Jan 31, 2009

'Streets of the Bronx Band" Rockin & a Rollin' Little Italy in the Bronx

Last night was a classic good old Little Italy in the Bronx night. At my families life long friends Restaurant Ann & Tony's on Arthur Ave, we were entertained by a great oldies band- "Butch Barbella's Streets of the Bronx Band".

Butch (another life long family friend) is the musical director of the trio and does all the arrangements on his keyboards. Butch has been musical director for groups like The Earls, The Duprees, & Dion. He did the musical soundtrack for the movie "A Bronx Tale" starring Chaz Palmintieri & Robert Deniro & the upcoming film "The Dukes". His current band is named after the doo wop song "Streets of the Bronx" from the "Bronx Tale" movie. Jerry Brown is a fantastic singer who handles the lead vocals & Bobby Rustici keeps the beat going on the drums.

The band had the joint rockin as they were literally dancing in the aisles, by the bar, near the bathroom and anywhere else they could fit. They mixed up some great ballads for slow dancing and then some classic 50's/early 60's rock & roll hits, that got everyone moving. In between Butch told some vintage Bronx stories about growing up & hanging out on 187th St & Arthur Ave. Check out their original tunes & their new CD.

The staff had to dodge all the people dancing in order to get the food & drinks to the tables. It all worked out for great night of good fun, good food & good music. My parents have been friends with the Ann & Tony's Restaurant family since childhood, & Butch as well. We've all grown up around the Italian neighborhood & the Restaurant at all stages in our lives. Anthony, Ralph & myself have been life long Met fans since our little league days.
This was a great cozy, friendly atmosphere, and a good fun time for all. Eveyone enjoyed it from those who were experiencing the Restaurant & band for the first time, to those who've been here before. We were there with my parents, the boys, Vera & her staff. It was such a success that they will be doing it again on Friday April 24th, 2009. Go to their website & reserve a table.

Streets of the Bronx Set list:
Where it Went
Up on the Roof
I Don't Want To Cry
Ruby Baby
Barbara Ann
Still of the Night
Johnny B. Goode
Long Tall Sally
I Who Have Nothing
Can't Help Myself
Run Around Sue
Shoo Bop
There Goes My Baby
Whiter Shade of Pale
I'll Be Satisfied


The Wanderer
Sea Cruise
Love Came to Me
Donna the Prima Donna
Good Lovin'
I Wonder Why
Streets of the Bronx
King of the New York Streets
I Believe
I Saw Her Standing There
Your Love is Lifting Me Higher
Wonderful Girl
The Bronx Has Been Good To Me



Jan 29, 2009

40th Anniversary of the Beatles Rooftop Performance

In January of 1969 the Beatles began work on their Get Back project. The idea was to film the recording of the new album and have it climax with a live performance. It would mark the 1st time the band played live since August 1966. As the filming for the movie goes on it becomes apparent things are not good amongst the band. The tension is very visible. Yoko Ono's presence, Johns lack of interest in the band, Paul trying to dominate the band, George wanting his opinions to be heard and Ringo just seems bored, (especially because at the time he was filming the movie "Magic Christian" with Peter Sellers). The topic of the live event (mostly Paul's idea) is another issue no one agrees on. For some reason Yoko puts her input in when she shouldn't even be seen let alone heard. Royal Albert Hall is mentioned, A Roman Amphitheater, a cruise ship out in the ocean, Paul preferred a small club like the early days. George & Ringo don't seem to want to play live at all.

As time winds down it seems nothing will get settled, so they choose to do a lunch time concert (like their Cavern days in Liverpool) on January 30th. They will perform atop the Apple building, located on Saville Row in London's swanky business district. They will have a special guest, their old friend Billy Preston will play keyboards. Not only for his musicianship, but the boys all seem to play nice together in Preston's presence. A makeshift stage, their equipment and movie cameras were set up on the cold overcast London day of January 30th 1969. The Beatles performed live in front of their wives, close friends, Apple staff members & passers by on the street in what would be their last live

John is wearing a heavy brown fur wrap coat which belonged to Yoko. Ringo was so cold he borrows his wife Maureen's bright red mac. Paul is wearing just a black suit jacket, & George dons some funky bright green slacks & a black heavy coat.

As all things surrounding the Beatles are studied & always interesting, but the most important thing is always the music. The 42 minute Roof top concert is no exception & does not disappoint.

Beatles Apple Rooftop Set list: January 30th 1969
GET BACK: The Beatles warm up with 2 rehearsals of Get Back. John & George seem to be a bit sloppy on guitars as Paul belts out a strong vocal He is just totally ecstatic to be playing live again. The two versions were mixed into one & used for the album & movie.

