© Tard The Grumpy Cat

I set out this week…

…to review a “blast from the past” holiday album from one of my favorite artists (NOT Tony Bennett despite the feature photo … just foreshadowing a bit).

I snagged the early 2000’s released holiday LP from iTunes and anxiously started listening … to make a long story short, it’s not very good; in fact it’s really pretty bad with significant deficits on the vocals, arrangements and some less than stellar production.

Though this artist is a recent find for me, he/she has been around many years and has released some great LPs; this particular album however is not one of them.

If he/she was proffering this LP this year as a new holiday release, it would be fair game; but the album in question was released ~ten years ago and I respect the artist  and their overall body of work too much to dredge up and flail this one anomalous poor recording.

It seems to be the season…

…for interviews, anecdotes, birthdays, holiday releases … I also have questions and notions frittering around in my head on the music industry, upcoming VS interviews and reviews, a Sinatra related DiningwithTheRatPack jewel … and a major new VocalStandards.com addition I’m considering, and I could use some feedback.

So … with a flaming hole in my content plan for this week, beaucoup newsworthy items in my inbox and a brain racing from too much eggnog, I thought I’d fire off a stream of consciousness piece and get all this stuff out of my head!

[BTW… I apologize if you’ve been having recent performance issues with the website. In addition to my disappointed listening experience, VS has also been stricken with some henky web infrastructure this week. Hopefully fixed at this point.]

First up, Tony B … Zen Master!

Tony Bennett just released his new book “Life is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett”; last week he took time to sit with Robin Young over at the Here & Now wing of NPR for an interview on his career, his art, the new book, and his zen-like approach to life.

Robin does an excellent job digging out some gems from Tony in the interview which is lightly excerpted in text form (along with a slice of his book) in the Here & Now web piece, but the complete interview requires listening to the actual audio of Robin/Tony’s discussion (located at the start of the H&N web page) … it is well worth the 17 minutes that joyful task will run you.

Cluster of big name Birthdays…

December is a huge month for big time birthdays … I’ve been around for 55 years and am so sad that this will be my first Christmas without the services of “Mr. Christmas”, Andy Williams who would have celebrated is 85th birthday Dec 3rd.

Then we have 2/3 of the Rat Pack celebrating birthdays next week with Sammy’s landing on Saturday the 8th and Mr. Sinatra’s birthday on the 12th. Look for a variety of Sinatra birthday bashes and toasts around mid month — all well deserved to be sure — but Sam does not garner similar attention for his birthday and that’s a shame.

While you’re paying tribute to Frank, take a minute to lift a glass, and give SDjr “a think and a wink” as well.

Hey, where are the holiday releases and singles?

Is it just me or does there seem to be less in the way of holiday singles, LPs and EP releases this year?

Maybe we’ve been spoiled over the last few years with holiday releases from the likes of  Bublè, Krall, Deana Martin, Connick Jr., Robert Davi and Jonny Blu (to name a few) …

This year, other than the Merry Christmas, Baby album release from Rod Stewart (~meh … still not onboard the RS crooner train), Jonny Blu’s announced followup to his snazzy 2011 release — “Holiday for Two”, and a very swing’n big band EP release — Christmas at our House — from an emerging young talent named Dale Corn, it seems pretty quiet around the VS holiday hearth this year.

I’m planning review pieces on the aforementioned holiday releases, but it still seems a bit light compared to years past … am I missing some good holiday fare? Let me know!

An open letter to the recording industry — where the hell is the music?

Without respect to holiday or mainstream American Songbook releases, where are the albums? We’re lucky these days if we get a release every couple of years from the big names in the industry, and even that anemic pace actually appears to be slowing.

Back in the ’60s folks like Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis — most of the artists of the day — would crank out at least one and often several LPs a year! Not every year to be sure, but still many, many times more LPs were hitting the market through the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s than we’re seeing now.

I know the industry has changed over the last 50 years … distribution, cost structure, demographics, music consumption trends, internet teeshirt sales … in a hundred other ways. It makes perfect sense that the rhythms and style of the music business is different today.

What doesn’t make sense is the fact the the music industry can’t find a way to embrace the new world order and get us more of what we want — more great music THAT WE CAN BUY! 

Heh, I get it … 10 song packages with cardboard slipcovers or jewel cases are no longer viable distribution vehicles. OK record guys

Come on Record Guys … make it happen!

… grow some stones, take a flyer on some new and interesting ways to package, distribute and promote singles and EPs. Stop moaning about the fact that it’s different and start innovating.

There are great young artists out there that are just not getting recorded/distributed. Stop putting all your eggs in the baskets of the two or three giant stars … get some of these young guys/gals in the studio and start grooming the next generation.

Hell I don’t know, create a “minor leagues” of sorts for the young artists with modest recording budgets, grassroots promotion … whatever, just find a way!

I’m starting to feel like a wildebeest on the Serengeti … watching the American Songbook “watering hole” dry up.

To Be Continued…

Well, I just ran past 1000 words traversing the strange and muddy stream that is my consciousness, and I only covered about half the items on my list!

In an attempt to keep this piece to a reasonable length, I will stop here and shim Part 2 of the “Stream” into the content plan soon.

I’m too busy through Christmas (Deana Martin interview and review, Dale Corn interview/review, Rat Pack Mystery book review…) but the week between Christmas and New Years looks like a good spot — especially to discuss the new plans rolling out for VocalStandards.com in 2013 (shameless tease).

Crap, now I’m over 1,100 words … gotta go!