Sunday, September 23, 2018

(press bio)

Alan K. Stout is a rock music journalist based out of Northeastern Pennsylvania who has written extensively for the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader and The Weekender, a popular arts and entertainment newspaper in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He was voted Northeastern Pennsylvania's "Favorite Newspaper Columnist" in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009. In 1998, he was awarded a "Keystone Press Award for Excellence in Journalism" for his music coverage. In 2011, he was presented with the "Best Special Event/Achievement Award" by the United Way of The Wyoming Valley for his charitable work with the annual "Concert For A Cause." In 2014, he was presented with the "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Steamtown Music Awards, which were a part of the Electric City Music Conference.

Music journalist and radio host Alan K. Stout
Stout began covering music for The Times Leader in 1992 and his weekly column, "Music On The Menu," appeared in The Times Leader from 1994-2005. In 2000, he was named music editor at The Times Leader. In 2005, "Music On The Menu" moved to The Weekender, where he served as editor until 2007 and where the column appeared until 2011. His concert reviews are still published by The Times Leader. The Weekender and the Bold Gold Media Group.

Stout's focus in the Northeast Pennsylvania region has often been on the local music scene, which has produced national recording artists such as The Badlees (1995) and Breaking Benjamin (2002). He was among the first writers to profile these bands and continues to write about local talent in the NEPA region. In 2004, Stout launched his own weekly radio show, "Music On The Menu," on 102.3-FM, The Mountain. In 2013, the program moved to 105 The River (104.9-FM), and as his column did for nearly 18 years, it continues to showcase local talent. From 2004-2013, Stout hosted of the monthly "Weekender/Mountaingrown Original Music Series," a live radio broadcast which allowed local musicians to showcase their songs to a wide audience. In 2014, Stout began to host a new original music series, "Music On The Menu Live," which is broadcast live on 105 The River from Mohegan Sun t Pocono. In 2017, Stout, in cooperation with SSPTV and the Bold Gold Media Group, launched a monthly television version of the "Music On The Menu" radio show which aired on Comcast and Service Electric Cable TV throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Stout is also known for his concert coverage and reviews. He frequently reviewed shows at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, The F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre and the Montage Mountain Amphitheater in Scranton. He also sometimes covers major concert tours that visit Philadelphia and has reviewed shows by The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Plant/Page, Sting, Eric Clapton, The Who, Dave Matthews Band, KISS and Billy Joel. In addition to appearing in the Wilkes-Barre newspapers, Stout's reviews have also appeared on the national entertainment newspaper wires, in papers from coast-to-coast, and - if favorable - on the websites of the artists he covers.

Stout's interviews include conversations with Billy Joel, Steven Tyler, David Bowie, Eddie Van Halen, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Don Henley.  Many of these interviews have also appeared on national newspaper wires and have appeared in various newspapers across the United States. Many can now be found on YouTube.

In 1997, Stout broke a news story regarding the Lackawanna County Commissioners office and its decision to possibly end its relationship with the Metropolitan Entertainment Group. Metropolitan had promoted concerts at the Montage Mountain Amphitheater in Scranton, had run the facility, and had brought some of the biggest names in music to Northeastern Pennsylvania. The county, however, had concerns about the facility, particularly what it deemed as Metropolitan’s poor management of concert traffic. Stout’s news coverage of the situation led to a mass movement by the public to save the concerts at Montage. Radio stations organized petition drives, elected officials were lobbied, and eventually, a new agreement/contract was made between Metropolitan and Lackawanna County, with Metropolitan committing to make improvements, including, in 2000, constructing a new and improved multi-million dollar amphitheater. Stout’s ongoing coverage of the situation, which was deemed fair and balanced by both parties - combined with his commentaries/editorials, concert reviews, album reviews and coverage of the local band and club scene – resulted in his receiving a Keystone Press Award for Excellence in Journalism for his music coverage.

In 1999, Stout worked with the band Mötley Crüe when the group released digitally re-mastered versions of its entire CD catalog. Titled "Crucial Crue," the series featured all new liner-notes for each album, written by Stout with the band. He is credited on each album.

