Tuesday, March 27, 2012

...this one'll be over before you know it...



Taken in North Bend, Oregon from across the street yesterday.. The gas station I usually go to in neighboring Coos Bay wanted $4.09 for a gallon of the stuff. I'd protest if I thot it would do any good.

Monday, March 26, 2012

...did anyone detect cries for help in her music?

A while back, I wrote of Amy Winehouse, I posted that if I were growing up in today's world, I probably would have been a big Amy fan. I wrote about how she seemed so absorbed in her music, projecting something very deep from within. I wrote that just after her death, after getting curious as to what her music was about, and seeing and hearing her on YouTube. I began to research her music, and to the best of my knowledge, only two of her albums were released during her lifetime, with the most recent one ("Back To Black") being released in 2007. That's quite a while ago.

This is that album, "Back To Black". This is the one that won her so many Grammies. The song that initially hit me hard and caught my attention right away is "You Know I'm No Good". The line that hit me in the face was "I cheated myself...like I knew I would..." and that's so sad. "I told you I was troubled...you know that I'm no good". She was in the prime of her career then, and yet this is how she saw things. It's as if she's at the edge of the abyss, looking in, ready to fall at any moment, knowing sooner or later that she'd succumb. It's a sort of pervasive, unrelievable sadness that is discomforting in the short term, and downright fatal if it's not dealt with somehow. In "Wake Up Alone", she sings of keeping herself busy in the daylight, but feeling out of sorts and lonely when the sun sets; here she is, the big star, who gets lonely like the rest of us. What sets her apart is that she can encapsulate that feeling for the rest of us, and that's what an artist does...make you feel things. She sings of "dying a hundred times; you go back to her and I go back to Black". Shiverrr...

This is her third album, "Lioness", released posthumously. On it are songs which were tentatively supposed to be on her third album but we'll never know for sure. It's just about all there's left. It contains five cover versions of someone else's songs. I believe that an artist selects certain 'outside' songs because those songs say something, or perhaps give hope or portray the blues that an artist expresses. She sings the hopeful old song, "Our Day Will Come", but the way she sings it, it's as if there's a chance that day will never come. She absolutely nails "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and wrings her emotions dry in doing so; it's done so beautifully and yet is So Very Sad. She sounds like a very old soul here. Her version of "Girl From Ipanema" is playful; perhaps she wanted to take a break from all the heavy stuff by addressing this jazzy little number. Another cover-track is her version of Leon Russell's "A Song For You" which is meant to be sort-of a nice little something which she's left behind for someone in her life, that she's left behind for the rest of us, turns out. Lastly she duets with Tony Bennett on "Body And Soul"; I've read this is the last song she recorded, and to my ears, she appears to over-slur the lyrics and she seems out of it, and that is very sad. A couple of her songs feature rapping, but to me, those raps only add a degree of "in-your-face" to her sentiments and threaten to throw the songs off course, but I suppose she was looking for some kind of synthesis, some kind of "sound"; I'll chalk that up to musical exploration, testing the limits if you will.

She also wrote many of the songs on the "Lioness" disc; coming across as playful in her composition "Valerie"; she sounds as if she's really enjoying herself in the studio, playing with the rhythms and vocalizing very crisply. Another of her own songs, "Best Friends, Right?" describes a dysfunctional relationship in which both partners mistreat each other, "but we're Best Friends, Right?" The relationship that rips her apart but yet she needs to hang onto that. Another one of her compositions, "Like Smoke", comes right out and says it: "I never wanted you to be my man; I just needed your company". She approaches it on her terms, no matter if it's good for her or not. I think that's what makes her such a compelling singer. The contradictions abound, but her sheer talent outweighs the angst of her material.

She had problems and demons. She was in a relationship that was no good for her. She was constantly hounded by the British press, which shows absolutely no mercy; they probably drove her nuts. And there were alcohol and drug problems that she couldn't overcome. I'm sure that younger people who were her fans could write about her with more accuracy than I, at 57, can muster. At the same time, I find her very, very absorbing and fascinating. Was she a train wreck that was about to happen? Perhaps so, but if she or anyone else could see it, well, no one saw it. And it happened. I feel sad for her, her family, her friends and fans.

I've seen some of her appearances on YouTube. She'll sing the hell out of a song with her voice weaving, dodging and mightily projecting...and when the song ends, she stands still at the mike, her eyes turned upward with a meek little smile that appears to be saying, "Did You Guys really like that? You do?" Hers is a sad story. My one-word description of Amy: "Melancholy". She had all the talent in the world. And it wasn't enough. There are those who say that Artists are more vulnerable; maybe so. Maybe they're more sensitive. But maybe they're constantly under more stress. And, though the world is one big oyster, maybe the Music Press turns that one big oyster into a fishbowl.

