Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What a piece of work is man, how noble in spirit

Shakespeare's Sister has a new project. Read about it here. It's a new blog called The Big Brass Alliance, and it focuses on the now infamous "Downing Street Memo" (warning: PDF).

She writes:

The Big Brass Alliance was formed in May 2005 as a collective of progressive bloggers who support After Downing Street, a coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups formed to urge that the U.S. Congress launch a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war. The campaign focuses on evidence that recently emerged in a British memo containing minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials.
Any other bloggers interested in getting on board, go the Big Brass Blog and sign up. Wake the neighbors, tell the kids.

Here is some more info:

Editorial: Memorial Day/Praise bravery, seek forgiveness, By the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
A plea from Military Families Against the War in Britain to friends in America

Monday, May 30, 2005

The boss said no dice son, ya gotta work late

As a follow up to my posts both here and on Altercation about the state of recording studio business today, I still feel a point needs to be made.

Ezra has this today:

Business Week steps forward with the obligatory article on how United Auto Worker intransigence is worsening Detroit's woes. But midway through the piece, a passage flashes by that explains the difference between yesteryear's take-one-for-the-team unions and today's seemingly immovable objects. The difference? At one point, there was, in fact, a team:

When Chrysler wrung mid-contract cutbacks from the UAW in 1981, the company was strapped. Chrysler (DCX ) canceled its dividend, top execs took a 10% pay cut, and then-Chairman Lee A. Iacocca worked for a dollar that year. Today, both GM and Ford still pay a dividend, and GM CEO G. Richard Wagoner Jr. got a $2.5 million bonus for 2004 -- on top of his $2.2 million in salary. Both companies also have huge cash hoards -- $20 billion at GM and $23 billion at Ford. Until the companies are close to bankruptcy, union leaders see no reason to give up benefits.

Ya think? That is my point exactly. The consumer is being ripped off by artificially high CD prices, the below the Top 10 artists are not making what they should, landmark studios are being forced out of business, and the Mottolas, Davis', et. al. are smoking Cuban cigars and wondering where the next Nirvana is.

The film business is in a similar quandary. Perhaps Jane at FireDogLake might add some first hand knowledge. Craft and Trades are not making any more money, audio & video editors aren't doing too badly, except the studios are hiring out to non-union shops for more and more of the work. There are lots of kids with ProTools or FinalCut on their Macs, sitting in their living rooms cutting for TV these days.

And I have no objection to that in concept, except that the label heads, and studio heads, think that ought to be the norm. Granted, it isn't brain surgery, but I'd like the doc who cuts me to be long out of med school. Granted, no loss of life is likely, but I want the pilot of the 747 i'm in to have done his first solo flight a long time ago. Expertise used ot be valued, now it's looked at as a cost to be cut.

There has always been a sense, especially in the wealthy, of entitlement. It used to be tempered by "noblesse oblige." Today the sense of entitlement flows from the jerk who cuts you off and then yells at you, to executives making just too damn much money. If the company is healthy, fine, take a big bonus. But if it's not, do something realistic. And don't immediately think of labor cuts, because those you cut are often stockholders.

The heard headed and hard hearted Far Right seems to believe that everyone ought to make as much money as the can, with no impediment. The faux free-traders and neo-libertarians would say "Just get another job." And of course, GWBush says working three jobs is the Murican way.

But I disagree. Redistribution of wealth, in some fashion, like fairer more progressive taxes is necessary. I'm no socialist, except for when it comes to health care. But as long as there are billionaires living within the same borders as kids going to bed hungry, then we have a serious problem. This isn't a third world dictatorship, this is America. Everyone should be able to dream about getting ahead, and with hard work and some luck give it a try.

Marie Antoinette famously remarked "Let them eat cake." Well, some cake needs to be eaten soon in this country. And I'm pretty sure it will taste good.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

I'd like to teach the world to sing

Here, a few days ago, I posted something that I wrote in reponse to a contributer to Dr. Eric's daily column. As I stated, Eric was kind enough to post my reply.

This reply came in from someone else the next day on Eric's site:

Name: Jay Sherman-Godfrey
Hometown: Astoria, NY
Eric, I write in response to Stephen Anderson's addendum to Barry Ritholz's music biz piece. As a musician who has had a few brief opportunities to record in so-called "world-class" studios, I also mourn their downfall. And while I empathize with Mr. Anderson, I think his conclusions are wrong. I think he is particularly wrong in his assessment that the trend away from large, high-end studios to project and home studios is "the Wal-Martization of the recording business." It is in fact closer to the opposite. For instead of a business dominated by a New York/LA cartel of established rooms with exorbitant day-rates fed by bloated record company budgets, you have a flowering of small flexible independent studios available to musicians of little means and, more and more, the preferred choice of those with ample means who have grown up with the new paradigm or simply want the time to create without the overhead. Mr. Anderson states that this has led to an erosion of quality, the acceptance of a "lesser product." By some measures I would agree, but the fact is that you no longer need seven-figure capital to make great sounding records.

At first, with some notable exceptions, only the record companies could afford to build and maintain commercial recording studios, at which their artists were contractually obligated to record. Even with the rise of the independent studios in the early 70s, the cost of entry into the recording business was still high. Tape machines, recording consoles, and related equipment were expensive, costly to maintain, and often rare. Many of the first independents had to custom design and assemble their own equipment. Up until the 1980s, it was still a relatively exclusive business. The advent of affordable recording equipment and the revolution in home recording that ensued was for Mr. Anderson and the like-minded no doubt the beginning of the end. You heard it decried with the same vitriol as sampling and file swapping, and still do. Cassette four-tracks and the early cheap digital recorders did sound bad, but with the barriers down people started recording like mad and a whole new generation of passionate sound recordists was born. And the gear got better, and the recordists more skilled. He is right about the string session. You still need a large well-designed space, a bunch of great mics, and engineer who knows what he or she is doing. And there will certainly always be a market for big-league purpose-built recording, mixing, and mastering rooms. Although, just as certainly, many more major studios will close as this market gets tighter. It is a shame, but I wholeheartedly disagree with Mr. Anderson's implication that it's bad for music.

