Analysis, Music

Music Critic gets his balls busted for KISS review.

Music Critic Tony Bennett gets his balls busted for KISS review, and it’s not pretty.

KISS 40th Anniversary World Tour

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 03: Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of KISS, perform during their opening show for the Australian leg of their 40th anniversary world tour at Perth Arena on October 3, 2015 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

I have total respect for the profession known as “Music Critic” and though I may not always agree with their reviews, I always appreciate their perspective…assuming, of course, they have done their job professionally, accurately and objectively.  It’s perfectly acceptable for a critic to not like a band, an individual artist, a song or even an outfit. However, that does not give that critic a license to kill. Each and every critic has a fiduciary duty to as accurately and objectionably as possible inform the public. Their opinions are absolutely acceptable and wanted, as long as they are defined as such and not written as facts and with malice.

A review of the Wednesday night KISS concert in Duluth, MN by Tony Bennett for the Duluth News Tribune unequivocally reflects one of the most unprofessional, inappropriate, antagonistic and blatantly biased reviews I have ever read. Mr. Bennett clearly demonstrated in his “review” that he is not fit to be called a professional. His review read more like the rantings of a pissed off high school student than that of an educated, respectable journalism professional.

His review opens with the line “It’s extremely uncool to like KISS…and if we’re being honest, the hate is pretty justified”.  As a matter of reference, KISS is in the middle of doing 36 shows this summer across the United States in the span of 8 weeks – that’s basically a concert every other night for two months straight (yes, the band is off for Gene’s birthday August 25th). This tour marks their 43rd year selling out concert halls. Query: Mr. Bennett, did you get on the PA at the concert that night and tell the thousands that paid good money to see KISS that they are “uncool”? Did you then tell them you hated KISS and that they should too? Of course not, you waited until after the concert to litter your trash across the internet from the relative safety of your computer. That makes you a coward, plain and simple.

I find it mind-boggling how Bennett translates “uncool” to “hate”. This behavior is obviously demonstrative of someone with a severely skewed perception of reality and a very altered understanding of the most rudimentary of human psychology.

 

Let’s look at some of the other things Mr. Bennett had to say….

“…since the late 70’s, they’ve mostly trafficked in lecherous, brain-dead glam metal”. Query: Mr. Bennett, are you calling your readers that attended the concert “brain-dead”? If not, perhaps you could attend a few grammar courses and learn to more accurately, professionally and in a non-offending way, convey to your readers a clearer, complete thought.

“…the “good stuff” – is often subpar (have you listened to, say, “Great Expectations” recently?” Comment: Mr. Bennett, you start your review off by telling your viewers you hate KISS. With that in mind, your “subpar” comment is completely void of validity because you clearly can’t be objective. As for “Great Expectations”, you clearly had none and you were going to be sure KISS wasn’t going to deliver (at least in your own, biased & unprofessional mind).

“When you’re watching KISS, you don’t think about the times Simmons has made a fool out of himself.” Query: Mr. Bennett, you do realize that the idea of a concert is the to enjoy the concert experience and not the extracurricular activities of the individual artists correct? Do you want people to think about the times you have masturbated while they read your reviews? If not, then what purpose could your statement serve? There is absolutely no relevance to the job at hand (no pun intended).

“…with simple rock songs holding it all together.” Comment: Mr. Bennett, I will accept this comment when you put on 40-50 pounds of gear, run around a stage for 2 hours constantly surrounded by intense heat from pyrotechnics, interact with 6,000 fans and all the while singing and playing guitar. You are once again showing complete disregard for your profession and an undeniable lack of respect for musicians. Yet, you are a “music critic”. Ironic.

“After an opening set by painfully boring American Idol person Caleb Johnson…” Comment: Mr. Bennett, what exactly is “painfully boring”? You obviously have a bone to pick, a chip on your shoulder, a lack of respect for others, a gross misinterpretation of your job and above all absolutely no understanding of what it means to be a journalist. I would venture to guess you actually hate your job, at least based on what I have read.

