Music

Music

Sat
13
Jun

Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer: Creating Gold

Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer Ava Gold Havana Critical Blast Interview

So you have a new music single and video debuting, "Havana," and I understand that this is inspired by the story of your parents coming to America from Cuba. Can you elaborate on that story a little bit?

My dad came from Havana. My mom came from Santiago. There was just a lot of crazy things that happened and challenging sacrifices they had to make to get to this country. You know, in pursuit of the American dream.

Fri
29
May

Laurie Berkner Sings Kids Songs for the Ages -- All Ages

Laurie Berkner Band Critical Blast Dennis Russo

Okay, here’s the deal. I have been around a long time, and have seen many of the greatest musicians and bands from multiple genres live many times over. I have over 2000 LPs and 500 CD’s and listen to music dedicatedly every day. And I am also a bona-fide Laurie Berkner fan!

It started several years ago when my now teenage daughter was in single digits. We bought her many children’s music CDs from many artists, some with words, some without, and there was one artist in particular that rose to the top of her/our playlist: Laurie Berkner. Her music was/is so catchy, so upbeat, so tuneful that it didn’t matter if you were a kid or an adult, it sticks in your head and you can’t help but sing her songs to yourself. Then we’d see her videos on Nick Jr and that just let us enjoy her music all the more, because you could see just how much she enjoyed playing it.

Wed
20
May

Atlantic City Boardwalk Con - AKA ACBC is da place to be!

ACBC Atlantic City Boardwalk Convention Critical Blast

I've been a regular at comic and sci-fi conventions, or whatever you want to call them these days, since the '80s.  The experience has changed quite a bit in those decades.  In the past, they were mostly a place to shop for merchandise and meet creators.  Today cosplay, video games, movies, and, most especially, celebrity signings, are the predominant aspect of cons.  Geek has inherited the Earth and everyone wants to take part in the fun.  That popularity has caused ticket prices to spike, show floors to be overcrowded places impossible to navigate, and worst of all, it's increasingly difficult to get tickets for San Diego Comic Con or New York Comic Con.

Sat
16
May

Rush's R40 Tour Rocks Scottrade Center

rush R40 Tour May 14, 2015 at The Scottrade Center, St. Louis. Photo by Jeff Ritter

Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart. Three pretty unassuming Canadians fellows who, unlike many high profile celebrities, can often enjoy a peaceful meal without people recognizing them. I don’t know when they arrived in St. Louis for tonight’s gig at the Scottrade Center, but I bet they’re not quite as incognito here as they might be in Denver or Atlanta or Houston. St. Louis is a Rush town. If Sammy Haggar is our musical mayor, Rush is our Board of Aldermen. Kind of makes you think of their hit “Subdivisions” in a whole different way, doesn’t it?

Fri
15
May

The Thrill is Gone: B.B. King Passes at 89

BB King Blues Legend Obituary Critical Blast

The angel choir just got a whole lot sweeter Thursday night. Legendary blues guitarist Riley B. King -- "Blues Boy" King, and better known as B.B. King -- passed away in his Las Vegas home while undergoing home hospice care for dehydration.

King's particular guitar style and soulful voice were instrumental in elevating the blues genre into the mainstream. Together, he and his trusty Gibson ES-355 went on to produce more than forty albums, including "There Must Be a Better World Somewhere," "There is Always One More Time," and the unforgettable "Lucille," named after the moniker he gave his guitar after rescuing it from a burning bar in Twist, Arkansas, caused by a fight by two men over a girl named Lucille.

Twitter today is overflowing with tribute posts from musicians of all genres, a testament to the influence the man had on all of music.

BB King Tributes Twitter

Mon
11
May

LucasFilm's Strange Magic Not That Enchanting

Strange Magic DVD George Lucas Fairies Evan Rachel Wood Alan Cumming

George Lucas gets a lot of Internet anger directed his way. In fact, I've made some choice criticisms about his work over the years.  Still, it's hard to argue that for many of us he created our favorite fictional world.  It doesn't just stop with STAR WARS either. My God, the Indiana Jones trilogy is amongst my most loved films, as well.

While most of the work he's created in the past twenty years doesn't stand up to those classics I mentioned above, he did release the wonderful RED TAILS a few years ago.  Like any creator, Lucas is hit or miss, but his highs are so far above most others, it boggles the mind.

Sun
12
Apr

Stomp Makes Music Out Of The Mundane

Stomp plays the Fox Theatre in St. Louis April 10-12, 2015.