Interesting, good history, but wait! Here's my reply I sent to Eric, which, unfortunately, he chose not to post:

Hi Eric,

In response to Jay Sherman-Godfrey, dude, you missed my point almost in its entirety.

Far from being an elite vs. populist issue, it was largely an economic issue. Yes, studio budgets were bloated, especially in the cocaine fueled excesses of the late '70s. But that was never the studio's fault. When the artist says they need a wheel of Brie, a case of Moet, and an ounce of blow at downbeat every day, the studio will oblige. When the artist/record company says they need to record on the new (in the early '90s) Sony 48 track digital recorder, the studio will oblige. When the composer and director of the film says they need to synchronize audio and video elements recorded using every sample rate and video system known to man, the studio will oblige. Add that technology and personal expertise to the price of LA or Manhattan real estate, and it gets expensive. I know of only 2 studio owners who have gotten wealthy off their studios, and one of those was when he finally sold the property to developers who built a strip mall.

But when the record company says they want all that hardware and expertise, and more, but are only willing to pay for what a small, lovely mom 'n' pop studio can charge, then that's a problem.

Look, I adore recording in any environment. I built a state of the art recording truck for Stevie Wonder many years ago so he could hop on a plane, and record on the Arctic tundra if his muse took him there. I have listened to many of Rudy VanGelder's wonderful jazz records being re-mastered, and they were recorded in his house in New Jersey. The home studio isn't my point. It's rather the devaluation of expertise.

Every time a new cheaper technology enters the recording field, it is embraced by those on a budget, who think that this will enable them to sound just like the big guys. And often some wonderful new art happens. We have seen several iterations of this, most recently exemplified by the rise in popularity of computer recording, especially using the ProTools system. But it is still expensive, and requires expertise. My good friend Al Schmitt, with 8 well deserved Grammys, can record Diana Krall using an old car 8 track and it will sound heavenly. The kid in his bedroom with a new ProTools LE rig, well, not so much, at least, not right away. Maybe not ever, if he has no talent.

So I'm not defending a studio oligarchy here, I'm bitching about record company execs who want more and are willing to pay for less, including what they pay to the artists. Read my post on my blog
http://steveaudio.blogspot.com/2005/04/i-got-music-in-me.html, which Eric kindly linked to a week or so ago, about this topic. I mention that Eddie Kramer had to hire me to supervise the tape to ProTools synchronization for an album he was working on, because the studio had no full time technical guy. Because they can't afford to pay one a fair wage, and still keep the doors open.

The days of Universal Audio or Capitol designing new state of the art equipment while recording Sinatra in one room and the Beach Boys in another are over. It's a world of disposable media, disposable electronics, and disposable expertise. And that the WalMartization of the recording business to which I was referring.



That day, Eric did post this contribution from a reader:

Name: Pete Weiss
Hometown: Plainview, NY
Don't know how long you want to keep the music/recording string going, but as a veteran of the "good old days" - or bad old days, depending on your experience - and the father of two working musicians, I felt I had to add my two cents. I agree with Jay Sherman-Godfrey that the broader availability of home and "project" recording gear, and especially PC-based "virtual" consoles, is a good thing, but like any set of tools, the results are dependent on the skills, judgment, and in this case the ears, of the user. I have heard some great work (in technical quality) come out of project studios and some really crummy-sounding stuff come out of "world-class" rooms.

Even though most of my work was as a studio (and sometimes location) recording engineer, with a smattering of producing gigs, I always believed, and still do, that technical quality of a popular music recording is not nearly as important as selection of material and performance (classical and jazz are different, in that the intent of the recording is to capture with great accuracy every aspect of a performance, including the contributions of the acoustical environment). An engineer has to work really hard to hurt a good performance of a decent piece of music to an extent that would make it inaccessible or distasteful to an audience. Think back to the late 50s/early 60s and Gary "U.S." Bonds' early hits. There's no way that anyone can tell me that the technical quality of those recordings was on a par with, say, that of a Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett recording of the same era. But they became hits anyway. Certainly, other factors - familiarity of the audience with the artist's work, promotion and PR efforts, etc. - influenced the degree of commercial success a "record" enjoyed back then and to a great extent that's true today. But as long as the technical quality does not get between the audience and the performance, it can be pretty shaky and still not matter.

There are bad "punch-outs" and "punch-ins" on Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer;" there's partially-erased 1000-Hz calibration tone throughout one of the drum breaks in the middle of Blood Sweat & Tears' "Spinning Wheel." As I know I did when I heard boo-boos on things I recorded and mixed, I'm sure the engineers who worked on those recordings cringe every time they hear one go by. But I'm willing to bet that not too many of the record-buying public ever noticed them.

My credentials: In the business from '65 to '80, worked with acts as diverse as Leslie Gore, Hugh Masakela, Barbra Streisand, Country Joe & the Fish, Junior Wells, Edgar and Johnny Winter, Weather Report, Gerry Mulligan, Bill Evans Blue Oyster Cult, Johnny Cash, Chicago and Looking Glass (the group responsible for "Brandy, You're a Fine Girl," which I recorded and mixed). Also taught music recording technology at the New School/Parsons from '76 to '84. P.S. - There's a very talented young man up in Boston who has the same name as me and does engineering, production and plays guitar, but we are not related.

Again, interesting, and while I largely agree, it still missed my point! I love funky recordings! I love distortion! I love accidental art. What I hate is the devaluation of skills, expertise, and investment by recording studios to further the art of recording.

I guess I take it personally because the between-the-lines message seems to be that those in my profession, who build and operate professional recording studios, are somehow now expendable due to economics and technology. The economic issue I understand, yet, as I pointed out peviously, the heads of the major labels aren't sweating their next 7 figure paycheck, just those of us lower down the food chain.

But re: the technological issue? Who is going to teach you HOW to record guitar, drums, vocals, etc? And don't tell me that you need to discover how to do it on your own because of your artistic vision. Bullshit! There are exactly ZERO new recording techniques today, since The Beatles, Sinatra, Buddy Holly, whoever you want to mention. Believe me, it has ALL been done before.

