Friday, December 08, 2017

2017 - December 8 - A World Without Heroes (Fallen Heroes edition)

So as I return following the Heroes week, it's time to consider some fallen heroes...

December 8, 1980, was the day I experienced the first loss of a hero of mine. Mark David Chapman was waiting for John Lennon outside the Dakota building in New York and shot him. Back then, he was more a hero because he had been a member of The Beatles - but I still remember it well. As I grew older, I was drawn to his idealism. Often written off as naïve, but everything I read and see about him makes me believe he was genuine. Of course, he was a complex individual with flaws that often were masked - or maybe simply overlooked - by those of us who were unadulterated fans; for instance, it is easy to give him credit for retreating from music to be a father to Sean Ono Lennon, while at the same time forgetting that he had a very complex (to put it mildly) relationship to his first wife, Cynthia, and his son from that marriage, Julian.

And today, this sentiment of flawed heroes is getting incredibly relevant again. It was easy for me to condemn Donald Trump and Roy Moore based on allegations of sexual misconduct, but it was very difficult for me to do the same for Al Franken, who is someone I have followed for a long time after finding him on SNL reruns. As a matter of fact, on the day my oldest daughter, Emma, was born, I was reading Rush Limbaugh Is A Big, Fat, Idiot by Al Franken. So when Franken was elected senator from Minnesota in 2008, the same year Barack Obama was elected president, I was excited - but not as excited as I have been following his career in the Senate. I have found him to be a most excellent voice for more progressive values, values that I share with him. Except that he now has a tail of women accusing him of inappropriate behavior. And I cannot overlook it.

Of course, I could hide behind the fact that all he is accused of while in the Senate are simply allegations, the number of women telling similar stories is too big to ignore - it does point to a trend. I do believe in the tenet of "trust, but verify" - and to me, the volume of complaints along with an acknowledgment on his behalf of what he did prior to becoming a senator, serves as a verification of a core of veracity in their allegations. And finally, I cannot separate between what he did prior to becoming a senator and after becoming a senator, simply because I don't apply that standard to others (the aforementioned Trump and Moore). And I try to avoid double standards as much as I can.

So I was relieved to hear that Al Franken is resigning from the Senate. I will miss the Al Franken I had grown incredibly fond of as a Senator and political voice. The one who in public stood up for us all. But I am glad that he is resigning. Integrity is to me the most important asset of an elected representative, and Al Franken has lost the sheen of integrity with me. I could say the same about another political hero of mine, John Conyers, who also is stepping down for similar reasons. And so I understand how difficult it is to give up on someone you otherwise believe in because of what can be considered a moral flaw. But I am doing it.

I do agree with Al Franken, though, that it is ironic that he is stepping down while an admitted sexual predator is occupying the White House and an alleged pedophile is supported by his party to ascend to the Senate. It does seem like sexual misconduct is a prerequisite for office representing the Republican Party these days - and it really sickens me. To me it is pretty simple: If you cannot respect the people you work with or women in general (never mind laws like age of consent - or even the simple principle of consent), how can we expect you to respect the people you represent?

And then we have Kiss. Talk about fallen heroes. From 1980 to about 1984, the only band I listened to was Kiss. And the first LP I ever got that I picked out myself (I wish I could say that I bought it myself as well, but I asked my parents to buy it for me), was (Music From) The Elder by Kiss. I found it in a discount bin at KBS, a grocery/department store with a formidable deli right across the street from my elementary school. I worshipped Kiss. My walls were covered by pictures and posters, all of Kiss, and I had build a stage with a drum set and drum riser in Lego for Playmobil figures serving as the members of Kiss. But it was always about the music for me. My first real big concert was seeing Kiss in Skedsmohallen in 1988 on the Crazy Nights tour. I loved it. They put on a great show and played really well.

