Avi’s ‘Night Light” Is a Bright Musical Light

Courtesy:  Little Monster Records

Courtesy: Little Monster Records

Singer Zee Avi’s latest album Night Light is available today. The third album from the Malaysian born singer, it is also the first family album that she has ever released. It goes without saying that her first venture into that realm has produced what is one of the most intriguing records of the year in the realm of family and children’s music. The nine-track disc is comprised primarily of covers from some of the most well-known names in the music industry, including: Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, and Bobby McFerrin. There is also a cover of the famed ‘Rainbow Connection’ from Jim Henson’s original Muppet Movie that any Muppets fan will enjoy. And audiences will agree that her cover of the Louis Armstrong hit ‘Dream A Little Dream’ is absolutely beautiful, even if they aren’t fans of jazz. It all closes with a medley of well-known children’s songs aptly titled ‘Nightlight Medley.’ It’s a fitting closer for the album that will leave a smile on the face of any listener young and old alike. Having been left with that smile, listeners will agree that Night Light is an album that any family should hear at least once this year.

Night Light opens with what can best be described as the most intriguing cover of Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ that this critic has ever heard. Avi’s take on the song gives it a decidedly different identity than McFerrin’s original tune. She incorporates what sounds like a tabla and a rather interesting bass instrument. The combination of the two instruments set against Avi’s almost siren-like singing sets her take on McFerrin’s song completely apart from any other cover of the song currently out there. Even as she sings, listeners will note that Avi doesn’t simply try to cover McFerrin’s original work. Rather she actually makes it her own without completely losing the original altogether. It definitely is something that must be heard to be fully understood and appreciated.

Avi’s cover of ‘Don’t Worry, He Happy’ is definitely original. That goes without saying. On the other side of the proverbial coin, she sticks more to the original work when in her cover of ‘Dream a Little Dream’ The song, originally made famous by jazz legend Louis Armstrong, is made even more interesting with what sounds like a ukulele. Even with the combination of Avi’s gentle vocals and ukulele in the place of Armstrong’s famed trumpet and gravelly voice, the song is still as wonderful as ever. The true irony of Avi’s vocal style here is its similarity to that of Billie Holiday. Some might call it a stretch. But a close side by side comparison reveals the similarity. It is slight. But once listeners hear it, they will agree as to Avi’s high level of talent, being compared to such a great.

The album’s closer, ‘Nightlight Medley’ offers listeners a pair of classic children’s tunes. It is is the perfect closer for listeners. It starts with Avi’s rendition of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.’ She starts off by singing it in English before proceeding to sing the song in her native tongue. There’s something special about hearing this song known around the world in a language completely unknown to most listeners. From ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’, Avi moves on to ‘Four and Twenty Black Birds Baked in a Pie.’ She gives even this song its own twist as she sings. As with the other covers included in this album, it is one that absolutely must be heard in order to understand and appreciate the new life and identity that Avi has given the song.

Night Light is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered online now via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J566VDA/ref=s9_simh_gw_p15_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=03S45350NRFN0W5ATJBW&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846. Audiences can keep up with the latest from Zee Avi after ordering her CD online at http://www.facebook.com/zeeavi and http://www.zeeavi.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Don Jamieson Is As Irreverent And Funny As Ever On His New Comedy Album

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Don Jamieson, co-host of VH1’s hit show That Metal Show will release his new full length comedy album Tuesday, March 18thHell Bent For Laughter, Jamieson’s second full length comedy album, was recorded in December 2013 at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club in Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.  Despite recording his show close to the new home that he tells his audience that he and his wife had bought, neither The Garden State nor its embattled governor are off limits to Jamieson in his show.  It’s just part of what will have audiences laughing uproariously.  Jamieson also goes after politicians, certain pop acts, and even some of his favorite rock bands of all time in his act just to note a little of what audiences can expect in this performance.  Regardless of whether it be for any of the noted material or that not noted, there is enough in this recording to have anyone laughing, even when they know they should be ashamed to be doing so.  It is a laugh riot and a must hear for anyone that needs a good laugh.

