For those looking for my next post, I have moved.
Please go to https://mappinghappenings.wordpress.com/ for more exciting posts from me!
See you there!
For those looking for my next post, I have moved.
Please go to https://mappinghappenings.wordpress.com/ for more exciting posts from me!
See you there!
Right now on the 7stones player is Missing Persons - Destination Unknown, singing "Where do we go from here?" Great question.
Here it is, the last day of 2014. Right now, some place on this terrestrial ball it is already 2015. But one must remember it is all relative. After all, time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening all at once. Right? Reflecting on the past 12 months, there were good times and bad times, and times I cannot even recall (thankfully, maybe). Some of the best of times for me included discovering new artists and new music. Well, some of it included old artists and music I have known most of my life. It was not all acquiring recordings. It also included live performances by local artists - some of whom have become friends.
So, in this time of reflection and thoughtful cleveration, I shall attempt to list some of my favorite happenings and mappings as is in the nature of the vocation of this dignified blogatorium. Whatever the hell all that means.
Vinyl and CD Discoveries from the Past
I start out with the purchase of two pieces from my Pittsburgh past: Porky Chedwick - Porkology (1984), and Bill Cardille - Chilly Billy Goes on Record (1969). The former is an autographed 45 rpm, the latter is an autographed LP. Neither are musicians. Porky was a Pittsburgh DJ whose career spanned from the formative years of rock n' roll to his passing at age 96 in 2014. Bill Cardille was a famous local television personality that hosted Chiller Theater on Channel 11 in Pittsburgh in the early 60s through the mid-70s. On the single, Porky repeats many of his famous DJ phrases over mid-80s rock. The Chilly Billy LP is largely comedy skits, of which you would have to have been familiar with Chiller Theater to enjoy.
It is the day after Christmas. I began writing this earlier today. In fact, I completed it in Microsoft Word and was getting ready to upload to my blog. But when I tried to save the document, the computer would not respond. As a matter of fact, I lost everything I wrote. The standard Word 2007 feature of saving a copy after a crash, failed. I spent a large part of the day trying to figure out what was going on. I know that when I returned from Miami last weekend I noted the computer was sluggish, and so I restarted. (We leave the computer on 24/7 for the sake of doing updates.) Upon the restart it said it was completing updates from Windows. Up until then, Word worked fine. Today was the first time since that update that I tried using Word. I actually had to resort to an uninstall-reinstall today but this did not fix the problem either. All the other solutions online did not work, but I learned that many people who use Windows 8.1, like me, have had the same problem. I did find a work-around until the Windows computer wonks admit there is a problem and fix it with another update (which will likely break something else). The work around was opening a Word document that had already been saved, delete the content, and begin recreating. There are many documents on my PC that are no longer needed. I tested this out first, and since it worked, I was in business! Perhaps it is good I have not deleted any of the old documents, in the event that Windows does not get around to fixing the problem for another year – I’ll have many usable files for future writing endeavors.
Now it is dark outside and I shall attempt to recreate what I had once considered to be a masterpiece. What I had reflected upon earlier today was that the day after Christmas leaves many in a down mood. In fact, today I felt like an emotional vacuum had consumed my energy and it was not because of the computer problems. I think many people go through this post-Christmas blues syndrome. Perhaps they did not get gifts they wanted or needed. Maybe someone was down because they wanted that rare, off-kilter, spooky lounge organ LP, Hay! Kelly!, and did not get it. (That’s because I won the bid in the last seconds of the auction on eBay, suckers!)
The commercial marketing of the holiday spending frenzy started at some stores right after Labor Day. Of course, the “official” holiday season begins immediately after Thanksgiving and continues its bombardment of Christmas radio and television ads – even online, one cannot avoid the sidebar seasonal ads on nearly every Website. Community events with holiday themes begin to spring up everywhere. And then there is the ever-pervasive Christmas music. I believe every popular artist on the planet must have felt the urge to perform the obligatory Christmas song or album. Even as a kid, I remember hearing on one of my parents’ Christmas albums Barbra Streisand singing “The Lord’s Prayer” and wondering, “Wait a minute, isn’t she Jewish?” Radio stations dig out some of the decades-old classics like “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” by Gayla Peevey (1953), or “Dominic the Christmas Donkey” by Lou Monte (1960) and then recycle them over-and-over-and-over.
