By George, Bye George – The Music Never Dies

The world is in a spin… the load seems extra heavy, especially today.

Come back! 15 years gone but never out of our minds and hearts and ears… EVER.

Uncertainty, confusion and depression seem to reign. But there is sun… and it comes out each and every day… Let us hang our hats on that hope…

Let us be hopeful and optimistic… but always skeptical. We must always question… but WE MUST ALWAYS SEEK OUT TRUTH AND LOVE!

rs-george-harrison-1f4ac072-0d9c-41cf-8776-a48a68839277There seems to be two dates a year when certain music makes me sad… The day an artist I love was born, and the day they died.

Most of the time, though not always, their music makes me happy. I can listen to it without much thought that they are gone… without the reality of their passing.

I thrill in the music… the notes, the chords, the way the piece moves…
I ponder the lyrics and relate to them by what is going on in my own life… I tap into the universal truths they hit on.
I take the song for what it is… or what it was… and like any great piece of art, that song or album can change for me, depending on where I am in life, what emotional state I am in.

Great music does that… it grows with us. It starts off as one thing and becomes another. Like a great family movie that we watch as a child and enjoy on one level… and then constantly discover new things about as we grow older, become adults and have children of our own.

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Watching George Harrison and The Beatles had a similar arc. They started off as boys, with an almost innocent quality… and then, always in the public eye, they changed and grew… affected by the world and its joys, as well as its horrors.

Today marks the 15th anniversary of George’s passing. February 25 will mark what would have been his 74th birthday. There are reasons to be sad, of course, as his human body is no longer with us. He is no longer actively making music… entertaining… speaking out.

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And yet his soul is so alive… not only through the music he created as part of the greatest band of all time, The Beatles… but through his solo work and countless projects, including the always fun The Traveling Willburys.

mti3odgzmtq1mtu5nzawnduwHe is alive because of the good he left behind… and a true desire to have peace and love reign.

The radio can be deceiving at times… because we will hear a song… and for a moment… whether they are or not… that person… that artist or band is ALIVE. There they are, playing in our ears… touching our souls and heart… challenging our minds…

We take it for granted at times… though 2016 especially has shown us how fragile life is… and how our heroes… our own musical landscape can be drastically altered… decimated…

In fact, 2016 CAN SUCK IT…

David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Sharon Jones, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Paul Kantner… and I’ll add my favorite actor, Gene Wilder to that list… and that list is staggering…

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So today is one of those sad days… because we are remembering the day George died… the songs have an extra weight and gravitas… extra emotional punch… But let us also celebrate the life… the music…

Let a smile and some joy pass through those tears… and let us recognize the amazing impact he had on not only music, but causes and charities… and on life and making the world a better place.

Let us all have LOVE and PEACE ON EARTH

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Hineni… Here I Am… A Hallelujah For Leonard Cohen

I was all set to write a very rare political post on this page. Normally, I avoid that like the plague, as I want this blog to be about music, but the world changed two days ago and there are things that need to be addressed… spoken about… shared… or at least cleared out of my head. Brace yourselves… that post is coming. It has to… If nothing else, for me. And believe me, I know what politics does to people… to friends… to families… I get it. I see normally sweet people fight on my Facebook page in the most vicious ways when it comes to politics… and this election was the most disgusting, depressing and divisive I have ever seen.

But silence is death and speech is our inalienable right. So speak out we must. And speak out we will… Or at least I will.

11cohen_leonard_web1-master768For now, I am in a different kind of mourning. It was announced that Leonard Cohen passed away today at the age of 82. Not a lot of details are coming forth… yet… so I cannot help but think there may be a Bowie-type revelation… Meaning he was sick for a while… knew death was coming.

One need only listen to the first and title song off his amazing new album, You Want It Darker to sense this…

“Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the help that never came
You want it darker

Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord.”

When I first heard this song a few days ago, I had a profound, but very different reaction. Like so many of Leonard’s songs… I seem to find them when I need them most, and this album has been hitting me hard.
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“Hineni” is a Hebrew word that means “Here I Am.” It is used in the Torah when G-d calls to Abraham, and he answers “Hineni.” It’s more than just saying I am here… acknowledging one’s presence and location… It is “Here I Am”… I am ready for whatever is needed of me… I am willing to do what is necessary…
“Hineni, hineni
I’m ready, my lord.”

