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Monday, May 31, 2010

Country Top Ten Favorites

There are links to songs by the artist following the album description.  Not all samples are from the albums.

           Like other music genres, Country falls into many subcategories and permutations--one person's taste in country music may be quite different from another's.  The early country music was more closely related to the more traditional folk music and the music from the British Isles.  Eventually the music of Appalachia was fusing with the Cajun music of Louisiana which had origins in the Acadian music from Canada, the western music of the cowboys, the delta blues from Mississippi, and so on.  Soon elements of jazz, swing, pop, and rock could all be heard in the songs on the country charts. 

         Country music consists of a wide range of styles and there is something in the genre to fit most musical tastes.  Like jazz, many people have a misconception about what country music is and will swear up and down that they don't like country music.  For several years in my early teens I thought I didn't like country.  It never occurred to me that many of my favorite childhood songs were country--songs like "The Battle of New Orleans" and "The Wayward Wind".  When the Beatles included country songs on their albums I didn't see it as country.  Then songs from Johnny Cash, The Statler Brothers, and Buck Owens were getting played on rock radio and I was liking them.  Eventually I realized country was cool and in the 70s country rock took the music industry by storm.

          In my list of favorite albums, there are so many that I've had to leave off.  This list represents ten favorites that I've enjoyed listening to over the years.  I've tried to range them over my many years of listening.  You may think my omissions to be somewhat of a travesty.  Many of those omissions however are also great favorites.  How can one condense decades of great music into ten albums and be fair about it?  I can't, but here are ten that I like.


Ten Country Favorites



       GP (1973) by Gram Parsons-- This was a big favorite of mine when I was in college.  Parsons was a hugely influential artist who had been a part of the Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.  His solo efforts are very traditional country with collaboration by many outstanding musicians.  The current CD version of this album is paired with 1974's Grievous Angel, which is an added bonus.  Parsons died in 1973 at age 26 from a drug overdose. 

Kiss The Children Gram Parsons

      Douglas James Kershaw (1973) by Doug Kershaw -- The "Ragin' Cajun" was known for his wild cajun fiddling and his story telling songs.  I saw him a couple of times in concert and he could really put on a show.  His 1973 effort was a real departure from his traditional earlier efforts.  He was apparently trying to get more of a 70s sound to his music.  I personally liked it a lot, but a lot of critics did not.  Fortunately for someone who wants to buy this CD now it has been paired up with Kershaw's earlier Swamp Grass album which includes his hit "Louisiana Man".

Louisiana Man  Doug Kershaw

        Elite Hotel (1975) by EmmyLou Harris -- Harris caught the attention of the music world with her duets with Gram Parsons on his solo albums.   After the death of Parsons, Harris start putting out solo country albums like Elite Hotel and also has recorded many collaborative efforts with artists like Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Young, Ricky Skaggs, and many others.

Wheels  EmmyLou Harris

           Heroes  (1984) by Murray McLauchlan -- A Canadian artist who never made much of an impact in the United States, McLauchlan has put out many albums of country and folk music.  The Heroes album was largely ignored but it was part of my introduction to McLauchlan and it holds a place in my heart.  I've written about Murray McLauchlan in my blog in the past--one of my favorite concert experiences was catching him in Toronto.

Down by the Henry Moore    Murray McLauchlan



           Angel With A Lariat (1987) by k d lang---  Before her current pop career, lang was a popular country artist in Canada.  Her first few albums in the U.S. were also country.  Over all I prefer her current work, but as a country artist she was very good.  She does an outstanding job of "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" on this album, not to mention the balance of the album which also includes some credible forays into country-punk.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden  k d lang

           Highwaymen (1985)  by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson  -- This country supergroup put out a few fine albums as part of the "outlaw country" movement.  Good country music that is much like the solo efforts of these artists.

Highwayman by the Highwaymen

           The Wheel (1993) by Rosanne Cash-- Johnny Cash's daughter has followed in the footsteps of her parents.  She is an excellent songwriter, singer, and musician.  This album, as is most of her work, might be considered "crossover country" with influences from many genres.  The song production has a very modern sound, but the country roots are not forgotten.  Rosanne Cash has many fine albums that I like, but I guess I lean more toward this effort as a favorite--when I'm listening to another I could probably say that would be my favorite as well.  Let's face it--she's good.

The Wheel  Rosanne Cash

           American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002) by Johnny Cash -- The Man in Black has so many albums that are truly great.  His styles have been varied but his deep rugged voice gives all his music a distinction that is unique to him.  I have picked this later effort because of the excellence of song choices and recording sound, and also because I really like it.  If you've never seen the video of the song "Hurt" then you really should check it out.  It is heart-wrenching.

Hurt   Johnny Cash


           Halos and Horns (2002) by Dolly Parton-- She is definitely the Queen of Country Music.  A phenomenal talent in song-writing, singing, picking, and running a business, Dolly is amazing.  Like Johnny Cash, Parton has so many great albums to choose from.  I really like this effort.  Where else can you hear Bread's "If" on the same album with Zep's "Stairway to Heaven" with a dozen great songs by Dolly thrown in?  Maybe I'm getting old or something, but I would almost say Dolly's version of "Stairway.." is better than Led Zeppelin's-- or at least as good.