Prelude to a Bliss
Got back from Miami, finally. More mechanical problems with jets; more lost luggage delivered after the expected delivery time. The whole air travel thing gets me down. When I think how they have raised prices, and keep raising them despite the cost of oil going down, and how they have cut back meals in first class, how you have to print your own luggage tag now (and they still haven't got the system down for distinguishing between priority customers and all others in this process), and how your luggage is not pulled from the original flights when they switch you to another flight and your luggage does not arrive with you, how you have to wait at least a half hour in baggage claim before your luggage comes out of the carousel (if it arrived with you) because they have cut down the number of luggage handlers at the airport, and how the old seats are long overdue for replacement and yet how they have made the seats on the new jets even more uncomfortable, and how even after paying to be permanent TSA-Pre, they still make you go through the regular security at times "to throw off the bad guys"....well, it makes me sick of flying. There is more I could say, but all the bad feelings are coming back as I write and I don't want to go to that place again.
Yesterday I was really bummed and they had not even found my luggage. It was lost. I was finally home, but was home-bound having to wait for calls from the airline and from a delivery service, and then had to wait around for the delivery service to get here; totally ruining my Saturday. We had planned to go to Dizzy's to see the "Soul & Jazz Christmas" event, but I was concerned that I would still have to be home waiting for a freakin' bag. I have only been home 1 full day in December so far. I was ready to throw in the towel on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, Brumalia, and all else that ails ya. I was sick of the crass commercialism, the political, racial, ethnic, and religious fighting around the world, and the stupidity of making a movie (to open on Christmas day, no less) about assassinating a sitting world leader - you don't have to like the dude to say this was as much akin to expression of free speech as yelling fire in a crowded theater - yeah, I was done with the "happy holiday" horseshit. Give me Miles Davis Sextet featuring Bob Dorough singing "Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)"..."I hope you have a fine one but for me it's blue...".
Well, the bag arrived at 5 pm. It was supposed to be delivered some time before 4:30. Nancy really wanted to go to dinner and then to Dizzy's. So I unpacked the wayward bag, and got ready to go out, still shell-shocked from the consistently bad travel experiences of the past three weeks. We decided to go to Frank's Pizzeria where we could eat great pizza and drink a ton of beer. The place was packed. Glad to see them doing so well. We sat and visited with a couple female octogenarians while we waited on a table. Sweet ladies - I hope we're as active and spry as they are when we reach that age. Preceding the pepperoni pizza we ordered some calamari to remind me of Miami. We downed it all with some Stella. After dinner we had plenty of time to make it to Dizzy's.
Dizzy's Soul & Jazz Christmas
7Stone's Log, StoneDate: Wednesday, December 10, 2014
I was born and raised in Southwestern PA, and lived most of my adult life in Ohio. I know what cold weather feels like. I have lived in San Diego the past 15 years. It rarely gets below 50 degrees, let alone 40 or 30. You get used to the warm climate and the blood gets thicker. I am currently working in Martinsburg, WV, and it is December and it is in the low 30s with strong winds and just enough precipitation to intensify the cold chill. There is no restaurant in the Hampton Inn. So besides traveling to the work-site each day I have to travel about for lunch and dinner (Hampton Inn does provide a free breakfast).
All last week I was in St. Louis and it was almost as cold, but I was staying and working in a Hilton downtown by the Cardinals ballpark, so it wasn't nearly as bad - didn't even have to go outside to find food. I got home last Friday night, and left again Sunday morning for WV but with a terrible cold and soar throat. Flew from San Diego to Washington DC on United, upon which I have no status. Then I had to catch a small, 8-seat, 2-propeller plane operated by Sun Air/Pacific Wings to Hagerstown, MD. Well, my checked bag arrived with me in Hagerstown, but my rental car keys were not left for me at the airline counter as promised by the rental car company at the airport. They closed at 2 pm on Sunday and I arrived at 6:30 pm. I called Friday to remind them and they assured me everything would be ready for me when I arrived. Luckily I was able to call a cab company that was willing to drive me to Martinsburg. I was at the Hampton Inn by 8 pm, but found that my company booked the room for the wrong person. After a bit of confusion I was in my room. I called a local cab company to reserve a ride to my work-site for Monday morning, and then went to bed.