This idea has been something I have even been studying for a while… but it came up in two amazing ways within the last few days… which made this song even more powerful for me… coincidental… remarkable…

Hineni is a Jewish and philosophical point of view… being ready to serve… ready to give of yourself… to make sacrifices and help a family member, friend or community… which is why so many Temples have Hineni groups… volunteers who help people when they are sick, or in mourning or for whatever. It is an unbelievably human and powerful idea.

And here’s the thing about Leonard Cohen… He was, essentially, a brilliant, a Jewish philosopher. There is so much about Judaism you can learn from his songs. And yet he was also ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1996, after living in a Buddhist monastery for five years. Both religions, as well as Christianity, find their way into his songs… because he writes about human beings… all human beings… universal human beings…

And one thing that is abundantly clear to me, is that we are all, essentially… at our core… the same.

We need a roof over our heads… food and water in our belly… and love and kindness in our hearts.

Ironically, the other recent connection to the phrase Here I Am came up in Day 4 of the Deepak Chopra/Oprah 21-Day Meditation Challenge. Deepak talks about how we must be there for those we are in relationships with… our light must go out into the world… our love must cause freedom… we must be open to give… and we do so by saying, “Here I Am.” For our lovers… for our family… for our friends… and yes, if you believe, for our G-d… “Here I Am.”

Leonard was here… Leonard was present. And while I initially did not care for his voice (much the same as my initial reaction to Tom Waits) as I grew more wise and sophisticated and more learned in the ways of music, I came to love him deeply… to appreciate his sounds and words… his poetry and song… the stories he told and the worlds he revealed… the humanity he enlightened and shed light on.

I am so grateful I was able to see him at the Nokia Theatre on his last tour. He moved me and entertained me and made a soul searing impression.

And yes, I still want one of his hats!
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He had a deep yearning for understanding and knowledge… amazing insight into the human condition… He was a poet and story-teller… psychologist and philosopher… a singer/songwriter on another plane.

“Hallelujah” almost always brings me to tears… Jeff Buckley’s version… k.d. Lang’s… Rufus Wainwright… and of course Leonard’s… So many of his songs move me that way… And we will need them now, more than ever before.

Thoughts out to Elliot, his road manager… and to his family and friends and fellow musicians.

Let us honor him… Let us honor human beings… and Let us honor the world, by saying “Here I Am”… I am ready to help… to serve… to take care of… “Hineni. Hineni.”

Thank you, Leonard… Thank you…

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Fun In The Sun… Mostly! Strunz & Farah, Michael McDonald and Hall & Oates Rock Westlake Village At The Bluesun Mucis Festival

Ah, modern technology… Apparently this did not post a few weeks back… so better late than never… Enjoy!

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There are many things one can do on a golf course… Caddyshack, anyone?

I usually shank or hook… lay my balls out in the tall grass… or a hazard… or on the beach for a nice, sandy suntan… and yes, sometimes even for a lovely swim in the water. And yet, strangely, as long as the back holds out, it is still a joyous game… mostly. Okay, maybe not that often… It is when you are not cursing and complaining and talking about how frustrating a game it really is…

Of course, a good cigar and a flask of some really nice Scotch seem to go a long way… as does the location of the course. Hawaii or Pebble Beach overlooking the ocean does not suck.

So on Saturday, Sept. 3 a bunch of us grabbed our clubs (not really) trekked out to Westlake Village, CA… Okay, yes it is ten minutes from my house… and checked into the Bluesun Music Festival’s Innaugural Event.

We were not actually ON the golf course… probably a much safer bet from a divot and destructive point of view… but on the Driving Range, a place I seem to have much more success. It always works better in practice than in theory, right?

So how did I drive?  Well… Let’s just say this was not the easiest of shots.

Were there glitches? Yes. Food trucks ran out of food… only one out of eight wine vendors showed up… and there were other things I won’t mention here… as I’d like this to be purely about the music.

But… I would most definitely like to give special shout outs to Kale from Monster, a phenomenal line of audio products, and all the folks from DeLiese Cellars, who really stepped up when faced with thirsty crowds. Also, thanks to Linda and Matt from the Festival who were doing all they could.

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But let jus discuss the music… sweet music.

