The Freedom of Music: Back from the Dead

January 2nd, 2017

freedom-of-music-header

One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Well, it’s over. 2016 is done, gone, finito, and with it goes the musical death toll like no others:sidebar-4

David Bowie
Glenn Frey
Paul Katner
Jimmy Bain
Sonny James
Sir George Martin
Keith Emerson
Frank Sinatra Jr
Jimmie Van Zant
Prince
Lonnie Mack
Leonard Cohen
Greg Lake
Rick Parfitt
George Michael

That’s a partial, very partial list. If your a fan of Parliament Funkadelic or Mott the Hoople, traditional blues or jazz, then the list gets worse and worse.

But there’s another name on another list, a list of – so far as I can tell – one. Back from the dead.

Frankie Miller is a Scottish singer/songwriter who had a series of good to excellent album with middling success. He could sing soul like Otis Redding, blues like Delbert McClinton and rock like Rod Stewart. Miller released 9 albums between 1972 and 1984, and had a handful of singles, neither of which charted over well. However, while not a huge commercial success, Miller was one of those guys who made a mark amongst his peers, writing songs for people like Bob Seger, Joe Walsh, Bonnie Tyler, Joe Cocker, The Bellamy Brothers, Ray Charles and Rod Stewart to name just a few.

In 1994 Miller was forming a band with Walsh, Nicky Hopkins and King Crimson’s Ian Wallace. One night in a New York hotel he was writing songs for the new band when his wife decided to call it a night. Miller was writing when she went to bed. Through the night she got up and found Miller on the floor in a pool of his own blood. He had a massive brain haemorrhage, spent five months in a coma, and when he woke up he couldn’t walk or speak, let alone sing. His career was over.

Working on a new album, Rod Stewart enquired whether Miller had any unreleased songs. Miller’s wife, through producer David Mackay, sent “two sacks full of demos.” Mackay decided to create an album of duets with the songs, and Stewart, Walsh, Elton John, Huey lewis, Bonnie Tyler, Kid Rock, Kim Carnes, Paul Carrack, Delbert McClinton and a host of others contributed to the album.

Double Take, Frankie Miller’s newest album is more than just one of the best albums of 2016, more than a resurrection of an artist who is far more worthy of fame and success than he has ever attained.

It’s one singer who 2016 didn’t get to take.


for certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

December 25th, 2016
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And finally, another tradition that goes back to Christmas day, year one, here at At Home in Hespeler, my favourite Christmas poem, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas everybody:

I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

imgp5930I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’ unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
‘There is no peace on earth’, I said,
‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men’.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men’.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

1864

Christmas, Uncategorized

In The Workhouse Christmas Day

December 24th, 2016
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Another tradition here at At Home in Hespeler going back to year one, is In The Workhouse Christmas Day:

In The Workhouse Christmas Day, by George R. Sims

It is Christmas Day in the Workhouse,
And the cold bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight:
For with clear-washed hands and faces
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the tables,
For this is the hour they dine.

And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast:
To smile and be condescending,
Put puddings on pauper plates,
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They’ve paid for – with the rates.

Oh, the paupers are meek and lowly
With their ‘Thank’ee kindly, mum’s’;
So long as they fill their stomachs
What matters it whence it comes?
But one of the old men mutters,
And pushes his plate aside:
‘Great God!’ he cries; ‘but it chokes me!
For this is the day she died.’

The guardians gazed in horror
The master’s face went white;
‘Did a pauper refuse his pudding?’
‘Could their ears believe aright?’
Then the ladies clutched their husbands,
Thinking the man might die
Struck by a bolt, or something,
By the outraged One on high.

But the pauper sat for a moment,
Then rose ‘mid a silence grim,
For the others has ceased to chatter,
And trembled every limb.
He looked at the guardian’s ladies,
Then. eyeing their lords, he said,
‘I eat not the food of villains
Whose hands are foul and red:

‘Whose victims cry for vengeance
From their dank, unhallowed graves.’
‘He’s drunk!’ said the workhouse master.
‘Or else he’s mad, and raves.’
‘Not drunk or mad,’ cried the pauper,
‘But only a hunted beast,
Who, torn by the hounds and mangled,
Declines the vulture’s feast.