Don Jamieson covers so much ground in the show recorded for Hell Bent For Laughter.  He obviously has plenty of music related jokes and jokes related to That Metal Show.  But that’s not all he hits in his show.  Jamieson also justifiably gets plenty of laughs when he tells his audience about having bought a house in New Jersey with his wife.  Those laughs are thanks to jokes about his bad luck in the timing of having bought the house and about the cost of mortgage payments.  He laughs as he tells his audience that anyone that’s renting should keep doing so.  From there, he goes on to make jokes about embattled New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Christie’s potential run for the presidency, and of course his weight and weight loss.  It’s just one of a handful of moments throughout the show when Jamieson really shines in this show.  Audiences will agree when they hear his jokes for themselves.

Gov. Christie isn’t the only politician that Jamieson goes after in his latest comedy release.  He also goes after Vice President Joe Biden and how little people actually see him versus how much people see President Obama.  He makes a sharp joke about how much Biden spent on room service in one night at a hotel room at one point.  He really shows with both this joke and those aimed at Christie his ability to branch out and cover more than just music.  It shows his abilities as apolitical satirist as well as media personality, which bodes well if he ever decides to step away from his day job.  On an even deeper level, the fact that he would go after both a Republican and Democrat means that no one can even begin to accuse Jamieson of supporting one side or the other.  He gives equal time to both sides.  Anyone with any knowledge of how the media works will appreciate that reference.

The laughs that Jamieson gets with his political pot shots don’t stop there.  He also goes after some of the biggest names in pop culture as part of his act.  Those names include the likes of Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, and even One Direction.  He basically accuses Lady Gaga of being a cross-dressing male.  And in terms of Whitney Houston, he shows just how irreverent he can be.  Some might even call his joke at Houston’s expense walking a very fine line.  It’s not the only time at which he walks that line, either.  Audiences will find he walks that line quite a bit throughout this set.  Getting back on topic, in going after One Direction, that joke is so off color that this critic would get in a lot of trouble for even beginning to repeat it.  It is something that audiences will have to hear for themselves to appreciate.   They’re not the only acts to taste Jamieson’s comedic venom so to speak, either.  He spreads the love, even making jabs at some of the biggest names in the rock industry.  Metallica, Motley Crue, Judas Priest, KISS, and Guns N’ Roses all get their moment in Jamieson’s set.  From calling Motley Crue Motley Karaoke thanks to how Vince Neil handles live shows to a crack about Metallica working with Lou Reed to jokes about songs from KISS and Judas Priest, Jamieson leaves no stone unturned.  He shows that he can get audiences laughing even in making jokes related to his regular day job even on these topics.  It shows that whether it be music, pop culture, politics, or even more blue material, Don Jamieson can entertain any audience.  And audiences will agree on this when they pick up Hell Bent For Laughter Tuesday, March 18th.  It is definitely a recording that will have anyone laughing nonstop.

Jamieson will hit the road beginning next Friday March, 14th for a stand-up tour to support Hell Bent For Laughter.  Audiences will get to hear some of his material when he kicks off his tour at the New Hope Cinema Grill in New Hope, Minnesota.  He will be joined by his co-hosts of That Metal Show on a handful of his upcoming live dates.  Fans can get a full rundown of Jamieson’s upcoming live appearances online now at http://www.donjamieson.com, http://www.metalblade.com/donjamieson, http://twitter.com/realdonjamieson, and http://www.facebook.com/donjamiesonofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Loner’s Society Impresses On Autumn + Colour Debut

Courtesy: Autumn + Colour

Courtesy: Autumn + Colour

The Charleston, South Carolina based indie band Loner’s Society is set to release its new live EP King City Sessions next month. The five-track recording is a good introduction for those that might be less familiar with the band and just as enjoyable for those that are more familiar with its works. What’s most interesting about the band’s new release is the sound of the songs included in the recording. The songs are interesting in their own right because of their musical and emotional depth. But they don’t exactly sound like the description of the band’s sound on its official Facebook page. According to the band’s official Facebook page, the band is “comparable to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers if The Heartbreakers had been comprised from members of: Pearl Jam, Rancid, and The Temptations.” That wording comes verbatim from the band’s Facebook page. And it’s quite a mix of influences. But as listeners will notice right from the recording’s outset, its sound is more comparable to Bob Dylan and certain classic Country Western acts than any of the acts noted on the band’s Facebook page. Where Loner’s Society does finally start to bear more of the Pearl Jam meets Rancid sound is on the recording’s fourth song, ‘Autum Breeze.’ These two songs (and the recording’s remaining trio of live tracks) make King City Sessions quite the live recording even as short as it is.

