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The Laurie Berkner Band
Waiting For The Elevator (Concord)
From Laurie’s promo kit, “Laurie Berkner has been a professional musician since 1992, but her success as a children’s recording artist was a surprise to her. “It was so unexpected,” says Laurie. “I’d been performing in rock bands and struggling to write original music. Writing music for kids has not been a struggle at all. The more I started working on material for children, the more I realized that it opened up creativity in me that I never knew I had.”
It appears as though Laurie’s days of “struggling to write original music” are over. In writing music for children, she has found her calling. Blessed with a sunshine-pleasant voice to get her songs across, tiny ears will eagerly bend toward her.
Her chosen subject matter is varied, and not the usual kite-bicycle-mean sister trifecta usually associated with kids’ music. How many words can she rhyme with “elevator” while “Waiting For The Elevator”? You’re about to find out. Other delights include the silly “Chipmunk At The Gas Pump” and the sweet “A Hug From My Mama.” Berkner’s band is also first-rate, making this massive nineteen-song collection a real winner.
By Dan Pavelich
Take Me Home Tonight – The Best Of (Cleopatra)
2019 was a pretty rough year for Eddie Money. With the past 15 years clean and sober, Money contracted pneumonia after heart valve surgery. The following month, it was discovered that he had stage 4 esophageal cancer. By September the gregarious big man was no longer with us.
This “Best Of” is actually a rerecording of his biggest dozen hits, recreated with love and care. While I would normally avoid a release like this in favor of the original recordings, Money’s family will undoubtedly see a bigger portion of the proceeds than they do from his Sony catalog. I grew up in the 80’s, so these songs, and Eddie Money, will always bring a smile to my face.
I’ve seen this film dissected to death online and in print, so rather than getting into the nuts and bolts of critiquing it for the millionth time, I thought I’d take a look at the emotional side of getting to see a new Star Wars movie.
Those close to me know that one of my favorite pleasures is going to the movies. When I arrive, I still get a charge out of looking at the backlit movie posters as I make my way to the concession stand. Waiting in line, I’ve always got a little twinge of nervous energy before I get my snacks and make my way into the theater. Snacks, you say? For me, it’s always buttered popcorn and a cherry Coke. If I’m in the mood for chocolate, it’s got to be either Snowcaps or Milkduds.
Just entering the actual theater still makes me feel like I did when my grandparents took me to see Peter Pan or The Apple Dumpling Gang, when I was a kid in the 1970’s. It’s one of my favorite places to be in the whole world. Before the previews start, I’m always in such a good mood that I even enjoy the trivia quiz and latest Coke commercial.
There’s almost always three of us; me, my wife and my daughter. We almost always see new Star Wars, Star Trek or Marvel movies together. My daughter was pretty young when the Star Wars prequels came out, so those are her favorites.
For us, these outings are as pleasant and happy as when we get to go to Wrigley to see our beloved Chicago Cubs play daytime baseball. We’re on vacation from politics, bills, work…most anything that occurs in everyday life. Our eyes and ears are focused on that beautiful silver screen, which has a way of bringing us together, as we share popcorn and Snowcaps.
While my daughter will always love the prequels the most, and my wife and I the original trilogy, we all agree that these new movies, including Rogue One and Solo, are really enjoyable. They could easily be picked apart, as they often are, but we’d just rather enjoy them. As imperfect as they are, they never stop being a vacation for us.
Maurice & The Stiff Sisters
Welcome To Love
Speaking as a person who consumes a large quantity of new music, I’m especially partial to artists that put a smile on my face. That unconscious action is the undoubted precursor to what we humans call happiness. Maurice & The Stiff Sisters, a swell outfit hailing from Portland, Oregon, are particularly adept at smile inducing.
The opener, “French Exit,” heralds the following nine tracks with a ringing guitar figure that starts the excitement. It’s a peppy pop song complete with staccato horns, about wanting to be invited to big events, even though you wouldn’t want to go. It’s an anthem for introverts and misfits of all shapes and sizes.
“Our Old Haunts” borrows a Motown beat, once again covering a sorrowful subject with energetic aplomb. “Punk Rocker” and “Unlucky In Love” both match modern problems and relationships with vintage flare. This is new music that strikes just the right chord, sounding vintage without being too precious about it. Very well done.
One of the most entertaining YouTubers out there is guitarist R.J. Ronquillo (rhymes with “What’s the dealio?”). Ronquillo’s video career began long before most creative types like him had their own YouTube channels. Demoing guitars for the quirky Eastwood brand, he displayed chops that were a always a pleasure to watch, being an amateur guitarist myself.
He eventually diversified quite a bit, shooting more personal videos about life as a touring musician (He’s played with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Thompson Square, Ricky Martin, Stone Sour & Santana). He’s also added guitar lessons that, aside from giving tremendous insight into his style, help improve the playing of guys like me.
He’s also started a new series, “Between 2 Fenders,” a play on Zak Galifianakis’s Between 2 Ferns interview show. Recent guests have included Guthrie Trapp, Ford Thurston & Rhett Schull. If those names mean anything to you, tuning in for the great “inside baseball” talk is a must.
Another great addition to his channel has been the Saturday morning live Q&A’s that he does with viewers, who clearly enjoy the friendly interaction. If I’m not too busy myself, I grab a cup of coffee and hang out for a bit. The conversation never gets too heady, and it’s nice to spend time with fellow guitar nerds for a casual hang.
Drop in on R.J. once in awhile; like, subscribe, and ring that bell.
When someone who Taylor Swift felt was an online bully bought the masters to her back catalog, she was justifiably livid. Swift had tried to buy her own masters in the past, and been rebuffed. In a bid to devalue her past masters and regain control of her own music, she has vowed to rerecord her earlier work with bonus content.
She has also terminated her relationship with Big Machine Records, the entity that put all of this in motion. “Lover” is her first fully-owned release, having signed with artist-friendly Republic Records.
Anyone worried that all of this business muckery might destroy her creative inspiration, need not worry. These 18 tracks could each be hit singles. “I Forget That You Existed” is a great middle-finger song, and “Lover” is a haunting 50’s-inspired ballad drenched in reverb. A lot of this is intentionally under-produced, and it serves Swift’s crackerjack hooks splendidly.