Monday, November 30, 2020

#NewMusicMonday • November • 2020

A YEAR of #NewMusicMondays  
On the scout for cool new songs released this month or thereabouts, I also discovered new covers of older songs by artists of all ages. During the time of coronavirus, this is particularly true for musicians with a lot of time these days being @home with a stockpile of instruments and recording equipment. As a working musician that stuff's right in the next room, or maybe if they've made a little money, their barn or basement recording studio or, even a famous empty music venue wants them to come down and record a session.

As COVID has disrupted the music business like most businesses, the creativity side of making music has actually never been better. The sheer output is hard to keep up with live streaming shows happening everyday as well as release dates of new singles, EP or LP albums, not to mention that song from the past musicians want to honor and cover.

Also noteworthy this month is Joni Mitchell's Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967). This first collection was just released and even though the songs are from the past, most of us are hearing these versions for the first time. So something old and new at the same time, and that's a great treat and Christmas gift for Joni fans.

Here are several sources for all the 119 song and interesting song introductions from the box set on- 
3) Joni Mitchell Store - Good Background Info

This next week starts December and that means I'll start the first Monday (December 7th) with my 6th annual Christmas Mix (2020) of traditional and non-traditional winter holiday music. So look for that as well as my Favorite Songs of 2020 that will come out later in the month as a few songs from this week's playlist have made the final cut. 

Stay well my friends, and mask-up.

Monday, November 23, 2020

#BestSongIHeardToday • Volume I

 Volume I • II • III • IV  • V • VI • VII • VIII • Team Tortoise Blogs

The #BestSongIHeardToday series is often centered around hearing great songs while exercising. These posts will tend to drift into health related topics but will always come back to the music that brought you here. This particular series is probably more about a self journal to help me stay on the path of healthy living that includes, listening to old and new tunes. If you're looking for a great mix playlist of 25-30 songs, just click on one of my Volumes above.

"No regrets, coyote"
On my weekly trail run,
I always listen to my Amazon 'My Music' on shuffle with the sound on speaker mode on my armband. Originally, I did this to alert the coyotes that I'm on the trail and maybe they should just move into the brush. I also now do this to alert walkers or joggers to mask up as I can tell they usually hear me coming before seeing me. Unfortunately, as now is often the case, they have NO mask to mask-up.

In the photo on the left, I've seen this juvenile coyote before usually on this stretch of the trail. The coyote is all ears as it hears my music (a Poco song I believe) and has quickly spun around and we are having a little staring contest while I snap this shot. I actually enjoy running into this ol' soul whereas the humans, not so much these days. My once good old Transcendental "Good Morning,"  greeting has been displaced 'in the time of coronavirus' with me now muttering inside my brain, "Mask-up motherf......"

But then, it's back to the wonderful canyon rustic trail cutting through my suburb, my rhythmic pace and often the surprise of the next song. On my typical hour run, I hear about 14 - 18 songs and play a game as I say to myself, "Oh this one is the best so far." Then usually several songs later, another song has knocked that one off the mantle of what potentially could be, the #BestSongiHeardToday running on this trail. 

My plan is to collect twenty-five songs as a stand-alone playlist. Here's Volume I of my random best while on the run. 

Note- This week I introduce my 'new and improved' blog look that I hope you will enjoy. I think it's easier to navigate to all my blog posts and works well with smartphones. 

I have also reintroduced the 'Comments' section below. Feel free to leave a comment, but please DO NOT piggyback a free advertisement with a LINK to a business site. Thank you.

Have a great Thanksgiving week, be safe and mask-up my friend!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Fifty Years of Music • November, 1970

This week is a cornucopia of something old and something old as I present two playlists this week. 

First, fifty years ago today is a wonderful BBC Concert with James Taylor. James has gone into his music vault and has remastered the original British television broadcast into YouTube video clips. I was impressed by the audio quality and I think you will enjoy his playlist as he has recently been releasing a song a week from the concert. So far, he has released nine videos, and don't hesitate to come back here to see if he's added a few more.

Second, is the very impressive month of album releases from November, 1970. I couldn't believe how many great albums were all released in this moment in time. I put together a playlist of seventy-two songs rather quickly as you will see I basically lifted almost all the songs from several personal favorites. 