I'm still waiting for my copy of her first album, "Frank" (as in Sinatra, who was an inspiration of hers) to arrive at my door. I can't wait to hear it. From all indications, it should be a good listen. Hers is music that seems to transcend the generations. How to end this...Sing like her, yes. Sound like her, of course. Write songs like she did? Go for it. But...nothing in life can be so bad that Suicide is justified. Maybe her suicide wasn't a suicide, but probably was in the long term. And don't let it happen to you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

...that 1967 song by The Association kinda says it all...
My Latest Misadventure began earlier this week. I was in the TV room, and noticed that pine branches were hanging down, visible through the window. I think Pine Trees are absolutely gorgeous; I've lived around them most of my life. Tall and majestic with green needles sprouting forth; great providers of shade and overall, a comfort to see and experience. But the branches I saw out my window were not visible through that window a few days back. It was a matter that needed investigation; just the facts, ma'am, just the facts....and, I think I dodged a big bullet this time around. A TREE FELL ON MY HOUSE! Only the branches cusioned the trunk and kept it from crashing into my house. And that's where the tree branch visible through my TV room window came from. That little branch was actually starting to drop a bit, getting ever lower in the window. Shiverrr....

Luckily, my next door neighbor is a logger who's been laid off and was eager to provide me some help, and who was I to deny him, knowing that he needed to make some money and I needed to get this tree off my roof before those cushy branches gave out; the idea of sharing my TV room with a pine tree isn't exactly my idea of having a good time.

So, Mr. Neighbor and I came to an agreement: For the low, low price of $200 and all the firewood he wanted, things got started. I was in the TV room, trying to assure my little birds that all hell wasn't breaking loose as big limbs struck my house with all sorts of Crashes, Booms and Bams. When the Trunk finally fell, it hit the ground and shook my entire house. 
Here's the scene of the crime, shortly following the completion of "The Mad Pine Caper". You can see where my property rises uphill and the tree actually grew at a slight angle. And all of a sudden, that blemish on the side of my house looks a bit more ghastly without the tree being there. I imagine if I lived in a "zoned" area, I would've had to fill out an environmental impact statement before the tree could come down.
Finally, the residue from the "Tall Pine Fiasco", sans lumber, was piled up next to my car. You can see for yourself the branches that saved my life, my birds' lives, and kept my Beatle Collection from becoming battered into senseless little chips of vinyl. Maybe I'll build a bonfire once things dry up around here and bring the marshmallows and weenies. I like fire-roasted hotdogs only one way: Totally black with lots of mustard. MMMM.
Previously to all this, I'd gone down to see my Insurance people. I wanted to file a claim so I could save my house. Have someone remove the tree, and the insurance company would compensate me for the bill. But it doesn't work that way. I'd need to have at least $10,000 dollars worth of damage before the insurance company would even consider it. That must be what I'm paying my insurance company for...peace of mind knowing that more expensive claims than mine will get speedy service. That's made me come to realize that Insurance is designed to grease the hands of Big Money Lenders who'll gladly accept payments from you, once you have insurance. Who is in whose pocket here?
It's always nice to have something tangible to blog about. It's an opportunity for me to inject some realism into an otherwise bland entity which usually falls painfully short of any kind of Logical Thought. Well, Frank Sinatra once sang, "That's life...can't deny it...many times I thot of cuttin' out but my heart just won't buy it." And so I press onward...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

...it's only a $30,000 record. Consider it an investment.

To begin with, I find it ironic that the record label does not contain the word "Beatles". Promotional copies were made, and as a matter of fact, there are more Promo copies out there than Retail copies. Usuall it's the other way 'round; there's lots more retail copies of a record than promo copies. Radio Programmers tossed it. Consumers ignored it. Why? It's my contention that after listening a few seconds into the song, the reaction was "Yuck", and the record was heaved into the nearest receptacle. It didn't go anywhere at all upon its release. And I might just have come up with a reason why the record didn't ingratiate itself into the people's collective psyche...

It's my theory that this 1962-issued record didn't sell because of its slow intro which is over half a minute long. At the start, Tony Sheridan strums his guitar slowly and croons the chorus carefully. But, Kids wanted to rock and roll back then; they didn't want to hear an old slow number that their parents and grandparents had sung at family gatherings. So as a result, this record got bypassed by radio stations and consumers alike. They couldn't get past the long, slow intro. So where am I coming up with all this Jive?

A couple of years later, after The Beatles had become famous, MGM somehow got hold of "My Bonnie", chopped off the slow intro, and released the shortened version of the song in 1964. Plus, the Artist Name was changed to "The Beatles with Tony Sheridan", which probably helped. This issue takes off at 1000mph, and rocks out heartily. It's a surprisingly tough-sounding "My Bonnie" in that, just when you think it can't rock any harder, the instrumental break comes along and rocks WAY HARDER. "My Bonnie, a rock version?", you ask, and I say, "Oh Yeah". The record charted fairly high in Billboard, and got some radio airplay around the country. If the record charted, that means the record sold. It might be an old fuddy-duddy type song, but this version COOKS.

