Music


I’ve started taking guitar lessons, consequently, some of my free time has been consumed by practicing rather than posting to my blog. This comes thirty-five years after I bought an inexpensive guitar in school and tried to learn it on my own. I was unsuccessful.

I plan to blog more as fall approaches, perhaps even about learning to play the guitar. Below is the Fender acoustic I purchased. I never knew Fender made acoustic guitars.

image

I can read music. From the 5th grade on, I played the cornet in school band. So I was able to skip the first three lessons where one learns the notes and the scale and proceed directly to learning the strings, fret board and notes on the guitar.

It’s actually turning out to be a lot of fun, and I would encourage anyone who has had the yearning to learn the guitar to take it up.

I am finding my coordination in fingering the chords and strumming the strings has improved greatly since I was a geeky kid listening to “Stairway to Heaven,” “Vincent”, and any other song with heavy acoustical overtones.

Sykes Songwriter Fest

Which brings me to the event I attended two weeks ago in Memphis; the Keith Sykes’ Songwriter Celebration held at the Delta Fair. The event was free except for the entrance to the fair ($8) and parking ($5). Still, one would pay that whether or not one saw the songwriters sing their songs.

I attended with a friend and we were fortunate to see Roger Cook, Todd Snider and Rodney Crowell. While all three were exceptional, Todd Snider http://www.toddsnider.net/ really stood out in my mind. I bought his recent CD at Barnes and Noble and have ordered two others. To hear an interview with Todd, go to http://isoas.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/todd-snider-interview-segment-1/

I’ve discovered other musicians as a result of my trip to Memphis, primarily by being introduced to them by my friend, including Paul Thorn http://www.paulthorn.com/ and Peter Bradley Adams http://www.peterbradleyadams.com/. Paul Thorn doesn’t sell a whole lot of CD’s according to Barnes & Noble, but his music is very good and worth a serious look-see. Peter Bradley Adams is somewhat mellow, and is classified apparently and surprisingly as alternative.

Anyway, that’s my two cents for today. Talk to you later!

My better half has become one of the 25,000,000 viewers of American Idol on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. It’s okay with me. She puts up with my watching reruns of Burke’s Law, the original Lost in Space, the Green Hornet and Supernova. I don’t watch House or Boston Legal or really anything on the networks prime time schedule. She says it’s to have something to talk about at the water cooler the next morning at her work.

American Idol

I can tell she likes the show, and that’s okay. It is popular because it gets people interested in a contest of talent. Seventy-four million votes were cast during the 2007 season.

The show was created by Simon Fuller in England in 2001 and was called “Pop Idol”. America, as it often does, brought, borrowed or copied the show the following year. Simon Cowell, a judge on American Idol, and the guy you love to hate, is actually a record executive, and was a judge on the original Pop Idol show.

Image: New Yorker magazine

The judges, Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, rate people on vocal talent, song choice, presentation and miscellanea related to the overall performance. The judges don’t always vote the same as the people who watch the show.

Some of the singers who have made it big from the show include: Carrie Underwood, 2005 winner; Jennifer Hudson, eliminated midway through 2004 but ended up winning an Oscar for the 2006 film “Dreamgirls”; Chris Daughtry, finished 4th in 2006; and Kelly Clarkson, the winner in the first season.

What I find interesting is what happened a few weeks ago when Neil Diamond was interviewed during the show. You find out a bit about the artist whose songs are being sung during the episode, and sometimes on how they write the songs that made them famous.

My wife asks me to watch the show with her but I stay at the kitchen table with my laptop. When she makes a comment about a performer and looks over at me, I pretend not to be watching or listening to the show. Yes, it is a guilty pleasure. I don’t like the fact that I am paying attention to it and don’t want her to know, not yet anyway. Maybe it’s a bit of embarrassment. The show has brought me in by using a lot of tunes from the 1970’s, which I know rather well, a misspent youth or whatever. I usually know the original artists, the year and even a good portion of the lyrics.

For me the show is like watching Jerry Springer, which I don’t but have in the past on occasion. You want to peak in, take a look, see what’s going on, what all the fuss is about, but you don’t really want anyone to know you looked. So I listen to the show as I surf the internet, even watching it from time to time, but turning my head back to my laptop at the commercial break in order to preserve the fiction that I’m not paying attention.

So let’s see; it’s on Tuesday May 12 at 7pm and Wednesday May 13 at 8:00pm. She always asks me when it is on and I always have the answer. She hasn’t asked me how I know or if I looked up the listing. I may even try to vote this time. Shhh! Don’t tell my wife. When she outs me for watching, she’ll probably tell me she knew all along.

