Concert dinosaurs offer nostalgia; Madonna drops two new songs
If you look at the concert listing this summer for The World Music Theatre in Tinley Park, IL, you might think it was 1979 all over again.
With John Mellencamp packing the house for two shows on Memorial Day weekend, a reunited Black Sabbath and Bad Company coming soon; and last weekend, a double reunion tour from Foreigner and Journey. Word is that Styx is also once again gearing up for a summer tour — but minus singer-keyboard maven Dennis DeYoung, who is still recovering from a recent illness. The question is — are any of these acts more than nostalgia trips? Certainly Mellencamp is continuing to make vibrant heartland rock and roll, but can these other '70s-'80s stalwarts make a dent in the current music scene?
Bad Company and Foreigner are featuring reunited lineups with their original lead singers, Styx is temporarily without one of theirs, and Journey is out now featuring new mike-man Steve Augeri, who made his recording debut with the band on the Armageddon soundtrack last year.
Well, last weekend offered at least two answers to the question. Foreigner — even with the return of its prodigal singer — apparently has nothing left to offer rock audiences but a thin whisper of nostalgia — original guitarist Mick Jones ably covered the riffs, but singer Lou Gramm, horribly out of shape and painfully missing much of his upper vocal register, led a lineup made up mostly of newcomers through the band's big hits, but offered nothing new and rarely managed to stir the audience from their seats.
Journey, on the other hand, spotlighting original guitarist Neil Schon and including original bassist Ross Valory and longtime member Jonathan Cain, introduced the crowd to new drummer Deen Castronovo (who played with Cain and Schon in Bad English) and singer Steve Augeri (who played with Schon in Tall Stories). The revamped Journey was nearly indistinguishable from the band in its prime — there were probably some in the audience who didn't realize that it wasn't ex-singer Steve Perry fronting the band since, from a distance, Augeri even looks a lot like Perry.
The band performed a solid set of energetic past hits (with the crowd on its feet the whole way), and offered one new song that it intends to feature on a new album with Augeri at the mike, to be recorded following the tour. If audience response and the still-sharp sounds of the ensemble mean anything, Journey will likely be topping the charts again at some point next year.
Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me
½ (out of 5)
Madonna turns up with two new songs this month. Her first leads off the soundtrack (on her own Maverick label) to this week's hottest movie opening, Austin Powers, The Spy Who Shagged Me.
"Beautiful Stranger" may be the best collaboration yet from her and techno king William Orbit. All aswirl with '60s-esque "da-da-da-da"s, organ slides and even a flute line, it's an instantly catchy bit of modern retro. The disc also includes an original "spy music" instrumental from Green Day in "Espionage,"
The Who's "My Generation," and a host of covers, including R.E.M. bouncing jauntily through Tommy James' "Draggin' the Line," Lenny Kravitz's thin cover of The Guess Who's "American Woman," Melanie G (Scary Spice)'s growling take on Cameo's "Word Up" and The Zombies' "Time of the Season," done by Big Blue Missile with Stone Temple Pilots' singer Scott Weiland doing his best David Bowie impression.
Mike Myers appears on the soundtrack as "Dr. Evil," performing a remix of "Just The Two of Us," which is actually an adaption based on an adaption — the song is taken from Will Smith's recent cover. Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach continue their recent collaboration with a new version of Bacharach's classic "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," and there are new original songs by up-and-comers The Flaming Lips (who offer a strangely poignant song about bugs) and The Lucy Nation, who provide a hit-worthy No Doubt-sounding ballad in "Alright."
Madonna also turns up on hot new salsa-pop king Ricky Martin's new album, which features an English and Spanglish version of his hit song "Livin' La Vida Loca," as well as a duet with Madonna on "Be Careful (Cuidado Con Mi Corazon)," a gentle Spanish guitar-based song penned again by the Madonna/Orbit. It's probably the most dreamily ambient song on Martin's disc, which also features a stirring duet with newcomer Meja on "Private Emotion," a song penned by former members of The Hooters, as well as his salsa party anthems "Shake Your Bon-bon" and "The Cup of Life," which was the official song of the France World Cup last year.
Martin relies on a host of world class songwriters, including Diane Warren, Desmond Child and Jon Secada to craft his debut, and the result is a solid Spanish-drenched pop confection with a mix of strong ballads and party conga line numbers.
Divas / En Vogue collections
Arista has released its own statement on the VH-1 "Divas Live" and Lilith Fair phenomenons. A new 17-song disc called Ultimate Divas purports to include "The Greatest Female Vocalists of our Time." While Madonna doesn't turn up here, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Sarah Vaughn, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight do, along with newer sensations Annie Lennox, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, and Whitney Houston.
Oh, and if you're upset that En Vogue missed the cut for Arista's collection, you can now find a Best of En Vogue on the shelves from East West, featuring "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" and "Don't Let Go (Love)."