Sports Matter

It has been a long while, my friends. Chalk it up to the Pandemic or a new, full time job… or just a feeling of being lost. And yes, perhaps it is odd to start back with a non-music post, but I think this is an important one, and one that has relevance in any activity or career that involves doing something many cannot do but wish they could, and one that involves being on a massive public stage or in a huge public forum. 

Take It To The Limit
What athletes put their bodies through is remarkable and often dangerous. They push themselves in order to attain greatness and achieve personal and team goals. Some do things they should not be doing in terms of enhancements and steroids in order to stay competitive, but many and most (I hope) just push themselves to the limits to truly see how much they can achieve.

We follow sports because we either played them ourselves and dreamed and aspired to be professional athletes, or use it as a way to connect to a city we grew up in or a school or college we went to. This bond cannot be dismissed. Cheering for school, city, and country is a powerful bond. It brings people together, in a shared experience. And while sports can also be divisive, and sadly used for violence and unruly and unacceptable behavior, it is more often than not about passion and dedication.One Country
I will never, ever forget the 1980 Winter Olympics and the Men’s Hockey team. Watching the USA beat the USSR in the “Miracle On Ice” was one of the more profound moments I can recall. February 22, 1980. Lake Placid, NY. Final score 4-3. 

Wikipedia: “The victory became one of the most iconic moments of the Games and in U.S. sports. Equally well known was the television call of the final seconds of the game by Al Michaels for ABC, in which he declared: “Do you believe in miracles? YES!” 

In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the “Miracle on Ice” the top sports moment of the 20th century. As part of its centennial celebration in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) named the “Miracle on Ice” as the best international ice hockey story of the past 100 years.”

“As his team ran all over the ice in celebration, Herb Brooks sprinted back to the locker room and cried.In the locker room afterwards, players spontaneously broke into a chorus of “God Bless America”

Many may not recall that it was actually a 4-2 win over Finland that won team USA the gold… because the previous game was just that iconic and significant. But the idea of a scrappy bunch of college kids coming together for country, and conquering a giant, made us all proud. Oh how I wish we could return to those glorious days. They seem so very far away. And while I know things were far from perfect in 1984, and perhaps it is an idyllic look back at my past, the country and the world feels very different these days… broken… divided… and so far from united. What Really Matters
In recent years I have become a huge fan of the EPL. My team is the Tottenham Hotspurs. I am passionate about this team. I feel the ups and downs along with this team. Ugh. LOL.

Now a soccer tour of England is on my travel bucket list. I dream of visiting some of the classic stadiums, starting with the new White Harte Lane! And while European soccer (futbol, football) has its dark side in racism and hooliganism, something that MUST be dealt with and removed from the sport, I love the way the fans chant and sing and bond with each other over a mutual love of team. 

When it’s good, it’s good. And when it’s bad… well… we see the bad and then the good.Witness the horrific incident just yesterday, when former Tottenham player Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field while playing for Denmark, suffering cardiac arrest. I was moved to tears watching his fellow teammates crying and then seeing fans on both sides (Denmark and Finland) crying and watching in utter shock and horror at what was happening. 29 year-old athletes in peak physical condition should not require CPR or a defibrillator on the field. And yet, according to the team doctor, “he was gone.”

Watch the video here and tell me you are not moved to tears as the Finish fans shout in unison “Christian!” And the Danish fans respond with a full hearted and full-throated “Eriksen!”

Some sports are more brutal than others, like boxing and MMA… and are definitely gladiatorial. Others are a bit more genteel, but still require a huge sacrifice on the bodies of the athletes, which is why I believe that colleges and professional sports should cover the insurance and mental health services of their players for years after they are done playing… maybe even in perpetuity, especially because the playing life of an athlete is limited, yet the wear and tear they suffer lingers. 

One of my favorite quotes that I came up with… yes, a bit of self-indulgence here… is something I came up with on the fly when at a baseball game. One of my friends was shouting at one of the players with a typical refrain often hurled at umpires. He shouted, “You suck!”

To which I replied, “Do you know how good you have to be to suck in the major leagues?!”

Professional athletes are amazing. I sucked at Little League. Was a terrible high school wrestler… And according to my parents, when I played soccer I spent the whole game adjusting my cup, looking up at the sky, daydreaming and not paying attention, but then going into panic mode when the ball started coming towards me. 

It Can All Change In A Moment
But for me, yesterday put so much in perspective. Sports matter. Soccer is called the beautiful heartbreak. We follow our teams and celebrate their wins and personally feel their losses. This makes sense for our high school or college teams, especially. It is a way of staying connected to our youth and the times that were hopefully pure and innocent and fun… But life is fleeting, life is tenuous… and we must never take it for granted.

It can change in a moment… in a second… 

So live and play with full heart, full mind, and full passion. There is a reason sports analogies have found their way into self-help and self-improvement books. There is a reason that the coaching and teaching style of John Wooden (And his Pyramid of Success) is so universally accepted in business and leadership. 

Sports matter… our teams matter… coming together with fellow human beings, cheering and shouting and enjoying what is on and off the field matters. Every single second matters. Yes, sports is an escape… yes, sports is entertainment… but yes, sports matter.


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A Musical Love Letter: Dean M. Collins’ Land Where The Wishes Come True

I keep apologizing for the delinquency on my blogs. Covid will do that, I guess. The brain gets foggy, energy lags, and for the last few weeks I have been battling some mysterious ailment. The days seem to crawl and yet at the end of the day or a week, you have no idea where the time went. 

But I do need to apologize again to my friend Dean. This blog was supposed to be out last month… probably the month before that… but life and time and whatever else had other ideas. But the important thing is that we are here now. And here is a really good and beautiful place to be. And as if I have planned it all, this is my Valentine’s gift to all of you… well, okay… it’s DEAN’S Valentine’s gift to all of you!

When I write a review, I do note if I have a personal connection to the band or the artist, and I have known Dean since college. That doesn’t mean I cannot be objective on his work, it is just a point I like to put into context. On the other hand, it gives me a most unique perspective, as I have been able to watch someone grow, as both a human being and a singer/songwriter. This album is quite a leap. I have also had the privilege of watching him fall in love, which makes both his writing and this album that much more of a reward. I personally know of whom and what he speaks!

