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Sneaking Soul into Mainstream..

Joined: 4:12 PM - Jan 22, 2008

3:27 PM - Feb 01, 2008 #1


I was there, and this reviewer got it right!

Relix: The Magazine for Music
Written by Randy Ray Fri 5/25/2007

It is somewhat ironic that an artist who won a singing contest before a national audience never really got a chance to showcase the elements that distinguish him as a commanding live performer. After winning 2006’s American Idol, and subsequently issuing a studio album that didn’t perform up to industry expectations, Taylor Hicks has brought his act on the road. At the Marquee, he affirmed that the stage is where he excels, offering a soulful charisma, rich voice and imaginative setlists littered with multi-genre selections.

Hicks deftly eased his band into original- and cover-laden highlights; hence, “Hell of a Day” with an effortless segue into the chorus section of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)” followed by a David Gilmouresque guitar solo. “Hold Onto Your Love” included a Johnnie Taylor “Can’t Trust Your Neighbor” tease while “Wherever I Lay My Hat” contained two—The Commodores’ “Nightshift” and Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang.” Following strong original material like “Just to Feel that Way” and “My Friend”—which featured Hicks on a blistering harmonica solo—the singer dove even deeper into his magical cover bag. “Soul Thing” featured a euphoric mix of flute solos and tempo changes before dropping into Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound and Down” for good country-honk measure. Traffic’s “Medicated Goo” in the hands of Hicks and his band was a classic barnburner that solidified the momentum of the set. Later, “Heaven Knows>The Maze” began with a Ray Charles groove à la “What’d I Say,” and eventually slipped in a few lines of Sam & Dave’s “You Don’t Know Like I Know.”

Perhaps what made Hicks a contest champion became evident by show’s end as the band eased into Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot” without a hint of misplaced showmanship. The man appears determined to deliver the entertainment goods his way and if that means that he earns his crown via the road one gig at a time then it is certainly a setting he embraces without qualification.

Joined: 1:02 PM - Jan 24, 2008

5:38 PM - Feb 02, 2008 #2

MSN - Music Critic's Review

Taylor Hicks - The Album

Out of all the millions of words that have been written about American Idol, one topic that's never fully addressed is how the show winds up finding and filling America's forgotten pop music needs. Genres that have been banished from the airwaves for one reason or another -- usually because they didn't fit within the strictly regimented confines of corporate radio -- have resurfaced on the show, whether it's unabashedly square middle of the road pop, old-fashioned deep soul, Southern rock or blue-eyed soul. This may not have been true of the show's first season when the two finalists, Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini pretty much fit the bill for TV-produced pop stars -- clean and cute, singing dance-pop designed for the teenagers everyone assumed were AmIdol's core audience -- but things started to veer off track in the show's second season when squeaky-clean Clay Aiken and soul crooner Ruben Studdard constituted the top two. Instead of being a fluke, this was the beginning of American Idol's celebration of neglected styles, leading to the barnstorming soul of Fantasia Barrino in season three, the Southern rock of Bo Bice in season four, and then the white-haired, blue-eyed soul belter Taylor Hicks, who unexpectedly took the top honors in season five.

At first glance Hicks sure didn't seem like an American Idol: with that prematurely white hair and his slightly hefty frame, he seemed like somebody's dad trying to pass as an AmIdol contestant, which was part of his charm. But charm alone doesn't win a singing competition, and Hicks had real power as a singer, blessed with a husky, soulful growl that displayed a clear Ray Charles' influence but an even heavier debt to Joe Cocker and Michael McDonald, two singers raised on Motown and R&B who still retained a soulful edge when they eased into soft rock later in their careers. Hicks picked up on this trick of Cocker and McDonald's, how they could still sound passionate while singing schmaltz, and that helped propel him toward the American Idol championship, but even though he took the crown, there was a huge question looming over the release of his debut album: would 19 Entertainment, Clive Davis and all the powers that be behind the scenes at American Idol let Hicks stay true to the gifts he displayed on the show, or would they shoehorn him into a sound that doesn't suit him, the way they did with Bice on his debut The Real Thing? Bice served as a cautionary tale for Hicks and his producers, since he was another Alabama boy who shined on AmIdol because he was bringing back a Southern sound not heard on the radio, but when it came time for his debut he was forced into a stilted modern rock that not only didn't suit him musically, but it ignored the very reason why audiences loved him on the show: they loved him because he didn't sound like everybody else on the radio, but on The Real Thing, his producers tried to make him sound like everybody else, and failed miserably. The same thing could have happened to Hicks, since he also didn't sound like anybody else on the radio in 2006, but fortunately, everybody involved in Hicks' debut do not try to force modernity upon him: they let Taylor be Taylor.

