Music Is The Light Of The World… Just Let It Shine

A darkened theatre. A stage in black. A spotlight. A band walks out and the music starts. But even if that music was played in complete darkness, it would still light up our souls.

Music illuminates. Music shines a light on what is important, on what we are feeling and thinking. It sets the heart ablaze and guides us to love, an evening of romance… a candlelit dinner with Sinatra or Nat King Cole on the stereo. The rock show, the jazz club, the three-day music festival, the opera, the symphony… the love song.

Music guides us to protest, to take action. Just look at the soundtrack to the 1960s. The Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young…  Look at Woody Guthrie, Pete SeegerBob Marley, Bruce Springsteen. Songs of hope, songs of freedom.

Music is a beacon. It is promise… it is belief… it is power… Music is light. Happy Chanukah.

If you are so inclined to read about a Jewish take on this holiday and on light itself, please check out my other blog:

This Year In Jerusalem… A Bond Of Brothers.

There will be very similar themes, with different approaches… but ultimately the message is the same… Find the light within yourself and let it radiate outwards… let it guide you to an elevated life, a musical life, a joyous life, an awesome life.

Just like one artist, one band, influences another, sets a musical history in motion. A single flame, a single person can set the world on fire… Not in the destructive way, but in the inspirational, motivational, life-affirming way.

Fire is a duality, like most things… most elements in life. Words have many definitions, many interpretations… and words are often defined by their opposites.  Good, for example, is given more power because of bad or evil. In a world where there are so many bad things, the power of good is that much stronger, something to strive for and attain.

Fire brought light and warmth to the world, to mankind… And while it can create, it can also destroy… So the power of fire lies in the keeper of the flame.

I like the word flame better in this regard. Though “setting a heart on fire”… or the “fire of our loins” are nice, clearly defined phrases. And hot ones! (Ha).

 

Billy Joel said:
“We didn’t start the fire.
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning…”

Maybe… depending on what you believe in. But it is our duty to keep it burning, It is our job to take one light and use it to light another and another… The smallest flame, the tiniest whisper can start a revolution… all we need do is light up (yeah, yeah…), speak up… and sing up or out… LOUD! Remember… This one goes to ELEVEN!!!

So as we begin to light candles… to celebrate Chanukah… to celebrate miracles large and small… Let us all glow… let us all shine… let the music in, and the darkness out. Sing it, Elton!
“Shine a light, shine a light… shine a light, won’t you shine a light…”

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The Day The Music Paused – Stopping, Reflecting And Remembering John Lennon… The Music Plays On

December 8, 1980.

I always dread doing a post this day, because it is the day John Lennon died. It’s hard to celebrate, and especially hard to listen to The Beatles and John’s solo stuff on this particular day, without a twinge of sadness and remorse and wondering what might have been. It’s so hard to wrap my brain around, and imagine a world without John and George Harrison in it, especially because the music of The Beatles is still so strong, vibrant and alive… and thankfully, all over the place, and the world!

But humans need to stop, reflect and remember. We need to mourn and cry. We need to hopefully learn and grow from tragedy and loss. This is what makes us inherently human, after all.

The sad truth is that there are several days the “music died.” It died on February 3, 1959 when we lost Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Pilot Roger Peterson.  It died again on October 20, 1977 when the Freebird went down, taking away Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray .  The again on November 29, 2001 (George) and 34 years ago today (John).

I could make lists and go on and on with days the music “died.” But then it becomes clear… the music did not die… it simply paused. People died. Amazing people. Icons died. People who influenced us, whose names we might not know died. Not the music. The music paused, just as it did 34 years ago.

So we can pause with it. Light a candle, say a prayer, shed a tear or many tears…

And then we need to move forward… and continue to laugh and celebrate and listen. For when we stop listening… when music stops moving us is the day the music dies.

My friend Julie posted a quote on her page… and I do not know who said it, but… “With the right music, you either forget everything, or you remember everything.”

Truer words have never been spoken.  And THIS is the power of music. It can move the world… heal the world… bring us together… and damn, it can make making out so good!  Just open your ears and your heart… and Imagine.

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Rain Songs… Driving Between The Drops, Without Being Left High And Dry

Hello Marc’s Muse… I have been neglecting you. My recent trip to Israel has filled me with a passion and many words that need to be spoken. For those interested in following this physical (travelogue) and spiritual journey, check it out at:

This Year In Jerusalem (http://tyij.wordpress.com).

