Monday, July 26, 2021

#NewMusicMonday • July, 2021

I've paddled upstream where the river ran
I've touched sticks and stones to an olive branch
I've made a full house from a shitty hand
Yet, here I am, still gotta be bigger than the bigger man

The Bigger Man, Joy Oladokum

When I start putting together my now end of the month feature #NewMusicMonday, I'm searching and listening for songs that grab me. 

When I came across Joy Oladokum's new album, in defense of my own happiness I just kind of instinctively knew from the title that there was going to be some masterful songwriting coming from this young woman. 

So, I started listening and kept adding songs to the playlist this week. 

Seems that everyone wants to compare Joy with Tracy Chapman. Let's just let Joy be Joy Oladokun, she's charting her own path.

Out of contact out of zone
Off the backbeat off the bone
Away from the wolf pack on your own now
Dance together or dance alone
There's trouble outside and trouble in
Show some hustle show some skin
Whatever was has already been now
Let this new day do its thing

Maybe Your Heart's Not In It No More, Jakob Dylan

The Wallflowers with band leader Jakob Dylan haven't made an album in nearly ten years, but it's been well worth the wait as Exit Wounds is a very good album. 

I think Jakob Dylan has a great singing voice that seems to be getting better with age. The first track, Maybe Your Heart’s Not in It No More is a great rock 'n' roll song with the added benefit of Shelby Lynne providing backup vocals on this and several other tracks. 

The Wallflowers are a good example of what makes Americana rock 'n' roll and Rock 'n' Roll Americana.

Do you think of the ocean as yours?
Because you need the ocean to breathe
Every second breath you take
Is coming from the sea
We don't really know
Because we don't really see
Do you think of the ocean as yours?
Do you think about it at all?

Downhill From Everywhere, Jackson Browne

Jackson Browne, a conscious voice for a couple of generations now, still striving, still asking the essential questions. 

The complete album has just landed this past Friday and I'm still absorbing all the songs now included in this playlist. Jackson is such an inspiration, still writing and performing with his ageless voice, still at the top of his game, one of the greats that just keeps going and going. I will say, after all these years, he's finally got a little age in his face to go with the wisdom that he has expressed in song since his journeys up down the U.S. 101.

The song Downhill From Everywhere has a great Rolling Stones riff-like feel and I'm loving it! Just like Jackson to turn an environmental bummer into a catchy beat. I would guess Val McCallum his lead guitar player would have something to do with that too!

Random thought- Why haven't Bonnie Raitt and Clyde (real first name of) Jackson Browne made an album together? You know it would be fantastic, and you already know the name of the album, Bonnie & Clyde.

Real Estate is a band from New Jersey since 2009 and I would have guessed they were from across the pond. I really like their easy Indie rock sound that makes me gravitate to them like U.K bands Flyte, Teenage Fanclub, and The Fratellis that I have featured this year in #NewMusicMonday posts.

Half a Human is a good summertime EP and worth a listen.

I stepped across the dreaded green line
When the self-inflicted wounds are slowly healed
I couldn't find the forest, couldn't see the trees
I had to find my way by touch and feel

Boxes, David Crosby

David Crosby's cover of Joni Mitchell's For Free is brilliant. Like several of the songs on this album, Crosby has wisely collaborated with top shelf musicians like Sarah Jarosz on For Free, Michael McDonald on River Rise, and Donald Fagan on Rodriguez For A Night.

I personally think he should have done the whole album this way cowriting or performing with distinguished artists like Sheryl Crow did on Threads (2019). But unlike Crow, It feels to me that David's still got something to prove whether it be his ability to sell as a solo artist, or just to show people he's still got the goods.

His acidic comments over the years have caused such a rift between former band mates Stills, Nash, and Young that they now want nothing to do with him. Personally, I wish these guys the best in patching up their collective wounds and hope they can have a friendship together with David in the future. Listen to the song Boxes, as he openly acknowledges his responsibility and reflection on the subject.

Now professionally, these four guys need to stay divorced from each other, forever. All four are actually doing great collaborating with other people musically, and the comments I read about fans wanting them back together is just too much, that wooden ship sailed long ago...

However, the YouTube comments about David's voice and new songs are spot on. David Crosby's singing voice came down from the gods, and the gods have not taken away that gift. I saw him in concert several years ago and was amazed by the clarity and quality that voice has endured and continues today as he successfully delivers on this very good album. 

Enjoy my friends, lots of little gems in the playlist this week!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Remembering Gary Hill

 A Collaboration by Four Friends
Ken Forman • Paul Hobbs • Doug McIntosh • Ron Zieman

the playground of our youth

Gary Hill was born July 20, 1951 in San Antonio, Texas. The following adventures with Gary "Crazy Legs" Hill (as Ron nicknamed him) begins in Santa Maria, CA when Gary and Ron became fast friends as both their families attended the First United Methodist Church, roughly around 1960. In fact, Gary, Ron and Paul all met through the Methodist church, and Ken and I first met through our families attending Grace Baptist Church. 

Church affiliations aside, We all became close friends in different pairings throughout our elementary through high school years together. I first met Ron as my family moved next door to his on East Tunnell St. in 1965, and I met Gary sometime after. Our gang actually is a larger group that would eventually merge at some point in high school. I have to mention Jeff McCarthy and Steve Spencer as two more close friends, but please understand, Gary's list of friends is deep and wide.

This week, July 20th would have been Gary's 70th birthday. He died February 21, 2003 as one of two people killed in a single small plane that crashed near Santa Maria in Nipomo, CA. Gary was 51 years old. He loved to fly.

