Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Dez Reviews Neil Young + Promise of the Real’s ‘Earth’ and Neil Young's 'Peace Trail', both 2016

Neil Young is releasing records at such a clip these days, perhaps it is easier just to do one post at the end of each year covering all of that year’s releases. Even though I am as big a fan of Neil's as you will find, even I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing. Neil is in the midst of a decade of releases that are as puzzling and as frustrating (and often as bad) as his infamous 80’s stretch.

In fact, his last two studio albums (The Monsanto Years and Storytone) have to rank amongst his very worst. So, the fact that these two new records are mediocre and at least each have a few songs and moments that I will actually return to, that is a small blessing.

We’ll start with Earth. One of the very disappointing things about The Monsanto Years was that the band that Neil recorded with is awesome. Promise of the Real features Willie Nelson’s sons, and they offer backing that sounds like a more polished and younger Crazy Horse. So they are given another shot with this double live record, capturing them on their recent tour.

Neil has always been concerned with environmental issues, so he put together a concept live record of sorts, featuring some songs from Monsanto Years and other environmentally-themed tunes from his vast catalogue. Oddly, he decided also to intersperse animal and nature sounds seemingly at random throughout the record. So they may be blazing away on “Vampire Blues,” and for no discernible reason other than Neil's whimsy screeching crows will come in and out of the mix, or chirping crickets, or a little rainstorm. I guess he’s trying to maintain the natural theme, but it sounds very unnatural actually. Just one of Neil’s crazy ideas that fluttered into his overactive mind and he pondered for about ten seconds before making the decision to add it to the record. But whatever, it does add a bit of quirkiness to the proceedings, and is not as distracting as you might expect.

ABOVE: Cawing crows feature prominently on Neil Young's Earth

As for the music, the thematic approach works well. Even the bad Monsanto Years tracks are better here, because at least they have some more drive in the live setting and are surrounded by better songs (if that makes sense). And Neil wisely chooses a mix of the obscure (“Hippie Dream” (one of his best 80’s tracks), “Western Hero,” “Vampire Blues” and “Human Highway”) with a few golden oldies like “After the Goldrush” to maintain a consistent nature/environmental theme throughout. And the performances are spirited, with Promise of the Real adding fire to Neil’s music. Things do drag with the closing 30 minute “Love and Only Love,” though.

Neil recorded Peace Trail in four days, and it sounds like it. He has been very active in the Dakota Pipeline protests, so not surprisingly, several of these songs directly address that issue. But at least he does rediscover some (just some) subtlety in his message (say, vs. Monsanto Years or Living With War). While he still does preach and lecture (“Indian Giver”), a song like “Show Me” really works well.

His lyrics remain his weak spot nowadays, but I do like the instrumentation and overall sound here. He uses Paul Bushnell on bass and Jim Keltner on drums. Keltner is crucial to the sound, adding as much with his toms as Neil does with his guitars. I have always loved Keltner’s drumming, with his seemingly so-loose-he-might-lose-it style, but always staying right in the pocket. Neil continues to experiment with sounds, amplifying his harmonica to such a degree that it sounds like jarring, stabbing distortion. He even plays with a vocoder again, bringing up memories of Trans, to surprisingly good effect.

It is clear that Neil is no longer interested in spending a lot of time crafting songs. The tune “Texas Rangers,” for instance, sounds like the first take that it probably was, with the band still trying to figure out what is going on. You can see Bushnell and Keltner asking Neil “OK, so are we ready to try and record a few practice takes now?” With Neil replying “what do you mean? That was the master take. It’s going on the record. Let’s move on.” Much of the record sounds like that. One reviewer commented that the song is so rough that it even makes a seasoned session drummer like Jim Keltner sound confused and lost. “Texas Rangers,” by the way, is probably in the top 10 worst songs Neil has ever recorded. Another reviewer generously compared it to jazz. In the sense that he was probably making it all up on the spot, perhaps.

