Category: Rock & Roll

Leon Russell: Back to the Garden, 40 years later

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Newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Leon Russell added another highlight to his latter-day career renaissance on Wednesday with his first performance at New York's Madison Square Garden since 1971, when he led the band at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh benefit.

Russell joined his friend and champion Elton John for an eight-song set from last year's duet album, "The Union," during John's concert at the Manhattan arena.

Southern rocker Gregg Allman also showed up to join the pair on the album's Civil War-themed gothic ballad, "Gone to Shiloh."

John has another Madison Square Garden show booked for Sunday, a few days ahead of his 64th birthday.

Russell will bring his own band with him when he returns to Southern California for a May 1 appearance in Indio for this year's Stagecoach Country Music Festival.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Elton John introduces Leon Russell at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony March 14. Credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Live from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony: Tom Waits, Dr. John, Darlene Love, Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond celebrate in New York

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Now into its second quarter-century, its rebellious youth largely a memory and its adolescence rapidly receding into the past, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's annual induction ceremony canonized Neil Diamond, the Alice Cooper band, Tom Waits, Dr. John and Darlene Love as its newest performer honorees on Monday night at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan.

All five had long been eligible under the hall's requirement that acts only become candidates 25 years after the release of their first recording, making this something of a catch-up year for those like Cooper, Diamond and Love, all of whom sold millions of records in their prime, or in the cases of Waits and Dr. John, artists whose critically admired work hadn't been accompanied by the kind of commercial success that might have helped usher them into the hall earlier. Fellow pianist Leon Russell was inducted in the "sideman" category.

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum announces 'Women Who Rock' exhibit

Madonna bustier 207 Starting May 13, women armed with pipes and axes (the vocal and guitar kinds, of course) will take over the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Get ready for willful sopranos, juke-joint mamas, girl-group cuties, gritty punkers and lots of voices from all over the feminine spectrum.

"Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power" has been officially in the works since last summer, but on an unofficial level, it’s been contemplated for years by the museum staff. The exhibition will highlight more than 50 artists -- among them Chrissie Hynde, Madonna, Bikini Kill, Taylor Swift, Ruth Brown, Tina Turner and Yoko Ono -- and will fill two floors of the institution. Ending in February 2012, the exhibit will likely travel to other museums, though no firm plans are yet in place.

For Jim Henke, the vice president of exhibitions who led the curatorial team on "Women Who Rock," the timing seemed especially ripe for such an enterprise. To spotlight two stories that have taken over the music narrative as of late, Lady Gaga has become the locus of the pop world and Rihanna has reemerged strong from her public ordeal with domestic violence.

“Women have played an important role in the last year,” Henke said. “And they’re getting the respect they deserve.” Henke is quick to point out, for the record, that the influence of women in popular culture is nothing new. “Going back to some of the great blues and gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson to rockabilly pioneers like Wanda Jackson, women have played a crucial role in music.”

While creating the exhibit with a small team of curators and consultants (including, on an unpaid basis, Times pop critic Ann Powers), Henke was once again confronted with the difficulties women faced getting their voices heard. “Women were often put in the background, they weren’t given the same kind of airplay as their male counterparts. They had to struggle with the same issues in the music world that they were struggling with in the general culture.”

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I'm with the band: Rock's most famous groupies tell all for VH1 documentary 'Let’s Spend the Night Together'

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During the 1960s and early '70s, as such rock royalty as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the  Rolling Stones burned up the charts, a prominent set of women played a key, but quiet, role in the proceedings.

They were the dedicated fans, the ones who took their love of rock 'n' roll a step further by assuming the role of groupies. They proudly served as treasured paramours -- and oftentimes muses -- to some of rock’s most iconic statesmen. And now they are telling all for a new documentary, premiering Wednesday on VH1.

Adapted from Pamela Des Barres' bestselling book "Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies,” the doc follows Des Barres -- heralded as the "queen of groupies" -- as she travels across the country reconnecting and reminiscing with the women who lived up to their reputations.