As Ron, Paul, Ken and I have reached our mid-sixties, our retirement from our "day jobs" has taken hold, although Ron can still be found at a job site when you call him. We look forward to meeting together as both Ken and Paul live in Santa Maria, Ron in Santa Monica, and me down in San Diego. We usually get together in Santa Maria to go out to dinner with our wives, but we're now planning a post-pandemic summit at the bachelor pad in Santa Monica, as just the gang of four. I'm hoping this could be a yearly event, we all wish Gary could join us. 

That last part of wishing Gary could join us, is the kernel of thought that brings this collaboration of little adventures with Gary together. In actuality, Gary is always with us.

Eric Clapton & Duane Allman
Ken Forman–
Gary was a guitar guy, and Eric Clapton was the consummate guitar guy. I 
remember him at our Cook St. house standing in the doorway with his Fender Stratocaster strapped on, albums stacked up and playing along with the guitar leads. He was also an Allman Brothers fan and post Duane's unfortunate collision with the peach truck, he became a Dickie Betts fan.

Gary saw the Allman Bros at the Paso Robles Fair one year and due to band infighting and Dickie’s overall bad attitude he was uninvited back out for the second set. Gary was majorly bummed.

Ron Zieman–
Gary was a “sweet hearted” friend who everybody was quite fond of. He was very funny and a pleasure to be around. Although perhaps not being quite as innocent as some people thought. He loved his family and friends as much as anyone could. He would absolutely drop anything he was doing to help almost anybody with anything and give you the shirt off his back!

After meeting at church we became close friends having all sorts of fun, and as Vicki Forman would say, "Getting into plenty of mischief."

"What's hot Peg?"
While church services were underway, we actually climbed into the organ loft as well as the crawlspace underneath the sanctuary floor on several occasions.

With Paul Hobbs and others, we perfected the skills of avoiding some of Sunday School, and of course spending our offering money at Bonners Donut Shop. Nothing like a fresh hot glazed donut, or three.

Paul Hobbs–
My friend Jay Spears worked up a great arrangement of the National Anthem and recruited me and a couple of other guys to sing it. We recorded our version and started sending it around to some sports teams. Jay was a big Cubs fan and I like the Giants so we sent a tape to San Francisco to see about booking our act to sing the anthem when the teams played each other. We got the gig! We all lived in LA but were willing to make the trip.

Gary got the idea of flying us there. He made it happen. He and another pilot arranged a plane in Santa Maria. We all drove up in Jay’s car and Gary and his pilot friend delivered us to Candlestick Park (a friend of Jay’s drove us between the airport and ballpark, actually) then, Gary flew us back to Santa Maria where Jay’s car was parked. Jay and one of the other guys got out, then Gary and his friend (wish I remembered his friend’s name), flew Grant and I back to LA as we had prior commitments. We landed at Santa Monica airport, somebody picked us up, Ron maybe, and we went our separate ways. Gary and his friend just loved to fly. They spent their entire day shuttling us around. We contributed to expenses but what a generous plan old Gary hatched to make for such a fun and convenient day.

The Hill Family Buick Station Wagon -
If that car could talk...
Ron Zieman– The Buick
We took his folks green station wagon out for dozens of adventures, as well as a few close calls! Once, out by Little Falls, we realized to get a good picture of the Buick crossing the creek, Gary needed to drop me off on the far side- then he'd go back and barrel through the stream so the water would splash higher.

After we viewed the Polaroid with satisfaction, I remember telling him how important it was to not let his folks ever see those pictures. Of course Madeline found them! I told her the water was not as deep as it appeared, but we got blamed for a couple repair bills.

Doug McIntosh–
I'm going to say this event happened somewhere in time around 1970-71. Gary and I had gone to Pirate's Cove Beach and were heading back on Avila Beach Drive and stopped where it intersects with Shell Beach Road. It's basically the frontage road next to U.S. 101. Gary sees some construction workers talking by their trucks who had been working at the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant just north of Avila Beach (as we both noticed the Diablo Power Plant logo on their trucks). 

Diablo Nuclear Power Plant
Now Gary could be very impulsive, and for some goddamned reason- maybe a recent anti-nukes protest was stuck in his brain that day. Anyway, he rolls down the window of his parents infamous green Buick station wagon, and starts yelling at these very large guys, "Nuclear power sucks!" One guy starts jawing back to Gary, and I'm saying, "Gary what the f**k, are you trying to get us killed!" Next, the guy starts walking toward the station wagon. Gary flips him the bird and peels out in the gravel and gets on the Shell Beach Rd. heading south. The guy immediately jumps in his truck and starts chasing us in hot pursuit. Now Gary looks at me with kind of a sly worried look that quickly turns in a big smile and nervous laugh. I'm totally terrified. I have a madman hippie driving 85 mph on a two-lane frontage road being chased by a madman redneck. 

We enter Shell Beach, careen around several blocks, then duck into a gas station. We think we've slipped him, but ohhh no, he finds us, gets out of his truck and starts running full speed at us. Gary does his now familiar peel out and we get back on Shell Beach Rd. heading south toward Pismo Beach. I don't know if the guy chased us further or just gave up, but we were treating this as a Smoky and The Bear situation. I think we then hide out in some back alley in Pismo Beach for awhile, then finally got back on the 101 south and head home. Just another day in the green station wagon with Gary.

For more car adventures featuring Gary driving the family wagon, go to a blog post I wrote March 23, 2020, Déjà Vu • March, 1970.

Ron Zieman– "Crazy Legs Hill"
I was always able to launch Gary with Indian leg wrestling. I always thought I could run as fast too, until we played soccer. He had unreal moves, could turn, stop and start on a dime. Impossible to catch or even keep up with him. Hence- the name!