But fortunately, there are some keepers here too. The title track is great, and one of the only songs that sounds fleshed out and actually thought about for more than 10 minutes. It has a wonderful mix of Neil’s acoustic strumming punctuated by stabs of his signature electric guitar. The aforementioned “Show Me” has an infectious groove that sticks with you. My favorite tune here is “My Pledge,” a weird almost talking blues that is made otherworldly with Neil doubling his vocals with a purposely slightly out of sync vocoder line that has a ghostly beauty to it.

Earth: *** out of *****
Peace Trail: *** out of *****

Friday, December 9, 2016

Two RIP's

I've got two wonderful innovators to add to the GNABB cemetery.

RIP John Glenn, 1921-2016

I know it’s a cliché, but do they make men like this anymore? I mean seriously. John Glenn was such of a different era, a different America. An America that was full of hope, that looked to the future, that was rising so fast that it broke the bonds of gravity and the earth. True, America wasn’t so rosy for many people during the Cold War era. Segregation still existed. I’m not downplaying that at all. But John Glenn and his fellow astronauts represented the best of what we were then. Duty, brains, work ethic, dreamer but with the technical know-how to actually reach those impossible dreams as the rest of the world watched slack-jawed. (I know the Soviets kept up and actually led for a little while, but that didn't last).

There was something extra special about the Mercury astronauts to me. Even more than the Apollo missions, as great as they were, these seven astronauts (and Glenn was the last of them, so they are all a memory now) were true pioneers. Talk about calm under pressure, John Glenn was the most celebrated of them all. It takes a special kind of man to sit on top of a missile that has a decent chance of blowing up at ignition. The re-entry drama and Glenn’s cool response during his history making first American to orbit the earth mission is the stuff of legend. He showed that no matter how technically advanced we think we are, sometimes it still takes the human instincts and decision-making of a pilot to get the ship down.

I know a big part of my romanticizing the Mercury program comes from one of my favorite movies of all time, The Right Stuff. Glenn was played pitch perfectly by the great Ed Harris. Maybe I need to pop that in tonight, and bask in a bygone age when the sky wasn’t the limit. John Glenn and the other six Mercury astronauts showed us that we could dare to go beyond the sky. Our moon landing, our eventual trip to Mars, even our eventual eventual colonizing and moving off the earth once we have destroyed it beyond repair…the foundation of all of that was John Glenn…and Alan Sheppard, Gus Grissom, Gordon Cooper, Wally Shirra, Deke Slayton and Scott Carpenter.

So not only RIP John Glenn. I can now say RIP The Mercury Seven. And thank you all for showing us what we can be and accomplish.


RIP Greg Lake, 1947-2016

Man, 2016 has been a deadly year for music. As well-known and respected as Greg Lake was, I always felt that he could have done more. He sang and played bass on the groundbreaking King Crimson debut In the Court of the Crimson King (and sang on the follow-up), but then left the band to form Emerson, Lake and Palmer. As a massive Crimson fan, I have always felt that was a lost opportunity. It would have been fantastic to get two or three more records with Lake and Robert Fripp working together under the Crimson banner before moving on.

I could never get into ELP very much. I do love me some prog rock, but ELP has aged terribly. My favorite ELP tunes are the more down to earth folky Greg Lake numbers like “Lucky Man” and “Still You Turn Me On.”

Regardless of his career choices, the man was hugely talented. Great and expressive singer, virtuoso on the electric bass, and a good guitarist too. RIP Greg Lake.

Friday, November 18, 2016

What Happened And Why (Maybe)

There was a great op-ed by Fareed Zakaria with his autopsy of the election here.  In it, he echoes the collective mea culpa coming from many journalists and pollsters who got their predictions so spectacularly wrong (many of the same journalists who enabled Trump).  He admits that the great sin of the Left has been elitism.  He cites an op-ed from the satirical website Cracked by David Wong, who grew up in rural Illinois.  I know it is partly satire, but Zakaria was right to quote it at length in his own op-ed, because it is key to understanding Trump’s surprising victory.  Wong writes: “The whole g***amned world revolves around [America’s cities].”  Zakaria writes “The vast majority of the country’s pop culture is all about city dwellers. Most new movies, shows, songs and games are about New York or Los Angeles or Chicago or some fantasy version of them. Nearly every trend comes from a metropolis. All the hot new industries are in hip cities.”  Back to Wong: “If you live in [rural America], that f*cking sucks…To those ignored, suffering people, Donald Trump is a brick chucked through the window of the elites. ‘Are you a**holes listening now?’”