And I thought they were in it for the money as well. But then MTV Unplugged happened. The Unplugged show was great, showing six former and current members playing together, but Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley started to see dollar signs reappearing after commercial decline. A reunion tour with full makeup and Ace Frehley and Peter Criss back in the fold  was planned, while Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick, who had kept Kiss alive were discarded. My illusions started shattering, then they were completely shattered by the autobiographies of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Their narcissism shows no end, and their stories shows how much Kiss always was a business venture more than anything for them. Now, don't get me wrong - there is nothing wrong in seeing business in your music, but I believe in music as art first and commodity second - and not just a commodity. And if you want to tie sexual misconduct and misogyny to Kiss, seek out a written transcript of Terry Gross of Fresh Air on NPR (she is by far the best interviewer on the planet) interviewing Gene Simmons. Talk about your fallen heroes. Yet we do need them - and so, bridging my first Kiss album with MTV Unplugged, which is where it started going south for me, here is A World Without Heroes, originally found on (Music From) The Elder, as it was performed on MTV Unplugged.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

2017 - November 29 - Heroes (500th Post Edition)

It started as an idea. Really a pretty bare experiment. September 28, 2005, I decided to start a blog and came up with this little place to call my own. And then silence. Until May 22, 2006. And then silence again. I had 7 posts in 2008, 1 in 2009, and whopping 10 in 2010. And for almost six years, the blog was dormant until I decided to post at least once a day in 2016. And I did it = and I was pretty exhausted at the end, and didn't do what I needed to this year - until July. And since then, it's been pretty steady. Sure, it's been a hole here or there, but it's really been steady.

So, Tore, what have you learned about yourself since you started? Great question. I have learned a few things. First and foremost, I have learned that if I set my mind to something, I can actually follow through on it, and 2016 was a great example of that. I have always been much better at starting projects than finishing them, so that is no small feat. I have also started finding my voice in writing again. I used to have a voice in more creative writing way back in high school, but that was a long time ago - and in Norwegian. Finding it again in English has been an interesting process, and it was ultimately very rewarding about one year ago, when I laid the finishing touches on my first novel (/memoir - it was a hybrid of sorts).

Writing a full novel was an interesting process, as I thought I was writing a completely different book than I ended up with. I was thinking more mystery than memoir, but the book really did take on a life of its own and took me in directions I never anticipated. This year I did not have the drive to go after another novel during National Novel Writing Month - there wasn't an idea that was as burning as last years' - but there may be more things on the horizon for me.

So when I started a blog 12 years ago, I had no idea what eventually would come of it. And today I am publishing my 500th post. I don't have a massive readership, but I average about 40 per day, and that is good enough for me to keep me going. You who bear with me through all my meanderings and remembrances are the true heroes of this blog. And I saved the original for you. David Bowie from Berlin 40 years ago resonates as well with me today as it ever did. And there may be more heroes still to come, as there are more versions out there. But nothing - NOTHING - surpasses what the master himself produced.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

2017 - November 28 - Heroes

Today we are heading to Peter Gabriel and his take on Heroes.  We have visited his album Scratch My Back before, and I am happy to return to it - although this apparently also was found on Stranger Things, a Netflix show I still have to watch (yes, I know, I am behind...). Peter Gabriel did take it in a very different direction - his orchestral arrangement makes it much more eerie than any of the other versions, and I believe that this is my absolute favorite cover version of this masterpiece.


Monday, November 27, 2017

2017 - November 27 - Heroes

Yes, it is Heroes Week here at Exiled Expressions, and today's version finds Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister rumbling through both with his regularly distorted bass guitar and a voice that sounds like it is run through a concrete mixer filled with rocks and gravel. It isn't pretty - but then again Motorhead never was... However, it is still an effective version in my book. Once again we are talking about a version where they simply took the song and played it straight through the Motorhead machine - and the result is as expected.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

2017 - November 26 - Heroes

I almost think I could spend a week with just playing cover versions of David Bowie’s signature song Heroes - and maybe I will do just that. But today I just start with one of them - a version I just stumbled across right now.

I still remember how I really heard Depeche Mode for the first time... Believe it or not, but I was at farmor’s (my grandmother) place - she had cable, and I would sometimes turn on the music channel - not sure if it was MTV or Sky Channel. And I saw one song from the 101 concert movie. It was Everything Counts. And I don’t know if it was because I realized they really were a band and not a producer constellation or the fact that Everything Counts is a great song, but I really liked it. And then they released songs that were so much closer to my sonic sphere with Personal Jesus from Violator and I Feel You from Songs of Faith and Devotion, and I relented. I have great respect for the work they have done and for their sonic landscape.

It is to this sonic landscape they took Heroes. We are not talking earth shattering or mind bending, but it is rock solid. Dave Gahan’s voice really fits the song, Martin Gore’s treatment of the guitar riff makes it interesting - and it’s all played up against Andy Fletcher’s synthesized backdrop. I like this version a lot!


