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News from the world of music, entertainment, communications, and technology.

NEWS ARCHIVE 2014

Notes

The new AC/DC album Rock or Bust is in stores tomorrow. The band may be touring with an alternate drummer. The band’s regular drummer was not available for its latest video shoots and faces drug-related criminal charges in New Zealand.

The first Tony Robbins book in ages, Money: Master the Game, is #1 on various best-seller lists. It is an investment-strategy book that defies the last few decades of Wall Street conventions for individual investing.

The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for Google to spin off its search engine. It is a symbolic measure, but it may put pressure on the European Commission to act. The Commission is already in the midst of an investigation of business practices at Google.

A reunited Take That has its biggest U.K. single ever this week with “These Days.”

In Atlantic City, Trump Entertainment Resorts has filed papers to close the Taj Mahal casino next week. Investors will look for a way to reopen the casino in time for the 2016 summer season.

2014-12-01

Notes

A new live album from Yes features the songs from two albums of its classic period, Going for the One and The Yes Album. Yes has been playing complete albums on its tours since singer Jon Davison joined the band two years ago. Soon fans who couldn’t get to the concerts can hear the concert versions of the two albums on the live album Like It Is. The album is set for an early December release. Yes earlier this year released a studio album with Davison, Heaven & Earth.

In Atlantic City the Taj Mahal casino is tied up in competing motions in bankruptcy court. The proposed new owner, a billionaire-investor, is seeking around $200 million in state subsidies, something that legislative leaders say is impossible. With a long list of legal, financial, and operational obstacles, it seems unlikely that the casino can reopen in time for next summer’s tourism season.

Microsoft has stopped selling Microsoft Windows 7, except for the Professional Edition used by large businesses. It is steering consumers and businesses alike to its current offering, Microsoft Windows 8.1.

The Philadelphia International Records building is being demolished to make room for a hotel. The offices in the building, a landmark in Philadelphia since 1971, could not be repaired after they were damaged in a 2010 arson fire.

Deaths: Frank K. Wolfe, writer and artist, known as a frequent host of poetry readings. Jack Bruce, musician, best known as bassist and singer for Cream.

2014-11-01

Notes

AC/DC rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young has retired because of serious health issues. He has been replaced by nephew Stevie Young. The hard rock band is recording a new album Rock or Bust and plans an extended world tour starting around the middle of next year. One new track will be previewed during the broadcast of the wild card games of Major League Baseball’s post-season playoffs.

Atlantic City’s most expensive casino, Revel, will reopen by next summer after being bought in bankruptcy by a Canadian investment company. The casino closed at the end of August after failing to make a profit in two years of operation.

As predicted, new Apple iPhone models 6 and 6 Plus have larger screens than previous generations. The iPhone 6 had the largest opening weekend of any consumer electronics product ever. The iPhone 6 also has a lower manufacturing cost than any previous iPhone model at its introduction, according to industry estimates. The new iOS version adds many desktop-like features to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus along with the previous two generations of iPhones and iPads.

Microsoft released a very preliminary and stripped-down public demo of Windows 10 today. Most functionality in Windows 10 will be installed in add-on packages, allowing maximum configuration control for corporate network managers. The design work has barely begun for those packages, however. The Windows 10 beta is essentially the canceled Windows 9 work-in-progress with its new features stripped out. The key innovation in Windows 10 is the ability of software developers to deliver applications that run on both touch-screen and desktop systems.

2014-10-01

Macworld Magazine Shuts Down

Macworld magazine shut down today, with only a skeleton crew retained to keep the web site going. The shutdown comes a day after a major product announcement from Apple; presumably, the publishers wanted to cover that event first. The disappearance of Macworld shows that even popular, growing topics can’t necessarily support a print magazine these days.

2014-09-10

Notes

Boston is enjoying its most successful tour ever, with singer Tommy DeCarlo out front and now also playing keyboards, the return of singer Kimberly Dahme, and the whole show transported by a video array that creates a starship effect. The tour wraps up next month in Japan.

In Atlantic City, the Showboat Casino closed yesterday afternoon after a 27-year run. Another casino, Revel, is set to close tonight. Revel is a costly failure, staying open only two years after costing more than $2 billion to build. One of the city’s most heavily promoted casinos, Trump Plaza, will be closing after two more weekends. Atlantic City gambling activity is half of what it was at its 2006 pre-recession peak.

A volcanic eruption in Iceland might cause travel disruptions.

Foo Fighters are preparing a Sonic Highways TV show, an 8-episode series on HBO. There will also be an album of the same name. Depending on how you look at it, the album is the soundtrack of the TV show, or the TV show is the documentary showing the creation of the album.

2014-09-01

Notes

The new Pilot album reunites the band for an Alan Parsons Project tribute, on an album called A Pilot Project. It is a natural first step for the reunited band, as members of Pilot played on all of the Alan Parsons Project albums, and bassist David Paton was the singer on several songs including the hit “Children of the Moon.”

The Atlantic City casino business is declining, with several casinos closed already and rumors of two more major casinos to close after the end of the summer season.

