Marco Pignataro’s Dream Alliance’s ‘Awakening’ Is A Unique Addition To 2022’s New Live Recordings Field

Courtesy: Zoho Music

Veteran jazz saxophonist Marco Pignataro opened April with the release of a new live recording in the form of Marco Pignataro’s Dream Alliance: Awakening. Recorded in July 2021 at Boston’s GBH Fraser Studio with his fellow musicians, Kenny Werner (piano, vocals), Nadia Washington (vocals, guitar), and Devon Gates (bass, vocals), the performance was a virtual concert. Now nine months after it was captured, that concert has come home on CD through Zoho Music. It is certain to appeal to Pignataro’s established audiences and very targeted jazz audiences. That is due in part to the concert’s set list, which will be discussed shortly. The concert’s production is just as noteworthy as its set list, and will be examined a little later. The concert’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be examined later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording. All things considered, they make the concert a presentation that jazz fans will find worth hearing at least once.

Marco Pignataro’s Dream Alliance: Awakening, the new live recording from Marco Pignataro, is a unique live presentation from the veteran jazz saxophonist and his fellow musicians. That is proven in part through its featured set list. The set list is composed of a variety of originals, covers and even spoken word pieces whose run times bring the record’s run time to more than 50 minutes. The spoken word songs are performed by Washington with poems that were crafted by Pignataro. Pignataro and company meanwhile, offer light, subtle, original musical backings for each performance. The whole of those moments will lead audiences to conjure thoughts of those hipster night clubs where just such performances would take place. The only difference is that the bongos and people with black berets would be replaced with people of much higher class. Just as interesting to note is that the spoken word performances are short, the longest clocking in at only two minutes, eight seconds. So in reality, they are their own performances, but at the same time, serve double duty as interludes, so to speak, within the concert’s bigger picture. Their addition within the record, to that end, makes them their own interesting aspect.

The covers featured in the set list meanwhile, are important in their own right. Their number is limited to just four, but they are quite well-known works in themselves. One of the covers, that of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Send One Your Love’ opens the record. The group’s performance here is even more relaxed than Wonder’s original, which itself is subdued in its own approach. Washington’s R&B-tinged vocal approach does so well in the place of Wonder, while the omission of any drums in this case actually improves on the original. The subtle use of the guitar alongside her vocal delivery is a clear illustration that less can be and is so much more. Even the occasional accents from Pignataro on the soprano sax makes for its own touch. The whole makes for an interesting presentation in its own right.

Touching on the recording’s originals, ‘Farfallina’ is among the most notable tracks. It is notable in part because while it is centered on one of Pignataro’s poems, it is not presented as one of the concert’s spoken word performances. Washington actually sings the lines composed by Pignataro, singing about a butterfly, which of course is a metaphorical term here. The pairing of Pignataro’s performance on the saxophone and that of Werner on the piano along with the vocal layering incorporated at times — which makes for an interesting call and response effect — makes the overall performance quite unique in its own right. When it and the other originals are considered along with the covers and the spoken word tracks, the whole of the concert’s set list gives audiences reason enough in itself to take in the virtual concert. Of course the set list is just part of what makes the recording worth hearing. The concert’s production adds its own touch to the appeal of its presentation.

The production that went into Awakenings is of note because again, the concert was recorded and presented sans audience. That means those responsible for the sound mix did not have that crowd noise to balance with the musicians. In its absence, those responsible for the production still had to ensure that the musicians’ performances were balanced within the confines of the performance space and the acoustics therein. The utmost attention was clearly paid to balancing each instrument with its counterpart. The painstaking work that went into balancing that audio paid off, as the noted audiences will find this aspect just as positive as the mix of content in the concert’s set list.

Awakenings‘ packaging rounds out its most important elements. The packaging refers here, to the overall content provided with the recording. On the back of the package, the covers and originals are denoted with credit for the covers give to their original acts. The originals are credited to the group, and those within the group. Case in point, Werner composed the late entry, ‘Inspiration,’ and is given his due credit. The Beatles (specifically, John Lennon and Paul McCartney) composed ‘Because,’ one of the concert’s featured covered. They receive their own credit. Giving credit where due not only is a legal issue, but also ensures audiences know which songs are originals and which are covers right off the bat.

