Bret Michaels Rocks Turning Stone

I got word that there were still tickets available for Bret Michaels’ April 30 concert at Turning Stone Resort and Casino just mere days before it was to take place. First of all, how did I miss the original memo? Secondly, could I afford to go? And was it feasible on a Wednesday night, a work night for my honey, who has to rise and shine at 4AM the next morning? Most importantly, would there be any decent seats left???

Yup. Stage table seats. Next to each other. Still available. Holy crap. How could I say no??? A few clicks through Ticketmaster later, and I had my ticket to “Ride the Wind”!

The stage setup was pretty impressive, as you can see here:

set

The show started about 5 minutes late… not too bad. The band seemed to have shot out of a cannon, for all the thundering, earth-shaking energy they possessed. They didn’t waste anytime getting to the meat of the musical meal, digging right in to the classic Poison hit, “Talk Dirty To Me.” (I’ve generously provided a video at the end of this review… Click the last photo of Bret!)

Bret is great at stage banter, and had some interesting personal stories to tell, informing his fans that “Look What the Cat Dragged In” was the very first song he wrote with his old band, Poison, and that “Something To Believe In” was dedicated to all members of the service, because so many members of his family had served in various branches of the Armed Forces. The hackneyed Lynyrd Skynyrd hit “Sweet Home Alabama” was a song Bret had learned as a kid in a camp for kids with diabetes. Between hits, the band members were introduced and got the chance to do their prerequisite solos, with much favor and overly generous time allotted to the drummer, I thought. I was more interested in the wild bass player, “Crazy Ray”… Alas, his time in the spotlight was reduced to a short stint, thumping out the hook of “Play That Funky Music,” of all things.

Yeah, I was THAT close!

Yeah, I was THAT close!

Here is the entire BMB’s set list:

  1. Talk Dirty To Me
  2. Look What The Cat Dragged In
  3. Sweet Home Alabama
  4. Your Mama Don’t Dance
  5. Ride the Wind
  6. Something To Believe In
  7. Unskinny Bop
  8. Band introductions and solos
  9. Snippet of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”
  10. Cover of Sublime’s “What I Got”
  11. Every Rose Has Its Thorn
  12. Fallen Angel
  13. Nothin’ But a Good Time

It was the second time I’ve seen Bret live, and both times I was surprised that he did not play any of his solo music. I mean, the majority of his fans want to hear the old stuff that they remember from their high school glory days, but why does he record and promote his new tunes on his website/ Facebook page so heavily, if he’s not gonna do them in concert? He could pepper in one or two, at least. Bret’s website brags that his most recent single, “A Beautiful Soul,” snagged “2 million views in 2 weeks and counting,” besting recent releases by One Direction and 50 Cent. And he didn’t perform it??? What gives?????

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Bret and the boys do the near-forgotten gem, “Fallen Angel,” a fave of mine when I was a a stonewash-wearin’, gum-chewin’, MTV-watchin’ teenager. This was the fake finale. Of course, the audience stayed on their feet and demanded more. I knew he hadn’t done one of Poison’s best-loved hits, “Nothin’ But a Good Time,” and that he wasn’t gonna get away WITHOUT doing it, unless he wanted to start a riot. Sure enough, the band returned and treated the crowd to an extended version of the party anthem, even dragging some lucky fans onstage to sing along.

After the final number, some of the music lovers closest to the stage scrambled up to get pics with Bret. By the time I meekly dared to scoot by butt up there and inch my way towards the rock star, a burly, no-nonsense-looking guard in a suit appeared out of nowhere. His eyes locked with mine, and I slunk down the way I’d come, like an eighth-grader who’d just been caught cutting class by the Principal. So close, and yet so far…

Fans were encouraged to head out to the lobby to purchase (overpriced) merchandise, from bandanas to t-shirts to Bret’s very own signature cologne, “Roses and Thorns.” I’d intended to buy his CD, “Jammin’ With Friends,” a live hits collection featuring guest stars as diverse as Ace Frehley, Loretta Lynn and Miley Cyrus. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it out on the merch table. Guess I’ll have to order it online.

Pretty awesome concert. At 51 years young, Bret still rocks! I give the show 7.9 out of 10 stars.

Click the pic to watch video!

Click the pic to watch video!

 

 

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Music Is Medicine

The last two months of my life have been difficult ones. Without getting specific, I’ve been suffering from health issues that have kept me from the work I love… radio. It’s all I’ve done since high school, and it is what I know and love the most. To suddenly have that ripped away from me has been nothing short of devastating. It felt as if, overnight, my greatest strength had become a handicap. I am no longer able to do what I excelled at: expressing myself and communicating. I learned, and am still learning, that my job was not just a way to pay the bills. It was an outlet for my emotions, both good and bad, happy and sad. I couldn’t see all the people I was talking to, obviously, but I knew they were out there. I felt their presence and was glad for their company. When my illness robbed me of that gift (which I never took for granted, by the way), I felt as if I’d lost my entire family. What’s pulled me through this difficult ordeal? Well, the kindness of strangers and true friends, for one thing. And, the other thing that has ALWAYS pulled me through hard times…

Music.

