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<p>Elton John</p>

Elton John

HitFix goes in the studio with Elton John and his new album, 'The Diving Board'

Hear the plans for the 40th anniversary of 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road'

Though Elton John’s new album, “The Diving Board,” doesn’t come out until the fall, he previewed it for a handful of  reporters on Friday at Los Angeles‘ The Village recording studio. “I’m not the sort of artist who will get played on radio,” he admitted, adding he will also be out of the country for quite some time on tour, so he wanted to start to spread the word of the project now.

John, in a blue Adidas track suit,  prefaced the playback by calling “The Diving Board” the most “piano-orientated album” he’s ever made (and that’s saying a lot), and the logical follow-up to 2010’s Grammy-nominated project with Leon Russell, “The Union.”  John was then silent as he sat at the console in producer T Bone Burnett’s studio for the 13-song album, other than to clap his hands along with the dynamic “Take This Dirty Water” and play air piano to “Voyeur,” which sounds like a cut straight out of 1971’s  “Madman Across the Water.”

Over two writing and recording sessions a year apart —the first in January 2012 and the second in January 2103— John took longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin’s lyrics, some of his most cinematic, and wrote 15 songs in 5 days and then recorded the basic tracks just as quickly.

It was the first time he’s ever had the luxury of revisiting tracks after such a hiatus. “The time enabled us to go back and put a little sugar on it. Make it a little Eltonized,” he said.

The core band on the project is drummer Jay Bellerose and bassist Raphael Saadiq. John also pointed out that percussionist Jack Ashford, the Motown great who played on such tracks as Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” also performs throughout the album.

The album sounds broadly expansive at times, such as on the rollicking, galloping “Mexican Vacation,” and then shatteringly intimate at others, such as on the yearning ballad “Home Again.”

“It’s got everything  I love about American music,” John said of the album. “Gospel, soul, country, and brass arrangements like New Orleans.”

Three of the songs are prefaced with solo piano interludes, including a jazzy Weather Report-like intro before the title track. “Those were improvised in one take,” John said.

The album is one of two high-profile releases John has coming this year: This fall will also see the 40th anniversary reissue of his 1973 masterpiece, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” In addition to the remastered recording, the release will come with remakes of eight of the album’s songs by contemporary artists. Peter Asher is producing the new tracks.

And FYI, John, who played “The A-Team” on the Grammys with Ed Sheeran, loved the Grammy Award telecast’s performances by Jack White and Miguel, and raved about Adam Levine’s voice.

"The Diving Board" track listing

"Oceans Away"
"Oscar Wilde Gets Out"
"A Town Called Jubilee"
"The Ballad of Blind Tom"
"My Quicksand"
"Can't Stay Alone Tonight"
"Voyeur"
"Home Again"
"Take This Dirty Water"
"The New Fever Waltz"
"Mexican Vacation (Kids in the Candlelight)"
"Candlelit Bedroom"
"The Diving Board"

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<p>There's still a lot of room for Josh Trank, Jeremy&nbsp;Slater, and the rest of the creative team involved to find all-new ways to bring the characters of the Fantastic Four to the big screen.</p>

There's still a lot of room for Josh Trank, Jeremy Slater, and the rest of the creative team involved to find all-new ways to bring the characters of the Fantastic Four to the big screen.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Matthew Vaughn set to produce 'Fantastic Four' reboot at Fox

Is this part of a move by him and Mark Millar to connect all of Fox's Marvel movies?

Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn are slowly, surely building a shared filmography that is absolutely positively comic book crazy, and it looks like little by little, they're taking over 20th Century Fox's entire superhero agenda.

When I first talked to Vaughn about Millar's work in the days leading up to his decision to option the rights to "Kick-Ass," it was obvious that Vaughn responded to Millar's storytelling on an almost chemical level.  It's not just which stories Millar was telling, but his voice.  Vaughn loves to throw a shot to the ribs of propriety whenever he can, and in Millar, he seems to have found a fellow provocateur.