Which doesn't necessarily mean that Taylor Hicks is nothing but a Doobie Brothers album in disguise: it certainly has tracks that fit within the confines of adult contemporary radio in 2006, but they never feel as crass or formulaic as "Do I Make You Feel Proud," his post-Idol chart-topper that found him straining against the constraints of AC conventions. Cuts that are nothing more than professional and pleasant -- mainly ballads, such as the plodding yet anthemic "Just to Feel That Way" and the Diane Warren-penned "Places I've Been," which was written with Hicks' back story in mind but nevertheless feels formulaic, but also an overly slick cover of Marvin Gaye's "Wherever I Lay My Hat" -- account for about a third of Taylor Hicks, and while they're little more than the perfectly fine fodder of a waiting room, Hicks does not sound uncomfortable singing them. Indeed, he invests them with just enough personality that they're more engaging than the bland yet pretty ballads that pass as modern soft rock, and their inclusion here makes commercial sense; these are the tunes that play by the rules of modern adult pop, and Hicks performs them as a pro without losing his personality. In contrast, the rest of Taylor Hicks is a throwback -- not necessarily a throwback to the Motown and '60s pop that he sang on Idol, but rather to the soft rock and blue-eyed soul of the '70s and '80s, which itself was informed by the spirit of the '60s. And at its best -- and it's frequently very good, even excellent -- Taylor Hicks resembles nothing so much as a forgotten '80s soft rock album, a blend of Michael McDonald, Bridge-era Billy Joel, Hall & Oates and Steve Winwood's Roll with It that certainly satisfies any hopes that Hicks would indeed make a record that could be called Yacht Rock for the new millennium. Digitally polished though it may be, there's a lived-in warmth to the performances of Hicks and his studio pros, and producer Matt Serletic, who made his name helming records for Matchbox Twenty, is sharp enough to retain that feel even when he's building tracks upon samples, as he does on "Heaven Knows," which reworks Ray Charles' "What I'd Say" into an addictive, danceable piece of modern soul-pop. This gives Taylor Hicks a sound that's appealing on its own merits, but what makes the record work are the songs that evoke the past yet still sound fresh. Occasionally, this means something that's been unearthed, like "Gonna Move," a light, laid-back number found on Paul Pena's cult 1973 soul album New Train, but for the most part these are newly-written songs by professional songwriters. Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas is the only writer who attempts to bridge the gap between Hicks' retro-soul and contemporary pop, and he does so very well with "Dream Myself Awake," but the best stuff here are the songs that simply revive soulful sounds, whether it's Bryan Adams' surprisingly successful gospel-inflected closer "The Right Place," the neo-duet "Give Me Tonight" or, most of all, the absolutely terrific opener "The Runaround," a propulsive throwback to '80s soul-pop that's as good as any hit Michael McDonald had in that decade. As good as any of these professionally written tunes are Hicks' two originals -- the funky "Soul Thing" and the closest thing to genuine old-fashioned Southern soul, the quite wonderful "The Deal" -- revived and re-recorded from a pre-Idol independent album he made that show him as a solid writer in addition to being an inspired deal. Their inclusion also shows that he, assisted by some smart pros, can make the songs of others fit his musical style, which makes this debut somewhat of a subversive success: he's created an album that fits all of American Idol's requirements -- it's big, clean, catchy and commercial -- without losing his own identity, so he's sneaked blue-eyed soul back into the mainstream. But he never would have gotten this chance if American Idol's huge audience didn't recognize that he had this talent and if they didn't realize that he was making music that they had forgotten to hear, and fortunately, 19 Entertainment, in turn, realized this and let Taylor Hicks make an album that will surely satisfy anybody who loved to hear him on the show, and an album that stands as one of the best Idol-related records yet made.

~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Joined: 1:02 PM - Jan 24, 2008

6:13 PM - Feb 02, 2008 #3

Birmingham Brochure


Joined: 1:02 PM - Jan 24, 2008

7:00 PM - Feb 02, 2008 #4

Soul Patrol swings into Massachusetts

One year after winning American Idol, Taylor Hicks is still riding high

By Rory Flynn, Editor-in-Chief

Taylor Hicks peforms two shows in Massachusetts this weekend
Every artist needs a break. Some wait longer than others, forcing them to relinquish their dreams of making it big, while others battle through it. For Taylor Hicks it was almost a decade on the lonely highways of the south, playing gigs anywhere he could to support his two self-released independent albums. Along the way he built a grassroots fanbase know as the “Soul Patrol.” Then came his shining moment as American Idol expanded the Soul Patrol into a national phenomenon, and with 63+ million votes cast, Hicks was crowned the fifth champion of America’s favorite television show.