I used to get really frustrated when I was teaching guitar lessons while I went to college. When I insisted that students learn to read music, they would say "But Clapton said in his Guitar Player Magazine interview that reading music would stifle his creativity." My reply would be that, while he was a brilliant musician and guitarist, imagine how much better he would be with more tools at his disposal. In case anyone has forgotten in another artistic area, Picasso was a thorough master of traditional art skills before he ever dabbled in cubist art. He learned all the rules, so he would know how to break them.

The record labels have cheapened technology "All they need is a Mac with GarageBand to make an album." The public feels every artist owes them their art via free downloads. Musicians who are desperate to communicate with their audience are frustrated, yet stalwart in their determination to be heard. And studios, and studio people like me, just want to give the artists a venue to do the best work they can, without distraction, impediment, or complication.

Believe me, if I wanted to get rich, I would have been a corrupt Texas politician, not a studio technical engineer (and former guitarist.)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Brother can you spare a dime

David Brooks poses an interesting point in Thursday's NYTimes:

Earlier this week I listened to Rick Warren speak at a conference sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Warren is the pastor of the Saddleback Church in California, the country's largest megachurch where 20,000 people or so go to worship each Sunday. He's also the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," which has sold more than 25 million copies in English alone.

. . .

My third thought, which may be more profound than the other two, is that we can have a culture war in this country, or we can have a war on poverty, but we can't have both. That is to say, liberals and conservatives can go on bashing each other for being godless hedonists and primitive theocrats, or they can set those differences off to one side and work together to help the needy.

The natural alliance for antipoverty measures at home and abroad is between liberals and evangelical Christians. These are the only two groups that are really hyped up about these problems and willing to devote time and money to ameliorating them. If liberals and evangelicals don't get together on antipoverty measures, then there will be no majority for them and they won't get done.

Now, you might be thinking, fat chance. There is no way the likes of Jerry Falwell and Barbara Boxer are going to get together as brother and sister to fight deprivation. And I say to you: All around me I see bonds being formed.

Now that is a topic I have some insight into. As I have written about before, I did quite a bit of work for 2 of the largest evangelical churches in the US in the late '80s and early '90s. These Megachurches both had recording studios, where they recorded "Christian Rock." And I did some work at the aforementioned Saddleback Church last year.

I won't mention the names of the first 2 churches I mentioned above; no purpose would be served by that. But here are my insights into the idea that Brooks posits.

Not gonna happen, no sirree Bob.

I spent quite a bit of time with what I would call "senior management" of both organizations, as well as with folks in "the body." And while clearly there are many fine decent folks at both organizations, Management had a different agenda, especially at one place.

The agenda is "Salvation." Starts and ends there. We're not talking Catholic Salvation, since, as is well known, Catholics aren't "saved." They haven't been born again.

But wait, you say...they're Christians too. Well, not really, because they, poor fools, haven't had the epiphonal moment where they suddenly gave their life over to Christ. But wait, you say again. What about all the Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc., who grew up in Christian homes, and believed for as long as they could remember in God and Christ.

Nope, sorry. Gotta be born again. Gotta have the moment, the transition from condemned to saved. And of course, after that, you can be a mean, petty bastard and it's all excused, because, well, you're saved.

Now that may seem like a harsh indictment, but it's what I saw over and over again. I saw greed, avarice, meanness, contempt for ANY other faith tradition, and a total sureness about their belief. As re: the poor, the rote answer is "There have always been the poor, always will. Whaddaya want me to do about it?"

Please understand, many of the faithful are very well intentioned folks, who do care about poverty, hunger, and the human condition. But they are steered by Management to focus their energy on Salvation. The metric is "How many came up for the altar call at the end of the service?" Or "How many baptisms were performed on Saturday?"

Sure, they have food drives, and collect shabby worn out clothes, but these are distributed with a very large dose of the Gospel. And the members are all "encouraged" to Tithe, and the budget is always there for new mixing consoles for the sanctuary, new bleachers for the gym, new lights for the parking lot.

One of the poorest parts of Southen California is just a few miles up the street. Could the people there benefit from some of Brooks' antipoverty measures? Indeed. But these people are largely Catholic, hence, beyond redemption. Instead, the church regularly mounts missionary expeditions to Tonga, where the poor folks are more likely to be swayed by what seems like manna from Heaven, along with a sermon on Salvation. Now, clearly Tonga ain't Waikiki, but it still must be a pretty fun trip with, you know, tropical sand, palm trees, and beaches. That's tough duty for any missionary.

I don't know, Brooks' idea may have some legs. Certainly with some folks, church members with conciences. But for Management, I'm not so sure. They are carving notches on the altar. And the notches are for "souls", not for people.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Song sung blue

Barry Ritholtz, writing today atEric Alterman's Altercation, says this about the music biz:

Concert attendance and ticket pricing

Although I sometimes lump them together, I really shouldn't: The "Recording Industry" is a very different beast from the "Music Industry." One is relatively healthy, the other is in bad disrepair, primarily due to self-inflicted wounds and awful mismanagement over the years. The latter is responsive, the former desperately stubborn.

The latest example: Concert attendance and ticket pricing:

"Many in the music business called 2004 the worst summer concert season in memory: fans were stuck with high prices and promoters lost money and canceled shows.

With this year's season about to kick off, event promoters and artist representatives have vowed to turn things around. So, they are offering a variety of inducements, including lower prices and offering more bands for the money by packaging big acts together at one show. Promoters are also blitzing fans with e-mails and text messages to try and generate interest in coming shows."

Barry is mostly right today and in his original post, "What's Wrong With The Music Industry." However, he hasn't parsed the data finely enough. As I mentioned here, the recording industry is indeed a separate entity from the music industry, and is in clear trouble through no real fault of its own.

