Friday, December 31, 2010

IF WISHES WERE HORSES

Every year, my friends Stephen T. McCarthy and Nappy make a trek to a secret wishing well location to offer up his change and make a wish in the hopes that Tiny Tim will score a second top forty hit.

I don't know why the location is such a closely guarded secret, as the wish has not yet come true. Or has it? Could the wish be answered this coming Tuesday? Read on, and decide for yourself.

Hebert Buckingham Khaury, best known by his "Tiny Tim" alias, was most famous for his rendition of "Tiptoe Through The Tulips, which he recorded in a distinctive high falsetto voice, and was generally regarded as a novelty act.

In a 1970's Playboy interview-what, you thought men bought it for the pictures?-Tiny Tim said the following, which prompted Stephen T and Nappy's annual wishing trek:

“Most of all, I’d love to see Christ come back to crush the spirit of hate and make men put down their guns. I’d also like just one more hit single.”

They have even formed a loose association called "The Tiny Tim Wish Fulfillment Team" to bolster the power of their wishes.

Heck, I even made a wish this year. And while I am not claiming to have had the wish that made a difference, there is something very different about the 2010 wishes.

For you see, something is coming in 2011.

Something BIG.




On January 4, 2011, a limited vinyl LP pressing of "Lost & Found" drops, which contains tracks from Tiny's pre-fame and post-fame years, and "features some of the most intriguing, eclectic, and enjoyable material of his career."

Now a limited edition vinyl pressing is a far cry from a top 40 hit, but considering we're talking about a man who has been dead for a decade and a half, and who had his last hit more than forty years ago, I am wondering if maybe this is the wish coming true.

Stranger things have happened...

Friday, December 17, 2010

CLOSING TIME


Tom Waits is to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it was announced yesterday. The gravel-voiced singer will share a hallowed place next to Little Richard, the Rolling Stones and the Band.

I don't know about "hallowed place."

"I never really cared about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," Waits said, "but now I am surprised to discover how much I do care."

"It's funny to me how artists seem to mock the RRHOF before they get in, and then embrace it. Me, I mock it. It's everything rock and roll was created to stand against.

Every year, the hall of fame nominates 15 artists for induction into its rock'n'roll annals. Five hundred music industry professionals vote on these suggestions, with a nod going to every act that receives more than 50% of the vote. Some artists, such as Darlene Love, are nominated several times before making the cut. But not the rest of this year's acts: Cooper, Waits, Diamond and Dr John were approved on their first-ever ballot.

For Waits, the news brought memories of his mother, who died this year. "I wish she was alive to hear the news," he said. "She didn't respond to rock and roll per se, but she would have loved to have a reason to get all dolled up ... [and] the idea of having a Waldorf salad AT the Waldorf Astoria, would for her have been the cat's pajamas."

If they had a ceremony but not the physical building, I might feel differently. When I saw the building, it was kind of dull to me. And overpriced. The Pro Football Hall of Fame (an hour away) was cheaper and more interesting.

Rock and Roll is NOT about a hall of fame. Rock and Roll is just about... ROCK AND ROLL!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/dec/16/tom-waits-rock-roll-hall-fame

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Review: A Wizard, A True Star: Todd Rundgren in the Studio

A review by Ric Hickey

Paul Myers has penned the definitive Todd Rundgren biography. Dispensing with the typically invasive biographical method of delving into a subject’s personal life, Myers here instead sticks to the real meat of the matter: The artist’s work. Dedicated solely to Rundgren’s music and production, the book is a much more intriguing and respectful biography than one could ever pen in the more traditional vein. Forgoing the need to supplant the text with salacious anecdotes and insidious speculation, Myers’ respectful approach is best exemplified by his decision to dedicate no more than a single paragraph to Rundgren’s tumultuous break-up with Bebe Buell.

Though Rundgren’s tongue had already taken up permanent residence in his cheek by the time he named his 1973 magnum opus A Wizard, A True Star, time has proven this moniker to be apt, accurate, and certainly suitable for this book’s title as well. A willing participant in the interview process for this manuscript, Rundgren’s every contribution is insightful, revealing, acerbic, and often funny as hell. From the first few pages his quotes are brutally honest, including very frank discussions about his experimentation with drugs.

Young Rundgren’s high school band experience morphed into the psychedelic garage act Nazz and subsequent recording contract as a solo artist. First establishing himself as a hit-maker as early as 1972, he was soon tapped to produce other artists as well. With “Hello It’s Me” topping the charts, he was busily constructing his first studio in a friend’s loft apartment on 13th street in New York City. Making it up and learning the ropes as he went along, Rundgren mastered the rules of performance and production as he simultaneously went about breaking them to suit the needs of his impeccable ear. In retrospect, it’s amazing how the first fruits of his improvised construction of a recording studio from the ground up resulted in the psychedelic masterpiece A Wizard, A True Star. This was just one of what would be a string of wildly diverse and endlessly inventive self-produced solo LPs.

In the early ‘70s, Rundgren settled comfortably into the producer’s chair and helped birth two hard-rock classics of the era: The New York Dolls’ self-titled debut album and what would turn out to be Grand Funk’s biggest selling LP, We’re An American Band. Rundgren’s production resume reads like a who’s who from almost every imaginable subgenre of rock music, from prog to punk. The list of enthusiastic contributors to this book includes Patti Smith, David Sanborn, Hall & Oates, Steve Hillage, Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf, Flo & Eddie, as well as members of the Psychedelic Furs, Badfinger, the Tubes, Cheap Trick, the New York Dolls, XTC, and Utopia.

Though the band members seemed to grasp that Utopia was not a top priority to Rundgren or his label, he did keep them busy as hired hands whenever possible. Sidemen on countless projects, Kasim Sulton and Prairie Prince were employed numerous times, including the sessions for the first LP by ‘70s teen pop idol Shaun Cassidy.  (Correction here-it was Willie Wilcox on these projects, the drummer for Utopia. Prarie Prince was drummer for th Tubes and did not become a Todd sideman until the 90's)

No one in the music business was busier or in higher demand in the 1970s than Todd Rundgren. He produced a staggering number of hit records around this time, including Meat Loaf’s seminal Bat Out Of Hell LP. Though the torrid and complicated back history of that legendary album is well known by now, it is curious to contemplate how the backing band assembled for those sessions was one half Utopia and one half Springsteen’s E Street Band.

In the ‘80s, Rundgren’s already busy production schedule kicked into high gear with a steady stream of artists passing through his studio. At this time, he kept himself busier than ever in order to keep his ill-fated video production studio afloat. In addition to his reputation as an audio production genius, he was an early proponent of video and computer technology. He often found himself way ahead of the curve with these emerging technologies, and many of his experiments failed to generate much notice or sales. The advent of the personal computer marked a major turning point for Rundgren and opened him up to a world of possibilities. He continues to explore new technologies today.

Over the course of literally hundreds of sessions with dozens of artists displaying varying temperaments, there were bound to be clashes in the studio between hardheaded artists and their sarcastic, self-assured, and sometimes condescending producer. In the long run and in spite of their strong differences at the time, many found that Rundgren was almost always right in his convictions. In addition to his role as producer, he is also a multi-instrumentalist who contributed mightily to hundreds of these recordings.

Seemingly, every artist that has worked with him over the years has nothing but good things to say about him. Many credit Rundgren with making them better musicians and songwriters. Others say he broadened their horizons, and in numerous cases his efforts propelled them to greater fame. Today he looms like a mischievous guardian angel over the careers of countless recording artists, and this tome about his life and works pays a great and important homage to his legacy.

A Wizard, A True Star: Todd Rundgren in the Studio

By Paul Myers  (Jaw Bone Press, 2010)


Purchase: the book at amazon.com
 
Read the original review

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

JOHN LENNON REMEMBERED

Three decades ago today, John Lennon was shot to death outside his home in New York's Dakota building. Lennon was murdered by a fan on Dec 8 1980.


