Nefertiti

Nefertiti In The Doorway

I’ve been diggin’ the opera Akhnaten (again) by Philip Glass.  Probably my all-time favorite of his opera’s.    Enjoy this duet between Akhnaten and Nefertiti.

Parade of Pharaohs

I hope everyone can see this video.

this was the live stream event of THE PHARAOHS GOLDEN PARADE which marks the journey of 22 of Egypt’s royal mummies from one museum to their final resting place. I found it passionate and moving. The music and performance was spectacular. While the entire program is 2+ hours, the first hour is largely history and documentary programming.

As such, I recommend starting at about the 1:11:00 (1 hour and 11 minute) mark. For those that do not speak egyptian/arabic there are usually english subtitles and/or english translation.

I do wish that I knew what musical pieces were performed and the composers. But so far I have not found out.

Congratulations to Egypt for this fantastic and marvelous presentation. I found it powerful and emotional.

new relevant music

Once in a while there is music that comes my way that causes me to sit up and take notice in the same way that a slap in the face does like good art tends to do. The two tracks I present here today have done just that. I’ve listened to both repeatedly and also the videos are top notch. The videos are also related in their themes.

First is MANDRILL by Martin Gore (Depeche Mode). It is an instrumental track that carries a strong industrial beat similar to 80’s/90’s era Nitzer Ebb and Front 242. It is the lead single from Gore’s forthcoming solo instrumental EP, THE THIRD APE. The music was inspired by THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD CHIMPANZEE written by culture and anthropological historian Jared Diamond. In the book Diamond lays out the argument that humanity is the third chimpanzee. The chimpanzee is genetically more closely related to humanity than to other apes, monkeys or primates. Diamond proceeds to draw many lines of comparison to reveal the truth of his observations and assertions about the evolution and future of the human animal. After watching this video I immediately purchased the book and found it a fascinating read.

Now back to the video. When I first saw the video several things stood out. The abstract nature of the videos “film language” mixing abstract art, animalistic representation with (what felt like) aggressive expression of the Mandrill featured in the video, the frequent appearance of figures of three (usually expressed in bars or strokes), the white palm print of which I can’t help but draw comparisons to the white hand of Sauron on the Orc’s that served him in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. And then there are the splatterings that seem to suggest uncontrolled madness as they appear on the canvas. There is also the way the abstract at one point starts to flow from the top of the screen like blood.

Was the Mandrill barking and biting back at humanity? Is this an animalistic criticism of humanities aggressive devastation of the planet? Just how much blood does humanity have on it’s hands? For me this video feels like observation and commentary instead of just criticism. I think this is a good thing because it means that there is still hope to change the outcome.

This next video is by 80’s musician Gary Numan. INTRUDER is the title track from his forthcoming album (May 2021). This is very dark and visceral. Visually, near monochrome, the video is filled with abstraction with the literal dissection of the performer by dark blurred geometric shapes in contrast to appears of what seems like roots, bones or animal parts, something I can’t define. It feels shamanistic and is a perfect statement for our time. I’m struck by the lyrics. In the beginning it’s about the “I” and by time we reach the end it’s about “you”. Taken as a whole it’s about us, you and me. Numan, as a fragmented singing spirit in the beginning seems to ask “What does humanity really want?” What choices are we faced with? In a world that is all talk where people gravitate to like-mindedness on social media that creates greater division, less tolerance and understanding; this song is a definite criticism, but still ends with a sense of hope by asking the question “Don’t you wish you listened more?” Which is also the resolution to the problem. He is critical of religion, and rightfully so, as religion has become a pawn of those who seek power and control. Speaking is more a religious act and listening is a more spiritual act.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the character in the video is some sort of demon or dark force but I would like to suggest that it is the earth itself like a dark angel holding up a mirror to reflect us back to ourselves on what we’ve become. And in this video there is the deliberate “blood on our hands” image – and if we consider the mirror reflecting back to us – we take pride in that blood as we streak it down our faces with a war-like tribal ritual to show our power. Not only do we have the blood of all the lives we’ve slaughtered but the blood of the planet itself with our environmental devastation. Do we like what we see? Will we make the right choices and decisions going forward? Will we continue to be the intruder or the caretaker/restorer? If we kill the planet we kill ourselves.

I could listen to you scream 
Pretty music to my ears 
I could listen to it all day 
If you want me to 
I could talk about my world 
How you brought about ruin 
I could talk about your greed 
If you want me to 

I could look into evil 
See a heart just like mine 
I could throw away reason 
If you want me to 
I could walk into darkness 
Find the hole you crawled into 
I will be the intruder 
If you want me to 

You can whisper your lord's prayer 
And pretend that it matters 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more? 
You can hide in the shadows 
And pretend I won't find you 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more? 

