Jul 212013
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, was born Steven Georgiou 65 years ago today. His popularity exploded in the early-mid 1970s, and then, for all intents and purposes, he vanished from the music world for decades. Some of his disappearance can be attributed to changing musical tastes, but the main reason for the long disruption in his musical career was his conversion to Islam. Unlike his contemporary Richard Thompson, who converted to Islam a few years earlier, Stevens’ conversion not only led him to stop performing, but also embroiled him in controversy; his comments about the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie in 1989 caused a typical media overreaction, with calls for (and actual) destruction of Cat Stevens albums and the removal of a very good cover of “Peace Train” from later pressings of a 10,000 Maniacs album.

In the 1990s, Islam began a slow return to performing, initially focusing on Islamic music and issues; more recently, he has returned to secular music, often with charitable purposes. His appearances included performing at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s satirical pre-election “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” where he sang “Peace Train,” while Ozzy Osbourne sang “Crazy Train.”
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Jul 262011
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s big day with cover tributes to his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

The most famous alumnus of the London School of Economics, the original frontman and arguably the first capital ‘R’ rock star, Mick Jagger turns 68 years old today. His path veered away from business studies when he, by chance, met up with an old school acquaintance, Keith Richards, at a train station and formed a rhythm and blues band in 1960. Becoming The Rolling Stones in 1962, they went on to become the greatest rock and roll band of all time, with 10 of their albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Continue reading »

Apr 192011
 

Tribute albums often sound more like compilations than unified albums. The usual mold of gathering together an eclectic group of artists to either produce their own covers of an artist or play together can make for interesting listening, but results in a rather disjointed affair. Even with a single artist bringing in “special guests” – a standard practice for these sorts of endeavors – the preponderance of different voices can struggle to create a cohesive sound. Ben Waters manages to completely avoid this trap on his new album Boogie 4 Stu: A Tribute To Ian Stewart.

Stewart, often referred to as the “Sixth Stone,” mastered boogie-woogie piano and helped to form The Rolling Stones in 1962. Unfortunately, he did not fit the image created for the band by early manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who demoted Stewart to road manager. Undeterred, he served the band faithfully until his  death in 1985, occasionally contributing piano at Stones sessions and playing with Howlin’ Wolf, Led Zeppelin and Pete Townshend on the side. For the present tribute, boogie-woogie piano maestro Waters assembled a group of Stewart’s friends to record an album of the music Stewart loved. Continue reading »

Apr 082011
 

Ian Stewart started out as the piano player for The Rolling Stones – the “Sixth Stone” – before being demoted to road manager for not fitting the image of a pop band. He continued to serve the band loyally until his sudden death in 1985 at the age of 47, suffering a heart attack in a medical clinic waiting room. Now the boys have joined together with former bassist Bill Wyman for the first time since 1992 on pianist Ben Waters’ tribute to Stewart: Boogie 4 Stu. Continue reading »

Feb 142011
 

As you probably heard, the Grammys happened last night. As you probably also heard, the Arcade Fire won Album of the Year. Surprising by itself, but even more surprising that this is the same group of voters who named Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” Song of the Year. Go figure. Continue reading »