No matter what you thought of his solo work or his political views or Yoko (that includes YOU, Stephen T!) there is no questioning the influence Lennon had on shaping the world of popular music during his tenure in that moderately successful band known as the Beatles.


 
Fans are gathering to pay tribute to John Lennon on the 30th anniversary of his death. One of the biggest tributes will take place in Central Park, at a spot dubbed Strawberry Fields, after the famous Beatles song.


Strange days indeed...

Friday, December 3, 2010

(re) Production

Gigatone Entertainment, a next-generation entertainment company has announced details of its latest album and myRecordFantasy project with Rock superstar Todd Rundgren.

Rundgren, whose innovation as a producer and recording artist has spawned one of pop music's most devout followings, will return to the studio January 17-19, 2011 for Gigatone's myRecordFantasy event for his album project, "(re)Production."

myRecordFantasy, held at Gigatone's headquarters at the Track Shack Studios in Sacramento, will feature Rundgren's fans from around the world vying for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of auditioning to perform on the Rundgren's new album.  In addition, fans will be attending and participating in nightly jam sessions with Rundgren and special guests.

Rundgren's production techniques have exacted watershed efforts from artists such as Meat Loaf ("Bat Out of Hell"), Badfinger ("Straight Up"), XTC ("Skylarking"), The Psychedelic Furs ("Forever Now"), and Grand Funk Railroad ("We're An American Band").

(re)Production features Rundgren performing selections he's produced for others. It includes such hits as the Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way," Meat Loaf's "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad," Grand Funk Railroad's "Walk Like A Man," XTC's "Dear God," Cheap Trick's "I Can't Take It," as well as songs by The Tubes, Hall and Oates, The New York Dolls, Rick Derringer, Patti Smith, Badfinger and Bourgeois Tagg, among others.

Todd broke onto the music scene in the late 60s fronting Nazz, with the psychedelic power pop hit "Open My Eyes". Upon the release of Rundgren's third solo album, the 1972 masterwork Something/Anything? and its melodic hit singles "I Saw the Light" and "Hello It's Me", the rock press promptly dubbed him "Rock's Wunderkind Renaissance Man", and forever solidified his status as a gifted pop craftsman. His follow-up, A Wizard, A True Star, was a sonic kaleidoscope of progressive rock, serving notice that Rundgren was not going to walk a straight pop line. The universally acknowledged godfather of the marriage of music and multimedia, his production, recording, touring, technological trailblazing throughout his solo career has taken him through a broad swath of creative stylings.

As with previous myRecordFantasy events, the entire event is filmed in high definition, with episodes airing on Gigatone's Channel Page on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/gigatonerecords.

More Information Pricing and Details:

http://www.gigatone.net/

http://www.myrecordfantasy.com/

http://www.sacbee.com/2010/12/01/3224112/todd-rundgren-and-fans-get-in.html#storylink=fblike

Monday, November 29, 2010

DON'T CALL ME SHIRLEY

Although this blog is mainly about music, there are some events that are too important not to make mention of. Many of you might not have known that Leslie Nielsen was in the hospital.

"A hospital," you ask, "What is it?"

It's a large building where sick people go, but that's not important right now...



On November 28, 2010, Leslie Nielsen died in his sleep in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida hospital of complications from pneumonia.

Although Nielsen's acting career crossed a variety of genres in both television and films, his deadpan delivery would make him the "Olivier of spoofs" (in the words of film critic Roger Ebert). His portrayal of serious characters seemingly oblivious to (and complicit in) their absurd surroundings gave him a reputation as a comedian.

Even though I knew every line in the 'Airplane' and 'Naked Gun' movies, they never got old. Nor did Nielsen, so it seemed, his white helmet of hair leaving him almost unfairly frozen in time. It was with great sadness that I learned of Nielsen's passing on Sunday at the age of 84.

"Surely you can't be serious?" I screamed at the heavens.

"I am serious," replied a voice in my head, quoting the line from 'Airplane', "And don't call me Shirley."



RIP Leslie Nielsen

Friday, November 12, 2010

PROFESSOR TODD GOES BACK TO HIGH SCHOOL


Some 400 high school students in San Juan Capistrano ran through classrooms, locker rooms and their school quad dressed in feather boas, tin-foil outfits and one dressed as the Burger King.


It may have been Oct. 29, but it was not for Halloween. It was an attempt to make the San Juan Hills High School arts department look cool by lip-syncing to a 1980s pop song that starts with the lyrics, "I don't want to work. I want to bang on the drum all day."

San Juan Hills High School students mug for the camera during the taping of a music video in which they lip-sync Todd Rundgren's song "Bang the Drum All Day."

The visual and performing-arts department often makes an informational video to encourage middle-school students to get involved with the arts. The video from last year started with classical music and bullet points. That was boring, according to students tasked with creating this year's video.

Then came "lipdub," a form of music video made from one continuous shot that features people lip-syncing a song that's dubbed in during editing. Several months ago, two rival high schools from Washington created lipdubs for an informal competition that became cable news fare. The founder of Vimeo, a video host site like YouTube, claims to have coined the term.

"Our goal was that we wanted to be the most fun department and the most fun school," said Brian Devaney, the video production teacher who organized the stunt. He divided students into teams tasked with gathering groups from arts classes, from orchestra to dance. The students chose Todd Rundgren's "Bang the Drum All Day" for the music video.

The school couldn't afford a steadicam – a stable mount for a camera that's set on a moving object – so some students built one using instructions they found online. The camera appears to be running after singers as they make their way through dancing crowds on campus.

Principal Tom Ressler has asked Devaney's students to do another video at the end of the school year, incorporating the senior class for a final send-off.

"We really want (students) to get interested in the arts as a freshman," Devaney said. "We want them to take a drama class or take a video class and find their passion."

Watch the San Juan Hills video here:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xfk221_lipdub-final-edit

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

R.I.P. MY FRIEND...YOU SHALL BE MISSED


The Walkman, the Sony cassette device that forever changed music listening before becoming outdated by digital MP3 players and iPods, has died.

It was 31 years old.

Sony announced Oct. 25 that it has ceased production of the classic, cassette tape Walkman in Japan, effectively sounding the death knell of the once iconic, now obsolete device.

The Walkman is survived by its close relative the Discman (still clinging to life) and ironic music listeners who think using a Walkman in this day and age is charmingly out of touch.


It will continue to be produced in China and distributed in the U.S., Europe and some Asian countries. Digital Walkmans are also being made with models that display lyrics and have improved digital noise-canceling technology.

Still, if you’re looking to chisel a date in the Walkman’s tombstone, then Oct. 25, 2010, is as good as any.

For many, that it’s taken this long is surprising: “They were still making those?’’

Perhaps Oct. 23, 2001, the day the iPod was launched, is the better date of expiration.

But none of the success of Apple’s portable music players would have ever happened without the cassette Walkman. Some 220 million have been sold since the first model, the TPS-L2, debuted in July 1979. (It retailed for $200.) At the time, transistor radios were portable, but there was nothing widely available like the Walkman.

It was developed under the stewardship of Sony founders Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka. Morita insisted the device not be focused on recording but playback, a relatively odd notion at the time.

Originally called the “Soundabout” in the U.S., the Walkman was an immediate sensation and a revolution in music listening. Foremost, it was portable. Music no longer needed to be something that one experienced sitting in a room, but could be blasted on the bus, pumped while jogging on a beach or played softly while studying.

By turning the volume up, anyone could be tuned out. The detached teenager with foam earphones slouched in the back seat or bobbing his head in the elevator became an indelible image of the ’80s. (The first Walkman did have an orange “hot line” button to lower the music and increase the microphone so you could hear someone talking to you.)

Music, previously listened to in a room with shag carpeting and a stereo, was cast into the world, made a part of daily life. Pink Floyd could join a walk in the park; Public Enemy could soundtrack a commute.

More than portability, it fostered a personalization to music, a theme the iPod would also highlight in those early dancing silhouette ads. A big reason there’s so much nostalgia for the Walkman today is because it eliminated any separation from music. It felt like an appendage, which is perhaps why some (with questionable fashion instincts) clipped theirs to their belt.

