A week or so ago, the Internet was abuzz with the word that Chris Isaak was being considered to be a new judge on American Idol. As passing pop culture rumors go, this was an interesting one for me, especially because I've been a fan of Chris for decades, and a friend of his for nearly as long. In recent years, I had the pleasure of time with Chris, working as a producer on the late, and I think great, TV show The Chris Isaak Hour, an experience that gave me the chance to learn firsthand that Chris is possibly the hardest working man in show business, at least now that the Godfather of Soul is gone. Nothing against Jennifer Lopez or Steven Tyler, whose names we're hearing now and who I like a lot, but I confess that I was rooting for Chris to get a little Idol worship because of his great work ethic -- along with his charm, on and off camera.
Then I listened to Chris' latest album Live At The Fillmore this weekend, and I was reminded that he's already my kind of American idol and one man who should never give up his day job, even if that day job usually happens at night. If you only know Chris' music thanks to a few of his well-known airplay tracks like "Wicked Game," and "Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing," here's a thoroughly excellent way to expand your horizons. More to the point, Live At The Fillmore captures something they can't teach with a few judgmental word on any TV show -- how to masterfully work and entertain a live audience with the help of a finely developed sense of showmanship, some truly inspired songs and a genuinely great rock & roll band behind you. Encouragingly, two of the clear standout numbers on Live At The Fillmore are a couple of songs that can also be heard on Chris's latest studio album, the excellent Mr. Lucky. Yes, Chris is a pal, and yes, I'm clearly smitten in what even my wife has characterized with at least a one-way "rock & roll bromance," but that doesn't mean Live At The Fillmore is any less worthy of your attention.
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This past week I had the honor of introducing Brian Wilson at the Los Angeles album-listening party for his fascinating forthcoming album Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, for which I was equally thrilled to write the liner notes. As I explained to the crowd at the Pacific Design Center party during my comments, I am now officially Brian Wilson's worst opening act ever. Though I've had many interesting conversations with the former visionary music leader of the Beach Boys over the years, I cannot claim to be a friend. In fact, someone at the party told me that Brian thought my name was either Guy Wild or A Wild Guy -- either one of which probably would have made me a significantly cooler opening act for this musical genius. It didn't matter what I said because Brian and his gifted group immediately followed my shaky act by singing a little "Rhapsody In Blue," perhaps the only composition ever that's even more stunning than some of Brian's genius work.
I encourage anyone who's ever loved Brian Wilson -- or the late great Gershwins, George and Ira -- to check out Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin for themselves. The album features Brian's distinctive takes on some Gershwin favorites, as well as two "new" collaborations -- songs that the Gershwin estate handed over for Brian to complete that have become "The Like In I Love You" and "Nothing But Love." The results are, to my ears, some "S'Wonderful Vibrations" and new pet sounds. As you'll be able to tell if you buy the album and read my notes, I really love the album, in part because it's further proof that Brian Wilson has overcome some less than wonderful times to become not just a rock & roll survivor, but an enduring musical master. So take a little advice from this Wild Guy, and discover Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, or yourself.
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Okay, while I'm engaging in a little rock & roll conflict of interest, here's a funny one. Brian Dunn is my younger son's guitar teacher, and an excellent guitar teacher he is too. A few years back, Brian invited my family to come see him play in concert with Pretentious, a Pretenders cover band. They really rocked, very much like the real deal. More recently, Brian handed me a new release from an L.A. band he's now playing in called Welcome To Concrete, a much more original rock & roll band that he's more recently joined. Interestingly, like Chrissie Hynde, Welcome To Concrete's frontwoman Beck is a tough, sexy brunette with her own grown up attitude and sex appeal. Check out "Love Spells Disaster" at http://www.facebook.com/welcometoconcrete to see and hear for yourself.
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