Tag Archives: KCRW

The Skirball, The Stars And The Sounds Of Silence – A Remarkable Tribute To Paul Simon, With Sean Watkins And Friends

I used to think that LA was a cultural void. I mean that was its reputation for years and years, right? I think perhaps it is the car culture that gets in the way. LA is not a street walking, neighborhood town. It is a get in your car and drive city. That makes going out and taking advantage of events a challenge at times. And yes, brutal traffic and overpriced parking can dampen an evening pretty quickly.

And yet, I will say that things have dramatically improved in the years since I have been living here. At least I notice the artistic, musical and cultural offerings much more, though I have always been paying attention. So maybe things are just better.

Last night at the Skirball, things were great.

The surprise charge for parking aside, which only came in a night before confirmation email, getting to the Skirball was fairly easy. Getting seats… well… that was a bit tricky, too… and many folks were not happy. Lesson learned about getting into the outdoor area faster and earlier and putting down those jackets and sweaters!

Take out those two elements and the having to stand in the back, and the evening was pure musical joy. I highly recommend getting there for one of these musical nights and for the fantastic Paul Simon: Words & Music exhibit (thru Sept 3).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the amazing Skirball and to co-presenter The Bluegrass Situation, (and Amy) whose goal is to support a “new generation of roots and Americana musicians reinventing the genre while deeply connected to its history.”

Thank you to the sponsors, including KCRW, KPFK, Pepsi, US Bank, The LA County Arts Commission and the Department of Cultural Affairs.

And of course, a most special and grateful thank you to the amazing artists and modern-day troubadours who filled the warm evening with such soulful and harmonious tunes.

This was the first Sunset Concert of the season and the program American Tune featured Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour, Works Progress Administration), Cary Brothers, Gaby Moreno, Joey Ryan (half of Milk Carton Kids), Madison “Made” Cunningham and the Bee Eaters, celebrating “the legacy of Paul Simon and the past, present, and future of America’s vital and vibrant singer-songwriter community.”

A DJ set by dublab’s Liz Warner started things off.

The first round consisted of Paul Simon or Simon And Garfunkel songs, and Cary Brothers’ rendition of  my favorite S&G tune “The Only Living Boy In New York” slayed me. I have been a fan of his for a while, (Under Control And Who You Are are album must listens) and just figured out that he may be a fellow Northwestern Wildcat!  Go Cats!!!

The second round was made up of songs by artists who influenced Paul, so we got some Everly Brothers, and a fantastic Antonio Carlos Jobim song performed by Gaby Moreno and Sean Watkins.

And part of what makes Joey Ryan and Milk Carton Kids such a great act, aside from ridiculous harmonies and insane musicianship (Another Day/Another Time: Celebrating The Music Of Inside Llewyn Davis concert is an absolute MUST SEE), is his/their fantastic sense of humor and patter. This was on full display last night, especially when he talked about how hard it is to write a great political song and then broke out the Louvin Brothers’ “Satan Is Real.”. The appreciative and mostly anti-DT crowd loved the reference and there was no question which devil he was singing that song for and about.

Round three consisted of originals and gave us a stunner from Madison Cunningham that had Joni Mitchell all over it. I need to track that one down… and a new one from our evening’s intrepid and self-deprecating (and apparently home-schooled… his joke) leader, Sean Watkins.

I loved how the versatile Bee Eaters (Tashina Clarridge on 5-string fiddle, her brother Tristan Clarridge on cello and Simon Chrisman on hammered dulcimer) were able to plug in to almost any song, including a spontaneous fill in with Cary.

Everyone sounded great… looked great (lighting was top notch), and with the courtyard and LA skies in the background, this was a most wonderful night!

Los Angeles is lucky to call all of these musicians home-town talent, though they come from places far and wide… so yeah, LA’s cultural and musical scene is alive, vibrant and essential. Come on out and support it whenever you can!

Now if I can just keep my bluegrass watered and healthy…

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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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Storytelling Through Song And Stage – The Decemberists Rock And Regale The Greek

For some reason this did not post last week… so you get it now!!!

The Decemberists At The Greek – Sat. May 2, 2015
A HUGE SHOUT OUT TO KCRW and their ticket contests!!! It SO pays to be a member and support this great station.

What makes us human, I believe, is the art of storytelling. We have been telling stories since our cave man days, which has been proven through the discoveries of cave wall drawings and paintings.

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Clearly it has evolved over the years, with the invention of spoken language, the written word and the printing press, books, etc.

