Album Review: John Oates’ “Good Road to Follow”

John Oates’ solo CD, “Good Road to Follow,” started out as a bunch of singles, but when the fans were anxious for a CD, John put them all in one place.  It’s a 3-disc set, and he calls the discs “routes,” so it’s Route 1, Route 2, and Route 3. He made each song at different places with different people and musicians. This could be either saying three approaches to writing an album or different routes for how a song could sound. John’s ability to play and write music outside his comfort zone really shows his talent, especially since he does an amazing job of performing the different styles. He has such an amazing passion for music, and is going strong! His passion fires up everyone he produces music with and the outcome is always a treasure!

“Stone Cold Love” sounds so different than any other John Oates song. This song opens with John saying, “We’re going to do a song that you never heard before,” and that definitely rings true!  This song is definitely not what one thinks of when they hear “John Oates.” It’s a little more rock-feeling and edgy than what many fans expect from him. It proves that he is a well-rounded musician and that he is able to learn new styles well. This also keeps his fans interested. So many artists will play the same style over and over, which can be ok if that’s what fans want, but that gets boring for the fans and for the performer alike. The feel of the song reminds sounds like a song that could be played at a basketball game. It’s really catchy. I love the line “Stone cold love, I’m freezing then I’m burning up.” This song live was phenomenal.

“The Head That Wears the Crown” is awesome! The phrase which is the center of the chorus is “It’s a heavy head that wears the crown.” This was originally in Shakespeare who said “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” At first listen, this song resembles a more mature “Rich Girl”: “Never known nothin’ bout bad luck,” “Never seen nothing but a good, good time.” This song talks about having a great deal of wealth and responsibility is difficult and doesn’t make you better than everyone else. The use of “fool’s gold” can imply that the person looks like he/she has it all together, but is a fake.

“Pushing a Rock Uphill” is such a great song! It is real and relatable. We all have had moments and experiences where we feel like we’re “pushing a rock uphill,” and that we keep pushing until we get what we want, even though we may want to give up! This song is so mellow and chill, making it relaxing and calming to the listener. The lyrics sound like they are in conversation with the listener, engaging the listener and making them feel more connected to the song.

“Believe in Me” is super catchy and fun!! Both John and Bekka Bramlett sound awesome on this track. I love the jazzy/soulful feel to it. The listener can tell by the vocalists that this song was a lot of fun to work on and perform! This song, at first, sounds like it is going to be more of a rock song, but by the time the verse comes along, it has more of a jazz sound. The lyrics sound like some kind of relationship where one person is trying to get the other to see that they are meant to be together. Oates and Bramlet have similar styled voices and they sound awesome together.

“High Maintenance” is a song that Oates collaborated with Hot Chelle Rae on. This song is catchy and relatable. It has a pop feel to it, but the lyrics are more intelligent than most pop songs, which allow this song to appeal to an older audience. John’s collaboration with Hot Chelle Rae attracts younger listeners. The plays on words throughout the song are humorous, but if you do not catch on right away, you miss the punch.

“Close” is so unique compared to any other song. The feel of it is awesome, though it is difficult to describe. The lyrics seem to describe a scene of a person meeting a celebrity they look up to. Perhaps this tells the story of someone meeting John, or John meeting the artists from this album since they are artists he has wanted to work with. John’s voice on this track is incredible, and he sounds passionate about the story of the lyrics.

“Stand Strong” is one of the more rock-sounding songs on this album, and it has a different sound than what listeners expect from Oates. This song is one of the few on this CD that includes background singers, and they are added in a way that flows well with everything else going on in the song. The message of the song is to stand strong through whatever trials come your way and to have a support system that will help you through.

“Lost in Louisiana” was written after a trip John took to Louisiana to meet with another musician and his experience with waking up the morning after a crazy night. The cowriters had similar experiences, so they combined them into this song. The mellow feel of the song balances out the crazy images depicted in the lyrics, and the lyrics sound like a journal entry.  The images presented are clear and tell a story for the listener.

“Save Me” is awesome. It can be heard as a religious song, with phrases such as “morning light,” “save me,” and “keep on prayin’.” This song may also be a love song, especially when he references whoever “baby” is to him. This song is very mellow, and would be a great song to have at the end of an album.

