Sunday, October 15, 2017

2017 - October 15 - Tin Soldier

I really like The Small Faces... Kenney Jones on drums, Ian McLagan on organ/keyboards, and the leaders, Steve Marriott on guitar and vocals and Ronnie Lane on bass and vocals. Eventually they added Peter Frampton, and then it all collapsed. However, it didn't collapse until after they had released some mighty powerful music on both Decca (which also was the home of The Rolling Stones) and Immediate Records (which was run by The Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham). As part of their Immediate output, they released the song Tin Soldier in 1967, the second of two instant classics (the other was Itchycoo Park - and yes, I expect to play that one as well). Tin Soldier was not released on any regular album - it was a single only. It is a Steve Marriott composition - and he also takes the lead vocals on it...

Saturday, October 14, 2017

2017 - October 14 - Uninvited

I don't know what made me think about this song today, but I remember when I first heard it and how incredibly powerful it was. Alanis Morissette was a powerhouse in the late 90s. Her albums Jagged Little Pill and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie sold well, she had a great live band (featuring Taylor Hawkins, who left to join the Foo Fighters), and she seemed unstoppable (even though there was the great SNL line, going something like, Alanis, not everything you write in your journal is a song - referencing her very strange phrasing of words in her songs to make the words she wanted fit the song.

Today's song is a great example of that. I had never understood what she sang (but now I do because the words are in the YouTube link). Her syllables are stretched and pronounced in ways that completely prevented me from hearing them. But... The music spoke to me. So simple, yet building and building to an incredible climax. The use of dynamics is spectacular.

This is from the Wim Wenders movie City of Angels. This is Uninvited.

Friday, October 13, 2017

2017 - October 13 - I Ain't Superstitious

Friday the 13th. Long held to be a day of bad luck... It's a good thing we have Willie Dixon to set the record straight... Granted, it was recorded by Howling Wolf in 1961, and artists as far apart as Santana and Megadeth have also had their take on it. But... Then there is Jeff Beck - from the album Truth from 1968 featuring Rod Stewart on vocals... Yeah, now we're talking... I Ain't Superstitious.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

2017 - October 12 - Somewhere In Space

Today's featured musician was weird. By any standard. Just plain weird. What else can you say about someone who takes on a name after the Egyptian sun god Ra. However, he created some wonderfully strange music. Today's tune, Somewhere In Space is by Sun Ra and His Myth Science Orchestra, and it is one of the more accessible pieces. He was out there in thought and in music, but there is something very compelling about that...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2017 - October 11 - 'Round Midnight

So I missed a great milestone yesterday - the late great Thelonious Monk would have turned 100. I got introduced to Monk late - just a few years ago, I believe it might have been in the music appreciation class I took at MCC. What I found was a composer and pianist capable of devastating beauty and intricacy. There are so many tracks to play, but this is one of my absolute favorites. 'Round Midnight has become a jazz standard since it was written in the early 40s and recorded in 1944, and I first got to know Miles Davis' version with the haunting muted trumpet. However, in 1957, Thelonious Monk released a solo piano album, Thelonious Himself, and that's where this solo piano version of 'Round Midnight is found. I am glad I discovered Monk - he is a true treasure in jazz, and he was born one hundred years and a day ago today.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

2017 - October 10 - No Quarter

It's been quiet from me again for about a week, but have no fear, I am back again... I have known this was the song I would play today for quite some time - I just had to think about the approach for a minute or so (maybe 10,000 minutes, but who's counting). Anyway - the song is No Quarter and the artist is Led Zeppelin. And the version is from Celebration Day, so it is only 10 years old, and it features Jason Bonham on drums.

I think this might start my trinity series... I have three favorite Led Zeppelin songs that tower over anything else they've done, so I started thinking about finding three songs from other bands as well - especially if there is one of them I haven't played yet. For Led Zeppelin, my trinity is When The Levee Breaks from their fourth album (1971), Kashmir from Physical Grafitti (1975), and today's song, No Quarter, from Houses Of The Holy (1973) - although I play the live version from 2007.

I still remember when I got Houses Of The Holy. I bought it on cassette tape, and it wasn't very expensive. I remember wondering about the song titles, especially D'yer Mak'er, wondering how the hell I was supposed to pronounce that (hint: Jamaica - but that took a lot of reading of their history to figure out). But I had no expectations at all to No Quarter, a song that came out of nowhere and swept me off in a blizzard, because that is what I am feeling (the winds of Thor are blowing cold). This is John Paul Jones' finest moment in Led Zeppelin - his electric piano completely owns this song. And Jimmy Page's guitar isn't far behind. Bonzo's drumming was always understated on this song - but in his son Jason Bonham's hands, it gets even better. And Robert Plant... Well... He is Robert Plant. He is releasing a new solo album on Friday, and I am excited about that.

But to me, No Quarter is simply one of Led Zeppelin's finest moments - regardless of version. And I hope you will enjoy it as well...

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

2017 - October 3 - Into The Great Wide Open

What a weekend... I took time off from just about everything to spend with my parents before they left for Norway again. I had to teach on Friday, but other than that I didn't do much that could be considered productive... So over the scope of this one weekend, we ended up watching soccer, celebrating my mom's birthday, visiting Grand Rapids' tourist trap #1, Artprize, where I ran into Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top but was too starstruck to get a picture taken, having them leave - and then take in news of death and destruction. I won't comment directly on the shooting in Vegas outside saying it's a tragedy. However, too many news outlets and people are doing too much speculation, and it's not doing anyone any good. Just report the facts as they come out. Talk about the aftermath. But this incessant analysis of what could be behind the shooting is bullshit in its purest form. Until trained people gather a ton of information and have the full picture, it is a waste of air to speculate based on the steady trickle of information leaking from who knows where...

And then there was Tom Petty. I wasn't the biggest fan, but I liked him a lot. I like that he got to finish what he already had labeled his final tour. There is poetry in that to me. But I will miss his voice. Free Falling has had a great place in my heart for a long time, but today I want to play another one of his great songs: Into The Great Wide Open, the title track from his 1991 album. How many stars can you identify in this video?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

2017 - September 28 - Anthem

I love Steve Wynn’s 1990 album Kerosene Man, which also was his solo debut. This was right around the time I discovered him as well, as a result of a more or less chance visit to a solo acoustic gig at Skansen, which also happened to be the club where my parents met a long, long, long, long time ago. It was also the same venue where I saw my first rock concert seeing TNT around 1985. The club is no longer there, but Steve Wynn is still going strong with a reunited Dream Syndicate. Today’s song is not about our supreme leader or the NFL - but it is an awesome song. It is Anthem.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

2017 - September 27 - Toe to Toes

Mastodon released Empire Of The Sun earlier this year. It is a solid album, but to me, the highlight from the recording sessions was not included on the album itself, but rather on the very recently released Cold Dark Place EP. The video features studio antics, but the song is quintessential Mastodon. The song is Toe to Toes.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

2017 - September 26 - Die Mauer (The Wall)

There isn't much to say. Die Mauer was written about the Berlin Wall, but it's just as relevant today. It tells the story of two lovers who lived blocks apart, but were separated by the wall. We all saw how spectacularly well the Berlin Wall worked (yes, that was sarcasm) - and now our Supreme Leader will try a much longer version of it.

