Saturday, January 21, 2017

Learn to Fly In Bloom

Well, this is...awesome, if a little excessively mind-bendy.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Here Comes the Rain Again

It's raining this morning in San Diego, something which doesn't happen a whole lot. I don't believe in omens or portents...and yet given how dark this day is, it's hard not to lend it a certain amount of credence.


This is not the darkest time our great nation has ever seen.


Just the darkest in well over a century.



Things will get better. It's just going to suck until they do.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

RIP George Michael

And the worst year of my sentient life continues.

It would be inaccurate to say I was ever a George Michael fan, or a fan of Wham! At the time I foolishly thought myself above what I considered such pop piffle. And yet...and yet when the videos came on, I never turned the TV off. Not because I enjoyed the videos themselves—although the videos for "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" was a lot of silly fun—but because, in the end, as always, it comes down to the music, and Michael's gift for melody was undeniable. (As were his voice and his production skills, as well as his extraordinarily handsome looks, but none of those have ever meant anything close to as much to me as melody.)

So...yeah. Somebody wake me up once 2016 has gone-gone.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Acadian Driftwood

It's not easy to find three singers in the same band that can stack up against The Band's powerhouse lineup. The Roches do it without even breaking a sweat. It's too easy, too pat to think it's because they're family. And yet...

We had kin livin',
South of the border
They're a little older,
And they been around
They wrote in a letter
Life is a whole lot better
So pull up your stakes, children,
And come on down

Thursday, December 8, 2016

36 years later

I love the LP version of "Woman" and think it truly is one of the best and most beautiful love songs ever written. Such a perfect love letter from John to Yoko, written, tragically, just before the end. I love the lushness of the song, the fullness in his voice and instrumentation that almost hearkens back to the Wall of Sound.

But I think I love this stripped down version even more. It's still tender and lovely, only now it's raw, bare. Like these are words he doesn't just want to say but has to say.


And thankfully he was able to say them.

"So let me tell you,
again and and again and again...
I love you, now and forever."

We miss you, Beatle John.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Driven to Tears? So what.

As a fan of The Police and a Miles Davis fanatic, I found this amalgamation beyond magnificent.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Favorite Song Friday: Faithfully

I've often thought of Journey as the anti-Beatles. Not that they were against everything or anything the Fabs stood for or represented—just the opposite, in fact; even without knowing much about what the band members believe in their heart of hearts, I'm quite confident all of them grew up loving the lads. No, I think of them as the anti-Beatles because each and every member of the most popular lineup of the band (although, really, it goes for the musicians who were members before they got really popular, as well as the ones who came after their heyday) is an absolute monster on his instrument. I mean, seriously, you just don't get better, really, on a technical level, than Steve Perry, Neal Schon or Steve Smith. And yet, unlike the Beatles, none of whom were technically all that accomplished—save, perhaps Paul McCartney, on bass—Journey managed to produce nothing transcendent, and little that's really, objectively, of lasting value.

Harsh, I know. So let me temper it with this caveat: a handful of their songs remain wildly popular, and I fully admit to liking several, including "Separate Ways," despite (perhaps) its staggeringly terrible in a slow-motion-train-wreck-can't-look-away manner.

And then there's "Faithfully." Another entry in the "oh, life is so hard on the road when you're a fabulously wealthy and popular musician" category, I absolutely adore this song unreservedly and without the slightest hint of irony—no mean feat, when you consider the mustache in its accompanying video.


Now, usually on our Favorite Song Fridays, we over some sort of analysis, whether it's a close reading of the lyrics, or perhaps our ham-handed stab at delving into the chord progression in some sad pseudo-music theory attempt. Not here. I got nothin', other than to mention Smith's typically spectacular drumming, and the fact that the lyrics are straightforward, which helps them scalpel their way directly into your heart, or at least, into my heart.

One funny note, though: apparently, Prince called up "Faithfully" composer Jonathan Cain, immediately after The Purple One had recorded "Purple Rain," to see if that masterpiece was too close to the Journey song. Cain assured the lil fella that other than sharing some chords, it was not, in fact, too close. For some reason, that makes me love the song even more, as well as Prince, and who knew that was even possible?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Don't Do It

Look at these jamokes. If you were drinking in your local dive, or maybe a guest at the wedding of a distant acquaintance, and these guys got up to play, what would you think? I mean, really. Just look at them.