Ken Forman–
Ron and Gary lived in the Lincoln house and Gary liked to drive us around in his open air jeep. We'd drive up and down Broadway and Gary especially liked sitting at the red lights, "Exposure" he'd remind us.

Doug McIntosh–
Paul and I are in Gary's bedroom at his family home. Paul is trying to teach Gary and me a harmony part. Paul tries and tries but his students are stone cold tone deaf. At some point we all give up.

Gary just seemed to jump into playing electric lead guitar one day. He knew if he wasn't going to sing like Greg Allman, he would strive to play like Greg's brother Duane.

Ron Zieman–
The Uniqueness Of Gary

Gary had an orange 10 speed and he rode that bike all over creation. The hard leather seat was elevated at the front at about 35 degrees, making him the only male who could possibly ride it, He said it was comfortable!

We once rode our bikes to Camp Ocean Pines- over 70 miles with camping equipment. One day to get there and two days to get back, with very sore legs.

Photo by Gary Hill
Doug McIntosh–
Now as a parent and grandparent, I shutter a bit at some of the risks we took when young and feeling immortal. This particular adventure starts with Ron hearing about the White Elephant Mine in the Los Padres National Forest from Gary's brother Ed Hill. We in fact did a couple of reconnoissance missions, first with Ron, Kim Brickey (Ron's girlfriend), and me. We found the mine shaft hole entrance that was about four feet wide. The question, how far down was the hole before it spidered out with different perpendicular shafts? Ron remembers he tied a rock around a rope line he brought, but it did not touch the bottom.

One the second trip, Ron brought along a 50 ft. rope, which he tied around himself, and Kim and I helped lower him down. This was insane in hindsight! The rope wasn't long enough but he got to the bottom and checked things out. He climbed back up to the rope, and Kim and I helped pull him back up. However, the rope and Ron got hung up on a ledge and it took some anxious moments for him to get over the hump and free the line so we could pull him up. Kim and I had the rope wrapped around us, supporting each other, and finally helped Ron up and out of the hole, whew! But that was only the beginning.

Back in Santa Maria Ron built a very sturdy 75 ft. wood and nylon rope ladder that would be used in a series of missions to explore the mine shaft tunnels.

On the third trip, Ron and I were joined by always game Gary. We climbed down (one at a time) into the shaft with now a very secured rope ladder tied around a huge rock. We made it down with several feet to spare and explored the mine together with our flashlights. Gary took one of my favorite photos ever of Ron and me sitting on a ledge at the end of one of the network of shaft tunnels. 

I look back to our utter trust in each other, our motivation and cooperative spirit that just continued to bond our friendship for one another. And hey, you got to love the mud-caked on our boots, and the red eye effect from the flash of the Kodak Instamatic camera. Or maybe, we were vampire bats... 

Paul Hobbs–
Jane’s grandfather gifted her his car when he gave up driving. The caveat was that she had to get it out to California from Florida. She was working and unable to make a trip to retrieve it. Getting it delivered somehow would be far too costly. I was working weekends at Butch Cassidy’s so I got someone to sub for me and gave myself a little over a week to drive the car back to California in time for Ken and Vicki’s wedding the following Saturday.

It was going to be a long, lonely trip, until Gary stepped up and offered to use some vacation days and join me. Traveling along with some preplanned stops and some unplanned car trouble, we covered the nearly 3000 miles and were in Santa Maria the day before the wedding.

I forgot to mention, the car was a 1961 Dodge Lancer and not the sturdy road warrior one might prefer for such a trip.

When our family moved back to California after 5 years in Tennessee, I stayed behind to pack up the house and drive a truck full of our belongings out west. This time I’m driving an 18 footer and towing a car. It’s about 800 miles closer, at least.

Once again, Gary calls to tell me he’s flying in, at his own expense, not only to help with the drive but to help with transferring all our crap from the house to the truck.

The drive was grueling, we slept in the truck at rest stops, but we made it! Can’t imagine doing it without him.

Gary was always willing to do what he could do to help and he was always involved both personally and physically. He was a great friend.

Ken Forman–
One time Vicki and I went to Las Vegas and it was so f***ing hot the freeze plugs fell out of the engine block. It was a holiday weekend so there were no repair shops open. A hotel worker recommended a repair shop that we limped over to and left our keys and a note in the mail slot, then we rented a car one-way and drove home. 

Two weeks later Gary flew me, my son Ben, and one of Ben's friend back to Vegas to pick up our car. We rented a dive room for the night just off the strip. It was the night JFK Jr's plane went down and we spent the wee hours watching coverage and search efforts. Gary was fascinated. The next day Gary flew home and the three of us drove back in our old beat up Volvo. 

Ron Zieman– Early Love of Girls
Even while living with his folks, It was not unusual for Gary to “ Fall in Love” with more than one girl- in the same week.

Doug McIntosh–
The early to mid 1970's have precious memories for us, as Gary our eldest graduated from High School in 1969. When Ron returned from his parents move back to Rochester, NY both lived in a series of houses in Santa Maria. The first being, the Victorian house on Chapel St., Then the house on Cook St., and then the house on Lincoln St.

Paul and Ken were also roommates in a house (maybe two) themselves. All these houses include stories that would be inappropriate to share online in a blog. The Chapel St. and Cook St. houses were both only a few blocks from my house where I was still living with my parents, and served as a very convenient get away and a world apart from my conservative Tunnell St. home.

The Chapel St. house was a bustle of activity that caught the eye of my family dentist who had his dentistry building directly across the street from the Victorian house. Now at the time, I had my first car, a dark green and chrome 1958 MGA sports car that had a very distinct cigar shape. Anybody who knew me knew were I was just by seeing wherever that car was parked. 

