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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sparkle Then and Now

Whitney Houston’s “Celebrate,” a nice uptempo duet with Jordin Sparks of American Idol fame was recorded in early February, 2012. The latest “Sparkle” movie was released in August, 2012. The original film from 1976 starred Irene Cara. “Celebrate” is included in the soundtrack.

Posted by King on 08/16 at 03:50 PM
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lionel Richie Tuskegee

As a solo artist Lionel Richie has always playfully stuck his toe in country music.

He’s been charmed by the genre recording past duets with both Alabama and Kenny Rodgers.

Tuskegee is a bold experiment that was ultimately successful as it rode it’s way to the top of the Billboard charts.  Each song on the album is a ‘glory days’ Richie original.

His partners on this project make up a who’s who of country.  Lionel brings a contemporary touch to these old songs to rejuvenate them more time.

  • “You Are” with Blake Shelton
  • “Say You, Say Me” with Jason Aldean
  • “Stuck on You” with Darius Rucker
  • “Deep River Woman” with Little Big Town
  • “My Love” with Kenny Chesney
  • “Dancing on the Ceiling” with Rascal Flatts
  • “Hello” with Jennifer Nettles
  • “Sail On” with Tim McGraw
  • “Endless Love” with Shania Twain
  • “Just For You” with Billy Currington
  • “Lady” with Kenny Rodgers (new version)
  • “Easy” with Willie Nelson
  • “All Night Long” with Jimmy Buffet & Coral Reefer Band

All of the country ‘A’ listers are here.  The song arrangements respect the originals but discover some new territory through the fusion of two classic musical cultures that share similar emotions.

I enjoyed all of these songs, especially “Endless Love” with Shania Twain.  Whether it’s Richie with Diana Ross, or Luther Vandross with Mariah Carey, “Endless Love” is hard to break.

Honarable mention goes to “Lady” as Richie and Kenny Rodgers recreate the harmonic magic one more time to update their big hit.  “Sail On” with Tim McGraw is pretty cool too!

Posted by King on 04/17 at 08:29 PM
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Classic Soul Radio Busts a Mobile Device Move

Pandora’s move to mobile devices is no secret, as they have cornered a large share of the market.

As a live365 broadcaster, I’ve waited for the opportunity to listen to the Powerhouse Radio classic soul (and more) stream from various wireless devices using live365’s platform.

iPhone support came first.  Now, Android has followed.  The Beta version of the Android App (released in mid 2011) was not stable enough for me to recommend.

The updated 2012 Android App is great.  Having a 4g phone provides the best listening experience, although you may not have a constant 4g connection if travelling by car.

On a recent 45 minute drive between downtown Washington, DC, and Baltimore, I tried the live365 App on a Droid Bionic using Verizon Wireless.

The signal got dropped only once in downtown DC, and I can honestly say that it was a better listening experience than satellite radio’s frequent drop outs.

If you are the driver, fiddling with a cell phone/smart phone during transit is something you don’t want to do.  When listening this way, I try to set it (the phone), and forget it, until I want to turn the music off.

I also recently tried listening to Powerhouse Radio on a Kindle Fire via the built in web browser. Because Kindle uses a much slower connection speed, I don’t yet recommend listening with this device.

Download the iphone, iPad, and iPod Touch or Android App for live365, from iTunes or the Android Market, (Google Play), and tune us in on your phone!

Posted by King on 12/29 at 09:43 PM
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Michael Jackson Mixes Make Immortal Moves

If you’ve been lucky enough to see the international Michael Jackson Cirque Du Soleil Immortal World Tour going on now through the end of 2012, you’ve heard some ingenious new takes on several M-J classics.

In the show a live band plays his music to accompany the visual story of his life through the movement of the Cirque Du Soleil performers.

After seeing the electrifying show in Las Vegas in December 2011, I wanted the CD version of these new mixes.

The ‘Immortal’ versions of Jackson’s amazing hits are cleverly mixed.  If the originals are burned in your memory, it may take you several plays of the revised songs to hear them in a new way.

Some of the tracks are unique.  A few have not been included in previously available material.

My favorites include the English – Spanish version of “I Just Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” with Siedah Garrett, an acoustic piano only with vocal version of “I’ll Be There,” and an update to Megamix, now called “Immortal Megamix” featuring “Can You Feel It/Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough/Billie Jean/Black or White.”

There are 20 tracks here, all emphasizing Michael’s voice, from the Jackson 5, Jacksons, and Michael Jackson catalogue.

The use of technology to energize the Michael Jackson experience is to be complemented.  In some songs, certain pauses are added, or sped up, just for the right effect, without ruining the soul of the original song.

