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!


Resource
  • 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 • 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.

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!