For those who do not know Grammy nominated Strunz & Farah, allow me to introduce them. Check this live performance from 2013 out!!!  They are guitar virtuosos who play some of the most enjoyable “World” music I have ever heard. Their styles and influences include Flamenco, Latin, Middle Eastern, Jazz and World Fusion. This makes sense since Jorge Strunz was born in Costa Rica, and Ardeshir Farah, comes from Iran.

I remember getting into them at college and thinking I was so sophisticated! 1992’s Américas is my personal favorite.

Some sound issues and a less than attentive crowd did not deter them, and they played a blistering set… that would also stand as an incredible guitar master class.

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The amazing actor, Robert Davi was on next and sounded great on a whole slew of standards. What a showman!

Then came the incomparable Michael McDonald. The last time I saw him play out here his voice was shot and I was afraid that his iconic pipes might be gone for good, but he sounded amazing. From the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan to his great solo records, his voice is one of the most unique in all of rock… that rich and resounding rasp that just cuts through the din and goes straight to the rhythm and soul. Mmm! He covered almost all of what we wanted to hear and got the crowd to their feet and dancing.

Some of the issues of the day began to fade… Not disappear… but fade. Good music is definitely a soother.

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Covers of “What The World Needs Now Is Love” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” along with monster hits: “Sweet Freedom”, “Minute By Minute”, “What A Fool Believes” and “Takin’ It To The Streets” had us all singing along and up on our feet. Music DEFINITELY does that!!!

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Headliners Hall & Oates played a way too short set, but covered many of the songs we wanted to hear, though NOT “Kiss On My List”. Hey, it’s a testament to a band that they can have so many hits they cannot play them all.

They also sounded great and really seemed to be enjoying themselves… and watching John during the sax solos was a lot of fun. Seeing musicians take such pride and joy in watching other musicians, especially when they are sharing the same stage, is one of those magical moments a live concert can provide… and knowing that an artist or band is still thrilled by the music… their own music… and even songs they have played over and over… is what makes concert going a unique experience. Every show is different, because every audience is different… even if the setlist does not alter much from night to night.

They opened with “Maneater” and in addition to a great cover of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” hit us with “She’s Gone”, “Sara Smile” and of course, “Rich Girl”. This is another band who could have played another hour and still left us wanting more.

There is something magical about an outdoor concert, especially a festival or an all-day affair. Immersing oneself into the music is like receiving an infusion of energy and bliss… a life force. And the fact that this was almost literally in my backyard made it even better… so here’s to hoping the kinks can be ironed out… and that next year is smoother and better.

We need more music… Heck the world needs it now more than ever.

 

 

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For Jerome, For Gene, And For Mr. Willy Wonka… A Loving Tribute To Gene Wilder

14107871_10154037627924613_8514646103482544632_oThis is a hard one to write…
All for a man I knew… and yet, did not.

I have the soundtrack to Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory playing in the background… and when “Pure Imagination” came on I lost it… all of it.

“Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to three.”
“Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world of pure imagination.”

Tears… Lots of them… Wow…

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I remember heading over to Jeff G.’s house after junior high school (yeah, that’s what we called it back East) or maybe high school… and watching Blazing Saddles on some fancy contraption his dad had. It wasn’t a Beta Max or Reel to Reel or VCR… but something that I had never seen before. The key, however, was that it allowed us to watch movies at home. And if I recall there were some first run movies… Maybe… Hmmm. Amazing technology back then… and he had it in his house!

We laughed our asses off those afternoons… and yes, part of it was that we were young and silly… and so cuss words and fart jokes made us roll on the floor… or ROTFL as the kids say now.

That was actually my re-introduction to Gene Wilder… and yet another film that would be placed high on my all-time favorite movie list. It’s still way up there for me.

Those who know me… and by default, know my email address, know how much the film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory means to me.

It is my most favorite movie… my comfort film… my go to when I’m sad or when dreams seem too far away and a happily ever after seems unattainable.

I saw it when it first came out, and like my daughter, was “creeped out” by certain things… Though for her it is the Oompa Loompas… and for me it was Slugworth and the “Acid trip” tunnel. I have seen the movie countless times… on the big screen… on the small screen… and on any screen in between. It is, in a word, magical.

Obviously the credit goes to the wonderful story by Roald Dahl, the writer of the screenplay, David Seltzer and the film’s director Mel Stuart. The cast is so spot on and absolutely perfect and I will never forget having Roy Kinnear sign an autograph for me backstage after a National British Theatre production in Chicago, and look at me so inquisitively as I told him that Willy Wonka was my favorite film.