I care not a curse for the guardians,
And I won’t be dragged away.
Just let me have the fit out,
It’s only Christmas Day
That the black past comes to goad me,
And prey my burning brain;
I’ll tell you the rest in a whisper, –
I swear I won’t shout again.

‘Keep your hands off me, curse you!
Hear me right out to the end.
You come here to see how the paupers
The season of Christmas spend.
You come here to watch us feeding,
As they watch the captured beast.
Hear why a penniless pauper
Spits on your paltry feast.

‘Do you think I will take your bounty,
And let you smile and think
You’re doing a noble action
With the parish’s meat and drink?
Where is my wife, you traitors –
The poor old wife you slew?
Yes, by the God above us
My Nance was killed by you!

‘Last winter my wife lay dying,
Starved in a filthy den;
I had never been to the parish, –
I came to the parish then.
I swallowed my pride in coming,
For, ere the ruin came,
I held up my head as a trader,
And I bore a spotless name.

‘I came to the parish, craving
Bread for a starving wife,
Bread for a woman who’d loved me
Through fifty years of my life;
And what do you think they told me,
Mocking my awful grief?
That “the House” was open to us,
But they wouldn’t give “out relief”.

I slunk to the filthy alley –
‘Twas a cold, raw Christmas eve –
And the bakers’ shops were open
Tempting a man to thieve;
But I clenched my fists together
Holding my head awry,
So I came home empty-handed,
And mournfully told her why.

Then I told her “the House” was open;
She had heard of the ways of that,
For her bloodless cheeks went crimson,
And up in her rags she sat,
Crying, “Bide the Christmas here, John,
We’ve never had one apart;
I think I can bear the hunger, –
The other would break my heart.”

‘All through that ever I watched her,
Holding her hand in mine,
Praying the Lord, and weeping
Till my lips were salt as brine.
I asked her once if she hungered
And as she answered “No,”
The moon shone in at the wondow
Set in a wreath of snow

‘Then the room was bathed in glory,
And I saw in my darling’s eyes
The far-away look of wonder
That comes when the spirit flies;
And her lips were parched and parted,
And her reason came and went,
For she raved of her home in Devon,
Where her happiest days were spent.

‘And the accents, long forgotten,
Came back to the tongue once more,
For she talked like the country lassie
I woo’d by the Devon shore.
Then she rose to her feet and trembled,
And fell on the rags and moaned,
And, “Give me a crust – I’m famished –
For the love of God!” she groaned.

I rushed from the room like a madman,
And flew to the workhouse gate,
Crying “Food for a dying woman!”
And came the answer, “Too late.”
They drove me away with curses;
Then I fought with a dog in the street,
And tore from the mongrel’s clutches
A crust he was trying to eat.

‘Back, through the filthy by-lanes!
Back, through the trampled slush!
Up to the crazy garret,
Wrapped in an awful hush.
My heart sank down at the threshold,
And I paused with a sudden thrill,
For there in the silv’ry moonlight
My Nancy lay, cold and still.

‘Up to the blackened ceiling
The sunken eyes were cast –
I knew on those lips all bloodless
My name had been the last;
She’d called for her absent husband –
O God! had I but known! –
Had called in vain and in anguish
Had died in that den – alone.

‘Yes, there in a land of plenty
Lay a loving woman dead,
Cruelly starved and murdered
For a loaf of parish bread.
At yonder gate, last Christmas
I craved for a human life.
You, who would feast us paupers,
What of my murdered wife!

‘There, get ye gone to your dinners;
Don’t mind me in the least;
Think of your happy paupers
Eating your Christmas feast;
And when you recount their blessings
In your smug parochial way,
Say what you did for me, too,
Only last Christmas Day

Christmas

A Cat’s Christmas

December 23rd, 2016
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A Festivus tradition from way back, here’s A Cat’s Christmas.

A Cat’s Christmas
By Button Noseworthy

“Button! Get out of that tree!”