Back on the road for his second major solo headlining tour, Hicks is enjoying every moment of his new success, which he admits at times still feels surreal. The humble superstar comments, “I’m like a kid in candy store,” after speechlessly recounting how he met Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton earlier this week in Cleveland (where the two discussed the Grateful Dead). Hicks’ new stardom has also brought plenty of opportunities for him to give back through various charitable endeavors, something he speaks of with genuine compassion and love for helping those less fortunate than he.

It was just over a year ago when Hicks defeated Katherine McPhee in the American Idol season five finale, propelling him into his new superstar status. “Every day I feel blessed,” Taylor tells Boston Music Spotlight from his bus in Ohio. “I feel very thankful for all those people that voted for me. Its amazing how the show really gives you a platform.”

For Hicks it was a journey that started long before his American Idol audition in Las Vegas. Despite years of living as a struggling musician, he never gave up on his dream. In the end, it was those hard lessons he learned on the road that made the Idol triumph that much sweeter. “I think it really teaches you how important the artistry is and how important having an opportunity like this is,” Hicks says. “Because you go ten years without catching a break so when you realize there’s a opportunity in front of you, you take full advantage if it.”

Hicks certainly took full advantage of the resources presented to him for his major label debut, released at the end of last year. “The recording process was pretty intense,” admits Hicks before reasoning that he and his label (Artista Records) wanted to get the album released as soon as possible. With the aid of top-notch studio session players and songs penned by the likes of Bryan Adams and Rob Thomas, Hicks had plenty of experienced star-power support. He also managed to push two tracks of his previously released songs, “Soul Thing” and “The Deal,” off Under The Radar, onto the new record. This, along with a trio of cover selections, comes together to form an album that Hicks feels embodies who he has been as an artist without succumbing to any new pressures. “I had time to develop myself as an artist,” reflects Hicks, “and I was very thankful for [Artista Records] guiding me down the path I started a long time ago.

The album also manages to capture Hicks' eclectic energy as a modern soul artist, which was his distinction on American Idol. Still, nothing captures it better for Hicks himself or his fans than his live performances, which have been taking place non-stop across the nation since February. In addition to the new album, Hicks will also be promoting his inspirational memoir Heart Full of Soul, which will be released on July 10. “There’s a lot of life lessons you can learn on the roads in the South, as a struggling musician, that you can apply to everyday life,” explains Hicks for the novel’s inspiration. “If I can help people in my story and some of my thoughts to get over the hump and really make something of themselves, whether it be in music or any other business, that’s what the book is aimed for.”

If any free time permits on the tour bus, Hicks hopes to work on ideas for his next album before returning to the studio this fall to start the songwriting process. With more time expected to be on his side for this project, Hicks plans on recording more of his own material and possibly returning to play guitar on the sophomore release.

Until then, it’s back to life the 30-year old silver haired star loves best: on the road and performing live. He’ll be in Massachusetts this weekend before returning for more New England shows in August. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” boasts Hicks. “My shows are very family orientated. It teaches a lot of kids who don’t know about Supertramp or some jazz stuff, and so it’s a learning process. And it also makes their parents happy to hear some good ole rock ‘n roll.”

reprint from Boston Music Spotlight

Joined: 1:02 PM - Jan 24, 2008

7:40 PM - Feb 02, 2008 #5

Owner Closes CD Store Before Losing His Edge
Reprint of Article on Laser's Edge

It's a windy fall morning and Fred Osuna is sweeping the sidewalk in front of his store.

The small heap of dry, brown leaves on the sidewalk doesn't reflect Osuna's mood, which is reflective and relaxed, almost lighthearted.

He's been a small-business owner for more than 16 years in downtown Homewood. "This is my home away from home," says Osuna, 47, who lives in Crestwood. "I love this neighborhood."

He'll be leaving it in a couple of months, however. Osuna's business, Laser's Edge Compact Discs, is closing at the end of the year.

But don't start weeping, bemoaning the state of the recording industry or hanging black garland over the door at 2825 18th St. South just yet.

Osuna says his decision to shut down after Christmas wasn't the result of immediate financial problems or an inability to cope with short-term changes in the CD business. For now, he says, Laser's Edge remains solid.

"Some people still love the excitement of the chase. They love exploring, looking for music or interacting at the store," Osuna says.

He says he simply couldn't predict that Laser's Edge would be in similar shape in 2013. That's how long his next lease would last, after the conclusion of the current lease at the end of January.

"I had to ask myself: What are the odds of still being successful in five years?" Osuna says. "Considering everything, I'd have to bet against it."

Online music sales, discount chains and digital downloads have affected his sales, as they have made an impact on other independent music retailers, causing what Osuna calls "a little of a downward slope." But there hasn't been a deep or drastic spiral, he says.

"The writing started appearing on the wall in 1998 or¤'99, but only because that's when you started seeing people getting their music in other ways," he says. "As things change, they eventually are going to overtake a business like this one.