Dean M. Collins’ – Land Where The Wishes Come True
Is this a bluegrass record or a pop/rock record with bluegrass instrumentation? I’m going with the latter. Dean’s 80s sensibility and homage to bands like the BoDeans and John Cougar Mellancamp is still alive and kicking, just musically deeper and even more satisfying. And speaking of that music, it is no surprise that Kenny Aronoff, one of rock and music’s best drummers of all time, has become a major contributor and musical partner. That driving beat starts off the album (and title track) in such a great way, but it is the poet in me that thrives in Dean’s visual and metaphorical word play. He looks at Christmas Day’s first snow flakes as magical falling stars and writes:
“I sat staring out the window
First flakes begin to fall
Think I made a wish on every single one
But I guess I didn’t count them all.”

Insane & Stellar Line Up

This album is full of “wailing”… or maybe “sweeping” is a better word. I mean that in the best sense of those words… from Michael Cleveland’s gorgeous fiddle, to Justin Moses’ magical mandolin to Jimmy Zavala’s stunning harmonica. Hell yes, I’m envious. And then of course there is Smokin’ Brett Resnick on pedal steel and one of my favorite guitar players and another fellow Wildcat, Fran Banish on “Nothing Lasts Forever.”
“Nothing lasts forever, baby
And I want to do nothing with you
For the rest of my life.”

And I cannot forget another old friend, Wildcat and producer/engineer extraordinaire, Thom Russo! So much talent on and behind this record!

“Let It Go” might be my favorite track on the album, and not just because I play along, trying to copy Jimmy Z’s ridiculously gorgeous harmonica. It’s another lyrical gem that hit me hard:
“What good are notes without a melody
I’m not asking for your sympathy
You can’t be hurt by what’s not meant to be.”

You CAN be hurt… temporarily… but with time and perspective and wisdom that comes with age and growth, this lyric offers amazing insight! And that is the crux of this beautiful record. We grow, we evolve, musically, lyrically and in our relationships. It is an honor and a privilege to witness this first hand… in music, life and love. As I tell Dean all time, I want the kind of love he and Theresa have! I’ll end with Dean’s own album dedication and tell you right now…

GO TO iTUNES… NOW!!!!! And get this amazing album!!! Support Indie Music, Support Great Music!!!

More purchase link options are at the end of the post…

From Dean:
“If music be the food of love, play on.” – William Shakespeare

This album is dedicated to my mom, my dad, the musicians who inspired me, to the dreamers, to those kind of heart and for everyone who still believes we live in a country where wishes can come true. 

Thank you to the wonderful artists who believed in and supported me and brought their other-worldly talents to my humble album. Thank you all the friends and family who suffered through countless iterations of these songs on their journey to this record. Thank you to the bands who left a mark on me through their music; America, Mellencamp, The Eagles, Jim Croce, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, CSNY, R.E.M., Alison Krause, Dan Tyminsky, Nickel Creek, Carol King, George Strait, Badfinger, and so many more. And thank you to my wife Theresa Patzakis, who knew I could fly, but inspired me to soar. And thank you for listening to the stories.





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10. (TIE) Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
Yes, I am starting with a tie, so sue me… it’s the only one I’m putting up, so… You have to love bands that just endure, and consistently create great records. Tame Impala is one of those bands. Love “Breathe Deeper” and “Lost In Yesterday” so much.


The Weeknd – After Hours
I know there are quite a few people who will be happily surprised at this choice and pleased to see my musical tastes expanding… but my musical choices are always eclectic and all over the place, and I like what I like, and this a great record. “Scared To Live,” Faith,”“Blinding Lights”and the title “After Hours”are my go to tracks. 


9. (TIE) Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas
This is the kind of record to pay attention to and also to just have playing in the background. But with songs like the opening track “Bittersweet” and “Can’t Fight,” Lianne will rightfully demand your attention and hold it tightly.


The Beths – Jump Rope Gazers
Thanks to Dan Gordon again for the intro. to this band… I think… or am I being too generous? LOL. Love, love, love “You Are A Beam Of Light” and “Dying To Believe.”

8. lovelytheband – conversations with myself about you
“loneliness for love” may just be the perfect song for 2020. How many of us have felt lonely and isolated this year and may be drawn to the wrong people just so we’re not alone? Great second album from three of the nicest guys out there. 


7. The Strokes – The New Abnormal
With this title are there really any questions about the power and timing and need for this record? “The Adults Are Talking” and “Why Are Sundays So Depressing” are just two of my standout tracks. Good to have The Strokes back!


6. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
While not as potent as her last outings, Phoebe is still an incredible powerhouse and insanely gifted singer/songwriter. Check out the title track “Punisher”and “Garden Song.”


5. Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit – Reunions
Consistency is key and Jason Isbell has become one of the very best writers out there. The opening track “What’ve I Done To Help”is a painful self-reflection, but also a song of hope, especially in these trying times.


4. Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
I think my friend Dan Gordon introduced me to this incredible band and this is his #1 of 2020. Obviously it is up there for me, too. There’ a bit of Indigo Girls in this band, a bit of Emmylou Harris and a whole bunch of other great influences.

And away we go… 

3. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall II
You know how good a band is based on their B-Sides, and with The Waterfall IIyou get MMJ songs that did not make the original The Waterfallrelease. The fact is the incredible song “Feel You”is an instant MMJ classic, and one of the best MMJ songs ever. That track is now easily in my Top 10 list!

2. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
Chris continues to blow me away, and this record boasts amazing song after amazing song. It is country-tinged blues, or blues-tinged country and starts with the incredible title track “Starting Over”and does not let up off the gas. “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice,” Arkansas,”“Cold,”which is probably my most favorite track… and the heartbreaking “Maggie”a beautiful ode to his lost dog. I cry every time I hear this one.

Like you’re gonna be shocked and surprised… 

#1…Bruce Springsteen – Letter To You
Yes, I probably went into this thinking this would be my #1, but remember Western Stars took a while to grow on me, and the orchestrations of the movie version really won me over. But this album hit me hard and fast and continues to deliver with both new and old and is a true E Street Band record through and through. So many of these songs became my daily go tos… and they still are… so like the kids say, this one has legs. Okay, the kids do NOT say that, but you know what I mean.