If you ignored Michael Jackson Immortal when it was released, you should take a second look.

Posted by King on 11/30 at 08:30 PM
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

True Soul Classics from Little Rock Arkansas

In the history of classic soul, the grits n’ grooves city of Memphis in the southwest corner of Tennessee gets much well deserved credit for cultivating the music.

Stax ruled the roost back in the day, with The Soul Children, Isaac Hayes, Booker T & the MG’s, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, and an iconic list of artists.

Hundreds of miles to the west in the neighboring state of Arkansas, Lee Anthony was building a local presence by nurturing True Soul Records out of Little Rock in 1968.

Anthony, who graduated from college with an art history degree, gathered a stable of local Little Rock musicians, groups, and artists partly collaborated through the many relationships he built while in school.

Anthony was the entrepreneur and somewhat self-taught recording engineer who put his record studio dream together.

Early on he would record tracks in his Little Rock Studio, and travel to Memphis to press 45 RPM vinyl records he could sell.

Anthony gleaned inspiration along with ideas during numerous trips to Memphis, hanging out with the Stax crowd, attending their events, and observing recording techniques in their studio.

He reflects within the liner notes of the recently released True Soul CD/DVD’s that “I came back to Little Rock and tried to duplicate the instrumentation Stax had.”

One thing about the 32 tracks featured across the two volumes of True Soul.  The sound is raw, experimental, and adventurous.

Some describe it as southern soul.  These songs sound less like multi-tracked studio creations and more like live slices of real performances from some committed, enthusiastic entertainers.

This multi record set is billed as Deep Sounds from the Left of Stax 60s & 70’s Soul and Funk from Arkansas’s Legendary Independent Label.

You generally wouldn’t call the Stax sound layered and sophisticated in production technique, compared to say Motown, as Stax was closer to the root of basic blues.

The True Soul Records sound even more straightforward than Stax, and are driven by basic uncomplicated instrumental tracks to support the vocals.

Most of these songs were not national or even regional hits.

Reviewing them today captures the essence of how local tastes in American music back in the day could make or break artists.

Today, national and global breakouts are commonplace propelled by satellite networks, computers, YouTube, and iTunes.

I was blown away by the 30 odd pages of photos and liner notes (included in each volume) detailing the interesting history of the True Soul label and it’s place in rhythm and blues history.

I admit this is a story I was not familiar with.

Listen to 90 seconds of “Psychedelic Hot Pants” by York Wilborn’s Psychedelic Six, and learn more about Deep Sounds from the Left of Stax 60s & 70’s Soul and Funk from Arkansas’s Legendary Independent Label True Soul Records.

Posted by King on 10/26 at 07:30 PM
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel

While it’s been a long road since her hits “Fame” and “Flashdance,” Irene Cara continues to make enjoyable music driven by her wonderful voice.

Her 2011 release, Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel, introduces 5 talented young ladies who excel in instrumental virtuosity.

Irene sings lead, co-writes, and produces many of the tracks featuring Hot Caramel, however, the sweet ladies, including Audrey Martells, get their chance to shine in both lead and background vocals.

Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel is a double CD release.  CD volume 1 has a distinctly different personality from CD volume 2.

CD 1 has a clear rock edge, although hip hop elements keep the sound contemporary.  The songs on CD 1 aren’t especially memorable or distinctive enough to be placed in the unique category, but they are competent and well performed.

"Life in the Fast Lane,” a track popularized by the Eagles, is a strong cover, but doesn’t really showcase the strength of this album, which is found on CD volume 2.

The 2nd CD has much better tracks, with the emphasis on R&B, both traditional and contemporary.  To really hear these ladies play, you have to check out “The Best,” a mostly instrumental power track that echoes jazz, rock, and soul.

What I like the most about Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel is that it’s different from today’s predictable formulaic R&B releases.  This release is a throwback to an era that specialized in great singing and solid musicianship.

This double album would be better served if the promotional emphasis was directed to the stronger tracks on CD 2, including “Forgive Me,” and “Soul Beat."

Visit Irene Cara’s site, and listen here to 60 seconds of “Forgive Me."

Posted by King on 08/31 at 07:15 PM
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Janet Jackson is all True for You

Inadequate self-esteem resulting from unjustified anxiety.  That’s the big take-away from Janet Jackson’s 2011 self-help - autobiography: True You.

As Janet describes it, “fear and uncertainty lead to feeling bad about myself."

Along with writer David Ritz, Janet informally details important life transitions that helped her bridge the growth gap between youth and maturity.

