Tuesday, August 15, 2017

2017 - August 15 - Sing Monica

I think it's time to lighten the mood a little bit. Today's song is pretty unadulterated pop from jam-band Phish. It is not their typical fare - this song is short, sweet, and very singalongy. Phish' 2014 album Fuego was an album I really enjoyed - one of the few studio albums that seemed pretty solid all the way through. It was their second album of their third era (following their second hiatus), coming 5 years after Joy - and it would take another 3 years before the let-down of Big Boat was released. But Fuego was a joyous album, and Sing Monica was in many ways the pop cornerstone.

Monday, August 14, 2017

2017 - August 14 - Stranger Than Kindness

I have been thinking about playing some Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds for a while now, but not been sure what song to play. Then I decided to play a little bit from Live From KCRW, a live album from 2013. KCRW is an LA radio station that is responsible for the show Morning Becomes Eclectic, which was the basis for the Rare On Air series that I have touched on before.

The song Stranger Than Kindness has been one of my favorite Nick Cave songs in terms of mood - and that really says a lot. However, I never thought it was fully realized on the studio version from Your Funeral... My Trial, the 1986 album by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - there was something about the sound that didn't quite work for me. Well, it really works in this live version. Barry Adamson is the only member left from the 1986 incarnation of the Bad Seeds, but he has moved from bass to organ. Jim Sclavunos (drums) and Martin P Casey (bass) are the driving rhythm section, but it is Warren Ellis' crisp guitar that really provides the vehicle for Nick Cave's words, sung better than on the original.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

2017 - August 13 - Nazi Punks Fuck Off

When the president fails to speak, I will. And, in a song from 1981 that unfortunately still is relevant today. When I want to play something political, Dead Kennedys is one of my giro bands, and with this song from the EP In God We Trust, Inc, I feel I am hitting the mark. With all my heart, I mean this most sincerely: Nazi Punks Fuck Off.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

2017 - August 12 - The Eve Of Destruction

They say the past is prologue - or that history repeats itself... I hope it isn't true, but Barry McGuire's hit from 1965 seems more relevant than it has in a long time. Written by PF Sloan in 1964 and originally recorded by The Turtles, Eve Of Destruction didn't become a hit until Barry McGuire released it as a single in 1965. It should be played again these days - as a reminder...

Friday, August 11, 2017

2017 - August 11 - Detroit Rock City

I discovered Alex Skolnick through the thrash outfit Testament. I purchased the album The Legacy on tape in 1986, when it first was released. A couple of years later I was so excited about finding their second album, The New Order, on a band trip to Austria (or was this the one to Germany?) that I left the rest of my money on the record store counter... Luckily, our band director spoke decent German and the cashier had kept the money, so I was able to get it back - it was all the money I had left...

Just a couple of years ago, I found Alex Skolnick through his jazz trio, where he plays jazz versions of classic rock and heavy metal songs, and today I have picked the opener from the trio's debut album, Goodbye To Romance: Standards For A New Generation from 2002. You might recognize this from the Kiss album Destroyer, where it also was the opener. Please enjoy Detroit Rock City getting the jazz treatment...

And here in a live version.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017 - August 10 - The Ocean In Her Eye

It's time for a Motorpsycho fix again. They just released the music to the play Begynnelser (Beginnings), and on September 8 they release the new double album, The Tower, which is the first with new drummer Tomas Järmyr. This time, the time machine takes us back to 1998 and the album Trust Us. Trust Us was theit capstone album of the 90s, finishing a run of albums most other bands would kill to accomplish. From 1993-1998, they released sheer greatness. Demon Box. Timothy's Monster. Blissard. Angels And Daemons At Play. And then Trust Us.

Trust Us was the third double album of the five - although even Angels And Daemons At Play was released as a triple CD with 3 EPs, so an argument could be made that there really was 4 double albums in this golden collection. The song I have selected today is a long song, and one that has some droning qualities. It swirls in before it really carries you away, floating along, until it swirls out again. Just sit back and enjoy The Ocean In Her Eye.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

2017 - August 9 - Ghost On The Canvas

I'll gladly confess that I didn't know much about Glen Campbell. Of course, I had heard Rhinestone Cowboy before, but that was about it for me. Then Ghost On The Canvas was released in 2011, just around the time he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's - or at least when it became publicly known. I was curious, and I believe the digital album was on sale at Amazon.com, so I picked it up. I heard the title track, and I fell in love with what I heard.

Glen Campbell died yesterday, and while others may play Rhinestone Cowboy or Wichita Lineman, I choose Ghost On The Canvas to celebrate the artist Glen Campbell, who didn't stop creating in the face of Alzheimer's.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

2017 - August 8 - Electric Worry

I first heard about the band Clutch watching the Food Network. There was a great show called Ace of Cakes, featuring very off-beat baker Duff Goldman and his bakery, Charm City Cakes, that ran from 2006-2011 featuring spectacular cakes. The office manager, Mary Alice Fallon-Yeskey, had a brother who sang in a band. That happened to be Neil Fallon, the singer of Clutch. They made an appearance on one episode, but it wasn't enough to get me sold.