Levon looks like the really good mechanic you're pleased to have finally found, even though you can't help but feel—accurately—that he's always looking down at you because you don't know as much about cars as he does. Rick looks like the guy who works the counter at the autoparts store. Richard looks like the guy who stocks the shelves at the autoparts store: there's something about his smile that freaks out the customers too much, even the most manly ones, so they don't let him work the register. Robbie looks like the guy who mixes paint at the hardware store and tries to chat up the housewives, most of whom see right through him, and don't so much enjoy the attention as feel a bit creeped out and like they need a shower. And then there's Garth—in the end, there's always Garth. He's the guy who works in the stacks at the local university library, the one you hope the librarian won't have to go to for help when you ask your question, even though they always do, 'cuz he always knows, and there's no reason you hope they won't, as he's never said or done anything weird to you or anyone you know: in fact, he never does anything weird, other than never doing anything but studying old, arcane tomes and feeding his fish. It's just that he always stares at your shoes as he mumbles the answer to even the most esoteric of queries.

And then they start playing.


Would you get it right away? Would Levon's jittery yet slinky beat immediately clue you in that you're in the presence of a master, of a man who got as much funk, as much soul in his DNA as guanine? I'm not sure you would. What about when Rick starts in with that bassline? I like to think so, but I'm still not sure; the goofy way he bops might distract you. Sure, you'd think, okay, this might not be totally embarrassing, but I don't think you'd quite realize yet what you're in for.

It's Richard's piano that prepares you. His chording is simple, sweet, tasteful...but quiet as it is, it's got that tang of the roadhouse about it—but a roadhouse down New Orleans way—that subtly shifts your thoughts and expectations and even though you haven't fully grokked it yet, you're already starting to think, well...huh. This might just

And then Robbie starts playing. And the slightly sad lounge lizard reveals himself to be the greatest guitarist you've ever actually seen in person, with just a few chords. They're not difficult chords; this isn't Jim Hall playing some bizarre inversed voicing. They're just your standard rock and roll chords...but they're rock and roll chords played with that distorted Strat tone that bypasses your aural canal and goes directly into your very being and makes it clear that the guy making those sounds knows rock and roll and he knows the guitar and suddenly the smugness seems entirely justified.

And then they start singing. And it hits you, first, that this sweaty funk workout is somehow Marvin Gaye's boppy classic. And, secondly, you realize, accurately, that if this isn't the best group vocals you've ever heard, well, you never heard better. Never. Not by the Beach Boys, not by the Beatles, not even by the Everlys. Never.

Robbie's guitar solo only confirms what you could tell by his opening chords, which is that this superior bastard is indeed superior—he's got the technical ability, but he's more than just flash: he's got the spirit. And behind him, supporting them all, is that intense research librarian who, it turns out, plays the church organ like Bach, if Bach had been raised as a tobacco farmer in Kentucky.

Turns out, and who knew? that looks can be deceptive. And that the rock, the funk, the soul, can take root in the most unlikely of places, whether a guy who looks like a smarmy bastard or a creepy stockboy. And that the proof is always in the sound. And god-a-mighty, what a sound.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Come Together

Dear World's Greatest Rock 'n Roll Band™: it's sweet that you went to the trouble of showing your respect and admiration for your betters by covering them, and that you went out of your way to be as not good as possible doing it. Very, very convincingly done.


Friday, November 18, 2016

In Your Eyes

Here's my argument:

Peter Gabriel was with Genesis for roughly nine years. In that time he wrote or co-wrote a few dozen songs, many of which range from okay to very, very good. In the forty plus years since then he has written several dozen more, which range from good to transcendent.

Sting was with the Police for roughly six years (with another three tacked on where they weren't really a band in any meaningful sense but hadn't officially broken up either). In that time, he wrote several dozen songs, which range from okay to phenomenal. In the thirty-three or so years since then, he's written many dozen more songs, which range from good to very good.