I remember my dentist who was a Deacon and Choir Director at my church come up to me one Sunday, and asks me point blank about "the activities" and "my involvement" at the Chapel St. house. I quickly bluffed and back-peddled away from him- think of Dana Carvey's Church lady character and you know what I was dealing with.

One lasting memory of Chapel Street, Ron, Paul and I would be typically lounging in the living room and Gary bursts in with a new girl like every week. He was like a damn rock star with all his action. One time, as Gary and girl disappear in his bedroom, Ron just looks at us, mouth closed and just shakes his head slowly side to side.

Gary as "The Kid"
Paul Hobbs–
Ron, Gary and I were huge fans of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and saw it half a dozen times together. I found a paperback of the script and we used to run lines from our favorite scenes. We fell into one where we played the same characters each time and actually memorized our parts. It was the scene where Butch comes in as Sundance is being accused of cheating in a card game. I was Butch, Ron, the ne’er do well pulling a gun on Sundance, and Gary, of course, the Robert Redford look alike was the kid.

We actually had the confidence to perform it at our MYF( Methodist Youth Fellowship) meeting one night. All the girls swooned for Gary. We then proceeded to take it on the road and guest starred at an MYF meeting in Cambria, where a former Santa Maria Methodist family with a daughter Gary had a crush on, had moved. Actually, we all had a crush on her but she only had eyes for Gary.

Ron Zieman– Chapel St. Days
We rented the lower floor of an old house on the corner of Miller and Chapel. One time Gary came up to me with a very concerned look, and told me I was having too much sex. He also added that it was not good for my health! We then had a short, one-sided discussion. 

Not long after that talk, Gary bought a waterbed. Whereupon he started making waves on a regular basis! 

Another time he wanted to show me something after coming home for work. He came out with a gun he had purchased! I could not believe it! He was a such a peace and love type guy. I thought it was a really bad idea, after awhile I told him either the gun was going, or he was. 

We were roommates for a long time! After living there for sometime, I found out Gary was telling his mom about everything I did, which probably took a fair amount of time. I'm going to go out on a limb and say, he probably was not telling her everything he did! It was one of the two things I did not completely forgive him for. The other being years later and giving me a haircut with his unindicted co-conspirator, Jane Antonson. Twas butchered!

Ron Zieman– Eating
I did most of the cooking when we were roommates and Gary decides one day that he is going to stop eating chicken. Gary's not becoming a vegetarian, he has decided to stop eating chicken because well a chicken looks like a chicken and he simply couldn't handle the visual. I even cut the parts into unrecognizable small pieces, but even that didn't work. Eventually, he started eating chicken again.

Ken Forman–
Gary came by to visit Vicki and me and my folks happened to be at our house. My dad flew as a youngster and he and Gary hit it off talking about airplanes. Gary, always looking for an excuse to fly, offered to take my dad up so off they went.

Two hours later they returned and my dad was elated. My dad is starting to lose his cognitive skills, but he still recalls that day vividly and he loves to tell that story. 

Ron Zieman– Flying
Aerial photo of Neverland

Gary’s mom and wife Jackie hated the idea of him flying. I was always lukewarm to the concept. But always had a ton of respect for him for the investment of time and money spent doing what he loved, while always taking care of his family. 

He loved flying anybody he could find to circle over Michael Jackson's Neverland, or really anyplace.

Once he took his dad flying and entered Vandenberg Air Force Base's restricted air space. They were told to land immediately and got to meet some security people upon doing so. No jail time, and Gary got to keep his plane. 

Paul Hobbs–
Gary, Jackie and Erica came for Christmas one year in Tennessee. There was a bit of snow on the ground and everything looked pretty but an underlying menace was the ice. Every few winters they would have ice storms that could cause tree limbs to break off, taking down power lines and wreaking all kinds of havoc.

I came home from work one day and Gary wasn’t there. On the way out of our neighborhood you had to go up a very slight incline that was nearly impossible to mount when iced over and I had failed to notice coming in that there was a pickup having a terrible time getting up. Jane and Jackie pointed out the dining room window to Gary spearheading the operation to help these people on their way. He had everyone but the driver, including himself, jump in the back for ballast. We look again Gary’s driving. Everybody got out and pushed. I started out to lend a hand when suddenly, success, the pickup had crested the hill and Gary was trudging back to the house.

Jane reminded me that everywhere he went in TN he introduced himself “ Hi, Gary Hill, Santa Maria, CA”. He was the ultimate Santa Marian goodwill ambassador.

Doug McIntosh–
Gary turned 21 in the summer of 72. Gary was the oldest of our group separated by 3 to 4 years with me bringing up the rear. At 21, Gary looked like he was 15-16 years old tops. 

Dino's Liquor & Deli was located on the corner of College Ave. and Main Street. It was only several blocks from Ron's and my house on Tunnell St. and just around the corner from Mary Kit's house on Church Street. For many kids in that neighborhood it was candy central growing up, and alcohol central in our late teens and early 20's. 

The Candy Man
Now Dino, the owner of his Liquor & Deli was no fool and fake ID's and the like need not bother trying to pull a fast one on him. He recognized me and I'm sure Ron too from our frequent visits during our paper route days, and surely recognized hundreds of kids over the years buying snacks at his counter.

In 1972 Gary's driver's license was gold. I remember several trips with the gang in tow, stopping at Dino's, Gary getting out and buying beer or harder beverages at Dino's counter looking like he's 15. Gary would walk back to the station wagon a king, our hero!