A couple of years later, I was properly introduced to them by Heather, who worked in the Student Success Center for a while. And I got sold on their grooves pretty quickly. They are anchored by rock solid Jean-Paul Gaster on drums and Dan Maines on bass, who lay down a solid groove behind Tim Sult on lead guitar and Neil Fallon on rhythm Guitar and vocals. It's hard for me to classify their genre, and I really don't care all that much. I just know a good groove when I hear one, and Clutch provides them in spades... Today's song is from the 2007 album From Beale Street To Oblivion, and it also features Mick Schauer on organ. Electric Worry is based on Fred's Worried LIfe Blues by Mississippi Fred McDowell, and this groove better get your foot tapping!

Monday, August 07, 2017

2017 - August 7 - Heksedans

Today's singer can be an acquired taste, just like the city he is from... Jan Eggum is from Bergen, which in many ways is Trondheim's rival city in Norway - and this holds particularly true for football (or soccer in American English). Bergen has Brann (fire), while Trondheim has the vastly superior Rosenberg, Norways football powerhouse the past 30 years or so. But Jan Eggum is something else, even for Bergen (which happens to be a great city - I lived there for about three years and loved it there). He is often melancholic - but on today's track, 40 year old Heksedans (witches' dance), he jazzes it up a little. I love this song and hope you will too!

Sunday, August 06, 2017

2017 - August 6 - Exit Music (For A Film)

This year it is 20 years since Radiohead released their masterpiece OK Computer, and to commemorate it, they released the ONNOTOK version of it with added bonus tracks. It adds up to a second disc of solid material; however I find myself listening to the albun's original material is more than enough for me, so today's song is one of my absolute favorites: Exit Music (For A Film) - and it is a dramatic tour- de-force....

Saturday, August 05, 2017

2017 - August 5 - Up The Beach

Last night I went to the movies with Chris - one of my favorite things to do... the movie - The Dark Tower - was ok, but what triggered something musically for me was the trailer for the Flatliners remake (I am not sure why they want to remake it - the original was pretty good - but remakes, reboots, and sequels seem to be just about the only thing made these days (although Dunkirk was a spectacular exception to this). However, as soon as the baselines came out of the speakers, I recognized a Jane's Addiction song from the Nothing's Shocking album from 1988, but didn't remember which song. Coming home, I had to find it - and it was the album opener, Up The Beach.

Nothing's Shocking was the second Jane's Addiction album, but the first studio recording they released. The band is incredibly tight, and the foundation is laid with the drums of Stephen Perkins and the bass of Eric Avery. In my eyes, what really set Jane's Addiction apart from other alternative rock bands was Eric Avery's bass, which insists on being frond and center, driving many of the riffs for Dave Navarro to build a wall of guitar over. How Perry Farrell finds room for his voice atop all of this is still a mystery to me - but he does. Up The Beach is right up there, next to Mountain Song, as one of the quintessential Jane's Addiction songs, starting out with a simple but driving bass riff. Eric Avery is no longer part of the band, but he absolutely played a huge part in making them who they are!

Friday, August 04, 2017

2017- August 4 - Picture That

So I am not the only one upset with the used car salesman in the dump formerly known as the White House (I am using Trump's words himself here describing his public housing). Roger Waters was always the more political member in Pink Floyd, and he has taken that with him into his solo career. His last solo outing, Amused To Death was based partly on Noam Chomsky - and this time, on his great new album Is This The Life We Really Want?, his politics are worn completely on his sleeve - and nowhere is this clearer than on the song Picture That. All I have to say is sit back and enjoy this political tirade from a Roger Waters who showcases that rock still has a little bit of rebellion in it way past 70...

Thursday, August 03, 2017

2017 - August 3 - Kill The Poor

Today's song is the slogan for the failed Republican healthcare plan (maybe just the Republican Party in general)...

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

2017 - August 2 - Fred (Peace)

Today's song was recorded August 2, 1985, 32 years ago today. The band was Imperiet, and the venue was Västerås Folkpark in Sweden. Imperiet was a spectacular band that emerged from punk rock to become darlings of alternative Swedish rock in the mid 80s. The song I have chosen for today is Fred (or Peace in English), which asks the question if we really want peace, as peace gives complacency, which in turn gives room for exploitation. A very simplified interpretation here, but the song was written by Michael Wiehe, who is a well-known Swedish radical singer (read: socialist) who wrote this song for the Hoola Bandoola Band. But - the song is good - and this version is great...

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

2017 - August 1 - Feel Good Hit Of The Summer

Today's song is about all the things I have avoided throughout my life that supposedly have some desired effects for quite a few people. Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol. Cocaine. Those are the lyrics to today's song - and I find them funny given that Josh Homme in Queens Of The Stone Age named the song Feel Good Hit Of The Summer. This is a great summer song!

