Saturday, December 15, 2012

Album Review: Hawaii: Part II by ミラクルミュージカル

First of all, "ミラクルミュージカル" means "Miracle Musical" or "Musical Miracle" depending on who you ask. Either way, it's the side-project of Tally Hall guitarist Joe Hawley and includes appearances by most of the other band members. 

Hawaii: Part II begins with the almost holiday-sounding "Introduction to the Snow," in which Hawley employs 1930s-style vocals. "Introduction to the Snow" is a beautiful, yet very short track, which flows wonderfully into "Isle Unto Thyself," a heavily synthesized track. Next is "Black Rainbows featuring a very interesting sound, with melodic vocals by Madi Diaz and baglama played by Bora Karaca. "White Ball" is one of the lesser tracks on the album. Though it does feature vocals by Zubin Sedghi and poetic lyrics, I can't help but feel the female vocalists' talents would be better suited to Broadway.

"Murders" is a strange and dark tune that becomes stronger as a song as it progresses, beginning with simple  piano chords and continuing into an elegant bridge. The vocal also begin rough and become more refined and calm at the end of the piece. "宇宙ステーションのレベル7" or "Level 7 Space Station" is a very different track, with lyrics in several languages and featuring the use of a vocoder. These tracks are followed by "The Mind Electric," which is an altered version of an old, unreleased Tally Hall track formerly called "Inside the Mind of Simon." Both the original track and "The Mind Electric" are excellent pieces with a haunting and interesting story in the lyrics. 

The 8th track is titled "Labrinth," and reminds me of something by Mark Ronson and the Business International, due to a clever combination of somewhat 80s synths, a strong female vocalist (Charlene Kaye) singing eerily, interwoven with beats and rapping by Shane Maux. The rapping, although the center of the song, is done in such a way that even non-rap fans should be able to enjoy the piece. There is a more central use of the vocoder in "Time Machine," which features main vocals by both Hawley and Rob Cantor. "Stranded Lullaby," true to its title, is very much a lullaby, and features an intelligent use of strings. 

The album closes with "Dream Sweet in Sea Major," a bookend to the album, echoing the 30s vocals of "Introduction to the Snow," along with the faint holiday feel. The piece seems to have several movements, all different, but all gorgeous. The end of the album is as harsh as the beginning was gentle. 

Hawaii: Part II is a beautiful and intricate album, featuring a great deal of musicality and talent. Not only is is a must-hear for fans of Tally Hall, but for fans of music in general.

Hawaii: Part II can be found here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Interview: Micky Dolenz

When The Monkees sang the line "we may be coming to your town," I'd always assumed it was just lyricism, seeing as I live in one of the smaller cities in Ohio. But Marion, Ohio has seen a lot of bigger names in the past few years, such as Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Peter NooneBoys II Men, and even Weird Al Yankovic. This Saturday, Micky Dolenz joins the list, performing at Marion's historic Palace Theatre. Luckily, I had a chance to speak with Mr. Dolenz prior to the show on Saturday.

No More Blood From a Clone: So what brings you to the Marion Palace Theatre this Saturday?

Micky Dolenz: They booked me there for a show with my band called "Micky's Monkees Christmas," which basically is a Christmas show, but it also includes all of the Monkees hits that I sang, most of them. So, it's kind of a rock and roll Christmas show with some classic Christmas songs for the whole family, but also a lot of kind of contemporary rock and roll Christmas songs too. For instance, I do The Eagles cover version of "Please Come Home For Christmas."

NMBFC: What made you decide to do Christmas-themed shows?

Micky Dolenz: I've been doing them for years. Every year I get booked to do a few. If I recall correctly, it's been like the last five, ten years. Something like that.

NMBFC: You recently released Remember, which is a beautiful album with re-imagined versions of older songs. Where did the idea for Remember come from?

Micky Dolenz: It's kind of an audio scrapbook of my life through music. The songs are particularly the songs that meant a lot to me or had some influence on me or were milestones in my life. For instance, I do a Beatles tune called, "Good Morning Good Morning" off of the Sgt. Pepper album. And the reason I do that song is because I was there at that session with The Beatles in the 60s. So that left a big impression, obviously. And I do, for instance "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry, which was my audition piece for The Monkees. That's the song that got me the gig. And [Remember includes] songs like that, that had some influence on me, or were milestones. I call it "Remember," it's a bit of a trip down memory lane. The title song is "Remember" by an artist named Harry Nilsson. I was there when he wrote it, he was a very dear friend of mine. All the songs have a story attached.