Ron Zieman– Music
Gary and I thought Eric Clapton was the best, and listened to him more than anyone, He loved cruising broadway- Especially when Hush by Deep Purple or an Allman Brothers song came on the radio. He really loved Howlin Wolf, aka Chester Burnett i.e. Wang Dang Doodle, and The Red Rooster.

left to right - Danny Walker, Sean Landers &
Paul Hobbs playing in Santa Barbara
Wish I could have video taped him after drinking a beer-putting his feet up on the dash, singing along with an Allman Brothers song. He was so happy! He loved his guitars, and would sometimes walk around the house wearing one! 

We really loved going to hear Paul play, and have cocktails. Probably only 400 times!

Doug McIntosh–
In February, 2002 I had a heart attack. Sometime after, I think it was that summer, Mary Kit and I went up to Santa Maria to see my family and our friends. As friends, we would often meet up at The Jetty seafood restaurant off of South Broadway heading to Orcutt. Gary was there with his wife Jackie and daughter Erica. I will never forget walking out of The Jetty with Gary's arm around me. He was so happy to see me, wanting to know that I was well and basically expressing his friendship of love and our bond together. It meant a lot to me. Then, in what seems like a blink, fast-forward to February, 2003 a year almost to the day of my heart attack, and Gary's passing. 

Over the years, I have reflected on that moment walking out of The Jetty with Gary and realizing life is all so wonderful, and so random. My heart attack provided a way for me to see a balance between my professional and personal life. Gary's passing was a gut punch for all his family and friends. For all the people who loved him as family or friend, I think we all take forward with us his spirit for life. As I get older, Gary's eternally young good looks, sun kissed hair (that he often cut and trimmed himself), and his playfulness lives in the hearts of all of us, and I believe is part of that cool deep well of thought to always feel, or strive to be, at play in our youth.

Ron Zieman–
Many people consider Gary to be one of the best friends they ever had- Me for sure. He will always be missed.

As Ken aptly started this round of stories with, "Gary was a guitar guy." We have put together a rock 'n' roll playlist below that we know Gary would have liked, as he often played along with many of these songs with his guitar. For me, every time The Allman Brothers Ramblin' Man comes on I always think of Gary. If you knew Gary, you have a song that does the same for you. 

Enjoy my friends, peace and love to all.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Covers Series: Singer-Songwriters Covering Singer-Songwriters • Volume I

The Covers Series: 

When your favorite band covers a classic tune, their version is their interpretation — their translation — of the music. Is it better than the original? That's up for interpretation.

Crawling to walking, walking to running. I always thought the term 'singer-songwriter' was backwards. Doesn't one first write a song, then sing it in front of an audience? Yes but, songwriting to singing only comes with much time and practice.

It's called singer-songwriter in that order because writing musicians always start by singing other people's songs.  Young songwriters have been always inspired by songwriters before them, giving budding tunesmiths the motivation and confidence to sing and play in front of an audience by initially using the voices of their heroes. 

All rock 'n' roll bands start as a cover band, crawling out of the basement or garage, then performing in a dive bar, club or community center to begin their journey. My favorite band, The Beatles did the same as you can see from this extensive List of songs covered by The Beatles

In the weeks ahead I'm planning to do a Beatles Covers • Vol. I post that will include both professional and amateur artists and groups performing Fab Four tunes. 

I'm also planning a Dylan Covers • Vol. I post. He's probably has the most covers of any artist or group simply because he is the great Bob Dylan who has been such a prolific songwriter since the early 60's, and is still going strong (along with Paul McCartney). I personally love young people performing the masters, it's such a wonderful circle of music.

Here in this Volume One, I would like to feature a mix of my favorite singer-songwriters performing covers, including covers turned into big hits of their own. 

Got you covered this week, enjoy my friends! 

  • Second Hand Songs - Search for an original song's author(s), and the song's cover versions.

Monday, July 05, 2021

#BestSongIHeardToday • Volume VI

Inevitably, a Beatles song will come on during my run because I know I checked every demo, song and/or album in Amazon Music regarding 'The Beatles.' Let's say, Baby You're A Rich Man comes on. Do I skip a Beatles song just because it's probably going to be the #BestSongIHeardToday? I have to give some other artists a fighting chance to make my playlist. 

On the trail, I've had so many people tell me, "Love your hat!" 

I have started to think of my Beatles hat as sort of a 'friendly ambassador.'

People out for a walk with their dog or young children have that built-in ambassador of friendship right next to them as folks who wouldn't normally give them the time of day, will stop someone dead in their tracks to talk to their dog or toddler.

Now ever since my wife Mary Kit sewed on The Beatles logo to my running hat a couple of years ago, I've noticed a change in how people see me on the trail. Before, they may be thinking, "Whose this old fart coming my way?" Now I get more smiles and "Howdys" when I have my Beatles hat on. 

So my Beatles hat can put a smile on somebody's face, and it puts a smile on my face to think those four guys brought so much joy to people around the world, and in fact have made the world a better place.

I strive to be the good ambassador under the hat, even as an unleashed dog is lunging for my crotch, or mountain biker suddenly passes me from behind at break-neck speed on the four foot wide trail, going for his world record. Hey, we Beatles fans got to represent.

How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people
Tuned to a natural E
Happy to be that way
Now that you've found another key
What are you going to play

Baby you're a rich man
Baby you're a rich man
Baby you're a rich man, too

Monday, June 28, 2021

#NewMusicMonday • June, 2021

Did you notice this past year during the pandemic that many musicians were recording their favorite covers at home and posting them on social media? 