A quick story. I'm fifteen and had a bunch of kids over from my church youth group. Being painfully shy, the thought of being a host for anything was terrifying. As the kids started coming into my family room and gathering, I was flummoxed, what to do to get this thing rolling? I had recently purchased Cat Stevens' Tea For The Tillerman and quickly retrieved it from my bedroom. I put the record on my parents stereo console in the family room and took a breath. Tommy Wishard, a couple of years older than me and a star basketball player at my high school, turned to me and said, "I love this album!" The evening went well, and another day saved by rock 'n' roll, not to mention my mom's French onion dip for the chips.

So I think I have you covered this week, enjoy, stay well and mask up!

James Taylor BBC in Concert • November 16, 1970


Doug's Playlist from albums released in November, 1970


Monday, November 09, 2020

The Cease and Desist Playlist

So the idea for this blog came to me when John Fogerty asked Donald Trump to STOP playing his song, Fortunate Son, at Trump's rallies.

In October 2020, Fogerty announced he was sending a cease-and-desist letter to Trump, saying that Trump "is using my words and my voice to portray a message that I do not endorse". Fogerty noted that it was quite the opposite - the song's lyrics were meant as a critique of how wealthy people are unfairly able to avoid the draft or pay their share of taxes. Wikipedia

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand
Lord, don't they help themselves, no
But when the taxman come' to the door
Lord, the house lookin' like a rummage sale, yeah

In total Trump irony- the son of a wealthy man who avoided the draft with his 'bone spurs' military deferment story and later, his famous tag line of calling people who couldn't get out of the Vietnam war, "suckers" and "losers." 

Fogerty, as a young and inexperienced person in the music business with his band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, signed all his publishing rights away to his record company Fantasy Records. Fortunate Son has been used in commercials like Wrangler® Jeans against Fogerty's objections. Eventually, like many artists who finally attain wealth themselves, Fogerty was able to fight the long protracted legal battle and win back his publishing rights.

This got me thinking about the very nature of writing a song, it's kind of weird proposition for the artist. First, you go about the creative process individually or collaboratively of composing the music and writing the lyrics. This is all very personal, as thoughts and feelings get transformed and expressed through the medium of music. 

From there, the song takes on a life of its own. There is typically: a recording process, a distribution process, and a marketing process. How much control the artist has after the song is created depends on a million different factors that I don't need to go into here. It's safe to say, the artist almost always loses some level of control in how their song is used out in the world. The song is the artist's baby, and then it's not. That is why we have copyright law for artists (and publishers) so they can control in how their song is used.

From a pure creative perspective, there's a great new series on Netflix called Song Exploder that explores the craft of making a song that I think you would enjoy. In watching the R.E.M. episode of how they created the song, Losing My Religion, you not only get to experience the process of making a song but also the many interpretations of the song by the fans. Michael Stipe of R.E.M says the song is about love obsession and the title, 'Losing My Religion' is a southern phrase for losing one's temper. My personal interpretation of Losing My Religion is a literal translation of the song's title with my own experience of growing up in a conservative Christian upbringing and the transition to living on my own. The song has a deep meaning for me and is one of my all-time favorites.

The Alicia Keys episode of making the song, 3 Hour Drive, you experience her collaboration with Sampha in both composing the music and lyrics. Keys writes the song from her perspective of being a new mother of a baby son, and Sampha is dealing with the recent death of his mother. It's literally the circle of life, but without that background knowledge, I would have interpreted the song as an 'I'm on the road love song,' a staple theme in pop music.

So the song is the artist's expression who knows full well that their baby is often crafted as a chameleon of interpretation. Saying that, Bob Dylan quickly comes to mind. This blog is less about creative interpretation and more about the outright misuse by politicians stealing a musician's artistic work without their permission and using it for their own narrow political interpretation and manipulation.

