Category Archives: Music Reviews

Kristina At Carnegie Hall Hits Stores Finally

Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA first let audiences in on their masterpiece, “Kristina Från Duvemåla,” in Malmö, Sweden on October 7, 1995, then record buying audiences were able to obtain the 3-CD cast recording in September of 1996. Almost immediately there was talk about translating the work to English and bringing it to an American audience, particularly because the story of “Kristina Från Duvemåla” (translating to Kristina From Duvemåla) is just as much a story about Sweden as it is a story about America. However, it seems a lot of the work in bringing “Kristina” to America would have to wait due to the surprise success of a little show launched in London in 1999, called “Mamma Mia!” would demand a lot of time and attention for Björn and Benny.

The story for “Kristina” is based on Vilhelm Moberg’s “Emigrants” series of four novels, which follows the lives of a group of Swedish settlers which include Karl Oscar and his wife Kristina, as they make the tough decision to pack up and take their chances settling in the unknown wilds of America in the mid 1800’s. While the books follow the group, the show has singled out Karl Oscar and Kristina to be the central focus of the show. The novels are considered to be some of the finest works in Swedish literature, which is what attracted Björn and Benny to wanting to tell the tale of Kristina. Their earlier musical effort, a collaboration with Tim Rice on an original idea by Tim Rice resulted in the musical “Chess.” As much as “Chess” is praised for it’s incredible songs, it’s also panned for its relatively weak plot, which left Björn and Benny looking for a well crafted story to transform into a musical. Björn and Benny felt for their second musical, they didn’t want plot to be one of the problems to plague the show.

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It’s Christmas Eve In San Diego

The year 2009 has really raced by way too quickly. It really seems like only yesterday the year just began and here it is so close to the end. While it’s been both a good and challenging year, Christmas time is the perfect time to take a moment out of it all to just think about family and friends.

This year, I kind of hit a milestone. This was the first year in ages that I’ve actually been in the mood to listen to Christmas music at Christmas time. I’d worked discount retail for far more years than I care to admit. Let’s just say Christmas time brings out the public’s worst behavior in discount retail stores and the non-stop playing of some of the worst versions of Christmas music non-stop during the month of December in the stores I worked in, I haven’t been in any mood for Christmas decorations nor Christmas music since the early 1992. I thought I’d never find the desire to hear another Christmas song at Christmas time again, but this year I actually wanted to hear some. It’s been six years since I last worked a Christmas in retail, so I’m guessing there’s hope yet for me to find the Christmas spirit again. It could take several more years, but I’m pleased by the sign of hope I had this year.

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Susan Boyle Duets With Elaine Paige On ABBA Penned “I Know Him So Well”

Elaine Paige Susan Boyle IKHSWWhen Susan Boyle knocked the socks off Simon Cowell, she soon after stated that one of her dreams was to sing a song with her idol, Elaine Paige. Within days of the hubbub, Elaine Paige, who is not nearly as well known appeared on US Cable Network, CNN’s, Larry King Live program and gave an interview about Susan Boyle and said she would be open to singing with Susan. Now that dream has become a reality.

Sadly, the duet does not appear on Susan’s recently released album (which gets it’s name from the song Susan sang on Britain’s Got Talent, “I Dreamed A Dream”) but made it’s debut on UK television. The song selected for the two ladies to sing together is hardly an original choice, especially for Elaine. The duet selected was “I Know Him So Well” from the musical CHESS, which was a hit for Elaine Paige and her original duet partner Barbara Dickson way back in 1984. In fact, the song still holds the record in the UK for the longest running #1 song in the UK charts sung as a duet between two women. The song is a staple for Elaine whenever she goes out on tour and it’s a special song for ABBA fans as well as the song was co-written by ABBA’s song writing team, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus along with lyricist Tim Rice.

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Alcazar’s Unecessary Remake Of Wham!’s “Last Christmas”

AlcazarAlcazar is one of Sweden’s pop bands that have carved an interesting niche for themselves. They are a European dance music act that over the years since their debut have an interesting career that’s been pretty hard to define. Some of what they’ve done is breathe new life into older songs such as their 1998 cover of the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me.” In other cases they’ve borrowed old melodies and given them new lyrics such as “Crying At The Discotheque” uses the melody from “Spacer” from Sheila & B. Devotion, and have even taken the lyrics from one song and set them to the melody of another such as “This Is The World We Live In” which sets the lyrics from Genesis’ “Land Of Confusion” to the melody of Diana Ross’ “Upside Down.” And they’ve even had a few songs written especially for them to perform.