That last line is key.  “Are you a**holes listening now?”  To me, that explains Trump’s election more than any data could show.  I continue to think that most (many?) of the people who voted for Trump did so in spite of his rhetoric regarding women, immigrants and various minorities, not because of it.  Or maybe because of it, but not for the reason you might think.

Look at the electoral map.  The Democrat blue is on each of the coasts (and in some urban centers all over the country), and in between is a vast ocean of red.  “Flyover country” as the traditional media often unwittingly dismisses most of the rest of the country (traditional media being centered in New York and Los Angeles).  Well, there are a lot of people who live in that vast region between the coasts.  A lot of people who have seen wages stagnate or their jobs go to other countries.  A lot of people who have been pushed to the background amidst admirable but news-dominating struggles for minority rights and issues.

People from all walks of life have gotten angrier and more disgusted with disconnected and dysfunctional politics.  People are equally angry at both major parties.  Bernie Sanders’ success was the populist Left flipside of the Trump coin.  Same root anger.  As another op-ed I read put it, lots of voters wanted to throw a Molotov cocktail at Washington.  No matter that the Molotov cocktail says mean things about women or minorities.  He is a blunt weapon whose purpose is to bust things up.  Which is also a variation on the primal, resentful, desperate plea of “Are you a**holes listening now?”  As Zakaria admitted, “yes, I am listening now.”

Yes, Trump got the Klan vote.  There are plenty of people who are old fashioned racists and nativists who voted for Trump.  But I don’t think that is why most people voted for him.  Many others are the forgotten voters in Kansas who barely make ends meet yet who are still patriotic Americans (or who may even be veterans or have a close friend or loved one who is a veteran) and are tired of turning on Sunday night football and watching a whiny back-up quarterback who makes a million dollars a year refuse to stand for the national anthem.  That explains the Trump vote too.  Believe me. It is more complicated than simple racism. An aggressive and at times haughty, elitist Left creating "safe places" at universities. A protest movement that at times cares less about the actual facts of certain cases than the color of the skin of those involved in an altercation and that demonizes the country's police officers wholesale. A welfare system that had admirably been reformed in the 1990's (under a Democratic president and Republican Congress) that has slipped back to making it more profitable to collect government payments than to work in many cases. All of these things have contributed to the backlash that manifested itself in a Trump win.

How did the pollsters get it so wrong? As the elitist mainstream media often does, they probably concentrated too much on the urban vote. Where all the action is. Also, as a friend of mine who voted for Trump told me the other day:
"if a pollster had called me and asked me who I was going to vote for, I probably would not have told them. I would have confirmed that I'm a registered Republican, but I probably would have said 'undecided.' Same goes for some of my family members. To avoid the arguments and agitation, I wouldn't have, and haven't, told certain family members that I was going to vote for Trump. He wasn't my first choice, I don't like him. He's crude and rude and an egomaniac. But given the choices, I had to vote for him. Plus, I was pissed at the direction this country was going."
I think that summarizes it for many. Also, do not overlook just how flawed and weak Trump's opponent was. I think this country would be ready to elect a woman. Just not Hillary Clinton (yes, I know she won the popular vote. I reluctantly voted for her myself).

On to what we have to look forward to for at least the next four years (barring impeachment).  I don’t think Trump is as radical or reactionary as he campaigned.  If you look at many of his positions prior to the campaign, he was very moderate, and had as many left positions as right.  You also hear many testimonials that in person, behind closed doors when it is time to get down to business, he is a very different man.  A more sober and reflective man.  I have also heard that Trump actually does take counsel and listen to advice.  Not that they have much in common, but like George Washington, I can see Trump leaving the details to key underlings and he makes the final decisions after being briefed.