Monday, July 31, 2017

2017 - July 31 - (Seemingly) Nonstop July

For the longest time, the biggest Norwegian pop export was a-ha, and they were largely seen as a one-hit wonder thanks to their hit Take On Me, originally released in 1984, but finally charting in October 1985 following the third release of the single (second version). However, their career is filled with rock solid albums - already on their second album, Scoundrel Days, their sound was changing away from the very straightforward 80s synth pop of their debut album, Hunting High And Low. After what I consider a misstep with their sickeningly poppy Stay On These Roads (redeemed by the James Bond song The Living Daylights), they struck back with a vengeance with their fourth album, East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon in 1990.

East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon is a great album as a whole. It opens with a tastefully done (yet overly sweet) version of the Everly Brothers' Crying In The Rain but from the sentimental opening directly into upbeat pop and through heavy brooding and many emotions in between before it ends with today's little ditty. On the last day of July, I thought that (Seemingly) Nonstop July would be appropriate...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017 - July 30 - Jockey Full Of Bourbon

Some days I feel like picking a song just because... This is one of those days. I have played some Tom Waits before, and today I am revisiting Rain Dogs from 1985. The song is following a mambo rhythm, played in 4/4, but counted 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2 for the 8th notes, giving a really cool syncopated rhythm that always has appealed to me. Marc Ribot's guitar is all over the song - his tone is as good as any signature - and Tom Waits sings about what I always have interpreted as a drunken night on the town. Please enjoy Jockey Full Of Bourbon!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

2017 - July 29 - Between The Wheels

In 1984, the record company Vertigo, which was home to many great bands, released the compilation The Heavy Way. My friend Geir got it, and we spent quite a bit of time listening to it, one of the main draws being our own hometown heroes in TNT, which we also saw live right around this time. Their track, Seven Seas, was the single off their Knights Of The New Thunder album, and right after it was Rush with Between The Wheels.

Rush was a new acquaintance of mine at this time, and I had not yet come to realize just how great their album Grace Under Pressure was. Plus, I succumbed to peer pressure as well so I said that it was a weak song - the weakest of the compilation. I wasn't quite a fan of it either yet by then - being turned off by the severely phat synthesizer chords that open it - but now it stands out to me as one of the highlights on Grace Under Pressure, which I also find to be one of their most underappreciated albums. I love the album and I love this song!

Friday, July 28, 2017

2017 - July 28 - Churchill's Speech/Aces High

Saturday I went to the movies to see Christopher Nolan's masterpiece Dunkirk. I didn't know the story - but I was familiar with Churchill's words that we get acquainted with at the end of the movie thanks to Iron Maiden's WWII fighter pilot tribute Aces High, which live was paired with an excerpt from Churchill's speech from 1940.

Dunkirk is simply put the best war movie I have ever seen bar none. The pictures combined with the music (and the sound of a clock ticking incessantly) created a tension that really made me feel uneasy. There was very limited dialogue, and there was very little of the fast paced editing that we see in so many movies these days - and when it did happened, it was to heighten the confusion to make you feel you were part of the situation rather than watching it in a comfortable movie theater. There was also no gore and very limited amounts of blood. It wasn't needed to make me feel queasy. This is a movie that captures what I can only imagine is what war really can feel like, especially if you just are sitting ducks on a beautiful sandy beach, with troops advancing from the inland and airstrikes stopping anything from happening from the sea.

Now I know that I don't know what war feels like, but I have seen reports of veterans of Dunkirk saying it was like being back there again. But I do think we all need the reminder of the senselessness of war from time to time, and this is a great reminder. If there aren't massive accolades and awards to this movie for best picture and best direction, there'd better be some exceptional movies coming, as this was by far the best movie experience I have had in a long, long time. Not that I haven't seen other great movies, but this was something very different. This is a movie that deserves to be viewed on the big screen. Do not wait for it to be available at home through BluRay or DVD.

Thank you, Christopher Nolan. You delivered a movie so much better than I imagined. Now for the rest of you: Go see this movie! And in the meantime, listen to Churchill's words and Iron Maiden's Aces High.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

2017 - July 27 - Sola Skinner

Today I will indulge in playing one of my favorite summer songs ever. I remember when I first heard this song - my good friend in middle school, Stig Erik, brought me over to another friend's house, and he had this single by a new Norwegian band, Jokke & Valentinerne. This single was 2 Fulle Menn - or 2 Drunk Men - but the song that really stood out was still the lead off track on the B side: Sola Skinner (The Sun Is Shining). The lyrics included everything wrong or taboo: Cigarettes, alcohol, coupling and copulation - but it was honest. In many ways, it was brutally honest. This would have been about 30 years ago = the summer or fall of 1987. Jokke himself (Joachim Nielsen) died in 2000 from a drug overdose, 36 years old. His poetry was always naked, raw, and honest - and his musicianship was driven by passion more than skill. He is sorely missed - but Sola Skinner still gets me in a great mood whenever I hear it!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