“I’ve been wanting to do a documentary on the true heart of the groupie ever since I was one. The groupie is just a girl who loves music and loves to be around the people who make it. She is the fan that takes it to the next level to experience the whole shebang,” Des Barres said backstage at a private screening for the film.

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Frog Eyes emerge from dissection with new perspectives

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After a few years of self-dissection, the Canadian indie rock group Frog Eyes are swimming back to the surface with new perspectives. In anticipation of their show at the Echo on Friday, singer Carey Mercer shared his thoughts on how live performances should be done and how much time bands should wait before releasing new records.

On the latter point, Mercer has calculated his magic number: two years.

"There's too much media. It's kind of making me sick when I think about it -- how much music there is out there," he said on the phone Monday. "So I thought, well why don't I reduce my cultural footprint and wait a few years? Put a record out every two years."

It's actually been just shy of three years since Frog Eyes' last, "Tears of the Valedictorian" -- unless you count their 7-inch split with Hello Blue Roses, their final release on the Absolutely Kosher label. Contributing to "Tears of the Valedictorian" after a lengthy absence was founding member Spencer Krug, the indie rock sweetheart behind Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown. Johnny Depp named the latter as an inspiration for his twisted portrayal of the Mad Hatter in the live action "Alice in Wonderland."

Pauls-tomb While Krug is no longer a part of Frog Eyes, the overall product isn't any less weird. Mercer speaks in a warm, unmistakably Canadian accent, but in front of the mic, he spirals into a series of yodels, yelps and whimpers. For all the parallels you can draw between Frog Eyes and Sunset Rubdown, Mercer's group hasn't been able to achieve the kind of mainstream attention of either Krug project.

"In my mind, there are 100,000 people in the world who would really cherish the kind of emotional ground that we stake out," Mercer argued. "The themes and the kind of passion of the music are fairly universal."

The songs deal with motifs of faith, economic turmoils, war, domestic disputes and drug use. And that's just the sixth track on their new record "Paul's Tomb: A Triumph."

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Ringo Starr on Rock Band: 'I've never played it'

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Ringo Starr could probably use a little help from his friends -- to learn how to play Rock Band.

The legendary Beatles drummer said in a recent interview with LP33 that he's never played the game.

"I think the game is great," Starr said emphatically in the video conversation. When asked whether he had ever played it, he revised his praise. "I think the graphics are great," he said with a laugh.

Despite being an animated character in the Beatles: Rock Band and having given authorization during its conception, he just can't seem to get the hang of it.

"I've tried," he continued. "But I get too crazy with that guitar arm and the things coming toward you," he said gesturing wildly with his hands.

He seemed to indicate that it's a sensory overload. Which is understandable, when you consider all of the bright, flashing colors streaming across the screen at any given time.

Drummers tell us that the faux percussion instrument in the game is more technically similar to the real thing than any other plastic doodad -- except for maybe the microphone. But for an aging rocker, it might be better to stick to that rock and roll music any old way you choose.

-- Mark Milian
twitter.com/markmilian

Photo credit: Harmonix

Album review: Rolling Stones' 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!' 40th anniversary box set

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Even after the deluge of Woodstock 40th anniversary commemorations we’ve seen this year, a new box set revisiting the Rolling Stones’ celebrated  U.S. tour a couple of months after those three days of peace and music makes an invaluable addition to the pop music archives.

“Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!: The Rolling Stones in Concert,” being released today, starts with the original 1970 live album, which has long stood as one of the great documents of one of rock’s cornerstone bands in absolute peak form.

That album, culled from two shows at Thanksgiving at New York's Madison Square Garden, is supplemented in this four-disc package ($59.98 list price) by a second disc comprising five tracks not included on the original set. A third CD captures the rest of the evening’s stirring opening sets by B.B. King and Ike and Tina Turner.  The fourth disc contains film footage from the Stones' tour shot by acclaimed documentarians Albert and David Maysles (whose 1964 footage of the Beatles' first U.S. tour provided the inspiration for “A Hard Day’s Night”) for what would become the 1970 film "Gimme Shelter."

There’s also a “super deluxe” set ($99.98) that includes the three music discs on vinyl as well as CD.

