna's "American Life" album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts this week. The Mverick/Warner Bros. album, which earlier debuted at No. 1 in England, sold 241,000 copies in the United States in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The figure revealed the record industry's underlying distress in that Madonna's last album, the 2000 release "Music," sold 420,000 in its first week. "American Life" bested 50 Cent's "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" (Shady/Interscope), the No. 2 album on the chart this week. Kelly Clarkson's RCA debut "Thankful" fell from the top slot to No. 3 in its second week, followed by Linkin Park's "Meteora" (Warner Bros.) and "The Very Best of Cher" (Geffen/MCA/Warner Bros.), Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me" (Blue Note/Capitol), Evanescence's "Fallen" and Fleetwood Mac's "Say You Will" (Warner Bros.).


KING OF NEW ORLEANS

Thousands of music fans stopped traffic in downtown New Orleans Wednesday afternoon in a funeral parade honoring the memory of New Orleans rock 'n' roll and R&B pioneer Earl King. The city's musical elite turned out at Gallier Hall for a funeral service that included performances from Irma Thomas, Deacon John, and Dr. John, highlighted by a version of "Ave Maria" sung by Aaron Neville. After the funeral, members of The Young Men Olympian Association gathered outside the hall with placards depicting King and a brass band began to play the dirge "A Closer Walk With Thee." The men moved slowly down St. Charles Avenue, followed by a group of colorfully attired Mardi Gras Indians, then a larger brass band made up of players from various local brass bands, a large group of "second line" fans and well-wishers including musicians Marcia Ball, Kim Wilson, Tony DeMeur and Paul Cebar. Finally came a black hearse bearing King's coffin drawn by two black horses. The brass bands kicked into celebratory themes as the crowd filed across Canal Street and down North Ramparts to Congo Square, once the site of slave auctions and now a park dedicated to New Orleans' greatest musician, Louis Armstrong. King was buried alongside another New Orleans R&B legend, Ernie K. Doe.


ROBERT CRAY'S 'TIME WILL TELL'

Robert Cray has signed with Sanctuary Records and is putting finishing touches on his new album, "Time Will Tell," set for a July 1 street date. Cray is moving in several new directions with the album. "Time Will Tell" marks the first co-production by Cray with his long-time keyboardist Jim Pugh. Cray's touring band is augmented on the album by featured guest musicians including Sly and the Family Stone's Cynthia Robinson and Jerry Martini on trumpet and sax respectively on "Your Pal," plus the Turtle Island String Quartet, heard on "Up In The Sky" and "Time Makes Two." Luis Conte (Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Arturo Sandoval) contributes percussion. The album was engineered and mixed by Mark Needham (Fleetwood Mac, Michelle Branch, Chris Isaak, Cake.) Cray also recorded for the first time with an electric sitar -- "Up In The Sky." Cray also ventures into politically charged songwriting for the first time with the anti-war songs "Survivor" and "Distant Shore." "We went outside of what people might perceive as our boundaries," Cray said. "Jim Pugh and myself both had a lot of ideas, and we really cut loose. It might be different for us, but it all flowed naturally. Personally, I feel it's one of the best things we've done. And I hope our fans agree when they hear the record."


TAJ MAHAL'S HANAPEPE DREAM

Taj Mahal, who was based in Hawaii from 1981 until 1996, returns to the island sounds of Kauai for the American release of "Hanapepe Dream," his second CD with the Hula Blues. The album, a joint venture between Tone-Cool Records and Mahal's own Kan-Du Records, will be released June 10. The follow up to 1998's acclaimed "Sacred Island," "Hanapepe Dream" has 11 tracks that feature Mahal's all-acoustic string band sound along with his signature slack-key blend of the blues and Pacific-Caribbean music. Album highlights include an extended Hula Blues version of "Blackjack Davey," a song from Mahal's 1974 reggae-infused "Mo Roots" album, and the signature Taj Mahal sound of "Stagger Lee," "All Along the Watchtower," and Mississippi John Hurt's "My Creole Belle." The American release of "Hanapepe Dream" will offer bonus video footage including live performances of "The Calypsonians" and "The New Hula Blues." Following the release, the first Taj Mahal and the Hula Blues U.S. tour will take place during summer, kicking off June 20 in Chicago. "My perspective is cultural and world-based," Mahal said. "It's always been a global perspective. Even in the early days when nobody knew me, they'd go, 'Well, that album is perfect, but what was that calypso song doing on there? What does that got to do with it?' I think that the way music is played (in America), it's terribly narrow cast. I relate to these various traditions that I feel are connected through family, extended family, and influenced by influence."


BLUE SERIES CONTINUUM

The Matthew Shipp-curated Blue Series on Thirsty Ear records is embarking on an ongoing and open-ended project called the Blues Series Continuum. It will focus on a rotating cast of musicians rather than emphasizing leader-driven projects. The Blue Series Continuum aims to incorporate diverse styles that will be encouraged to mingle in unpredictable ways. The inaugural Blue Series Continuum project brings in the production duo GoodandEvil. This production team has worked with a variety of musicians, including Medeski, Martin & Wood and C&C Music Factory. Featured musicians include Shipp on piano, Danny Blume (guitar), Roy Campbell (trumpet), Chris Kelly (guitar, percussion), Alex Lodico (trombone), Miso (turntables), William Parker (bass) and Josh Roseman (trombone).


