Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Track 4:-->"Playing The Game" - Gentle Giant - The Power and the Glory (1975)

" I'm the king in fighting competition...
and the other pieces are there for
my art and my tactics now.
All my games are won before they're played...
for I have planned that
no opposition can stage a fight."
Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant was a 5 member progressive rock band hailing from Britain.

Formed in 1970, Gentle Giant were creating quite a buzz for their numerous and experimental chord changes and rhythm progressions

By the mid-seventies, Gentle Giant was trying to tame...somewhat...their musical eclectic creations for a more commercial sound.

"The Power and the Glory"(1975) reached #78 on the U.S. Billboard Charts...and, after giving this disc another spin...still holds up well today.

Gentle Giant was a cross between King Crimson and Genesis, to my ears...and "The Power And The Glory"...though not considered their best release...has many rewards for the listener.
Gentle Giant

"The Power And The Glory"
was a concept album about power and corruption. And urban legend has it that it was all about the..."Watergate Scandal".

If one was to spin "TRACK 4"...(as many were want to do upon purchasing a new LP), then "Playing The Game" would tickle your speakers with a collage of instruments...before drums introduce nice vocals floating over some tasty mid-tempo rhythms.

The song proclaims the arrogance of some who hold power...before taking a sharp left...only to reel all the instruments back on course. Nearly 7 minutes of tasty beanstalk stew.
Good stuff!


Gentle Giant:-->"Playing The Game" (The Power and the Glory) (1975) (Must Own)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ramblings:-->Dr. Loveless -&- Thunderclap Newman

"Now, there's a certain thing
that I learned from Jim...
that he'd always make sure I'd understand.
And that is that there's a certain way
That a man must swim...
If he expects to live off of the fat of the land.
Thunderclap Newman

If you looked up the definition of of the pictures beside it would be...Michael Dunn. I was introduced to him...Dr. Miguelito Loveless. Arch-nemesis of James West and Artemus Gordon in the "Wild Wild West".

When I was much younger, I remember seeing Michael Dunn for the first time...and he blew me away.

Sure...he only stood 3'10", but he commanded the screen. Oozing with confidence and bravado, Dunn stole every scene he was in. And, as mad scientist, Dr. Miguelito Loveless...he created a villain that was really bad. the good way.
Michael Dunn appeared in ten Wild, Wild West episodes as Dr. Loveless...and I think I've seen every one. And I bought season 1 & 2 of WWW because of Michael Dunn.
Yea, he was cool.

I also caught him in an episode of Star Trek. ("Plato's Stepchildren" - 1968) He played Alexander on a planet that looked like Greece and everyone ('cept Alexander) had psycho-kinetic powers.
Michael Dunn as Alexander.
Great episode...this time allowing Michael Dunn to show his more sensitive side and frustration at being...different. Yea, he was cool.

That was all I knew about him. But come to find out, Michael Dunn was a respected singer and (with encouragement from actor Roddy McDowell), started up a nightclub act with friend and actress Phoebe Dorin. The act received kudos from Time magazine and The New York Times. Yea, he was cool.
Michael Dunn in "Ship of Fools".
Michael Dunn also received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his role as the cynical Karl Glocken in "Ship of Fools".(1965).
Yea, he was cool.

Finally, and I already had this impression about him, Michael Dunn was known as quite the ladies' man as well as one who gave freely toward helping children with dwarfism.

Michael Dunn never used his dwarfism for grabbing the easy...cutesy laugh. Rather, he commanded respect by carrying himself in a smart and charming to hold court with anyone.

Michael Dunn was the real cool as any flavor of James Dean you may chose.
He was just 39 when he died.

Definitely...check him out. Good stuff!


Thunderclap Newman was not a true band in the usual sense of the word. Pete Townshend grabbed a few guys to record some songs by a roadie for The Who.(John 'Speedy' Keen).

He tapped a jazz pianist (Andy 'Thunderclap' Newman)...A 15 year old guitarist (Jimmy McColloch...the same guy who played in McCartney's "Wings"). On bass was
Bijou Drains (a Pete Townshend pseudonym)...and 'Speedy' Keen played the drums and sang.

Almost by accident they made a hit record..."Something In The Air". It went UK #1 for three weeks and the band had no plans what-so-ever of touring.

They finished up an album worth of songs and released "Hollywood Dream" (1970). Lightening was captured in a bottle...And thus...a legend was born. Good stuff!