Also within the packaging are liner notes pointing out that each of the featured works (musical and spoken word alike) follow one theme, that of love in each form. From romantic to familial and other, the liner notes within the package let audiences know that the songs’ focus was intentional from one to the next. The liner notes also explain the use of the poems in the spoken word performances, making for appreciation for those moments, too. Speaking of the poems that Pignataro wrote, they are presented as part of the overall packaging, too. Keeping that in mind along with the rest of the information provided in the packaging, the whole of this element clearly shows this element’s importance to the recording’s presentation, too. When this element is considered along with the rest of the recording’s items, the whole makes Awakenings a unique addition to this year’s field of new live recordings.

Marco Paignataro’s Dream Alliance’s Awakening is an intriguing live recording. Its interest comes in part through its set list. The set list features a combination of originals, covers, and spoken word songs. The combination of songs is unique in itself. The production that went into the virtual performance ensures the concert’s sound is just as appealing to the noted targeted audiences as the songs themselves. The packaging puts the final touch to the recording, rounding out its most important elements. Each item examined is important in its own right to the whole of the recording. All things considered, they make Awakening a presentation that Pignataro’s audiences and specific jazz audiences will find appealing.

Awakening is available through Zoho Music. More information on the record is available along with all of Marco Pignataro’s latest news at:

Website: https://www.marcopignataro.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Marcopignatarojazz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarcoPignataro

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and ‘Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

‘Solid Ground’ Is A “Solid” Debut For The Grease Traps

Courtesy: Record Kicks

Up-and-coming independent funk outfit The Grease Traps released its debut album, Solid Ground, this month.  Released Nov. 5 through Record Kicks, the 11-song record is a presentation that is sure to appeal widely among fans of funk, soul, and R&B.  That is due in large part to the record’s featured musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The lyrical themes that accompany the record’s musical content make for more appeal and will be discussed a little later.  The sequencing of that collective content adds its own share of appeal to the presentation and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make the album a “solid” start for The Grease Traps.

More often than not when people think of grease traps, they think of big containers that hold the leftover, disposable junk used to cook fried foods.  In the case of The Grease Traps though, people are getting anything but disposable content.  Rather, this group’s debut record is a successful start for the group that has plenty of staying power.  That is evidenced in part through the record’s featured musical arrangements.  Hearing the album’s featured musical arrangements is like opening up a time capsule loaded with the best funk, soul, and R&B sounds of days gone by.  Each composition lends itself to comparison to works from the likes of Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and Sly & The Family Stone, just to name a few similar acts.  The thing is that even with such comparison, the songs still boast their own identities.  That is due to the instrumentations and their production.  That the group pays such clear homage to those who came before them while also creating such engaging and entertaining compositions of their own makes for so much applause.  On an even deeper level, while each arrangement is clear in its throwback to those days gone by, the songs even bear a unique identity from one another, with subtle changes from one song to the next.  Only those who listen closely to the record will catch those ever so slight variations, too.  In other words, this is a record that audiences cannot and should not just passively play.  Rather, full appreciation comes through actively listening through each song.  On a side note, there is some foul language incorporated in some of the songs, including the record’s opener, ‘Roots.’  Sadly, there is not parental advisory on the record to note the language, which is disappointing.  That aside, it does not doom the record, but it does mean that some listener discretion should be used.  Some of the lyrical content is not entirely family friendly is all.

Moving from the album’s musical content, its lyrical content plays its own important part to the whole of its presentation, too.  The lyrical content featured in this record is important to examine because of its accessibility.  By and large, the lyrical themes featured throughout the record are centered on romantic relationships between a man and woman, just in various fashions.  At the same time, there is some more serious, social content featured in the record, such as ‘Color Blind.’  The song clearly takes on the issue of race relations.  Considering everything going on in America right now, this song is fully relevant.  The group sings right from the opening lines, “I’ve always heard white is right/Ya better believe/Black is alright, too/And so is blue and green and yellow/What difference should it make to you?”  That is a pretty bold statement that rings so true today.  Its message is clear.  The mention of judging people by color and that we should all be colorblind adds even more impact to the song.

