Taylor Hicks' new CD, "The Distance", is available for advance purchase. It is currently not set to drop until March 10th. Unfortunately for the CD, no previews on songs included on the disc, posted for review. Up until tracks are up, the only consumers who will be buying this CD in advance are the ardent fans who would buy anything Taylor Hicks puts out. Now before you jump to the conclusion I'm about to trek South and talk dirt about Mr. Hicks, give me a moment or twenty, this is a lengthy post.
ETA the single is hitting the public. CLICK TO PLAY
Positive, spin, I read he now has his designated single, What's Right is Right, streaming on his pay fansite, Taylor Hicks Headquarters. I think this a great idea, considering this particular site has a rather negative reputation with not putting out much news or new information about Mr. Hicks. Since this is the Taylor Hicks' fan base, reviews so far are not all rainbows and kittens. To be sure, this current fan base is an unique grab bag of folks. A real potpourri regarding musical tastes, musical education, religious affiliations and artistic appreciations. You can't please all the people all of the time, and even though there are many who will disagree with me, many of those fans on-line who have the reputation for being the most critical of the guy are in reality some of his biggest fans. They're honest, they're opinionated, they know music, and they have high expectations for the man.
Taking a page from history being created today, this one of the most memorable days for this country - that guy being sworn in today as President of the United States, Barack Obama, (I know this is a reach, folks) say his Grandmother, his Mother, he himself, did not set high expectations, would he be where he is today? Absolutely not. (Can I create a longer run-on sentence? Where is my editor?)
To be fair I've only heard the snippet of this single as available on amazon.com. It would not be fair of me to work out any real evaluation of this tune - I've not heard it in its entirety. From what I've read lyrically, it reads similar to perhaps a Lionel Ritchie type "Say You Say Me" song.
"What’s Right is Right"
When there’s sadness in your eyes I see it
You can’t hide what’s weighing on your mind
When there’s trouble in your life I feel it
What’s wrong with you is wrong with me
What’s right is right
When there’s joy inside your heart I’ll share it
When you got a dream I say reach for the sky
If you ever fall I’ll catch you
What’s wrong with you is wrong with me
What’s right is right"
"Say You Say Me"
As we go down life's lonesome highway
Seems the hardest thing to do is to find a friend or two
A helping hand - some one who understands
That when you feel you've lost your way
You've got some one there to say Ill show you
So you think you know the answers - oh no
'Cause the whole world has got you dancing
That's right - I'm telling you
Its time to start believing - oh yes
Believing who you are: you are a shining star"
Certainly anyone who has listened to the radio or even followed music in any form over the past couple of decades is familiar with how successful Lionel Ritchie has been in his career. Are all his songs lyrically deep? Do they convey world shattering poetry or meanings? No. Are they mentally memorable, well sung and catchy? Yes, most are. I'm bringing up Ritchie not just because he's a successful artist from Hicks' home state, but because the styling of that song put me in mind of the guy. Surely Mr. Hicks is hoping for radio play. Getting a song out that is radio friendly formulaic is the key to breaching that marketplace.
Taylor Hicks has created this new album under his company he's named, "Modern Whomp" That phrase in itself has created some buzz within the on-line fan base, some good, some indifferent. Nothing real positive so far because I don't think most folks are of an understanding of what he's talking about with those words. I could be wrong, but listening to his CD, "Under the Radar" lends some insight to that moniker. That little independent creation carries a meld of pop, blues, soul, a little zydeco, some Spanish guitar, a touch of country (steel guitars), as well as some haunting jazz elements. I believe this is what Mr. Hicks intends when he describes Modern Whomp, that type of sound.
I am a fan of that independent record, one of my favorite tracks on that disc, "West Texas Sky". I love the musical score, his vocal treatments as well as the lyrics. It's a piece that eloquently lays out soul and yearning, a life's journey, the past with hope for the future.
"So you're drivin' away these miles
So far away from your southern home
Takin' your charms and dreams to the Golden State
Make your way, seal your fate..."