What I respect about Vaughn is the way he's built a very loyal crew that works for him not only when he's directing but also when he's producing.  When I was on the set for "Kick-Ass 2," it may have been a Jeff Wadlow film, but I saw the same familiar faces in many of the key technical positions that I've seen on "Stardust" and "Kick-Ass" and "X-Men: First Class."  His collaboration with Jane Goldman has been incredibly important to the overall voice of his films, and I would imagine Jane will be part of everything moving forward as long as Hollywood doesn't finally figure out that she's awesome and work her so hard that she's no longer got time to be part of each of Matthew's movies.

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<p>Jeff Probst snuffs Allie's torch on &quot;Survivor: Caramoan&quot;</p>

Jeff Probst snuffs Allie's torch on "Survivor: Caramoan"

Credit: CBS

Interview: Allie Pohevitz talks 'Survivor: Caramoan'

What was Allie thinking with The Foursome?
Allie Pohevitz's elimination from "Survivor: Caramoan" can be explained using simple math:
 
If you're in an alliance of four in a tribe of 10, you shouldn't assume that the lone guy who everybody hates will be seen as more of a threat than your tightly bunched, cuddling group of pretty people. Because 6 > 4.
 
Reynold, Allie, Eddie and Hope formed an early alliance within the Fans tribe based on shared interests, shared youth and shared attractiveness. They were convinced that because everybody seemed to hate lazy, ornery Marine Shamar, he'd be an easy first elimination and they could skate. They were incorrect. Led by Sherri, the outsider alliance reminded the Foursome of the basic math I mentioned earlier and voted Allie out.
 
In this week's "Survivor" exit interview, Allie talks about hating Shamar, failing to properly obscure her alliance and knowing about the Reynold's Idol, even if the editing made it look like she didn't.
 
Click through for the full Q&A...
 
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<p>Alabama Shakes on &quot;Saturday Night Live&quot;&nbsp;</p>

Alabama Shakes on "Saturday Night Live" 

Credit: NBC

Alabama Shakes gets huge bounce on Billboard 200 after 'SNL' performance

Will it be enough to knock Mumford & Sons out of No. 1?

It’s a static Billboard 200 next week as no new albums debut in the Top 10. We’re at the tail end of the winter doldrums and things should pick up in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we see a few lingering effects of Grammy bumps and the huge one-two punch appearing on the Grammys and then on “Saturday Night Live” had for Alabama Shakes.

Grammy album of the year winner “Babel” from Mumford  & Sons stays at No. 1 with sales of 65,000.

Josh Groban’s former No. 1,  “All That Echoes” will be No. 2, while it's likely that  Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” will be No. 3.

The biggest mover of the week is “Boys & Girls” from Alabama Shakes, which could bounce to a new high at No. 4. Its previous summit in its 43 weeks on the Billboard 200 has been No. 8. Following lead singer BrittanyHoward’s participation in the Levon Helm tribute at the Grammys, the group’s album jumped 42-20 this week. Next week, after its triumphant appearance on “Saturday Night Live” it is in a dead heat with the “Now 45”  for No. 4. Both titles are slated to sell between  35,000 and 40,000, according to Hits Daily Double. 

The Lumineers’ self-titled album, which has just been certified platinum for sales of more than 1 million copies. will be at No. 6. It’s a possible tie for No. 7 right now with both  the 2013 Grammy Nominees album and Rihanna’s “Unapologetic” too close to call. Same goes for No. 9 and No. 10: Three albums are all slated to sell between 24,000 and 27,000 copies next week to claim the two spots:  Fun’s “Some Nights,” Tim McGraw’s “Two Lanes of Freedom” and Taylor Swift’s “Red.”

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Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron and Anne Hathaway

Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron and Anne Hathaway will all be at the red carpet for the 2013 Academy Awards on Sunday -- but will any of them be rocking sideboob? 

Credit: AP

Red Carpet Oscar Hopes: Will sideboob visit the 2013 Academy Awards?

