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October 2010

And the Hall of Fame Nominees Are…

This year’s nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced, which presents music aficionados with their annual opportunity to debate and gripe like baseball fans do every year when the National Baseball Hall of Fame unveils its selections. (Bert Blyleven? Let him in already!) So let’s have at it.

A few dozen music pros and critics chose this year’s 15 nominees. Now their worthiness will be judged by a larger pool of music insiders, who’ll whittle the number down to, presumably, five honorees. (That’s the number of inductees in the performer category each year since 2005.) In the running are Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, the Beastie Boys, the J. Geils Band, LL Cool J, Donovan, Tom Waits, Chic, Laura Nyro, Chuck Willis, Darlene Love, Donna Summer, Dr. John, Joe Tex and Neil Diamond.

Now for the grumbling. Plenty of the aforementioned artists don’t fit a strict definition of a rock ‘n’ roller. In fact, I’d venture it wouldn’t have occurred to a majority of folks on the list above to identify themselves foremost as rock stars.

A point of contention that comes up with these sorts of things centers on whether the wide-ranging interpretation of what constitutes rock ‘n’ roll is an example of gracious inclusion or a kind of artistic colonialism.

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Dreaming of Mocha and Caramel

You might guess this already, but since I’m posting a blog here, I should confess it anyway: I love coffee.

I love it in all its forms – pure coffee poured straight and black from the brewer, frothy espresso made delicious with foam, even the sweet delicious coffee buried in the heart of foods like tiramisu and espresso brownies.

This week, I’ve found a whole new way to indulge my love for coffee with the introduction of Starbucks VIA® Flavored Coffees. There are four flavors: Mocha, Vanilla, Caramel and Cinnamon Spice, and they showcase coffee in a whole new way. They take the high-quality arabica coffees that are the core of all my favorite beverages and dress them up with delicious, complementary flavors and a touch of sweetness. Perfection. And did I mention that you can make each treat in an instant wherever you have hot water or milk? No waiting required for this dream to come true.

Join me and indulge your own love of coffee. My favorite flavor is Mocha and lately, I’ve been enjoying it made in a cup of hot, steaming milk. (A tip: just heat the milk in the microwave for a couple of minutes, then add in your flavor of choice – it’s quick and really enhances all the flavors!).

Oh, do you want to know something else truly remarkable? All the flavors are natural. No artificial or unpronounceable ingredients – just perfectly roasted coffee, natural flavors and cane sugar. Simple. Delicious. And a testament to our commitment to quality. Enjoy!

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The New Starbucks Reserve™ Coffees

Just as I look forward to the changing of the leaves at the beginning of fall, I also am excited about the new Starbucks Reserve™ coffees arriving in our stores on October 5.

Aged Sulawesi Kalosi is an intense cup with a syrupy, full body. It has spicy-sweet and a rich toasted marshmallow flavors. The coffee was grown by 12 farmers located around Tana Toraja and Baraka in southern Sulawesi. It was harvested in 2005 and has been aged for the last 5 years. The aging process creates the incredible flavor and mouthfeel that this has to offer.

El Salvador Montecarlos Estate Pacamara features a pungent herbal flavor, assertive acidity and citrusy finish. This coffee is produced by the Montecarlos Estate in the region of Ahuachapán. Two-thirds of the farm is planted with coffee and one-third is part of a cloud forest inside the crater of a volcano. Pacamara is the coffee variety – known for its high quality and large bean size.

Brazil Sul de Minas Peaberry has a balanced acidity and medium body with a milk chocolate flavor. This is produced by small holder farmers in the areas of Sul de Minas and Cerrado, located in southeastern Brazil. A peaberry is a round-shaped bean that forms when one of the two flat-sided beans in the coffee cherry fails to grow. The remaining small bean assumes a rounded pea shape. This occurs in less than 10% of the beans of a typical arabica crop.

Fair Trade Nicaragua Corcasan is smooth with the flavors of chocolate and burnt sugar. This coffee is produced by the Cooperativa Corcasan, a cooperative of 250 farmers created in 1994 in the municipality of San Juan del Rio Coco. In addition to being Fair Trade Certified™, this coffee is also C.A.F.E. Practices verified and organic certified.

