Muhammad Ali’s 78th Birthday January 17, 2020
Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr on January 17, 1942, has a birthday surprise three and a half years after his passing on June 3, 2016. Publicist Anne Leighton co-wrote a song with Joe Deninzon of Stratospheerius – and the two combine to bring a great song that Whitney Houston would adore!
Go to the Tiny URL link: https://tinyurl.com/thegreatestlivesmuhammadali –
you can read Leighton’s essay on our website, the extended Hotline to the Underground.
…this Friday and Saturday night the Cantab’s downstairs Club Bohemia goes Deep House with Central Underground on Friday the 17th – Muhammad Ali’s birthday, and From Dusk to Done on Saturday the 18th…meanwhile at The Jungle on Monday the 20th, tucked away behind the Independent in Union Square, it’s the sounds of Slapback featuring Michele Gear Cole on vocals. The wonderful on-air personality Marian Ferro – who airs on three stations, played “Guardian Angel” by Slapback on Monday the 13th on WMFO. Ferro’s program airs at Tufts University’s WMFO at 2pm – 3 pm on Mondays; WCAC radio @ Watertown public access at 6pm on Tuesdays and online Mark Skin Radio 10pm Thursday evenings. Marian also played the terrific new single, “Downtime,” from Rhode Island’s The Complaints. They perform from time to time in Cambridge at the 730 Tavern, Kitchen and Patio and you can find a list of this hard-working trio’s gigs on TheComplaints.com
“Downtime” is an exquisite recording from Dean Petrella and the boys, a follow-up to their 2018 Talk To Me CD https://www.discogs.com/The-Complaints-Talk-To-Me/release/12860905 “Downtime” is up on iTunes and Spotify and has a dreamy, Beatles-influenced mood through most of its four minutes and thirty-seven seconds. The mix is terrific with drums, bass, guitar, keys all separated exquisitely giving the vocals a great opportunity to breathe and enchant. The tempo changes and the ballad escalates into a rocker a little more than a minute towards the conclusion. Very nicely done by this prolific and polished group. Chris Cruz on bass and vocals, Anthony Marotti on drums/vocals and guitarist/lead vocalist Dean Petrella are The Complaints. “Downtime” has flavors of “Dear Prudence,” while the group’s “Trade Up” was noted by Jimi Hendrix’s friend, Buzzy Linhart, to have flavors of “Come Together.” But these originals stand on their own!
After the Complaints released the driving CD singles, “Trade Up,” and the Chris Lord-Alge produced “South Side Suicide,” they bring the angst down a few notches for this release, Talk to Me, an exquisitely packaged and beautifully crafted collection of eight compositions along with a reworking of the first track, “The View.” And it is a perfect way to open and close the disc, both renditions subtle and commanding, it’s the kind of melody and lyric that Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen, and the Eagles would certainly wish they came up with. Dean Petrella – vocalist, guitarist, keyboard player, wrote the majority of the words (except “Mountains” which the liners note was written and performed by The Complaints and Adam Go.) “The View” opens and closes the disc though it metamorphoses into two different perspectives a la George Harrison’s “Isn’t it a Pity” on All Things Must Pass, a light poppy venture to begin the journey, a darker quasi-dance mix to bring this very strong album to its conclusion. Play both “View” renditions back to back and it is most revealing.
Co-produced by the band and legendary engineer Phil Greene (Buddy Guy, John Cafferty/Beaver Brown, New Kids on the Block – as well as guitarist with the vastly underrated Swallow on Warner Brothers) the album is balanced and compelling. “Hanging Out” is one of four songs (of the 9 tracks) that hit the 3:52 mark, time-wise, most of the material clocking in around 2:40 – 3:20, short and sweet and making the point. It’s an easy going dissertation, at least by pop standards, with the next track, “Atlas (Carry You)” a minute shorter. Both tracks – “Hanging Out” and “Atlas” Triple-A rock with authority. And has it been 17-18 years since the Complaints released the Fear disc, with Criminal Mind in 2002? This veteran group just grows stronger through the years like fine wine and this recording has real staying power throughout.
“Wouldn’t Change A Thing,” track five, has all the markings of a radio-friendly composition with the potential to be memorable. “Talk To Me,” which precedes it, also has that captivating mood. Phil Greene and the Complaints smartly combine their talents to create something very special. Each tune has its own identity, and the sequencing is perfect as the listener is taken on a journey. From “Breathe,” not the Pink Floyd song, to “Home,” drop the needle/sequence button anywhere and there’s something entertaining and thought-provoking within.
Chris Cruz on bass and vocals, Anthony Marotti on drums/vocals and Dean Petrella are The Complaints. Add “Trade Up” and “Southside Suicide” to this disc as bonus tracks and you have an amazing set of recordings.
….speaking of Hendrix – at Park St. stop on the Red Line some dude was wailing away in Jimi’s style. It was loud. At first I thought it was the speakers in the subway, then I saw the fellow wailing away. People applauded when his blues riffs concluded. Good stuff…go find him! ….at Dunkin’ Donuts in Davis Square Ian Lloyd and Stories immortal “Brother Louie” was playing in the coffee shop…good music everywhere. We’ll be profiling Ian soon in the Hotline to the Underground.