Highlights include reworking the old songs, “Janey Needs A Shooter” and “If I Was The Priest,” which are my two favorite songs… and amazing new tunes like “The Power Of Prayer,” “Ghosts” and “House Of A Thousand Guitars.”

Honorable Mentions:
Each and every one of these would have been in the top 20, if I had been smart enough to do a 20 for 20… or maybe I was just lazy…

Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
The Flaming Lips – American Head (Thanks for the reminder to the original DG, my brother, Dan)
Haim – Women in Music Pt. III 
Halsey – Manic
The Jayhaws – Xoxo
Old 97s – Twelth
Phish – Sigma Oasis
 (Somehow I missed this one… thanks to brother Dan for a reminder… albeit at the 23rd hour, but still… the song “Leaves” alone makes this worthwhile!!!)
Pinegrove – Marigold
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
Taylor Swift – Folklore
The Texas Gentlemen – Floor It!!!
(Another last minute entry from brother, Dan… Dang!!! This is sooooo good!)

EP Mention… and one last minute, last one from Danny G…
Khruangbin and Leon Bridges – Texas Sun EP
This one is perfect for a little late night loving… What?!

Best Indie Albums Of 2020
I will preface this by saying I am friends with both Dean and Jack, but that does not prevent me from being objective… and objectively, these are both stunningly beautiful records, made more impressive by how they were put together.

Dean M. Collins – Land Where The Wishes Come True
My full review of this record is coming… and I apologize for the delinquency, but this is a record that people need to hear. Dean’s songwriting keeps getting better and better and he just knows how to turn a musical phrase. His lyrics run deep and true, he keeps his rootsy rock influences (think of the Bodeans) and adds layers and elements of bluegrass to come up with a most enjoyable hybrid record that is both immensely personal and truly pleasurable. 

Jack Wargo and Edward Wargo – Back To Slocum Hollow
You can read my full review of this record, but suffice it to say, it is a 2-Disc journey back to the days of youth and our lost hometowns… and is reflective, meditative, sad, uplifting and utterly joyous. Another great and needed listen!




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A Musical Christmas Gift – Take Me Back To Slocum Hollow

First off, incredible apologies for being so delinquent with this blog and also with this review. I was sent this album a while ago, but life and 2020 seem to be conspiring at times to kick me in the butt… well, kick all of us in the butt.

Second, this is NOT a Christmas album… but it is a GIFT in every sense of the word. So maybe the timing was perfect… It is a two disc, musical journey back home… or to what home used to be… and in today’s world, I think we all desire a return to a purer and more innocent past. If ever an album could soothe a weary soul, this would be it.Simple, pure and real. That sure seems like the way things used to be… Or perhaps we’re just being nostalgic. Then again, after this insane year, anything in the past OR the future for that matter, seems like it will be so much better. We desperately yearn to return to our roots, and often find great comfort in our hometown and in memories of youth. This record delivers on all of that. Ironically, my parents just sold and moved from my childhood home. I did not get to go home and say goodbye… and even though it is just a “thing,” I am saddened that I did not get to have that final, in-person farewell. Yes, it is not the house… but the incredible memories that took place there… and those, hopefully, I will always have. Putting those thoughts into music, and finding melodies in memories is what this record really is about.

With Back To Slocum Hollow what once was will be again. This stellar musical journey from brothers Jack and Edward Wargo boasts an incredible collection of songs and artists. The melody, Jack’s smooth and easy voice, and the background vocals on the opening track (and one my faves) “Blue Planet” sets the plate and the tone for what’s to come. This record is going to be a look back at their hometown of Scranton, PA… which of course used to be called Slocum Hollow… No, not Ichabod Crane and Sleepy Hollow… at least I don’t think there were any headless horsemen involved in the making of this record. But there were some incredible musicians and artists. You can see the credits below!

And now… a brief history lesson on Scranton… The city was incorporated in 1856 and became known as the “Electric City” in the 1880s, but before that it was known as Slocum Hollow. Obviously the brothers were not around for that, but this record is a look back at the place and places of their youth… And it is a joyous and full ride from their senses to ours… filled with sight and especially sound. Musical interludes like “Affirmation,” “Dark Sky” and “Chillin’ Part 2” are much more than just segues. They move us from one song to the next in a storytelling-without-words kind of way. The record itself is a delightful mix of instrumentals and vocal tracks. From Jack’s silky smooth guitar and powerful but easy and laid back vocals, to Edward’s mellifluous flute, this album drifts through the air, depositing us on a cloud or two before taking us gently back to earth.

My other favorite track is “The Rain,” which we all could use a little more of, so I guess I must be partial to the songs with those fabulous female backup vocals. If ever a song can help you drift away, it’s this one. Mmm. I also really dig the Disc One closer “You Already Know,” which would make Donald Fagen very happy. And in fact, I could totally hear Michael McDonald covering this one!

This album is made up of so many musical influences I love… It’s soulful and steeped in smooth jazz, R&B, blues and even mixes in a little Steely Dan with some Saturday Night Live band stuff. And tracks like the Disc Two opener “Rocky Glen” remind me of some of Mark Knopfler’s best soundtrack compositions. This one would have fit right into the Local Hero soundtrack.

Back To Slocum Hollow is like a warm blanket. It embraces you with its ebbs and flows. It slides and moves and grooves. It’s like coming home for the holidays, to remind you of everything you love and miss, to embrace everything that is still there, and sadly, to mourn everything and everyone that may be gone. So Happy Holidays, my friends. Let music be the call of the day… and except for some outstanding musical outputs like this record, let 2021 erase the woes of 2020. Cheers!

The Main Credits:
Jack Wargo, AKA Guitar Jack, has toured nationally and internationally with artists such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, Billy Preston, and Solomon Burke. He has also recorded with Ray Charles and The Jacksons, amongst many others. In Los Angeles, his band, Guitar Jack & No Slack, was the house band at BB King’s Blues Club. And Jack played guitar for John Fogerty on HBO Specials, “Welcome Home Vietnam Vets” and “Tribute to Buddy Holly.“

Edward Wargois an active performer and flute professor at Marywood University and Clarks Summit University in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He played principal flute in several orchestras, including the Houston Metropolitan Symphony and the Galveston Symphony in Texas, where he was also a member of the Houston Flute Quartet. Edward is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, and has had solo and ensemble performances broadcast on PBS’s WVIA-TV and WVIA-FM. He is also principal flutist of the Northern Tier Symphony.


