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Music Review: Band from TV – Hoggin’ All the Covers

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Hugh Laurie (House, MD), Greg Grunberg (Heroes) and Jamie Denton (Desperate Housewives) are “Band” From TV.  No, not banned from TV, but they are members of a Hollywood-based rock band called Band From TV.  The group, comprised mainly of television stars also includes Bonnie Somerville, Teri Hatcher, Bob Guiney, and Jesse Spencer.

Band From TV has just released its first CD/DVD combo:  Hoggin’ All the Covers.  The two-disc set (an audio CD and a DVD) is available from Amazon.com.  100% of band members’ profits from sale of the set (selling for $14.95) go to charities supported by the band's members, which amounts to “not less than 15% of the retail sales price after the initial 39,000 units sold.”

The group has been playing together since 2006, and though performing mostly for fun, they charge big bucks for their services — all of which goes into the Band From TV Global Charity Trust.  All profits go to band members’ favorite charities, including Save the Children (Laurie), the Pediatric Epilepsy Foundation (Grunberg), The Child Abuse Prevention Program (Somerville) and The Art of Elysium (Guiney).

Hoggin All the Covers isn’t the band’s first recording.  The group recorded two tracks for last year’s House, MD’s Soundtrack release, including Hugh Laurie’s arrangements of Cab Calloway’s classic “Minnie the Moocher” and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

The CD/DVD is a real treat. “Star bands” are often thought of as vanity projects; and the reputation is often not undeserved.  But lots of actors are terrific musicians, and lots of musicians can act, so why not?  The DVD is a must-have for fans of any of the involved actors; there are on-screen interviews, peeks backstage (and a great moment with Laurie playing his acoustic guitar and singing the folk song “Man of Constant Sorrow” with Somerville and Guiney — which is a sublime treat).  And of course, footage from the concert from which the “live” audio CD was recorded.

The CD includes 13 tracks that criss-cross genres and styles, mainly featuring Guiney and Somerville on vocals, Grunberg on drums and Laurie on piano and some of the vocals. The tracks range from "Mustang Sally" to "Lean on Me;" Guiney and Somerville have nice, melodic country voices; Laurie's gravelly American-accented voice, gives an appropriate rawness to the more bluesy tunes. (Laurie speaks about the recording in a short video at Amazon.)

And they’re all pretty good musicians; Grunberg is a bundle of energy on drums.  Laurie is fabulous on piano, which is no surprise to his fans. As his alter ego on House, MD, Laurie plays piano (and guitar). In his British series Jeeves and Wooster, his Bertie Wooster would often been heard at the piano; a highlight of that series was his rendition (as Bertie Wooster) of “Minnie the Moocher,” which Laurie now performs with Band from TV.  A mainstay of A Bit of Fry and Laurie was Laurie’s performance of original compositions, spanning genres and styles. Guiney has a great voice as does Somerville.  But they are also backed by a cadre of “real” musicians, who actually make a living at it. 

The band is clearly having a blast, whether on stage or backstage.  It’s a fun collection of classic cover tunes and all for the noblest of causes.  What could be bad?

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Orange450

    OK, you’ve convinced me. I was thinking of buying the set before, and now I’m sure! Thanks for the review.

    (It really does seem to me that some people have waaayyy more than their fair share of talent…)

  • Barbara Barnett

    it really is worth it (and an act of tzedakah, too, Orange.)

    Please note that I misspelled Greg GRUNBERG’s name,and I humbly apologize. It will fixed momentarily (hopefully).

    the interviews are great; the music is excellent; and Hugh playing and singing A Man of Constant Sorrow is a gift 🙂 As is watching him play piano with such utter abandon. Buy it. Now.

  • Orange450

    Done. 🙂

    They’re all so good, but watching Hugh play and/or sing is always an incredible pleasure! I can’t wait!

    Are you familiar with Paul Basler’s choral compositions? In my choral group we’ve just begun working on his setting of the Twenty-Third Psalm. It’s a gorgeous piece – but it’s going to take us a long time to get it down.

  • Barbara Barnett

    agreed, Orange. Not familiar with Basler. I do a beautiful setting of the 23rd Psalm by Michael Isaacson. But it’s largely a solo piece. Is the Basler setting in english or Hebrew?