Osuna says he decided to shut down before that happened.

"It's time to make the step, make the jump," he says. "It's pretty much like taking the step to open the store. I know, deep down, that it's a good business decision."

To his way of thinking, Laser's Edge reached a peak of sorts on Halloween, during an in-store performance with singer-songwriter Josh Ritter. Although artists ranging from Diana Krall to the Blind Boys of Alabama have played mini-concerts tucked into corners of Laser's Edge (which has a total of 1,500 square feet), none of them had quite the poignant charm of Ritter's late-night set.

"Josh was a prince, as always, barefoot and in a toga," Osuna wrote in an e-mail newsletter the next day. "I stopped counting at 100 people, but even with the tight crowd and the very late hour -- or perhaps because of it -- the in-store was intimate and emotional."

Osuna's Nov. 1 message to customers -- "a ridiculously difficult type of letter to write" -- had much the same tone, delivering news that prompted many to call with their regrets or send him thanks for the memories via e-mail.

Some have been frequenting Laser's Edge since June 29, 1991, when Osuna and his friend and business partner, Brooks Adams, heard the store's cash register ring for the first time. (Osuna bought out Adams' share in 2000 and became the sole owner.)

The store's appearance hasn't altered much over the years, Osuna says, although computers have been introduced, listening stations have been installed and the daily soundtrack customers hear has been loaded -- from CDs, naturally -- into two maxed-out 80GB iPods.

Those iPods, holding perhaps 23,000 tracks, are likely to be auctioned along with other store memorabilia in January. Autographed posters and store fixtures will be on the auction block, as well.

"I'm going to have to find a place to buy music," Osuna says, laughing.

Dismantling Laser's Edge before its closing isn't an option, he says. On a recent weekday, the store shows no signs of its impending demise. As always, the inventory -- an estimated 5,500 to 6,000 CDs and DVDs -- places an emphasis on classical and jazz recordings, along with a carefully chosen selection of rock, pop, folk, country, blues, R&B and world music.

Discs by local musicians occupy a prominent niche. In fact, three brown boxes stacked in a corner hold hundreds of copies of an item exclusive to the store: Taylor Hicks' 2005 independent CD, "Under the Radar."

When the "American Idol" winner was competing for the title on national TV in 20006, Hicks, a Hoover native, and Osuna struck a deal to make "Under the Radar" available to fans around the globe. No other retailer was permitted to sell it.

"I saw an opportunity and I jumped on it," Osuna says. "The adrenaline was pushing, and it was fun. People from all over the world have come to the store because of it, from Finland and Japan and Canada."

Osuna has been a near-constant presence at Laser's Edge since Oct. 15, 2004, when he dismissed his staff to cut costs and go it alone. He says he isn't sure what his professional future will hold, but his spare time -- a luxury for someone accustomed to an 80-hour work week -- is likely to be filled with bike rides, swims and lots of movie-going.

"I feel a little bit of sadness, but it's exciting, too," he says. "My mind is just full of ideas."


By Laser's Edge owner Fred Osuna

1. Opening day (June 29, 1991): Our first customer, Amanda Wilson, buys eight copies of the Kathleen Battle & Jessye Norman CD, "Spirituals in Concert."

2. Our first Christmas (1991): On Dec. 16, 1991, the store is quiet, everyone else goes to lunch and a woman walks in the back door holding a coffee cup in one hand and a cigarette in the other. A limousine trunk full of laserdiscs and a $2,279.02 check later, she leaves. The crew then returns from lunch, wondering if it will ever get busy.

3. Shame Idols vs. the rain: Local band Shame Idols, including staff member Jesse Suttle on drums, plays an in-store performance so loud that no one notices the hurricane-force monsoon raging outside. The event is captured on videotape (the in-store, not the monsoon).

4. Hugging Diana Krall (1996): My friend Sherri Nielson and I escort relatively unknown jazz artist Diana Krall around town for three days, two concerts and a CD signing at Laser's Edge. At the end of the weekend, Diana thanks me with a death-grip hug, and I let go first, opening the door wide for Elvis Costello.

5. The day after Thanksgiving: It's a tradition she has created: My mother visits Birmingham from South Carolina every Thanksgiving, and descends upon the store that Friday with bundles of freshly baked cookies for the customers.

6. Ain't nothin' like ¤'em at Carnegie Hall: A visiting classical violinist asks us to take him to lunch at a barbecue joint recommended by his friend Itzhak, which is how Brooks Adams and I find ourselves seated across a table from Gil Shaham and his Stradivarius at the original Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, sharing a slab of ribs.

7. A lesson for Ryan Adams (Jan. 24, 2003): Ron Sexsmith plays an in-store performance made up entirely of songs requested by an adoring full-house crowd -- one song from each of his albums, in chronological order. During the set, I hear a clicking sound, and notice his girlfriend sitting on the floor at the back of the crowd, calmly knitting a sweater.

