Elton John

ELTON’S 30th --- Next month, Elton’s John’s 30th album will be released. This one’s called The Diving Board and features just a delicious album cover; which we received via Rocket’s Tony King. It’s his first solo album since his The Captain & the Kid, which came out in September of 2006. 

John says, “This is the most exciting solo record I've done in a long, long time, it was written in two days.” As quick as that might sound, it’s been par for the course for him and writing partner Bernie Taupin; they've worked together for four decades.

Adds producer T-Bone Burnett, “I saw Elton at the Troubadour in 1970, in a legendary week of shows. Those shows never left me. A three-piece band -- piano, bass and drums, like one enormous instrument -- just killing it. So we started from there. I wanted to be able to superimpose this recording over my memory of the sound and the wild intelligence of those shows. From that perspective, forty years down the road, The Diving Board is an album of music by a master at the peak of his artistic powers.”

We heard just a snippet of the first single from the album, “Home Again,” and instantly loved it. It’s vintage-Elton per Tumbleweed Connection … divine!

RAY DONOVAN -- We caught the much heralded Showtime premiere of Live Schreiber’s Ray Donovan … and, was terribly disappointed. With a terrific cast, including Jon Voight, within the first hour, the script referenced everything from Calabasas, California (currently the West Coast-go too locale) to TMZ … making, not only this writer smirk, but dropping the level of believability to an embarrassing low. 

I had such high hopes too. Donovan is a mister-fix-it of sorts in Hollywood; in fact, the opening case had a star athletic waking up in bed next to a dead hooker; geese, have you heard that one before? The other cast members, Katherine Moennig, Dash Mihok, Elliot Gould, the terrific Peter Jacobson (from House) and Pooch Ha, were most serviceable, but the writing just embarrassing.

You know, many of these cable-net series have been pretty terrific: Homeland; Perception; The Closer, Mad Men, The Sopranos … but, with 12-episodes in the can so far, Ray Donovan might just be a one-shot wonder. Catch it while you can.

RIP JIMMY --- The passing of James Gandolfini has just been one very sad chapter. He was the Brando of TV for sure. I had occasion to meet him through Robert Funaro, who worked on the show for several seasons, and although at my first meeting with him, I had a creeping sense of dread … he was just a huge and warm presence; a teddy bear if you will. I was a fan of his before I met him, (loved him in The Castle with Robert Redford) but his work on the HBO Show The Sopranos, pure lightning in a bottle. His work in the re-boot of The Taking of Pelham 123 and Zero Dark Thirty, just exceptionally compelling. 

Watching the many tributes on TV, I saw his work again in Get Shorty (with John Travolta) … and, had forgotten how good he was in 2001’s The Mexican, with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. 

After news of his passing came, I flipped on an episode of The Sopranos in tribute … and, he leaped off the screen. A terrible moment this year. RIP Jimmy. 

IMAGINE DRAGONS – You can appreciate the fact that if a song has as its main lyric: Welcome to the New Age … Welcome to the New Age … it might make me a bit dubious, but a new alt-rock band, Imagine Dragons, from Las Vegas of all places, has delivered one of the most impressive debuts this year with a CD entitled Night Visions. “Radioactive” with its New Age-mantra and all are part Pet Shop Boys and part-REM and sound superb on the radio. We also loved “Bleeding Out” and “Nothing Left To Say,” from their debut effort.

Sure, it’s a bit goth-ish and all, but lead singer Dan Reynolds and Berklee-graduate Wayne “Wing” Sermon have concocted a terrifically entertaining album here. Prior to this latest CD, they released three EPs which cultivated interest from the major labels; they eventually signed with Jimmy Iovine’s Interscope label.

Interestingly enough, they recorded two of their earlier albums at Battle Born Studios; home of another Vegas-band The Killers. Tasty, sonically captivating, check out the Imagine Dragons.