Though I just found out there is a book by that title, so hmmm… I thought I was being so clever, darn it.

Well… we sure need the rain. And if you don’t have to drive anywhere, it is a glorious thing. A grey day, a cool day, the sound of rain beating on your roof like a set of drums… a rainbow of dampened, rain-soaked leaves on the lawn.

Though you also realize the gutters are clogged… the drains are clogged… and no one in LA knows how to drive in the rain… Sorry, but true. It is a blessing and a curse.

Though it has nothing to do with rain, really… I cannot stop listening to Jackson Browne’s “The Birds Of St. Marks”. As soon as this one came out I thought, amazing! As much as I love when an artist grows and expands, this sounds like classic old JB, which I adore. Well, it turns out this was a 1970 demo that he has played live and included on Solo Acoustic: Vol. 1… so yeah, I’ll be tracking down that one, too! But

The rest of the album, Standing In The Breach needs a post of its own.

My iTunes has over 100 songs or albums with “rain” in the title… and I am going to listen to them all. Here is a list of some of my favorites…

What are your most cherished rainy day songs… With rain in the title or just those songs that wrap around you like a warm blanket on a blustery day?

Stay safe, stay dry, stay warm and stay tuned… tuned in, that is!

Adele: Set Fire To The Rain… a phenomenal song anyway… but hearing my daughter sing it for her voice lesson yesterday… WOW!

Jackson Browne: Saturate Before Using… Why not, right?

The Beatles: Rain

Grateful Dead: Box Of Rain

Ryan Adams: City Rain, City Streets / Dirty Rain

Bob Dylan: Buckets of Rain / Shelter From The Storm

Eva Cassidy: Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain

The Jayhawks: The album Rainy Day Music

Donald Fagen and John Pizzarelli:  Both their versions of Walk Between The Raindrops

CCR: Who’ll Stop The Rain / Have You Ever Seen The Rain

Over The Rainbow by most anyone… but especially Iz, Eva Cassidy and 

Judybats: Waiting For The Rain

Kermit: The Rainbow Connection

Eddie Rabbitt: I Love A Rainy Night

Beta Band: Dry The Rain

R.E.M.: So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)

The Police: Shadows In The Rain

Prince: Purple Rain

Barry Manilow: I Made It Through The Rain… Don’t judge!

B.J. Thomas: Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

Billy Bragg: Chasing Rainbows

Tom Petty’s version of Bob Dylan’s Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: Louisiana Rain

Brook Benton and Ray Charles: Their versions of Rainy Night in Georgia

James Taylor: Fire & Rain

Chris Robinson Brotherhood: One Hundred Days Of Rain

Counting Crows: Rain King

Jars Of Clay: Flood

Joni Mitchell: Rainy Night House

Led Zeppelin: The Rain Song / Fool In The Rain

Leonard Cohen: Famous Blue Raincoat

Les Miserables: A Little Fall Of Rain… Don’t judge.

Lucinda Williams: It’s Gonna Rain

Marshall Tucker Band: Searchin’ For A Rainbow

Neil Young: See The Sky About To Rain

The Pearlfishers: I Just See The Rainbow

Pete Seeger: A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall

Randy Newman: I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today

World Party: When The Rainbow Comes

Whiskeytown: Sit & Listen To The Rain / The Rain Won’t Help You When It’s Over

Big River: River In The Rain

Travis: Why Does It Always Rain On Me

Van Morrison: End Of The Rainbow

The Who… Love, Reign O’er Me
And not even a cheat with the tickling/raining of the keys… the thunder… and just a perfect song for the day.

Phew… and that is just a sampling! So grab a nice ‘ol mug of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and go ahead and make your own list. I’ll meet you by the fire.

 

 

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Phlying Light Sticks, Phlying High, Phlying Phish – My Phirst Phish Show… Phenomenal!!!

Boy, I am trying to live my life without any regrets, but it is not easy!

On one hand, there is something positive if you use those regrets to power your dreams and not make the same mistakes over and over.

On the other hand, and with it, we keep slapping ourselves in the head.

I could have had a V8… I should have done this, or stayed here, or seen this band or that band…

Sigh… I only saw the Grateful Dead once… Yes, I SHOULD have seen them more… but at least I got the one in! And up until this past Friday, I had never seen Phish… and I really cannot tell you why. I love their musicianship and music… and I love jam bands. So, I just don’t know why. I can tell you, after Friday’s show I do wish I had seen them in younger days, and for many reasons I may or may not get into. Stay tuned… we’ll see…

The parking lot was most reminiscent of a Dead show… The air-filled with smoke… guys hiding behind cars doing helium balloons… or something in balloons… and probably “Whip-Its”. This crowd was not going in any time soon, even though the show was called for 7:30.