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Covered And Uncovered – Discover The Explorers Club All Over Again With Two New Wonderful Records

Wild Honey is an under-the-radar, 1967 album (and the 13th released) by the Beach Boys. It’s one of my very favorites and well worth seeking out if you’re unfamiliar. That album name led to the Wild Honey Foundation, a fabulous organization that supports a variety of causes and “seeks to pass on the passion, creativity, and idealism found in rock, rhythm & blues, folk, and pop music to future generations through cultural events of all types.” So it’s no wonder that Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys figure so strongly into all of this.

In 2016 I had the amazing pleasure of meeting Jason Brewer at the rehearsal for the Wild Honey Orchestra’s annual fundraising concert. That year was a tribute to the music of Brian and the Beach Boys, so having Jason there made perfect sense. Of course, I had not heard of him at that point, nor of his amazing band, The Explorers Club. But after that rehearsal I made it my mission to seek out everything they would record and see them live whenever I could.

Everything Old Is New Again
Jason is a self-proclaimed “lifelong retrophile” and the band comes from his musical brain. He saw the name on the wall of a bar in a scene from Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic and that was it. For the record, Wes is one of my favorite directors, partly because his movie’s soundtracks and music are fricking brilliant… always!  And as far as Jason’s musical influences go…
“When I was a kid my neighbor had a bunch of cars from the ‘50s in his garage and he was always blasting Elvis, Chuck Berry, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. I liked that music better than the music that was current at the time.”

Jason is also a truly fantastic guy, loyal, dedicated and talented as all heck. And he and the boys make some of the most lush and beautiful music you will ever hear. If you are a fan of power pop and pop pock, and artists like Brian Wilson, Beach Boys, The TurtlesThe Lovin’ Spoonful, Paul Revere & The Raiders and the Zombies this band is a must listen! Their music sounds familiar and comfortable, like a cool blanket of sunshine, and yet new, all at the same time. If you need a reminder of how amazing music used to be and still can be, give any of their records a spin.  On June 12, 2o2o they did something that seems to be a bit of a trend but continues to impress me… really impress me… They released TWO new albums on the same day. The first is the eponymous collection of originals called The Explorers Club… and the second is a cover album called To Sing And Be Born Again. I feel like Chanukah, Christmas and Summer vacation arrived on the very same day! Add in Thanksgiving and New Year’s and a kick in the ass goodbye to 2020 and I think many of us would be quite happy. Other than shining moments like this, this year has been… well… you can fill in the blanks!

From the opening, slow burner and then bouncy track “Ruby,” right into the piano and horns of “One Drop,” my favorite song on the album, you know you’re in the hands of masters. I start plotting cocktail and dinner parties I want to have with this record as the soundtrack… or perhaps more intimate evenings of romance. Yes, this is a classic “make-out” record. And I think I have said this before about quite a few of their songs, but tracks like the amazingly gorgeous “Mystery” and “Dream World” need to be playing as I walk down a tree-lined street in the West Village of NYC… or just in the movie of my life. I guess I should get to writing that soon!

Going Above The Covers
The huge and positive reaction to some of the covers the band was releasing to its fans for free spurred the desire to do a full album of covers. According to Jason: “I had a brand new album just about finished, which I think is one of the strongest things I’ve ever done. I figured I’ve got access to all this studio time and I’ve got some players to pull in to do it, so I’ll do an album of ‘60s covers, too. I just got to work and I finished both albums at the same time. It was an opportunity to give back to our hardcore followers who have loved the band for over ten years now.”

This is a remarkable collection, and I was so excited to hear Steven Page on “Can’t Find The Time.” I was and am still so sad to not have his incredible voice as an active part of Barenaked Ladies. The very next track, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It” gives us Jay Gonzalez of Drive-By Truckers… another band I love. Great calls! (And speaking of DBT, you need to check out Jason Isbell’s newest, Reunions!

I do have to admit that the first time I really recall hearing the closing track “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” was when Jules Shear did an amazing cover of it on his 1994 Healing Bones album. And for years after that I assumed it was a tune from The Walker Brothers in 1966. Yes, even I miss some major things sometimes. Thanks to Jason and this record I learned it was actually first recorded by Frankie Valli in 1965 and written by songwriting heroes and legends Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio. 

Putting Cher’s version aside (sorry, Cher)… I would be happy to listen to this one, Jules Shear, and then Keane’s 2004 cover in heavy rotation! In fact, both new Explorers Club albums have been in my heavy rotation since I got a sneak preview!!!

With Grammy nominated producer Matt Goldman (Copeland, Underoath, Smalltown Poets) back, and most of the album of originals recorded live in legendary Studio A in Nashville, this double endeavor brings the classic into the contemporary in glorious fashion. And with all that is going on in the world, these albums are healthy reminders of the pure beauty and power of music. They are more than just escapes, they are needed and necessary. So go out, live each and every day, and never stop exploring and discovering with The Explorers Club.



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The Top 19 of ’19 – MG’s Best Music Of 2019

“There are sounds to seasons. There are sounds to places. And there are sounds to every time in one’s life.”– Alison Wyrley Birch

And my brilliant yoga instructor Krista then followed this with a profound question:
“What sounds do you want to hear in your life?”

May we all hear amazing music and raucous laughter in 2020.

Apologies for being a bit delinquent with the blog, but hoping 2020 puts me and it back on track! In the meantime… MG’s BEST OF 2019
Definitely the year of the woman… again. Such strong albums and strong voices. And yes, I am putting in some ties… i.e. cheating to get more albums in to my 19…

And yes, I could have just done a Top 25 or 30, but you stop it… stop it right now.

  1. The National – I Am Easy To Find

This band just keeps putting out one great record after another! And this is not the first time they have made my #1! Though… as much as I like the album, I do think seeing them at the Greek this summer is what pushed this one to my #1 spot.