NMBFC: What I found very interesting about the album is the songs are originally all very different songs, but they have a very cohesive feel on the album. Where did you find that sound?

Micky Dolenz: Well, it was a combination of myself and my producer, David Harris, who had an enormous influence, like producers do. That's traditionally one of the main responsibilities [of producers], to [give an album], like you said, a very cohesive sound. So that was, like I say, myself doing arrangements, and David Harris doing arrangements and also producing. When we discussed doing the album and the songs we were gonna do, we didn't want to just cover a song, just do the exact same version that was done originally, just with me singing- a typical kind of cover version. We kind of wanted to re-envision the songs. A lot of that was down to him, because songs that I'd already sung a lot and performed a lot, like "Randy Scouse Git," which I wrote, I don't know that I could come up with a really different way to do that because I'm just so close to it. On the other hand, I did come up with the different sort of feeling on "Good Morning Good Morning" and I came up with the different feeling on "Johnny B. Goode" and a couple of the other ones too. "I'm a Believer," I came up with the country kind of feel on that. But a lot of it was down to, like I say, David Harris and his vision of it.

NMBFC: Now obviously we can expect some of the Monkees songs on Saturday, but are there any of the other songs that we'll hear from Remember?

Micky Dolenz: Not off that album, no. Well, I do "I'm a Believer," but I do that in the traditional way. And I do a lot of other Monkees songs. I may be doing "Sometime in the Morning," it's one of my favorite Carole King songs.

Wayne Avers and Micky Dolenz perform live.
NMBFC: What can you tell me about your live DVD from B.B. King's Blues Club in New York City?

Micky Dolenz: I haven't heard it yet, they're mixing right now. It's in the studio. We recorded it on the night of course, but then we've been touring, my whole band. My band is the same band that was on the Monkees tour, besides Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith. John [Billings], my bass player, and Wayne [Avers], my lead guitar player, they're the ones that put together and had it recorded, and they have it in Nashville, where they live, and they're working on it and mixing it right now.

NMBFC: You mentioned the recent Monkees tour. How do you feel that went, like the sound and the way the three of you interacted?

Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork performing in Cleveland, Ohio.
Micky Dolenz: I was very, very pleased. It was great playing with Michael again after years and singing some of his songs that he originally wrote and performed. The band was wonderful, I have a great band. Christian Nesmith also was there, and my sister Coco. So it was like a family affair, like a rock and roll circus show. It was wonderful. We all had a great time. It was very successful as you may have heard, and we got some really incredible reviews.

NMBFC: Do you think that was the final tour with The Monkees?

Micky Dolenz: I don't know. We don't know. Obviously, it was discussed, but I think kind of the general consensus was, "let's get through this tour and see how we feel, see how everybody feels." It wasn't a very long tour, it was only twelve dates. [We wanted to] see how the audiences like it, see how we like it, see what kind of reviews we get, you know, all of that.

NMBFC: Do you personally ever plan to retire from live shows, or just keep going?

Micky Dolenz: I tried to retire once, it was a big mistake. I was bored stupid. I was living in England at the time, and I sold off my investments and my properties and stuff, and I was just living in this big country mansion in the English countryside and I had nothing to do and was bored silly. No, I probably won't retire. I mean, I don't do as much as I used to, I have to pick and choose a little bit more. Because, you know, doing shows in rock and roll, it's hard work.

NMBFC: Just to bring it back around to the Christmas show on Saturday, what's the ratio of Christmas songs to your regular material?

Micky Dolenz: I haven't counted them up. I wanna say maybe kind of 50/50 or something like that. It will definitely be all the big Monkee hits.

NMBFC: About how long does the show run?

Micky Dolenz: Around seventy-five minutes.

NMBFC: Well, thank you very much.

There's still time to catch Micky Dolenz at the Historic Palace Theatre in Marion, Ohio this Saturday, December 15th at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased at the box office at 276 West Center Street in Marion, Ohio, or online at the Marion Palace Theatre website. Just click the ticket-shaped link beside the price listings.

And if you're interested in buying Micky's album, Remember, it's available as a physical CD or digital download.