The Walkman was also the father of the mixtape, an offspring that nearly trumps the progenitor. For the first time, music was something you could make yours by arranging it and swapping it.

For those young and unfamiliar with this process, making a mixtape typically entailed gathering songs by The Cure and Depeche Mode, labeling the tape with care and awkwardly giving it to a love interest.

The Walkman didn’t disappear so much as it was improved upon. Sony continues to use it as a brand, but the company long ago ceded hipness and style to Apple. The iPod will likely one day befall a similar fate, and another generation will gasp in joined wistfulness. When it comes to music and how we hear it, we’re all romantics.

I shall raise a glass to my dearly departed old friend, The Walkman!

(although I still have mine in a box in my closet-Sony made those things quite well!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

THE BEARD IS BACK (Part 4)

The conclusion of my presentation of the Goldmine article on Spock's Beard (say that five times fast)

Now a four-piece band, Spock’s Beard had one more question to deal with: Where were their new songs going to come from? The members had contributed to a few of Neal’s songs on past albums, but as the main source of new material, they were an untested commodity.


For D’Virgilio, stepping up to the writing plate was the fullfilment of a longtime ambition: “We all wanted to get more involved in the writing. I love Neal’s writing, but I wanted to have more of a role.”

All four members would contribute to the composing for the new album, and they brought in some help – old friends and musical associates John Boegehold and Stan Ausmus.

As recording got underway, a new Spock’s Beard sound started emerging. In addition to a new voice, guitars started to play a more prominent role.

“It was more of a regular rock record,” Alan Morse said. “It wasn’t quite as progressive as our previous things. For a while there, we felt like we wanted to go more mainstream to bring in some more people.”

The end result, 2003 release “Feel Euphoria,” was a different kind of Spock’s record – more aggressive and varied, still prog but far removed from the band that made “Snow.”




Fan reaction was, expectedly, mixed. Loyal followers were glad the band was carrying on, but Neal Morse was missed.

“Some people dug it,” D’Virgilio said. “I got letters from fans where they thought it was the greatest thing ever. A lot of people didn’t like it at all because it wasn’t Neal. Everybody universally liked the fact that we were keeping going with the band.”

When it came time to tour, the band once again followed the Genesis pattern, they hired a second drummer, Jimmy Keegan, to free up D’Virgilio so he could front the band.

“I’ve known Jimmy for a lot of years,” D’Virgilio stated. “I knew what he could do – how he played, how he could sing – that was a pretty easy choice, because he just came in and understood it all.”

The subsequent tour saw the introduction of nightly drum duels between D’Virgilio and Keegan, which would quickly become a crowd favorite at Spock’s shows to this day.

The band was content. “While Feel Euphoria” sold less than “Snow,” it established Spock’s Beard as a band with a future. “We knew that we could keep going,” D’Virgilio said. “We knew we could make quality music, so we wanted to keep going. InsideOut was still supporting us.”

Carry on they did. Two further albums followed – “Octane” in 2005 and “Spock’s Beard” in 2006. Both found Spock’s Beard embracing a variety of styles. While half of “Octane” was devoted to “A Flash Before My Eyes,” a mini prog-opera, the CD also had a strong rock element, and a fusiony instrumental called “NYC.”




Spock’s Beard mixed it up even more. One song, a straight-ahead rocker called “Is This Love”, became the target of strong criticism. “(The reaction) almost went beyond hate,” Meros said. “I totally dig that song,” D’Virgilio stated. “I love the way the band sounds playing that kind of music. The prog heads didn’t like it much at all, because they thought we were trying to sound like Cheap Trick or something, but I was just going with my influence.”

Another track that got a mixed reaction was “Sometimes They Stay, Sometimes They Go,” the first Spock’s Beard song to feature an Alan Morse lead vocal.

“They either hated or ignored it – they pretended it didn’t exist,” Meros said. “Honestly I think that is one of the strongest songs on the record.”




If Spock’s Beard had a problem, it was, according to Meros, too much variety: “There are about two or three songs that should not have been on the record. Looking back, it was like, ‘We have room for them on the CD, and they’re really well-written songs, well-performed. If somebody doesn’t like it, that’s what the skip button is for.’”

Criticism aside, the two CDs proved D’Virgilio had fully settled into his lead singer role, and the band’s post-Neal songwriting improved with every release.

The band still had momentum. But it would be four years before Spock’s Beard made another album.

Their Names Escape

Why the long wait between Spock’s Beard and the recently released “X”? A few factors contributed to the break.



Changes at InsideOut coincided with the fulfillment of the band’s three-CD record deal, and the members weren’t convinced re-signing with the label was the best plan.

“We just wanted to get out,” D’Virgilio said. “Also, I think at that point we were all just tired and needed a bit of an hiatus. That’s why this record turned out as well as it did, because we actually did take the time to breathe.”

Even if Spock’s Beard was on hold, the members weren’t idle. D’Virgilio resumed his side job as touring drummer for Tears for Fears, and then relocated for a steady gig with a Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil production. Okumoto worked with prog bands GPS and K2, played in a top-40 lounge band in Las Vegas and then returned to his native Japan. Alan Morse released an instrumental solo album, “Four O’Clock & Hysteria,” in 2007, and focused on the electronics company he owns, DynaMetric Inc. Meros, who toured with a modern-day version of Eric Burdon & The Animals from 1990 to 2005, played in cover bands with veterans of The Tubes, Enchant and Iron Butterfly.

“There were some really big life distractions,” Meros stated. “We pretty much just let things idle for a while, and all of the sudden it was, ‘Man, we haven’t done something for quite some time, so we better just do it now or never.’”

All four members had been writing material on their own, but the big question was how they would get an album made with no record company support. Ultimately, the band chose to seek financing from fans through pre-orders of the CD.




“We didn’t really want to self-finance it,” Alan Morse said. “Other people had been doing the (fan-financing) sort of thing, Marillion and some others. We didn’t know if it would work, but we figured it was worth a try.”

But work it did. The response was tremendous, in no small part due to the band’s creative approach to this effort. Previous self-financed albums have seen artists thank fans for their support in the CD booklet, but Spock’s Beard took it one step further – by incorporating fan names into the lyrics of an actual song on the CD!

As conceived by Meros and Boegehold, fans were offered an ultra package that included, along with a T-shirt and autographed CD, the inclusion of their name on the disc itself.

A great, innovative idea, but the execution proved challenging. “We thought maybe 30, 40, 50 people would do this – and 130 people signed up for it,” Meros recalled. Now committed to this plan, the band had to come up with a song to go with the names. They considered doing a novelty song such as, in Meros’s words, “a prog polka,” until Boegehold came up with a working concept for the track, “Their Names Escape Me.”

Meros recalled, “John made up this story about these people who rose up against the government. This guy destroyed all the evidence but he has a photographic memory and all these names are still in his head. They’ve got him in this cell and and they’re trying to extract all of this information with these people’s names.” The names in his head, revealed in the lyrics, were the band’s patrons, and each one had to be multi-tracked by D’Virgilio for their inclusion in the recording.

The end result is spectacular, and a good reason to order the limited edition CD, as “Their Names …” is not included on the retail version of “X” through an agreement the band recently signed with Netherlands-based Mascot Records, a label Steve Lukather and Joe Satriani also call home.

One of the most remarkable things about “X” is how unified and consistent it sounds. It was recorded as many bands do these days, mostly at the band members’ home studios. Then it was assembled by master mixer Rich Mouser. D’Virgilio did his vocals mostly in his home studio, and Meros did the same to record his bass. But the combination of sharp songwriting (much of it by Meros and Boegehold), a return to the band’s classic prog sound, Mouser’s powerful mix, and superb performances by all has resulted in v2.0’s finest CD yet, easily the best Spock’s Beard product since “Snow.” And the fans have been vocal in their praise.