Sorry… tears…

I cherish and adore this film… and of course, the main reason is the merry prankster, Gene Wilder.

His performance here… and so many of his performances are wild and bold… daring and provocative… hilarious… and funny to the point of gut laughter, nose snorts and tears… and yet always… ALWAYS anchored with a deep soul and a gentle heart.

The very notion that life could change for the better, that dreams could come true and that a good, sweet and innocent child could live happily ever after was empowering. The movie actually gave me hope that nice guys could finish first and that anything was possible.

I remember many years ago going on a quest… One I am still on, I might add… to find a copy of the original screenplay. I did not want a transcription… but a shooting script… a copy of something the very cast and Gene may have actually held in his hand.

I called his production company and had a great conversation with the very talented director Andy Fickman, who was working development for Gene at the time. It seemed that back then, people did not keep things like that… and while I did not get to actually speak to Gene, Andy did reach out to him on my behalf… but no script.

They put me in touch with Mel Stuart, and while he also did not have a copy of the script to share, we had a most amazing conversation about the film. He was not at all surprised that my love of the movie had grown each year… and that with each viewing I saw new things… discovered nuances and subtleties… and understood a heck of a lot more… jokes, innuendo, etc.

He told me that he made the film for his children, with the idea that they would watch it and grow up with it… and then share it with their own children… and on and on. He made a point, like Roald Dahl’s writing, never to talk down to kids… which is part of the reason the film holds up and is so timeless. It literally grows along with us… alongside of us… It expands and develops, and each viewing brings me something new and undiscovered… Amazing!

While I have yet to get my hands on an actual script, I can quote the movie verbatim… and “We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams” is not only my favorite quote ever… but my go to mantra when times get tough.

And to give full credit, the quote is from the amazing poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy, who actually coins the term movers and shakers right here!!!

“We are the music makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams
World-losers and world-forsakers
On whom the pale moon gleams
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever, it seems.”

THIS is the kind of film Willy Wonka is!

So that started my love affair with Gene Wilder. From there it went backwards and forwards, in terms of the chronology of his movies…

I watched him in The ProducersBonnie And Clyde (his first film role)… Young FrankensteinBlazing SaddlesThe Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter BrotherSilver StreakThe Frisco KidStir Crazy, and on and on…

And not just once… I watched all of those movies over and over and over! I still do!

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Young Frankenstein is my second favorite Gene Wilder film… and may very well be my all-time favorite comedy. His performance is stunning and riveting and absolutely hysterical. Wild and manic, yet always in control. And with Gene, there was always a kindness… a gentle quality… In a way, he reminded me and reminds me of my Dad… funny as hell, but so sweet and gentle… kind and caring…

Part of Gene’s remarkable skill is that you get lost in his characters and in his films, and yet as I started to realize I wanted to be an actor, I studied those films… intensely. I wanted to see what he was doing… figure it out, if I could.

Listening to Gene talk about how he worked with the sheep in Woody Allen’s Everything you always wanted to know about sex* should be required for anyone studying acting and film acting. That is more than a brilliant comic… that is a wise, thoughtful and methodical actor working out a role.

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Jerome Silberman was born on June 11, 1933. He had a rough childhood and was bullied and assaulted at school for being the only Jewish boy there. But at age 13, his study of theatre and acting began and he went off to study the same at the University of Iowa.

Getting cast in Mother Courage and Her Children, starring Anne Bancroft, was probably “the” moment of his career, as she introduced him to her boyfriend Mel Brooks, who promised Gene that they would be working together.

Three years later he read with Zero Mostel, to co-star with him in Springtime for Hitler, which of course would become 1968’s The Producers.

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My favorite Gene Wilder story is the one he tells about his one condition for taking the role of Willy Wonka. When Mel Stuart offered him the part, he said:
“When I make my first entrance, I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I’m walking on and stands straight up, by itself… but I keep on walking, until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.”

Mel Stuart asked him why this was so important, and he said: “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”

That my friends, is an actor and a story teller working at the height of this craft… and why Gene Wilder was, quite literally, a genius.

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When a celebrity passes away, especially one we idolize, and one who works in a business or industry that we work in or strive to work in… it comes with a mixture of emotions. I have stopped several times to tears and crying and a sad, lonely feeling of emptiness and loss… and also regret… regret for not fulfilling my desire to be like Gene… to have that kind of career… to create some of the same magic he did. And while it is not too late… it is NEVER too late… so much time and life has already passed me by.