Kenneth Highland has left Club Linehan A Go Go! One of the founding members has branched out to perform solo (even though he’s still with Cal Cali’s Glider and Alex Gitlin’s Mad Painter.) Kenneth’s Scorpio Queen is getting airplay including on Radio Wigwam in the U.K. Full disclosure: this writer gets to jump onstage with the various bands of Mr. Highland to perform Lou Reed songs…
MELT are returning to Club Bohemia on the last day of the month, Friday, January 31. Lindsey Kit on vocals, Dan Inzana on Guitar, Paul Pipitone on bass, and original drummer Ben Thompson (Ben Lyons is on the CD) rocked Club Bohemia downstairs at the Cantab on April 18, 2014. Here’s my review from…oh my God, almost six years ago!
Melt took the stage at 10:21 pm opening with “Spiral” – something distinctly different after the Boney-M styled dance pop of the previous act, Dan Oulette. This was pure new wave ave in the new millennium – think The Rolling Stones “Sway” played backwards, solid and powerful with a great audience response. 10:30 PM the band went into “Leopard” – with a Kinks/Paul Revere & The Raiders chord-riff the drums, bass and guitar providing a frontal assault for Kyte’s vocals – think Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick meets Susan Boyle. Concise and smart hard pop with elegant guitar lines even sharper in the cement-floor confines of Club Bohemia. Kyte holds the notes extra high and long with drummer Ben Thompson pounding away a la David McLean of Boston’s legendary Boom Boom band. At 10:34 came “No Shame” followed by “Quarter To 3” (not the 1961 song by Gary “U.S.” Bonds).
“Supersonic” – track 5 from the band’s Armageddon Party CD was more boom boom sounds, and splashy quasi-psychedelic guitar grooving from Dan Inzana. Some of the foundation sounds borrowed from the Bob Ezrin production of Alice Cooper’s Killer lp. “Supersonic…histrionic…I don’t know which way to go.” Maybe a bit of the New York Dolls “Frankenstein” in there to boot.
“Bradford” followed at 10:46 PM, and the group dedicated it to the Boston scene’s fallen solider, Anderson Lyn Mar. The heartfelt vocal glided perfectly over liquid guitar. Melt is a perfect name for the music, a great Fender sound that cuts through the hard-hitting rhythm section.
A lovely cover of Portishead’s Glory Box changed the pace at 10:51 PM. Picture Marilyn Manson’s “The Dope Show” put in a dreamier state.
“Grind”, the eighth song of the evening at 10:55 PM had a sort of Tommy James “I Think We’re Alone Now” undercurrent, nuts and bolts no-nonsense rock. “Babble On” featured a repeating guitar strum line over a bit of jass fusion. The title track, Armageddon Party” (see video below from another show) was a cosmic assault, a bit more in your face than the CD rendition with “Draggin’ closing out the evning at 11:06, a bit of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” but tightly packed in the vacuum container with more Kinks/Paul Revere & Raiders power added to it. A solid night and a revelation as this is one of Boston’s best kept musical secrets.
EXTENDED HOTLINE ONLINE
“The Greatest Lives”
About Our Songwriters’ EP
A few years after I reconnected with my creative writing career, I stopped spending my money on people and things that hurt me. It was easy to recognize how cigarettes were hurtful, but harder to discern which people manifested cruel intentions. Many were friends—people that I believed had potential to do wonderful things.
In my early 50s, having helped tons of musicians get on the map, and keeping more established ones in the public eye, I fell in love with my writing. Everyone gave me encouragement, and soon I was finding work on friends’ albums in both spoken word and collaborations. In 2011, my poem “Feed Your Parents Well” appeared on the Grammy-nominated “Healthy Food for Thought (Good Enough to Eat)” album. I was starting to record my poems.
In 2015, my poetry and prose book, THE LEIGHTON EXPLOSION was published by a Canadian company, Soul Asylum Poetry. The following year I produced an older Christmas song, “Got My Eye on You, Santa” that hard rocker Priscilla Hairriett and I wrote in the early 1990s. In 2017, I signed a publishing deal for the song with a Nashville company. Nothing happened, except for a December note from them suggesting I subscribe to their newsletter for $29. Yeah. “Dear Nashville Publisher, I have the potential to make money, too!:”
Early January I sent the song out to new contacts, including one that a magical Canadian friend gave me in 2016. I heard back from Sheer Music Publishing. That was exciting, because this South African company handles the legendary song, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Early in the negotiations, I wanted to control marketing of the song, and by the end of our negotiations, realized that they are offering a songwriting deal with people that know what they’re doing–administer my writing. It would be a chance for something I write to last forever.
With South Africa as a new market, I did my homework. From reading articles to listening to YouTube shows from the country, I learned that women were being respected in the mass media. On South Africa’s National Women’s Day on August 9, 2018, SABC morning host LeAnne Manas interviewed schoolgirls, who brought their battles to TV viewers. When one of the 13-year-olds spoke of being bullied, my connection was tattooed. Now my favorite music includes artists from the Continent of Africa like rappers Lady Zamar, Moonchild Sanelly, Jack Parow, versatile singers including Roeshdien Jaz, the Muffinz, Angelique Kidjou, and the magical Karen Zoid.