“It’s really weird – people on the Internet are making up all these reasons why they think this album is so much better than the other ones,” Meros said. “There is no tangible reason. It’s the same dudes playing the same instruments. We recorded at the same studio with the same writers. I think all of us really learned a lesson with Spock’s Beard: You can’t throw the kitchen sink onto your CD. We got a little bit less all-inclusive and a little bit more self-producing.”

What Next?

For Spock’s Beard, the immediate future looks bright. An excellent, well-received new CD. A new record label pledging to give the group a strong promotional push. But what is the long-range plan for the band?




As far as touring goes, it ultimately comes down to economics. A Spock’s Beard show is not a cheap undertaking: “We’ve got two drum sets and three million keyboards,” Meros said, “and we need 50 channels live.” The band is a good draw in major markets such as L.A. and New York, but has a harder time in rural areas where they’re less well-known.

More American shows could be a possibility, however, if sales are strong for “X.” “If the record starts taking off and instead of 30,000 we’re selling 80,000, that means we can tour in the States,” Meros said.

It could happen. Alan Morse sees a younger generation of Americans getting into prog: “I always love it when you see kids out there. We’ve done some gigs where it’s 12-year-old dudes in the front just rocking out. I get e-mails from little kids – 7 or 8 years old.”

Whatever happens, he doesn’t foresee Spock’s Beard ending any time soon: “As long as people keep buying (the CDs) and we’ve got fans to play to, I’m not ready to quit and I don’t think anybody else is.”



Afterword by DiscConnected-"X" was also released on vinyl! Check out www.spocksbeard.com for more information about the band, and www.goldminemag.com for more info on a great record collector's magazine!

Monday, November 8, 2010

THE BEARD SHAVED? (PART 3)

What Now?


The departing Morse planned to make Christian-themed solo projects, but for his brother and the remaining Spock’s Beard members, the future was anything but sure.



“We didn’t really know (what to do),” Meros stated. “We just decided we really liked playing with each other and this band had been the best thing any of us had ever done. We couldn’t just walk away from it. We had to at least try. … (Neal) was really supportive of us and he really wanted us to keep going. … In some ways, it was a gigantic gift. He started this band and made it what it was, and right at its peak, he handed this whole franchise over to us with his blessing.”




In retrospect, Snow actually had some clues as to the band’s next move, since it featured D’Virgilio singing lead on two songs, one of which, “Looking for Answers,” he wrote, marking the first time a band member besides Neal Morse had a solo composition on a Spock’s Beard album.

Replacing Neal Morse presented multiple challenges. Not only was he the band’s lead singer; he also played keyboards and guitar, was instrumental in the albums’ production, and perhaps most significantly, wrote nearly all of the band’s material.

Okumoto and Alan Morse, both virtuosos, could handle the instrumental parts. The big questions were, who would write the songs – and who would sing ‘em?




Different scenarios were considered. “We were all looking for singers,” Meros said. “Thomas from InsideOut was suggesting Ray Wilson,” who briefly replaced Phil Collins in Genesis for 1997’s Calling All Stations – an album that, coincidentally, features drumming by D’Virgilio on four tracks.

While Wilson fronting Spock’s Beard would’ve been interesting, the fact that he lived in Europe made this scenario difficult. But someone already on the Spock’s team wanted to borrow a move from the Genesis playbook.

“Nick said, ‘You know what? I want to (take over as vocalist),” Meros stated. “I told him ‘You have to stay on drums. Nobody can do this gig better than you.’ ‘No,’ he said. ‘Let me try. I swear to God I can do it. … If I can’t do it, you can all get together and decide, and then I’ll go back to drums, but at least give me a shot.’ So we went ‘OK’, and the rest is history.”




A strong vocalist in his own right, D’Virgilio had already sung on his solo album, Karma (2001), on various outside projects, and on Snow, but this transition wasn’t a slam-dunk. “I had to convince the guys,” he said. “It took them a little while to accept that, but they ended up going ‘Yeah, it’s cool.’ But they asked what we were going to do when we play live, and I said ‘We’ll worry abut that then’ and we went from there.”

“Nick’s the only one who could really pull it together singing,” Alan Morse said. “Ultimately, he was really into it. It seemed like it worked well for Genesis. It was like, ‘OK, do we want to bring a whole other personality into this thing?’ It didn’t seem like that was such a great idea. We just felt like we (had) to hit the ground running. We wanted to hit people really quick with something so that they’d know we were still around.”

The parallels to the Genesis story did raise some concerns. “We didn’t think about it at first,” Meros recalled, “but when I got home that night I thought, ‘Wait a minute. The singer that everybody based the band around quits, the drummer becomes the singer, and that was after the sixth record, which was a double concept album. The prog fans are going to have a field day with this!’”

Pushing such worries to the side, the band moved forward, beginning work on its first CD without Neal Morse. The future was uncertain, but one thing was sure: Spock’s Beard would continue.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

BEARD'S GROWTH (PART TWO)

Continuing my presentation of the Goldmine article on progressive rock band Spock's Beard (also available on their website, www.goldminemag.com).





Beware Of Darkness


Released in 1996, Beware of Darkness showed a band that had matured by leaps and bounds since its first album. The addition of Okumoto in the studio on Hammond organ and mellotron added greatly to the mix while the other members grew in instrumental proficiency. The band was evolving vocally as well; one song, “Thoughts,” featured intricate acapella vocals, a homage to one of the band’s major influences, Gentle Giant. Another highlight was the title track, a progged-up cover of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass classic.

The making of this album was not without drama. The band had been working with Kevin Gilbert, a producer/engineer of note who also was an artist and songwriter with credits including Toy Matinee and work with Sheryl Crow. D’Virgilio recalled, “He had mixed the first three tracks (for Beware) and we were scheduled to go to his place and mix another three, and we found out he died. The guys were waiting at the studio, wondering why he was late, and I had to drive over there and tell them that he wasn’t coming. That was a little dark cloud over the record.”

With Gilbert gone, the band hooked up with a new engineer, Rich Mouser (who remains with them to this day), for the next Spock’s Beard album, 1998’s Kindness of Strangers. “That was the one where we decided that maybe we should start to cross over, a little more accessibility for non-proggers,” Meros stated. “We (still) do a lot of Kindness live; it’s got that impact where the songs really translate well live.”

The trend towards accessibility continued with Spock’s 1999 release, Day for Night, so much so that the album risked alienating the band’s steadily growing cult of followers. “That, I think, is a bit stronger foray into trying to get a hit,” Meros said. “I can’t really speak for what was going on in (Neal’s) head but that’s the feeling I got, (he was) trying to be more like Jellyfish of some of those alt art-rock bands going on right around then. That one got panned a little bit by the press.”




Despite this mixed reaction, the band’s popularity continued its steady growth trajectory. “Each record was progressively making us a little bigger,” D’Virgilio stated. “Day for Night lifted us up to the next level for sure. … We started to go, ‘I think something might be happening here.’”

Something was happening. The band was on the brink of making its masterpiece, to be followed immediately by the worst thing imaginable.

Exit Neal

Spock’s Beard got back to its progressive roots on its fifth album, the aptly titled V (2000), and the result was the band’s biggest CD yet. “That was the breakthrough record,” D’Virgilio said. “We opened up for Dream Theater a couple of times, did a headline tour over in Europe, we were playing in the States and pulling in decent crowds. … We thought we’d hit the threshold. This was our time to really go for it, but I think Neal knew he was going to quit by then.”




“It was really the peak of Spock’s Beard,” Meros added. “There was a buzz going on. It seemed like it might happen.”

What did happen was that, in 2001 Neal Morse decided the time was right to create the band’s magnum opus – in classic prog tradition, a double-album rock opera to be titled Snow. Its creation would be fueled by tragedy.

“Neal had been writing Snow for quite a while,” Meros recalled, “and he was sending out demos to us … we did a bunch of rehearsals and we were going to start recording. Neal was thinking about it and said, ‘You know, this record isn’t right. I’m not satisfied with it. So let’s just go home and I’m going to work on this.’ That was on September 10th.”