I could listen to more lies 
About promises you kept 
Will you walk on water 
Like you said you would? 
I could make you my prisoner 
But you were dead men talking 
When you burned the oceans 
Like you said you would 

You can beg for god's mercy 
And pretend that he hears you 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more? 
You can drown in your sorrow 
And pretend you were helpless 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more? 
This was always your one life 
I won't pretend that it matters 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more? 
This was always your one home 
I won't pretend that I'll miss you 
But don't you wish you'd just listened more?

Well that’s my take on these two videos. What are your impressions? Leave a comment – I’m listening.

***I can’t promise the videos can be seen outside the US but hopefully you will find a version you can watch.


			

things I like

So I guess you could say this post falls in the category of things I like.  As many of you who have followed my blog over the years knows, I love the 4AD music label(specifically the earlier years – the past 10-15 years have been somewhat hit/miss). One of the bands that I enjoy from the earlier years is RED HOUSE PAINTERS.  I recently acquired their SHOCK ME ep.

This recording features 4 official tracks and one untitled “hidden” track (at the end of track 4). Released in 1994 it really is a wonderful collection of covers and original material.   For this post I want to focus on the title track which is a cover of the KISS song Shock Me (written by Ace Frehley) that was originally on the KISS album LOVE GUN.    In fact there are two versions on this EP (the electric and an acoustic version).  Both versions are very solid and very unlike KISS.   Which is one of the things I love.

Don’t get me wrong; I love kiss I actually saw the Alive II tour at a local venue called the Richfield Coliseum (near Cleveland – which no longer exists – how time flies) on 8/1/1978 and what a show!  But that was in my fist pumpin’ hard rockin’ teen years.   Maybe you’re not a fan of KISS or are not familiar with this song.  That’s okay.   Ace Frehley wrote this song after an event that actually occurred on the KISS’ ROCK AND ROLL OVER tour where he was nearly electrocuted.   If you’re familiar with KISS you can imagine this song has the tell-tale chugging hard rock sound that many love from the make-up clad quartet.   I’ll post that video at the end of this post for comparison sake.   But first I want you to listen to the RED HOUSE PAINTERS version.

RED HOUSE PAINTERS have been described as slow core and folk rock. While their music inhibits both of those worlds this song is definitely in the slow core vein.   One of the things I enjoy about it is that is has a very Velvet Underground feel to it.    The second iteration of the song which is acoustic sounds familiar yet very different.  I can sit with my eyes closed listening and imagining Lou Reed and Peter, Paul & Mary singing this.   It really is quite beautiful.

The EP has ephemeral/ethereal cover art that 4AD was known for in the early days.    If you don’t recognize the image – it is a detail of an old broken down upright piano keyboard.   A beautiful simple image that resonates so well with the RED HOUSE PAINTERS sound.   Dean Carlson of ALLMUSIC described this version of the song and the EP as “Somehow quietly splendid”.   I look at the KISS version of SHOCK ME as the “I dare you to” version and the RED HOUSE PAINTERS versions as the “surprise me” versions.  Because even though the lyrics and music is the same the songs couldn’t be more different.  And I think a great original cover of a song that basically re-invents the songs potential is also great art.  I think I’ve said all I can at this time.  I hope you enjoyed this post.

Finally the moment you have been waiting for?  Here’s the KISS version from a concert in 1998 in all their makeup and costumed glory.   🙂

Easier Sung Than Done

Autumns End #1

Something we all need to be reminded of from time to time.  We as human beings have a habit of blowing things out of proportion and making them seem more important than they are. 

I want you to think about what makes you angry, frustrated, sad, hopeless.  It might be relationships, politics, health, personal economics/finances, business, religion, culture, media, the environment etc.   Nothing is off bounds.  Everything matters here.   I’m guessing there is at least one thing that immediately comes to mind for every individual.

Now. 

Let it go. 

Let it go now.

And yes, that seems easy; but it’s not, especially the more invested you are in the subject whether it’s emotionally, spiritually or intellectual investment.   

But do you think the tree in Autumn wants to let go of its leaves? Or that it’s easy.   And yet it does.  The tree feels the pain of separation with each leaf – sometimes a thousand times.  Year after year the tree will let go of its leaves.  The tree does not know what the future holds but it continues the cycle.  

So for all the things that seem so important at the time – in the long view – they are not important at all.     

They are about as important as a “pebble lying on a gravel road”.   So let it go.  Sometimes it’s easier sung than done.   I found that singing this song while I’m thinking of these things helps me keep things in perspective and remember what’s really important.

Maybe a nice practice would be to write down all these things than anger, frustrate (…etc.) you.  Then like Autumn leaves – burn them. Let the worries and cares turn to ash.  Then wash them away. 

Hey man, you don’t know what you’re missing
You count your curses and forget about the blessings
Don’t you think you should learn a little lesson
What are you waiting for?
 
Hey man, what makes you so special
Can’t seem to find the angels for the devils
Don’t you think that if you learned to love a little
You’d live a whole lot more
 
Let it go, let it go
This is smaller than you know
No bigger than a pebble lying on a gravel road
Let it go, let it go
Got to leave it all behind you
Give the sun a chance to find you
Let it go
 
Hey man, there’s no time for crying
You made your bed but don’t think its fit to lie inWasted on the ground when you know you should be flying
What are you waiting for?
 
