Archive for Whitney Houston

A Few Odds And Ends

Posted in Current Events, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by greedycherry

So I’ve been trying, for the past month, to get back into a regular blog-writing schedule, and decided that having fresh content ready for every Monday morning sounded like a good idea consistency-wise. Therefore, I’ve been writing up my new posts every Sunday night so that everyone had something new to read (if they so chose) for the start of their work week the following day. This week, unfortunately, I missed by a few days, and therefore can only provide you fresh, new content for the end of your work week. I hope you will forgive me.

Even if you won’t, I will push on with a few odds and ends I thought might be of interest to you…..things you can check out while you’re killing time before the five o’clock bell and the start of your weekend. Because, let’s be honest….isn’t that just what you’re doing?

The Fleet FoxesThe first item of note combines a pastoral-sounding musical group with a pop diva who recently passed. Is everyone familiar with the Fleet Foxes? If not, I totally recommend you check them out. Their sound is a bit hard to describe….sort of like a stripped-down rock band with thick harmonies that were recorded in a church cathedral. There’s something reverent about their sound, yet contemporary….it’s very odd, but very addictive. If you haven’t been introduced, allow me to provide a link to their first big hit, and how I was introduced to them: White Winter Hymnal. Such a lovely little song…..but can you imagine this type of sound used on a Whitney Houston song?

Imagine no longer.

In August of last year, this version of Whitney’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody Who Loves Me” popped up on social media site Tumblr, and everyone thought that the Fleet Foxes were just insanely talented at transferring their distinct sound to literally any song they wanted to take on. The L Magazine even put up an article on the release of the song which was titled, “Fleet Foxes Cover Whitney Houston, Prove They Can Turn Anything into a Campfire Singalong.” But, as it turned out, this wasn’t really the Fleet Foxes at all, despite the Tumblr account name “Fleetfoxessing”.

Instead, this song was discovered to have been released by a VERY talented tribute group named Fleet Foxes Sing. And, to be truthful, it’s not even really a group….just one guy who wishes to remain anonymous, lest the press attention and fan mail become overwhelming. (You can, if you are so inclined, read an interview with him here, which talks about his inspiration for the project, how he started it, and how he arranges and records these brilliant covers.) It’s quite amazing how many covers this guy has taken on, from artists as diverse as Al Green, Katy Perry, Robyn, Phil Collins, Feist, Stevie Wonder, Bon Iver, Ginuwine, and Pat Benetar, to name a few. At least the Fleet Foxes themselves aren’t mad about this guy stealing their sound; as Fleet Foxes Sing started to become viral, they tweeted from their official account: “We didn’t do that Whitney Houston cover. Funny though!”

The second thing I’d like to share on this lovely Friday is a link to an article in The Economist magazine, not ordinarily, I suppose, the kind of reading material that would make fodder for a music blog.  However, one of the columnists for the publication recently wrote an article on one of the most famous drum beats in the history of sampled music, and I thought you might enjoy reading (and listening to, which is the even better bonus) the history of the appropriately-titled “Amen Break”. Taken from the 1969 funk song “Amen, Brother” by a group called The Winstons, it was added to an 1980s sampling library called “Ultimate Breaks and Beats”….and from there, its popularity exploded as it became a rhythmic backbone for some of the biggest groups in music, from rappers NWA, to Brit-rockers Oasis….even to the theme song for the animated series “Futurama”! Click on that link above, and have some fun listening to how an obscure drummer from the 60s can live on forever via sampling. It’s sort of like playing “Where’s Waldo” with audio……

Della MaeLastly, before I get on out of here, I’d like to give a quick plug to an up-and-coming Boston-based bluegrass group I recently discovered called Della Mae. If you like bluegrass music (and I loves me some bluegrass), I think you’ll really love what you hear from these ladies. And yes, I said ladies. Five of them, to be precise, all super-talented with some great harmonies between them. As a matter of fact, the woman on fiddle, Kimber Ludiker, is actually a two-time National Fiddle Champion, and you can certainly hear the evidence on their new album “I Built This Heart” (which I would also recommend at the very least listening to, if not buying). They’ll be playing a lot of bluegrass festivals this coming summer, including the world-famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado, so there’s plenty of chances to catch them live too, if you prefer a great show to a great CD.

Well, that’s all for now! Hopefully I’ll have some new stuff to read on Monday, when you’re sitting back at that same desk you’re at right now, after an all-too-short weekend. Sigh……sometimes life’s just not fair, is it?