What I'm saying is that Gabriel needed to break free from Genesis in order to become the artist he is, and we're all the better off for it. Sting, on the other hand, broke free from both the constraints of the Police and the full flowering of his abilities. Because he's been without the Police for nearly six times as long as he was with them, and in that time he hasn't created a single song as good as his half-dozen best Police songs, nevermind one which approaches this:


And while comparing another song to "In Your Eyes" would normally be unfair, in this case, it really isn't, since if Sting never wrote a song better than this slice of brilliance, he's certainly written several—"Message in a Bottle," "Every Breath You Take," "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" and so on—that are very comfortable peers, at the very least. For a few years there, he seemed to turn them out on a yearly basis. And then....not.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

RIP Leonard Cohen

I swear to all that is holy that I am so damn tired of writing RIP posts for my favorite artists this year.

Damn.

Leonard Cohen is dead. I don't have much to say other than he was a musical hero of mine. He wrote with his heart not just on his sleeve but laid out bare on the table in front of him.

He sang with a raw, plaintive sensuality that no one else ever has. He either did rock-n-roll like poetry or he did poetry like rock-n-roll. Or both. He bled hot and red blood into in his music while he waltzed to it. He was loneliness and sex and grief and humor and soul and pain and honesty and fear and religion and strength and pathos. He was all that and more. He was sui generis in music history and we will never see another like him.

He wrote story-songs and hymns that belong under glass or hanging on the wall in some museum, not just on vinyl and compact discs and digital files. He wrote "Suzanne" and "Chelsea Hotel" and "Tower of Song" and "Bird on a Wire" and "Dance Me to the End of Love" and "Came So Far For Beauty" and yes, my favorite song ever, "Hallelujah." And more than that.

So long, good sir. You will always hold the mirror.






"It looks like freedom but it feels like death;
It's something in between I guess,
It's closing time."

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day - How does it feel?

It's Election Day. I love Election Day as much as any day on the calendar. And as loyal readers here at Reason to Believe know, Election Day for me is all about Bob Dylan. 

On Election Days that I looked forward to and even on those I kinda dreaded, I still loved going to the polls, expressing my opinion on my terms as only I can. My people don't always win, but I always feel like I've done something big when I vote. Going all the way back 30 years when I voted for the first time.

For many many reasons I am thrilled for Election Day 2016 to be here and for the campaign soon to be over; most of those reasons having to do with a certain sentient rotting pumpkin running for President for one of the major parties. And in 12 hours it will in fact be over. And I think our great nation will be a little greater as a result.

This day as I head into work I'll be be blaring Mr. Zimmerman on the way once more, And I'll go right to the source, as they say. No fooling around, no wasting time. I'll go right to one of his greatest albums ever and start with the very first track on that record, objectively and pretty much inarguably the greatest song he ever wrote.


Because it really does speak to just so much of what we've been watching for the past year and more. The insufferable feeling invincible. The underprivileged being duped and lied to. And the tenets of decency and integrity being torn to pieces before our eyes.

Here's hoping it all ends tonight. I'll take comfort in words Bob wrote rather presciently 51 years ago, words that really could have been written for today:

Ain't it hard when you discover that,
He really wasn't wear it's at,
After he took from you everything he could steal.

Right on. Go vote and take back every ounce that's been robbed from us this year.

And as the credits roll on this election season, let's take one more look at one of the truly great defiant moments in rock-n-roll history. At the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966, when Bob Dylan brushed off the detractors and jeers with a smile and a sneer, turned to his band and just as they began a blistering "Like a Rolling Stone," told them, "Play it fucking loud!"

And they did.

's

Go play today, voters. And when you play, play it fucking loud.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Gwen

So, as usual, my first thought upon hearing how beautifully the great Philly Joe Jones plays piano on this song he composed himself, is "well, that's not fair." I mean, how uncool is it that possibly the greatest hard-bop drummer ever is also a killer pianist? But, of course, that's probably not entirely a coincidence: he was arguably the greatest hard-bop drummer ever because he was a killer musician. I mean, duh, but it still felt worth pointing out. Or, really, an excuse to post this.