Ebba Grön was one of my favorite punk rock bands, and this song is simply great! I shared a new version of it on Facebook yesterday, it was done by Joy M'Batha in a very powerful way, so check it out (it was on Swedish TV's program Ebbots Ark). But the original is also powerful, so here is Ebba Grön with Die Mauer (The Wall).

And then there is a more recent version by Pimme himself - Thåström

Monday, September 25, 2017

2017 - September 25 - Gimme Some Truth

For the last song in our 1971 installment for this time, I am choosing yet another Beatle. John Lennon released the album Imagine that year, and the title track has been my guiding light for as long as I can remember. But that is not the song I will be playing today. Imagine is the hopeful, dreaming Lennon - but I feel like angry man Lennon today, so, dedicated to the Orange in Chief, here is Gimme Some Truth!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017 - September 24 - Heart Of The Country

In 1970, the music world shook. The Beatles disbanded. Luckily the individual members embarked on highly successful solo careers (and then there was Ringo...), and Paul McCartney was no exception. In 1971, he released the album Ram, and it has the very charming little ditty Heart Of The Country. I first heard it by a Norwegian folk quartet called Ballade, featuring some of Norway's finest singer/songwriters of the 70s: Lillebjørn Nilsen (one of the best singer/songwriters Norway ever produced), Lars Klevstrand, Åse Kleveland (later Culture Minister of Norway), and Birgitte Grimstad (originally from Denmark)ø however, that was more of a novelty version called Katt og Kaniner (Cat and Rabbits) - and I have come to really appreciate Paul McCartney's original...

Saturday, September 23, 2017

2017 - September 23 - Embryo/Children Of The Grave

1971 also brought us the third album from Black Sabbath. There are several standout tracks on this album, but I have chosen one that really highlights Bill Ward, the unsung hero of Black Sabbath - and the only member not present on the final tour due to a contract dispute. It got ugly. But his drumming is a huge reason they were as successful as they were. Just listen to the tom work on Children of the Grave - although you have to enjoy the intro, simply known as Embryo first. .

Friday, September 22, 2017

2017 - September 22 - Stairway To Heaven

As if on cue, today's song was one of the two songs that gave rise to the title of the compilation album from yesterday. Stairway to Heaven was released on the fourth Led Zeppelin album in 1971, and has grown immensely in stature over the years. I have been tired of it. Really tired of it. To the point where I have thought that it has been one of the most overrated songs in rock history. Yet today I am playing it. I am remembering back to 1985. JFK Stadium in Philadelphia (these were the days before corporate sponsorships). The massive anticipation of a possible Led Zeppelin reunion following John Bonham's death in 1980. I wasn't awake when it happened, but we had it all taped on VHS, so I did get to see it. It was Jimmy Page and Robert Plant - and that was all that mattered to me then. Phil Collins is a good drummer, but he ain't no Bonzo. Watching it now it is really cringeworthy, but back then I was caught up in the moment. "Does anyone remember laughter?" Robert Plant's question just really doesn't sit right with me, but it is imprinted in my brain.

So after a while I soured on Stairway to Heaven. But then, in 2003, they released the live album How the West Was Won, and Pagey's guitar is amazing. Not in the solo part, but in how he fills in all the other little pieces. And I had to start listening again. In 2007, ten years ago, they performed at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert, and that is in all likelihood the last time they will play together. On drums, they had a great person to fill his dad's shoes: Jason Bonham. The concert was fantastic. It is released on DVD as Celebration Day. It is mind blowing how good they were. And it is even more mind blowing that they turned down a lot of money to go back on tour. Bonham, Page, and Jones were reportedly willing, but not Robert Plant. And I really respect that decision. They got to do a proper goodbye in massive style, and they got to do Ahmet Ertegun proud. He signed them and had a huge part in their success.

But today we go back to Headley Grange in 1971. Led Zeppelin had set up shop there to record their fourth studio album, and it did yield spectacular results, from acoustic romps (The Battle Of Evermore) to bluesy footstomping hard rockers (When the Levee Breaks). And there, at the end of side one, is the song that bridges both sides of Led Zeppelin - and both sides of the album. Stairway To Heaven. It starts out as a nice acoustic ballad, turns around on Pagey's blazing solo (he doesn't shred, but you can feel every note of the solo hit your spine), and explodes with Plant's fury before it is all subdued in the end, with the afterglow of "...and she's buying a stairway to heaven." It is a great song. And although I find it to be overplayed, I can't deny the power it holds.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

2017 - September 21 - Move Over

Taking a cue from yesterday's song, today's was also covered on a compilation album. This time it is from the benefit album Stairway To Heaven/Highway To Hell, which I believe was put together by notorious manager Doc McGhee following a 40,000 pounds of marijuana smuggling conviction. Of course, in the war on drugs, an affluent white man got 5 years of probation and a laughable $15,000 fine (he was managing Motley Crue and Bon Jovi at the time - and he has also picked up Kiss - this guy likes his money). He started "paying his debt to society" (quotations are for sarcasm, FYI...) by organizing the Moscow Music Peace Festival - and then there was Stairway To Heaven/Highway To Hell, which came shortly thereafter, featuring artists from the festival along with a live rendition of the Led Zeppelin classic Rock & Roll from the festival itself, if memory serves me right.

One of the songs on the album was Move Over, originally by Janis Joplin, but here covered by Cinderella. But in contrast to yesterday's Levon, this cover version really sucked. Really bad. So I found my parents old tape of Pearl, Janis Joplin's final album, and played the original. I knew how great the album was, but Move Over had passed me by. Well, it shouldn't have. It is a great opener on a fantastic album. Pearl was the last album she released, and it was released posthumously in 1971, following her death in October 1970. There are better known songs, such as Me and Bobby McGee, Mercedes Benz, and Cry Baby on this album, but Move Over is one hell of a song from one hell of a voice that was silenced too soon...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

2017 - September 20 - Levon

I wasn't ever a real big Elton John fan. My parents had Blue Moves from 1976 in their record collection, but that is one of the weaker albums of his 70s output - yet it has one of his strongest songs in Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. It was nevertheless easily dismissed by me. But in 1991 there was this collection being released called Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. I did not have this cd, but at this time, I was actively involved in a teetotaler youth organization and frequently travelled to the Oslo area. And while I was there, I usually stayed with my good friend Stein Pettersen, who lived a little bit north of Oslo at the top of the hill in a small place called Rånåsfoss (which also happened to be where my engine head of the nice brown Renault 5 cracked - although the likelihood was that it cracked at Elverum during an incredibly cold overnight stay but was asymptomatic until I got closer to Stein's following a very nice Christmas party in Oslo).