Monday morning my cab did not arrive. When I called their number their voice mailbox was full. Luckily someone at the work-site was able to pick me up. I found there was a rental car company in Martinsburg - Enterprise. They picked me up at the work-site at noon and took me to their center and within a half hour I was in my car heading for lunch and then back to work. Enterprise let me return the car to their Hagerstown center, and agreed to take me to the airport. I was set for the week.
7Stone's Log, StoneDate: Friday, December 12, 2014
Thanksgiving here in the States has come and gone. While still the holiday weekend, I am on my way to St. Louis - not because of what is happening in Ferguson; it is all work related, although somewhat tangential to what has transpired there. I did not say much in my last post about Ferguson, and I won't here, either. But it will be interesting if songs are written about the tragedy. Actually, those songs were written in the 60s, so why write more, right?
There was a tragic and historic event that went largely unnoticed this year due to the overshadowing of events in Ferguson. 51 years ago, right before Thanksgiving, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. We had lost other sitting presidents in the 20th Century, but not since the turn of the century was it due to an assassin's bullet. I remember this tragedy. I was in grade school, 10 years old, and learned about it as I boarded the school bus at the end of the day. I did not believe it until I got home to see my parents, glued to the TV, as Walter Cronkite described what had happened. A few days later I was watching when alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was gunned down by night club owner Jack Ruby, live on TV. While I am sure there were some who were happy about this, it prevented closure since we were deprived of the opportunity to see Oswald tried and probably convicted, and a better chance to see if he really acted alone. The country was devastated. Conspiracy theories quickly sprung forth. Was Russia involved? Organized crime? Castro? Was Ruby sent to silence Oswald? Whether you loved or hated Kennedy, it demonstrated the vulnerability of America. Our President could be killed and the reason was not even clear.
President Johnson pushed through and signed civil rights legislation into law as part of Kennedy's legacy. But later he escalated our involvement in Vietnam. As time went on, the country became more divided on both these issues. But for now, the country was united and depressed. We had lost a president. We were vulnerable. Could the USSR invade us? I learned early on in grade school to fear "the Reds". Thankfully, my parents did not succumb to this fear and kept a pretty level head, and I learned early to not believe everything I was told in school. But many did fear that we were open to invasion. And, indeed we were; but no one would have guessed that the invasion would be musical, and from the country we broke away from in 1776.
Beatlemania had already begun in Britain. As early as October, 1963, there had been talk of the phenomenon and the question was when would it spread to America. In fact, the very morning of the day Kennedy was killed, CBS television ran a story about Beatlemania. On December 10, Walter Cronkite ran the story again, in need of something positive to report. It was inevitable; the song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" became a hit in the US. And, on February 7, 1964, The Beatles arrived in the US. They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9. The invasion had begun. And many more followed; Dusty Springfield hit the Billboard top 100 just a week after The Beatles, then came The Dave Clark Five and The Searchers. In the next year and a half, American television and rock n' roll charts were dominated by The Beatles and other British groups like The Animals, The Rolling Stones, The Zombies, Freddie and The Dreamers, Chad and Jeremy, Peter and Gordon, Herman's Hermits, Manfred Mann, and a host of others. A new sound and a new look, positive, youthful, and rebellious, had been discovered by America's youth.
I'm listening to Jonathan Richman's eponymous album from 1989. You can hear the influence of Lou Reed in this stripped-down album, along with Jonathan's own off-kilter sense of lyricism and humor. And he is no slouch when playing guitar, either, with a style somewhere between Lou Reed and Mark Knopfler. Talking about stripped-down, and not being a slouch, Normandie Wilson released her latest album, "Until the Whole of My Heart is Yours", this past Friday, November 21, and it is wonderful!