Thursday, November 23, 2017

2017 - November 23 - Lost In The Supermarket

This is what Thanksgiving is all about: Shopping! The Clash got it right back in 1979 on their masterpiece London Calling. I feel Lost in the Supermarket. Luckily all I need to do is close my eyes and listen to a song playing in my head, grounding me as I seek out the different instruments and layers... But The Clash really knew what the holiday season is all about...


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

2017 - November 21 - Castle On The Hill (1917 Edition)

One hundred years. That’s how long it is since the world met a fantastic woman: Eldbjørg Gabrielsdatter Sletvold. She met and married the love of her life, and they had six children - the second youngest turned out to be my mother (five girls and one boy in the span of 9 years). I was not fortunate enough to spend much time with my grandfather, but his spirit lived on through bestemor.  And today she would have turned 100. I learned a lot from her, but it was never taught, it was simply lived. And I miss her. I miss her a lot.

Most of my memories from childhood and well into my teenage years revolve around family, so a song about those kinds of memories suits today well. Bestemor’s house was indeed a castle on the hill. It might not have looked like a castle, but it was to me - and I know it was to her. She once won a vacation for refusing to sell the house for far more than it was worth. It turned out the world calling her were doing a radio show or something like that - my memory is a little shaky - but the bottom line was that she really didn’t want to move. It was her home through good times and bad, and the memories contained between those four walls were worth more than any amount of money.

So I’ll let Ed Sheehan sing about the country lanes winding by and all those great memories of growing up. His memories are different than mine, but we have a Castle On The Hill in common.


Monday, November 20, 2017

2017 - November 20 - Ride On (for Malcolm Young)

I wouldn't call it unexpected. AC/DC's vastly underappreciated rhythm guitarist Malcom Young passed away Saturday after a long time's illness that already had him retiring from the band in 2014. My road to discovering him parallels what so many have talked about in his memorials and testimonials. It first was Bon Scott and Angus Young (even though I really only discovered them after  Brian Johnson had taken over the mic), the singer and the crazy schoolboy guitarist, who drew me in. Then, years later, I realized the minimalist genious of the rhythm section - a rhythm section that really  included the rhythm guitarist and riff factory Malcolm Young.

It was interesting watching him on stage. His stance is wider than Larry Craig's in the Minneapolis airport bathroom stall, always in the background, and never flashy. He always seemed content - but may even have been excited - to lay the foundation for brother Angus' antics and flashiness. Not to mention the two larger than life singers he backed up.

While I may have discovered the joy and excitement of being part of the musical backdrop because I never developed the skills to be a good lead guitarist and dropped to bass as a result, I am still greatly appreciative of all the unsung heroes in bands. John Paul Jones in Led Zeppelin, Bill Ward in Black Sabbath. And Malcolm Young in AC/DC. Ride On, Malcolm...


Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017 - November 19 - Creep

Ahhh... Radiohead. Creep. This song was my anthem in 1993 (although it was first released in 1992, 25 years ago). I'm a creep. I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here. The lyrics spoke to me, and the ugly guitar coming in just before the chorus simply underlined it further. I don't feel the need to say much more. This is masterfully done.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

2017 - November 18 - Loser

I have a trio of self-deprecating songs in mind. I started yesterday with Amazing, which is really is an amazing song about feeling inadequate. Today, the follow-up is a lot more free-flow. It is Beck, with a song from 1993 - his first hit. This is the song that had just about everybody singing in Portuguese: Soy un perdedor then continuing in English: I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me.

While the chorus is not a happy one, the beat and melody is very uplifting. I loved this song when it was released, but of the three self-deprecating songs, it is probably the weakest one. But here is Beck, with his 1993 single that ended up on 1994's Mellow Gold: Loser


Friday, November 17, 2017

2016 - November 17 - Amazing

Johnette Napolitano was in the band Concrete Blonde, a band with moderate success in the alternative scene, especially with their third album, Bloodletting. Their lead singer, Johnette Napolitano, has a great way with words, writing fabulous lyrics, and she has a very vulnerable voice with an edge to it. I liked Concrete Blonde and got a chance to meet them when they played in my hometown in 1988 or 89, following the release of Free, their second (and my favorite) album. I only met the guys in the band, although Johnette Napolitano was in the room, and I didn't see them perform. I had places to be that night that involved a girl I was pursuing (unsuccessfully, as usual) - but meeting an actual American band, even though they weren't that big, made a lasting impression on me.

