Singer who has the best-selling 2007 album ready for a new season


Josh Groban


The Associated Press

U2, Patti Smith, 50 Cent, John Legend and Josh Groban contributed to the soundtrack of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Yes, Josh Groban — he of fresh face, lyrical baritone and last year’s best-selling album, the holiday-themed “Noel.”

Sundance, the annual orgy of independent cinema that runs through today, usually attracts alt-rock and acoustic up-and-comers and edgier pop stars. You’d be hard-pressed to find a name familiar to Middle American moms.

But they sure know Groban, 26, the best-selling artist of 2007, who is set to perform both an intimate acoustic show and a big-ticket charity fundraiser in Park City, Utah.

Q. So, Sundance.

A. What am I doing there? People know that I do big. You know that I can go off, I just did a 10-month arena tour, a big extravaganza: big orchestra, huge ordeal. I so love the idea of going into a room with a hundred people and just myself on a piano and a guitar and bass, and just kind of breaking down some of these gorgeous melodies.

Speaking of movie music, you perform “The Prayer” (from 1998’s “The Quest for Camelot”) with Celine Dion on “The Woman in Me.” Isn’t singing with Celine Dion essentially how you got your start? 10 years ago, filling in at the last minute when Andrea Bocelli couldn’t make it to L.A.?

That kind of was my first-year relationship with (producer) David (Foster): “Here, kid. Let’s see what you can do.” You know, just throwing me into ridiculous situations where I had to fight hard not to lose it, not to lose it altogether. But that time period, and certainly that day, was a great learning experience for me and really laid the foundation for what I have been able to achieve after that.

In 2007 you were the top-selling artist. “Noel” was the top-selling CD of the year and is now the longest-running, chart-topping Christmas album, breaking Elvis Presley’s record of four weeks.

I really feel bad about that. But he (Presley) has got me beat in so many other areas that I’ll take it. Thanks, Elvis. No, but it was an enormous record to beat.


Ol’ Blue Eyes Bublè


Michael Bublè



Michael Buble never said he was the “new Sinatra.”

No one from his record company ever said it. His producer David Foster might have said it, but he was too smart to say it to the press.

No, the Buble-as-new-Sinatra phenomenon is completely a media creation – one that was followed closely by angry pronouncements within the media that “Michael Buble ain’t no Sinatra.”

Some critics even say this fresh-faced kid from Vancouver isn’t fit to shine the Chairman’s shoes, were he still alive and needing shoes to shine.

Let’s look at this closely.

On stage for a soldout show at Rexall Place last night, Buble doesn’t have any mob connections that we know of, never threatened to give anyone a knuckle sandwich and was never quoted referring to a woman as a “skirt.”

Both Frank and Michael plundered the ever-expanding great American songbook, brought lounge music to a wider audience and both are/were greatly appealing to women, and it remains to be seen if Buble is going to coast on his legend for the last 20 years of his career like Sinatra did, but Buble also writes some of his own material.

Now I’m not here to diss Frank and risk chin music from the heavens, but let’s just put this in perspective. This style of music is not going to go away.

There will always be a new version of Fever, a revised take on Come Fly With Me, a fresh approach to Summertime.

Every generation has a designated crooner and Michael Buble just happens to be this generation’s. I’m sorry. But that’s just the way it is. If you’re going to complain, complain about the generation.

Moving on, there is no denying Buble’s God-given gift in the vocal department. His voice is aural silk. His smoky glances are capable of unhooking a woman’s bra from 100 metres. He is so cute you just want to pinch his cheeks.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

The man has it all.

Backed by a small, very tight orchestra, the show was an effortless demonstration of vocal perfection balanced with Buble’s rakish sense of humour.

Being of quick wit and ironic mind, the singer treads a fine line between having fun with the lounge jazz idiom and making fun of it, as if three minutes is the longest he can stand being sincere.

