Rock News Two: The week in pop

By JOHN SWENSON, United Press International
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Veteran rockers ZZ Top are set to hit the road in support of the band's 14th album, "Mescalero," due out April 15. Billy Gibbons will be plying his hard-edged guitaristics starting April 25 in Bossier City, La., with bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard laying down the groove just as they have since this legendary Texas trio got its start in 1969. The tour will run through June 14, when it wraps up in Dallas, hitting major cities all over the country with the notable exception of New York. "Mescalero," the band's first release since 1999's "XXX," includes 15 original songs and a cover of "Tramp," cut by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas in 1967.



Shock rock pioneer Iggy Pop will rejoin forces with guitarist Ron and drummer Scott Asheton April 27 at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., for a much-anticipated Stooges reunion. The three original band members will be joined by ex-Minutemen bassist Mike Watt on bass replacing David Alexander, who died in 1975. Iggy Pop has an album scheduled for summer release with four new Stooges tunes included. It has been 30 years since the Stooges last recorded 1973's "Raw Power."



Mixmasters from far and wide descended on the Ritz Plaza South Beach Hotel in Miami Tuesday for three days of techno workshops. "Remix Hotel" will present free master classes, workshops and clinics on music production and performance for electronic and urban music producers, engineers, musicians and DJs during the Winter Music Conference. Digidesign presented special guests Bad Boy Bill and The Crystal Method for demonstrations revealing how they use Pro Tools. M-Audio featured presentations by artists BT, The Crystal Method and Deepsky. Stanton invited DJ Craze, DJ Faust, DJ

Shortee and DJ Jesse Saunders to demonstrate the Final Scratch system. Other features included product demos by Emagic and by developer partners Native Instruments, Ableton, Propellerheads, ArKaos VJ, Waves, Cakewalk and others.


The Chandler Travis Philharmonic celebrated the release of its new album, "Llama Rhymes," Wednesday at the Lizard Lounge before an audience of more than 100 people. Travis, one of rock's true originals, is a classic American regional songwriter whose eccentric vision is rooted in the self-determinism and awe of nature, characteristic of people who live in the small New England village of Eastham, Mass. Popular vocalist Bleu showed up to sing backing vocals on "Village of the Darned" and "Get Right Back to Where We Started From." "I've got a great idea for our next record release party," Travis said. "We have a book of about 200 songs, so for the next party we'll play the longest set ever played -- 14 or 15 hours long. I'd like to do it at the Lizard Lounge again, I just have to figure out if they can stay open for that length of time." Travis currently is putting together another "Incredible Casuals" album. "We're trying really hard to do something you can't describe," he noted. "Maybe that doesn't work in our best interest commercially, but the thing that's important about it is getting to do it in the first place."



Alligator recording artists Little Charlie and the Nightcats will celebrate the release of their new album, "That's Big!," with a performance at the Bottom Line in New York April 3. Also on the bill is Debbie Davies. The Sacramento-based blues and jump masters' music is fueled by Little Charlie Baty's jaw-dropping guitar acrobatics and driven by Rick Estrin's original songs, cutting vocals and harmonica playing. "I like songs that tell stories," said Estrin, "songs that are well-crafted and meaningful." He cites Sonny Boy Williamson II, Willie Dixon, Percy Mayfield, Baby Boy Warren and Leiber and Stoller as his main songwriting influences. As a harp player, Estrin has few peers. "We're good at putting on a show," he said. "People don't go out to see people who look like them. They want to see something special. I was schooled in this business to be a showman, and that's what you get when you come to see us."


British quartet the Music is making waves with its eponymous Capitol debut, which opened at No. 4 on the Billboard "Heatseekers" chart. The band made its TV debut Tuesday on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" and will appear March 27 on NBC's "Later With Carson Daly." The Leeds-based foursome -- Robert Harvey on vocals, Adam Nutter on guitar, Stuart Coleman on bass and Phil Jordan on drums -- currently are on tour supporting fellow Capitol recording artists Coldplay. After the support tour the Music goes out on another jaunt beginning Wednesday in Seattle with the Vines. After performing April 26 at the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., the Music then returns to their native England for a pair of eagerly awaited May Bank Holiday concerts in Blackpool and Bridlington.