When I was just a small child, I would get my hands on a couple of my mother’s pots and a couple of wooden spoons, and go to town making the most unharmonious racket you can imagine. It wouldn’t take long before those cooking implements were taken away and peace and quiet was restored to the Ritter household. I can’t honestly say that I remember having seen a drummer of any sort before that experience, so maybe it’s more of a primal instinct for humans to make music, however they can manage it. Some people are just plain gifted—prodigies on piano or guitar at a young age that make it look effortless to produce sounds some trained professionals would be hard-pressed to achieve with a lifetime of practice. Some are only concert megastars in the shower or in their car, but either way only in their own heads (that’s me!). Some rare, lucky individuals blaze a new path, turning the kitchenware cacophony of my youth into a fusion of jazz, rock, tap dance and sketch comedy.

Tue
07
Apr

Blake Aaron Stirs Guitar Lover's Soul with "Soul Stories"

Blake Aaron Soul Stories Critical Blast

SOUL STORIES, releasing May 5th from Innervision Records, is guitarist Blake Aaron’s fifth album and his first that is entirely self-produced, with 8 of the 10 songs on the CD being original compositions.

From the very first track, “Groove-O-Matic,” it was easy to hear that Blake is no run-of-the-mill guitarist, but rather a highly accomplished virtuoso of the instrument. He plays with a controlled fluency that shines through whether the song is slow, fast, acoustic or electric.

Mon
30
Mar

Into The Woods Captivating, Creepy Trip Into The Weeds

The concept of getting various fairy tale characters to interact with each other in a shared universe is always an intriguing concept (if, not necessarily, a new one, as easily attested to by ONCE UPON A TIME and, even before that, with Bill Willingham's series, FABLES). In this Disney musical, the audience enjoys an interweaving of Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Rapunzel, orbiting around an entirely new tale of the Baker and his wife who are out to lift a curse put on their family by a witch.

Wed
25
Mar

Shania Twain Dazzles in this Vegas Spectacular

Shania Twain Still The One Live From Vegas DVD

Sit back and let me tell you the legend of a singer. She came from a faraway land called Canada, and she had a voice that could tame wild animals. She was catapulted to fame, and was one of the touchpoints for when country music transitioned into from traditional to pop. And then, one day, at the height of her fame... she was gone.

Her name was Shania Twain, and she was unforgettable.

In 2012, Shania returned for a live performance at The Colosseum at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. That show, "Still The One," incorporated backup singers, dancers, a full orchestra, and interactivity with a giant video screen, delivering an eye-popping performance of music and memories, Vegas-style.

Mon
02
Mar

Here Come Da Fudge -- The Vanilla Fudge -- With the Spirit of '67

Vanilla Fudge Spirit of 67 Critical Blast

SPIRIT OF ‘67 is the first album by Vanilla Fudge in 10 years. The group still retains three of the four original members of the band: Carmine Appice on drums, Mark Stein on lead vocals and keyboards, and Vince Martell on guitars. They’re joined by Pete Bremy on bass, who replaces Tim Bogert. The band continues to be true to their original form of playing covers of some of the greatest songs in rock and R&B. The only difference here is that, when they first started, the covers they did were of fairly current songs; now they are bona-fide classics.

On this album they cover songs that range from the Doors to the Stones, the Who to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, from Procol Harum to Marvin Gaye, and others, putting their own touch, their own style on every song.

Sat
28
Feb

The Million Dollar Quartet Returns To Rock The Fox Theatre

The Million Dollar Quartet runs Feb 27 - Mar 1 at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis.

Some critics will scoff at The Million Dollar Quartet for its thin plot and light conflicts. If you see a review of this show somewhere that does exactly that, you should quit reading those critics because clearly they didn’t get it. This is a show based on actual events in which there wasn’t any real conflict. In fact, what conflict there is in this show is probably somewhat inflated if not outright fabricated. Every musical need not be as densely plotted as Rent or as elaborately staged as Warhorse. Sometimes a simple brick backdrop and four talented actors and musicians recreating a magical alignment of budding stars is all you need to keep the audience’s toes a-tappin’ until they raise the roof during the grand finale.

Mon
16
Feb

Across the Beatles Universe: Here, There and Everywhere, The Beatles

Beatles Lennon McCartney Harrison Ringo Music Book

I'm lucky to have experienced Beatlemania. Unfortunately, it was thirty years after all the other wild teenage girls. I grew up listening to the music my parent's enjoyed like most children. But I didn't just tolerate it, I loved it...with a passion! Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen played on my tape deck non-stop and my radio was always set to the New York area oldies station, CBS-FM. And then, I can't remember what started it, but I discovered the Beatles. When I did, it exploded. I listened to my parents' vinyls, they bought me the CD's as they were released, I watched the Beatles movies on repeat and tried to get my hands on any form of them performing. Remember, this was well before YouTube. I couldn't just type in “Beatles” into a search box and click through all of the results. I had to seek as much as I could and, trust me, I did. I had been infected with Beatlemania and completely understood the allure. And for me, I never lost that adoration.

