Monday Nov 24, 2014

Judith Ivey to play Thatcher in 'The Audience'

NEW YORK (AP) — Judith Ivey will need to get in touch with her fearsome side. She's going to be the "Iron Lady" on Broadway. Producers of "The Audience" said Monday that Ivey, the two-time Tony Award winner and one-time cast member of "Designing Women," will play former...
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Judith Ivey to play Thatcher in 'The Audience'
Monday Nov 24, 2014
Judith Ivey to play Thatcher in 'The Audience'

NEW YORK (AP) — Judith Ivey will need to get in touch with her fearsome side. She's going to be the "Iron Lady" on Broadway. Producers of "The Audience" said Monday that Ivey, the two-time Tony Award winner and one-time cast member of "Designing Women," will play former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher when the show opens in New York on Feb. 17. "The Audience" imagines the private weekly meetings between the monarch and Britain's prime ministers — 12 in all — over her six-decade reign. It was a smash hit in London and Helen Mirren will be reprising her role as Queen Elizabeth II. The rest of the cast includes Richard McCabe as Harold Wilson, Rufus Wright as David Cameron, Geoffrey Beevers as the Queen's snooty attendant and Dylan Baker as John Major. Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

One Direction takes a top spot on global social media chart: Starcount
Monday Nov 24, 2014
One Direction takes a top spot on global social media chart: Starcount

In a ranking dominated by singer Taylor Swift for the fourth week in a row, boyband One Direction takes the second spot among the stars of social media for the week of November 17-23, which ended in the star-studded American Music Awards..One Direction released latest album "Four" earlier this month and generated more buzz when they performed the album's second single, "Night Changes," on Sunday at the American Music Awards. The boys also won three AMAs, including artist of the year.The band's most notable social media victory of the week took place on Twitter, where they got 314,467 retweets. They also pulled in more than 74.5 million YouTube views, having released the video for "Night Changes" on Friday.Taylor Swift, meanwhile, continues to dominate social media, having earned 305,825 new fans on Facebook, where she was talked about by 2.4 million people. She earned 339,700 more followers on Twitter and racked up 84.6 million YouTube views.The singer opened Sunday's American Music Awards with a performance of her latest single, "Blank Space."Starcount's global social media chart for November 17-23:1. Taylor Swift2. One Direction3. Ariana Grande4. Ellen DeGeneres5. Katy Perry6. PewDiePie7. Kim Kardashian8. Justin Bieber9. Cristiano Ronaldo10. Selena Gomez Starcount.com, the social media leaderboard, tracks data across 12 global social networks to provide an aggregated measure of social media popularity for stars and brands. Its Fan Chart application is available on Android and iOS. For more on Starcount's data go to playlist.starcount.com/starscore. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.

Holiday albums from Idina Menzel, 'Downton Abbey'
Monday Nov 24, 2014
Holiday albums from Idina Menzel, 'Downton Abbey'