  1. The Ocean Blue – Kings And Queens / Knaves And Thieves

For fans of power pop, this band is one of the best and they are fantastic live. This record is amazing from start to finish. Just a phenomenal and truly enjoyable listen.

  1. Better Oblivion Community Center – Better Oblivion Community Center

I guess if there is such a thing as a folk super group/duo this may be it. Conor Oberst and PhoebeBridgersare two of my favorite singer/songwriters on their own. And together… brilliant.

Thanks to Dan Gordonfor the heads up on this one!

  1. Brittany Howard – Jaime

Alabama Shakes is one of my faves in recent years and I was a bit sad to see Brittany take a break, but wow! This album is just so much.

  1. Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars (Soundtrack Version)

I have always said that the most average or lesser Springsteen albums are still better than 95% of what is out there. When this first came out I described it as the first Springsteen record you could make out to. Very Burt Bacharach and like that Elvis Costello record they did together.

I loved the second half of the record and thought the first half was just okay. But I agree with my brotherDanthat this takes on a whole new dimension with this soundtrack version and it has really grown on me.

  1. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors (TIE)

Female singer/songwriters have grabbed hold of my Top Album lists for the last few years, with stunners from Courtney Barnett, Phoebe Bridgers, Brandi Carlile, and Angel Olsen. Simple, powerful, gorgeous music.

Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow (TIE)

Another favorite artist who puts out one amazing album after another. Consistency is rare these days, but dig deep with Sharon and you’ll find both growth and consistently good albums.

  1. Vampire Weekend – Father Of The Bride

Not the same band, but another great record. Really enjoyed this listen from the moment the singles started coming out!

  1. Jenny Lewis – On The Line (TIE)

Always like Jenny Lewis. Major talent. And sure, a bit of a crush, too.

Yola – Walk Through Fire (TIE)

I cannot stop listening to this album. Retro but fresh, and so darn good!!!

  1. Julia Jacklin – Crushing

Proud of this discovery, which happened some years ago! Julia is fantastic. A mix of folk and rock, and sugar and spice.

  1. Hozier – Wasteland, Baby!

He keeps getting better and better… and this album is so darn good. And seeing him live is a real treat!

  1. Big Thief – U.F.O.F.

Wow… two amazing albums out in 2019, but this is the one I am going with. But do also check out Two Hands!!! Beautiful and haunting.

  1. Local Natives, “Violet Street”

Great local band from Silver Lake. Been a big fan for years and digging this new album.

  1. Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka

Long time fan, and got to see him play The Fonda really early on. Major talent!

  1. Wilco – Ode To Joy

I sure hope I get to see these guys live next year!!! I always seem to miss them so it is a MUST!

  1. Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising (TIE)

aka Natalie Laura Mering. Fascinating story about this Santa Monica based singer/songwriter, and this record is truly fantastic. Thanks for this one, too, Dan Gordon!

Keane – Cause And Effect (TIE)

Lush. Power Pop is my wheelhouse and weakness in the best sense of that word.

  1. Lana Del Rey –Norman Fucking Rockwell

Yeah, surprised me, too… but this record kicks ass.

  1. Bon Iver – I, I

Atmospheric and always interesting. Really sorry I missed the last tour. Argh!

18. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (TIE)

Yes, she is the real deal! Not often bands or artists go to my daughter first, but we can always learn from the kids!

Black Pumas – Black Pumas (TIE)

Delicious retro sound. So good.

  1. Lizzo –Cuz I Love You (TIE)

Not really in my wheelhouse, but I was really digging on her talent!

Trevor Horn –Trevor Horn Reimagines The Eighties (Featuring Sarm Orchestra) (TIE)

Yes, this is an album of covers, but it gives me such joy. Pure joy, in fact!!!

Honorable Mention:

Bastille – Doom Days
I do love me some Indie British Pop. This is their third album and you must check out their incredible debut, Bad Blood.

Beck – Hyperspace
He keeps putting out great albums! I need more time with this one.

Catfish And The Bottlemen – The Balance
Great band live… and loud as hell.

Kaiser Chiefs – Duck
They’ve moved from post power punk to more pop but still good stuff!

 Cate Le Bon – Reward
I much prefer Crab Day, her last and fourth album, but I am digging on this one, too.

The Maine – You Are Okay
Lost track of this great Arizona band, but enjoying their seventh Alt Rock record!

 The Mountain Goats – In League With Dragons
Folk. Punk. Inspired by Loudon Wainwright III? Brilliant and sometimes silly lyrics, but there is something remarkable and fun and great about this band.

 New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
All hail music collectives.

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
Haunting and heartbreaking and not an easy listen, but for those dealing with loss, this is a must. Wow. Lots of Leonard Cohen in this one… and how does a voice soar in the midst of such sadness?

Oso Oso – Basking In The Glow
Emo band from Long Beach, New York that is essentially Jade Lilitri (also a pen name). Pitchfork magazine named this, this year’s best new music.

The Shelters – Jupiter Sidecar
While I prefer the 2016 debut, I do like this one a lot… and of course, will always love them for the Tom Petty connection, who produced their debut. Fun band!

Toro y Moi –Outer Peace
They are clearly in it for the long haul… consistently good band and just so many good albums.

The Who – WHO
Fun and classic sounding… though written for Roger’s current voice.


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Treasure Each And Every Moment With Dean M. Collins’ Beautiful “Borrowed Time”

Whenever I review music from a friend or family member, I preface the review with that declaration for full disclosure and transparency. I also don’t suffer fools lightly, and if I did not truly enjoy something, I’d probably skip writing about it. Luckily for me, I love Dean the person and I love Dean the musician. Well… I wish he would have used me on the album but perhaps he’ll take me on the road! Shotgun!!!

Dean and I went to Northwestern University together, so I have been listening to his music for a while… Enough said on that! You stop that right now!!! It has a definite retro ’80s sound, well… okay… I first heard it in the late ’80s… but I mean the new stuff, which means it’s immediately in my wheelhouse.

While the sound is reminiscent of bands like the BoDeans and that great midwestern rock, ironically Dean is from Kentucky. Clearly we know where his musical tastes veered. He’s also been compared to Jason Falkner of the amazing band, Jellyfish… so there’s that. And Gavin Lurssen mastered this one!!! They have always been one of my faves! And Jimmy Zavala (Jimmy Z) said he heard Crowded House and Buffalo Springfield. Horrible company to be in there, Dean. I mean, come on, what kind of singer/songwriter is Neil Finn???

