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Monday, December 26, 2005

Wendy & Lisa - near the Pacific, but not Pacifico - Jan 25

If you are in Wendy & Lisa's fan base, you are probably Far Too Famous to read lil' ol' Katrina. But if you're not, it's never too late.

Therefore, take note that Wendy & Lisa's residency at Largo Los Angeles is being continued into 2006. The new shows are duo-only, their temporary autonomous supergroup Pacifico (with folks like Mike Elizondo, Jr. and Doyle Bramhall II, and guests Eric Clapton and Nikka Costa et al.) having scattered to the winds of individual responsibility. But with the duo's dual responsibility in LA, they get to carry on the fun.

If you're in the LA area (or, if you're crazy like me and will fly in from Austin for these things), this intimate venue is the right place to check a group out. Largo is one of those places where the atmosphere is homey and -- like a home -- it incubates the unexpected.

If you're looking for Prince-like music, you are likely to be disappointed. Sorry. Since breaking the tethers of Columbia Records in the late 80s, Wendy & Lisa have gone fairly far afield into their own sound, a kind of singer songwriter meets alternative meets jazz piano with extra notes thrown into the chords. 1990's Eroica presaged the next several years of female alternapop, sounding like Sheryl Crow, the Indigo Girls, and Alannah Myles about two years before those artists or anyone sounding like that had ever hit radio. Mainstream media on this side of the pond didn't notice, but folks like k. d. lang and Michael Penn did, coming along for the ride. Since, the two have been mostly musician's musicians, which becomes obvious the minute you enter any venue in which they play.

The last show I atteneded at Largo was crowded with "close personal friends" from the biz (some of whom, like Eric Clapton, jumped up on stage to jam), and a few lil' folks like myself. So, if you want to know what Wendy & Lisa sound like, you probably already do, even though you've never heard Eroica or Girl Bros. Think early Seal (that's them), Neil Finn (yep), Sheryl Crow's "My Favorite Mistake" (okay, that's just one of them), Eric Clapton's Reptile or Riding with the King (oh, hi there again), and dozens of lesser known artists they songwrite and work with. If you're an Austin person, think Doyle Bramhall II's post-Arc Angels career.

Just do Miss Katrina a favor, and don't listen to any of the tracks on the "Wendy & Lisa" page on MySpace. I'm not sure who selected those, but they're ancient, "the label says we have to sound like Prince to keep our contract" nonsense. Better ignored, really. Oh, yeah - and do go see them at Largo if you're near LA, or just crazy like me. Wednesday, January 25 is the next show. The eve of Wendy's birthday, I can only imagine the surprises up this time.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Wendy & Lisa and the L Word

Of course.

It's been bothering me for a while. How on earth did Wendy & Lisa end up in an episode of Showtime's The L Word, anyway? It's not like anyone's ever heard of them.

But here they are, name checked in "Lynch Pin":

Jenny: What kinda music do you like?

Ewan: Well, uh, mostly I listen to, uh, R&B and funk. Sly Stone, Chaka Khan, Prince. [Jenny and Shane smile at each other.]

Ewan: But I've got no problem wearing headphones if you're not into it.

Shane: (smiling) No, no, Prince is excellent. Especially the Revolution.

Ewan: Yeah, with Wendy and Lisa?

Shane: Yes!

Jenny: God, I love Wendy and Lisa.

Ewan: (chuckling) That's his best shit, hands down.

And it finally occured to me this morning, driving around listening to Miss Gwen Stefani (who also name checks them on her recent solo album's UK release) -- it's got to be Lisa Cholodenko! Yes, I finally Googled the transcript for "Lynch Pin" today, and woudn't you know, the director is Lisa Cholodenko. Another pop mystery solved.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Cross-posted from a rant at

A poster at asked "Why are Jill Jones and Wendy & Lisa so overrated?"

Despite the obvious baiting, I decided to take the thing around the block for a ride, and felt happily ranty enough to crosspost it here . . . [And then, much later, contribute it to Mikdev's site. Poor thing! - ed.]

I think the question of overrated and underrated regarding W&L has to do with the period in question and who's doing the rating.

I'll throw you a bone here. In terms of Prince's overall output and career, I think that Wendy & Lisa are overrated in terms of that period. Equally, I think that in the Prince community that period of Wendy & Lisa's lives is overrated in terms of its impact to their overall career.

The Prince years were, without question, fundamental to Wendy & Lisa's careers. Would they have had musical careers without the Prince connection? I don't doubt it - certainly their musical brothers had the Prince connection as well, but that wasn't what they leveraged on their ways to work with later artists. The whole extended family had musical connections, and so while Wendy and Lisa would have radically different musical careers without the Revolution days, I have no doubt they'd still have worked in the industry as the respected sessionists and songwriters they are.

When I look at Wendy & Lisa, I see musicians' musicians. Last week's Largo show was proof of that: Eric Clapton, John Mayers, Seal, Alicia Keys, and many others in the crowd were industry types out to support a group of musicians that clearly spoke to them in their own language. And certainly this shows in the fact they're still in demand as songwriters and sessionists - both for new artists working to establish themselves (Van Hunt, OK Go, and The Like) as well as a very diverse group big names who see in their work something key to work with (Tricky, Gwen Stefani, Eric Clapton, etc, etc.)

