Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ingrid Michaelson ‘Human Again’

1/26/12: New York, NY

Ingrid Michaelson is an interesting chick.

Of course I say that with the most hallowed reverence. As anyone who has ever read my pieces on this uber-talented singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist will tell you, I love the work she does. However I’ve had a problem with her first couple of records; they’ve always left me feeling kind of moody and apathetic.

But it was that terrestrial apathy which was what was so appealing about her work too. Songs like “Masochist,” “Die Alone,” and “The Hat” on “Girls and Boys” were replaced by talented and tender versions of classics like “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Over the Rainbow” but still the meal felt incomplete. At the end of the record “Be OK” was an acoustic version of the opening title track which led you to believe that the singer was anything but.

That was then; this is now. The new Ingrid Michaelson record, aptly titled “Human Again” covers a wide swath of terrestrial emotions; catapulting the listener up into the trees, back in time, and with heavy heart but it’s always hopeful. I think that was what was missing from Ingrid Michaelson records past. Hope. A hope which is alive and electric and very present on this newest record.

Diving right into the tracks on this record, Ingrid gets things going with a rapid fire opening track called “Fire.” This song reminded me of Kate Bush and a song like “The Big Sky.” Even though a lyric like “I’m walking into the fire with you” is a familiar one for Ingrid; the hook immediately afterwards, “…and I love it” shows a bold new leap that the recently humanized singer is making.

“This is War” reminded me of a cross between Depeche Mode and Gloria Estefan-South-Beach type musical sound. The clincher for this one though was Ingrid’s distinct vocal line which illumed her standing-on-a-rock-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean loneliness (a sound perhaps best recalled in her own "Starting Now").

The third song “Do it Now” has a real spunky and fun line “…don’t waste a minute on the darkness and the pity sitting in your mind and do it right now” which the singer kind of spills out over the listeners ears.

“I’m Through” is a very tender love song; much more in the familiar Ingrid style of a song like “The Chain.” One of the principal differences between the two songs though is that there is no vocal overdub on "I'm Through." It sounds as though on this record Ingrid is growing a lot more comfortable with her instrument. “I’m Through” really represents this liberation. She doesn’t have to hide behind the production tricks we've come to know. A song like “I’m Through” proves to her fans and to herself that she can stand at the microphone, sing a straight love song and belt it out to the back-row.

“Black and Blue” is a lot funkier; a straight piano line but funky beat. The sound of this song reminded me of my first New York City apartment. I lived on 108th Street between 5th and Madison; Spanish Harlem. The neighborhood wasn’t quite Harlem but it also was still technically right on the border of some very ritzy real estate on the Upper East Side. And there was not a decided division between the two. I could just imagine an Upper East Side Ingrid in this song running her scales at her piano lessons while secretly messing with her Walkman and listening to the latest hip-hop grooves; all the while listlessly gazing out the window; yearning to be on the streets below from where the same music she was yearning to break into was being created.

“Ribbons” starts out with a mopey undercurrent. Ingrid envelopes the microphone as she repeats “wrapped me up in ribbons then he went for the door” in a silly-low voice. But of course when the chorus comes up she breaks out and pleads the question with this object of her affections; “I’m not flying, am I?”

“Palm of Your Hand” is another powerful song with a driving backbeat. The rhythm on “Palm of Your Hand” sounds like it’s pop music out of the 1980’s. The storyline of the song though is quite good. The narrator takes us on the road of leaving a controlling relationship. The breakup seems to affect the narrator more than the one she’s cutting it off with but her resolve just makes the triumph that much more fulfilling.

A quick summary of other tracks: “In the Sea” sounds like Sinead O’Connor, “Blood Brothers” is more straight pop and sounds like Gwen Stefani with a Cheryl Crow guitar line.

“Keep Warm” is a homey, synth-laden tune that rises slowly and fully like a 1920’s film score and takes the listener on the journey: “Down down down I go on a road that I don’t know.” The final track “End of the World” also has the appeal of an old-time song.

Then there’s this song “Ghost” which I’m not really sure what to make of just yet. It sounds to me as though there’s something pointedly personal going on here.

“Human Again” is a sonic wonderland for the listener; a combination of her signature plucked acoustic guitar, piano which slides from big and imposing to demure and almost forgotten, carefully arranged strings, classically warm synth, and even stranger computerized sound effects. The signature Ingrid Michaelson vocal looping feature is noticeably absent on this record. At least insofar as how audiences have become accustomed to it.

Not much about this new record is all that familiar; especially for fans who latched on to the somewhat helpless sounding, flailing heartbreak which many had fallen hard for. But that’s a good thing. As the title reminds us; even when we go through our darkest hours; we always emerge on the other side, a little wiser, a little more cautious, but always have been; human again.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What's Next for Joe Crummey?