“Stanley…screeching out goofy intros to many songs in a bizarre Edith Bunker voice (How’s it sound out d’ere?)” Query: Mr. Bennett, does your employer offer any sensitivity training? You do realize Paul has a geo-accent like everyone else correct? You probably have one, as does your mother. Is making fun of his accent something your employer approves? Do you make fun of your readers accents? How do your readers feel about that? I think you are grasping at straws – your personal hatred for KISS is clearly inhibiting your ability to do your job.

“…and thanking Duluth for putting the band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (which, uh, could be disputed).” Comment: Mr. Bennett, I’ll chip in and help you here. There is this thing called a KISS Army – it’s made up of fans all over the world who take to social media, snail-mail, etc. and show support KISS. Without a doubt, some of the fine people of Duluth directly reached out in support of KISS being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (not to mention supporting KISS over the years buying records, merchandise etc).

“After the fake Criss sang Criss’ hit song “Beth”” Comment: Mr. Bennett, you talk about Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer as “fake” because they wear the iconic makeup and costumes of the two previous original members (Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, respectively). Would you tell your children on a trip to Disney World that Mickey is “fake”? What about Mini Mouse…is she “fake”? KISS has never claimed Eric was Peter nor that Tommy was Ace. Bandmates may have changed but at no time was there any attempt to deceive the fans. You are once again using your media to spout out things that are simply not true. Again – VERY unprofessional.

“…but he didn’t play with the same feel as his predecessor”. Comment: Mr. Bennett, you do realize that two different people will do the same activity differently correct? After all, these musicians are humans, not robots. Query: Do you actually expect two different musicians to play the exact same way? How did you ever get a job as a music critic? You CLEARLY are not qualified for the job.

” The band, seemingly, now exists solely as a capitalistic money-farming machine” Query: Mr. Bennett, if millions of people all over the world want to continue to pay hard-earned money to experience a KISS concert, buy KISS merchandise and in general want to be KISS’ed, doesn’t business 101 & supply & demand clearly dictate the appropriate path? Should Disney World close down in your mind? Maybe even the Duluth News Tribune should close up shop – but wait – wouldn’t that mean you would loose your job? You, Mr. Bennett, are ignorant.

“Stanley often altered melody lines to accommodate his 64-year old voice”. Comment: Mr. Bennett, does your mother walk as fast today as she did when she was younger? Do you run as fast today as you did when you were 15? How in the world can you justify such a comment when millions of people all over the world are still happy to fork over their hard-earned money to hear Paul sing? You, once again, are illustrating your ignorance by grasping at straws in your feeble attempt of a review.

Even though I am a KISS fan, every point I have made is 100% valid. I show no bias, take no liberties, make no false assumptions and clearly illustrate my thoughts. Music is subjective. However, within subjectivity lies accountability.

It is my personal opinion that Tom Bennett should turn in his resignation, rethink if this profession is well suited for him, and if he thinks it is, go back to school and learn how to do it right (professionally).

Additionally, the editor in Chief either didn’t read this review prior to publication or he/she is equally incompetent, inept and undoubtedly not worthy of his/her position within the Duluth News Tribune. This total and complete lack of professionalism is surely not what the subscribers and readers of the Duluth News Tribune signed up for, or deserve.

Lastly, at the end of the day, I can’t help but wonder who has more money in the bank – KISS or Music Critic Tony Bennett. Actually, I don’t really wonder, it’s blatantly obvious. KISS wins, again!

–John J. Simpson
twitter: @johnjsimpson
email: john AT johnjsimpson.com

Link to Tony Bennett review: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/features/ae/4087760-concert-review-kiss-show-electrifies-senses

I found an email address for Mr. Bennett on the Duluth News Tribune website. Feel free to email him and let him know how you think he is doing. Tonybennettreviews@Gmail.Com

Twitter for Duluth News Tribune: @duluthnews

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Music

“KISS ROCKS VEGAS” Rocked the World!