METALLICA AT FILLMORE

Heavy metal veterans Metallica will play four nights -- May 18, 19, 21 and 22 -- at the Fillmore in San Francisco to preview the band's new album, "St. Anger," and warm up for the summer tour. The shows will be Metallica's first with bass player Robert Trujillo, added from Ozzy Osbourne's band to replace Jason Newsted, who since has filled Trujillo's old spot backing Ozzy. "St. Anger," Metallica's eighth album and follow-up to 1997's "Reload," is due June 10. The next day, as part of its June European outing, the band plans to play three club shows in Paris. After finishing in Europe June 28, the band kicks off the Summer Sanitarium tour with Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and the Deftones on Independence Day.


BONNAROO TAPS DEAD, DYLAN

Bob Dylan, The Dead, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Dave Matthews will co-headline the debut of the Bonnaroo Festival in the Northeast Aug. 8-10 in Riverhead, Long Island. The event will take place on a 2,000-acre site in Enterprise Park at Calverton in Riverhead, N.Y. Tickets go on sale May 7 at Bonnaroo.com. "Bonnaroo NE" will feature two nights of performances by The Dead as well as one shots from Dylan, Petty, Matthews, the North Mississippi All-Stars, Medeski Martin & Wood, String Cheese Incident, Gov't Mule, Ween, Yonder Mountain String Band, moe., Soulive, Rusted Root, Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, Disco Biscuits, X-ecutioners, Yo La Tengo, Talib Kweli, Kings Of Leon, Los Amigos Invisibles, Cut Chemist and Grandaddy, among others.


JAZZFEST DOESN'T STOP

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival officially reopened Thursday but the free MO Fest, sponsored by the Mayor's office, got underway Monday at the Hibernia Pavilion in Woldenberg Park, along the Mississippi River, adjacent to the the French Quarter. The Rites of Swing, Revelation, Linnzi Zaorski and Delta Royale, Kelly Love Jones, Bust featuring Rebecca Barry, Juanita Brooks and the Charmaine Neville Band played Monday. The festival continues Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. with The Pfister Sisters, The Friendly Travelers, Naked on the Floor, Josephine Mills, Big Sam's Funky Nation and Jon Cleary and The Absolute Monster Gentlemen.


SOLOMON BURKE SET FOR HANDY AWARDS

Legendary Solomon "Bishop" Burke will headline the 24th Annual W.C. Handy Blues Awards, the Blues Foundation announced. The Handy Awards, hosted by a trio of seasoned blues artists -- Delbert McClinton, Marcia Ball and Bobby Rush -- will take place May 22 at the historic Orpheum Theater, adjacent to Chicago's world-famous Beale Street in the "Home of the Blues." The event will be telecast on public television in the fall. Burke, recognized for his excellence in blues recording and performing in a career that spans five decades, is nominated for four Handys, including Album of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, Best Contemporary Album and Song of the Year. Burke joins a galaxy of blues talent, including Chicago favorite Magic Slim, McClinton, Corey Harris with legends Bobby Rush and Sam Carr, plus Yugoslavian newcomer Ana Popovic. This year's show also will include a performance from the International Blues Challenge solo and band winners Fiona Boyes and Delta Moon. In a series of events designed to capture the essence of a true and uniquely American art form known as the blues, the Handy Awards kicks-off the "Blues Weekend of the Year," a music festival that continues in the clubs on Beale Street. The Blues Foundation, a non-profit organization established to celebrate blues excellence and preserve the history and culture of the blues, leads the country in celebrating the Year of the Blues.


CASEY KASEM'S TOP 10

Radio and television personality Casey Kasem will issue three new CDs featuring top hits from three decades, the '60s, '70s and '80s, as part of the continuing series "Casey Kasem Presents America's Top Ten Hits." The three titles, "The 60s: Motown's Greatest Hits," "The 70s: Classic Rock's Greatest Hits" and "The 80s: New Wave's Greatest Hits," each will include 20 Top 10 tracks, comprehensive liner notes, artist photos and fun facts about the decade. The discs will be released simultaneously on May 20 through Top Sail Productions, a WEA distributed company. "These CDs contain the hit music that helped shape and define our lives during three significant decades," Kasem said of the new releases. "The unforgettable songs on these collections from Motown's early days, and from the eras of classic rock and new wave are the soundtrack to our lives. They allow us to reminisce and enjoy great music, while reliving some of our most precious memories."


LES NUBIANS

The globetrotting French duo Les Nubians have several national television appearances in the coming weeks in support of the band's latest album, "One Step Forward." The duo will perform the album's first single, "Temperature Rising" with special guest Talib Kweli on NBC's "Last Call with Carson Daly" May 1 and will host the MTV2 "Top Ten Soul Video Countdown" this week. "One Step Forward" (OmTown/Higher Octave), which blends soul, R&B, hip hop, reggae and Afropean rhythms, debuted at No. 79 on the Billboard Top 200, the highest debut of any French language album in more than 20 years.


BOWERY "BAZOOKA!!!"

"Bazooka!!!," the debut album from New York City punk rockers the Star Spangles, will be released Aug. 19 on Capitol Records. The quartet also will support New Zealand's Datsuns on their May and June U.S. tour dates. Formed in suburban upstate New York, the Star Spangles moved to New York's lower east side, playing their first gig atop the Gershwin Hotel in 1998. Wearing the Carnaby Street-worthy threads they've worn since age 14 but rejecting offers for fashion spreads in glossy magazines, the Star Spangles were stylish but never fashionable. Recorded when they were still in their late teens and finished off in the bedroom of Ramones producer Daniel Rey, "Bazooka!!!" is filled with raw chords and raw nerves. The album has two covers: "Crime of the Century," a Johnny Thunders/Wayne Kramer song from an old Gang War bootleg, and "I'll Get Her Back," which was called "I Want You Back" when the Hoodoo Gurus did it in 1983. The Star Spangles have already completed three U.K. tours and have released two singles overseas.

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