Saturday, October 28, 2017

They Call Him the Fat Man, Cause He Weighed 200 Pounds, All the Girls They Love Him, Cause He Knows His Way Around

I really appreciate the love for Fats and his music--the information and the tributes keep pouring in Fats, including the quotes from Elvis on page one of the NY Times, calling Fats “the real king of rock n roll.” Fats redid Louis Armstrong's “Blueberry Hill” and created the rocking and rollicking “Ain’t That a Shame” that Pat Boone covered. Pat wanted to correct the English and take the Soul out of the song by changing its title and lyrics to “Isn’t That a Shame,” but was dissuaded from doing so. At a performance years later, Fats showed his good nature, calling Pat up to the stage and thanking him for his cover version and for helping Fats buy his latest ring. 

Fats did a great job of bringing Jazz, crooning, Creole influences, and rhythm and blues together to help create a new music that would endure. His rolling rhythm and piano style put the “roll” into rock n roll, and his soft voice gave the blues a sweet, charming and optimistic side on “Blue Monday.”  I am glad to enjoy and memorialize Fats in a small but fitting way.

Instant Classic

After the second game of the World Series opened on October 25, with the golden-throated Vin Scully and the iconic left-hander Fernando Valenzuela combining to throw out the first ball, we should have known that this would be a classic game, a game for the ages. A few hours later and in the next day, in the eleventh inning, it continued with the swings of fortune and the batters redefining the term "hitting in the clutch." Five homers were hit in extra innings--a record for a game, let alone a world series game. Baseball has a timeless and endless quality, but this historic 7 to 6 game finally mercifully ended--a well-fought, high-spirited battle to the end, and an instant classic.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

We Found Our Thrill

“I’m ready, willing, and able to rock ‘n’ roll, all night “with Fats Domino. But I won’t be able to do that anymore because the diminutive rock royalty figure has passed away at 89. He had an easy-going singing voice and a barrel house boogie-woogie, Orleans piano style that mixed beautifully using doublets and triplets that invigorated rock piano from its early stages. His songs had an innocent joyfulness that sprung so easily from the words. His shuffling beats were catchy and unmistakable and you couldn’t just be “walkin”; you had to get up and dance. From the late 40’s through rock era 50s and all through to today, he inspired many other rock artists from Elvis to the Beatles and all that came in between and after. The shy unassuming iconic figure jolted the energy level of the rock world, and his songs, his rhythm, and the unbridled fun that was his natural accompaniment will live on. Thank you Fats; I am sorry that the whippoorwills called and you had to hurry to your “blue heaven.”

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Baseball Is Truly a Metaphor for Life (especially some nights).

On Thursday night, I had roller-coaster pleasure of attending the nine to eight Cubs/Nats playoff finale. In the course of nine innings, that seemed like an eternity, just about every variety of play and every emotion in life was paraded before our very hearts, eyes, and minds. In one half inning on one play alone, there was a strike out, along with a passed ball, along with alleged batter interference, along with a throwing error, along with runners circling the bases, and an empty feeling that a whole season was being washed down a drain. Later in that half inning there was catcher’s interference call and a hit batsman. This was a half inning with a combination of events that likely never happened before in baseball’s long history. The pitcher during that catastrophic inning was one of the best in baseball, Max Scherzer, and the catcher, one of the best fielding catchers, Matt Wieter. 

There were many umpires’ calls that were questioned, starting in the first inning, and there some calls overturned, including one late in the game when a Nats runner’s foot came off the base for a split second, while he was being tagged, and one of four cameras caught it all. It ended a Nats comeback that could have turned the game and the year around. 

There were the routine singles, and doubles, and homeruns, walks--the usual ways people get on base, but then there seemed like every other conceivable less ordinary play in the four and three-quarter hour, nine inning marathon game. There were 14 pitchers used, along with many pinch hitters and substitutes. There was every type of successes and every type of failure--it was a true parade of the good, the bad, the ugly in life in one long game. It was draining to a great degree whether you were a Cub or Nat fan, but one was celebrating and one was not at end of this stress ridden affair. 

