Saturday, April 16, 2016

My Music of the 00s - All That You Can't Leave Behind


Music at the turn of the new century continued at trend, at least in pop music, to blend together. Blurring the lines of genres, or at least creating a few new ones. Pop artists using rappers, and vice versa. Many of my generation and older believe that “real” country and western music is long dead since it also blended with pop. It was probably inevitable and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with it.

For me it made pop music kind of muddy and indiscernible. More of the music seemed prefab and formulaic. It was increasingly different to tell one artists from another by their sound.

The first ten years of the 00s was mostly following artists from the past who have kept going or made comebacks. Still recording good stuff was Pat Metheny, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton, Colin Hay, Diana Krall, Chris Isaak, Van Morrison, and Seal. Back were Steely Dan, U2, The Allman Brothers Band, and Steve Winwood.

Of the new artists I was attracted to were Jamie Cullum, Adele, Snow Patrol, Fleet Foxes, and Amy Winehouse. Some of the key albums were:

InterstatemanagersRiding with the King - B.B.King & Eric Clapton
All That You Can’t Leave Behind - U2
Going Somewhere - Colin Hay
The Look of Love - Diana Krall
Speaking of Now - Pat Metheny Group
Hittin’ the Note - the Allman Brothers Band
Twenty something - Jamie Cullum
Welcome Interstate Managers - Fountains of Wayne
Fingerprints - Peter Frampton
Raising Sand - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
19 - Adele

Just a few albums per year. Other than that, record companies were putting out their back catalogue with the material remastered or remixed or otherwise different. Most not worth dipping into again. Some were.

I can’t remember the last time I was in a record store. I still try to get my music on CD because I like to have hard copies. I immediately digitize them for my computer/iPhone, etc., so the CD is my back up. But I have bought some digital downloads. mostly because some music is only available in that format. I like what Amazon does often, the offer a free digital download when you buy its CD copy.

Albums don’t mean much anymore. The younger generations are most focused on individual songs and that’s how they download their music. I feel a little sorry for what I believe they’re missing. As I’ve mentions in previous posts, we had such a great time with our rituals and habits with vinyl (and to a lesser extent, CDs).

There is obviously a lot of music ‘out there’ that billions of people love that doesn’t interest me. That’s good. I have my collection so when I do find something new, it’s just a great surprise.

This is my last post of the decades. I thought about doing my top ten for the decades but that might be a little redundant. Instead, I’ll mix it up with movies and individual albums or artists. As well as maybe some rants or whatever is on my mind/heart.

Until next time, enjoy a little B.B.King & Eric Clapton:

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My Music of the 90s - Novocaine for the Soul

At the opening of 1990, we have, comfortably or not, moved from vinyl to compact disc. And hey, I admit I embraced it. The potential for “higher fidelity” and longer albums caught my attention. Part of the problem is, the record companies were so afraid of change that when they finally jumped into the water, they did it half-assed. They eventually realized the potential of making millions more dollars on properties they already owned and could repackage it so people would double and triple-dip. But that was later. For now it was only the records companies producing compact discs of classical music that were trying to take advantage of the technology. Not for for rock. I remember buying the first Elvis Costello album, My Aim is True, on CD expecting it to sound unbelievably clean and clear. Because my vinyl copy was pretty worn out. Holy crap was I disappointed. It sounded muddy and not nearly as good as my worn out vinyl. Another time early on I bought a CD where you could actually hear the needle drop onto the vinyl to record the CD. Wow!

Also, we lost many good traditions and rituals when we lost vinyl albums. Sure, we lost a lot of great large album art to reproductions less than 1/4 the size. But when I bought an album I would sit on the floor next to my bed listening to the album over and over. During which I was reading and analyzing every inch and letter of the album cover and liner notes. I learned song writers, musicians, record producers, recording studios and everything else that drew me in, creating a more complete experience of the music. It did make a difference. Also, let’s face it, there are few albums where we love EVERY song. Now we just hit the skip button or take those songs out of the playlist all together. But listing to the vinyl, we let it play through our less favorite songs. We didn’t break the spell. The only time we stopped was to turn the album over. At least during the onset of the CD, some record companies made an effort and provided booklets in the case with that information. It was very welcome, but it just wasn’t the same.