By the time of the Garden shows, guitarist Mick Taylor had replaced Brian Jones, who’d been fired a few months earlier and then died under mysterious circumstances. In November, “Let It Bleed” was just being released, so the heart of the Stones’ set list was the material drawn from that album and its 1968 predecessor, “Beggars Banquet.” (Yes, Virginia, once upon a time, the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World was more interested in its newest songs than its classics.)

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Ozzy, Korn and more: The scene from the 2009 Sunset Strip Music Festival

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For the first time ever, they shut down Sunset Boulevard between San Vicente Boulevard and Doheny Drive for a music festival, and it starred the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne. Rockers Korn and the Donnas were also on the bill, as were goofballs Kottonmouth Kings, LMFAO and Shawyze, who gave the kids something to dance to.

All the legendary Sunset Strip clubs -- the Roxy, the Whisky, the Viper Room, the Cat Club and the Key Club -- were open if you had a $40 wristband. There were vendors serving all kinds of food, beer gardens, and women who wore the exact same stilettos they would have sported if it was a Friday night instead of a Saturday afternoon. Plenty of pictures after the jump.

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First impression: New Jerry Lee Lewis single 'Mean Old Man'

Jerrylee350 It must be great, as a 73-year-old founding father of rock ’n’ roll and the celebrated “last man standing” of the stable of towering talents discovered and signed by Sun Records visionary producer Sam Phillips, to be able to snap your fingers and get new material written especially for you by the likes of Kris Kristofferson.

But that’s just what Jerry Lee Lewis has in “Mean Old Man,” the first single and title track from his forthcoming album, billed by his label, Shangri-La Music, as “his first country record since the ’70s."

That’s a tad misleading—his 2006 album for Shangri-La, "Last Man Standing," had plenty of country spirit in it, because rock as originally mapped out by Lewis, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and other Sun artists was equal parts country and rhythm and blues, primal influences those artists never fully abandoned even in their hardest-rocking recordings.

Kristofferson provides him with a song that celebrates the yin and yang of what it is to be the Killer, proclaiming himself to look like a mean old man, a good old friend, a voodoo doll and, finally, hilariously, “your uncle Bob.”

The single, which just went up on iTunes, Amazon.com, Rhapsody and most of the usual places, opens with the down-home twang of a tremolo-laden electric guitar over a midtempo martial drum beat. Conspicuous in its absence is any hint of the signature pumping piano work by the famous Fireball.

In recent years he’s appeared increasingly frail, but vocally he sounds very much himself and very much in possession of the telltale quaver in his voice and a take-no-prisoners, make-no-excuses authority over the material at hand.

“If I look like a voodoo doll/Who’d take his lickin’ standing tall/Who’d rather bite you back than crawl/That’s what I am,” he snarls. The ferocity he often tapped in his prime may be a thing of the past, judging from a certain thinness in his vocals, but the deliciously cocky attitude still evident here probably will be with him till the day he dies, and even then, it may not follow him down without a fight.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of Lewis performing in Spain last month by J.J. Guillen / EPA

Ozzy Osbourne plays for the geeks -- at least some of them -- at BlizzCon

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With one guitar chord, geekfest turned into Ozzfest when Ozzy Osbourne rocked the Anaheim Convention Center on Saturday night. The heavy metal legend performed during the closing ceremony of BlizzCon, an annual conference for video-game publisher Activision Blizzard that brings thousands of PC gamers to Orange County.

The 26,000 attendees spent two days testing unreleased Blizzard products ("StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty,"  "World of Warcraft: Cataclysm" and more). The crowd, which skewed overwhelmingly male, of course, unwound with Black Sabbath songs and Osbourne's miscellaneous favorites, including "I Don't Know" and "Mr. Crowley."

Osbourne commanded the thousands standing in front of their seats and in the small pit, as fans clapped and hopped in unison. Still, the audience remained unusually tame -- by heavy metal standards. That was until Osbourne and Co. launched into "Ironman," which sent the pit into a wild, shoving fury.

Osbourne seemed unusually vibrant for the 60-year-old rocker who has been tamed by an MTV reality show. He was in fact well-spoken and ...

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