After the dramatic game, that ended the season of one team, I walked the mile and a half back to my car at 1:00 a.m. and at 1:30 a.m., when I reached my car, I realized that my car battery was dead. It seemed like a dream and yet the perfect ending to a night of drained emotions. I had experienced the emotions of a season in one game, and it seemed like every human emotion was felt, and then to top it off all of the energy had drained out of my car. 

But the night could not end that way. As fortune would have it, just then a friend/co-worker who is a Cubs fan walked by,and asked if something was wrong (other than the outcome of the game). It turned out that he had jumper cables in his car, and my night was to take another turn, while he recharged my battery so I could get home. Rooting enemies during the game, and now the brotherhood of Cub mankind came to my rescue--and once again "the world will live as one." 

On Friday, still drained from the prior night’s experience, I could not watch that night’s Astros-Yanks playoff game on Friday. But on Saturday morning, I had my battery replaced and my energy level rose immediately. I quickly watched the game that I had missed on Friday, and saw the dramatic Saturday Astros/Yankee battle with my love for baseball restored and fully charged. The rejuvenation and resilience that comes with life and baseball was back in its proper place—I was ready to move forward again.

Monday, October 9, 2017

"Something In The Air"

I admit it, I usually do not want to answer, Facebook's question, "[w]hat's on your mind Phil?" But on a rainy Monday, I went ahead and did it. I hope you do not mind; it might get a little long. But here goes...
I was reminded of the words of Thunderclap Newman from his 1969 undervalued classic, there’s “Something in the Air.” There were many signs of resilience in the air this holiday weekend.
It started on Friday night with wounded but recovering House Majority WhipSteve Scalise, throwing out the first pitch at the Nationals/Cubs first game of the National League playoffs series. From a shortened but challenging distance, he threw a perfect strike. But it did not help the Nationals that night, wasting a crafty Steven Strasburg performance to lose 3 to 1. The next evening, the Nationals awakened under a bright fall, Sukkot-seasoned, harvest moon and rallied from behind (down by 3 to 1 deficit) to take a 6 to 3 victory home (sparked by a classic, upper deck Bryce Harper homer) before a loudly adoring sellout crowd.
A little later that evening, Saturday Night Live opened by foregoing its usual political opening for a uplifting and unifying statement by country rocker Jason Aldean about the recent and tragic Las Vegas shooting (Aldean was performing at the time of the shots). Aldean then paid tribute to Tom Petty, (who recently passed away) and sang his defiantly resilient “I Won’t Back Down.” in a version that unified rock and country and more. Petty, challenged by his father at an early age for not being more athletic, wrote a lot of songs of resilience, freedom, individuality, and to follow your dreams, even if you had to wait.
Sunday, was capped by two wins by the Bed Sox and Yankees in their American Leagues playoff series—both had been down two games to none earlier, and on the cusp of elimination. And late last night, to maybe frame the weekend, was the Beatle-fied and uplifting movie, “I Am Sam.”
Yes, good will not always knock out evil, right will not always overcome wrong, and clearly we are not always perfect, but we can aspire to be better, we are resilient, and I "got to admit we're getting better, better all the time." There is something in the air.


A favorite Petty performance was a Petty/Dylan/Grateful Dead concert at DC's RFK Stadium during Independence Day weekend In 1986. It was in sweltering D.C. summertime 100 degree heat, and the stadium literally swayed to the music-- the stands were in a somewhat liquidy state of meltdown that day. But to be safe and connected to the music, we stayed mostly away from the stands, and close to the stage, being sprayed by an ever present water hose, and a good-naturedly fun set of music that we all shared in common. Unfortunately, Jerry Garcia was hospitalized in a coma a week later, but he recovered, and looking back, we had much to celebrate that holiday weekend.