8. Receiving the NARM award (2002): Laser's Edge wins the 2002 NARM Advertising Award for that year's CD Sampler, which was designed as a tribute to my parents, featuring photographs of my mother and recently deceased father. Our competition includes upstarts such as Best Buy, Tower Records and Borders Books & Music.

9. Hem (2001): I hear a beautiful song called "Betting On Trains" on an Uncut magazine CD sampler, track down the album from an Irish Web site, find out the band is American, assume they're from the Midwest, find out they're from New York, assume they're from rural upstate New York, discover they're really from Brooklyn. My love affair with the unofficial Laser's Edge house-band, Hem, begins.

10. Halloween with Josh Ritter (2007): At his midnight in-store, Josh Ritter -- having earlier been told that I am to announce the store's closing the following day -- ends the evening with an a cappella Irish Toast.

reprint of article by
Mary Colurso

Birmingham News

Joined: 1:02 PM - Jan 24, 2008

7:45 PM - Feb 02, 2008 #6


Photo courtesy of evancol

Of his road warrior days along the Gulf coast, Taylor remembers the Flora-Bama where he and his band played many gigs:

"Experience has taught me the hard way that music can be a contact sport, especially at gigs like the Annual Interstate Mullet Toss, which is held each year at the fabulous Flora-Bama in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Trust me, you really should have been there, and if you were there, you--like me--probably don't remember much now. That gig was basically three days of sunburned Alabamans downing as much liquor as any human can consume. Throw in a lot of mullets and a couple of flirty girlfriends, and you've basically got the makings of a redneck Molotov cocktail, or what most people back home like to call "a real good time."
--Taylor Hicks

This "picturesque" place which Taylor has said he "cut his teeth on" is alive an well and is very literally on the border of Alabama and Florida.

This recent article at gives us more insight and the latest on this Taylor landmark:

Flora-Bama Lounge is on the border
By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published September 29, 2007

If you ever find yourself on the border of Florida and Alabama, hungry and looking for a football game, the Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar in Pensacola is your place. It sits on the beach, right on the Gulf of Mexico where the states meet. The menu includes everything from burgers to waffle fries and freckles (fried dill pickle spears with ranch dressing). Simply by its location, it's a place that allows football fans, particularly from Florida and Alabama, to feed their passion for their teams in familiar confines.

On the border, literally

Photo courtesy of evancol

The parking lot is located in Alabama. The restaurant sits in Florida. If you look it up in the phone book, there's a listing in both Alabama and Florida. It has been that way since 1964. Around that time, Alabama wanted Florida to help build a bridge. Instead, Florida opted to give Alabama 2 extra miles of land if it would build its own bridge. Alabama accepted. Because the county in Alabama was dry, a bar on the border seemed like an excellent idea. About 25 years ago, Pat McClellan became partners with Joe Gilchrist, who had previously owned the bar for several years. They've been partners and co-owners ever since.

Game day fun

Between the Flora-Bama and its sister facility, the Silver Moon, there are about 16 television sets and a variety of things for fans from Florida and Alabama to do on game day. The Silver Moon is actually more suited for strictly watching football. McClellan says they have a sports package that includes Alabama and Florida cable at the same time so fans can get a variety of games. But there's also satellite TV so patrons are guaranteed to get the Auburn, Alabama, Florida and Florida State games.

Since Hurricane Ivan, the Flora-Bama hasn't been completely rebuilt, but it's still a hot spot.

At the Flora-Bama, there are nine or 10 televisions, including a big screen, along with several bars, eight serving areas and an oyster bar and restaurant. There's also a T-shirt trailer. There are games shown inside and outside.

On game day, you'll find Seminoles, Tigers, Tide and Gators all over the place.

"We get our fair share of LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Florida and Florida State fans," McClellan said. "We get a pretty good little crowd, nothing too rowdy."

Rooting interest

McClellan's partner, Gilchrist, is an Auburn grad, so his allegiance is with the Tigers. His wife, Sheryl, is a rabid Florida State fan. McClellan? He's a businessman. Which is why you won't see him cheering for any one team.

"A good saloonkeeper doesn't talk about politics, religion or sex and we never root for Alabama, Auburn, Florida or Florida State," he said. "We just ask for the best team to win. And we never, ever root for Notre Dame. As a proprietor, I look for overtime and extra innings."

Understanding Southern football fans

McClellan came to the area 30 years ago to join the Navy's flight program, fell in love with the area and never left. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he never knew college sports fans like those he found in Florida and Alabama.