On another note, a song, such as the record’s lead single, ‘Bird of Paradise,’ this work is a celebration of how people get out on the dance floor and use their moves to attract another.  More specifically, it is sung from the vantage point of a man trying to show his moves as he even invites said woman to come join him.  This is such an accessible work in that sense.  When its musical arrangement is added to the mix, it gets even more fun.

The album’s title track is yet another accessible work that audiences will enjoy in its own right through its lyrical theme.  This song is a clear statement of self determination.  That is evidenced in the mention that people should “just put your foot on solid ground.”  That is made even clearer in the statement that “if you’ve got a burden/Then you push it to the side/I wanna fight for my people’s rights/As long as I can” in the song’s second verse.  The sentiment is echoed in the song’s lead verse, which states, “If the world’s got you down/Thinkin’ that you ain’t got a chance/Just stand on solid ground/And change your circumstance/I’m telling you right now/Don’t fall into that hole/’Cause what you really need is some strength to satisfy your soul/Put your foot on the rock/Put your foot on solid ground.” This overall message of empowerment is fully accessible and one that audiences will welcome any time, what with its clear translation and equally upbeat musical counterpart.  It is yet another of so many examples of the important role of Solid Ground’s lyrical content.  When it and the other songs examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s lyrical content, the whole makes the album’s lyrical content just as powerful and important as its musical arrangements.  The sequencing of that collective content rounds out the album’s most important items.

The sequencing of Solid Ground is so important to note because it brings the record’s lyrical and musical content together and completes the presentation.  It ensures that those who actively listen to the album will hear the aforementioned subtle changes in the songs’ arrangements through the instrumentations.  It also ensures that the lyrical themes change ever so subtly from one to the next, too.  That in itself goes a long way to keep listeners engaged and entertained.  Considering the energy in each song’s arrangement, the sequencing keeps things moving just fluidly enough from one to the next, too.  This ensures in its own right, that the record’s pacing remains solid from start to end.  Keeping this in mind along with the sequencing in terms of the content, there is no doubt that the sequencing of Solid Ground is just as important to the album as its content.  It takes the content into account and orders it so as to ensure the most notable impact possible and succeeds quite well along the way.  When this is considered along with the importance and impact of the album’s content, the whole makes the record a “solid” first outing for The Grease Traps.

The Grease Traps’ debut album, Solid Ground, is an impressive first outing for the up-and-coming outfit, which specializes in funk, soul, and R&B.  Its success comes in part through its musical arrangements, which are stylistically similar from one to the next.  However, their sounds are so subtly different from one another.  That is revealed through a close listen to the record.  It in itself will engage and entertain audiences.  The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical arrangements is just as entertaining thanks to its clear translation in each song, and the accessibility ensured therein.  The sequencing of said content rounds out the album’s most important elements.  That is because it takes the content into mind to offer audiences something different from one song to the next.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Solid Ground an auspicious start for the group’s career.

Solid Ground is available now. More information on Solid Ground is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://thegreasetraps.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/thegreasetraps

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/thegreasetraps

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Grease Traps Announce New Album Details; Teases Lead Single

Courtesy: Record Kicks

Up-and-coming funk outfit The Grease Traps will release its debut album this fall.

The band is scheduled to release its debut album, Solid Ground Nov. 5 through Record Kicks. In anticipation of the record’s forthcoming release, the band premiered a teaser for the record’s lead single, ‘Bird of Paradise’ Sept. 16.

The teaser presents the song as a full-on funky composition, complete with horns, keyboards, catchy hooks and choruses. It immediately lends itself to comparisons to works from the likes of James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, and Stevie Wonder.

The song’s lyrical theme is relatively obvious even with only a portion of the song featured in the teaser. The theme is that of a man trying to impress a woman. That theme is especially translated through the song’s video, which features a male bird doing a mating dance for its potential mate as the song plays over the visualization.

