dianaross eblast

By Michael P Coleman

Over 50 years after her first Billboard #1 record, the iconic Diana Ross scores another #1 — with a song that she recorded back in 1970!                

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough 2017,” a remix of the multi-format chart-topper from her eponymous debut solo album, sits at the top spot on Billboard’s dance chart this week.  Not very many artists enjoy a #1 record over half a century after releasing a debut album, as Ross did with 1961’s Meet The Supremes

According to Billboard, it’s the 73-year-old Ross’ first #1 on the Dance chart in over 22 years, when she topped the chart with 1995’s “Take Me Higher.”  The remix is featured on a new collection of Ross’, Diamond Diana.   The achievement comes just days after the superstar made international headlines by partying at one of the world’s most popular gay nightclubs, The Abbey, in West Hollywood. 

Cher, eat your heart out. 

The original masterpiece is a six minute opus that includes dramatic spoken word segments interspersed with the emotive, gorgeous soprano that had become Ross’ calling card.  The remix’s current success is a testament not just to Ross’ staying power and tremendous talent, but to the original hit, written and produced by the legendary Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

In a rare interview, Simpson said she was thrilled by the song’s current success. 

“I’m beaming, I’m smiling,” Simpson said by phone from her home in New York.  “I’m happy that long past my lifetime ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ will continue to touch people and move them as it has proven to do. We didn’t think it would last 50 years, much less wherever else it’s going!” 

“Diana is right — great songs DO last forever — and I’m thrilled to be a part of this,” Simpson continued.  “But we also had a great carrier.  You can’t do much better than Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrill [who recorded the original version in 1967] and then Diana Ross, somebody who can carry the message.  If it had been sung by someone unknown, perhaps the world wouldn’t have gotten to know the song.  So we owe her a debt of gratitude that she was such a fantastic carrier, and that she continues to carry that song and that message.” 

Simpson suggested that the stars aligned with the partnership between her, Ashford and Ross on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” 

“Everything in it’s time, and that was the right time,” Simpson said.  “We caught Diana at a great time in her life, because she was leaving The Supremes and she wanted to step out on her own.  It’s funny when a song helps you do that.  We pushed her as far as we could push her [in the studio], we made sure her keys had her voice sounding bright, and the message of that song is still the same as it was 50 years ago.” 

“In terms of the political climate that we’re in, we may need it more than we did then,” Simpson continued.  “We have to be strong about who we are and what we’re standing for, and we’ve got to stand for something.  So ‘ain’t no mountain high enough’ right now!” 

With today’s mercurial music business, who knows what tomorrow will bring (a new recording contract for Ross, perhaps)?  But for now, the First Lady of Motown is enjoying her latest #1 record.  Hat’s off to the timeless Diana Ross and Valerie Simpson!  Ain’t no mountain high enough, indeed! 

Connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

benjaminpatterson eblastYou’ve undoubtedly heard of that mythic “jack of all trades,” that person who seems to do everything well? Well, I just met him — and as it turns out, his name’s not “Jack” — it’s Ben. Benjamin Patterson, to be exact, and he’s one of those guys who makes the mortals among us completely nuts.

Patterson, 42, is an actor. He’s also a model. And a photographer. AND a musician. And he juggles all of that from his beautiful home in Los Angeles that she shares with his husband, Mike Moody, and their two year old son, Zachary.

Patterson is also almost unbelievably down to earth and accessible, warmly recalling meeting Moody almost 18 years ago.

Click here to read MPC’s full Huffington Post feature, including Patterson’s path to fatherhood, stories of his brushes with entertainment titans Oprah Winfrey and Shonda Rhimes, and his key to living your best life!  

newyearseveworst

The last week of December provides a special kind of torture for many of us. Hannukah and Christmas are over, but it’s not time to go back to real life just yet. There’s one more so-called “holiday” ahead, just waiting to be a disappointment to perennially hopeful revelers. I’m talking, of course, about New Year’s Eve.

For the full story, visit NBCNews.com/Think.

fantasiachristmas

by Michael P Coleman

I don’t want to be a Grinch about it, but I get nervous when my favorite artists release Christmas records.

Many singers forego timeworn holiday favorites in favor of original material, and often wind up producing mediocre, forgettable projects.  Very few people deliver a song like Mariah Carey’s 1994 “All I Want For Christmas Is You” that stands the test of time. 

On the other hand, recording Christmas standards is risky, as those songs have been covered and sung for decades and are often associated with legends.  Artists are challenged to put their own stamp on them without sounding dated. 

Congrats to Fantasia for showing us how it’s done. 

The singer’s gorgeous new Christmas After Midnight is the album you’ll want to play after the kids have stopped pining away for a Christmas hippopotamus.  She dedicated the album to her grandmother, whose birthday was on Christmas Day.

“She’s gone home now,” says Fantasia of her grandmother, “but she played a very big part in my life and career. She loved people so much and gave more than she received—which is what my favorite holiday is all about.”