"The first time I really saw them I think I was still an ensign and it was the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans - Penn State and Alabama," McClellan said. "I never saw such enthusiastic fans in my life. The strength, the passion and the roar and all that. They are pretty vocal down here. The thing that I noticed more than anything else is it's football, football, some baseball, a little basketball, then football, football, football. Where I came from you didn't have football year round like that. It's a whole different world."

Football and famous people

The Flora-Bama is well-known for its mullet toss, but it also has been known to host a few famous faces. Big & Rich stopped by just last week. Jimmy Buffett still drops by once in a while. Buffett recently put out a Flora-Bama song called Bama Breeze, a tribute to the bar.

"He grew up around this area and he kind of cut his teeth at the Flora-Bama a little bit, along with Taylor Hicks and some other people who have come along in this place," McClellan said. "Taylor Hicks keeps a picture of the Flora-Bama right next to him at his bedside. That's where he got his start."

This weekend, if there are any Alabama and Florida fans in the area who aren't at the game, McClellan hopes they'll be at the Flora-Bama.

"Hopefully it'll be an enjoyable weekend," he said. "The main thing is we're here for people's enjoyment and relaxation and to take some of the cares of the world out of their minds maybe and get them to enjoy life for a while."

And cheer for their favorite team.


Joined: 1:02 PM - Jan 24, 2008

7:56 PM - Feb 02, 2008 #7

Although Mr. Hicks says in Heart Full of Soul that he was born on October 7, 1977, it's never too early to wish Taylor Happy Birthday!

American Idol News Blog

Happy Birthday Taylor Hicks!
October 5, 2007 Posted by Marnie

Taylor Hicks was known for his dramatic stage presence, crazy dance moves, and signature Ray Charles-like head sway, but what he really did while on American Idol was find his way to the hearts of the viewers. What's interesting is the way he went about auditioning for the show. He tried out in Las Vegas on October 10, 2005. However, he had originally wanted to do so in Memphis, Tennessee, but auditions in Memphis were canceled in order to help with relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. On the night before Katrina made its devastating showing, Taylor was in New Orleans to attend a wedding of a good friend he met while at Auburn University. His flight out of New Orleans was canceled, and he was offered a travel voucher to use at a later date. Instead, he used the ticket to fly directly to Las Vegas and the rest, as they say, is history.

Since his time on the show, he has made guest appearances with some huge names in the music industry, including Snoop Dogg, Widespread Panic, and Willie Nelson, among others. He also joined the other Top 10 finalists from season five for the extensive American Idols LIVE! Tour. While he was on tour, his former band, known as Taylor Hicks Band, joined up under the new name of Little Memphis Blues Orchestra and shadowed the Idols along their tour route. Taylor joined them on occasion as a "special guest," and was even known to bring along some fellow Idols, such as Chris Daughtry, Elliott Yamin, Ace Young, and Bucky Covington.

His post-Idol music career took off at a rapid pace, with him signing a record contract with Arista Records in May of 2006. His debut single, "Do I Make You Proud," debuted at the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually became certified gold by the RIAA. Taylor spent long days in the studio in October and November of 2006 and, from all those diligent recording sessions, came Taylor Hicks, which was released on December 12, 2006. It debuted at the number two spot on the Billboard 200 charts. It was certified as a platinum album by the RIAA on January 17. In order to promote the album, Taylor went on tour from February to May. Interestingly enough, Taylor was featured in PEOPLE Magazine for having lost a tremendous amount of weight while on tour due to some healthy changes in his diet.

Because of the interesting life he has led, Taylor was offered a lucrative deal to pen a memoir, titled Heart Full of Soul. As he states on the publisher's website, "In Heart Full of Soul, I share some life stories that will hopefully inspire you—give you a sense of my philosophy and how it drove me. For example, I talk about my good friend who died in a tragic accident and the prediction he made that tugged at my thoughts throughout Idol’s qualifying rounds. I also discuss what it was like when I realized Eminem has it right: when you only have one shot, you’d better lose yourself in the music."

On top of all of his music ventures, Taylor has signed a letter of intent to open a nightclub in the downtown Birmingham entertainment district. According to the development firm, Taylor plans on having the club feature Southern-style rock along with live entertainment by local and regional acts. Taylor, himself, will also perform at the club on a regular basis, along with the occasional show by his fellow Idols.

Taylor also takes the time to do live shows whenever he has the opportunity. He thrilled fans everywhere by performing at this past season's American Idol finale. He even performed at the half-time show of his alma mater, Auburn University, in their football game against Mississippi State on September 15. He closed out the Big E fair in Comcast Arena at the end of the summer, a gig which has also been held by fellow contestants Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, and Chris Daughtry, who performed there earlier in the season.

Happy Birthday to Taylor, who was born on October 6, 1977! Check out our exclusive interview with Taylor Hicks and Lisa Tucker as they were about to embark on the American Idols LIVE! Tour. Wanna see how much Taylor's look changed throughout season five? Check out his transformation gallery!