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I was just one of millions of fans all over the world who not only couldn’t wait to see the “KISS ROCKS VEGAS” movie, I couldn’t wait to EXPERIENC it. Because, as we all know, everything KISS does they do larger than life, in your face, loud & proud, and bigger & better than anyone else ever has, or ever will. KISS, for 43 years and counting, is bar none “The Hottest Band in World”.

“KISS ROCKS VEGAS” was filmed in Las Vegas during the bands 9-show residency at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Casino in November of 2014. As someone who was there when the band landed in the parking lot of the casino in a helicopter on opening night through the last fans chanting “WE WANT KISS, WE WANT KISS!” when the band left the stage after the last show, I can tell you “KISS ROCKS VEGAS” was as close to being there as you can get. It was the ultimate way to re-live the best concert I had ever seen.

The amount of work and the number of people it took to pull of such a concert event is mindboggling. As each band-member points out during the interview segment of the movie, trying to bring in a stadium-sized stage and show into an intimate venue would be a huge undertaking, if at all even possible. Yet, in true KISS fashion, they not only did it, they blew away their own expectations. They hired the best set designers & builders, recruited the best light designers, sought out the best audio engineers, utilized the latest cutting-edge technology, planned, rehearsed and with great fanfare met their goal to do the impossible, yet again.

While it’s common to have fans getting out of their seats screaming, playing air-guitar/drums, singing, clapping, chanting & applauding at a concert venue, it’s doesn’t happen in a movie theater…unless KISS is involved.  On May 25th, 2016 all that and more was happening in theaters all over the world. It is truly a KISS world!

“KISS ROCKS VEGAS” starts with a series of KISS factoids flashed on the screen, followed by an interview segment with each of the band members, then goes into the actual concert. During the interview segment, Gene, Paul, Tommy & Eric each discuss the challenges involved in this huge undertaking as well as tell some personal stories. The audience feels very connected to each member and this section really sets the tone for what was about to come.

The concert was nothing shy of magnificent. It was everything you’d expect from a KISS performance and so much more. I can’t understand how for 43 years and counting a band can continue to out-do themselves at every turn but this is obviously standard operating procedure for KISS. Each member relentlessly gives 110% to be sure the fans are happy. Unlike so many other bands, KISS empathizes with the fans and realizes they spend their hard-earned money to see the best rock and roll show on the planet and they each feel a sense of responsibility to deliver that – and they do. It’s not just personal experience for the fans, it’s a personal journey for the band.

“KISS ROCKS VEGAS” is another chapter in KISStory. And like every chapter so far, it exceeds all expectations, peaks all of the senses, and reminds you that the next chapter will be even better.

KISS – The Hottest Band in the World.

#KISSROCKSVEGAS

Special thanks to: Shannon T Simmons & Sara Tweed-Stafford

 

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Music

(Pre) Review: Bay City Rollers Latest Album

Bay City Rollers members (left to right) Stuart Wood, Les McKeown and Alan Longmuir announce their reunion in Glasgow. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Bay City Rollers members (left to right) Stuart Wood, Les McKeown and Alan Longmuir announce their reunion in Glasgow. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

The Backstory:

Upon learning that the 70’s boy-band the Bay City Rollers were getting back together after a 30-something year hiatus, I was quite excited as I have always been fond of their music and their 70’s television show. While this may date me, I recall every person I knew while growing up being huge fans of these Scottish gents wearing tartan kilts and dominating the airwaves and magazine covers at the grocery store checkout lines. It was called Rollermania and the only way you could avoid hearing about the Bay City Rollers was to be in a coma. There was no escaping it! Back to present day, they are working on an album together (the first since 1978) and are already selling out dates on their tour which starts in December.

As of this writing, the confirmed original members signed up are: lead vocalist Les McKeown, guitarist/backing vocalist, Stuart “Woody” Wood and bass guitarist/backing vocalist Alan Longmuir. According to CNN, guitarist Eric Faulkner is interested but former drummer Derik Longmuir (now a cardiologist nurse) is not. The band is now managed by John Mclaughlin who, if I may say so, is doing great job – he is just the right guy to manage this project.