The playlist this week has the usual number of covers, but I found two new albums entirely made of covers that I think are worth a listen. First, is Dylan LeBlanc's "pastimes" an EP of six cover songs. Second, is Lowland Hum's So Low, an entire cover of Peter Gabriel's 1986 masterpiece, So.

Here's 99 songs for your music week. Enjoy my friends!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Fifty Years of Music • June, 1971

I remember that time you told me
You said, "Love is touching souls"
Surely you touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
–Joni Mitchell, A Case of You
Joni Mitchell's Blue leads the pack as this album is on most everybody's all-time favorite list. I've said this before, but Joni Mitchell just blew the doors open for women musicians trying to get in the male-dominated music business. 

For both female and male teenagers like myself, the interpersonal songwriting and singing let young people know it was okay to open up, and let your innermost feelings be known to others. Songwriters across the globe took notice.

I grew up in a home environment where we did not share our emotions. Joni's music was like having a D.H. Lawerence novel playing on your portable stereo in your bedroom. Joni made it possible for bone-headed teenage boys like me growing up in the 70's to begin to look beyond a woman's looks and respect their gifted minds as artists. Blue is a masterpiece.

Just as we seem to end the one act play
We draw so much farther apart
Each new opening, a different time for closing
Will I sing my last symphony to an empty room?
Still my heart is an open secret
Someone tell me have I been gifted or robbed
–Stephen Stills, Open Secret

I believe I purchased Stephen Stills 2 as soon it came out. In 1971, I thought Stephen Stills was a pretty cool rock 'n' roll star and I was a huge fan.

Now in the past five years, I've read a number of rock biographies dealing with everything Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and have come to realize that these guys were such huge assholes to each other, and to a great number of people associated with their careers. All four have acknowledged as much in the past several decades and I for one, don't want to see any more two, three, or four band configuration reunion tours. 

However, I can easily manage to forget all the revelations regarding Stills and just appreciate his records that take me back to a good place and time. Listening to Stephen Stills 2 the past couple of weeks still makes me appreciate his talent and music. He was at the right place and time in Los Angeles in 1966. Even though he didn't always make the best decisions, he made some really good music in the late 60's and early 70's that still holds up today.

I don't know how you feel
If you really see
And for years I would pray
That you'd favor me
But for now, please allow
One formality
Down the road, 'cross the sea
Please remember me
–Todd Rundren, Remember Me

Here's one I didn't appreciate at the time, Todd Rundgren's Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren which is a wonderful album of mostly piano-based ballads, and thus the title. Todd was a fan of Laura Nyro who I also didn't appreciate back in the day, and now I have songs from both in my 100 songs Playlists. 

Nyro's influence over Rundgren is displayed throughout Runt as he started to compose more songs on the piano. Listening to this album fifty years later was such a treat! 

And speaking of better late than never, the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame finally got around to honoring Todd Rundgren, Carol King, and Tina Turner as solo inductions into this year's 2021 Hall of Fame (but, don't even get me started on the Go-Go's and the Foo Fighters being inducted with this same group).

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It's the loneliest number since the number one
–Harry Nilsson, One

Another great album from this time period is Harry Nilsson's Aerial Pandemonium Ballet. By 1971, Nilsson had become quite famous and took a couple of his older less known albums (Pandemonium Shadow Show and Aerial Ballet) back to the studio for a remix. As a young fan, it was perfect for someone like me to get familiar with his older songs and bring his new fans up to speed.

I can't help but comment in searching all the pictures for Joni and Harry for this post, the number of photos with a cigarette stuck in both of their months from such gifted voices. Of course in Harry's case, the bottle was the much bigger problem...

We all sung together, We all sung together
We all sung together, We all sung together
–Nils Lofgrin, We All Sung Together

Nils Lofgrin started hanging with Neil Young's garage band, Crazy Horse in the late 60's and subsequently played on Neil's classic album, After The Gold Rush in 1970. As a fifteen year old, I read every speck of that album cover to cover and saw Lofgren's name for the first time, "Who is this guy?"

Nils also seemed to be at the right place and time and by 1971 recorded his first album with his band Grin. The self-titled Grin was produced by Neil Young's favorite Producer, David Briggs.  Nils went on to be a steady member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band since 1984, and recently rejoined Crazy Horse after  Frank "Poncho" Sampedro retired from the band in 2014. 

As a new feature to the Fifty Years Of Music playlists starting this week, I've included a sprinkling of hit singles that were on the Billboard Hot 100 during the month of June, 1971. Enjoy my friends!

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Covers Series: The Singer as Interpreter • Volume I

The Covers Series: 
“The elements of voice and style are braided together like twine.
― Linda Ronstadt

Why we love our favorite singers is that they uniquely bring their own interpretation to a song and deliver it from their heart and soul through their vocal excellence. 

Today's playlist is going to feature mostly individual singers from the 1940's - 1970's who are known for recording songs written by other people. It's a mixed bag of mostly pop ballads and songs from musicals that for me stand the test of time no matter the genre or era they were recorded. 

Here's a couple of gifted vocalists to get us started with the same song.

Fly Me to the Moon, originally titled "In Other Words", is a song written in 1954 by Bart Howard. It's been recorded by hundreds of famous singers but is associated most with Frank Sinatra's uptempo 4/4 version arranged by Quincy Jones and recorded with Count Basie's band by Sinatra in 1964.  He starts the song with the B verse to immediately immerse the listener, or as Frank would probably say, "Man that song really swings."


My favorite version of Fly Me to the Moon is actually Tony Bennett's more emotional phrasing, although Sinatra's version is simply fantastic. 

Think of Frank's version as the excitement of dating someone. Think of Tony's version as a relationship, an enduring romance with someone. Both are classics.