Stairway to Heaven  Dolly Parton



          Van Lear Rose (2004) by Loretta Lynn-- And just when you thought it couldn't get any weirder, here's Loretta Lynn's collaboration with the White Stripe's Jack White-- and it works very well.  Loretta wrote the songs in much the same vein as she always has and White has produced the album,  as well as playing and singing on the songs.  Loretta has had some controversy during her career, but this album came on the scene to some good critical acclaim.  I really like this album.


Van Lear Rose  Loretta Lynn

What about you?  Got some favorites of your own?  Add yours to the comments or do a post of your own.  We'd like to hear about it.

Next Monday will be the Heaven Eleven Favorite Religious Albums.   I'll be doing Christian albums, but I'm sure other religions have some music that is enjoyable so if you're not Christian you can still add your list.  And as far as Christian, it is not just limited to Contemporary Christian-- you can go with Black Gospel, Southern Gospel, traditional church music, or whatever lifts your spirit heavenward.

















Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hearing God's Call

      In the weeks to come I will be doing a personal study of Jonah which I will be sharing with you.  I invite your input on anything I might say in this study as I may often be reflecting upon possible meanings and interpretations as I see them or as I find in other sources.  I will welcome any comments or questions any readers may have.  We will now begin our study of the reluctant prophet Jonah.

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:  "Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me."
Jonah 1:1-2 (NIV)

            Jonah is considered one of the "minor prophets" of the Bible and yet his story is a major story that is often told.  As children almost all of us heard the story of Jonah swallowed by the whale.  Indeed, if we were to be asked who was Jonah, our answer would often be something relating to the guy in the Bible that was swallowed by a whale and then came out after three days and that would be about it.   But who was Jonah and why was he swallowed by a whale?

         We first hear about Jonah in the second book of Kings:

 He (King Jeroboam II) was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo  Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah,  in accordance with the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.
2 Kings 14:25 (NIV)



             In this verse as in the first verse of the Book of Jonah, we are introduced to Jonah.  The name Jonah is Hebrew for dove. The dove is a frequent symbol in the Bible.  Jesus gives his disciples instructions that would be similarly applicable to the prophets who were preaching God's Word in Old Testament times.  

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
Matthew 10:16 (NIV)


              We are also told that Jonah is the son of Amittai, which in Hebrew means "truth".  So we see in the introduction that Jonah, the dove, is the son of Amittai, the truth, which in turn is a fitting description for one who is preaching God's word.  This opening verse not only establishes Jonah's role as a prophet through lineage by the symbolic names, but also by the fact that God has spoken to Jonah through two specific examples in the Bible.  We establish from the start that Jonah is a prophet of God.


"Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me."
Jonah 1:2 (NIV)


           Nineveh was one of the major cities of the world in Jonah's time.  It was the capital of the Assyrians. the conquerors and oppressors of Israel.  It was a city whose people were against the True God of Israel and Creation.  The citizens of Nineveh worshipped idols and led lives of abomination and sinfulness.  They did not seem to be the type of people who would be receptive to Jonah's message from God.  A prophet's job was a thankless one that might result in persecution or even death.  Jonah was probably not too excited about going to Nineveh to give the people the message from God.  In fact, he was probably scared.

           In the weeks to come we will look at Jonah's story.  There are several references to the story of Jonah in the New Testament.  We will also look at the significance of what those verses have to say.

Jesus answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
Matthew 12:39 (NIV)


            Have you heard God calling you to do something?   Where would your Ninevah be?  Working with the poor?    The homeless?  Prison ministry?  Outreach to gang members or substance abusers?  The mission field in another country?  

Saturday, May 29, 2010

And the Bands Play On

          And the unrelenting musical assault from Tossing It Out continues.  I haven't heard any complaints yet, although the hits to my daily posts have gone down, which I expected after the A to Z Challenge.  So unless I get a lot of requests for me to stop, I will continue to post my musical musings for a few more weeks.

          On Monday I am posting another favorites list and as before anyone is invited to join me in posting their own.  This coming Monday May 31 I will be offering Country Top Ten Favorites.  The Linky list is up on top of the page if you'd like to sign up before the event day.  Or you can post your 10 Favorites list and then add your name to the Linky list.  Hope you'll join us wth your own list if you have any opinions about country music. And if not I hope you'll stop by to hear what I and others have to say about it.

         Upcoming Mondays will be seeing some additional lists.  On June 7 I will be presenting my Heaven Eleven favorite Christian (or other religion if you wish) albums.  Then June 14 will be the Timeless Twelve Classical Favorites--this will be a tough one because I realize classical is not the most popular musical style out there, so I hope a few of you will consider participating in this one to help educate the rest of us.  Like jazz, music we typically call classical covers a broad range of styles and interpretation as to what it is.  Classical can include film soundtrack music such as the music of John Williams.  As in the other lists I will leave this to your personal interpretation as to what it is.   Watch for each Linky list as I will put those up a few days before each event.

        The biggest Monday event will come on June 21 (yay! first day of summer).  This will be THE MOVIE DIRTY DOZEN hosted by Alex J Cavanaugh.   Be watching Alex's site this coming Tuesday June 1st for his special announcement about this event.  I'm sure many will enjoy participating in this one.