How can a man not see
It seems so clear to me
You’ve just got to live and learn
Smile at the simple stuff
This road ain’t long enough
To miss a single turn

we need more of this…

we need more laughter.

some favorite songs about laughing

I’m Gonna Laugh You Right Out Of My Life – by Sarah Vaughan

Funeral Tango by Jacques Brel covered by Scott Walker

Only Want to Laugh by Dusty Springfield

The Laughing Gnome – by David Bowie

Laughter by Bruce Cockburn

isolation


Isolation is like serving time

Except in this case I’ve done no crime

I choose to be alone to search my soul

To see if there is good in this heart with a hole

I had no control when I lived out there

My life became a nightmare

There is no love in isolation

All you have is your imagination

I live in a world created on my own

Contempt for the outside keeps me alone

Isolation is for me

The only way to be free

Isolation is liberation

When desperation is what you feel

Isolation is liberation

When desperation is what you feel

Isolate myself

Free myself

Isolate myself

Be myself

childhood past, present, future

Robert Mirabal is one of my favorite Native American songwriters. He grew up and still resides in Taos, New Mexico. I first saw and met him when I was in the music retail business. His original label had a showcase of new talent that I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend. Robert, and his brother Reynaldo, Mirabal made a permanent impression on me. Simply one of the most moving concerts I’d seen. His humility is real. This clip is from a PBS special called MUSIC FROM A PAINTED CAVE. The message in this song is powerful and perhaps more relevant today than ever before. Enjoy this track, LITTLE INDIANS. What type of mirror are you?

Little Indians walking two by two
Three girls, one boy, losing faith with the world
Step by step, moving towards the end
Step by step, moving towards the front

Can you take them away
can you carry them away
Can you take them away
can you carry them away
Maybe they’re the mirror that reflects all

Can you take it away
can you kiss it away
Can you take it away
can you kiss it away
Maybe they’re the mirror that reflects all

Little Indian men, walking two by two
Lost and weary, losing faith with the world
One by one, moving towards their death
One by one, moving towards their death

Can you take them away
can you carry them away
Can you take them away
can you carry them away
Maybe they’re the mirror that reflects all

Can you take it away
can you kiss it away
Can you take it away
can you kiss it away
Maybe they’re the mirror that reflects all

(flute solo) ……….

Can you take them away
can you carry them away
Can you take them away
can you carry them away
maybe they’re the mirror that reflects all

Can you take it away
can you kiss it away
Can you take it away
can you kiss it away
Maybe they’re the mirror that reflects all

Little child walking all alone
Lost and lonely, losing faith with my world
Step by step, moving towards my end
Step by step, moving towards my end

Can you take me away
can you carry me away
Can you take me away
can you carry me away
Maybe I’m the mirror that reflects all
Can you take it away
can you kiss it away
Can you take it away
can you kiss it away
Maybe I’m the mirror that reflects all
Can you take me away
can you carry me away
Can you take me away
can you carry me away
Maybe I’m the mirror that reflects all
Maybe I’m the mirror that reflects all

euphemisms in popular music

Lyric euphemism.   Pop songs that have explored lyrical euphemism has always made me smile.    I think there is a fine art to language of which euphemism plays a role.  There are tons of songs in popular music that are some type of euphemism. For decades and decades musicians have skirted parental control with the use of euphemism.  But that’s just my opinion.    I’ll let you decide.   Let’s get the party started. How many euphemisms are there for your backside? More than I thought. LOL

Live Version

Lyric Version

 

 

bless the beasts and the children

Another installment: thinking of the world we are leaving our children and the children of the future. We are on the cusp of the next great extinction event caused by climate change. Climate change cause by humanities overwhelming impact on the environment and the planet on which we call home. Our children should not be the ones to warn us yet that is what is happening. We adults have shrugged off our responsibility and now our children are crying out for help. What are we doing to provide light during these dark times? What are we doing to keep them safe? How long will we pat our children on the head and offer our empty comforting words? Or, will we continue to write pretty songs to placate and humor the need instead of meet the need? It’s not enough to say, “It’s just too hard. At least the world won’t end while I’m alive. We’ll let someone else figure it out.”

When will we say, “…NOW is the favorable time. NOW is the day of salvation”(*) for our children?

* II Corinthians 6:2

difficult listening

I grew up in a safe environment. Everything was safe. The food was safe. Society was safe. School was safe. Home was safe. But as I got older I learned that it wasn’t safe it was just protected.

There are people who still want to live in their own comfortable “protected” worlds. But protection is a myth. A legend elders tell children. It does not exist. And insisting it does exist, does not make it so.

