Archive for November, 2012

She’s Back To Scream & Shout And Let It Out!

Happy Friday everyone.  I hope you have great plans for the weekend.  Have fun!

With Thanksgiving and traveling to Fort Dodge, Iowa, last week and weekend, and then coming home to decorate for Christmas, it seems we haven’t had any down time.  My unemployed  life doesn’t count!  However, we’re going to chill out this weekend and watch movies and season three episodes of “Fringe”.

As I’ll do each Friday in December and January, I re-posted a ’80s Flashback earlier for those that new to my blog or missed them back in the spring and summer.  But, I want to share a new video that is fun.

You know I love Britney, but I have no desire to watch “The X-Factor”.  I saw her in concert in July 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the “Femme Fatale” tour and I knew she wouldn’t have a new album this year.

BritAnthony

But, she’s back — as a guest.

spears-williams-video-scream-shout

Britney and The Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am are racing up the charts with “Scream & Shout”, from his new album, #willpower, due in early 2013.  Actually, this is the fifth single from the unreleased album!!!  The first was released last November and you can probably guess, none of them have done well on the charts.  However, this time, he has star power.  “It’s Britney, bitch”.  (Note:  The “s-word” is in the video if you’re watching it at work or in front of little ones!)

This isn’t the first time that Britney has worked with will.i.am.  He appeared on “Big Fat Bass” from her “Femme Fatale” album and appeared on tour with her via video!  This was shot by a fan at the concert I was at.

And, here is a fun and exciting video to the song by a very sexy Aaron Milo and Daniel Skelton, actors in “Eating Out: Drama Camp” and “Eating Out:  The Open Weekend”.  I love this version. (Aaron is originally from Rockford, Illinois).

Anthony

Advertisements

Charlie Brown, We Found Your Grown-Up Christmas Tree

We’ve all heard of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Charlie Brown

Now that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our house, I’ve come to the conclusion that we now know what Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree would look like if it had been injected with steroids or had some Bruce Banner-like (The Incredible Hulk) radiation accident.

Sunday night, when Ray, Gretel, and I went to pick out our tree, my only request was that I wanted a fat, full tree.  So, the search began.

AnthonyGretelTree2012RayGretelTree2012

After looking for about 30 minutes and with hands smelling like Christmas trees, we found that “perfect” tree and Ray took the most awesome “retro” looking picture of our 2012 Christmas selection.

RayPhotoAnthonyGretelTree2012

It’s always funny how much larger trees look once you get them into your house.  After a day of letting the tree “fall”, Ray added the lights Monday night and we added the ornaments Tuesday.

But, from the computer desk, the tree looks like it’s going to fall over into the fireplace!  It’s the leaning tree tower of Christmas!!!!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, we adjusted the trunk of the tree in the tree stand to no avail.  If you look deep inside the tree, you see the problem.  While it started out very straight near the bottom of the tree, it veered off to the right near the middle of the tree all the way to the top! 🙂  How did we not notice this Sunday night?  Maybe we were chilly?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, I’m really torn this Christmas.  I love those annoying icicles that you throw onto the tree by the thousands.  Ray is indifferent to them, but I feel that he wanted an icicle-free tree this year although he wouldn’t say it out loud!  So, I asked my Facebook friends, icicles or not?  And, Gretel and I lost, 59%-41%.

Don’t get me wrong.  The tree is absolutely gorgeous in its simplistic, leaning glory. 🙂

UPDATE:  Ray and I lifted up the tree with the lights and ornaments already on it and Gretel slid the old tree stand out and we put a different one under the tree and now it’s standing much more upright!!!!!

We have a second tree in the dining room that I decorated with lights that continuously blink from red to green.  It’s like a Christmas disco lighted tree!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, in our bedroom (no, you don’t have to cover your ears or eyes), we have a cute little tree if it can survive the next month with Gretel’s two hellion cats!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, Ray always decorates the hutch!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The outdoor lights are the same this year, blue.  Instead of a round wreath, this year we got a candy cane shaped wreath.  A candy cane with blue lights!

Another difference from this picture from last year is that the multi-colored lights are not on the two King Hawthorne trees and the wooden, stand-up carolers are not out this year!  They must be singing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go”, in the basement!

Last Year

Anthony

Peace on Earth — All Around The World

I love sending out Christmas cards and I love getting them.  While I know most people are not like me and take them to the post office the day before Thanksgiving so they start their trek across the country, it’s a routine that I’ve done for the past twenty years.