         As for the rest of the week, I will be sticking with the general format of the past week.  After my Monday favorites list I will have posts that look a little more in depth at some of the albums on my FIFTEEN FANTASY ISLAND FAVORITES list plus albums from other lists, and any other albums I just happen to think of.  So in the upcoming week you can expect to see stories about country music as well other styles that influenced country or were influenced by country.  Please non-country fans don't be scared off because I'm hoping to make the topics palatable to all.

            By the way, some of you may have noticed that I have been adding playlists to the daily posts that give samples of the music I am talking about in my daily posts.  I'm trying to find songs that are direct examples of what I've discussed or representative of an artist I've talked about.  I hope you have enjoyed these song lists.  It's something new I've learned and I'm having fun with it.

          Another happening is SPUNK ON A STICK's contest.  L. Diane Wolfe has passed her 200 follower milestone and if she hits 250 by the end of May she'll up the ante.  Either way there are some fine prizes in store.   If you aren't following her yet, jump on over and let her know I sent you.   While you're at Spunky's site you might be very interested in two excellent posts she did this past week about self-publishing and querying agents--excellent information for anyone who would like to publish a book.

         Also ending on May 31st is B. Miller's Pay It Forward contest.  You still have time to jump in on that one, so check it out.

A Manly Award:

Alex J Cavanaugh bestowed the following award upon me and being a man award I guess I don't have give it to anyone, but if you want it you can have it.




Thank you Alex!

Have a great Memorial Day weekend and hope to see you often during the upcoming week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ladies of Jazz


              On May 9th--just a couple of weeks ago on Mother's Day--the great Lena Horne died.  In her 92 years she had established herself as a dancer, singer, actress, and an active participant in the civil rights movement.  Lena was as talented as she was beautiful.  She had a very popular film career during the forties. Her political involvement led to some problems in the fifties, however she continued to record and was a popular nightclub performer.  Throughout her career she had a solid, respected career as an entertainer and won numerous awards for her artistic achievements.  Her performing career continued into her 80's.  Fortunately we have her films, videos, and recordings by which to remember her.

                Artists like Lena Horne paved the way for other female jazz artists and artists influenced by jazz.  The big band era produced several female singers, while many more emerged in the 50s.  Many of these artists led long stable careers, though some had their bouts with drugs and alcohol.  Some like Dinah Washington led lives of turmoil and died at an early age. 

              In the 60s newer music styles gained popularity.  Astrud Gilberto entered the jazz scene with her bossa nova songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim.  Her most famous hit, "The Girl From Ipanema", with Stan Getz on saxophone put the two of them on the charts worldwide.  The bossa nova jazz influence was heard later in Janis Ian's 1975 hit "At Seventeen", which is one of the most beautiful songs ever written about the hurt and loneliness of teenage years.  The album on which this song appears, BETWEEN THE LINES, was considered for my top thirty albums list and probably could easily replace several of my choices--it is an extraordinary album.  Though Ian is typically recognized as a folk artist, BETWEEN THE LINES has many jazz influences.

                Joni Mitchell, a Canadian artist who entered the music scene in the late 60s, started as a folk artist, but much of her work reverted to jazz and jazz influence.  Mitchell, like many of her fellow artists, freely moves between jazz and other musical styles with so little effort that many fans don't even realize they are hearing jazz. 

             Some of the current crop of female jazz singers includes Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson, and Rickie Lee Jones.  Many remain in the vein of traditional styles, while others write their own material or interpret contemporary songs from other musical genres.  The more popular female jazz artists maintain a strong fan base and turn out records on a regular basis.  One thing is certain:  Jazz is still a popular musical style. 

          
         Do you have a favorite female singer?   Who was the best female jazz singer of all time?  How can you even decide who was the best?
 
 
 
  

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why Do People So Often Fear Jazz?

         I know people who will say they don't like certain foods and then I'll ask them if they've tried them and they'll say no.  If they haven't tried something how do they know they won't like it?  Jazz is often like that.  Or perhaps someone is enjoying something like spinach dip at a party.  You might go up to them and ask if they like spinach and they might answer that they've hated spinach since they were a kid.  Curious, you might inquire if they like the spinach dip they seem to be savoring.  They might be somewhat surprised that they are enjoying something they thought they hated.  Jazz is also something like that.

Why do people often have such a negative perception toward jazz?

          As in the examples about food, I think it often comes down to negative preconceptions based on what they have heard said by others.  Often we formulate our opinions based on how others feel.  For some reason, over the past several decades jazz has become associated with "old" music or music for geeky types.  It has gained an unsavory reputation with many people that continues to this day.  

         Perhaps the advent of rock and roll displaced the jazz which was the rebel music of its time.  Jazz became associated with older generations and was not cool to younger people.  The "jazz" label developed a stigma which has remained up to the present time.  However, jazz continued to be recognized by musicians who continued to incorporate the sounds into their music.  Pop music fans were hearing jazziness and actual jazz without really associating the sounds with jazz.

