RIP: Ellie Greenwich, 1940-2009

August 26th, 2009, 3:14 pm by Sara

ellieSongwriter Ellie Greenwich died today of a heart attack in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital. She was 68 years old.

Her songs were so yearning, so heartfelt, so universal that everyone wanted to record them.

And they did.

Everyone from Linda Ronstadt to to the Ramones, from the Beach Boys to the Flying Lizards, from U2 to Mariah Carey, from John Lennon to the Bay City Rollers, from Humble Pie to Death Cab for Cutie, from Shaun Cassidy to Melissa Etheridge and from Tiny Tim to Twiggy.

“Be My Baby”
“Chapel of Love”
“Hanky Panky”
“And Then He Kissed Me”
“Do Wah Diddy Diddy”
“Da Doo Ron Ron”
“The Leader of the Pack”
“I Can Hear Music”
“River Deep, Mountain High”

Ellie Greenwich was a sensational pop songwriter, whose best work epitomized the classic “girl group” sound of the ’60s with smash hits for the Dixie Cups, the Ronnettes, the Crystals, the Shangri-Las and so many others.

Over the years, she collaborated with such fellow songwriters as her husband Jeff Barry, Phil Spector and Doc Pomus, to name just a few. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1991.

The hit Broadway jukebox musical “Leader of the Pack” was based on her songs and life, earning a Tony nomination when it opened in 1985. She also starred in the production.

Greenwich was also a major talent as a vocal arranger on such classic hit records as Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

As a producer, she was at the helm for many of Neil Diamond’s early hit recordings as well as sessions for Connie Francis and Dusty Springfield.

And, yes, you can hear Greenwich’s voice handling the backing vocal chores on hits by everyone from Jim Croce to Blondie.

Greenwich is gone, but her music lives on and on. And so does her wisdom about the art of songwriting. Thanks to Paul Rapp for the link.


Real Good for Free: Spencer Day @ Hudson Waterfront Park, 8/21/09

August 19th, 2009, 8:37 am by Greg

Spencer Day (Photo: Harris t. Hartsfield)

Spencer Day (Photo: Harris t. Hartsfield)

A year ago, Spencer Day was singing at the Tanglewood Jazz Weekend. Now, with his new album slated to drop on Tuesday, September 8, the up-and-coming vocalist-songwriter-pianist is headed into the Hudson Waterfront Park in Hudson for a free concert at 7pm on Friday, August 21.

The new 14-song album, “Vagabond,” marks Day’s debut for the Concord Jazz label, but he doesn’t seem too concerned about sticking strictly to the confines of jazz.

“I wanted to create a musical hybrid,” says Day. “I’ve drawn from the Great American Songbook quite a bit in the past, but I really wanted to infuse this album with a more contemporary aesthetic and also draw on some influences from the early ’60s, like Burt Bacharach, Roy Orbison and Dusty Springfield.

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LIVE: The Cowsills keep it all in the family

July 9th, 2009, 12:07 pm by Greg

The Cowsills rolled into Nippertown on Wednesday, July 8, to headline the Empire State Plaza Food Festival, and as they hit the stage, a rainbow lit up the sky. You can read my review in the Times Union.


Here are a few additional tidbits about the band and their show:

No, the ’60s family sunshine-pop band never recorded the theme song for “All in the Family,” but they did sing the theme for another TV show – ABC-TV’s “Love, American Style,” which launched in 1969.

Pop songwriter Tony Romeo penned several of the songs the Cowsills performed (“Poor Baby,” “Indian Lake” and, of course, the Partridge Family classic “I Think I Love You”), and two of Tony’s cousins were in the audience on Wednesday.

The Cowsills’ most recent album is “Global,” which was released back in 1998. None of those songs were performed in concert in Albany.

The Cowsills landed three Top 10 hits – “The Rain, the Park and Other Things,” “Indian Lake” and “Hair” – before disbanding. Susan Cowsill then went into retirement – at age 12.

Another original member of the Cowsills is still active in the music business. John Cowsill wasn’t performing with his brothers and sister in Albany because he was on the road as the drummer for the Beach Boys.

The Cowsills’ show also featured just one selection from Susan’s solo album – the title track, “Just Believe It.”


Monday, Monday (Mamas & the Papas)
Deliver Me
We Can Fly
Most of All
The Rain, the Park and Other Things
You in My Mind
Bitter Jest
The River of Love
Helplessly Hoping (Crosby, Stills & Nash)
Love, American Style
I Think I Love You (the Partridge Family)
Indian Lake
Be My Baby (the Ronettes)
Just Believe It
Poor Baby

LIVE: Kyle Vincent @ Empire State Plaza, 7/8

July 9th, 2009, 12:06 pm by Greg


Power-popster Kyle Vincent served up a short solo acoustic set as the opening act for the Cowsills at the Empire State Plaza’s Food Festival on Wednesday, July 8.