When 9/11 happened the next day, with airlines shut down, Neal Morse drove home from Los Angeles to Nashville. This gave him time to rethink Snow from the perspective of those tragic days. In fact, The Making of Snow DVD shows him writing new lyrics while making the long drive.

“He got home and completely rewrote Snow,” Meros continued. “He trashed 90 percent of it and started from scratch. I thought, ‘Oh my God. He rewrote a double record.’ … It was a lot better, but it was a completely different record.”

The two CDs told the story of John Sikeston, an albino nicknamed “Snow” who has, according to the story summary on the band’s Web site, “a special kind of a gift for seeing into people’s lives.” Some saw the plotline as an allegory for the saga of Neal Morse, a gifted man who could “heal” people with the power of his music. The album’s subtle-but-omnipresent Christian themes turned out to be a foreshadowing of what was to come.




On the surface, all signs were positive. The band had strong support from InsideOut (“We got a big fat advance to make Snow,” D’Virgilio said) and was looking forward to its most spectacular tour yet, triumphantly playing its greatest recorded achievement to date. Then the worst happened.

“We’d finished the whole record, and came to this little studio to record some acoustic stuff,” D’Virgilio recalled. “We did the recording and then listened to Snow, and (Neal) decided to tell us after that that he was leaving the band.”

“He was going more and more in a Christian direction, which isn’t something I am particularly into,” said Alan Morse. “I never figured he would bail until he just came in and we were all like, ‘WHAT?’ We were all pretty shocked, especially since we had just finished making this record, it was a lot of work, and we can’t even go on tour for (it).”

“Every record is a big struggle,” Meros said, “and that one, being a double record, and him going through a personal transformation, it must have been 10 times the struggle for him.”

Whatever his reasons, Neal Morse had left the band he started.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

FEAR THE BEARD (PART ONE)

Well, not really fear them.

But here for your reading pleasure, is an article on progressive rock band Spock's Beard originally published in a recent issue of Goldmine magazine (also available on their website, www.goldminemag.gom).

A great article from a great music collector's publication on a great band. How can you lose?

Once upon a time there was a progressive rock band, a truly magical one that was going places. Just as the band peaked with the creation of its masterpiece – a two-disc concept album – the charismatic, all-important frontman quit. But all was not lost; the drummer took over as lead singer, and the band lived happily ever after.


Sound familiar? Probably, but we’re not talking about Genesis here. A home-grown prog band, Los Angeles-based Spock’s Beard, followed the same pattern when singer/composer Neal Morse left the band in 2002 and drummer Nick D’Virgilio added lead vocals to his job duties. Spock’s Beard v2.0 made three CDs since Morse’s departure, but then took a long break. The band recently re-emerged with an excellent CD, X, the first album to be independently financed (with a little help from their friends) and self-released by the band.



Spock’s Beard has always existed in that sweet spot where Beatlesque melodic rock meets prog. More adventurous than Asia, more melodious than Dream Theater, Spock’s Beard brings a refreshingly American spin to the Brit-originated prog rock format. Sure, they can play in 17/9 time like Yes or ELP; sure, they’re all world-class players on their respective instruments; but like Genesis they’ve always put songwriting first. Their original take on this classic style has earned the band a devoted following, but they haven’t always enjoyed smooth sailing over their 18 years of existence.

Spock’s Beard has weathered its share of storms and is now back, stronger than ever. But theirs has been a long road fraught with twists and turns.

Seeing The Light

The Spock’s Beard story began in 1992 when aspiring singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse asked his guitarist brother Alan to listen to some progressive music he was working on.

“Neal wrote ‘The Light’ (which would become the title suite of their debut album) and he played it for me on his little keyboard, and I went, ‘Oh, nice Zappa ripoff,” Alan Morse recalled. “I thought, ‘Oh, it’s kind of cool,’ so he came over and I played some lead on it in my living room.”

Recording on the album commenced, but it was, in Alan’s words, “pretty much a shoestring operation. … We were doing ADAT tape back then … that was pretty much cutting-edge at the time. It was hilarious when we were mixing that thing. We had all four or five us crowded around the board and each guy was riding his own knobs. … It’s still one of my favorite records. Most of my favorite records were recorded on what would now be considered terrible gear.”

Even if they didn’t need sophisticated equipment, one thing the Morse brothers needed was a band. Fate played a hand in the arrival of their drummer.

“I met Alan and Neal at a bar in L.A., the Universal Bar & Grille,” D’Virgilio remembered. “It was a blues jam. You had to put your name on a chalkboard; they’d call you up periodically … and they called the three of us up. We hacked through some blues. We ended up talking about prog, and how we were all into the same kind of music. They had an organized jam at a rehearsal studio a few days later. Neal was talking about how he had written all this progressive music and had enough for a record, and that ended up being The Light. I went down to Neal’s place and picked up the cassette and dug it and I’ve been with the band ever since.”

With the drummer slot filled, the band needed a bass player. John Ballard, a friend of Neal’s, played bass with the then-nameless band for about a year, but was replaced by Dave Meros.

Fate may have played a part in his joining as well. “Sometimes when you really need something to happen, it does,” Meros said. “I was getting bored with traveling and playing this simple, blues-based stuff. In my mind I said, ‘I really need something to fall out of the sky and land in my lap.’ Al called and said, ‘I’m going to send you a tape. Check it out.’ I was like, ‘Oh man, I’ve always wanted to play with a real obnoxious tone like Chris Squire.’”

Meros bought a Rickenbacker bass, just like Squire’s, and the original four-piece lineup was complete. But that situation would soon change.

“It wasn’t really a band then,” Meros said, “it was a recording project. Neal did all the keyboards (on the album) … we wanted to do some gigs and Neal couldn’t do everything.” So the band added a second keyboardist: Japan’s gift to prog rock, Ryo Okumoto.

“I met Ryo in some club, playing in some funky blues band,” Alan Morse said. “He was pretty awesome, so I thought maybe he’d be into it. He showed up for the audition with The Light completely charted out, and then just proceeded to play it almost flawlessly. So we said, ‘OK, I guess you got the gig.’”

With the five-piece lineup in place, it was time to pick a name. “I came up with this big ol’ list of names, and (Spock’s Beard) was just a kind of joke,” Alan Morse recalled. “It was an inside joke with Neal and me. If something weird happened, we’d say, ‘Dude, that’s like Spock’s Beard from a parallel universe.’”

“Everyone would come in with a list of names,” Meros stated, “and the serious ones sounded real pretentious. That’s not who we are – we’re just a bunch of dudes with 15-year-old senses of humor. … The only (name) that never really wasn’t completely objectionable to everybody was Spock’s Beard. That was on everybody’s list as a joke at the end, and finally we felt, ‘Well, this seems to be the one that’s surviving, so let’s just use it. … We were fully expecting to be sued by [Paramount, owner of the Star Trek franchise].”

One band member actually had an encounter with the entertainment giant. Alan Morse told the tale: “We used to make up all these stories about the name, and every time we’d tell a different one about where the name came from because we didn’t want to get into trouble. Finally, one day I said, ‘I’m sick of doing this. Let’s just tell people what the deal is.’ So I was out to dinner with a bunch of people and I told them the story. One guy goes, ‘That’s interesting. Actually, I’m an attorney at Paramount. … But don’t worry, it’s cool.’”

Legal risks aside, the Trek connection has paid off for the band – sort of. “We actually got a gig at a horror and scifi convention because of our band name, not because of us at all,” Meros remembered. “Nobody even showed up. It was a giant convention, with 15,000 people over the weekend. We were in this big ballroom. There was about 40 or 50 people there. I guess everybody else would rather hear George Takei speak.”

Even if they didn’t catch on with the scifi community, things were happening for Spock’s Beard, as The Light was picked up by a small prog-oriented label, Symphonic Records. Meros recalled that label owner Greg Walker “spent more on the artwork than we did on the whole record.”



Even with a small launch, the 1995 release of The Light caught some attention upon its release. “Everybody dug it,” D’Virgilio said. “[Dream Theater drummer] Mike Portnoy even heard about it and started to say good things about us in his little circle.”