            Now many parts of the country have "smooth jazz" FM radio stations that play jazzy music that would often fit the category of adult contemporary soft rock.  There are also the mellow jazz sounds of instrumentalists like Kenny G, George Benson, or David Sanborn.  This form of jazz is melodic and easy to listen to.  This is the music that also might be piped into business establishments.  The label of "jazz" is de-emphasized, probably to the relief of harder core jazz fans who look down on this jazz lite.

            The sounds of jazz permeate the listening of most of us, though we are often unaware of this.  Therefore most of us have our music tastes categorized into labeled listening that does not include the terminology of jazz so that when we are presented with something labeled as jazz we tend to shun that music.  Jazz is mistakenly been portrayed to always be either old or something enigmatic, void of melody and filled with runs of notes, discord, and harsh sounds.

           I believe that if people were educated about the history of jazz, the artists involved, the types of jazz, and the influence of jazz, then they would be more readily open to listening to jazz in its various forms.  Allowing oneself to become accustomed to the sounds and have the ability to identify the styles would demystify the music for the casual listener.  One should really taste the food before deciding whether or not one likes it.

             What intimidates you about jazz?  Have you ever really set out to listen to jazz and opened your ears and mind to it?   Will you be more receptive to the idea of listening to jazz in the future?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One Influence Becomes Another and So On

          There are many claims as to what was the first rock and roll record.  One thing is pretty certain--Rock and Roll didn't just suddenly come into existence, it was a melding of many forms. Now Rock and Roll is not just any one type of music, it has diverged into many styles of rock.  All music continually grows, merges, diverges, and becomes old and new, and at times, becomes almost unclassifiable.

          The simplistic early rock eventually took on the attributes of other types of music such as classical and jazz.  When the term "fusion" is used we often think jazz, but in reality rock and roll was a fusion of blues, swing, and country with doses of jazz thrown in.  Once the mix was brewed,  the sound was fairly distinct.  But from there rock didn't just stagnate into a same ol' same ol' style, instead rock artists started absorbing other styles and musicians who had specialized in other genres began experimenting with rock.  Musicians are often like that.

           Horns, especially saxophone, had been a staple of rock and roll since the beginning. But in the mid sixties horn driven rock and roll began a surge of popularity with groups such as the Buckinghams, the Grass Roots, and the rock and soul revues like James Brown's horn driven band.   The latter 60's saw the emergence of the brass rock bands like Blood, Sweat, and Tears and Chicago, which started a huge popularity swing in the direction of jazz influenced rock.

            In the seventies, the fusion of rock and jazz began to explode.  Carlos Santana and Ian Anderson are but a couple of the musicians who freely jazzed up their rock.  Some of the many artists who leaned toward jazz with a strong rock influence were John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, and Jean Luc Ponty.  Lines were crossed and criss-crossed as music styles were combined.

            Musicians are typically pretty open to jazz.  It's just another musical style and a skilled musician is often receptive to playing, or at least listening to jazz.  However, sometimes the music fan is turned off by the thought of jazz.  They often seem to think jazz is some obscure musical style reserved for smoky clubs or snooty cocktail lounges.  The fact is that jazz influences many styles of music and is something we hear everyday in commercials, soundtracks, and the songs of our favorite artists.  Give it up. You're already listening to it so it's not that complicated.  Take a musical adventure and explore jazz.

            Do you have any favorite contemporary jazz artists?  Can you think of an example of a popular song that you like or a favorite artist that has incorporated jazz into a performance?  Do you think jazz is snooty, pretentious, or just plain difficult to understand? 
 
 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Van Morrison


           One of the jazzier albums I included on my FIFTEEN FANTASY ISLAND FAVORITES list was Poetic Champions Compose by Van Morrison. When I first heard the album my inclination was to think jazz, but it is definitely influenced by rock, R & B, and gospel.  In my earliest exposure to Van Morrison I would have called him rock, but Morrison has referred to himself as Celtic Soul.

            My first exposure to Van Morrison was when a song called "Gloria" hit the charts in 1965.  The group was called Them but Van Morrison's role as lead singer was readily noted.  At fourteen years of age, money was in short supply and I had to be careful about what I spent it on.  Though the song captivated me, it was not enough to spend money on a 45 record let alone an album.   "Gloria" received plenty of airplay on the radio station I was listening to at the time, WLS in Chicago.  It was a gritty, raunchy song with a sexuality that a young teen could appreciate.

              By the next year my family had moved to East Tennessee.  "Gloria" was a standard of any self respecting local band and I was continuing to hear the song frequently.  However the band Them had seemed to have come and gone, which was not unusual for bands at that time.  There would be one or two hits and then a band would often be forgotten.  Then in the summer of 1967 Van Morrison returned with the catchy song "Brown-eyed Girl".  It was one of the signature songs of the summer of 1967.

           This hit was to be followed up by a series of Morrison standards like "Moondance", "Tupelo Honey", and "Domino".  The sound of these never caught on with me.  I don't know what it was about them--all of my friends who had bands were covering these songs and the Morrison albums of this era were showing up in the record collections of most of my friends.  The Morrison sound was not "my bag"-- Van was just not my thing.  I basically ignored Van Morrison for nearly twenty years as an artist I did not particularly like.