I got my first CD player as a graduation gift from my parents in the fall of 1986. They said I could have a class ring or the CD player. Well… My first CD was First Circle by the Pat Metheny Group. An undergrad had turned me onto Metheny in my junior year. From there I went in to a little jazz phase. And I needed it, it helped me see other venues in the absence of the rock music of my “youth”.

Musically the 90s started a little weak for me. In 1990, only 10 albums caught my attention throughout the year. That continued to be the average throughout the decade. But it was better than nothing. Even more, some of the music was truly fantastic. The 90s gave us The Sundays, Seal, Barenaked Ladies, The Cranberries, Diana Krall, Oasis, Ben Folds, Sarah McLachlan, Fountains of Wayne, and the beginning of solo careers by such as Neil Finn (Crowded House) and Colin Hay (Men at Work).

Also different this decade is that for some of the artists listed, many had only one or two good albums. For example, to me no matter how popular Barenaked Ladies got, their first album, Gordon, is the only really good one. It was downhill from there. For the most part, gone were the days of following an artist through their career. Sure there are a few exceptions (Fountains of Wayne, Diana Krull, Colin Hay).

The 90s were the eighth of the record producer being the real star of songs (no longer albums). With the magic of digital recording even the most average singer can sound like a dream. And the record producer would call all the shots, from picking out the songs, to making the instrumental arrangements. The singer just had to just stand there and sing. The singer had become a marketing tool. Because then would come the music video to hype the only average song. And since it played on the radio, the general public were fooled into believing “hey, this must be good because it’s on the radio”.

Here are some of my highlights of the 90s:
  • Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic and Blind - The Sundays
  • Seal and Seal II - Seal
  • Woodface - Crowded House
  • Fear - Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • Gordon - Barenaked Ladies
  • Harvest Moon - Neil Young
  • Talk - Yes
  • (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? - Oasis
  • A Few Small Repairs - Shawn Colvin
  • Breathe - Midge Ure
  • With a Twist - Todd Rundgren
  • Imaginary Day - Pat Metheny Group
  • Try Whistling This - Neil Finn
  • Painted From Memory - Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach
  • Transcendental Highway - Colin Hay
And again, a lot more.

Just before the 90s I moved here to Lafayette. My record store of choice was Raccoon Records. My apartment was practically across the street from it. It was a great, privately owned record store that tried to carry what Lafayette wanted. From the symphony orchestra patrons to the cajun and zydeco listeners. They held on as long as they could. And that was longer than most. It was a true loss when they closed their doors.

I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite songs from Colin Hay. Hay was the guitarist and lead singer for the Australian band, Men at Work. His solo albums are phenomenal. His guitar playing is fantastic and his voice is a little haunting. If you decide to listen, I hope you enjoy.

What’s next: The “Oughts”, ordering over the internet, and digital downloads.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Music of the 80s - I Want My MTV!

All ThingsBefore I get started, I’d like to make a recommendation. Because I also love movies, when you mix the two, magic happens. But this is different. My recommendation is the documentary All Things Must Pass: the Rise and Fall of Tower Records. This film captures the feelings of anticipation and even rituals that music lovers used to go through in record stores. This was a wonderful experience that has now passed. I believe this is streaming on the various services. The last few years have seen the rise of some great music documentaries. I’ll let you know some of these in coming posts.

So here we go.


Crossing from the 70s into the 80s I was a college dropout playing in a local rock band in Tallahassee by night and doing whatever I could during the day to keep from having to move back with my parents. I decided I’d had enough and that I wanted to go to college for real. So I squeezed in junior college into my schedule to get my GPA out of the “laughing stock” category, and decided I wanted to go to Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida.

The late 70s bright some great music, particularly from a new genre labeled New Wave. The Jam, Talking Heads, The Police, Blondie, The Cars, Dave Edmunds, Devo, Joe Jackson, The Clash, The Tubes, The Boomtown Rats, and many others. This was especially flamed in 1981 with the launching of a little thing called MTV (back when the M stood for music, not morons). But my first introduction was to an artist who to me, was the greatest of them all: Elvis Costello.