Some of the songs were practically cliches themselves – Fever, Call Me Irresponsible, Always on My Mind, Me and Mrs. Jones, the latter stealing thunder from area crooner Alfie Zappacosta, who did his jazz version of the tune years ago.

Doing songs like this in a suit like that, maudlin is never far away.

Buble did his best to keep the mawk at bay with frequent pranks and pratfalls.

For example, following his performance of the big, gooey hit Home – one for the ladies, by the response – Buble sent one out to the men.

Cue campy Elvis impersonation on That’s Alright, Mama and a spirited rendition of Y.M.C.A. by the Village People.

The guys in the horn section doing the moves was a nice touch.

Then it was back to wowing the audience with another heartbreaking ballad or swinging romp.

Buble worked the crowd like a master.

No, I have no problem with Michael Buble being called the new Sinatra. If he keeps this up, we’ll be talking about the new Michael Buble in 40 years or so.

It takes a real mensch to bring an opening act who might upstage you – so Buble brought seven singers who can each sing circles around him, an a capella group from Brooklyn, N.Y., called Naturally 7.

This was a weird one.

Slightly precious, but unbelievably skilled, the singers called what they do “vocal play,” which doesn’t begin to describe the remarkable array of sounds they generated – including uncanny reproductions of drums, bass, electric guitar, Hammond organ, DJ, you name it.

Taking time to prove it was all human voices with detailed demonstrations kind of brought the show to a grinding halt, but it’s preferable to having people think there was a real band behind the curtain, or worse, that they were lip-syncing.

Material was a surprise, too, tending towards artfully mangled Simon and Garfunkel and Mr. Mister, believe it or not, along with a gospel number on which the Almighty sounds a bit needy: “Say that you love me, that there’s no one above me.”

The climax of the set was a mind-blowing version of In the Air Tonight. Seven black guys in white suits making Phil Collins sound sublime – there’s something you don’t hear every day.

Source: Edmonton Sun

This is a video with Naturally 7 Live in Paris Subway:

Pop-pianist on road to stardom


William Joseph


by Adrian Chamberlain – Times Colonist

There’s Michael Bublé, Josh Groban … and William Joseph.

William who?

All are protégés of David Foster, the Victoria-born music producer blessed with an ability to transform relative unknowns into easy-listening titans.

Joseph, 29, is the latest to get the Big Foster Push. Indeed, Foster’s so keen to tout Joseph, he contacted the TC offering to chat about the pop-pianist from Phoenix, Ariz.

So we did.

Foster says Williams is playing Vancouver Island dates (Victoria, Nanaimo, Courtenay and Campbell) as part of a Western Canadian tour to hone the pianist’s concert chops. In a sense, this tour, wrapping in Winnipeg on Jan. 30, is the equivalent of an off-Broadway run — the U.S. and international market being “Broadway.” Travelling with a small band, it is Joseph’s first tour as a headliner.

“This is a great training ground for him to get prepared for what’s about to come,” Foster said this week.

The producer compares Joseph’s situation to that of the pre-fame Bublé. At Foster’s suggestion, Bublé fine-tuned his live act during a five-night run at the 75-seat Cinegrill club in Los Angeles’s Roosevelt Hotel. Bublé went on to sell more than 10 million albums … and capture the hearts of middle-age women worldwide.

Foster believes Joseph might achieve the career he envisioned for himself before becoming a wildly successful producer, overseeing sessions for Celine Dion, Michael Jackson and other stars. Both men share a love for playing cinematic pop piano with classical flourishes. On his debut disc, Within (produced by Foster), Joseph plays his own pop/neo-romantic pieces alongside adult-contemporary reworkings of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and Kansas’s Dust in the Wind.

Foster first encountered Joseph in 2003 at a charity event honouring Muhammad Ali. Joseph’s previous manager, Gregg Ostro, introduced the pianist to Foster. Joseph says all he imagined was shaking Foster’s hand and giving him a demo recording.