Further I suggest that propagating this delusion is more harmful than preparing for the facts. The truth. Example: Climate change deniers often use their arguments as an excuse to keep from preparing for the consequences of climate change and taking action to slow it’s impact. And now with the pandemic, humanities approach to disease belies their own unpreparedness. Death and sickness has become unacceptable (even though it is inevitable) So they wear masks, they fight over it, they try to shame those who are “awake” and not afraid.  They want a safe world where things don’t change. The climate doesn’t change. People don’t get sick and die. The world doesn’t change. Everything is safe.

What does this have to do with difficult music/difficult listening?
Like the quote from William S Burroughs in the Laurie Anderson video,

“language is a virus from outer space.”

Difficult music challenges a listeners perception of the norm. It suggests there is something else we need to consider. It suggests that we look into the dark corners. Difficult music is to sound what abstract expressionism was/is to art. And most people who have abstract art work treat if more as wallpaper than as something that has something to say/contribute to the conversation of our times. And in music, people typically do not choose to engage it because it requires them to think about what they are listening to. It is often difficult if not impossible to just hang it on a wall as pretty wallpaper for the soul. Difficult music is often derided as messy, juvenile, scary, ugly, inaccessible (not conforming to any known genre parameters) and ultimately ignored. It is the red-headed stepchild of the music world.

But we can learn much from difficult music. It is not something to be afraid of. The shadows are not scary if you enter with a flashlight. It can teach us about ourselves in ways we haven’t considered or dared think about. But to encounter and engage difficult music one must be prepared and perhaps that is the problem with our “protected”, “safe” elders they are not prepared and they do not know how to prepare the younger generation for the facts and truth of existence.

So, do you want to explore difficult music? Don’t know where to start?
Step One: Turn off the radio and TV – they are notorious “taste makers” that would rather keep you safe than expose you to truth. There are many artists that have helped me in preparing for the real world. I started learning about many “difficult” artists just from reading the underground music press (back in the 1980’s) when popular music was experiencing an explosion of variety. But difficult music existed long before I started reading about it.

Here are some artists you can start with (in no particular order):

Laurie Anderson                                                Public Enemy
Einsturzende Neubauten/Blixa Bargeld        The Last Poets
Alva Noto                                                             Lustmord
Laibach                                                                Rapoon/Zoviet*France
Robert Fripp/King Crimson et al                     Ornette Coleman
Diamanda Galas                                                 Lester Bowie
Sun Ra                                                                  Terry Riley
The Art Ensemble of Chicago                          Steve Reich
Philip Glass (early works)                                Markus Reuter
Robert Rich                                                          Scott Walker (after 1994)
Merzbow                                                              Cabaret Voltaire
Swans                                                                   Nurse With Wound
Matana Roberts                                                  Godspeed You! Black Emperor

The above artists all have work available on Youtube so enjoy your excursion into difficult music. Maybe in the future I’ll write about some of the specific recordings. Again this is just an introduction to difficult listening. Maybe not what you want to listen to in these difficult times but the music does speak to the truth of the times we are experiencing.

I’ll start you off with this Nurse With Wound video for the song BOTTOM FEEDER

Childhood……

This post was inspired by fellow blogger, Oannes.   He has been posting some wonderful songs about childhood.   Be sure to check out (and follow) his blog https://oannes.gr/category/other-musical-stuff/

For my own contribution I present Chuck Mangione’s title track from CHILDREN OF SANCHEZ which was also the soundtrack for the Mexican-American movie of the same name.

A passionate track that covers so many emotions.   While listening I can’t help but think about Children in the world in which we now live.    Are we teaching them to hate instead of love?   Are we teaching them to be afraid instead of accepting and courageous?   Are we teaching them to not trust anyone?   We adults set the example for these adults of the future.   Just what are we teaching our children? What kind of dreams are we giving our children? What memories will our children have?

This album is one of 3 favorite Chuck Mangione albums.   And I highly recommend it.  This title track is ambitious starting off with powerful lyrics sung by Don Potter. And then once your heart is softened the drums and horns come in full force to break it all apart. The lyrical verse is then repeated with Chucks Flugelhorn replacing the vocal and then again by guitar virtuoso Grant Geissman. There is a whole verse improvised around the theme by Chuck that is pure hopeful celebration followed by a lyrical reprise. By the end when that last drum and horn break forces it’s way into the song I find myself pumping my fist in the air in righteous agreement – wanting to shout “WAKE UP PEOPLE AND THINK OF THE CHILDREN!”

I recall how Native American tribes would plan not only for their children but for the 7th generation. We need to get back to that. It’s not too late. That seems to be a good lesson for our children and our children’s children….


Without dreams of hope and pride a man will die
Though his flesh still moves his heart sleeps in the grave
Without land a man never dreams cause he’s not free
All men need a place to live with dignity.
Take the crumbs from starving soldiers, they won’t die
Lord said not by bread alone does man survive
Take the food from hungry children, they won’t cry
Food alone won’t ease the hunger in their eyes.
Every child belongs to mankind’s family
Children are the fruit of all humanity
Let them feel the love of all the human race
Touch them with the warmth, the strength of that embrace.
Give me love and understanding, i will thrive
As my children grow my dreams come alive
Those who hear the cries of children. god will bless oh yes he will
I will always hear the children of Sánchez.

