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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What's Old is Old Again


A few weeks back the actress Rita Wilson was spotlighted for her debut album, AM/FM on the terrific television show CBS Sunday Morning.  Yes, Mrs Tom Hanks was featured as her new LP was ready to drop and showed her playing at, GASP, LA’s famed Troubadour theatre. 

Now, we are going to ignore the fact that Wilson said Hanks, and his influence, had NOTHING to do with her record getting a green light.  Wake up kiddo.  You ain't Carole King much like you ain't Jill Clayburgh.  Timing is everything, Mrs Hanks Wilson.   Politely smile and play coy when asked that question.  It demeans us all when you suggest it is not a factor.  Nepotism in Hollywood???  Um, there more than anywhere...  and that is saying something.  

We are also going to ignore the fact that her voice, although pleasant and, admittedly, above average, might even have the chops to be a recording star.  Or at least have the ability to fill a room and not offend them.  After all, Celine Dion packs her theatre in Vegas every night. 

I’m even going to look past the albums content…  which is laced with cover versions of 70s and 80s soft rock standards.  Do we need another version of  “Come See About Me?”  “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?”   Probably not.  But that has not stopped it from entering our lives.

OK, ok, by calling out those things that is acknowledging them, not ignoring them.  But those issues are less troubling than this.

The biggest problem is America’s fascination with slowing things down once they hit a certain age.  It is why Rod Stewart can release several “Standards” LP’s and not get the tar beat out of him.  It’s why Paul McCartney can sing a sappy Valentine number on this years Grammys.  Glenn Frey is touting a similarly sappy record of “classics” these days too.

Where have you gone “Maggie May?”  “Lovely Rita?”  “Smugglers Blues?”

When the  AARP eligibility comes in the mail does that necessitate relinquishing your guts??  Your edge?  

I’m all for nostalgia and the warm comfort of things past.  But at what cost?  

The new artists who are struggling to make a living in the download era can ill afford to compete with dinosaurs playing tired retreads.  McCartney and Frey made money in the business when it was there to be had.  They can now safely goof around in a studio (most likely in their palatial estate- one of several palatial estates they own on several continents) riffing on Cole Porter tracks and phoning in lazy remakes of songs long forgotten. 

Meanwhile new bands like Chappo, or Alabama Shakes, or Blind Pilot, play 200 nights a year in clubs the size of Rod Stewart’s maid’s bathroom in a valiant attempt to make a living at the thing they love.

We are the ones to blame because we constantly look for the easy way out.  “Hey I know that song!  And isn’t that Glenn Frey singing?!  I loved the Eagles so I have to love this.  I'm gonna pick up that  disc with my double chai latte.”  Beats thinking!

Not really.  We all want to hold on to our youth and remember things past.  But for a moment let’s think of the artists creating new music and exhibiting creativity in a business that is near impossible to make money in these days.  And there is plenty of good stuff out there, believe it!!

Where have you gone rock star??  Right, you are cashing royalty checks and making a duets album with Tony Bennett. 

Good grief.


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