When the band announced it’s first reunion concert in over 30 years was going to be December 20th at the Borrowland in Glasgow, Scotland (Scotland’s premier rock venue), tickets went so fast they added another night, and then another night and then yet another night. Rollermania has obviously been defibrillated & resuscitated (that one’s for you Derik). The dates are Dec 20th, Dec 21st, Dec 22nd and Dec 23rd. And yes, the boys will be sporting their tartans!

In honor of this good news, I decided to venture on a slightly different path and write a review of their forthcoming album – before it was even recorded. In fact, to my knowledge the songs haven’t even been written. But, being so familiar with their work both as a group and as individual artists, I feel quite confident I can nail this.

The Review:

When I heard the Bay City Rollers had a new album out, I immediately went to iTunes to buy it. The moment I saw the artwork for the album, I was both taken back in time to my teen years  filled with great memories listening to and watching these guys AND I was taken to present day where I could tell by their pictures they too had added a few years but somehow the two different emotions quickly merged into one which I’ll refer to as “The Modern Day Rollermania”. I didn’t know for sure what was to come, but I was sure it was going to be awesome!

With the album downloaded on my iPhone, I put in my Beats Earbuds by Dr Dre and hit the play button. With the first note, I was already happy. Perhaps it was the anticipation. Maybe it was the excitement. Actually, it was all that and so much more. I was immediately treated to a familiar yet unknown sound that brought a smile to my face, a dance to my step and a beat to my heart.

Every song on this album is equally magnificent, each with it’s own unique message and personality. Each members voice adds a very special characteristic to the songs. Their melodic structures with their perfectly accented harmonies are complex in structure yet somehow sound effortless. The familiarity of their voices, instrumentation and musical composition immediately invite you in and yet the new songs keep you on your toes in anticipation of the unknown that’s still to come. It’s truly a treat to be able to experience so much from music.

The album is full of these familiar, yet unknown journeys which draw you in and make you feel awesome. It’s great music, fun music, captivating vocals & harmonies that are layered atop instrumentation that morphs into a delightfully great experience.

To each member of the Bay City Rollers, I thank you for your willingness to get back together and for giving the world something fun, entertaining and meaningful. One of the reasons I think Rollermania is so powerful is that it is somewhat like the fountain of youth we all yearn for…it takes us all back in time to our own special & happy places and that’s a journey we all embrace with open arms.

I give this album and each individual band member an A+ in all categories.

John J. Simpson

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Review: “Oh Baby” Duet (Ashley Hamilton & Jaime Wyatt)

Ashley+Hamilton+aQsfQZ6hkAImI recently published my review of the Ashley Hamilton EP “Act One” but didn’t touch on this song specifically because I didn’t know the name of the female half of the duet. Now that I do, I feel I can properly pass on my thoughts.

If you love the sound of two magnificent voices singing together then wait – because it gets even better. Not only do Ashley Hamilton and Jaime Wyatt each have heavenly voices, but they both have an amazing natural ability to sing with as much expression and emotion that for the first time 0cPXMudw_400x400that I can recall I actually listened primarily to the their voices and not the traditional instruments. That might not sound like a big deal to you, but it is.

The song starts with Ashley and a guitar. There is so much emotion and buildup in the first 4 bars that I could seriously just put that on a loop. Ashley’s strong, yet vulnerable voice makes you feel exactly where he is coming from. AND it’s only the first 4 bars into the song. The first verse continues and the slide guitar is perfectly introduced to help emotionally guide you along.

The first chorus comes in and it rests on a great 4/4 foundation that makes you feel a sense of relief. The first verse was very emotional and the chorus just makes you feel better. Every instrument perfectly in place, with purpose and in full support of Ashley’s vocals.

The second verse starts with a quick musical pause. In that 1 or 2 seconds you know something is about to happen but you don’t know what. Then, out of nowhere, this voice (Jaime Wyatt) comes in with just as much emotion, strength, power and yet vulnerability. The only way I can describe her voice is like heaven. I fell in love with that voice on the first line of the verse. WOW!