Thanks to Skip Parvin, I was introduced with the first notes of ECs second album This Year’s Model. "I don't wanna kiss you, I don't wanna touch, I don't wanna see you 'cause I don't miss you that much” - “No Action”. This was the spring of 1978, around the time I graduated high school. I was sent out into the world, mind fully blown. I drank in the music of many of the artists I listed above, something new. At least newer.

But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some great regular rock to be appreciated and loved. Three of my favorite Genesis albums were during that period. And new to the scene were bands like Dire Straits, Heart, Warren Zevon, Foreigner, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, XTC, Chuck Mangione, Bad Company, and others. Still vibrant were Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Supertramp, Yes, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and the decade ended with Pink Floyd’s The Wall and, sadly, the death of Keith Moon.

The 1980s were welcomed with some of the best albums from artists such as:
  • Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - David Bowie
  • Duke - Genesis
  • Black Sea - XTC
  • Boy - U2 (debut album)
  • Get Happy!! - Elvis Costello and the Attractions
  • Crocodiles - Echo and the Funnymen
  • New Clear Days - the Vapors (debut album)
  • One Step Closer - the Doobie Brothers
  • Pretenders - The Pretenders (debut album)
  • True Colours - Split Enz
  • Vienna - Ultravox
  • Shadows and Light - Joni Mitchell
  • The River - Bruce Springsteen
  • Seconds of Pleasure - Rockville
  • Gaucho - Steely Dan
  • Yesshows - Yes
Also during this time was the dawn of a young jazz guitarist from America’s midwest named Pat Metheny. Pat will go on to produce the most extensive and eclectic catalog of works of any musician in his or any other field. Not to mention winning a Grammy award for almost every album he releases. I didn’t discover him until later, but better late than never.

By the time I moved to Lakeland for college in 1983 I was finding that whereas there was still great music to be ingested, there wasn’t as much as in the 70s. Fewer new artists captured my attention and some old favorites were getting a little “long in the tooth”.

Luckily come R.E.M., Tears for Fears, The Fixx, Naked Eyes, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Alarm, Talk Talk, Everything But the Girl, Chris Isaak, The Style Council, Sade, Crowded House, Danny Wilson, Jane Siberry, and Michael Hedges. But from 1980 to 1989, the number of albums that I liked dropped, literally 50%. That downward trend would continue into the 90s and beyond.

Not only that, but it seemed that my tastes moved from “guitar rock” to “synth pop”. Not necessarily. I found that the synth bands I liked were long past the novelty aspect and were being quite orchestral with the keyboards. The songs were melody-centric not unlike the best songs of The Beatles.

On the other side of the synth movement, the bass guitarists of this decade really stepped up their game. No longer was the bass just a simple rhythm instrumental holding down the foundation of the songs. In many cases the bass took counterpointal lines to the melody or other instrumental. Chris Squire's work with Yes is the ideal example. Now was also a rise in the use of fretless basses. More commonly used in jazz music, now we had fretless players such as Pino Palladino, Tony Franklin, Tony Levin, and Jack Bruce of Cream.

Fortunately, Lakeland was in-between Orlando and Tampa/St. Petersburg. One hour on the interstate in either direction put my in one of those great cities. Especially in Tampa I found some small, independent record stores that carried a lot of imported and self-distributed albums. It was fairly easy to get my hands on the “odd” stuff. It certainly allowed me to keep up with my favorite artists.

So out of my dorm room wafted the “strange” sounds that often drew strange looks and snarls from other students. I was blessed enough to have a great roommate or at least a patient one. Also the guy in the neighboring room was very eclectic too.

For a decade that marked the decline of rock music for me, there as some damned fine music that I still listen too and dearly love. The music brings back many great memories of people and times that I consider the highlight of my life.

What about you? What stands out about 80s music? As time goes by I’ll be talking about some of these artists and albums a little more in-depth. Keep listening.