Assuming it would start on time, and knowing how long the band plays, us two “old guys” went inside. We did try to finagle our way into the Forum Club… but try as we might, we were shut down.

At 7:30 the place was empty… by eight o’clock the GA was more packed than I have ever seen one before… a literal sea of people… sea of humanity… Not a single space of floor could be seen from our seats in 210, except towards the back.

This was one of the more eclectic groups I have ever seen… Definitely the Dead of this generation… and at least two before it…

Mostly 20 somethings and 30 somethings… and 40 somethings… and maybe a few 50’s-60s…

Parents with kids under 10, and not to be a stick in the proverbial mud, but considering how badly my eyes and chest were burning by the end of the night, I do question that… and not even for the volume…

No pot was needed as we were literally surrounded by joints, mister pipes, etc. This was the haziest show I have ever seen, too… and that includes Jazz Fest at the Bowl… Reggae Fest, the Dead show and a Cheech and Chong show at the Greek… Okay, that one might have been close…

And yes, I was very relaxed and DID have the munchies when I got home… I did miss the stop at White Castle after shows at the Brendan Byrne Arena or the old Giants Stadium and while Del Taco AND Taco Bell tried to woo me in, I held out for grub from the fridge…

For as young a crowd as this was, I saw very few phones out and up. Good on you! This was the real deal, lighter audience… Love it… well, except for the folks smoking actual cigarettes… Sorry, but the air was just too thick with smoke… Did I mention how badly my chest was burning?

The new Forum has great sound for sure, but the seats blow and were clearly modeled after most major airlines, with no leg room… and just way too narrow.  And $25 to park… Come on!!!

Other than that… what a phantastic show. These guys are such amazing and gifted musicians and so very tight as a band. There is very little banter, just wall to wall music.

They played from 8:05-9:26… took exactly a 30-minute break and then played another hour and 15. Then a three-minute break, before a 15-minute encore. Set list below.

I would love to do a documentary on the audience as my buddy Russ and I were fascinated. I do not think any two people were moving to the same rhythm, but everyone was dancing and swaying and allowing the music in so deeply. At one point I looked over at a guy who was probably in his 50s… eyes closed and arms extended to the heavens as if he was praying… the music washing over him like a musical baptism… (Look, that is MY PHRASE, so I can use it as much as I want… and I KNOW I use it a lot!!!)

People seemed to be so free and happy… There were two guys in front of us hugging and high-fiving when they realized there was a song they had never heard live before… It was a celebration reminiscent of me at a Bruce show getting a tune I had never seen live before… (Message to Bruce: Please play “Meeting Across The River” the next time I see you. Please… PLEASE!!!)

One other thing I will say is while the banter is light, the “light” show is amazing and really, truly INCLUDES the audience…  With varying patterns and colors and shapes, the crowd is enveloped in light… and that does not even include the beach balls, light-up balloons and handfuls of light sticks tossed into the air, creating multiple, neon fireworks displays.  And when the string lights on the ceiling came on, creating a sky full of stars effect, the crowd went even nuttier.

So why do I wish I had seen this band when I was younger??? See all the above… But now I have no regrets… or at least less regrets.  So go out there, my friends… support live music… and live… LIVE!

Set 1:

46 Days

Tube

Train Song

Ghost

Sparkle

Sample in a Jar

Divided Sky

The Line

It’s Ice

Kill Devil Falls

Bathtub Gin

Set 2:

Backwards Down the Number Line

Down with Disease

Fuego

Twist

Bouncing Around the Room

David Bowie

Character Zero

Encore:

Harry Hood

Grind

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Bruuuuuuce The Birthday Boy – A Jersey Boy Waxes Poetic

Every so often I meet someone who does not like Bruce Springsteen, and while my first reaction is always one of shock and confusion, I quickly follow up with a: “Well, have you ever seen him live?”

If they say “yes,” and they still don’t like him, I just move on.  There is no hope in that scenario, and that poor soul is just lost and misguided.  Now, there are a few people who say they respect Bruce, they just don’t like his music.

Ummm… What… ever (Delivered in a Valley Girl voice).

