everything you ever wanted to know about nothing at all...

Sunday, December 08, 2013

You & me at the edge of the world, the year in music 2013

I find music criticism tiresome and fascinating at the same time.  Very few album or concert reviews hold my interest for very long, most are incredibly lazy and rely on preconceived notions on the artist they are reviewing, or even worse, other reviews they've already read.  When Bob Dylan's "Another Self Portrait" came out this year, every review mentioned how the album this collection's outtakes come from were panned by the press and include Greil Marcus' review of "Self Portrait" where he begins with "what is this sh*t?".  Many failed to even talk about the songs included on the album. 

I used to have high dreams of being a rock critic, but soon realized I didn't have the avenues to crack into this field, and it also seemed like a hard way to make a living.  As music is my favorite subject, I still love reading about it almost as much as I love listening to it, even though very few critics hold my interest for very long.  My ol' pal Kevin Davis ( http://kevinpauldavis.blogspot.com/) is one of the few good ones.

As I don't have as much time to dedicate to my hobby as I used to, I prefer to look at the music I listen to as benchmarks of my life.  If you can't relate the music you listen to to your own experience, you might as well listen to w-lite or the light rock station of your choice. When I think of "Another Self Portrait" I think of the chills I got listening to the new version of "Sign on the Window", a song I've always loved, but now it has a beautiful piano intro to the tune of "Danny Boy" and the rest of the song has a string arrangement that gave me chills listening to it for the first time while mowing the lawn.  It's hard to get chills mowing the lawn.  There are lots of gems on this collection, and it's true that the albums that these outtakes come from are far inferior to this collection, it makes me wonder how much different the arc of his career would've been if these songs had been released, but then again, I wouldn't be appreciating them for what they are now, little treasures found in an attic to be enjoyed later.  What I'll remember most about this album comes from my daughter.  One day, we're sitting on the couch & my daughter starts singing, "Annie's going to sing her song called take me back again!".  Now, I know what the three of you who read this blog are thinking, that I sit around & teach my daughter Bob Dylan songs all day.  That's really not the case, at least not this time.  I was extremely proud.  My pride however has led to me having to listen to that song ad nauseum, everytime we get in the car she always wants to hear the "Annie song".

Speaking of Bob Dylan, I saw him in concert once again in 2013 at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo.  One of the most exciting things about seeing Dylan in concert is the ever changing setlists, you never know what he's going to play on a given night.   That's gone now, he plays the same set every night.  The trade-off is that he puts in a more focused, consistent performance.  On this night, he performed one of the best versions of Beyond Here Lies Nothing that I've heard, he had the crowd whipped up into a frenzy that I've never witnessed at a Dylan concert.  I also got to hear songs from "Tempest" for the first time, including Pay in Blood, where he changes the lyric to say "my conscience is clear, how about you?", and a jawdropping performance of "What Good Am I?". 

My favorite musical moment of 2013 happened at the Ladies' Literary Club in Grand Rapids (it's not really a ladies' literary club) where we saw Kishi Bashi.  Some performers have something about them that you can't explain, their music has a way of getting under your skin.  I don't understand his lyrics in the least bit (many of them are in Japanese).  His music is pure joy.  I was there with my best concert going pal, and we sat towards the back (there's not a bad seat in the house and it was a sold out show). On the steps leading up to the theater, a lady rocked her newborn child so that they could listen to the show for free.  It made me wish I lived in the neighborhood, so I could walk with Lilly down to these steps to listen to whatever show was going on.  It's a good reminder that music should hang in the air for anyone to enjoy, whether they have a ticket or not.  It also made me wonder what happens if you were to unexpectedly drop the average person who isn't an avid music searcher like my friend & myself into the ladies literary club when Kishi Bashi is in the midst of one of these crazy performances what they would think of it.  So this is an open invitation to the three or four readers of this blog, the next time Kishi Bashi comes to Grand Rapids, I'd love to buy anyone who wants to go a ticket. 

This is totally unrelated to music, but that song reminds me of when we went to Traverse City & I took Lillian to Old Mission Peninsula & told her we were going to the edge of the world. 