Thunderclap Newman:-->"Open The Door, Homer"
(Hollywood Dream) (1970) (MUST OWN)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ramblings:-->Howard The Duck - Vista Start Menu - & - Uriah Heep

"There rides the Rainbow Demon...
On his horse of crimson fire.
Black shadows are following closely...
On the heels of his desire."
Uriah Heep

Comic book writer Steve Gerber passed away last week (Feb 10, 2008), and was perhaps best known for his incredibly original character..."Howard The Duck".

Howard the Duck #1 began in 1976...and was published by Marvel Comics.

And, in spite of a firestorm of pressure and creative interference...lasted through issue #31, dated May 1979.

Among Gerber's long line of antagonists was Disney...who threatened to sue Marvel for making "Howard" look too much like..."Donald"!

Steve Gerber wrote the first 27 issues.

"Howard The Duck" was notoriously cynical about everything... And we loved him for it. "Trapped in a world he never made"... was his tag-line.
Howard The Duck & the Mysterious Dr. Bong #15
Gerber was given (for a time) free reign...and allowed to experiment with engaging reality and surrealism together in ways not tried. And, for an all-to-short period, Howard The Duck began gaining an underground fan base that included notables such as Stephen King and The Pretenders.
Howard The Duck also created abuzz by entering the 1976 presidential race via the "All-Night Party". He lost to Jimmy Carter.

The concept of "Howard The Duck" was whack and wonderful...and Steve Gerber was the genius behind this gig. He'll be missed.

Add "Howard The Duck" to your collection.
Good stuff!

If you want to spiff up your start menu..not to mention make it more efficient to use...then check out Vista Start Menu.
This is how Vista Start Menu looks upon opening the start menu.

Vista Start Menu is a free program that changes the look of your start menu (Vista or XP).
It is safe! It does not change any of your setups...making it easy to install as well as remove.

I like it a lot. It is aesthetically pleasing and makes the old start menu more user friendly. No learning curve at all. The start menu simply works better. Check It Out!
Good stuff!

Not only did Uriah Heep give us one of the best album covers of all time with their 1972 release..."Demons and Wizards". But possibly one of the more unappreciated LPs, as well.

Unfairly looked upon as the poor man's..."Sabbath" and "Zep"...Uriah Heep were truly paving their own way with a more progressive RnR agenda.

While not Uriah Heep's best CD release..."Demons & Wizards" show the band again tapping into a mystic rock sound rarely duplicated. And listening to UH majestically storm the speakers with powerful keyboards and piercing vocals can still carry us away today.

Uriah Heep performing "The Wizard"...just one of several gems
from "Demons & Wizards".

Darting from beautiful acoustic guitars to dragon-snapping Fender-Benders on a moment's notice, only makes for better play. And though there is a datedness, at times, with their sound...most songs hold up fine, thank you.

"Rainbow Demon" is one of several lost gems from D & W...this time with Mick Box contributing a very nice solo.

And if you are new to Uriah's all gravy. Pass the biscuits.

Uriah Heep:-->"Rainbow Demon" (Demons & Wizards) (1972) (Must Own)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ramblings:-->SNL Season 2/Episode 6 - & - The Band

"Hear the sound, Willie Boy,
The Flyin' Dutchman's on the reef.
It's my belief...
We've used up all our time.
This hill's too steep to climb,
And the days that remain ain't worth a dime.
The Band

Just finished watching SNL: Season 2/Episode 6 (1976) the other night and was struck by numerous observations and thoughts.

  • Six episodes into Season Two and Bill Murray has yet to make an appearance. His name has been announced as part of the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" since the beginning of this season.
  • It is officially announced that Chevy Chase will be leaving the cast after tonight. (Perhaps making way for Bill Murray to appear in episode 7.
  • Guest Host, Buck Henry...receives a vicious blow across his forehead and scalp during the infamous skit called..."Samurai Accountant". While Belushi is ranting in his Japanese garb and waving his very heavy and sharp sword about...he accidentally bangs the blade against Buck Henry's head. Buck is obviously stunned...but trooper that he is...valiantly finishes the skit by jumping...(barely) through a makeshift window. Supposedly blood was running all down his face by this time.
Buck Henry & John Belushi in "Samurai Accountant".
  • When Buck Henry appears in the next sketch...he is wearing a 3 by 3 bandage across his forehead. In homage to Buck's..."the show must go on" attitude...each cast member wears a bandage on their forehead in tribute.
  • Belushi, at the end of the sporting a head wrapped up in bandages like a turban. He was said to have been very upset about striking Buck.
  • Buck Henry announces the musical guest...The reminding viewers that "...This Thanksgiving, they will be doing their last live performance." (of course, referring to "The Last Waltz" captured by Martin Scorsese).
  • The Band performed 4 songs. "Life Is A Carnival"..."The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"...and "Stage Fright" in their first set. "Georgia On My Mind" in the 2nd set. Unprecedented before and possibly since. (Anybody know?)
The SNL seasons that have been released have been a blast...especially catching the musical guests. SNL serves as a wonderful RnR time capsule for those , like me, who missed'em the first time around. Good stuff!