Guitarist Kevin O’Dea talked about the group’s new single in a prepared statement.

“‘Bird of Paradise’ was the first original we recorded at Transistor Sound Studio with Kelly Finnigan and Ian McDonald of Monophonics,” he said. “It was conceived to be a split A and B side on a 45, with the main groove as Part 1 and the breakdown as Part II, similar to some of our favorite James Brown tracks. However, we opted to fade out a little early to make room for the slow-burning original we recorded right after that on the B side.”

Added O’Dea, “If you’ve ever seen a live Grease Traps show, you’ll recognize some of the Gata’s dance moves as bearing a striking resemblance to the bird of paradise’s dance of seduction. It is a dance, it is a state of mind, and now it’s a nasty groove”.

More information on The Grease Traps’ forthcoming album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Website: https://thegreasetraps.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thegreasetraps

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thegreasetraps

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Beck’s New Live CD Is A Welcome Addition To Any Fan’s Collection

Courtesy:  ATCO/Rhino Records

Courtesy: ATCO/Rhino Records

Later this month, veteran guitarist Jeff Beck will release a brand new live recording titled Live+. The recording, which will be released only on CD, will be released on Tuesday, May 19th. The disc is a great new collection of live performances for audiences of all ages. The main reason for this is the list of songs that make up the disc’s sixteen total tracks. The disc’s body is composed of fourteen live tracks and two brand new studio tracks. The live tracks include both Beck’s own originals and some cover tunes that audiences of all ages will recognize and enjoy. The work of those charged with handling the record’s sequencing is just as much worth noting. The songs featured on this record come from a number of shows held during Back’s 2014 tour with ZZ Top. Despite this, they weren’t just tossed around haphazardly. Rather they were placed in a specific order that guarantees audiences will remain just as engaged as if they all came from one single performance. Having noted this, there is one more positive that can be noted of Live+. That last positive is the disc’s overall audio mix. Every little nuance of the performances is captured thanks to the work of those responsible for handling both the original concert audio and those charged with balancing said levels in the disc’s “post-production.” Taking into consideration all three elements noted here, Live+ proves itself to be another good addition to any Jeff Beck fan’s music library even if it is available only via CD and digital download.

Live+ is a good addition to any Jeff Beck fan’s music library. This is the case even with the collection of live performances being available mainly via CD and digital download. The reason that it proves itself worth the addition is the list of songs that makes up the body of the record. The record is composed of sixteen tracks. Fourteen of those tracks are live tracks and two are brand new studio recordings from Beck. In listening to the fourteen live performances that make up most of this record, audiences will appreciate that it includes both familiar originals from Beck and some familiar songs from other artists, too. The covers include Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing,’ ‘Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come,’ ‘Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ‘You Know You Know,’ and a pair of tunes from The Beatles in the form of ‘A Day in The Life’ and ‘Hammerhead.’ There’s even an interesting take on the traditional song ‘Danny Boy.’ and an impressive take on Stevie Wonder’s hit song ‘Superstition.’ The original songs from Beck that were included across the disc include: ‘Morning Dew,’ ‘Big Block,’ ‘Why Give It Away,’ and ‘Loaded’ are just some of Beck’s originals featured throughout the record. Some might ask what this is important to the whole of the record. It is important in that it shows Beck’s versatility. It shows that along with handling his own works with just as much ease as ever, he has a certain respect for music and musicians across the musical universe. Those that are familiar with all of the songs featured here will second that sentiment while those that might be new to both Beck’s originals and the covers he handles will agree just as much as they discover both for the first time ever.

The songs that are included across the body of Live+ are in themselves key to the record’s enjoyment. That is because they put on display Beck’s versatility as a musician as well as his respect for other musicians and musical acts across the musical universe. On a related note, the work of those charged with handling the sequencing of the songs are to be commended. Their work makes the overall listening experience through each song all the more enjoyable. As audiences will note, from song to song, those charged with handling the record’s sequencing never stick to just one style of song. The more energetic, up-tempo songs are complemented quite well by their slower, more reserved counterparts from beginning to end. As inconsequential as this may seem, it is extremely important. It is especially important in the realm of live recordings. Musical acts assemble set lists that will keep their audiences fully engaged at the actual concerts that they hold. This compilation of live performances was set up in much the same fashion even being compiled from a number of live sets. It is a tribute to their efforts and attention to such an important detail along with that of Beck himself. It’s one more reason audiences will agree that Live+ is another good addition to any Jeff Beck fan’s personal music library.