As costs rise and profits fall, all for reasons Barry clearly outlines, recording studios are being pressed to provide more services for lower costs that ever before. The hourly or day rate for world class studios here in LA is lower than at any time in the last 25 years, yet expenditures continue as artists & labels demand new technology. $30K computer systems for recording are considered "state of the art", and while studios could charge for rentals a few years ago, today the new technology is demanded. Yet the studios that 3 years ago could routinely charge $1500/day are now being pressured to sell time for sub-$1000 prices, while keeping services constant.

Budget studios abound, and, while often great places, they typically offer a lesser product. One quasi-legendary studio here in LA still attracts a wide variety of clientele, yet recordings are sometimes aborted because truck noise from the nearby busy street intrudes into the session. It costs money to adequately sound proof a building, and they skimped.

Artists are tending toward recording at homes, either their own, or rentals, to keep costs down, and that affects studio rates. Renting a McMansion for $20K per month is still more cost effective than paying $1200/day for a conventional studio. For some recordings, that is fine. But when the same artist needs to do a "string date," they might come to Capitol, my old home, and then gripe that they no longer get the service they are used to. That's because the studio, in an effort to lower costs, doesn't replace key personnel who leave, or who are laid off as costs are cut.

Imagine going to the Toyota dealer and demanding the newest Prius, but then only being willing to pay for a '81 Corolla. And getting away with it, because the Nissan dealer down the street is selling cars at a loss with no warrantee. It's the WalMartization of the recording business, and it's really sad.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Nous sommes du soliel

Been a long time since I...ahem. Sorry.

First, starting last Sunday and continuing through Wednesday evening, I had no phone service, hence no internets. Plus, since then, I've been kinda busy.

Helios was a manufacturer of recording consoles in England from the late '60s into the '70s. Most of the consoles they manufactured, while containing standard elements, were custom designed for specific high profile customers. While not as plentiful as Neve and other legendary British consoles, Helios has nevertheless attained the status of near mythical audio performance.

My friend David Kulka, of Studio Electronics here in Los Angeles, who, like me, is a recording studio technical engineer, contracted me to help him rebuild a small Helios console belonging to Steve DeJarnatt, a respected film director who has a passion for recording and associated hardware.

This console was a section of a larger desk apparently built for The Who, and subsequently found a home here. It was later broken into sections, not an uncommon task with older consoles. Many Neves have found their microphone preamplifiers and equalizers taken out and repackaged, while the less glamorous parts often are discarded. A similar mate to this console can be found here.

I spoke to my friend Eddie Kramer, legendary English producer (Jimi Hendrix, etc.) about Helios consoles, and his only comment was "Ahhhhh!"

More to come. This is a fascinating story, to me, at least.

Update: Broken link fixed.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so

From the lovely and talented Jane at FireDogLake we have this:

After reviewing date from a new Pew poll that says Americans are largely in support of putting the ten commandments in public buildings, both Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum argue that Democrats would be well advised to abandon this particular fight in favor of ones that matter -- namely, reproductive and gay rights, economic issues and foreign policy. Now, if I thought trading off one would guarantee the other, I might buy it. But consider:

Of Americans polled,

. Less than 50% can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis)
. More than a third think Billy Graham delivered the Sermon on the Mount
. 25% don't know why Easter is celebrated
. 12% think Noah's wife was Joan of Arc
. 80% of born-again Christians (including GWB) think it is the Bible that says "God helps them that help themselves" (it was Benjamin Franklin)
. 64% say they are too busy to read the bible
. 80% say the bible is confusing

Holy crap! How disturbing is that!

She goes on to say:

I'm just not convinced that sacrificing an important principle like separation of church and state by pandering to Bill and Ted is a good idea -- I don't believe Americans hold this particular belief that deeply. The founding fathers sought to keep the government from becoming a theocracy not because they had contempt for religion, but quite the opposite -- they thought that the best way to protect religion was to keep it from becoming appropriated by politicians to further their own ends. We are an incredibly ethnically and religiously diverse nation. Attempting to turn back the clock in nostalgia for an era that never was may win a few votes for Democrats in the short term but it is no way to construct a powerful and lasting ideology that will carry us into the future.

And I totally agree.

In comments to her post, I wrote:

I, too completely agree. As someone who consider's himself vaguely Xian, as well as perhaps Deist, with a dose of Zen thrown in, I think we NEED to be respectful of people's genuinely held religious beliefs.

Having said that, I don't mean listening to, and giving credence to fuckwits.

Like James Dobson, who truly needs to be held accountable for his vile beliefs.

Like Fred
read God Hates Fags Phelps.

Like Joey "Tomorrow belongs to me" Ratz.

Like Pat
"Let me tell you about my best friend Charles Taylor" Robertson.

Like David Koresh...

Like Jim Jones...

We need to firmly explain to the rubes how ANY support for religion has the possibility of undermining EVERY other religion.

And lest anyone think any of my examples are outside the mainstream, well, please explain to me how any of them commands(ed) the support of a large group of disciples, while being so crazy.

Read "Elmer Gantry". Read "Helter Skelter." (Yeah, Bugliosi is a dick, and has made a career from prosecuting the easiest guy to convict ever.) Read anything about the Crusades.

Then tell me it can't happen here.

So in dealing with religious zealots, patiently explain that protecting everyone's rights is the American Dream, endorsing one group's rights is Totalitarianism.
If they still don't get it, sock them in the nose.

Now come on, I really don't condone any kind of violence. In fact, violets are my favorite flowers. But I get so damn mad when any belief or faith tradition tries to gain supremacy over the whole game board.

Of course, many of the most strident simply don't see it that way. They believe that they are entitled to respect, while denying any shred of respect to any other belief. What crap!

Years ago, on "Mash," Fr. Mulcahy said "There's more than one way to skin a spirit." That simple piece of TV dialog stuck with me because it made so much sense. Religion is outside the realm of what is "provable." It's FAITH!

I have faith that the Sun will rise tomorrow. A great deal of scientific research and empirical observation backs this up.

I have faith that food I eat will eventually make its way out. Again, research, etc.

But the afterlife? I (mostly) believe that something awaits us out there. But is there any proof, research, verifiable evidence? Not so much.

So I will continue to believe in what I believe, and, as long as you don't really piss me off, I will let you do the same. But don't try and pass any laws that constrain my thought/faith.