The band members were further encouraged when they played their first gig of note as Spock’s Beard in 1995 at Progfest in San Francisco. “We had no idea there was anything like (Progfest),” said D’Virgilio. Meros added, “That was when we discovered that there was indeed a prog audience.”

Besides an enthusiastic reception from the cult of prog, this show also gave the band another break, as Thomas Waber, founder of German prog label InsideOut, was in attendance, and met and eventually signed the group.

The band started getting serious, playing more gigs, tightening up its act, and starting work on a second album.

Spock’s Beard was on its way.

Monday, November 1, 2010

PROFESSOR RUNDGREN CAPS OFF SEMINAR WITH PERFORMANCE


Visiting IU professor Todd Rundgren performs a set Sunday in Auer Hall in the Jacobs School of Music. Between songs he explained his methods of songwriting and composition and told stories about how he developed his style of playing as a young musician.

It’s been more than five years since Wells Scholars professor for the 2010 fall semester Todd Rundgren has performed a solo show.


“It’s kind of embarrassing to say, but my parents really like him. I’m in marching band, and he directed us. He seems like a really cool guy. We played “Bang on the Drum All Day” in band,” freshman Elizabeth Szymanski said.

Fans stood in line waiting for the Rundgren recital, “CLUSTER: The Birth of the T-Chord”, well before the doors to Auer Hall opened.

“I’ve been a fan of Todd Rundgren since I was in high school. The opportunity to catch all of the events going on during his visit are important to me,” Alumnus Jeff Green said.

Professor Andy Hollinden stood in line as well. A fan of Rundgren’s Utopia album and prague rock, Hollinden said he was confused when he heard Rundgren’s earlier works.

“I was 14 or 15 years old, so I was only into what I liked. When I heard the earlier stuff, to me it just seemed more like radio music, you know, sort of pop music. Now that I’ve become more knowledgeable about song writing and music production, I can see why that stuff’s his most successful, maybe most critically acclaimed,” Hollinden said.

Rundgren got the audience involved in conversation too.

“I swore off these kinds of shows. Imagine my chagrin at finding myself up here on stage with a guitar around my neck,” said Rundgren, who got the crowd to laugh then gave them a mock vocabulary lecture, telling them that ‘chagrin’ is a bad word, and they shouldn’t laugh at his chagrins.

The free show, which was open to the public and broadcast on the school of music’s website, featured Rundgren on stage at Auer Hall with an acoustic guitar, grand piano and the C.B. Fisk Organ in Auer Hall.

Professor Christopher Young played the organ while Rundgren sang along.

“I swore off playing the piano solo because I don’t feel I’m any good at it, and I don’t feel I have any business charging people to hear me play the piano,” he said.

Rundgren’s catalogue featured samples of music from different periods of his musical career. The final song of the close to two hour recital was “The Wheel,” which Rundgren described as “another of these sappy hippie songs.”

After that, Rundgren said goodnight to the crowd, wishing them a “Happy Halloween” and told them that those were all the songs that he remembered.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

TRICK OR TREAT 2010


The history of "Trick'O'Treating" can be traced back to the early celebrations of All Soul's Day in Britain. The poor would go begging and the housewives would give them special treats called "soulcakes". This was called "going a-souling", and the "soulers" would promise to say a prayer for the dead.


Over time the custom changed and the town's children became the beggars. As they went from house to house they would be given apples, buns, and money.

During the Pioneer days of the American West, the housewives would give the children candy to keep from being tricked. The children would shout "Trick or Treat!".

Some U.S. cities have chosen to ban teenage trick or treating. In fact, if teens in these cities do choose to come out dressed in a costume and ask for free candy, they could face trouble with the police.

Now I have often wondered at the number of teenagers who trick-or-treat, especially when some of the girls are (ahem) mature and dressed to impress, as it were. When they say "trick or treat" am I supposed to reach for my wallet? What kind of trick am I supposed to expect?

When I was their age I was drinking beer and lying about getting laid. What's wrong with teenagers today?

But arresting them?


This year I got a group of four ladies that were very mature. I'm knocking at fifty and they were all older than me. Considerably.

Lemme tell ya, when they said "trick or treat" I was scared either way.



In Douglas, Arizona, trick or treat took on new meaning for Robin Brekhus. Robin used to amuse herself by joking with the ghosts of the Gadsden Hotel when she worked in the basement.

She was down there a lot after moving to the border town to run the old hotel. She would jokingly call out to the ghosts, asking if there was any buried gold, but she didn't believe the legends of apparitions and unexplained noises in the old hotel.

That changed on Friday, March 13, 1992, a little after 4 p.m. The hotel lost its power, and the lights went out, the clocks stopped, the elevator froze. The staff needed candles, so Brekhus picked up a flashlight and headed for the basement to retrieve some.


She started getting creepy vibes almost as soon as she got down there.

"I got the feeling that someone was watching me," she said recently, standing in one of the hotel's basement corridors. "The hair on my arms stood up. The hair on my neck stood up."

Brekhus recalled how she pointed her light down the hall. Nothing there. She grabbed candles from one of the rooms and walked back into the hall. She shined the light toward the other end of the hall, the end with no entry or exit.

Someone was standing there, calmly watching her, she said. Brekhus ran for the stairs.

"He looked like a cowboy," Brekhus said. "It looked like he had a long duster coat and a cowboy hat. I know I saw somebody. It's like he was waiting for me to acknowledge that I saw him. Then he just kind of turned and moved down the hall. It made a believer out of me."

It doesn't have to be Halloween for ghost stories at the Gadsden. Employees and guests have reported eerie tales all times of the year. There are so many stories that the issue is met with a shrug. Employees don't seem upset that their workplace is haunted. The ghosts apparently are frisky, not nasty.

"They're nice," said Brenda Maley, the assistant manager who's worked at the hotel for 32 years. "I think they're happy here."

The Gadsden is loaded with legend and history beyond the supernatural. First opened in 1907, when Arizona was a territory, and reopened in 1929 after being destroyed by fire, the ornate hotel became a home for the cattlemen, miners, ranchers and railroaders who drove the area's economy. Most of the state's governors have stayed at the hotel. Movie scenes have been shot there.

The lobby is a picture of opulence, with a white marble staircase and marble columns topped with gold leaf. Light pours into the lobby through a 42-foot Tiffany stained-glass mural on the mezzanine and through stained-glass skylights. The hotel, named after the Gadsden Purchase land deal, is on the national historic register.



"It became the social and financial center for cattle barons and mining magnates," said Marshall Trimble, Arizona's state historian. "They say million-dollar deals were made there on a handshake in the saloon."

Brekhus moved to Douglas from North Dakota with her then-fiance in 1988. His parents had bought the hotel and wanted her to manage it. She and her husband, a commercial pilot, live at the hotel. She's been hearing - and living - the Gadsden's ghost stories ever since.

She's seen hanging kitchen pans move inexplicably, and there was a report of a rocking chair rocking by itself. The hotel keeps a logbook for people to record their brushes with spiritual turbulence. There have been reports of strange happenings in Room 333, including one from a woman who claimed that a spiritual presence snuggled up to her in bed. She didn't ask for a different room, Brekhus said. The experience apparently was oddly soothing, not scary.

Not so for the Florida paramedic who checked into the governor's suite only to come sprinting into the lobby a few minutes later, claiming a woman was using his shower. Maley had given him the key. She said she knew no one was in the room. They both checked, and the shower was empty.

"It was dry as a bone," Maley said, noting that the man decided not to stick around.

There have been reports of spirits that look like cowboys, a woman dressed in fancy clothes, a Mexican soldier and a young boy. One of the housekeepers says she was once slapped across the face by something. A guest said his golf clubs flew across Room 333 one night.

Count in Rod Franklin, a computer technician and founder of the Phoenix Arizona Paranormal Society, as a believer. His group tries to help people get rid of unwanted spirits, "There are a lot of people who don't take it seriously, but they've never had an encounter," he said.