Every album released to date has seen a change in the lineup from the previous album, but one of the consistent features of the group has been the lead vocals being performed primarily by Andreas Lundstedt. I was very impressed by his amazing voice since the first time I heard their debut album. In fact, I truly hated the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” song because I thought the original had such horrible sounding vocals until Andreas’ much better vocals convinced me the song was a lot better than I gave it credit. Andreas’ voice has been wonderfully supported by Tess Merkel, Annikafiore Kjaergaard, and later joined by Magnus Carlson and then later by Lina Hedlund. And together they’ve produced some really fun pop dance music to keep the first decade of the 21st century interesting.

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Awesome Remix Of “Story Of A Heart” By Benny Andersson Band

Benny AnderssonThe release of Benny Andersson’s latest album entitled “Story Of A Heart” earlier this year featured a very pop like song also entitled “Story Of A Heart” this song was released to radio stations to promote the album. With the song being the most ABBA-like song, Benny Andersson and his lyrical partner in crime Björn Ulvaeus have written in more than a decade, it was really just a matter of time until some home made remixes of the Benny Andersson Band’s “Story Of A Heart” got made.

One such remix that has popped up that I’ve actually been quite addicted to listening to over the last week is one by someone who just simply goes by the name “DJ Matt” The Matt Mix of “Story Of A Heart” speeds up the song a little bit to give it a bit of urgency, additionally a really well done drum beat has been added to help set and maintain the pace, and just for some fun at the end, the final time through the chorus, the Swedish language version of the song is used to close out the mix. The mix is really quite fun to listen to. Whoever this DJ Matt is, he’s done some really good work. If the number of times I’ve played it hasn’t already cracked the top 25 most played songs on my iPod, it soon will. I’ve really been enjoying it on repeat for hours at a time. Who knew Helen Sjöholm’s amazing voice would sound great on a dance mix? (She is mostly known for show tunes style songs.)

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Hooked On Classics – Blast From The Past

Hooked On ClassicsHaving hit a little bit of music boredom with the more limited selections on my iPod Touch, I decided to bring out the iPod Classic which is loaded with over 11,000 audio files. I let it play on random and one of the things that came up was “Hooked On Classics – Part 1 and 2” from the original “Hooked On Classics” album by Louis Clark and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

I ended up taking the iPod off random and played the full album. It’s been a very long time since I last listened to it. I don’t remember when exactly I added the Hooked On Classics albums to my iPod as the last crash of my iTunes wiped out the date added for every track I added prior to December 10, 2008. In any case, I was happy I had it on my iPod to enjoy without having to dig out the CD.

I remember having worn out two cassettes of this album back in the early 1980’s. I loved it. To me it was all the good parts of classical music without so much of the really boring stuff. And I suppose a disco-esque drum track didn’t hurt either for helping keep those classics going at an upbeat pace. I remember Hooked On Classics being very popular when it was originally released in Canada. It was released on the K-Tel label which I always had some collections of popular music from them. Probably my favorite of which was “Raiders Of The Pop Charts” which capitalized on the Indiana Jones theme which was current at the time.

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Roxy Monoxide Rocks The Beauty Bar For CD Pre-Release Party

Roxy Monoxide Beauty BarOne of my favorite local bands, Roxy Monoxide, announced they were going to have a pre-release party for the CD entitled “Another Day, Another Episode” at San Diego’s Beauty Bar located near the intersection of El Cajon Blvd. and Euclid Ave.

Having never been to the Beauty Bar, I looked them up online and comes to find out they are a chain of locations with Beauty Bar’s in a variety of cities, including Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Austin, and Brooklyn. They seem to have quite the concept. In style reminiscent of a 1950’s or 1960’s style beauty salon, it’s a full service bar. Think “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease crossed with alcohol and you’ll get the idea. Go to the bar and get your martini and sit under an old style salon hair dryer. Let’s just say, the B-52’s would never look out of place here. (Check out the photos of the venue here.)