Petty-fied for eternity

He was a craftsman no doubt of a finely honed pop rock garden of tunes. He nicely combined his southern roots, his Byrds-like chords, his sweeter than Dylanesque voice, and his Beatle-influenced sound into the classic tapestry of the Wilburys that travelled well. They do not get much better than him. Tom Petty will be missed.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"Sweet Little Ninety"

While the coming of spring is being delayed again by the rain, sleet, and sloppy weather of the east, it is a perfect time to reflect on the adventurous life and career of Chuck Berry who passed away yesterday. Bob Dylan called Berry "the Shakespeare of rock & roll" and Leonard Cohen termed him "the Kafka of the blues." Cohen, once compared Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" to Walt Whitman's joyful noise – his "barbaric yawp." "If Beethoven hadn't rolled over," he said, "there'd be no room for any of us." Chuck Berry's duck walking way through his life and his music combining country, blues and all that was rising below the sameness of the pop music of his time made room for the likes of the Beach Boys, the Stones, the Beatles, and much that followed and continues to roll on in rock n roll.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Standing Pat with Poeterson

Yesterday, I passed by the sparkle, dazzle, and spectacle of the glittering "La La Land" for the grit, heartache, and poetry of everyday life in the struggling industrial town of "Paterson." While I grew up in Paterson, I witnessed sides of it that I had not seen before, through the eyes of a poetic bus driver, his energetic dream-driven wife, his observant dog, and the muses of P-town's past poet William Carlos Williams. It is wonderful that the movies are reviving a place for musicals and romance, but it is possibly more amazing that there is a place for the poetry of common day-to-day life. In Paterson, the poetry can be tattered and destroyed, only to be reborn again.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 in Review: Visions of the End and Back

2016 was a brutally challenging year for rock, yet was bitter sweet.  Death stalked the year 2016 at both ends of the candle, but in between, some joyous new music was heard.  The year hardly got started with the news of an adventurous new jazzy rock album by David Bowie, “Black Star,” dropping in January.  We then had a brief day to listen and ponder the promising year ahead, when we were haunted with the sad news of Bowie’s sudden death.  The songs of the album suddenly had new and more clearly defined messages and meaning, and this made it clear from the beginning that this was a year that could be risky and drifting toward the edge.  It clearly closed the book on a more sedentary 2015, and continued with the sad death of Prince three months later, and in November, the loss of Leonard Cohen, who had just put out a new album that was an ingenuous and introspective look at facing mortality.  The year finished with the surprising death of George Michael, a superstar of the flashier 80s.  In the year, we also lost George Martin, Paul Kantner, Emerson and Lake, Glen Frey, Maurice White, and Leon Russell, and we also lost Sharon Jones way too young and soulful.  This was a year that some felt needed to peacefully end.

Although rock is newer than its other musical cousins--jazz, blues, folk, and classical music--it has never been a stranger to death and suffering, and the fears of its own death.  Danny and Juniors in 1957 prophetically stated that “Rock ‘N Roll is Here to Stay,” but in its early years, it lost Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper, on “the day the music died.” And rock was sidelined and lost some of its energy for a few years in the early 60s, but it reinvigorated itself with the looking back, looking forward genius of the Beatles and the Stones and others part of the British Invasion.  

In 1971, when rock was in its late teens, rock lost some of luster with the deaths of newer icons, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix.  I was actively reviewing rock then and I had seen the signs of decline despair, loneliness, abuse, and excess that they wore heavily on their faces and bodies.  Filled with 60s optimism and more than a touch of innocence, I had hoped to help save them with interviews and critical and constructive reviews, but alas, the then-excessive world of rock was eating some of its young.  Rock, of course rejuvenated itself again, rebounding quickly with the 1971 Bangladesh concert, but lost one of its giants in the late 70s with the bloated death of its first real superstar, Elvis.  Michael Jackson deteriorated in an Elvis kind of way in 2006, and rock lost Freddy Mercury along the way, but it was not until 2016 that the year in rock was once again dominated by death.  Chuck Prophet shared that “It Was a Bad Year for Rock and Roll.”