'Cause if you do, I'll sock you in the nose.

Friday, May 13, 2005

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go

Sometimes I forget to take my politics with a dose of humor. I'm funny that way. But my indispensable Mom comes through with another gem.

This is making its way around the internets, and if anyone comes forth with claim of authorship, they will get a hearty chuckle from me.

Dear President Bush:

Congratulations on your victory over all us non-evangelicals. Actually, we're a bit ticked off here in New England, so we're leaving. New England will now be its own country. And we're taking all the Blue States with us. In case you are not aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, all of the North East and California.

We spoke to God, and she agrees that this split will be beneficial to almost everybody, and especially to us in the new country of New England. In fact, God is so excited about it, she's going to shift the whole country at 4:30 PM EST next Friday. Therefore, please let everyone know they need to be back in their states by then.

So you get Texas and all the former slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get Eliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole Miss. We get 85% of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get all the technological innovation in Alabama. We get about two-thirds of the tax revenue, and you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our divorce rate is 22% lower than the Christian coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms to support, and we know how much you like that. Did I mention we produce about 70% of the nation's veggies? But heck the only greens the Bible-thumpers eat are the pickles on their Big Macs.

Oh yeah, another thing, don't plan on serving California wine at your state dinners. From now on it's imported French wine for you. Ouch, bet that hurts. Just so we're clear, the country of New England will be pro-choice and anti-war. Speaking of war, we're going to want all Blue States citizens back from Iraq. If you need people to fight, just ask your evangelicals. They have tons of kids they're willing to send to their deaths for oil. And they don't care if you don't show pictures of their kids' caskets coming home.

Anyway, we wish you all the best in the next four years and we hope, really hope, you find those missing weapons of mass destruction. Seriously. Soon.

Sincerely, New England

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I reminisce about the days of old, with that old time rock 'n' roll

From Kos, originally from David Sirota, we have this:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas.5 Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

Pretty radical stuff, right?

Who said it? Kennedy? Dean? Kerry? Nader?

here's more, in the preface to the statement above:

Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this--in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon "moderation" in government.

Wow, moderation. What a concept. Still wondering what radical leftie made these statements?

Dwight Eisenhower

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

God bless Amerika, land that I love

My wonderful liberal mother sends me email all the time, stuff friends send her. Some of it is funny, some sweet, and some, from her winger friends, read like Limbaugh droppings.

Today we have the following (less the graphics):

As you walk up the steps to the building which houses the U.S.
Supreme Court you can see near the top of the building a row of the
world's law givers and each one is facing one in the middle who is
facing forward with a full frontal view - it is Moses and he is holding
the Ten Commandments!

As you enter the Supreme Court courtroom, the two huge oak
doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion of each

As you sit inside the courtroom, you can see the wall, right
above where the Supreme Court judges sit, a display of the Ten

There are Bible verses etched in stone all over the Federal
Buildings and Monuments in Washington, D.C.

James Madison, the fourth president, known as "The Father of
Our Constitution" made the following statement "We have staked the whole
of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for
self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern
ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the
Ten Commandments of God."

Patrick Henry, that patriot and Founding Father of our country
said, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great
nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on
religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ".

Every session of Congress begins with a prayer by a paid
preacher, whose salary has been paid by the taxpayer since 1777.

Fifty-two of the 55 founders of the Constitution were members
of the established orthodox churches in the colonies.

Thomas Jefferson worried that the Courts would overstep their
authority and instead of interpreting the law would begin making
law....an oligarchy....the rule of few over many.

The very first Supreme Court Justice, John Jay, said,
"Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers."

How, then, have we gotten to the point that everything we have
done for 220 years in this country is now suddenly wrong and

Lets put it around the world, and let the world see and remember what this great country was built on.

I was asked to send this on if I agreed or delete if I didn't. Now it is your turn...

It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore, it is very hard to understand why there is such a mess about having the Ten Commandments on display of "In God We Trust" on our money and having God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Why don't we just tell the other 14% to Sit Down and SHUT UP!!!

If you agree, pass this on.

Well, I hardly know where to start. So lets do a little Googling. Here are parts of some relevant posts about this infamous email: (Lots of cut and paste here, not much original work. Others have done it much better than me, so I encourage you to follow the links)


As you walk up the steps to the building which houses the U.S.
Supreme Court you can see near the top of the building a row of the
world's law givers and each one is facing one in the middle who is
facing forward with a full frontal view - it is Moses and he is holding
the Ten Commandments!-
Truth! But Inaccurate!

Above the east entrance to the Supreme Court building (which is the back entrance, not the front entrance), Moses is one of three Eastern law givers along with Confucius and Solon.
Although he's in the middle, Confucius and Salon are facing the front as well, not facing Moses.
There are figures on each side of the three men facing them.
The tablets in the sculpture are blank and although inspired by the Ten Commandments, the office of the curator of the U.S. Supreme Court says they have come to symbolically represent the "tablets of the law."
The artist, Herman MacNeil, said "The 'Eastern Pediment' of the Supreme Court Building suggests...the treatment of such fundamental laws and precepts as are derived from the East. Moses, Confucius and Solon."

As you enter the Supreme Court courtroom, the two huge oak
doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion of each

As stated above, the tablets are used in the Supreme Court building as symbolic representations of law.
In some places they also represent not the Ten Commandments but the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.

As you sit inside the courtroom, you can see the wall, right
above where the Supreme Court judges sit, a display of the Ten

The wall that is described includes a frieze that, among other things, has two male figures who represent the Majesty of Law and the Power of Government.
Between the two male figures is a tablet with the numbers 1 through 10 in Roman numerals.
According to the artist, Adolph A. Weinman, these represent the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

So far we have some selective and inaccurate analysis of architecture. Harmless? No. Weasel words to be sure, intended as propaganda? Clearly.

But now we descend into outright lying:

James Madison, the fourth president, known as "The Father of
Our Constitution" made the following statement "We have staked the whole
of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for
self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern
ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the
Ten Commandments of God."-
We've not been able to find documentation for this.