I believe having my daughter leaves me with not as much time for my favorite hobby of seeing live music and listening to new music, but whenever I do see a concert my mind usually wanders towards what she's doing and what she would think if she were at the concert with me and thinking of her usually makes me enjoy the concert even more.  Last weekend, we attended a concert at church of a choir from South Africa called the Key of Hope.  Lillian loved it & wants to listen to it every time she gets in the car now.  I love that she loves it. 

iYo Yo Yo, From Jamaica, South Africa, With Love from Stephen McGee Films on Vimeo.

Here's hoping you had a great music year, too. 


Saturday, November 09, 2013

Storm Windows

I raked the lawn today & put all the patio furniture in the garage for the winter.  While doing so, I couldn't help but regret how few times we ate dinner at the table on the deck or even sat there.  I think this is my new favorite poem. When we are young, we take solace in the fact that certain things will last forever, when we are old we mourn the fact that nothing lasts forever. 

The Chairs That No One Sits In

By Billy Collins
You see them on porches and on lawns
down by the lakeside,
usually arranged in pairs implying a couple

who might sit there and look out
at the water or the big shade trees.
The trouble is you never see anyone

sitting in these forlorn chairs
though at one time it must have seemed   
a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.

Sometimes there is a little table
between the chairs where no one   
is resting a glass or placing a book facedown.

It might be none of my business,
but it might be a good idea one day
for everyone who placed those vacant chairs

on a veranda or a dock to sit down in them
for the sake of remembering
whatever it was they thought deserved

to be viewed from two chairs   
side by side with a table in between.
The clouds are high and massive that day.

The woman looks up from her book.
The man takes a sip of his drink.
Then there is nothing but the sound of their looking,

the lapping of lake water, and a call of one bird
then another, cries of joy or warning—
it passes the time to wonder which.
Five Favorite Songs of the Day
 The Heart of a Saturday Night-Tom Waits

Storm Windows-John Prine

Josh Mcbride-The Head & the Heart

Hang Me Oh Hang Me-Deep Dark Woods

Dink's Song-Bob Dylan

Happy Saturday, friends...


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Schroeder Family History

This mantle is made out of a barn beam that came out of a barn that is believed to be built in the late 1800s or the early 1900s by a gentleman named John East in a town called Britton, Michigan.  Here's the story of how it got here.  

This house was built in 2000 or 2001.  The Schroeders (Andrew, Christie & Lillian) purchased this home in 2012.  They had moved here from a condo on 1079 Moreland street that Andrew had bought when he moved to Grand Haven in 2006.  He met Christie in 2006 at a dart tournament at the Kirby Grill in downtown Grand Haven.  Andrew & his friends put on the dart tournament upstairs, & one of his friend's girlfriend decided it would be best to bring Christie along to try to set them up.  Christie says that Andrew barely said anything to her all night long, but that is his way.  They soon fell in love and were married on May 3, 2008 at St Johns Lutheran Church on Taylor Street in Grand Haven.  Their honeymoon was in Maui, Hawaii. 

Christie's grandparents are Arnold & Irene Potter & Maurice & Grace Racey.  Arnold & Irene lived in Wyoming & Maurice & Grace lived in Fremont.  Arnold worked for a bread company & Irene was a stay at home mom.  Maurice worked for Model Coverall & was a prisoner of war in the Korean war.  Grace worked for Russ' Restaurant.  All of them live in the greater Grand Rapids area.   

Christie's parents were Calvin & Marlene Racey.  Cal is a manager of a Russ' restaurant in Grandville & Marlene works for an eye doctor's office in Grandville.  They were married at age 18, & had three children, Dan, Dawn & Christie.  Dan owns his own business, Row 2 tickets & is married to Kim.  They have three children, Sydney, Nora & Jacob.  Dawn also works for Row 2 Tickets & is married to Greg (Mcqueen).  They have two children, Grady & Peyton.  Cal & Marlene are devoted grandparents who would do anything for their children or grandchildren.  Cal is an avid sports fan, a golfer, & baseball card collector.  Marlene loves to travel, shop & spend time with her grandchildren. 