That’s twice. And he’s walking this way. Chris. He’s not even my person, he’s Janet’s person, and Janet is mine. None the less, Chris is walking this way and the second time was louder than the first so I have to respond; I look at him like he’s grown an extra eye in the middle of his forehead.

“Button!”

That’s three and he’s almost at the tree. I jump down and run to the other side of the room. Stop. Lick my paw, just to show I didn’t get down because of any old person told me too. I got down because I had some dirt on my paw that had to be dealt with right away.

“Janet! Your stupid cat has been playing with the presents!”

Now this is a bit tricky, he wasn’t supposed to notice that. What do they expect though? Has he ever stuck a piece of thread in front of me that I don’t play with? They know my weaknesses. So now he wraps up presents and puts shiny ribbon around it, and I’m supposed to know it’s not for me? It’s probably better if I just leave, but with dignity. No running away, walk slow, tail in the air to let them know I’m appalled by the accusations being made against me. Some things must be done right; just as a ballerina must point her toes when doing a pirouette, a Cat must raise her tail when leaving a room amid accusations and slanders.

I walk slowly out of the room, stopping at my food dish. Empty! Who do these people think I am Gandhi? Not in this life, although maybe in my last life I was Gandhi or Mother Theresa or Elvis. How else do you explain that I am a Cat in this life? I give off an indignant meow to protest the service at this establishment, but the staff here could care less.

Chris goes running past with the present I had been playing with ten minutes ago, wrapping paper, ribbon and bow torn to shreds in his arm. He must be planning on re-wrapping that one; this could be fun. He’s taking it downstairs so I follow behind, stealthily so he doesn’t see me. He sits at a table and pulls out wrapping paper, new ribbon and a new bow. I want the ribbon, but timing is everything when you’re a Cat. I settle about two feet behind him and start licking my paws; it is most important to be cleaning, in case he notices me here. My attitude must be as if I am saying ‘I always come here to clean, and what are you doing here?’ Of course, we both know what he’s doing here; he’s re-wrapping Janet’s present and he’s just putting the tape on. That means the ribbon is next, so I move directly under his chair. He wraps it around once, then crosses the ribbon and wraps the other direction. Just as he’s about to tie it, I pounce. He never saw me of course, until I was on the present and grabbing at the ribbon. Grabbing and chewing furiously I completely ruin another wrap job for him before running back up stairs. He throws the roll of ribbon at me and yells “Button! You stupid cat!” The ribbon misses, but it’s close enough that I pounce on the end and roll downstairs, all the while fighting off the offending ribbon. Once at the bottom of the stairs I jump back up on the stairs, being sure to go around the balustrade at the bottom. Success! I have completely un-wrapped the roll of ribbon and it winds up and down the stairs looking like the stairs had been decorated for Christmas by a dog.

Chris’s yelling brings Janet to see what is all the fuss about, and finds that the fuss is her Cat is being cute and her person is allergic to cute. At least that’s how I explained it, but these simpletons can’t, or won’t speak Cat, thus I come off sounding much worse than I was. She’s sympathetic to me anyway, and says, “She’s just playing Chris.” She’s technically right of course but she’s made a minor error of distinction: She thinks I was playing with the ribbon, but I was, of course, toying with her person. I don’t bother sticking around to correct her impression and I’m certainly not helping to clean up the mess I’ve created, so I walk upstairs and take a comfortable spot under the tree for a nap.

I love Christmas!
**************
It’s Christmas Eve and the house is silent. What’s the poem say, “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”? I can personally attest to the fact there are no mice in this house, stirring or otherwise. The people are upstairs sleeping, visions of sugarplums no doubt dancing in their heads; I never could figure out what a sugarplum is or why it would be dancing. No dancing down here though, everything is quiet. Unlike other nights, however, it won’t stay quiet for long.

