essay Archive

British Rock Nobility Convenes Onstage for “The Royal Affair”

Note: I’ve interviewed a bunch of these artists. Blue-highlighted hyperlinks will take you there. — bk In the concert business, package tours are nothing new; as far back as 1959, Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars crisscrossed the country, bringing a busload of hitmakers to American audiences. And legacy acts touring in support of their back

Another Enchanted Evening: Blue Öyster Cult is Still Burnin’ for You

Blue Öyster Cult is best-known for its smash hit, 1976’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” A winning combination of catchy riffage, hard rock arrangement and borderline-progressive rock composition style, the standout track from BÖC’s Agents of Fortune quickly became a rock classic, and established the band as part of the era’s front line of bands. But

Still a Livin’ Thing: Jeff Lynne’s ELO

Serving up some good-timing musical nostalgia that hearkens back to a simpler time, Jeff Lynne’s ELO is currently on a major tour of the U.S. An international phenomenon of the 1970s, Electric Light Orchestra landed fifteen of its singles on the Top 40 charts in the United States. ELO began as a spinoff project of

Dwight Yoakam: Honky Tonk Man

Dwight Yoakam launched a life in music at precisely the wrong time. But over the ensuing decades, he helped bend country music – or at least a significant part of it – in the direction he pursued. For his efforts, he has become a commercially successful and critically acclaimed artist, winning two Grammys and awards

Gordon Lightfoot: 80 Years Strong

In some ways a reaction to the hard rock and psychedelic excesses of late 1960s pop music, the early 1970s ushered in the era of the singer-songwriter. Led by a raft of supremely talented artists who composed their own material, the scene featured acts like Carole King, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen,

The Whispers: A Half Century of Smooth

Smooth R&B vocal group the Whispers have been a fixture of the music landscape for a half century. With a sound that draws from vocal greats like the Temptations, the Whispers apply a soothing approach that keeps the focus on the vocals. But the enduring act has applied a solid slow-jam dance groove to its

Elton John’s Well-deserved Victory Lap

It may be difficult to remember all the details after all these years, but on the occasion of what looks to be his farewell-to-touring tour, it’s worth taking a look back to recognize the cultural phenomenon that is Sir Elton John. Trained from a young age at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Music, John (then

Deep Purple’s Long Goodbye

If Deep Purple had done nothing more than record “Smoke on the Water,” the band would have earned a place of honor in rock history. Though the riff-based classic (with a true-story lyric about a fire at a Montreux, Switzerland concert venue) has become a cliché among musicians and fans alike, there’s no mistaking its

Herb Alpert: International Man of Music

It’s only a slight overstatement to call trumpeter Herb Alpert the king of 1960s easy listening music. Alpert, of course, led the staggeringly successful Tijuana Brass; if you’ve ever been in a thrift shop, you’ve seen Whipped Cream and Other Delights, the record with that famously racy cover photo. Alpert is the rare artist who

Ice-T’s ‘Power’ at 30

When considering the work of a high-profile, successful recording artist, it’s often instructive to look at the work they did prior to their breakthrough. Important clues in regard to their creative development can often be identified, and the arc of that development can be more fully understood and appreciated. In hip-hop, one of the genre’s