Herein lies another problem.  Who will be advising and briefing him?  George Washington had the dueling visions of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton advising him and giving him options from which to choose.  "Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and a vindictive young son in law" doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.  I was heartened to see Trump choose Priebus for Chief of Staff, about as establishment as you can get.  But then Bannon.  There’s your Molotov cocktail, the Alt-Right now in the Oval Office with the president’s ear.  It is like Trump is trying to please establishment, mainstream Republicans (by choosing Priebus) and also the radical Right Wing (Bannon) by pitting these two figures against each other in his administration.  There is something to be said for establishing competing centers of power within an administration from which to take advice (again, see Jefferson and Hamilton for Washington; or Lincoln’s cabinet).  But then it requires a wise arbiter as “the Decider” (in George W.’s words).

I didn’t vote for him.  But I am willing to give him a chance.  He is, after all, my next president.  And yours too, like it or not.  I understand the fear and disbelief, especially if you are amongst the many groups whom Trump insulted and marginalized and dehumanized during the campaign (yes, I know it is easier for me as a white male to sit back and say ‘give the guy a chance’).  But I also think we all need to at least wait for him to mess up before we get too angry with him.  What choice do we have, really?  These marchers in the streets eventually need to get back to their jobs, if they have any. Or maybe Trump will create real jobs for them, as he promised. Who knows.

One of my main concerns is his lack of preparedness and how influenced he can be by those around him.  Contrary to him not listening to people, he actually listens too much at times.  Since he is not actually prepared to be president and because he shows no real desire or ability to dive deep into policy, he depends on others to give him all of the information and perspective.  His partial reversal on Obamacare this last week is a case in point.  During the campaign he blustered that he would repeal Obamacare wholesale “the first day in office” and replace it with “something better.”  But after meeting with Obama for an hour and a half and actually reading a bit about Obamacare (apparently for the first time), he now thinks we should keep part of it and change other parts.  (Or has he reverted back to getting rid of it wholesale?  Hard to keep track.)  Put Trump in a room with Vladimir Putin for a couple of hours and who knows?  Maybe he will emerge supporting a new Iron Curtain.  That is the problem with being willfully out of your depth on almost every issue.  Others will pick and choose how to explain things to him, and he will not know enough about it to call BS when warrented, but be more influenced by whoever flattered him the most, or who had the most charismatic personality, or maybe even whoever talked to him most recently. That is my fear.

Friday, October 21, 2016

2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

Once again, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced the nominees for a new class.  Within the last year or so there has been a shake-up on the nomination committee, which has resulted in better and more varied nominees.  They reduced the number of members, which sounds ominous, but I think they kicked off mostly dead weight, and the fewer members gives them a chance to really debate and kick these names around a bit more.  Previously ignored genres and eras seem to be getting more attention.

The problem in recent years lies less with the Nominating Committee and more with the voters themselves.  The voters are critics, record industry folk and all living inductees.  Therein lies the flaw.  While I respect Jerry Lee Lewis, I am not sure how much he can really evaluate the contributions of Kraftwerk to modern music.  Although, there is word that they expanded the voters by a couple more hundred, and I bet it was to add more critics and experts to dilute Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Simmons.  Estimates vary, but there are around 800-1000 voters who will cast their votes for these nominees.

If recent patterns hold, then 5-7 of these 19 nominees will be announced in December as part of the Class of 2017.

If you go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, you can cast a fan ballot (they will let you vote once a day, reacting to the fan vote debacle of last year where a bot flooded the fan vote).  The total fan votes will count as ONE ballot.  Hardly any real influence, but at least you can feel like you played a small part in the process, so I appreciate it.  Also, don’t know if it is just coincidence or it just logically falls this way, but every year the #1 vote getter in the fan poll has also been inducted.