There have been days where I have simply wanted to end it all. The weight of my burdens threaten to break my back and my spirit. However, I don’t allow my sorrows to steep in silence. There is always music playing.

A couple of tunes, in particular, have been like giant Angel Wings that have lifted my spirits when my heart is sinking to the deepest depths of despair. One is Pink’s “Try.” Even though it’s about deception in relationships, the following lines in the catchy chorus motivate me:

Just because it burns, doesn’t mean you’re gonna die.

You gotta get up and try, try, try.

Click here for video

Click here for video

 

The other song that gives me strength is “Carry On” by the group fun. It’s been described as “an anthem” and a tune about “perseverance in hard times,” and accurately so.

If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your path be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

I need to hear these words. I need to believe them. Enjoy these videos. I hope you get something positive and uplifting to take away. Pass them on to others who may be feeling down and dejected.

And carry on.

These Are a Few of My Favorite … Christmas Songs

Some people hate Christmas music. I don’t understand them. The only thing I “hate” about songs of the season is when the stores start playing them in October.

As a kid, I prided myself on knowing the words to just about all of the traditional Christmas carols you could name. I can probably still sing you all the tunes we sang at our fourth and fifth grade chorus performances at East Quogue Elementary School. During my many years working at an oldies station, I became familiar with popular holiday “classics” from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Traditional, twisted, serious, funny, religious or secular, I love ‘most all of them.

Somewhere, I have a box full of dozens of Christmas CDs, chock full of seasonal songs by artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Trisha Yearwood, Gloria Estefan, Kenny G, Gene Autry, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Bing Crosby, Elton John, Ella Fitzgerald… Oh my Goodness, just about everybody! Unfortunately, I think that box is buried in a snowed-in storage unit somewhere on the outskirts of the city. Thank God for YouTube and the radio.

It’s hard for me to narrow it down to just a few favorites, but I’ll try. These are in no particular order, until we get to the Top 2.

***********************************************

Holly Jolly Christmas- Burl Ives (1964). First of all, it’s from the “Rudolph” special. Secondly, it has my name in it! Burl sounds so jocular and jolly singing this song, no other recordings or remakes of this tune come close. I often wonder if Burl recorded it in one take. What a perfect match between song and artist!

Sleigh Ride– The Ronettes (1963). From the album “A Christmas Gift For You.” Bit of water cooler trivia for ya: this now extremely collectable LP came out on 11/22/63, the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Needless to say, it wasn’t a hit that year. Now, before Phil Spector was a crazy-haired murderer, he was a brilliant producer, famous for his “Wall of Sound” style. This album contained tracks from acts he produced, such as Darlene Love, the Crystals and the Ronettes. Headed up by Phil’s future wife, Ronnie, this is the best version of “Sleigh Ride.” What makes it so special? Can I get a “Ring a Ling a Ling a Ding Dong Ding”????

Do You Hear What I Hear?– Whitney Houston (1987). From the album “A Very Special Christmas,” a various artist collection whose profits benefited the Special Olympics. While other tracks on this record, like Bruce Springsteen’s “Merry Christmas Baby” and U2’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” have continually gotten  more airplay throughout the years, I have always felt that this song got lost in the shuffle. While Bing Crosby’s version may be the best known, I think that Whitney drove it out of the park. Of course, her tragic passing makes it all the more poignant.

These next two are sentimental favorites… they will forever be tied to memories of my Mom.

Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day– Brenda Lee (1964) This is by far the most obscure song on this list. Brenda was my mom’s all-time favorite singer. She told me that when she was young, she could sing “just like Brenda.” I wish I could have witnessed that. I grew up listening to stacks of my mother’s Brenda Lee albums. “Merry Christmas! Brenda Lee” was one of them. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” was her blockbuster, runaway, everlasting smash, and Mom’s favorite. But being the weird little kid I was, I was entranced by this catchy album cut. I just always loved sad songs with cheerful melodies, I guess. I can’t find out any info on this hidden gem of a song, but I still love, love, love it! “I had a lonely September, October, November too. But December is twice as lonely without you.”

Jingle Bell Rock– Bobby Helms (1958) Another of Mom’s faves. The last song she heard before she passed away, very suddenly, in 2006. This song should make me sad, and sometimes it does. But how can you be sad when Bobby is singing about “dancin’ and prancin’ in Jingle Bell Square, in the frosty air!” (BTW, Brenda Lee recorded this one too, adding more sentimental value to the ditty for me.)

Grown Up Christmas List– Amy Grant (1992) This is the most “modern” song on my list. Penned by the renowned composer/ musician/ producer David Foster, along with Linda Thompson-Jenner. Originally recorded in 1990 by Natalie Cole, the song’s true spirit and its innocence was perfectly captured two years later on Amy’s second Christmas CD. The items on the singers Want List encapsulate the true spirit of the season: “No more lives torn apart, and wars would never start, and time would heal all hearts. Everyone would have a friend, and right would always win, and love would never end. This is my Grown Up Christmas List.”

