Love For Levon Could Be The Year’s Best Live Recording

Courtesy:  Time Life Entertainment/StarVista

Courtesy: Time Life Entertainment/StarVista

Drummer Levon Helm was no ordinary drummer.  He was a musician.  He was a musician among musicians and a musician of the people.  When he finally lost his battle with throat cancer in 2012, the world knew that it had lost not just a man but a legend.  It was Helm that made Midnight Rambles so famous.  And it was those concerts and Helms’ own music that made him the beloved figure that he is today even though he remains only in spirit.  Now thanks to Time Life and StarVista, fans of Helm and his music get to experience one of the greatest tributes to his legacy in the newly released concert, Love For Levon: A Benefit To Save The Barn.

Love For Levon: A Benefit To Save The Barn was released this past March.  It was released in five different formats: Double-Disc CD, Double-Disc CD/Double-Disc DVD, Double-Disc CD/Double-Disc Blu-ray, Double-Disc DVD, and Double Disc Blu-ray.  Regardless of whether audiences pick up the solo DVD or Blu-ray sets or the deluxe sets including both the CD and DVD or CD and Blu-ray, they will be getting in this concert what is among the year’s best live recordings.  It is more than deserving of that honor first and foremost because of the variety of options from which audiences can choose in experiencing this concert.  It is also more than deserving of the honor of being on the list of the year’s top live recordings thanks to its production values.  The all-star line-up and equally extensive set list adds even more reason to praise the performance.  The packaging for the deluxe sets is another interesting addition to the overall presentation that is worthy of note, too.  All assembled together, it makes this recording one that any fan of Americana and music lover in general will find entertaining each time they turn it on.

The very first thing to note about Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save The Barn is the variety of platforms on which it is available.  It is available in two deluxe packages that include both a double-disc CD portion and double-disc video portion.  Those that have HDTVs and Blu-ray players are offered the set with a double-Blu-ray video portion.  Those with DVD players are offered the deluxe package that includes the video recording on DVD along with the double-disc CD accompaniment.  There are also the stand alone DVD and Blu-ray sets as well as a stand-alone double-disc CD set from which audiences can choose.  This vast amount of options may not seem like much to some.  But the reality is that it plays a much bigger role in the overall presentation of this set than some might believe.  Depending on one’s budget or perhaps access to one format or another, Time Life Entertainment has given audiences as many possibilities as possible to be able to enjoy this performance.  Generally when it comes to live recordings, it seems the standard is to present the recording either on one format or another and leave it at that.  Time Life Entertainment has done the exact opposite.  It has offered this iconic performance in every format possible, save for digital.  Though, that will likely come.  For this alone, the people at Time Life Entertainment are to be highly commended.

The multi-format packaging for Love For Levon (as it will be simply known from here on out) is a major positive to the overall positive outlook on this concert.  Moving forward, one must also take into account its production values in determining its success or failure.  Obviously, the good people at Time Life Entertainment maintained the mantra that failure is not an option even with the recording’s production values.  The audio and video were expertly mixed.  Audiences will notice this both on the DVD and Blu-ray presentations as well as on the CD presentation.  This is a factor that is just as important as the number of formats from which audiences to have choose in experiencing the concert.  It is just as important because without proper mixing, there is no reason to buy the recording on any platform.  There are live recordings out there that leave audiences wondering what those behind the boards and cameras were thinking and were they awake at their posts.  Obviously, those behind the board s and cameras were well awake at this concert.  It looks and sounds excellent all the way around.  Even the lighting on stage itself was just right.  When blues great Mavis Staples takes the stage to sing ‘Move Along Train’ every note from Ms. Staples and the backing musicians is crystal clear. This expert mixing is handled throughout the near three-hour long concert.