I will briefly discuss the nominees, give you my personal picks, and then my prediction of what will happen.  In alphabetically order…

Joan Baez: in some respects it is strange that she has not been inducted already.  The Hall loves singer-songwriters, and she was on the folk front lines with Dylan and others in the early days.  Not a fan, but I respect her impact.  It is hard to figure out her chances.  It is a crowded field with big names, yet the Hall likes their singer-songwriters and there might be enough 60’s refugee voters to give her more votes than you might initially expect.

Bad Brains: More than any other nominee, this one reflects the new blood on the Committee.  I’ve got to be honest.  I’ve heard the name, but I had to look them up to figure out exactly who they were.  Hardcore punk pioneers who also experimented with reggae and other styles of music.  Influential on the punk and 80’s underground.  A bit too obscure in this field to have much of a chance, but the nomination itself is a victory.

The Cars: One of my all time favorite bands, am so glad to see them back (they were nominated for the first time last year and didn’t make it).  They’ve clearly got some boosters on the Committee.  I have to think they came close last year, and I think they’ve got a good shot this year.  Ric Ocasek’s acerbic 80’s pop is just so sharp and brilliant.  I will push hard for the Cars this year.  Ocasek has worked with a lot of artists as a producer, and many of the voters are artists.  The Cars are one of those few bands that still have a cache of cool and hipness, yet they are also all over classic rock and 80’s radio.  They had critical respect and also sold a ton of product.

Chic: Have mercy on Nile Rodgers and Chic!  Please!  Induct them already.  The Nominating Committee is being stubborn here, this is a record 11th nomination.  Looks like the voters are being equally stubborn.  On this, I think the Committee is right.  Chic were pioneers in dance and funk music, and Nile Rodgers
has been an influential producer.  I don’t know if it is still some anti-disco bias (although ABBA and Donna Summer are in), or whether the voters just don’t appreciate the same band being forced on them.  But this is embarrassing.  As far as I go, I always feel like they are worthy, but there are usually five candidates that I want more.  Maybe that is part of it too.

Depeche Mode: Very happy to see this nomination, this is their first.  The Committee has been trying to get more 80’s pioneers in, but the voters don’t seem to be biting.  In the last few years, The Cure, The Smiths and The Replacements have been nominated but not inducted.  I feel like the same will happen here.  All should get in eventually.  Although before Depeche Mode, there is another nominee this year who should go in first (see Kraftwerk.)

Electric Light Orchestra: Surprisingly, this is the first nomination for Jeff Lynne’s band.  Gotta admit, not a big fan.  Lynne is too Beatles-influenced for me, and wears those influences way too much on his sleeve.  They have their fans, and Lynne has worked with a ton of already-inducted artists, so I think ELO has a decent shot.  He is also the only remaining Traveling Wilbury not inducted.

J. Geils Band: The story is that Jann Wenner and Steve Van Zandt are the big boosters for J. Geils.  For me, this is a case of a great band, but not Rockhall worthy.  There are a lot of great bands that should not be in the Hall of Fame (just as there are many great athletes who don’t quite get to their sports Halls of Fame).  Great blues-based rock band with a fierce live reputation, but that ain’t enough.

Janet Jackson: There has been a huge Induct Janet movement building over the last few years, and she is unquestionably Hallworthy.  She was nominated for the first time last year, and it was a surprise that she didn’t get in.  She will.  So many of today’s pop divas owe Michael’s little sister.

Jane’s Addiction: We definitely are moving into the 90’s now.  Was not a fan, and I wonder how much of this is for Perry Farrell’s work on Lollapalooza.  I don’t see them getting in this time around.

Journey: Woo!!  Hold up cigarette lighters now for the power ballads and Steve Perry’s pink muscle shirts!  A Journey nomination would have been impossible five or more years ago, but in recent years there has been a more populist trend (Chicago and Steve Miller got in last year, KISS and Rush recently).  Despised by critics, loved by the masses.  Corporate Rock at its best (or worst?)  I’ve always loved Journey, and I think they have a shot at topping the fan poll (like Chicago did last year).  Is “Don’t Stop Believin’” the 80’s “Stairway To Heaven”?  I say let ‘em in.  If Rock and Roll is a popular music, as in for the masses, then Journey is it.