Christie was born on March, 31 1984, the youngest in her family.  She was an excellent student, she has a beautiful singing voice & was an All State softball player in high school (something her father is very proud to point out).  She was offered scholarships to play softball in college, but turned them down.  She attended Central Michigan University, but later transferred to Grand Valley, where she lived in various apartments & with her parents in Jenison.  She studied social work.  She eventually got her Master's Degree & now works for Davita Dialysis.  She helps people with various services & diagnoses them.  She loves her job & is very good at it.  She is always concerned with people's well being, at work & outside of work.  She is a devoted wife & mother.  She loves to shop with her mother, play softball, travel & spend time with her family.  She's traveled around the world, including Hawaii &Australia.  She is the love of her husband's life. 

Andrew's grandparents were Earl & Doris Saville & Clarence & Rosemary Schroeder.  Earl was a chemist, working for various companies including the Glidden Paint Company.  He was one of the chemists who worked on one of the first exterior latex paints.  Doris did various jobs & was a stay at home mother.  They lived in Ohio until moving to Tecumseh, Michigan in the early 1980s.  Earl passed away in February, 2007.  Doris lives in Saline currently, & is 91 years old.  Clarence & Rosemary lived on Ridge Rd in Britton Michigan.  They moved there in 1946 when they were married.  Clarence was a farmer & a school bus driver.  Rosemary was a schoolteacher.  Rosemary passed away in October, 2000 at her home on the Ridge Rd.  Clarence passed away in May of 2013.

Andrew's parents are Thomas & Pamela Schroeder.  Tom is a pastor at Christ our King in Saline & Pam is a schoolteacher in Ann Arbor.   They met at Concordia College in Ann Arbor, & began dating while on a choir tour in Europe.  They resided briefly in New York City, but spent the majority of their lives in Southeast Michigan.  They lived in Waltz, Saline & Milan, where they currently live.  They had three children, Heidi, Emily & Andrew.  Tom always spent lots of time at his father's farm in Britton & would bring Andrew there many Saturdays to work when he was a child.  Pam loves everything musical, she plays in the church praise team & directed choir.  Heidi lives in downtown Saline with her husband Scott & her children Quinn, Avery & Kaleigh.  Emily lives on the outskirts of Saline with her husband Bob & her daughters Ella, Sophia & Lucy.  Heidi is a photographer & an interior decorator & Emily is a stay at home mom after working for Consumer's Energy.

Andrew was born on July 3, 1979.  He moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1997 to attend Grand Valley State University & got a job working with the Sherwin Williams Company.  He graduated in 2001 with a degree in English.  He then took another job with the Sherwin Williams Company, where he still works, now as a store manager in Holland.  He is proud of the fact that his first paying job was painting the "Cow Palace", an old Britton building that was moved to the Schroeder farm.  He is also proud of the fact that his Grandpa Earl Saville also worked in paint.  He loves his family & his heritage, even though he moved hours away to Grand Haven.  He loves to listen to & collect records, as well as attend concerts.  He also loves sitting on his front porch & is an avid Detroit Tigers fan (the Tigers are beginning the American League Division Championship series today against the Boston Red Sox). 

Lillian Isabelle was born on November 19 at Spectrum Hospital in Grand Haven.  Andrew & Christie tried to have a baby for a long, & for a while were afraid that they weren't able to have children, so when Christie got pregnant with Lillian, she was a real blessing & continues to be to this day.  She has red hair, & inquisitive blue eyes, she loves to sing & has a wonderful imagination.  She is also very smart & very polite, although sometimes she has a defiant streak not uncommon in redheads.  Her favorite things to do are jump on the trampoline, go to the zoo, play with her "black game (mom & dad's ipad)" & torture Winston the dog. 

Andrew & Christie are planning on having a second child, if it's a boy they are going to name him ______ & they are undecided on the name if it's a girl.  Lillian goes back & forth on whether she wants a brother or sister.  The Schroeders attend Hope Reformed Church, right down the street from here.  They believe that there are no coincidences in life, & that all of the seemingly inconsequential decisions that led them to this time & place with each other are all part of God's plan.