2017 - July 26 - Praying

Since good pop music ended up being what I played yesterday, I think I can do one more. I wasn't a huge fan of Kesha's with her first two albums, but I have been a little bit more curious over the past few years as she has been struggling with some really severe issues involving the producer Dr. Luke. I am not one to judge in that case, but there is no doubt that there is a lot of hurt and pain on Kesha's side. I do know that sometimes great art can come out of great personal turmoil, and I am very glad to see that Kesha really has been able to channel her battles into her music. The first single off her upcoming Rainbow album is called Praying, and it moved me to tears. I was completely blown away by this - and I did not expect it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2017 - July 25 - Angels

Does anyone really think there is a coincidence that the movie Boss Baby is released on DVD/BluRay on my sister's birthday? I certainly don't. The effect of the arrival of a younger sibling is explored well in that movie, although my sister certainly was slightly less conniving... I think I have talked about her somewhat lacking taste in music before (ok, that was below the belt, but I am allowed to do that to my sister) - but I don't think I really have talked about her massive affinity for mass produced British pop. When I grew up, Stock, Aitken, and Waterman was pretty much a curse word for me (well, technically a phrase, but the trio was mass producing so much crap that I still consider it one word) - and yet, that music could frequently be heard from my sister's bedroom.

However, even blind men can find gold, and she started finding some really good music in there as well. She started having a thing for British singers (well, technically, British men in general, right Will?), and there was one British gentleman whose career in many ways reminds me of Justin Timberlake's - although for some reason, he never made it quite as big in the US. He also started in a boy band (and no, Elin, I am not talking about Holly Johnson here - he was better with Frankie Goes To Hollywood than on his own) - Take That was pretty darn huge at least in Europe in the early to mid 90s (their probably best known song was Back For Good, which peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the British charts) - before he broke on his own and really went his own way. His debut album, Life Thru A Lens, was released in 1997, and the fourth single was the song I chose for today. It only spent 218 weeks on the British charts (!) - and listening to it again now, I can easily see why. I wasn't listening to this kind of music much at the time, but I do appreciate good pop music when I hear it - and this is good pop.

I also appreciate a good sister when I see one, and I have really lucked out. I couldn't have asked for a better partner in crime growing up - and I miss her and love her very much. The song Angels by Robbie Williams is the least I can play for her birthday! Happy birthday, Elin!

Monday, July 24, 2017

2017 - July 24 - She's Leaving Home

So yes, it's been 50 years since Sgt. Pepper shook the world, so I played the original stereo mix in my car on the way home from work again on Friday. I was singing along, probably pretty loudly, to the title track, With A Little Help From My Friends, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Getting Better, Fixing A Hole, and then... She's Leaving Home. My heart still drops when She's Leaving Home plays. The lyrics are pitch perfect - in many ways a companion piece to Revolver's Eleanor Rigby - and the line that always gets me is "She breaks down and cries to her husband, 'daddy, our baby's gone.'" It is a devastating line. The alternating points of view creates an emotional tension that really counteracts the sweet melody - and I love it. I couldn't find the original online, but I did find one from Paul McCartney's Back In The World album - with his great band that he still is touring with!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

2017- July 23 - De Nære Ting

Today, my grandma would have turned 105 years old. I still miss her - just like I did a year ago. I miss the way she would make sure that I got enough to eat - and then some - before telling me I needed to lose weight. She would probably be all over my hair and beard, telling me that I needed to cut both - she used to be after my long hair when I was a teenager again. But I never doubted that she loved me. And I loved her.

She also loved music, especially old, Norwegian standards. I found a version of a song she loved that I am positive she would not like - but I like it, so I thought why not? She still liked the song, at least. And it is a beautiful song. The singer, Ole Paus, has an approach to singing that is similar to Bob Dylan - it's all about the feeling and not about perfect pitch... Here is De Nære Ting, a song about remembering the little things, originally made famous in Norway by Kurt Foss and Reidar Bøe, better known as Radiofantomene (The Radio Phantoms). Their harmonies were beautiful, but since I don't have that version in my private collection, I give you this one by Ole Paus. It is a song about remembering the little things.

And, for farmor, here is the original...

Saturday, July 22, 2017

2017 - July 22 - Heroes

Six years ago today, 69 people ages 14-51 were killed in the attack on Utøya in Norway - although the age range betrays the fact that these were predominantly youth. The average age was 20, and 33 of the 69 were 17 or 18 years old. They were at a youth camp for the Norwegian Labour Party's youth organization held at an island in the Tyrifjord lake not far away from Oslo. The perpetrator, who held islamophobic and far right views, was caught and is currently serving the maximum prison sentence in Norway, which is 21 years. However, his sentence is of such a nature that it can be extended in five year increments if he is found to be a risk to others upon release.

I am positive that there are big and long discussions that could be had regarding whether the sentence is right or not - but that is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the 564 people who were gathered at Utøya that July day. The Workers Youth League's (AUF) summer camp is a well known political youth event in Norway, with major politicians giving speeches and holding seminars - in addition to all other possible shenanigans that tend to go on when you have that many youth from fourteen and into their twenties gathered in a relatively secluded area for a week's time.