It’ll be exciting to start getting them in the mail.  While the holidays are just now beginning, I’ve already gotten three cards from friends, one from my bank, and one that I will cherish and keep forever.

When I saw the envelope, I was very careful in opening it because I knew I wanted to keep it.

Letter

If you’ve read my blog, you know that I absolutely love President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.  I’ve blogged about how much I’d love to spend a week with President Carter and how he was given a bum deal in the late-1970s with the many problems he faced while President.

No, I don’t personally know President Carter.  I was probably added to the mailing list of  “The Carter Center” by donating money to Habitat For Humanity, which I’ve done many times and recently.  But, I’d love to think that I was added to the mailing list because the former President has read my blog. 🙂

Nevertheless, there inside the envelope was a four page letter from Jimmy Carter that started out with why he and his wife have worked so hard since leaving the White House in January 1981.

Letter From President Carter

And, there was a note from the former First Lady, Rosalynn.

RSC

The president went on to talk about how their work had to be “non-partisan and non-political”, had to approach the problems of the world in a new way, and that their work toward a “peaceful, healthier world” would be interfaith.  And, it must be working because President Carter says that more than 900,000 Americans have joined The Carter Center.

Right now, the organization is “working to avert violence and foster peace and growth in Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, and Latin America”,” is working to end hunger in developing countries, teaching farmers to be self-reliant” and combating Guinea worm disease “that threatened more than 120 million people from India to Africa” in 1986.  Today, there are fewer than 500 reported cases.

Card CoverCard Inside

Along with the business part of the mailing was this Christmas card.  The cover, “White Dove”, is from an original oil on canvas painting by President Carter.

As I stated before, I know this is a standard mailing.  However, it still touches my heart and solidifies my thoughts that President Carter is one of the greatest men alive.

If you want to donate, here’s the link to the Carter Center:  http://www.cartercenter.org/index.html

Anthony

Still Celebrating My Birthday VIP Style

I got my first Christmas card of the season yesterday (thank you, Kelly and Sam) and last week, I got my first Christmas present.  Actually, while it arrived closer to Christmas, it’s really more of a birthday present six weeks late.

As you recall, I spent my birthday in Las Vegas with Ray, Madonna, and 12,500 of her closest friends.

The concert was incredible, my unlimited champagne and mimosa brunch was amazing at Stratosphere, and the overall trip to Las Vegas was very fun.

I’m already looking forward to our next trip there in late January to see Lady Gaga and hopefully, Rod Stewart and/or Faith Hill and Tim McGraw!

But, what about my belated birthday present?  I would like to say that Madonna was so happy that I’ve been a huge fan for 30+ years, that I’ve seen her in concert three times, and that I’ve blogged about her countless times that she just had to send me something.  However, I know in the universe of the Material Girl, I’m one of those small specks out in space.

Last March, because we bought VIP tickets, they sent us two copies of Madonna’s “MDNA” album.  I also bought the “deluxe edition” to get the best song on the album “Gang Bang”, since it was so violent that it was left off the clean version.  The “deluxe” version also came with a second disc of five songs.

Nevertheless, because we had VIP tickets for the “MDNA Tour” (with only mediocre seats), Live Nation rewarded both Ray and I with gifts last week.

In addition to getting the CD last spring, the VIP package also got us the “MDNA” tour book, a Madonna poster, a “MDNA” key chain, a “MDNA” VIP laminate, a laminated commemorative ticket, and a Madonna concert t-shirt!

 

There are now only ten shows left in the sold-out worldwide “MDNA Tour” in South America.  It wraps up in Argentina on December 22, 2012, and then Madonna can go home for Christmas.

All I need to know now is when the concert DVD comes out so I can sit back, watch it, and re-live everything I missed because I was so excited.  Oh Madonna, please add some of Martin Solveig’s performance before your set.  He’s incredible.

Thanks for the gift, Madge and Live Nation.  Merry Christmas!

Anthony

They Said What??? Kelly Preston, Anderson Cooper, & Justin Bieber

ACTRESS KELLY PRESTON

(wife of actor John Travolta, talking about their son Jett, who was 16-years-old when he died in January 2009 after falling and hitting his dead in a bathroom in the Bahamas):  “[Jett] was autistic. He had seizures and when he was very young, he had Kawasaki Syndrome.  I strongly believe as a mother, as does my husband, that there are certain contributing factors that lead to autism and some of it is very much the chemicals in our environment and in our food.”