The latest fashion trend could be a wardrobe malfunction for Jessica Chastain, Adele and more

In addition to wondering who will win Best Picture and Best Actress, we have another question to ask ourselves -- who, if anyone, will be rocking sideboob on the red carpet? The hottest fashion trend of late, sideboob has been popping up (couldn't resist) in soms surprisingly places, so we can expect at least a few brave celebrities to be exposing themselves. The question is, who will take the plunge (alas, cleavage is so passe)?  Here are our best guesses as to who will be wearing what (and who will be showing sideboob) for Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Adele, Michelle Williams and more. 

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This Week In New Music: Nick Cave, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Jamie Lidell, Sallie Ford

This Week In New Music: Nick Cave, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Jamie Lidell, Sallie Ford

Listen to new songs and full albums from Lusine, Samantha Crain and more

Listen to new music out this week, from Sallie Ford, Nick Cave, Samantha Crain, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Iceage, Lusine and Sin Fang.

I've frothed over Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside many times before, and their new album "Untamed Beast" has me in a damned-near tizzy. It was released on Tuesday, and you can stream it in all it's full-throated, big bassy, dumbfounding glory here.

In case you missed it, I've been trying to give away an autographed vinyl copy of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' new album "Push the Sky Away," so help me. In the meantime, you can hear that whole damn, somewhat understated (for Cave) effort right here.

Oklahoma-based, folk-inspired rocker Samantha Crain has another new one, too. "Kid Face" not only has a delightful name, but a sparse-but-lush arrangement around her trove of lyrics. She gets wiser with age, and at 26 with three albums and one EP, I can't wait to hear more and more. Hear "Kid Face" in whole here.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy is putting something out every other week, which means every other every other week my heart breaks with good music. He and longtime collabo Dawn McCarthy made a whole album of Everly Brothers covers, "What the Brothers Sang," and released this week. KCRW has the whole stream here.

Copenhagen punk-rockers Iceage put out their second full-length "You're Nothing" out through Matador this week. It sounds like hormones on fire, so here's "Ecstacy" in case you thought you had your sh*t together.

Jamie Lidell has all these sneaky, sexy dance songs fitted in-between seasoned funk freak-outs, and his new, self-titled album has plenty of both. And the video "You Naked" is both. MySpace has his whole damn album streaming, and -- I swear to God -- if it didn't take me five different tries to try and establish a new damn profile on the damn new damn MySpace, I'd recommend you listen to it there. Alas. So here's just the video.

Ghostly put out one of my favorite albums last year -- Matthew Dear's "Beams" -- so it doesn't surprise me they have something else that I love this early into 2013. Check out this chilly action from electronica mastermind Lusine, called "Another Tomorrow."

 

The first time I listened to Sin Fang's organized, noisy kum-ba-ya "Flowers," I was like, "no... wait, let me hear that again." Then it was like, "huh." Then, "I got this," and now, "Listen to this loveable nonsense."

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<p>Jean-Louis Trintignant (left)&nbsp;and Michael&nbsp;Haneke on the set of &quot;Amour&quot;</p>

Jean-Louis Trintignant (left) and Michael Haneke on the set of "Amour"

Credit: Sony Classics

'Amour' dominates the César Awards, 'Argo' wins Best Foreign Film

The last big hurrah for Michael Haneke's film?

The César Awards aren't quite the final stop on the circuit for "Amour" ahead of Sunday's Oscars. There is still the Independent Spirits Awards tomorrow. But it was probably the last opportunity for the film to have a big final hurrah of the season, and it seized it.

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<p>Ben Kingsley may surprise even the most ardent of 'Iron Man' fans with his version of the villainous The Mandarin</p>

Ben Kingsley may surprise even the most ardent of 'Iron Man' fans with his version of the villainous The Mandarin

Credit: Marvel Studios

Ben Kingsley ladles on the menace in a new 'Iron Man 3' Mandarin character poster

The Mandarin isn't what he was, and he may not be what he seems

If The Mandarin is going to work as the villain in "Iron Man 3," he's going to have to be a fairly radical reinvention of the character that has traditionally appeared in the pages of the Marvel comics.  It goes beyond the obvious issue of him being a sort of oddly dated "Yellow Menace" character, and it's more about the fact that villainy in the 21st century looks very different because the world itself has changed.

