Grown-Ups Will Enjoy The Story Pirates’ New Album As Much As Children

Courtesy: Face Cake Records

Whether one is a parent, educator, or just music lover, one cannot deny that family music albums are constantly some great entertainment. That is due to the musical diversity that so many of those albums offer, as well as oftentimes, the records’ lyrical content.  This critic has proven this time and again over the years, even as recent as this year.  The Story Pirates’ new album The Strawberry Band is no exception to that rule.  Scheduled for release Friday through Face Cake Records, the 12-song record will entertain audiences of all ages just as much as the band’s existing albums and just as much as any family music act’s offerings past and present.  That is due in no small part to the overall approach to this record.  It will be discussed shortly.  The record’s featured musical arrangements add their own appeal to the album and will be discussed a little later.  The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical content puts the finishing touch to the album’s presentation and will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make the album one more candidate for a spot on this year’s top new family music albums.

The Story Pirates’ forthcoming album The Strawberry Band is an outstanding addition to this year’s field of new family music albums.  It stands out among this year’s field of new releases in part because of the approach that the band took to the record, making it a fun, family friendly concept album.  Yes, it is a concept album.  Few children’s albums out there can say they are concept works, considering that such works are saved more for grown-up albums.  The closest that any family music act’s work comes to being concept are Doctor Noize’s stories of Phineas McBoof, who is a musical monkey.  Getting back to The Story Pirates’ new album, the story featured in this record centers on a Beatles-esque band called….well…The Strawberry Band.  The set-up story, which opens the album, was developed by one of the band’s 5 year-old fans.  The rest of the songs that feature throughout were allegedly developed through story ideas presented to the band by its many young fans.  That the band would so openly and warmly develop a record – and a concept record no less – that was essentially made by and for its fans makes this approach especially unique and appealing.  The work that the band did to connect the overall concept is just as unique.  So all in all, the approach that the band took to this its fourth album is something special in its own right.  It in itself makes this record well worth hearing.  It is just one part of what makes the album so appealing.  The musical arrangements that make up the record’s body add their own appeal to the presentation.

The musical arrangements featured throughout The Strawberry Band are so important to note because of their diversity.  Right from the record’s outset, listeners are treat to a work in ‘The Strawberry Band’ that is a catchy, funky, bass-driven work that sounds like it came right out of the  1960s and 70s.  That this Beatles-inspired band is basically supposed to be performing the work adds to the special touch.  It will put a smile on any listener’s face.  Parents and older listeners in general will especially love the little tribute to The Beatles’ ‘Hold Your Hand’ that is incorporated into the song.  The hip-hop/vintage R&B sound of its immediate follow-up, ‘The Case of the Musical Cinnamon Buns’ will appeal just as much to audiences of all ages while the silly story of…well…musical cinnamon buns will entertain younger listeners.  That musical approach is so infectious.  It will introduce younger listeners to such a great genre while also offering something equally entertaining for older audiences.  As if that is not enough, those familiar with pop music from recent years will recognize a comparison to Taio Cruz’s hit song ‘Dynamite’ in ‘Hedgie in the Cloud Kingdom,’ which comes a little later in the album’s 42-minute run time.  The similarity is not a mirror image, but it is close enough that audiences will easily make the connection.  On yet another note, ‘Glowy and the Friend Adventure,’ the album’s mid-point, is just as easily comparable to Jason Mraz’s hit song ‘I’m Yours.’  Again, it is not an exact copy, what with the use of the muted trombone and overall approach.  However, the general, overall sound makes no doubt, the influence.  To that end, it will entertain older listeners just as much as any of the album’s other musical arrangements.  On yet another note, there is even a comparison to Alanis Morisette’s classic rock hit ‘You Oughta Know’ in ‘The Night I Started Sharing a Room With My Sister.’  Once again, the comparison is not precise, but the vocals, drums, bass, and guitar still make that comparison relatively obvious.  So yet again, here is a way for the album’s musical content to appeal to older audiences just as much as children.  The tributes to classic music do not end there.  The brief ‘The Strawberry Band (Reprise)’ pays tribute to George Harrison’s ‘Got My Mind Set On You,’  adding even more to the record’s musical appeal.   Those songs (and others featured here) will also serve as a starting point for those older audiences to introduce their own children to their music and bond with them even more in the process.  Keeping all of this in mind, it should be clear why the musical arrangements featured throughout this album are so important to its presentation.  When they are considered along with the album’s very approach, that whole more than makes the band’s new forthcoming album a pleasure to hear.  They are just a portion of what makes the album enjoyable.  The lyrical themes that accompany the album’s musical content and story put the finishing touch to the presentation.