I do a quick circle of the main floor to make sure everything is in order. The outdoor lights are on so that Santa can find the house and the Christmas tree is left lit so Santa can find it in the dark easy enough, good. The stockings are hung by the chimney; as usual, however, there are only two stockings. But what about that ball that fell off the tree. Better see if I can fix that. Unfortunately, every time I try and lift the ornament it rolls away from me. Soon I am chasing it around the living room, batting at it with my paws and pouncing on it, batting and pouncing.
I don’t hear him come in, the first I realize I’m not alone in the room is when I hear him Laugh. “Oh, ho ho ho. Button, you are such fun,” says Santa. “I am glad to see you again.” By way of greeting I rub my head against his big black boot, and he reaches down and strokes me behind the ear. He immediately sets to his work, and before you know it Chris and Janet’s stockings are stuffed full. Silent as a cat, Santa walks to the tree and starts piling presents under it. On his way back to the chimney, he notices the milk, cookies and carrots that Janet left out.

“What’s this then?” he says, as he lifts a cookie to eat. A minute later the cookies are eaten and the glass of milk is half-empty. “I bet you wouldn’t mind a bit of this Button.” He pulls over the plate that only a minute before had held three big cookies and pours a bit of milk on to it. I quickly run to the plate and lap up the milk as fast as I can, purring my pleasure at developments. Santa laughs and re-fills the plate before leaving. “And don’t you worry Button, I didn’t forget you live here.”

I look up from my milk wondering what that means, but he is gone. I can hear him on the roof feeding the reindeer Janet’s carrots, and then he is off. The excitement is over and I go upstairs and make myself comfortable at the foot of the bed. Sleep, however, comes difficult as Santa’s parting words to me run through my head and I try to make sense of what they mean.
**********
Chris is the first one up, and he wakes Janet immediately. “Merry Christmas honey,” he says and gives her a kiss.

“Merry Christmas” she says back. I walk between them, purring and rubbing my head on the bottom of Janet’s hand. “And Merry Christmas to you too Button” she says in her cute baby talk voice. The women is an accountant, you’d think she could talk to a cat without reducing herself to inanities. She can’t, however, and I have to take them as I find them. I purr an acknowledgement of the day and let her pet me for a minute.

We gradually make our way downstairs, and they head immediately for the stockings. I think I detect relief from Chris, no doubt he was expecting a potato or a lump of coal. He avoided that fate, however deserved I think it would have been, and happily digs into his treasure. Janet comes over a minute later with coffee for two and settles into her prize.

Once the stockings are exhausted and the coffee done, we go to the tree. Janet sits beside the tree and digs out a present for herself and one for Chris. I don’t want to miss any of the fun, so I settle myself on Janet’s lap, at least until there is some free wrapping paper I can play with. Soon, they are opening with vigour and I am playing merrily with a sheet of wrapping paper that has ribbon taped to it. It is then that I hear Janet say, “here’s something for Button. Chris, did you buy this for Button?”

“Yea right,” says Chris, “like I would actually buy the cat a Christmas present.”

“Then where did it come from?” says Janet “I didn’t buy it.” Santa’s parting words last night come back to me and I jump on to Janet’s lap. It is a plastic stocking with a toy mouse, a package of soft dry food, and a catnip ball, whatever that is. I don’t care what it is, I am the happiest Cat in town and I dive for my toys as soon as Janet gets them out of the stocking.

I leap on the mouse and start batting it around the room. Pouncing, jumping and whacking at it like I am playing a game. I chase it out of the room, and then back into the room. It bumps into the catnip ball and I pounce on the ball. Wait a minute, what’s that smell? Something smells incredible, a smell unlike anything I have ever smelt before. It’s definitely coming from the ball, and I grab the ball in my mouth to have a taste. Wow! This must be the catnip. This is incredibly, and I now chase the ball all around the room, grabbing it my mouth every chance I get.

Soon I am no longer Button the Cat. I am Queen Button the Lion. I climb to the top of the Christmas tree and wait for prey. It is not long before a warthog comes sauntering along. I wait patient and silent until he is in just the right spot. Claws out, teeth ready, I seize upon the warthog. Not a warthog! Chris!! Surprisingly, he acts like a wounded warthog and I find myself sliding across the floor of the room like a bowling ball. Good thing it’s a wood floor, carpet would burn. I jump to my feet and race into the kitchen where Janet is eating breakfast at the table. I jump up on to the table and slide across it, landing on the floor on the other side of the table. Now I could use some carpet.