Today, October 12, 2013, the fireplace in this house is getting a new mantle & new brick.  We hope you've enjoyed it.  The mantle was taken from Opa's barn, which was owned by John East as mentioned above.  Clarence Schroeder moved the barn to their property on the Ridge in 1946, the year they were married.  This year, Tom Schroeder took one of the beams from the barn, & with the help of his wife, Pam Schroeder, they fashioned it into this mantle. 

The Schroeder's family bible verses are two sides of the same coin.  The first one is is Philippians 4:13 "I can do all this through Him who gives me strength."  Christie wrote this bible verse on the floor of Hope Reformed Church when it was remodeled in 2013.  The second verse is from 2 Corinthians 12:9 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.'".  We are only as strong as the God we rely on, & that God is stronger than any brick, oak or anything found on this earth, & as Tom Schroeder would say, "His love will never rot, rust or fade away". 

Friday, August 16, 2013

I'm hanging in the balance of a perfect finished plan...

I'm not sure what possessed me to buy the condo on Moreland St.  After owning an old house on Valley St in Northwest Grand Rapids, I realized I am not handy in the least bit & was happy to have a brand new place that required no fixing whatsoever.  Like most people who bought any kind of property between 2002 and 2006, I thought it would be a good investment.  Six years later, we had to write a check for more than I care to admit to just to sell it.  I'll never regret buying that place, though. 

I met my beautiful wife, Christie while I lived there.  After we had been married for a year or so, we got a knock on the door,  it was our neighbors from a couple of doors down.  They just dropped in to chat, not being the most social people on the planet, we were kind of caught off guard.  They seemed like good people & we really enjoyed their company, & the husband had really good taste in music.  Maybe they enjoyed our company, too, or they were simply being nice but they invited us over for dinner & we've been friends ever since.  They are truly a couple of the most beautiful, selfless people you will ever meet. 

Around the same time we were looking for a new church.  They invited us to visit theirs, not in that creepy way that makes you feel like you are being sold a vacuum cleaner.  We loved it & felt very welcome, but, being of a slightly different denominational persuasion, I was hesitant to become members of their church.  At the same time, we were struggling to get pregnant & there were a lot of messages at church about adoption, & we struggled with the idea that we might not ever be able to have children.  Around the time we decided to finally become members at Hope, we found out that Christie was pregnant. 

I couldn't see it at the time, but I've come to know that God had a hand in all of this.  I've never been more certain of anything in my life that if we had not met our neighbors & not went to church at Hope we wouldn't have Lillian.  I found out later that our friends we met at the condo prayed for us long before we ever became friends.  God worked through their prayers & through their friendship & our lives have been forever changed.  Lillian is truly a gift from God.  Being her father makes me a better man. 

I don't like to owe anybody anything, be it money or favors.  It's incredibly humbling for me to know that I will never be able to repay my friends for what they've done for me & my family.  They truly followed Christ's example.  Christ's death on the cross & resurrection didn't fit our human model of transactional exchanges.  We exchange gifts, we pay for services rendered.  God gave us a gift we can't pay for, no matter how hard we try.  I always wonder if humans are ever possible of a selfless act in this model, but I now know it's possible. 

We live in a house right down the street from the church & we walk there when the weather's nice.  It's easy now to piece together all the seemingly unimportant decisions & moments in life that lead to the moment I find myself in, & I realized that they are not without purpose.  I don't miss living at our old condo.  We drive by it every three months or so, often when we are going out to dinner with our friends we met there.  When we moved out, we left a note for the people who bought it, inviting them to Hope & we prayed for them & will continue to do so.  

Happy Friday, friends. 

Five Favorite Songs of the Day

Every Grain of Sand-Bob Dylan

Happiness-Jonsi & Alex

You Are Not Alone-Mavis Staples

Walk Like a Giant-Neil Young

Vito's Ordination Song-Sufjan Stevens

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Looking for the heart of a Saturday night

I remember going to bed at night & hearing the sound of Mash & Nightcourt on the television set.  I don't know why I particularly remember those songs, because I'm quite certain my parents didn't watch those television shows every night.  It was always quite comforting to hear that in the background as I went to bed.  The times I remember when my parents would allow me to watch even a few minutes of Nightcourt, I enjoyed it, even if the jokes were well over my head. 