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas– The Pretenders (1987) Once again, we revisit the  “A Very Special Christmas” album for a beautiful version of a sad/ happy/ hopeful/ sentimental song that has been recorded by everyone from Judy Garland (in the 1944 musical “Meet Me in St. Louis”) to Frank Sinatra (who, in 1957 demanded lyrical changes to “jolly it up” for his own Christmas album). The Pretenders turned it into a modern day waltz. I love Chrissie Hynde’s unique voice. Her vocals caressed every syllable and evoked every drop of emotion from this ballad, transforming it from a wistful song of hope into a sultry love song. Damn YouTube for pulling the “official” video for the last couple years!

Merry Christmas Darling– The Carpenters (1970) It is not easy to write a “new” Christmas song, with the intentions of it become an instant classic. If that is your sole intention when sitting down at the piano, or with your guitar, with visions of fame and fortune dancing in your head, you have already squelched the true Christmas spirit, the oft-quoted “Reason For the Season.” The song has got to come from a pure place in your heart, if you expect it to touch other hearts. Such is the case with my final- and my favorite- Christmas song. “Merry Christmas Darling” was written by Richard Carpenter and Frank Pooler, and originally recorded and released in 1970, by The Carpenters, a duo comprised of Richard and his tremendously talented singing sister, Karen. The Carpenters were a brand new act at the time. The song was a holiday hit that year, and was later remixed for the Carpenters’ masterpiece “A Christmas Portrait” in 1978. That album has gone on to sell millions of copies around the world, and returns to the Billboard Albums Chart almost every December. Even thirty years after Karen’s death, her plaintive alto resonates, echoes and haunts those who hear it. Whether we have a loved one deployed, fighting in a foreign country, or if we’ve never gotten over a certain someone, or if we have family members scattered far apart, unable to be together during the holidays, almost everyone can relate to the sentiment expressed in this sweet, sad song: “Merry Christmas Darling, We’re apart, that’s true. But I can dream, and in my dreams, I’m Christmasing with you.” Bonus for turning “Christmas” into a verb.

I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I do. Merry Christmas!

Cool Album Titles

Recently, an odd and perhaps unanswerable question popped into my brain, sparked by the Classic Hits we play on Z93.

Whatever happened to cool album titles???

The ‘90s hits we play get me reminiscing not only about the good ol’ days, but the actual records, cassettes, CDs, what have you, that the songs came from. I don’t have to wrack my brain to recall the title of these albums, even the One Hit Wonders, because the names were just so… well, memorable. Original. Clever. Unique.

So WTF happened???

I am skimming over some of the Top 10 albums of 2013, and the titles are just so boring, dull, and unimaginative. I don’t care how many millions of copies One Direction sells. Can’t they (or their publicity team) think up a better album title than Take Me Home? I mean, it sounds like a blatant pickup line from 1982! Miley Cyrus just put out a record called Bangerz. Not that I’d expect any less, but really… sounds like an appetizer on the Tilted Kilt menu. Maroon 5 had the balls to call their latest effort Overexposed. John Mayer has had some pretty cool album titles in the past, like Room For Squares and Continuum. This year, he released Paradise Valley. Sounds more like an offering from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Country-Pop crossover acts Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum both turned to color for inspiration: Red and Golden, respectfully, both of which are about as exciting as Beige.

Rewind to the 1990s. A whole ‘nother world. Maybe we used up all the words in the world, and their possible combinations. Here are some of my favorite album titles from a coupla decades back, whether I liked the actual album or not. In no particular order. Okay, in alphabetical order.

August and Everything After Counting Crows

Bigger, Better, Faster, More! 4 Non Blondes

4 Non Blondes

4 Non Blondes

Bloodletting Concrete Blonde

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? The Cranberries

Grave Dancers Union Soul Asylum

Soul Asylum

Soul Asylum

Jagged Little Pill Alanis Morissette

Alanis

New Miserable Experience Gin Blossoms

Gin_Blossoms-New_Miserable_Experience-Frontal

Pet Your Friends  Dishwalla

Tragic Kingdom No Doubt

Under the Table and Dreaming Dave Matthews Band

Under+The+Table++Dreaming+UnderTheTableAndDreaming

Yourself or Someone Like You Matchbox 20Yourself+or+Someone+Like+You+HQ+PNG+cover

Hello

Sorry for my unimaginatively titled first post. For a writer, I don’t know what to write about!

I will start by saying that I’m really grateful for a chance to work at a station like Classic Hits Z93. I get to relive “the best years of my life” (to quote Bryan Adams). Short of a time machine or a Fountain of Youth, where else can I suddenly be 16 again???

Aerosmith… Poison… Guns N Roses… INXS. Seems like just yesterday, their pictures hung on my bedroom walls, ripped from the pages of Circus Magazine. Now I’m playing them as “Classic Hits”??? I would say that I feel ancient, but I’m comforted by the fact that we also play the likes of Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson. A little something for everyone.

I hope to share music news, as well as personal memories connected to powerful songs here. Hope you enjoy the stuff I share!

And feel free to make suggestions/ requests anytime. My email address is: z93hollyrivers@yahoo.com

All The Best,

Holly

Aerosmith Permanent Vacation era

Aerosmith Permanent Vacation era