In 2007, 10 years ago, Johnette Napolitano released the album Scarred. I am not sure how I ended up finding out about it - but I did purchase it, and when I heard the song Amazing, I think my heart almost stopped. It is the best representation of feeling inadequate I have ever heard in song. And it is so worth listening to again...


Thursday, November 16, 2017

2016 - November 16 - No Surprises

There is actually a link between yesterday's song and today's - although it is indirect. Portishead's drummer, Clive Deamer, has been touring with Radiohead since 2011 or thereabouts. I didn't notice that until I started watching a concert from Milan from June 16, 2017, the 20th anniversary of OK Computer, an album that I believe is one of the best records of the 20th century. And yes, I said one of the best... So I thought, why not find another song from that album. I have already played Exit Music (for a Film) - and it is simply packed with great songs. Not a dull moment (I even like Fitter Happier). But I am thinking I feel like another beautiful ballad from the album. No alarms and No Surprises. Silent.



And here is the concert from Milan I was talking about. It is amazing. 


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

2017 - November 15 - Hunter

Today is St. Antler's Day. It's the holiest of holidays in rural Michigan. Schools shut down because people simply don't come to school - or send their kids in. At the community college I work, we don't observe the day, but traditionally, classrooms are a little less full than on a regular day.

To prepare for St. Antler's Day, people take out and polish their guns and stock up on ammo. They also find a place in the woods to set up a shrine. Some like to set it up outdoors, while others build a little chapel. They set out food for St. Antler, hoping he will come visit in the days leading up to the holiday. Then they go to purchase a license to partake in the festivities. This is all done way in advance, so that people can start celebrating at the crack of dawn. And if they are lucky, St. Antler comes to visit early that day, and they celebrate by firing their guns. Often they are fired aimlessly - especially if St. Antler comes 6-8 beers or more into the day.

For those who do see St. Antler and fire their guns with a good aim to celebrate, they usually take home his carcass, make sure it is checked to be found appropriate by the authorities, then butcher it and stock their freezer with it. Others don't see St. Antler on St. Antler's Day, but they have two holy weeks until the calendar strikes December to court St. Antler. And drink beer. Lots of beer.

So yes, it is hunting season in Michigan. Which means I wish I was in England - more specifically Portishead. Because I love Portishead. The song Hunter is from their third album, 3, which is the darkest of their records to date. And yes, I love it. This is from a filmed performance - Portishead in Portishead - because I think watching these great musician is a treat. Just to see how much it really is about the music - and how their setup allows for maximum communication with each other.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

2017 - November 14 - Perfect Strangers

The five years from 1968 to 1973 showed three massive British bands truly finding their place. Blazing the trail was the inimitable Led Zeppelin, who in that span recorded and released five spectacular albums (Led Zeppelin, II, III, untitled, and Houses Of The Holy). Following a little after was Black Sabbath, who also released five albums (Black Sabbath, Paraniod, Master of Reality, Vol 4, and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath), and then there was Deep Purple Mk. 2. After ousting Rod Evans and Nick Simper, they were replaced with singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, and they also released five albums in that time span (Concerto for Group and Orchestra, In Rock, Fireball, Machine Head, and Who Do We Think We Are). The middle three albums are nothing short of masterpieces, while the first and last are less vital to the casual listener, but still great listens. But while both Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath continued with the same lineup until about 1980, Deep Purple started blowing up. First with Gillan and Glover leaving, then guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left, before the band really fell apart after replacing him with Tommy Bolin, who did not survive the substances he pushed through his body.

After more than ten years apart, and 8 years after the disbandment of Deep Purple, Mk. 2 got together again. The reunion was anticipated - but it was not just a nostalgia trip. They recorded new material in the form of an excellent album, Perfect Strangers. Then they toured, and the tour was a huge success. I still remember a classmate of mine in elementary and middle school getting a chance to see them - and he was ecstatic about it. They were indeed in amazing form - there was a broadcast of their Paris show in 1985 that I devoured. They made it through one more album, House of the Blue Light, then they kicked out Ian Gillan as he couldn't work with Blackmore - and things went all over the place (quite the soap opera in many ways). These days they are still touring. After the rest of the band finally decided that Blackmore was more of the concern than Gillan, they eventually stabilized with Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Ian Paice on drums (the only Deep Purple member who plays on every album), Jon Lord on keyboards, and Steve Morse on guitar. Jon Lord retired in 2002, ten years before he passed away, and was replaced by Don Airey, who still is with them. And they still release new music - surprisingly good new music. It sounds like the chemistry is there better than ever. But today we are looking back to 1984 and Perfect Strangers - and why not play the title track? It is a great, great song!



