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In the Mix

Jan 02, 2017 01:40PM ● By Paul Cotruvo

Paul Cotruvo

“Well, she was just seventeen…….” Happy New Year everyone! Yes, 2017 is here, the Year of the Rooster (cue “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart). A year that I hope brings everyone out to attend some shows. Amazing talent in our community that needs to be heard. But, I must admit, I’m so glad to see 2016 now in the rearview mirror. I can’t remember a year when more legendary musicians passed away, including: David Bowie, Prince, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, Scotty Moore, Guy Clark, Billy Paul, Mose Allison, Merle Haggard, Dan Hicks, George Martin, Maurice White, Paul Kantner, and Glenn Frey. Basically, a collection of artists who made up the soundtrack of our lives from the last 50 years. But their music lives on through their recordings. And what huge catalogs they all have.  I decided to make a list of some of my favorite albums for you to check out:


1)    David Bowie’s last recorded album, Blackstar, is one of his best. Released two days before he passed away of liver cancer, it featured a more somber and jazz flavor. The songs definitely reflect a man who knew he was dying. Sometimes hard to listen to, as it is a very personal reflection, but a must buy.

2)    Hard to pick my favorite Leon Russell album, but if you were going to listen to just one, I would pick his first solo record from 1970, Leon Russell. It features, in my humble opinion, one of the finest songs ever written, “A Song For You” -- a classic.

3)    Growing up in the Bay Area, I was totally influenced by the San Francisco sound, and one of the bands that stood out was Jefferson Airplane. As they have many great albums, my Paul Kantner pick is his first solo record, Blows Against the Empire, a concept album about a revolution to steal a starship and fly to a new home. Ok, remember, this was 1970. But if you want to get a taste of local music and hippies from this era, this is the album. It also featured many other great artists such as Jerry Garcia, Grace Slick, and David Crosby.

4)    Prince has a huge catalog, and it is said that there are thousands of hours of unreleased songs, which I’m sure over the years we will be hearing. My must pick is Sign O the Times. This 1987 album had it all: 16 songs of soul, funk, rock, and pop. “Sign O the Times” and “Adore” are standout songs from this record, but not a bad one in the bunch. If you never have listened to Prince before, this is the one.

5)    Emerson, Lake & Palmer were ahead of their time -- a progressive rock band that brought classical, jazz, and rock music together and featured the ever-present Moog Synthesizer. Hard to choose a favorite, but their debut album, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, from 1970, would be the one. It includes one of their biggest hits, “Lucky Man,” featuring Greg Lake on a beautiful vocal, and of course, Keith Emerson, on the infamous Moog Synthesizer solo at the end.

6)    Glenn Frey was another huge loss this year. So many great songs sung and written by this great songwriter. Just listen to the Eagles Greatest Hits album with songs, such as “Take it Easy,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and “Tequila Sunrise.”

7)    George Martin? Beatles! Period.


So thankful that even though these influential artists are no longer with us, we can continue to listen to their songs and be inspired.


So, back to the future? 2017 promises to be an amazing year in our local community. Come Together on February 24 in Pleasant Hill, Rock the Casa at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek on March 4, featuring Cheap Trick, and always great music happening at Armando’s in Martinez and WiseGirl in Pleasant Hill. And, for the first time in many years that I can remember in our area, so many pubs, restaurants, and community events are providing live entertainment. Let’s get out there and support our local artists and venues. Good for your soul!


Quote of the Month: “Ring out the false, Ring in the true” ~~ Alfred Lord Tennyson


Paul’s Picks for January:

January 13: Lumberyard, WiseGirl, 1932 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, 9pm

January 14: Sin Silver, Rocco’s Pizzeria: 2909 Ygnacio Valley Rd., Walnut Creek, 8:30pm

January 19: Jeff Magidson Blues Band, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 8pm

January 21: Kymber Starmack, Roxx on Main, 627 Main St., Martinez, 7pm

January 27: Tender Mercies, WiseGirl, 1932 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, 9pm

January 27: Melody Walker & Jacob Groopman, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 8pm

January 28: Midnight Flyer, Roxx on Main, 627 Main St., Martinez, 7pm