Jun 17, 2010

Concert Review: Carole King / James Taylor: Madison Square Garden - NY City

History: Carole King wrote her first hit song “Will You Still Love Tomorrow” at the age of 18 in 1960. She & her husband at the time, Gerry Goffin would go on to write over a dozen hit songs in the sixties for groups like the Shirelles (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow), The Animals (Don’t Bring Me Down), Bobby Vee (Take Good Care of My Baby), The Drifters (Up on the Roof), The Cookies (Chains -also covered by the Beatles), Steve Lawrence (Go Away Little Girl), Aretha Franklin (Natural Woman), The Chiffons (One Fine Day), The Everly Brothers (Cryin’ In The Rain), Little Eva / Grand Funk Railroad (The Locomotion), Grand Funk Railroad / Gene Pitney (Some Kind of Wonderful) & Freddie Scott (Hey Girl).

After moving from Manhattan to West Orange New Jersey, they wrote the song “Pleasant Valley Sunday” which became a huge hit for the Monkees. They also penned the Monkees classic, "Porpoise Song". Countless artists have covered her songs, and she is credited with writing 118 songs, that have been on the Billboard Top 100.

In 1971, with the coaxing of friend James Taylor, she released her legendary solo album Tapestry which produced four number one singles, & remained number one on the album charts for 15 straight weeks. It’s the longest amount of time any female solo artist’s album remained at the top of the charts. The album stayed on the charts for six years & has now sold well over 25 million copies. King has won four Grammy awards & is a member of the songwriters section of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

James Taylor was born in Boston and moved to Greenwich Village in the sixties struggling & falling on hard times. He got a break when he moved to London after inheriting some money and his demo songs were given to Peter Asher. Asher’s sister Jane, was Paul McCartney’s girlfriend at the time, and Paul liked what he heard on Taylors demo. He became the first non British act signed to the Beatles Apple lable & his career took off from there.

Taylor has had ten top 10 albums, four top 10 hits, one number one song (You’ve Got a Friend), won six Grammy awards & is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In 1972 he married singer Carly Simon, they had two children & a huge hit together with the tune ‘Mocking Bird”. He has sung the National Anthem at the World Series in Boston, the NBA playoffs & at an NHL Game as well. He appeared on Saturday Night Live six times & multiple other TV shows. A bit of trivia; Paul McCartney & George Harrison both appear on his first hit "Carolina On My Mind".

In 1970 Taylor & King did a week of shows at the legendary Hollywood nightclub, the Troubadour. At the time they were both starting out on their solo musical careers. They returned the next year as co headliners, both with huge hits & success now under their belts. In 2007 they returned to the club to celebrate its 50th anniversary. This year they are touring together on the Troubadour Reunion Tour, which features three sold out nights at Madison Square Garden. Here’s a review of last nights show:
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CONCERT REVIEW:
Madison Square Garden was filled with a seasoned crowd of veteran music lovers last night. This was a crowd who were totally into Carole King & James Taylor, singing along and on many occasions giving standing ovations. I myself was more of a casual fan at this one just, I just sat back & enjoyed a fantastic evening of good mellow music. I would say I am more of a Carole King fan than a James Taylor fan, the Tapestry album one of my all time favs . To me King singing “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” & “It’s Too Late” were alone, worth the price of admission.

This was a great show with a very intimate setting inside the large Madison Square Garden. The stage was set in a theater in the round, slowly revolving throughout the night. There were also close up intimate table seats, complete with candle light, set up around the stage to give it that Troubadour club feeling. Above the revolving stage was a video screen that completely circled around the set. It featured photos of the King, Taylor & their band when they were all younger; “back in 1901” as Taylor joked early in the evening. There were also nine HD video screens surrounding the stage, so everyone always got a good close up view. It was a very clever stage set up in my opinion, my seats down on the first level were fantastic. I don’t see how anyone had a bad view with this set up.

It seemed the two were having a great time, Carole King always smiling & full of energy. She gives off a warm friendly persona, and gives you the feeling that you wish she was your neighbor. She already seems like your friend with as does Taylor who is more laid back but he also has a good funny personality on the stage with his banter between songs. Both of them sing as if it were still 1970, their vocals still sound great. Taylor played a beautiful acoustic guitar through the night, strapping on the electric for his blues number.