Loner’s Society opens its upcoming live EP with the song ‘LaGrange.’ This song is an interesting introduction because of the throwback vibe that it conjures up among listeners. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Megrue openly states in the song in almost Lou Reed style, “And we recorded a record/Then we loaded the van/The last thing the world needed was another punk rock band/So I spent the next five years just barely getting’ by/Cause as time goes by it’s certain/That certain things’ll change/And you can spend your whole life working/Trying to stay the same/But plan on doin’ doubles till you die/At that diner in LaGrange. The line about the last thing the world needing was another punk rock band is very telling. It goes back to the previously noted difference in the sound of the songs included on this recording versus the band’s own description of its sound. This song sounds anything like a punk rock band. It’s more of a Country Western style piece interestingly enough. Even that first verse’s remaining lines line up more with old school Country Western than punk, Pearl Jam, and especially The Temptations. For all of its deep introspection, there is one funny moment in this song in which Megrue sings about things he’s seen in his life. He sings “I’ve seen marriages, divorces, babies, and divorces.” That must be one heck of a lot of divorces. Whether or not it was meant to be joking, it’s such a subtle joke that one can’t help but laugh a little bit hearing the emphasis on divorces that have been seen. That subtlety set alongside the song’s more heartfelt introspective musical and lyrical elements make it an excellent introduction for the band in every sense of the word.

‘LaGrange’ is a solid opener for the band’s new upcoming live recording.  It’s just one of the recording’s most interesting of points.  The recording’s penultimate performance of ‘Autumn Breeze’ is another of those high points.  It is more along the lines of the band’s described sound.  It starts off gently enough, but eventually picks up and bears more of an indie-folk/rock sound.  Listeners can feel such emotion as Megrue sings, “I can feel that Autumn breeze/Blowing in from Tennessee/It soaks my nights in whiskey dreams/Old cruel winds just speak to me.”  There’s a certain pain in Megue’s voice as he sings this verse that tugs at the heart.  The song takes a more driving feel from there.  Even with that more up-tempo feel, the song doesn’t lose the pained emotional state established early on in its near five-minute run time.  It all makes for what is easily one of the highest of this live EP’s performances.

‘Autumn Breeze’ and ‘LaGrange’ are both great additions to King City Sessions.  Regardless of whether or not audiences are familiar with these songs or the others included in this new EP, every listener will agree that they and the EP’s other trio of songs make this recording a welcome new release from the band.  If the five songs contained on this EP aren’t enough for some, then fans need not worry as they’ll get their chance to hear the band live in person, too.  Loner’s Society is currently scheduled to perform at the Deep South Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina this Saturday, January 18th.  The performance is an 18+ show.  Tickets are $5.  They can be  purchased online at http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/428839?__utmx=-&__utmv=-&__utmk=206623635&__utmz=1.1387914625.3.3.utmcsr%3Dgoogle%7Cutmccn%3D%28organic%29%7Cutmcmd%3Dorganic%7Cutmctr%3D%28not+provided%29&__utma=1.1393594094.1385825001.1387914625.1387926374.4&__utmc=1&__utmb=1.1.10.1387926374&wrKey=28A0D047C3315AD262485FE7F569EDFE.  The show is currently scheduled to begin at 6pm.  Fans of Loner’s Society can find out about all of the band’s tour updates, news and more online at http://www.lonerssociety.com, http://www.facebook.com/lonerssociety and http://twitter.com/lonerssociety.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Idelsohn Society’s New Album This Year’s Best Holiday LP

Courtesy:  The Idelsohn Society

Courtesy: The Idelsohn Society

‘Twas The Night Before Hanukkah is the best of this year’s annual crop of holiday records.  The record, which was released by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, is subtitled The Musical Battle Between Christmas and the Festival of Lights.  The catch is that this record is anything but a musical battle.  Rather, this record does exactly what music is said to do.  It’s a unifier.  It joins two distinctly different cultures through the medium of music.  On a side note, The Idelsohn Society for those who perhaps may not know was named for its namesake, musicologist Abraham Zevi Idelsohn.  Audiences can learn more about him and the Idelsohn Society’s website, http://idelsohnsociety.com/about-us/

‘Twas The Night Before Hanukkah is just the latest in a series of releases from the Idelsohn Society For Musical Preservation.  The compilation features thirty four tracks from across both the Jewish and Christian faiths.  Those songs celebrate, as the subtitle notes, both Christmas and the just ended annual celebration of Hanukkah.  What makes this double disc compilation even more interesting is that both the songs of the Jewish and Christian faiths are sung by both those in the Jewish community and those with Jewish roots.  Among some of the more notable of those artists are the likes of: Mel Torme, Benny Goodman, Lou Reed, The Ramones, Bob Dylan, and Herb Alpert just to name some.  Adding even more interest to this already worthwhile listen, the music presented by the variety of artists makes the record even more multi-cultural.  Some songs are standards, while others are more original, crossing the cultural borders of the music industry. 