I always enjoyed staying there, I would race cars with his son, Anders, and Stein would fire up the grill from time to time, so I always ate well while there. And then there was his record collection. He had a lot of crappy pop (right, Stein?) - he was really into music produced by Trevor Horn, if memory serves me right. And we would always argue about what the real Genesis was - I maintained that the Peter Gabriel era was superior (and I still do) and he claimed that their popularity and ability to write intelligent pop was proof positive that the Phil Collins fronted era reigned supreme (and a similar discussion about Pink Floyd, I believe). I have always been good at maintaining that bands were better before massive commercial success - and I have had good points, I believe, to all of that. 

But that wasn't while I was going there today. Stein had the Two Rooms cd in his collection. It is filled with the big names of the day: Sting, Kate Bush, Joe Cocker (with the aforementioned Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word), Eric Clapton, and Sinead O'Connor, to mention but a few. However, there was one song that really stood out for me, and that was Jon Bon Jovi's rendition of Levon from 1971's Madman Across The Water. The most popular song from Madman... is probably Tiny Dancer, thanks to the movie Almost Famous, but I hold Levon a notch higher. It is most definitely worth a listen - Bernie Taupin's lyrics are cryptic but evoke strong images for me. He shall be Levon...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017 - September 19 - Riders On The Storm

I think I will stay in 1971 for a little bit. The Doors released their final album with Jim Morrison in April that year, only months before he died in Paris. The album was LA Woman, and both side A and side B of the LP ends with an extended song. Side A has the title track, which is a rollicking romp about the city of lights. However, for me, the true gem is the final track, Riders On The Storm. The driving bass riff played by Jerry Scheff (this is one of the time Ray Manzarek didn't play the bass on his keyboard), and laid back drumming by John Densmore with almost a jazz sensitivity holds the center of the mix and starts us off. Ray Manzarek's electric piano is placed to the left in the mix with cascading notes over the backdrop of a rainstorm. Jim Morrison performs one of his most haunted lyrics, placed centrally in the mix, with Robbie Krieger joining in the right channel just after Morrison starts singing - and his singing voice is double tracked with a whisper of the lyrics, creating a haunting effect. It is glued together better than the extreme left/right mixing The Beatles did at the same period - but much of the reason for that is that the keys and the guitar play similar figures when they are backing the vocals, while they help accentuate and augment one another as they solo. This is just about as jazz as The Doors ever got with Jim Morrison - and I absolutely love it!

Monday, September 18, 2017

2017 - September 18 - Aqualung

Today's song is one of those songs that I had heard of for much longer than I actually have heard it. The opening riff and following lyrics... "Sitting on a park bench" That was really all I knew. But after several listens, the reason it has been considered a prog-folk classic is obvious. The song is Aqualung by Jethro Tull. It is without Ian Anderson's trademark flute, but his voice and acoustic guitar is prominent. The lineup for the Aqualung album from 1971 featured Martin Barre as lead guitarist, he has played on every studio album except the debut, This Was from 1968, and was for the longest time the one consistent member along with Ian Anderson, who is the only member who has been in every single lineup. Rounding out the band for Aqualung were John Evan on keyboards, Jeffrey Hammond on bass, and Clive Bunker on drums. The album is really great, but the opening track - and the opening riff... Wow!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

2017 - September 17 - Paris, Texas

Harry Dean Stanton passed away Friday, 91 years old. He played a lot of different roles throughout the years, but for me, he will always be Travis, the lost soul in Wim Wenders 1984 masterpiece, Paris, Texas. It is one of those rare movies where the mood captured me more than any storyline, but Harry Dean Stanton's accomplishment as an actor was absolutely breathtaking. This is also a movie where the music is as important as the dialogue - and that is a good thing, because the dialogue is sparse (but masterful) and the music is outstanding. Written and performed by Ry Cooder, it perfectly evokes the lonely sound of the desert. This is one of my favorite instrumental pieces of all time...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

2017 - September 15 and 16 - Dear God

I did miss yesterday - but I have been thinking about a one-two punch for doubters... I like songs that pose questions, especially about things that often are taken for granted. These two songs have the same title, Dear God, and the same questioning and seeking character, and they were released two years apart by musicians who definitely were in the arty camp of British pop music in the 80s. The first artist is the band XTC, who wrote their letter to God on the album Skylarking from 1986.

The second artist rose to fame in Ultravox, and is an accomplished singular and guitar player with a Unigue name. Midge Ure shared his prayer on the album Answers To Nothing from 1988.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

2017 - September 14 - A.S.F.E.

I think I mentioned that Motorpsycho released The Tower last Friday. And what a monster album it is turning out to be. It's sprawling, yet cohesive, and there are some killer tracks on it. And today's song is one of them. The song is A.S.F.E. - or A Song For Everyone. Reviewers have noted the similarities with the opening riff and the Black Sabbath classic Paranoid, but I hear clearer Motorpsycho references throughout... To me, this song bridges their final album of the 90s, Trust Us, with the Barracuda EP. There is a guitar riff in here that is the brother of the riff from Psychonaut on Trust Us, and the verse reminds me of the Barracuda EP for some reason. And then the chorus brings it in to today, making it all new still...

And I love the great philosophical chorus: "There's a song for everyone and a singer for every song." This song really needs to be cranked up loud. Like really loud. "Look out, look out, it's bound to get weird"

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2017 - September 13 - In Trance

It's time for Scorpions. Some of you may remember them from their monster ballad Still Loving You or the rollicking Rock You Like A Hurricane, both from the album Love At First Sting from 1984, and I will admit that that's how I heard about them too. However, almost by accident, I picked up their live album Tokyo Tapes from 1978 (the US release wasn't until 1979). I didn't know any of the songs, and the lineup was different than what I was used to. Sure, Klaus Meine sang and Rudolf Schenker played rhythm guitar, like they have done on every single Scorpions album - they are the beating heart of this German band. Herman Rarebell had just joined the band on drums, while Francis Buchholz (bass) and Uli Jon Roth (guitar) had been there since the second album. Uli Jon Roth would leave following the tour, and they reached their highest level of success with Mattias Jabs on guitar through the 80s (he is still with the band).