I stumbled upon Normandie when she performed this past June during the Art Around Adams music and art walk. The first thing that attracted me to her was "the look" - a pastiche of 60s pop/jet-set cultcha. My first thought was "Wow. Is she serious about what she is doing or is this a parody?". I decided I had to hear more, and know more about this curious, accomplished artist. I purchased her album "Geography and Other Problems" which is every bit worthy of its nomination for best pop album at the 2014 San Diego Music Awards. It was recorded in several locations, from Sweden to San Diego, with an impressive roster of musicians backing her up. I began stopping by the Lafayette Hotel lobby after work when I was in town, to listen to Normandy at the piano, singing pop standards, primarily from the 60s. This is where I got to know her as a person. She is always dressed to the nines in 60s style and wigged-out, literally, not figuratively; she is quite grounded in reality once you get to know her. Normandie has a passion for 60s pop culture, and it shows not only in her attire, but in the music selections she plays and in her own writing. She is a big fan of Burt Bacharach, The Beach Boys, and The Zombies, and also Cole Porter, ELO, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, and Amy Winehouse. You can hear the influences but never anything derivative. Her style is hers and hers alone. And I do believe Nomandie is one of the hardest working and prolific artists I've encountered in San Diego. Not only that, she has perspective, and is very involved in social causes in our community when she is not writing, rehearsing, painting, dancing, or performing. She doesn't stand still for a moment! The consummate artiste.
So what about this new release? It is stripped-down; just voice and piano. It plays like a diary of relationship concerns, which reminds me of Joni Mitchell's writing, but sounds nothing like Mitchell. Modern realities are thrown into a mid-60s pop style. Her piano is informed by Bacharach but is uniquely Normandie. Dave Fleminger recorded Normandie at Rarefied Recording in North Park, San Diego. On this, Normandie plays her Boston baby grand which was shipped from West Virginia to its new home at Rarefied Recording several months ago. According to Normandie, she and Dave spent two 12-hour days recording 25 of her songs, nine of which became "Until the Whole of My Heart is Yours". Not only is the sound and feel of this very personal, the sound is right up close to you, literally putting her lyrical thoughts inside your head, as you sit at the piano. Her vocals are expressive, from delicate vulnerability to joyful declarations of love. It is difficult to listen without letting the the music affect your own emotional state. She reaches into your soul with her words, finding commonality. We've all been through the pains of bad relationships as well as the sheer joy in the blossoming of the new. Normandie is painting pictures with these songs. Pictures of relationships gone wrong as well as right; and she describes the ups and downs within a relationship as two people struggle to make it work - sometimes having to sacrifice and put in lots of effort, as well as times where things come easy and effortlessly. I love this album.
Speaking of the effortless, Normandie is surprised that she is getting so much positive response to this release, since she said it was so easy to do compared to the last full release. "Geography and Other Problems" was a much bigger production; more intricate musically involving many more players. I think the secret of the responses to "Until the Whole of My Heart is Yours" is that it is reality brought into focus. We can all identify with it. And yet it is such a personal statement it makes one feel you are spying on Normandie's private life. Not to say that Geography wasn't a set of pictures of Normandie's life and relationships; it was. But the stripped-down nature of this gives you her words without any distractions; Normandie without her wigs and exquisite appearance. This is the real deal. Her inner beauty shines through with this release. Heart touching heart. It reminds me of John Lennon's first solo work, "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band". Sometimes simplicity is required when describing the human condition.
What about the Cranberries and Mounds of Merries?
As I sit here writing, I'm listening to thundering bass, guitar, and drums on the CD, "Cooking With Pagans", by the bad-ass psych/metal Swedish band, Freak Kitchen. Their treatment of the 50s Frankie Lymon hit, "Goody Goody", is unbelievable...and unforgettable.