Whether you're prepping a hearty, warm Thanksgiving meal or getting ready to shop until you drop on Black Friday, here's a list of holidays albums reviews set to get you in the right mood. ___ Idina Menzel, "Holiday Wishes" (Warner Bros.) It's fitting that "Frozen" star Idina Menzel would release her Christmas album in 2014. Menzel brings the soaring voice that made her famous this year in the Disney hit movie to her Christmas album, "Holiday Wishes." The Tony Award winner puts her own spin on holiday classics like "Silent Night" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" But she also includes songs that are surprisingly appropriate for a holiday record, like Joni Mitchell's "River" and "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Disney's "Pinocchio." One of the highlights is Menzel's duet on "Baby It's Cold Outside" with crooner Michael Buble. The song's lively big-band sound will get couples on the holiday-party dance floor. Menzel also partners with musician Kenny G on two songs: "White Christmas" and her version of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You." You can tell Menzel had fun with this pop track adding freestyle lyrics at the end. The orchestrations are sweeping and powerful, most appropriate for a holiday album. And Menzel only adds to the grandeur with her powerful vocals. — Caryn Rousseau (twitter.com/CarynRousseau) ___ Various artists, "Christmas at Downton Abbey" (Warner Bros.) Fortunately, "Christmas at Downton Abbey" isn't what it may at appear to be at first glance. Anyone looking for some kind of kitschy disaster with Maggie Smith croaking her way through "Silent Night" is going to be disappointed. Only seven of the 45 tracks on the double disc feature actors from the hit PBS costume drama about an aristocratic British manor house in the 1910s and 1920s. And the two actors who sing — Julian Ovenden and Elizabeth McGovern — actually have experience, know what they're doing and sound quite good. A third actor from the show — Jim Carter, who portrays stoic head butler Mr. Carson — reads "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" with an orchestral backing, but wisely leaves the singing to others. The 36 remaining songs are tastefully delivered Christmas carols by the likes of the choir of King's College and classical musicians. The straightforward, conservative approach to the Christmas season is sure to please all the Lord Granthams on your gift list. — Scott Bauer (twitter.com/SBauerAP) __ Darius Rucker, "Home for the Holidays" (Universal Nashville) The Artist Formerly Known as Hootie can now deservedly call himself an award-winning country artist, so it's only natural that he takes that next step — a holiday album. Stuffed with classic covers like "Winter Wonderland," ''Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and even "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," Darius Rucker's "Home for the Holidays" isn't going to set any sales records, but it's easy enough listening this time of year. There's plenty of slide guitar, strings, horns and a languid pace that would sound great pumped into the speakers at your local mall. The two originals here — "What God Wants for Christmas" and "Candy Cane Christmas" — aren't standouts, but they don't offend, either. The highlight is Sheryl Crow's duet on "Baby, It's Cold Outside." With its tinkling piano and flirtatious back-and-forth lyrics, I'd love to see the music video. All told, a pleasing enough addition to the ever-swelling holiday canon, but likely to be forgotten this time next year when another artist does the same thing. — Robert Merrill (twitter.com/RobMerrill) ___ Heart, "Heart & Friends: Home for the Holidays" (Frontiers) To their credit, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Heart don't try to recreate the same six Christmas rock songs everyone else does. Instead, they pick subtle, less popular tracks like "The River" and "Seasons" in this live CD and DVD recorded last year in Seattle. The first seven songs create a dreamy, peaceful Christmas feeling, as if you're sitting by the fireplace zoning out while looking at the tree. The downside: It's not until the eighth track, Sammy Hagar's "Santa's Going South," that an actual beat is felt. Ann Wilson is pouty, longing and soulful on "Please Come Home for Christmas" (hey, they had to do SOMETHING people knew), and "Remember Christmas" is lushly arranged and orchestrated. Special guests include Shawn Colvin, Pat Monahan of Train and Richard Marx (remember him?). And then — like that jolt of glee running down the stairs on Christmas morning to see presents under the tree — Nancy Wilson's glorious guitar rips into "Barracuda" and all is right with the world! But Christmas dinner is still to come: Heart's smoking version of "Stairway to Heaven," with a full choir, is worth the price of the disc alone. — Wayne Parry (twitter.com/WayneParryAC) ___ Renee Fleming, "Christmas in New York" (Decca) Renee Fleming, whose alluring soprano has made her one of the Metropolitan Opera's top stars for two decades, turns away from her classical roots on her first Christmas album in favor of pop and jazz. Backed by an illustrious group of artists providing vocal and instrumental support, she offers 13 holiday standards, but with somewhat mixed results. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis joins her for two familiar numbers, "Winter Wonderland" and "Sleigh Ride," but these are marred by an occasional coyness in her delivery. Fleming sounds more natural on tracks in which she's paired with other singers, as when Broadway star Kelli O'Hara lends her bright soprano to a sweet version of "Silver Bells." Even better are two numbers ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Central Park Serenade") in which she's joined by the mellow vocalist Gregory Porter. And best of all is a collaboration with Rufus Wainwright on "In the Dark Midwinter," a gorgeous setting of a Christina Rossetti poem by the English composer Harold Edwin Darke. — Mike Silverman (twitter.com/mkslvrmn) __ Sara Evans, "At Christmas" (RCA Nashville) Sara Evans, with her warm alto and powerful range, proves perfectly suited to a traditional holiday album, as she proves throughout "At Christmas." Smartly pairing up again with producer Mark Bright, who has shown his mastery at shining a light on female vocalists in past work with Evans and Carrie Underwood, the singer toasts the holidays with a nice balance of timeless melodicism and contemporary touches. The title cut is the album's lone new tune, and the up-tempo Toby Lightman-Shane Stevens co-write rocks through snapshots of a loving family Christmas that goes as planned. It pairs nicely with a well-chosen mix of ballads ("O Holy Night," ''Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas") and celebratory cuts ("Winter Wonderland"). Evans deftly handles the rock 'n' roll thrust of "Run Rudolph Run," first popularized by Chuck Berry, and shares a mic with daughters Olivia and Audrey to add a family feel to "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The album's only fault is that three of the 10 tracks — including "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "O Come All Ye Faithful" — appeared on previous holiday and religious projects, and the three recordings have been sold for years as a holiday EP. Fans that have the older songs may want to hand-select new cuts rather than buy recordings they already have. — Michael McCall (twitter.com/McCallMC) ___ Anthony Hamilton, "Home for the Holidays" (RCA Records) Anthony Hamilton has taken home a Grammy and released seven albums in his career. Now, the R&B singer can add one more accomplishment to his resume: a holiday album. Hamilton brings a soulful cheer to his Christmas album, "Home for the Holidays," which was originally released in late October. Most of the 14-track offerings provide a mellow vibe with guest appearances by Chaka Khan and Gavin DeGraw. There are renditions of classic holiday melodies like "Little Drummer Boy" and "'Tis the Season." But Hamilton took those often-heard holiday songs and impressively made each record sound like his own with his distinctive Southern drawl. The veteran singer harmonizes beautifully throughout the album, especially on the piano-driven "Coming Home" and Khan-assisted "The Christmas Song." He meshes well with DeGraw on the title song, and is masterful on the rendition of James Brown's "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto." — Jonathan Landrum Jr.