You won’t find a discography of her music in the appendix.  You won’t find a list of all of her awards.

What True You successfully reveals is how the youngest of the famous Jackson siblings finally found independence from certain ingrained family values that ultimately allowed her to break free into a new image, body, career, and love comfort zone.

True You is surprisingly different from the expected ‘tell all’ tone of other bios, written by music celebrities, who usually attract readers by sharing seedy tabloid tales.

I like how Janet strategically incorporates some powerful fan letters into her own story to illuminate universal themes of struggle, hurt, pain, and loss.

This book is dedicated to her late brother, Michael.  Janet talks vibrantly about their special close relationship.

Down to earth details document siblings who are not hung-up on their celebrity.

Janet relates fond memories about her youngest years with ‘Mike.’ Michael would repeatedly drive the two to different Los Angeles fast food restaurants, buy lots of goodies, and then go to areas in the city populated by the homeless to distribute the food.

Food fables dominate True You.  Janet’s battle of the bulge are well documented, including her 2008 drop from 180 to 120 pounds.

A lifetime of eating and yo-yo dieting are the outcomes of Janet’s sensitive personality as she would react to teasing, criticism, and professional demands by turning to food.

I enjoyed the Afterword “It’s Not a Diet,” written by her nutritionist David Allen, who in analyzing their long-term interactions stresses that changes in lifestyle, balanced meals, and adequate sleep were crucial in order for Janet to reach her goals.

"True You” closes with nearly 80 pages of recipes designed by Janet Jackson and cooked for her by Chef Andre.  Some of the suggestions detail the preparation of “Veggie Baked Eggs,” (kid friendly) “Baked Oven Fries,” and “Honey Yogurt with Peaches and Toasted Almond Parfait."

Janet ends her self help - autobiography story with these words of guidance:

  • “Proper nutrition”
  • “Restorative sleep”
  • “Wholesome foods”
  • “Self-care, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.”

Bravo Janet.  Sunshine with plenty of warmth beams through True You. Nasty!

Posted by King on 05/24 at 09:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Raphael Saadiq is Stone Rollin' Soul

Former Tony! Toni! Tone! talent Raphael Saadiq continues to take retro soul forward with Stone Rollin’, a new album scheduled for release Tuesday, May 10, 2011.

Saadiq is a contemporary evangelist for 70’s soul style.  He champions the cause with a track record of solid releases that stay true to his classic soul sensibility.

Raphael, AKA Raphael Wiggins, hails from Oakland, California.  He toured with Prince and Sheila E. briefly in the 1980’s, before forming Tony! Toni! Tone! at the end of the decade.

Stone Rollin’ is Saadiq’s 5th solo album.

Put aside 38 minutes, and watch Raphael Saadiq live in concert, performing at the 2011 SXSW (South by Southwest) festival.

Posted by King on 03/23 at 08:15 PM
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Monday, January 31, 2011

Chris Jasper Does Everything

Chris Jasper refined the famous Isley Brothers sound in the 1970s and 1980s.

The classically trained musician incorporated his mastery of keyboards and synthesizer to clearly brand the signature Isley guys groove.

I enjoyed the last Jasper solo release in 2007.  You can read my comments in the article Chris Jasper’s Journey from the Isley Brothers to Invincible.

Before Christmas of 2010, I received both his new CD, Everything I Do, plus Addictive, a dance/pop/techno album by his 17 year old son Michael.

Even though I listened to these releases right away, both have been sitting on the shelf for weeks because of personal distractions.

Sick family members and friends, a fire that destroyed our office building, and two computer server moves by the powerhouseradio.com web hosting company really complicated the last 7 weeks.

Life goes on.  One thing on the immediate to do list was to spotlight the new Chris Jasper CD.

This album is stronger than 2007’s Invincible.

You’ll find more funk in the grooves.  Spiritual themes that dominated the songs of Invincible are muted on Everything I Do.

An acknowledgment of a higher spiritual power is still present in many of these new tracks.  The tone of these songs: less preachy and more secular.

  1. “Everything I Do”
  2. “Doing My Thing”
  3. “In Your Face”
  4. “Nobody But My Baby”
  5. “Earthquake”
  6. “Stand Up”
  7. “He’s The Judge”
  8. “One Time Love”
  9. “Don’t Take Your Love Away”
  10. “Superbad”

Isley Brothers fans will be interested in this new Chris Jasper effort.

"He’s the Judge"and “One Time Love” are 2 of my favorites.  Listen to 60 seconds of “He’s the Judge” by Chris Jasper.