When I heard the news six years ago, it hit me hard. I never went to Utøya - although I was a member of AUF for a while - but I did do my fair share of political youth camps. My camps were issue based, as I was a member of both DNTU and NGU, Norway's two leading youth teetotaling organizations, until they merged as Juvente 25 years ago today. The thought of idealistic youth, gathering to discuss what they believe in (as well as having fun), being attacked that way felt like an attack on MY summers. On MY values. On MY rights. And while I wasn't personally affected, it still hit me.

And so today, I want to play one of my favorite songs, written by one of my all-time favorite artists, and performed by one of my favorite bands. Robert Fripp, who has led King Crimson pretty much from the beginning, was asked by David Bowie to provide his guitar on his Heroes album from 1977. So 40 years ago, Fripp packed his guitar and travelled to Berlin, to Hansa Studios, where U2 later would return to reinvent themselves on Achtung! Baby, and teamed up with David Bowie and his producer Brian Eno. The result was pure magic. Last year, Fripp returned to Berlin with King Crimson, and they recorded this version of Heroes, and I would like to dedicate this to everyone taking a non-violent stand for everything they believe in, especially our youth. We need people to be active - because while the Washington Post rightfully claims that Democracy Dies In Darkness, democracy also dies with silence and passivity.

Friday, July 21, 2017

2017 - July 21 - The Cross

So I opened the door again a couple of days ago, when I mentioned leaving the Church of Norway on my fourteenth birthday - and I started realizing that I hadn't talked much about my faith - or lack thereof. I thought it could be worth trying to explain where I come from and how I arrived where I am at today - and exactly where that is...

I think it all started when my age still was in the single digits and I realized there was no Santa Claus. In Norway, the tradition is that Santa Claus (julenissen) comes and delivers the presents sometime after the big Christmas dinner on Christmas eve. Thinking back, I should have realized that something was up knowing that either my mom or my dad was always missing when Santa came knocking - there was always an errand that couldn't wait - and the Santa came. This year in question, the problem was that Santa was wearing my mom's shoes. This was a very unique pair of shoes, with gray wool that was felted (tovet in Norwegian), much in the Sami tradition - at least that's how I remember them. Noticing this, I started looking for other similarities, and the voice then gave it away. It's actually interesting to me how you don't notice things like how the voice is similar when you don't expect it to be. But I had it figured out - and all of a sudden, all the years of believing in Santa evaporated and I realized it was all something the adults had done all along.

The connection didn't happen right away, but after a while, I did start thinking about the possibility that if the adults had been lying about Santa, could they be lying about other beings as well, such as God and Jesus. After all, Santa was one of the most important figures in my life, because although he only showed up once a year, it wasn't only like Christmas when he came, it was Christmas, and Christmas was the best thing ever - next to my birthday. That's when I started questioning whether there really was a god. I had grown up with the Bible stories in school - I went to school when Christendom still was a separate subject in Norway that pretty much exclusively taught Bible stories from the earliest grades on - and I suddenly found myself asking to what extent could I believe them.

I think the main issue for me in the beginning was the long discussed subject of suffering given that the Christian God is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent - he (because we all know that it is an old white man with a long beard - at least that's who I always envisioned) is all-powerful, all-seeing, and all good. That did not make sense to me - how could someone who could see it all and have the power to do something about it be good when there was suffering in the world? The answer that always came back was, "because he gave mankind free will," often coupled with, "God works on mysterious ways." Both statements are great examples of an application of Kierkegaard's "leap of faith" - but they did not work for me.

Not getting answers that I not only wanted but also needed at that point in my life made me pretty militant - to the point of hunting down obscure Bible verses to try to pin down a local vicar in the Church of Norway that had been invited to our class in 8th grade to help answer questions about Christianity and the Bible. I am not proud to say that I (along with two friends) succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, as we brought the vicar to tears on a couple of occasions. What felt like a victory then certainly feels like an embarrassment now.

As I got older, my views softened quite a bit, but I still don't believe. I simply see no evidence for a god. I don't want this to be a big theological argument whatsoever - because while I don't see any evidence for a god, I know that many do. And I am very ok with that. I am not part of the so-called new atheism, where people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and now deceased Christopher Hitchens (and there are more, I know this) feel like it is their missionary duty to tell everybody else they are wrong. I don't. I am very ok with acknowledging that we all look at the same evidence and reach different conclusion. Of course I think I am right... :-) The only thing I don't like is when people try telling other people how they should live their lives based on their own beliefs, such as deciding who should be allowed to marry and who should not (two words provides a clue to my position: consenting adults). I don't have an issue with churches saying that, "in our church, this is who can get married," but I have an issue with people saying effectively, "I don't like it, so no one can do it."

