Rock News: Music's high and low notes

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International   |   Oct. 10, 2002 at 3:00 AM
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Les Claypool's Frog Brigade kicked off an extensive U.S. tour this week at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento, Calif., as "Purple Onion" entered the Billboard charts. Released on Claypool's own Prawn Song Records, the new album is one of the Top 200 selling albums nationwide in its first week out, and ranks among the Top 15 independent releases. The tour and chart success comes on the heels of critical praise for "Purple Onion," the first studio album of Claypool's solo career. Tour dates have been announced through the Nov. 24 performance in Minneapolis.


Celine Dion, Shakira, The Dixie Chicks and Cher head the list of divas celebrated on "Divas Las Vegas," set for Oct. 21 release on Epic records. The collection was taken from the fifth annual "VH1 Divas Live," where leading female voices from a variety of musical genres came together for a high-voltage night. Dion, Shakira, The Dixie Chicks and Cher performed at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas May 23. Anastacia and Stevie Nicks joined them on stage. Collectively, these artists have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. The past four "VH1 Divas" specials are among the top five highest-rated broadcasts in VH1's history.

A portion of the proceeds from this compact disc/DVD will benefit the VH1 Save The Music Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of education in America's public schools by restoring music programs and by raising public awareness about the importance of music participation for our nation's youth. Since 1997, VH1 Save The Music has provided more than $21 million in instruments to 900 public schools in 75 cities, an endeavor that has delivered musical instruction to 400,000 elementary school students.


Heavy Metal geezers Saxon are celebrating 21 albums and 23 years in the heavy metal business with "Heavy Metal Thunder," out Oct. 15 on SPV Music. Rather than assemble a greatest hits package the British rockers have gone back and selected some of their favorite songs and re-recorded them on disc one. Disc two features five tracks recorded in San Antonio, Texas, in early 2002, as well as a video track for "Killing Ground" recorded at the 2001 Wacken Open-Air Festival.


WFUV New York disc jockey Claudia Marshall has an exclusive interview with James Taylor which airs this week. Taylor spoke with Marshall for more than an hour, going in depth about his long-awaited, best-selling CD, "October Road." In the interview Taylor reveals details about how he writes his music and about how he keeps his career and his music fresh after all these years.

"He tells a very funny story about devising a kind of contraption to keep track of the number of times he sings 'Carolina In My Mind'," said Marshall, who proudly admits she has every record Taylor's ever made and has attended his concerts religiously for more than 20 years. Taylor also plays several songs -- accompanied only by his guitar -- during the interview.


Guitarist Steve Howe is set to release a solo album, "Skyline," Nov. 5 on Insideout Music. Howe is best known for his work with Yes, Asia and GTR, but he has kept active as a solo artist as well. "Skyline" is Howe's eighth fully realized solo studio album, and over the course of those albums he's explored everything from electric rock 'n' roll to acoustic music with folk and classical elements.

"I like to keep moving around and not stay in one sort of musical pattern," said Howe. "My last album (2001's 'Natural Timbre') was more acoustic-oriented and I felt I had exhausted that kind of playing for a time. When I went through my own tapes and tapes I'd worked on with Paul, I discovered pieces that all fit together. 'Skyline' represents a more ambient, laid-back side of my playing and it allowed me to improvise in a different sort of way."

"With this album, improvisation is more a part of the music. We have melodies and structures, but the album kind of floats and relies on the expansive idea of me developing my improvisations," he said. "I don't think I've ever done quite anything like 'Skyline' myself before. Personally, I enjoy records that are relaxed, so I really wanted to venture into something that was atmospheric."

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