Today, Pixar films are considered amongst the best storytelling of all time. How can one ever forget the absolutely brilliant and moving opening of Up; which was able to tell the most poignant love story in several minutes, with no words or dialogue. So powerful… so moving. Just thinking about it makes me emotional.

images As I watched another of my favorite bands, The Decemberists, at the Greek Theatre this past Saturday night (May 2), I realized how much good music really is, essentially, storytelling. It uses music and lyrics to create characters, images, situations and themes… real or imagined. And when you see a band live, the enthusiasm, the energy, the interaction, the dance, the staging, the lighting is all part of the storytelling… and used to create those tales… to bring them to life, in a once-in-a-lifetime way… No two performances are every exactly the same.

“And if only for a second
(Only for a second)
And if only for a time
(Only for a time)

And if only for a second
(Only for a second)
And if only for a time
We’ll be alive
We’ll be alive…”

The Decemberists “Cavalry Captain”

This song is off their stunningly beautiful new record What A Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. I adore this track and the entire album, and I can tell you that for those two or so hours at the Greek, everyone there was alive. How do we hold on to that? How do we keep that upbeat, glorious feeling going… and move it into our daily lives?

At a concert we get the story of the song and hopefully, sometimes, the story behind the song. It is communication at its purest form, because storytelling is a retelling of history, a retelling of the past, but also a wish for the future… a desire to have things be a certain way. Ideally it is a way for us to learn from our past… and create a new scenario… hopefully.

This is what human lives are. We think… we feel… we have memories. We talk about our family and relatives. We talk about our childhood… We learn from it… we grow from it. We talk about our dreams. We talk about our goals. We talk to each other about life and love. We bond over words… and music… which is why the arts… theatre, live music, orchestras, symphonies, concerts, performances, paintings, sculptures… are so vital and important to humanity. Through them we realize that we are all very, very similar… and have a common bond, a common thread, a common DNA, both literal and metaphorical. THIS is what makes us human beings… musical, theatrical and yes, sometimes too dramatic human beings.

The Decemberists took us on a journey through folk, Americana and good old Rock n’ Roll. They were vital and joyous and they seemed to truly love what they were doing. That makes a HUGE difference to a show and how much it affects and moves us. Yes, they are professionals… Yes, this is a job which should be taken seriously… but it is music… MUSIC… It HAS TO BE FUN!!! If it is not, and not a celebration and joyful, then it is lost.

The opener, Lucius was the same way. They loved to be performing for us, yes… but it was something more… a connection… a human connection.

SETLIST

  • The Singer Addresses His Audience
  • Cavalry Captain
  • Down by the Water
  • Hank Eat Your Oatmeal / Calamity Song
  • Billy Liar
  • Philomena
  • The Wrong Year
  • Make You Better
  • Carolina Low
  • The Crane Wife 1 & 2
  • The Crane Wife 3
  • Los Angeles, I’m Yours
  • The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid
  • The Rake’s Song
  • 16 Military Wives
  • Dracula’s Daughter / O Valencia!
  • A Beginning Song

Encore:

  • 12/17/12
  • The Mariner’s Revenge Song

The first two songs mirrored the opening of the new album… and obviously that record was probably the most represented of the evening, but they did a great job of working their entire catalog.

“The Singer Addresses His Audience” is about the most perfect way of starting any show, as it is a most brilliant and honest song about the relationship between fans and a band or musicians they love. It could easily  be egotistical if it was not so honest and sincere… and right on. It recognizes what we expect of each other… and how bands, though we often don’t want them to, have to change and grow and explore… especially in order to stay vital and together! Well done, Colin Meloy!

I would have loved more from The King Is Dead, which I still think is my favorite… and two songs were not enough… But I also am really enthralled with the new one. I cannot stop listening.

The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid from The Hazards Of Love album was an absolute highlight, with guitars and vocals soaring. What a night!

As we left the beautiful outdoor Greek Theatre, and made our way back to the car, we felt alive… we were alive…

By writing this, I am keeping that energy alive, sharing… and telling the story… re-telling the story… my experience… my story… and THAT is what live music is all about. A common space, a common band, a common love… and a whole bunch of human beings, dancing and singing and finding those moments of bliss. Rock on!

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The Amazing Front Side Of Water – My Morning Jacket Plays The Waterfall Live At Mack Sennett Studios

So the joke on the Jungle Cruise is the famous “back side of water…” It’s always been one of my favorite things to hear… Silly… light… but there is also something about it… something philosophical.

I have been pondering a lot lately, delving into figuring out what life is really all about. Trying to look at water and perhaps the Waterfall from all sides.