I don’t know what’s going on, but I feel great. I run into the living room grab my ball and run upstairs, only falling twice, to chew on some more catnip. I leap up on the bed and … miss? I hit the side of the bed with some authority, and decide the floor is a good place for a nap, thank you very much.
***********
I slowly make my way down the stairs. It is dark and quiet. Christmas is over for another year and Chris and Janet are sitting on the couch drinking a glass of wine. I see space between them, not much just an inch or two, but it’s enough. I crawl between them and snuggle in, purring like an idling Honda. Chris reaches down and starts stroking my back, I let him, but only because it’s Christmas. Janet also starts petting me too, scratching under my chin. The tree still smells like a tree, giving the room a pine forest aroma. There is a fire on the fireplace that Santa came down last night. Somewhere in the background Christmas carols play, but quietly, nicely. This is nice, the Cat’s meow in fact.

I love Christmas!

A Cat's Christmas, A Christmas Cat, Christmas, Uncategorized

All I Want for Christmas…

December 20th, 2016
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Hey not this year, but maybe, possibly in two or three years we could be actually talking like this could happen. It sure is a lot closer than when Helix released this four years ago.


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The Freedom of Music: 2112

December 18th, 2016

freedom-of-music-header

One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

As you get older these little anniversaries come up: 30-years since the final M*A*S*H episode, 35-years since John Lennon &tc. For me, coming of age often seemed to mean music, and two summers ago I quietly marked the 35th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door and the 30th anniversary of Born in the USA. Both seemed natural enough, a landmark of a different time. Occasionally, however, one of these anniversary’s come up that seem unreal. Seinfeld really ended almost 20-years ago? Rush’s 2112 is 40?sidebar-3

Rush’s breakthrough landmark, and possibly their best, album seemed like an April Fool’s joke when it was released April 1, 1976. I was thirteen, and just getting into music. Already into Kiss and BTO, bands like April Wine and Boston would come into my life that year.

And then there was Rush. That summer someone in my sphere discovered this relatively unknown local(ish) band with an album based on the ideas of Ayn Rand. 2112 was startling, fresh and so cool. Who would have thought of creating a world run by Priests and computers, who had made music illegal, and making a 20-minute piece of music around the idea?

And what a piece of music it ultimately was. With an overture to give it classical seriousness, 2112 has an almost perfect musical accompaniment to the Neil Part story. Of course the priests are anthemic, of course the discovery of this old musical instrument in a long forgotten cave is delicate, first tentative, then wondrous. Of course the presentation of this instrument to the priests is offered with melodic joy, and rejected with anger. Of course a final battle ensues, all chromatics and cymbals. It is, if nothing else, a great adventure in storytelling through music.

We loved Rush, and for the next few years flocked to their concerts, bought the albums with relish, tried desperately to figure out how they were playing those songs. And as much as I loved Farewell to Kings, respected what they were doing on Hemispheres, I always returned to the amazing 2112.

So when Universal Music announced this fall they were releasing a 2112 40th anniversary package, which hit the stores Friday, I was a bit taken aback. Can I really have been that into music for 40 years now? The answer is, undoubtedly, yes, It’s been 40-years of finding music to be more than something to listen to, dance to, seduce with. It has been 40-years since I found music magical and wondrous, since I studied music to try and understand it. A lifetime by any definition.

The new release comes with a 2CD/DVD edition, a 3LP vinyl edition and, of course (sigh) a Super Deluxe Edition with both CDs, the DVD, all three LPs plus its bonus items, and several exclusive collectable items including two 12-inch x 12-inch lithos, one featuring Hugh Syme’s original Starman pencil sketching, the second showcasing a 1976 Massey Hall ticket stub; a reprint of the 1976 Massey Hall handbill and three buttons featuring each band member, all housed in a box lined with velvet flocking. As well, the first 1,000 Super Deluxe pre-order purchases at Rush.com, us.udiscovermusic.com and udiscovermusic.com, the purchaser will receive a limited edition 7-inch pressing of the album’s first single “The Twilight Zone” (b/w “Lessons”) and a custom red star 45 large hole adapter ring, both newly designed by Hugh Syme.