The lyrical content that is featured in The Strawberry Band is important to note because it is just as diverse as the record’s musical content.  As already noted, one of the album’s early entries – ‘The Case of the Musical Cinnamon Buns – is about a bunch of musical cinnamon buns. It is just a fun, random story.  There is also a story about a fairy that lacked wings featured here.  The song delivers a message to listeners about taking pride in one’s self even if one might not look like others or have the same abilities as others.  This is a message that again, listeners of all ages will appreciate.  It adds even more enjoyment and importance to the album’s lyrical content overall.  The band also promotes making friends with a diverse range of individuals because of their diversity through ‘Glowy and the Friend Adventure.’  This is (sadly) a message that grown-ups should heed just as much as children.  That is especially the case today considering the world’s current social climate.  These noted songs and the album’s others were from the band’s young listeners, making them all the more impacting, when one takes the silly and serious all fully into account.  It all comes together to show without any doubt, just how important the album’s lyrical content is to its presentation.  When all of this is considered along with the importance and impact of the album’s musical content and overall approach, the whole makes The Strawberry Band a “sweet” new offering from The Story Pirates.

The Story Pirates forthcoming album The Strawberry Band is a presentation that will appeal just as much to grown-ups as it will to children.  That is proven in part through the record’s approach.  The approach in question is that of a concept album.  Few other family music albums make and have ever made concept albums for the whole family.  The record’s featured story is itself unique, making for even more appeal.  The musical arrangements that are presented throughout the story offer plenty for children and grown-ups alike plenty to enjoy.  They will in turn, make for a great way for families to bond just over this aspect.  The lyrical themes, which are presented from stories sent to the band by its young fans, add even more diversity to the album.  Some are silly.  Some are serious.  They are all accessible for listeners of all ages and presented in equally accessible fashion.  They put the finishing touch the album.  When they are considered along with the album’s approach, its story, and its musical arrangements, that whole makes The Strawberry Band an easy candidate for a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new family music albums.  It is scheduled for release Friday through Face Cake Records

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Live In Hyde Park Is A Must Have For Every ELO Fan

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Next month, ELO, now known as Jeff Lyne’s ELO will release its fourteenth full-length studio recording. The album, Alone in the Universe, will be released on Friday, November 13th via Columbia Records. That is just under a month away at the time of this review’s posting. The announcement of the album’s impending release was made just last month, a day before the release of the group’s new live recording Live in Hyde Park. Released on September 11th, Live in Hyde Park is a good addition to any ELO fan’s personal music library. The main reason that it proves to be such a worthwhile addition to fans’ collections is its set list. It should be noted right up front that the recording’s U.S. presentation allegedly is lacking the group’s performance of ‘Roll Over Beethoven,’ which was the band’s cover of Chuck Berry’s classic hit. Even if it is indeed lacking that one encore performance, the lack of that performance, at least in this critic’s own view, does not take away anything from the positive impact of the show’s overall set list. That will be discussed shortly. Another positive to the recording is of course Lynne’s stage presence and that of his fellow musicians. That presence makes for just as much enjoyment as the show’s set list and gives fans even more reason to add this recording to their personal ELO collections and music libraries in whole. Last but hardly least worth noting of the recording is its bonus material. The bonus interview with Lynne is quite insightful in its own right while the “bio” “Mr. Blue Sky: The Story Of Jeff Lynne and ELO adds even more insight into the importance of this legendary act. The two bonuses come together to round out the recording’s overall viewing experience and show once and for all why fans will both enjoy and appreciate once they add it to their own personal ELO collections and music libraries in whole.

