If you sit and talk to many of the alternative rock artists dominating today’s music, you’ll find that many of them pay homage to the The Psychedelic Furs. Led by front man and songwriter Richard Butler, the Furs won over fans and critics alike by combining poetic lyrics, innovative rhythms and melodies driven by an aggressive, punk desperation. Through it all, the band scored major hits with “Love My Way,” “Pretty In Pink,” “Heaven,” “The Ghost In You,” and “Heartbreak Beat” in all releasing seven studio albums and spawning several compilations, a boxed set, and a live concert DVD.
The Psychedelic Furs came together in England’s emerging punk scene in 1977 initially consisting of Richard Butler (vocals), Tim Butler (bass guitar), Paul Wilson (drums), Duncan Kilburn (saxophone), and Roger Morris (guitars). By 1979, this line up had expanded to a sextet with Vince Ely replacing Wilson on drums and John Ashton being added on guitar.
The Furs debut, a self-titled album from 1980 was produced by Steve Lillywhite. The LP quickly established the band at radio in Europe and was a top 20 hit in the UK. The album also found success in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand and Australia. The US version of the album was resequenced, yet failed to have as strong a commercial impact.
The Furs did find success in the U.S. with their next release, 1981’s Talk Talk Talk, which saw the band making its debut on the US album charts. In New Zealand, meanwhile, the band became immensely popular, as Talk Talk Talk reached the top ten in the charts, the first in a string of Furs’ albums to chart in the New Zealand Top 10.
In the UK, the album spun off two charting singles, “Dumb Waiters” and the original version of “Pretty in Pink”. The latter song served as inspiration for the 1986 John Hughes film of the same name, and was re-recorded for the film’s platinum-selling soundtrack.
In 1982, the Furs, now a four-piece with the departures of Morris and Kilburn, recordedForever Now, with producer Todd Rundgren in Woodstock, New York. This album included “Love My Way”, which became yet another UK and US chart hit.
Ely left the band after Forever Now, although he would return for the 1988 single “All That Money Wants” and the 1989 album Book of Days.
The Furs’ 1984 release Mirror Moves was produced by Keith Forsey, and featured the songs “The Ghost in You” and “Heaven”. Both charted in throughout the world, and “Heaven” became the band’s highest charting UK hit at the time. Strangely, however, “Heaven” was never released as a single in the U.S. Instead, Columbia Records opted for “Here Come Cowboys”, despite both international success and heavy MTV airplay for “Heaven”. “Here Come Cowboys” failed to chart, but “The Ghost In You” was a hit single on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
By the mid-80s, the band had become a staple on both U.S. college and modern rock radio stations. Simultaneously, they were experiencing consistent mainstream success, placing several singles in the pop charts on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 1986, the band recorded a sax-infused version of “Pretty in Pink” for the soundtrack of the film of the same name. Butler later claimed that the success of “Pretty in Pink” caused the band to be pressured into entering the recording studio to record a follow-up release before they were ready. The result was Midnight to Midnight, their biggest Top 40 success to date, but also a more overtly commercial effort than the Furs had ever recorded before. The album also featured the single “Heartbreak Beat”, which became the Psychedelic Furs biggest hit yet on the U.S. Top 40. The album also featured drummer Paul Garisto and sax player Mars Williams, both of whom continue to tour with the band.
In the wake of Midnight To Midnight, the Furs found themselves dissatisfied with their new commercial direction, and subsequently returned to a rawer sound with “All That Money Wants”, a 1988 track especially recorded for a best-of compilation album “All Of This And Nothing”. 1989’s Book of Days and 1991’s World Outside also saw a return to the earlier Furs’ style.
The Furs’ steady chart success continued with three #1 hits on the newly-established U.S. Modern Rock chart between 1988 and 1991. “All That Money Wants” was a #1 hit in 1988, while “House” topped the chart in 1990, and “Until She Comes” was #1 in 1991.
The band went on extended hiatus in the early 1990s, with the Butler brothers going on to create the band “Love Spit Love” along with guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer. Love Spit Love released two albums and enjoyed some chart success as well.
After spending most of the decade apart, the Butlers and Ashton reignited The Psychedelic Furs in 2000, and released a live album Beautiful Chaos: Greatest Hits Live, which also featured a new studio recording, “Alive (For Once In My Lifetime).” A DVD version of the performance included live versions of “Alive” and three other previously unreleased songs: “Anodyne (Better Days),” “Cigarette” and “Wrong Train.” Since then, lead singer Richard Butler has released an eponymous solo album produced by Jon Carin, and has hinted at the possibility of a new Psychedelic Furs album.