King treated us to her wonderful piano playing, most of the night. She even strapped on the guitar for a song or two & stood up singing a few times as well. She received yet another standing ovation while on her feet belting out an excellent version of “I Feel the Earth Move under My Feet”. Backing them up was the original Troubadour band from 1970, a four piece set with three backing vocalist & fiddle player. It was quite a night for show number two in New York City.

Carole King / James Taylor Set List- 6/18/10 Madison Square Garden:
Blossom
So Far Away
Honey Dont Leave L.A.
Carolina on My Mind
Way Over Yonder
Smack Water Jack
Country Road
Sweet Season
Mexico
Long Ago & Far Away
Beautiful
Shower the People
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

INTERMISSION
Copperline
Cryin' In the Rain
Where You Lead
Sweet Baby James
Will You Love Me Tomorrow
Steam Roller Blues
Too Late
Fire & Rain
I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet
Youv'e Got A Friend
ENCORE:
Up On The Roof
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)

Jun 16, 2010

Edgardo's Older Brother & Mets Minor League Manager: Edgar Alfonzo

Edgar Alfonzo was born on June 10, 1967. He is the older brother of popular former Met Edgardo Alfonzo. Edgar spent 12 years in the Baltimore & Anaheim minor league systems never making to the big leagues.

Since 2000 he has been working at various levels of the Mets system. In 2000 he was manager of the Kingsport Mets. In 2001 he was the first manager of the Brooklyn Cyclones in their inaugural season, leading them to a first place finish, and a co-championship. He won Baseball America’s short season manager of the year award. In 2002 he was the St. Lucie Mets hitting instructor, then worked as a Mets minor league infield co-ordinator.

In 2007 he returned to Brooklyn as manger again finishing in first place but losing in the league finals. In 2008 his Cyclones finished 4th & he moved on to the Savannah Sand Gnats in 2009, but finished 12th. In 2010 he is the back as manager of the St. Lucie Mets. He has been living in that area since 1998 and is very excited about managing at home. He likes to play small ball & is a very strict & aggressive manger. His son Edgar Jr. is a minor league pitcher.

Jun 11, 2010

Concert Review: The Eagles at New Madowlands Stadium (with Dixie Chicks & Keith Urban)

What a great night at the brand new Meadowlands Stadium last night. The Eagles put on an amazing show wowing the 50,000 plus, on what turned out to be a beautifal early summer night, after a brief sun shower passed through. Supported by the Dixie Chicks and Keith Urban it was a 5 hour extravaganza of some great music.

THE NEW MEADOWLANDS STADIUM: As for the new stadium, there was really nothing there that blew me away. Upon first arrival, there were slow lines at the pay booths, which charged a hefty $25 to park. There wasn't much direction, the lanes all of a sudden merged down into only two pay booths which was causing the whole delay. There you get your first close up of the big large grey Stadium, which really is kind of ugly.
The parking situation was ridiculous at first. I arrived at 400 PM and was sent to a parking lot behind the racetrack, a long way away from the stadium. I was told there would be shuttle buses to take us over! Shuttle bus, after I paid $25, no way. I demanded out of there & had the guy stop traffic so I could leave. I left and got a better spot right near the last remnants of the original Giants Stadium. The tailgating was good, just like the old stadium. (I always felt The Meadowlands tailgaiting is the best in the New York area. In all the stadiums I have been to, it's second to only Milwaukee.) There certainly were Not enough garbage cans, and way too much construction still ongoing around the facility. It’s hard to believe they have been in the Stadium business for so many years, because it just seemed so uncoordinated.
As you walk into the stadium there are escalators that take you up into the concourse area that is very plain. There area is wide and spacious with a lot of concessions, but most of them were closed? Go figure. The interior design is nothing special, just cinder blocks & very gray. The most impressive feature was the large bar area right alongside the entrances to the seating sections.