Also in 1999, Stout helped found "Concert For Karen/Concert For A Cause," an annual charity event held in Northeast Pennsylvania that united the region's entire musical and media community. The annual event, held each April, featured dozens of local bands, plus full sponsorship from the local print, television and radio media. A rock auction featured autographed items from John Mellencamp, KISS, Mötley Crüe, Dave Matthews, Elton John and Bob Weir. Since 2002, the event also included a limited edition companion CD for which Stout often contributed a track. His recordings for the "Concert For A Cause" albums included covers of The Beatles' "Blackbird," Bruce Springsteen's "Happy," John Lennon's "Watching The Wheels," KISS' "Sure Know Something," John Mellencamp's "What If I Came Knocking," Elvis Presley's "His Latest Flame" and U2's "Walk On." In 2008, the "Concert For A Cause 6" CD spent five weeks at No. 1 on the NEPA album chart. In 2009, "Concert For a Cause 7" also spent several weeks at No. 1 and in 2011, "Concert For A Cause 9: The Final Show," also hit No. 1. In 2009, to note its 10th anniversary, the mayor of the City of Wilkes-Barre declared April 22 "Concert For A Cause Day." As of 2011, the concert and the CDs had raised more than $204,000 for regional charities.

In 2003, one of Stout's original songs, "Summer Days," received critical acclaim from others in the NEPA media and the Billboard Magazine Songwriting Panel. Featuring members of The Badlees, as do all of his recordings, it received airplay on 14 radio stations, hit the Top-5 on the NEPA singles chart and also appeared on the "Concert For A Cause II" album.

In 2005, Stout organized "We All Shine On: A Tribute to John Lennon." The sold-out show was held on December 8 on the 25th anniversary of Lennon's death. It took place at one of Wilkes-Barre's most popular music venues and featured an all-star lineup of NEPA artists performing Lennon's songs from both his time with The Beatles and his solo career. It was also broadcast live on the radio. Proceeds benefited The John Lennon Scholarship Fund.

Stout's stories have appeared in the Boston Globe, San Jose Mercury News, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Daily News, San Diego Tribune, Dallas Morning News and Miami Herald. He currently serves as a music correspondent for The Weekender, The Times Leader and the Bold Gold Media Group. Through that work, and through his weekly radio show and music blogs, he continues to provide insight into the musical climate of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

(This bio was first published by The Times Leader and also appears on Wikipedia.)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Paul McCartney’s ‘Egypt Station’ is at No. 1

And that says, and means, much more than just a spot on the charts 



As I write this, Paul McCartney has the No. 1 album in America. It’s certainly not new territory for the former Beatle. The Fab Four had topped the charts a record-holding 19 times. McCartney’s incredibly successful post-Beatles project, Wings, also hit No. 1 on five occasions. And his solo albums had previously grabbed the top spot twice. But until “Egypt Station” jetted straight to No. 1 earlier this week, it had been 36 years since Sir Paul had sat atop of the Billboard 200.

That’s not to say that a few of his records since 1982’s “Tug Of War” didn’t deserve it. I’m particularly fond of 1989’s “Flowers In The Dirt.”  Tracks such as “My Brave Face,” “We Got Married,” “Put It There” and “This One” are on par with some of McCartney’s best work.  And “Off The Ground,” from 1993, is another really good record. (Check out “Hope of Deliverance,” “Biker Like An Icon” and “Winedark Open Sea.”)  I also liked 2002’s “Driving Rain.” But, for whatever reasons, “Egypt Station” seemed to have gotten a bigger pre-release buzz than any other McCartney album in quite some time. His wonderful “Carpool Karaoke” TV bit with James Corden became a viral sensation – and rightly so – and in the days leading up to its release, it was fun to see Jimmy Fallon wilt into such a total fan-boy when Sir Paul sat with him on the “Tonight Show.” Howard Stern also gave us an insightful McCartney interview, and perhaps we should have known - just by observing what seemed like a confident twinkle in the 76 year-old musician’s eyes - that he had something special up his sleeve.

It was, of course, “Egypt Station.”

If McCartney felt he was about to drop a really cool album, he was right. “Egypt Station” is ambitious. It’s contemporary. It’s engaging. It’s thoughtful. And, quite often, it's just plain fun.

“I Don’t Know,” accented by rich piano, kicks off the record in a refreshingly introspective manner and, in some ways, is unlike anything we’ve heard from McCartney before. Penned during an albeit brief time when McCartney says he was feeling down, it’s interesting, and comforting, to know that even one of most successful men of our time has had moments of self-doubt and a sense of failure. Such moments in life, which are a part of life, spare no one. It’s a song we can all relate to.  