        In the mid-80s I developed a keen interest in Contemporary Christian Music.  I started studying the genre and researching every publication I could find that dealt with CCM.  In 1987 I ran across a rave review of Morrison's Poetic Champions Compose which described it as a Christian work.  I immediately obtained a copy of this newly released album and I was amazed.  It was still the Morrison sound that I remembered, except now I really liked what I was hearing.  I went out and bought a copy of Morrison's  No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, which is another album the review I had read had raved about.  It too was a great album.  I had the two rotating in play for the next few weeks.  What had I been missing all of these years?

           A few weeks later--it was late June of 1987--I was on Highway 97 in British Columbia on my way to the city of Penticton.  It was a warm Saturday evening in the Okanagan Valley.  We had stopped and bought a bag of fresh cherries since the cherry harvest had just begun and cherry stands were open all along the highway.  Traffic was slow.   I had turned the radio on to pick up a music program on CBC and they began playing "Wild Children" from Van Morrison's 1973 album Hard Nose the Highway. 

         That did it for me.  Whenever I was working in Canada back then, I would buy a lot of cassette tapes so I could get rid of my Canadian money since the exchange rate meant I would have a loss.  In Canada I would tend to spend more than in the United States, which isn't saying much because when I was working on the road I spent a lot of money no matter where I was. After hearing the "Wild Children" song I started buying every Van Morrison cassette I came across.  Van Morrison had become the greatest in my eyes and even the old songs I had dismissed sounded good to me.

         Later when I was switching over to CDs, Van Morrison was one of the artists who made the transition from cassettes.  I have most of the Van Morrison collection on CD and cassette and he now stands as one of my favorite artists.  All those years had gone by with me ignoring the great music this artists was putting out.

          Are there any artists that you thought you didn't like only to find out years later that they were really quite good?  Have your musical tastes changed much over the years?  


       

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nine Nice Jazz Favorites


            And I thought nine would be an easy number to deal with.  Once again I've ended up sacrificing so many great albums, but I think the ones I've kept are pretty nice.  These are probably not the greatest by consent of most jazz purists and believe me, I'm far from being a jazz expert.  But I do own a lot of jazz albums and there are so many that could have made the list.  I'll stick with these.  I know what I like.

           This selection covers a pretty nice range of styles.  I'm keeping it light on vocal music, which is a genre I truly enjoy.  I'm also leaving off the jazz albums I had on my previous lists.  These are all favorites, but I don't know that they would necessarily supercede any other favorites I have in my collection.  In other words there would be several other albums I could interchange with these.  Seeing as how I've only got nine places to fill I'll stand by these.
          Here are my NINE NICE JAZZ FAVORITES:



Pass The Plate (1971) by The Crusaders-- This is the first album the Jazz Crusaders released under their shortened name: a jazz funk album which at times has been flawlessly engineered to create an almost psychedelic musical mind trip.  There's nothing weird or far-out about the music, but portions have been edited and phased in and out in a tasteful manner in the amazing title piece.  The rest of the album is bop, funk, a touch of gospel, and a whole lot of good listening.  This is one of the earliest jazz albums I bought back when I was still in college in 1971.



Don Shirley in Concert (1968) by the Don Shirley Trio-- Classical music is some of the finest music of all in my opinion.  This album almost comes across as classical at times, with influences that might remind one of Rachmaninoff or Chopin.  The classical sound makes sense since Don Shirley is also a classical pianist who has written symphonies and concertos.  But this album is clearly jazz--a very melodic, beautiful form of jazz.  Shirley is accompanied by bass violin and cello in a concert at Carnegie Hall performing unbelievably beautiful renditions of "Georgia on My Mind", "I Can't Get Started", "My Funny Valentine", and other jazz standards.  This is another album from my college days.

         The Essential Dorsey Brothers (1928-1935)  Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra--  In the 50s I was growing up on this stuff and still digging on it into college.  This was the music of my parents so there were always plenty of big band music albums to listen to.   It seems terrible to bring down big band and early jazz to be represented by just one album, but we're talking about so much great music in the first half of the twentieth century.  I'm choosing this one because it is a jazz orchestra with a string section and I'm partial to strings.  Also, I like the campy sound of the music of the pre-WW2 era.  There are some really fine arrangements of fairly well-known standards as well as songs that are not often heard.  It's some really great music.

           Bopland: The Legendary Elks Club Concert L.A. 1947 by Dexter Gordon and many others--I'm not a huge fan of be-bop and some of the wilder modern jazz sounds, but I do like it and listen to it when I'm in the right mood.  And actually if I put one of these CDs on, if it's good it will put me in the right mood.  Like the big band music I'm leaving out a lot of music here.  I am a big fan of time-travel and though I usually don't like live albums with a lot of extraneous crowd noise, this album makes me feel like I've traveled back in time. 
          I became interested in hearing some Dexter Gordon after reading Jack Kerouac's ON THE ROAD.  In the book, the characters frequent jazz clubs where this style of music is being played.  Kerouac goes into some extensive descriptions of some of Dexter Gordon's music and reading about made me want to hear it.
The Bopland album effectively provides the experience of live bop and the musicianship is at times a wonder. I especially like the electric guitar work of Barney Kessel.  But of course Dexter's sax and the rest of the band are pretty good too.