But before they had this success, there was Uli Jon Roth. He has an ethereal quality to his guitar tone, and this was to be his swan song with the band (he had officially left the band and was convinced to come back for the tour of Japan). For me, knowing the early music of Scorpions started with Tokyo Tapes, and the song In Trance, which was the title track from their third album, is a great example of how much Scorpions with Uli Jon Roth had a lyrical quality to their songs - the coda to this song still gives me goosebumps.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

2017 - September 12 - Sultans of Swing

Today's song is a beauty... This is a song I simply can't sit still to - and I am very happy to hear it gets a lot of airplay. I think it's my favorite Dire Straits song, and I am bringing it here in the full live version from the first Dire Straits album I ever bought: Alchemy, which is a live album recorded in 1983 and released in 1984. The extended version gives room for Mark Knopfler fantastic guitar playing - although there are a couple of licks in there from Hal Lindes, who is the second guitar player. John Illsley plays the bass, and that's the trio we see through most of this video - but Alan Clark on keyboards and Terry Williams on drums round out this incarnation of Dire Straits.

The song, The Sultans Of Swing, was originally on their debut album simply called Dire Straits, released in 1977. It is about a jazz band playing in a London club. They are not in it for the fame or fortune, and it's a dying scene, "it ain't what they call rock and roll." To me, I can hear the joy of music and the joy of playing without compromise throughout this entire song. The use of dynamics make the emotions ebb and flow - and maybe even more so in this live version, which goes quite a bit faster than the studio version, so the dynamics are essential to the emotional content. Listening to it again is a perfect thing for a lunch break - it sure made mine enjoyable, and I am so glad to be sharing this gem!

Monday, September 11, 2017

2017 - September 11 - Nobody Lives Without Love

If there is one thing I have learned from my family, from my parents and grandparents, and my aunts and uncles on both sides, it is the truth in the title of today's song. I have been so lucky to be born into a family where love always is present. It may not be spoken - Norwegians are not a very vocal people when it comes to emotions, but it has always been felt. My parents have been married for 46 years today, and I am lucky enough to celebrate it with them again this year. I think I will let Eddi Reader share what she learned - Nobody Lives Without Love. Happy anniversary to the best parents I could ever ask for!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

2017 - September 10 - Powderfinger

There is something about Powderfinger that really breaks my heart. And it's more than the fact that the narrator dies at the end. It's the way he does - and the way Neil Young's voice really conveys the loss of innocence just before he dies. The version I have listened to the most is the loud electric version he did with Crazy Horse on Weld, but Friday his latest album hit the stores, and this acoustic version from the 70s showed up. Here is the Hitchhiker version of Powderfinger...

Saturday, September 09, 2017

2017 - September 9 - Time

So today is the wedding anniversary of my dear, dear friends Arve and Katelijn. They went to see an old hero of mine, Tori Amos, who also happened to release a very vital album yesterday, Native Invader. I know she played my favorite song of hers, Leather, but since I've already played that, I found a cover version she did of a Tom Waits song on her album Strange Little Girls. The song is Time, and the chorus, "it's time that you love" fits really well with the still happy couple. I wish them all the best - happy anniversary!

Friday, September 08, 2017

2017 - September 8 - Stardust

My favorite band, Motorpsycho, released a new album today. That means today is a holiday in my book. I feel like celebrating with some Stardust from The Tower as the trio channels their inner Crosby, Stills and Nash with a hint of Young...

Thursday, September 07, 2017

2017 - September 7 - Magician (for Mike Seaman)

Today we had a memorial service at work for Mike Seaman, who taught economics and sociology for the college for 27 years before he suddenly passed away this summer. Although passed away is a little bit too much of a euphemism. He was killed. On June 27, he was out riding his bicycle outside Mt. Pleasant, MI, and he was hit by a car driven by a young woman who had been drinking and who didn't see him for the glare of the sun.

Mike affected me in many ways. I liked him a lot. Respected him even more. And then there was his amazing mind with room for so many different things.

He was a bicyclist, but he was also a skier,and that's something I used to know a thing or two about. One of the conversations I had with him that sticks with me was about ski wax. We were talking about Swix, which was the brand I grew up with. In Norway we even have an expression - blue Swix conditions - which really are the perfect conditions for skiing. Cross country skiing. But as I was telling him about my experiences with waxing skis (and yes, there is an art to it, as you want to make sure that your skis glide while still sticking enough that you get some push, yet not too much, as that results in snow accumulation under the skis, and that's no fun), the fact that I last did that about 25-30 years ago. He was excited to share some of the updates with me - and he was enough of an expert that he might have the opportunity to travel to Norway to work with ski wax and other preparations. He also liked hearing me talk about my dad completing the Birkebeiner in Norway (at least I think he did), as the Birkie, the American race inspired by the Norwegian original was one of the ski races he had participated in...

He is also the reason I let my hair and beard grow out. Not because I wanted to be like him, but because I feel more comfortable like this, and he showed me that it is ok to be different - even in a professional setting. By focusing on looking all grown up, professional, and responsible, I had lost track of myself, so about three years back, I just stopped worrying about how others saw me (although I haven't really stopped, truth be told, as I have to remind myself that what other people may think isn't as important as what I think). I am still professional, and I try to be responsible. Being grown up, on the other hand, is a matter of opinion, but I do my best.

I always wanted to take one of his economics classes, but I never did, because I always thought I'd still have a chance to do it later. That opportunity has now passed. But I don't think I'll ever forget Mike. I know he probably would have laughed at some of the more humorous songs I could play - and maybe even enjoyed it if I played a song like Bela Lugosi's Dead. But instead I end up with Magician by Lou Reed from the album Magic and Loss. While it is a song that is a lot more about a slower loss than the very sudden and abrupt loss we experienced with Mike, it is one of the best songs I have ever have heard about death and dying.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

2017 - September 6 - Glide

Friday is quite the day... First and foremost, Motorpsycho's new album, The Tower, is released. Then there is Neil Young's album Hitch Hiker, with early acoustic versions of some great songs. And finally... There is The Dream Syndicate, who have reunited and almost 30 years after their last studio album (Ghost Stories from 1988) are releasing a new album called How Did I Find Myself Here? I started following Steve Wynn in the time after the demise of The Dream Syndicate, and for a long time I had to make do with a compilation album and a live album, as their CDs were either out of print or hard to get. I have tracked them all down, and I am very excited for the new album, especially after hearing the title track and today's song, Glide, which is a song with a singer/songwriter structure drenched in feedback and loud guitar, just what I ordered...