Instead, at Ostro’s suggestion, Joseph was also invited to play the piano. The musician immediately knew it was a make-or-break opportunity.

“It was exciting and horrifying all at the same time … I was scared out of my mind,” Joseph recalled. “But I was just trying to contain my excitement and play it cool.”

Foster was tremendously impressed with the pianist’s rendering of his original song Within (the title track of his album). The producer gave Joseph the high-five, then invited him to be the opening act at the charity concert, headlined by Rod Stewart and Reba McEntire. That performance went over well, too.

“I knew it was a big deal,” Joseph said. “But I didn’t know how big of a deal it was.”

Foster then invited the pianist to his Malibu studio to record Within for his 143 Records label, now operating under the Warner Bros. umbrella. The pair are collaborating on a followup disc, recorded with a 72-piece orchestra.

Joseph performed in Victoria last April as the opener for Il Divo. Just like the Il Divo gang, Joseph is a good-looking, clean-cut young fellow. While this is great for marketing purposes, handsome dudes who deliver easy-listening music are often a target for critics — something of which Joseph is well aware.

“Sad to say, the world relies a lot on image,” he said. “[But] the No. 1 thing should always be music and talent first.”

For his part, Foster is under no illusions about the road to stardom. Even if the whole package is there — the right look, the right song — it’s still a long way from playing soft-seaters to selling out sport stadiums.

“It’s a challenge,” Foster said. “But it’s a challenge I’m right on top of. I love it.”

Source: Times Colonist

Foster-discovered talent looks ‘Within’


David Foster and William Joseph


by John P. Mclaughlin, The Province

There are a lot of people in Vancouver music circles who still remember David Foster as the wiry guy with big hair playing keyboards for Skylark on their 1972 mega-hit, “Wildflower.”

He was a 23-year-old Victoria kid, and even then, quite noticeably and prodigiously talented. When he waved from the window of his southbound VW van and said he was off to conquer America, not many doubted him.

In no time, he got session work with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart and Hall and Oats — not to mention the Beatles — and the upward climb had begun.

Fourteen Grammys later, should Foster put his imprimatur on an emerging talent, it’s prudent to pay attention. Think Michael Bublé. Hell, think Josh Groban, whose Foster-produced Noel record was the biggest seller in the U.S. last year, moving 3.7 million copies — and it was released only three months ago.

Foster, as you might guess, is invited to many galas and he’s a regular at the annual Celebrity Fight Night star-fest in Phoenix, Ariz., the benefit dedicated to a variety of charities, most notably Muhammed Ali’s Parkinson Center. Seats are $5,000 US minimum and they raise five or six million in a single, talent-gorged, black-tie evening.

Three years ago, rehearsing for the event, Foster was approached by someone from the Boys and Girls Club about a local young man in his early 20s, who they had helped out with piano lessons a few years earlier. He just wanted to look at Foster’s piano. That was it. So, as the band tuned up, this good-looking young fellow named William Joseph stepped up and Foster said, “Hey, go ahead, play the thing.

“And the guy sits down and he rips this kind of classical piece that he wrote,” Foster recalls. “That night, I was supposed to open the show with my little “Winter Games” song that I wrote in ’88, which I love but I keep using it to open all these shows because I haven’t written anything better. So I said, ‘Tonight, you open the show.'”

As Joseph remembers it, about 10 seconds into the piece — it’s called “Within,” the title of his current album — Foster got the attention of the band and began conducting them to join in with the piano.

“And the next thing I knew, I’ve got this world-class band playing along with me and I’ve got David Foster next to me conducting and I’m praying in my head, ‘Please, don’t mess up.’ It was quite a moment. When I finished, everybody that was in there setting up started applauding and David gave me a high-five and he said, ‘What was that?’ I said, ‘I wrote it.’ Then he said, ‘Tonight you’re going to open the show.’So we had another run-through and I had to run home, change and come back that night and perform. I’ve never been more scared in my life.”