Monday, November 13, 2017

2017 - November 13 - Victim of Changes

Today I am going back in time. The year this song was recorded was 1976, but I didn't discover it until about 1985 or so. It was pretty early on in the friendship with Jan Are -  his brother, Leif Ove, was pretty sizable fan of Judas Priest, introducing me to the Rocka Rolla album with the bottle cap and Coke lettering on the cover. But I believe he also had the album Sad Wings of Destiny, which is where the song Victim of Changes is found. Rocka Rolla was their debut, but they really started finding their sound and their form on Sad Wings of Destiny.

The beginning of the song has the crunching guitars, with a basic riff - but the riff and the song keeps morphing, and we are dealing with a song that has clear progressive elements to it here. The progressive element is something they didn't always maintain in their music, but here, on Sad Wings of Destiny, they are clearly a progressive proto-metal band. And if you keep with it until the quiet part... "once she was wonderful, once she was fine, once she was beautiful, once was mine..."  The power is in this late build up. And then the lyrics... A broken relationship, most definitely... And a heavily alcohol fuelled one at that. This, to me, is still one of the absolutely finest moments of Judas Priest. I mean, how do you top this?


Saturday, November 11, 2017

2017 - November 11 - Like Cockatoos

So for a third song it became really difficult. There are so many songs on Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me that I love, and listening to it again really is making it even more difficult, as I am remembering more and more, singing along more and more, and experiencing all the emotions music brings me (and that is pretty much all of them). However, I have to choose one, and Like Cockatoos has always drawn me in partly based on the rhythm, and partly based on the bass line. When I lived in Bergen, I was a very frequent house guest at my very good friends Jørund and Anne Grete's apartment, and Jørund had a keyboard that could program tracks. Playing around with the different percussive sounds, I built the drum pattern, then added the bass track. I used headphones, making me a recluse in their company (which may not have been a bad thing for them either considering how often I was there), but at the same time protecting them from the racket as I was developing this pattern.


Friday, November 10, 2017

2017 - November 10 - Catch

With an album that repeats one phrase (kiss me) three times in the title, I think it is appropriate to play three songs in a row. At least it makes for a heck of a great excuse to stay with the album for another couple of days. And today's song really follows the track order of the album. The song Catch also made it as a single with an accompanying video - The Cure had used Tim Pope to make a lot of their videos, and Catch is no exception. Tim Pope was a very prolific music video director, particularly in the mid to late 80s, and his vision really helped frame The Cure's quirky image - and took them out of the dark shadows of early goth into a much more playful mode, which sometimes contrasted with the songs.

Robert Smith's lyrical genius also shows up here - I have always been drawn to the phrase "And I used to sometimes try to catch her, but I never even caught her name." There is an uplifting melancholy to the song that I think is pretty unique to The Cure. Catch!


Thursday, November 09, 2017

2017 - November 9 - The Kiss

My last post - from last week - was Southern Gothic. And then I started reading the book The Night of the Moths by Riccardo Bruni (one of this month's selections for Kindle First, where Amazon Prime members can get a book for free every month - before the publishing date). And there was a reference to The Cure and the Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me album. And knowing how The Cure was seen as a goth band (that's the connection to Southern Gothic), I thought it would be nice to play a song from Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me - and then I realized that it's 30 years old this year. 1987 was when it was released, and that was right around the time I was introduced to them as well. Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me was my gateway drug to The Cure, and I still find it to be a most excellent album. I like albums that sprawl and don't confine themselves to one style (just listen to Demon Box by Motorpsycho, and you will know what I mean), and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me does not disappoint. From longer, epic sounding songs to short, catchy pop tunes with an underlying melancholy, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me is to me a masterpiece - and I like it better than Disintegration, the follow up album that really launched them to massive world wide success and often is referred to as their crowning moment.