The music is as good as remembered, and possibly better if you include side two in the mix. The much forgotten second side has five mostly forgotten songs. Of the five, only Passage to Bangkok and Something for Nothing is really remembered. The rest, however, probably doesn’t deserve they’re fate, and as noted above The Twilight Zone was the albums first single. Tears is a pretty ballad, the kind Rush didn’t really do. Overall, side two is very good, which suffers only for not being anywhere near as good as side one.

The bonus disk includes tracks from 2112 as played by, well, not Rush, as well as some live tracks. I can always live without the Dave Grohl portion of just about every bonus disk, and while Grohl, Taylor Hawkins and Nick Raskulinecz do a respectable Overture, it seems pointless. Same applies to Billy Talent’s Bangkok, Steven WIlson’s Twilight Zone, Alice in Chain’s Tears and Jacob Moon’s Something for Nothing. They are respectable covers, but none improve on the original.

More interesting is the live outtakes of 2112 and Something for Nothing from Rush 1976 Massey Hall concerts which produced the excellent All the Worlds a Stage album. A live Twilight Zone from 1977 also adds to the package, providing a glimpse of Rush as they were onstage at that time.

It seems weird that Rush 2112 was so long ago, especially as it still sounds so fresh. Taking the time to rediscover this gem of the rock and roll canon is well worth it.


for certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

Record Release, Rockin' and Rollin' and Never Forgettin', The Freedom of Music, This Week on my I-Pod, Uncategorized , ,

Diversity, Meet Irony

September 7th, 2016

The picture is of the editorial board of the Huffington Post, the leftwing website aggregator. It was posted in all unconsciousness by its Executive Editor as an example of “diversity”.

huffingtonpostdiversity

That is diverse, there’s even two blondes, although even they have parts and no bangs.

Going through Liz Heron’s twitter feed, I’m guessing they are all 100% in the tank for Hillary Clinton as well, diversity of thought being even less interesting to the women of Huffington Post than diversity of hairstyle.


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Media doesn't matter

Unbiased Journalism in Action

March 1st, 2016
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The CBC runs a piece about changes to income tax laws, complete with puff-piece picture of Prime Minister Trudeau and his family.

screen-shot-2016-03-01-at-33046-pm


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Fluffernutter Friday

February 19th, 2016
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Some new Joe Bonamassa, Drive. You can download it free.


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Picture of the Day: Squirrel at the Manse

January 25th, 2016
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imgp2496b

Pictures now available on Pixels.com


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Picture of the Day, Pictures

The Freedom of Music: Bowie, anti-Bowie

January 24th, 2016
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freedom-of-music-header

One likes to believe in the freedom of music.Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Procrastination is an ugly thing. It lends itself to taking a task, simple or complex, and making it harder. Case in point, David Bowie died and I was going to write about it, maybe discuss how often Bowie eulogies seemed to start with “I’m not one of those Bowie freaks, but I really liked x,” x being a song, en era, a character.sidebar-2 Bowie offered, I would have written, seemingly something for everyone. But instead of writing it, I procrastinated, held it off a week. And then Glenn Frey died.

Glenn Frey of the Eagles may be the anti-Bowie, never out of character as the cool guy. Instead of being the kind of act were everybody likes something in the catalogue, the Eagles are always surprisingly contentious. There is much more of a love/hate element to the Eagles. Who could imagine, for instance, The Dude getting thrown out of a cab protesting, “I fucking hate David Bowie man!”?

So I procrastinate, and now I have to weave together a web that interestingly compares David Bowie and Glenn Frey. Good luck with that, I’d say.

Do you remember when Farrah Fawcett died? It was the same day as Michael Jackson and of course the sad news of this beautiful woman, a highly talented and successful actress, was buried in the avalanche of grief for Jackson. So too is the fate of Dale Griffin, whose passing was announced a few hours before Glenn Frey’s.