Sun
08
Feb

Talented Trio Clockwork Crafts A Flawless Sophomore CD

Not Meant For The Dark, by Clockwork. Art/Layout by Kate Davies/Padgraphics.

I don’t find a whole lot of modern music to be my cup of tea. It seems so often overproduced, Auto-Tuned, and predictable. When I discover an act that feels a little different from the rest, an act that features honest vocals, strong musicianship and more mature songwriting than a bunch of “Yeah, yeah, baby, baby, blah blah blahs,” that’s when I get excited.

Sun
25
Jan

Give Your Vinyl Albums a Fresh Clean Start

KLAUDIO LP200

For a vinylphile like me theses are marvelous times.

Records are making/have made a comeback. Whether it is because people have finally come to their senses that vinyl records sound superior to any other recorded medium, or because records companies are trying to find a way to make money again now that the people who forsook records for ease and portability have now forsaken that medium for the even worse sound but greater portability of digital file music, and they need something to generate cash flow for them now, they’ve realized that the record faithful have never gone away. We’ve just stood in the shadows, intent on letting the trends go by while we bask in sonic superiority listing to great music spinning on our turntables.

Whatever the real reason the record companies have decided to make LP’s again is really irrelevant. The fact is they are back in the groove again, and I am happy.

Tue
13
Jan

Genesis: Sum of the Parts on Blu-ray

Genesis: Sum of the Parts

SUM OF THE PARTS is a 90-minute documentary of the band and artists that are the group Genesis. It chronicles the band’s music from its inception up to their 2007 reunion concert, as well as detailing each member’s solo career with added interviews into present day.

Genesis is almost unique in the music world in that their popularity has stood the test of time. Despite lineup changes, butting heads, changes in musical styles and never really being known as a “rock” band, they have achieved lasting worldwide fame both as a group and as solo artists.

Thu
18
Dec

Lucky, "Rap Titan"

Lucky, Rap Titan

So a couple weeks ago I was fooling around on YouTube, and I made the rookie mistake of actually reading some of the comments on a video. (I know, I know. Sigh).

Anyway, in the comments of a particular video, I noticed a user with the name of “Lucky” advertising his channel and asking people to come check out his videos. I was feeling particularly snarky, so I went to take a look, preparing myself to blast the user with both petulant barrels for wasting my time.

I’m glad I went. Over the next several days, I listened to every video on the channel. Sometimes twice, often more. My regular Pandora stations were completely neglected, and my iTunes account got a reprieve.

I had to try and learn more about Lucky, but didn’t really learn a whole lot. I learned his first name, I learned he has a Facebook account, and I learned he records all of his own stuff on a laptop in a closet. That’s it.

Wed
17
Dec

Live Nation, Hollywood Casino Enter Agreement on Amphitheatre Naming Rights

Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre St Louis #HollywoodAmpStLouis

It's a day for building relationships. President Obama has just opened the door to normalizing relations with Cuba, and Live Nation and Hollywood Casino have come together in a multi-year agreement allowing Hollywood Casino to be the new name-in-title sponsor of the (now former) Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, which as of today is the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre.

On hand for the live announcement were Dave Gerardi, President of Live Nation Midwest, and Todd George, Hollywood Casino General Manager.

Wed
17
Dec

Joshua Mills and Christmas Miracles

Joshua Mills, Christmas Miracle, now available

Joshua Mills has been in the recording business for fifteen years now, but only this year released his first Christmas album. Focused on a theme of miracles -- and the desire to bring miracles back to Christmas -- affected not only the album title, CHRISTMAS MIRACLE, but several of the tracks, which are a blend of original songs and traditional standards.

With Christmas fast approaching, we spoke with Mills about his album as well as the unique production methods involved in making it happen.


How daunting is it to set out to do brand new music for a seasonal niche that's packed with some pretty long-standing standards?

Sat
13
Dec

JingleFest 2014: A Rocking Showcase of Today's Newest Country Stars

Cole Swindell at JingleFest 2014, Family Arena, St. Charles, MO. Photo by Jeff Ritter

If you read my recent review of the Garth Brooks concert in St. Louis, you would recall that I don’’t consider myself a country music fan. Except for Brooks, perhaps Kenny Rogers and Jimmy Buffett—if he even qualifies as country, I’ve never been sure what genre label best applies to the founding father of Margaritaville—I’ve had no use for it. The greats like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins are resting in peace, and the modern country I was subjected to my various girlfriends in their cars was all bad yodeling and hillbilly overkill. Chattahoochee is an Indian word given to a river, not a four-word sentence. Everybody sounded like they were describing a “tore nay doe” on the local news. And every song boiled down to four topics: boots, trucks, women and beer. How could anyone listen to such a depressingly limited genre of music?

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