We are where we are supposed to be at any given time… I truly believe that. Okay, maybe it is something I am more recently making peace with and understanding, but still… it is a powerful concept and usually right. Yes, sometimes in retrospect, but usually right.

Remind me to tell you the amazing story of the time I met Henry Rollins and wound up speaking to him privately, while surrounded by a crowd, for 20 minutes or so. I was invited to a poetry reading and my friend Linda who invited me wound up not showing up.  She kept saying “You need to be there… You need to be there…” and then no shows. What the heck? I was not happy… but it wound up being one of the more profound and life changing experiences I have ever had. She was right…  I NEEDED to be there, and her wisdom orchestrated the whole thing and it played out just as it was supposed to. And Henry told me some things I absolutely needed to hear at that exact moment. I need to go back to those lessons. Lose the anger… find the happiness.

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I NEEDED to be at the My Morning Jacket show last night… and so I was. A very special thanks and shout out to Elliott and Olivia. I owe you both!

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I had not heard anything back, but figured I should put myself in the area of the show, just in case. So off on the 101 I went, into the depths of Hollywood and a part of town I have never explored. Mack Sennett Studios… 1916… historic… A Hollywood legend. Chaplin filmed there. Remarkable.

I hesitantly walked up to the line, where folks wearing KCRW lanyards all complimented my KCRW t-shirt… Chosen to show my support for the station and for the fact that it had a deer on a motorcycle, something very fitting for MMJ. That shirt got many compliments.
Sheepishly I said “I am not sure if I am on the list, but…”
“What’s your name?”
“Marc Goldsmith.”
“Yes, you are… plus one… Is your plus one here?”

Outside… “No, not yet, I am figuring that out.”
Inside… “Holy shit! Yes!!!!! This is going to be insane. Who is joining me??? Now!!!”

I wandered in… was a treated to an open bar and some spicy Cracker Jack type popcorn… Ah, the dinner of Champions… or a VIP suite at a baseball game…

That was on one sound stage… Then we were ushered into the main room. Full stage, but a very intimate space. Wow. This is gonna be something. I made my way dead center, about three rows back.

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At 7 pm on the dot, Jason Bentley from the KCRW show Morning Becomes Eclectic introduced the band and we were on… or off… or whatever this amazing night holds in store… The entire album The Waterfall played live. Magnificent.If you read my review you know how hard this album is hitting me. It is a deep reflection of the spiritual path I am on right now… a yearning for something more and a wail and a cry to Believe… This band rocks. The talent and passion are off the charts and we all know they are one of the best live bands out there… but there is so much depth to their songwriting and musical exploration. Their albums are about things… important things… like life and trying to understand it… humanity and relationships… love and loss and joy…

Clearly I was open to the message, but an e-mail I read just before the show started, had my heart and brain and soul flickering all over the place. Lesson one… put your darn phone down and do NOT read emails or texts… unless for plan coordinating… when you are at a concert. Of course, a few emails later was the message that I was in the show… plus one. Timing is a funny thing. Profound, actually…

The opening song of the album, and the show, “Believe (Nobody Knows)” set the path… the journey… the energy and the night… “Believe, believe, believe, believe… Nobody knows… for sure.”

Fourth song, “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)”
“Again I stop the waterfall by simply thinking.
Again I stop the waterfall before my breathing.
Again I stop the waterfall by finally feeling.
Again I stop the waterfall by just believing.”

Breathe… believe. You are here and need to be here.

Then the fifth song, “Get The Point”… another highlight for me… but WHAM! The lyrics tonight hit me like a truck loaded with bricks… tons and tons of bricks… Maybe two trucks… or six…
“And then I realized all the time I was wasting
Trying to mend a broken situation.
Day dreaming of leaving, I only had to do it.”

“I hope you get the point
The thrill is gone.
I hope you get the point
I think our love is done.”

Bam! Got it. Powerful. How are you in my brain and living my life? THIS is the power of music… that connection and understanding… the humanity and common thoughts and ground.

This show is loud and raw and powerful… and utterly amazing. My ears are still ringing as I write this.

Jim Guitar Solo Jim Chatting

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Nice encore of some of my favorites!

And more reasons I needed to be there… Well, these are two good reasons… and I got to tell them how much this album means to me and my journey…

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I met some new friends… Marc (or k), Amy and Jenn… And I also had the pleasure of having some truly deep and meaningful conversations outside the room with Matt and Mike. Thank you both for your open ears and letting me ramble on a bit. I hope I was not too dark and deep. You both were very cool, and that is not the normal
Hollywood” type conversation, but something I needed. Thank you.