A beautiful, short piano part comes in (great producer and piano player behind this atmospheric piece) and then Ashley joins Jaime to finish out the verse and then it’s back to that chorus that makes you feel stable.

And then – it gets even better. The bridge section showcases just how tight and connected these two power-voices can be. It is somewhat subtle, but if you close your eyes and listen, you will know what I mean.

Summary: If you don’t fall in love with this song and their voices, you must be deaf or dead. I seriously can’t imagine any other explanation.

MORE INFO:

You can buy the Ashley Hamilton & the Lonely Hearts “Act One” EP here on iTunes via Republic Records

Follow Ashley Hamilton on twitter at @ashleyhamilton

Follow Jaime Wyatt on twitter at @jaimewyattmusic

 

 

 

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Review: Pia Zadora at Piero’s Las Vegas

IMG_3011aLiving in Las Vegas, I am blessed to have such access to the best entertainment in the world. So much so, it could be easy to get used to it and not appreciate it. I try hard to make sure that never happens. Once in a while I come across something unexpected, something unique, something that just completely takes me away from the day-to-day aspects of life and transports me to a magical place. On this particular evening, Pia Zadora took me to such a place.

My journey actually started about a week before the show. I came across Pia’s twitter account (@OfficialPiaZ )  and saw that she was performing at Piero’s so I tweeted her telling her I was planning to come see her show and that I was looking forward to it as it was my first time seeing her live. She replied back and over the course of that week we had a great exchange via twitter. She was gracious, kind and engaging. Needless to say, I was even more excited to see the show.

We arrived early so we could get a good seat and enjoy one of those famous Piatini’s (a secret recipe Martini created by Pia) she had been taunting me with on twitter. The venue was intimate, perfectly lit and loaded with character (maybe with loaded characters too, but that’s for another time). On the wall to the side of the stage was an awesome painting of Pia done by Andy Warhol. It was the epitome of ambiance. There was a unique vibe in the room – you knew you were in for something special.

The MC gets the room quiet as she begins to tell the audience that Pia is about to hit the stage. The crowd was applauding before they even heard Pia’s name. The spotlight comes on and walking to the stage is the tiny, beautifully dressed and perfectly accessorized Pia Zadora. She looked stunning! She immediately starts her first number which immediately put the room in a state of pure excitement. She sounded great, she looked great, she was great.

Throughout the evening,  she would pepper in stories about how she and Frank Sinatra first met and such stories as…well, I’ll let Pia tell the rest. She can do it so much better than I. After all, they are her stories. Suffice to say, I learned a lot about her and her career which made me appreciate her even more.

She was energetic, engaging with the audience, had special guests perform with her and truly gave her all. One of the great benefits of an intimate venue is that it lends itself to the audience feeling like they can connect with the performer which, when done right, creates a much more pleasing and stimulating experience for both the entertainer as well as the audience. They each feed off each other and when both parties are having a great time, the show is even better. Pia took full advantage of the intimate environment and made sure every single person in the place knew she was there for them and that she genuinely appreciated their attending the show. It made for a most entertaining and magical experience.

Summary – I tried not to give away too many secrets while at the same being sure you could clearly see that I thought Pia was magnificent and put on an awesome performance. If you see her show, you will learn many things, and you will hear a voice that takes you to a magical place where all things are good. Would I recommend you go to her show? I INSIST that you do! And while you’re there, have a Piatini or two.

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Follow Pia Zadora on twitter at @OfficialPiaZ and on Instagram at officialpiazadora

The venue: Piero’s Cuisine 355 Convention Center Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89109  Website: Piero’s Cuisine website

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Ashley Hamilton & The Lonely Hearts “Act One” EP

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When I buy an album I sit down in a dark room, put on my headphones, close my eyes and listen to it start to finish. I give it one chance and I either love it or I simply delete it. I listened to this EP start to finish 5 times in a row. While that, in and of itself, should tell you how I feel about this EP, I will take it upon myself to take you an a written journey as I share with you an explanation of just why I couldn’t stop listening to this awesome EP.