The Band:-->"Rockin' Chair" (The Band) (1969) (Must Own)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Book Buzz:-->"Wolf Whistle" by Lewis Nordan (1993)

"I am just a simple man, trying to be me.
Oh, it ain't easy.
I am just a simple man, trying to be free.
Oh, believe me.
Freedom's the only thing means a damn to me.
Oh, you can't fake it."
Bad Company

Wolf Whistle (1993) by Lewis Nordan was inspired by a true event in 1955 revolving around the murder of a young black boy (Emmitt Till) for simply whistling at a white woman. In public, no less.

To make a tragedy worse...the accused men were tried and found innocent. And that's the way things sometimes happened in the this instance...Mississippi.

This is a good story, but let me give a caveat to readers. Wolf Whistle is not a crime story in the usual sense. Nor a mystery novel. In other words, this is not a thriller.

Lewis Nordan has created a rather surreal story filled with eccentric and sometimes exaggerated, well-developed characters. And each afforded a dialect that is quite readable and sometimes downright funny.

And though this novel reads almost like an adult fairy tale...each character, however exaggerated, keeps the reader entrenched in the realities of living in extreme poverty and with racial segregation...circa 1955.

The author tackles this nasty event from angles as well as head-on...helping us to understand how this tragedy affected a small community through conversations and private thoughts.

Wolf Whistle (312 pages) is a quick read, with long-lasting images to think about...long after you've finished the book.
Good stuff!


Bad Company:-->"Simple Man" (Run With The Pack) (1976)
(Must Own)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Introduction:-->Elton John and Some Lost Gems

"There's a Greyhound outside in the lane...
it's waiting for us.
So tell him goodbye,
we gotta go west on that bus."
Elton John

As with most "Greatest Hits and Best Of" music collections...they just never seem to get it right. Often catering to the mainstream listener...while leaving the knowledgeable fans more frustrated than "Sipowicz" on a NY stakeout.
Elton John on RS 1973

So, in no particular order...ten of my favorite lost gems from Elton John.

1. "Blues For Baby And Me" ----- Don't Shoot Me... (1973)
("Your old man got mad when I told him we were leaving. He cursed and he raged and he swore at the ceiling.")

2. "Street Kids" ------- Rock Of The Westies (1975)
("And if you think you've seen gasoline burning in my eyes...
Don't be alarmed. Tell yourself it's good to be, its good to be alive.")

3. "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" ----- Honky Chateau (1972)
("Now I know "Spanish Harlem" are not just pretty words to say.
I thought I knew, but now I know that rose trees never grow in NY City.
Until you've seen this trash can dream come true,
You stand at the edge, while people run you through.
And I thank the Lord, there's people out there like you.")

4. "Blues Never Fades Away" ----- The Captain And The Kid (2006)
And how did we get so lucky?
Targets on the rifle range.
Who makes the call and who gets to choose?
Who gets to win and who gets to lose?
It's like a rolling dice in the belly of the blues

5. "Amoreena" ----- Tumbleweed Connection (1971)
("Lately, I've been thinking how much I miss my lady.
Amoreena is in the cornfield brightening the daybreak")

6 . "All The Girls Love Alice" ----- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
Poor little darling with a chip out of her heart.
It's like acting in a movie when you got the wrong part.")

7. "The Captain And The Kid" ----- The Captain And The Kid (2006)
("But we stuck around for the battle...waiting for a plan.
To turn you into the Brown Dirt Cowboy
And me into a Rocket Man.
It pleases the people some of the time
Digging into our roots.
But I got a brand new pair of shoes
And you're on a horse in your old cowboy boots.")

"Sweet Painted Lady" ----- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
("So she lays down beside me again.
My sweet painted lady, the one with no name.
Many have used her and many still do.
There's a place in the world for a woman like you.")

"Elderberry Wine" ---- Don't Shoot Me... (1973)
("There's a fly in the window. A dog in the yard.
And a year since I saw you.
There's a trunk in the corner I keep all my letters
My bills and demands I keep too.")

10. "Captain Fantastic" ----- Captain Fantastic and the ... (1975)
(Captain Fantastic raised and regimented, hardly a hero.
Just someone his mother might know.
Very clearly a case for corn flakes and classics.
Two teas, both with sugar please in the back of an alley.")