Things shift gears quickly, however, with the rousing “Come On To Me,” a flirty and sexy romping track about that moment when you spot someone across the room and feel a magnetic attraction, but you’re waiting for them to make the first move. Beefed up by a classic rock riff, rhythmic and grooving drums, horns, piano, a clever breakout section, and marvelous pop sensibilities (didn’t McCartney invent them?), “Come On To Me” is an instant Macca classic and one that will hopefully have a regular place in the set-list on his 2019 American tour. It will sound good in stadiums.

On “Happy With You” McCartney sings of how his marriage has inspired him to ditch some of his former habits  - getting wasted and stoned -  simply because, in his life with her, he doesn’t need it. With her, he sings, there is no sadness and no anger. With her, the world is beautiful and in perfect focus and, simply stated, there are “lots of good things to do.” It’s a chirpy gem.

With the pounding “Who Cares,” McCartney offers an inspiring anti-bullying message which is dismissive of those that come with hurtful words, and with “People Want Peace,” he revisits a theme famously first visited by his late songwriting partner, John Lennon. “Hand In Hand” comes with more romanticism and celebrates the happiness of such unions and “Dominos” touches on the concept of how one simple action or small gesture can trigger something that can become much bigger. 
What’s perhaps most interesting about “Egypt Station” is its musicality and contemporariness.  The production is crisp and booming. “Back In Brazil” sounds as if it could only have been recorded in 2018 and the sizzling, recently released accompanying music video is as hot as anything PG-rated that you’ll see this year. “Caesar Rock” is equally fresh, and with “Despite Repeated Warnings” McCartney takes on the perceived ambivalence of Donald Trump towards global warming. But it’s not your typical chanty-protest song. It’s a melodic, seven-minute, cleverly arranged bulls-eye aimed straight at the President of United States. Lennon would have loved it.

Despite the diverse themes found on “Egypt Station,” it’s the fun songs that serve as its highlights. And, like “Come On To Me,” the track “Fuh You” is one of them. It’s comes with an insanely melodic pre-chorus and an amusing chorus about, well, feeling a special connection with someone and just wanting to … um …  get right to it. It’s breezy and catchy and it could inspire even the most reluctant homebody to get out there and look for love (or, at least sex). There’s something to be said for an artist that’s been around for as long as McCartney truly surprising you with a song, and with “Fuh You,” he’s done just that. It’s fabulous. And it’s easy to imagine a local cover band of 23 year-olds playing this one at your favorite club.

Today, Paul McCartney’s “Egypt Station” is the No. 1 album in America. And that’s a good thing. And not just because it is worthy, but because of who he is and what that says. I’ve been saying this for years now: we are lucky to be living in these times, with such artists. The contemporaries of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven – and perhaps even those artists themselves - might not have realized that we’d still be listening to their music long after they were gone. But we do know, right now, that people will still be listening to Paul McCartney long after he and the rest of us are gone. And they’ll look back at his entire body of work, and they’ll study it, and they’ll wonder how the music that came much later in his life was received at the time. And, at 76 years old, they will see a No. 1 album.

They will see that his contemporaries got it. We knew what we had. And we embraced it and cherished it.

I spent most of the ‘90s and a good part of the following decade covering concerts. For 15 straight years, it was a huge part of my life. And then, about 10 years ago, when my children came along, I pulled back quite a bit.  But eventually, I felt a little pull to get back at it from time to time. And so, over the past few years, I covered some shows by people like Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Sting, U2 and Rod Stewart. I’d seen them all before, but I was becoming more aware of the fact that those artists aren’t just the greatest of our time, but they will long be considered the greatest of all-time. I realized we’re all fortunate to be here, right now, enjoying this music, from such artists, and that when an artist of that caliber continues to record or perform, we need to be paying attention.

Paul McCartney sits at the very top of that list, and today, in September of 2018 – with a wonderful new album, he is right where he belongs.

Right on top.

We get it.

And that twinkle in his eye was well-deserved. 

(Alan K. Stout has seen Paul McCartney live three times and has covered rock and pop music since 1992. His weekly radio show, “Music On The Menu,” airs every Sunday from 9-10 p.m. on The River. Reach him at