As a dad, I'm quite conscious of what Lillian might remember as she grows up.  I'm quite certain it will be something completely different from what I may want her to remember.  Christie says she doesn't remember anything before the age of 7, & that makes me sad to think about.  If you asked my mother, I'm sure she doesn't watching Nightcourt all that often.  There are all kinds of songs that sound to me like Saturday night (listed below) but I'm quite certain they won't mean a thing to Lillian like they do to me, & that's probably for the best. 

Saturday night is fast becoming my favorite night of the week.  It usually works out that we'll go out to dinner on Friday night & stay home on Saturdays, that's just the way I like it.  We had an excellent meal on the deck.  Lillian & I went for a walk after dinner to the bridge overlooking both the Pottawatomie Bayou.  From the bridge we could see a couple of parties happening at houses on the bayou.  One of the parties had one of those inflatable bouncing things that held lots of kids.  Lillian saw this & asked if she could play in it & I had to explain to her that it was for a party that we weren't invited to, & this wasn't quite the blow to her 2 1/2 year old heart that I feared it might be.  I thought to myself that if I were at that party with all that good food, toys & waterfront property & saw somebody like me walking down the street, I'd be jealous of that guy & wishing I weren't at the party.  That's probably kind of sad, too.  We walked home, had popsicles on the porch, read a few books & it was off to bed for her, & the night was a little slice of heaven for me.  I hope in someway, if not this night, but nights like this one, are the ones that form in her mind that she remembers fondly. 

 Tom Waits-The Heart of a Saturday Night


John Prine-A Good Time


Dawn Mccarthy & Bonnie "Prince" Billy-Poems, Prayers & Promises (John Denver Cover)


John Prine-Donald & Lydia


John Prine-Blue Umbrella


Happy Saturday, friends. 


Friday, January 04, 2013

Tis the season for year end lists, & since all the painting is done at my house & the basement is cleaned & I have vacation days to burn, I've read alot of best album lists for 2012 in between playing with a two year old.  In the old days, I liked to think I was uniquely qualified to weigh in on what I thought were the best albums of the year.  Nowadays, with time to listen to music & money that isn't being used for house remodeling limited, I read these lists as a way of catching up on what I might have missed.  The other night, my friend  & I got to talking about our favorite albums after he showed me how to use spotify which lead us to trade playlists of our favorite albums.  We're not that full of ourselves to claim that these are the best albums of all time or anything, just full of ourselves enough to come up with a silly music list.  It's fun, & I'm on vacation.  Currently, I've got a bad head cold & am missing a Christmas party, so bear with me.

I was going to keep it to ten, but my friend broke the rules & made it thirteen, so I broke the rules even further & made it twenty, in no particular order.

The Milk Eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom

Life for me got a whole lot better when, as an adult, I quit worrying about what was cool, how many friends I had or what I was doing on a Saturday night.  I'm not sure what that has to do with Joanna Newsom, except for the fact that you can't make an album like this when you are concerned with such things.  You don't play an album like this for friends when you're worried about whether they think you're cool or not.  Most people I know who have heard this album think it's the wierdest thing they've ever heard.  Once you don't worry about that any more, there are worlds to discover.  Reading the lyrics only tells you half the story, the way they're sung keeps you searching for the ending to the story. 

"no means no, where I come from, i am cold & waiting for the spring to come"
"never get so attached to a poem, you forget truth that lacks lyricism"

 Desire by Bob Dylan

For some reason, I own 4 copies of this album, two on vinyl, one on cd, & one on vinyl framed with the album cover, one of the coolest gifts I've ever received.  The story goes that Dylan heard the violinist playing on the street & hired her to play on the album.  The violin makes it.  It weaves it's way through the album like a snake, giving it an other-worldly kind of sound.  The interplay between the violin & the harmonica is sublime.  The story also goes that when Emmylou Harris was hired to sing back up on the album, she was given none of the music to rehearse ahead of time.  You can hear her struggling to catch up with the lyrics mid-song.  This is Dylan's great melting pot approach to music, to create a moment that can't be rehearsed & can't be duplicated.

"it was true that in his later years he would not carry a gun, 'I'm around too many children,' he'd say, 'they should never know of one'"
"Isis, oh Isis, you're a mystical child, what drives me to you is what drives me insane"
"Oh sister, am I not a brother to you?  And one deserving of affection?  And would our father not like the way that you act?  To love & to follow his direction?"