(twitter.com/MrLandrum31) ___ LeAnn Rimes, "One Christmas" (Red) She makes headlines these days for everything except music, but LeAnn Rimes' voice is still a thing of pure beauty and on fine display with "One Christmas," an often tender but short holiday album. "Silent Night Holy Night" is a lush version of the familiar standard, full of vocal runs and trills that will hit a sweet spot with ears accustomed to pop music. "Blue Christmas" is the real highlight, with just Rimes and a clean-toned electric guitar taking their time over this classic made famous by Elvis Presley. Rimes speeds things up with "Carol of the Bells," the drama-tinged 1904 song based on a Ukrainian folk chant. Rimes does it right, whirling through the phrasing with wide range and a golden vocal tone that remains her own. — Ron Harris (twitter.com/Journorati) ___ Various artists, "Motown Christmas" (Motown Records) In a collaboration effort, the Motown Records and Motown Gospel labels team up to produce the first holiday album from the Motown brand in more than 40 years — and it doesn't disappoint. True, "Motown Christmas" features a variety of familiar classic songs from "Silent Night" to "Joy to the World." But this 15-track offering, produced by Grammy-winning producer Aaron Lindsey, offers some impressively unique duets and solo performances from Smokey Robinson, Ne-Yo and Toni Braxton. Some standouts: "Bethlehem" features Kem's silky smooth voice and the soaring vocals of Janice Gaines. India.Arie and Gene Moore make a perfect match on "Mary Did You Know" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" with Chrisette Michele and Kierra Sheard. There's also a bonus track included, featuring The Temptations' 1970 rendition of "Silent Night." — Jonathan Landrum Jr. (twitter.com/MrLandrum31) ___ Various artists, "L'Italiana in Algeri" (Opus Arte) Director Davide Livermore reimagines Rossini's "The Italian Girl in Algiers" as color-splashed 1960s pop culture, with homage to James Bond, "Batman" and "I Dream of Jeannie." In a 200th-anniversary production from the 2013 Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, the overture is accompanied by video in the style of Monty Python's Terry Gilliam. Bey Mustafa is an oil baron, and Isabella arrives when her four-propeller plane crashes as she responds to Lindoro's SOS. Mustafa wears chest-baring attire and mirror sunglasses and pops Viagra. Isabella enters in a pink Chanel-like outfit. Mustafa's harem dances in white go-go boots. While lacking subtlety, the staging is sparkling fun. Bass-baritone Alex Esposito is a vibrant Mustafa. Mezzo-soprano Anna Goryachova (Isabella) has a flipped hairstyle, breezy naivety and supple coloratura. Yijie Shi's tenor is light for Lindoro. Nicolas Bovey's set and lighting design and Gianluca Falaschi's costumes bring Livermore's frantic concept to life. Jose Ramon Encinar conducted the orchestra and chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. — Ronald Blum (twitter.com/ronaldblum) ___ Pentatonix, "That's Christmas to Me" (RCA Records) The Pentatonix's youthful a cappella take on Christmas standards comes off as merely meh-cappella, lacking a certain inventiveness that an all-vocals approach is ripe for and that group should be capable of. Songs like "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and ever-present "Let It Go" from Disney's "Frozen" are pedestrian in approach. The basic blend of baritone and mezzo-soprano is oddly lacking in punch for the latter song, which is hugely popular and ripe for the picking. Sure, if you're into a cappella this is must-listen territory for the holidays and the album's title track is done very well. But "That's Christmas to Me" is unlikely to garner the Texas-based quintet many new followers. It's curiously underwhelming. — Ron Harris (twitter.com/Journorati) ___ Various artists, "Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail" (Arthaus Musik) Adrian Marthaler directed a live telecast of Mozart's "The Abduction From the Seraglio" during the 2013 Salzburg Festival from 11 spaces in and around Salzburg Airport's Hangar-7, a museum displaying vintage airplanes, helicopters and Formula 1 racing cars. Action was forwarded from an 18th-century palace to the present. Pasha Selim became a fashion mogul, and models were used as supernumeraries who walked an illuminated runway. Belmonte arrives in a black taxi, and seamstresses, hair and makeup stylists and photographers became part of the action. Osmin sings while working out in a tank top on a weight machine. Lena Hoschek's silk and taffeta fashions could be worn at benefit galas. Video director Felix Breisach managed 18 cameras to capture the action. Desiree Rancatore sang Kostanze (following Diana Damrau's withdrawal) and was joined by Rebecca Nelsen (Blonde), Javier Camarena (Belmonte), Kurt Rydl (Osmin), Tobias Moretti (Bassa Selim) and Thomas Ebenstein (Pedrillo). Hans Graf conducted the Camerata Salzburg and Salzburger Bachchor. — Ronald Blum (twitter.com/ronaldblum) ___ John Schneider & Tom Wopat, "Home for Christmas" (D13 Entertainment) This is the first-ever full recording by John Schneider and Tom Wopat since they began burning rubber in the General Lee 35 years ago as cousins Bo and Luke Duke. The two friends display the same relaxed camaraderie they did on "The Dukes of Hazzard," but this holiday album is more pop-jazz than country. Schneider and Wopat are both accomplished singers and their voices blend smoothly. They add some original touches to the more familiar Christmas fare: "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" opens with the rarely heard introductory verse, "Sleigh Ride" features a crisp brassy big band arrangement and on "I'll Be Home for Christmas," Wopat's warm baritone is enhanced by the subdued backdrop of piano, bass and strings. They also include some hip lesser-known holiday songs such as "The Secret of Christmas," a tender ballad by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, and the cynical yet witty "Blue Xmas," an anti-Christmas commercialism ditty by Bob Dorough. Schneider and Wopat show their country roots on Robin and Linda Williams' "On a Quiet Christmas Morn" with some Americana fiddling and guitar strumming. And they do slip in a reference to "driving the General Lee" as they humorously rework Frank Loesser's lyrics on "Johnny, It's Cold Outside." — Charles J. Gans (twitter.com/chjgans) Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Watch Waka Flocka Flame's Bizarre Cough Drop Ad
Monday Nov 24, 2014
Watch Waka Flocka Flame's Bizarre Cough Drop Ad