Happy Birthday Taylor Hicks

Joined: 1:02 PM - Jan 24, 2008

7:59 PM - Feb 02, 2008 #8


Joined: 1:02 PM - Jan 24, 2008

11:26 PM - Feb 02, 2008 #9

Hicks proves he's the 'real deal'
By Bruce R. Miller

You could put Taylor Hicks up against this year's crop of "American Idol" contestants and he'd probably win again.

He has more energy than all of them combined.

At his Orpheum Theatre concert Saturday night, he bounced like Tigger, twirled like a top and danced like a Southern preacher.

Oh, yeah ... and he sang pretty good, too.

Because he just released his first post-"Idol" album, Hicks doesn't have a string of "remember these?" hits. As a result, he's forced to sell the unknown songs with the same passion. It worked, but the 30-year-old Alabama native really got a reaction when he covered Hall and Oates' "She's Gone" and sang a tribute to Ray Charles. It was real "Idol" time with both -- a chance to show what he's able to do with classic material.

His own stuff doesn't have the same complexity. A song like "Gonna Move" lets him strut his stuff, but its lyrics are pretty simple. Similarly, "Dream Myself Awake" has a hook ("I can't get enough of you baby") that should be surrounded by much more.

A seven-piece band gave Hicks a fairly big sound but he could do just as much with less. Interestingly, he didn't have an acoustic set stuck in the middle. Most of his R&B cuts are fairly up-tempo. As a result, he never stood still. Just watching him was enough to make you sweat.

Then, too, Hicks played a pretty mean tambourine (pounding it on his chest -- are there marks?), a powerful cowbell (on "Just to Feel That Way," his single) and harmonica. He threw in some guitar work here and there and looked like he would do a drum solo if someone had asked.

Dressed in jeans, sneakers, a black shirt and a black blazer, Hicks made a couple of "Idol" references ("Thank you all for voting for me ... I was voting, too"), sang songs from an earlier album and showed glimpses of so many other singers you kind of understand what it takes to win the Fox talent show.

Throughout the evening, he resembled everyone from Michael McDonald to Simon Cowell -- yup, even Simon. He danced more than the contestants on "Dancing With the Stars" and had a sense of gratitude that didn't seem insincere.

Indeed, if any message came through, it was this: Taylor Hicks is not going to waste the opportunity he has been given.

Michael Warren, another Alabama resident, opened the two-hour-plus show with a handful of songs that had a mellow, John Mayer feel. He had some nice messages to convey and a good voice.

The Soul Patrol, however, was primed for Hicks. They stood up from the start and, like their man, didn't let down throughout his show.

Given the right songs, Hicks could be unstoppable. Now, he's forced to work a little harder and play a lot smarter.

Thankfully, he's not afraid to do it.

Source: Sioux City Journal
Date Published: March 25, 2007


Joined: 1:02 PM - Jan 24, 2008

11:32 PM - Feb 02, 2008 #10

Knoxville News

Taylor in da house
By Betsy Pickle

I know, I know, I know. Way behind on "American Idol" and "Survivor" chat. But I reviewed Taylor Hicks' show tonight at the Tennessee Theatre, so I have to talk a little bit about that before I head home.

In a nutshell, Taylor was terrific. I actually expected that, based on his "Idol" performances. The only thing that had me worried was that he was going to be doing songs from his new album, and I don't think it's an amazing collection of songs. But Taylor came through. He worked his tail off, and his voice was in good form.

And if I liked the show even with reservations about the CD, imagine how much the fans who love the album enjoyed the concert!

It's interesting watching the "Idol" alums live after getting to "know" them on TV. I've seen Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken headline and Fantasia open for Kanye West, all at Thompson-Boling Arena. Clay's audience seemed to be mostly Claymates. Kelly's was a broad spectrum. Fantasia's was Kanye's.

Taylor had both fanatics and plain fans, all of whom are happy to be in the Soul Patrol. I'm surprised he played the Tennessee. I don't know what size halls he's doing on the rest of his tour, but I'd think he could draw more than 1,631. I'd bet he could get 4,000 or more, even in a town this size. Too bad we don't have a venue that would accommodate that. The upside is, we 1,631 got to see him in a fairly intimate setting with good sound.

I basically gave the set list in my review, but here it is in order:

“Give Me Tonight”
“Heaven Knows”
“The Maze” into “Let’s Get It On”
“Hell of a Day”
“Dream Myself Awake”
“The Deal”
“Gonna Move”
“Wherever I Lay My Hat” into “Rocky Top,” “Nightshift” and "Chain Gang"
“Young Hearts”
“Heart and Soul”
“Just To Feel That Way”
“The Right Place”
“The Runaround”
“Badge” (encore)

By my Swatch, Taylor arrived onstage at 9:08 p.m. and left at 10:13, then came back for the encore at 10:15 and exited at 10:21. (That's for you "Trainspotting" fans.) As I was leaving the theater, I heard a couple of women who've obviously been to other Taylor concerts complain that he cut this one short. "He came on late," they whined. Dang, if half the acts I see put as much effort into their shows as Taylor did, they could all leave after an hour and fans would be ecstatic.