He sat down at the keyboards and introduced “Where You Are” like this: “This one is the title track from my new album. It’s my tenth album. (pause) Yeah, I’ve got 10 albums, and you still don’t know who I am. (pause) It’s a tough business.”

Oh too true…

LIVE: Winterpills @ Valentine’s, 6/18

June 19th, 2009, 3:05 pm by Greg

What do you when you’re a band on the road rolling into a new town, and the members of the band nearly outnumber the members of the audience? It happens all of the time, of course. It’s just that nobody likes to talk about it.

Off on a tangent –

I remember being as sad and embarrassed as hell when I went to Valentine’s to see Jeff Buckley’s Nippertown debut back in June, 1994. There were no more than two dozen people in the audience. Despite the lack of an audience, Buckley and his band delivered a totally mesmerizing performance.

Chatting with him at the downstairs bar afterward, I apologized for the lack of a crowd. He signed a photo for me that’s still hanging on my home office wall, inscribed, “Thank you for the write-up, Greg. The crowd is just right. No foolin’. Sincerely, Jeff Buckley.”

Back to the story at hand –

Northampton’s Winterpills approached a similar-sized crowd at Valentine’s on Thursday with a similar attitude, despite the fact that they’d played the Palace Theatre as the opening act for Cake just a few months earlier. They delivered a marvelous performance at Valentine’s, even after attendance dropped into the single digits and stayed there.

Winterpills were undaunted. Part marvelous Americana folk quintet, part swirling dream-pop band, part flat-out rockers, they charged ahead with a deliciously well-rounded 70-minute show that ranged from finger-picking folk ballads (Flora Reed’s exquisite delivery of “Burning Hearts”) to pure-pop delight (the almost Association-esque vocal fuguing of “Cranky”) to the full bore rockin’ of “Threshing Machine.”

But in order to amuse themselves, the band was working with a secret game plan, which vocalist-guitarist Philip Price revealed before their third song. “We’ve decided to change our setlist tonight and play all of our songs alphabetically,’ he said. “We’ve finished the A’s and we’re venturing into the B’s.”

No joke. Winterpills paraded through the alphabet song-by-song.

Here’s the setlist:

A Benediction
And Then (Miracle Legion cover)
Broken Arm
Burning Hearts
Folded Cloth
Gentleman Farmer
June Eyes
Threshing Machine
Want the Want
We’ll Bring You Down
You Don’t Love Me Yet

Matthew Loiacono joined in on backing vocals for “Beesting,” as well as the rest of the show.

Matthew also served up a tantalizing nine-song solo set, his first public performance utilizing a sampler. He had a solid grip on his new technology, though. From the opening volley of “I Would Keep You” (from his new album of musical miniatures, “Penny Riddle”) through to his closer, “Only Memory” (from his previous album, “Kentucky”), he showcased a broad range of dynamics, building elements of funk, prog-rock and unadorned feedback into his mandolin workouts.

TERRY ADAMS’ “Holy Tweet”

May 18th, 2009, 10:50 am by Greg

(Clang!, 2009):
Madcap NRBQ keyboard pounder Terry Adams is back with yet another solo disc, and this time around he’s bringing ‘Q drummer Tommy Ardolino along for the ride. The Figgs’ Pete Donnelly sits this one out, so Scott Ligon rounds out Adams’ trio on guitar and bass, as well as some organ, too. An excellent album, it wallows in the usual ‘Q omni-pop sound. You get plenty of sweet, melodic pop (“Beautiful Lover,” “My Girl My Girl”), but you’ll also get a dose of vintage garage rockin’ (“Never Cop Out”), oddball covers (“Indian Love Call”? Oh yeah) and whatever else pops into Adams’ slightly unbalanced mind (a bouncy pop ode to “Feet” isn’t as fetishist as you might think). The mighty ‘Q are on hiatus, but these days Adams seems more prolific than ever, and if his solo albums continue to maintain this level of grin-inducing fun, the ‘Q’s absence may not be not quite as big a problem as it seems.

Terry Adams: Holy Tweet

Song of the Week: Nerdcore Edition

May 8th, 2009, 5:19 pm by Sara

Topping the nerd charts this weeks is this lofi demo by David Ng, complete with amplifier hum, on the subject of …. mitochondria.

It’s got a perfect pop melody and the chorus is completely addictive: come on, sing it with me:  mitochoooondriaaaaa….


The Cock'N'Bull RestaurantCaffe LenaHolly & EvanCartoonist John CaldwellJim Gaudet and the Railroad BoysAdvertise on Nippertown!G.C. HaymesMohawk Hudson Humane Society