What’s different (from then to now) is more in the lyrics, themes and ideas. Dean is a deeply contemplative singer-songwriter who uses his life to inform and infuse his music. Okay, yes, most singer-songwriters do that, but I have seen his life transform in front of my eyes and in his music. Many of his tunes are go tos when I need to get through something or gain some perspective.

There is also a bit of dream pop thrown in, too.  You especially hear it in the melancholy closer “Fade.” From the opening subtle, wailing and mourning guitar. The lyrics tell us where Dean has been…

“I’m falling, falling down to a place I’ve never been
No one knows the shape I’m in.”

But then the song starts to change. It slowly builds and there is a pulse of hope in the drum beat. Dean’s last lyrics fade into the air…
“I’m leaving. I’m leaving.
Going far from this place, I’ll fade to black.
Never coming back.”

For me, this is the crux of the album, and Dean as an artist. Even in the darkness he finds a beauty and light. Even in what’s a moody and somewhat sad song, there is optimism and hope. It doesn’t hit us on the head with the message, it just lets it flow out naturally. And it’s where we all want to be. We acknowledge the pains of the past, but do not let them define us. Not an easy task. For those of us who deeply struggle with this, it’s the centerpiece of mindfulness and present moment awareness. This album preaches that and Dean gives us something to aspire to.

It’s funny… or sad… but for many of us we want our artists suffering so that they create music to get us through the times when we are suffering. It makes us feel connected to others and “the other.” When an artist finds love and happiness there is the risk that, that edge will go away. To his credit, while there are definitely some straight on love songs, Dean’s happiness is infectious. This may be because I know him personally, but I feel the songs that celebrate love will affect anyone who hears them.

So Kenny Aronoff was supposed to play on one or two songs, but liked Dean and the music so much he’s on nine out of 12 tracks. Nathan Cooley is on tracks 2, 7 and 9. Shout outs to Thom Russo and Brad Wood for their individual mixes. I miss you, Russo!!! The full credits are at the end.

“Perfect” may be my favorite tune because of the blistering harmonica from Jimmy Zavala. Yeah he’s that good! So fine, I can see why I was not on the record. But I truly love this from start to finish. From the 1-2 opening punch of “Denial Changes Everything”

“All the effort in the world
Can’t change the someone who isn’t you
And all anger you can take – or make
I shed it like a second skin
I’ll walk away as I begin
I go all-out to find myself again.”

And then into “SunStare.”
“I stare at the sun sometimes
To burn out all thoughts of you
From my mind
I stare at the sun sometimes
To blow my past away…”

And here I am coming off a breakup. And you want to know why this album has been my go to for a while? Musical and lyrical cuts to the bone.  A shot to the heart… and then a gentle massaging it back to life.

And Dean’s best life lesson to me… “Don’t paint the red flags white.”

We are only here on earth with borrowed time. Let’s make the best of it… and let the bad times fade and the good times propel us into the present… where we enjoy… fully enjoy each and every moment.


Borrowed Time by Dean M. Collins




Google Play


Dean M. Collins: Guitars, Words & Vox

Kenny Aronoff: Drums & Percussion

Nathan Cooley: Additional Drums 

Shane Hulsey: Guitars

Samm Darden: Bass

Chris Zeigler: Additional Bass

Rashawn Matthews: Hammond B3

Eric Sproull: Piano

Jimmy Zavala: Harmonica

John Scholvin: Additional Guitars

Smokin’ Brett Resnick: Pedal Steel

Backing Vocals: Isabella Pappas, Nathan Granner, Stephanie Rogers, Cheryl Wilson, Samotta Acklin

David Lockington: Cello

David Ellis: Banjo and Mandolin

Tiffany Watson Ray: Fiddle

Paul Tuvman: Piano

Ariana Pappas: Backing Vocals

Thom Russo: Mixes (1, 4, 5, 6, 8)

Brad Wood: Mixes (2, 3)

Ralph Cacciurri: Engineer and Mixes (7, 10, 12)

Fabrizio Grossi: Mix (9)

Jason Achilles: Mix (Track 11)

Gavin Lurssen: Mastering

Dave Jenkins: Drum Engineer

Produced by Dean M. Collins


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When The Blues Falls In Love – Unconditional By Jack Wargo

I’m baaaccckkk! Sorry for the long absence my friends… Chalk it up to life.

Unconditional – Jack Wargo

Jack Wargo is a true Bluesman. He has played and toured with Billy Preston and Solomon Burke. He has recorded with Ray Charles and The Jacksons. And he also lead the house band at BB King’s Blues Club at Universal CityWalk. Man, I miss that place.

I have seen Jack play live countless times, including the recent record release party for this great EP. And yes, I have even jammed with him… and I love the way he shoots me that look if I am overplaying and stepping on his solo. It’s a free music lesson for me, just live and on stage.

The guy is the shit… an amazing and gifted musician who just makes it look waaayyy too easy. And we all know it’s not. Years of learning and practicing and being out on the road is what makes those chops. That’s the way it used to be done! Jack is a true journeyman.I will admit that the title of this album put me off a bit. Unconditional. And that’s just because of where I was in life… I was dumped from an almost two year relationship, and the word “unconditional” came into sharp focus. Clearly I was not being loved unconditionally and this is the key to any good relationship. Unconditional says it all. Unconditional is what will make it last. So did I really want to hear what was probably going to be a love album?

I had just weened myself off the playlist I made called “Songs For A Breakup.” I was moving into my new playlist called “Songs Of Freedom.” So where would a love album fit into all of this?? I was also coming off my first Doheny Blues Festival, so the blues were in my ears. There were 12 bars in my heart and soul and veins. It was the blues that fit where I was… It was the blues that was getting me through. I wanted to hear a Blues record, darn it!

And then I put on “Unconditional”… jazz flute… soothing… Oh shit… dude’s in love… AND I know WHO he is in love with… another friend of mine. This record is for her.