Both the set list that makes up the body of Live+ and the work of those charged with handling the sequencing of said songs are important to the whole of the recording in their own right. Neither would be of any consequence without the work of those charged with handling the performances’ audio. This includes both those that handled the audio at Beck’s performances with ZZ Top last year and those that handled the audio levels in “post-production.” That is those that handled the audio levels in preparation for the recording’s release. It’s thanks to their work that singer Jimmy Hall blows audiences away with his powerhouse vocals. It is thanks to them that Becks work shines through just as much both during his time in the limelight and as a member of the musical collective on stage. Even more impressive is that throughout the course of the record’s live performances, every part is balanced with the utmost expertise. This includes not only Hall’s vocal talents and Beck’s talents on guitar, but the talents of their band mates–Jonathan Joseph (drums), Rhonda Smith (bass), and Nicholas Meier (guitar)–too. No one part overpowers the other at any point throughout the performances. The end result is a collection of performances that once more proves itself another worthy addition to any Jeff Beck fan’s personal music library.

Jeff Beck’s new live recording Live+ shows plenty of reason for his fans to add this recording to their personal music libraries when it is released this month. The mix of original songs and covers shows both Beck and his band mates as quite the versatile group of musicians. It shows them as musicians that are not only greatly talented but that have great respect for other equally renowned acts. The work of those charged with sequencing the various performances is just as noteworthy. That is because the mood of the recording’s live songs doesn’t stick to just one style. The more energetic, up-tempo pieces are expertly complemented by more laid back, reserved pieces from beginning to end. The end result of that expert balance is a collection of performances that will keep audiences fully engaged from the collection’s first performance to its fourteenth. The work of those charged with handling the performances’ audio both in their live setting and in post production have made Live+ enjoyable, too. It is thanks to the work of those individuals that the performances sound so good from beginning to end. That element taken into consideration with the compilation’s set list and the work of those that assembled said set list proves Live+ in the long run to be a live recording that every Jeff Beck fan will want to add to their personal music library. That isn’t to ignore the record’s two new studio recordings, either. They add even more enjoyment to the record. Having noted all of this it can be said with certainty that Jeff Beck’s upcoming live CD Live+ deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new live CDs.

Jeff Beck is currently wrapping up a handful of makeup dates with ZZ Top that were previously postponed last year. The dates in question were postponed due to an injury sustained by ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill. The last of those dates is tomorrow, May 10th. After that date, Beck will embark on a nine-date solo tour that kicks off next Tuesday, May 12th in Louisville, KY. That schedule is listed below.

Jeff Beck Newly Added Solo Dates – on sale dates noted:

May 12 The Kentucky Center –Whitney Hall Louisville, KY*

May 14 Michigan Theater Ann Arbor, MI ***

May 15 Hard Rock Live Northfield, OH*

May 16 PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center Cincinnati, OH

May 17 Ryman Auditorium Nashville, TN

May 19 Fox Theater St. Louis, MO *

May 21 Chicago Theatre Chicago, IL **

May 22 Riverside Theatre Milwaukee, WI*

May 23 State Theater Minneapolis, MN*

*on sale April 10

** on sale April 11

*** on sale April 17

Live+ will be available in stores and online Tuesday, May 19th. It will retail for MSRP of $18.98 in physical form. More information on this recording, Beck’s upcoming re-issue of Live at Ronnie Scott’s and any of his other recordings is available online now along with all of the latest updates on his tour schedule and other news at:

Website: http://www.jeffbeck.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jeffbeck

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jeffbeckmusic

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Motown 25 Is A Musical Diamond In The Rough

Courtesy:  StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Courtesy: StarVista Entertainment/Time Life Entertainment