“Weird Al” Yankovic had his first #1 album with his new release Mandatory Fun. It was the first chart-topping comedy album in half a century.

2014-08-01

Charges in Filming Death

Criminal charges have been filed against three producers of the film Midnight Rider. While filming a railroad track scene in February, one crew member, camera assistant Sarah Jones, was killed by a train. Six others were injured. An investigation found that the film producers did not have permission to use the site and had not employed anyone to watch for an approaching train. A standard procedure, not followed in this case, is to have a railway representative on site whenever anything happens on an active railway. The production company also faces a wrongful death lawsuit in the case. The actor in the scene avoided injury but left the film, noting a series of safety problems. Producers, though, tried to continue production. An outcry from across the industry might have persuaded them to abandon the film, and a lawsuit from the author of the book used as the basis for the film might also have been a factor. Now the movie producers face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Prosecution for workplace accidents is rare in any industry, but deaths and injuries are becoming more frequent in the movie business as producers cut costs and take more risks.

2014-07-04

Notes

New albums are expected at mid-month:

Loverboy weighs in with a crowd-sourced album title, Unfinished Business, and a collection of songs and tracks that trace back as far as 40 years (though none have ever been released before).

Yes, Heaven & Earth, the band’s first with lead singer Jon Davison. In keeping with Davison’s laid-back visionary style, the album features grand soundscapes coupled with looser rhythms, a combination that might remind long-time fans of 1973’s Tales From Topographic Oceans.

“Weird Al” Yankovic, Mandatory Fun. Little is known about the new album, quite in contrast to the last album which had more than a year of advance promotion.

The Las Vegas rock show Raiding the Rock Vault is proceeding with a replacement lineup, with only guitarist Howard Leese and drummer Jay Schellen continuing from the show’s original cast. The latest change came when founding bassist and the show’s writer, John Payne, was axed in May, to be replaced a week ago by session bassist Hugh McDonald, whose claim to fame is that he once played with Bon Jovi. Another change is in the offing for the show. It may be looking for a new stage at the end of the summer as its casino resort home begins the process of condo conversion.

2014-07-01

Notes

The latest Uriah Heep album, Outsider, is their first in three years, but finds the band sticking close to its storied sound, with Hammond B-3 organ, heavy bass and drums, and plenty of smooth flourishes on guitar. The sound might lean on cliches at times, but the music is precise and effervescent, and the advance single “One Minute” is sure to win the band some new fans.

It’s not always easy for fans to get excited about the solo albums by guitar great Neal Schon, but this one is different. The whole album is recorded by the power trio of Schon, Journey bandmate Deen Castronovo on drums, and hard rock bassist Marco Mendoza, who has played with the likes of Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake. The three trade off vocals, and with precise playing, meaningful songs, and slick production, it’s an album that is likely to draw in Journey fans along with people who just want to hear some snappy rock guitar licks.

There is still no fix for the critical Internet Explorer remote-code flaw reported a month ago, and the flaw may have led China to ban Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system from government computers, though authorities did not specifically mention it. In their recent directive, the Chinese government cited security concerns and energy inefficiency as reason to use Windows 7 instead of Windows 8. Microsoft insists it is taking the flaw in Internet Explorer seriously but says it must be sure its fixes do not introduce new problems before it releases them. Microsoft has, however, rushed out a bundle of dozens of security fixes for Internet Explorer and SharePoint during the past month, several of which it considers critical. Windows 8.1 users must install Windows 8.1 Update before installing the security patches.

Electronics retailer Best Buy is still struggling to find its footing since consumers slowed their entertainment spending in 2007. A paucity of interesting new product categories has been a problem, with no much to talk about since the music-performance video game and 3-D video fads of a few years ago. Best Buy’s financial performance has been especially weak in Canada, even after 15 store closings last year. All of retail has been soft this year in Canada as shopping trips are slowed by high gasoline prices.

2014-06-01

Notes

Billy Sherwood has released a new album Divided By One or ÷1. It’s a more polished, pop-oriented album that may find a broader audience than the dark adventures of Sherwood’s last few albums.

ZZ Top and Jeff Beck are planning a tour together in August.

Two consecutive solo albums from Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson — the latest, Homo Erraticus, performed by the entire current band — may signal the end of Jethro Tull. In interviews, Anderson explains that the Tull name never fit the band particularly well and seems more of a burden than ever now, when compared to the simpler approach of producing new works under his own name.

A flaw in Internet Explorer has prompted governments, businesses, and banks to urge people not to use the browser. The newly discovered flaw affects all versions of Internet Explorer and allows remote code execution, which can reveal computer data or allow attackers to take over a computer. Currently no fix is available.

2014-05-01

Fire Leads to Phone Outage

A Samsung data center fire that burned out of control for hours this afternoon in Gwacheon, South Korea caused outages for Samsung phone users worldwide. The outage also affected Samsung Internet televisions and the Samsung web site. Users received error messages when they tried to access the Internet or launch applications.

The fire was put out after about three hours and shortly thereafter, network access was restored. The incident caused no injuries to data center employees.