Dale Griffin passed away on Sunday at age 67 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He was the drummer for 70s British glam-rock band Mott the Hoople. Mott the Hoople spawned the careers of Ian Hunter and Bad Company’s Mick Ralphs. Their biggest hit was All The Young Dudes, written by, wait for it… David Bowie.

Considered to be a youth anthem, Bowie protested that All the Young Dudes was nothing of the sort. “All the Young Dudes is a song about this news…” the news being that the world had only five years left to live, as told on the Ziggy Stardust song “Five Years.”

Pushing through the market square
So many mothers sighing.
News had just come over,
we had five years left to cry in.

Like so many Bowie songs, five years is a story that begins by introducing a person, or in this case, persons, as in mothers sighing. The mothers may sigh at the news and the young dudes may carry the news, but All the Young Dudes opens with Billy rapping “all night about his suicide…”

Five years opens the Bowie album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, featuring the song Ziggy Stardust:

Ziggy played guitar,
jamming good with Wierd and Gilly,
and the Spiders from Mars…”

Story telling is at the heart of art. We all get that a great book, or play, or movie tells a story. Fewer think along those lines when it comes to a picture, but spend an afternoon at a good gallery amongst the renaissance masters and you’ll find stories of heroic deeds and stories of saints and historical stories and even stories of average people, or at least average people of some degree of leisure.

But pop music as story telling? Oh sure, we all get the Bob Dylan is a storyteller, even named his box set Storyteller. And yes, we get that The Who’s Tommy has some vague storyline, if only because we have been told as much so often. And above you can see that Bowie was telling stories, but it’s hardly the same is it? It’s not like you open a song with “it was a dark and stormy night.”

On a dark desert highway,
cold wind in my hair.

And so the Eagles open Hotel California with a variation of “it’s a dark and stormy night.” Like the opening to many a good story, it presents a time and a place, the desert at night, and creates an action, driving. Here’s another, see if you can spot the elements of setting:

I’m standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona…

The essence of good art is good story telling. In the last two weeks we have lost David Bowie and Glenn Frey, two men who were outstanding at telling their story through pop songs, no easy feat. They had different styles, used the format of the three to five minute song in different ways, but at their heart, they both told stories that we as an audience responded to.

May they rest in peace.


for certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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Picture of the Day: Foot Bridge

January 5th, 2016
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Pictures now available on Pixels.com


For certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

Picture of the Day

The Freedom of Music: Andrew Lipke: Siddhartha

November 15th, 2015
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One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Playing for a tribute band is not necessarily the most creatively fulfilling activity for a musician. Andrew Lipke is keyboardist/guitarist/multi instrumentalist for the best Led Zeppelin tribute band on the circuit, Get the Led Out. The band travels the US in a proper rock star tour bus, travelling with a crew, a full lighting rig and enough guitars to open a guitar store. Up to five nights a week, they give two hour shows with note perfect renditions of Led Zeppelin classics and deep cuts. sidebar-6

But there’s to more Lipke than keyboard player extraordinaire playing other peoples songs, and he spends his time at home at home in Pennsylvania producing, playing with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and Pittsburg Symphony or singing God Bless America at the Phillies game. Last year, Lipke released the first of a series of albums based on the novel Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Hesse’s novel had an immediate impact on Lipke and he says he “always knew it would be the inspiration for something I would create.”

Lipke may be a Zeppelin devotee playing in a Zeppelin band, but Siddhartha owes very little to Led Zeppelin, even if opening track, The One does start off with a drone that Jimmy Page would approve of. 

I love the second and third tracks, Erased, which has a New Radicals pop groove to it, and Head Down Vagabonds, which defies comparisons, save a hint of Christmas Vacation in the melody. 

Then there’s I’m Gone which is on the first round ballot of this years Grammy Awards in the “best arrangement, instruments and vocals” category. Even if Lipke doesn’t make the final ballot, that’s quite a nice recognition, and well deserved: the arrangement on  I’m Gone is beautifully orchestrated and ends with a harpsichord plus choral voices outro. 