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

2017 - September 5 - Bark At The Moon

I have to admit that my fondness for today's song might have something to do with Sky Channel and their Monsters Of Rock program, playing either 30 minutes or an hour of hard rock and early metal videos. I think Mick Wall, one of the preeminent writers in the Kerrang! magazine and now noted for his vast knowledge of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and just about everything hard rock and heavy metal coming in its wake (and author of Diary Of A Madman, an unauthorized biography about Ozzy Osbourne), was one of the hosts - and a girl named Amanda Redington, I believe. However, I was geeky enough that I was more excited about seeing Mick Wall than the blonde cohost (I had to do some digging to find her name as well). It was the only place for hard rock and heavy metal videos in Norway in the 80s, and my good friend Arve's dad had cable tv and access to the show, so I would regularly tape it on VHS and then watch it at home.

And so it was that I saw the Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde inspired video to Bark At The Moon for the first time. Back then I thought it was awesome - now I recognize it for the campy kitsch it really was. But the song is great. Well... Maybe not great - but it is special to me, as it was the first Ozzy Osbourne solo song I think I heard. I had heard the album Speak Of The Devil, but that was just a stop gap live album with nothing but old Black Sabbath songs following the death of Randy Rhoads while he was figuring out what to do next. In 1983, he had bassist Bob Daisley, drummer Tommy Aldridge, keyboardist Don Airey and new guitarist Jake E. Lee, and the resulting album was Bark At The Moon. It is a nostalgic album for me, because I do believe it was the first solo album I heard, as I believe Jon Inge had the tape. Even though both Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman are better albums, there are some strong tracks on this one as well - and I do consider the title track one of them, with Jake E Lee really showing his chops. And... Tonight we have a full moon here, so you never know what will happen...

Monday, September 04, 2017

2017 - September 4 - Finest Worksong

Today is Labor Day here in the US, the day to show that we-love-our-workers-but-we'll-show-that-we're-not-socialist-by-picking-a-date-other-than-May-1-as-that-would-make-the-day-more-meaningful-by-standing-with-workers-worldwide. Yup, rather than using May 1 - also known as International Workers' Day, the US opted for the first Monday in September. But what else can you expect from a country where the employers are valued more than the employees? If you disagree with that, all I need to point out is that labor protections from mandatory overtime are next to nonexistent, paid sick and vacation time is extremely limited, and minimum wage is constantly under attack and kept so low that they keep full time workers below the poverty limit. Now some might take this as me being ungrateful for my new home country, but I will maintain that part of being an American is to have freedom of speech, and I see it both as my right and my duty to speak up about things I don't like. In my job, I constantly work with students wanting to better themselves to jobs above minimum wage, so I am trying to participate in making a difference. And who knows, at one point it might be time to become more politically charged again..,

The song for Labor Day is by R.E.M., it's a song from the fantastic 1987 album Document, which I think is my favorite R.E.M. album. It's a great song for Labor Day: Finest Worksong.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

2017 - September 3 - Kim's Dirt

Today's melody is long and meditative. Warren Ellis has played with Nick Cave since 1994, and that's where I got acquainted with him and his music. I have recently started exploring his other main band, The Dirty Three, in which he plays the violin and is joined by Jim White on drums and Mick Turner on guitar. Listening to the album The Dirty Three from 1994, I was struck by the beauty of Kim's Dirt, and I thought that would be a good accompaniment for a contemplative Sunday...

Saturday, September 02, 2017

2017 - September 2 - In Hell I'll Be In Good Company

After a long post yesterday, I will be far shorter today... I don't know how this motley crew appeared in my YouTube recommendations - or what I had been watching when they appeared, but this music video is insanely charming and the music is pretty awesome. I like country an bluegrass that goes off the beaten path, and The Dead South is not in Nashville, but rather in Regina, Saskatchewan (yes, that is in Canada). Four musicians of varied musical tastes and background got together - and their music isn't quite bluegrass or country, but sounds very traditional in an untraditional way. Listen and see for yourself when they perform In Hell I'll Be In Good Company.

Friday, September 01, 2017

2017 - September 1 - Home Chds

I don't think much of my work anniversaries. I don't have to, as LinkedIn seems to do it for me. It appears that I just had my seventh anniversary working as a counselor for Montcalm Community College, as the congratulations keep coming in. That is the longest I have stayed in one job - my previous best was the first four years I spent at MCC as a Student Services Assistant.

My career path has been a long and winding road, but those first four years at MCC really helped me find my way - and eventually find my place. I remember applying for the job frantically, as the deadline was Memorial Day 2001 and I just found out about it a day before. My then wife had just accepted a position as an English instructor at MCC, and as we were ready to move from Illinois to Michigan, I needed a place to work as well. Meijer had just opened their new store in Greenville, and I was looking at being reactivated from my educational leave, which would let me get back to working for them once we got all set; however, a year in the deli in a Robinson, IL grocery store (Buehler's Buy Low) really worked against any desire to work retail at all if it could be helped. That being said, we needed additional income, and I was willing to do whatever it took (that does not seem to be as common anymore - I have heard many people talk about what kind of work or pay they need to take a job). This attitude did serve me pretty well.

I got the application for MCC filled out and faxed in on Memorial Day, and not too long thereafter I was asked if I could come for an interview. I had to drive up from Robinson, IL - and I drove to Bay City, MI, where my mother-in-law lived, spent the night there, then went for the interview the following day. This was in the days before GPS, so I had MapQuested directions (that used to be a verb...), which was sorely needed to find this college in the middle of nowhere. By then, after two years in Robinson, where I earned my Associate Degree at Lincoln Trail College, I was used to being in the middle of nowhere, so that didn't bother me at all - as a matter of fact, I was excited to see something other than soybean fields - and this area even had trees and even some hills and lots of water (I was used to the Wabash river, and that was about it). I had the interview, and then I was asked to do a computer test to see if I had the computer skills they were looking for. That was something I was pretty confident about, as one of my earlier jobs had included teaching basic computer skills to graduate students from developing countries with limited exposure to it (we are talking mid-90s here, so computers weren't as widespread yet).

I did really well at the computer test, and not long after, I was hired, so I must have done ok in the interview as well, despite declaring that I was on a "quest for knowledge." I know, it sounds pompous, but it actually was (and still is) true. I am fascinated by learning new things, and while my words might not have been the best ones to get the point across, they seemed to have worked. I started July 1 2001 in a job that initially was 30 hours per week. Before school started in August that year, they shuffled things around and I was a full time employee. I could say that the rest is history - but that would belie a very important aspect of the job. While a lot of the job had to do with answering the phone for the toll free recruitment line we had at the time and calling for follow-up a week or two after we had sent out the information, what I really enjoyed about the job was working directly with students. My job in that respect was really just to help set up appointments with Jim Lucka, who was one of the two counselors at that time, as well as with our registrar and director of admissions, but I developed a knowledge of our programs that was solid enough to field the most basic questions. I probably went deeper than I should from time to time, and after a while, I started talking to Jim about pursuing a career in counseling.

