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. 

By Michael P Coleman

trump fine peopleI’ve been doing a reasonably good job of staying away from the news over the weekend.  For my emotional and spiritual health, I turn the omnipresent iPhone news alerts off and lean away from social media, while focusing on friends and family as much as I can on weekends. 

So when I turned the news back on Monday morning, I got hit between the eyes with the reports of Saturday’s terrorist attack in Charlottesville. And yesterday,  I watched an event that was more circus than press conference, during which the President of the United States, Donald Trump, compared our country’s founding fathers to the Confederacy. 

In case you haven’t heard, President Trump went on to lay equal blame for the attack with both the Alt Right movement and the event’s counter protestors, whom he labeled the “Alt Left.”  

That’s the first time I’ve referred to Donald Trump as President.  I was one of the ones who used to use “45” or other more colorful terms, depending on my state of sobriety, to describe him.  Jack Daniels in hand, I’ve boldly slurred that he was “not my president.” 

But to paraphrase a classic line from one of my favorite movies, he IS in the chair, and we should use the term — the title — to describe him.  Maybe when we start doing that, we’ll realize just what we’ve done. 

I have sometimes looked beyond Michael Jackson’s man in the mirror and held others responsible for Trump’s ascendency.  Others like Bernie Sanders’ most ardent supporters, for being unwilling or unable to let go.  Or Joe Biden, for wanting to enjoy an earned break.  Or Hilary Clinton, for…well, for simply being herself. 

But In the sober, stark light of day, I realize that we elected Donald Trump. The American people gave Trump the keys.  And to date, we’ve sat by and allowed a bigoted demagog to run our country. 

In this writer’s not-so-humble opinion, we all need to stop the madness.  Before it’s too late. 

I would call President Trump’s off-the-rails performance at Tuesday’s “press conference” a tragic, pseudo-comedic nightmare if we hadn’t all been wide awake as it unfolded.  While I was watching it, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I did both before the night was over. 

I have to admit that I chuckled at times during Trump’s televised rant.  President Trump exposed himself, once and for all, as a manic, duplicitous racist. Many commentators have been reluctant to call him a racist, but I come from the “call-a-spade-a-spade” school of thought.  (And yes, the pun is very much intended.).

I shuddered — literally — as I listened to President Trump describe neo-Nazis as “very fine people,” and as I learned that former KKK leader David Duke thanked him for doing so.  Unlike past GOP presidents and leaders, including Ronald Reagan, President Trump did not distance himself from the KKK connection.  And as of this writing, he still hasn’t. 

I teared up — literally — as I listened to the mother of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, the woman who was murdered in last weekend’s attack, openly mourn the loss of her daughter and hopelessly wish for her return. The contributions that young lady could have made to our society will never be realized.  As a parent of adult daughters, my heart broke for that mom. 

At the same time, I was emboldened by the knowledge that Heyer died for a cause that she believed in.  May each of us have the courage to do that. 

As I learned of Republicans like Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan denouncing President Trump’s racist words, I wondered when — or if — they’ll begin to walk the walk.  How can they, or anyone, do that?  Let’s start with the 25th Amendment, which outlines how a sitting president may be removed from office. 

The day after we elected Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States of America last November, I hung a portrait of President Barack Obama in my living room.  Just last week, I took that portrait down, telling myself that Trump is in whether I like it or not, and that it’ll only be another three years. 

But last evening, as I watched people like CNN commentator Van Jones and host Anderson Cooper tear up as they reported on yesterday’s presidential debacle, I realized that our country can’t afford another three years of an egomaniacal, divisive, racist dictator in the White House. 

And let’s not even talk about North Korea.  Or the revolving door of Trump’s cabinet.  Or Russia. 

President Trump yesterday spoke of the “very fine people” who were members of the Alt Right movement.  If that’s true, we have another fine person running the country.  As fine as he is, I suggest we as a country evoke the 25th Amendment and get the very fine Donald Trump out of the Oval Office.  Then, we can begin the long road to restoring some level of respect and dignity to the office of the presidency of the United States of America. 

 michael bioThis blog was written by Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman. 

Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP. 

By Michael P Coleman

lionel mariah sliderFirst, let’s ditch the politically correct lingo:  no matter what the concert promoters are calling this tour, it is without question a Lionel Richie show with Mariah Carey serving as the sequin-studded, wind-machine-in-the-weave-wearing opening act.

Perhaps that’s justified, as Carey wasn’t even talking — let alone singing — when Richie began his chart-topping run with The Commodores and later as a solo superstar. 

That said, Carey has an almost unprecedented run of #1 hits — only The Beatles have more — so dubbing this show All The Hits makes a lot of sense.  Between Richie and Carey, they certainly have a lot of them. 

The tour’s title would make even more sense if all of the hits had been there Saturday night.  Some of them were woefully, almost suspiciously, absent. 

After a very good set by a contemporary gospel artist who’s name I didn’t catch — no disrespect to him, but I was there for the headliners — Carey, 47 took the stage for about 30 minutes.  She was in full “diva” mode, beginning her set with a cover of the ultimate diva Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” before morphing into her own “Heartbreaker” and a string of #1 hits from her impressive catalog, including “Vision Of Love,” “We Belong Together,” and “Hero.” 

Let’s get right to it:  I think she was singing live, and she sounded damned good doing it.  She’d brought the key down a hair on some of her songs, but with her multi-octave vocal range, she’s got notes to spare. 

Speaking of that almost inhuman range, Carey mixed in one of her trademark “whistle” high notes for good measure.  It could have been dubbed in, but if it was she pulled it off far better than she did on New Years Eve.  And speaking of technological enhancements, I couldn’t help but notice Carey’s use of a Teleprompter throughout her short set.  Clearly, Mimi’s memory is fading along with her upper register. 