 Next: The 90s - Novocaine for the Soul

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A New Chapter

After 14 years with a particular organization, I find my self unemployed and beginning a new chapter in my life. This was unexpected as, I guess, I thought I began the LAST chapter in my life 4½ years ago. Now, I don't like change any more than the next guy, but I trust God to guide me where I'm needed.

In the meantime, while looking for work, this looks to be a good time to blow the dust and soot off this blog. So, here we go...


I realize all too clearly that I have all but become the stereotypical old man, sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch, whittling, yelling at the neighborhood kids to "git offa my lahn!!".

My father never was like that. He was a quiet man. He didn't particularly like my rock'n'roll music, but he didn't complain about it either. He always encouraged my music interest, even when it turned into music study. His view was that it's a great hobby. He actually played piano and organ completely by ear, without a second of training. But not as a career. I'll skip the point for now that I wish I'd listen to him on that.

Anyway, my high school years spanned the 1970s. So I listened to a lot of Doobie Brothers, Seals and Crofts, Chicago, Three Dog Night, Elton John, The Eagles, well, you get the picture. Mostly on the radio until I was able to buy albums of my own.

This continued throughout the decade until disco started entering the picture. At this point, not liking disco, I began my lifelong search for music I liked that was not so easy to come by. All this time, several record companies, Warner Brothers in particular, were release "sampler" albums via mail-order. I got to hear many artists that were not getting on the radio stations. At least, not the ones I could get.

This lead me to Cat Stevens, Steely Dan, Jethro Tull, Genesis, and others. Once I knew they existed I knew what to look for in the record store. But in those days, teens didn't have all the disposable funds that teens seem to have now. So I couldn't buy very many and had to choose carefully. Often I was hang around in the record stores listening to whatever album they were playing on the store system.

During this time, there were landmark albums of my high school years, such as (in no particular order):

  • Aja & Katy Lied - Steely Day
  • Who's Next - The Who
  • The Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
  • Yessongs - Yes
  • Seven Separate Fools - Three Dog Night
  • One of These Nights & On The Border & One of These Nights - The Eagles
  • They Only Come Out at Night - The Edgar Winter Group
  • Diamond Girl & Summer Breeze - Seals and Crofts
  • Third Annual Pipe Dream - The Atlanta Rhythm Section
  • So What - Joe Walsh
  • Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
  • Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin
  • Night Moves - Bob Seger
  • Silk Degrees - Boz Scaggs
  • The Pretender - Jackson Browne

And more, that's only though 1976. There were may songs and artists I was not exposed to until years and sometime decades later.

I was relying on records and the one AOR radio station out of Tallahassee for "my" music. The rest of the radio was country and western (when it was REAL country and western) and disco-pop. And all of that reached a peak in September of 1975.

I was so frustrated of everything being played on rock radio I was ready to give up on music completely. So, standing in front of my silent radio I prayed to God my frustration and how much I loved music. I made a deal with Him. I would turn on the radio and whatever was playing, with no retuning, if I like it, I would be patent and not give up on music. Otherwise I was going to chunk the radio all together.

I stood there, nervously with my hand on the knob. Then I took a deep breath and turned it on.  Bruce Springsteen was proclaiming "baby we were born to run". Having never heard the song before, I turned it up and just breathed in the layered guitars and desperate lyrics that were both alien and familiar to me.

After the song finished, some banal-crap song began. It turned off the radio and told God that I was good for my word. I continued my search for music that spoke to me. Starting off with "Born to Run".

Later on in the 70s, WFSU radio started an afternoon program called Freefall. It was the onset of college radio. It was my new source for the non-top40.

I continued this pattern until I basically gave up during the 90s. It was in this decade that I had the most difficulty relating to the sounds of the music. Of course there are always exceptions. Actually, as I type this Seal is singing for me from 1994 from one of the best albums EVER.

So now, I focus on "old" music but I keep looking. Praise God I've pretty much been able to put together my ideal library. And as I listen to Stephen Stills on my iPhone, I can sit in the car-port and make sure those dang kids stay "offa my lawn".

Coming soon - my music of the 80s, the college years...