“Six Men” is about living life to the fullest before it is too late. We all think we are invincible, but we will all die someday, and this fate is something we all have in common, no matter who we are. This song has a darker rock feel to it, which makes it stand out from the rest of the songs. The clapping/stomping in the beginning is also unique to this song.

“Don’t Cross Me Wrong” was a song that John wrote and played with country star Vince Gill, so this song has more of a country flare to it, which demonstrates his ability to play various styles with incredible talent. It has more of a country/rock feel to it, fusing Gill’s country background with John’s rock background. This song tells the story of two men fighting over a woman, which is not necessarily a common story in a song.

“Bad Bad Love” features Wendy Moten. The line “You can’t feel nothin’ ‘til you’ve been done wrong” sounds like a nod to “Rich Girl.” This song has a pop rock feel, leaning more towards the rock. It talks about a bad relationship, but the speaker can see past what is going on since he has experience in love.

“Edge of the World” has a southern rock feel to it. There is a shuffle to it. It is mellow and relaxing. The song is about a romantic relationship, and it would be a great song for a couple to dance to. It talks about how it feels to be in love with someone, but without getting into the typical clichés, which is what makes Oates a great songwriter.

“Bad Luck and Trouble” has a triplet feel to it which is funky and fun! A lot of people can relate to the story of the song since we all have days where it feels like everything is against us. This song looks at those days in a positive light. It says that having someone to help you through rough days is important.

“Different Kind of Groove Sometime” has a jazz/rock feel to it. It is definitely different from the rest of the album, and it truly wraps up the album. This album has so many different styles and a wide variety of collaborations, and this song speaks to that. It is a great last song to have on such an awesomely eclectic album!

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Concert Review: Hall and Oates 2015

The lights in the audience go down as the stage lights go up. The instrumentalists walk on stage and the audience applauds.  The crowd then roars as Daryl Hall and John Oates take the stage as the intro to “Maneater” is played by the band.

This was the opening scene of the Daryl Hall and John Oates concert in Atlantic City, New Jersey on June 27, 2015. They were excited to be back in the area they grew up in, with Hall, 68, being from Pottstown, PA, and Oates, 66, being from North Wales, PA, and both being alumni of Temple University in Philadelphia.

The concert was filled with a wide variety of their music, from “Las Vegas Turnaround” and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” to their hits, including “You Make My Dreams Come True” and “Private Eyes,” and many more.

There was such energy bouncing throughout the Borgata Event Center. The audience was excited and loved the songs, and those on stage sensed these things and fed off this energy. Daryl and John interacted with the audience as much as they did with themselves.

Hall announced that his Palladia show, “Live From Daryl’s House,” has picked up another season, and Oates announced that he is in the process of writing a book.

Hall’s keyboard during the show sounded better than the keyboards used on their recordings. In general, they sounded better live than on their album, which is very rare, especially in an age of auto-tune and digital mastering to make the vocalist sound better.

While Hall was the lead vocalist for most of the songs, John had the lead vocals on some songs, which is always pleasant.  Both of their voices have matured over the years, and they sound stronger and more confident now than their recordings. They have grown as musicians over the years, and it was apparent in this performance.

Though there was not an intermission, they took a few brief (two minutes, maximum) breaks. The lights never went on in the audience, but some people assumed that the show was over when they left the stage, so they left, causing these audience members to miss some of the biggest hits.

Most of the songs that Hall and Oates played were their biggest hits, but they were played with a bit of a twist. They did not sound exactly like they did on the recordings, most likely because they want to keep their music new and exciting members for themselves and for the audience members.  On several of the songs, there are guitar or saxophone solos (or, in some incidents, both).

The use of lights was powerful and effective. It felt like a rock show. At times, the lights went through the audience, and they were very bright, almost blinding. At times, the stage lights would go off in the timing of the song, which added a visual to the songs.

Overall, the concert was absolutely amazing and memorable for all. The entire audience was on their feet by the end of the show, dancing.  The energy was amazing, with the band feeding off of the audience, and vice versa.

Review: The Tenors’ “Under One Sky”

The Tenors’ latest CD, “Under One Sky,” is a true masterpiece! “Anchor Me” was a great album, but their new album takes them to the next level. There is a public television concert of this CD, and it is equally as powerful and beautiful, especially when they interact with their family members.