All thirty-four tracks in this compilation present enjoyment thanks to their cultural variety.  One of the most enjoyable and interesting of the songs in this compilation comes not from the Christmas side, but from the Hanukkah side.  Gladys Gertwiz’s presentation of ‘A Chanukah Quiz’ is a wonderful starting point for young members of the Jewish community.  Gerwitz sings to her audiences of a “Hanukkah riddle” of sorts.  In reality, this song is a history lesson both of Hanukkah and of Jewish heritage.  She tells parts of the history, and leaves parts blank for listeners to answer (in song form) back.  It’s fun and creative.  On a completely different tangent, ‘Twas The Night Before Hanukkah also offers a Latin style holiday song in the form of ‘El Die de la Navidad.’  It’s one more example of just how multicultural this record is.  The upbeat sound alone makes this another enjoyable song.  Add to the danceable sound the lyrical holiday celebration and listeners get another enjoyable addition to this release.  It’s just one more of so many enjoyable songs included in a record that is simply put the best holiday record of the year.  The album is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online direct at the Idelsohn Society store at http://idelsohnsociety.com/store/albums/

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Live Blood a treat for true music lovers

Rock and classical are as different in the musical world as Felix Unger and Oscar Madison from The Odd Couple.  Yet when the two come together, they have shown to make some of the most memorable live experiences in modern music history.  That’s been exemplified by the likes of both Metallica and KISS.  Now, fellow music veteran Peter Gabriel has shown just how powerful classical and mainstream music can be together with his upcoming new live release on Eagle Rock Entertainment/RealWorld, “Live Blood.”

“Live Blood” takes the orchestra formed for Gabriel’s most recent studio album, “New Blood” out to a live setting.  “New Blood” was the second in a series of albums in which he and other artists re-interpreted each others’ songs.  The first of those albums was the album, “Scratch My Back.”  This new live performance of the New Blood orchestra  does an amazing job of giving the songs from “Scratch My Back” and “New Blood” a whole new life of their own.  The concert’s first disc offers up much of the more emotional sounds of the two albums, while the second disc in the set tends to pick things up just a little bit.  The opener to the entire concert, ‘Intruder’ is a prime example of just how impressive this new live release is.  The tension in the song makes it feel like it could have come right off of a horror movie soundtrack.  ‘Digging’ in The Dirt’ has a similar feel.  There’s also the joyous emotion expressed in ‘Solsbury Hill.’  The gleeful hopping of the string sections really emphasize and compliment the happiness Gabriel expresses lyrically.

The performance’s up-tempo pieces aren’t all that stand out in this set.  The covers of Lou Reed’s ‘The Power of The Heart’ and The Magnetic Fields’ ‘The Book of Love’ are even more impactful in this live setting than even on “Scratch My Back.”  Again, the new Blood Orchestra gives these songs a whole new depth of emotion, with its dynamic contrasts.  The same especially applies with Gabriel’s major hit, “Biko.”  “Biko” is given not only a whole new life, but an entirely new identity in this performance.  The message is even more powerful than it could have ever been in its original studio release.  Conductor Ben Foster and the entire New Blood Orchestra are to be commended for their work throughout the entire performance.  Whether on the songs noted or the remainder of the songs that comprise the upcoming double disc set, the entire New Blood orchestra was the real star of this performance.  This show was one more reminder that while rock and classical may be two entirely musical genres, when the pair come together, they make for some truly enjoyable and memorable songs.

Fans in Germany and the United Kingdom will get an added bonus with Peter Gabriel next month.  He currently has a handful of European dates planned throughout Germany and the U.K. throughout May.  To keep up with all of Peter Gabriel’s latest tour dates and news, fans can follow him online at http://www.petergabriel.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/PeterGabriel, and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/itspetergabriel.