Much like the Skylark-era Foster, Joseph was a young, precocious talent, but hadn’t yet busted out of Arizona. He played the organ at Phoenix Coyotes games, did corporate gigs and got work every Christmas at a local mall where he played seasonal music 12 hours a day. But right away, Foster saw something. “His music was like Josh Groban without the vocals, just a little edgier, but still the Il Divo, Josh Groban camp. I like to call it ‘popera’ but everybody hates that term.”

In no time, Joseph was signed as a Warner recording artist and had his debut recorded and ready in two months to join up with the Josh Groban tour. He lived at Foster’s Malibu house (this was just before the Foster family’s unfortunate Princes of Malibu reality TV show), recorded the album and hit the road. Since then, he’s also been out opening for Il Divo and Clay Aiken. Joseph’s Vancouver show is part of his first headlining tour.

Still to come is a tour of Canada’s East Coast this spring and there’s a good possibility of a tour to China. And what would Joseph be doing these days if not for that fortuitous meeting with David Foster?

“Restaurants and weddings.”

Here’s a video with William Joseph performing “Kashmir” at MGM Grand in Las Vegas in 2004.


[coolplayer width=”360″ height=”320″ autoplay=”0″ loop=”0″ charset=”utf-8″ download=”0″ mediatype=””]
William Joseph – Kashmir



Source: The Province –

B.J. Cook: Life of a rock survivor


David Foster


B.J. Cook and David Foster with Skylark

These are some excerpts from an article by Times Colonist, B.J. Cook speaks about the 70’s and his partnership with band Skylark and David Foster.

A new Victoria studio honours B.J. Cook, a musical pioneer who did it her way
Adrian Chamberlain, Times Colonist

B.J. (Bonnie Jean) Cook is absolutely chuffed that a new recording studio slated for Victoria High School will be named in her honour.

She’s also amused by the underlying irony.

Victoria’s Cook — David Foster’s ex-wife and once a minor rock hero herself — is a driving force and fundraiser for the innovative project. An unorthodox initiative for any school, Studio 65: The B.J. Cook Educational Recording Institute, will help would-be rock stars and future engineers gain hands-on-the-knobs experience.

She was also instrumental in helping a wet-behind-the-ears Foster get launched in the business. And when they split up after a decade, Cook struggled to make it on her own. She persevered, despite years of being financially ignored by the man who became a Grammy-winning producer to the stars: Celine Dion, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. It was tough. Much later, when the suppressed emotional pain of the past finally caught up with her, Cook suffered a depression severe enough to confine her to bed for two years.

“She survived all that stuff,” said longtime friend Prakash John, who has played bass for Parliament, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper. “That’s just utterly amazing to me.” Today, life is good for Cook. Her daughter with Foster, Amy Foster-Gillies, is an award-winning songwriter who wrote a hit for Michael Bublé. Meanwhile, Cook and Foster have reconciled to the point where he regularly asks her to scout young talent for him. And she now owns an upscale townhouse in a posh waterfront location.

In 1973, Cook and David Foster reached an apex in their nascent rock-star careers. That was the year their band, Skylark, played its ballad Wildflower on Burt Sugarman’s Midnight Special. The NBC-TV show, viewed by millions, hosted the elite of pop and rock.

Cook, one of Skylark’s lead singers, performed in a billowy peasant dress. Fashionable at the time, it also helped conceal the fact she was 71/2 months pregnant with Foster’s child, Amy.

Wildflower was a tremendous MOR hit in Canada and the U.S., even denting the Billboard Top 10. The ballad was written by Skylark’s guitarist Doug Edwards and Dave Richardson, a Victoria police officer. Yet just a year later, Skylark had fallen apart, despite having chart-topper and a recording contract. Edwards and another band member, unable to get along with the drummer, left the group.