Television in America possesses a rich history in its modern era.  The moon landing, JFK’s assassination, The Korean and Vietnam wars, presidential elections, 9/11 and so many other events fill the history of television in its modern era.  While it would seem that many of the most important events broadcast on television in its modern history are memorable because they are tragic, there are positive events recorded in television’s modern history, too.  Some of the most memorable of those more positive events are concerts that have brought people together from all walks of life.  Live Aid, The Concert For New York, and the Beatles’ first ever live performance on American television each make the list of television’s top live broadcast draws.  Next Tuesday, September 30th, Time Life Entertainment and StarVista Entertainment will add another concert to that list of television’s greatest live concerts when they release Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever.  Motown 25: YesterdayTodayForever was originally broadcast on NBC on May 16th, 1983.  This new three-disc DVD presentation marks the first time since its original VHS release in 1983 that the concert has seen the light of day.  Being that this is the first time in just over three decades that it has been released to the public, this edition of Motown 25Yesterday– Today.-Forever is well worth the price and the watch.  The central reason for that is the sheer magnitude of material included in the overall presentation.  Audiences don’t just get the original broadcast.  They get to hear from the concert’s original heads and some of the artists that performed on that night.  Audiences also get a brief yet still insightful history on the famed “Hitsville USA” as a bonus.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this recording is the overall audio and video mix.  The painstaking efforts undertaken by those charged with restoring the concert’s footage paid off in spades.  Both the audio and video presented here sound and look just as good as the concert’s original broadcast if not better.  Completing the set is its companion booklet.  The booklet includes a brief yet thorough history on the concert and its lasting impact by author Nelson George and Motown 25 EP Suzanne De Passe.  Also included in the companion booklet is a complete guide to the concert’s lineup and bonus material along with full credits listing those behind the show.  The booklet is the final touch to a package that any old school r&b fan and lover of music and music history will appreciate.

Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever is one of the most enjoyable live recorded concerts in the modern history of television.  As enjoyable as it proves to be even today, it sadly is not one that most people think of when they think of major broadcast concerts.  That view will hopefully change though, after watching this presentation.  The amount of material included in this three-disc set alone is more than enough reason for viewers to change their view of Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever.  That vast amount of material includes not just the original concert recording, but a number of bonuses to go along with it.  Those bonuses include roundtable interviews with both the show’s heads and some of the performers, a brief but still thorough history of Hitsville, USA, and even an in-depth look at the very creation of the concert from pre-production to the finished product.  Audiences will be moved to hear the emotion as the show’s heads discuss their favorite memories from the concert.  There are plenty of laughs along the way.  And there are some tears, too.  The history lesson on Hitsville, USA is especially enjoyable for those that might not be so familiar with the history of the label that started it all for so many legends.  And the insight into the concert’s creation will interest anyone with any interest in television production.  Collectively, those bonuses along with the concert itself more than make Motown 25YesterdayTodayForever worth the watch whether one is a lover of old school lover of r&B, a music lover in general or even an individual with a love for music history.  And it is just part of what makes the collection worth the watch, too.  There is far more worth nothing that audiences will appreciate and enjoy just as much.  Another aspect worth noting is the overall quality of the concert’s footage (I.E. its audio and video mix).

The vast amount of material that makes up the body of Motown 25 is by itself more than enough reason for every lover of music.  It is just one part of the whole that makes the viewing experience a joy for audiences within this presentation.  The presentation’s collective audio and video mix adds to the presentation’s enjoyment.  StarVista Entertainment and Time Life Entertainment included a disclaimer before Motown 25’s central concert presentation begins stating the footage may have some minor discrepancies at various points throughout the concert.  But audiences will see that if there are any such discrepancies, they are too minute to see with the naked eye.  Those charged with restoring the footage for its presentation in this set are to be commended for their painstaking efforts as they paid off in spades.  That applies both to the audio and video mix.  Every note comes through crystal clear as does every single camera shot.  Again, kudos go out to those responsible for bringing the footage back to life as it most definitely looks and sounds as good as it must have in its original broadcast.