Patrick Henry, that patriot and Founding Father of our country
said, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great
nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on
religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ"
We've not been able to find documentation for this.

Sounds about par for the course. Let's look elsewhere:

Jim Allison:

On page 120 of David Barton's book The Myth of Separation, David Barton quotes James Madison as saying:

"We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments."

Barton gives the following footnote for the quotation:

Harold K. Lane, Liberty! Cry Liberty! (Boston: Lamb and Lamb Tractarian Society, 1939), pp. 32-33. See also Fedrick Nyneyer, First Principles in Morality and Economics: Neighborly Love and Ricardo's Law of Association (South Holland" Libertarian Press, 1958), pp. 31.

The only problem with the above is, no such quote has ever been found among any of James Madison's writings. None of the biographers of Madison, past or present have ever run across such a quote, and most if not all would love to know where this false quote originated. Apparently, David Barton did not check the work of the secondary sources he quotes.

Read the rest, please, it's quite informative.

Now let's check in with Snopes:

James Madison, the fourth president, known as "The Father of Our Constitution" made the following statement "We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."

  • Actually, this statement appears nowhere in the writings or recorded utterances of James Madison and is completely contradictory to his character as a strong proponent of the separation of church and state.
Patrick Henry, that patriot and Founding Father of our country said, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians . . . not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ".
  • Another spurious quotation. These words appear nowhere in the writings or recorded utterances of Patrick Henry.

Good work, as usual.

Now here's something really interesting, that should make some of the more sensible purveyors of such crap a little queasy. These guys have the whole post on their website: www.twelvearyannations

What's the big deal? Well, here's some more from those same Aryan boys and girls:

Jewish power has always been rooted in deception. A part of this deception is racial chameleony: they imitate Whites, so that they may pass as Whites when it suits them. For example, the Jews within banking, in the media, and in government bureaucracies ensure that their vastly over-proportionate presence eludes detection, or at least escapes recognition, by pretending that they are White people. On the other hand, the Jews avoid being displaced by Blacks or by Hispanics from jobs by declaring that "Jews are not Whites" and thus entitling themselves, also, to minority favoritism. The status of the Jews is never a thing of firm definition. There is no group with a higher per capita degree of privilege or power. Yet they greedily grasp at the benefits that they say Whites owe to the beggar races.

Nice. Good company you're keeping. Rush, Anne (You can turn the world on with your smile) Coulter, Michelle Malkin, and several others phony Christian believers and racists would be proud.

Really, this is too easy. Do small minded people construct such email propaganda in zealous naivete, or is this stuff created by seriously deceitful ideologs, interested in appealing to humanity's baser instincts? I used to think the former, but lately, I tend to believe the latter. Research is so easy these days with the internets (yes, I know, one must be careful not to support one fallacy with another), but still, whoever wrote the original document knew how easy it was to fact check, and did it anyway.

To me, that clearly shows intent to deceive. People who lie to prove their point are not worthy of joining into the discussion. We will tell the truth. You will be proven to be liars and cast out of public discourse.

And maybe stoned and pilloried, too. Just for fun.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Dr. my eyes

"When will they ever learn,
when will they ever learn?"

So now there's a negative book meme making its way around the blogosphere, passing through Paperwight to Dr. Laniac, who sends it on to me.

Here's the thesis:

Which book, out of the millions ever published, do you most wish never to read again?

For me that's easy. Great Expectations, by the fun-loving and whimsical Charles Dickens. I read this book in the Vliegenbos Campground in Amsterdam in '72. It was loaned to me by a guy from Canada who was passing through, and I was hungry for some reading material to absorb late at night, by candle, after everyone else had crashed.

I'm enough of romantic and liberal softie that I truly like a happy ending, and while I don't absolutely hate an ambivalent or even sad ending, this book made me want to commit ritual suicide, as it left (to me) no hope at all for the future of anyone anywhere.

I mean, sure, the Ayn Rand stuff is depressing, Philip K. Dick makes you think, Moby Dick is a little dour, but Dickens really sucked the life out of the room with this piece.

But maybe I'm just too sensitive, I dunno. Even Mighty Casey at least swung for the fences. But Pip never really seemed to get it into gear, but rather sailed on currents that were both random and at odds with his happiness.

Others may not feel this way, and clearly I could be wrong, but that was my feeling at the time, and I haven't picked up any Dickens since then.

So now in a shot heard 'round the world, I pass this exercise in speculation to those lovely folks at 12th Harmonic, Jon & Gail.

Book this!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Sister Kristin part III

Thanks to Riggsveda over at Corrente, we have this, from New Scientist:

Will cancer vaccine get to all women?

DEATHS from cervical cancer could jump fourfold to a million a year by 2050, mainly in developing countries. This could be prevented by soon-to-be-approved vaccines against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer - but there are signs that opposition to the vaccines might lead to many preventable deaths.

The trouble is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. So to prevent infection, girls will have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, which could be a problem in many countries.

In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

This really really really pisses me off.

I lost my sister to cervical cancer 3 years ago, so I gave a right to speak to this issue. To any right winger who fights this on pseudo-faith based grounds, I truly hope you have to go through what I and my family did with my beautiful sister. You deserve a strong lesson

The radio said there was going to be a flood, and people should evacuate. The man said, "God loves me, He will save me."

The flood came. A man came by in a boat to rescue the man. He said, "God loves me, He will save me."

A helicopter came to pick the man up. He said, "God loves me, He will save me."

The man drowned. When he got to Heaven, he asked God, "God, I am faithful, why did you let me drown."

God replied, "I gave you the radio, I sent the boat and the helicopter, what the f... more do you want from me?"

While not totally applicable, the story still has the message that we are given, through divine or other means, the ability to change the world for the better. And to have breakthroughs such as this insulated from reality by "spiritual" beliefs such as these is barbaric. The real spirituality (What would Jesus do?) is in helping others, not denying them because of your own mental straight jacket.

So right wingers, when one you loved lays dying, look to your God/Allah/Krishna/Jahweh and ask Him/Her why this is happening to your loved one. I'll bet I know what the answer will be.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming...5

It was 35 years ago today, President Nixon taught the National Guard to play...