Ben Kingsley's take on The Mandarin is, before anything else, media-savvy.  He's a television terrorist, a guy whose every accessory, whose look and voice and mannerisms are all created, calculated, part of an image that he's trying to project. He is a brilliant tactician, but that's not just about military strength or being able to reach out and, oh, I don't know… blow Tony Stark's house right off the side of the mountain where it sits.  His strength comes from his complete lack of fear, his determination to use every single tool available to reshape the world to his will.

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<p>Kendrick Lamar in &quot;Poetic Justice&quot;</p>

Kendrick Lamar in "Poetic Justice"

Watch: Kendrick Lamar and Drake combine for ill-fated 'Poetic Justice' video

World's deepest sleeper

The world's deepest sleeper has been identified, and she is laying half-clothed next to Drake in Kendrick Lamar's music video for "Poetic Justice."

The latter Compton MC's cut is off of his -- ahem -- critically acclaimed "good kid, m.A.A.d. city," featuring an ill-fated L.A. love story, with a violent rush ending with a bang. Lamar dials his buddy Drizzy, who picks up the phone in the bedroom. He is clothed, with the lights on, rapping on the phone, as his lady dozes next to him. Considering Drake's irresistibility, she is the Olympic champion of Sleeping.

No Janet Jackson to be found anywhere, though. Bummer.

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<p>John Fogerty</p>

John Fogerty

Credit: Johnfogerty.com

John Fogerty previews new duets album with Foo Fighters, Jennifer Hudson and more

During intimate showcase, Fogerty reveals stories behind 'Wrote A Song For Everyone'

Declaring  that it “may be the best thing I’ve ever done,” John Fogerty hosted  an intimate playback of his forthcoming duets album, “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” Thursday  (Feb. 20) afternoon for about three dozen journalists and radio programmers.

The set, out May 28 (Fogerty’s 68th birthday), features the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer performing Creedence Clearwater Revival and solo songs with Foo Fighters, Jennifer Hudson, Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, My Morning Jacket, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock and Bob Seger among others.

Nestled among the classics are two new songs, “Mystic Highway” and “Train Of Fools.”

Seated on the state of the premiere Los Angeles singer/songwriter club Hotel Cafe, Fogerty went through each song with journalist David Wild, talking about either the song’s creation or the new recording.

The idea for the collaboration came from Fogerty’s wife of nearly 22 years, Julie. “She said why don’t we get a bunch of your friends you really like and sing a bunch of your songs, and I thought, ‘Christmas!’” He cringed at the thought of calling it the obvious, such as “Duets,” and, once again, Julie came to the rescue and suggested “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” the title of a  song from 1969’s CCR album,  “Green River.”

The album kicks off with a full-throttled version of  “Fortunate Son” with Foo Fighter Dave Grohl and Fogerty trading guitar solos.  Miranda Lambert, who performs “Travelin’ Band” in her show, joined him for “Wrote A Song For Everyone.” Fogerty heard Lambert’s voice on the radio before he knew who she was. “I didn’t know who she was... I just knew I loved that voice,” he says. Lambert responded “hell, yeah,” when asked. After recording their parts, Lambert told him she thought the song needed a “face-melting guitar solo.”  “I thought ‘I’ll do a solo like Tom Morello’  went through my mind for a nano-second. Then I thought, ‘No, we’ll get Tom Morello’.” And so they did.

 In addition to Lambert, the album emphasizes the deep country roots that have always run through CCR and his solo music by such pairings as Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band, Brad Paisley and Alan Jackson.  Among the top tracks is “Hot Rod Heart,” a guitar shoot-out with Paisley that leaves the listener breathless. “Brad is probably one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived,” Fogerty says.  “Brad is my idol as far as playing Telecaster.”

