Sunday, December 26, 1999

'99 Pop music: Cincy back on the charts




BY LARRY NAGER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Some of the best moments, biggest trends and saddest days of 1999.

        • Cincinnati on the charts: After years of talk about the Cincinnati sound, the area had its biggest year since the heyday of King Records.

        There was 1999's longest-running No. 1 single, “Smooth.” Written by former Cincinnatian Itaal Shur, the song brought Carlos Santana his biggest commercial success.

        After simmering for a few years, 98` broke into full boil, with a hot summer tour, Top 10 hits, platinum CDs, a big Christmas disc and countless magazine covers.

        Noah Hunt's big voice powered the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band onto the rock charts with Live On, its best album to date.

        Yankee Grey finally released its long-awaited CD, Untamed (Monument) and saw its debut single, “All Things Considered,” find a home in the country Top 10.

        Local R&B stars-turned-record moguls L.A. Reid and Babyface celebrated 10 years of LaFace Records.

        Some blasts from the past also came back in 1999, as the Isley Brothers got the box set treatment; Lonnie Mack's classic Fraternity tracks were reissued as Memphis Wham,and the late Albert Washington was remembered on Blues & Soul Man.

        • Hispania-mania. Not just a vida loca fad, Latin music became a major trend, ranging from pop stars Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias to the Cuban grandfathers of the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon and on the local scene with Latin X-Posure and Tropicoso.

        • Comeback of the year. The Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli suffered a fractured skull in a bar fight late in '98, returned for a wobbly show at Bogart's in February and came back to the club with all pistons firing in September.

        • A good year for Rosie. Rosemary Clooney, the Tristate's perennial first lady of song, received the Michael W. Bany Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1999 Cammy Awards, released a new biography and CD package (both named Girl Singer), and was honored in September by her hometown of Maysville with the first Rosemary Clooney Music Festival. Plus, one of her best albums was re-released on CD, Blue Rose, her early-50s set with Duke Ellington.

        • A great year for rock 'n' roll. The year that began with obits for guitar-driven rock saw Carlos Santana rule the charts.

        On the local concert scene, Bob Dylan provided the year's hottest ticket with a night of history-making folk-rock at Bogart's in July.

        Just a couple weeks later, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers brought a serious case of full-moon fever to Riverbend, with the year's best straightahead rock show, including sent-from-heaven opening act Lucinda Williams.

        One of the last shows of the year was one of the best, as the V-roys went out in a ragged blaze of glory at the Southgate House.

        • The world-beat phenomenon arrived here full force with WorldJam, October's free downtown festival that included African, Andean, Irish, klezmer and Hungarian music. Unfortunately, it melted into WaterWorldJam as the heaviest rains of the fall arrived at the same time.

        • Strangest teen performance. We got them all in '99 — Backstreet Boys, 'NSync, our own 98`, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera all performed here. But no one could match Ms. Aguilera for sheer nerve.

        She performed here with the very non-teen Lilith Fair on the tiny third stage and, along with a canned version of her hit “Genie in a Bottle,” sang a completely unexpected and remarkably assured version of Etta James' gorgeous R&B ballad, “At Last.”

        • Passings. Roger Troutman, the Dayton funk star who made some of his best records at Cincinnati's Fifth Floor Studios, was shot in April by his brother and former manager Larry Troutman in a murder-suicide.

        Terry Boswell, the best female singer/guitarist of the contemporary bluegrass scene, succumbed to cancer in September.

        Al Hirt, College-Conservatory of Music alumnus, died of liver failure in April. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Charles Brown, a former King Records star and popular Newport club performer of the late '50s, died in January of congestive heart failure.

        Crossover jazz great Grover Washington Jr. died of a heart attack on Dec. 17, less than five months after his sax provided an incendiary finale to the Cinergy Field soul fest.

        Swing died again this year, along with the local Swing Lounge. Ripley's Alive! closed; Coyote's gave up country music and changed to Chameleon's with a modern dance music policy.

        Musicians left town — bassist C.C. Thomas, guitarist Jason Dennie, singer-songwriter Lee Rolfes and former Graveblanket and All Weather Girl leader Bridget Otto.

        • The compilation trend of '98 got bigger in '99, with the second volumes of Shades of Blue and the J Curve Cincinnati Jazz Collection. Bluegrass got its due, with Aunt Maudie's Back, a set that looked to local bluegrass of the '70s and '80s and Bluegrass Sunday: Live at the Comet, which documented the current scene.

        Alt-rock compilations continued to be popular, with Deary Me Records releasing its fourth and best local anthology. The second Our Musik Cincinnati '99 expanded to a double disc.

        Classic rock was the main course of the Skyline Time Golden Sampler, an all-star set of oldies reworked by such local heroes as the Goshorn Brothers, the Blue Birds, Scotty Anderson, Latin X-Posure and Sweet Alice Hoskins.

        The strangest — and most ingenious — compilation of the year was Where Has the Music Gone? The Lost Recordings of Clem Comstock. Roger Klug's brilliant pseudo anthology was a look back at the music of the early-to-mid '60s that featured the singer/guitarist in guises from surf band to British Invasion group to psychedelia.

        • SFX takes over. The world's largest concert promoter became Cincinnati's largest concert promoter in 1999, as SFX bought out the Nederlander Organization, taking over Firstar Center, Riverbend, the Taft and Bogart's.

        Despite monopoly fears, the takeover resulted in no noticeable changes. Ticket prices remained steady, and independent promoters continued to thrive, including Magus Productions and Thigmotrope. Annie's Riverside Saloon, a non-SFX venue, hosted some top national concerts, with more planned for 2000, including an expanded outdoor summer season.

       



'99 Year in Review: Recalling the century's last gasp
'99 Sports: Color the year Red
'99 Local News: Prosperous year punctuated by hard times
'99 Business: Consumers hang on as economy and technology take rocket ride
'99 Nation/World: A fitting finale to the century
'99 Films: Embarrassment of riches
- '99 Pop music: Cincy back on the charts
'99 Television: A million reasons to watch
'99 Classical music: Life imitates opera
'99 Dance: Comings and goings
'99 Theater: A year to remember
'99 Visual art: All eyes on Vontz Center