The past three years have been a powerful journey for early music ensemble Savae. It started when they came across a book of mystical translations of prayers in Aramaic, a language spoken in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. That was just the beginning of this historical mystery that unites ancient music and dialects with modern-day crises in

politics and religion. The sacred music of Jerusalem's Second Temple maintains legendary status among scholars. According to the Bible, this ancient holy site was built around 540 B.C. and featured music many religion and music scholars believe directly influenced chant and other early Christian music. Both the music and temple, however, were lost for centuries. Until now. Savae's latest CD, "Ancient Echoes," draws on texts from the Torah, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament, and an ancient Greek tombstone. The music comes from research by a Jewish musicologist from the last century who demonstrated how dispersed and isolated Jews preserved ancient musical phrases for two millennia as well as from a French theorist who re-constructed the oldest form of musical notation that appears throughout the Bible. The dialect of the songs comes from an Egyptian phonetics instructor who taught members of Savae an ancient dialect spoken by Babylonian Jews and preserved to this day by Iraqi Muslims.



Former Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford will headline the 2003 Metal Gods Tour, a multi-band package featuring the headliner's quintet Halford, co-headliners Testament, Immortal, Symphony X, Dark Tranquility, Amon Amarth, Carnal Forge and more. The 2003 Metal Gods Tour is set to kick off April 25 in Chicago, and will wrap up on the West Coast by mid-June. This will be Halford's first full-length tour of North America in nearly three years. "The tour is quite remarkable," Halford said. "Over the last decade, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal have fragmented into all these unique sub-genres, so we felt it would be ideal to put some of the best Metal bands from the various genres together on the road. Today's Gods of Metal, if you will." The Metal Gods Tour will feature U.S. Bay Area Thrash Metal kings Testament and New York-based Progressive Metal act Symphony X. Halford often has professed his affinity for bands of a darker nature, so the inclusion of Black and Death Metal bands were an obvious way to round out a lineup. "It will be enjoyable to watch Metal fans of all types mix together with their enormous enthusiasm," Halford said. "Often fans of Death and Black Metal bands won't go see some of the other acts co-headlining The Metal Gods and vice versa. We're accomplishing a lot together. I'm certain the bands are going to enjoy themselves as we roll around the U.S. and Canada, so the fans are certainly going to experience the best each act has to give. When done, the tour will be remembered as something rare."



Epic Records is set to release Howie Day's "Madrigals" EP April 29. The EP features a five-song CD that includes new demo versions of "Madrigals" and "You & A Promise," a remix of Howie's first single "Ghost," and exclusive live tracks of "Bunnies" and "Sorry So Sorry." The "Madrigals" EP bonus DVD has more than 30 minutes of live performance footage and features those same fan favorites from Howie Day's Dec. 4, 2002, at the New York City Bowery Ballroom show. The "Madrigals" EP is the follow-up to Howie's debut, "Australia," and precursor to Day's highly anticipated sophomore release. Before Day heads to London this spring to work with producer Youth (Crowded House, Dido, the Verve), he will appear on NBC's "Last Call with Carson Daly" and have an April one-hour "Music Choice" special. Look for Day's new video "Sorry So Sorry" on MTV's "120 Minutes" and Much Music's "Oven Fresh."


Beat poet, cartoonist and Fugs founder Tuli Kupferberg is putting together a new songbook project that is open to public contributions. "For the fifth edition of my infamous songbook, 'Listen to the Mockingbird,' I am now seeking contributions from others besides my egomaniacal self," Kupferberg said. "I want 'Parasongs' on any subject." A parasong is a song using new and original lyrics set to an older -- generally a popular -- melody. Martin Luther set many of his religious hymns to the popular songs of that period. Parasongs tend to be parodic and/or humorous but need not be and do not have to follow the original lyrics at all. Send lyrics to: [email protected] or snailmail them to: Tuli Kupferberg 160 6th Ave. New York, NY 10013.