Zac Brown Band turns “Bad Moon Rising” into a jubilant, fiddle-fueled outing, and is one of only two tracks recorded without Fogerty in the studio at the same time as the guest the artist. The other Fogerty’s pairing with Kid Rock for a funked up “Born on the Bayou.”

One of the most striking tunes is “Long As I Can See The Light” with My Morning Jacket, where Fogerty  let the jam band do its thing. “I was the observant ringmaster,” he says. Jim James delivers an inspired vocal on the track that sounds like CCR crossed with The Band.

The most touching song on the album is “Someday Never Comes,” a tune Fogerty wrote about having to tell his young children about his divorce from his first wife, which is also informed by his memory of his father having the same talk with him when his parents divorced. Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith takes a tender approach to the vocals, with Fogerty as the older wiser voice. Then Taylor and his brother Griffin sing the last verse.

The best blend of both artists’ styles is on “Who’ll Stop  the Rain” with Bob Seger. Seger originally planned to follow the original, but when the two were in the studio, Fogerty overheard Seger playing the tune on acoustic guitar and singing softly and encouraged him to follow that path.  The song feels like a mash-up of “Rain,”  “Night Moves,” and Seger’s cover of Rodney Crowell’s “Shame on the Moon.”

The album closes with a complete reinvention of “Proud Mary” featuring Jennifer Hudson on vocals. She planned to replicate Tina Turner’s version, and she starts the tune that way, but then it kicks into a New Orleans-style, Zydeco-leaning re-imaging of the tune with horns and accordion. Also featured on the track, which was recording in New Orleans, are Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band.

Fogerty closed the event the way it started with "Fortunate Song," this time playing it solo, seated on a stool with his fuzzy guitar filling every corner of the small club.

With the right push, it’s easy to see the album taking on a life of its own, like Lionel Richie’s similarly-themed “Tuskegee.”  Country radio should gravitate toward the Zac Brown Band track and rock radio could grab “Fortunate Son.”


1. Fortunate Son (with Foo Fighters)
2. Almost Saturday Night (with Keith Urban)
3. Lodi (with Shane Fogerty and Tyler Fogerty)
4. Mystic Highway (John Fogerty solo)
5. Wrote a Song for Everyone (with Miranda Lambert feat. Tom Morello)
6. Bad Moon Rising (with Zac Brown Band)
7. Long As I Can See the Light (with My Morning Jacket)
8. Born on the Bayou (with Kid Rock)
9. Train of Fools (John Fogerty solo)
10. Someday Never Comes (with Dawes)
11. Who'll Stop the Rain (with Bob Seger)
12. Hot Rod Heart (with Brad Paisley)
13. Have You Ever Seen the Rain (with Alan Jackson)
14. Proud Mary (with Jennifer Hudson feat. Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band)


 

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<p>Anne Hathaway's seat placard in the Dolby&nbsp;Theatre</p>

Anne Hathaway's seat placard in the Dolby Theatre

Credit: AP Photo

Closing thoughts as we gear up for the Oscars

It's almost over

I think we've covered it, yeah? The season has been recounted, the big expected outcome has been laid out, we've consoled you if that outcome is troublesome and we've offered up our guesses on what to expect otherwise (including our unique crafts category analysis). The season, in so many words, is nearing its end.

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<p>Michael Moore hosts the Academy's &quot;Oscar Celebrates: Docs&quot; panel.</p>

Michael Moore hosts the Academy's "Oscar Celebrates: Docs" panel.

AMPAS and Michael Moore showcase this year's Oscar docs

Check out the Moore-hosted panel discussion with all the nominees

As Kris has mentioned before, it's a shame that "Searching for Sugar Man" appears to be cruising to such an easy win in the Best Documentary Feature race. That's not because the film, an engaging audience favorite that has won nearly ever major precursor in sight, wouldn't be a respectable Oscar winner, but because the standard of the competition this year merits a bit more of a fight. Someone who hasn't seen any of the films this year might simply look at how little the wealth has been spread and assume that "Sugar Man" stands inarguably apart from the field, and that simply isn't the case.

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