Chaka Khan: She’s been nominated with Rufus and also solo, which is kind of confusing.  I think she’ll be overshadowed by Janet Jackson, although she could also split some votes and prevent either of them from getting in.

Kraftwerk: I think the most influential and deserving of any of these nominees.  You cannot overstate their influence on any music that is electronic, programmed, dance or synth-based.  The problem is that few Americans have actually listened to their music (they are German).  I happen to love their music, but I doubt they get in this time around.  If the voters were only made of music historians, they’d be a shoo-in.

MC5: Furious punk precursors and revolutionaries.  Not a lot of name recognition, though.  Probably should be in for the track “Kick Out the Jams” alone, which is more rock and roll than anything else I can think of.

Pearl Jam: If there is anything such as a sure thing, this is it.  Pearl Jam will get in, they can already start writing their acceptance speech and plan their setlist for the ceremony.  This is the first year they are eligible, and like Nirvana a couple of years ago, the nomination and voting is a mere formality.  Pearl Jam has everything the Rockhall wants and needs: still a working and beloved band so it modernizes the Hall, respected by everyone, but (unlike Nirvana) they also are as close to a classic rock band that the 90’s produced.

Steppenwolf: It looked like the Hall was finally ready to close the door on the 60’s, but not quite.  There are still some stragglers.  Steppenwolf were huge for about five years, and have some absolutely iconic songs (“Born to Be Wild,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” “The Pusher”).  Not pushing for them, but wouldn’t be upset if they got in either.  They are one of those borderline bands.

Joe Tex: Great funky soul artist.  In my view kinda second tier, and probably won’t make it through this field.

Tupac Shakur: The first rap/hip hop solo superstar, his ghost still haunts the whole genre.  The old “does rap belong in the Rockhall” argument is dead amongst everyone not named Gene Simmons.  Many predict Tupac will get in this year (the first year he’s eligible), but I have a feeling he may wait a few more nominations like NWA did (who finally got in last year).  The lifestyle and subject matter of his music still makes many voters uncomfortable.

Yes: The fact that Yes is still trying to get inducted is patently absurd to me.  There are genres that have been neglected by the Hall, and progressive rock is definitely one, but come on.  Whether you are a fan or not, just objectively speaking, any artist who has been an innovator and at the forefront of any genre within rock and roll should by definition be in the Hall.  Add their longevity and that they have innovated and helped to define a genre and gotten substantial airplay and sold tons of records…what is the deal here?!

The Zombies: Another Steve Van Zandt 60’s pet project.  That’s not quite fair, The Zombies were a great band with some, pardon the pun, haunting pop songs.  Borderline for me.

So, there you have it.  My personal votes:

The Cars
Depeche Mode
If a 6th and 7th: Pearl Jam and Janet Jackson

What I think will happen:

Pearl Jam
Janet Jackson
If a 6th and 7th: The Cars and Tupac Shakur

What do you think?

As usual, to discuss all things Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Future Rock Legends is the place to go.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

GNABB Reluctantly Endorses Hillary Clinton

In the almost eight and a half years that GNABB has been helping to shape American culture and thought, the editorial board here has never endorsed a Democrat. We espouse a center-right ideology around these parts. But we at GNABB must now break from party for the good of country. This is less an endorsement of Hillary Clinton than a complete rejection of Donald J. Trump. But in order to reject Trump and save our country, that necessitates a default endorsement of Clinton. (Stein and the Green Party are silly, and Gary 'Aleppo' Johnson had a shot at a protest endorsement, until he proved himself less informed than my six year old).

