Rock News Two: The week in pop

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International  |  Nov. 30, 2002 at 3:00 AM
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Britney Spears is out of the restaurant business, at least for now. The pop tart has severed her connection with Nyla, the New York restaurant that has been a disaster since it opened five months ago. Nyla received some of the worst reviews in recent food criticism history for its menu of greasy, overcooked southern cuisine and most recently has been hounded by creditors. The restaurant, located in New York's Dylan hotel, was accused of being deliberately underfinanced in legal documents filed last week by creditors, according to the New York Post. Spears now says she has nothing to do with the restaurant and has canceled her 21st birthday party, scheduled to take place there next month. The Post's Cindy Adams reported Sunday Nyla's creditors claim in court Spears looted the eatery's assets for her own personal gain. Last July, three college students got food poisoning at the restaurant, which later was later cited by the New York City Health Department for using food from "swollen, leaking, rusted" cans. Restaurant manager Bobby Ochs quit in disgust, telling the Post Nyla was "undercapitalized and in debt" from the beginning.


Coldplay has confirmed the first leg of what will be its most extensive North American tour to date. Presented by MTV and kicking off Jan. 21, 2003, in Orlando, Fla., the first run will hit large halls in 26 cities. Plans also are being made for a May/June second leg of North American dates. In addition to the 2003 headline tour, Coldplay is set to return to the States next month for a run of major market Christmas radio shows and a Dec. 16 performance on the Late Show with David Letterman. Coldplay's sophomore album "A Rush of Blood to the Head" debuted at No. 5 on Billboard's Top 200, selling more than 140,000 its first week. The release also entered the chart at No. 1 in 12 countries around the globe including Canada, Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom, as well as making the Top 10 in five additional countries. Coldplay's 2000 debut album, "Parachutes," sold 1.3 million copies in the United States (5 million worldwide), was awarded the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and spawned the international hit singles "Yellow" and "Trouble."


Frank Zappa's son Dweezil announced the formation of a new label dedicated to releasing material from the deep vaults at Zappa's Barking Pumpkin Studios in Los Angeles. The label, Vaulternative, plans to put out several live recordings. The first release, "FZ:OZ -- Frank Zappa Live in Australia," currently is available only through the Zappa family's Web site. The double-CD set is from the mid-1970's Zappa concerts in Australia. Also in the works is the legendary 1978 Halloween concert from the Palladium in New York, which will be released in conjunction with DTS Entertainment. Dweezil intends to release recordings that concentrate on unusual configurations of his father's backing groups.


Composer David Arnold, who wrote the score for the current James Bond film "Die Another Day," told the London Sunday Express the song Madonna wrote for the film is "the worst Bond song ever." "Ideally, I would have liked to have made some musical sense of her song, but I couldn't," said the Grammy winning composer, who has written scores for three Bond films. Arnold told the Express Madonna's theme appears nowhere in his score for the film. "Nobody has criticized me for not working her song into the film score," he said. "She got three minutes, I got 92."


Country rock star Kenny Chesney has been named one of People Magazine's 10 Sexiest Men. Joining the Luttrell, Tenn., star on the list are such easy on the eyes and hard on the hearts hunks as George Clooney, Hugh Grant, Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Harry Connick Jr. and Sexiest Man Ben Affleck. "When I was told they wanted me, I laughed..." the bashful superstar conceded. "It seemed like just the kind of practical joke my manager and my publicist would pull on me. But then they got very insistent about getting this photo session schedule -- and I knew. It's not really something you think about, because, you know -- how do you even deal with something like that? For me, sometimes I blush ... sometimes I change the subject ... sometimes I laugh. And even though I am so flattered and happy anyone would think I'm sexy, let alone the people at People who put this list together, I just don't see it. After all, I see me in the morning. Had they seen that, it coulda gone either way."


Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Keb' Mo', Jerry Garcia, Curtis Mayfield, David Crosby, Peter, Paul and Mary, Arlo and Woody Guthrie are among the artists featured on "Freedom: Songs From The Heart of America," a three-CD boxed set due out Dec. 10 on Columbia/Legacy Records. The set is a companion to the PBS series "Freedom: A History of US," an eight-hour PBS series that will debut in January 2003. The series features numerous celebrity voiceovers, including Paul Newman, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Christopher Reeve, Glenn Close, Morgan Freeman, Robin Williams, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hanks, Angela Bassett, and many others. The series, based on the best-selling book series by Joy Hakim, has been in production for more than five years. Columbia/Legacy's soundtrack set will feature contemporary artists singing songs about freedom, in addition to legendary blues, gospel, folk, and country recordings from the past century.


iMUSIC recording artists Tom Tom Club are gearing up for the holidays with a special treat for their worldwide fans -- free downloads of new Christmas songs. While the Toms' American fans have been buried in Turkey Day preparations, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth have been buried in the studio, readying two tracks to be released in December on their Web site, The first song is a French track called "Il Est Ne* (He Is Born)." Chris Frantz describes it as a "very traditional French carol with sacred overtones." "Il Est Ne*" has been Tom-ified by the chillout sounds of an old fashioned TR 808 drum machine under live cellos and organ, topped by harmonies from Weymouth, and will be available Dec. 1. "Christmas In The Club" is an original track that oozes "party secular overtones and is not sacred at all," said Frantz. The song features vocals from both Tina and Chris. "Christmas In The Club" should go live at the band's Web site Dec. 15.


With Rogue's March off until the new year, lead singer and songwriter Joe Hurley, backed by a sublime group of New York City all-stars, ventured out last week for a pair of shows, playing a selection of brand new material, some rarely performed Rogue's March songs, and the occasional classic from the musical "Oliver." Hurley, who recently has sung and recorded with PJ Harvey, Prefab Sprout, Tony Visconti, Loser's Lounge and SNL's Christine Ohlman, was backed by Tony Shanahan (Patti Smith), Kenny Margolis (Cracker) and James Mastro (Ian Hunter/Bongos). The highlight of the set was a great new song, "Irish Breakfast in a Greek Diner," with a terrific sing-along chorus.


World music star Manu Chao will release "Babylonia En Guagua," his first concert CD, Jan. 28, 2003, featuring 25 songs from his Sept. 4-5, 2001, concerts at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris. The elusive artist and his band are subjects of a 52-minute "behind the scenes" road movie directed by Raphael Frydman, which also is included on the DVD, along with a 10-minute short directed by Marc Boucherot and Nicolas Menet, and a 26-minute film directed by Enzo. Manu Chao also makes his debut as a director on "Babylonia En Guagua," contributing a 26-minute film to the DVD. In a nod to Manu's multicultural and pan-hemispheric appeal, the DVD will be released around the world with English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish subtitles.


Classical and opera-trained hard rock composer Luca Turilli has just released the science fiction/fantasy opus "Prophet Of The Last Eclipse" through Limb Music Products. Better known as the founding guitarist of groundbreaking Italian symphonic metal band Rhapsody, Turilli's solo project is the second chapter of his "Virtual Odyssey Trilogy." More than 30 musicians, including four different choirs, were employed on "Eclipse." "The album is even more versatile and diversified than 'King Of The Nordic Twilight'," Turilli says. "The subject of the album takes place, both musically and thematically, in another time on another world, so it perfectly fits with what I call 'Symphonic Cosmic Metal'." Produced by Sascha Paeth and Miro -- known for their work with Angra, Kamelot, Rhapsody, Heavens Gate, Virgo, and others -- "Prophet Of The Last Eclipse" features Turilli on guitar, Sascha Paeth on bass and guitar, Miro on keyboards, vocalist Olaf Hayer and drummer Robert Hunecke-Rizzo.


The Ponderosa Stomp, an all-star collection of some of the most important pioneers in Louisiana rhythm and blues and country music history, was one of the highlights of this past New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Organizers have announced plans for a second Stomp in 2003, to be held during the weekdays between the two big Jazzfest weekends. The shows will take place at Rock N Bowl, April 29-30 and May 1. At the inaugural Stomp, Fats Domino bandleader Dave Bartholomew and the comeback of Tony "Polk Salad Annie" Joe White were the highlights of the event.


