Rebecca Luker: Kern by the Queen
Jun20

Rebecca Luker: Kern by the Queen

Update jan. 7, 2014. Rebecca Luker’s performance on the PBS series The American Songbook at NJPAC is now airing in the New York area. Check this page and local listings for air times in your area. Rebecca Luker’s I Got Love: Songs of Jerome Kern Since Jerome Kern and, indirectly, Rebecca Luker are partly responsible for this website’s existence, I’m taking a moment for some extra background before diving into my review of...

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Giveaway Winner!
May11

Giveaway Winner!

We have a winner! Michael Buble has the number-one CD in the country, and to acknowledge his accomplishment, we gave away a signed copy of the hardcover photo-biography Michael Bublé: Flying High (Flame Tree Publishing) by Mike Gent, with a foreword and signature by Tune Tribune Editorial Director Rusty Cutchin. Click here to see the winner’s name (chosen at random by Rafflecopter). Thanks to everyone who entered and to you for...

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Can Seth Save the Songbook?
Feb19

Can Seth Save the Songbook?

Update, Feb. 25. The votes are in, and not just for the Academy Awards, but also for Seth MacFarlane as host of the Oscar telecast. As predicted, MacFarlane simultaneously offended and entertained both critics and commenters to various degrees, but observers seemed surprised with his array of talents as singer and announcer, if not as comic cum host. (See links at bottom.) Several bloggers seemed to have no familiarity with MacFarlane...

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Hard Times for Easy Listeners
Jan16

Hard Times for Easy Listeners

The recent passing of Patti Page has prompted a reexamination of the curious reign of Easy Listening, the music style and radio format that devolved from jazz between the eras dominated by Big Band and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Anyone alive in the 50′s remembers the ubiquity of performers like Lawrence Welk, Liberace, Perry Como, and Dinah Shore, who led the soft parade via hit TV shows, and the 60′s (and even 70′s)...

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Songbook Suspect in Jazz’s Death
Jan16

Songbook Suspect in Jazz’s Death

A fine article in Salon by the L.A. arts writer Scott Timberg lays out the current state of jazz as a popular art form, and it ain’t pretty. The thing is, it hasn’t been pretty for about 50 years. As important as the term jazz is in the history of American music, the witless application of the word to everything from atonal electronic sound collages to traditional pop vocalists has hindered even a basic understanding, let alone an...

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You’ve Got a Friend Again
Dec18

You’ve Got a Friend Again

On December 13, the Library of Congress announced that Carole King would be the recipient of the 2013 Gershwin Prize in Popular Song. It seems like only yesterday that I unleashed a rabid tirade directed at the august committee of experts that awards the Gershwin Prize. I was called to action not so much by resentment of the choice for 2012—the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David—as by a need to smirk. I felt the committee had taken...

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Review: McCartney’s Kisses
Feb28

Review: McCartney’s Kisses

Hugs by Krall, Clapton, & Co.   Of all the pop stars who have issued tribute albums to American pop standards, Paul McCartney is in some ways the least likely to wind his way down the nostalgia lane. In other ways, you might wonder why it took him so long. After all, he was the Beatle who sprinkled the group’s later records with his takes on very old-school arrangements, “When I’m 64″ being probably...

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Whither Wainwright?
Feb24

Whither Wainwright?

Update, February 27, 2011: Rufus Wainwright’s opera Prima Donna will be staged by the New York City Opera in spring of 2012, the company announced. Here is the page from Wainwright’s website, with a brief video. Below is a consideration of Wainwright’s 2006 recreation of Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall concert, a seminal event in pop-music history. (The comment about Christina Aguilera takes on new meaning...

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Michael Feinstein’s Songbook

Update, 2/7/11: See the NY Times article about Michael Feinstein’s collection and foundation here. If there’s a more dedicated and effective champion of America’s pop music heritage than Michael Feinstein, it’s hard to imagine whom it might be. Celebrated as a performer, historian, and now artistic director for and contributor to an Indiana performing-arts center that houses his collection of music memorabilia,...

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New Cast Soundtracks

Stephen Holden of the New York Times, one of the most astute music and film critics in the country, has nailed it again. His analysis of the current crop of cast albums does a great job of describing the appeal of the newer sounds of Broadway while avoiding the patronizing or dismissive tone many writers adopt when writing about the Broadway tradition. There has been no doubt for decades that Broadway needed a shot (or many shots) of...

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The Long and Short of “Show Boat”

June 24, 2008—On June 10th I attended the concert staging of “Show Boat” at Carnegie Hall. The New York Times review is here, but my own feelings are echoed most closely by Steven Suskin’s review in Variety. A week later TCM replayed the 1951 MGM film version, which starred Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel. These two versions illustrate the essential fact of the “Show Boat” universe: no two versions are exactly alike. The...

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