The work that went into restoring the footage from the Motown 25 concert and the amount of material included in the new upcoming box set collectively makes it such an enjoyable experience for anyone that has any love for the classics and for music history in general.  As enjoyable as they make the experience together, the people at Star Vista and Time Life didn’t stop there.  They also included a companion booklet with the set that adds even more depth to the presentation.  The companion booklet included with this three-disc set features its own look back at the Motown 25 concert from the show’s EP, Suzanne De Passe as well as one from author Nelson George, who wrote The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Dance and Style.  Their shared insights offer a look at the concert that echoes the sentiments shared in the round table discussions that were included as bonus features.  Along with the additional insight and background on the concert, the set’s companion booklet also includes a complete song-by-song guide to the concert and bonus features.  And closing it out is a full listing of the names of those responsible for both the original concert and its re-working for its presentation here.  It finishes off a set that is arguably one more of this year’s best new archived live recordings.

Motown 25: YesterdayTodayForever is a diamond in the rough. With its full concert experience, bonus interviews and retrospective roundtable discussions, it offers audiences a concert experience unlike most others released so far this year.  The painstaking efforts on the part of those charged with re-mastering the concert’s original footage make the concert even more enjoyable for audiences.  And the bonus booklet added as a companion to the concert adds even more depth and insight to the show and its importance to the history of both r&b and the music world in whole.  All three factors together make Motown 25: YesterdayTodayForever one of this year’s best new archived live recordings and one that every lover of music will enjoy.  It will be available next Tuesday, September 30th and can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Motown-25-Yesterday-Today-Forever/dp/B00L9OPA56/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1411671053&sr=1-1&keywords=motown+25th+anniversary+television+special.  A special limited edition six-disc set and an expanded limited edition six-DVD/eight-CD set online via the Time Life online store at http://timelife.com/products/motown-25-yesterday-today-forever.  More information on these and other releases from Time Life and StarVista is available online at

Website: http://timelife.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TimeLifeUS

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies Is One Of This Year’s Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Children’s Albums

Courtesy:  MGP Records

Courtesy: MGP Records

MGP Records’ newly released children’s album Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies is one of the most surprising releases in its genre so far this year.  The album, which was crafted by composer-musician Darryl Tookes and Joe Beck is a beautiful tribute to the memory of Beck, who passed away in 2008.  Beck, like Tookes, was himself a composer and musician.  He wrote and recorded with some of the biggest names in the music industry throughout his life. From Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis to the likes of James Brown, David Sanborn, and Paul Desmond, Beck’s resume was a shining list of who’s who in the music world.  So it goes without saying that when Beck passed in 2008 his friend Darryl Tookes had to wonder if this project would ever see the light of day.  Thank goodness, it did.  That’s because of the pure musical beauty contained from beginning to end in this compilation of songs.  The compilation opens with a catchy, jazzed-up take of the standard ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ that in this critic’s view, boasts quite the Stevie Wonder influence.  It’s a take that will take many by entirely pleasant surprise.  The flowing harmonies and keyboard line in ‘I Love You Too Much’ conjure thoughts of Boyz II Men.  The song is a touching tribute to every young boy out there.  The young ladies out there haven’t been forgotten, either.  As a matter of fact, ‘Daddy’s Girl’ is great for when a young lady is still a little girl or even for the first father-daughter dance at the wedding of any father’s daughter to her suitor.  It boasts its own old school r&b style that will move any dad with a heart to tears of happiness.  All three of the songs noted here are excellent examples of what makes Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies a beautiful surprise of a record.  Audiences will find for themselves in purchasing this album that every single one of the album’s ten tracks will leave a smile on any parent’s face; some songs more so than others.  In the end, audiences will agree that this record is a fitting tribute to the memory of Joe Beck and an equally fitting addition to any parent’s music library.