Now the paradox for me is that I love church buildings. I love visiting them, and I love the peace I feel when I enter them. And I love a lot of religiously themed music. Now, I don't listen much to Christian rock - the bands that make their religion a mission - but there are songs that are very strong in their religious themes that just resonate well with me. One of these songs is by Prince. It was released on the Sign O' The Times album - and this is a live version of it from the film of the same name that was released back in 1987 as well. I remember going to the movie theater to see it - and The Cross was a great way to end the movie!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

2017 - July 20 - Beautifully Broken

Throughout the years, I have loved many guitarists and their playing. I was completely enthralled by the virtuosity of Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen - two very different players, but with a focus on playing fast - or shredding. It is no secret that I like progressive rock, which often stimulates the more analytical side of my brain, where technical merit is highly important - and that led me to guitarists like John Petrucci of Dream Theater and Steve Howe of Yes. And I loved great 80s heavy metal, often with dual guitars from the likes of Dave Murray/Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden and Glenn Tipton/KK Downing of Judas Priest. Their tradition was changed up with the alternating leads of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King of Slayer, who often played outrageous leads that seemed to come out of nowhere - much like what Alex Lifeson can do in Rush, because Geddy Lee has such a solid foundation for him.

I still like all of that. A lot. But when push comes to shove, if I were to say what kind of guitar I would like to play, it's not from the list above. I figured out pretty early that I am too lazy to get really fast on the guitar. I never practiced my scales - at least not to the point of being able to shred. And while otherworldly, eerie sounds - like those sounds Alex Lifeson often makes - are wonderful and very near and dear to my heart, I still don't think that's what I'd want to play. I would rather want to play guitar in a way that really taps into the emotions of a song. That makes you feel. I would want to be a guitar player that knows that often what you don't play is as important as what you play. Of course, that still requires technique beyond what I've ever had, but my favorite kind of guitarist is someone who can do that, and right now, I have been listening to Warren Haynes and what he is doing with his power trio Gov't Mule. Granted, they expanded from their original lineup of Warren Haynes on guitar and vocals, Matt Abts on drums, and Allen Woody on bass following Woody's untimely death in August 2000 and are now a quartet with Jorgen Carlsson taking Woody's place on the bass and Danny Louis playing guitar and keyboards.

In the time following Woody's death before finding a permanent replacement, they released two albums, The Deep End volume 1 and 2. On these albums they had help from a variety of bass players, including Roger Glover (Deep Purple), Jason Newsted (by then formerly of Metallica), Les Claypool (Primus), and Mike Gordon (Phish) to name just a few. They then gathered all of them and then some to a concert in New Orleans in 2003, and that's where a lot of the magic really happened. Just listen to the song Beautifully Broken, featuring George Porter Jr on bass, as it starts with When Doves Cry by Prince and segues perfectly into Beautifully Broken before it ends back with When Doves Cry. The guitarwork? Nothing short of exquisite...

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2017 - July 19 - Wasted Years

1987 was a pretty special year for me. It was the year I turned 15, which also happens to be the age Norwegians get confirmed. Confirmation in Norway is more a rite of passage than a religious commitment, much due to the very secular relationship most Norwegians have to their church. The numbers are now showing this more than they did when I reached my milestones for the rites of passage in Norway. I was baptized in 1972, and while I don't have a percentage of the population being baptized that year, it should be somewhere between 96.2% (1970) and 92.2% (1975). That really mean that pretty much 19 out of every 20 children born in Norway around the time I was born were baptized. In 2016, that number had changed to 55.3% - slightly more than half.

The percentage of 15 year olds that were confirmed in the Church of Norway in 1987 was 83.6% - or five out of every six. I was not one of them. On my 14th birthday, I mailed in my slip to leave the church (14 is the age of religious consent in Norway), and when it became time to think about confirmation, I really only had two options: Not to get confirmed at all - or to do a secular version of this rite of passage organized through Human-Etisk Forbund (the Norwegian Humanist Association). I chose the latter - and while it is tempting to say that the tradition of confirmation was important to me, the more honest answer would be that I really liked the idea of the party with the ensuing presents. That being said, I was actually looking forward to the confirmation classes leading up to the big event itself. I do not remember what I was expecting in terms of learning, but I do remember the disappointment of going to a class led by an engineering student who really liked JRR Tolkien and constantly was less than enthused leading the classes. I don't remember a thing that I learned - nor do I remember the book we used, although I seem to remember that we had one.

The current percentage of 15 year olds confirmed in the Church of Norway (2016 numbers) was 60.0%. The humanist confirmation counted 17.4 % of all 15 year olds, so more than 3 out of every four Norwegians still goes through the transition from childhood to adulthood using confirmation as a rite of passage. For Americans, I would argue that this rite of passage takes place about 3 years later, as the transition from childhood to adulthood happens upon high school graduation, which is a much more formal event in the US than it is in Norway. In Norway, the high school graduates celebrate themselves through what used to be a week-long event of debauchery and deprivation also known as the Russefeiring, but parents and families don't celebrate the high school graduation the same way as the US. I have to admit that I like the American tradition of a formal pomp and circumstance commencement ceremony - and then the less formal, but very communal open house/graduation ceremony. As I have grown older, I find myself valuing education and educational achievement much more.