The Gadsden is one of many Arizona hotels "from Oatman to Douglas" said to be haunted, Trimble noted, adding that the supernatural sells. "If I had a hotel, I'd have a ghost, too," he said.

Brekhus is in no hurry to chase the spirits out of the Gadsden, even if they aren't everyone's idea of fun.

"It can be a double-edged sword. I've had people walk out and leave, saying, 'I'm not going to stay here if there are ghosts,' " she said. "I had a priest say it should be exorcised. He said he could hook me up with people who could do it."

She declined.

"I said, 'They're pretty darn good for business.' "
 
I'm not sure if I believe in ghosts, and I definitely do not believe in incarcerating teenage trick or treaters. I do believe in scary old trick or treaters after this year.
 
Maybe next year I'll go to the sports bar instead of handing out candy. All the servers dress up, and they're old enough that if I get caught looking I won't get thrown into a cell next to the teenagers who were busted for mooching Snickers bars.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

TODD LEADS THE BAND


Todd was the Band Leader today for Indiana University's Marching Band when they performed "Bang The Drum All Day" during the first timeout of the 4th quarter of the Hoosiers football game.

This was Todd's first time to ever attend a college football game.


PROFESSOR RUNDGREN

Important announcement for serious Todd fans!



Todd's solo concert/lecture/recital at Indiana University will be streamed live with audio and video action!

The recital takes place at 8pm ET this Sunday (Halloween night).

We were told this would likely NOT be archived so you might want to watch it live if you can.

http://newsinfo.iu.edu/web/page/normal/16240.html

Friday, October 29, 2010

TODDSTOCK PREMIERE


The Glendale, Arizona premiere of the "Toddstock" DVD is happening live as I type this.

In my living room.

And I seem to be the only one in attendance.

And no weed!

Bummer. Maybe I'll smoke one of the cats...

Just kidding-I gave that up after high school.

Smoking weed, not smoking cats.

If these cats keep sharpening their claws on the furniture, all bets are off!



In June of 2008, rock icon and music pioneer Todd Rundgren opened his home on the Hawaiian island of Kauai to his friends and fans for a Utopian celebration of music and community. For more than a week, 300 people from all over the world built a community, cooked out, connected and celebrated with each other.




I was not one of these people. Just could not make the dollars work. My loss.

The video portrays Rundgren, family, and fans celebrating his 60th birthday and enjoying the debut performance of his 2008 album "Arena". 

There's even footage of a live broadcast of a Rundgren Radio show (http://www.rundgrenradio.com/)

I was hoping the "Arena" show would be represented by a complete performance (just clips) but you can't have everything.

Now I know what I missed...

Probably a video best recommended for die-hards, most of whom probably have their copy by now.



A good look at what has been a true fan community for the better part of four decades, and at the artist that gives us a sense of unity.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

AT LAST, THE JOHNSON!


Announced last February, and supported by a short tour in the spring, Todd Rundgren's album of Robert Johnson songs is finally in stock at Amazon, although as a pricey Japanese import. Die hards (like me) will pay through the nose for this, but casual blues fans (who would enjoy this disc) may want to wait for the domestic release.

A download-only sampler is also available at Amazon and iTunes.

Per Amazon:
By one legend for another, Todd Rundgren's Johnson is a wonderous album of reinterpretations by Todd Rundgren of legendary blues man Robert Johnson. Johnson, described by Eric Clapton as "the most important blues singer that ever lived" is represented in a worthy manner as Todd Rundgren and band recreate the songs that have made Johnson a legend beyond his years.

Rundgren has scheduled some fall shows in support of the album:

Dec. 7 Gramercy "the BLENDER" NYC


Dec. 9 Park west Chicago

Dec. 11 Las Vegas NV RED ROCK

Anyone going to Vegas-I'll be there!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Now looka I say looka here



Nice boy but he's got more nerve than a bum tooth



Only in Arizona could there be a story of a rooster statue in the news. The statue sat outside an Apache Junction restaurant, until the city ordered it taken down.

For three days, the giant aluminum fowl was perched atop Hitching Post Pizza and Pub off Arizona 88 approaching the Superstition Mountains. Owner Mehmood Mohiuddin envisioned it as a sort of landmark.


That was until the city made him take it down. On Oct. 12, a city building inspector flanked by two policemen cited Mohiuddin for erecting the statue without a permit. He's now facing a criminal charge that could result in a $2,500 fine, six months in jail and three years' probation.


This is what passes for news in Arizona. At night, they televise high school sports. And people don't belive 2012 is the end of the world. LOOK AT THE SIGNS!


The town is probably in fear that the idol represents a Satanic cult that worships Foghorn Leghorn.


 
Go, I say go away boy, you bother me



Sunday, October 24, 2010

TOM PETTY ISN'T FREE FALLIN'

There are some musicians for whom rock and roll never stops. Tom Petty, who remains, for the most part, out of the celebrity-laden overload of this media-crazed world, is, indeed, far from “free fallin’” from his illustrious musical career.


Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers just finished a successful tour of North America in support of their latest album, “Mojo,” during which they played to more than 600,000 people. The “Mojo Tour” was Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ highest-grossing tour ever.

In addition to that feat, Petty’s annual “Petty Fest” is taking place at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City on Oct. 28, 2010. With performers like Adam Green, Norah Jones, Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis Of “Saturday Night Live,” Nicole Atkins, Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes, Catherine Pierce, Jesse Malin, Tyson Ritter of The All-American Rejects, Reeve Carney Star of U2’s “Spider-Man” musical, Jody Porter of Fountains Of Wayne, Sammy James of The Mooney Suzuki, Steve Schiltz of Hurricane Bells and Longwave, Antony Elis of Five O’Clock Heroes and Mikki James, the possibility of others showing up for this icon’s 60th birthday fest are endless.

And, proving that his 60 is the new 20, this mellow music master is releasing an expanded and remastered deluxe edition of “Damn The Torpedoes” on Nov. 9, 2010, in North America and Nov. 15, 2010, in the rest of the world. The deluxe edition features previously unreleased tracks from the “Damn The Torpedoes” sessions and will be available with a choice of four formats: two CDs; one audiophile quality Blu-ray disc; two 180-gram vinyl LPs; and as an iTunes LP download.



All formats of the deluxe edition will come with nine additional bonus tracks not included on the original album. Seven of these tracks are previously unreleased, including two studio tracks from the original “Damn The Torpedoes” sessions: “Nowhere” and “Surrender.”

The never-before-heard “Nowhere” was thought to have been lost in 1979 when the tape boxes were being moved daily to avoid the possibility that court bailiffs would claim them as part of Petty’s assets in the lawsuit at the time. The original 1979 recording of “Surrender” is also included on the bonus disc. “Surrender” was a mainstay of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ concert set lists for many years, although this original studio version recorded for “Damn The Torpedoes,” which includes Stan Lynch on drums, never saw the light of day until now.

Also included on the bonus disc is the original demo for the B-side “Casa Dega” and an alternate take of “Refugee,” as well as a trio of live performances at London’s Hammersmith Odeon (March 6, 1980), including “Don’t Do Me Like That.”

Digitally remastered from the original analog master tapes, all formats of the “Damn The Torpedoes” deluxe edition also feature liner notes by noted rock journalist/author David Fricke, rare photos and lyrics.

The vinyl and Blu-ray versions of the deluxe edition also include a free download of the entire album in one of three high-quality digital formats.

Here is the “Damn The Torpedoes” deluxe edition bonus disc track list:

1. Nowhere (previously unreleased)
2. Surrender (previously unreleased)
3. Casa Dega/B-side
4. It’s Rainin’ Again/B-side
5. Shadow Of A Doubt (A Complex Kid)/Live – Hammersmith Odeon 1980 (previously unreleased)
6. Don’t Do Me Like That/Live – Hammersmith Odeon 1980 (previously unreleased)
7. Somethin’ Else/Live – Hammersmith Odeon 1980 (previously unreleased)
8. Casa Dega (Demo, previously unreleased)
9. Refugee (Alternate Take, previously unreleased)


Saturday, October 23, 2010

FINDERS KEEPERS

Lee of Tossing It Out issued the following call to arms:

YOUR CHALLENGE is to write max 500 word piece or a poem about any character who loses an item that when found by another results in their mutual happiness/relief/salvation.