Tony's version is a good lead-in to what this Singer's Volume 1 playlist is going to feature, but not limited to, fond memories of songs from my youth. I also tried to get as many quality live versions as I could find to show that these artists could just flat out sing without any overdubs in the studio. You'll also notice I'm partial to female vocalists as I also feature my favorite singer of all-time, Linda Ronstadt. Enjoy this interesting mix of 100 songs my friends!

  • Second Hand Songs - Search for an original song's author(s), and the song's cover versions.

Monday, June 07, 2021

#BestSongIHeardToday • Volume V

Volume I • II • III • IV  • V •  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.

Painting by Gene Ritchhart

Losing weight is the hardest thing. During the pandemic I gained what a lot people call, "The COVID Fifteen." For me, it was actually twelve pounds of mostly home cooking and comfort carbs getting out of control. 

In February of this year, I started my patented Moderate-Keto Routine (notice I didn't call it the four-letter word, DIET). This process involves simply stepping up my game from my Regular Low Carb Routine. 

My Moderate-Keto Routine evolved from a couple earlier attempts in dieting using the Weight Watchers® counting calories/points method. I do give Weight Watchers credit for raising my awareness to the amount of carbohydrates I was putting into my body daily, and those carbs compared to proteins and fats. As we have all learned over the years with carb counting, carbohydrates turn to sugar, sugar turns to fat. It's one of the facts of life that doesn't get easier to face as I get older. 

I'm a real foodie live-to-eat kind of guy and can easily fall off the low carb wagon, it's just that now my ability to get back on that wagon seems to fit more of good routine than a dire diet situation. Ultimately, it's about living a low carb lifestyle so that when I fall, I can easily get back up rather than follow some diet marketing scheme.

  • Lesson Learned #1 - The faster I lost weight on a diet, the faster I gained it right back.

I come from a family that has the food gene. Most of us are built 4x4 stocky. From a DNA perspective, I didn't choose to be stocky, but I can choose NOT to be wider and stockier. 

Once I hit my late 30's, my metabolism began slowing way down while our food culture was packing more carbs into almost every packaged food. Around 2010, I started reading the nutritional labels on the back of packaged foods, and formulated a plan.

  • Lesson Learned #2 - Target and Eliminate specific high carb foods on a daily basis.
    Reward yourself with those same foods on an occasional basis. 
Eliminating specific foods on a daily basis is an individual decision. For me, the first thing I eliminated back in 2010 was my daily morning glass of orange juice. 

Now I'm not going to bore you with my current list of daily banned foods, but I will give you one example here that I added to my list in February of this year. If I had to pick one food category that is my caloric heroin, it would be bread. Within bread comes my favorite bread, toast and with toast comes the cherished butter and apricot jam. So now, my deadly toast habit is parked in a frozen loaf stored in my freezer, only to appear every now and then. No bread begets no butter and no jam. 

Oh, and another thing that shot my weight up this past year during the pandemic, I got into making frozen blended fruit smoothies with vodka or tequila. Yeah, "F*** You COVID-19!" 

Now with that being said, I needed to get back on the low carb wagon and lose some weight. Here is the most important lesson I've learned about losing weight.

  • Lesson Learned #3 - LOSE ONE POUND A WEEK. 
    (I use a digital scale and calendar to track my progress.)
If I lose one pound or more on my Sunday morning weigh-in, I just move one pound down to my next Sunday weigh-in. 

If I don't lose or even gain weight, my same calendar weight for that Sunday just gets moved to the next Sunday. For example as I write this, I've been currently stuck at the same weight for three weeks. I actually gained a couple pounds after eating pasta, pizza, and some tasty Mexican take out several days in a row one week. Yes, its okay to fall off the keto wagon now and then, just be disciplined to hop right back on and lose that pound a week for whatever your goal is, so you don't have to go into Moderate to Full-Blown Ketosis.

Now let's talk about Ketosis for a moment. Ketosis is a process that happens when your body doesn't have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and makes things called ketones, which it can use for fuel. 

Keto-type diets often start with a two-week carb abstinence program to get you into full-blown ketosis. These diets work on the scheme of dropping pounds instantly and giving their paying customers instant gratification. Now just like any addiction, going "cold turkey" is not recommended, and a slow gradual approach is the long game for success in the body weight game. I do not believe in punishing myself living in Full-Blown Ketosis, it's actually not mentally or physically healthy over extended periods of time.

By simply being a little more disciplined in my low carb daily eating routine, I'll typically lose a pound a week without the torture. I follow a more natural process of Moderate Ketosis over a period of weeks or months until I get down to my goal weight number. I then go back to my less regimented Regular Low Carb Routine as a lifestyle for my maintaining my weight. 

I'll tell you though, moving from my low carb routine to moderate ketosis is still hard work, in fact the older I get, the harder it gets to lose weight. It can really get me down, do I just give up? 

Second to what I eat, is my aerobic exercise routine. I've said this many times over the years, taking a daily walk is one of the keys to one's physical and mental health and ultimately living a long life.

  •  Lesson Learned #4 - Take A Walk At Least Once A Day,
                                                   and/or Run (Jog) Every Other Day

Some form of aerobic exercise is the second most important thing to do in maintaining or losing weight. The two together form my Health is a Lifestyle Routine (thank you Mark Hunter).

I'm not going to tell you how long or how far you need to walk and/or run. Like everything else presented here, it's based on my Team Tortoise life philosophy, Slow and Steady. 