And I regret never having met him. I came close… so close. I once saw him on the streets in NYC and could not muster the courage to approach him. I so wanted to say hello… but I was in awe… and it seemed like he was focused on other things, so I chose to respect his privacy. I would have loved to have had some time with him… a conversation… even a handshake… but alas… I did not.

I so wish I could “Strike that, reverse it…”

But life goes on and we all need to remember:
“If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world
There’s nothing to it.”

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On August 29, 2016 at the age of 83 we lost a legend… a most gentle and kind soul…

“But don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted…
He lived happily ever after.”

Gene Wilder made so many of us happy… his films continue to provide the happily ever after… and he certainly gave each and every one of us a Golden Ticket.

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RIP to my favorite actor in the world… and tell Gilda and Anne, Marty, Madeline and Richard, and anyone else you see hello and thanks from me.

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Sharing Music And The Modern Mix Tape – The True Power Of A Cultural Exchange

bestworldmusicof2015I wish I could recall the source of this information, but something that has always stood out to me is this…

When countries have a strong cultural exchange… and export and import music and the arts to each other, they have a much richer, deeper and more positive relationship. The simple act of sharing music and dance and the arts can and does often repair world relations.

When we talk about trade agreements, this should really be on the top of the list. How better to truly understand someone than not just walking in their shoes… but dancing in them… singing in them!

Music connects us like nothing else, and even if we do not understand the exact language or lyric… there is great power in a melody… in a chord… or even in one, single note.

How better to learn about and relate to another culture, than through music and song and dance… art and poetry…

And sharing music is perhaps the most essential part of this… and that does not mean file sharing! I am not advocating taking revenue away from artists who bust their ass to make some amazing music.

I am simply talking about word of mouth… a post on social media… or, the old-fashioned. OLD School way of having people over to your house… cranking up the stereo… and excitedly putting on a new song or album, for family and friends to hear.

Music is love. It is connection. It forms an emotional bond. A love song… a first dance… a first kiss… a first… well… the background to a night of romance… the soundtrack to a burgeoning relationship.

We track our relationships with song… and sadly, too often, our break ups. Music is there for the highs and lows. It is there to inspire and comfort.

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I remember the days of the Mix Tape… Countless nights in High School and College… working with my turntable… dual cassette deck and eventual CD player…

I still put so much thought into sharing music with people… with making playlists for parties or… yes, I will admit… romance. If you are a regular reader of this blog you will hopefully recall my series Music To Make Love To

Music is a great seducer… and I hope that worked out for you in some small way.

And sharing music is like sharing kisses… hugs… gentle touches… warm embraces. Music, at least to me, is everything.

To quote High Fidelity, one of my favorite movies and especially “musically” based movies:
“First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”

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So that’s for the recorded world… but what about live music? I have written extensively about this… about the communal power of a live show… about experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment with someone you care about… or even a stadium or lawn full of strangers.

Every single concert is a unique being… Even if you have seen the artist multiple times, and their set list is very similar from show to show.

It’s about where you are mentally… both you and the band…
Where you are physically…

And knowing that each and every night there will be subtle differences, or major changes…
A surprise guest… a surprise reaction to a spontaneous moment… something new and exciting, if we are open to it.

Music is the great equalizer… the universal language… the precursor to the language of love…

Music brings us together… even when we are moving apart. Music is everything.

So share that band… post that song… support local artists… go to live music whenever and wherever you can.

The world is a pretty small and wonderful place, especially when we are all in the same rhythm… moving to the same beat… singing the same melody… and dancing, side by side, hand in hand, heart to heart.’

“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it… “  (William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)

And on and on and on…
And you tell two friends… and they’ll tell two friends…
And on and on and on…

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Boston’s Boston… A Perfect Album Out Of The Gate

I long for the day of the album… and I don’t just mean vinyl, which is back in a BIG WAY…
I mean the days when artists came up with CONCEPTS… THEMES… COHESIVENESS…
Where ALBUM ART tied it all together, was thought out… and actually meant something. (Though follow that link for a most interesting and ironic read!)

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Top 40 radio is all about the single… the one hit they can play over and over… and that one hit can sell an entire record… or maybe not. Spotify and iTunes has enabled us… yes, ENABLED… to buy one or two songs… to not listen from start to finish… or, in the case of Spotify, to not buy at all.