And there you go. I could have easily chosen other songs...but these are the songs I'm feeling today.
If my list is short on songs from '80's-90's...well...a little education is probably needed.
Turn me on to a song or two, I should check out.

Here is a video someone put together of Elton John singing "Elderberry Wine" over clips of a earlier recommended "College Crowd" DVD Pick. The video is enjoyable on both fronts.

Good stuff!


Elton John:-->"Blues For My Baby And Me" (Don't Shoot Me...) (1973)
(Must Own)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Ramblings:-->Paste Magazine - Death To Anders - College BB Fouls -&- Nektar

"Never thought he’d ever
get his metal boat
to fly in the air...
Moses did it."

Just received my second issue of "Paste Magazine" and I have to say...I'm really digging it. Especially the writing. Very interesting without being too long-winded. Better than "Spin" which I always found to be lame and boring.

The music CD included with each issue has been a real treat...with enough variety to satisfy most ears. It's the first thing I tear open each month.

Hopefully, you hooked up with "Paste" while they were bravely offering a year subscription for the generous amount of..."What ever you wanted to pay". In the long run...this gamut may pay off for them. I hope so. Good stuff!

The California based indie band...Death To Anders has released their 2nd CD...“Fictitious Business”(2008)...and it offers up some tasty, deceptively simple, jangling guitar work that wonderfully foreshadows something much more sinister and complex.

With cryptic lyrics that float over beautifully jarring notes and quickly realizes that Death To Anders are intent on presenting the underbelly of what ever may be hiding beneath our beds.

This CD opens with the title track...“Fictitious Business”, a nice introduction to this band...and sets the tone for everything else to come. Rob Danson and Nick Ceglio banter nice guitar work throughout...while they share their unique chili powder vocals to confess...And our specialty, we found...writing fiction out of sound.” Very catchy with a foreboding undercurrent.

Death To Anders

“I'm the only one meant for you...until we're done.” (“Untitled”) allows for a cacophony of terrific percussion (John Broeckel) and stinging bass slap (Peter DiBiasio) that pays off nicely.

And that song leads perfectly into my favorite track...”Dark Bathrooms”. As ominous vocals warn...Careful you don't give away...what they don't want anyway”. This song allows the band to spread out and jam...with a rather haunting ending.

“Swig Shift” is another great jam about the need to hit the bottle as the band chants...Distill these days”. And works up a sweat in their convictions.

“That's what we all are...fake entertainers. And all my friends are entertaining starry lights” (“Camera Lens”) is also a great of the best this year.

Overall, Death To Anders captures perfectly all the smoldering sins that pile up in the corners of our lives and has burned them into a terrific CD that demands repeated listens.

Check this gem out:-->"Camera Lens" and then grab DTA's..."Fictitious Business".
Good stuff!

In the college basketball games I try to catch, (about twelve so far) the most irritating and inconsistent fouls being called by the refs have been the "charging/blocking" fouls. The calls have been almost border-line criminal.
And, although the rule for calling a "charging or blocking" foul is pretty explicit...there has not been a single game I've watched that didn't have at least "2 or 3" questionable calls. Brutal calls that totally interupt any chance for rhythm or momentum. It's a fast game...and I realise that referees are doing their best but...Come On!

To get the call right, while keeping the game from dragging out too long...I suggest:
  • Allow one challenge, per coach. The top ref reviews the play upstairs with 1 min. to decide.
  • Limit the number of time outs given each team.
  • Drastically cut down on perverted "commercial " timeouts.
These changes would speed up the game to a more viewer-friendly time frame...and possibly keep a "bad or missed" call from totally changing the outcome of a game.

And , maybe, keep me from yelling so much at my tv.

Released in 1976, "Recycled" the German band...Nektar ... is as good, if not better, than most of the more widely known progressive rock albums.

I first heard this band, while stumbling through boxes of old albums down in my parent's basement. It was an earlier Nektar LP with a cover filled with
strange circus characters around a bus. ("Down To Earth" - 1974).

It had been mostly ignored...but I played the hell out of it. Quirky prog-rock that sounded absolutely awesome.

When I found that e-Music had several Nektar CDs to dl last year...I quickly grabbed "Recycled" because of a song I had heard on classic rock radio one time..."Marvelous Moses".

This song is a joy to is the rest of the CD. Sadly, Nektar never conquered America...and who knows why. Anyway...there's nothing better than going back in time and discovering some music that should have blown down the doors to success.

Here's to hoping you'll want to hear more from this cool and forgotten group. They deserved better. Good stuff!

Nektar:-->"Marvelous Moses" (Recycled) (1976) (Must Own)