Hosted by Evan Toth, The Vinyl District: Radar is a podcast featuring exclusive interviews with artists of today.
Rachael & Vilray and Their New Album, "I Love a Love Song!"
There is an intrinsic grandeur to the Great American Songbook that we can all appreciate. When the first few bars of those classics begin they can boost our spirit, provide us with a moment of quiet contemplation, or even make us a little bit misty. For those reasons, the compositions are timeless. However, they do indeed emanate from a specific time and place, one that is far away from the one in which we now live. The classic standards will always remain eternal and most people can enjoy them; after all, that is the whole idea behind being a “standard” in the first place. However, listeners also yearn to hear music from their own eras. While grandma and grandpa - or, great-grandma and great-grandpa - might remember when those songs were new, we often digest that music through their lens, not ours.
Rachael and Vilray have crafted for us a new catalog of music that belongs to the 21st century, but it’s also music that our ancestors - those who remember the release of the original standards - would also appreciate. Rachael Price - vocalist from Lake Street Dive - and Vilray met one another while attending the New England Conservatory and reconnected years later when Rachael caught one of Vilray’s sets where he was performing his own compositions that hearkened back to those great old standards but were completely new. When Rachael heard his treasure trove of tunes, she knew she wanted to be a part of sharing them with a wider audience.
The duo has just released their second album on Nonesuch Records titled, I Love a Love Song, featuring a collection of songs written by Vilray (with one cover song). Vilray plays guitar and Rachael brings her vocal perfection, but it is the compositions - the music - that truly elevate the project. So, enjoy the existing American standards from the last 100 years; the music contained therein is not broke and doesn’t need fixing. However, the Great American Songbook must always be accepting new entries and if we had to suggest some additions from our time, from this year; Rachael and Vilray should be at the top of our list.
Esperanza Spalding and the 10th Anniversary Reissue of "Radio Music Society"
Modern music listeners enjoy creating personalized playlists containing their preferred musicians and genres, but there’s one thing lacking: the expertly guiding hand of a radio station’s program director - or, even better - a tasteful DJ behind the microphone who loves to share favorite tunes, but also introduces listeners to new music that is worthy of addition to your personal faves. But, current culture has sacrificed the serendipitous nature of the radio in favor of complete control over musical choices, or - even worse - the choices of a faceless corporate AI bot.
Bassist and composer, Esperanza Spalding understands the mystery and magic that a spin of your local radio dial can provide and in 2012 she released an album paying homage to the spirit of radio. Produced by Esperanza and co-produced by A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, Radio Music Society showcased the breadth of Spalding’s musical aptitude and inhabited the rare musical landscape of being challenging, yet also a lot of fun to listen to.
It’s been 10 years and the Grammy award-winning album finds itself eligible for reissue by Craft Recordings and is given the full anniversary treatment featuring 2 LPs pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI, the title will also be reissued in hi-res digital audio. Esperanza and I discuss the continuing role of radio in her current life and she offers a unique and descriptive behind-the-scenes peek into her production and composing process. We also explore her complimentary role as an educator and - of course - delve into what makes vinyl special to her. So, let’s turn the radio dial and search for some serendipity.
David Leaf and His Book About the Beach Boys, "God Only Knows: The Story of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys and the California Myth"
Myths are funny things, especially in the 21st century where we find ourselves constantly reevaluating standards that were accepted as gospel only a few years ago. And who knows? It’s feasible to posit that society’s reevaluations will be reevaluated somewhere else down the long road of time. Telling the story of early rock and roll is an interesting exercise at this point in history as many of the music makers are still with us. It’s so important to get the story right, so that future generations can grapple with both the facts and the myths.
David Leaf is a Peabody and Writers Guild of America West award-winning writer, director and producer and has long been regarded as a scholar of rock and pop music, specifically of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. He’s spent his career sorting through rumors and myths and facts and - of course, music - and he’s written a book about the Beach Boys history that most rock and rock academics regard as the pinnacle, God Only Knows: The Story of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys & the California Myth.
Originally published in 1978, Leaf hasn’t altered the text of the original manuscript, but - rather - has added additional segments and information to create a body of work that will stand the test of time. Leaf joins me on this episode to discuss his updated book, sort through some records with me, and also to provide us all with learned theories about what was singularly unique and enduring about the music created by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.
Frank LoCrasto from Kolumbo and the Group's New Record, "Gung Ho"
Frank LoCrasto joins us on this episode to discuss the latest release from his Kolombo project. The new album is titled, Gung Ho and features Frank’s signature blend of jazz and exotica. You’ll hear us discuss vintage synths, the beauty of analog and how Frank pieced this album together during a global pandemic.
Tiffany and Her New Album, "Shadows"
In the 1980s, the mall was the place to be and there is a reason why modern society is nostalgic for that insulated wonderland of days gone by. Before the internet and our endless stream of information, there was less to process, and fewer things to worry about. Blissfully ignorant innocence was on full display amid indoor atriums, food courts, and all the shopping one could hope for. Most significantly, the mall gave American youth their first taste of adult-level freedom.
When the Muzak wasn’t playing, one might have heard a cavernous echo of sound floating down the corridors and followed the noise to discover its origin. If you were lucky enough, you’d find teen-icon, pop princess, Tiffany performing her inescapable hits in front of adolescent multitudes. These performances were innovative in that they were engineered to bring the music to where the fans already were, rather than the other way around.
A lot has happened since those days: America is different, the malls aren’t the same and neither is Tiffany. Like the rest of us, she has grown and matured and recently released a brand-new album titled, Shadows, which is a hard-hitting rock record looking toward the future with one or two winks at those past golden days. Sure, the mall still exists now, and as you’ll learn, Tiffany might even be found walking the halls, but - for those of us who remember the old days - it’s different, the world isn’t the same. But, Tiffany’s optimism and dedication to her craft invites us to inject a little of that much-needed 1980s buoyancy into our modern world.
Jane Monheit and Her New Christmas Album, "The Merriest"
It’s the time of the year when holiday music sounds as fresh as the stacks of Christmas trees being sold at your local firehouse. With some melancholy, however, we know that in another month or so we’ll be dragging those trees down the driveway and onto the curb while searching for music without so much comfort and joy to keep us busy until the birds of spring begin to chirp.
But, we’re not there yet! The days are short, and the novelty of a cozy, warm evening by the fire with a softly murmuring hi-fi in the background has not yet worn off. And what better music to hear than some traditional and popular Christmas tunes. But what to choose? There’s no shortage of places to find the stuff, but it’s not so simple to find enduring holiday classics crafted with care, skill, and class.
Acclaimed jazz and pop singer, Jane Monheit knows her way around a Christmas song, or two and she’s here to prove it with her newest release, The Merriest. The celebrated vocalist has released many albums, several of which have appeared on the Billboard Jazz Charts, and of course, she’s entertained audiences all over the world. Here, however, Jane hand-picks some of her favorite Christmas tunes with a crack band backing her up. John Pizzarelli even comes by with his guitar to join her on a rendition of “That Holiday Feeling.”
Jane and I discuss her relationship with the holidays, the lush production behind the album, some dates she’ll be performing in support of the new album, and much more. If you’re searching for something familiar, yet fresh, to accompany you through the holiday season this year, consider giving Jane Monheit’s new album a spin.