Our Endless Numbered Days by Iron & Wine

There's so many kinds of emotions on display in this album.  Anger, sadness, joy, rebellion, but mostly melancholy, & this album finds the beauty of all of them. The album takes a happy moment & reminds you of all the sad ones that came before, but also finds hope in sadness as well.  I've enjoyed other albums by Sam Beam, but none of them come anything close to this one.

"love is a dress that you wear, long to hide your knees"
"slept through Christmas, slept like a bucket of snow"

Trace by Son Volt

This album was released in 1995 & I don't listen to it too much anymore.  It caught my ear though & made me seek out all kinds of music that came before it & after it.  It is one of the more famous Alt-Country albums & it lead me to seek out music by some of my favorite artists like Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Buddy Miller & lots of others.  The album used to get played on "The River--93.9", a station out of Windsor that played all kinds of great music.  Of course, the station didn't last too long, but my fascination with the kinds of music it played continues on.

"now & then it keeps you runnin', never seems to die, trails spent with fear not enough living on the outside"
"looking for the right kind of live free or die..."

Kind of Blue-Miles Davis

Post 1950's jazz is the rarest of art forms that is rarely understood or appreciated by anyone who doesn't play music.  I think I'm one of those rare people who loves jazz who doesn't play it, although I still don't understand it.  Kind of Blue is accessible to the jazz novice, but yet is brilliant all the same.  The key to this album is the space between the notes, or the notes that don't get played.  Someone who is truly good at something doesn't need to tell you how good they are.  Miles was great, & he knew it, but he didn't care who else knew it.

Souvenirs-John Prine

If there's one album in my collection that gets the most play over the last five years, it's this one.  In 2000, after recovering from cancer surgery, Prine re-recorded a collection of his greatest songs with his new voice.  This voice was the first I ever heard from Prine, & I still don't enjoy the original versions of these songs as much as I do on Souvenirs.  His voice sounds like he's lived the life he tells of in these songs, much like a John Updike novel, Prine finds the greatest meaning in the smallest of details.  His songs sound like a liquor store in a small town on a Saturday afternoon, that feeling that life is moving for everyone but you. 

"you know that old trees just grow stronger, & old rivers grow wilder everyday, old people just grow lonesome, waiting for someone to say hello in there."

"there were spaces between donald & whatever he said, strangers had forced him to live his head, he envisioned the details of romantic scenes, after midnight in the stillness of the barracks latrine."

Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

If I were in a band, & I wanted the band to go for a specific sound, it would be the sound of this record.  It's so big, it's got the four powerful backup singers, a driving percussion style piano, an eery sounding violin, plus a full rock band.  Then there's angry, crazy old Nick Cave, who's singing teeters in the balance between singing & shouting.  The energy level is so high, you think it can't sustain itself but it does, & the album's balanced out nicely with a few choice slower songs like Babe You Turn Me On.  . 

The mighty wave their hankies from their
high-windowed palace
Sending grief and joy down in supportable doses
And we search high and low without
mercy or malice
While the gate to the Kingdom swings
shut and closes

I See a Darkness-Bonnie "Prince" Billy

Whenever I hear someone lament how music isn't as good as it used to be back in the day, I always tell them they aren't looking in the right places.  Will Oldham, aka Bonnie Prince Billy, is one of the greatest songwriters of the past twenty years.  He's a little strange to say the least, & his singing isn't for everybody, but if Oldham was around in the sixties, I'll bet the Byrds would've done a whole album's worth of covers from him & had hits from them.  Johnny Cash covered the title track, & he even got Oldham to sing backup.  His voice is so fragile on this record it feels like it will fall apart at any moment.  It stares depression & hurt right in the face.  I think he could've made twenty albums that sounded just like this one (and I'd buy every single one), he's that prolific, but every one of his album of his is a different direction.  

" i hope that one day, buddy, we'll have peace in our lives, together or apart, alone or with our wives.  and we can stop our whoring, & pull the smiles inside, & light it up forever, and never go to sleep.  my best unbeaten brother, this isn't all i see."