Live at Hyde Park, the new live recording from Jeff Lynne’s ELO is a good addition to any ELO fan’s personal music library and ELO collection. It proves first and foremost through its set list. While not a completely career-spanning performance for Lynne and company, the sixteen song set list touches on a rather healthy sampling of the band’s body of work even going all the way back to the band’s 1971 debut record The Electric Light Orchestra. Its 1977 album Out Of The Blue appears to be the most well-represented of the albums represented in this concert. Of the album’s sixteen songs, no fewer than three are taken from that album while The Electric Light Orchestra, On The Third Day, Eldorado, and Face The Music are each represented by one song. A New World Record is represented twice over, while Discovery, the Xanadu soundtrack, and Secret Messages each boast a single track. That still leaves four songs that audiences both familiar with ELO’s body of work and those not so familiar work to find for themselves. In finding themselves, audiences will agree that once again, while the sentiment that the set list featured in this concert recording, while not necessarily career-spanning, is still a solid representation of ELO’s body of work. On another note, there are those that have complained about the U.S. presentation of Live at Hyde Park not including the encore performance of ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ at he very end of the recording. Given, that track is not there. There is no denying this. But considering that it is just one song, it still takes away very little if anything from the overall viewing experience of this recording. To that extent, the set list presented in Live in Hyde Park proves in the end to still be just as important to the recording’s viewing experience as any of the recording’s key talking points.

The set list featured in this recording is within itself plenty of reason for ELO fans to add it to their personal collections and music libraries in whole. That is even with the alleged omission of one song in the recording’s U.S. release. Lynne’s stage presence and that of his fellow musicians is just as important as the songs themselves. It goes without saying that the group’s stage presence makes for its own share of enjoyment. Lynne exudes a certain confidence for lack of better wording as he makes his way from one song to the next in the show’s set. It proves that a performer doesn’t necessarily have to run around stage and do all kinds of antics in order to be entertaining. All a performer needs is that confidence and the love of being on stage, entertaining the masses in order to be entertaining. That is what makes his stage presence so solid throughout the show. He commands the stage just by being there and doing so little other than deliver the songs. Lynne’s fellow musicians–many of whom are members of the BBC Orchestra, as Lynne directly notes–show just as much confidence throughout the concert. They also show just how much they enjoy performing with Lynne and his band. It shows through the energy and concentration put into each song’s performance and through their facial gestures. Audiences can see smiles on the faces of the BBC Orchestra members’ faces throughout, showing just how much they enjoyed being a part of the show. The enjoyment leads back to the energy put into each performance from start to finish. In turn it makes the overall stage presence of the group in whole–including Lynne and his band–that much more powerful and important to the whole of Live in Hyde Park. Together with the show’s set list and its sequencing, both elements together go a long way toward making this recording such an enjoyable experience for any long-time ELO fan. For all of their importance to the recording’s overall viewing experience they are not all that make the recording so enjoyable. The bonus interview with Jeff Lynne and the “bio” Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO round out the recording. The two bonuses together not only paint a rich picture of Jeff Lynne and his importance to the music industry, but on the legacy that he has created throughout his professional career.

The performance that lies at the center of Live in Hyde Park is in itself the most important element of the recording. It is after all the central focus point of the recording. However, the bonus material that is included with the recording proves just as important to the whole of the recording as the concert. That is because the bonus material paints such a rich, vivid picture of who Jeff Lynne is and why he is today one of the most important figures in the music industry. The one-on-one interview with Lynne paints its own picture, showing perhaps why Lynne is such a stickler for detail in terms of composing songs. He notes in his interview that despite being essentially a manual laborer, his father had a deep love and respect for classical music. And classical music requires a deep love for and attention to the music. Any lover of classical music will agree with that. Perhaps growing up in a household filled with such beautiful music led to his own attention to detail in composing his songs. He perhaps gained the same love for his music and attention to detail in composing his songs through his musical upbringing, in other words. Lynne also shares a funny anecdote about ELO opening for Deep Purple in the band’s first major tour and his surprise at how well it went down considering the stark contrast of sounds between the two acts. That anecdote will have viewers laughing just as Lynne himself. It’s just another example of what makes his interview so enjoyable for audiences, regardless of audiences’ familiarity with Lynne’s body of work and his contributions to the music industry. Speaking of those contributions to the music world, the bonus “bio/documentary” Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO offers even more insight into the importance of his contributions to the music industry.

Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO takes the foundation established in Lynne’s bonus one-on-one interview and builds even more on it. It does so by going into even more depth about his own achievements and contributions over the course of his professional career. It isn’t just some short, ten-minute presentation unlike so many other career retrospectives out there that call themselves bonuses on other acts’ recordings. Rather, it is a deep, extensive presentation that will keep viewers just as engaged as the presentation’s central concert recording. Viewers will learn that Lynne started his professional musical career early on in life and that his mom couldn’t even believe that he was making money as a musician. It’s another great light-hearted moment for audiences and fans alike. He also echoes his father’s love of classical music as an influence behind his love of music and his own method in composing his music. There are insights from the likes of Tom Petty, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and even the widows of George Harrison and Roy Orbison that paint such a deeply vivid picture of a musical genius. Even the most well-versed ELO fan might be surprised to learn through this documentary that Lynne was actually at least partially responsible for Tom Petty’s hit song ‘Free Falling,’ some of George Harrison’s most beloved compositions, and even one of The Beatles’ records post John Lennon’s passing. There is also an in-depth history presented by Petty, Lynne, and both Roy Orbison and George Harrison’s widows about The Traveling Wilburys included as part of the documentary. For those that might not know, Lynne was a member of The Traveling Wilburys alongside Orbison, Petty, Harrison, and Bob Dylan. It was a supergroup before supergroups became a thing. That part of Lynne’s story alone makes the “bio” well worth the watch. And it is hardly all that makes the documentary such an important presentation. There is so much more that long-time fans and audiences in general will appreciate throughout the program. Together with Lynne’s sit-down interview, Live in Hyde Park’s main feature concert, and Lynne’s performance alongside his fellow musician throughout the show, Live at Hyde Park in whole proves to be a recording that every ELO fan should have in their own home DVD library. Period.

Live In Hyde Park is a recording that every ELO fan should have in his or her own home DVD library. Whether for its set list, the performance of Lynne and his fellow musicians throughout the concert, or for the recording’s bonus material, there is so much to enjoy about this recording. It presents a band and a performer that remain today among the most influential and important names in the music industry. Each noted element is important to the whole of the presentation in its own right. Collectively, they make Live in Hyde Park a must have for any ELO fan and potentially one more of this year’s best new live DVDs and Blu-rays. It is available now on DVD and Blu-ray in stores and online. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:




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Frampton Not Just Alive But Rocking On New Live BD

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Eagle Vision

Music legend Peter Frampton created what is one of the most talked about live albums in modern music history in Frampton Comes Alive in 1976.  Thirty-six years after the release of that landmark live release, the guitarist has shown that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks.  For that matter, he also shows that he’s got plenty of new tricks to teach his audiences on the new live release, FCA!35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton.

FCA!35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton was filmed during the band’s 2011/2012 tour celebrating the thirty-fifth anniversary of the album’s release.  It was filmed at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee and at New York’s iconic Beacon Theater.  The two shows come together for a performance that’s just as enjoyable and impressive as Frampton’s original live release.  The first half of the show features Peter and company performing that album in its entirety and in order.  Audiences will be amazed at how strong classic standards such as ‘Doobie Wah’, ‘Baby I Love Your Way’ and ‘Do You Feel Like We Do.’  And just as impressive is the band’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash.’  Being that the Stones are now celebrating their 50th anniversary together, it was likely just coincidence that Frampton decided on this cover.  But the timing of having this cover is pretty interesting.  It goes without saying that Peter and company paid proper honor both to the song and the Stones with his take on the song.