To give herself time for the obligatory diva costume change, Carey introduced the utterly underrated background singer Trey Lorenz, who did an awesome cover of Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do.”  You’ll remember Lorenz from Carey’s chart-topping cover of The Jackson Five’s “I’ll Be There” back in the 90s. 

And it was Lorenz’ stunning performance that begged the first question of the night:  since he was there, and he was certainly singing live, why didn’t the two of them reprise their chart-topping duet?  Maybe, just maybe, some of Carey’s surprisingly glorious high notes were pre-recorded.

Carey’s tour mate Lionel Richie has never been one to lip synch, but after hearing him Saturday night, he might want to rethink that.  At the age of 68 and with almost 50 years of touring under his belt, he’s earned the right to have a rough night, and vocally, Saturday was one of them.  After taking the stage with a rapid fire “Easy,” “My Love,” and “Running With The Night,” a visibly winded Richie joked “I’ve been in the business 750 years!  My job tonight is to start the song, and you finish it.” 

As the night wore on, we realized the legend wasn’t joking.  While still sounding good, Richie’s voice was far raspier than it was in his heyday.  Luckily for him (and for us), his pop catalog is much easier to sing along with than Carey’s, and his adoring fans were more than willing to help him out, taking over for Richie when his aging lungs just couldn’t handle beloved songs like “Penny Lover,” “Truly,” “Stuck On You,” “Sweet Love,” and “Three Times A Lady.” 

Given Richie’s interest in going so deep into his catalog, one of his hits was conspicuously  absent from the night, as well:  “Endless Love.”  The smash 1981 duet with Ross was Richie’s first single as a solo artist, and given Carey covered the song with Luther Vandross in 1994, many were left wondering why that duet was omitted from the show.  

My conclusion?  As shaky as Richie’s voice was, at least he was singing live.  And Carey?  The jury’s still out. 

Another of the night’s surprises was Richie’s tribute to music superstars who we’ve lost over the last few years, naming George Michael, Natalie Cole, and Prince before launching into an emotional rendition of his collaboration with Michael Jackson, the anthemic “We Are The World.”  After it, he left the stage, leaving his fans in total pandemonium. 

Independent of how Richie sounds, he’s always been a consummate showman, and Saturday night, he delivered.  Seconds after “We Are The World,” he confidently strolled back out and said “Well, if you want to stay here and dance all night long…” before launching into the Caribbean-inspired track that had the world dancing back in the day, “All Night Long” (All Night).”  As we walked out of Golden 1 Arena Saturday night, many of us were still singing it as we danced back to our cars. 

It was somewhat ironic that both Richie and Bruno Mars played Sacramento last week, as in many ways, Richie was the Bruno Mars of our generation.  Time will tell whether Mars and his Hooligans are still singing and dancing — let alone selling out arenas — 40 years from now.  With Lionel Richie, Sacramento was treated to a superstar that’s closing in on the end of his phenomenal career…and with Carey, we saw a much younger star who may well be near the end of hers. 

 

 michael bioConnect with Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP.

By Michael P Coleman

Happy 4th of July.  I'll be frank: the day never meant much to me until about eight years ago. 

Well, that’s not completely true.  As I little kid, I enjoyed sparklers, fireworks, backyard barbecues and the like just like every other kid in my neighborhood.  It was sometime around junior high school, I think, that I pieced together an American history timeline that revealed that many of the “founding fathers” who fought so hard for their independence were also fighting to deny the independence of the black men they enslaved. 

From that revelatory moment, I turned by back on the holiday and all things patriotic.  I wouldn’t have worn a star spangled piece of clothing to save my life.  I suffered through hot, humid Independence Days wearing a black t-shirt (seriously).  Even Whitney Houston’s stirring rendition of our national anthem 1992 didn’t convince me to embrace the day. 

I didn’t do so until we elected Barack Obama as President of these United States of America. 

The morning after the election in 2008, I drove to my neighborhood Home Depot and bought the first American flag I’d ever bought and mounted it on my front porch.  For the first time since I was a kid holding those sparklers, I was proud of my country.   For eight years, I flew it every Memorial Day and Independence Day, and more sporadically on other holidays. 

Can you guess what’s happened now that Trump’s in office? 

I’m still flying it.  Put it up proudly a few weeks ago on Memorial Day, and as I hung it this 4th of July weekend, I pondered why.  I surmised that I have President Obama to thank for my newfound patriotism. 

We’re still a country that elected Trump president, but the pride in my country that President Obama awakened in me won’t be dampened.  We’ll fix this damn thing.  If Trump doesn’t resign, we’ll take Congress back in 2018 and the White House back in 2020. 

Yes, we will.  We The People will do that. 

Thanks, President Obama. 

And again, Happy 4th of July!  Let me fire up this grill. 

 michael bioThis blog was written by freelancer Michael P Coleman.  Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

 

by Michael P Coleman

fathersdayAs a kid, I celebrated Father’s Day by honoring a father who provided a stern, consistent “old school” sense of order to our home. He battled his demons, like we all do, but he did the “dad” thing. And Charles Franklin Coleman didn’t just parent his four kids. He parented the neighbor’s kids, as well.

My friends often referred to my dad as “Mike’s Crazy Father,” as Dad would whip off his belt in a heartbeat and whip any kid who misbehaved in his presence…whether that kid belonged to him or not. Then, he’d walk the crying kid back home to his parents and tell them what the infraction had been — and calmly inform the parent that the same thing would happen again if the kid misbehaved at or around the Coleman house.

It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I appreciated the value of the example that my dad had set for me.  

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