There was a large variety of tap beers, quick efficient bar tenders & no long lines. There seemed to be a lot of bathrooms, and again no lines. Inside they certainly cut corners on the urinals. They are nothing more than plastic tubes coming out of the wall. Terrible & ugly. I was lucky enough to use the Family restroom next to the ladies room twice. No wait & had the whole thing to myself, before the women took it over during the Eagles set.
We had great seats, lower level, Section 111 Row 7, the seats were cushioned and there was ample leg room. There are large video scoreboards in each corner of the Stadium which I am sure will be great during football games. The Stadium has three tiers and the top still had a section that was under construction. The upper tier looks like it’s a long way from the field, and I am sure the upper rows views can’t be all that great.


KEITH URBAN: The shows opener was country music star Keith Urban. I was not familiar with his music, but he definitely puts on a good show. He’s somewhere between country, pop & a bit of rock & roll. The guy can sing & plays good guitar. I was surprised how much I liked his set. The highlight of his show, was when he jumped off the stage and circled the perimeter of the floor level right into the crowd. He jogged around & played guitar along the way, giving high fives to all the fans that swarmed around him. Of course he had tight security surrounding him for his protection. There was a small stage set up in the back of the floor section where he played out his next to last song, then continued his jog back to the main stage.

DIXIE CHICKS: Next on the bill was The Dixie Chicks. Putting all their past politics aside, because I believe it’s all about the music, they are fantastic live. I got into them back in 1999, when I went to Dallas, Texas. The combination of country music & hot chicks with a southern drawl kinda grows on you. I first saw the Dixie Chcks back at the height of their fame in 2000 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, and they blew me away. I did see them again a few years later & their politics did turn me off. But there was none of that last night, just great music.

The beautiful sisters Martie & Emily are talented musicians playing a variety of instruments, with fantastic harmony vocals. It’s amazing how the beautiful Martie Maguire can make playing a fiddle be so sexy. The controversial lead singer Natalie Maines came out to everyone’s surprise, sporting a crew cut. Her voice sounded great even without hair, no one can take that away from her. The Chicks backing band are also fantastic, tight & very together, as always. The Dixie Chicks are a very polished professional live act. The played a short but great set featuring the classics, Wide Open Spaces, Ready To Run, Landslide, Long Time Gone, Sin Wagon & Good Bye Earl.

THE EAGLES: The Eagles hit the stage about 9PM, opening with the acapella Seven Bridges Road, followed by a fairly new song; How Long, in the country rock style of Take it Easy. Next they get down to serious buisness, settled in to perform hit after hit, one more classic tune than the next. The combination of timeless Eagles classics, and others from their successful solo careers make for a great set list.


Musically the band is as tight and strong as ever. Whether they are playing soft country rock, ballads, or good old rock & roll, the band takes it to another level each time out. Tonight they also had a horn section behind them adding an extra feel to some of the arrangements. Vocally its amazing how all their voices still sound the same.
Don Henley was just fantastic vocally, & even though he doesn’t say anything to the crowd, he looked like he was having a great time. He spent the majority of the show playing drums & percussion, only coming to stand out in front of the microphone & play a bit of guitar on a few songs. It’s here you realize how good a drummer & musician he is. During the band intro's Glen Frey said the two were friends & partners since 1971 & Henley was the best singer/ song writer he ever worked with.

As for Frey, his vocals were just as outstanding. I don't think he gets enough credit for the good guitar player he is. Not only his rhythm & acoustic playing but his lead guitar work is also fantastic. He also sat down & played a bit of keyboards as well. The only disappointment with Frey was, that he did not play any of his solo material. He serves as the master of ceromonies, doing most of the talking. He introduced the band, and gave a brief intro to some of the songs. He still refers to his ex wife as "plantiff" which got laughs from the crowd.
Timothy B. Schmidt is a great bass player that also has a beautiful soft voice. He only sings the lead on one song “I Can’t Tell You Why", but his backing vocals are a large part of the Eagles sound.
Anytime I see the Eagles, it seems Joe Walsh always steals the show. The crowd loves his laid back, comedic approach to everything. The former ultimate party dude is clean & sober these days, but his image lives on forever. As Glen Frey said “He is familiar to law enforcement and hotel staff around the world, Never met a man he didn't like, or a room he couldn't wreck." Walsh pleases the crowd with 5 songs, two James Gang classics & two legendary solo songs as well as In The City, from the Eagles Long Run album. (Also featured in the cult movie classic, the Warriors.) Walsh isn’t just fun & games, his guitar playing is amazing. He wowed the crowd again with the electric voice box guitar part of Rocky Mountain Way during the encore.