           Idle Moments (1963)  by Grant Green -- This is superb guitar music backed by an excellent ensemble of musicians.  The title track is one of the most ultimately cool jazz pieces ever--perfect for lazy afternoon or dreamy late night listening.  The entire album is the epitome of coolness.  Besides the totally laid back fifteen minutes of "Idle Moments" there are some exquisite examples of ensemble bop featuring swinging saxophone and irresistible vibes.  Put this CD on, maybe have a martini or two, and you will just feel so cool.  Like, yeah man!



             Stormy Weather: The Legendary Lena 1941-1958 by Lena Horne-- Oh, such a travesty!  Perhaps I should have done a separate list of vocal albums.  Maybe I should later?  This current list is lacking so many great female vocalists such as Julie London, Dinah Washington, Diana Krall, Cassandra Wilson, and so many more.  I went with Lena Horne because she had such a long musical history.  And this album has some of my all-time favorite songs.   Lena's vocal stylings are impeccable.  It's old music, but it's classic and it doesn't get much better than this.




                The Man From Ipanema (1995) by Antonio Carlos Jobim --- This 3 disc career retrospective set would be cool for the packaging alone. It comes in a colorful spiral bound booklet form.  The music ranges from the beginning of Jobim's career into the nineties.  Tracks feature collaborations with Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Pat Metheny, and many others in ensemble and with orchestra backing.  Some of the more well known songs have as many as four different versions, each one as good as the other.  The music is smooth bossa nova.  There is not a bad track to be found on any of the discs.  This is a prized part of my music collection.


Cool Cat Blues (1990)  by Georgie Fame-- There are so many male jazz vocalists that one could choose so I thought I'd go with one who I feel has been the most overlooked in the United States.  I've been a fan of Georgie Fame since 1965 when his jazzy version of "Yeah, Yeah" hit the U.S. charts.  He had a couple of other hits in the United States after that, but never achieved wide recognition.  The Cool Cat Blues album features an alternate slowed down take of "Yeah, Yeah", "Moondance", and "Georgia".  He is joined by the likes of Boz Scaggs, Robben Ford, and long time collaborator Van Morrison.  Fame is jazz in the pop vein very much like Scaggs and Morrison.  This is a fine album from one cool cat.



           Paganini: After a Dream (2003) by Regina Carter -- As a fan of jazz violin I had to put one fiddle player here.  There are many good ones to choose from, but Carter probably plays closest to a style I most enjoy.  Also, this album fits the classical mold I like so well.  Regina Carter takes some lovely impressionistic pieces by Ravel, Debussy, Faure, and others and jazzes them up a bit.  The result is mellow melodic jazz that is beautiful to listen to but with enough improvisation to demonstrate her skill as a jazz artist.  Everything I've heard by Carter is quite good, but this is the album that really suits me.

           So much that I've had to leave off, but that's the nature of a list like this.  It pained me to eliminate "Charlie Parker with Strings", "Cool Velvet" by Stan Getz, and "Mel Torme Sings Fred Astaire", but what the hey--I'm not on any desert island and I can still listen to any of my albums when I want to.

           How'd you like my list?   You can still add one of your own.  Don't be intimidated by "jazz".  You probably listen to it without even realizing it's catagorized as jazz.  Jazz is cool.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Using What God Has Given to You

            So often, Christians are reluctant to actively serve God.  They go to church, give some money, say their prayers, and try to live good lives and feel that they've done their part.  That's only a start though.  God has called us into service.  Our Creator has blessed each of us with our own special talents and He wants us to use them.  We may not realize that we even have these talents, but it is up to each of us to examine ourselves and discover what those talents are.

            You may remember when Moses went into the wilderness and came upon a burning bush from which God spoke to him.  God equipped Moses with all sorts of wondrous powers and yet Moses still doubted that he was capable of doing the job that God had called him to do. In the following verses we see part of this conversation between God and Moses.


 Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue."
 The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."
Exodus 4:10-12 (NIV)

             Sometimes we think too much.  We may worry about what we can't do or what might happen if we make a mistake.  We can talk ourselves right out of what we know we should be doing.  This is where faith plays a big role.  Do we believe God has power and can instill us with power that can be used to glorify Him?     Are we ready to join the body of Christ to do the work that needs to be done?   You and I can't do the job by ourselves and really be effective.  We must be a part of a cooperative effort and each of us has a role to play.

It was he [God] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)


               God is the ultimate CEO.  He heads up the company of believers to whom he has provided with specific talents.  For us to be most effective we need to be aware of what our talents are.  We all aren't going to be good at the same things and there are others who can do things that you or I can't do.  When we have identified our individual talents and fields of knowledge and honed them to be used in the service of God, then we will be like a finely tuned machine working efficiently and doing the job that needs to be done.