Christmas After Midnight offers a seamless blend of the spiritual, secular, and sprightly,  with her reverential “Silent Night” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” coming across almost as prayers.

Fantasia’s simmering, subdued “Give Love On Christmas Day” (originally recorded by The Jackson Five) is a very pleasant surprise.  Her plaintive “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” restores both the original lyric and the pathos, rivaling Judy Garland’s classic.  And she reminds us that she knows how to party during the holidays, delivering a joyful version of Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” and, with CeeLo Green, a playful “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” 

Through it all, Christmas After Midnight is a smoky, mature album on which Fantastia displays vocal restraint, a side of her we don’t always get to hear.  The record also features a side of Fantasia we don’t always get to see — on the cover!  With just a glance, you’ll realize that this album is for grown folks! 

‘Tasia!  Damn!  Put some clothes on! 

"My husband loved the cover,” Fantasia laughed.  “But I also sent the photo to my mother-in-law, my best friend along with my mother. My mother-in-law said she loved it. Still I asked, are you sure?  She said stop thinking like that. it’s classy and beautiful."

Fantasia’s classy, beautiful Christmas After Midnight deserves a spot in your holiday music collection.  Dim the lights, pour some wine, and let the (reindeer) games begin. 

Fantasia’s Christmas After Midnight is available at retail and digitally.

 

Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP. 

 

 
Johnny Mathis, Babyface Collaborate On Brilliant New Albumby Michael P Coleman

After over six decades of thrilling his fans with almost 80 albums, it must have been at least a bit daunting for the legendary Johnny Mathis to go into the studio to record a new project that might stand the test of time.

Daunting or not, Mathis and the equally legendary Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds have done just that with the beautiful new Johnny Mathis Sings The Great New American Songbook. The brainchild of music industry legend Clive Davis, the new album features 11 masterpieces that were introduced to fans of great music via singers like Adele, Whitney Houston, R Kelly, Pharrell, and Bruno Mars.

Mathis’ new album was over two years in the making. The legend said quite a lot of work went into it — with some of it coming before he’d sung a single note. As he recalled the song selection process, Mathis’ love and respect for Davis was obvious.

“Clive wanted hits, titles that people will know about, and he’s interested in selling records. I’m interested in whether I can sing the song or not,” Mathis laughed by phone. “Clive’s list went from the sublime to the ridiculous! So it was a lot of give and take. I’ve still got my little boy attitude about what I really like to sing. I have to be shoved a little bit one way or the other, and that’s good.”

That shoving was was very good for the legend’s fans, as Johnny Mathis Sings The Great New American Songbook is one the singer’s absolute best. Babyface echoed Mathis in recalling Davis’ influence on the project.

For the full story, please visit TheHuffingtonPost.com.

By Michael P Coleman

During a two-hour performance before a capacity crowd at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center, superstar Janet Jackson reaffirmed her place among pop music royalty.  The diva is back:  svelte, sassy, sexy, and still in control. 

janet opening mainTaking the stage around 8:35pm, Jackson ferociously launched into the first of two lesser-known songs from 1989’s phenomenal Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 album, “The Knowledge” and “State Of The World.”  The latter was the inspiration for her current tour, and both were reminders that Jackson was well ahead of her time with that album. 

Both songs morphed perfectly into a hit from her latest Unbreakable album, “Burnitup.”  A rapid succession of high energy favorites followed, including “Nasty” (with the unforgettable “Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” line), “Miss You Much,” “Alright,” and “You Want This.” 

After that last one, Jackson bellowed — in a much huskier speaking voice than her trademark falsetto — “Sacramento!  Do you want more? DO YOU WANT MORE?”  We let her know, in no uncertain terms, that we did.  And Jackson delivered, performing virtually every hit you’d want to hear, with vocals that appeared live and very much on par with her recordings. 

Jackson was never considered a heavyweight as a vocalist, always in the shadow of contemporaries like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.  While that somewhat handicapped her early in her career, it’s actually served her well down the road.  Jackson’s hits never included vocal pyrotechnics that she has to try to match decades later.  And while each may have bested Jackson vocally, neither could have held a candle to her in the live performance department. 

Could this be the same Jackson who wowed us in the video for “The Pleasure Principle?”  Yes — and she recreated that iconic “back against the wall” choreography on stage. Could this be the same Jackson who flashed that megawatt smile in her “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” video?  Yes, and the smile is still piercing and holds up to comparison.  We know because Jackson played segments of the original video on a large screen above the stage while she sang it.  The singer looked great and she knew it, as it took a lot of confidence to show a video from 1990 to her fans last night.  If anything, Jackson looks and sounds better than ever. 

Other concert highlights included a moment of silence for victims in Puerto Rico and Las Vegas (although, embarrassingly, some fans violated the moment with screams of “I love you, Janet”), a powerful performance of her anti-domestic violence opus “What About,” and driving renditions of “Together Again” and “Rhythm Nation.”  I’d forgotten how many hits that girl has! 