Take Bruce Springsteen's 1984 hit Born In The U.S.A., a catchy title turned into a political speech by Ronald Reagan on the campaign trail after his operatives liked the song's hook, who didn't seem to listen to or comprehend that the lyrics are about a down and out Vietnam War veteran with verses like

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Instead, Reagan goes out and says in a 1984 campaign speech, "America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts; it rests in the message of hope in songs so many young Americans admire: New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen. And helping you make those dreams come true is what this job of mine is all about." 

Springsteen just shook his head, yeah like Ronnie's listening to his album Nebraska. Then in 2016, Trump steals another play from Reagan's playbook and started playing Born In The U.S.A. at his own campaign rallies. 

Rather than take legal action, he openly announced his support for Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, and even campaigned in support of her. As a result, the song would instead get booed every time Trump would play it at rallies from that point on. Wikipedia

Last Saturday night at Joe Biden's victory speech, Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down comes booming on  right after he finishes his speech. I just burst out laughing as you know Biden's staff is purposely playing one of Trump's cease and desist song's from his rallies. Now Joe, you're my kind of guy!

The family of Tom Petty denounced Trump's use of the song "I Won't Back Down" at political rallies in 2020. The family sent the campaign a cease and desist letter, stating that the song was written for the "underdog" and "common man", and that Trump didn't represent either. Wikipedia

So here's my mix of The Cease and Desist Playlist from the Trump rallies as I do my little part to free this music from the Trump shit show. Here's hoping some of these artists get invited to the White House Inaugural January 20, 2021 and get a chance to perform live at the various celebrations. I also look forward to the tradition of musicians being invited to perform at the White House again. In the playlist, see John Fogerty perform Fortunate Son in the Obama White House in a salute to the military on Veterans Day, and a wonderful example of how protest and institution can meld over time.

 

Monday, November 02, 2020

#NewMusicMonday • October • 2020

A YEAR of #NewMusicMondays  
Tomorrow and the days ahead will be one of the most important times in U.S. history. So, we're all going to need some good music to get us through the week. This week's #NewMusicMonday is packed with new songs and covers, and at least ten old songs that you probably have never heard before. Those ten songs are from Tom Petty's 1994 album, Wildflowers. Tom Petty, Mike Campbell and Producer, Rich Rubin spent two years making Wildflowers as it originally was going to be a double album with 25 songs. Well, the record company stepped in and as usual mucked things up and said it would be better as a single album that eventually got whittled down to fifteen songs. Here I present the remaining ten songs scattered throughout the playlist with a trailer video of the new super deluxe box set, Wildflowers and All the Rest, just released October 16th. 

At the end of the playlist, I also include a great interview by Malcolm Gladwell with Rick Rubin.

Here's a couple of links that you may want to circle back to and view.

Happy Birthday to Tom on what would have been his 70th Birthday on Oct. 20 and to John Lennon who would have been 80 on Oct. 9. I have included several John songs in the playlist done by artists in honor of his birthday. Damn, both of these guys should be alive today to still give us new joys with their great talents.

As we approach our historical election tomorrow, I have included several new songs that are hopeful toward a change from our current wannabe regime and back to our democratic principles. I'm just so tired of being tired about Trump and now I'm scared to death he is going to win re-election (sometime this month). If that happens, I'm mentally preparing myself for a depression hangover that I hope I can snap out of sooner than later. After 2016 and the last four years, nothing can surprise us anymore, so it's best to prepare for both scenarios with either: the Trump shit show's victory and gloating with no plan for anything, or Biden's win and a new start with strategic planning to tackle the pandemic, economy and our world standing, just to name the tip of the melting iceberg. During these sad years, the end of the innocence came much too quickly for this generation of young people.  


On the lighter side, music will always be here to help us whether we're up or down. There's a life motto that I have adopted from Paul McCartney's Hey Jude lyric - Take a sad song and make it better. So my take from that powerful line-  I/we have the ability to change something negative into something better, by our actions. Together we can, make it better. My ol' buddy and friend to the blog, Paul Hobbs has a new song that I lead with in the playlist, Charity Begins At Home. So no matter the outcome, tomorrow or next week, we can start working to make things better by starting at home with our family and friends. This last paragraph was corny as hell, but I'm going to get up and go install a light above my workbench right now before I delete it.

Enjoy my friends and stay well.