Kerry Ellis and Brian May perform in London in 2013 (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Since the late '60s and early '70s when rock was morphing out of pop and into a genre unto itself, it has became commonplace for rock artists to team up with artists from other genres to record and/or perform live. It was still a new concept in 1977 when Bing Crosby performed with David Bowie on Crosby's annual Christmas show, but what was then considered a novelty has become almost an expectation.
Until you actually experience this particular pairing, you might think the combination of a classic rock guitarist and a theatrical diva is just a bit off. But Brian May and Kerry Ellis will disabuse you of that misconception very quickly when you watch/listen to their new CD/DVD set, The Candlelight Concerts Live at Montreux 2013. Believe when I tell you that they will rock you.
Even with the attention that Record Store Day (4/19) brings to vinyl reissues, there's still room for some very listen-worthy new releases.
Deep Purple, Roger Daltrey, Jack Bruce, Toto, Ian Anderson ... shall I continue?
You don't have to be a serious vinyl collector to enjoy the Record Store Day experience. To be sure, it's the catalyst for a lot of pleasant memories for those of us who used to take the neighborhood record store for granted back when there was no Amazon, no Best Buy, no iTunes or Spotify. And if you missed that experience back in the day, RSD is as close to time travel as you can get.
Classic rock artists were among the first to support and promote Record Store Day when it began back in 2008, and one of its main features is the availability of releases -- exclusive to participating stores -- of vintage music of many genres, classic rock chief among them. More than two dozen exclusive classic rock vinyl releases await.
Save the date: Saturday, April 19 at your neighborhood indie record store.
Eric Clapton in 1965, photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images
In a couple of weeks (3/30) Eric Clapton will turn 69. Since his career began, as a teenager busking for tips on street corners and in bars around his boyhood home in Surrey, England, he has released 21 solo studio albums, 37 with the various bands he's been associated with, 10 soundtracks, 11 live albums, and performed on another 63 albums by other artists. Not to mention an untold number of live concert performances.
All things considered, it shouldn't have come as a surprise when Classic Rock magazine reported that Clapton had told his fans in Japan, "I may not be able to come back again. I've been coming here for 40 years, since before some of you were born. It's the best place I've ever played. Thank you for having me."
It should be even less surprising since he told Rolling Stone magazine a year ago that he planned to stop touring when he turned 70. That birthday milestone is now just a year away, one of the many milestones in Clapton's long career.
Since, by definition, those of us who embrace classic rock are attracted to music that was first written, recorded and performed 40-50 years ago, it seems fitting that virtually all of the classic rock releases coming in March are remixed and/or remastered and/or digitally restored versions of that old classic rock we love so well. That's what makes it okay that remasters, reissues, and expanded editions far outnumber new releases in March.
The Who turn 50 in 2014 (Photo by King Collection/Photoshot/Getty Images)
There has been considerable ballyhoo (and rightfully so) about this month's 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on American network TV. But Beatlemania wasn't the only next-big-thing going on in music in 1964.
Some of classic rock's best known and most highly regarded bands were founded in 1964. A surprising number are still active 50 years later. To them and all the others, a hearty Happy Anniversary!
Jefferson Airplane on stage at Woodstock, August 1969. Photo by Getty Images
It might seem like I'm jumping the gun here a little bit, talking about outdoor music festivals with February not even over yet, but I'm really not. The music portion of SXSW in Austin is just a couple of weeks away (3/11-16) followed shortly by Coachella and Jazzfest. I don't know about you, but I am definitely ready for some rock in the warm sun!
Music festivals have come a long way since the days of Woodstock, Monterey, and the original Isle of Wight festival. Imagine if there had been live streams, dedicated YouTube channels, and real-time coverage back then. Thanks to websites and social media, you can now have a virtual festival experience. It may not be as good as actually being there, but it sure beats just sitting at home pouting because you can't be there.
I think you may find a few things in February's new releases that can help chase away the winter blahs. There are new studio releases from Paul Rodgers and Benmont Tench (The Heartbreakers). There are new live albums from Heart and Steve Miller Band. There are box sets from Johnny Winter and Rainbow. And, of course, that's not all.
Photo by Pryke/Express/Getty Images
1969. The first manned lunar landing. The first flight of a Boeing 747. Woodstock.
What was happening in the world and what was happening in rock music converged 45 years ago. A young generation's strong anti war, pro peace-and-love sentiments were frequent lyrical subjects, on stages from Woodstock to the Fillmores (East and West) and in recording studios all over the world.
For classic rock fans, the month of February 1969 is remembered for one band's debut studio album, another's first live album, a turning point in more than one career. All of you Rocky and Bullwinkle fans may now proceed to set Mr. Peabody's WABAC machine to February 1969, for a ride down the classic rock history timeline.
Usually, new studio albums contain new music, but for the first time in his long and distinguished career, Bruce Springsteen is coming out with an album consisting of covers, new arrangements of songs he's previously recorded, and songs that were recorded for, but not included on earlier albums. In the parlance of record label PR folks, High Hopes is an album made up entirely of "bonus tracks".
Springsteen turns 65 this year, a fact which has some significance in the context of next week's (1/14/14) release of his 18th studio album. It's an album in which the artist does something he's never done before: rest on past laurels.