These days, the band continues to tour around the world. The current Psychedelic Furs touring lineup remains Richard Butler (vocals), Tim Butler (bass), Rich Good (guitar), Mars Williams (saxophone), Amanda Kramer (keyboards), and Paul Garisto (drums).
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Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.
When Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. showed up to audition for America’s Got Talent, he was singing to pass the time while grinding out a living washing cars, and the only “nice” clothes he owned were the ones on his back; a pair of jeans, a modest button down striped shirt and jacket.
Fortunately, you don’t need a large wardrobe to win America’s heart. You need talent and Landau has truckloads of that. Since wowing the judges with his interpretations of classics by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and walking away with the million dollar grand prize in front of 14 million weekly viewers on AGT, Landau has released his Columbia Records debut “That’s Life” (the CD hit #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart and was produced by Grammy winner Steve Tyrell, who also helmed Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook album) and has performed all over the country, from the California State Fair to the New York’s famous Apollo Theatre, Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to the Marina Civic Center in Florida and all points in between.
Along the way, he has appeared on The Today Show, The View, CNN, Fox and Friends, The Wendy Williams Show, The Talk, Anderson Cooper, Tom Joyner, Sirius XM, NPR and dozens of other outlets, was named his home state’s “West Virginian of the Year” (where he has performed a series of sold out concerts helping raise over a half million dollars for state charities), played a special command performance at the Governors Inauguration, won Reality TV Personality of the Year in Hollywood, and was honored to perform with his band for U.S. Troops in Germany.
But all that success hasn’t made Landau forget his roots. He was born in the Mountain State of West Virginia and continues to live there rather than move to entertainment industry hubs like Los Angeles or New York. “West Virginia will always be my home,” says Landau, “and home and family are the most important thing in the world to me. I can always fly out to L.A. or New York for work, but being here helps keep me humble and grounded. I’m just very fortunate to be living my dream.”
For many winners of television talent competitions, the ride is short, but for Landau, more than two years after winning America’s Got Talent, things couldn’t be busier. A book co-authored with award-winning writer Rick Robinson chronicling Landau’s All American success story called LANDAU: FROM WASHING CARS TO HOLLYWOOD STAR, debuted at #1 on the Amazon.com Jazz Book chart. Landau’s CHRISTMAS MADE FOR TWO is an album full of both classic and brand new original holiday favorites (“Christmas is by far my favorite time of the year”). The CD features a guest appearance by former Temptations lead vocalist Glenn Leonard reprising his role on “Silent Night” from the Temptations Christmas album. Landau’s Christmas CD is now a best-selling fundraising vehicle for The Children’s Home Society charity, and the holiday season found Landau guest hosting a show on the Sirius/XM “Holly” channel while crisscrossing the country on a sold out Christmas tour with his mentor Leonard and former lead vocalists from The Platters and Drifters. Landau also performed his first ever concerts with two complete symphony orchestras and visited Asia for the first time, at the headliner at a special charity benefit at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai China for AEG Live. But also penciled into Landau’s busy calendar is spending time at his modest new home in the West Virginia hills. “I’ve got my home studio, plenty of room for my family and a big beautiful mountain behind me. I’m so thankful to God everyday for giving me these blessings, and a bigger stage to perform on.”
And, yes, he still sings while he washes cars. But now, those cars belong to Landau.
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“The only thing that matters is the song,”
says singer-songwriter Madeleine Peyroux. That conviction along with a ‘one of a kind’ voice, has carried the Jazz artist from busking on the streets of Paris, all the way to mainstream recognition.
Through intensely distinctive renditions of old classics and modern tunes by the likes of Leonard Cohen and The Beatles, Peyroux has proved to be an uncannily insightful ‘interpreter’ with her consistently impeccable choice of material.
Peyroux’s new album, The Blue Room, sees the genre-blending singer reworking some landmark musical gems, in a repeat collaboration with longtime Peyroux producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Walter Becker, Tracy Chapman, Herbie Hancock)
The result is a sophisticated album that rather than just ‘crossing over’, seamlessly fuses musical styles together to create an entirely new sound.
The Blue Room started life as Klein’s re-examination of Ray Charles’s classic, Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music, but soon moved away from being strictly an homage to that album.
“Madeleine and I decided to branch out to other songs we love,” explains Klein, so alongside tunes from the original ABC Paramount project such as “Bye Bye Love,” “Born To Lose,” “You Don’t Know Me” and the anthemic “I Can’t Stop Loving You” are Randy Newman’s “Guilty,” Warren Zevon’s “Desperadoes Under The Eaves” and John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind.”