But that is not what I want to talk about right now. I've been on the road again, just getting home Friday night. Friday night was the debut performance of Casino Royale, a band that was formed by notable journalist, songwriter, and musician, Bart Mendoza, with other notables, Normandie Wilson and David Fleminger. All have had quite a few bands with successful careers in San Diego and elsewhere. Normandie's album "Geography and Other Problems" was nominated for best pop album at the 2014 San Diego Music Awards, and David was in the bands, Manual Scan, and True Stories, along with Bart, as well as forming several other bands over the past decades, as has Bart. David currently has an excellent chamber-pop band, The Comeuppance, along with his wife, Heather Vorwerck on cello and more recently adding Tom Ward on bass. Normandie, a multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, is currently part of the lounge-cabaret group, Blue Velvet, but has had a solo singer/songwriter career for years, along with playing in the sprawling, all-over-the-map-musically band, Red Pony Clock, which to these ears sounds like a collision between Jad Fair's Half Japanese, Ken Kesey's Acid Test recordings, and the Baja Marimba Band done fervently and joyfully yet with full-on teenage angst. Talking about collisions, Normandie (or rather her car) was rear-ended in a freeway accident just over a week ago and it was worrisome whether the whiplash from the accident was going to affect their performing. Luckily, pain-and-all, she was able to persevere.
On the way home from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania I noted that I would be arriving in San Diego, after connections in Philadelphia and Dallas, at 7:05 PM, if all would go as planned. Casino Royale would hit the stage at 8:00 PM at Java Joe's in Normal Heights. I could make it. Unfortunately some subconscious part of my being decided that my breakfast looked better on my shirt than in my stomach. I called Nancy and asked her to bring an extra shirt to the airport. It was Kismet. We landed in San Diego five minutes early. My bag was one of the first to plop onto the baggage carousel. Nancy scooped me up at the curb, and we pulled-over on a side street so I could change out of the winter coat and stained shirt, and to change drivers. I attempted my imitation of an amphetamine-driven taxi until we ran into a long line of cars waiting for an even longer train. Hurry up and wait. Despite this minor frustration, we made it before the band began. It was a friendly crowd. Most of the audience knew or had seen at least one of the three members perform and all were eager to hear this new trio of masters.
The band said they were nervous, but it sure didn't show once the first chord was struck. Normandie was drop dead gorgeous, but you could tell through her movements that her neck was giving her troubles. You could not tell from the quality of her performance. All were dressed in a 60s style that fit the music perfectly.
Several months ago we saw Robin Henkel & Whitney Shay at Proud Mary's. Then we heard that Henkel & Shay were going to perform at Lestat's with Robin's horn band. We definitely wanted to see them. As it turned out, Robin Henkel and his horn band were there, but instead of Whitney, Jamie Shadowlight was there, perfoming on violin. We were very impressed with all who performed and afterward Jamie gave us a promo card for her own band, The Western Collective. For several months I've been watching and seeing that every time her band was performing locally, I was on the road someplace else. That was until last night.
When I saw that The Western Collective was performing at 98 Bottles, I immediately obtained tickets; and I am glad we did not wait to get tickets at the door, since they sold out! We got front row seats. Before the show, Jamie recognized us and came over to say hello. What we did not realize was that this was their CD release party! So we picked up their CD. They played all the songs on the CD and more.
The Western Collective consists of "Fast Heart" Martin Stamper on guitar, banjo, bass and vocals; Justin Werner on guitar, harmonica, percussion and vocals; Trent Hancock on guitar, bass and vocals; Chad Farran on drums, percussion, bass, and vocals; and Jamie Shadowlight on violin/fiddle. All songs were written by various band members except the traditional, "I'll Fly Away" and they ended their show with a Leonard Cohen song, "Anthem".
The style was primarily...western, folky, rocky, with some revved-up bluegrass, Americana, folk-rock...yet some elements of jazz/blues here and there and one song that sounded like a cross between Spanish/Middle Eastern and psychedelia with Jamie actually sitting on the floor to play - I think this was "Playa del Sol", written by Jamie, but I could be mistaken. Harmonies were perfect. The blending of the instruments was amazing. Their versatility! Chad not only played drums but played bass on one song. While Trent was the primary bassist, Martin also played bass on a few songs, constantly changing from guitar to banjo to bass, depending on the song. When Chad played bass, Justin did percussion. Martin, Justin and Trent equally shared lead vocals and all but Jamie took turns doing background vocals.