TALK SHOW HOST ANDERSON COOPER

(to Kathie Lee Gifford, who was offering him breast of chicken):  “I’m more of a stuffing man.”

“HALLOWEEN” STAR JAMIE LEE CURTIS

(talking about her holiday tradition): “I do a traditional post-Thanksgiving and post-Christmas meal, which is a very rich turkey soup with mashed potato pancakes and sweet potatoes on top of those floating in them. It’s excellent.”

DR. ERNESTO TORRES

(About the condition late last week of boxing champ Hector “Macho” Camacho, who was shot in the face while sitting in his car in San Juan.  He died Saturday.):  “We can’t declare him brain dead.  We’re going to ask the people of Puerto Rico to keep praying.”

POP STAR JUSTIN BIEBER

(at the American Music Awards where he won all three awards he was nominated for, including Artist of the Year):  “This is for all the haters who thought maybe I was just here for one or two years.”

MORE FROM BIEBS

(losing his train of thought while accepting the “Artist of The Year” award with his mother Pattie Mallette on stage with him):  “I can’t even think. I’m just so blown away right now.  I just want to always thank you for believing in me.”

Anthony

Three More Holiday Albums Worth The Money

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas is one month from today, I don’t feel as crazy listening to and blogging about Christmas music.

Last Sunday, I highly recommended new holiday music from Rod Stewart, “Merry Christmas, Baby” and “On This Winter’s Night” by Lady Antebellum.  Today, I’m reviewing two more new Christmas entries this season and one from four years ago that you definitely need to get if you missed it then.

“CHRISTMAS SPIRIT”– RICHARD MARX

Chicago singer/songwriter Richard Marx was on fire in the late-1980s and early-1990s scoring 14 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.

He topped that chart with classics like “Hold On To The Nights”, “Satisfied”, and “Right Here Waiting” and he also reached the Top Four with “Don’t Mean Nothing”, “Should’ve Known Better”, “Endless Summer Nights”, and “Angelina”.

Richard Marx

While Marx hasn’t had a Top 40 radio hit since 1994, he’s had many hits on Adult Contemporary radio.  His latest album, “Christmas Spirit” has already introduced two new songs you’re hearing this holiday season on the radio, “Little Drummer Boy” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, a duet with singer/songwriter Sara Niemietz.

If you were a fan of Richard Marx during his heyday two decades ago, you’ll love his new Christmas album.  “Christmas Spirit” is a perfect collection of holiday songs and it also features a duet with another 1980s pop star, Kenny Loggins, on “Let The Be Peace on Earth” and a duet, “Silent Night” with singer and fiddler Sara Watkins.

There are two new original songs on the 13-song album, the title track, which is spectacular and “Christmas Morning”, which is a decent song.

Marx excels on “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “White Christmas”, and “O Holy Night”.

His version of “Little Drummer Boy” is my favorite on the disc and will likely be a staple of Christmases in the future.

My only regret with “Christmas Spirit” is not a fault of Richard Marx.  I wish I had shopped around before buying the CD from Amazon.  If you buy the Target version, it comes with four additional songs, “Blue Christmas”, “Silver Bells”, “Jingle Bell Rock”, and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.

GRADE:  A

“CHRISTMAS WITH SCOTTY McCREERY — SCOTTY McCREERY

ScottyMcCreery

The other new purchase I made recently is the second album from 2011 “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery, “Christmas With Scotty McCreery”.

His debut album, “Clear As Day”, was released in the fall of 2011 and sold more than 1.1 million copies and generated three country hits, “I Love You This Big” (#15), “The Trouble With Girls” (#17), and “Water Tower Town”, which barely cracked the Top 40, (#38).

Since I’m not an “American Idol” viewer, all I know about Scotty is that he’s 19-years-old, from North Carolina, is cute, won an ACM Award for “Best New Artist”, and that he has a voice that reminds me of Josh Turner.

McCreery is great on the upbeat classics like “Let It Snow!”, “Jingle Bells”, and “Holly Jolly Christmas”, but the album drags a little on “Mary Did You Know” and on the new song, “Christmas Comin’ Round Again”.  The other original song on the album, “Christmas In Heaven” has the potential to be heard again next year.

McCreery has a great voice and this is a decent album for the holidays.

GRADE:  B

“JOY TO THE WORLD” — FAITH HILL

Faith_Hill-Joy_to_The_World

While it isn’t new, I missed out on buying Faith Hill’s “Joy To The World” when it was released in 2008.