Get the Led Out are coming to Mississauga on Dec 9, their first ever show outside the US. It is a must see band, and know when you see them your not just hearing the best music, played by high caliber musicians, but in at least one case, a Grammy caliber musician.


for certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal: Greg Renoff

September 30th, 2015
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June 1978. At my high school there’s a guy, that guy, with a van that has a bar and a bed in it. We’re hanging out by the smoking area, playing frisbee, drinking beer with fake “Poopsi” labels on them and he’s got the stereo cranked. “What, who, is this?” I ask.

van_halen_rising_3601“A new band called Van Halen,” he tells me.

As song rolls into song, including a wild version of The Kinks You Really Got Me, it’s obvious this is some band. How did these guys come up with this? Where did they even come from? I wondered. It was obvious to us, even as it wasn’t to the people who ran the music industry, this was paradigm shifting (although, being stoned high school kids, we would have phrased it not as “paradigm shifting,” but as “cool, man.”).

Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal by Greg Renoff answers the question “how did these guys come up with this?” or perhaps more to the point, “where did they come from?” The answer is, as the book title suggests, Southern California’s backyard party scene.

Walking the reader through the cultural and musical history of the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth, the book charts their concerts and performances going back to the original high school band. It charts Roth’s attempts to get into the Van Halen brothers band (Eddie was the original singer) and how Roth’s background at a predominantly black high school influenced him to have a completely different take on rock/pop music.

You learn about the hundreds, thousands of shows the band did. How they rehearsed for hours 6-days a week and Eddie would practice far more than that. And you learn even at that how hard it was for them to get a record contract. You learn about their sudden ascension to the top of the rock ladder as their debut album sells a million copies in it’s first year.

Van Halen Rising is exactly what it promises, the story of an up and coming rock band. It takes you through the teenage rock scene in the LA suburbs of the 1970’s, and up to Van Halen’s first album, first tours, and then it is done, leaving the rest of the story for others to pick up. And it doesn’t disappoint in the process.


For certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

Book Review

Ringo: With a Little Help: Michael Seth Starr

September 25th, 2015
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We all have our favourite Beatle. Personally, I’m a George guy, being a guitar player and as I love his playing and songwriting. But Ringo Starr comes in a close second. His good natured humour and tendency towards simple pop in his songs has it’s appeal.

513tnkxuonl_sy344_bo1204203200_Ringo: With a Little Help by Michael Seth Starr is a fairly comprehensive look at the worlds most famous drummer. Covering his early years, his time before the Beatles with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, the Beatle years and beyond, With a Little Help covers all the points of Ringo’s career.

It is also, to a degree, a defense of Ringo Starr the drummer. Often maligned (“He’s not even the best drummer in the Beatles,” John Lennon once said of Starr), With a Little Help is definitive on the point, Ringo Starr was the best drummer in Liverpool in 1962 when he joined The Beatles, and his drumming, while sometimes in-elegant, was crucial to their sound. He has a unique style due to being a left handed drummer using his set right handed, he is clumsy on fills (for much the same reason), but he is a solid to very good drummer.

With A Little Help is not all a defense of Starr, however. His very limited vocal range is an important part of the narrative and Ringo has success as a singer when he has material within his “six-note range.” As well, Ringo’s alcohol problems are well documented, as his much of his negative behaviour during his long bout of alcohol abuse. His later career work ethic is questioned and the breakdown of his first marriage to Maureen is well documented, including his affairs during the legendary “LA lost weekend” period of the early 70’s.

On the bizarre side, the author cites diary entries of teenage Ringo fanatic Marilyn Crescenzo some seventeen times, following her feelings over events in The Beatles lives in 1964-65 time frame:

This morning ten o’clock, I heard a report from the Beatles hotel and Ringo and George were talking—I said to my mother “why didn’t you let me go down there—Everybody is there.” I then walked into the bathroom and couldn’t hold back -I just cryed! [sic] I couldn’t help it!

Intended to provide color I gather, these diary entries really just fill some page space.

Ringo: With a Little Help is a good read, and an interesting look at one of our times more interesting, if reasonably unimportant, people.


For certified professional guitar repair in Cambridge Ontario: Brian Gardiner Guitar Repair

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