Oh where to begin. I actually don't think Trump, at heart, is a racist. He's almost as bad, though, in the sense that he uses racism as an opportunist does. He carelessly courts a dangerous and until recently mostly dormant (other than in dark corners of the internet) racism amongst frustrated working class whites and those who pander to them. This racism was slowly fading, or at least had been kept around dinner tables and in chatrooms. Trump has brought this ugliness into the mainstream culture. But I also blame the Left. I blame them for creating an intolerable and intolerant politically correct environment in higher education, for supporting a vitriol-laced attack on law enforcement, for a weak and feckless foreign policy for eight years...the time had come for a strong, conservative resurgence. But instead of finding the next Ronald Reagan, the Republicans found Donald f*cking Trump. A crude, sexist, bloviating, attention-seeking, delusional (remember this one from the convention: "I alone can fix it"), insecure/pompous reality TV star with a frightfully short attention span. Trump is not stupid. Far from it. He is a master manipulator. But he cannot seem to focus long enough on any one topic to really deal with serious issues. Watch his interviews. The guy is all over the place without saying anything.

Trump's economic plan, such as it is, would add trillions to our debt.

I can't even discern a coherent foreign policy. At different times, he has said the following: he would crush ISIS, let the Russians handle ISIS and we should stay out of it, we should go take Iraq's oil, we should encourage nuclear proliferation in Asia, we should rethink NATO (just as Putin has visions of a new Russian Empire), Vladimir Putin is a great guy, Mexico will pay for a Wall that it does not want to exist, Brexit was a great idea. I know it's a campaign line, but what Clinton says is true. Trump is a man who can be provoked with a tweet or a well placed insult. Just look at this week. Clinton masterfully distracted him and drew him into a feud with a former Ms. Universe who put on some pounds. Imagine how Putin could toy with Trump for the next four years?

I could go on and on, but I don't really need to. I have proudly been a Never Trump conservative from the beginning. Trump has highjacked the Republican Party. Both parties have masses of people that have voted for them, but have been kept out of the decisionmaking. The Democrats contained their kooks when they were able to shut the Bernie Sanders movement down; unfortunately the Republican Party has been taken over by its most ignorant, unthinking, reactionary constituencies. Trump is not a conservative. He has no ideology at all, in fact. I stand with Mitt Romney and George H.W. Bush in their resistence and criticisms of Trump.

Finally, I oppose Donald Trump because I have two young daughters who I have been raising to respect themselves. Do I want their president to be a man who engages in public vendettas with almost any woman who publicly criticizes him? A man who has very publicly called certain women "pigs" and "dogs," even if they were just Rosie O'Donnell.

Perhaps one of the scariest things about Trump is that he is easily baited and cannot let criticisms go. Look at how viciously George W. Bush was attacked during his presidency, and how visciously Barack Obama has been attacked during his. Can you imagine Donald Trump being able to focus on the tasks of the presidency while being constantly criticized by his opponents and the media? He simply cannot let things go. He would spend most of his days in twitter wars and responding to every journalist who wrote a negative op-ed piece. In fact, he has openly discussed making it easier to sue journalists for defamation of public figures (translation: curtail freedom of speech and press).

I don't really have positive arguments for Hillary Clinton. She is capable, knowledgeable. She will continue the damaging policies of the Obama years, but we can recover from that. I think she is less ideological than Obama, and once elected, she will probably tack back more towards the center like her husband eventually did. At least that is my hope. She's got to keep the silly Bernie supporters in line until after the election. Then she can be reasonable again. By many accounts, she actually was a fairly effective Senator, and even many of her former Republican colleagues will quietly admit that she worked well across the aisle and listened to opposing views with a relatively open mind. Again, I hope that is the case and that she would be that kind of president.

But I do know that we cannot have Donald Trump as president. OK. So I just endorsed Hillary Clinton. I need to go take a shower now.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen...Corey Feldman

This is f*cking outstanding. Corey Feldman and his new band Corey's Angels performing on the Today Show. Check out how he has the girls in his band dressed. Think he's "helping make their dreams come true"? Oh, and it's a double concept album!