The Raising Sand collaboration of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant was released in October of 2007. I may be a few months late to the party, but it is surely a party worth attending. Krauss, born in Decatur, Illinois and raised in ChampaignRaising Sand cd cover, Illinois, is a performer of bluegrass music with the band Union Station. Plant, of course, was with Led Zeppelin. Krauss is 36 and Plant is 59. The cd went platinum a little over three weeks ago on March 4.

The cd is unique, even eclectic, yet very welcoming. The style is different in a good way. Plant uses his vocals in good harmony with Krauss, which admittedly surprised me. T-Bone Burnett produced the cd. He is usually associated with class acts who have much underlying, often hidden talent. He brings that talent to the fore. These performers have shown talent in the past, but this cd brings out a different set of skills for them I think.

The All Music Guide gave the cd 4 stars; Billboard 4 stars; Blender 4 stars; Entertainment Weekly A-; MOJO 5 stars; Rolling Stone 3.5 stars (hey it’s not Bob Dylan after all); Uncut 5 stars; and Barnes and Noble 4 stars (based on 28 reader reviews). As of today, March 29, Barnes and Noble rates it’s sales rank as #8.

Gene Clark, formerly of the Byrds, wrote two of the songs, “Polly Come Home” and “Through the Morning, Through the Night.” Clark died in 1991 from a bleeding ulcer at the age of 46.

Phil and Don Everly wrote the song “Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On).” Plant, along with Jimmy Page, Charlie Jones and Michael Lee wrote “Please Read the Letter.” Mel Tillis wrote the song, “Stick With Me, Baby.” There are also songs written by Tom Waits with Kathleen Breenan and by Townes Van Zandt.

Here’s a link to the Raising Sand website: http://www.robertplantalisonkrauss.com/site.php .

This link is to the wikipedia entry for the cd: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raising_Sand. Krauss has a couple of her performances on the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” film soundtrack. Her wikipedia entry has some samples of her music: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alison_Krauss and her website is here: http://www.alisonkrauss.com/site.php. Plant’s wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Plant and his homepage: http://www.robertplant.com/ .

It’s nice to find a cd that’s not pretentious, where the performer’s talent shines through, and the music has a lot of repeatability where one doesn’t get tired of hearing it after just a few plays. I used to take chances on many recordings that I knew nothing about when I was younger and found many great performances. This was a chance similar to those of old and was well rewarded.

On February 4th, 2008, NASA will transmit the Beatles tune “Across the Universe” to the star Polaris, 431 lights years distant, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the song’s recording and to celebrate NASA’s 50th anniversary. NASA’s Deep Space Network, an array of large antennas used to communicate with spacecraft beyond low Earth orbit, will beam the song out at 6:00 p.m. CST (7:00 p.m. EST). This observation has the full support of Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono and the Apple record label. The lyrics are printed below.

The song, “Across the Universe” was recorded forty years ago on February 4, 1968 by the Beatles. John Lennon wrote the song in 1967 after hearing his wife-at-the-time Cynthia, carrying on about some meaningless subject. After she went to sleep, Lennon went downstairs and created the song, then went to bed. The song was influenced by the Beatles interest in TM, or transcendental meditation. This is where the words “Jai guru deva om” in the song were inspired. It loosely means “greetings to the guru” followed by the meditative “om”. In a 1979 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Lennon said “Across the Universe” was the best, pure poetry he had ever written. The song was recorded February 4, 1968 while the Beatles were in the EMI studios at Abbey Road between February 3rd and February 11th. “Lady Madonna” was also recorded during this time. The song “Across the Universe” appears on the Beatles “Let It Be” album released May 8th, 1970.

Words are flying out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow waves of joy are drifting thorough my open mind
Possessing and caressing me

Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes
That call me on and on across the universe
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
they tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe

Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world

Sounds of laughter shades of life are ringing through my open ears
exciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on across the universe

Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Jai guru deva
Jai guru deva

See the NASA news release concerning this event here.

Dan Fogelberg passed away December 16, three years after discovering he had advanced prostate cancer. I saw Dan perform in concert at Illinois State University on Thursday, December 8, 1977. Dan was a native of Peoria, Illinois and was on his way home for Christmas to visit his parents. He brought his friend Tim Weisberg along to assist on several songs. The concert featured Dan, his guitar; Tim and his flute.  Dan spoke to the audience in a friendly way and was very personable. I estimate the crowd at probably 2,000 plus in the auditorium. Not a huge venue but not small either. Still, he acted like he was speaking to each individual there. There is a lot to be said for seeing an artist in concert with just his voice and his guitar. Superlatives are a waste of time to describe the event I saw in that they would be inadequate. If you have a chance to see any artist by himself without his band, do so.