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Perfect Your Starbucks VIA® Flavored Coffee Experience

If you’re like me then you love to enjoy a sweet treat with your daily cup of coffee. So when I heard about the four new Starbucks VIA® Flavored Coffees, I took on the heavy burden of finding the most delectable food pairings to make my experience (and yours!) truly perfect. It really is a tough job some days but someone has to do it.

Starbucks VIA® Vanilla Flavored Coffee’s new bff is definitely the Petite Vanilla Bean Scone. These best pals can be found hanging out together because of their mutual love for only the best natural vanilla flavor. You’ll see the flecks of real vanilla bean in the yummy scone, which really amps up the flavor of the coffee to create dreamy vanilla nirvana.

Starbucks VIA® Mocha Flavored Coffee and the Double Fudge Mini Doughnut make this pairing a triple threat! It reminded me of a chocolate dream come true to life. I mean, seriously – the flavor of chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate? It doesn’t get much sweeter than this.

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Bee Gees Fever

Bee Gees Fever

Saturday Night Fever arrived in theaters during the 1977 holiday season. Relatively unheralded when it was released, the exploration of New York’s disco subculture gained momentum in the following year, powered by a star-making performance by John Travolta and a soundtrack spearheaded by the Bee Gees.

The former was a supporting player on a sitcom called Welcome Back, Kotter. The latter had made some recent forays into R&B but were, in the public mind, a Beatlesque bunch whose biggest hits dated to the late ‘60s. Maybe the film had some potential, but, hey, another disco flick – Thank God It’s Friday, – was on its way and then it’d be time for Travolta to give up the spotlight.

Well, the film and its soundtrack became era-defining hits and the Bee Gees were suddenly the biggest thing going in an era when everything was oversized. By the spring of ’78, the two-record soundtrack had sold 10 million copies and become the biggest-grossing album in history. It’s now moved something in excess of 40 million copies and still holds a spot among the top 10 sellers of all time. Interestingly, three albums released in 1977 – Saturday Night Fever, Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours – are in that Top 10 list. They pressed a lot of vinyl in those days.

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Elton John and Leon Russell: A Union of Piano Heroes

There’s a long-standing axiom dating seemingly to the birth of the blues that a fundamental difference in the nature of guitarists and pianists can be traced to the nature of their instruments. Nomadic guitarists could pick up at any moment and move on to the next street corner or house party. Piano players, on the other hand, were anchored by instruments that weighed hundreds of pounds. You didn’t see Baldwins being pushed up and down Highway 61. As a rule, those who mastered the 88s tended to stick around awhile, developing roots and a higher level of musical sophistication.

Maybe that’s why rock ‘n’ roll has tended to produce guitar heroes rather than piano virtuosos. Rock lore centers on stage-roaming six-stringers, not their seated counterparts. But, of course, there have been a relative handful of keyboardists who’ve turned that old blues adage on its head.

Two of them team up on the The Union, an inspired pairing of Elton John and Leon Russell – a couple of the most influential pianists of their time. Elton, of course, has been one of the monumental artists of the last half-century. What more is there to say about the guy at this stage?

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(Road) Kings of Leon

Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown

What is the best music to listen to while driving? Clearly it’s Josh Groban. Okay, it depends, right? Is it intended for the morning commute? Have you had enough caffeine yet? Rush hour Friday night? Going straight home or out after work? A road trip? Are you alone or do you have passengers? So many different factors.

Some music just seems meant to be played in the car. And I don’t necessarily mean those soundtracks of yore that music labels think automatically denote “road music.” Foghat? Steppenwolf? Hey, one man’s Steppenwolf is another man’s Zac Brown Band. One woman’s Lucinda Williams is another woman’s Ke$ha. (Note: I don’t know what those last two sentences even mean.) Music is integral to going somewhere.

I recall a long ago, midnight road trip through a stretch of Arizona desert highway that was highlighted by the blasting sounds of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” It was a song that made me feel like I was either in a scene from a David Lynch film or a Herb Ritts video shoot (and preferably both). Nowadays, I might like to start my early mornings with some NPR/BBC updates followed by bone-rattling hip-hop beats from some hyphy-inspired act that I can’t recall the name of at the moment, but that’s just me. Let’s face it, the best music for driving is that which turns your own personal crank (or the crank of that vintage digital Victrola equivalent you call a CD player). To each his own. You might wanna roll out to the sounds of Gnarls Barkley, while your significant other pulls into the driveway to the strains of Vivaldi. What gets your motor runnin’ does not necessarily make them wanna head out on the highway.

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