The moment when National Guard troops fired on Vietnam War protesters at Kent State University will be commemorated Thursday on the campus.

On that day, three decades ago, four young people protesting America's involvement in the Vietnam War were killed, and nine were wounded by National Guard troops who had been called to the campus to quell anti-war protests.

You think that can never happen again, don't you?

You're insane. The climate is more ripe for an incident like that today than it was back then, but for different reasons.

Public opinion of a war is in the minority, yet the administration keeps it going.

James Dobson wants a theocracy.

Pat Robertson says judges are more dangerous than al Qaeda.

Bill Frist will bend over for any right wing zealot that promises a few votes from the heartland.

Army recruiters are enlisting bi-polar kids, and helping others to fake High School diplomas.

GWBush wants to end social security.

Wal-Mart wants to take over retail sales of everything.

The NRA wants you to own assualt rifles.

Republicans want to destroy the independant judiciary.

Political rallies are open only to followers.

Dissent is not allowed.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Update: date corrected (35 yrs ago) because I'm an idiot times 2.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Just an old fashioned love song

In an apparent case of retribution, the fine folks at 12thHarmonic pinged me back with their newly minted "High Fidelity meme" quiz. I work in the music biz, because, well, I really really like music. But I had to dive into the archives of my mind, and do some serious soul searching to come up with these "mirrors of my soul."

Note: numbers1 through 5 are just that, numbers, not ratings in order.

Top Five Lyrics That Move Your Heart

1. "Blowin' in the Wind", Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?

Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail

Before she sleeps in the sand?

Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,

The answer is blowin' in the wind.

It starts and stops right here folks, this is the pinnacle. As it was, and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

2. "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong" Buffalo Springfield (Neil Young)

Turn me up or turn me down
Turn me off or turn me round
I wish I could have met you in a place
Where we both belong
But if crying and holding on
And flying on the ground is wrong
Then I'm sorry to let you down,
But you're from my side of town
And I miss you.

The time, the place, the song in general, and the band, moved me so much. Inexplicable to anyone else.

3. "Gates of Delirium", ending movement, Yes

Soon, oh soon the light,
Pass withing and soothe this endless night,
And wait here for you,
Our reason to be here.

Soon, oh soon the time,
All we move to gain will reach and calm;
Our heart is open,
Our reason to be here.

Long ago, set into rhyme.
Soon, oh soon the light,
Ours to shape for all time,
Ours the right;
The sun will lead us,
Our reason to be here.
i'm sorry, if you can listen to this music and not be moved, then you're just too hip and can't be reached. Sad for you.

4. My Back Pages, Bob Dylan again

In a soldier's stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach

Fearing not that I'd become my enemy

In the instant that I preach

My pathway led by confusion boats

Mutiny from stern to bow.

Ah, but I was so much older then,

I'm younger than that now.
For those of us who really came of "age" in the '60s, full of conceit about changing the world, the hubris of youth came crashing down around our heads with these lyrics, which, while puncturing our fragile egos, offered salvation in the future..

5. Peace, Love & Understanding, Nick Lowe, recorded by Elvis Costello

And as I walked on
Through troubled times

My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes

So where are the strong

And who are the trusted?

And where is the harmony?

Sweet harmony.

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry.

What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding? Ohhhh

What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding?

Even though, as reported by Lowe, the song was meant to be sarcastic, there is a clear cry for someone to to answer the question. Just what is so funny about peace, love, & understanding? Indeed.

Honorable mention:

The Times, They Are a Changin' Bob Dylan (again, dammit)

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You'll be drenched to the bone.

If your time to you

Is worth savin'

Then you better start swimmin'

Or you'll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin'.
Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen

In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines

Sprung from cages out on highway 9,

Chrome wheeled, fuel injected

and steppin' out over the line

Baby this town rips the bones from your back

It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap

We gotta get out while we're young

`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Time Of Your Life, Green Day

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

Somewhere, West Side Story
There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.

Peace and quiet and open air

Wait for us


There's a time for us,

Some day a time for us,

Time together with time spare,

Time to learn, time to care,

Some day!

For bonus points, check out the Yes version of "Something's Coming," from West Side Story. No link, you're on your own.

Top 5 Instrumentals

1. Cliffs of Dover, Eric Johnson
A rollicking romp on the strings, soaring ever higher, to an impossibly beautiful conclusion.
2. Partita for solo violin No. 3., E major, Prelude, J. S. Bach
A rollicking romp on the strings, soaring ever higher, to an impossibly beautiful conclusion.
3. Miserlou, Dick Dale
Made recently famous by Pulp Fiction. Listen to how tough and assertive it sounds, and imagine how that played in '61. Damn scary guitar playing.
4. In The Mood, Glenn Miller
This was a transition from mannered swing music to R 'n' B of the '50s. It's really all rock 'n' roll.

5. Walk, Don't Run, The Ventures
Pre surf guitar, post jazz, proved that intense doesn't have to equate to loud. This song swings really hard, but keeps the lid on the volume pressure cooker. Rocks with subtleties, not volume. But it's fun to play loud, too.

Honorable mention:

Peter Gunn Theme, Henry Mancini

My friend Al Schmitt recorded this, along with all Mancini's work. Bob Bain, later of The Tonight Show, played lead guitar.

Parkening Plays Bach
, Christopher Parkening

Andres Segovia wrote the entire book on classical guitar, esp. re: Bach transcriptions of violin, cello, keyboard, and choral pieces. Parkening took it to a new level with this album. Technically daunting ( I made it through Prelude in C, Well Tempered Klavier, but that's about it), and breathtakingly beautiful, it emphasises not only Bach's contrapuntal art but also the melodies. Ah, the melodies...

Embryonic Journey, Jefferson Airplane (Jorma Kaukonen solo)

Starting to get the ideal that I play guitar? Not as well as Jorma. Just a quick slice of lovely fingerstyle guitar playing, with a wonderful melody and flawless tone. Anybody really into fingerstyle would do well to study this man's work.

