Book – The phrase ‘book of essays’ always suggests to me something stodgy, solemn and old-fashioned–until I remember that every Buzzfeed article is an essay by another name. Cover Me actually started as a series of posts on the author’s blog, and that pedigree shows, in a good way. It’s a compilation of nineteen bite-sized nuggets of popular music history, exactly the kind of irresistible stories that can keep a reader clicking through to the next page until the small hours of the morning.
Author Padgett is a music producer as well as a writer, and his industry knowledge informs and enriches these impeccably-written essays. Even after many years of blogging on the subject of cover songs (songs re-recorded by a different artist than the original) he was hesitant to delve into the subject in book form, because cover songs are not exactly a unifying theme. They belong to no one particular era, genre or movement–but that fact in itself makes them an ideal vehicle for a macro-view of popular music as a whole, at least the past 65-ish years of English-language popular songs. “Every major change in the music industry since the advent of rock and roll finds some expression in the world of cover songs,” Padgett writes, and he does an admirable job of delving into those larger connections and significances to make each song tell a larger story. Moreover, he writes history the way it should be written: as a series of human stories, emotional and compelling as well as informative.
As a casual music history fan, I was nervous that Cover Me would be a music snob’s book for experts only, but was pleasantly surprised. I already not only knew, but knew the words to, almost every song discussed, including all-time greats like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” and the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout.” This is definitely a book to enjoy with YouTube on hand, to listen (or, in the case of Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” and the accompanying music video, watch) along to every variation of the featured songs. Revisiting classics in this rich new way was a genuine joy, and I would recommend it to every teen and adult reader with even a slight interest in popular music or music history.
Music CD – Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey is a treat for her fans as well as those who like smoky, deep, lounge singer vocals. Her music has been labeled as alternative rock, hip hop, and indie. Her lyrics, many of which are written by her, are haunting and full of emotion. This CD contains 14 tracks. And I like all of them. Some of my favorite songs are: “High by the Beach”, “Terrence Loves You”, “Religion”, and “Salvatore”. Del Rey possesses an expansive contralto vocal range which spans more than three octaves. Ranging from high to low jazzy notes. She at times sounds like an angel, but don’t let her voice fool you, some of her lyrics can be quite gritty and explicit.
Some of her most popular songs include “Summertime Sadness” from the CD Born to Die and “Young and Beautiful” from the movie The Great Gatsby. Some of Lana’s favorite artists include Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley, and Leonard Cohen. Adele is a fan of Lana Del Rey. For total entertainment, check out some of her music videos on YouTube.
Music – This is the new live performance album from the great Barbra Streisand. She grew up in Brooklyn, and when the new Barclays Center luxury arena opened there, she agreed to present a live concert, which she rarely does because she has stage fright. The album has 26 songs, nine of which she had never performed on stage before. Barbra talks to the audience about her memories of living in her Brooklyn apartment childhood home. Of course, she went on to fabulous stardom as a singer-songwriter, author, actress, film producer and director. She is one of only twelve other entertainers who have an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and a Tony award. She is the best-selling female artist on the Top Selling Artists list (32 top ten albums since 1963). She has released 51 Gold albums, 30 Platinum, and 13 Multi-Platinum. She starred in the movies Funny Girl, The Way We Were, and The Owl and the Pussycat, and many others. In Back to Brooklyn everything is perfect – the orchestra, the arrangements, and her voice (smoky, silken and lustrous). Every song is wonderful! I loved “The Way we Were,” Evergreen,” and “Here’s to Life.” Streisand, now 71, can still knock your socks off with what NY Times music critic, Stephen Holden, describes as her “gift for conveying a primal human longing in a beautiful sound.”
Music – This is the new CD from Barry with just him singing and playing piano (and bass) by himself. It features 16 lesser-known standards and is the perfect album for relaxing after work, or creating the mood for a romantic evening at home. It’s his most intimate, calming album of all time with beautiful melodies and well-written lyrics. I loved all of the songs and was especially touched by “Here’s that Rainy Day,” “While We’re Young,” and “Alone Together.” Manilow is Radio & Records No. 1 adult contemporary artist, and he is the top Adult Contemporary artist of all time. He has 29 platinum albums (two of them triple platinum) and has sold over 80 million albums worldwide. Not bad for a poor kid from Brooklyn, who had to work his way through Juilliard. Barry is great at introducing the wonderful songs of a different era to a new generation, and he appeals to every cross-section of society. He has Grammy, Emmy and Tony Awards, many film credits, and his concerts sell out instantly worldwide. He has cultivated a lush, sentimental, melodic, romantic musical style which I find easy to love and easy to listen to. By the way, he was Bette Midler’s music director, arranger and pianist for many years, when they were both young and unknown; both became big stars to be sure. I always loved his hit songs like “Copacabana,” “Mandy,” and “I Write the Songs,” and he’s still got the magic.
Music – The Best of Burt Bacharach: anyone who had a heart is a two CD-set of 40 hit pop songs; all of them composed by Burt Bacharach, with lyrics by Hal David. Each selection is sung by a famous singer, including: Dionne Warwick, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Barbara Streisand, and many others. Bacharach’s music is characterized by deeply felt emotions. His arrangements evoke strong feelings of love, joy, sorrow, yearning and loss. The music has unusual chord progressions, striking syncopated rhythmic patterns, irregular phrasing, frequent modulation and odd, changing meters. He has composed 73 Top 40 hits, won six Grammys and three Academy awards. He is one of the most important composers of popular music in the 20th century, almost equal to George Gershwin, or Irving Berlin. I like all of these songs, but especially “One Less Bell to Answer,” “This Guy’s in Love with You,” “A House is not a Home,” “Arthur’s Theme (Best that You can Do).” The album coincides with the publication of Burt’s memoir titled Anyone Who Had a Heart: my life and music by Burt Bacharach.
Movie – Former Beatles’ great, Paul McCartney, got the legendary Capitol Studios, the top musicians, and arrangements to make this fabulous DVD. Music he grew up listening to in his childhood. Live Kisses marked the launch of his #1 best selling CD “Kisses On the Bottom.” It is highlighted with rare interviews featuring the star musicians: Diana Krall, Joe Walsh, Eric Clapton, Tommy LiPuma, John Pizzarelli and Paul, and the arrangements include a 20-piece orchestra. The songs are sparkling renditions of classic songs from the American songbook, such as: “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” “My One and Only Love,” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.” Simply put, Paul McCartney at age 70 is superbly polished, perfectly in tune, and a wonderfully expressive vocalist! Live Kisses was filmed in November 2012 at the exact time Paul received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The DVD includes a 40 page book with many photos and the interviews transcribed into print.
Music – Come On Over, by Shania Twain, is the best selling country album ever by the top selling female artist. The album contains 17 top ten songs, half of which reached #1. In fact, it is the best selling studio album of all time by a female act in any genre. Shania Twain has won 5 Grammy Awards and is known as “The Queen of Country Pop.” (she also has her own TV series Why Not? with Shania Twain). Come On Over is actually a crossover album with a seductive pop sound, rather than traditional country. I think song “From This Moment On” is one of the most beautiful love songs ever, and there is nothing subtle about “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.” Shania is actually a Canadian (real name: Eilleen Regina Edwards), and she has sold more than 75 million albums worldwide.