By the way, prostate cancer is the leading killer disease for men. The Mayo clinic says that if it is detected early, it can be cured. The main tests to catch it early are a DRE, which involves the physician inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to determine if there are any unusual texture or shape to the prostate, or if it is abnormally enlarged; and a PSA test involving analysis of a blood sample which can be drawn from the arm. Higher than normal levels of the prostate-specific antigen may indicate the prostate is infected, inflamed or pre-cancerous. If the tests create a cause for concern, then a biopsy would be performed. These tests are performed every few years along with a routine physical.

 

 

 

Back to Dan – you can’t go wrong buying any one of Dan’s albums. I have the first four: Home Free (1972), Souvenirs (1974), Captured Angel (1975) and Nether Lands (1977). These are very good. I remember I wore out the stylus on my turntable in the summer of 1977 playing Nether Lands. Turntables are old school but good school.

I’m at that age where prostate cancer testing is recommended. If you are also, I encourage you to have it done. Some of my favorites lines from Dan’s music (I’ll keep it very brief):

And it’s going to be a day

There is really no way to say no to the morning

Yes it’s going to be a day

There is really nothing left to say but come on morning

And maybe there are seasons and maybe they change

And maybe to love is not so strange

 Home Free cover

—To the Morning from Home Free 1972

I want a lover and I want some friends

And I want to live in the sun

And I want to do all the things that I never have done

 Nether Lands cover 

—Nether Lands from Nether Lands 1977

  

One day we’ll all understand

 Souvenirs cover

–Part of the Plan from Souvenirs 1974

 

So long, Dan.

 

 

 

This is a couple of months old but hasn’t been widely reported outside of Oregon. The word is just now getting out across the country. Tanya Anderson of Oregon is countersuing the RIAA (Recording Industry of America) for Oregon RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) violations, fraud, invasion of privacy, abuse of process, electronic trespass, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, negligent misrepresentation, and other allegations. According to her claims, the RIAA misidentified her as a subject who downloaded copyrighted music, when in fact she did not, hence the reason for the countersuit.

 

The blog ‘Recording Industry vs People’ lays out in detail the countersuit allegations numbering sixty-five in all. This is very interesting stuff. To make a long story short, see allegation numbers #18 and #51 listed on this blog. Number #51 states that an employee of the Settlement Support Center, working for the RIAA, admitted that he believed she had not downloaded any music but that the record companies would not quit the debt collection activity against her so as to not encourage others to defend themselves against the record company’s claims. Outrageous!

 

It will be interesting to watch this suit unfold. If she wins, it would probably kill the RIAA’s efforts or at least their current approach to combatting alleged illegal sharing of music files. The University of Oregon is fighting the RIAA on subpoenas issued to 17 University of Oregon students, whereas most University’s have capitulated. Also, the Oregon Attorney General is stepping in on behalf of the University.

 

In another case, the defendants got the RIAA to divulge, against their will, that the actual downloading expenses per song is $ .70 each, or there about. The defense in this case is asking that the actual damages be limited to 10x the actual cost, which would be $70 per song. The RIAA received an initial ruling that entitled them to receive $9,250 per song downloaded. Next year will be very interesting for these file sharing cases as it looks like defendants are more able to mount effective defenses against the RIAA.

I really like this new portable music player coming to market called Slacker. Aptly named, it is designed for those wanting music on the go without the requisite uploading, burning and detailed management of song lists that products like an iPod entail. It should be available by mid-December and priced between $200 – $300 depending on capacity; and available in 2 gb – 15 station, 4 gb – 25 station, or 8 gb – 40 station versions. This player is different from the usual offerings in that it will offer internet music on the go through a wireless connection built into the unit. Did I mention the service would be free? Of course nothing is truly free so you will have to put up with some ads. However, for a $7.50 per month subscription fee you can eliminate the ads and obtain more functionality, including unlimited song skipping and a save favorites feature. The player streams the free Slacker internet radio service at www.slacker.com.

 

I’ve streamed the radio service on my laptop and it provides continuous music in several genres, or radio stations. And actually, I never noticed the ads, so they are not very intrusive. The quality and song selection are great. The player will have access to 2 million plus songs and over 100 programmed radio stations. Walt Mossberg’s blog reports a few bugs at www.allthingsd.com that the company has promised to fix. The bugs he ran into include failure of the unit to wake up after being in sleep mode, an unreliable touch strip (but there is also a wheel on the side that can be used instead) and occasional difficulty in connecting to his account. Also, for it to work, you will have to be in range of a wireless hotspot. Some of the nice features I like include display of album art, artist information, biographies, photos, and reviews. Also, with free downloadable Windows software, you can add your own songs to the player.

 

CEO Dennis Mudd, formerly of MusicMatch and President Jim Cady, formerly of Rio, heads Slacker. Slacker has acquired the necessary rights from content owners. The price seems reasonable enough to take a chance on it the first time, although with all new products the later versions should be better and more reliable.