So while records are back, record sales are not. Most artists, it seems, now make their money on the road. And major stars… most of them… are involved with major money grabs. I cannot tell you how many concerts I would have to loved to have seen, but had to sit out due to ticket prices. Yes, I am talking to you Sting and Peter Gabriel… and Rush

I get it… grab it while you can, but really??? Concert going has, once again, become a rich man’s sport… and music for the masses is no longer the rallying cry of the day. For those of us with a limited concert budget, it is much better to see three or four shows at smaller venues than one at a stadium or arena…

And yes, perhaps I am being hypocritical with my multi-Bruce shows, but that accounts for the majority of my budget and is most definitely by choice. There are not too many artists out there whose live performances actually infuse you with life and joy and energy and spirit. I was not happy that Bruce upped his ticket price by almost 50% since the last time around… but I went… and I am happier for it. Poorer, but happier.

Thanks to Al Gore (Ha!), the internet has also given the power back to musicians. You no longer need a major label to promote you. You can put out a record and sell it yourself. Easy? Hardly… but it can be done.

However, this too is an embarrassment of riches. There is SO MUCH amazing music out there, it is hard to discover all of it. It takes public radio stations like KCSN (Hi DJ Julie Slater!), KCRW, WXPN, etc. to hear new music on the airwaves… (And also a shout out to Christian James Hand’s great new show on 100.3 The Sound) and a whole lot of word of mouth and discussions with friends to tap into a new band. But we do what we can…

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Last week I had the opportunity (thanks, Brad) and the privilege of seeing Dennis DeYoung (founder of Styx)… and Boston, a band I had never seen live. A friend of mine calls them fake Boston, which I get, as the only original member is founder and principal songwriter, Tom Scholz… who also happens to be an MIT grad and a genius on many levels…

Lead singer Brad Delp sadly killed himself in 2007… a whole other discussion, right there… So sad…

But, the band is what the band is… and while they will never be the same without the searing and soaring vocals of Brad… they were quite amazing and fun… and, to a person, a truly wonderful group of people. This is an old, classic stage show… the lights… the lasers… the videos… the stage poses… and the incredible onstage charisma… THIS is Rock n’ Roll!

Gary Pihl on rhythm and lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals.

Jeff Neal on drums, percussion, backing vocals.

Tommy DeCarlo on lead vocals, keyboards, percussion.

Tracy Ferrie on bass guitar, backing vocals.

Beth Cohen on keyboards, vocals, rhythm guitar.

Okay… Fine!!!  I have a little crush on Beth! And I loooove that this is Jeff’s “summer job,” as he is a teacher in Maine the rest of the year. And yes, I told him I would love to have this kind of summer job!

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The concert was so enjoyable, in fact, that it had me go back and pull all my Boston albums out… Okay, CDs… my albums are in my parent’s basement in Jersey!

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I have not stopped listening since then. From the brilliant, opening fade in of “More Than A Feeling” to the closing of “Let Me Take You Home Tonight”, this is an iconic, time-defining, life-defining, eight song, perfect album.

Yes, I know many people who did not like “Arena” or “Stadium” rock bands… who dismissed their music as being nothing more than loud anthems… but anthems bring people together and on to their feet… anthems bond us and get us to see the similarities in all of our lives…

But Boston is really quite more than that… If you take the time to really delve into the lyrics, you’ll find a deep humanity… a yearning… a rebellion… and THAT is what Rock n’ Roll has always been…

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“I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away

It’s more than a feeling (more than a feeling)
When I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
And I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)

Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin’ away.”

He’s writing about how OTHER records and music start his day… How he gets lost in that music… and how it heals and saves us… and yet, in a brilliant twist, THIS song… THIS record is now what WE are…or were listening to… to start OUR DAY! To get lost in… to heal us and save us and give us so much more than a feeling. Boom! The power of music is so visceral… it informs us… every cell and every heartbeat can be matched to the beat of a drum… the strum of a chord. We find commonality in a lyric.

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Universal themes are timeless… hit across all races and creeds… religions and beliefs… They are UNIVERSAL for that reason… because they have tapped into something we can all relate to.

How can you NOT like this record???  I mean really.