  • Orange450

    It’s in English – it’s a church setting. We sing a pretty wide variety of music. Plenty of Hebrew, but we’re also currently working on a song by The Eagles, which our director arranged for SATB. He’s very eclectic 🙂

  • rtlemurs

    I couldn’t agree more Barb. This is a very talented bunch and to know that the profits go to some very worthy causes makes it even better. I think it is wonderful that the “real” musicians donate their time as well and without all the recognition (not the this is what the actors of the group are seeking in this project). Don’t miss their interview in the extras.

    And not to nitpick but you’ve left out mention of James Denton both in that lovely version of “Man of Constant Sorrow” and throughout the concert. His version of “Papa Loved Mama” is stunning!

    This really is a talented bunch and although they’re not perfect, they are more then passable. It is so obvious that they are having the time of their lives that you can’t help but join the fun.

  • Barbara Barnett

    You are right, Rtlemurs, and the interview with the “side-men” is great. All the extra material is a real find for fans of any of the actors.

    Sorry about leaving out James Denton. Thanks for mentioning him. You’re correct that they’re much more than passable. They’re a lot of fun to listen to, and all very good musicians in their own right. Of course I’m biased a bit towards HL (especially on piano).

  • Cindy

    I bought it and i love it, there is so much there to watch and enjoy they all do such a fantastic job,I have to say i am biased towards Hugh too ,nontheless i hope they can do more in the future featuring other guest stars, Jesse Spencer play a mean fiddle.

  • Barbara Barnett

    Cindy–yes, he can. Very, very enjoyable set. and a worthy cause.

  • fhmd

    Everyone should buy this cd+dvd. It got some pretty amazing performance by talented actors (who are also very good musicians) and it is for charity. It is a win win situation. The extra are really a gem. Hope this cd+dvd do well so that they will release more in the future.

  • action kate

    One thing I really wanted to say about this CD/DVD set: know what to expect before you buy it.

    I was absolutely besotted with the two studio tracks from the band, and had high hopes that the CD would be more of the same. I knew Hugh Laurie wasn’t going to be singing everything, but the studio tracks were polished, well-mixed, lively, and catchy, with interesting new arrangements. The CD and DVD of the live performance are nowhere NEAR the quality of those two tracks.

    This is not to say that the actor-musicians are poor players — they’re all actually fairly skilled on their instruments, especially Hugh 🙂 , and the various singers are quite good.

    But the live performance really suffers from not being as well-produced. Whoever was working the sound board must have been asleep, because the mikes are almost never balanced — Grunberg’s drums are over-emphasized, and Laurie’s piano and vocals are frequently buried (until the band is being called out by name in the last song, at which point Hugh’s single… slow… claps…. can… be… heard distinctly rather than blended into crowd noise).

    If you’re looking for a better-filmed version of the many videos of the band’s performance you can find on YouTube (their rendition of “Baba O’Reilly,” with Jesse Spenser on violin, is particularly smokin’), you’ll be delighted. Just don’t expect more of the professional-grade recording from the House soundtrack. If I had known that going in, I probably still would have bought it, but I wouldn’t have been looking for something the band simply hasn’t produced.

  • Houseguest

    I have to say, this cd has not been out of my car’s cd player since I bought it. I can’t get enough, and I like the fact that it’s a live performance, and thus a little rough around the edges. My favorite tracks are the obvious Hugh-centric ones: “Will It Go Round in Circles,” “Lean on Me,” “Mustang Sally” and “Goodnight Irene,” but there’s good stuff in the other tracks as well. I especially like the rapport between Hugh and Greg Grunberg, and the feel of comraderie between all the band members. The professional musicians are great, and seem to have a good time with these musical actors. The dvd is an added treat, and the group that comprises “Man of Constant Sorrow” makes it all worthwhile.

  • michelle

    It’s a fun cd/dvd for the price-especially since any profits go to a good cause.

    My only disappointment (and it’s a nitpick) is that it nowhere near does the band justice. They are even better now than they were then, and I wish that they had included some more recent stuff. I guess we’d probably still be waiting for them to release it if they had, so I’ll just enjoy this one and hope that they decide to release another. “Mustang Sally” and “Goodnight Irene” alone are worth what I paid for the cd.