While it may surprise many of the vocally vociferous Facebook fans of Joe Crummey who were flummoxed and flabbergasted when it was revealed towards the end of 2011 that Crummey would be replaced by Geraldo Rivera on WABC radio, Joe Crummey is not angry. Quite the contrary. He sees this change in employment status as little more than a bump in life’s swooping road. An opportunity for him to find a venue where he could continue to broaden his base. Arizona, Los Angeles, New York…what’s next?

He blew in like a hard charging storm cloud with a laid back sass which caused the half-listening listener to up and take notice; he disappeared like a mirage; almost as though you had imagined the whole thing.

Still now that WABC 770 AM in New York City and Joe Crummey are no more, that doesn’t mean the listening masses should give up on him. What has Crummey been up to in the days since leaving WABC? Plenty actually. I recently got the chance to sit down with Crummey and talk with him about his severance from Cumulus Media and 77 WABC, new media, what he's been up to, and what's next.

Me: So I guess the biggest question on everyone’s minds is ‘what’s up?’ ‘Where can we hear you again?’
Joe: “I’m interviewing. I can’t tell you with who, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m excited.”
Me: What happened at WABC?
Joe: “Well, ya know…change.”
Me: Are you okay? What have you been up to?
Joe: “I’m not in a funk. You go through a range of emotions when you get fired and I was in LA for a couple of weeks, hanging out but I finally decided, ‘enough.’ You know I got myself a really good agent and they know everybody.”

When I pressed him further for more details about what he and his agent had going he was pretty mum about the whole thing. However Joe did open up generally saying: “LA stuff, Boston stuff, San Diego stuff,” and he promised that he would be streaming online.

Maybe the most interesting thing about our conversation was that Joe Crummey has got his own new website where he promises all of his ranting’s and ravings and musings and discussions will live. Fans who love the Crummey experience can check out the still under-construction website at

Joe seems to be taking pause from this time outside of the working world to be tackling broader issues. To hear him tell it, Joe sounds as though he wants to be back in Los Angeles; back with his family; but that he would be open to offers from stations in a variety of markets. He also is very honed in on the new media side of things; he seems to want to be partners in his working arrangement rather than working for the man.

Still, to this listener, at WABC I felt like he had a great deal of control over his own image and his own message. If I didn’t know any better I would say that a show like the one he had at WABC is exactly what Joe wants to have back again.

Speaking for parties in my circle, that is what his fans want back too.

Joe Crummey’s microphone at 770 WABC radio in New York has gone dark for now. But don’t worry about that New York; when I asked him if he’s coming back to the Big Apple, his answer was promising:

“I plan on being back on the air in this town. It won’t be like the first time; it will be much bigger.”

While I wonder how much bandwidth it would require for a voice that’s bigger than the one he exerted before, Crummey’s got a message for all the fans who are bummed out that he’s gone:

“Wait and see what’s next.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jane’s Addiction Announces Waterbury CT Show in March

Just when all the alt heads thought it was time to grow up and that they would never see Perry Farrell again; Premier Concerts just announced that Jane’s Addiction is going to be back on the east coast for a show at Waterbury’s Palace Theater.

Wednesday Mach 7, 2012 at 8:30 PM the Palace is going to rock out the late 80’s - early 90’s alternative favorites. Fans can only hope that Farrell and company will be playing favorites from “Nothing’s Shocking” and “Ritual de lo Habitual.”

Jane’s Addiction has produced two more CD’s; 2003’s “Strays” and 2011’s “The Great Escape Artist,” though the band is far more well regarded for their two earlier albums including the groundbreaking “Ritual de lo Habitual” which drew comparisons to “Zeppelin IV.” Farrell and drummer Stephen Perkins also collaborated on the Porno 4 Pyro’s project after Jane’s first disbanded.

Opening up for Jane’s is the Brussels alt-rocker band Black Box Revelation. These two young Europeans have been described as an “R&B inflected garage-band rock that takes its cues from mid-60’s Stones and The Kinks to the most gut-bucket, electric delta blues evocative of Led Zeppelin by way of The White Stripes, The Black Keys and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.” Hmm. Sounds like a band with a bit of an identity crisis. But if they’re good enough to open for Jane’s Addiction…

For fans interested in seeing the show, the concert was just announced today and tickets run between $38-$58 plus service charges. Reserved seats can be attained at or by phone at 203-346-2000. Tickets go on sale Saturday January 14, 2012 at 11am.

Listing to Jane’s Addiction as I often do is like a walk down memory lane. It will be interesting to see the response and if Jane’s Addiction can still bring out the zealots after all these years.