Taylor performed 10 of the 12 songs on "Taylor Hicks." The ones he left off were "Soul Thing," which he wrote, and "Places I've Been," written by Diane Warren. Wonder what we should read into that?

He did perform the two cuts from the CD that annoy me the most. One is "The Runaround." Those lyrics drive me insane. Somebody tell me how you get from the metaphors about education to "all I get from you is the runaround." What about, "all you do is keep me in detention" or "all you do is try to make me flunk"? I know Taylor didn't write the song, but he sings it! It makes no sense!

The other one I have to skip is "Wherever I Lay My Hat." I love that song, but the arrangement Taylor does kills me. The phrasing is all wrong, especially on: "If it's so I'd like for/you to know that/I'm not worth it, you see." The first time I heard it, I immediately had to get "The Essential Paul Young" out of my visor CD holder and put his version on. I think Marvin Gaye would like Taylor, but not on this song.

In concert, Taylor managed to make both of those songs palatable. The beat of "The Runaround" was irresistible, and Taylor took an elliptical approach to the lyrics, letting his backup singer handle the heavy lifting while he bounced across the stage. He got out his harmonica and revved up the crowd. Taylor gave "Wherever I Lay My Hat" a groovy vibe that became even cooler when he quieted the crowd and went into a falsetto, which he then used on a few lines of "Rocky Top" before melting into the Commodores' "Nightshift" and then back into "Hat." I won't say it was genius, but it was pretty dang close.

The backup singer sounded sharp on "Give Me Tonight," and Taylor went flat a time or two, but musically it was mostly a very good night. Taylor showed off his sax player and guitarist several times, but I was equally impressed with the keyboardist at stage right. (Sorry, but I couldn't understand Taylor's introductions.) He provided some really lovely accompaniment.

My friend Katie and I were dreading the appearance of Taylor's zombie shrug (my name for the herky-jerky "Soul Patrol!" maneuver) from "AI" (been there, done that, bought the T-shirt -- wait, no I didn't), but he dusted it off only briefly. He's got new moves now -- mostly this spinning thing. My theory is that it lets him stay in motion while giving him a break from his workout as centrifugal force takes over. Anyway, he did it all night, and everybody loved it.

One of my concert pet peeves is when the artist does every song exactly the way it is on the album. I didn't have that problem with Taylor. He was always adding little vocal embellishments or turning an insignificant melody into a catchy riff. When I look at this year's crop of "Idol" contestants, I can't imagine any of them being as creative. Speaking of, when Taylor did his little sample of "Let's Get It On," I was wondering if he meant that as a dig after watching Jared Cotter mangle it last Tuesday night on "Idol." (Probably not. Taylor doesn't seem to have my evil streak.) In just a few phrases, Taylor showed more musicality and versatility than poor little eye-candy Jared will ever have.

Taylor worked so hard on the first four songs that he appeared a little tired by the time he did "Dream Myself Awake." He still managed to put everything into it. Yeah, he's a trouper.

Taylor made a point of thanking the audience for voting him the "AI" winner, which was nice. (Hope he didn't read The Dish last May, when I was pulling for Katharine McPhee in the final. Honest, Taylor, I voted for you earlier in the season.) Taylor's going to grow beyond his "Idol" fan base, but he has sense enough to know -- and manners enough to acknowledge -- why he's on the road touring the entire country instead of barnstorming the Southeast one more time.

One thing I don't understand about his biggest fans is, why do they spend the entire show taking pictures of him? How can they enjoy the performance if they're concentrating on setting up shots and making sure there's no blur in the digital photo? Seriously, wouldn't a half-dozen photos be enough? (And yes, you were blocking my view, chickie-poo. Don't do it again.)

Every time I hear "The Deal" I think of Eric Clapton ("let it flow ..."), so it was almost eerie when Taylor came back for the encore and said he was going to do something from Clapton. I just about fainted when he started into "Badge," which Clapton wrote with George Harrison and recorded in the waning days of Cream. It's not the most obvious Clapton song to do, but neither is it so obscure that he would be safe from comparisons. I raved about it in my review, and I don't regret doing so. What I do regret is that I didn't sneak a recorder into the show so I could have that to listen to over and over.

Hey Taylor, here's a tip: live album.

Source: Betsy Pickle's Blog
The Knoxville News
Date Published: March 04, 2007