Photo: Kisha Bari
Reggae Band The Frightnrs' 'Always' Delivers On A Promise To Their Late Singer, Dan Klein
Six years after their debut record floored reggae fans, New York group the Frightnrs' 'Always' honors late vocalist Dan Klein — and the insatiable chemistry of a band on the rise.
In late 2015, Queens reggae group the Frightnrs had gathered in their home rehearsal space in high spirits. After years of playing together, they were getting ready to record their first full-length album for venerable Brooklyn soul label Daptone Records. Little did they know, vocalist Dan Klein wouldn't be around to experience the record's success.
In preparation for what would become Nothing More To Say – a lush, luminous rocksteady record, released in September 2016 – the four-piece gathered four days a week to record demos that they would then show producer Victor Axelrod. Brothers Chuck and Preet Patel, and drummer Richard Terrana developed rocksteady rhythms in the smooth, lovestruck style of Jamaican music popular in the late ‘60s, while Klein freestyled over them.
"Around that time, everything was very natural and everyone was at the top of their ability for some good reason," Chuck Patel, the group’s keyboardist, tells GRAMMY.com. "We were at a high in our writing ability, with each other and our chemistry [as a band]."
The Frightnrs produced about 20 demos from those sessions, though only 11 made it onto Nothing More To Say. The album was an instant classic in reggae circles, revered for the way it honored and built upon the rocksteady tradition, its period-perfect production (a hallmark of nearly all Daptone releases), and for Klein’s distinct vocal stylings.
Yet, just three months before the album’s release, Klein passed away from ALS — a brutally degenerative neurological disease. He was 33.
Despite praise for the record and scores of touring offers, the two-year period that followed was expectedly dark for the Frightnrs. And after the Patels’ father passed away in 2016, Chuck felt like he would never play music again. Yet the band had promised Klein that they’d continue on.
Six years later, the Frightnrs are delivering on that promise with Always, a 10-track album out May 27 on Daptone. Consisting of reconstructed and developed-on demos recorded in their Queens living room, Always shows the Frightnrs coming full-circle in both style and production.
"[When] we started to realize we had some of these demos with Dan’s vocals, that was the first time in a very long time that we had any kind of motivation," Chuck recalls. He adds that the demos were filed away in a computer, rediscovered prior to the pandemic.
Before lockdown could prevent the band from getting together, the Frightnrs got to work expanding upon the ideas in their demos. Fortuitously, they had recorded Klein’s vocals as isolated tracks, making for slightly easier studiocraft.
A few songs were nearly complete — including the album’s title track and the slowly grooving "02-30-56" — while Preet developed guitar and basslines for less-polished tracks. Together with Axelrod, the group painstakingly tracked, retracked and mixed Dan’s freestyle vocal stems into complete songs.
"That was some of the hard work we had to do with Victor," Chuck says. "Some of the songs we had to put together vocal takes, but we also had to conceptualize them somehow and make it feel natural — make them feel like it was a fully written song even though it wasn't."
As a result, Always is less lush and lyrically poignant than Nothing More To Say — though, in effect, the album is more reflective of the band’s influences. While there are elements of rocksteady ("Tuesday"), Always incorporates the sparse quality of dub reggae, pulling from the vocal traditions of Linval Thompson, Alton Ellis, Sugar Minott and Tristan Palmer. Local reggae-rocksteady group the Slackers (whose guitarist, Jay Nugent, produced early Frightnrs tracks including 2011’s "Maybe Isle, which appears on Always) and neo-soul pioneer Erykah Badu also factor into the record’s hauntingly cool vibe.
Lyrically, Always is imbued with themes of love and loss, traditional to rocksteady. While a song like "Profilin" is political and among the album’s strongest tracks, love songs such as "You Still" and "Why Does It Feel Like A Curse" showcase the Frightnrs’ sensitive temperament and leadership in contemporary reggae.
Where Axelrod had much influence curating the rocksteady sound of Nothing More To Say, "for this we held our ground a lot more. We tried to stretch him as far as he could stretch while agreeing with us, which was a struggle sometimes. I'm sure he feels that same way about us!" Chuck says, laughing. "After all the hard work and back and forth… I think we all agree that it's the best it could be."
Speaking to the New York Times in 2016, Klein explained how the Frightnrs respect themselves and their audience. "We know we’re never going to sound like our favorite Jamaican artists," he says. "But we’re going to chase this dream, and in the process we’re going to find ourselves."
That current of respect flows through time and space. Always feels like an echo from another era — one without illness, without as much complication, and with impeccable, insatiable chemistry bursting forth from a Queens living room.
"It brought us light that we could fulfill that promise [to Klein] by working on these songs. Not only is it that we're making new music, but it's new music with Dan," Chuck says. "He never got to see the success of [Nothing More To Say]. He also had a whole bunch of new fans that never got to hear him.
"To be able to introduce more songs to those fans with Dan is rewarding," he adds."Emotionally, it’s pretty much worth it."
GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw
On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.
In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.
Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year
Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration
Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the
The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at
"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community."
Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list.
At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in
After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.
In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.
Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized.
For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or email@example.com.
Photo: The Recording Academy
Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.
By Alexa Zaske
This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.
The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.
Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."
Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.
Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed.
Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.
My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.
For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.
(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)
Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam
Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images
Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs
Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards
As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.
Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.
"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."