Having taken into account the production values of Love for Levon, the next logical step is to take a slightly broader examination in looking at the show’s set list and its equally vast array of performers.  These too, are boons to this recording.  Mavis Staples is just one of the many superstars that made appearances for the benefit.  Also on hand were the likes of: Jakob Dylan, John Mayer, Roger Waters, Eric Church, My Morning Jacket, Dierks Bentley, Ray LaMontagne, and a whole who’s who of music past and present.  That so many artists from so many different corners of the music world came together for this performance shows the impact that Levon Helm had in his life and still has even though he remains only in spirit.  While the conglomeration of artists was in itself quite impressive, one must agree that the performance’s set list was just as incredible.  The bluesy feel of ‘Trouble in Mind’ and ‘Move Along Train’ is just a pair of the highlights from the performance.  ‘Little Birds’ and ‘Listening to Levon’ are just impressive in their more subdued, emotional tones.  These are just a handful of the songs that audiences will enjoy throughout the course of what is one of the year’s must have live recordings.  During the concert, the performers and their songs will send audiences on an emotional and musical journey that they will not forget.  It is a journey that after it’s over, audiences know they will want to take again.

So much work went into bringing Love for Levon to the masses.  The performances in this recording are outstanding, as are the performers and the songs.  The show’s production values are well above par.  And that Time Life Entertainment and StarVista have given audiences so many options from which to choose in deciding on how to best take in the concert sweetens the deal even more.  There is one final piece to the puzzle that makes this recording one of the year’s best live recordings, if not the best of the year.  That piece of the puzzle is the packaging.  This critic had the honor of receiving a screener of the deluxe double-disc CD/double-disc DVD set for review.  The packaging for this deluxe is impressive in its own right.  All four discs in the set are placed into their own mini-sleeve so to speak within the larger package that also includes a bonus booklet.  The bonus booklet includes very moving tributes written by Charles McCardell and Keith Wortman.  Wortman writes so eloquently of Helm in his addition to the included booklet, “In this age of artificially constructed music, Levon was the genuine article…in how he played, sang, and carried himself.”  He goes on to include a quote by Bruce Springsteen about Helm that is just as touching.  McCardell adds his own touch, expressing the joyous air that filled the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ, where the tribute concert was held.  His writing that, “From the energy generated in the building, it’s hard to tell who was more excited—the audience or the performers.”  Home audiences will see exactly what McCardell means when they watch this concert.  That single note echoes everything that has already been noted here.  And it can all be experienced now.  The concert is available now.  It can be ordered direct online via the Time Life Entertainment website at http://timelife.com/products/love-for-levon or via Amazon.

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Rochelle Diamante’s New Single Causing A Lot Of “Buzz”

Teen singer/instrumentalist Rochelle Diamante is quickly making quite the name for herself.  The seventeen-year old Seattle, WA native now lives in Los Angeles, where she is a straight-A students and captain of her high school dance team.  Diamond is also an instrumentalist.  She plays ukulele, piano and guitar.  Since joining YouTube last year, the young artist has earned herself nearly ten million views in under a year.  Over the course of that time, she also recorded a number of songs with a variety of producers including:  David Ryan Harris (John Mayer), Blake English (Kelly Rowland, Brandy) and Mike Mac (Beluga Heights).  She already has over twenty songs completed with plenty more still in the works.

Diamante has quite the resume already about her.  It includes singing credits with Richard Marx, serving as a model for a recent fashion video produced by Michelle Phan and Vivienne Tam and even being the focus of a short story written by award winning playwright Josefina Lopez (Real Women have Curves).  Now she can add music video star to her resume as she has released not only a new single but the video for her single as well.  The single is titled, ‘Queen Bee.’  And the video tries to harness the somewhat old school swing style sound mixed with her pop styling.  The video sees the young starlet dancing through her house in a dream sequence, surrounded by a number of young men as she sings, “I’m a queen bee/You can call me honey/But I just might sting…You gotta be sweet if you want my honey/Gotta beware if you want my heart.”  Anyone who is a fan of Beyonce or J-Lo will like Miss Diamante’s sound in this song.  Audiences can check out her video now on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkb_zTQI9dM.   After checking out her new video, fans can follow her on her official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/IamRochelle

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Treasure Chest Entertainment Introduces New Pop Trio To The World

Destiny’s Child, TLC, and the Spice Girls are just a few of the female fronted pop acts that have given young female audiences someone to look up to for many years.  Now a new up and coming act is giving young women everywhere someone to look up to yet again.  The up-and-coming teen pop act, Girl Squad was recently signed to Warner Bros. subsidiary, Treasure Chest Entertainment. 

The group’s three members—Millie, Maddie, and Lexis—all come from different parts of the country.  Millie hails from Alabama.  She has grown up a fan of pop star Christina Aguilera (The Voice), Niki Minaj (American Idol), and John Mayer just to name a few.  She is a very talented individual.  She is a dancer and cheerleader and even participates in musical theater.