Baltimore's Dog Fashion Disco is set to release its second effort, "Committed to a Bright Future," May 6 coupled with a full U.S. headline tour with TubRing, LUXT and Dirt. "I couldn't be more proud of our new album," said vocalist Todd Smith. "I believe it shows how we are capable of playing many different styles and how we have grown as musicians." As unpredictable as the names implies, Dog Fashion Disco melds together elements of heavy metal with flutes, saxophones and trumpets. "We are out to change the landscape of heavy music as people know it," Smith said. "I believe people are tired of bands all sounding the same and not taking chances to push the envelope and expand musical expression. I am very excited about the upcoming headlining tour. Our fans will finally see us play a longer set of our new material and experience our full live show. Our fans can expect a full projection movie playing behind us. This film will feature amputees, clowns, car crashes, cartoons, and other vomit-inducing imagery. I will be in my prettiest dress looking somewhat like Marilyn Monroe meets Gene Simmons." Dog Fashion Disco's first album, "Anarchists of Good Taste," was released in 2001 through Spitfire Records.



"NYC Man -- The Ultimate Lou Reed Collection" is slated for release June 3 from BMG Heritage. The highly anticipated 2-CD career retrospective spans Reed's career from the Velvet Underground to the present. Reed recently finished exhaustive work on the 31 tracks included in the set, which originally was slated for a May 6 release. Reed personally oversaw song selection and remastering, culled from over 150 source tapes -- masters, multi-tracks, reference copies -- making this the highest quality collection of his work. For "Sweet Jane" Reed edited out the guitar intro from the original version on the "Loaded" album. When asked about changing a classic track, Reed responded "If DaVinci wanted to change the Mona Lisa he should be able to." As for "I Wanna Be Black," Reed commented: "That was one of the tapes rescued from the obscurity of the anti-binaural (an archaic 360 degree sound recording system). We were able to put it back to where it's supposed to be. It sounds as though you're in a club surrounded by the audience with the band in front of you, and people tinkling and yelling in back of you and chairs scraping. Its definitely exciting."



In 1968, James Taylor released his first album on Apple Records and made history when he became the first outside artist to sign with the Beatles' label. Since then, Taylor has gone on to record top-selling albums, singles and videos that have earned 42 RIAA certifications, including one Diamond and three Multi-Platinum awards. "The Best Of James Taylor" is the first album to combine recordings he made for Apple, Warner Bros. and Columbia, along with a brand new track, "Bittersweet." Chronicled are songs from a dozen different albums, recorded over 35 years. Each track has been newly remastered for this album as Warner Strategic Marketing is in the process of re-mastering Taylor's entire catalog. The album is scheduled for release April 8, with a national tour to follow.


Grammy-award winning musicians Indigo Girls and Indian environmental activist Winona LaDuke team up in April to take a message of alternative energy and cultural preservation to college campuses from Minnesota to Colorado. The Honor the Earth Tour is a cross-country speaking and performance tour aimed at educating college students and the general public on current issues related to environmental activism and the development of wind power on Indian lands, in particular. The tour also will include visits to Indian reservations currently implementing wind power and other alternative energy projects in their communities. In 1991, Winona LaDuke met Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers backstage at an Earth Day benefit near Boston. Out of that first meeting, a long-lasting friendship and working partnership was born, and the national foundation Honor the Earth was created. Indigo Girls since have headlined four Honor the Earth concert tours to raise money for Indian groups working on front-line environmental issues in communities across the country.



The life and music of Phil Collins is the subject of a documentary DVD "A Life Less Ordinary," due out May 20 from Sanctuary Visual Entertainment. "A Life Less Ordinary" was first broadcast on the British Broadcasting Corp. in the United Kingdom on Nov. 4, 2002, to an audience of nearly 3 million people. It provides an intimate look at Collins and his work as a singer, songwriter, drummer and actor. Starting with his stage debut as the Artful Dodger in "Oliver!" while still a youngster, through the release of his 2002 solo album "Testify," this DVD is a comprehensive overview covering his years as a member of the legendary Genesis and his work as a solo artist. Several interviews are included as DVD extras. "A Life Less Ordinary" is presented in letterbox format with Dolby Digital stereo sound. Additional footage features personal home movies and clips from the Live Aid concerts on July 13, 1985, for which a Concorde flight enabled Collins to be the only artist to perform in both London and Philadelphia, acting appearances in the television show "Miami Vice" and feature film "Buster," and the Academy Awards.

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