“A New Day’s Begun” is a prayer for a day. It asks God for the strength to make it through whatever is thrown their way. It is like a journal of what is going through their minds as the day begins. The drums make the piece sound like a battle song, the battle being the day. The song sounds minor, which adds a hint of darkness and mystery to the piece, representing the newness of a dawning day.

“Besame Mucho” goes from sounding like jazz, to sounding like an orchestral piece, then back to jazz. This title translates to “Kiss Me Generously,” and the song definitely has a romantic feel to it! It is in a minor key, and it is a song that couples could easily dance to! One verse is in English, while the rest of the song is in Spanish.

“Lean On Me” is a beautiful and powerful rendition of the classic Bill Withers song. The Tenors add their own twists to the song, making it their own. The harmonies are stunning and the changes, especially to the notes in the bridge, are unique and awesome. While there are changes, the sentiment and feel of the original song still ring throughout.

“I Remember You” is catchy and fun with a touch of nostalgia. The singers are remembering a person they loved romantically, longing for her again. The lyrics are sensory, telling a story that the listeners can feel a part of. The listener can smell the jasmine, see the stars, and hear the silence. So many people can relate to this song. The song is upbeat, resembling a happy memory, despite longing for it.

“My Father’s Son” is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. It talks about their relationships with their fathers, a few of whom are gone. They remember the times they had together and the lessons they learned from them. Their fathers left an impact on them that will go on with them for the rest of their lives. No matter what, they will always be a son to their fathers, despite the death of a few of their dads.

“Who Wants To Live Forever” is a haunting cover of a Queen song. The intro is really intense and the instruments sound incredible. When I first heard this song, I did not even recognize that it was a cover of Queen’s song, but it is awesome that they have their own interpretation of it. It is very unique and different. The harmonies and the key change reinforced the intensity of the song.

“Angels Calling” is the most emotionally charged song on the album because everyone has someone they have lost. The narrators of the song are those who have died, singing to those they left behind on earth. It is a message to those on earth who have lost someone that they are in heaven and that they are in a better place. They can hear angels calling them to heaven, wondering if those on earth can hear them too.

“Granada” is a Spanish song about a city of the same name. The intro of the song is super intense and the vocals are incredible. The Tenors have turned this standard into their own, and it sounds amazing. The listener gets the feeling that they are in the city, the culture all around them.  The flamenco sound is very strong and the minor sound adds a darkness and power to the song.

“You Are So Beautiful” is so passionate. The duet is incredible. The vocalists are so talented, and the harmonies are chilling, in the best possible way. The song keeps the spirit of the original version, but sounds like it is so much more passionate and rich with the instruments and harmonies. This would be the perfect wedding song!

“Nella Fantasia” has a dreamlike sound to it, making the listener feel like they are on a cloud and the Tenors sounded like angels. The instrumentation is perfect and flows naturally with the song. The harmonies are seamless. This version of the song is one of the best, especially by a group. The words are clearly enunciated.

“Drowning in Love” is the most unique song on the CD. The pop feel is really awesome, and it demonstrates the talent that these vocalists have to be able to sing various styles. The song is relatable and captures the feeling of what it is like to be in love with someone. It can also be related to God’s love being strong and powerful, like an ocean.

“Love Will Never End” is beautiful and stunning. The use of two languages is confusing at times, but it makes the listener pay attention. This song captures the intense feelings that come with passionate love between two people. The vocalists are really passionate, and the harmonies and the key change add to the power of the song.

“Under One Sky” is the title track for the song, and fittingly so. It is powerful and captures what the album is about in just one song. It reminds the listener to dream big and that others who have accomplished big things are within us. The song inspires the listener to achieve great things with their lives, and they have the power to do so.

Keith Harkin Performs at Siamsa Irish Pub, Stroudsburg, PA

On August 17, 2016, Keith Harkin, a singer of Celtic Thunder fame, performed a solo concert with his band at Siamsa Irish Pub in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Prior to the show, VIP ticketholders were treated to a sound check and a meet and greet with Harkin.

Harkin, who was born in Derry, Northern Ireland and grew up in Donegal, Northern Ireland, sung songs off his latest album, “On Mercy Street.” He also performed traditional Irish classics like “Galway Girl,” “Homes of Donegal,” and “Whiskey in the Jar.”

Harkin’s performance was fun and upbeat. He had the audience to their feet, dancing by the end of the show. There was no intermission, with Harkin’s energy going strong throughout the show. He fed off his band and the audience.