Happy Birthday Maher Zain

Maher Zain born 16 July 1981.    A singer/songwriter who’s music can be described as  inspirational pop and many classify as R&B.  Born in Tripoli, Lebanon his family emigrated to Sweden when he was 8 years old.  His music has a strong muslim influence but don’t let that throw you off.  He sings mostly in English but also mixes in Arabic, French, Turkish, Malay and Indonesian.   He is also known to release different versions of the songs in each language.  He releases his recordings on the Awakening Music label.    His videos are powerful connections between lyric, sound and image.   He finds commonality in his faith where so many try to find difference and separation.    I find that many of they lyrics could be appreciated by Christian, Jews, Buddhists.   If his videos sometimes seem political it is simply because he takes an event as the core topic of the story/message he is trying to spread.   It is not a politics of separation but, instead, a politics of unity, exploring commonality in the human experience.  Songs of social justice and conflict.  Here are several videos.   I hope you enjoy.

His newest video in remembrance of the Bosnia Genocide that began 11th July 1995.


Nearly every year he releases a different video celebrating the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. Here is his video for Ramadan 2020. ANTASALM (You[God] Are Peace) – an encouragement in a year of great difficulty.

A song addressing Racism in this summer of racial unrest.

A song dedicated to mothers.

Love Will Prevail – An emotional take from 2013 of the tragedy that is, continues to be, Syria. As we confront ongoing violence around the world – let’s look to our own communities – will we let love prevail?

Another Ramadan video (this one from 2013) – exploring spiritual longing, community and celebration.

Finally. A message that I think is more important in these times of unrest, outrage and deep offense. I think there is a time for everything. We need to have conversations not just telling but also listening. We need to change the things we have the power to change and let of the things we cannot change. There are great harmonies in the song and it makes me think how letting go can promote harmony.

music theme for summer 2020

Do you ever pick a theme song to get you through the summer? I do because the music feels cool no matter how hot the temperatures may get.   I started doing this in 2003.   That first year the album was THE THORNS – with their songs “Runaway Feeling” and “I Can’t Remember”.

This year with everything that’s happening culturally, politically, globally it just feels like a nonstop hurricane.   I choose to sing and dance.   Most people think these things are just about feeling good, joy, celebration etc.   But you can also sing and dance in protest.   And that’s my mindset this year.   So my theme song for 2020 is “Dance In The Hurricane” by Toya Willcox.   I listened to Toya occasionally back in the 1980’s when she was just starting her career.   In addition to music she is a gifted actress and author.  She never really broke big here in the United States.  I lost track of her over the years.    I recently re-discovered her with her new remastered collection, when she recorded with a band simply called THE HUMANS.   I started doing some googling and reading and found that somewhere after I stopped listening to her she married Robert Fripp –  yes, that Robert Fripp, of KING CRIMSON fame (**see note at end).   Now my curiosity was piqued and started seeking out her most recent music.   She just released (in 2019) a remastered edition of her last studio album IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON QUEEN (2008) re-imagined w/bonus tracks (a deluxe 2 disc set).    I listened to a couple of snippets on YouTube and thought “Oh what the heck”… and I bought the album.   It blew me away.  One song, especially, just grabbed me in the fiercest way – its ideas and the driving rock sound.   “Dance In The Hurricane”  features some narration by Robert Fripp. Its an encouraging and powerful song to be listened to repeatedly during difficult times.

Here’s a snippet of the lyrics:

“…Don’t write my rules,
Love your life, Dance in the Hurricane…Only heaven knows how life will write your song. Be loud, be heard, be proud…”

[chorus] “I danced in a hurricane with the god who has no name, I had to run or face the pain, hold on to love, and learn to trust again…”

Final line in the Lyrics – “One constant law remains, if the light goes out dance again.

So I dare you to DANCE!
DANCE IN THIS HURRICANE!! Let this song be your dynamo to re-charge your soul battery so your light can shine again.

Another great track from this 2 disc set is the track, “Sensational”.

(** I don’t know if you’ve followed them at all but since the lockdown Toya and Robert have been posting “…Sunday Lunch” videos that are weird, quirky and just good fun like when her and Robert dress up in bee costumes…. or when they dance Swan Lake in their back yard. Just a real hoot and a holler!)

HAPPY JUNETEENTH!

JUNETEENTH. It’s not a “federal” holiday but it is recognized in almost all of the states/territories of the United States – the exceptions (shamefully) are Hawaii and South Dakota. For people outside the United States, Juneteenth is the day the last slaves were freed 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Texas was the hold out and dared to keep slaves even though their freedom had been decreed years earlier. Next to Independence Day (July 4th) I can think of no better reason for a holiday than to celebrate the day when America ended the overt enslavement of it’s own citizens of color. My God, why is this not a National/Federal holiday already? But enough preaching.
Here is my Juneteenth playlist. Enjoy.