The lion’s share of my listening came from the weekly AfroPop newsletter, South Africa’s version of the Voice, and studying the careers of artists that I championed to American audiences since the 1980s.
Based in both the States and Nelson Mandela Bay (formerly Port Elizabeth), Sharon Katz & The Peace Train asked if I could help with music services. I said “yes!”
As a writer, I collect ideas. One day I went through my song idea box that was started as a teenager. I pulled out a few ideas until I saw the NEW YORK POST newspaper when Muhammad Ali announced that he had Parkinson’s. My writing on it asked, “What does he want us to know?” BAM! All the other ideas went back in the box, and I started writing….
And listening. Just as I easily found music by South African singers, I found interviews with the Champ on YouTube. He had the mental reflexes to discern positive and negative people, and knew how to respond to them with calm, humor, feigned aggression, voice, movement….
When life throws surprise punches at us, we learn to notice them, quickly, and then decide how to intercept, and then respond.
Muhammad Ali was appalled at the American government for drafting him to fight the Vietnam War.
His response was to stand up for his convictions, and to explain why it was important to treat the Vietnamese people right. “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother…. Or some darker or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America.” Those people overseas never did anything bad to him, be it calling him the N-word, lynching him, putting chains on him, killing and raping and separating his family. “I gotta go shoot them–their babies and children or women. How am I gonna shoot them people. Just take me to jail!” Convicted, he lost his boxing license, and then spent from 1966 to 1971 fighting the sentence, which the Supreme Court overturned in 1971.
“Never Say Die” was the vibe, and Joe Deninzon was the person that supplied the line in the chorus and melody. Joe and I have been together 20 years—me as his publicist and manager (mind you he does most of the work) and he as my progressive rock star/session violinist/other impressive hyphens. We work like a Bruce Lee conversation about flowing water! In September 2018, the Hollywood Reporter wrote that LeBron James was producing Antoine Fuqua’s WHAT’S MY NAME documentary about Muhammad Ali for HBO. I had contacts and a target goal date of November 2018 to get the song produced. Joe also.grew up in Cleveland, which includes loving their sports teams, including LeBron’s Cavaliers. Like Muhammad, he also gives back to the inner-city poor.
Within two days Joe had written a great melody, recorded vocals, drum machine, bass, guitars. It sounded good, but we wanted a drummer with a Midwestern drum approach like John Mellencamp’s “Ain’t Even Done With the Night.” We asked Carmine Appice, who played a similar song– Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Night” live thousands of times.
Joe and I wanted to find a singer with balls and soul—someone with the empathy to put themselves in Muhammad Ali’s power and vulnerability. Even at the height of his fame, Muhammad was stomped on, and had no choice but to be outspoken and determined for the greater good.
I put out a talent call on Facebook, and went through various LIKES of singers on my Youtube, Facebook, twitter. First I reached out to 4 famous singers in the States to see if they were interested in the song by our November deadline. A week after the world didn’t come knocking, I gave Joe two indie singers—one touring act from the UK and another that was a contestant on the Voice South Africa.
Joe loved the rich power of Thembeka Mnguni, and we wrote to her booking agent to see if she was interested. Over the next 3 weeks, we reached out to two others. Late October I heard from Thembeka, who was interested, and negotiated her pay, plus asked us to find a studio in South Africa near her home. My contacts in a few local scenes started to grow.
We did not make the deadline, and we said, “It’s ok, there will be other media projects on the Champ. I want our recording to last forever. Todd Rundgren always said that recordings need to mean something.”
The song lends itself to give a tribute to all the great people that respect their supporters and that work on themselves!
Thembeka, a single mommy, raising a young man on the autism spectrum, knew of Muhammad Ali, and his importance in history all over the world. As things unfolded, Universal released her song, “Khalazome,” which was about moving on from an idiot guy—I felt a kindred spirit here.
She loved the lyrics, like the first line, “I won’t look down on those who look up to me.” Thembeka feels that music belongs to the masses, “It’s my job to give people hope by being honest, by being true, by being relevant and sensitive all at the same time. It’s important to always remember that I’m nothing without my supporters ‘cause they drive me by just looking up to me. Though it’s a heavy load, it comes with the job. That’s why I speak so openly about my son, life, past abuse and my current….”
In addition to Joe Deninzon’s enthusiastic inner child, dedication to his family, craft, fans, students, he got ahead by playing by the rules. Like the Champ, he showed how easy it is to be competitive while practicing great sportsmanship. “I believe in my heart that it’s possible to have love and respect for your colleagues and still compete with them. This way, you create a rising tide that lifts all boats.”
The other part is mastery. Nowadays with all the competition, those that practice their skills will be the best at what they do. Longevity comes through mastery, as does winning even if the outside world is against you. More wins are possible if you work fair, as well as play fair!
Yes, the world is crazy. While some people act like love is evil, there is also a wave of new leaders that know they have the powers to speak up and behave in inspirational ways.
Let’s be Champs. “The Greatest Lives for The Greatest Lives.”