Bryter Later-Nick Drake

There's two approaches to appreciating art of any form, you can listen to the piece on it's own & appreciate it on it's own merits or you can wrap together the art & the artist & understand the conditions that may have given root to the art.  With Nick Drake, I don't think you can separate the art from the artist.  Bob Dylan once wrote, "pain sure brings out the best in people...doesn't it?".  I'm not sure what drives a person to become a songwriter, but I think with some of the best ones that there's just thoughts swirling around their heads that will make them go crazy if they don't do create something.  There's a long list of great songwriters that committed suicide in the prime of their lives, or more accurately, in the prime of their artistic output.  Phil Ochs, Elliot Smith, Kurt Cobain to name a few.  That seems to be the case with Nick Drake.  His lyrics are small & sparse, he's that rare musicians who can generate power from quiet sound.  A brilliant, sad, little album.

Automatic for the People-REM

REM was the first band I was really into as a teenager, my buddy Mike & I used to listen to them while playing ping pong all the time.  I happened to borrow his cassette copy of Automatic for the People when I went on a school trip to New York City in January 1995.  I can't separate the bittersweet sound of "Sweetness Follows" from the New York skyline, and I'm not sure I want to.

Bootleg Series Volume 4 "The Royal Albert Hall Concert"-Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan isn't the first artist to not give the audience what they want, but he's probably the most notable musician to do it.  By the time this concert was played, it was no secret that Bob Dylan was playing with an electric guitar (gasp!) & that he abandoned the topical songs that made him famous.  Most reviews will tell you that the audience loved the acoustic first half of the show, but the songs Dylan chose to play weren't the folkie "Blowin' in the Wind" type songs that the audience wanted to hear.   He plays the long, Rimbaud inspired epics that span for eight plus minutes, drawing out the lyrics & spitting the consonants into the mike as percussion.  It's pure punk, long before anybody ever came up with the term "punk music".  The harmonica solo on Mr Tambourine Man seems to get lost in time somewhere, he loses control of it for about a minute or so before pulling it back down from the rafters to end the song.  The electrified second half starts like a shot gun blast with "Tell Me Momma".  The song has no defined set of lyrics, alot of them are made up on the spot or sung so loudly that you can't understand them.  It's rock & roll for the sake of rock & roll and the crowd was amped up and ready to hate him for it.  In that sense, he did give the crowd what they wanted.  They heckled & booed & Dylan feeds off of it, heckling them back. 

All of this leads up to the penultimate moment after the show piece of the night "Ballad of a Thin Man.  One guy shouts (audible on tape) "Judas!", another shouts (inaudible on the tape) "I'll never listen to you again!", to which Dylan replies drolly, "I don't believe you...you're a liar" & then turns to the band & yells "play fucking loud" before kicking off "Like a Rolling Stone".  Rarely does an actual event live up to the hype & mythology that surrounds it, but I believe this one exceeds it.

Blue-Joni Mitchell

This album sounds to me like it is longing for something always out of your grasp.  Longing for a place, longing for a lover, longing for a past to be made right.  Usually, I like my music to be spontaneous, & with spontaneity comes imperfection.  This album, on the other hand, is as close a thing to perfection as I've heard.  Every guitar strum, every note, every breath is perfect.  Anything I could say about would only muck it up.  Just listen to it.

"let's have a round for these freaks & these soldiers, a round for these friends of mine, let's have another round for the bright red devil who keeps me in this tourist town"

Horses-Patti Smith

I wonder what women of my Grandma's generation might think of this album.  That isn't any kind of value judgement, sometimes I prefer the lack of sarcasm & irony from people who came of age before 1965.  You don't hear anything like this from anyone before 1975.  And yet, I believe there is a consistency of human emotions & experiences that exist throughout the ages.  Some might say it's drugs, but I don't need drugs to appreciate anything, & I'm pretty sure Patti Smith didn't need drugs to make this album.  What I love about this album is it shatters the idea that things have to be pretty, & this isn't pretty, or that the unpleasant things of society need to be shoved into a dark closet.

I'll finish the rest later...


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Grand Haven, Michigan
the sun shines on a dog's ass every now & then...