I completed my bachelor's degree (BA in Family Life Education) at Spring Arbor University in 2004, and Jim had provided me with a lot of information on counseling program. In the end, my experience with SAU had been so positive for my BA that I went back there despite my original plans of attending Central Michigan University (any attempts I had to come visit CMU to talk about the program was pretty much dismissed by them, stating they did most of their work over the phone - I hope that's not the case anymore). Jim's encouragement was there all the way through, which made it more difficult to take a job at Alma College in the summer of 2005, but it was an important step, as I went from support staff to professional staff, from hourly employment to salaried. It was a big deal for me.

However, admissions was not my thing. Don't get me wrong, I did love meeting with and working directly with students. My favorite parts of the year were the orientation sessions for both my transfer students and my international students. People started joking about me having ducklings in tow, especially when it came to international students as they arrived on campus, but I really loved that part of the job. What I didn't like was the salesman aspect of the job. I am not a salesman. I like to think that I am pretty good at working with people with their best interest in mind, but persuading them that this is what they should do was antithetical to where I came from as a counselor - which was rooted in people making their own choices. So when I graduated with my counseling degree in 2007, I couldn't wait to get a counseling job. However, it would take about a year before I was able to get one.

Through my job at Alma College, I got involved in the Articulation Committee in MACRAO (Michigan Association for College Registrars and Admissions Officers), and I had gotten to know Kathleen Owens, who was a counselor at Grand Rapids Community College. I believe I was introduced to her by Jim Lucka as well during the first MACRAO conference I attended in the fall of 2005. When I saw Jim, I really enjoyed seeing a friendly face that I knew - but as I entered the Articulation Pre-Conference Workshop and later the Articulation Committee itself, Kathleen really took me under her wings and helped a very nervous me (I am not sure if that showed outwardly, but it was definitely the case internally) get used to this new environment. This meeting with Kathleen let me towards my next step on my career path, which was my first counseling job.

Every time GRCC had a counseling position open, she forwarded me the information. I applied for my first job there before I had my counseling license - but that didn't work. I got my limited license with Kathleen as my supervising counselor (you have to have 3000 hours counseling experience over 2 years before you become a fully Licenced Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Michigan - before that you are a Limited Licensed Professional Counselor (LLPC)), and I applied for another job. This time it was a part time position as a counselor, and I got called in to the interview. I didn't get that position either, but in the phone call telling me that, they wanted to make sure that I had applied for the full time positions that were open. I thought that might be a good sign, and it was. In November 2008 I started working as a counselor at GRCC.

I thought that was it. I loved my job there, and I loved my colleagues. It was great working with a larger group of people - and I could always go to them with questions I might have. Lunchtime was often spent with Kathleen and Fred Zomer, another counselor there I really connected with. Kathleen and Fred had gone through the counseling program at CMU together, and I really felt like I had found my place. So when Jim Lucka announced his retirement in 2009, I didn't apply. I was very content. The next year, in 2010, Charlotte Fokens announced her retirement. She had been my internship supervisor at MCC in my year from hell (I worked my full time job at Alma while also completing the 100 hour practicum and 600 hour internship, running myself completely ragged during the 2006-07 school year), and I knew that this would be my last chance at getting a counseling job at MCC, which really had felt like home to me, so I decided to apply. I didn't like leaving GRCC that quickly, but it was my chance in a lifetime - at least it felt like it - so I when I got the offer, I decided to take the job, and that is a decision I never have regretted.

They say that if you do what you love you will never work a day in your life. That is pure bullshit, because no matter what you do, there will be days that are more challenging than others, and there are days work definitely feels like hard work. However, loving what you do truly makes the drive in every morning a lot easier. I know, because I have had my dream job not just once, but twice. The difference is that now my dream job is with my dream institution. Montcalm Community College may have its flaws here and there, but from the very first day I set foot on campus for my first interview here, it has felt like home. It is home. When my outside life has been turbulent, I always counted on MCC to be a calming factor. Because that is what home really is.

For a song going along with my musings over the past 16 years, I thought that Lee Ranaldo and the Dust had a great song on their Last Night On Earth album from 2013. I have loved Lee Ranaldo's songs from his time with Sonic Youth, where I often appreciated his melodic approach more than the approach of his counterpart, Thurston Moore (although the two of them together was pure magic). Lee Ranaldo had Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth on drums for this project - he seems to be the goto drummer for both Ranaldo and Moore - along with Alan Licht on guitar and Tim Lüntzel on bass. The song Home Chds seems like a perfect meditation over coming home, which is how I feel at MCC.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

2017 - August 31 - Zerstörte Stelle

Yesterday, as I was playing Einstürzende Neubauten's Fünf Auf Der Nach Oben Offenen Richterskala (Five On The Open-Ended Richter Schale) at work - probably a little bit too loud - Brandy, my partner in counseling crime, asked what the hell I was watching, thinking I was watching a scene or three from Game of Thrones or something similar rather than enjoying some good music while I was working. I have had the album for some time, but not really listened much to it, so I was really excited to discover how great the album really is. However, I'll gladly concede that it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

The opening track is Zerstörte Zelle, which translated to English means disturbed cell. While my German is shaky at best, I can still recognize the emotional impact of this very disturbed performance, and that is what I respond to.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

2017 - August 30 - Mr. Crowley

Sometimes the good old days really were that good. Yngwie Malmsteen has often been seen as the man who brought the neoclassical guitar to the forefront, although fans of Ritchie Blackmore will probably argue that he has elements of it as well (although that might have been more courtesy of Jon Lord - but that's another discussion). In picking today's song, I found a bridge between the two in Randy Rhoads. He was the extremely gifted guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne following his ouster from Black Sabbath. Their output together is pretty small - only two studio albums and one live album - but it is powerful. Their collaboration started in 1980, but was cut short in an accident with a small airplane after Rhoads was a passenger during several passes over the tour bus where a wing got clipped on the roof of the bus and the plane careened into a tree in 1982, 35 years ago. This sent Ozzy into a massive downward spiral again (remember, they kicked him out of Black Sabbath), and he is marked by this death to this day.

