Redhead with a piano: Tori Amos still commands

Last night at Massey Hall in Toronto, Tori Amos gave a concert that proved she is one of the best performers around. Few people can command the stage like she can while seated all evening at a piano. Unlike some of her concerts throughout the years, no other musicians accompanied her: we got just pure, unadulterated Tori. She sang a host of well-known and lesser-known songs with intensity and finesse. I have heard Tori a dozen times or more over the decades. Most concerts have been exceptional. A couple have been decent or marred by muddy sound. Once I actually walked out of a concert. But the current Native Invader tour demonstrated she is at the top of her game, better than ever. Continue reading →

Songs that mention Prince

PrincePrince’s death leaves an unfillable hole in the musical firmament. He was more than a talented artist who will be missed, as we miss other icons who have passed away recently. No, Prince was altogether unique. One of the most brilliant musicians of the late 20th century, he influenced the sound of a generation along with countless artists. His awesome musicianship was an inspiration. Fluent in every genre, he could still get a party started with just the basics—a funky beat—unlike anyone else. Now that the big industry machine will greedily start cashing in on his passing, it’s helpful to take a moment to show our appreciation for his musical gift in other ways. My small offering is to recount songs that mentioned Prince and his music. Send me your additions and I’ll keep the list growing. Continue reading →

Unique greatest hits albums

My first forays into buying music as a kid were through greatest hits collections: The Guess Who, Three Dog Night, The Grass Roots. Record label contracts commonly require releasing a greatest hits album after a certain threshold of records, and they come out like clockwork if the artist or band is fortunate enough to have songs that chart from multiple albums and/or a large, devoted fan base. Such albums end up being obvious and predictable, released without much thought, sometimes sweetened with the bonus of a new song. But a few artists put their own unique twist on the “best of” concept, and those examples stand out from the crowd. Continue reading →

Holiday classics re-imagined: memorable Christmas albums

Okay, you’ve heard all the typical Christmas collections — popular singers performing familiar carols, divas singing newly minted “contemporary” songs, tasteful arrangements of the same old same old — but you’re craving something unique, something that breathes new life into the tradition, something that stimulates both your need for nostalgia and your need for adventure. The following choices, spanning styles from jazz to alternative to folk to classical, deliver the goods.

10 Shades of Christmas10 Shades of Christmas
Jon O’Bergh
Reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi, these unforgettable piano-based arrangements of Christmas classics provide the perfect backdrop for the holidays. Ten of the world’s cherished carols are reinvented as you’ve never heard them before. iTunes Continue reading →