The American Music Awards were filled with Taylor Swift's dance moves and Jennifer Lopez's booty, but the highlight of the ceremony was clearly this Pine Bros. cough drop commercial featuring Waka Flocka Flame. Weed innuendo! Smoke machine! Random bottle of wine! Thirty seconds of pure, "HUH?!?!?!" (Your browser doesn't support iframe) This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/24/waka-flocka-flame-cough-drop-ad_n_6211280.html

Tiny Australian town rocks to AC/DC's new album
Monday Nov 24, 2014
Tiny Australian town rocks to AC/DC's new album

Thousands of AC/DC fans Sunday flocked to a small, rural Australian town for the launch of the group's first new album in six years -- and also their first without founding member Malcolm Young, who is suffering from dementia.Wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with images of the veteran band and the trademark caps with protruding red horns, fans gathered in the New South Wales town The Rock to be among the first in the world to listen to the new "Rock or Bust" album. The band -- which has endured controversy in recent weeks after drummer Phil Rudd was accused of drug possession and threatening to kill -- did not attend the launch but the album tracks were played by record executives at an event at the town's market. Councillor John Paterson said thousands endured sweltering temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) to attend the event. "There were at least a couple of thousand (fans), it was very well supported," Paterson told AFP. The Rock is some 500 kilometres south-west of Sydney and has a population of less than 1000. "It was probably one of the biggest crowds we've seen for a very long time. "'Rock or Bust' obviously went over very well because of the association with the name of our town... I can assure you that the song will be a new anthem for our little town here at The Rock." It is not the first time a world-famous musical group has opted to launch an album in a rural Australian town. - Recent setbacks - French group Daft Punk last year launched their "Random Access Memories" in remote Wee Waa, a far-flung town with a population of just 1,653 in the state's north. AC/DC, which was founded by Malcolm and Angus Young in Australia in 1973, is one of the biggest-selling bands in history. The group plans to back the new album with a global tour in 2015, although their line-up is unclear after recent setbacks. The rockers were dealt a blow when it was revealed in September that dementia had forced one of its founding members, Malcolm Young, to retire and move into a Sydney care facility. They were hit with a further setback when New Zealand prosecutors filed a murder-for-hire case against drummer Phil Rudd before quickly dropping it, citing insufficient evidence. Rudd, 60, is still accused of drug possession and threatening to kill, which carries a jail term of up to seven years. He is expected to appear in court on November 27 on these charges. Singer Brian Johnson and guitarist Angus Young hinted last week that the band may look to replace him ahead of the tour. The Grammy award winners were inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 after a string of hits including "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Jailbreak" and "Highway to Hell". The "Rock or Bust" album is their first since 2008's "Black Ice" and features 11 tracks. It will be officially released on December 2. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.