I don't think these musicians are choosing to work with Wendy & Lisa as musicians, songwriters and producers because of some over-rated hype. Clearly folks Eric Clapton can take their pick of musicians and songwriters. When we get into the current period of Wendy & Lisa's career, I would have to say that their music is held in high esteem by their peers and fairly underrated outside the industry.

So let's get back to that bone I'm ready to throw you.

When I listen to the old Prince music, I hear some very young women who were still growing into themselves, and had yet to become the incredibly competent and strong musicians they are today. Given their youth, I'm very impressed - things like Lisa's piano solos on "Anotherloverholenyohead," stopping on a dime in a key whispered in her head only a few minutes before? Impressive, but . . . not where she is now in terms of her scoring work. Wendy's ability to hold the energy of a massive stadium crowd and lead the band during the Parade tour? Good stuff - unquestionably - but compared to her jam with Eric Clapton and Doyle Bramhall II at Largo last week, it was really only prep work.

So here's what I'll say. Over the last 20 years Wendy & Lisa have just begun to hit their full stride in perhaps the last 8 (since Girl Bros, and hence after most of their albums were released). Compared to what they are doing now in their session, songwriting and scoring work, the Revolution work is indeed highly overrated.

Here's my question for you. Do you also believe that Prince has grown, challenged and extended his work over the last 20 years? Can you say of him that his work now, compared to the Revolution days, is better, worse, or about the same? And if he's not continuing to challenge himself to get better over time, why not?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Pacifico - mini-review

Musically thinking, I think I can die happy now.

A full review has already been promised once I've returned to my regularly scheduled life. [If I ever wrote it, I never posted it. - Ed.]

Let me just say for now:

  • If I'd just been to see Wendy & Lisa and crew live for the first time in seven years with my fabulous and amazing girlfriend - that would have been enough.
  • Sitting absolute front and center at a table a couple of feet from the tiny stage? (And my sweet love making sure I had the best Lisa seat?) That would have been enough.
  • And if I'd just seen the bit where Nikki Costa did lead vocals on their cover of the Beatles' "Yer Blues," that would have been enough.
  • Seeing Cole back on stage singing backing doo wop vocals with Susannah for the first time in probably 15 years (albeit roughly) - that would have been enough.
  • And knowing that I was in the same very small club with that purple guy also watching them (even if he didn't accept the invitation to come onstage and play)? Lots of enoughness there, too.

All pretty cool stuff. But that 20 minutes where the guitar god himself came up on stage and we were less than six feet away from the stage when Eric Clapton, Doyle Bramhall II and Wendy Melvoin were trading guitar licks and admiring solos on "Trying to Keep it Real (Compared to What?)" That piece out of time where Eric admired Doyle as much as Wendy clearly idolized Eric and we all just fell out of time into the perfect musical nirvana of a seamless jam?

Yes, that.

Musically speaking, I really can die happy now. As Susannah said - you know, this is what it's all about - just a few friends and family getting together to play some music. No big deal. That said - Prince is lucky he declined the offer to get on stage to play "Raspberry Beret". I'm every bit serious when I say even he, even with them, couldn't possibly have followed that . . .

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Six Degrees of Wendy & Lisa

So, I was listening to MeShell Ndegeocello's Bitter on the ride to work, and to amuse myself started thinking of all the different little configurations this Pacifico band have played as over the years.

I came up with a decent list in my head and then spent a few minutes Googling to come up with this list:

The object - to find as many bands as possible with three out of the six Pacifico members (Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Doyle Bramhall II, Susannah Melvoin, Abe Laboriel Jr. and Mike Elizondo).

I had to make the cut off at three or more members, as two is sort of a no brainer. Wither Lisa goest, there goest Wendy, or something like that.

I came up with . . .

Pacifico (duh)

Bramhall (DBII, W, L, S, AL Jr.)
Girl Bros. (Roxy Lineup, DBII, W, L, S, AL Jr.)
Seal (1994, W, L, S, AL Jr.)
Eric Clapton, (as yet unreleased, DBII, W, S, ME, AL Jr.)

MeShell Ndegeocello (Bitter, DBII, W, L, AL Jr.)
Neil Finn (One Nil, One All, DBII, W, L, S)
Sheryl Crow (C'mon, C'mon, DBII, W, ME)

Wendy & Lisa ('87-'90, W, L, S)
Prince & the Revolution ('85-'87, W, L, S)
Seal (1990, W, L, S)
Eric Clapton & B. B. King (Riding with the King, W, S, DBII)
Lisa Marie Presley (DBII, W, ME)

I could have done a LOT more with going down to 2 not only with W&L stuff but W&DBII, DBII & Abe Laboriel, DBII and Susannah (Roger Waters!!), etc. But that way lies madness.

I also learned that Mike Elizondo co-wrote some of my favorite Eminem singles and the "In Da Club" song - and has a band on the Verve label with Sean Lennon and Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto. Much coolness.

I am so having the jones to watch my Girl Bros. concert before I go, but no time!