His tune, "The Deal" a more soul driven love song. Click to hear. The lyrics are very well put together and paint a distinct love story. Sample:
"I've given you the best I've got to offer
'Cause there ain't no more in here to see
This premonition I have is awful
Thanks to the moonbeam's generosity"
The reason I'm looking backward while initially talking about Taylor's new material is that many of the fan comments I've read express disappointment. Before folks start walking away from Hicks new material, before the folks who love to instigate long standing fan fights dive in, we need take a deep breath. That's one of the most ridiculous things about this fan base - the always at the ready to take umbrage, to fight, to one-up one another. I can't tell you how many times I've read things insinuating we have 'places' in this group. How so and so is stepping out of her reach, has no 'authority' to speak about or write about Mr. Hicks.
Those who have been around a while know of the folks of which I am referring to in this case. I'm going to say this ain't no country club folks, we are not church ladies, and no one has been crowned as the Queen. Most importantly, just because we don't see eye to eye, write and say the same phrases in unison, no reason to brand one another. It's the fanatic viewpoint that everyone need lock step with one another, conform to one theory of thought or you're a hating fool not a fan. Next we'll all be told how to dress ourselves and what colors to wear if we are true blue fans. I can see it now, the SP dress code as written by those who think they are in the know. We'll be passed rules and etiquette and how to speak publicly or be ostracized.
I feel confident that Taylor has folks reading the on-line discussions even if at times, he has no time to do it. Likely it's why that single is streaming right now on the Headquarter site. Too I feel confident that fans' discussions, comments are taken under consideration, it's part of marketing any product be it records or soap, you learn it in Marketing 101 in community college, get the consumer reaction.
That takes me to this one site in internet land in which anyone wanting a case study of what's happening in and around the Hicks' fan base need gather. Sort of the Watering Hole of the Hicks on-line community. I'm talking about "It's All Grey". I just am concerned that she, under pressure, might allow some of the bullies of the Soul Patrol on-line faction to get her down. The SP bullies might scare off those who want to discuss Taylor in a way once done on Gray Charles' site. Objective and subjectively without name calling, petty insults and the need to chant the same words. We need sites like hers so I hope enough support can keep her going. My word to those who don't like to debate, don't want to hear anything but the voices in your head, have to be surrounded by folks who think just like you - don't go there, stay in your sheep pen where it's nice and safe. It's that simple - but by not joining in, you are missing out.
That brings me to the whole filming the shadow tour issue I thought about yesterday while running with the kid and the dogs at the park. (I'm an incredible multi-tasker.) Certainly ticket sales are worth something but if he's not filming these shadow tours he's thinking small time and short-sighted. Considering the folks he's used as consultants (Simon Climie) on this new record, the musicians behind him, and the uber talented videographer he hired (Jake Davis) I would not count Mr. Hicks as a small time thinker or a short-sighted flunky.
Perhaps next we'll see some videos created by Mr. Hicks' selected personnel on that pay site, or even up for free on the Youtube. Some while naturally wanting those Good Girl pats line up in complete agreement that no one should put film up on the Youtube or elsewhere need remember the last few vids of his you watched. What if those were not available? Perhaps Mr. Hicks should go the way of that Prince guy and jerk all his vids on the internet? Someone asked what is the good in having the cellcerts, the videos anyway - most are inferior quality, most not good sound or imagery. I find them a tool for the musician to utilize as a form of advertising.
Taking that into consideration, I do agree on restrictions on the whole process of audience photography, recording and filming. I've been to a few concerts in which it was a complete circus with ladies competing with one another for camera angles, etc. I half expected to see hair pulling and blouse rending. There's having footage available of a show and then there's that zoo that can be created by crass fans. Thing is where would we stand without sites like Youtube, Vimeo or Go Fish. The internet would be a darker less musical place without them.
So in a nutshell, and this fan base could constitute one big bag of nuts, my concerns lie in whether the fans the man currently has can stick around, all the while watching - and importantly listening to see if Taylor Hicks can go the distance. Together.
(Now those are great lyrics.)