One of my absolute favorite Ozzy Osbourne solo tracks is from his debut album as a solo artist, Blizzard of Ozz. It is about old British occultist Aleister Crowley, and while there are lots of references to Satan in the lyrics, it is not a satanic song. I sense a loneliness in the song more than anything else. I found a live tv clip from 1981, and by then the band was Tommy Aldridge on drums, Rudy Sarzo (best known from Quiet Riot) on bass, journeyman Don Airey (who know plays in Deep Purple, filling Jon Lord's seat), and Randy Rhoads on guitar (he also got his start in Quiet Riot like Rudy Sarzo). Watching Ozzy perform this piece is about as lonely and tragic as the figure Aleister Crowley - but Randy Rhoads is on fire. And - what I always expected to be tapping in the guitarsolo is actually picked. It is amazing. Please enjoy Mr. Crowley. I wonder what could have been if Randy Rhoads had lived longer.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 - August 29 - Sweet Child O' Mine

Ahh - to be 15 again and experience Appetite for Destruction for the first time. It's been 30 years since the album was released, although I think I might have turned 16 by the time I heard it for the first time. Back then, I only appreciated it for the straight forward unabashed rock'n'roll it provided, but this weekend I was reminded of another quality of the album: how incredibly smart and well played it is.

Today's song, Sweet Child O' Mine, showcases the brilliance of the band more than anything - and Slash and Duff McKagan in particular. The intro guitar riff started as a guitar warm-up exercise for Slash - and his signature guitar tone is all over it. Then, the magic first starts happening when Duff comes in with his warm bass tone, playing a nice little run on top of the guitar figure. The bass is all over this song, providing some great lines all the way through, showcasing just how much Duff McKagan has a great ear for melody - it isn't technical as much as it is exquisitely tasteful, and I will take tasteful over technical any day of the week.

THEN... When Axl Rose starts singing "oh oh oh sweet child of mine" you have to ignore his voice and listen to Slash's guitar with the same tone as the intro. It is mixed in the background, but he starts playing around with the guitar figure, inverting it a little to fit the chord structure, yet building tension before it is released by a return to the initial figure once Axl is done with his singing. Beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. And the solo - the slow, searing guitar that burns its way through your eardrums and etches itself onto your soul. That is the solo that was cut from the video. That should be criminal...

The final breakdown takes the song from sweet to menacing and turns things on their head. The song is brilliant, but I was not aware of that when I started listening to it 30 years ago. Back then I just liked it, but listening to it now, I hear so many more layers. It is so clear to me that GnR was a band that loved playing music. They still do, even though it's not the same band anymore. With Slash and Duff back, I am actually interested in seeing them, but not at any price...

There are three autobiographies written by members of GnR: Slash by Slash, My Appetite For Destruction by Steven Adler, the only member of GnR kicked out for doing too much drugs (that should tell you something), and It's So Easy and Other Lies by Duff McKagan. This trio of books are great reading for anyone interested not just in GnR, but in any music from this era - and it provides interesting and differing points of view for the band's history. Duff McKagan's is easily the best written one - he has become a columnist in addition to a musician these days, and it shows - but the other two are great as well.

But for today we are back to those days of 1987, when Sweet Child O' Mine was all over the radio and Guns'n'Roses ruled the world.

Monday, August 28, 2017

2017 - August 28 - Pariah

Steven Wilson has a new album out. So far I like it, but I need some more time with it before I deliver my final judgment. But the first track released still really hits home... Pariah is a duet with Ninet Tayeb, and her voice cracks just perfectly. The new album is To The Bone - and if you like this song, it is not a bad idea to take a listen...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

2017 - August 27 - Eternal Rains Will Come

I needed a good excuse to play some Opeth, and hurricane Harvey (now a tropical storm) gave me just what I needed. I hope Opeth is wrong and that everyone in the areas affected by the storm is ok. Opet's 2014 album Pale Communion opened with this gem filled with throwback harmonies that really gives me Blue Oyster Cult vibes... Eternal Rains Will Come.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

2017 - August 26 - Oops I Did It Again

Today I just feel like straightforward pop music. And who knew that this Britney Spears "classic" actually hid a nice little song? Richard Thompson did. And his version of Oops I Did It Again makes me smile. And the day after our racist in chief pardoned a genuine piece of human excrement for detaining people based on ethnicity and nothing else I need to smile...

Friday, August 25, 2017

2017 - August 25 - Rosenborgsangen

Yesterday my hometown soccer team beat old Dutch great team Ajax and qualified for Europa League, the second biggest European soccer tournament after Champion's League. While this Ajax team isn't as spectacular as they were in their olden golden days, it is still quite an accomplishment. They beat them in the Netherlands and they beat them at home. And with that in mind, I found Rosenborgsangen from 1988 as they were getting ready for the finals in the Norwegian cup that year. Is it great music? Nope. But it's great fun!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

2017 - August 24 - Ten Tons

So I've been a little experimental and Norwegian lately. Today's song is also by a Norwegian band, but this is straight forward rock'n'roll - Ten Tons of it, to be exact. Stage Dolls is a great Norwegian power trio with Torsten Flakne on guitar and vocals, Terje Storli on bass, and Morten Skogseth's on drums. Their debut album, Soldier's Gun, was released in 1985, but it was their third album, simply called Stage Dolls, that reached a broader audience. They released it in the US as well, and the song Love Cries reached #46 on the Billboard singles chart. Not stellar, but enough to raise eyebrows back in Norway.

For me it was exciting that a band based in Trondheim actually did ok for a Norwegian band in the US, but while I did like them, I wasn't liking the Bon Jovi-ey slickness on the Stage Dolls album. I always had a soft spot for a song from their debut album. It was not a single, but I get goosebumps every time I hear the intro riff - and to me it delivers all Ten Tons of rock'n'roll.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 - August 23 - Kalhoz

Today's song is from another classic album in Norwegian rock history. De Press was a trio featuring Andrei Dziubek Nebb on bass guitar and vocals, Jørn Christensen on guitar, and Ola Snortheim on drums. Andrei Nebb was a immigrant to Norway from Poland, and, as you will see in the video, was missing two fingers on his left hand, which influenced his bass playing significantly. De Press had massive energy, which was captured fully on Block to Block, their debut album. The lyrics are... well... they are... hard to understand, maybe? There are traces of English and Norwegian there - and then there is Polish. The opening track from Block to Block was Kalhoz, and I found a live version from the Norwegian TV music show ZikkZakk - which really did capture a lot of what was going on in Norway and the world. I have absolutely no clue what they are singing in this song, but I know that I love the energy they exude. (For a complete set of De Press, you can check out Nattrock from April 30, 1981 - Norwegian TV had this idea that all the vandalism and rioting that Norwegian youth did the night leading into May Day, May 1, could be solved if they just played a good rock concert on TV).