 
God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Hebrews 2:4 (NIV)

          We know from studying God's Word what He is capable of.   We know how Moses, Joshua, David, and many others did His work by using their talents and how others organized to use their talents to create a unified body.  Our evidence is in the Bible.  But it is also evident when we are obedient and using the gifts that we have been given by God to serve God.   The work we do is not for our personal gain or the glory of our specific church---if that is the outcome then let that be from God working through us.  Our reward is the salvation we received from Jesus Christ before our work began--our work is the fruit of the Spirit working through us to glorify the Almighty God who has given us grace.


May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Put Another Nickel In-- It's Still Musical May

             We had a great time on the Fantasy Island and if you missed my list of favorite albums, you can find it on my post from Monday.  The entire week I posted about music and I plan to continue through the upcoming week.  

              This coming Monday I will be posting my list of NINE NICE JAZZ FAVORITES, which are jazz albums that I particularly like.  If you'd like to join us you can sign up on the Linky list at the top of my page.  I don't expect a lot of participation on this one because I think I lot of you don't think you like jazz.  Please check any of the lists on Monday and see if maybe you can find something to suit your tastes.  Jazz covers a broad gamut of styles and you may be surprised at what is offered up under the label of jazz.

            At the bottom of my page you will continue to find the Linky listings of A to Z participants and FANTASY ISLAND FAVORITE lists.  These lists will stay for another week if you'd like to continue to go through any you missed. 

              In the upcomng week, after the JAZZ FAVORITES on Monday, I will be talking about some more individual albums and artists.  On Thursday I will have another music related debate topic.  So be ready-- this blog is alive with the sound of music.

I been TAGGED!!

Gregg from GOSPEL DRIVEN DISCIPLES tagged me for this "what if" game:

IF I WERE A…


MONTH  -- April because my showers bring the May flowers.  I enjoy the coming of Spring when it's starting to get warmer, but not too hot.  If I were April I would cancel income tax day.

DAY-- Monday because I would want to get everyone motivated to start a new week of getting things done and to show everyone that Monday is not all that bad.

TIME OF DAY  -- 8:30 in the morning when I still feel fresh.  I've just finished breakfast and ready to start my day.  It's a time for optimism  and a time to look forward to the day ahead.

 SEASON--Springtime for the reasons listed under April

PLANET --  Earth of course because it represents home and life.

 DIRECTION--Southeast is a nice part of the United States that I consider as my real home, but I can feel at home just about anywhere.

 TREE-- A Christmas tree because it's festive and brings such happiness to so many people.

ANIMAL--An eagle since they can soar above everything and look down upon the world.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENT--  A finely crafted violin because I play the violin.

FRUIT -- Avocado because guacamole is good. And yes avocado is a fruit because it has a pit.

FOOD--A chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and why would I need any reason for that?

COLOUR-- Green like lush expanses of vegetation because it represents so much life.

BOOK--The Bible because it is really the only book any one needs if they were only allowed one book.

SONG --Je Crois Entendre Encore because it's one of my wife's favorite songs and she would want to sing me.

 MOVIE-- It's a Wonderful Life because it's a movie filled with such a range of emotions, but ends in a way that makes us all happy.

FLOWER-- A tall sunflower because it's big bright and yellow and always faces toward the sun.

FACIAL EXPRESSION--  A pucker because I like to give kisses.

I will pass this on and tag:

Wolfie at Writer Person

Stephanie at What's So Random?

Sig at Beadedbear's Nonsense and Complete Waste of Time


And finally!

Zoe Courtman posted a good piece about working hard at writing on her site No Letters on My Keyboard

You might enjoy Livia Blackburn's encapsulation of a Harvard Writer's Conference on her site A Brain Scientist's Take on Writing

B. Miller is having a contest  http://bmillerfiction.blogspot.com/2010/05/pay-it-forward-giveaway.html .  If anyone is not following B. Miller's blog, well, you really should be.

L. Diane Wolfe is having a 200th follower contest.     http://circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com/2010/05/200-followers-uber-beyond-belief.html .   Definitely get over there immediately to join L. Diane's contest if you haven't done so yet.

Have a wonderful week-end!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Marvin Gaye: What Happened Brother?


       Nat King Cole was an internationally popular jazz pianist and singer during the 1940s and 50s.  He had a rich smooth vocal style and had numerous hit records.  Cole was one of the first black entertainers to host his own television variety show.  He was a role model for Marvin Gaye, who began his singing career in the late 50s. In 1965 Marvin Gaye made a tribute album of the music of Nat King Cole.




             The son of a preacher, Marvin Gaye began his musical career singing and playing in the church.  In the late 50s he began singing in a R&B/Doo-wop group called the Marquees.  They were discovered by Rock and Roll legend Bo Diddley and signed to record what would become a minor hit.  Later, Gaye joined the Doo-wop group The Moonglows. 





             After leaving the Moonglows, Gaye went on to first become a session drummer on a number of records by well known artists and in 1961, began recording as a solo artist for Motown.  He began achieving a modest success and charted several hit records.  In 1967 he teamed up to record duets with Tammi Terrell, another Motown artist.  They recorded some of the finest male-female duet records ever made. Tammi Terrell was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died in 1970.  Marvin Gaye went back to solo recording.