Posted by King on 01/31 at 07:30 PM
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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

6 Songs from 2010 with Powerhouse Soul

Across all musical genres the usual suspects released an adequate supply of new tunes during 2010.  It’s debatable how much of it was truly distinguished.

Among our 6 Songs from 2010 with powerhouse soul, just 2 are new, the rest are covers, albeit very good ones.

The emotional power of the 20 live tracks provided by the artists on the Hope for Haiti Now album benefiting the victims of the earthquake there reflect the seriousness of one of the most important stories of the year.

1) “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour) Version 1.0” by Jay-Z, Bono, The Edge, and Rihanna is at the top of our list.  Good message, great collaboration, nice beat.

2) “Wake Up Everybody” lead by John Legend, Melanie Fiona, and Common is next.  A very good contemporary version of the classic by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.

3) “The Word” by Bettye LaVette is the surprise of the year.  Good things come to those who wait.  Ms. Lavette retooled this Lennon & McCartney song and took it to Memphis.

4) “Move on Up” Angelique Kidjo (with John Legend & Bono) turned Curtis Mayfield’s anthem into a world music theme.  Exposure during the World Cup was nice.

5) “Night Shift” (Tribute to Michael Jackson version), the Commodores.  In 2010 the Commodores re-released their original hit with new lyrics dedicated to the King of Pop to coincide with the anniversary of his death.  The update works perfectly.

6) “Breaking News,” Michael Jackson.  When your “B” material is still better than the “A” material of many other artists, you know you are special.  This is an excellent, sarcastic boogie-down “in your face” response to the media for their attempt to demonize M-J.

The song opens with hilarious sound bites from frantic TV & radio news reporters talking smack about his antics.  “Breaking News” was recorded a couple of years ago, but never released until this fall.  It’s included on Jackson’s scheduled December 14th offering of never released material: Michael.

Posted by King on 12/08 at 07:30 PM
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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Merry Christmas II You Is New from Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey is in perfect voice for her second Christmas album release and 2010 follow-up to 1994’s Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas II You opens with a short, fully orchestrated instrumental ode to “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” segueing directly into the new “Oh Santa."

Bouncy, bubbly, and bold, the album opener “Oh Santa” tips the hat to Toni Basil’s 1981 cheerleader anthem “Mickey” using a catchy hook to drive the song along.

"O Little Town of Bethlehem/Little Drummer Boy Medley” is a great showcase for the melodramatic phrasing of Ms. Mariah, who hits this song-pairing out of the park.  It’s well arranged, creative, and solidly delivered.

"Christmas Time Is In The Air Again” sparkles as a pop standard slow arrangement that you might expect from a Sarah Vaughan or Carmen McCrae.  A Classy impression from Carey that floats on air.

"Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)/Housetop Celebration,” with the help of a bass line inspired by Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” puts a party face on this happy track.

I was blown away by the operatic interlude in “O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah Chorus” featuring Patricia Carey.

3 New Mariah Carey Christmas songs are included in this release, as are 8 traditional holiday songs.

The contemporary remix of “Auld Lang Syne” rocks ‘house music style.’

Fans young, old, and new will certainly enjoy this classy collection.

Merry Christmas II You is a rare holiday combination of great songs, top notch arrangements, diverse material, and Mariah Carey, who finally displays her gifted sonic range through nuanced maturity rather than reverting to showy vocal gymnastics as used in the past.

When I saw this album was going to be released, I was skeptical.  Now that I’ve heard it, shame on me!

Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas II You is excellent.

  1. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town Intro”
  2. “Oh Santa”
  3. “O Little Town of Bethlehem/Little Drummer Boy Medley”
  4. “Christmas Time Is In The Air Again”
  5. “The First Noel/Born Is the King Interlude”
  6. “When Christmas Comes”
  7. “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)/Housetop Celebration”
  8. “Charlie Brown Christmas”
  9. “O Come All Ye Faithful/Hallelujah Chorus”
  10. “O Holy Night”
  11. “One Child”
  12. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” - Extra Festive
  13. “Auld Lang Syne” - The New Year’s Anthem

Listen to 30 seconds of Mariah Carey’s “Auld Lang Syne” - The New Year’s Anthem.

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Posted by King on 11/04 at 08:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

El DeBarge gets a Second Chance

What has El DeBarge been doing for the past 16 years? A trifecta of occasionally making some music, experiencing some rough times, and rediscovering the magic of songwriting.

In 2008, he teamed up with George Clinton and his Gangsters of Love.