Go and enjoy this album, my friends. And remember, we are where we are supposed to be… Just take a breath, hold onto your faith and believe.

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Soaking Up And In My Morning Jacket’s Brilliant New Album, The Waterfall

I am a classic rocker at heart, a child of the ’80s… and yet as I get older, I find my musical tastes have expanded and exploded. Bruce and the E Street Band, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who and U2 are almost always on my iPods and iPhones and other iProducts to be named at a later date.

But there are some “contemporary” bands who I also follow with the same vim and vigor… Wilco, The Autumn Defense, Band Of Horses, The Decemberists (whose Saturday show at the Greek was joyous and will be reviewed soon), and of course, my favorite, My Morning Jacket.  Special thanks to Cameron Crowe for the introduction and my brother Dan for the continual push.

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My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
Am I pre-disposed to like this record? I suppose, but I am not giving anyone a pass. It’s gotta grab me. This record did, from the amazing first single released, “Big Decisions,” to the opening track “Believe (Nobody Knows).” It was also a revelation for me, making me acutely aware of how I actually listen to music.

When we were kids we would lock ourselves away in our rooms and play vinyl over and over and over, getting up only to flip sides… or perhaps dance… Shhh.

So it was with this record, and here is what I realized… For me, the first go ’round is all about the music, the sounds, the tone, the feel. Ironic in that I am a writer and words are my soul, my meaning, my existence.

I let the songs wash over me, flow over me… almost from a distance… And then I start delving in… digging in. The lyrics start popping on the second or third listen… and when they do… Wow… This is also a record I need right now, and that has grasped many things I am grappling to understand in life.

If there are any folks who read my other two blogs, you’ll know that I am on a spiritual journey. Coming back from my first trip to Israel this past November has put me on a new and exciting path. I am open to so many things, and so, as I really took in the words to the opener “Believe (Nobody Knows),” I was floored… It was as if that song was written for me… and THAT is the sign of  a brilliant song… that each of us, as a whole and individuals can identify so strongly and specifically with a piece of music.

“Believe. Believe, Believe. Believe.
Nobody knows… for sure.”

“Roll the dice and sail the ship
And all the world will open… all the time.”

It’s a strange thing when you copy yourself, but if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I love the phrase “musical baptism”… especially coming from a nice Jewish boy.  But when a record is called The Waterfall, that phrase becomes a must use… and that is what this album is to me… an immersion into some amazing spiritual waters.

What is it about a waterfall that makes people so excited? I remember the Road to Hana and being in awe of the falls that were just off the side of the road… Well… in awe when I wasn’t nauseous from all the winding curves.

Waterfalls are magnificent… nature’s shower, bathtub, pool and watering hole all in one place…

Waterfalls are hypnotic… One can sit and stare at them all day… Pondering how much they stay the same and yet, how much they change.

Waterfalls soothe us. There is just something so calming and magical and mystical about them.

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How appropriate then that the title of the new album by My Morning Jacket is The Waterfall, for this is one glorious record that does all of that.

Their music is almost undefineable… which makes it so exciting. Rock, Alternative, Garage, and so many other influences flow through their records with ease and grace. This album could have been made in Laurel Canyon and has echos of that sound, too!

“Get The Point” has hints of Harry Nilsson and even John Denver and not just because of Harry’s classic album The Point .

“Only Memories Remain” sounds like a lush, smoky and slow ‘70s ballad…. Perhaps they are channeling Gino Vannelli. This is a great song to slow dance to.

“In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)”
More timely and powerful lyrics with:
“Again I stopped the waterfall
By simply thinking.
Again I stopped the waterfall
Before my breathing.
Again I stopped the waterfall
By finally feeling.
Again I stopped the waterfall
By just believing.”

Hitting so hard for me right now…

And of course “Big Decisions” takes me on a whole other path… pulling back the curtain and revealing something so raw and honest.

“Sittin’ round wondering just what the hell to do with your life.
Only get one chance but you seem to always think twice.
And I’m getting so tired of trying to always be nice.
You’re sweet and sincere, but so ruled by fear.

What do you want me to do?
Make all the big decisions for you?
Cause I can’t.
Well I can’t.”

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Just… wow! This song got me so excited about this record… but it was later that I really took the lyrics in… really let The Waterfall wash over me in all its power and beauty… and when I did, this song and the whole album moved up onto another level… like the stratosphere. This will not be out of heavy rotation for some time to come…

Now… if I can just get into the KCRW show on May 7, I will be so very happy. Beg, grovel and BELIEVE, BELIEVE, BELIEVE, BELIEVE!

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