Between songs, he told stories of what each song meant to him personally and how he came to write songs on his album. The audience enjoyed these tales that gave and insight to his life.

The band consisted of an electric guitar, a bass guitar, a drum, and a keyboard. Harkin played acoustic guitar. The musicians never overpowered the vocals. They maintained a great balance and played out when Harkin was not singing.

Overall, it was a fun evening of music, stories, laughter, and dancing. Harkin’s personality shined through each song as he sung passionately. His music and stories reflected who he is, and the audience loved that.

Music Movie Review: “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Florence Foster Jenkins is a heartwarming story of a singer who came to fame during World War II. She may not have been the best, but people loved her for her spirit and her dedication to the arts in New York City. She recorded a record that she intended to send to the troops, and ended up performing in Carnegie Hall for the troops and lovers of music.

The story line was a bit confusing at first, but as the movie progressed, things were explained. People who were alive during this time were the most likely to grasp things right off the bat, although viewers of all ages can enjoy the movie.

Meryl Streep, who portrays the main character, did an amazing job. She played the character well. She was witty and fun to watch, but also portrayed the serious scenes appropriately. Streep has the ability to transform into many different characters, and this movie proved to be no different.

Hugh Grant was fun and charming. He was funny yet serious when he needed to be. These transitions show his talent. He and Streep had such an amazing chemistry. They played off each other so well. They are both so talented and can play a wide variety of characters.

Many people know Simon Helberg from his role as Howard on the Big Bang Theory, but in Florence Foster Jenkins, he took on a more serious role. He did a great job of playing a more mature character. He even played piano, which delighted fans who may have been unaware that he could play. Even if he learned for the movie, it seemed like he has played for years.

Paul Simon Releases “Stranger to Stranger”

StrangerToStranger

On June 3, 2016, Paul Simon released his latest album,  “Stranger to Stranger.” It boasts an eclectic mix of songs, from African-sounding melodies and soul to an instrumental track and more relaxed tunes. His personality shines through each song, with each song telling a story of some aspect of his life.

This album has a wide mix of styles, capitalizing on Simon’s talents and versatility. His career has led him to learn a lot of various things, and he adds these lessons to his music. He covers a variety of subjects, reflecting on things he has seen and experienced in his life. Each song feels like Simon is speaking to the listener, telling about each experience.

Each song has a different feel with various instruments. The songs are produced well, with the main vocals and the instruments in perfect harmony. The instruments are louder at times when Simon is not singing, but they back off when the vocals come in. The levels flow well throughout each song.

The vocals and the instruments portray the feelings of each song. Minor keys go with darker songs and major keys sing with lighter subjects. Each song sets a scene, making the listener feel like they are in a particular time or place. Overall, this album is great and is unlike Simon’s previous music.

 

Train Releases Their Version of “Led Zeppelin II”

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The concept of this album is interesting. A band, typically known for pop music, playing a classic rock band’s music. Not only did they do a couple songs from a couple different bands, they covered an entire album. This is something that does not happen often, if ever.Train has been influenced by Led Zeppelin, so it is only natural that this would be something that they would do.

It is a natural feeling for a person to be wary of buying an album of a pop band covering a rock band, especially if it is for an entire album. However, for this particular album, no such apprehensions unfold.

Pat Monahan, the lead vocalist for Train, does a great job of making his voice go from his typical pop voice to the voice of a rock star. His voice is clear, making the lyrics understandable. He emulates Led Zeppelin very well, hitting every little note perfectly. He sings each song with such passion, as if he wrote these songs himself. It is clear that he loves this music and has been listening to it for years and years.

The instrumentations are different than many Train songs. Electric guitars pierce the instrumentation and drums pound in the background. A bass lays the foundation for each song. Despite the instrumental parts in the background, the vocals are never overpowered. Everything is in balance, which can be difficult to produce, and reproduce, if a band is covering another band

Overall, this album was produced well and was a pleasant surprise. This band has demonstrated an amazing versatility through the years by playing various types of music and covering bands that are beyond what they usually do musically.

One last thing to note about this album is that the proceeds the band receives from the album will be going to Family House San Francisco, a facility that provides temporary housing for families of children who have been hospitalized for illness. More information about this facility can be found at their website.