The 5th Eagle, not an original member, is Stewart Smith, who has taken over the guitar parts of the exiled Don Felder & original member Bernie Leadon.

In closing I just want to say again, this was a great show. My favs were Lying Eyes, Life In the Fast Lane, In the City, Boys of Summer & of course Hotel California.



EAGLES SET LIST -6/10/10 - New Meadowlands Stadium:
Seven Bridges Road
How Long
Take It To The Limit
Trumpet intro/Hotel California
Peaceful Easy Feeling
I Can't Tell You Why
Witchy Woman
Lyin' Eyes
One Of These Nights
Walk Away
Boys Of Summer
In The City
The Long Run
Life's Been Good
Dirty Laundry
Funk 49
Heartache Tonight
Life In The Fast Lane

ENCORE
Take It Easy
Rocky Mountain Way
Desperado

Jun 7, 2010

Former Italian American Player: Dario Lodigiani (1938-1946)

Dario Antonio Lodigiani was born on June 6, 1919 in San Francisco California. Dario was one of the many Italian American players to come out of the San Francisco Bay area in the 1930’s.

While still in junior high his double play partner was Joe DiMaggio. By the time he reached high school he was a an All Star in baseball, football, & basketball. He was drafted right into the AAA level of baseball at 19 years old & two years later debuted with the Philadelphia Athletics. Lodigiani & his childhood friend DiMaggio made it to the big leagues together, remaining friends & going to their respective careers.

He was primarily a second baseman & third baseman with superior fielding range, posting fielding percentages that put him among the leagues best. In his rookie year he batted .280 with 6 HRs 15 doubles & 44 RBIs, playing in 93 games. He would also be in the leagues top five in hit by pitches three times.

He dropped to a .260 average the next year playing in a career high 121 games, matching the same 6 HR 44 RBI totals as the previous year. After playing in only one game in 1940, at Christmas time he was traded to the Chicago White Sox. He slumped to .239 but brought his average back up to .280 in 1942 but didn’t hit anymore career HRs.

In 1943 he went into the Air Force and served in World War II. He got married the following year and was discharged in 1945. He returned briefly to the White Sox but elbow injuries shortened his big league career at age 30.

He went back to the Pacific Coast League, becoming a local hero once again. First with the Oakland Oaks, batting .300 both seasons & winning a championship there. He played under Casey Stengel & then Lefty O’Doul with the San Francisco Seals, again batting over .300 twice. In his six year NLB career he hit .260 with 16 HRs 71 doubles 156 RBIs while posting a .948 fielding percentage.

After his playing days he scouted for the White Sox for 30 years from 1957-1987. He also coached in Cleveland & with the Kansas City A’s. He was always looking for new talent, spending 73 years in organized baseball. Lodigiani appeared in many ESPN documentaries about ex-ball players. He lived until 91 years old, passing in 2006.

Jun 5, 2010

Former Italian /American Player of the Day: Long Island's Own- Tony Graffanino

Anthony Joseph Graffanino- nicknamed “Trout” was Born on June 6, 1972 in Amityville, Long Island. He was signed in 1990 out of East Islip high School by the Atlanta Braves.

Graffanino was brought up to the Braves team in 1996 and has made a long career out of being a valuable utility player. He has played for eight teams, playing all infield and outfield positions at one time or another. He has appeared in four different post seasons, batting .231 in 15 post season games.


After drawing two walks and scoring a run in Game #3 of the 1998 NLCS he got a pinch hit double driving in a run in Game #5. In 2005, Graffanino hit a career high .309 between playing in Kansas City & Boston. He also posted career bests in RBIs (38), runs (68), doubles (17), games (110), and hits (117).

He received a lot of attention, particularly in New England, for making an error in the fifth inning of Game #2 of the 2005 ALDS which led to three unearned runs. After 13 seasons Graffanino has played in 981 games, batting .265 with 746 hits 58 HRs 302 RBIs 145 doubles & 53 solen bases. His .981 fielding percentage as second baseman in 76th all time.
As of 2010 he is an unsigned free agent & lives with his family in Delaware.