If they say “no,” they have not yet seen him live… then there is hope for salvation.  For that is exactly what a Bruce show is… Rock n’ Roll salvation.  It is as close to a true religious epiphany and experience as I have ever had… or will ever have… I think… And an experience so joyous and powerful that it sticks with you and gets you through some rough times… as does the music on its own.

A Bruce show is energy… passion… bliss…

You feel it in your heart… your brain… your groin… your soul.

It is immediate… it is motion… It IS Rock n’ Roll.

I have never met Bruce… and yes, I would love to.

I have never seen Bruce play “Meeting Across The River” live, which still kind of kills me… If he plays four nights and I go three out of the four… guess what song I miss???  This has happened multiple times.  AAGGHH!

Aside from that one, if I had to pick my top five favorites, it would be:  “Growin’Up”, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”  (Yes, I miss Clarence deeply and cried heavily when I found out he had passed…), “The River” and geez… this is not easy… but at least for right now… “She’s The One.”

That’s the thing about Bruce… I truly love almost everything he has done.  Sure I have issues with Human Touch and that whole period… but “With Every Wish” is another song I absolutely adore.  It is just so poignant and powerful.  I have similar issues with Lucky Town, but “If I Should Fall Behind” is truly one of the best love songs ever written.

Bruce is a Rock n’ Roll star… a legend… but he is also a bit of a nerd and can sometimes be goofy and awkward.  I love that.  It makes him real… human.

He is rich as shit, yet still has a genuine connection with the common man (and woman) and has never lost his roots… ever.  He is sincere and deep… and connected to causes and issues.  He puts himself out there, completely… fully… totally…

His concerts will move you and give you hope… truly.

They will literally lift you out of your seats and make your spirits soar.

Bruce is a gift… a blessing… He is music in a time when we need music most… when we need a message… when we need a light at the end of the “Tunnel Of Love.”

Bruce Springsteen is Rock n’ Roll… and for that I say thank you… and Happy Birthday.

Now let’s get together… and please… please, let me see “Meeting Across The River” live.

 

 

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Loud Music, High Energy, Classic Rock & Fantastic Guys… Ladies and Gentlemen: Cheap Trick

A buddy of mine once said that sometimes your heroes turn out to be assholes.  When you discover this… when they say something horrible… or when you meet them and this happens, it is a sad, sad day.

The exact opposite of that is when your heroes turn out to be even cooler and nicer and more gracious than you could imagine.  Enter Cheap Trick.

The band was one of my first Rock n’ Roll loves… Steve Miller BandFleetwood Mac and Cheap Trick were some of the earliest music I went out and bought.  And yes, relax… so were The Beatles and Bruuuuuuce.

I will never forget Howard, a dear family friend explaining to me what a cheap trick was, exactly.  Hmmm… I was a rather innocent young lad and did not know that… NICE!!!  And yes, it made me love the band even more.  They were funny… irreverent… rebellious and rocked the shit out of things.

And 41 years later… Wait… Let me repeat that… 41 YEARS LATER… they are exactly the same.

Bun E. Carlos no longer tours and plays with them… In his place is the young, super cool and fantastic drummer Daxx Nielsen… yes, Rick’s son.

Rick Nielsen plays every kind of guitar imagineable… Robin Zander shreds on vocals and rhythm guitar… and Tom Petersson plays a fricking 12-string bass… What???!!!

The band is such a source of pride in their native state of Illinois, that April 1st is officially Cheap Trick Day!

Thanks to my buddy Brad, we got to hang out with the band before their LA County Fair show… and they truly could not have been any nicer.  They made us feel welcome and appreciated, which is something they bring to the stage as well.  This is a band who cares about their fans… cares about each and every show… and just rock it!  Robin said he had a sore throat that night and was not feeling well… Ummm… Dude… you may actually sound better now than you did back then… if that is possible… and you were sick???  Seriously, it was amazing… He got on stage and just killed it.  And yes, he was drinking tea and making sure the chords were warm whenever he could, but he did not miss a single beat!

This band are absolute and consummate professionals.

The set was short (14 songs), but hit many of the highlights… though I could easily see the boys play for at least another hour or two.  Unfortunately time is limited at the Fair.  Kansas, with a brand, spanking new lead singer, was the opener.  They were pretty good as well, but just do not get the party started like the boys from Rockford.

“Surrender” is not only  my favorite Cheap Trick song, but also one of my favorite songs, period… and of course a staple at every show.  I also love the cover of Big Star’s “In The Street,” which was the theme/opening song for That ’70s Show!