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2017 - August 22 - Oppned (UpsideDown)

From 1988-1990, no Norwegian band was even remotely close to having the kind of success DumDum Boys had. They won Spellemannsprisen - the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammy for rock music for each of their three first albums, and while their debut has the raw excitement of a band ready to rumble and their third album cemented their mass appeal, to me, their second album, Splitter Pine is the most complete of the three. It has most of the energy from their debut while starting to find more mass appeal through the title track without the excessive polish of their third album - and it takes you on a journey that starts with middle eastern weapons and violence (this was 1989, mind you, and given the political climate in Trondheim at the time, I am thinking the song Boom Boom had the Israel/Palestine conflict in mind - but I could be wrong) and ended with a warning about the issues with the ozone layer. In between we have songs about sex, love, and youthful exuberance - and then there is this gem about really transitioning into the adult stages of life ("twenty-something is still kind of young, but oh my god, I feel old"). Oppned is one of the more hidden gems on the album - sandwiched in between Boom Boom and the magnificent title track, but it gives the air the album needs between two very heavy hitters. It is a great song from one of the best, if not the best Norwegian album not made by Motorpsycho.

Monday, August 21, 2017

2017 - August 21 - Odessa

Today I am going to play a song that for me has been mythical. When I worked in Radio Ung in my teens, there was this one album that had this mystical pull on me. It could have been the band name - Babij Jar (I have only recently discovered that they were named after a site in Kiev, Ukraine, where German forces committed a massacre in 1941 - I just thought it sounded mystical at the time). I don't think it was the album title - although The Night Before is a good one - but it could very well be the blue colors of the record cover of my memory (I always thought of an icy landscape - although that's not quite right). Or it could be the audacity of a Norwegian band recording a song that took up the entirety of side B, called Odessa after the Soviet city and mainly was built around one chord... Odds are it's all of the above.

I don't own The Night Before - or any other music by Babij Jar. But I want to. There is a lot of great Norwegian music from the mid 80s that is hard to get - especially in the states. But listening back to this song, it provides a clue to my early interest in droning music - music that my mom would call monotonous and urge me to turn off. I still remember the haunting line - "I'm gonna get back to Odessa soon..." I love this song from 1985 and a largely forgotten Norwegian band - but I invite you all to come back to Odessa with Babij Jar - I will surely be going!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017 - August 20 - John The Revelator

On cooking shows, they often talk about using an ingredient two ways or three ways. The idea is to showcase several different qualities of that ingredient. The same thing happens in music, when different people interpret a song. Today's song goes back quite a while. Blind Willie Johnson recorded the first version I found - in 1930. Then Son House recorded it in 1965, Depeche Mode wrote a new song - a remodel where the framework still is present - for their album Playing The Angel, and Gov't Mule included it on The Deepest End featuring Dirty Dozen Brass Band - and that's where I noticed it. It's fun tracing the roots and hearing the development...

The song is Gospel blues and uses call and response. Please enjoy John The Revelator four ways...

First, Blind Willie Johnson

Second: Son House

Third: Depeche Mode

And finally, my favorite: Gov't Mule

Saturday, August 19, 2017

2017 - August 19 - Another One Bites The Dust

Today's song is dedicated to Steve Bannon. Good riddance.

Friday, August 18, 2017

2017 - August 18 - In Germany Before The War

Sometimes I have musical moments that defy description. I recently won a gift card for, and I decided to purchase some music by Randy Newman - because I didn't have any of his music before. I decided to go with the 3 cd box set The Randy Newman Songbook, where it is just him and his piano doing selections from his long career. It had some of the songs I already knew I loved, such as The Great Nations Of Europe, Short People, and You've Got A Friend In Me. Then there was one title that looked really interesting (well, there were more, but... this one really stood out), and that was In Germany Before The War. And then I played it. And it is so unsettling. His use of melody and contrast and chords... I really have no words. Just listen.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

2017 - August 17 - All You Need Is Love

On a day marred by another terrorist attack and an unhinged tweet by our "president," I choose to look at hate again. I was very moved by the responses of Heather  Heyer's family following her death in the terrorist attack in Charlottesville last Saturday. They refused to give into the easy way out. They did not choose hatred. They chose love. Not love for the attacker, but for everything Heather Heyer stood for. Love for their fellow human beings. And the four wise men from Liverpool (well, technically I think this is a Lennon composition) showed us the way 50 years ago. All You Need Is Love. Indeed. And before you write it off as hippie bullshit, just give it a try. It might be easier to hate, but it is always better to love.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017 - August 16 - Noen Å Hate

Some posts are more difficult to write than others. This is one of them.

In my College Success course, some of the things we talk about include diversity and conflict resolution, and I often show a picture of the pyramid of hate:

Whenever I have shown it, I have referenced Germany 1933-1945, because it has been a textbook case of how this can happen - how we get to genocide if we don't stop to think. It all starts with bias - stereotypes, jokes, and insensitive remarks. This bias is used to justify individual acts of prejudice, such as bullying, name-calling, and dehumanization, which in turn leads to discrimination. Once you are at that level, the step to violence isn't that big, and neither is the next step towards genocide.

But this all boils down to what I like to refer to as The Other. The Other isn't like you. He may have a different sexual orientation. She may have a different skin color. He may have a different religion. She may be of a different socioeconomic status. Whatever characteristic it is, The Other is different. Different from you and me. And once you start identifying The Other, it is easier to identify who you are as well, because at least you aren't The Other. Because that would be bad. Really bad. Because we hate The Other.

That's a big word. Hate. But man, is it a motivator. A driving force. But nothing unites us more than a shared enemy, and we do love to hate our enemies. I still remember coming into the locker room getting ready for swimming lessons with my oldest daughter, overhearing a conversation between two young guys, barely out of high school, talking about how they couldn't wait to get to Iraq to kill some "towelheads." And that's what happen when you hate so much - you dehumanize. Because a "towelhead" is not a human being. That is just a target. Someone to hate. This was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and a lot of people really hated then. And people still really hate.

It is so easy to give in to hatred. It is easy to start thinking about people as less than - and eventually as less than human. And these days I am worried because that is what I see. I see value of human life that is in decline. Because that is the only way I can make sense of a man taking out his gun and shoot and kill a recent high school graduate after being cut off. But I also see hatred and dehumanization. I see it in every terrorist attack. Including the one last weekend where a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of protesters. And all of this scares me.

And then I remembered a song to go along with this feeling.

In 1990, Norwegian band Raga Rockers released the album Rock'N'Roll Party, an album I never really cared that much for. However, there was one song that really hit a nerve, and it is becoming more and more relevant again. The song is Noen Å Hate - or Someone To Hate. The lyrics are as follows (my loose translation):

That guy is nothing like you
Hurry up and get him
It's just as good as sex
To mess up a poor sucker

Isn't it lovely to have someone to hate
Doesn't it feel good to have someone to hate
Isn't it awesome to smash their face in
Isn't it lovely to have someone to hate

Hear the sound of necks breaking
Hear the sound of flesh cracking
Just follow the pointing finger
Over to where the grown-ups play


Verse 1


I believe that this song really encapsulates the power of hatred - and of the dehumanization that often follows. And the melody hits almost as hard as the words...

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, 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...