San Diego’s Beauty Bar consists of a main bar area and a tented performance space in behind the bar that is connected via a roll door. It definitely wasn’t the most modern looking venue, but I liked the them of it. You have to appreciate the double meaning of calling the place the Beauty Bar, as it was certainly a bar in the alcohol sense of the world, and wouldn’t have been out of place with bar as in bar of soap. Personally I’m surprised the venue isn’t in Hillcrest.

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9 To 5 Cast Album Now Available

9 To 5 Cast AlbumOne of the cast albums I’ve most been looking forward to has finally been released – sort of. Last week, the cast album for “9 To 5” got released digitally, next week it gets released on CD. It seems a little unprecedented to stagger the releases for a Broadway show, but it seems to allow the label to double dip where the gotta-have-it-now crowd can get their instant gratification and those that prefer to have the physical product can wait a couple weeks longer or get both.

In the case of “9 To 5” I fall into the crowd that will double dip. I saw the stage production last September when it premiered in Los Angeles for it’s Pre-Broadway trial run. The show written by Patricia Resnick, the original screenwriter of the classic film, along with songs written by one of the original film’s stars, Dolly Parton, have come together to bring the classic to life in a new form. One of the disadvantages of seeing the show early is that the cast album wasn’t readily available to purchase following seeing the show, so I’ve had to wait from September until now. So the early digital release version, was a no brainer for me, and because I will want the physical edition, I’ll be getting that too.

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Benny Andersson Band – Story Of A Heart

Benny Andersson Band - Story Of A HeartThanks to one of my good local friends, I’ve had Benny Andersson’s new album for well over a week now. The Benny Anderssons Orkester (BAO) has compiled a bunch of songs from their three previous albums and translated a handful of songs originally sung in Swedish into English, and added an all new song and released the album with the intention of releasing it outside the Swedish market. To help make it more readily accessible for the English markets, they’ve even renamed the band for the album calling themselves, the “Benny Andersson Band”

The most successful singles from the previous albums have been sung by Helen Sjöholm. From BAO’s first album, “Vår Sista Dans” topped the Svensktoppen (Swedish language song charts) for 30 weeks of it’s 56 week stay on the chart. It makes it’s official English language debut on “Story Of A Heart” as “(If This Is) Our Last Dance.” The song has been performed in English for the live performances BAO has done outside of Sweden such as Glasgow and Minneapolis, but now fans can officially have a studio recording of the English language version. And from BAO’s second album, “Du Är Min Man” which was originally released on July 11, 2004, and to this day still hasn’t left the Svensktoppen charts, that’s 5 years on the chart, 261 weeks and counting according to Swedish Radio. It is officially the longest charting song in the history of the Svensktoppen list and it also has the distinction of being the longest running song in the number one spot, which it held for its first 38 weeks on the chart. The song makes it’s officially released debut as “You Are My Man” on the album. However, it does have some interesting history as an English language song. Prior to the Minneapolis, Minnesota appearance of BAO, a promo CD containing a recording of the song in English was sent out to the attendees. However, the lyrics to that recording are different from the new lyrics featured here on the officially released album. So the promo CD as a collector’s item retains it’s value. I’m still undecided if I like the new lyrics as featured on the album, I think it could be that I’m just so used to the promo CD’s lyrics that I can’t get into the new ones. In any case, it’s still a welcome addition to the original Swedish version.

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Bee Gees Stayin’ Alive Really Does Save Lives

Bee Gees Stayin' AliveWho knew the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” really can help people stay alive? Well apparently it can, in a procedure known as “Hands Only CPR” which instead of using a more traditional mouth to mouth recussitation requires pressing hard and fast on the chest of the victim of cardiac arrest (or heart attack). This has been proven to be equally as effective as traditional CPR according to the American Heart Association and can double the vitim’s chances of survival.

The reason “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees song is effective is because it has over 100 beats per minute and Hands Only CPR is most effective at 100 beats per minute. The American Heart Association still encourages traditional CPR if you’re knowledgeable in how to do it, but the Hands Only CPR method is better than not doing anything at all, which is unfortunately, what happens in a lot of cases because people panic and fearing doing anything might make the situation worse for the victim. Sadly it’s the inaction that ultimately causes more death because people fear you need formal CPR training to help someone having a heart attack.

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