             In 1970, depressed from Tammi Terrell's death, Gaye recorded the first songs of what would later become the great album What's Going On.  Gaye wanted to release the song "What's Going On", but Barry Gordy, the head of Motown resisted, calling it "the worst record I ever heard".  Gaye insisted that the record be released and it became a major hit.  Gordy then ordered an entire album of songs in the same vein.  Rolling Stone magazine has ranked "What's Going On" as the fourth best song of all time.  The What's Going On album has ranked highly in many album rankings.

          What's Going On was Gaye's creative peak.  He recorded some fine highly successful albums in the following years, but eventually was caught in marital problems, drugs, and debt.   In 1984 he had gone back to live with his parents.  Since the days of youth he had been in difficult relations with his father.  The tension increased now that Marvin was back under his parents' roof.  Marvin was suffering from paranoia and delusions and had become difficult to relate to.  On April 1, 1984 some sort of conflict between the two men, which led Marvin Gaye's father to shoot his son, killing him instantly.  Marvin was nearly 45 years old when he died-- almost the same age as his idol Nat King Cole was when he had died twenty years earlier.

         If you have never heard the great album What's Going On, then you should make every effort to do so.  I think most of you will probably agree that it was a milestone in music history.  A clip of a live performance of two of the songs from this album is offered below.






         On Monday I will be posting NINE NICE JAZZ FAVORITES, a listing of jazz albums that are some of my favorites.  If you enjoy jazz, feel free to join me in this listing.  And remember that jazz can cover a wide range of musical styles including big band, smooth modern jazz, many vocalists, and numerous other styles.  I'll leave it to your interpretation.   As far as I am concerned, jazz does not just have to be hard to understand improvisational music.  What does jazz mean to you?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Without Slavery There Would Have Been No Rock and Roll

             Most any rational person in the modern world would concede that slavery is a bad thing.  Slavery has been in existence since the beginning of human history and may be the result of many different things.  For today's Debate Topic we will be looking only from the standpoint of slaves taken from Africa to the Western Hemisphere for the economic development of the "New World". The enslavement of no other cultures will be considered since the African slave trade is the one most often considered when discussing slavery in the Americas.

             We will also add greater specificity to the topic by limiting the discussion to Black slavery in the United States.  The Spanish colonists brought the first slaves to the area that is now the United States in 1581, where they were settled in Florida.  Slaves were later introduced to the English colonies in about 1620.  As time went on and the practice expanded, slavery became an integral part of the economic structure of colonial America and the later United States.  African cultures and European cultures began to mesh.  This brings us to the question for today:

If there had been no African slave trade to the Western Hemisphere, would there have been Rock and Roll?

          I would argue that there would have not been rock and roll if there had been no African slaves in the Americas.  Not only would there have not been rock and roll, there would also have been no jazz or any of the types of music related to these forms.  The topic is much too vast to be examined within the parameters of this blog article so I'll just make a very encapsulated version of the music history.

          The music of the slaves was influenced by the traditional European religious music and ballads and other traditional styles.  Slave music was expressed in the form of spirituals, work music, and story telling songs in an oral tradition.  The music was often infused with deep emotional expressions of sadness or joyfulness, and typically combined with syncopated and contrapuntal rhythms. 

          The white musicians and composers in those days would hear this Black music and begin to incorporate it into their own music.  Minstrel shows became a highly popular form of entertainment, with whites in black make-up performing black influenced music. Several black performers also became popular entertainers and composers in these minstrel shows.  The minstrel shows were often racially derogatory, but they served to popularize the black influenced music.  Songwriters like Stephen Foster began turning to the black styles and turned the music publishing industry into a huge business.  

            In later years, composers like Scott Joplin and artists like Al Jolson began shaping and popularizing the emerging sounds of jazz.  Popular music became dominated by various forms of the new jazz music and soon jazz influenced music was everywhere.  As the recording industry flourished new styles were continually sought out.  Various forms of blues, country and folk began to converge and merge into new styles that eventually culminated in Rock and Roll in the 50s.

            Thus we can see a direct descendancy from the early music of the slaves, to the popular music forms of the music industry, to ragtime and jazz, to rhythm and blues, and finally to Rock and Roll.  However, one might argue that if there had been no population of African descent in the Americas, then perhaps the rise of the Industrial Age and the Age of Machines might have birthed a music similar to Rock and Roll.  The sounds of industry and machines have a rhythm that can be suggestive of musical patterns and these sounds combined with the technology of sound amplification could have eventually inspired music similar to punk, metal, synth-pop, or other similar musical styles.  It's possible.

            Who really knows?  Do you think a style similar to Rock would have developed without the influence of black music--especially the plaintive music of those in bondage?   If there had been no European interference in the development of Africa, what do you think African musical styles would sound like today?  If Blacks had come to the New World through immigration like different European groups and not by force, how do you think they would have shaped the music of the United States?


A special note:   Next Monday May 24 I am going to be doing a jazz list called  "Nine Nice Jazz Favorites".  It's kind of short notice I know, but I also know there is probably limited interest in this list.  If you would like to join me in this one I will put a Linky list at the top of my page tomorrow so you can sign up.  For the next few Mondays I will be doing additional  lists on Classical, Country, Christian, Latin, and maybe more.   I'd love to have as many join me in these as can.  Watch this site for more information.