Of COURSE I'd love to have that "My Bonnie" single; I've heard that there are only 7 or 8 copies in existence. That ain't gonna happen, however. Four or five years ago, I found an online source that stocked this "My Bonnie"/"The Saints" single for a LOT less. I think I paid about $50 for it. And it'll do. The label is a very good reproduction, although the silver song/artist type is a bit different from what Decca Records used back in the early '60s. As far as counterfeits go, this one isn't bad. So how does the record sound? I can tell that it's not a first generation recording; the recording sounds just a bit muffled in terms of High Equalization. It's got that long slow intro that I referred to above, and really, I'm happy to have this; after all, I have the "My Bonnie" single on Decca, after all. Well, I do. In a way. The stamper that made this recording was probably recorded through a speaker, from a tape containing a recording of the song. It's real enough for me, and besides, I can't seem to find someone who'll front me $30,000 for an original copy. Something else you might not know: Remember the song "Wonderland By Night" by Bert Kaempfert and his orchestra? It is he who produced "My Bonnie"/"The Saints". Ol' Bert, he was really with it, wasn't he?

As for Tony Sheridan, he sounds like a harder-driving Elvis. He's a great vocalist and guitarist. He's from Britain but has lived in Europe for years and he's made quite a few good recordings in his time. I'm surprised he wasn't an international star. He's that good.

Friday, March 09, 2012

...how about some photos?

I have literally "hit the wall" in terms of any kind of blogging inspiration, and last weekend, I was thinking about just Ending This Thing. The whole problem revolves around blogspot-dot-com's mechanism for loading photos. I've torn my hair out over this. (Actually I haven't, that's just my bald spot...) So I went to blogspot-dot-com's site and I learned that the Blog actually works better with the Mozilla Firefox browser, so I'm trying that. Usually, using Internet Explorer, a blog with photos will take easy triple the time it should take, due to photos bouncing around when you're trying to put a photo in a certain place. So...Wish me luck..
Here's a Sunset reflecting upon itself, creating a sort of Double Sunset Effect. The sun is setting directly over the lighthouse out there. I'm walking fairly slowly these days and I was just about halfway back to the car; the damp post-sunset can chill ya pretty doggone fast. There was a record label, MOWEST, which was a division of Motown back in the '70s. Consult the image below...

Here is the "Mowest" label; it was rather short-lived for a couple of years in the early 1970's. This is the version of "What The World Needs Now", that's interspersed with running accounts of the deaths of John and Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe Tom Clay, the narrating voice on this record, was once a famous Dee-Jay in the Los Angeles Area. DJ's probably really loved this record; it was six and a half minutes long, and I speak from experience; 6-minute records really came in handy when faced with the call of Nature! Time to return to the coast now...
This is a photo taken over the bay with the Ocean just behind that strip of land you see. This looks like a typical photo that you'd find in an Easter Card. So why am I taking photos on rainy, foggy days like these? I think it's the manifestation of Cabin Fever. I'VE GOTTA GET OUT, HELP!!! I think it's a great photo, but I temper that with the reasoning that I didn't take a great photo; it's Nature that provided the photo. All I did was click the camera button...

This is a weird special-effects type of photo. The sun was still too bright to look at, so I took it through the blue shading on the top of the windshield. The Sun is trying to set, sinking from an upper cloud layer to a lower cloud layer, and on many days, this is all of the sun one might see down here, especially in ye Rainy Season. The rest of the photo is too blurry. That's my new direction in taking photos: Totally out of focus and making not much sense at all. Ansel Adams is probably rolling over in his grave...
But occasionally, the sun comes out as it did over the weekend, and lo and behold, a 1968 Trans-Am, probably the strongest of all the muscle cars provided me with a great photo-opp. This car looks brand new; every detail gleams and reflects; the body is totally smooth, and I'd love to drive this thing. The guy who owns it told me that, what with gas prices being high, he can only afford to take it out once a week. Gas has been over $4.00 a gallon here, but it's sunk back to Just Below $4.00 a gallon. I'd like to know how many more people buy gas at $3.99, vs. $4.00 a gallon; it's a weird sort of price psychology; the price may be $3.99, but it ain't $4.00, so let's fill up NOW!
Finally, this is my New Self-Portrait, via a Mirror that needs badly to be cleaned. That's my little Canon Powershot A470, and I think it's a great camera because in addition to a fairly powerful zoom mechanism, it's easy to operate. It has a few frills, but basically this is a good little camera. I may try to take videos with it, as soon as I get brave enough to try and learn how. That's me...stuck on stupid more times than I care to admit.

I may be an uninspired blogger, but I'm still paying attention to stuff. I think Santorum, Gingrich, and Romney are Jokes. They don't have a chance against Obama, and because everyone knows that deep down inside, I expect the political races to be d-i-r-t-y this year. Elsewhere, I was sad to hear about the death of guitarist Ronnie Montrose last Saturday, which came only a couple days after The Monkees' Davy Jones departed this earth. And, I was able to finish this post without tossing my computer into the wall. I don't know if Mozilla Firefox made posting this any easier, but at least I got through it...