My windows have been rolled down for almost a week straight… and I have been blasting this…

The crazy of the world is all around us… Crazies and craziness abound… We all continue to struggle with so much… It hasn’t changed… Music gives us answers… keeps us sane… reminds us that we are in this wild journey together… so lift up those lighters (or dreaded cell phones)… but don’t record… or watch something in front of you from a tiny ass screen…

Put your arms around the person next to you… move and sway to the music… and rock your ass off!!!

“Now if you’re feelin’ kinda low ’bout the dues you’ve been paying
Future’s coming much too slow
And you wanna run but somehow you just keep on stayin’
Can’t decide on which way to go

I understand about indecision
But I don’t care if I get behind
People livin’ in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind”

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Tom Rhodes’ Who You Were – A Beautiful And Musical Legacy

I was sent this album a few weeks ago and have not stopped listening to it since. It comes out next Friday, July 15… and for those lucky enough to live in LA (something you’ll not often hear me say), the album release show is the same night, at the famed and fabulous Hotel Cafe.

4PAN1TWho You Were is immediately familiar… and familiar gives us comfort… it clues us into something we already know. That’s why all that food we grew up with, that sure as hell ain’t good for us, is called comfort food. It makes us feel good and helps us reminisce and reconnect. But if that’s all there is, it’s redundant… It may be pleasant, but there’s no point.

This artist and this album is different. We start off knowing… yes… but by the last note, we may understand where we came from, but we definitely want to explore more and we certainly want to grow. Stellar vocals, impeccable songwriting and expert musicianship make this a true stand out.

The opening track “Crumbling Roads” will have you immediately thinking Ray LaMontagne… that smooth gruff… that rocking “Velvet Fog.” You also get colors of John Hiatt, AJ Croce and Jason Isbell… And yet after a short while you’ll be hearing nothing but Tom.

Singer-songwriter, folk, country, Americana and a bit of alt. country Rock n’ Roll. This is definitely in my wheel house!

Who You Were is the fifth full length record put out by this Oakland, CA musician, and it also happens to be my introduction to Tom. If this is where I am starting, I am happy to go back and listen to more… to see where he came from… And certainly to see where he’s going. He’s been at this for over 10 years, and was even on The Voice, Season 9 last year!

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It was recorded at Gawain Mathews studio in Pinole, CA, the album features:
Oscar Westesson on bass
Andrew Laubacher on drums
Tim Marcus on guitar and pedal steel
And The Lady Crooners, Kyle M. Terrizzi, and Kelly McFarling on background vocals.

The record is a tribute to his father, who sadly passed away last Fall, and while each song may not be about him, it was influenced and inspired by his father’s wisdom and storytelling. The closer “Who You Were” is a loving gut punch… so beautiful and sweet. You can hear the love and admiration, the hurt and loss… but the legacy and torch has clearly been passed… And isn’t that the very purpose of our lives?

“These stories aren’t just learned from my dad, but this is me taking on that role as he passed away and sort of left that role… This is the conversation I would want to have with my kid, if I had one. I wanted to write about the things that a father tells a son or daughter.”

Tom’s philosophy is simple and pure, but something too many musicians forget.
“To me, singing songs is about passionately connecting with the thing I’m talking about, and if you’re singing about something that you actually believe in it’s really easy to get there.”

While I truly love this record, song to song, “Every Damn Day” is easily my favorite track on the album. It so speaks to the journey I am on right now… exploration and self-exploration… looking outward and inward… keeping an open mind, yet balancing it with a healthy skepticism and always asking life’s big questions..

And its message is also so very vital for this crazy world. It’s been another rough week, and another all too vivid reminder that we all need to join arms and hands and hearts… to move forward in peace and wisdom… to be human… to be love. Thanks, Tom!

“Find your love and give it away
Work yourself down to bone
Reach inside and turn their lights on

Then do it again
Then do it again
And do it again until every damn day till you find out

You are not alone

Throw yourself into the cold
Forge yourself from smoke and fire
Question everything you think you’ve ever known

Then do it again
Then do it again
And you do it again until every damn day till you find out

You are not alone

Feel your heartbeat slowing down
Let the all be all around
Catch your breath when you lose your way

You’ll find it again
You’re gonna find it again
You’ll find it again every damn day
You’re gonna find out

You are not alone

Know yourself from skin to soul
Forgive yourself the past is gone
Open up your eyes and see that you are home
Because you are home

Then do it again
Do it again
And you do it again and every damn day

Till you find out that you are not alone”

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