One caveat before I begin. Since my very first recolection of listening to music, I have always listened to it as a musical composition – this includes the vocals. I’ve always listened to the vocals as an instrument and never paid attention to what the songs were about. To this day, I couldn’t repeat more than a chorus to any song – including ones I’ve been listening to for 40 years.

 

Technical Exploration

I loved the “sound” of this entire EP. The way the kick drum, snare drum and crash symbols were treated, the intimate yet environmental characteristics brought out of the acoustic guitar tracks, the natural sounds of the vocal tracks & the spatial characteristics given to each part of each song all lend themselves to serving the delightful songs as well as to serving the listener. So much so in fact, I found myself enjoying the sound of the EP as much as I did the music itself. The engineers & producers did an awesome job and obviously had great talent both in terms of technical aptitude and great musicians to work with. It must have been a treat for all parties involved to work with such talent.

 

Ah, the Music!

There are two tracks that I can’t get out of my head though I truly enjoy all of them. The one that sticks out the most for me is “S’ All Good”. The song gets me in from the very first note (beautiful-voiced, harmonious backup singers singing a melodic structure) immediately followed up a guitar track ( 2 guitars, one on the left and one on the right balancing the relationship) in a call-and-response type partnership which quickly takes you down a relaxed path with a pleasing creatively placed harmonica leading to the first verse which starts to with a confident, strong and yet pleasingly vulnerable voice of Ashley. In a few short bars, the stage was beautifully set and the listener properly prepared for a wonderful performance. The rest of the song only gets better.

In the 2nd part of the bridge in “S’ All Good”, Ashley has a direct call-and-response component where he and a fabulous female vocalist named Jamie Wyatt (follow her on twitter at @jaimewyattmusic) have a dialog back and forth (awesomely placed opposite each other in the soundstage). Though may be passed over by those not critically listening, this is an awesome part. The sound, positioning, timing and melodic structure just pop.

The other song I simply can’t get out of my mind – “Ovaltine”. Aside from a melodic structure that I sill can’t get out my head (it’s a damn catchy song!), I drew an immediate liking to the bridge when I was transported back to my childhood. It wasn’t just because my grandma always gave us kids Ovaltine when we visited her on Sunday afternoons. She had an 8-track player (did I loose some of you here) and in it she always had a Jerry Reed tape. If you were a Jerry Reed fan, you will understand what I mean. Suffice to say, this song is just full of all sorts a great stuff. Now that I think of it, I may have to go out and buy some Ovaltine.

The fact I specifically call out two songs that stick out in my head the most doesn’t take anything away from the other delights on the EP. “Oh Baby”, “Lifetime” and “Half of It” are all equally wonderful works of art. Each showcasing amazing talent, emotional outpouring by each and every musician and equally by the technical folks that put it all together.

 

A Few Words of Ashley Hamilton’s Voice

Ashley simply has an awesome voice as was so eloquently demonstrated so well in each & every song on this EP. A tremendous amount of emotion, control, range and simple gut-feeling is obviously behind every note he sings. His transitions, timing, dynamic range, tonal qualities and just his natural voice all lend themselves to a truly great outpouring of vocal excellence. It always a treat to hear a the real voice of a truly great vocalist. I could easily listen to any of his songs acapella-style.

 

Summary

I LOVE this EP. The writing, the arrangements, the instrumentation, the mixing and the awesome vocals – all of which take me on an incredible journey each & very time I hear them. And that, in my book, is what music is all about.

My hats off to Ashley Hamilton and the Lonely Hearts – job well done.

JJS – fan for life!

 

PS – I hadn’t heard of Ashley Hamilton until I came across the TV show “Stewarts & Hamiltons” (Sundays, 9/8c on E!). That show is solely responsible for an additional artist residing on my iPhone (and that’s a relatively small community).

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