“Ray’s ‘cultural landmark’ album has always been a part of me,” says Larry Klein, “…the project naturally came to mind with Madeleine as a part of it.”
“Much like Charles who in 1962 jelled R & B, Gospel, Country and Jazz, Madeleine is at a nexus of styles, blending Jazz, Blues, Country and Pop’. The ‘cheerful on the surface’ songs have a ‘dark undercurrent’ which Klein ‘knew that Madeleine could naturally relate to.”
For The Blue Room Larry Klein has again called upon the talents of award-winning engineer/mixer Helik Hadar as well as stellar musicians Dean Parks, Larry Goldings, Jay Bellerose and David Piltch. To this ensemble however, the celebrated producer has added an inspired orchestral element in the shape of Vince Mendoza’s engaging string arrangements (Joni Mitchell, Robbie Williams, Björk and Elvis Costello)
Mendoza’s masterful string orchestrations perfectly complement Madeleine’s quest for open musical exploration. The sometimes eerie, often sparse arrangements prove the perfect canvas for Peyroux’s musical palette and seem to effortlessly blend with her voice.
With the sixth track on the new album, Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On The Wire,” Peyroux returns to the iconic poet’s work. She revisits the tempting power of Careless Love’s “Dance Me To The End of Love”, as Mendoza’s strings thoroughly intensify the experience.
With the sensitive accompaniment of Dean Parks’ guitars, Jay Bellerose’s atmospheric drumming, David Piltch’s bass and as in “Dance Me To the End of Love,” Larry Goldings deft piano, Peyroux sheds an enticing new light on the familiar classic.
The Blue Room feels like a landmark in the artist’s free-spirited musical journey which started in Paris, when ‘drawn to the music of the streets’, 15-year-old Peyroux left school to join a touring blues and jazz band.
“Someone gave me early Columbia recordings with Billie Holiday and instructed me to learn the songs.” Peyroux grasped not just the melody changes, choice of tone and phrasing but the power of the iconic artist’s presence. “It was by learning Billie’s mannerisms that I was learning to listen to my own,” she explains.
Years later, her talent was spotted at a New York club by Atlantic Records’ Yves Beauvais who signed her to the label and co-produced her 1996 debut album Dreamland. Peyroux’s husky voice enchanted punters and critics alike but it was the 2004 Careless Love that proved to be a milestone release for the artist, bringing mainstream recognition and marking the start of a four-album-long collaboration with producer Larry Klein.
It’s a long way from the streets of Paris to collaborating with some of the world’s finest musicians. Still, where others may be content basking in the glow of praising reviews, this charmingly humble musician bravely explores new grounds showing that like jazz itself she is willing to take new chances.
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Described as “one of the most compelling acts Canada has to offer”, (TIME Magazine) and nominated three times for her country’s top music prize (The Juno Awards), multi-faceted Canadian singer/songwriter/pianist Sarah Slean seems to be hitting her stride. With her latest release, the ambitious double album “Land & Sea”, Slean has created what The Montreal Gazette calls “a masterpiece”.
Land is a big, warm, gleeful spasm of unabashed pop/rock full of Slean’s signature lyrics, big voice and powerful piano chops, produced by East Coast icon Joel Plaskett (Joel Plaskett Emergency), and mixed by Big Sugar/Grady front man Gordie Johnson and Vic Florencia (Nelly Furtado). Sea is a collection of nine cinematic, orchestral jaw-droppers, four of which were scored for 21- strings by Sarah herself. With the help of renowned producer/film composer Jonathan Goldsmith (Jane Siberry, Bruce Cockburn/Away From Her, Casino Jack) and award-winning engineer Jeff Wolpert (Loreena McKennitt) Sea is “an awe-inspiring panorama of the mature poet and musician” containing “echoes of Gustav Mahler, Leonard Cohen and Kurt Weill” (Toronto Star)
Over her 14 year career, with 9 recordings released in over 10 countries worldwide, Slean’s music has borrowed aspects of cabaret, rock, pop, and orchestral : all knit together by the startling poetry of her lyrics, virtuosic piano-playing, and that voice: “a 19th century Kate Bush” (Mersereau – CBC). In addition to headlining theatres across Canada, Sarah has also toured France, Germany, the US and Sweden and opened internationally for such artists as Ron Sexmsith, Feist, Alanis Morissette, Buck 65, Sarah Harmer, Andrew Bird, Chris Isaac, and Bryan Ferry.
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