Debbie Harry & Leonard Cohen Review

Longtime Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry looks back at four decades on the cutting edge.

main image
Download Subscribe via iTunes

Music News

Remember your first symphonic experience? It was probably Peter & the Wolf. But a recent Supreme Court decision will likely mean fewer performances of Prokofiev’s classic and other early 20th century works. By a 6-2 vote, the justices upheld a previous federal law that allows copyright protection to be restored to works previously entered into public domain. So musical works by Shostakovich and Stravinsky, in addition to films by Hitchcock and books by C.S. Lewis, are not as inexpensive as they once were. Jim and Greg talk to lead plaintiff Lawrence Golan about this court battle and what the ruling will mean for conductors and musicians like him.

The internet remains the Wild Wild West, but infamous figures like Billy the Kid and Jesse James have got nothing on Kim Dotcom. Federal authorities shut down his popular file-sharing site Megaupload.com, stating it was part of an international criminal ring. Certainly Dotcom lived the life of an international criminal, owning a $23 million estate in New Zealand, as well as 18 luxury cars with vanity plates like Mafia and Guilty. But for many, Megaupload was a pretty ordinary site, one used for legitimate content, not just pirated materials. This re-raises the question of how responsible internet sites are for how their customers use them.

After singer Etta James died last week at age 73, many people were playing her classic ballads like At Last. But, as Greg explains, she was much more than just a ballad singer. Etta was the first great female star on Chess Records, and even at a young age had a big, bawdy voice and a style that was pretty adult for the times. Just listen to her 1966 song In the Basement.

Debbie Harry

Even now, 31 years after the release of Rapture, one is impressed by how cool a rapping Debbie Harry sounds. The Blondie lead singer was always ahead of the curve sonically, incorporating R&B, reggae, and, gasp, disco into her songs. During her visit to the show, Debbie talks to Jim and Greg about these varied influences, and what the scene was like in downtown New York in the ‘ 70s and ‘ 80s. We certainly have Blondie to thank for bringing a little dance back to the punk mix. And the up-tempo sounds continue on the band’s latest release Panic of Girls.

Old Ideas Leonard Cohen

Old Ideas

Leonard Cohen is another music vet featured on today’s show. But in his four plus decades career, he’s only released 12 studio albums. This means his quality control is pretty good. The issue with some of his albums, Greg explains, is not with the songwriting, but with the production. On Old Ideas he has cleared away the clutter and allowed the poetic lyrics to be at the forefront. Greg is also impressed that despite being a man of a certain age, Cohen’s songs are full of life and humor. Greg gives this tragicomedy of an album a Buy It. Jim is still put off by the production choices and can only give Old Ideas a Burn it rating. The record has a yuppie cabaret vibe. And rather than be an English major rock critic and parse each lyric, Jim will wait until the inevitable stream of Cohen covers present his songwriting in better form.

Dear Listeners,

For more than 15 years, Sound Opinions was a production of WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station. Now that the show is independent, we're inviting you to join the band and lend a hand! We need your support more than ever because now we have to do all the behind-the-scenes work that WBEZ handled before (like buying insurance and paying for podcast hosting, ugh). Plus, we have some exciting ideas we'd like to try now that there's no one to tell us no!