The route to rock fame — even one-hit-wonderdom — had not been easy. Cook and Foster formed Skylark after Foster was unceremoniously fired from Ronnie Hawkins’s band. A rockabilly pioneer whose previous bandmates went on to achieve superstardom with the Band, Hawkins was impressed with Foster’s skill as a pianist and organist. But he thought the younger man lacked charisma.

“David had no stage presence,” said Hawkins. “I told him, ‘David, you look like a cadaver up there.’ ” Hawkins had been satisfied with Cook — who sang well and had the sort of raucous personality that entertains a beer-fuelled crowd. But the pair were a couple, so they both left.

Foster, a prodigy who had joined Chuck Berry’s backup band as a teen, was devastated at his dismissal. Lying in bed together one night, Cook made a bold proposal. “I said, ‘F–k Ronnie Hawkins. Let’s just put our own band together.’ ” Foster eventually agreed, but only if Cook could assemble his ultimate band. He wanted some of Canada’s premier rock musicians and singers. By a small miracle, each musician on the list was available. Cook convinced Foster’s dream team to join up within four days.

After a series of preliminary concerts in Vancouver and Edmonton, Skylark was fine-tuned and ready to soar. It was Cook — seven years older than Foster and already a seasoned veteran of Canada’s music scene — who then scored their deal with Capitol Records in Los Angeles.

She had already tried to make it L.A. once before, a wild escapade that required sleeping on floors and escaping a crazed companion who pressed a gun to her skull. Despite such adventures, Cook managed to stay in touch with a producer she had met. He took Skylark’s tape and, impressed, forwarded it to Capitol.

Even though Skylark eventually tumbled from the heavens, Cook’s music savvy would later prove invaluable to David Foster.

By chance, Cook met Foster — whom she already knew from Victoria — at a Vancouver bar. Foster was working in Alberta with respected jazz musician Tommy Banks and was already considered a hot talent on the rise. Foster told Cook he was assembling a new band in Edmonton that needed a singer.

“I said, ‘Who’s in the band?’ He said, ‘Ronnie Hawkins.’ ” An amazed Cook requested an audition. She got the gig, and found it to be “rock’n’roll boot camp.” Musicians were fined for minor infractions — dressing improperly or having dirty fingernails. After gigs, the exhausted band would rehearse until the wee hours. Although tough, it was an invaluable musical education.

Recalls Hawkins: “B.J. had it all. She’d already been to the mountain-top…. She was an entertainer, a singer. She was a talented girl.” Canadian rock journalist Larry LeBlanc, a former correspondent for Billboard magazine, saw Cook perform in those days. “She was a dynamic singer. And she could really tackle those R&B songs.” LeBlanc, who knows both Cook and Foster, remembers them as an odd couple. Back then Foster was a shy “babe in the woods” whose wholesome good looks reminded LeBlanc of Donny Osmond. Cook, on the other hand, was a boisterous character. She very much held her own with the flamboyant Hawkins during shows at Toronto’s Le Coq D’Or.

Before signing the Capitol Records contract with Skylark, Foster had dreamed of being a jazz musician. His tune had literally changed, however, after he and Cook attended a club concert given by his idol, jazz pianist Bill Evans. Only about 10 people showed up to hear one of the most celebrated figures in jazz.

“It was a life altering moment to him, because at that moment he realized you don’t make any money doing [jazz],” Cook said.

Following Skylark’s breakup, Foster set out to become a freelance studio musician. She and Foster had married before she became pregnant with her second child, Amy. Cook, who suffered from endometriosis, had believed she was infertile and imagined they’d have a life together in music. But after Amy was born, things changed.

“David wanted his wife to stay home and have babies and cook and clean,” she said.

Although it wasn’t the life she wanted, Cook — deeply in love — tried be to a traditional wife until Amy was four. Then she decided she’d had enough.

“I tried, I did… [but] I ended up just hating his guts and thinking he was an a–hole,” she said. “I didn’t want to be at home raising a kid. I wanted to be at the sessions.” Even as a hausfrau, Cook proved useful to Foster. She became his personal administrator, organizing his new life as an L.A. session musician. Foster, she remembers, was initially frustrated with the paltry gigs he was doing, such as being a rehearsal pianist for future Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd, then an aspiring singer.