Let’s kick it off with Pharell Williams FREEDOM

A blast from the past Kool And The Gange – CELEBRATE

A classic; The Staple Singers – I’LL TAKE YOU THERE

Michael Franti – GOOD TO BE ALIVE TODAY

While African Americans formed the largest portion of slaves, it also included all people of color – including the various tribes of Indigenous Americans and hispanics. Buffy Saint Marie – CARRY IT ON

Redbone – COME AND GET YOUR LOVE

And even though we are in the midst of a cultural revolution – now is NOT the time to stop. Ozomatli – CAN’T STOP!

Shaun Martin – ONE BIG PARTY

Knowing the conversation that MUST continue to happen if we will move forward as a species. We must be fearless. The Neville Brothers – FEARLESS

A reminder of what it’s about and why we should celebrate – Cynthia Erivo – STAND UP from the movie HARRIET (based on the life of Harriet Tubman)

Bonus Track – reality check – We are still a long way from where we need to be in our evolution of humanity. There is still racism and bias. The revolution must continue.
Nina Simone – AIN’T GOT NO (from the musical HAIR)

we are the people

Well Iggy Pop has done it again.   Like Bowie and Dylan he just keeps surprising us and gets better and better.   His newest album (2019), FREE, is a real breakaway from previous efforts – jazz textures abound.   His primary collaborators are soundscape guitarist Noveller and jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas.   Pop only co-wrote 3 of the 10 tracks.    As he wrote in the liner notes he “…wanted an album in which other artists speak for me, but I lend my voice.”  And what a voice it is.   In addition to the three tracks he co-wrote he sings/speaks the words of Leron Thomas, Lou Reed and Dylan Thomas.

I find myself repeatedly listening to this album.  I find it deeply moving. Here are a quartet of tracks.

Starting with the title track FREE which Pop co-wrote with Leron Thomas

Next is the poem WE ARE THE PEOPLE, written by Lou Reed and was published post-humously.

We are the people without land
We are the people without tradition
We are the people
Who do not know how to die peacefully and at ease
We are the thoughts of sorrows
Endings of tomorrows
We are the wisps of rulers
And the jokers of kings
We are the people without right
We are the people who have known only lies and desperation
We are the people without a country, a voice, or a mirror
We are the crystal gaze
Returned through the density and immensity of a berserk nation
We are the victims of the untold manifesto of the lack of depth
Of full and heavy emptiness
We are the people without sorrow
Who have moved beyond national pride and indifference
To a parody of instinct
We are the people who are desperate
Beyond emotion because it defies thought
We are the people
Who conceive our destruction and carry it out lawfully
We are the insects of someone else’s thought
A casualty of daytime, nighttime, space, and God
Without race, nationality, or religion
We are the people, and the people, the people

And now for something a little lighter – JAMES BOND, written by Leron Thomas. I nominate Iggy to do the theme song for the next James Bond film. What do you think?

And to round out this post here is a classic poem by Dylan Thomas,
DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT.

And do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
Though wise men at their end know dark is right
Because their words had forked no lightning
They do not go gentle into that good night
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight
And learn too late, they grieved it on its way
Do not go gentle into that good night
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
And you, my father, there on the sad height
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray
Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Guess What?

This goes out to all my friends. The world is so fucked up but I’m on your side.

I’ve struggled with depression on and off for years. I had been free from it for quite a while but for the past 3+ years it has been circling like a vulture and now has landed again.

I’m not a religious person and tend to see spiritual texts in the broader context of human experience. With That in mind, here are some texts that I draw strength from. May they do the same for you.

There is Hope

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…. ~ Isaiah 61:1-2(a)

This to Shall Pass

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Meaningless… and that’s okay

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.” ~ Ecclesiastes 1:2

This to is okay… but don’t think this is what God wants for you or that God did this deliberately, willingly.  Shit happens because God gave us free will.

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone. ~ Lamentations 3:18-33

Because we have free will we can do evil or good. You decide.

Looking far into the future…

… when COVID-19 will be a memory and better – a footnote in history.

I came across this YouTube channel by accident.   It’s simply called CHOIR!CHOIR!CHOIR!  and they have a whole bunch of videos where large groups of people gather and learn backups or whole songs from contemporary/popular performers.   Imagine a time when people will sing and perform popular works from the 20/21st  century in the same way that we still perform popular works from the 17th/18th century.  There’s something incredibly inspiring about this and a GREAT tribute to the creators of popular song. When music becomes a part of the cultural lexicon and practice of the common man it truly is timeless.

I’m going to include four favorites.   First is a song by Patti Smith that I have always loved and have found it inspiring and strength building.   Enjoy PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER.

Next is an unexpected nice rendition of Aerosmith’s, I DON’T WANNA MISS A THING

And since we are coming up on the 4th anniversary of Prince’s death here is a 1,999 voice cover of WHEN DOVES CRY

And lastly David Bowie’s SPACE ODDITY. There is something both heartening, refreshing and enlightening about popular music in this context.