DON'T LET ME DOWN: Great harmonies from John & Paul, together in perfect sync. A classic Lennon moment is during the second verse when he forgets the lyrics. He mutters some classic John gibberish and the two look at each other & pick it right back up again. This version appears in the movie.

I'VE GOT A FEELING: The best version ever done of this song after numerous rehearsals. John's melodic "everybody had a good year" is done in perfect contrast to Paul's great screaming powerful vocal. Ringo's drumming right on & Georges makes the song with his distorted guitar parts. This version appears on the album & the movie.

ONE AFTER 909: Considered by many to be the best song of the rooftop sessions. George leads with some great guitar riffs as Preston follows flowing along on the keys timed with Ringo's catchy beat. John & Paul do perfect vocals and seem to be having a ball, like the old days. This version appears on the album & movie.

DIG A PONY: As George counts in, Ringo shouts "Hold it" as he blows his nose & lights up a cigarette. John sings a great vocal reading the words off a clipboard that a red headed tech is holding up. At the end of the song, John says "thank you brothers".., and he mentions his fingers are getting to cold to play the chords. This version appears on the album & movie.

Another version of I'VE GOT A FEELING & DON'T LET ME DOWN are done but not performed as well as the firsts.

GET BACK: The band quickly bursts into the final song Get Back. Ringo & Paul play on as John & Georges amp goes out. George turns it up as the Police arrive on the roof with Roadie Mal Evans, requesting the band stops playing. There were complaints in the quiet business district about loud noise coming from the roof. Paul improvises the lyrics singing " You've been playing on the roofs again, you know your mama doesn't like that, she's gonna have you arrested."

The band finishes the song & the set, as the film crew captures the Police trying to break up the party from their arrival downstairs at the building to the trek up to the rooftop. The film captures the excitement of the people on the streets looking up amazed that the Beatles are playing on the roof. Traffic is stopped as crowds gather. Imagine the shock to all the young Secretaries seeing the Beatles playing in mid afternoon. Others gaze from their roof tops or office windows, and then there's every ones favorite old gentleman smoking a pipe who climbs a ladder on one roof to get a better look.
As they walk off,Maureen Starr- Ringo's wife gives the big Hooray and claps loudly. Paul acknowledges her by saying "Thanks Mo". John improvises in classic Lennon "I'd like to thank you on behalf of the group & ourselves & I hope we passed the audition" as the Beatles sign off.

Jan 23, 2009

John Belushi was the Man

Today marks the birthday of one of my all time favorite comedians John Belushi. He was the comic of the rock & roll generation and did some legendary work that will be remembered forever. Its just a shame his career ended so soon at a young age, who knows what else he could have done to make us laugh. Here's a quick tribute to ya Bluto!!

Belushi was born in Chicago Illinois to Albanian immigrants. He started out with Chicago's Second City Comedy team doing his great parody of Joe Cocker. He performed off Broadway with Nation Lampoon Lemmings then taking over the radio show. There he worked with future SNL cast members Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase. There he married his friend from high school Judy Jacklin who was an associate producer of the Radio Hour. They stayed together until his death. He met his best friend Dan Aykroyd in Toronto & the two hit it off immediately. Belushi was known to be very generous to his friends, lending out money & finding people work.

In 1975 Belushi was a member of the original cast of the ground breaking show Saturday Night Live which opened the doo
r for late night television & cutting edge comedy. Belushi was great in roles like the Samurai character, Pete at the Olympia Diner in the cheese burger cheese burger skits, the Killer Bees, Larry Farber of the Farber couple with the wife Gilda Radner,
Lowell Brock, from the H&L Brock commercials, a cone head character, Matt Cooper, from the Land Shark sketches, The Thing that Would Not Leave, and of course Joliet Jake Blues of the the Blues Brothers. He also did an editorial on Weekend Update where he would rant & rave how things should be & yell at Jane Curtain screaming his signature "But Nooooooooooooooo".
Belushi often played comically intense, volatile, obnoxious and sloppy characters, and was known for his expressive eyes and the raised one eyebrow.

Other great characters Belushi played on SNL were: Babe Ruth, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Liz Taylor, Robert Blake, Sun Yun Moon, Yasir Arafat, Captain Kirk, the Hulk, Beethoven, Marlon Brando, Ed Asner, FDR & my favorite Joe Cocker.
In between seasons of SNL Belushi played Bluto a drunken degenerate college kid in the movie Animal House. He became a legend, and the movie one of the funniest movies of all time that defined a generation. Originally Aykroyd , Chase & Bill Murray were to be in the movie but all turned it down. Belushi's legendary scenes here include the Toga Party chant, the food fight, and his signature food eating grotesqueness.