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The Greatest Love Of All

Posted in Current Events, Music with tags , , , , on February 13, 2012 by greedycherry

Whitney Houston at the 37th Annual AMA AwardsYou know, it’s odd …. I seem to spend more time nowadays writing music obituaries on this blog than I do writing about actual music. I assure you that this is, of course, totally and completely unintentional (not to mention a damn shame). Quite often I have an idea of a neat subject I want to tackle, or a fabulous new song I want to promote, or a currently touring artist that I want to tell you more about, only to find out as I’m getting ready to sit down to write that some very influential singer or musician has unexpectedly died. I mean, I know people die and all, but this trend of talented vocalist passings is getting a little depressing now. Amy Winehouse, Etta James … now Whitney Houston.

Born August 9, 1963, Whitney Elizabeth Houston was blessed from the start with a voice almost any young singer would die for. Power, emotion, nuance, control, range … all of these things were indeed part of her arsenal, but the thing that made Whitney such a phenomenon was that these traits weren’t just present individually or interchangeably. The many facets of her talent melted into each other, augmenting and strengthening the whole, combining in a potent mix that gave her that magical thing which we often refer to as “it”. No one knows where “it” comes from, or how to define “it”, but we know “it” when we see it. Somebody opens their mouth, or picks up an instrument, or a pencil, or a paintbrush … and we are moved. We are helpless before this undefinable thing that takes hold of our hearts, and we cannot defend ourselves against it.

It’s that riff that makes your adrenaline move, the harmony that brings a tear to your eye, the lyric that puts a knife in your heart when you least expect it. When some artists create, they do it in a way that makes the difficult or arduous seem easy. You can hear a million soul singers tackle a song, for instance, and they might do a respectable or even really good version of it …. but someone like Al Green or Aretha Franklin can sing just one note of that song, and you are transfixed. You can’t look away. You are powerless to change the radio station, to perform another task, to remove yourself from the presence of “it”.

There is no doubt that some consider Whitney Houston just another dumb pop singer, and her catalog to be filled with vapid songs not worth being listened to … and I respect this point of view.  Some people just like what they like and hate what they hate, and you can’t change their minds or make them change their listening habits or preferences. But I like to think that there is talent beyond the songs a musician performs, an inner glow or fire that brings an artist to prominence in the first place. Sure, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” may not be the deepest song with the most meaningful, heartfelt lyrics ever, but I would argue that there’s no denying Whitney’s amazing voice and the strength of her performance in it. Anyone who’s ever tried to sing knows how hard it is to control the human voice and get it to do exactly what you want it to, and it’s like witnessing the raw power of nature itself to hear someone be able to effortlessly go from a plaintive whisper to a full-throttle belting, to take you from 0 to 60 with just a tilt of her head and a swelling crescendo. Some are born with that gift. Whitney was one of them.

Whitney Houston was beautiful. She was talented. She was blessed with an embarrassment of riches. Some would argue she pissed all of that away in the last years of her life, and that could indeed be a valid point of view to take. In the end, she was not able to find that “greatest love” she sang so movingly about; despite being loved by many, it could be argued that she didn’t really find her strength in that love. That she never could love herself enough to stay off the path to destruction, recognize her weaknesses, and ask for the help she needed is now, in retrospect, a harbinger of the sad events to come.

Her death is made all the more shocking by the fact that it never should have happened, that there was ample opportunity to pull herself together, lean on those who cared and had always been there, and rise back to full health and musical prominence. She could have done it, but, unfortunately, the tragedy of so many artists throughout history is that their demons eventually catch up to them and they pass from this mortal coil far too soon.

As far as opinions of her music, let’s keep in mind … any death is a shame, and the fact that a singular talent has now been removed from the game of life is something to mourn, no matter how you view the catalog they left behind. How many people do you know who are supreme talents, friends or colleagues or even complete strangers who make music that you find exceptional and moving? And if those people died tomorrow, would you remember all the dumb stuff they did in their personal lives, all the horrible habits they couldn’t overcome, all the crappy songs they made in-between the good ones …. or would you just go home and crank up the music they made that moved you, and close your eyes and revel in those memories they created for you and for the world they left behind?

Whitney Houston has passed away at the far-too-young age of 48. Regardless of what we find out about how she died in the days to come, let’s just remember that it doesn’t really matter. She left her songs, she made her mark … and her amazing voice will live on.