His career finally blasted off when he was invited to a weekly jam session hosted by Jim Keltner, a famed drummer who’d played with members of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

At first Foster was unsure whether to accept the invite. Cook encouraged him to go, believing it might be a way of getting his name out. It turned out the sessions were frequented by 1970s rock royalty, including George Harrison, Harry Nilsson and Danny Kortchmar.

Foster didn’t return from the jam session until the next morning at 8 a.m. It turned out the gang was impressed with Foster’s chops. Immediately, his day-timer was full.

“My function,” said Cook, “was to get David’s life started, to put him on the road.” This might seem a brash statement, given Foster’s subsequent success — which includes holding senior executive positions at Atlantic Records and Warner Music. Yet the sentiment is echoed by many interviewees. Hawkins, for instance, believes Cook’s music experience and street smarts were crucial in helping Foster ascend the ladder. Her friend Prakash John says: “I know that she singlehandedly — I’ll go out on a limb here — made David Foster what he is today.” Foster himself is quick to give his ex-wife credit.

“I think I was destined to do well, but she certainly short-cutted it for me,” he said. “She introduced me to so many things and taught me so much about life and also about the music business.” Today, Foster and Cook’s relationship has healed to the point where they’re friends once again. She often travels from city to city, helping her ex-husband scout out new talent for his David Foster and Friends fund-raising concerts.

“If she asks me to listen to something, I’ll listen,” said Foster, praising her acute ear for talent. “And I might not for 99 other people.” Yet Cook says after they split up in 1981, he was angry at her for years. Following their separation, Foster gave her the rights to a few of his songs; however, they were mostly B-listers in the earning department. The exception was the 1978 disco hit Got to Be Real, which Foster co-wrote. Used as the theme song for national commercial campaigns by Clairol, Hanes and KIA, its royalities alone earn Cook a comfortable living.

But Cook says Foster didn’t let on until years later that money was accumulating for her from this source. After the split, a 40-year-old Cook moved to Toronto in 1981 with Amy to try to make a living as a songwriter.

In 1985, Foster flew to Toronto to organize a famous music project. Tears Are Not Enough, which raised funds to battle famine in Ethiopia, followed the path of a similar American effort, We Are the World. The song Tears Are Not Enough showcased the cream of Canadian pop artists, including Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Anne Murray.

Early on, there was an outcry when it appeared no black musicians were to appear on the single. A worried Foster, knowing that Cook was plugged into the Toronto music scene, asked his ex-wife to bail him out. Soon she’d lined up a pair of black artists: Donnie Gerrard of Skylark (who wasn’t on speaking terms with Foster) and Liberty Silver.

At the Tears Are Not Enough sessions, Cook was permitted to chat with Canada’s pop elite. But when everyone filed in for the actual recording, Foster neglected to invite her to sing with the large chorus. Hurt and tearful, she grabbed her coat and headed for the exit.

“It was the most pain I’ve ever had in my life. It was like he shot me,” she said.

The slight was ameliorated somewhat when an assistant asked Cook to sit in the control room. Foster needed help directing the artists, some of whom were singing out of tune. (Famously, when Foster complained about Young’s intonation, the reedy-voiced star responded: “That’s my style, man.”) Today, Foster describes Cook as a complex and singular woman — a strong personality who can be difficult to get along with. He credits her talent as a songwriter and a mentor, yet maintains “she can help a lot of other people better than she can help herself.” He also admits he was too focused on his own career when they married.



“The only way I can explain that marriage is that I was very young, very ambitious and at that point in my life I didn’t really understand anyone’s needs except my own,” he said. “I certainly get along fantastically with her now.” “I always say David Foster and I were a great team,” said Cook, “but a lousy couple.”

Read the complete article: Victoria Times Colonist