Let's see. Beloit, Wisconsin. Newton, Mississippi. Freehold, New Jersey. LaGrange, Georgia. For the past four weeks I have been leaving home very early Sunday mornings and returning Saturday afternoons or very late Friday nights. Work has been consuming my time to a great degree. And the towns I've been in have had no venues for live music. In fact, some haven't even had more than one restaurant open in the evenings (if you exclude fast food). I've been relying on my downloaded music in my iPad, and the occasional ability to go online from my hotel/motel room. Living in San Diego, I've become spoiled. Small town America is very much devoid of live music, good radio, and reliable Internet access, leaving culture as road kill by the side of the highway to hell. I won't go into my typical diatribe about how this country seems to be crawling into itself and not investing in opportunities for people to expand their artistic horizons.
I got home late Friday night, Halloween. Didn't get to hear my traditional playing of Duplex Halloween Planet, the Tube Radio Halloween Show (Straight from Hell) with Ray Cathode, Lady Diode, and Zippo Hiplock (who had died a few years before the original broadcast - yes, he was broadcasting from remote studios in Hell), or Voice of the Abnormal with Yukon Jack, dead in the studio. Actually it was after midnight, so Halloween was officially over. But before calling it a night we watched Peanuts' Great Pumpkin video. Had to do something to celebrate the holiday.
November 1 was the 29th anniversary of my marriage to Nancy. We reserved a table at Kaiserhof Restaurant, and invited our friends, Bernie & Gina, to spend the evening celebrating with us. From the Kaiserhof we went on to the Caliph to see Blue Velvet perform. It was another solid performance, with some new material, and the house was packed. We left at the end of their first set. The time changes from East to West coast finally caught up with me.
Today, it is a clear and crisp November day, with a temperature in the upper 60s. We may go on a road trip to the mountains. Or, perhaps a visit to Folk Art Records in North Park. Or maybe both!
Lately I've been upgrading some of my favorite 60s albums from the late 80s and early 90s versions I had purchased decades ago. This included Bubble Puppy - A Gathering of Promises, and The Golden Dawn - Power Plant, both reissued on the Charly/Snapper label and taken from the original master tapes. Both sound so much better than what I had. I ordered the 2012 releases of the Soft Machine's first three albums, as well as Blue Cheer's Vincebus Eruptum in mono! I cannot wait for them to arrive. And, later this month the 45th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of The Velvet Underground (3rd album) will be released in a 6-CD set. This will be a must have!!! Months ago I had upgraded Moody Blues - In Search of the Lost Chord, and it was so wonderful to hear this album in such spectacular sound! But, if you are looking to upgrade your CDs be forewarned that there are reissues that are totally horrible as well as those which do a great job of being true to the original master recordings. Do your homework and read the reviews from other listeners found on sites such as Amazon and AllMusic. Several years ago I purchased The Supremes - The Ultimate Collection, and was extremely disappointed. The lows had been cut off and the sound was so compressed it is nearly unlistenable. If I upgrade, I will want to sell the old version but I feel awful reselling such a poorly mastered reissue. And popular bands are not the only ones affected by poor releases. Sometimes the rarities get horrible treatment also. Many of these are what are called needle drops. This means they are taken from the best quality LP available, and not master tapes, which often have been lost or destroyed. Then, if the LP had lots of surface pops and crackles, noise reduction software is applied, often taking out the highs and lows, leaving a very flat sounding CD. Don't get me wrong, some needle drops are perfectly fine and are good placeholders until the original master tapes are used (if located) to make a better release. And I sometimes put up with the horrible sounding reissue because it is the only thing available. Palmer Rockey's Scarlet Love was only available via original LP, if one was lucky enough to find one, or by downloading an mp3 file at less than 100 bit rate that sounded like it was recorded under water. But then Johnny Trunk Records located a solid LP copy and issued a CD that could not sound better had they had the original master tapes (which are long lost, along with all copies of Rockey's film of the same name). If possible, always read reviews - several reviews, since there are always people who have a weird sense of what is good and bad and thus are not reliable - and always sample whenever possible, before putting money down.