The piece that follows played like a movie in my head as I read his challenge. Then I went on to read his short story. While mine bears a resemblance to his (both happen on a public street, involve lost money, a car and a homeless person), it was fully thought out (although not written down) before reading his.

I almost didn't bother, but figured, what the heck. This is actually the first piece of prose I've actually finished since the Reagan administration!

So here goes...

As I headed north on Market Street towards the parking garage, my throat felt dry in the August Philadelphia heat. My eyes fell on a street vendor, and I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket.



“Diet coke,” I grunted, not making eye contact. You never make eye contact in the city. That’s a sign of weakness.


As I pulled a dollar out of my wallet, I did not notice as my last twenty, the same twenty dollars that would get my car out of the garage, fluttered to the ground. A breeze caught the bill and blew it into the shadows next to the vendor’s cart, near where a bag lady was sleeping.


I cracked open the can and felt the caffeine rush as the ice cold beverage slid down towards my stomach.


Better.


I continued towards my car waiting to be paroled, pausing at the corner as a taxicab careened into a left turn, and then jogging across to avoid being pancaked by the cross-street traffic. You also do not want to dare the drivers in downtown Philly-they’d just as soon see you maimed rather than miss the light.


I made it to the garage without incident. A few minutes later, as I pulled down the ramp towards the cashier, I opened my wallet.


Empty.


I cursed aloud. Either I gave my last twenty the vendor or it dropped on the ground when I paid him. I cursed again.


Oh well, the garage took credit cards-this was not the end of the world. And I sure as hell was not going to go back for twenty dollars that would not be there anyway.


Two blocks south, the bag lady stirred, waking the scrawny kitten that was curled up at her hip.

She saw the twenty dollar bill a few feet away, glanced furtively around her, and reached a gnarled hand out to grab it before anyone noticed.


Today, both she and the cat would eat well.





"Like a fly batters itself against the window
Time and again and again it senselessly blunders
Up and down the length of West Broadway
The bag lady wanders"
-Todd Rundgren

Thursday, October 14, 2010

TRANSATLANTIC: "Whirld Tour 2010" DVD/CD

Seven years after the announcement of their creative break, the original members of prog rock supergroup TRANSATLANTIC - Roine Stolt (THE FLOWER KINGS), Pete Trewavas (MARILLION), Neal Morse (ex-SPOCK'S BEARD) and Mike Portnoy (ex-DREAM THEATER) - got together again and recorded a new studio album titled "The Whirlwind", which went on to be TRANSATLANTIC's best-selling album, entering mainstream charts in the U.S., Germany and Netherlands. Their two seminal albums, tours and DVDs redefined prog's artistic and commercial possibilities with a combination of modern and traditional prog, classic pop sensibilities, and mind-blowing musicianship.








The "An Evening With Transatlantic Whirld Tour 2010" was the group's largest tour, covering both sides of the Atlantic across 11 countries. With the addition of PAIN OF SALVATION's Daniel Gildenlöw on guitar and keyboards, it was also their most musically powerful. On May 21, 2010, at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London, the cameras were rolling.



The upcoming release entitled "Whirld Tour 2010: Live At Shepherd's Bush London" will be available as a 2-DVD PAL-version set, a 3-CD audio version and a 2-DVD and 3-CD deluxe edition. The concert featured the entire "Whirlwind" album performed exactly as on the studio recording. But that's just the beginning. For the next two and half hours, TRANSATLANTIC performed nearly every song they've ever recorded, along with some surprises. The audio recorded at the show was later mixed by the band's own Roine Stolt, ensuring a genuine presentation of the music from that night. The show doesn't end, though, with the fading echoes of the final note. Backstage, in and around cities throughout Europe, the cameras accompanied Mike, Neal, Roine and Pete on their journey. Uncensored experiences and candid moments reveal the good, the bad, and the unexpected of life on the road. Also included is the band's encore from the final night of their tour, a headlining spot at the U.K.'s High Voltage festival. For the last song at High Voltage, they performed the GENESIS classic "Return of the Giant Hogweed", joined onstage by original GENESIS guitarist Steve Hackett.



Track listing for the 2-DVD and 3-CD Deluxe Edition:



DVD 1 (147 minutes)

The Whirlwind

All of the Above

We All Need Some Light

Duel With the Devil

DVD 2 (190 minutes)

Bridge Across Forever

Stranger in Your Soul

Documentary

Band Interview

Return of the Giant Hogweed (with Steve Hacket)

Audio CD 1

The Whirlwind (79:52)

Audio CD 2

All of the Above (30:19)

We All Need Some Light (8:40)

Duel with the Devil (28:31)

Audio CD 3

Bridge Across Forever (6:03)

Stranger in Your Soul (30:00)

Available at http://www.radiantrecords.com/

Monday, September 27, 2010

MUSIC IS NOT SOFTWARE-MUSIC IS ART (PART 3)

In the Mix: Compression Blues

Jul 14, 2010 4:50 PM, By Steven Wilson

One thing that the history of the human race tells us is that, where technology is concerned, convenience will always win out over quality of experience. But ask yourself this question: If you had the choice, would you rather see the Mona Lisa in the flesh or look at a thumbnail jpeg of it on your mobile phone? And if you’d only ever seen the virtual Mona Lisa, would you really feel honest saying you’d seen it at all?


As we enter the second decade of the MP3 era, it’s a good time to point out that fans of music face a similar dilemma as above. If you’ve only experienced an album as compressed audio files on your iPod, have you really experienced it?

The Internet and cheap computing power have given initiative back to artists by making the act of recording and distributing music available to all. However, the attendant danger is that with the ubiquity of MP3 players, convenience and portability will come to trump sound quality and aesthetic beauty as the measure of what is worth listening to. While the download culture means that perhaps more music is being listened to now than ever before, isn’t this just a hollow victory of quantity over quality? Isn’t there such a thing as an art to listening to music?

I believe so. Anybody who has heard a piece of music properly mixed, mastered, and played back at even standard CD resolution versus that same piece of music as an MP3 will appreciate the chasm between the relative quality of experience. Like making a photocopy of a priceless work of art and then mounting it in a dusty picture frame, compression of music flattens out the nuance and beauty of sound that we work so hard to achieve in our recordings.

More than that, the whole downloading phenomenon cheapens the music, reducing it to the level of mere software. As a teenager, I could only afford to buy one record per month with my pocket money, but you can bet that once I made that difficult decision about which record to invest in, I took it home and devoured it for days, pored over the lyrics and artwork, decoding it to get everything I could from it.

Now, because people can download an artist’s entire back catalog in minutes, they can dismiss it just as easily. If a kid wants to check out Pink Floyd or The Beatles, he or she simply downloads everything (which doesn’t cost a cent), listens to a few tracks, and, because there’s no investment in time, energy, or money, if it doesn’t connect immediately, it likely never gets another chance. But how many albums that you really love did you connect with the first time you heard them? I’m not alone in saying the albums I love the most are the ones that did not connect with me the first time through. But if I’d just downloaded this stuff for free, I probably would never have given any of it a second chance.

As well as a beautiful sonic experience, I want to see the artists carry their aesthetic through to the presentation—if music is art (which I think at least some of it is), then it should be presented as such—with beautiful cover designs, elaborate packaging, special limited editions, and so forth. Yes, these things are more expensive to make and sell, but one thing that experience has taught me is that if you give people something to treasure, they barely even notice the price tag, or that they could probably get the audio for nothing elsewhere if they wanted to.

Make the fans believe that you care about the art and quality, and it’s my belief that they will reciprocate in their buying and listening habits, the care and attention we ourselves have given to creating the music. Before we all lose the art of listening altogether.

http://emusician.com/interviews/in_the_mix/in_the_mix_compression_blues/