To hear/see other wonderful covers of music by Journey, Cindy Lauper, Taylor Swift, Talking Heads, R.E.M. et al – check out the CHOIR!CHOIR!CHOIR! YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0Kte42xsXIT80UzG1jotiw

Lyle Mays

Lyle Mays November 27, 1953 – February 10, 2020

A wonderful Jazz keyboardist and composer.   Founding member of the Pat Metheny Group who contributed so much to the tone and direction of the music.   He also played with a host of great groups like Joni Mitchell, Earth Wind & Fire, Mark Isham, Steve Swallow, Eberhard Weber and many others.   Lyle Mays will be missed.    Rest In Piece.

If you would like to read Pat Metheny’s thoughts you can do that here: https://www.patmetheny.com/news/full_display.cfm?id=138

 

Goodbye to “Today’s Tom Sawyer”

Neil Peart September 12, 1952 – January 7, 2020

Before I was able to buy my own music my early youth was spent listening to FM radio. Growing up in Northeast Ohio that meant listening a lot to WMMS which was out of Cleveland, Ohio. And as any listener of that radio station knows – you became familiar with RUSH very fast. The station and region was largely responsible for the breakthrough of Rush (a Canadian band) onto the US music scene. They not only would play the full epic songs of a Rush song but also entire album sides.

Neil was the long-time drummer and primary lyricist for the band. He was responsible for the epic multi-part songs that had lyrics with a science-fiction, magical, and/or philosophical viewpoint. He was responsible for introducing me to the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand. Although I had been listening to RUSH for years on the radio the first Rush album I was able to buy for myself was A FAREWELL TO KINGS. I remember that I skipped school to go the store and purchase the record the day it was released in September 1977. It felt like holding a bar of warm pure gold.

Rush had several members since they formed in 1969 but solidified into the trio we have all come to know and love when Neil joined the group in 1974. The lineup would remain intact from the 2nd album, 1975’s FLY BY NIGHT, through 2012’s CLOCKWORK ANGELS.

Here are 5 tracks:
The title track from the first album FLY BY NIGHT which marked a distinct departure from Rushes eponymous first album and and showed Neils significant influence.

A favorite track from the first Rush album that I purchased with my own allowance. I still ask myself some of the questions in this song.

Here is the most popular song from A FAREWELL TO KINGS. A beautiful ballad.

And a popular favorite from MOVING PICTURES often considered Rush’s best album.

This final track is THE GARDEN from the final studio album CLOCKWORK ANGELS. As one commenter noted, “This how to end a legacy. Not with a bombastic exit, but with a tear-jerking melody”. And like the song says, “The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect”.


Thank you Neil for all the great music that inspired the thinking and ideas in my early years. Rest In Peace.

Vaughan Oliver R.I.P.

Vaughan Oliver 1957-2019

I just read some sad news today. One of my art heroes has died at the age of 62. Vaughan Oliver has provided constant inspiration for me. Through his design company, Envelope 23, sometimes simply designated as v23, his design and type face work along with Nigel Grierson’s photography provided insights to the music of the albums it graced adding to an enriched music listening experience. If you do not recognize his name you surely would recognize some of his works. He leaped into the public imagination with artwork and graphic designs for the 4AD label in it’s founding years. Each album cover was different and would often have surreal qualities to it. He designed such memorable covers for The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, The Pixies, The Breeders, This Mortal Coil and many, many more. I remember back in the 1980’s and 90’s I would love going to the record store and seeking out 4AD albums just for the artwork even when I knew nothing of the bands or the music inside. It was always an adventure and the music never let me down.

“My goal was always to turn music into an object, granting it a physical dimension,” Oliver said in an interview with online publication O Magazine.
And even in the digital age when physical artwork is on the decline he still championed album artwork and design saying, “The cover, even if it has no physical presence, is another music tool,” he said.“That’s why there are still covers today that are very … true. Any cover capturing and expressing the state of mind of the music it represents is true.”

He has been a constant inspiration and will continue to have a lasting influence on album art and design.   Thank you Vaughan.

You can check out this artwork at the Envelope 23 Tumbler page by clicking on the link below.
https://23envelope.tumblr.com

The Tragic Trajectory of an American Band

Jefferson Airplane > Jefferson Starship > Starship:  The rise and fall of an iconic American band.

SOMEBODY TO LOVE

Jefferson Airplane’s album SURREALISTIC PILLOW was arguably the highlight of this particular incarnation. Normally a bands second album is a bit of a let down but this album bucked that trend. Their first album JEFFERSON AIRPLANE TAKES OFF was just that, a “take off.” But SURREALISTIC PILLOW was where the band found their wings and learned to soar. They proved they were “Somebody To Love.” The song WHITE RABBIT ensured their standing as one of America’s pre-eminent psychedelic bands.