Back in the day, some critics wrote Jackson off as a studio creation that was only successful because of her lineage and production team, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.  While Jam & Lewis undoubtedly handed Jackson dozens of carefully-crafted pop and R & B masterpieces, one must recall that they did the same for many other artists, most of whom aren’t recording or performing today, let alone selling out arenas nationwide.  Whatever that “it factor” is, Jackson’s got it.  And one need only ask LaToya whether being Michael Jackson’s sister is enough to get the job done.

Last night’s show was a welcome reminder of Jackson’s unquestionable talent and the impact she’s had in the entertainment industry.  And if you listened closely during last night’s show, well beneath the screams of tens of thousands of Jackson’s adoring fans, you could faintly hear the sound, from a distance, of Beyoncé’s gentle sobs.

Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael (“Mr. Coleman” if you’re nasty) at www.michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

He’ll even welcome notes from members of the Beyhive. 

 

By Michael P Coleman


mathis concert 2017“Incomparable” is a word that is repeatedly strewn about these days, describing individuals and events that may actually be compared to others without much thought or imagination. For a true understanding of the word, one need look only as far as the legendary Johnny Mathis’ next concert date. During his Sunday night performance at the beautiful Sacramento Community Theatre, Mathis personified the word over and over again. 

How can one compare much of today’s painfully pedestrian “hits” with the classics Mathis performed last night — songs like “Misty,” “Chances Are,” “99 Miles To LA,” “Life Is A Song Worth Singing,” “Gina,” “The 12th Of Never,” “Wonderful, Wonderful,” or “I’m Stone In Love With You?” Mathis leaped across decades more easily than many of his loyal fans hopped out of their cars outside of the theatre.

The entertainer’s peerless, piercing tenor defies description, a fluid, multi-octave wonder that Mathis used Sunday night to out-sing The Stylistics on a handful of their Thom Bell-penned R & B classics from the 1970s. His versions of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” and The Beatles’ “Yesterday” were quite simply the best versions I’ve ever heard. 

This show was the third time I’ve seen Mathis in concert in as many years, and each show was different from the last. Unlike other performers of his generation who trot out the same, tired show year after year, Mathis is unwilling to rest on his laurels. He is still giving his fans 100 percent, and Sunday night, his standing-room-only crowd ate it up. 

Click here to read MPC’s full concert review at the Huffington Post.

By Michael P Coleman

Stephen Kings IT Movie Poster 260Leave it to New York Times bestselling author Stephen King and Hollywood to serve up a clown that is more terrifying than the one in the Oval Office. 

In the first act of the excellent, gruesomely terrifying new adaptation of King’s 1986 novel, one of the film’s young protagonists gives a pointed exclamation to one of his friends:

“This is summer!  This is supposed to be fun!  This isn’t fun!  This is scary and disgusting!” 

I feel you, kid.  Summer is supposed to be a fun time at the movies, with superheroes and PG-rated adventure fare.  This new horror masterpiece has completely flipped that script. 

I will confess that I have typically not been a fan of theatrical adaptations of King’s wonderful novels.  For the most part, they have not lived up to their gloriously wicked source material.  But since I had not read King’s original novel, I thought I would give It’s demonic clown, Pennywise, a go at the theatre last night. 

“Last night.”  That was my first mistake.  If you are brave enough to see It, do yourself a favor and see an earlier show than the 7pm one I took in. Try a midday matinee, even.  That way, you won’t be like me, tossing and turning in bed, and jumping at every creak in my house until well past 3am when I was mercifully allowed to fall asleep. 

It tells the story of a group of kids who must face their biggest fears, the manifestation of which is, frankly, one scary clown who is brilliantly brought to life by actor Bill Skarsgârd.  There’s actually a name for the irrational fear of clowns:  coulrophobia.  I hadn’t been afflicted with it, although many people are.  In fact, I never quite understood how anyone could be afraid of anything as simple as a clown.  After last night at the movies, I get it, and realize that clowns like Pennywise are anything but simple.  I will never look at a clown — or a sewer grate — the same way again. 

Skarsgârd’s performance is not the film’s only standout.  Every child actor among It’s ensemble is exceptional.  The viewer falls in love with each of the kids quickly and completely, making the menaces they face even more painful to watch.  The kids also provide just the right amount of comic relief at just the right times during the film’s narrative.  Without a raucous laugh of two along the way, Pennywise might prompt a heart attack well before the final credits roll.  

At another point during It, a character says “Leave it to a little fear to make a paper man crumble.”  Just call me a paper man, as by the movie’s thrilling climax, I wanted to huddle behind the seat in front of me and make It all just go away.

“Please, Jesus,” I whimpered near the back of that darkened movie theater, to a deity who doesn’t hear from me nearly as much as I have heard He wants to, “just make it all just go away.” 

God answers prayers.  The lights eventually came up.  And some night very soon, I know, I’ll get a good night’s sleep. 

See It.  I dare you. 

It is playing — and breaking records — in theaters nationwide.