The Quietus, which is an excellent online magazine with great articles about the arts, has a really nice review of that can be found at http://thequietus.com/articles/22262-the-cure-kiss-me-kiss-me-kiss-me-review-anniversary - and inspired by that, I chose my song for the day. It is the closest thing to a title track - and it is also the song that really got me completely turned on to The Cure. I remember teenage days with curtains completely drawn so no light would come into my room, and The Kiss on the stereo. For your own sake, play it loudly and let guitars wash over you until you drown in the sound. It is such an amazing sonic experience to me to listen to this song - and I can do it over and over and over again.




Thursday, November 02, 2017

2017 - November 2 - Southern Gothic

Anybody who has been reading this and listened to my music knows that I have a pretty varied taste in music, and today’s song is an example of that. Dan Tyminski was the singing voice of George Clooney’s character in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou, he is a long standing member of AlIson Krauss and Union Station, and he has released a couple of more traditional albums before he branched away from the traditional and into more modern sounds with his Tyminski project. The debut album is just out, and it is awesome. The title track lives up to it’s name, with great lyrics and a great melody. Southern Gothic...


Sunday, October 29, 2017

2017 - October 29 - Cats, Sex, and Nazis

It's time to summarize the Trump presidency so far - and probably whatever is left of it as well. I'll let NoMeansNo do it - to get a perspective that is both removed geographically (they are Canadian, after all) and temporally (this song is from the album Why Do They Call Me Mr. Happy from 1993). Oh - if you fail to see the reference to cats here, just remember what Donald Trump likes to grab women by (also, as a complete aside, today should be all about cats, as it was Rufus' birthday - and he will forever be my one and only cat - he would turn 34 today). Here's the Trump presidency in a nutshell: Cats, Sex, and Nazis.



Saturday, October 28, 2017

2017 - October 28 - Ocean Cloud

So I drifted away from Marillion in 1989, when Steve Hogarth came into the band, and I really didn't take another look at them until my daughters got a new pediatrician. At one of the first appointments, I saw he was wearing a Marillion t-shirt - and it turned out he was a big fan (there is nothing like finding shared musical interests...). I started exploring their later work again at that point, and they had just released the album Marbles (2004). It was available both as a single and double cd - and I will admit that I found the double CD for download and listened to it. I liked what I heard, but put it away and stopped listening again - until fairly recently, when I ended up purchasing several post-Fish releases, including the 2 CD Marbles. And that is where today's song is from - and it really showcases what Marillion is all about now. Probably different than they would have been with Fish, but that is not a knock. However, I thought it a nice touch to present post-Fish Marillion in relative proximity to the last song I featured with him. Here is Ocean Cloud....


Friday, October 27, 2017

2017 - October 27 - Storm Son

I was really surprised to see that I hadn't included any songs by Enslaved yet on this blog. They are one of my absolute favorite extreme metal bands, although I fail to see how they are all that extreme anymore. They are definitely challenging at times - Grutle Kjellson's growls sound really makes him sound like a corpse whose vocal chords have rotted beyond salvation - but the inclusion of clean singing and atmospherics really has elevated their music far into the progressive realm during this young century.

They started in Haugesund in the year I graduated high school, which was way back in 1991, but are now based in Bergen, Norway. I was not listening to them at the time, as I didn't discover them until right around the release of Vertebrae in 2008 as a result of finding Opeth and exploring the more extreme metal I had dismissed when I was younger (which is kind of the opposite of what most people do - mellowing out with the seems to be the norm). They were started by friends Grutle Kjellson (bass and vocals) and Ivar Bjørnson (guitar), and eventually evolved into a five-piece band before the release of Isa in 2004. Their lineup was stable from 2004-2016, with Cato Bekkevold on drums, Arve "Ice Dale" Isdal on guitars, and Herbrand Larsen on keys, vocals, and guitars, but in 2016 Larsen left and was replaced by eminent Håkon Vinje. They just released their fourteenth studio album, E, two weeks ago today, on Friday the 13th of October, which is only fitting...

They had the best ever response to the debate of music downloads following the Norwegian political party Venstre suggesting that all downloads should be legal for free. The leader of Venstre at the time, Lars Sponheim was a farmer with free-range sheep in the mountains, so they decided that since the sheep was grazing on public land, that was similar enough to music being available online, they could just "download" a sheep. They then took it in to the Norwegian parliament to return it to Sponheim - but he wasn't there... Ironically, he was in the mountains reigning in his sheep when they tried bringing it to him. But the point was pretty darn solid, if you ask me - and a much better approach than Metallica's Napster crusade in terms of getting at the heart of the problem with music downloads.