WHITE RABBIT

With their 1969 album VOLUNTEERS this snarling trippy psychedelic beast lurched into the realm of political commentary. The Vietnam war had been going on since 1955 and 1968 saw a huge escalation in U.S. involvement in the war which would prove very unpopular here in America. Volunteers was notable for it’s anti-war messages and profanity which would have certainly been given a “parental advisory” had it been released 20 years later in the late 1980’s.

VOLUNTEERS

WE CAN BE TOGETHER

With WE CAN BE TOGETHER, also from VOLUNTEERS, Jefferson Airplane continued with an anthem of counter-culture unity. The “Airplane” (as they were often called) were a wild animal that would not be tamed – magical and beautiful in it’s natural habitat. However that would not stop the corporate music machine from trying to tame the beast. The early 70’s, with the bands final studio album LONG JOHN SILVER, are often referred to as the decline of Jefferson Airplane. But I prefer to see it as the evolution to the next stage.

Two years after the “Airplane’s” final album we saw a more refined beast enter the world of music under the moniker Jefferson Starship which not only reflected the change of the bands style and personnel but also the advances of air travel to space travel. 1974 brought the release of DRAGONFLY

RIDE THE TIGER

While there were no hit singles from this first Jefferson Starship record that could compare to the earlier successes of Jefferson Airplane it climbed into the Top 20 on the Charts peaking at #11. With DRAGONFLY and it’s ascendant RED OCTOPUS there were still traces of the old Jefferson Airplane but the sound had clearly changed (though still interesting) and the wild beast was being tamed and trained like a circus animal. Still wild, but now caged by Record label controls, marketing and manipulation.

MIRACLES

RED OCTOPUS released in 1975 (only 9 months after DRAGONFLY) exploded on the charts with the bands biggest hit called MIRACLES, their version of a love ballad. The follow-up single PLAY ON LOVE would also do well but did not come close to the heights of MIRACLES which peaked at #3 on the US charts. And to my ears this really was the last “great” album by this group.

The remainder of the 70’s and through the 80’s saw Jefferson starship continue to evolve into a hit making machine. Musically they began to incorporate synthesisers which were so prevalent. Their songs became less lyrically relevant and more hook-laden seeking to repeat chart (i.e. sales) success. They had notable success with songs like FIND YOUR WAY BACK (1980) and NO WAY OUT (1984) which tragically suggests that they quietly saw the commercialism trap they had fallen into. Ironically, NO WAY OUT would be the bands first #1 chart hit even though it comes from the often non-rated or poorly rated 1984 album NUCLEAR FURNITURE.

NO WAY OUT

Starship: The final transition.

WE BUILT THIS CITY

In 1985 KNEE DEEP IN THE HOOPLA was released and introduced the final evolutionary stage as Jefferson Starship became just Starship. The name change was the result of a legal case. With this change there would continue to be many personnel changes that would eventually see the exit of the last original band member, Grace Slick, by 1989. This last incarnation saw the release of only four studio albums between 1985 and 2013. By this time the band had lost all of it’s wild and feral nature. They had been tamed and domesticated. They had become strictly a “hit” machine which saw their arguably lamest, highest charting success for their singles; three number ones, WE BUILT THIS CITY, SARA and NOTHING’S GONNA STOP US NOW all between 1985 and 1987. Starship marked an end to a band that had been turned from a tiger to a pet kitten by the commercial forces of corporate record companies, radio and greed. The final studio album from 2013 LOVELESS FASCINATION failed to chart; its title perhaps telling of the bands denouement – the end result of commercial success. They have become a parody or cover band just replaying old modes and motifs anachronistic to a time when they were considered commercially successful. However, I still consider their earliest incarnations the most “successful.” Those were the songs that have stood the test of time. VOLUNTEERS is as relevant today as it was when it was released and continues to inspire.

The decades of the 80’s and 90’s will be remembered (sometimes fondly?) as the age of excess and indulgence. It will also be remembered as the time when managed, systemic, corporate greed and control insinuated itself on all aspects of society and culture telling us what to like and how to think through the use of creative marketing (i.e. “if it sells it must be good. Right?”). I have tried to show, how this impacted the music world through one band – evolving from relevant to irrelevant in its music. While this arc could be applied to many bands throughout contemporary music history there are few that are as dramatic as the tragic trajectory of Jefferson Airplane as it evolved into Starship.

 

3 haiku on death & dying

When death comes to call
Alone I will fade and fail
remembered no more

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When the body dies
Software will be deleted
And hardware destroyed

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Autumn to Winter
All life has been drained away
Dry leaves in the fire

uplifting music for troubled times ~ part 1

I’ve recently noticed that the times we are living in are not unlike the late 60’s early 70’s with cultural and political unrest, deep division and social dysfunction. I’ve also noticed that there is some incredibly inspired music that is made during troubled times.  So go ahead and get your uplift on and let the sun shine in.  Sunshine is the protest against darkness.

Enjoy this classic from the musical HAIR performed here by the 5th Dimension.

And this classic also by the 5th Dimension