“About The Love” is an instrumental that reminds me of this amazing Ric Flauding track called “Leslie” that… well… yes… I have made love to. This song will go on that special playlist. No words are needed. You can hear the love in each and every note.

“Be With You” brings Jack’s smooth and easy vocals into play. My ice is starting to melt. And so is the pain from my broken relationship. Darn you, Jack. I want to feel like this, too!

The horns of “Part Of Me” reminds me of some of Burt Bacharach’s best tunes. I love the sentiment, I love the vocal and backing vocals and I love the horn. This is my favorite track.

“Running Home To You” expresses a longing that many musicians probably feel on the road. You gotta call… you gotta keep that connection… and as soon as you can, you run home to home.

“True Love” is now battling for my favorite spot… I am hearing some smooth Doobie Brothers and Michael McDonald on this one. Such a great track. And I love Jack’s guitar on this song. Yup, it’s official… this closing track is my favorite now.

This is a damn fine record, made for love and from love. It may be just what we need right now. Heck, it may be what I need right now. I’m not in love anymore, but this album makes me want to go out and find my person… find my one… find the woman who will love me unconditionally… I mean, I loved her unconditionally… and I want that again. It is a powerful and potent thing. And I know when I do, when I find my next real, true, forever love “In Your Eyes” will be playing in the background… and so will this record. You can count on that!







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Hearing A Song With New Ears

Have you ever had that moment in life when you suddenly start seeing patterns or when similar or maybe even identical things start happening, seemingly all of a sudden and out of nowhere?

Yes, this is awareness, or self-awareness, or being more present, but if something doesn’t have meaning for us, we are not going to notice it, even if we are highly conscious of what is around us.
(Denis Cherim)

Case in point: I made a conscious decision a few years back to diligently follow the English Premiere League, and picked Tottenham Hotspurs as my team (thanks, Eric and Julian). Up until then I had never heard of Tottenham and soccer was a passing interest. I would be obsessed during the World Cup and then lose interest. I played when I was a kid, though if you ask my parents, all I did was stand on the field and play with my cup. Those things were NOT comfortable! Apparently I spent the entire game as a defender, looking at the crowd and the sky… and… adjusting myself! And then only showing interest and going into action when the ball came to me. Doh.

I am so NOT an athlete.

Anyway… the moment I was fully on board with Spurs, amazing connections started happening.  I was in Davids Tea in The Village and when I heard the London accent of the woman behind the counter, I asked her which team she supports… Yes, I was starting to be hip to the soccer lingo. She, of course, said Tottenham and was FROM Tottenham!

A day or so later I am on the FREEWAY… so thousands of cars, literally… and I see a jeep with a (you got it) TOTTENHAM bumper sticker. Then I’m at a party, and the bartender has a London accent. So I ask the same question… He says, without a beat or shock from me, “Spurs!”

Now… were those things always there and I just was not paying attention to them? Yes, of course. It did not mean anything in those previous moments. But as soon as I did become aware… BOOM! There they all were. Their motto is also an important one for me, so there is that!This is known as the “Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, otherwise known as frequency illusion or recency illusion. This phenomenon occurs when the thing you’ve just noticed, experienced or been told about suddenly crops up constantly. It gives you the feeling that out of nowhere, pretty much everyone and their cousin are talking about the subject — or that it is swiftly surrounding you. And you’re not crazy; you are totally seeing it more. But the thing is, of course, that’s because you’re noticing it more.”

“A couple of things happen when the Baader-Meinhof (pronounced badder mainhoff) phenomenon kicks in. One, your brain seems to be excited by the fact that you’ve learned something new, and selective attention occurs.”
(Kate Kershner on

Awareness is an amazing thing. We all THINK we are aware, but how much of the time are we just moving through life, living in our own head and missing so much that is in front of us?

The Buddhist’s call it “Satori,”which means sudden enlightenment. Others may call it an “epiphany” or “awareness” or “self-awareness.” The hip term is “Mindfulness,”which of course has been around forever. The pointis that we need to be open to all possibilities, to take the lessons that are almost always presented to us, and may have actually been sitting in front of us this whole time, and actually see them and learn from them.

For me, it is the realization that there are no coincidences… that things come to us precisely when we need them to. And forgive the long path that it took to get to this point, but this absolutely has to do with music and songs.Venice, a band I know and love has an amazing tune called “Bad Timing Song.”  I have heard it many times, but it came on random play yesterday and literally stopped me in my tracks… the lyrics hit me in a way they had never had before.

YES, I was going through a breakup… and YES, clearly I need to hear this message… but wow… just wow!!! I really… and I mean REALLY heard the lyrics, as if for the first time.

They have always been there… I have sung along to them… but clearly, given what I am going through and where I am at, they took on a new, personal and POWERFUL meaning.

“How many times have I dreamt of this scene
You coming back and you’re crying for me
Saying my name and wondering what went wrong

But I’m different now
And whatever I felt is gone
No love or revenge
Just another bad timing song.”

What is perhaps even CRAZIER is that they JUST DROPPED a new album… and there is a song on there that is even closer to where I am at in life. I was floored. You MUST check out Jacaranda Street!!! I know I guffaw, but I cannot tell you how good these guys are and how much I love this band… and these two connections have made that love even stronger!!!

“Stepping On That Bridge”

Again… the guys went in my brain and heart… knew what I was thinking and feeling… and then wrote a song about me! LOL.

And you think we are not ALL CONNECTED???!!!

The whole song is me… but here are some of the highlighted lyrics…

Verse 1:
“I don’t do well with change
I don’t do well without change as well
I’m on the branch, I’m on the limb
Time for me to sink or swim.”

Verse 2:
“I don’t do well with her
I don’t do well without her as well
I’m on the lam, I’m on the brink
Time for me to swim or sink
Time for me to swim or sink.”

“Whoa though it goes against my nature
Whoa gotta take a leap of faith
Whoa though I don’t know where it leads me
I’m stepping on that bridge anyway.”

So here is the lesson… be open to everything. Literally tell yourself, “I am open to the opportunity of __________.” (Thanks, Wally!!!)

Walk through the world with all of your senses wide open, and everything you need, will come to you… because everything you need is already there… and everything you need is ALREADY INSIDE OF YOU!!!