Best known as the lead voice for “Rhythm of the Night,” “Who’s Holding Donna Now,” and other group hits with DeBarge, El’s solo career has charted reasonable success.

Read the complete El DeBarge story at his official website.

He’s scheduled to release Second Chance, a new album of songs on Tuesday, September 28, 2010.

The already released title cut is charming, featuring El DeBarge’s high register vocal trademark.  Watching the video, I’m reminded of Lionel Richie, as “Second Chance” pushes El DeBarge squarely into soulful adult contemporary territory.

Watch the video and see if you like the song.

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Posted by King on 08/18 at 12:30 AM
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Janelle Monae Jams with the Big Boys

The latest 2010 darling of every music critic in the world seems to be Janelle Monae, the young Kansas City, Kansas cross-genre phenomenon.

She’s been slotted into contemporary R&B, neo-soul, dance-rock, indie rock, and pop-rock.

Read what the music critics say about Janelle Monae.

After listening to her album The Archandroid in it’s entirety on one long summer car trip, I have to say that Janelle Monae is extremely gifted.

She’s a chameleon of styles.  When singing without the protection of vocal production gimmicks, her friendly warm voice is exposed.

Roberta Flack, Tina Turner, Beyonce, or Pat Benatar?

Monae reflects them all in a wall-to-wall 18 track sonic assault.

The Archandroid is schizophrenic with ambition.

There’s not much cohesion moving from one song to the next.

As a decent 2nd album, Monae does deserve credit for producing something totally different.

“Tightrope" featuring Big Boi from Outkast offers James Brown funkiness with the album’s most accessible commercial selection.

Note, the rest of the album is nothing like “Tightrope."

Janelle Monae proves that there’s always someone new on the horizon who can cut through the clutter of the “me too” clones and offer something unpredictable and fresh.

Watch the well produced “Tightrope” video.

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Posted by King on 08/10 at 01:00 AM
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Soul Train Video Classics are back on Track

It’s the 40th anniversary of a biggin’ everyone’s sure nuff diggin’ as Don Cornelius and Time-Life dispatch a new silver streak collection of TV Soul Train video classics.

Read Mickie’s nice overview of “The Best of Soul Train,” a 9-DVD 2010 release in honor of Mr. Cornelius’ long-lasting television enterprise.

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Posted by King on 07/15 at 01:00 AM
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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Bettye LaVette Sings the Real Deal

Bettye LaVette is the legendary female classic soul lady who’s career is repeatedly described as invisible anonymity.

She’s not a household name.  How can this be?

In 1962, she had a top 10 R&B hit with her very first recording, “My Man-He’s A Lovin’ Man."

Through the years, Bettye has teased the R&B charts, never quite breaking through to big time fame.

Despite this stigma, she’s earned an iconic reputation as one of the most gifted song interpreters you’ll ever hear.

Enter Bettye LaVette’s May, 2010 release Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook.

Classic soul invades the classic rock play book to sprout 13 re-groomed tunes.

The album concept reverses the 1960’s trend of British bands covering the songs of American blues artists.

LaVette recasts the formula weaving rock hits into fresh, mellow, torch songs fueled by soul-to-the-bone emotion.

These chestnuts are not the usual overexposed suspects.

Even If you’ve never heard of the original songs, and don’t know who recorded them, this collection could easily stand on it’s own as a quality introduction to Bettye LaVette.

I have been following the hype about this album for months, and I’m happy to say it delivers.

One personal criticism is LaVette’s choice to sing some of what were original uptempo classics as ballads this time around, however she creates inspired renderings with clear, understood lyrics.

Who says you can’t have a renaissance in the music business after kickin’ it for over 40 years!

Check out Bettye LaVette Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook

  1. “The Word” (Lennon & McCartney)
  2. “No Time To Live” (Capaldi & Winwood)
  3. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (Benny Benjamin)
  4. “All My Love” (John Paul Jones & Robert Plant)
  5. “Isn’t It A Pity” (George Harrison)
  6. “Wish You Were Here” (Roger Waters)
  7. “It Don’t Come Easy” (Richard Starkey)
  8. “Maybe I’m Amazed” (Paul McCartney)
  9. “Salt of the Earth” (Mick Jagger & Keith Richards)
  10. “Nights In White Satin” (Justin Hayward)
  11. “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” (Eric Clapton)
  12. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” (Elton John)
  13. “Love Reign O’er Me” (Pete Townshend)

Track 13 is a bonus track recorded live at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, December, 2008.

Listen to 30 seconds of “Isn’t It A Pity” sung by Bettye LaVette.

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Posted by King on 06/03 at 01:00 AM
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