Bassist and composer Sean Malone's Gordian Knot project returns early next year with the release of "Emergent" on Sensory Records. On "Emergent," the second Gordian Knot release, Malone is joined by onetime Cynic bandmate Jason Gobel on guitar and the legendary Yes/King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford. This is the trio Sean describes as the "core group," with an array of guests helping to fill out the sound: Steve Hackett on guitar (Genesis), Jim Matheos on guitar (Fates Warning), and fellow Cynic players Paul Masvidal (guitar) and Sean Reinert (drums). "Bill Bruford is one of the most original, creative and influential musicians in the genre," says Malone. "I grew up listening to Yes and King Crimson, and now to collaborate with him is something almost beyond description. I'm not embarrassed to admit that as I reflect on our recording sessions, there's always some sense of disbelief. While recording, he described the music on this disc as 'the kind of music our fans wish King Crimson would write, only we haven't gotten around to it.' I'm grateful he thought enough of the music to participate."


Mosaic Records announced the release of "The Complete Brunswick and Vocalion Recordings of Louis Prima and Wingy Manone (1924-37)." Consummate entertainers, both trumpeters grew up in New Orleans during the early part of the 20th century when personality was even more important than instrumental prowess. Like every other trumpeter and vocalist of the first few decades of the era, Prima and Manone were profoundly affected by Louis Armstrong, but both men cited unrecorded trumpeter Buddy Petit as a major influence as well. Born in 1904 and 1911 respectively, Manone and Prima both came up during a time when black and white musicians were forbidden by law to share a public bandstand. But during those times Italian-Americans and African-Americans frequently interacted on and off stage. Black bands would perform opposite white bands in the clubs, many owned by Italians, and would often perform together in informal and unpublicized sessions. Prima, whose dark complexion and kinky hair would later cost him jobs at segregated clubs, also took inspiration from the music in the black churches of his youth, instilling the exuberant gospel spirit that would always be a part of his performing persona. Manone, who at the age of 9 was told by his trumpet teacher that black bands were "faking it," wisely took that as a clue to end his formal lessons and immersed himself in this exciting new music.


Congratulations are in order for singer/songwriters Greg Brown and Iris Dement, who exchanged vows and were married in a small ceremony in Iris's hometown of Kansas City, Mo., last Thursday. Iris recently contributed a beautiful rendition of "The Train Carrying Jimmie Rodgers Home" for The Breast Cancer Fund CD, "Going Driftless: An Artist's Tribute to Greg Brown." Greg has been singing Iris's "When My Morning Comes Around" at his recent concerts across the country. The couple will spend time at each of their homes in Kansas City and in southern rural Iowa, where Greg recently built a house on his grandparents' homestead.


Does the planet need a new name? Vic Thrill thinks so. Find out why on his debut album, "CE-5," an extraordinary combination of science fiction themes, punk rock energy and electronica. Thrill's band was founded by former members of the Bogmen and Garden Variety. After the demise of both bands, the two camps fused their exotic alternative and indie punk in the electronic realm. The music often is described as "electro-trash." The live show ranges from full-on multimedia, electronic circus extravaganzas to trashy basement gigs. The crowd at Brooklyn's Luxx nightclub, which was packed with musicians -- including members of buzz band My Outdoor Life -- danced wildly at the CD release party last week. "CE-5," produced by Robbie Adams (U2, Smashing Pumpkins, Rollerskate Skinny, Bogmen) is the band's first full length DIY release on Circus Clone Records. "CE-5" (Close Encounters of the 5th Kind) delivers a sonic shout out to the far reaches of the universe, and soon there will be an answer, Thrill insists.


The newly created New Orleans Mayor's Office of Economic Development is sponsoring a music series to benefit the local music community. The series, which will be held at the Parrish room of the House of Blues, opens Dec. 3 with Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, and Bleu Orleans. The Leroy Jones Quartet and the Little Rascals Brass Band will be on the Dec. 10 show, while rock up-and-comers Catch Velvet and World Leader Pretend appear Dec. 17. The series continues in the new year with a reggae show Jan. 7 starring The Revealers supported by Iris May Tango. On Jan. 14 Kelly Love Jones and Myself take the stage, followed Jan. 28 by the Joe Krown Organ Combo and Troi Bechet. The lineup for the remaining seven shows in the series will be announced soon.

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