Maddie comes from San Diego, California.  She moved to L.A. with her family in 2010.  Maddie had the honor of performing our nation’s National Anthem at a Phoenix Suns game at the age of nine, and earned her first acting gig in a stage production of How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  She says that her biggest influences are:  Justin Bieber, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga.

Lexis comes from perhaps the farthest away.  She comes from far off Anchorage, Alaska.  Thanks to her performance of hits from the likes of Rihanna , Katy Perry, and Beyonce, Lexi has become a YouTube sensation in her own right.  She won her very first vocal competition at the age of ten with her take on Whitney Houston’s classic, ‘I Have Nothing.’  While she enjoyed life in Anchorage, she says that moving to L.A. was the only way she could pursue a real chance at her dream of signing professionally.  “Although Anchorage is slower than other places, life was really good there. But in order for me to fulfill my dream, I nearly begged my Mom to move us to Los Angeles so I could seize an opportunity like Girl Squad”, she said.

The girls’ first single, ‘Oh Well’ is out now.  Fans can check out the video for the song now online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a85L7tEG-8g.  There are even expectations for a new single on the way as well as a new show centered on the girls.  To get the latest on Girl Squad, fans can go online to http://www.facebook.com/GIRLSQUADWORLD and http://twitter.com/#!/GirlSquad1.

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The Dunwells debut a great start for music in 2012

2011 was quite the year for the music industry.  Lady Gaga and international superstar Adele were everywhere after their new releases.  And fans were shocked by the death of up-and-comer Amy Winehouse.  Fans of music in every genre saw new records come out.  But now with the old year heading out, it’s time to start looking to the new year, and in turn, new music.  One of the bands that everyone might hear from in 2012 is a U.K. based band of brothers called The Dunwells.  This band’s debut cd, “Blind Sighted Faith”, is due out in February.  Now, while digital downloading is all the rage right now, the only reason to download The Dunwell’s debut release is if it can’t be found in stores.  Otherwise, it’s yet another piece of evidence in the fight for keeping the physical object versus downloading.

“Blind Sighted Faith” is already looking to be one of the best pop albums of 2012.  The irony of the album (and the band) is that this band of brothers actually headed up 2012’s International Folk Alliance Conference.  This year’s conference was held February 21 – 26th in memphis, TN.  One listen through the album makes one wonder how they could have been tapped for a folk music conference.  The whole album is a solid mix of John Mayer and Marc Broussard.  There’s even a hint of Don Henley and his Eagles bandmates in ‘Elizabeth’. 

‘Elizabeth’ is a great ballad.  But it’s not the only high point to “Blind Sighted Faith.”  That goes back to the argument for buying the physical object over downloading.  The album’s opener/lead single “I Could be King” is a positive song in which frontman Joe Dunwell sings about his hopes and dreams.  The music perfectly fits the lyrical content.  The band slows things down just a bit after that, with a relationship based song in the album’s title track.  There’s an equally impressive acoustic version of this song that’s available to view on Youtube, by the way.  Then again, most of the songs on the album can be viewed via Youtube, if you want a hint of the album.  Still not enough?  Well how about ‘Hand That Feeds’.  This song has a great retro 1960’s feel, brought into the modern era.  There’s no argument that this song is one of the album’s highlights, if not THE highlight of the whole album. 

“Blind Sighted Faith” doesn’t let up after the album’s first trio of songs.  Again, there’s also the Eagles-esque ‘Elizabeth’, and a nice bluesy Marc Broussard-esque piece in “Follow The Road”.  The great songs keep coming right to the surprise album closer, ‘Oh Lord’.  The surprise of this song is that it starts off soft, but then breaks into a solid blues/rock style song.  It’s the longest track on the album.  But it’s such a surprisingly impressive song that the run time doesn’t matter.

Whether for ‘Oh Lord’, ‘Elizabeth’, ‘Hand That Feeds’, or any other song on this album, “Blind Sighted Faith” is a great start for music fans in 2012.  And being that it’s the band’s debut release, those fans who have some blind sighted faith in The Dunwells will be pleasantly rewarded with a solid, enjoyable album.