Be open to it ALL. Return to yourself, my friends. Be open to change. Take that leap of faith. Step on that bridge. Magical and meaningful and significant and powerful new tunes will come to you… and you will hear “old songs” with new ears.


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A Song A Day – Week One Recap

Day 1 – A Song A Day Keeps The Doctor Away
First Day of A Song A Day Keeps The Doctor Away!

Come on, did you expect something OTHER than Bruce?

“Growin’ Up” – Bruce Springsteen

Favorite lyric: “When they said sit down I stood up.”

On its face, a history of youth and childhood, but it goes much deeper and is, of course, an anthem of rebelliousness and exploration. Not just one of my favorite Bruce songs, but one of my favorite songs of all time.

Here are two versions: Day 2 – Two For Tuesday

“Rosalita” by Bruce Springsteen

No, this will not be a year of Bruce songs… And I did say more Bruce is coming… But this one is a celebration of joy, pure and simple… on the value of this song alone, but also every time I see it played live.

“It is proof of life,” to quote Bruce.

This is always in my Top 3 Bruce songs, though it may shift in placement depending on my mood and what I need. You’ll get my last of the three later on down the line, and a nice story to go along with it, which gives the song even more relevance. In the meantime, turn this one up and let Rock n’ Roll soothe your weary soul.

Favorite lyric:

“And your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money
Oh, your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money
Oh, so your daddy says he knows that I don’t have any money
Well, tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance
Because a record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance.”

“Don’t Stop Me Now” – By Queen

This one goes out to my cousin, Lori. Always one of my favorite Queen songs and it’s gotten a lot of recent attention from Bohemian Rhapsodyand some commercial. But I love the way it is used in Shaun Of The Dead, one of my favorite movies! I miss Freddie.

Favorite lyrics:
I’m a shooting star, leaping through the sky
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I’m a racing car, passing by like Lady Godiva
I’m gonna go, go, go
There’s no stopping me

I’m burnin’ through the sky, yeah
Two hundred degrees
That’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I’m traveling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic man out of you

Day 3 – “This Gift” by Glen Hansard

Today I am going with this powerful and stunning song that has gotten me through many things with its amazing message of hope. This song has made me cry and has made me strong.

This is one of those perfect songs, and every word and lyric has powerful resonance, but if I had to pick my favorite part, it is:

“Don’t hang your head in sorrow
Don’t give up just before you win
Don’t wait around for tomorrow
Open up your arms and let it in.”

While the video quality on this second one is not as great, this version with his niece is also amazing:

Day 4 – “Ghost Of A Chance” – By Rush

I will admit I am trying to plan a few days ahead to keep myself sane. But then something happens… like a song keeps coming up when my phone is in Shuffle mode. I mean that must be a sign, right? So I’m calling an audible… literally.

Neil Peartis one of my all-time favorite lyricists, and these are slightly skeptical, almost pessimistic, yet there is a small glimmer of hope… which pretty much describes where I am at right now in life. I think there is nothing wrong going through life with HEALTHY skepticism, as long as there is a stronger optimism to offset it. We all need hope. We don’t want to be pessimists, we want to be optimists, but we do need to look at things in a real and practical way. This song does that.

“I don’t believe in the stars or the planets
Or angels watching from above

(Actually, I do usually believe that, or used to… but not right now…)But I believe there’s a ghost of a chance
We can find someone to love
And make it last.”

Album Version:

Amazing Live Version:

Day 5 – “Waiting For My Real Life To Begin” by Colin Hay (and Thom Mooney)

Men At Workwas a pivotal band for me. One of my fondest memories was blasting the album Business As Usualin the cafeteria at Glen Rock High School as we prepared for a Nights Of Drama performance. They were one of our go to bands to pump us up and get us ready for the show. I will never forget the utter joy we all felt singing at the top of our lungs and dancing with reckless abandon… and if you have ever seen me dance, you know reckless abandon is one of my best moves.

So yes, I will be paying some MAW… but in the meantime, Colin Hay as a solo artist is astounding. The man can stand on stage with nothing but his voice and a guitar and absolutely mesmerize. His solo singer/songwriter renditions of Men At Work tunes are stunning… and songs like this are profound and beautiful.

I am a victim, as are many artists, of putting life on hold for an elusive dream. But real life is lived in the here and now. We must not kill the dream, but we must fully live real life now.

“And you say, be still my love
Open up your heart, let the light shine in
Don’t you understand
I already have a plan
I’m waiting for my real life to begin.” 6 – “Follow The Light” By Travis

I know… I know… these songs are supposed to inspire… but sometimes sitting with a little sadness will bring us joy and light… and yes, INSPIRE!!! And I can only be where I am in the here and now…

But speaking of light! LOL… This one does a bit of both.

This amazing song by the stunning Scottish band Travis says it all and says so much… and yes, it also came on in my Shuffle mode… Granted, I am hitting hard a 139-song playlist I created whose name I will keep private for now… though it may become obvious to some…

The good news for all of you is that I also created another playlist as my remedy to this one, and it is filled with shiny, happy people songs… Why yes, that song WILL be on the list.

I’m not sure how Travis went into my brain, grabbed these lyrics and went back in time to record this in 1999, but wow!

“Me I’m on the longest road
Where everything’s overload
But I’ve got my heart and soul
So don’t throw me overboard
Cause it’s alright
Just follow the light
And don’t be afraid of the dark.”

And yes, there will be a certain song (or two) of theirs from 1999 that will be played soon. Can you guess which one it is?

Enjoy your weekend my friends.

Day 7 – “Directions” by Nahko And Medicine For The People

Seems like a perfect Sunday song! An example of how something simple can be so unbelievably powerful. And seeing this live is even more the case.

The song, and the band for that matter, is a tribute to tradition, a tribute to family and the realization that our ancestors were not only wise, but will guide us if we ask for it… pray for it. When they are here, and sadly, even when they are not.

30 words repeated… and that is it! POWERFUL.

And the exclamation of “Hoka!” which I believe means TO FLY! Wow.

And so as I look out in every direction, I also pray and ask for guidance. From G-d and also from my family who came before me…

“Grandfather I’m calling on you
Need your guidance now
Grandmother I’m calling on you
Need your guidance now.”



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