The band’s cover of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ isn’t the only cover included in this standout collection of performances.  There’s also an incredible cover of Ida Cox’s blues standard, ‘Four Day Creep.’  Frampton shares vocal duties here with band mates Rob Arthur (keyboards) and Adam Lester (guitars).  All three do an impressive job in their turn, too, sounding like seasoned blues vocalists.  Peter even shows that while he has definitely gotten older over the years, he can still smoke the strings.  That is for certain.  Viewers’ jaws will drop seeing the control he has over his instrument. 

Just as interesting as the cover of ‘Four Day Creep’ is the band’s cover of Soundgarden’s (yes that Soundgarden) ‘Black Hole Sun.’ This cover is a full on instrumental cover.  There are no vocals here, although the original has vocals.  Frampton’s take on this grunge classic is original to say the least.  His band mates show they’re just as praiseworthy as Frampton on this cover.  That’s especially the case with drummer Dan Wojciechowski.  His performance would make Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron proud.   Add in some rather interesting visuals on the video screens behind the band, and audiences get what is definitely one of the standout performances in this new release.  Yes it seems minor, but even the visuals play a role in the performance.  The visual here is a large mass of what is perhaps a sun like object exploding.  As it explodes, it changes color and shape throughout the song.  It’s a rather subliminal visual.  But it works to help add that extra something to the song.

The band’s covers of ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Four Day Creep’ mixed with the performances of its own original works goes a long way toward showing the band’s versatility.  It proves that not just Frampton himself, but the entire band still has some new tricks.  So much more could be noted of the songs included in this collection.  But that would take far too long as one should also note the video and audio quality of the performances included here.  The picture and sound are both crystal clear.  And those with Blu-ray players and HD TV’s will especially see just how clear the picture is.  Combine that with expert camera work and the equally expert performance from the band, and home viewers get yet another outstanding live release from Eagle Rock Entertainment.

FCA!35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via Eagle Rock’s website at  And for all the latest from Peter Frampton, fans can check out his website, or “Like” him on Facebook at  Fans can also get the latest news and more from Peter on his Myspace page,

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The Love We Make makes for a great documentary

Music, it’s said, is the universal language.  It’s been said that it has the power to unite people of every background from every corner of the world.  In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, that adage never proved truer than with the Concert for New York.  And in Paul McCartney’s recently released dvd, The Love We Make, audiences get a glimpse into everything that led up to the concert.  Needless to say, The Love We Make is not a concert dvd.  It’s a documentary.  And anyone who is left dry-eyed by the end of this work is either not human, or simply has no emotion.

One of the most intriguing aspects of The Love We Make is how it portrays McCartney.  Generally in music documentaries, audiences just see the artists as artists.  But with this documentary, audiences see another side of McCartney.  They see Paul McCartney the person equally balanced with Paul McCartney the artist.  It shows how much performing for the people of New York meant for him, in the wake of that tragic day.  He tells the story during the documentary that his decision to headline the concert was influenced by his father.  He explains that his father was a firefighter in WWII, and seeing what happened on September 11th reminded him of how important it was to honor those men and women who give of themselves every day.

McCartney’s story about his father has a lasting impact throughout the documentary.  Audiences get to see his human side as he signs autographs for people, and talks to them about what had happened.  What it serves to do is show that while yes, he’s a celebrity, he’s still a normal average person.  He’s someone who wanted to help, even if it means having to appear on Howard Stern.  Speaking of Stern, his reaction to Stern’s showing at the concert only added to his humanity.  Along with seeing his humanity, viewers see someone who is a true musician.  Again, yes he’s a celebraity.  But the documentary shows him as someone who is more about the music and the people than about the celebrity status.  It makes the 94-minute run time seem to pass by without effort from either the director or audience.

It’s been just over ten years since what is now considered this generation’s Pearl Harbor.  Since that time, some people have forgotten the sense of togetherness and community that was felt across the country at that concert.  People from every walk of life came together for a singular reason, and a single night to honor those men and women who lost their lives on one of this nation’s darkest days.  But thanks to The Love We Make, hopefully those who might have forgotten that feeling will remember it anew after watching this outstanding film.