Monday, September 12, 2016

An Album I Love By an Artist I Don’t Like (and Albums I Hate by Artists I Love)

Throw enough sh*t at the wall, and something is bound to stick. It worked for FDR during the New Deal, and it sometimes works in music as well. If someone has a base level of musical skill and talent, over time, they are bound to get something right.

It is easy to hate Billy Joel. Very easy. When I was in middle school, though, I loved his music. I own most of his records on vinyl from back when I was buying vinyl before the dawn of CDs (now I am back to buying vinyl again). But his music has not aged well at all. He was cheeseball with the ballads, and when he tried to pose as a rocker it just looked and sounded ridiculous (“Big Shot,” anyone?)
But…there is one Billy Joel record that still sounds so great, and it remains amongst my favorite records. Songs In the Attic (1981) is a live record he put out with a specific purpose, and he accomplished it brilliantly. In the well written liner notes by Joel, he talks about how he was never happy with the way his first four records sounded. After he got big with The Stranger, his band gelled and they presented the early material live the way he had wanted all along.

Hence Songs in the Attic. These are live renditions of album tracks from the early records performed with his more (at the time) current band. He only had one pre-Stranger hit, and that was the ubiquitous “Piano Man,” and thankfully that is not even on this record. As he stated in the liner notes, “Piano Man” never sounds different live than on the recording anyway, so why bother putting it here? The tracks that are here are uniformly superior to their studio counterparts, so he was right to try and get them a second listen. They are all deep album cuts, and good choices. Even though they are taken from different shows and even tours, for whatever reason, the record has a real cohesion to it. It sounds like it was meant to be put together in this way.

It is often this way with music, but I remember listening to this record during a certain period in my youth. Pulling the vinyl out late the other night…wow. A strong wave of nostalgia and those memories of youth came flowing back. Makes sense that the record closes with his own nostalgic look back, “I’ve Loved These Days” (a much, much more effective song that his later cheesy semi-hit “This Is the Time,” which tries to cover the same ground).

Even if you don’t like Billy Joel, this record may be the exception to the rule for you. It certainly is for me.

Now, to be fair, records I hate by artists I otherwise love. There are actually many of these I could choose from. We all make mistakes, even the best of us. Here are some mistakes…

Neil Young: My favorite artist of all time. But Living With War and The Monsanto Years both sound like some angry old man with half the facts on some simplistic political rant. Might be OK over the dinner table with friends, but it doesn’t make for great records.

Bruce Springsteen: Human Touch, where Bruce completely loses his sound and makes a record with slick L.A. session players. By the numbers songwriting too. Working on a Dream, where Bruce finally becomes a parody of himself in places.

The Who: Endless Wire. I was genuinely intrigued with what a post-John Entwhistle Who record would sound like. Surely someone as smart as Pete Townshend could age gracefully in music. Nevermind. Half-baked concept album about something I don’t care about.

Peter Gabriel: I don’t know, anything post-1992? Let’s go with OVO, his misbegotten soundtrack for the Millenium Dome Show in London. Bland songwriting, bland production, annoying guest artists. To quote Donald Trump, a disaster.

Dire Straits: On Every Street. Wonderful title track aside, it is no wonder Mark Knopfler ended it after this record. Pressure of following up something like Brothers In Arms was too much, or more likely, Knopfler doesn’t seem like an artist comfortable at that level. I think it all got too big.

Van Morrison: anything from the mid-1990’s on. Even into the 1980’s, Van Morrison was making challenging, vital music with depth (if you haven’t, it is worthwhile to delve into Van’s 80’s material). I chose to list Van here, because take your pick, record after record of cruise control, non-descript, mid-tempo R&B influenced product. Somewhere Morrison ceased to be an artist and became just an entertainer. Other artists who completely had me but took a turn like Morrison: Sting post-Soul Cages, U2 post-Zooropa and ZZ Top post-Afterburner.

What about you? Records you love by artists you otherwise dislike, or records you hate by artists you otherwise love?