All along as rock matured, it had lost some of its heroes along the way, but it was this year that once again set it apart.  It was a year of dying, but also a year of energy and longevity in rock.  Many of its heroes were maturing and were still performing at festivals in October, and in new albums, by the Stones, Paul Simon, Dylan, and Sting, and even the 90 year-old iconic Chuck Berry announced a new record, youthfully named “Chuck,” coming out in a couple of months.  

Rock is maturing and even claimed (or did not) a Nobel Prize for Literature, and shedding some of its youth, but it is resilient as it climbs into maturity.  Streaming has breathed new life and new accessibility into the music, and there were many other signs of resilience and continuing to experiment with the forms of music in this year of rock, and it is evident in the year’s best albums.

1  David Bowie left us a “Black Star,” an innovative mix of glam rock, maturity, mortality, and jazz.
2. Leonard Cohen sensed that “You Want It Darker,” delivering sparsely on its title without excessive sadness; the man and his songs were ready....
3. Radiohead formed “A Moon Shaped Pool,” of guitars, innovation, and exploration.
4. Mitski explored "Your Best American Girl" in “Puberty 2,” with a non-formulaic odyssey of B’klyn indie, techno and sincerity.
5. Solange earned more than a “A Seat At The Table” with her honest and sparse exploration of modern life.
6. Her sister Beyonce used sparkle and shine to set soulange on fire to mine the same world with “Lemonade.”
7. Case/Lang/Veirs teamed great collaborators of pleasant sounds in the three melodic worlds of “Case/Lang/Veirs”
8. Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle also shared another great, genuine and easy going collaboration in “Colvin and Earle”
9. Allen Toussaint passed away in this year of passages but left us a New Orleans-tinged storeful of “American Tunes.”
10. Kaleo took us tripfully to the electronica of Iceland with the tuneful “A/B”
11. Xenia Rubinos shared an energentic Latinista natural force that is a "Lonely Lover" in “Black Terry Cat," 
12, Sia filled a tuneful ear worm with “Cheap Thrills” from “This is Acting.”
13. A Tribe Called Quest confessed that “We Got It from Here” and we “Thank You 4 Your Service.”
14. Twenty-One Pilots flew a string of pop pearls in “Heathens.”
15. Lake Street Dive “Called Off the Dogs” and freshened its delivery of sounds in “Side Pony.”
16. Lori Mckenna further shared her melodic yesteryear “Girl Crush” tinged country folk in “The Bird and the Rifle.”
17. Maren Morris showed her potential in new freedom, country bridging on rock in “Hero.”
18. Margo Price unleashed her strong yet thrifty vocal talents that climbed the “Hand of Time” on “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.”
19. Angel Olsen is an “Intern” for stardom and I see echoes of Orbison and many others of the past, present, and future in “My Woman.”
20. Rihanna continued her happy exploration of sound and longing in “anti,” and it is hard to be against that.
21. Whitney smartly built with “No Woman” recalling “Those Golden Times” from the fumes of Smith Western, and filled the air with good vibes in “Light Upon the Lake.”
22. North Sea Radio Orchestra encased the chamber with a playful tribute to Robert Wyatt’s “The British Road” in “Dronne.”
23. Jeff Rosenstock made his third solo album an elegy to ska/punk and contemporary themes in “WORRY.”
24. Islands got in some good easy energetic beats on their twin releases, “Should I Remain Here, At Sea” and “No Milk, No Sugar” from “Taste.”
25. Band of Horses made it easy to know “Why Are You OK" 
26. Joanna Wang introduced and exalted the art and the artist in “The Rightful Heir” in “the Art of Bullying.”  
27. Teen was "All About Us," and its bouncy dancey energetic echoing of Enya in "Love Yes," 
28. School of Seven Bells was synthetically built yet personal and evocative honoring the memory of member Ben Curtis in “SVIIB.”
29. Emma Pollock reached to the “Dark Skies” and took an “Intermission” with the Electric String Orchestra and sounded like a latter day Chissie Hynde “In Search of Harperfield.”