Anyway, my intentions were to keep that framework brief - and you can all see how well that went... What I really wanted to say about my confirmation was that I got enough money to buy my very first electric guitar that spring. I bought it from a guy who was about to finish middle school - he had been in my music/drama elective class and wanted to get rid of it. It was a Japanese knock-off brand, Jarock, and it was a black Stratocaster model. Oh yeah. I loved that thing. It didn't matter that it didn't stay tuned for the length of a full song, I still loved it. Because it was electric. It was black. It was a Strat (knock-off).

I was trying to think back to remember who I wanted to be like when I started to play guitar, and I honestly can't remember. I know I loved all the greats, like Ritchie Blackmore and Jimmy Page, and I had a soft spot for Hendrix (at one point in my youthful exuberance I even stated that I played a lot like Hendrix because we used the same base scale - the pentatonic scale - yeah right...). I loved Ace Frehley in Kiss, but I think that Dave Murray in Iron Maiden was one of my early favorites. I even wrote an essay about him in elementary school, it must have been in 6th grade. It was fawning more than anything - and so my black Strat (knock off) was even more perfect given that it was one of Dave Murray's main guitars as well - although he could afford the original. When I got my guitar, their Somewhere In Time album was almost a year old, but one of the first "cool" riffs I taught myself was the beginning riff from the song Wasted Years from Somewhere In Time, one of the albums that really makes you miss the 12" covers of the LP era - it was filled with cryptic clues to earlier Iron Maiden songs (such as a digital clock showing 23:58 - or Two Minutes To Midnight). So - realize you're living in the golden years!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017 - July 18 - Laundromat

30 years ago this summer, I was on a language holiday. I got to spend 3 weeks in England, staying with a host family, taking classes in the daytime, and going on trips and generally immersing myself in the language throughout the weeks. I already wrote about how I was going with my cousin, Stein, or so we thought until we realized that although we both had selected Isle of Thanet, which is located in Kent at the southeastern tip of England, the group leaving from Oslo went to Ramsgate, while my group, which left from Trondheim, went to Margate. I have even talked a little bit about how I found an album by Irish bluesman Rory Gallagher in the record collection of my host family - and that is where I am ending up today.

I have been looking at pictures of record covers, and while I was convinced there was a lot of blue on the cover of the album they had, the closest I have come is the Live in Europe from the year I was born, 1972. The song that really resonated with me was Laundromat (although I also remember the title Bullfrog Blues, because I thought it was funny...). Of course, after moving into a house with some serious plumbing issues this May, the song's title represents a place I have spent a little too much time this summer...

Monday, July 17, 2017

2017 - July 17 - He's Back

My hiatus took a long time - which tends to be a pattern for me - but over the last weekend, I was inspired to start posting music on Facebook again, and so I thought to myself, why not get back to my Exiled Expressions again. I am less ambitious than before, but I will still post music and musings here without putting any major expectations on myself. So since this is planned to be a comeback of sorts, I thought I'd announce it with another comeback (and an appropriately titled one as well) - this time from 1986, I believe.

Alice Cooper's album DaDa from 1983 was the last in a row of gradually less and less relevant - or even interessant - albums, and later documentaries have spent a lot of time on his ever increasing alcoholism (From The Inside, his last really good album for a long time, was released in 1978 following a stint in a sanatorium undergoing treatment for alcoholism - and the lyrics, mostly co-written with the Bernie Taupin of Elton John fame, were about people he met while he was in treatment). While there were individual good songs on each of the album none of the four albums following From The Inside (1980's Flush The Fashion, 1981's Special Forces, 1982's Zipper Catches Skin, and 1983's Dada) were memorable. At all.

But in 1986, after yet another treatment for alcoholism as well as cirrhosis of the liver, he was ready to be back again, and it started a commercial renaissance that probably topped itself with the song Poison from the 1989 album Trash (just another 80s album that sounds like just about any other Desmond Child production - but it sold load upon load of copies). With a song from the movie Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, Alice Cooper was finding his way back to the charts and the public, and the song was very aptly titled He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask). The song reached #1 on Swedish charts, but did not make much of a dent on the charts in either USA or Norway.

Despite the lack of chart placement, I still remember the excitement I had when my friend Geir purchased the 12" single of He's Back at Mail Music, a record store that specialized in mail order music, but also had a store of sorts in the living room of an apartment pretty close to our middle school. I don't think we quite knew what to make of the sound the Coop had come up with, but we didn't care: It was new music from Alice Cooper, the man who inspired Kiss, who were our main heroes, and so it had to be great! I am not sure how much it is holding up today, 31 years later, but here it is, in all its glory!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

January 3 - Lazarus (Album Of The Year edition)

There really wasn't a question what I would consider album of the year for 2016 (for a fuller list you will have to wait - hopefully I am ready with one for tomorrow). Although, I have to admit, that after giving myself some distance to it, I was very excited when I played it again and it still sounded as good as I remembered it. Some may argue that it had an unfair advantage over other albums, as it was released on January 8, almost a full year ago, so I have had more time with it than other albums, but I doubt it would have mattered. And while the fact that it is more or less a self-penned eulogy does bear some emotional weight, the album is just as good when I am listening to it with some more distance to the death of one of my greatest 'Heroes'. The album is of course Blackstar by David Bowie, the jazziest and trippiest album of his career - and one of his absolute best. It is worth a listen - and then another one and another one - and you will discover just how beautifully crafted this album is. There are only seven tracks on the album, and they are all rock solid. One of the songs that was a slower riser for me is the track that also gave its name to a play he worked on based on his music (and the original cast recording from this play is also worth listening to): Lazarus.