In 1978 the sketch of the Killer Bees led to the Blues Brothers. Aykroyd who loved the blues rented a bar in midtown filled the juke box with old blues songs 7 turned Belushi on to the music. Belushi became obsessed & the two began to perform. It led to hit songs "Soul Man" & "Rubber Biscuit" and the album ' Briefcase Full of Blues" which went to #1. The band opened for Steve Martin on his comedy tour & they opened for the Grateful Dead on New Years Eve 1978 at the closing of Winterland. The Blues Brother s movie was a smash, released in 1980, and it featured the legendary Bluesmobile car chase. The film grossed $57 million & is the 9th highest grossing music film of all time.

On his 30th birthday he was in the top rated late night TV show, had the #1 album in America with the Blues Brothers & the #1 movie in America -Animal House.

John left SNL in 1979 to pursue a film career. He starred in four more movies overall in his career (three of them with Aykroyd ) Animal House, Blues Brothers, 1941, & Neighbors.

John was known to use drugs like cocaine often & drink heavily. He would often show up at friends homes late at night and look for food & never leave. His partying caught up to him in the end as he was way beyond control. On March 5, 1982, Belushi was found dead in Hollywood at his room of the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard. The cause of death was a speed ball, an injection of cocaine and heroin. On the night of his death, he was visited separately by friends Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. Both were not present when Belushi died. Two months later Cathy Smith a former groupie for The Band, admitted she had been with Belushi and had given him the fatal speed ball shot. Smith served a 10 month prison term.

Jan 12, 2009

Centerfield Maz's Rock DVD of the Year- "Black Symphony" by Within Temptation

WITHIN TEMPTATION are an phenomenal symphonic metal band from Holland. The band is fronted by the beautiful Sharon Den Adel, a mezzo soprano vocalist/ songwriter/ composer. Her performances are cinematic & epic with an incredible range of vocal styles. The musicians are a six piece rock band fronted by Robert Westerholt.

They have been around since humble beginnings in 1996 redefining the genre they represent. They have sold over 2 million CDs & DVDs word wide. They are Hollands most successful musical export ever and are quickly becoming known around the world as one of the best bands on the planet. Their latest album "The Heart of Everything" is just a perfect 10 in my opinion, released in July of 2007, it is their 1st official US release. It hit the top 10 in Europe, Holland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Japan, Austria, the Czech Rep., Portugal, & Spain.

They supported the Italian metal band Lacuna Coil (fronted by the beautiful Christina Scabbia) on a US Tour in 2007 & did some headlining of their own in US small venues. Hopefully this band will catch on here and be able to put on an epic concert at large arenas, like the Black Symphony concert. I highly recommend checking them out to any one interested in some fresh new good epic Rock & Roll.

This CD/DVD concert was recorded at the 10,000 seat Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, Holland in the Netherlands. Within Temptation are accompanied by The Metropole Orchestra, the Pa'dam Choir, and special guests: Keith Caputo (Life of Agony) George Oosthoek (Orphanage), & Anneke van Giersbergen (Agua de Annique). It is an incredible mix of hard rock, heavy metal, symphony, classical, choirs & chants, fronted by the sensational voice of Sharon Den Adel.

I picked it up a Barnes & Nobles Music store in the Paisades Mall, it was the only copy they had & I managed to find it scattered among the shelves. It's tough to find only a hand ful of places in Manhattan have it from what I saw. You can get it on line. Check it out!!!!!

The set list of the US DVD version is :
"Ouverture" -"Jillian (I'd Give My Heart)" -"The Howling" -"Stand My Ground" -"The Cross" -"What Have You Done" (with Keith Caputo) -"Hand of Sorrow" -"The Heart of Everything" "Forgiven"- "Somewhere" (with Anneke van Giersbergen) "The Swan Song" -"Memories"- "Our Solemn Hour" -"The Other Half (of Me)" (with George Oosthoek) -"Frozen"- "The Promise" -"Angels" -"Mother Earth"- "The Truth Beneath the Rose"- "Deceiver of Fools" "All I Need" -"Ice Queen"

Jan 6, 2009

Centerfield Maz's Top Albums of 2008

*Here is a list of my favorite albums of 2008. Everything from Symphonic Gothic Metal, Jazz, Italian pop, Psychedelic trance, Electronic, classic rock & Heavy Metal. These albums highlighted various phases at different points of the year for me. Some had great tours to support them others go me into new genres of music. One of the best years in music in a long time.