30. Sturgill Simpson strummed and sang husky big country rock in “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.”
31. Wilco proved that an average Wilco “Smilco” album was better than none.
32. Parquit Courts gave a very respectable third album “Human Performance.”
33. Badbadnotgood shared some not bad smooth jazz and hip hop Canadian style in “IV.”
34. Anna Meredith exploited the sounds of electronica and acoustica in “Varmints.”
35. Esperanza Spalding, the jazz singer and bassist continued her funk/hip hop/jazz voyage and wanderings into her potential in “Emily’s D+Evolution.”
37. Carla Dal Forno added some electronical dreamy sounds in “You Know What It’s Like
38. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids played cosmic soulful jazz so that “We Be All Africans.”
39. The 1975 changed their formula a bit to live within their title,” I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.” 
40. DJ Diamond used electronica beats to do some fancy “Footwork Or Die.”
41. Anderson .Paak adventured forth to explore soul/funk/rap beyond Compton in Malibu
42. Shabaka and the Ancestors explored the roots of jazz and funk and showed the “Wisdom of Elders.”
43. Jessy Lanza capped nervous pop, electronic, and experimental energy and pizzazz into “Oh No
44. Savages shared their haunting effort to “Adore Life.”
45. OneRepublic issued another catchy set of high quality songs that made you want to say “Oh My My.”
46. Cactus Blossoms went back 60 years to snag the early Everly Brothers sound, casting a spell of gorgeous harmonies when “Your Dreaming.”
47. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam merged their Walkman/VWeekend pasts “A 1000 Times” into the future “I Had A Dream That You Were Mine.” 
48. The Strumbellas showed off their catchy roots marching beat on “Spirits,” and that is cause for “Hope.”
49. Four Wishes shared some pleasant folk rock out of Detroit and “Under the Milky Way” (cover of Churches song) that left them “Adrift
50. Pinegrove showed the Jersey group to debut in a friendly Wilco-ish way that is no “Cardinal” sin.
51. Quilt softly yet catchily explored their “Eliot St. and Boston pyschodeli roots that fell into place comfortably and hauntingly in the “Plaza.”
52. Fitz and the Tantrums “Hand Clap” their way through their solid roots in “Fitz and the Tantrums.”
53. Lucinda Williams handled the “Dust” in her haunting voiced songs alongside “The Ghosts of Highway 20.”
54. The Record Company took themselves “Off the Ground” and kept their roots intact while they "Give It Back To You"
55. Sylvan Esso synced up their wavelengths on the “Radio.”
56.  Car Seat Headrest “Filled in the Blanks” with their rockin “"Teens Of Denial"
57.  Massive Attack (feat. Hope Sandoval) got the The Spoils." 
58. Hope Sandoval and Warm Inventions asked “Isn’t It True,” while they implored “Let Me Get You There” in “Until the Hunter.”
59. Paul Simon came back with catchy yet lighter tunes like “Wristband” on “Stranger to Stranger.” 
60.  Chance the Rapper brought excitement and had “No Problem” in sharing his “Coloring Book.”
61. The XX were talented yet waiting “On Hold” for their new breakthrough album to be released in 2017
62  Andrew Byrd showed his versatile talents that almost “Capsized” on “Are You Serious.” 
63. Warpaint wore the colors in their ever catchy “New Song” to give us their latest “Heads Up.”
64.  Sharon Jones and Dap Kings bravely offered “I’m Still Here,” a strong autobiographical tale.
65. Flatbush Zombies rapped a journey into the year “3001 A Laced Odyssey,
66. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds mine the usual topics of his songs, but on "Skeleton Tree" he takes a more somber and haunting tone in the aftermath of a death in his family.
67. The Sachel Ensemble make the world a smaller place in "Song of Lahore" with wonderfilled east-west collaborations like one with Tedeschi and Trucks on Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm,"

Live Extra: Taylor Taylor, a talented singer songwriter from Lansing is honing her Afro-American/Columbian roots and is fun to see and hear live.

So, Hallelujah and goodbye to a mournful and yet hopeful 2016.