Monday, January 02, 2017

January 2 - Plan #1

After taking a day off, it is time for a new post, but I will cheat. The album of the week is the one album I could be stranded on a desert island with and remain satisfied. I almost don't need the album either, as I know pretty much all of the music on it by heart. It is my all-time favorite album, and I don't think I can say it any better than in the review I wrote for Amazon, so I am posting it here. The album? Demon Box by Motorpsycho from 1993.

First and foremost, please know that there are two versions of this album. Motorpsycho set out to record a double album, but record company, Voices of Wonder weren’t quite agreeing with them, so when it was released, the LP version was the double album the band wanted, but as a compromise, the CD was a single album. In 2015, they finally re-released the CD – this time in a box set, which let the Demon Box they intended be available on CD as well. Does it make a difference? Heck yes, it does. The song Mountain is worth the price of the box set alone!

When I first heard Demon Box in 1993, it was like nothing else I had heard before. There was metal, hard rock, folk, and psychedelia in a glorious mix. The first disk opens with Waiting for the One, a happy, folky tune with flutes or recorders sounding like the recorders of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. The feeling of sitting around a campfire for a singalong ends abruptly with a drum beat that rival’s said Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks (the Led Zeppelin comparisons are not as farfetched as some might think, as they were another band not content to be just one thing, but experimented in many directions). While Gebhardts drums have a lighter touch than Bonzo’s, the bass and guitar coming in (and it sounds like a little bit of Moog Taurus is there as well) bring the hammer down and create a heavy feel. However, when the verse starts, it’s all light again – and this contrast suits the song well. The song is Nothing to Say, and it was my first love when it comes to Motorpsycho – the song that changed everything for me. Feedtime is more of a metal song, with a heavy bass riff doubled by the guitar and growling/screaming vocals. Gutwrench was not on the single cd version, and I am thinking it is one of the weaker songs on the album, but it’s a song that nods towards doom metal more than anything. Sunchild is a great pop-song, very much in Husker Du territory (the American band, not the Norwegian tv show for the aging population in the 70s and 80s). Then there is Mountain. Rarely has a song been more accurately titled. For me, listening to this song is a mental excursion that always leaves me both exhausted and wanting more. It has everything, from an epically heavy riff to a loose and improvised mid-section quoting the Pink Panther theme, augmented by noise artist Deathprod, who creates and eerie and spooky atmosphere. This atmosphere is continued in the album’s first psychedelic song, Tuesday Morning, which takes it all down to a quiet and acoustic mode again – but with noises in the background creating a feeling of danger lurking around every corner. The first disk is concluded with a cover of All Is Loneliness, which was written by Moondog Jr, but made famous by Janis Joplin.

Disk 2 starts in the same territory disk 1 ended, which a lo-fi recording of a pretty sounding folky ballad, Come On In, but then the sounds get ominous. Step Inside Again is a sinister sounding version of Step Inside from 8 Soothing Songs From Ruth – and it sounds like a really scary version of Alice Cooper ca. Welcome to My Nightmare. It is the perfect build up to the title track – and when it is played, it is like you take the lid off a box filled with demons – especially during a midsection filled with electronic and static noise courtesy of Deathprod. The riff is simple, but brutal, the vocals growled and screamed, and the sound is heavy. “I need you like I need gangrene.” Message received. Powerpop follows in Babylon, then a strange interlude with Mr. Who, the third and final song omitted from the single CD release, before they return to powerpop again with Junior. What sounds like a radio recording sets the stage for the voice of Matt Burt reading his own poetry on top of dreamy guitars before the song is filled with distorted bass guitar, tasteful drums, and a soaring guitar creating a very different wall of sound than Phil Spector ever envisioned. This is Plan #1, a fan favorite – and with good reason. The lyrics are unsettling, and the music really explores tension. This is one of the songs where Motorpsycho really stared working dynamics, and the catharsis I experience when this song really takes off is well worth the price of admission. A straight forward metallish song follows in Sheer Profoundity before the album ends as it began, with the song The One Who Went Away, which is a much heavier version of Waiting For The One.

As far as I am concerned, this is pretty darn close to the perfect album. Bookended by the same song in two different versions, the journey in between still leaves me completely spent at the end still today, 23 years after its release. I fell in love with Motorpsycho with this album, and I am still a fan. I think this is an album every single record collection should have. And – buy the box set. It also contains both the Mountain EP and Another Ugly EP on disk 3, outtakes and rarities on disk 4, and a fifth disk with a dark, single-camera video from a concert at Vera, Groningen, the Netherlands from September 19, 1993.

And to give you a taste of the album - besides the many samples from last year, hear is one of my favorite tracks: Plan #1.