Hard Rock n’ Roll… Amazing energy and passion… fun and joy… and flying guitar picks… That is what makes a Cheap Trick show so great.  And we came SO close to getting the Live At Budokan album with picks on it… Dab nab it!

After the show we got to hang with the band a little more, and they were just fantastic… and spent quality time with everyone.  So the concert made you feel great… the band and the whole crew made you feel welcome and great… and THAT is what Rock n’ Roll is all about.  A special thanks to Jim and Carla as well.  What a night… and one I will NEVER forget!!!

  1. Hello There
  2. Elo Kiddies
  3. Big Eyes
  4. Ain’t That a Shame
    (Fats Domino cover)
  5. California Man
    (The Move cover)
  6. Lookout
  7. She’s Tight
  8. I Know What I Want
  9. In the Street
    (Big Star cover) (That 70’s Song)
  10. I Want You to Want Me
  11. Dream Police
  12. Never Had a Lot to Lose
  13. Surrender
  14. Goodnight

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One Phish, Two Phish, Red Phish, Blue Phish… The Heat Of Fuego And Melting Phish Food

I have never seen Phish live. Shameful, I know. But often this blog doubles as a musical confessional, and since I strive to be almost 100% honest, I have to admit my faults and flaws, few and far between as they may be. That was a joke. I am flawed. No, really… I am. But aren’t we all?

I love jam bands… Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule… so not seeing Phish live makes little sense… except I really did not get into them until recently… Well… at least AFTER they had stopped touring and supposedly retired.

I know… I know. This is not helping my case at all, so I should just stop talking.  Especially when I also have to admit that I did miss them on the last tour, including a killer show at Madison Square Garden that I could have joined my brother for, but wussed out.  Sometimes I am not the Rock n’ Roll Rally Monkey I swear I am.

Today is Wednesday and I was all set to resurrect New Wave Wednesdays, but since I have been raving about this Phish album to anyone who would listen, I figured I might as well just formalize it and do an official, pseudo review.

Phish – Fuego

Phish is a phenomenal band… Their musical talent is off the charts and their live albums are incredible.  Just listen to Live Phish, Volume 14, recorded on 10/31/95 in Chicago  In addition to their own songs and jams, they do The Who’s Quadrophenia… in its entirety.  Papa say what??? Who does that??? Or a better question is… who does that so damn well? Absolutely amazing… and yes, I am now feeling even more stupid for not catching them live… yet.

Phish also has an odd sense of humor and sometimes their songs are a bit out there. The opening, title track for this album had me confused… then smiling at the Dead like jam… then questioning what was coming next. Not many albums or artists can open with a 9:15 song. So where the heck are they going from there?

Well, I had my answer the first time I heard “The Line”… It is now a song I have played probably 50 times and one of my most cherished tunes. Yes, I chastise my daughter for doing the same thing… but this song is hitting me so hard. The lyrics are talking directly to me and where I am in my life… So dead on… so poetic… so prophetic and powerful. Wow.

 

“You try to see your future from the line
And you’re clinging to the notion you’ll be fine
But the circle’s getting smaller all the time”

From this track on, the album had me by the guts and heart and brain.

“Devotion To A Dream” reminds me so much, and in such a great way, of the Grateful Dead’s “Touch Of Grey.”

All I could think of after these three tracks is how badly I want to be in a convertible with the top down… heading down the PCH and blasting this record.

“Halfway To The Moon” is another favorite and reminds me of the band Fountains Of Wayne.  “Winterqueen”“Sing Monica”“Waiting All Night”… This is a joyous record, even with lyrics that tug at my fragile, emotional core.

Up all night and I’m waiting for you to come home
Waiting all night
Waiting all night
Mind is racing and I’m wondering what I did wrong
Waiting all night
Waiting all night.”

Been there.. done that… and yes, recently. Sigh…

“Wombat” is a strange, but fun and funky, jazzy one… and the closer “Wingsuit” gives hope in a potentially bleak scenario…

Nothing lasts, nothing stays
Caught in this procession of unchanging days
What’s new is old, what’s old is gone
You’re pushed up to the edge, so put your wingsuit on.”

It’s not often, at least lately, that an album can hit me on so many levels with almost every song. This is one of those rare records.

So grab some Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food… Yes, one of my favorite flavors… crank this one up to 11 and jam rock out… with the top DOWN!

 

 

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