Epic fail on my part.  Of the eleven songs on the album, ten are classics and there’s one new song, “A Baby Changes Everything”.  That song actually reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Faith’s voice is just angelic with the big band orchestra sound of the album.  It features such classics as the title track, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Holly Jolly Christmas”, “Away In The Manger”, “O Holy Night”, “Winter Wonderland”, and “Silent Night”.

Faith blows me away with her version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”.

Buy it now and don’t hesitate!

GRADE:  A+

[Our] Country Needs More “Faith”

Let’s play word association.  If I say “stuffing”, you probably start thinking of Thanksgiving leftovers and not the scarecrow on “The Wizard of Oz”.  If I say “hope”, maybe the future of the world comes to mind.  And, if  I say “faith”, many of you think of Christmas and religion.  I, too, have hope and faith that there will be more peace and love on Earth, but since I don’t live in a fantasy world, I know it won’t replace hate.

When I hear “faith”, I think of the holidays and mankind, but also of Faith Hill.

Anthony & Faith Hill

I’ve been a huge fan since her first single, “Wild One”, was released in the fall of 1993.  That song, and many others that have followed, shot to the top of the country music charts.

I was fortunate enough to meet her at the Hodag Country Festival in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1996.

While working at WJFW, we profiled all of the singers performing.  But, I did a separate story and bonded with Faith over the challenges her father faced with literacy.  Three years later, in 1999, Faith’s tour supported a national children’s book drive, The Faith Hill Family Literacy Project, which collected more than 35,000 books.

Before the interview, the only thing her people told us that was off-limits was any personal questions about her relationship with Tim McGraw.  While it was no secret, the two grew very close on the “Spontaneous Combustion Tour” that spring.  Both broke off previous engagements and by the fall of 1996, they were married.  They’re still together and are the parents of three girls.

The couple will be opening a new show, “Soul2Soul”, this winter in Las Vegas at the Venetian.

Tim Faith Las Vegas

After selling more than 40 million albums worldwide, scoring an amazing 37 country hits, with 22 of them reaching the Top Ten, and nine topping the country charts, we haven’t heard much of Faith until recently.

She performed “Come Home” at the “CMA Awards” in November 2011.  The song was to be the first single from her upcoming album, but it didn’t catch fire.  As much as I love Faith, I didn’t care for it and neither did country radio.  It stalled at #26.

However, she is currently at #29 on the country airplay chart and at #39 on the Billboard Country chart with “American Heart” and I really hope radio embraces it.  She sounds great and looks absolutely fantastic in the video.

Sadly, I think Faith will have a hard time selling her new music and the new album, expected in early 2013, to country radio because of the same thing that Reba, Dolly, Loretta, Martina McBride, Pam Tillis, Lorrie Morgan, Trisha Yearwood, and so many other women face.  Age.

While Faith is only 45 years old, the hottest stars at radio now are Taylor Swift (she turns 23 in December), Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert (both 29 years old), and Kelly Clarkson, who is 30.

And, those younger ladies are the hit makers.  Taylor Swift has charted 28 country hits and 40 pop hits.  Of her country hits, 14 have hit the Top Three and seven have hit #1.  Miranda Lambert has scored 14 Top 40 country hits since 2004 with seven reaching the Top Ten, and 3 topping the charts.  And, pop star Kelly Clarkson is finding a home on country radio since reaching #2 with Reba on “Because of You” in 2007 and #1 with Jason Aldean in 2011 with “Don’t You Wanna Stay”.

However, the hottest female on country radio is Carrie Underwood.  Despite her “American Idol” song, “Inside Your Heaven” stalling at #52 in 2005, once she released her first real country song, “Jesus, Take The Wheel”, all 16 of her songs sent to country radio have peaked at #1 or #2!  Of those sixteen country hits, 12 have topped the charts.

I really hate bringing up Faith, Reba, or even in the pop world, Madonna’s age, because I think it’s irrelevant.  However, it’s a reality.  Programmers had rather play young women on the radio.  On the pop charts, the same thing happens, too.  While her music is fun and catchy, it’s only taken Rihanna six short years to tie Madonna and the Supremes in fourth place with the most number one hits (12) on the Billboard Hot 100.

I’m going to have “faith” that the new Faith album will be hot in 2013 and you’ll hear her all over country radio where she was for much of the 1990s and the 2000s.