  • And, Lesson Learned #5 - Take Your Tunes With You
    I always have some tunes on my phone to listen to on that walk or run. 
Now remember my current three-week stall of not losing but actually gaining a couple of pounds. This past week, I'm out on the trail and Peter Gabriel's live concert version of Don't Give Up comes on with Paula Cole. The song just filled my heart with purpose and motivation and became the spark to write this post. 

Enjoy the new playlist my friends!

Monday, May 31, 2021

#NewMusicMonday • May, 2021

Curating new music playlists is no slapdash exercise in doing the search, shift, and sort from 'New Releases' across the Internet to find worthy new songs and covers. I follow my Rock 'n' Roll, Folk, Americana, Country, Indie, Blues, Soul, and Alt Rock ears to give you an eclectic playlist different from streaming service generated playlists*.

In most streaming services, algorithm-created or hand-made playlists are collected into a current narrow genre format. From a pure listening perspective, I can't take the same-same type of songs all in a single playlist for one sitting. I guess it's the same reason I gave up on commercial AM-FM format stations years ago. 

So if you feel the same way, let's get this #NewMusicMonday started for your week ahead and mix things up with this new100 song playlist! There's even some new releases from a few folks who've been around the block a couple times, or are smiling down from the stars above.

*Note- I do 'steal' songs from many different sources on the Internet to make my playlists. In turn, I would be honored if someone stole from this playlist to add to their mix.

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Covers Series: Interpretation and the "Traditional Folk Song"

When your favorite band covers a classic tune, their version is their interpretation — their translation — of the music. Is it better than the original? That's up for interpretation.

Dave Van Ronk at the Gaslight coffee house in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1963

I got inspired to start this covers series after reading The Mayor of MacDougal Street, a memoir by folk singer, Dave Van Ronk

Dave Van Ronk was born in Brooklyn in 1936.  He moved to Greenwich Village in the late 1950's to be a Blues musician which evolved into him being a folk singer as "The Village" became the epicenter for the new folk revival. Early 1960's famous folk revival acts included The Kingston TrioPeter, Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez.

Van Ronk besides being a larger than life character to all that knew him, also became Greenwich Village's resident music historian who would experience first hand the transition from —"traditional folk songs" performed and passed down over the years — to the singer-songwriter movement starting in the mid-1960's. 

Like most things in life, music starts with copying. Musicians learn their craft by first learning songs written by others, often people they admire and want to emulate. 

As musicians develop their skills over time, they progress from playing someone's original song to building from it — adapting and adding lyrics and/or composition to create a new version of the song, and thus the phrase, "Steal like an artist." What famous musician hasn't said in an interview at some point, "Yeah, I took that lick from________," as both traditional and contemporary popular songs serve as the musical foundation to become completely new songs.

In the 20th century, the term, "cover" gained usage as sheet music became published to the masses, recorded music was sold on records, and copyright law was implemented. 

However, passed down traditional folk songs without an original author were an easy choice with no permissions necessary to record a song, and with the added benefit of not paying out any royalties. 

Here's one such famous example of a traditional song passing through several hands, The House of the Rising Sun. Now this traditional song has been recorded by many artists, starting with Roy Acuff in 1938, then Woody Guthrie (1941), Josh White (1942), Lead Belly (1944), Pete Seeger (1958), Joan Baez (1960), Nina Simone (1962), and even Dolly Parton (1981) to name a few. 

But in giving Dave Van Ronk his due (from someone many have never heard of), he revived the song with his own arrangement and began performing it in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village around 1960. It is Van Ronk's arrangement that you've possibly heard by Bob Dylan on his self-titled first album in 1962 (Dave called him Bobby), and then most famously by The Animals version in 1964. 

So let's start with Dave Van Ronk's version first and picture a very animated performer singing his crowd favorite to a bunch of drunken patron's in a hole in the wall club in The Village.  

Now let's hear Bob Dylan's version, building off of Van Ronk's arrangement.

And now, the rock 'n' roll #1 Billboard hit (also based on Van Ronk's version ) by The Animals, who were influenced by Bob Dylan.
Side Note- The Animals' keyboard player Alan Price took song credit (Traditional, arrangement by Alan Price) and got all the songwriting royalities for their #1 hit which in fact started the bickering and breakup of the original group shortly after.

And, here's a film clip from the Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home that brings this song full circle, and gives an often uncredited Dave Van Ronk, a little satisfaction.

Traditional folk songs from centuries past to contemporary popular songs have a rich history performed by people as Dave Van Ronk would say are, "best known for interpreting material written by others." 

This series in the weeks, months and even years ahead, will explore covers from amateur to famous song "interpreters," and also, the singer-songwriters themselves paying homage to the writers that influenced their work, and put food on their table. 

Twenty Year Old Bob Dylan
in his first apartment in NY.
Photo by Ted Russell
Many of the famous stars we know and love started from humble beginnings. Struggling artists, often without much money, performing covers in bars, cafes, restaurants, and small venues for tips and little pay, just trying to scratch out a living. Young artists like Bobby Dylan, slowly slipping in his own material and honing his craft like all the ones before, standing on the shoulders of the traditional folk song. Now Dylan is one of the giants, if not thee giant, with an untold number of individuals, artists and bands covering his songs everyday. 

The circle of song is unbroken, like the musical iterations of an infinite Slinky®.

In 1964, Bob Dylan performed his new song, Mr. Tamborine Man at the Newport Folk Festival, leading the transition from traditional to contemporary folk. (Note- Happy 80th Birthday today Mr. Dylan!)

A year later in 1965, The Byrds would arrange and electrify Mr. Tamborine Man into jingle-jangle Folk rock as popular music would evolve into new cycles of songs interpreted from the foundations of folk.

My peers and I could not get enough. Rock 'n' roll with all its influences was here to wash our souls.

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you