Tookes and Beck make quite the first impression with this compilation in their jazzed up take on the standard ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.’  That jazzed up feel is the most obvious aspect of the song that audiences will appreciate about it.  This classic poem/song is typically much slower and straight forward.  This more up-tempo take on the song is the polar opposite of that standard sound. One could almost argue that it boasts a celebratory vibe for lack of better wording.  And after hearing it, audiences will agree it is worlds better than that standard format.  Tookes channels Stevie Wonder as he sings poet Jane Taylor’s classic work.  Audiences that hear this song without knowing it is Tookes singing might actually mistake him for Wonder.  That in itself is quite the statement to Tookes’ vocal talents.  Not to be left out, Beck shines with his guitar work alongside Tookes’ vocals.  Their talents alongside the song’s vocal harmonies and the percussion add even more depth and emotion to the song.  That depth and joyful emotion generated through the song makes it clear why it was chosen as the album’s opener.  It makes just as clear that it was the right choice to open the album.

Beck and Tookes’ jazzed up take on ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ was the perfect choice to open this album, especially when taking into consideration the body of the album, closer included. It isn’t the only cover included on the album, either. There is also a medley of nursery rhymes that is just as enjoyable. And the duo’s gentle adaptation of ‘Rock a Bye Baby’ is just as impressive. The pair’s re-imaginings of classic songs aside, there are just as many equally moving originals throughout the album, too. One of those truly great pieces is an ode to sons everywhere in the song ‘I Love You Too Much.’ The gentle strains of the piano set against Tookes’ equally gentle vocals makes a person want to listen. The picture he paints of a father and son’s relationship is something worthy of a music video. This critic already has a vision of a music video in mind just listening to the video as the father and son talk to one another in the song’s verses. And as with the album’s opener, harmonies play a big role in this piece, too; especially in the song’s final moments. The best way to explain the combination of it all is that it is something that truly must be heard to be fully understood and appreciated. And in hearing it, every parent out there will appreciate the pure talent and musicianship exhibited throughout the composition. It is one more work that makes this compilation in whole an absolute for any parent out there.

The cover of the classic children’s poem/song ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ and the tribute to every son out there that is ‘I Love You Too Much’ are two absolute gems that shine so brightly one Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies. Every parent that picks up this album will be glad to know that in crafting the album before Beck’s passing, he and Tookes did not forget all of the young princesses out there. Beck and Tookes pay tribute to all of the daughters out there early on in the simply titled ‘Daddy’s Girl.’ All of the parents and daughters alike will be happy to see that this original song is also the first original work included in the compilation. It is the second song overall, yes. But it is the first of the record’s original tunes. So in a sense, one could say that the young ladies out there are getting a double tribute, getting their own song before the boys. Of course, that was meant in the most playful sense possible so as to not offend anyone. The lightly Latin-jazz tinged song is a piece that works whether a young lady is a child or enjoying her first father-daughter dance at her wedding. Tookes sings happily of a daughter, “This is a love/A love like no other love/This is a love/Unlike another/A love like no other I’ll ever know/And so she goes/And as I watch her grow/Daddy’s girl/My daughter/And I love her so/Daddy’s girl/My daughter/And I love her so.” Once again, the harmonies that are so prevalent throughout this record do so much in this piece. The addition of what sounds like bongos in the background alongside a light triangle line adds even more emotion and depth to the whole thing. As with ‘I Love You Too Much’ that depth and emotion makes it so easy to see this song being accompanied by a music video, too. Yes, that is a not so subtle hint to whoever makes those choices. Music video or not, it is one more absolutely beautiful and moving piece that exemplifies what makes Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies one of the most wonderfully surprising children’s albums to be released this year. That is not to discount the album’s other songs, either. The lullaby that is ‘Daddy’s Here’ and the album’s African-influenced title track will impress audiences just as much. Whether it be for those songs or any of the others not noted here, one will come away from this album knowing that in listening to it, they have just experienced something very special. They will know they have just experienced not just a group of songs, but a group of truly thought out and heartfelt songs that dare this critic say is timeless in its own right.

Precious Child: Love Songs & Lullabies is one of the most surprisingly enjoyable children’s albums to be released this year. From start to finish, every song on this album plays its own part in making this album timeless in its own right. Collectively, they make the album potentially one of the year’s definite best in its category this year. It is available now in stores and online. 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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.