Steppin' Out, Cream: "Live Cream, Vol. 2

Back in the day, when Eric Clapton was young and hungry, he helped define the vocabulary of rock guitar playing. This 14 minute exercise shows the dexterity and depth of this guy's fingers. He never plays the same lick twice, and, while it would be foolish to compare him to Charlie Parker, the similarity is that both played with passion, skill, and new ideas in their day. Contrast this to the later work done by Mr. Clapton, pop star and much calmer persona. The young Eric really had something to say.

For additional homework, and to learn more about guitar music, look up: Clarence White, Doc Watson, & Lenny Breau. Especially Lenny Breau.

Top 5 Live Musical Experiences

1. The Beatles, August 28, 1965, Balboa Stadium, San Diego, CA

During these few years, everything was new. Kids today won't understand that. This was when rock was being defined, fine tuned, & refined. Every day brought sounds never heard before. Most of them started with these guys. Screaming girls, and an energy in a moment of history never to be seen again. Thrilling, yet somehow sad. Those were the days.

2. Buffalo Springfield, Spring, 1968, The Purple Haze, Riverside, CA

My band, The Shades Of Time, opened for them. What a thrill, hanging out backstage with guys we had seen on TV. Only drag was, my band didn't have a lot of original material yet, and we knew almost all of their first album. Needless to say, we played other stuff.

3. Vanilla Fudge, Spanky & Our Gang, opening for The Bee Gees, Spring 1968, Anaheim COnvention Center, Anaheim, CA

The BeeGees with an orchestra touring on their first album were pretty amazing, years before Saturday Night Fever. But the reason for going to this show was Vanilla Fudge. Histrionic, overwrought, too complex, yet knock you back in your seats stunning in their intensity. Most noted for their outrageous takes on Motown chestnuts (You Keep Me Hangin' On), they were truly original, and blew the roof off the joint.

4. Jimi Hendrix Experience, Spring 1969, Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA

Every rock guitarist ever since owes his/her entire existance to this man.

5. Big Brother & The Holding Company, feat. Janis Joplin, Spring, 1968, Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA

I'll never forget when she sang her first note. I looked at my friend (and bass player in my band), he looked at me, our jaws dropped, and stayed there. Transcendental music experience.

Honorable mention:

Chicago Transit Authority, Fall 1968, The White Room, Anaheim, CA

On their first pass through LA, they played The Shrine Friday night. My girlfriend saw them, heard them say that they were playing in OC Saturday night, and made me go. In a tiny room, on a stage 12 inches high, horns blasting, they created a sound totally new at the time. This was the Chicago of "25 or 6 to 4", not "Color My World." This was the Chicago of Terry Kath, and Peter Cetera before anyone told him he was a star. This was a bunch of guys living in a ratty house in Hollywood, playing their asses off, making new music.

The Doors, Spring 1968, Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA

Hearing "Light My Fire" live was so much better than the record.

Top Five Artists You Think More People Should Listen To

1. Saves The Day

Great band, great guys. Tracked a record at the studio where I formerly worked with producer Rob Schnapf.

2. Richard Thompson

I've loved his work since Fairport Convention. If you're not familiar with them, look them up. I'm not doing all the work for you. He did an album at Capitol while I worked there, again with producer Rob Schnapf. (He and I like a lot of the same music, I think.) Great experience to meet Richard and hear his new music.

3. Dale Watson

This guy should be as big as Tim McGraw & Alan Jackson. Roots American music, tracing a heritage from Jimmie Rodgers, through Hank, carried on by modern artists such as Dale & Dwight Yoakam. And a really nice guy.

4. Lucinda Williams

Yeah, I know she's a sort of cult favorite, and does good business on tour. But she, like Dale, should be headlining major venues. Currently working on a new record here in LA at a friend of mine's studio.

5. Johann Sebastian Bach

What I mean is that more people today should discover Bach. Not just some old fart who came at the end of the Baroque movement, he defined the ultimate in Baroque music. What many people don't remember today is that much of his work, using "figured bass" technique, was improvisational in nature. Like Ravi Shankar's ragas ("Ragas are precise melody forms"), Bach's work often involved defined melodies with accompaniments only sketched in, much like musicians jamming today with just a chord chart. He was prolific, tossing off several compositions for each Sunday Mass, and while he recycled his own material sometimes (the previously mentioned Violin Partita in E Prelude was reshaped as Sinfonia to Cantata #29), his work was breathtakingly beautiful as well as complex and challenging.

Top Five Albums You Must Hear From Start to Finish

1. Close To The Edge, Yes, 1972

While most rockers were still trying to figure out a new way to use three chords, these guys were figuring out new chords. Put your biases and preconceptions about progressive rock in your pocket, and just listen, please.

2. The Kick Inside, Kate Bush, 1978

Quirky, different, this album is several scenes of a different musical vision than anything around that year. I was genuinely moved the first time I heard it, and immediately became a fan. Using sounds, rhythms and instrumentation unconventional in '78, and even today, she presaged many female indy rockers working today, including Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, among others.

3. Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield, 1967

This album pre-dated and predicted the coming country-rock confluence, espcially as it was realized here in Los Angeles. Everyone knows "For What It's Worth", but listen to the other songs, too.

4. Abbey Road, The Beatles, 1969

Yeah I know, but have you listened to it all the way through lately? Please, do so, and then re-realize exactly how influential these guys were.

5. The Pretenders, The Pretenders

This album from 1979 shook many of us in the music business. Coming after some of the excesses of the '70s, and some of the inept punk of the late '70s, this album was a non-stop collection of great songs, each better than the last, delivered in an unforgettable vocal style by Chrissie Hynde. It stands the test of time.

Top Five Musical Heroes

1. The Beatles

2. Andres Segovia

3. Les Paul

4. Bob Dylan

5. Jimi Hendrix

It's really quite simple: They all did it first. Everyone else followed the trail they blazed.

For my last number, I'd like to dedicate this to the folks next in line:

TBogg, & Jane at FireDogLake,

"Come and sing a simple song of freedom,
Sing it like you've never sung before..."