But - back to the song of the day. The album E is really solid, and the opening track really showcases all sides of Enslaved. Storm Son is well worth a listen...


Thursday, October 26, 2017

2017 - October 26 - Angel Or Devil

OK... So it's time for some raucous rock'n'roll... And where better to go than to British Columbia, Canada for a visit with now disbanded band NoMeansNo. They remain one of my favorite punk rock (jazz) bands - with brothers Rob and Tom Wright on bass (and lead vocals) and drums respectively along with Tom Holliston on guitar starting with The Worldhood Of The World (As Such) in 1995. They retired last year following an announcement that Tom Holliston was leaving. For today's song, we are going all the way back to the 1995 album that featured the debut of Tom Holliston as well as a second drummer in Ken Kempster. I love the title - The Worldhood Of The World (as Such) - and I love the driving drums on today's track, Angel or Devil.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

2017 - October 25 - Alpha

OK - so not a raucous rocker today either, but one of my all time favorite pieces of electronic music: Alpha by Vangelis from the album Albedo 0.39 from 1976 - which also was used in the TV series Cosmos, where Carl Sagan explored the universe in 1980. Vangelis a Greek composer who is no stranger to soundtracks - he won an Oscar for Chariots of Fire, and he also scored Blade Runner, which is one of my favorite sci-fi movies. He was not used for Blade Runner 2049, but I could hear echoes of his original soundtrack in the new music by Hans Zimmer as well. But here he is from 1976, a song well worth listening to: Alpha.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

2017 - October 24 - Script for a Jester's Tear

Today's song is how Marillion introduced themselves to the LP buying world. They had released the single Market Square Heroes prior to the release of the album Script For A Jester's Tear in 1983. Led by a tall and charismatic Scotsman going by the name Fish (his real name was Derek Dick), they had Mick Pointer on drums for a little bit longer (he was fired after their UK tour for the album) before he was replaced by Ian Moseley, who still remains with the band. Fish left in 1988, with Steve Hogarth as the new lead singer, while the core of the band - Pete Trewavas on bass, Mark Kelly on keyboards, and Steve Rothery on guitar - still remains the same. The departure of Fish was such a dramatic one that people still are split on what version of Marillion they like better - the 5 years (on records, 9 in total) with Fish or the 29 years with Steve Hogarth. I was solidly entrenched in the Fish camp, but I have come along with h. and may actually go see them when they come to Grand Rapids next year. But there is no doubt that they are a very different band depending on who sings - much like one could say about Genesis.

The song today is really strong. It is also long - and it has the same melancholy quality to it as the songs of the last few days. That might mean I have to bring out a raucous rocker tomorrow just to change the pace, but for today, I am sticking with Marillion and Script From A Jester's Tear...



Monday, October 23, 2017

2017 - October 23 - Dirt In The Ground

It's October. It's rainy. The leaves that had a pretty color have all fallen to the ground and are turning brown. I think this is a perfect day for a reminder from Tom Waits. Dirt In The Ground is from his 1992 Grammy winning album Bone Machine, and it is the perfect fall song.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 - October 21 - Nobody's Fault But My Own

Beck (Hansen) just released a new album, Colors. It is bad. At least for me it is just about unlistenable. But then again, when I started to look at the albums he has released, I realized that he has been very hit and miss for me since the Mutations album - and that made me take that album out again, just so I could remember just how good he used to be - and can be. And track two is just amazingly great. It's called Nobody's Fault But My Own, and with a great droning acoustic backdrop, it is an elegy for a relationship the protagonist messed up... Enjoy!


Friday, October 20, 2017

2017 - October 20 - Try To Disappear

It seems like this is happening from time to time with my blog - that I disappear for a few days, only to come back stronger. Maybe that's part of my personality - I never like crowds, so I try to disappear a little. Of course, given my stature and appearance, that is way easier said than done... But thinking back, that has always been what I have tried doing - finding a seat on the perimeter, shoulders pulled forward, head slightly down (and this was even before I had the excuse of looking at my cell phone). And trying to avoid manspreading, especially if it is crowded on either side, not giving anyone an excuse to talk about that big guy who invaded their space. Being a big guy makes making yourself smaller quite the challenge.

Granted, that's not the theme of the Baroness song Try To Disappear, but it is an awesome song, and I need a little Baroness in my life today. Time to change music in the car (although Motorpsycho's The Tower is great). Time for a new song here...


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.