2014-04-20

Notes

Fleetwood Mac’s tour announcement gives longtime fans two reasons to cheer: first, the announcement is a sign that bassist John McVie is now well enough for an extended tour, and second, the band’s key songwriter and singer of its classic period, Christine McVie, will be joining the band on tour for the first time in more than a decade. The three-month fall North American tour kicks off September 30 in Minneapolis.

Yes interrupted work on their new Heaven and Earth album to tour Canada for two weeks. Billy Sherwood, who has produced a couple of Yes albums in the past, has been recording backing vocals for the album, which otherwise is said to mostly complete. In an interview, drummer Alan White said the album has strong songs but none of the epic extended pieces that the band has sometimes been known for. It is hoped that the album will be released for Yes’s summer tour, which will feature songs from Fragile and Close to the Edge along with some of the band’s newer songs. The tour starts July 8, the same day that the album is scheduled for release. Before then, the band has a six-week tour of Europe on its calendar.

A new album by Asia featuring John Payne shows the band revisiting 10 English progressive rock standards from decades ago, including one song each from Yes, Jethro Tull, and King Crimson. It’s a fitting move for the band while its two key members are occupied with the Las Vegas rock history extravaganza Raiding the Rock Vault. That show is slated to run for the rest of this year, and possibly longer. The new album Recollections is set for release April 15.

2014-04-01

Notes

U.S. government officials raided the Gibson guitar factories in 2011, seizing hardwood it suspected had been smuggled into the United States without the proper papers. In the end, the wood was found to be legit, and the government returned it. Gibson is marking that occasion by using the returned rosewood to make its limited-edition “Government Series” Les Paul guitars.

Queen’s Greatest Hits album recently became the first album ever to sell 6 million units in the band’s home country, the U.K.

Mozilla has released a demonstration phone for Firefox OS, based on the popular Firefox browser. Mozilla hopes its operating system, with more improvements as the year goes on, will become the operating system for low-end smart phones with prices as low as $25.

The Fixx says it is preparing to record a new album. In the meantime, it continues to promote its latest, Beautiful Friction, with interviews and the occasional TV appearance.

2014-03-01

Notes

U2 will have a free single on iTunes to benefit (RED). The song “Invisible” is free for 24 hours only, to coincide with a pre-Super Bowl announcement. With the free single U2 is encouraging contributions for Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Kicking and Dreaming is the autobiography from Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, available for an introductory price all this month. Heart is working on plans for an upcoming tour of Canada, with an announcement coming soon.

Death: Pete Seeger, folk singer, songwriter, activist, and scholar. He was 94.

2014-02-01

Yes in Studio With Roy Thomas Baker

Progressive rock band Yes has returned to the studio to record their first album with lead singer Jon Davison. The producer is legendary hard rock producer Roy Thomas Baker.

Photos posted online show a wide array of musical equipment as the musicians prepared to make a wide range of sounds, depending on what the songs might require. Keyboardist Geoff Downes has the most extensive setup, with eight keyboards, three laptops, and a rack full of sound modules and signal processing. Drummer Alan White similarly shows an improbably large drum set, larger than the one he tours with. Steve Howe has the pedal steel guitar along, in addition to the usual solid-body electric guitar, and Davison is seen with an acoustic guitar, a tambourine, and a small keyboard, possibly plugged into a laptop. Only bassist Chris Squire is seen at just one instrument in the photos.

This is a Yes lineup that, with other singers, recorded two hit albums in the past. In 1980 it was Trevor Horn singing on the album Drama. On Yes’s latest album in 2011, Fly From Here, the singer was Benoit David. David left the band after a year of throat health complaints that hampered his tour performances, and was replaced by Davison in 2012.

Roy Thomas Baker has one of the most impressive discographies of a rock producer, including albums with The Cars, Queen, Journey, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Guns N’ Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, The Darkness, and Chris de Burgh. In 1985 he produced a Christmas album 3 Ships by Yes’s then lead singer Jon Anderson.

2014-01-21

Notes

New albums anticipated in 2014: Foo Fighters, Blink-182, Lily Allen, Shakira, Adele, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Asia, Lana Del Rey, Jeff Lynne (originals this time), Heart (concert film), Metallica (concert film). Out already: Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, Eminem, Sparks (box set). Retiring: Justin Bieber.

Members of Pussy Riot were released last week as the Russian government realized it had been generally too hasty in sending nonviolent people to jail. The band was hunted down a year ago after they recorded a musical prayer for political reform in Russia, and three members were convicted of hooliganism in a show trial.

Queen guitarist Brian May is being tested for cancer.

After no book releases at all in 2013, Rick Aster has three computer books set for release in 2014, starting with Routine SAS SQL in January.

Bah & the Humbugs’ new song “The Night Before ‘The Night Before’” celebrated the 20th year of Philadelphia station WXPN’s Christmas Eve music show featuring Robert Drake. The annual show features 24 hours of deep cuts from the Christmas music discography. Paul Nordquist and Amy Guskin wrote the song, which was sung by most of the band.

2014-01-01
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