Faith’s first album, “Take Me As I Am” was released in October 1993.

Take Me As I Am

The first two singles, “Wild One” and “Piece of My Heart ” both topped the country charts.  The third single, “But I Will” was a misfire at radio only peaking at #35.  The fourth and final single from that debut album, the title track, went all the way to #2.

The “Take Me As I Am” album is my second favorite of Faith’s six studio albums (not counting 2008’s Christmas album, “Joy To The World”), but it is a very close race.  My favorite is the follow-up to that debut album, “It Matters To Me”.  (This is my autographed CD cover from when I met Faith!)

It Matters To Me Autograph

That album came out in August 1995 and produced five Top Ten hits:  “Let’s Go To Vegas” (#5), “It Matters To Me” (#1), “Someone Else’s Dream” (#3), “You Can’t Lose Me” (#6), and “I Can’t Do That Anymore” (#8).

Faith would have her next chart topper in the summer of 1997.  “It’s Your Love”, a duet with husband Tim McGraw from his “Everywhere” album, reached the top of the chart in only five weeks and dominated all of country music for six weeks.

In the spring of 1998, Faith released her third album simply titled “Faith”.  Unlike her first two albums that were straight up “country”, this album was aimed toward a crossover crowd.

The lead off single, “This Kiss”, not only topped the country charts, but it reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The country and pop success of that first single also helped “Faith” become her biggest selling album to date with U.S. certifications of more than 6 million albums shipped.

Faith would also have four other country hits from the album:  “Just To Hear You Say That You Love Me”, another duet with McGraw (#3), “Let Me Let Go” (#1), “Love Ain’t Like That” (#12), and “The Secret of Life”.

But, Faith’s star was still blazing bright and would shine even greater in the fall of 1999 when her fourth album, “Breathe” came out.

faith-hill breathe

The title track was the lead single and it hit #1 on the country charts and #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The follow-up, “The Way You Love Me” would also top the country chart and it made it into the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100.

The video to “The Way You Love Me” was a pure sugary confection and it’s still one of my favorite Faith videos.

The album “Breathe” would ship more than 8 million copies and produce two more Top Ten country hits, a duet with McGraw, “Let’s Make Love” (#6) and “If My Heart Had Wings” (#3).  That was followed by the “Pearl Harbor” soundtrack hit, “There You’ll Be”, which hit #11 on the country chart.

With more than 14 million albums shipped of her last two albums, Faith released another pop album, “Cry”, in 2002.

Faith Hill Cry

While the album debuted at #1 on both the pop and country charts and sold more than four million copies worldwide, radio was not very receptive.

“Cry”, the first single only reached #12 country and #33 pop.  But, it did reach #1 on the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart.   Two more singles would chart at country radio, but they would only reach #26 and #28.  The song, “One”, would also reach the top ten on the AC chart.

Faith did win two Grammy awards for “Cry”, “Best Country Album” and “Best Female Country Vocal Performance”.

I loved the “Cry” album, but I’ll admit that eleven of the songs on the album are almost perfect, but the album drags a bit toward the end with filler material.  Sadly, this was a precursor of things to come.

In August 2005, Faith veered back to country music with the release of “Fireflies”.  It debuted at #1 on both the pop and country charts and would go on to sell 3.8 million copies worldwide.

Faith Hill  Fireflies

The first single, “Mississippi Girl” would top the country chart and three more songs from the album would reach the Top Ten.

I feel almost bad for saying this, but this is by far the least enjoyable Faith Hill album.  I loved the first three songs from the album and a few others, but most of them are sub-par for a woman of Faith’s caliber.

A greatest hits album would come in 2007 with two more modest hits that only reached #32 and #28 on the country charts.  “Red Umbrella”, the second new release from “The Hits” album should have been a bigger smash at country radio.

Faith’s first Christmas album, “Joy To The World”, was released in the fall of 2008 and it is absolutely amazing.  I love every song on the album and if I had to choose a song that was my least favorite, it would be “A Baby Changes Everything”.  However, it would top the AC charts for three weeks.  I highly recommend this one!

Faith_Hill-Joy_to_The_World

I would love to see Tim and Faith in Las Vegas when I’m there in January 2013 to see Lady Gaga, but it’s going to take a stroke of luck on eBay like when we won the Elton John tickets in October.

Faith Hill American Heart

Check out “American Heart”, it’s Faith better than she’s been in years!

Anthony