Gweneth Paltrow

TV – GLEE - What more can you say about this show that hasn’t already been said … at least several dozen times. Leave it to creator/writer/director Ryan Murphy to come up with a brand new theme and take … and, run with it like never before.

I knew this show was something unique when in its first season -last year- it was already renewed for two more. Last year’s show were so new, so rich, that everyone who watched was immediately smitten. This year’s slate so far has built wonderfully on the first season. Who can forget Kristin Chenowith beautifully mashing up Bacharach/David’s “One Less Bell To Answer” with their “A House Is Not A Home.” It was, pretty awesome. Gwyneth Paltrow’s guest shot as substitute-teacher Holly Holiday was sheer joy. Not only can she sing like the dickens, but the plot was terrific. And, how about Matthew Morrison; Lea Michele and, newcomer this year Darren Criss. Just an absolutely amazing mix of talent and know-how. Also, The Good Wife with Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski, Josh Charles Alan Cumming, and Chris Noth. Some of the best dramatic writing I’ve ever seen. Their plot line echoes everything from Elliot Spitzer to the current administration … and, it’s all very believable. And, while we’re on TV, how about Scott Caan in the re-imagining of Hawaii Five-O, as Danny ‘Danno’ Williams. I thought he was pretty spectacular on Entourage, but, here he steals every single scene he’s in. He was just nomination for a Golden Globe and well deserves it. I predict a win. Last subject re TV: Fox’s Fringe, created by Lost’s J.J. Abrhams. Sure, it’s sci-fi, but done so well with such terrific actors (Anna Torv; John Noble; and, Joshua Jackson), that you’re immediately hooked. The first half of this season dealt with parallel worlds and parallel characters … and, you know what? It worked terrifically well. It’s not getting the degree of ratings it should be, but is it a wonderful inventive show.


Carlos Santana

MUSIC – Has there ever been a more undervalued musician than Steve Winwood? He was a part of The Spencer Davis Group ("Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm A Man"); Blind Faith ("Can't Find My Way Home)"; and, Traffic ("Forty Thousand Headman" and "The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys"), and, for the past year he’s been on the road with Eric Clapton, and though I haven’t seen the show, I hear it is splendid. His solo hit, with Chaka Khan of all people, “Higher Love” (1986) was a terrific amalgamation of all things-Winwood. Purists will recall him as a singularly terrific keyboard player, but when I saw him play guitar on a video, he was even more stellar. There’s a track on a new compilation of his called Revolutions featuring a song (with Clapton on guitar) that was released as a single earlier this year called “Dirty City” that evokes all of those earlier bands. Terrific artist; he has gotten his due … but, he should have gotten and deserves much more.

It’s been 10 years since Sade’s last album (Lovers Rock) and her new cleverly titled Soldier Of Love opus was released this year and as much as we wanted to love it … especially the album’s title track which was the lead single and which featured some very natty dance steps from some very natty dancers on the live stage … we were ultimately left wanting much, much more. There’s something to be said for consistency, but it almost seemed like we were back in 2000. I remember years ago seeing the artist in concert at NY’s Radio City Music Hall … and, while she was simply mesmerizing, I nodded off and awoke much later feeling really renewed. And, I do mean that as a compliment; the music calmed me so! Solider Of Love was a good one … but, it should have been better.

I’d be remiss in not mention Carlos Santana’s much heralded release this year entitled Guitar Heaven; The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time. First off: What kind of title is that? And, second … whenever an artist releases his interpretation of the best … it all gets kind of blurry. Now, Carlos has produced numerous excellent conceptual albums, but, does this latest release means he’s run out of ideas?

Hearing him play guitar on Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” made me squirm because the originals are so good, I’ve never once thought to hear someone else’s interpretation. If I want to hear the song “New York, New York,” I want to hear Sinatra do it … not Joe Blow. Right or wrong? Also, the album/CD cover struck me an odd choice … and, it was brought into sharp focus as someone compared it to a K-Tel one. K-Tel being a label in the 60’s and 70’s that had other musicians and artists performing the country’s Top Ten hits; the reasoning being that their albums were priced much lower than the others, so if someone wanted to hear the hits, they could buy this one! Same song; different artist! The label’s biggest hit was the album Hooked On Classics selling over 10 million units. Carlos also covers T-Rex’s “Bang A Gong” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” with none other than Joe Cocker on vocals. A mightily confusing mess this is. I barely got through one listening.


Dick Clark

BOOKS – Three books this year gave me the goose bumps (and, right now I’m reading the Keith Richards one): Peter Dogget’s You Never Give Me Your Money; The Beatles After The Breakup which is all about what happened after The Beatles broke up; the late-Clay Cole’s Sh Boom! The Explosion of Rock ‘n Roll 1953-1968; and, Me, The Mob, and The Music from Tommy James. Having always been a fan of all-things Beatles, the first title again portrayed the four fellows as totally adrift once the mania began; with the right intentions, but once they became The Beatles and all hell broke loose … everyone wanted a piece of the Apple-pie. The late-Linda McCartney is quoted in the book, when asked about the business, said “All I know is that we’ve sent a lot kids to college; paid their tuition; and, bought a bunch of homes in Scarsdale.” Funny! Sarcastically, one can see the phrase it’s all in the preparation being the key, but, ultimately it becomes one really sad opus. So much talent; so little direction. Anyone going into the music business end … this is a must-read. With the passing of Cole last weekend, hopefully the millions that never watched him or knew of him have gotten a sense of what he was able to accomplish. Many of the articles compare him to Dick Clark and though the analogies are somewhat appropriate, he was much more focused and really introduced such groups as The Rolling Stones and Eric Burdon and the Animals to the public’s psyche, where Clark played it totally safe. Cole had to abandon his duties here for a variety of unsubstantiated claims, but his book, written with The Daily News’ David Hinckley succinctly details all of his accomplishments. A great read. Lastly, James’ book successfully captures the mood of the times when he and his Shondells ruled the airwaves. His dealing with the notorious Morris Levy is the stuff of movies; and, this would make for a terrific one. Having grown up in these times, I knew every small-fry restaurant, cheesy hotel mentioned, and remember well what the streets of New York City looked like back then. A road-map to what NYC looked like back then. Again, a terrific read.

Photos By: Walter McBride/RD/Kim/Kabik/Kirkland/Retna